ST JOHN OF MATHA,Confessor
FOUNDER OF THE ORDER OF THE TRINITARIANS
Feast day : February 8
John of Matha
Born in Faucon, Provence, France, June 23, 1160 or June 24, 1169, according to Husenbeth, or 1154 per Tabor.
Died in Rome, Italy, December 17, 1213.
cultus approved in 1655 and 1694.
St. John was born of very pious and noble parents, at Faucon, on the borders of Provence, June the 24th, 1169, and was baptized John, in honour of St. John the Baptist. His mother dedicated him to God by a vow from his infancy. His father Euphemius sent him to Aix, where he learned grammar, fencing, riding, and other exercises fit for a young nobleman. But his chief attention was to advance in virtue. He gave the poor a considerable part of his money his parents sent him for his own use; he visited the hospital every Friday, assisting the poor sick, dressing and cleansing their sores, and affording them all the comfort in his power.
Saint John was educated at Aix, but on his return to Faucon lived as a hermit for a time. He then went to Paris where he received his doctorate in theology and was ordained in 1197. At the first Mass he celebrated as a new priest, he had a vision of an angel, clothed in white with a red and blue cross on his breast. The angel placed his hands on the heads of two slaves, who knelt beside him.
Thereafter, Saint John joined Saint Felix of Valois in his hermitage at Cerfroid. John confided in Felix his idea of founding a religious order to ransom the thousands of Christians captured the followers of Islam and sold into slavery. Late in 1197, the two went to Rome and found that Pope Innocent III had experienced a similar vision. Without hesitation Innocent provided papal approval for the Order of the Most Holy Trinity for the Redemption of Captives the Trinitarians, with John as superior. They also secured the approval of King Philip Augustus of France, and travelled throughout that country collecting money. The order flourished, spread to France, Spain, Italy, and England, sent many of its members to North Africa, and redeemed many captives.
The Trinitarians would go into the slave markets, buy the Christian slaves and set them free. Of course, this required a good deal of capital. Saint John entrusted the fundraising activities of the Trinitarians under the patronage of Mary, whom John honored with the title, "Our Lady of Good Remedy." They were so successful that, over the centuries, the Trinitarians were able to free thousands of slaves.
Nothing else is known about Saint John because his biographies were based on spurious records. Felix of Valois may be a fictional character, though his name is generally associated with the real John of Matha. The problem is that there is no record of the person or cultus for Saint Felix until the 17th century. The original story for Saint Felix that was included in the Roman breviary until 1961 .