The Legion of Mary Ghana

Saint John Chrysostome: Bishop and Doctor of the Church

"The golden Mouth".

Today the Church celebrates the memorial of Saint John Chrysostome.

John received an excellent education in the liberal arts and was baptized at the age of eighteen, in keeping with the custom of adult baptism common to his era. He joined a rustic group of hermits in the hills outside of his hometown in his mid-twenties. The conditions were so physically and psychologically brutal, though, that he left after seven years. Living always isolated and mortified would not be his path. He was ordained a priest in 386. His bishop recognized his gifts and put him in charge of the physical and pastoral care of the poor of Antioch, a ministry in which he honed his natural gifts as a preacher. He was so skillful in preaching that, a century after his death, he was given the title of chrysostom, or “golden mouth.” John’s theological acumen was no less impressive. His sermons and letters display a refined understanding of the intricacies of the Holy Trinity and of the Gospels. His beautiful theological and spiritual reflections are referenced numerous times in the modern Catechism of the Catholic Church.

In 398 Saint John was consecrated the Archbishop of Constantinople, the New Rome, provoking jealousy among some contemporaries. John did himself no favors by his overaggressive reforms as Archbishop. He bluntly criticized women for wearing make-up, Christians for attending races and games on holy days, the imperial court for its extravagances, and the clergy for their laxity and wealth-seeking. Recriminations soon followed. He was falsely charged with treason and other crimes and was exiled in 402. He was reinstated after an earthquake in Constantinople was interpreted as divine punishment for his banishment. But John was exiled a second time shortly thereafter. Like other saints, his time of exile proved fruitful. He wrote numerous letters, specifically to bishops in the Western Empire, including the pope. But also like other exiled popes and bishops, assertions of support were only as sturdy as the paper on which they were written. Practical help never materialized. John died in exile in 407, a victim of cold, rain, a forced march and lack of food. Within a decade after his death, his reputation was restored by the pope, and his remains were transferred for burial in Constantinople. He was recognized as a Father of the Church at the Council of Chalcedon in 451 and declared a Doctor of the Church in 1568.