Blessed John of Penna

Blessed John of Penna

Beato Giovanni della Penna

Confessor, First Order

A true son of our holy Father St Francis, John of Penna, who was born about 1193, in the March of Ancona, was called by a heavenly messenger to be a follower of St Francis. When our Seraphic Founder sent his first disciples into the provinces of Italy to preach penance and to extend the order, Brother Philip came to Penna in order to preach in the church of St Stephen about 1213.

At the same time, the devout young man John saw a youth of extraordinary beauty standing beside him, who invited him to go to St. Stephen’s Church to listen attentively to the preacher. He added:

“You will make a great journey, but at the end of it heaven itself will be open to you.”

John went to the church, listened with astonishment to the zealous preacher, and after the sermon he begged for the habit of the order.

Blessed John of Penna attended the provincial chapter of the order at Recanati, and in the year 1217 St Francis sent him to France with many others of his brethren. His unchanging sweetness, his invincible patience, and his angelic purity drew all hearts to him. He spent twenty-five years in southern France, where he accomplished untold good for the salvation of souls and the extension of the order. Meanwhile he earnestly desired that his earthly pilgrimage would draw to a close and that he might be permitted to go to God. Seated under a tree, he prayed as did the prophet Elias.

“Lord, take away my soul.”

But Blessed John of Penna received the same answer:

“Thou has yet a great way to go.”

Then a messenger arrived from the Father Provincial of the order recalling him to Italy. John set out joyfully in the hope that at the end of the journey Our Lord would call him to Himself. But he was disappointed; he had to tarry thirty years before his hopes were realized. In 1248, to settle a civil conflict at Penna San Giovanni, he wrote a pact, which is of basic value in the history of Italian law. It was discovered only recently.

Ever perfectly resigned, he accomplished much good by his patience and gentleness as guardian of several convents in Italy. Finally his end drew nigh. One night after Matins, as was his custom, he remained in contemplation until break of day, when an angel appeared to him and announced that his death was near and left to him the choice of suffering one day in purgatory or of expiating his remaining faults through seven days of suffering here on earth. John chose to suffer seven days here.

At once Blessed John of Penna fell sick with a high fever and pain in all his bodily members, besides, he was afflicted with great interior troubles of mind and temptations to despair. It seemed to him that he had never done anything good, but had burdened himself with great responsibility. The exhortations of his Father Confessor and his references to God’s mercy comforted him.

On the seventh day Our Divine Savior Himself appeared to him in all His glory, and with a marvelous sweetness put an end to all his sufferings and told him that eternal bliss was his portions. The soul of John then winged its flight to heaven. This occurred on April third between 1270 and 1275. Pope Pius VII approved the devotion accorded to him from time immemorial.

*from The Franciscan Book of Saints, Marion Habig, OFM

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