jeudi 28 mars 2013

Saint JEAN de CAPISTRAN, prêtre franciscain et confesseur


Saint Jean de Capistran

Franciscain

(† 1456)

Saint Jean de Capistran

Jean, né à Capistrano, dans l'Abruzze, était fils d'un gentilhomme français qui avait suivi à Naples le duc d'Anjou, devenu roi de ce pays. Après ses humanités, il fut envoyé à Pérouse pour y étudier le droit canonique et civil. On le pourvut d'une place de judicature, et un homme riche et noble, charmé de ses qualités éminentes, lui donna sa fille en mariage. Tout lui souriait dans le monde, quand tout à coup s'évanouirent ces flatteuses espérances.

Dans une guerre contre le roi de Naples, la ville de Pérouse le soupçonna de prendre le parti de ce prince; on le fit arrêter. Malgré son innocence et son éloquence à se défendre, il fut jeté en prison. Sur ces entrefaites sa femme étant morte, il résolut de ne plus servir que Dieu.

Il vendit tous ses biens, paya sa rançon, distribua le reste aux pauvres, et se réfugia chez les Franciscains, au monastère du Mont, près de Pérouse. Le gardien, craignant que cette vocation ne fût l'effet d'un dépit passager plutôt que d'un mouvement de la grâce, voulut l'éprouver. Il lui ordonna de faire le tour de la ville de Pérouse dont il avait été gouverneur, monté à rebours sur un âne, couvert d'un mauvais habit et la tête coiffée d'un bonnet de carton où étaient écrits divers péchés. Après une telle épreuve, les humiliations du noviciat ne lui coûtèrent plus.

On lui donna pour maître un simple frère convers, à la direction duquel Jean se soumit avec la simplicité d'un enfant. Il fut traité par lui avec dureté:

"Je rends grâces au Seigneur, disait-il plus tard, de m'avoir donné un tel guide; s'il n'eût usé envers moi de pareilles rigueurs, jamais je n'aurais pu acquérir l'humilité et la patience."

Jean fut renvoyé par deux fois du noviciat comme incapable de remplir jamais aucun emploi dans la religion. Il resta jour et nuit à la porte du couvent, souffrant avec joie l'indifférence des religieux, les railleries des passants et les mépris des pauvres qui venaient demander l'aumône. Une persévérance si héroïque désarma la sévérité des supérieurs et dissipa leurs craintes. Jean, reçu de nouveau, fut enfin admis à la profession.

Dès lors sa vie fut admirable: il ne mangeait qu'une fois le jour, et, durant trente-six ans coucha sur le plancher de sa cellule, dormant au plus trois heures. Vêtu d'un habit cousu de pièces, il marchait les pieds nus, sans socques ni sandales, et il macérait son corps par des disciplines sanglantes et de rudes cilices. Mort à lui-même, il vivait uniquement de Jésus sur la Croix. Embrasé d'amour pour Dieu, il faisait de sa vie une oraison continuelle: le Crucifix, le Tabernacle, l'image de Marie, le jetaient dans l'extase: "Dieu, disait-il, m'a donné le nom de Jean, pour me faire le fils de Marie et l'ami de Jésus."

Ordonné prêtre, Jean fut appliqué au ministère de la parole. Souvent les larmes et les sanglots de ses auditeurs interrompaient ses prédications, ses paroles produisaient partout des conversions nombreuses. Une secte monstrueuse de prétendus moines, les Fraticelli, dont les erreurs et les moeurs scandalisaient l'Église, fut anéantie par son zèle et sa charité. Le Pape Eugène IV, frappé des prodigieux succès de ses discours, l'envoya comme nonce en Sicile; puis le chargea de travailler, au concile de Florence, à la réunion des Latins et des Grecs. Enfin il le députa vers le roi de France, Charles VII.

Ami de saint Bernardin de Sienne, il le défendit, devant la cour de Rome, contre les calomnies que lui attirait son ardeur pour la réforme de son Ordre; il l'aida grandement dans cette entreprise, et il alla lui-même visiter les maisons établies en Orient.

Nicolas V l'envoya, en qualité de commissaire apostolique, dans la Hongrie, l'Allemagne, la Bohème et la Pologne. Toutes sortes de bénédictions accompagnèrent ses pas: clergé, communautés religieuses, nobles et peuples, participaient aux bénignes influences de sa charité. Il ramena au bercail de l'Église un grand nombre de schismatiques et d'hérétiques, et, à la vraie religion, une quantité prodigieuse de Juifs et même de Musulmans.

À cette époque, Mahomet II menaçait l'Occident d'une complète invasion, tenait Belgrade assiégée, et, fier de ses victoires, se promettait d'arborer le croissant dans l'enceinte même de Rome. Le Pape Calixte III chargea saint Jean de Capistran de prêcher une croisade: à la voix puissante de cet ami de Dieu, une armée de 40,000 hommes se leva; il la disciplina pour les combats du Ciel; il lui trouva pour chef Huniade, un héros, et il la conduisit à la victoire.

Étant à trois journées de marche des Turcs, tandis qu'il célébrait la Messe en plein air dans les grandes plaines du Danube, une flèche partie d'en haut vint, pendant le Saint Sacrifice, se placer sur le corporal. Après la Messe, le Saint lut ces mots écrits en lettres d'or sur le bois de la flèche:

"Par le secours de Jésus, Jean de Capistran remportera la victoire." Au fort de la mêlée, il tenait en main l'étendard de la Croix et criait:

"Victoire, Jésus, victoire!" Belgrade fut sauvée. C'était en l'an 1456.

Trois mois après, saint Jean de Capistran, ayant prononcé ces paroles du Nunc dimittis: "C'est maintenant, Seigneur, que Vous laisserez mourir en paix Votre serviteur," expira en disant une dernière fois: Jésus. Il avait soixante-et-onze ans.

Frères des Écoles Chrétiennes, Vie des Saints, p. 137-139



St Jean de Capistran, confesseur

Mort le 23 octobre 1456. Inquisiteur sous plusieurs papes, combattant les hérésies et les Turcs. Canonisé en 1690 par Alexandre VIII. Sa fête fut inscrite au calendrier par Léon XIII sous le rite semi-double en 1890. Le 1er avril 1984 Jean-Paul II l’a nommé patron des aumôniers militaires du monde entier.

Leçons des Matines avant 1960

Au deuxième nocturne.

Quatrième leçon. Jean y naquit à Capistran, au pays des Pélignes. Envoyé à Pérouse pour y faire ses études il fit de si grands progrès dans la doctrine chrétienne et les arts libéraux que Ladislas, roi de Naples, lui confia le gouvernement de plusieurs villes, en considération de sa connaissance du droit. Tandis que saintement occupé de la chose publique, il s’applique à apaiser les troubles et à rétablir la tranquillité, il est fait prisonnier et jeté dans les fers. Miraculeusement délivré, il fait profession de la règle de saint François d’Assise, parmi les frères Mineurs. Dans l’étude des divines Écritures il eut pour maître saint Bernardin de Sienne, dont il imita excellemment les vertus, zélé comme lui à propager le culte du nom de Jésus et de la Mère de Dieu. Il refusa l’évêché d’Aquila ; il se distingua par l’austérité de sa vie et par les nombreux écrits qu’il publia pour la réforme des mœurs.

Cinquième leçon. Tout appliqué à la prédication de la parole de Dieu, il parcourut l’Italie presqu’entière, et dans ce ministère, par la force de ses discours et le grand nombre de ses miracles, il ramena dans la voie du salut des âmes innombrables. Martin V l’établit inquisiteur pour l’extinction de la secte des Fratricelles. Institué inquisiteur général en Italie contre les Juifs et les Sarrasins par Nicolas V, il en convertit un grand nombre à la foi du Christ. Il fit en Orient beaucoup d’excellents établissements, et dans le concile de Florence, où il brilla comme un soleil par sa doctrine, il réconcilia les Arméniens à l’Église catholique. Le même Pontife, sur la demande de l’empereur Frédéric III, l’envoya en Allemagne en qualité de nonce du Siège apostolique, pour ramener les hérétiques à la foi catholique et les princes à la concorde. Dans ce pays et en d’autres provinces, par un ministère de six années, il travailla merveilleusement à la gloire de Dieu, et ramena dans le sein de l’Église, par sa doctrine et ses miracles, une multitude innombrable de Hussites, d’Adamites, de Thaborites et de Juifs.

Sixième leçon. Callixte III, pressé par ses instances, ayant décrété la croisade, Jean parcourut la Pannonie et d’autres provinces, et, soit par sa parole, soit par ses lettres, anima tellement les princes à la guerre sainte, qu’en peu de temps soixante-dix mille chrétiens furent enrôlés. C’est principalement à ses conseils et à son courage que l’on dut la victoire de Belgrade, où cent vingt mille Turcs furent taillés en pièces ou mis en fuite. L’annonce de cette victoire étant parvenue à Rome au huitième des ides d’août, le même Callixte consacra à perpétuité la mémoire de ce jour par l’institution de la solennité de la Transfiguration de notre Seigneur. Atteint d’une maladie mortelle, et transporté à Willech, Jean y fut visité par plusieurs princes qu’il exhorta à défendre la religion ; il rendit saintement son âme à Dieu, l’an du salut quatorze cent cinquante-six. Dieu fit éclater sa gloire après sa mort par beaucoup de miracles. Alexandre VIII, les ayant régulièrement approuvés, inscrivit Jean au nombre des Saints en l’année mil six cent quatre-vingt-dix. Léon XIII, deux siècles après sa canonisation, étendit à toute l’Église l’Office et la Messe de sa Fête.

Au troisième nocturne.

Lecture du saint Évangile selon saint Luc. Cap. 9, 1-6.

En ce temps-là : Jésus, ayant assemblé les douze Apôtres, leur donna puissance et autorité sur tous les démons, et le pouvoir de guérir les maladies. Et le reste.

Homélie de S. Bonaventure, Évêque.

