Kelly Guest tells the story of today’s saint. St. John Chrysostom, and shares ways we can imitate this bold Church Father.
Have you ever been in a situation where the Catholic faith or Christian living needed to be defended and you—either because you were not sure what to say or lacked the courage to say it—walked away? Or maybe you did speak up, but afterwards thought, “I should have said …”
Yeah, me too. Oh, to be golden-mouthed, having the wisdom and courage to always defend the Faith!
This is where today’s saint, John Chrysostom, comes to our aid and intercedes for us! All we need to do is ask!
Educated and set up in life to be a lawyer and politician, John rejected his worldly vocation and chose instead to become a hermit. When the austerity of his penitential and pious lifestyle made it necessary for him to convalesce at home, he attracted the attention of his bishop. Recognizing John’s holiness and need to be a little bit more temperate, the bishop ordained John a priest and assigned him to the biggest church in Antioch.
Here, John began sharing the fruits of his meditations. Giving sermons on the need for repentance, the Eucharist, and various books of the Bible, he gained a reputation as a powerful preacher. He was not afraid to speak the truth.
He blasted Christians of his day for allowing the pagan culture to infiltrate their family traditions. For instance, it was not uncommon for Christian couples to invoke the blessings of the pagan goddess of love, Aphrodite. At wedding receptions, the people sang hymns to her; moreover, they drank too much wine. St. John challenged his parishioners to abandon these idolatrous and immoral practices and establish a better way to celebrate Christian love and marriage.
In his sermon on marriage, St. John Chrysostom taught:
Let no one tell me that this is the custom. Where sin is boldly committed, forget about custom. If evil things are done, even if the custom is ancient, abolish them. If they are not evil, even if they are not customary, introduce them and establish them. (Marcellino D'Ambrosio, When the Church Was Young: Voices of the Early Church Fathers, 247)
He did not care if his hearers thought that he was being “difficult.” He spoke for the benefit of their souls.
When the patriarch of Constantinople died in A.D. 398, it was suggested that the gifted preacher be placed as head of the second most important See after Rome itself. Father John wanted no parts of it. So, the emperor had him kidnapped! Once in the affluent city among the lax clergy, John recognized God’s Will in his consecration to the bishopric and, once again, consented to ordination.
As it is with anyone who speaks truth, the new Patriarch of Constantinople had his followers and his detractors. Unfortunately, among those who despised his teachings were the Empress and others affluent nobles and clergy. Beaten and dragged into exile, the persecuted bishop was visited by many pilgrims who viewed him as a saint and a prophet. Even from exile, St. John Chrysostom continued to teach and guide his people.
Before the Pope was able to intercede on John’s behalf and reinstate him to his see, St. John Chrysostom died. His nickname, Chrysostom, meaning “golden mouthed,” became as a surname, so highly regarded were his words. To this day, he is considered a beloved Church Father and one of the greatest Doctors of the Orthodox Church.
How can we dare to emulate St. John Chrysostom? Speak truth.
Like the good bishop, we cannot worry about what others will think. We only need to be concerned with what God thinks of us. He will send us the courage to speak up. Use it!
How do we know what to say? Well, Jesus said, “Do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say. You will be given at that moment what you are to say” (Mathew 10:19). We must trust in that promise.
Nonetheless, we ought to be prepared. So, we pray with Scriptures and attend Bible studies. We read the catechism or podcast it. Praying for wisdom, we hope to be ready for the next opportunity to share our Faith.
Remember that success consists in speaking the truth with love and kindness. Not everyone will accept what we have to say; it may even make them upset with us. Can we expect a response different from what St. John Chrysostom received, or even Jesus Himself? Be OK with that.
We live in a world that is in need of the Truth. And God is depending on us to share His Good News. We are called to be golden-mouthed!
Father, through the intercession of St. John Chrysostom, help us trust that You will give us the courage and wisdom we need to speak Your Word. St. John Chrysostom, pray for us.
Copyright 2023 Kelly Guest
Images: (top, bottom) Wikimedia Commons (CC0); (center) Canva
About the Author
Kelly Guest was blessed to be a Dominican Sister of St. Cecilia for five years. There she received the many graces she draws upon today as a wife and mother of nine children. Wishing to share with other moms encouragement on our quest to become holy through motherhood, she blogs at Nun2Nine.com and CatholicMom.com. You can also find her on Twitter and Instagram @nun2nine. Kelly's book, Saintly Moms: 25 Stories of Holiness, is due out October 1, 2021.