John was born in a town of northern Italy about the year 1180 and devoted himself to the practice of law. He was judge in the city of Castellana, when, as reported in the chronicles of the order, he saw a herd of swine resisting the herdsman's efforts to drive them into their pen. Their herdsman finally shouted in rage: "Get in there, ye cursed swine, like godless lawyers and judges into hell!" Immediately the animals struggled helter-skelter in the sty.
The incident set John thinking on the dangers of his profession, and he decided to withdraw from it. Chancing to hear St. Francis of Assisi preach some time later - it was in the year 1212 - he joined the order and led a most exemplary life in it.
At the general chapter in the year 1219, the holy Founder appointed him provincial of Spain. After that the Order of Friars Minor spread so rapidly, and its labors were so bountifully blessed in that country that, upon receiving the information, St. Francis broke out in loud praises of God.
Upon the death of the holy Founder in the year 1226, John was unanimously elected general of the order. He administered the duties of the office with great zeal. He made all his visitation journeys with unshod feet, and placed great importance on the observance of religious discipline.
On the occasion of an uprising in Rome, Pope Gregory IX called John to the city to bring the rebels back to obedience. When they refused to listen to his words John prophesied that the Tiber would overflow. This actually took place soon after, and the terrible devastation caused the insurgents to submit.
In spite of his efforts on behalf of the order, John found that he was not able to restrain certain friars who were causing a relaxation of discipline. So the devout and humble man resigned his office in the year 1233. With the permission of his successor, Brother Elias, he went to the island of Corsica, where he wished to establish convents of the order among the rugged inhabitants.
In the latter years of his life, John applied himself mainly to prayer. He was called by God to his eternal rest in 1250, having been glorified on earth by many miracles.
*from The Franciscan Book of Saints by Marion A, Habig, O.F.M.
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