Septième leçon. Les Apôtres ont reçu ce nom pour établir leur autorité. Le nom d’Apôtre, en effet, signifie envoyé. Ils avaient été envoyés pour prêcher, selon cette parole : « Le Christ ne m’a pas envoyé pour baptiser, mais pour prêcher l’Évangile ». Ils furent envoyés pour prêcher non une chose de peu d’importance, mais une grande chose, à savoir le royaume de Dieu, ce qui peut s’entendre de la doctrine de la vérité, selon cette parole : « Le royaume de Dieu vous sera ôté, et il sera donné à un peuple qui en produira les fruits ». On peut aussi l’entendre de la grâce de l’Esprit-Saint, selon cette parole : « Le royaume de Dieu n’est pas la nourriture et le breuvage, mais il est justice, paix et joie dans l’Esprit-Saint. » Et plus bas : « Voilà que le royaume de Dieu est au dedans de vous. » On peut encore l’entendre de la gloire éternelle, selon cette autre parole : « En vérité, je vous le dis, si l’on ne renaît de l’eau et de l’Esprit-Saint, on ne peut entrer dans le royaume de Dieu ».

Huitième leçon. En toutes ces manières les Apôtres ont été envoyés pour prêcher le royaume de Dieu, c’est-à-dire la vraie doctrine, la grâce divine et la gloire éternelle. Comme il leur avait accordé. le pouvoir des guérisons pour autoriser leur prédication, il ajoute : Je vous envoie guérir les malades, et ainsi il les envoya prêcher, avec le pouvoir de confirmer la vérité de leur doctrine, selon cette parole : « Et eux, étant partis, prêchèrent partout, le Seigneur agissant avec eux, et confirmant leur parole par les prodiges qui l’accompagnaient. » Le signe de la mission spirituelle qui leur est donnée pour la prédication est donc la guérison des auditeurs, de la maladie des vices.

Neuvième leçon. Or il y a trois marques évidentes par lesquelles le prédicateur prouve qu’il est envoyé par le Seigneur pour annoncer l’Évangile. La première est l’autorité de celui qui l’envoie, telle que celle du Pontife, et surtout du souverain Pontife qui tient la place de Pierre et de Jésus-Christ lui-même, d’où il suit que celui qu’il envoie est envoyé par le Christ. La seconde est le zèle des âmes dans la personne qui est envoyée, lorsque cette personne cherche principalement l’honneur de Dieu et le salut des âmes. La troisième est le fruit spirituel et la conversion des auditeurs. Par la première de ces marques, ils sont les envoyés du Père ; par la seconde, ceux du Fils ; par la troisième, ceux du Saint-Esprit. Au sujet de la première, il est dit : « Au lieu de vos pères, des fils vous sont nés. » Au sujet de la seconde : « Nous ne nous prêchons pas nous-même, mais Jésus-Christ notre Seigneur. » Au sujet de la troisième : « Je vous ai établis, pour que vous ailiez, et rapportiez du fruit, et que votre fruit demeure ». Celui qui reçoit une telle mission peut dire cette autre parole : « L’esprit du Seigneur est sur moi, parce qu’il m’a donné son onction ».


Dom Guéranger, l’Année Liturgique

Plus l’Église semble approcher du terme de ses destinées, plus aussi l’on dirait qu’elle aime à s’enrichir de fêtes nouvelles rappelant le glorieux passé. C’est qu’en tout temps du reste, un des buis du Cycle sacre est de maintenir en nous le souvenir des bienfaits du Seigneur. Ayez mémoire des anciens jours, considérez l’histoire des générations successives, disait déjà Dieu sous l’alliance du Sinaï [1] ; et c’était une loi en Jacob, que les pères rissent connaître à leurs descendants, pour qu’eux-mêmes les transmissent à la postérité, les récits antiques [2]. Plus qu’Israël qu’elle a remplacé, l’Église a ses annales remplies des manifestations de la puissance de l’Époux ; mieux que la descendance de Juda, les fils de la nouvelle Sion peuvent dire, en contemplant la série des siècles écoulés : Vous êtes mon Roi, vous êtes mon Dieu, vous qui toujours sauvez Jacob [3] !

Tandis que s’achevait en Orient la défaite des Iconoclastes, une guerre plus terrible, où l’Occident devait lutter lui-même pour la civilisation et pour l’Homme-Dieu, commençait à peine.

Comme un torrent soudain grossi, l’Islam avait précipité de l’Asie jusqu’au centre des Gaules ses flots impurs ; pied à pied, durant mille années, il allait disputer le sol occupé par les races latines au Christ et à son Église. Les glorieuses expéditions des XIIe et XIIIe siècles, en l’attaquant au centre même de sa puissance, ne firent que l’immobiliser un temps. Sauf sur la terre des Espagnes, où le combat ne devait finir qu’avec le triomphe absolu de la Croix, on vit les princes, oublieux des traditions de Charlemagne et de saint Louis, délaisser pour les conflits de leurs ambitions privées la guerre sainte, et bientôt le Croissant, défiant à nouveau la chrétienté, reprendre ses projets de conquête universelle.

En 1453, Byzance, la capitale de l’empire d’Orient, tombait sous l’assaut des janissaires turcs ; trois ans après, Mahomet II son vainqueur investissait Belgrade, le boulevard de l’empire d’Occident. Il eût semblé que l’Europe entière ne pouvait manquer d’accourir au secours de la place assiégée. Car cette dernière digue forcée, c’était la dévastation immédiate pour la Hongrie, l’Autriche et l’Italie ; pour tous les peuples du septentrion et du couchant, c’était à bref délai la servitude de mort où gisait cet Orient d’où nous est venue la vie, l’irrémédiable stérilité du sol et des intelligences dont la Grèce, si brillante autrefois, reste encore aujourd’hui frappée.

Or toutefois, l’imminence du danger n’avait eu pour résultat que d’accentuer la division lamentable qui livrait le monde chrétien à la merci de quelques milliers d’infidèles. On eût dit que la perte d’autrui dût être pour plusieurs une compensation à leur propre ruine ; d’autant qu’à cette ruine plus d’un ne désespérait pas d’obtenir délai ou dédommagement, au prix de la désertion de son poste de combat. Seule, à rencontre de ces égoïsmes, au milieu des perfidies qui se tramaient dans l’ombre ou déjà s’affichaient publiquement, la papauté ne s’abandonna pas. Vraiment catholique dans ses pensées, dans ses travaux, dans ses angoisses comme dans ses joies et ses triomphes, elle prit en mains la cause commune trahie par les rois. Éconduite dans ses appels aux puissants, elle se tourna vers les humbles, et plus confiante dans sa prière au Dieu des armées que dans la science des combats, recruta parmi eux les soldats de la délivrance.

C’est alors que le héros de ce jour, Jean de Capistran, depuis longtemps déjà redoutable à l’enfer, consomma du même coup sa gloire et sa sainteté. A la tête d’autres pauvres de bonne volonté, paysans, inconnus, rassemblés par lui et ses Frères de l’Observance, le pauvre du Christ ne désespéra pas de triompher de l’armée la plus forte, la mieux commandée qu’on eût vue depuis longtemps sous le ciel. Une première fois, le 14 juillet 1456, rompant les lignes ottomanes en la compagnie de Jean Hunyade, le seul des nobles hongrois qui eût voulu partager son sort, il s’était jeté dans Belgrade et l’avait ravitaillée. Huit jours plus tard, le 22 juillet, ne souffrant pas de s’en tenir à la défensive, sous les yeux d’Hunyade stupéfié par cette stratégie nouvelle, il lançait sur les retranchements ennemis sa troupe armée de fléaux et de fourches, ne lui donnant pour consigne que de crier le nom de Jésus à tous les échos C’était le mot d’ordre de victoire que Jean de Capistran avait hérité de Bernardin de Sienne son maître. Que l’adversaire mette sa confiance dans les chevaux et les chars, disait le Psaume ; pour nous, nous invoquerons le Nom du Seigneur [4]. Et en effet, le Nom toujours saint et terrible [5] sauvait encore son peuple. Au soir de cette mémorable journée, vingt-quatre mille Turcs jonchaient le sol de leurs cadavres ; trois cents canons, toutes les armes, toutes les richesses des infidèles étaient aux mains des chrétiens ; Mahomet II, blessé, précipitant sa fuite, allait au loin cacher sa honte et les débris de son armée.

Ce fut le 6 août que parvint à Rome la nouvelle d’une victoire qui rappelait celle de Gédéon sur Madian [6]. Le Souverain Pontife, Calliste III, statua que désormais toute l’Église fêterait ce jour-là solennellement la glorieuse Transfiguration du Seigneur. Car en ce qui était des soldats de la Croix, ce n’était pas leur glaive qui avait délivré la terre, ce n’était pas leur bras qui les avait sauvés, mais bien votre droite et la puissance de votre bras à vous, ô Dieu, et le resplendissement de votre visage, parce que vous vous étiez complu en eux [7], comme au Thabor en votre Fils bien-aimé [8].

Le Seigneur est avec vous, ô le plus fort des hommes ! Allez dans cette force qui est la vôtre, et délivrez Israël, et triomphez de Madian : sachez que c’est moi qui vous ai envoyé [9]. Ainsi l’Ange du Seigneur saluait Gédéon, quand il le choisissait pour ses hautes destinées parmi les moindres de son peuple [10]. Ainsi pouvons-nous, la victoire remportée, vous saluer à notre tour, ô fils de François d’Assise, en vous priant de nous aider toujours. L’ennemi que vous avez vaincu sur les champs de bataille n’est plus à redouter pour notre Occident ; le péril est bien plutôt où Moïse le signalait pour son peuple après la délivrance, quand il disait : Prenez garde d’oublier le Seigneur votre Dieu, de peur qu’après avoir écarté la famine, bâti de belles maisons, multiplié vos troupeaux, votre argent et votre or, goûté l’abondance de toutes choses, votre cœur ne s’élève et ne se souvienne plus de Celui qui vous a sauvés de la servitude [11]. Si, en effet, le Turc l’eût emporté, dans la lutte dont vous fûtes le héros, où serait cette civilisation dont nous sommes si fiers ? Après vous, plus d’une fois, l’Église dut assumer sur elle à nouveau l’œuvre de défense sociale que les chefs des nations ne comprenaient plus. Puisse la reconnaissance qui lui est due préserver les fils de la Mère commune de ce mal de l’oubli qui est le fléau de la génération présente ! Aussi remercions-nous le ciel du grand souvenir dont resplendit par vous en ce jour le Cycle sacré, mémorial des bontés du Seigneur et des hauts faits des Saints. Faites qu’en la guerre dont chacun de nous reste le champ de bataille, le nom de Jésus ne cesse jamais de tenir en échec le démon, le monde et la chair ; faites que sa Croix soit notre étendard, et que par elle nous arrivions, en mourant à nous-mêmes, au triomphe de sa résurrection.

