Champions of Catholic Orthodoxy

St. John Chrysostom, Bishop and Doctor († 407, Feast—January 27)

St. John Chrysostom The history of the Church is filled with the persecutions endured by Her Pastors and Doctors, who continued the ministry of zeal and charity begun by Christ upon the earth. These contests have been threefold, and gave occasion to three admirable victories: the first, against Paganism; the second, against political usurpation of the authority of the Church; the third, against the world and its vices. This third battle began when Christianity began, and will continue to the day of Judgment. It was their courage in this battle that made so many saintly prelates hated for the name of Jesus Christ. The amiable St. Francis de Sales was as much disliked and even hated by evil men as was St. John Chrysostom himself, whose triumph gladdens the Church today, and who stands near the Crib of Our Lord as one of the most illustrious martyrs of pastoral duty courageously discharged.

Fervent in the service of his Savior, even to the observance of the Evangelical Counsels (for he had embraced the monastic life), this golden-mouthed Preacher made no other use of his wonderful gift of eloquence than that of urging men to the observance of the virtues taught in the Gospel, and of reproving every vice. Satan sought to have his revenge against our Saint by raising against him many enemies. Among these were an Empress, whose vanities and sins he had rebuked; men in power, whose wickedness he had rebuked; women of influence, who would have him preach a morality more in accordance with their own depravity; a Bishop of Alexandria and certain other Prelates of the Court, who were jealous of his virtues, and still more of his reputation. He was exceedingly loved by his people — but neither that nor his great virtues protected him from persecution.

The Roman Church, in the lessons of today's Office, speaks thus the praises of our Saint:

John, surnamed Chrysostom on account of his golden eloquence, was born at Antioch. Having gone through the study of the law and the profane sciences, he applied himself with extraordinary success to the study of the Sacred Scriptures. Having been admitted to Holy Orders, and made a Priest of the Church of Antioch, he was appointed the Bishop of Constantinople, after the death of Nectarius, by the express wish of the Emperor Arcadius. No sooner had he entered upon the pastoral charge than he began to inveigh against the licentious lives led by the rich. Thus his courageous preaching procured him many enemies. He likewise gave great offence to the Empress Eudoxia, because he had reproved her for having appropriated to herself the money belonging to a widow named Callitropia, and for having taken possession of some land which was the property of another widow.

At the instigation, therefore, of Eudoxia, several Bishops met together at Chalcedon. Chrysostom was cited to appear, which he refused to do, because it was not a Council either lawfully or publicly convened. Whereupon, he was sent into exile. He had not been gone long before the people rose in sedition on account of the Saint's banishment, and he was recalled, to the immense joy of the whole city. But his continuing to inveigh against the scandals which existed, and his forbidding the games held before the silver statue of Eudoxia, which was set up in the space opposite the Church of Sancta Sophia, were urged by certain Bishops, enemies of the Saint, as motives for a second banishment. The widows and the poor of the city bewailed his departure as that of a father. It is incredible how much Chrysostom had to suffer in this exile, and how many he converted to the Christian Faith.

At the very time that Pope Innocent I, in a Council at Rome, was issuing a decree ordering that Chrysostom should be set at liberty, he was being treated by the soldiers, who were taking him into exile, with unheard-of harshness and cruelty. Whilst passing through Armenia, the holy Martyr Basiliscus, in whose Church he had offered up a prayer, thus spoke to him during the night: "Brother John! We shall be united together tomorrow." Whereupon, on the following morning, Chrysostom received the Sacrament of the Eucharist, and signing himself with the sign of the Cross, he breathed forth his soul to his God, on the 18th of the Calends of October (September 14th). A fearful hailstorm occurred at Constantinople after the Saint's death, and four days later, the Empress died. Theodosius, the son of Arcadius, had the Saint's body brought to Constantinople with all due honor, where, amidst a large concourse of people, it was buried on the 6th of the Calends of February (January 27th). Theodosius, whilst devoutly venerating the Saint's relics, interceded for his parents, that they might be forgiven. The body was, at a later period, translated to Rome, and placed in the Vatican Basilica. All men agree in admiring the unction and eloquence of his numerous sermons, as indeed of all his other writings. He is also admirable in his interpretation of the Sacred Scriptures, which he explains in their genuine sense. It has always been thought that he was aided, in his writings and sermons, by St. Paul the Apostle, to whom he entertained an extraordinary devotion. This most renowned Doctor of the Church was by Pope Pius X declared and appointed the heavenly Patron of the preachers of holy things.

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