In 1976, October 23 was assigned by Pope Paul VI as the date the Church would remember the life and witness of Saint John Capistrano.
Saint John Capistrano died on this day in the year 1456.
John was a Franciscan friar and priest, but not of the good-natured variety of Franciscans that holds the popular imagination. To describe John as zealous would be an understatement. He walked the fine line between zeal and fanaticism, allowing God to write straight with the crooked lines he drew throughout his life.
His chosen profession was a lawyer. He was a married man. He set aside his profession and left his wife, actions that were the result of an intense experience of conversion. He entered the Franciscan Order and became well known for his preaching and teaching. He led a reform of the Franciscan Order that insisted on radical asceticism and obedience. He brokered no compromise and had no patience for opposition. Appointed as an inquisitor, his prosecution of heresy was ferocious.
Ironically, this hunter of heretics found himself accused of heresy, but he successfully defended himself against these accusations and was acquitted of the charges.
He died during the siege of the city of Belgrade in the year on October 23, 1456. He is known as a “soldier saint” because he personally led troops into this battle.
Saint John of Capistrano was a heroic figure and his life well represents the age in which he lived. Those warlike days seem over for us, and it is likely some might say that his life has little, if any resonance or relevance, to our own concerns. Most nowadays recoil in horror at a Church that would insist that heresy be prosecuted in civil courts and priests take up arms in battle. This sense of revulsion has not always been the prevailing norm.
We share the same Faith as Saint John Capistrano, but our vision of what the Faith should be and do differs in some, if not many, respects.