[1] Deut. XXXII, 7.

[2] Psalm. LXXVII, 5.

[3] Psalm. XLIII, 5.

[4] Psalm. XIX, 8.

[5] Psalm. CX, 9.

[6] Judic. VII.

[7] Psalm. XLIII, 4.

[8] Matth. XVII, 5.

[9] Judic. VI.

[10] Ibid. 15.

[11] Deut. VIII, 11-14.



Bhx Cardinal Schuster, Liber Sacramentorum

Durant cette période quadragésimale, nos ancêtres, jusqu’au XVIIe siècle, avaient été très sobres dans la célébration de fêtes de saints ; et cela, pour vaquer dans un plus grand recueillement, et sous la direction éclairée de la liturgie, aux exercices de pénitence et de purification qui nous doivent disposer à célébrer la solennité pascale. L’attièdissement de la foi en ces derniers siècles a conseillé à l’Église d’adoucir beaucoup l’antique discipline quadragésimale, pour l’adapter à la faiblesse des esprits modernes ; il en est résulté que ce saint temps, ne différant plus guère du reste de l’année, sa liturgie elle-même a été moins comprise et est passée au second plan.

Presque tous les jours qui, dans le calendrier romain de saint Pie V, étaient demeurés encore libres d’offices de saints, furent donc postérieurement occupés par des offices nouveaux, beaux sans doute, et importants au point de vue de l’histoire et de la théologie, mais qui ont toutefois l’inconvénient d’avoir brisé, bien plus, d’avoir presque détruit ce cycle merveilleux, si ancien et si profondément théologique, qu’est la liturgie du Carême.

Nous sommes bien loin de l’âge d’or où la préparation à Pâques exigeait la fermeture des théâtres et des tribunaux ; alors tout le monde romain, à commencer par le Basileus de Byzance, se couvrait de cilice et de cendre, et le jeûne rigoureux, jusqu’au coucher du soleil, était si universel qu’il semblait être devenu, plutôt qu’un acte particulier de dévotion, une des formes essentielles du culte du monde romain et chrétien.

Aujourd’hui, pour les tièdes fidèles de notre siècle, la sainte Quarantaine ne comporte plus, pour ainsi dire, aucun changement dans la vie ordinaire de l’année ; aussi la liturgie sacrée qui, en pratique, a toujours été, en tous temps, un reflet exact de l’esprit chrétien de l’époque, se borne-t-elle elle aussi, pendant la plus grande partie du Carême, à ajouter à l’office divin en l’honneur du Saint du jour une commémoraison spéciale de la férié courante.

Mais un mouvement de saine réforme, en ces dernières années, est parti de Rome, et l’on espère qu’il produira des fruits abondants de piété. Pie X, fidèle à son programme de tout restaurer dans le Christ, après avoir rendu à leur fraîcheur native les mélodies grégoriennes, a voulu restituer au Psautier son ancienne place dans la prière ecclésiastique. Pour mieux atteindre ce but, il a allégé le calendrier de quelques fêtes, donnant une plus large préséance à l’office dominical et férial, en sorte que le primitif office De tempore a commencé de réapparaître à la lumière dans ses lignes classiques, comme un antique chef-d’œuvre délivré des adjonctions postérieures qui le déformaient.

La messe de saint Jean de Capistran (+ 1456), franciscain, insigne prédicateur de la croisade contre les Turcs, fut instituée en 1890 par Léon XIII. Son rédacteur s’est laissé profondément impressionner par la splendide victoire de Belgrade, remportée surtout grâce aux prières et aux exhortations du Saint. Cette messe est beaucoup plus riche et plus variée que la précédente en l’honneur de saint Jean Damascène. Elle s’inspire en grande partie de la vive dévotion professée par le grand Franciscain envers le saint Nom de Jésus.

Le verset pour l’introït est tiré du cantique d’Habacuc (III, 18) et fait allusion à la victoire de Belgrade.

La prière a des réminiscences historiques. Les anciennes croisades contre les infidèles doivent être considérées à ce point de vue surnaturel où les envisageaient nos pères. Elles représentèrent l’effort suprême de la chrétienté pour que la force brutale des musulmans n’anéantît pas la civilisation de l’Évangile. L’âme de cette résistance puissante, longue et finalement victorieuse à Lépante et à Vienne, fut le pontificat romain qui, pendant plus de cinq siècles, ne regardant ni aux sacrifices ni aux dépenses, rassembla en un seul faisceau, sous l’étendard de la Croix, les forces catholiques de chaque nation et, les dirigeant contre le Croissant, épargna à l’Europe un grand nombre de guerres intestines, lui assurant en outre le triomphe sur l’Asie occidentale et sur l’Islam.

La lecture (Sap., X, 10-14) est, en grande partie, la même que celle du jour précédent, et contient une allusion manifeste aux persécutions et à la prison endurées par le Saint pour la foi. Mais le Seigneur descendit avec lui dans le sombre cachot, l’en retira triomphant, et écrasa les ennemis qui voulaient le fouler aux pieds. Ils étaient ennemis du juste parce qu’ils étaient aussi ennemis de Dieu ; et c’est pourquoi le Tout-Puissant, prenant sa défense, jugea et fit triompher Sa cause, selon la parole du Prophète : Exsurge, Deus, iudica causant tuam : memor esto improperiorum tuorum, evrum quae ab insipiente sunt tota die.

Relativement à l’observance de la Loi, le judaïsme authentique ne reconnaissait que deux catégories : celle des descendants d’Israël qui, en vertu de la circoncision, pouvaient seuls aspirer à la plénitude des espérances messianiques ; et celle des Gentils, les parias de Yahweh, qui craignaient le Dieu d’Abraham, se faisaient circoncire, s’obligeant à observer la loi, mais n’avaient part aux privilèges des Israélites qu’à un degré inférieur. Dans le verset de psaume suivant, il est fait allusion à cette distinction entre les prosélytes qui craignent Dieu, et la pure race Israélite qui a stipulé avec le Seigneur un véritable contrat d’amitié.

Le trait est tiré du magnifique cantique de Moïse après la défaite de l’armée du Pharaon au passage de la mer Rouge et il s’adapte fort bien au caractère de la fête de ce jour, qui est comme un écho annuel du triomphe remporté sur le Croissant sous les murs de Belgrade.

La lecture de l’Évangile (Luc., IX, 1-6) traite des conditions et des privilèges de l’apostolat chrétien, toutes choses qui n’appartiennent pas seulement à l’histoire évangélique, mais qui demeurent, dans l’Église catholique, toujours d’actualité. Il suffit en effet de penser aux pauvres missionnaires qui étendent le règne de Dieu dans les contrées inhospitalières de l’Océanie, de l’Afrique et de l’Asie, pour se convaincre que seul l’esprit de Dieu qui anime, sanctifie et dirige le corps mystique de l’Église, peut rendre les hommes capables d’un pareil héroïsme.

L’offertoire, où l’on applique à notre Saint l’éloge de Josué fait par l’Ecclésiastique, chante lui aussi la victoire de Belgrade, attribuée, plutôt qu’aux armes des combattants, au bras du Dieu invoqué par Jean.

Autrefois c’était l’Islam qui menaçait la civilisation chrétienne. Maintenant c’est le judaïsme, le peuple sans patrie, et qui hait celle des autres, allié comme il l’est avec la franc-maçonnerie. Juifs et maçons livrent au catholicisme et à l’Europe une guerre d’autant plus rude et dangereuse qu’elle est plus hypocrite. Contre ce redoutable péril, nous devons recourir nous aussi aux armes invincibles de la prière ; et puisque il ne nous est permis de haïr personne, mais qu’il nous est au contraire ordonné d’aimer tout le monde, même nos ennemis, demandons aujourd’hui la conversion de ces âmes égarées qui ont déchaîné le cruel fléau de la guerre, et qui, seules, en ont profité — juifs, bolchevistes, sionistes, francs-maçons, etc., afin que tous, convertis à la pénitence, Ecclesia... tranquilla devotione laetetur.

Prodige de la droite du Très-Haut ! Pour accomplir les grandes merveilles, II emploie de préférence des instruments très humbles, les moins adaptés parfois et les plus méprisés par les hommes, afin que le succès ne puisse être attribué à la créature, mais au seul Créateur. Ainsi au XVe siècle, en plein humanisme, quand les puissances chrétiennes elles-mêmes, au lieu d’écouter la voix du Pasteur suprême et de marcher ensemble contre le Croissant qui menaçait la liberté du monde civilisé, rivalisaient entre elles par une politique mensongère. Dieu suscita un humble disciple de saint François, de peu d’apparence, pauvre et sans moyens, qui ébranla par sa parole enflammée la moitié de l’Europe et la conduisit en triomphe sous les murs de Belgrade. Digitus Dei est hic.

Rome chrétienne peut considérer comme un sanctuaire de saint Jean de Capistran le vieux monastère de Sainte-Marie sur le Capitole, qui, passé des moines bénédictins aux Mineurs durant le bas moyen âge, fut sanctifié par la résidence du Saint.


Dom Pius Parsch, le Guide dans l’année liturgique

Nous sommes les soldats du Christ.

Saint Jean : Jour de mort : 23 octobre 1456. — Tombeau à Ujlak, à la frontière bosniaque, dans un monastère fondé par lui, mais son corps fut dérobé par les Turcs et est perdu. Image : On le représente en franciscain avec une croix rouge sur la poitrine. Vie : Saint Jean de Capistran compte parmi les plus puissants prédicateurs populaires de tous les temps. « Cet homme, nous l’avons vu à Nuremberg, âgé de 65 ans, vieux, petit, maigre, sec, n’ayant plus que les os et la peau, mais joyeux et vaillant à l’ouvrage, prêchant tous les jours sans relâche et traitant les sujets les plus élevés. ») Ainsi écrit l’humaniste Hartmann Schedel de Nuremberg, dans sa chronique du monde. Tout le monde connaît la célèbre victoire que les chrétiens remportèrent sur les Turcs, près de Belgrade, en 1456. On doit l’attribuer à sa bravoure et à son zèle.

