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St. John at the Latin Gate, May 6

Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira

Biographical selection:

One day Salome presented her two sons, James and John, to Jesus, and with a mother’s ambition asked Him to grant them the highest places in his kingdom. In reply, the Savior spoke of the chalice which He Himself would have to drink, and foretold that these two disciples would also drink of it. The elder, James the Great, was the first to give his Master this proof of his love. John, the younger brother, offered his life in testimony of Jesus’ divinity.

But the martyrdom of the latter Apostle called for a place worthy of the event. Asia Minor, which his zeal had evangelized, was not a sufficiently glorious land for such a combat. Rome, whither Peter had transferred his Chair and where he died on his cross, and where Paul had bowed down his venerable head beneath the sword, Rome alone deserved the honor of seeing the beloved disciple march on to martyrdom, with that dignity and sweetness which are the characteristics of this veteran of the Apostolic College.

In the year 95 John appeared before the tribunal of pagan Rome. He was convicted of having propagated, in a vast province of the Empire, the worship of a Jew who had been crucified under Pontius Pilate. He was considered a superstitious and rebellious old man, and it was time to rid Asia of his presence. He was therefore sentenced to an ignominious and cruel death.

A huge cauldron of boiling oil is prepared in front of the Latin Gate. The sentence orders that the preacher of Christ be plunged into this bath. The hour has come for the second son of Salome to partake of his Master’s chalice. John’s heart leaps with joy. After cruelly scourging him, the executioners seize the old man, and throw him into the cauldron. But, lo! the boiling liquid has lost all its heat; the Apostle feels no scalding. On the contrary, when they take him out again he feels all the vigor of his youthful years restored to him.

The praetor’s cruelty is foiled, and John, a martyr in desire, is to be left to the Church for some few years longer. An imperial decree banishes him to the rugged Isle of Patmos, where God reveals to him the future of the Church even to the end of time.

Comments of Prof. Plinio:

You can imagine the glorious scene: An old man with a venerable and virginally pure face, contemplative eyes, white hair and beard, an air simultaneously human and angelic, all bent by the weight of his years, thrown into the cauldron of oil. Around him many people watching and saying: “Well, now the old man has reached his end. He will be next to nothing very soon.”

St John Evangelist

On the Isle of Patmos St. John, left,
receives a vision of the Apocalypse.
But no, this is not what happens. The burbling sound of the bubbles on the top of the oil suddenly ceases. The liquid is no longer hot. The Apostle walks out of the cauldron, still with his white hair and beard, but he is younger. His posture is straight, his steps are agile. He receives back all the strength of youth in the splendor of old age. Those watching are in a complete stupor. Something that no one could do - turn back the calendar – this old man did. The soldiers seize him again and start to march back to the prison. He accompanies them without problem, agile and lithe. Everyone looks on dazed. A spectacular and complete victory of God!

After that St. John was banished to Patmos, an unknown Mediterranean island, and there his life reached its apogee. Heaven opened itself to him and he began to receive the visions of the Apocalypse. This marks the highest point of union of that soul with God.

What lesson is there for us?

St. John was one of the greatest devotees of Our Lady. He was given as a son to her, and she was given as a mother to him. Probably he was already practicing the perfect form of devotion to Our Lady that St. Louis Grignion de Montfort wrote about, which is the holy slavery. At any rate, all his life he had the greatest devotion to her and an intimate union of soul with her. It is more than licit to imagine that when he was thrown into the cauldron of oil, his eyes and thoughts were turned toward her. He received a miracle – the recovery of his youthful strength - through her hands. Also, the grace of the visions he received in Patmos came through her.

In those revelations the future of the Church was unsealed to him. So, it is probable that the present days were shown to him. It is not impossible that he also saw the individuals whom Our Lady would call to fight for her glory in these sad days in which we live.

Our Lady was given to St. John as mother because he was the only Apostle who remained with her at the foot of the Cross. None of the other Apostles were there. The chaste disciple, the one whom Our Lord loved, was the disciple who remained faithful. Today, in the hour when so many have abandoned the foot of the Cross, it is natural that Our Lady be given again as mother to those who remain faithful. To be at the foot of the Cross means to be faithful to the Holy, Apostolic, Roman Catholic Church; to be orthodox; to be counter-revolutionary; to be a slave of Our Lady in a world where no one wants to talk about suffering, dedication, fidelity, and purity.

We have, therefore, these points in common with St. John.


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Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira
The Saint of the Day features highlights from the lives of saints based on comments made by the late Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira. Following the example of St. John Bosco who used to make similar talks for the boys of his College, each evening it was Prof. Plinio’s custom to make a short commentary on the lives of the next day’s saint in a meeting for youth in order to encourage them in the practice of virtue and love for the Catholic Church. TIA thought that its readers could profit from these valuable commentaries.

The texts of both the biographical data and the comments come from personal notes taken by Atila S. Guimarães from 1964 to 1995. Given the fact that the source is a personal notebook, it is possible that at times the biographic notes transcribed here will not rigorously follow the original text read by Prof. Plinio. The commentaries have also been adapted and translated for TIA’s site.

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