St. John of Capistrano
St. John of Capistrano
Born at Capistrano, Abruzzi, Italy, he studied law at Perugia, was appointed governor of that city in 1412, and married. Imprisonment during a war between Perugia and Malatesta caused him to change his life. He obtained a dispensation to enter a religious order, despite his marriage, and publicly repented of his sins. In 1416, he joined the Friars Minor, studied under Bernardino of Siena, and was ordained in 1420. He began preaching and met with immediate success, drawing thousands to his sermons and converting many more to a more religious way of life. He also labored with his friend Bernardino of Siena to heal the wounds among the Franciscans, drawing up the plans approved by the general chapter of the Franciscans held at Assisi in 1430 for a short-lived reunion of the various groups in the Order. The following year he was active at the Observant chapter at Bologna, and according to Gonzaga was appointed commissary general. In 1430, John had helped elect Bernardino vicar general of the Observants and soon after met St. Colette in France and joined her efforts to reform the Poor Clares. He was inquisitor in the proceedings against the Fraticelli and the charges made against the Gesuats and was frequently sent on papal diplomatic missions: In 1439 he was legate to Milan and Burgundy to oppose the claims of antipope Felix V; in 1446 he was sent on a mission to the King of France; and in 1451 he was selected by Pope Nicholas V, in response to an appeal from Emperor Frederick, to go as commissary and inquisitor general with twelve Franciscans to combat the Hussites. He preached in Bavaria, Saxony, and Poland, bringing about great revivals of the faith. His campaign ended when the Turks captured Constantinople in 1453, and he devoted his energies to preaching a crusade against them. Unsuccessful in Bavaria and Austria, he joined Janos Hunyady in exhorting the Hungarians to resist the invading Turks and personally led the left wing of the Christian army at the Battle of Belgrade in 1456. The failure of the Turks to capture the city in the ensuing siege saved Europe from being overrun by the Turks. He died at Villach, Austria, on October 23 of the plague that followed, as had Hunyady a few weeks earlier. He was canonized in 1690.