Pratique : Nous devons nous considérer, aujourd’hui, comme les soldats du Christ. Sous la conduite de notre saint, nous triompherons des ennemis. Jadis, c’étaient les Turcs ; ce sont d’autres ennemis, aujourd’hui, mais l’enfer est toujours derrière eux. La liturgie est une grande œuvre de paix, mais c’est parce qu’elle fait de l’Église militante une armée prête au combat. — Nous prenons la messe du Carême avec Mémoire du saint.

2. Quelques traits de sa vie. — Partout où il allait, il était reçu en procession solennelle par le peuple et le clergé. Les plus grandes églises ne pouvaient contenir la foule des auditeurs. C’est pourquoi il était obligé de prêcher en plein air, sur une estrade. A Meissen, il prêcha du haut d’un toit. Partout, des foules immenses se pressaient à ses sermons. Il avait parfois, autour de lui, vingt ou trente mille hommes. A Erfurt, il eut, une fois, 60.000 auditeurs. Un jour, à Vienne, 100.000 personnes attendaient le commencement de son sermon. Le peuple l’écoutait en pleurant et en gémissant, bien qu’il ne comprît pas son langage. Il prêchait en latin ; un de ses compagnons donnait ensuite la traduction en allemand. Bien que le sermon eût duré deux ou trois heures, le peuple restait encore autant de temps, en plein air ou dans les rues, malgré la neige et le froid, jusqu’à ce que l’interprète eût achevé la traduction.

Rien que d’avoir pu voir de loin le « saint » était une consolation pour le peuple simple et croyant. Il n’était pas rare de voir les auditeurs grimper aux arbres du voisinage et s’asseoir sur les branches. Souvent, les branches rompaient sous le poids. Cependant, on n’a jamais entendu dire qu’il y avait eu des accidents.



St. John Capistran

Born at Capistrano, in the Diocese of Sulmona, Italy, 1385; died 23 October, 1456. His father had come toNaples in the train of Louis of Anjou, hence is supposed to have been of French blood, though some say he was of German origin. His father dying early, John owed his education to his mother. She had him at first instructed at home and then sent him to study law at Perugia, where he achieved great success under the eminent legist, Pietro de Ubaldis. In 1412 he was appointed governor of Perugia by Ladislaus, King of Naples, who then held that city of the Holy See. As governor he set himself against civic corruption and bribery. War broke out in 1416 between Perugia and the Malatesta. John was sent as ambassador to propose peace to the Malatesta, who however cast him into prison. It was during this imprisonment that he began to think more seriously about hissoul. He decided eventually to give up the world and become a Franciscan Friar, owing to a dream he had in which he saw St. Francis and was warned by the saint to enter the Franciscan Order. John had married a wealthylady of Perugia immediately before the war broke out, but as the marriage was not consummated he obtained adispensation to enter religion, which he did 4 October, 1416.


After he had taken his vows he came under the influence of St. Bernardine of Siena, who taught him theology: he had as his fellow-student St. James of the Marches. He accompanied St. Bernardine on his preaching tours in order to study his methods, and in 1420, whilst still in deacon's orders, was himself permitted to preach. But his apostolic life began in 1425, after he had received the priesthood. From this time until his death he laboured ceaselessly for the salvation of souls. He traversed the whole of Italy; and so great were the crowds who came to listen to him that he often had to preach in the public squares. At the time of his preaching all business stopped. At Brescia on one occasion he preached to a crowd of one hundred and twenty-six thousand people, who had come from all the neighbouring provinces. On another occasion during a mission, over two thousand sick people were brought to him that he might sign them with the sign of the Cross, so great was his fame as a healer of the sick. Like St. Bernardine of Siena he greatly propagated devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus, and, together with that saint, was accused of heresy because of this devotion. While he was thus carrying on his apostolic work, he was actively engaged in assisting St. Bernardine in the reform of the Franciscan Order. In 1429 John, together with other Observant friars, was cited to Rome on the charge of heresy, and he was chosen by his companions to defend their cause; the friars were acquitted by the commission of cardinals.

After this, Pope Martin V conceived the idea of uniting the Conventual Friars Minor and the Observants, and ageneral chapter of both bodies of Franciscans was convoked at Assisi in 1430. A union was effected, but it did not last long. The following year the Observants held a chapter at Bologna, at which John was the moving spirit. According to Gonzaga, John was about this time appointed commissary general of the Observants, but his namedoes not appear among the commissaries and vicars in Holzapfel's list (Manuale Hist. Ord. FF. Min., 624-5) before 1443. But it was owing to him that St. Bernardine was appointed vicar-general in 1438. Shortly after this, whilst visiting France he met St. Colette, the reformer of the Second Franciscan Order or Poor Clares, with whose efforts he entirely sympathized. He was frequently employed on embassies by the Holy See. In 1439 he was sent as legate to Milan and Burgundy, to oppose the claims of the antipope Felix V; in 1446 he was on a mission to the King of France; in 1451 he went at the request of the emperor as Apostolic nuncio to Austria. During the period of his nunciature John visited all parts of the empire, preaching and combatting the heresy of theHussites; he also visited Poland at the request of Casimir IV. In 1454 he was summoned to the Diet at Frankfort, to assist that assembly in its deliberation concerning a crusade against the Turks for the relief of Hungary: and here, too, he was the leading spirit. When the crusade was actually in operation John accompanied the famousHunyady throughout the campaign: he was present at the battle of Belgrade, and led the left wing of theChristian army against the Turks. He was beatified in 1694, and canonized in 1724. He wrote many books, chiefly against the heresies of his day.

Sources

Three lives written by the saint's companions, NICHOLAS OF FARA, CHRISTOPHER OF VARESE, and JEROME OF UNDINE, are given by the Bollandists, Acta SS. X, October; WADDING, Annales, IX-XIII; GUIRARD, St. Jean de Capistran et son temps (Bourges, 1865); JACOB, Johannes von Capistrano (Doagh, 1903); ALLIES, Three Catholic Reformers (London, 1872); PASTOR, History of the Popes, II (London, 1891); LEO, Lives of the Saints and Blessed of the three Orders of St. Francis, III (Taunton, 1886).

Hess, Lawrence. "St. John Capistran." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 8. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910. 28 Oct. 2015 <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/08452a.htm>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Paul T. Crowley. In Memoriam, Mrs. Betty McHugh.


Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. October 1, 1910. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.



ST JOHN OF CAPISTRANO (A.D. 1456)

CAPISTRANO is a little town in the Abruzzi, which of old formed part of the kingdom of Naples. Here in the fourteenth century a certain free-lance -- whether he was of French or of German origin is disputed -- had settled down after military service under Louis I and had married an Italian wife. A son, named John, was born to him in 1386 who was destined to become famous as one of the great lights of the Franciscan Order. From early youth the boy's talents made him conspicuous. He studied law at Perugia with such success that in 1412 he was appointed governor of that city and married the daughter of one of the principal inhabitants. During hostilities between Perugia and the Malatestas he was imprisoned, and this was the occasion of his resolution to change his way of life and become a religious. How he got over the difficulty of his marriage is not altogether clear. But it is said that he rode through Perugia on a donkey with his face to the tail and with a huge paper hat on his head upon which all his worst sins were plainly written. He was pelted by the children and covered with filth, and in this guise presented himself to ask admission into the noviceship of the Friars Minor. At that date, 1416, he was thirty years old, and his novice-master seems to have thought that for a man of such strength of will who had been accustomed to have his own way, a very severe training was necessary to test the genuineness of his vocation. (He had not yet even made his first communion.) The trials to which he was subjected were most humiliating and were apparently sometimes attended with supernatural manifestations. But Brother John persevered, and in after years often expressed his gratitude to the relentless instructor who had made it clear to him that self-conquest was the only sure road to perfection.

In 1420 John was raised to the priesthood. Meanwhile he made extraordinary progress in his theological studies, leading at the same time a life of extreme austerity, in which he tramped the roads barefoot without sandals, gave only three or four hours to sleep and wore a hair-shirt continually. In his studies he had St James of the Marches as a fellow learner, and for a master St Bernardino of Siena, for whom he conceived the deepest veneration and affection. Very soon John's exceptional gifts of oratory made themselves perceptible. The whole of Italy at that period was passing through a terrible crisis of political unrest and relaxation of morals, troubles which were largely caused, and in any case accentuated, by the fact that there were three rival claimants for the papacy and that the bitter antagonisms between Guelfs and Ghibellines had not yet been healed. Still, in preaching throughout the length and breadth of the peninsula St John met with wonderful response. There is undoubtedly a note of exaggeration in the terms in which Fathers Christopher of Varese and Nicholas of Fara describe the effect produced by his discourses. They speak of a hundred thousand or even a hundred and fifty thousand auditors being present at a single sermon. That was certainly not possible in a country depopulated by wars, pestilence and famine, and in view of the limited means of locomotion then available. But there was good evidence to justify the enthusiasm of the latter writer when he tells us: "No one was more anxious than John Capistran for the conversion of heretics, schismatics and Jews. No one was more anxious that religion should flourish, or had more power in working wonders; no one was so ardently desirous of martyrdom, no one was more famous for his holiness. And so he was welcomed with honour in all the provinces of Italy. The throng of people at his sermons was so great that it might be thought that the apostolic times were revived. On his arrival in a province, the towns and villages were in commotion and flocked in crowds to hear him. The towns invited him to visit them, either by pressing letters, or by deputations, or by an appeal to the Sovereign Pontiff through the medium of influential persons."

