Conversion St. John of God saving the Sick from a Fire at the Royal Hospital in 1549 by Manuel Gómez-Moreno González (1880) John experienced a major religious conversion on Saint Sebastian's Day (January 20) of 1537, while listening to a sermon by John of Ávila, a leading preacher of the day who was later to become his spiritual director and would encourage him in his quest to improve the life of the poor. At the age of 42, he had what was perceived at the time as an acute mental breakdown. Moved by the sermon, he soon engaged in a public beating of himself, begging mercy and wildly repenting for his past life. He was incarcerated in the area of the Royal Hospital reserved for the mentally ill and received the treatment of the day, which was to be segregated, chained, flogged, and starved. John was visited by John of Avila, who advised him to be more actively involved in tending to the needs of others rather than in enduring personal hardships. John gained peace of heart, and shortly after left the hospital to begin work among the poor. Around this time, he made a pilgrimage to the shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Extremadura, where it is said he experienced a vision of Mary, who encouraged him to work with the poor. John expended all his energy in caring for the neediest people of the city. He established a house where he wisely tended to the needs of the sick poor, at first doing his own begging. When John began to put into effect his dream, because of the stigma attached to mental illness, he found himself misunderstood and rejected. For some time he was alone in his charitable work, soliciting by night the needed medical supplies, and by day attending to the needs of his patients and the hospital; but he soon received the cooperation of charitable priests and physicians. Many stories are related of the heavenly guests who visited him during the early days of his immense tasks, which were lightened at times by the archangel St. Raphael in person. To put a stop to his custom of exchanging his cloak with any beggar he chanced to meet, Sebastian Ramirez, Bishop of Tui, had a religious habit made for him, which was later adopted in all its essentials as the religious garb of his followers, and the bishop imposed on him for all time the name given him by the Infant Jesus, John of God. Brothers Hospitallers Statue of St. John of God at the Church of Vilar de Frades, Barcelos, Portugal. The inscription reads:All things pass, only good works last. Main article: Brothers Hospitallers of Saint John of God Slowly John drew to himself a dedicated circle of disciples who felt called to join him in this service. He organized his followers into the Order of Hospitallers, who were approved by the Holy See in 1572 as the Brothers Hospitallers of Saint John of God, who care for the sick in countries around the world. One mark of honor to his labors is that this Order has been officially entrusted with the medical care of the pope. When St. John of God died the successor of the Order was Pedro Soriano. Veneration John of God died on March 8, 1550, his 55th birthday, in Granada. His body was initially buried in the Church of Our Lady of the Victories, belonging to the Minim friars, and remained there until November 28, 1664, when the Hospitaller Brothers had his relics moved to the church of their hospital in the city, John was canonized by Pope Alexander VIII on October 16, 1690, and later named the patron saint of hospitals and the sick. His feast day is celebrated on March 8. A church was erected in 1757 to house his remains. On October 26, 1757, they were transferred to that church, now protected by the Knights of Saint John of God. The church has been raised to the rank of a basilica. In the Ukrainian Lutheran Church, a Byzantine Rite Lutheran Church, Saint John of God is commemorated in the calendar of saints on 26 November. Legacy The Order maintains a presence in 53 countries, operating more than 300 hospitals, services, and centers serving a range of medical needs in addition to mental health and psychiatry. The Family of Saint John of God, as those who commit to his vision are called, is made up of more than 45,000 members, Brothers and Co-workers, and supported by tens of thousands of benefactors and friends who identify with and support the work of the Order for sick and needy people across the world. Saint John of God, please pray for us!