People who are willing to stand up for what is right and condemn what is evil leave their mark on the world. But they also may find themselves with enemies. John Chrysostom, an eloquent bishop-preacher of the fourth century, understood this.
John was born around 347 in Antioch, Syria. His father died when he was a child, so his mother guided his education. John was a gifted student. At 18, he experienced a religious conversion and began to study the Bible. Three years later, John joined a group of monks in the mountains. He left them to live as a hermit in a cave. But his health suffered, and he returned to Antioch. There others quickly noticed his gifts as a monk, a biblical scholar, and an eloquent speaker. Soon he was ordained to the diaconate and was ordained a priest at 39.
In 397, John was made the bishop-patriarch of Constantinople. He lived a simple life, giving his wealth over for the building of hospitals, and he set about reforming the clergy and the city. He deposed bishops for buying their way into office. John sold much of the expensive furniture in the bishop’s residence and gave the money to those who were poor. He attacked wealthy people for misuse of their riches. John sought to reform the lax clergy, to straighten out the badly managed budget, and to rid the land of violence. His zeal for charity and justice angered the empress, Eudoxia, and provoked the jealousy of Theophilus, the patriarch of Alexandria. John was impeached and exiled. Even though he had the support of Pope Innocent I, John was exiled even farther away and died en route in 407.
The role of a true prophet is to comfort the disturbed and to disturb the comfortable. John Chrysostom did just that.
John was given the title Chrysostom, meaning “Golden Mouth,” because of his eloquence. Hold a John Chrysostom Day on which the students make speeches dealing with a moral theme relevant to their school, home, or society. Awards may be given to students for clarity of thought and powerful expression.
In 387, John Chrysostom helped ease tensions in Antioch after a tax riot broke out. The emperor had levied a heavy tax to increase his defense budget, and the people revolted. It was John’s first year as a priest, and he interceded, calling for restraint and peace. Help the students discuss contemporary issues and the Church’s directives about them.
Excerpted from Christ Our Life, by Sisters of Notre Dame of Chardon, Ohio