But the work of preaching and the conversion of souls by no means absorbed all the saint's attention. There is no occasion to make reference here in any detail to the domestic embarrassments which had beset the Order of St Francis since the death of their Seraphic Founder. It is sufficient to say that the party known as the "Spirituals" held by no means the same views of religious observance as were entertained by those whom they termed the "Relaxed". The Observant reform which had been initiated in the middle of the fourteenth century still found itself hampered in many ways by the administration of superiors general who held a different standard of perfection, and on the other hand there had also been exaggerations in the direction of much greater austerity culminating eventually in the heretical teachings of the Fraticelli. All these difficulties required adjustment, and Capistran, working in harmony with St Bernardino of Siena, was called upon to bear a large share in this burden. After the general chapter held at Assisi in 1430, St John was appointed to draft the conclusions at which the assembly arrived and these "Martinian statutes", as they were called, in virtue of their confirmation by Pope Martin V, are among the most important in the history of the order. So again John was on several occasions entrusted with inquisitorial powers by the Holy See, as for example to take proceedings against the Fraticelli and to inquire into the grave allegations which had been made against the Order of Gesuats founded by Bd John Colombini. Further, he was keenly interested in that reform of the Franciscan nuns which owed its chief inspiration to St Colette, and in the tertiaries of the order. In the Council of Ferrara, later removed to Florence, he was heard with attention, but between the early and the final sessions he had been compelled to visit Jerusalem as apostolic commissary, and incidentally had done much to help on the inclusion of the Armenians with the Greeks in the accommodation, unfortunately only short-lived, which was arrived at Florence.

When the Emperor Frederick III, finding that the religious faith of the countries under his suzerainty was suffering grievously from the activities of the Hussites and other heretical sectaries, appealed to Pope Nicholas V for help, St John Capistran was sent as commissary and inquisitor general, and he set out for Vienna in 1451 with twelve of his Franciscan brethren to assist him. It is beyond doubt that his coming produced a great sensation. Aeneas Sylvius (the future Pope Pius II) tells us how, when he entered Austrian territory, "priests and people came out to meet him, carrying the sacred relics. They received him as a legate of the Apostolic See, as a preacher of truth, as some great prophet sent by God. They came down from the mountains to greet John, as though Peter or Paul or one of the other apostles were journeying there. They eagerly kissed the hem of his garment, brought their sick and afflicted to his feet, and it is reported that very many were cured... The elders of the city met him and conducted him to Vienna. No square in the city could contain the crowds. They looked on him as an angel of God." John's work as inquisitor and his dealings with the Hussites and other Bohemian heretics have been severely criticized, but this is not the place to attempt any justification. His zeal was of the kind that sears and consumes, though he was merciful to the submissive and repentant, and he was before his time in his attitude to witchcraft and the use of torture. The miracles which attended his progress wherever he went, and which he attributed to the relics of St Bernardino of Siena, were sedulously recorded by his companions, and a certain prejudice was afterwards created against the saint by the accounts which were published of these marvels. He went from place to place, preaching in Bavaria, Saxony and Poland, and his efforts were everywhere accompanied by a great revival of faith and devotion. Cochlaeus of Nuremberg tells us how "those who saw him there describe him as a man small of body, withered, emaciated, nothing but skin and bone, but cheerful, strong and strenuous in labour... He slept in his habit, rose before dawn, recited his office and then celebrated Mass. After that he preached, in Latin, which was afterwards explained to the people by an interpreter." He also made a round of the sick who awaited his coming, laying his hands upon each, praying, and touching them with one of the relics of St Bernardino.

It was the capture of Constantinople by the Turks which brought this spiritual campaign to an end. Capistran was called upon to rally the defenders of the West and to preach a crusade against the infidel. His earlier efforts in Bavaria, and even in Austria, met with little response, and early in 1456 the situation became desperate. The Turks were advancing to lay siege to Belgrade, and the saint, who by this time had made his way into Hungary, taking counsel with the great general Hunyady, saw clearly that they would have to depend in the main upon local effort. St John wore himself out in preaching and exhorting the Hungarian people in order to raise an army which could meet the threatened danger, and himself led to Belgrade the troops he had been able to recruit. Very soon the Turks were in position and the siege began. Animated by the prayers and the heroic example in the field of Capistran, and wisely guided by the military experience of Hunyady, the garrison in the end gained an overwhelming victory. The siege was abandoned, and western Europe for the time was saved. But the infection bred by thousands of corpses which lay unburied round the city cost the life first of all of Hunyady, and then a month or two later of Capistran himself, worn out by years of toil and of austerities and by the strain of the siege. He died most peacefully at Villach on October 23, 1456, and was canonized in 1724. His feast was in 1890 made general for all the Western church, and was then transferred to March 28.

The more important biographical materials for the history of St John of Capistrano are printed in the Acta Sanctorum, October, vol. x. See BHL., nn. 4360-4368. But in addition to these there is a considerable amount of new information concerning St John's writings, letters, reforms and other activities which has been printed during the present century in the Archivum Franciscanum Historicum edited at Quaracchi; attention may be called in particular to the papers on St John and the Hussites in vols. xv and xvi of the same periodical. This and other material has been used by J. Hofer in his St John Capistran, Reformer (1943), a work of much erudition and value. English readers may also be referred to a short life by Fr V. Fitzgerald, and to Léon, Auréole Séraphique (Eng. trans.), vol. iii, pp. 388-420.

SOURCE : http://www.katolikus.hu/hun-saints/john.html


Toward the end of the 14th century the kingdom of Naples was the scene of many wars. Among those who had been drafted to serve in the army was a German knight - others say he came from France - who married a young woman of great piety in Capistrano and then took up his abode there. St. John was born of these parents on June 24, 1385, and was later identified as Capistran, from Capistrano, the place of his birth.

After he had completed his studies in law at the University of Perugia, he became a lawyer in Naples, where he gained so admirable a reputation for his honesty and ability that King Ladislas frequently called him in for advice.

John was not yet 30 years old when the king made him governor of Perugia. Having tasted of the good fortune of this world, he was soon also to experience its instability. He had repaired to a neighboring town, where war had broken out, in order to arrange for a peaceful settlement. He was treacherously seized, loaded with heavy chains, and thrown into prison. No one bothered about releasing him. Then, quite strangely, a Franciscan surrounded with light appeared to him, and invited him to leave this unstable world and enter his order. Capistran replied: "I had never thought about embracing such a life; still, if God so wills it, I will obey."

At a great price he now obtained his freedom and begged for admission at the convent of the Franciscans in Perugia. After a rigorous trial of his humility, he received the holy habit on October 4, 1416. Form the very first he was earnestly minded to put off the old man and put on the one in justice and holiness. Because of the extraordinary circumstances surrounding his call to the religious life, he was frequently subjected to severe trials; but his virtue and divine calling always shown forth in increased brilliance. Rigorous mortification, perfect obedience, and a fervent devotion to the bitter Passion of Christ distinguished him among his brethren. He was also a devout client of our Blessed Lady, and felt certain that without her assistance it would not be possible for him to obtain the palm of victory.

When he began the study of theology under St. Bernardin of Siena shortly after he had pronounced his vows, it seemed as if he acquired his holy science more through divine inspiration than through human reflection, so that his saintly master once said: "John achieves more in his sleep than others who study day and night." St. James of the March was one of his fellow students. It appears that God caused to be brought together these three great men, who were faithfully to join their forces throughout their lives to promote the perfect observance of the rule in the order, as well as to combat the immorality of that time. Capistran was destines, however, to be the most conspicuous hero in this fight.

While still a deacon, he was sent out to preach in 1420; but not until 1425 did he begin his apostolic ministry. He began in Italy by taking up the struggle against vice. His former position in the world made him acquainted with the enormity of the evil, against which he now rose like another Elias. His burning words, his ardent zeal, and the holiness of his life caused veritable miracles of conversion. People came from every side to hear him, soon no church was large enough to accommodate the crowds. Sometimes 50,000, 80,000, and even more than 100,000 persons would gather about his pulpit in public squares and broad fields to listen to his sermons. His very appearance touched their hearts.

The holy orator could portray the glories of God and His justice, the depravity of vice and the beauty of virtue, the Passion of Christ, the power of the name of Jesus, and the charity of our Blessed Lady so marvelously that the most hardened sinners were converted, while apostates and unbelievers turned to God and the Church. His presence was requested everywhere, and he was received like an angel from heaven. But amid the demonstrations of honor, the servant of God would always say: "Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to Thy name give glory."

The pope once entrusted him with the mission against a certain heretical sect, and the eminent success of his labor caused him thereafter to be sent by Popes Martin V, Eugene IV, Nicholas V, and Callistus III as apostolic nuncio to northern and southern Italy, to Sicily, and other countries, to preach against the enemies of the Church.

The last five years of his active life were devoted to missionary labors in Germany. Emperor Frederick III begged the Holy Father in 1451 to send the renowned missionary to him to put a check on the scandalous advances of the heretical Hussites. John wended his way through Carinthia and Styria to Vienna. From there his progress led him to Bohemia, Moravia, Silesia, Bavaria, and Thuringia; and then back again to Poland, Transylvania, and Russia. The most astonishing miracles confirmed his words. He cured innumerable sick persons, raised dead people to life again, and with only his mantle spread upon the waters, crossed rivers with several companions. Seeing these prodigies, some of the most obdurate heretics were converted, and hundreds of young people asked for admission into the order.

During his mission against the enemies of the Church at home, great dangers arose abroad, threatening Christendom itself. Mohammed II had captured Constantinople in 1453, and was determined to force all Christians in the West to submit to Mohammedanism. His first objective at this time was Germany. He had already reached Hungary and was advancing on the fortress of Belgrade. There seemed to be little chance of saving it; the only hope of salvation seemed to lie in the hands of Capistran. He would lave to rouse the princes and the people to a crusade against the Turks. Pope Callistus III proclaimed the crusade and appointed Capistran to preach it.

Although he was now 70 years of age, and so reduced by labor and austerity that he seemed to be nothing but skin and bone, the saint rushed, like the flying messenger of Christ that he was, about Germany and Hungary, summoning volunteers for the war against the enemy of the Christian name. With the troops he had assembled, he then hastened to Belgrade to aid the gallant warrior Hunyady.

An army of several thousand Turks was encamped before the fortress, but Capistran did not allow that to frighten him. Filled with confidence in the holy name of Jesus, which was given the soldiers as their standard, and holding aloft the cross with the banner on which was inscribed the holy name, while frequently calling on the holy name with a loud voice, he led the troops against the enemies, who were at least ten times stronger than the Christians. But the power of the Lord of Hosts and the efficacy of the holy name were to be marvelously manifested. More Turks were slain in the attack by the enthusiastic warriors of Christ than the number of the Christian soldiers, and the rest fled in panic. Once more Christian Europe was saved.

