Wednesday, September 18, 2013

September 18: St. John Massias, C., O.P., III Class

Today, in the 1962 Dominican Rite Calendar, we celebrate the feast of Saint John Massias, a lay brother of the Order of Preachers.  The feast is III Class, but this year it falls on Ember Wednesday in September, so a commemoration is made of his feast at Lauds only

From “Short Lives of the Dominican Saints” (London, Kegan Paul, Trench, and Trübner & Co., Ltd., 1901):

[Saint] John Massias was a Spaniard of noble descent, and was born at Rivera, in Castile, A.D. 1585.  His parents were very poor in this world’s goods, but rich in virtue, and brought the child up very piously.  When four years old, little John’s mind seemed already to have attained the maturity of manhood.  He cared nothing for childish sports and pastimes, but consecrating himself wholly to Our Lady, resolved to recite her Rosary thrice every day, a practice in which he persevered even until death, to the great profit of this soul.  He loved to gather children of his own age round him and to instruct them in holy things.  He lost his parents whilst still very young, and had to earn his bread as a shepherd.  Whilst tending his flock, he devoted himself to prayer and holy meditation, and received many wonderful supernatural favors.  God entrusted hi in a special manner to the keeping of Saint John the Evangelist, who used often to appear to him under the form of a beautiful child.  Our Lady also frequently visited him, and these two celestial friends would sometimes carry him away with them to a glorious country, which they told him, was the home in which they dwelt, and which he was one day to inhabit with them.  When, after these mysterious journeys, he returned to the hills where he had left his flock, he found it safely tended, having been guarded all the time by a beautiful, doubtless no together than the Blessed Virgin herself.  Saint John also often rendered him this charitable service during his ecstasies, collected his sheep for him, and helped him to bring them back tot the fold at night.  In obedience to the Holy Evangelist, he crossed over to South American, not, like so many of his countrymen, for the sake of gain, but because he had been told that somewhere in that distant land was the place where God willed that he should serve Him.

On reaching the New World, John entered the service of a wealthy man, and was employed for two years and a half in tending cattle in the vast solitudes of those unexplored regions.  At length his vocation was made manifest, and he became a lay brother in the Dominican Convent of Saint Mary Magdalen at Lima, a house of strict observance, where he made his profession on January 22, 1623.  He treated his body with such extreme severity that his Superiors were compelled to moderate his penitential practices.  He allowed himself only one hour for sleep, and this he took kneeling in his cell before a picture of Our Lady, with his head leaning on the bed, or at the foot of the High Altar or Rosary Altar, or on the bare ground in the cloister.  His food was very scanty; and he used to collect all that was left from the meals of the Community and distribute it on his knees to the poor with the most tender charity and devotion.  His office of porter afforded him many opportunities of serving these suffering members of his Divine Master.  HE often begged for them in the city, and trained the Convent ass to go alone from house to house to gather alms for them.  He daily fed two hundred poor persons, and the wooden spoon is still preserved with which he distributed the food at the Convent gate, and with which, when his provisions were exhausted, he used to make the sign of the Cross over the empty bowl, whereupon it would immediately be once more filled.  He took special care of the bashful poor, and his miracles in the exercise of his charity were very numerous.

The sanctity of [Saint] John caused him to be held in very great esteem, so that persons of the highest rank used to come to the Convent to see him, and commend themselves to his prayers.  This was a severe trial to his humility, and on such occasions he generally managed to hide from his illustrious visitors.  He sincerely regarded himself as the worst of sinners.  When his terrific austerities had caused a malady which necessitated his undergoing an extremely painful surgical operation, he bore the long and agonizing incisions without a groan, and, when asked how he could remain so motionless beneath the knife, he humbly replied; “I thought I was before the judgment seat of God, and that these torments were inflicted for my sins; and they seemed little in comparison with what I deserved.”

[Saint] John’s devotion to the Blessed Sacrament was very great.  He used to serve all the early Masses until the business of the day summoned him from the church, and then he would assist in spirit at the remaining Masses, kneeling in adoration as he caught the distant sound of the Elevation bell.  It was his great delight to decorate the church for the great festivals, and especially to adorn the line of procession along with the Most Holy was to be born on Corpus Christi.  In spite of this continual occupations, he daily recited three entire Rosaries on his knees.  For fourteen years he was cruelly tormented by devils as soon as he set himself to prayer, but he persevered faithfully and fervently in this holy exercise, in spite of all their efforts to drive him from it.  He had a very special love for the crucifix which hung in the porter’s room.

His death-bed was a holy and happy scene.  The Divine Master whom he had served so lovingly, our Lady of the Rosary, the Beloved Disciple, and many other Saints appeared to him and consoled him; and with the words;: “Into Thy hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.” He tranquilly expired on the 17th of September, A.D. 1645.  His miracles both in life and after death were very numerous and remarkable.  He was beatified by Gregory XVI.


O God, you went before the blessed confessor, John, in the fullness of your grace, and willed that he should flourish in a humble state of life by the radiance of his ways; grant us, we beg, to tread in his steps that we may reach you with unsullied souls.  Through our Lord…