May 13

St. John the Silent

St. John the Silent

When They Lived

St. John the Silent, also known as St. John the Hesychast, lived from 800 AD to 880 AD.

Where They Lived

St. John the Silent lived in various regions, primarily in Egypt and Palestine. He spent a significant portion of his life in the desert of Wadi Natrun in Egypt, where he pursued a life of solitude and contemplation.

Notable World Events During Their Time

  • Charlemagne’s Empire: Charlemagne’s reign marked the Carolingian Renaissance, a revival of learning and culture in Europe.
  • Great Heathen Army and Viking Invasions: The Viking Age saw the formation of the Great Heathen Army and Viking activities across Europe.
  • Arab-Byzantine Wars: Ongoing conflicts between the Byzantine Empire and Arab Caliphates, with implications for the Holy Land.
  • Photios I and the East-West Schism: Tensions between the Eastern Orthodox Church and Roman Catholic Church that eventually led to the East-West Schism in 1054.


St. John the Silent is revered as a patron saint of contemplatives, hermits, and those seeking inner peace. His life of solitude and dedication to silent prayer makes him a symbol of the importance of finding stillness and communion with the divine in a noisy world. He also serves as an inspiration for those striving for spiritual growth and seeking a deeper connection with their faith.

St. John’s journey from a prominent position in society to a life of solitude in the desert, where he focused on silence and prayer, offers a unique perspective on the human quest for meaning and connection. His story can be seen as a timeless example of how individuals navigate the complexities of their world to find a higher purpose, regardless of the events that unfold around them.

Early Childhood

John was born in 454 in Nicopolis, Armenia. He came from a noble family consisting of Generals and Governors. However, John was a devout Christian at a very young age and did not follow the careers popular in his family. After the death of his parents when he was 18 years old, he built a monastery where he lived with ten other monks. Their lifestyle was one of hard work and devotion.

John’s leadership and lifestyle of devotion impressed the Archbishop of Sebaste, who promptly anointed John as Bishop of Colonia in Armenia. At the age of 21, John felt that he was not yet ready and worthy of the office, but he accepted the position. He led his diocese for nine years with honor, love, and humility. He resigned from his position and went to Jerusalem, where he lived in isolation.

John in the Monastery of St. Sabas

As he was praying one night, John had a vision of a bright cross forming in the air and heard a voice telling him to follow the light if he wanted salvation. That light moved and pointed to the monastery of St. Sabas. This prompted him to join the monastery, which had 150 monks, at the age of 38. After passing the tests, he was given a separate hermitage, where he lived in seclusion uninterrupted.

John fasted for five days a week while confined in his cell. He only left his cell on Saturdays and Sundays when attending the public Mass. After three years of dedicated devotion, John was made the steward of the monastery.

After four years, St. Sabas decided to make John a priest. However, he did not know that John was a bishop in Armenia. John had kept the secret to himself. Upon his arrival at Calvary for the ordination, John requested a private meeting with the patriarch Elias of Jerusalem. He confessed to the patriarch that he was a bishop who fled from his duties in Armenia.

This startled the patriarch, who stopped the ordaining and immediately informed St. Sabas about his decision but did not reveal John’s secret. St. Sabas panicked and thought that John had committed a crime, but after praying, God revealed the truth to him.

He confronted John about his secret and expressed his disappointment. This forced John to decide to leave the monastery, but Sabas managed to convince him to stay. He also promised that he would keep the secret safe. For the next four years, John lived in his cell, secluded, not speaking to anyone except the person who brought him essentials.

In the year 503, trouble and divisions perpetrated by rogue disciples forced St. Sabas to leave his monastery. John also left and moved to the nearby wilderness, where he spent six years in silence. He communicated with God, and he only ate wild roots, together with herbs.

When St. Sabas returned to the monastery, he convinced John to return with him, and he agreed. However, John was accustomed to conversing with God alone, and he found anything else empty. He returned to his old solitary cell and pursued his obscurity and humility. He lived there for forty more years and never turned away anyone seeking counsel or instruction.


Cyril of Scythopolis was one of the people who benefited from John’s counsel. He later wrote about John’s life. John was 90 years old when he met 16-year-old Cyril, who came seeking advice about his life. John advised him to join the Laura of St. Euthymius monastery, but Cyril did not listen to the advice. Instead, he went to a small monastery on the banks of the Jordan River. He fell sick and regretted not listening to John.

John appeared to Cyril in a dream, rebuking him for not obeying simple instructions. He told him that if he returned to St. Euthymius monastery, he would get well and find his salvation. Cyril obeyed the instruction by going to St. Euthymius’ monastery, and upon arrival, he miraculously regained his good health.

Another miracle witnessed by Cyril is that of a man named George, who brought his demon-possessed son to John. John immediately understood the distressing condition of the child without being told. He made the sign of the cross on the child’s forehead with blessed oil, and instantly the child was delivered from the evil spirit.

Death and Patronage

John died in 558 at the age of 104 due to natural causes. He lived a life of solitude for 76 years, interrupted by the nine years he spent as abbot of Colonia. His Feast Day is on the 13th of May.

St. John is the Patron Saint of the love of Silence. A Christian silence, or silence of virtue, gives a person time to meditate and converse with God.

5 Interesting Facts About St. John the Silent

  • When John was in the wilderness, legend has it that he was protected.
    by a lion that lived nearby.
  • When John was in the desert, a man mysteriously appeared and gave
    He had hot white loaves, wine, oil, fresh cheeses, eggs, and a jar of honey.
  • St. John’s Feast Day is on the 13th of May.

Prayer to St. John the Silent

Father, you called St. John to the solitary life in which he prayed for others. Grant us the signs we seek for discerning Your will and purifying our hearts, dear Lord, so that we may serve You more perfectly. In Christ’s name, we pray. Amen.