This glorious victory on the feast of St. Mary Magdalen in 1456 was destined to be the crown of John's activities. He fell ill soon afterwards, and died in the Franciscan convent of Illok in Hungary on October 23rd. Glorified by God after his death with numerous miracles, he was canonized by Pope Alexander VIII in 1690.

THE LIFE OF A CHRISTIAN IS WARFARE

1. As St. Capistran fought for the Church of Christ, so must every Christian fight for his soul. Christ Himself has said: "I came not to send peace but the sword" (Matt 10:34). With the sword of Christ, that is, with His doctrine and His means of grace, as well as with His merits and His promises, we must do battle against the world and not let it attract us with its allurements. "Know you not, says St. James (4:4), "that the friendship of this world is the enemy of God?" Hence, keep on your guard against the children of this world. Thank God, inasmuch as He keeps you from mingling with this wicked world, even if it be through suffering and affliction. "We are chastised by the Lord, that we be not condemned with this world" (1 Cor 11:32). -- What are your sentiments concerning the world?

2. Consider that even though we may have withdrawn ourselves from the world, we shall still have enemies. "A man's enemies, " says Christ, "shall be they of his own household" (Matt 10:36). At times our own relatives stand in the way of our salvation and perfection with selfish interests. Hence our Lord adds: "He who loves father or mother more than Me, is not worthy of Me" (Matt 10:37). This may seem a hard saying to some, but it is God's word. In reality, we are our own worst enemy. Self-love, vanity, and sensuality seek to destroy our soul, that they may have their gratification. That is the tinder supplied by original sin; it came from hell and leads to hell. "If you live according to the flesh, you shall die" (Rom 8:13). Hence, die now to your inordinate desires so that you may not die the eternal death.

3. Consider that the devil, who led our first parents to commit sin, continues to assail the human race. "Our wrestling is not against flesh and blood; but against principalities and powers, against the rulers of the world of this darkness, against the spirits of wickedness in high places" (Eph 6:12). As invisible as the air that surrounds us, the wicked enemy struggles against us. Sometimes he incites wicked persons against us, sometimes he stirs up the passions in our hearts: revenge, impatience, pride, avarice, impurity. Let us then, "take the shield of faith," remembering whither sin leads, and "take the helmet of salvation" in the hope of eternal bliss, which the true soldier of Christ looks forward to, and draw "the sword of the spirit, by all prayer and supplication" (Eph 6:16-18). -- With the battle-cry of St. Capistran, "Jesus and Mary!" you, too, can rout the enemy and win the victory.

PRAYER OF THE CHURCH

O God, who didst marvelously exalt Thy Church through the merits and teachings of St. John, and through him didst lead the faithful to triumph over the faithless tyrants by the power of the most holy name of Jesus; grant, we beseech Thee, that through his intercession, we may obtain the victory over our enemies here upon earth, and merit to receive with him the reward in heaven. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

from: The Franciscan Book of Saints, ed. by Marion Habig, ofm., © 1959 Franciscan Herald Press

SOURCE : http://www.franciscan-sfo.org/sts/S1023john.htm

St. John of Capistrano

St. John was born at Capistrano, Italy in 1385, the son of a former German knight in that city. He studied law at the University of Perugia and practiced as a lawyer in the courts of Naples. King Ladislas of Naples appointed him governor of Perugia. During a war with a neighboring town he was betrayed and imprisoned. Upon his release he entered the Franciscan community at Perugia in 1416.
He and St. James of the March were fellow students under St. Bernardine of Siena, who inspired him to institute the devotion to the holy Name of Jesus and His Mother. John began his brilliant preaching apostolate with a deacon in 1420. After his ordination he traveled throughout Italy, Germany, Bohemia, Austria, Hungary, Poland, and Russia preaching penance and establishing numerous communities of Franciscan renewal.
When Mohammed II was threatening Vienna and Rome, St. John, at the age of seventy, was commissioned by Pope Callistus III to preach and lead a crusade against the invading Turks. Marching at the head of seventy thousand Christians, he gained victory in the great battle of Belgrade against the Turks in 1456. Three months later he died at Illok, Hungary. His feast day is October 23. He is the patron of jurists.

SOURCE : http://www.ucatholic.com/saints/saint-john-of-capistrano/



St. John Capistran, or, of Capistran, Confessor

JOHN, the father of this saint, was a gentleman of Anjou, who going to serve in the army of the kingdom of Naples, settled at Aquila, and soon after at Capistran, a neighbouring town, where he took a young lady to wife. Our saint was born at Capistran, in 1385, and after learning Latin in his own country, studied the civil and canon law at Perugia, in which faculty he commenced doctor with great applause. By his fortune and abilities he soon made a figure in that city, and one of the principal men of the town gave him his daughter in marriage. In 1413, a grievous dissension fell out between the city of Perugia and Ladislas, king of Naples. John used his best endeavours to bring his fellow-citizens to a peace, and carried on a negotiation for some time with success, for which he undertook some journeys. Those who were more violent in this quarrel, taking it into their heads that he betrayed his citizens in favour of his former master, a party belonging to one of these factions, seized his person on the road, and confined him in the castle of Bruffa, five miles from Perugia. In this prison he had much to suffer, being loaded with chains, and being allowed no other subsistence than bread and water. Seeing himself here abandoned by King Ladislas himself, and from his own feeling experience meditating on the inconstancy of human things, and the treachery and falsehood of a vain and sinful world, he began seriously to enter into himself, and to become a new man. His lady dying in that interval of time, he resolved to embrace a penitential state in the holy Order of St. Francis. Impatient of delays, he begged to be immediately admitted; but the guardian refused to send him the habit whilst he continued a prisoner. He therefore cut his clothes into the shape of a religious habit, and his hair so as to form a tonsure. Obtaining his liberty shortly after, he went to Capistran, and selling his estate, with part of the price he paid his ransom, and the remaining part he distributed among the poor. Then returning to Perugia, he took the habit in the convent of the Franciscans De Monte at Perugia, in 1415, being thirty years old. The guardian, who understood how full he had been of a worldly spirit, the more effectually to try his vocation, and to extinguish in him secular pride and self-love, ordered him to ride on an ass, in a ridiculous dress, through all the streets of Perugia, with a paper cap on his head, on which many grievous sins were written in capital letters. This must appear a severe trial to a man of birth and reputation; but such was the fervour of the saint in his penitential course, that it seemed to cost him nothing. He was moreover twice expelled the convent without any reason, and admitted again on very hard conditions.

The perfect spirit with which he underwent all humiliations and austerities that were imposed upon him, gave him in a short time so complete a victory over himself, that he never afterwards found any difficulty in the severest trials. Such was his ardour in the practice of penance, that to those enjoined by his rule or by obedience he added the most austere voluntary mortifications. To prepare himself for the first communion, which he made after his general confession upon taking the habit, he spent three days in prayer and tears, without taking any nourishment. From the time that he made his religious profession he ate only once a day, except in long fatiguing journeys, when he took an exceedingly small collation at night. For thirty-six years he never tasted flesh, except a very little out of obedience, when he was sick. Pope Eugenius IV. having commanded him in his old age to eat a little flesh meat, he obeyed, but took so very small a quantity that his holiness left him at liberty to use his own discretion. He slept on the boards, and took only three or sometimes four hours a night for his rest, employing the remaining part in prayer and contemplation; which exercises he for many years seemed never to interrupt but by preaching to the people, or short necessary repose. It would be too long to relate the admirable instances which are recorded of his perfect mortification, obedience, and humility, and the most profound sentiment of contempt of himself, which made him delight in the meanest employments. His spirit of compunction and gift of tears astonished and strongly affected those that conversed with him. He said mass every day with the most edifying devotion. By his zeal and ardent desire of the glory of God and the salvation of souls he seemed, in his actions and preaching, another St. Paul. Wherever he came, by his powerful words, or rather by that wonderful spirit of zeal and devotion with which he spoke, he beat down the pride and obstinacy of hardened sinners, filled their souls with holy fear, and softened their hearts into compunction. At the end of a sermon which he made at Aquila against the vanity, dangers, and frequent sins of the world with regard to dress, and amusements, the ladies brought together a great quantity of fine handkerchiefs, aprons, artificial heads of hair, 1 perfumes, cards, dice, and other such things, and made of them a great bonfire. The same was done at Nuremberg, Leipsic, Frankfort, Magdeburg, and several other places. He had a singular talent at reconciling the most inveterate enemies, and inducing them from their hearts to forgive one another. He made peace between Alphonsus of Arragon and the city of Aquila; also between the families of Oronesi and Lanzieni, and between many cities which were at variance, and he appeased the most violent seditions.

