St. John of God, also known as João Cidade or João de Deus, was a Portuguese priest and founder of the Hospitaller Order of St. John of God, which became known for its care of the sick and needy. He was born in Montemor-o-Novo, Portugal in 1495, the son of a Spanish couple who had settled in Portugal.
As a young man, John left home to work as a shepherd and later joined the Spanish army. He served in several campaigns, including the siege of Pampeluna in 1521, but eventually left the army and began wandering through Spain, working odd jobs and begging for food and shelter.
In 1537, John experienced a profound spiritual conversion after hearing a sermon by the famous preacher John of Avila. He decided to dedicate his life to serving the poor and sick, and began working in a hospital in Granada. However, his unorthodox methods and extreme devotion to the patients led to his dismissal.
Undeterred, John continued his work on behalf of the sick and homeless, often risking his own life to rescue people from burning buildings or drowning in rivers. His reputation as a compassionate and tireless caregiver grew, and in 1550 he was granted permission by the Archbishop of Granada to establish a hospital.
John’s hospital, which he called the Hospitaller Order of St. John of God, became known for its excellent care of the sick and poor. He attracted many followers and his order spread throughout Europe and the Americas. In addition to his work as a caregiver, John was known for his strict adherence to poverty, chastity, and obedience.
John of God died in Granada on March 8, 1550, after collapsing in the street while carrying a sick man to the hospital. His feast day is celebrated on March 8th.