St. Bernardin of Sienna established a reformation of the Franciscan Order, and was appointed by the general, William of Cassal, in 1437, and confirmed by Pope Eugenius IV., in 1438, the first vicar-general of the Observantin or Reformed Franciscans in Italy, in which office he continued six years from his nomination by his general in 1437, and five from his confirmation by the pope. St. John was twice chosen to the same office, each time for the space of three years, and exceedingly promoted this reformation. By one sermon which he preached on death and the last judgment in Bohemia, one hundred and twenty young men were so moved, as with great fervour to devote themselves to God in different religious Orders, of which sixty embraced his penitential institute. He inherited St. Bernardin’s singular devotion to the holy name of Jesus, and to the glorious Mother of God. The marquisate of Ancona, Apulia, Calabria, and Naples, were the first theatres of his zeal; he afterwards preached frequently in Lombardy and the Venetian territories; then in Bavaria, Austria, Carinthia, Moravia, Bohemia, Poland, and Hungary

St. John was often employed in important commissions by the Popes Martin V., Eugenius IV., Nicholas V., and Calixtus III. The council of Basil, which had been called by Martin V., assembled in July, 1431, under Eugenius IV., and was in the first sessions approved by him, till this pope, alleging that the place was at too great a distance to suit the convenience of the Greek emperor and the oriental prelates, removed it to Ferrara, in 1437. 2 Those prelates who obstinately opposed this removal proceeded at length to an open schism. The pope employed St. John in several important commissions to stem this evil, and many great personages, particularly Philip, duke of Burgundy, to whom his holiness sent the saint for that purpose, were withdrawn by his exhortations from the schism. The saint was sent nuncio by the same pope to the Duke of Milan, to Charles VII., king of France, and into Sicily, and his endeavours met everywhere with the desired success. He was one of the theologians employed by his holiness at the council of Florence in promoting the union of the Greeks. Certain vagabond friars called Frerots and Beroches, the remains of the Fratricelli, whose heresy was condemned by Boniface VIII. and John XXII. in the beginning of the fourteenth century, filled the marquisate of Ancona with disturbances, till St. John, having received a commission from Eugenius to preach against them, entirely cleared Italy of that pestilential seditious sect. Many parts of Germany being at that time full of disorders and confusion, the Emperor Frederick III., Æneas Sylvius, legate and bishop of Sienna, (afterwards Pope Pius II.,) and Albert, duke of Austria, the emperor’s brother, solicited Pope Nicholas that St. John might be sent into those countries, that the force of his example, zeal, and eloquence might give a check to the overflowings of vice and heresy. St. John, therefore, was invested with the authority of apostolic legate, and, attended with one colleague, travelled by Venice and Friuli into Carinthia, Carniola, Tirol, Bavaria, and Austria, preaching everywhere with incredible fruit. His sermons he delivered in Latin, and they were afterwards explained by an interpreter to those who did not understand that language. The like blessings attended his labours in Moravia, Bohemia, Poland, and Hungary. 3 He converted in Moravia four thousand Hussites. Rockysana, the head of that party in Bohemia, invited him to a conference; but King Pogebrac, fearing the consequences of such a disputation, would not allow him the liberty. St. John was mortified at this disappointment, and wrote a book against Rockysana. 4 It would be too long to follow the saint in his progresses through the provinces above-mentioned; also, through Brandenburg, Poland, and Hungary, or to mention the honours with which he was received by the electors and other princes, especially the Dukes of Bavaria and Saxony, the Marquess of Brandenburg, and the emperor himself, who often assisted at his sermons.

Mahomet II. having taken Constantinople by assault on the 26th of May, 1453, Pope Nicholas V. sent a commission to St. John to exhort the Christian princes to take up arms to check the progress of the common enemy; which the saint executed with great success in several assemblies of princes of the empire. Nicholas V. dying in 1455, and Calixtus III. succeeding in the pontificate, St. John returned to Rome to receive the orders of the new pope. His holiness appeared more earnest than his predecessor had been to engage the Christians to undertake a general expedition against the infidels, who were carrying their victorious arms into the heart of Europe, 5 and he sent preachers to different parts to excite the princes to this war. St. John returned with ample powers to preach up the crusade in Germany and Hungary. Mahomet, after the taking of Constantinople, counted the western empire as already his own, and looked upon himself as master of all Christendom. Not doubting but he should soon plant the Ottoman crescent in the cities of Vienna and Rome, he marched his numerous victorious army into Hungary, and sat down before Belgrade on the 3d of June, in 1456. King Ladislas V. fled to Vienna; but John Corvin, commonly called Hunniades, 6 the brave Vayvode of Transylvania, and governor of Hungary, who had so often beat the Turks under Amurath, in Hungary, Transylvania, and Thrace, assembled his forces with all possible expedition, and sent to entreat St. John Capistran to hasten the march of forty thousand crusards, whom he had raised, to his assistance. The Turks covered the Danube with a fleet of two hundred ships of a particular construction for the navigation of that river, and had embarked on them an army of resolute veteran troops. Hunniades, with a fleet of a hundred and sixty saics, or small vessels, which were much lighter and much better commanded than those of the infidels, entirely discomfited them after a most obstinate and bloody engagement, and entered the town, which stands upon the confluence of the Danube and the Save. St. John Capistran attended him, animating the soldiers in the midst of all dangers, holding in his hands the cross that he had received from the pope. The Turks made several furious assaults upon the town, notwithstanding the slaughter of their bravest men was so great that they marched upon heaps of their own dead to the very walls. Thus at length they got into the town, and the Christians gave way before them. All things were despaired of, when St. John, appearing in the foremost rank, with his cross in his hand, encouraged the soldiers to conquer or die martyrs, often crying, with a loud voice, “Victory, Jesus, victory.” The Christians, thus animated, cut the infidels in pieces, threw them down from the ramparts, and drove them out of the town. In the sallies which the Christians made, they slew the Turks like sheep, and on every side repulsed their most determined and experienced troops. Mahomet, flushed with conquests and confidence of victory, became furious, and omitted nothing after every check to reanimate his troops, till at length, having lost his best officers and soldiers, and his own dearest friends, with sixty thousand soldiers, being himself wounded slightly in the thigh, and seeing the shattered remains of his great and haughty army, which he thought invincible, so dispirited, that he was no longer able, either by promises or severity, to make them face the Christians, shamefully raised the siege on the 6th of August; and, leaving behind him all his heavy artillery and baggage, and the greater part of his booty, retreated with precipitation. The next year he turned his arms, first against Trebizonde, and afterwards against the Persians; though, some time after, he again fell upon the West, when the brave Hunniades was no more. The glory of this victory is ascribed by historians not less to the zeal, courage, and activity of St. John Capistran than to the conduct of Hunniades. This great prince, who possessed the virtues of a Christian and all the qualifications of an accomplished general, was admirable for his foresight and precautions against all events, for his consummate knowledge of all the branches of the complicated art of war, for his undaunted courage in dangers, his alacrity, ardour, and cool presence of mind in action, and his skill in seizing the happy moments in battle upon which the greatest victories depend; which skill is so much the result of genius, improved by experience and deep reflection, that it may be called a kind of instinct, no less than the skill of able practitioners in physic in discerning the fatal, critical moments for applying powerful remedies in dangerous diseases, for strengthening nature in her efforts, or in checking, dissolving, correcting, or expelling morbid humours, &c.

It is not, however, detracting in the least from the glory of this Christian hero, to give equal praise to the zeal, activity, address, and courage of a religious man, in whose authority, prudence, and sanctity the soldiers placed an entire confidence. After all, it was the finger of the Almighty which overthrew phalanxes that seemed invincible. God employs second causes, but in them his mercy and power are not less to be adored. The divine assistance in this happy deliverance was, doubtless, obtained by the prayers of the servants of God, especially of St. John Capistran, whose name was then famous for many miracles which had been wrought by him. The brave Hunniades was taken ill of a fever, which he contracted by the fatigues of this campaign, and died at Zemplin on the 10th of September the same year. When he lay dying, he would absolutely rise, and go to church to receive the viaticum, saying, he could not bear the thoughts that the King of kings should come to him. St. John Capistran never quitted him during his last sickness, and pronounced his funeral sermon. At the news of his death Pope Calixtus III. wept bitterly, and all Christendom was in tears: Mahomet himself grieved, saying, in his boast, there was no longer any prince left in the world whom it would be either an honour or a pleasure to vanquish. St. John did not long survive him, being seized with a fever, incurable dysentery, and bloody flux, with the gravel. Whilst he lay sick in his convent at Willech or Vilak, near Sirmich, in the diocess of Five Churches, he was honoured with the visits of King Ladislas, the queen, and many princes and noblemen. Under his pains he never ceased praising and glorifying God; frequently confessed his sins, and received the viaticum and extreme unction with many tears. He often repeated that God treated him with too great lenity, and would never be laid on a bed, but on the hard floor. In this posture he calmly expired on the 23d of October, in 1456, being seventy-one years old. When Willech fell into the hands of the Turks, his body was removed by the friars to another town where the Lutherans afterwards (having plundered the shrine) threw it into the Danube. The relics were taken out of the river at Illoc, and are preserved there to this day. Pope Leo X. granted an office in his honour, to be celebrated at Capistran, and in the diocess of Sulmona. The saint was canonized by Alexander VIII. in 1690, and Benedict XIII. published the bull of his canonization in 1724. See his life compiled at length by F. Christopher of Variso, a Milanese, a disciple and companion; and again by F. Gabriel of Verona, another disciple. See also the letter of his religious companions, containing a relation of his death, to Card. Æneas Sylvius; Bonfinius, Dec. 3, l. 7; Æneas Sylvius, Hist. Boem. c. 65, and in Descr. Europæ, c. 8; Gonzaga in Austriacâ et Argentinâ Provincia, p. 451. F. Henry Sedulius, in Historia Seraphica, seu S. Francisci et aliorum hujus ordinis qui relati sunt inter sanctos, fol. Antv. 1611; and F. Wadding’s Annals, in eight vols. Fresnoy mistakes when he says, Wadding’s catalogue of writers makes his eighth volume: for there is an eighth volume of his annals printed at Rome, in 1654, after the others, very scarce before the new Roman edition.

Note 1. Artificial heads of hair were used by some before bonnets became the fashion. [back]

Note 2. The council of Basil was continued eighteen years, first at Basil, afterwards at Lausanne. Its proceedings in 1433 concerning the Hussites, and some points of ecclesiastical discipline, were approved and confirmed by Pope Eugenius IV. and this council is allowed to have been legal and general in the beginning, says Bellarmin; most theologians and canonists say, to the tenth session, held in 1433. During this session the pope, by a message, ordered it to be removed; and from this time the synod refused to admit his legates. By a few French theologians (whose number is very inconsiderable among those of that nation) it has been esteemed legal beyond this term to the twenty-sixth session, in 1437, when it was solemnly and finally dissolved by a bull of Eugenius, and the general council at the same time opened at Ferrara, to which Turrecramata, and a considerable part of those prelates that were assembled at Basil, then removed. Some, however, staid behind, and continued their sessions, but from this time schismatically, during the forty-five last sessions. In the thirty-sixth (schismatical) session, anno 1439, it was decreed, that the opinion which affirms the Blessed Virgin to have been conceived without original sin, is conformable to the Catholic faith, and to be held by all Catholics. The French Pragmatic sanction of Charles VII. relating chiefly to the collation of benefices, in 1438, was approved by this council. In the thirty-ninth session, in 1439, Amedius VII. formerly duke of Savoy, was chosen antipope, under the name of Felix V. This prince had governed his state with great prudence and virtue, and, in 1416, first erected the county of Savoy into a duchy. In 1434 he resigned his dominions to his two sons, and, turning hermit, retired to Ripailles, a most pleasant priory and solitude near the lake of Geneva; whence the proverb Faire Ripaille, for taking a pleasant country vacation. In 1439 he was prevailed upon by the schismatical prelates at Basil to receive from them a pretended pontificate; which he afterwards voluntarily resigned, in 1449, and, being created cardinal by Nicholas V., died piously at Geneva. The presence of the chief patriarchs, as principal prelates, (at least by their deputies,) and of bishops from the different kingdoms of the Catholic Church, who represent the body of the first pastors of the whole church, are conditions necessary to constitute a general council; which were wanting at Basil after the tenth session; these were even then holding a general council at Florence. The confirmation of the pope is also required by most canonists and theologians to a general council. If doubts arise whether a council be general, we are to consider whether it be looked upon by the church as such, and as the representative of the whole; or whether the whole church receives ex post facto, as they say, and acquiesces in its decisions. Thus the frivolous objection that the conditions of certain councils are ambiguous, falls to the ground, and we cannot in practice be at a loss where to fix this authority, though this may sometimes be obscure till circumstances are cleared up.

  The true general council of Florence met first at Ferrara in 1437; and thither John Palæologus, the Greek emperor, with his prelates, repaired. After sixteen sessions, a contagious distemper breaking out at Ferrara, the council was removed by Eugenius IV. to Florence, in 1439, and the same year, in the twenty-fifth session, (which was the tenth that was held at Florence,) on the 6th of July, the Greeks having renounced their schism and errors, (except Mark of Ephesus,) the decree of union was signed. After the departure of the Greeks the Armenians abjured their heresy, and subscribed a decree of union proposed by Eugenius IV. This council lasted three years after this, and was at length concluded at Rome, in the Lateran palace, in 1442. See Nat. Alex. Hist. Sæc. 15, Diss. 8, 9; Macquer; Le Fevre in Cont. Fleury, t. 22, l. 3, Graveson; Leo Allatius, de Consensu Eccl.
Occid. et Orient; Berthier, Hist. l’Egl. Gallic t. 16, &c. [back]

Note 3. Bohemia was at that time overrun with Hussites, and from the year 1415 had been a scene of blood and tumults. To revenge the death of John Huss, Zisca, (whose true name was John of Trocznou,) a veteran general, assembled an army of his followers, and plundered the whole country with unheard-of barbarity. After the death of King Wenceslas, in 1417, he opposed the election of Sigismund, who was Emperor of Germany, defeated his armies eight times, built the strong fortress which he called Thabor, amidst waters and mountains, and died in 1424. Sigismund had made peace with him before his death, and at the council of Basil promised the archbishopric of Prague to John Rockysana, a clergyman, who had been deputed by the Hussites to the council of Basil, but who abjured that heresy, upon condition that the laity in Bohemia might be allowed to communicate in both kinds. The deputies of the council of Basil, and the Catholic assembly at Iglaw, in the diocess of Olmutz, in 1436, acquiesced; but required this condition, that, in case of such a concession, the priest should declare before giving the communion in both kinds, that it is an error to believe that Christ’s body or blood is alone under either kind. This Rockysana boggled at: nor would the pope ever grant him his bulls. His partisans, however, styled him archbishop, and he appeared at their head till his death, which happened a little before that of George Pogebrac, in 1471, who had been king of Bohemia from the year 1458: though secretly a Hussite, he demolished the fortress of Thabor, that it might not serve for a retreat to rebels. [back]

Note 4. The chief works of St. John Capistran are, A Treatise on the Authority of the Pope against the Council of Basil; The Mirror of Priests; A Penitential; On the Last Judgment; On Antichrist and the Spiritual Warfare; with some tracts on points of the civil and canon law. His books on the conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, on Christ’s passion, (on which see Benedict XIV. de Canoniz. Sanct.) several against Rockysana, and the Hussites, &c., have never been printed. [back]

Note 5. The victories of Tamerlane over Bajazet, in 1399, had not so weakened the Turks, but they raised their heads again in the reign of Mahomet I. who wrested from the Venetians several places of which they were then possessed on the coasts of Asia Minor and in Europe; for their dominions at that time extended from the Capo d’Istria to the walls of Constantinople. In 1420 this conqueror took from them Salonica, the capital of Macedon; which the Greek emperor had given them, because he was not in a condition himself to defend it. Mahomet’s two immediate successors, Amurath II. and Mahomet II. were the greatest conquerors that nation ever produced. The former, nevertheless, met with great checks from Hunniades and Scanderbeg. Hunniades defeated two armies, which he sent to invade Hungary, in 1442, and obtained for King Ladislas IV. a good peace. But that prince, thinking the opportunity of the crusade favourable, broke his treaty, by the advice of the legate, Cardinal Julian, on this false pretence, that the infidels never observed treaties with Christians, when it seemed their interest to break them; as if the injustice of others could excuse in them the same crimes. In punishment, whilst Hunniades routed the left wing of the Turks, the king, by his own rashness, lost the victory with his life, in the plains of Varne, in Bulgary, in 1444. Ladislas V. the son of Albert of Austria, a child only five years old, being chosen king, Hunniades was appointed governor of the kingdom, which he protected by his valour. At the same time reigned in Epirus the famous George Castriot, called by the Turks Scanderbeg, that is, Lord Alexander, who passed his youth among them, an hostage from his father in the court of Amurath II. His wonderful exploits and his victories over the numerous armies of Amurath and Mahomet II. are as well known as the name of King Arthur. (See his life written by Marinus Barlet, a contemporary priest of Epirus; and that compiled in French by F. Poncet, Jesuit, in 1709.) Scanderbeg, on his death-bed, in the sixty-third year of his age, with his children, recommended his dominions to the care and protection of the Venetians; but they soon after fell into the hands of the Turks. Matthias Corvinus, a son of the brave Hunniades, was chosen king of Hungary in 1458, and, so long as he lived, defended that kingdom from the insults of the infidels. [back]

Note 6. Or Hugniades, pronounced Hunniades. [back]


Rev. Alban Butler (1711–73).  Volume X: October. The Lives of the Saints.  1866.

SOURCE : http://www.bartleby.com/210/10/233.html

John of Capistrano, OFM (RM)

Born at Capistrano, Abruzzi, Italy, in 1386; died at Villach, Austria, October 23, 1456, canonized in 1724; feast day formerly March 28. Saint John of Capistrano had spent his early life vigorously engaged in secular affairs. His considerable talents drew attention to him early in life. He read law at the University of Perugia and, in 1412, was appointed governor of that city. At age 30, he married. During the war between Perugia and the supporters of Malatesta, he was captured and flung into a foul dungeon--the best thing that ever happened to him. There John experienced a conversion which made him repent of his past sins and seek the life of a friar. He was dispensed of his marriage vows, publicly repented of his sins, and submitted himself to the hard discipline of the Franciscans.



In 1416, he joined the Friars Minor, studied under Saint Bernardino of Siena, whom he greatly revered, and was ordained in 1420. For thirty years John used his chief skills--once used as a legal orator--as a preacher. Hundreds and thousands came to hear him preach as he travelled throughout Italy, where he worked in close association with Saint James of the Marches of Ancona, another missioner. The Holy Spirit used John's sermons to draw thousands back to God. Soon he was asked to preach abroad in Bavaria, Saxony, and Poland, where his sermons stimulated a great revival of faith. He worked in Italy

Working also with his friend St. Bernardino, John played an influential part in the efforts to heal the divisions in the Franciscan order. He drew up the plans approved by the general chapter of the Franciscans held at Assisi in 1430 for a short-lived reunion of the various groups of the order. The following year he was active at the Observant chapter at Bologna, and according to Gonzaga was appointed commissary general. In 1430, John helped elect Bernardino vicar general of the Observants and soon after met Saint Colette in France and joined her efforts to reform the Poor Clares.

He was inquisitor in the proceedings against the Fraticelli and the charges made against the Gesuats. His secular experience made John an excellent choice as a papal emissary; therefore, he was frequently entrusted with missions abroad on behalf of the popes. In 1439, he was legate to Milan and Burgundy to oppose the claims of antipope Felix V. In 1446, he was sent on a mission to the king of France.

When in 1451 Emperor Frederick III begged Pope Nicholas V to send someone to try to counteract the activities of the Hussites, John was chosen as papal inquisitor and sent with twelve Franciscans to combat their influence in the Austrian domain. John regarded these men and women with implacable hostility, as heretics and his methods with the obstinate were such as to incur the reprobation of later times. (So great was the reaction of later Protestants to John's vehemence towards the Hussites that in 1526, the Calvinists threw his relics down a well.)

His campaign against the Hussites finally ended when John turned his attention to the Turks, who in 1453 had captured Constantinople. John of Capistrano, deeply anxious about the possibility that the Turks might overrun western Christendom the way they had conquered the east, preached a crusade against the invading armies, but he was unsuccessful in rallying the princes of Bavaria and Austria.

By 1456, the Turks were threatening Belgrade. John sought an audience with the Hungarian general Janos Hunyadi. Hunyadi, inspired by the saint, rallied the Hungarians to resist the invading Turks and personally led the left wing of the Christian army at the Battle of Belgrade in 1456. The failure of the Turks to capture the city in the ensuing siege saved Europe from being overrun by the Turks.

Within a few months both he and Hunyadi were dead of plague. John of Capistrano combined compassion for the poor and oppressed with excessive severity towards those whom he regarded as being culpably in error (Attwater, Bentley, Delaney, Encyclopedia, Hofer).

In art, St. John is a Franciscan pointing to a crucifix which he holds. At times, he may be shown (1) with a crucifix and lance, treading a turban underfoot; (2) preaching, angels with rosaries and IHS above him (he holds a crucifix; symbols for the four evangelists, among whom St. John is not an eagle, but a Franciscan holding a crucifix--this refers to one of his sermons); or (3) banner of cross and cross on his breast (Roeder).


Voir aussi : http://catholicharboroffaithandmorals.com/St.%20John%20Capitran.html