May 13

St. John the Silent

St. John the Silent

Early Childhood

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

John’s leadership and lifestyle of devotion impressed the Archbishop ofSebaste who promptly anointed John as Bishop of Colonia in Armenia. Atthe age of 21, John felt that he was not yet ready and worthy of theoffice, but he accepted the position. He led his diocese for nine yearswith honor, love and humility. He resigned from his position and went toJerusalem 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 formingin the air and heard a voice telling him to follow the light if hewanted salvation. That light moved and pointed to the monastery of StSabas. This prompted him to join the monastery which had 150 monks, atthe age of 38. After passing the tests he was given a separate hermitagewhere he lived in seclusion uninterrupted.

John fasted for five days a week while confined in his cell. He onlyleft his cell on Saturdays and Sundays when attending the public Mass.After 3 years of dedicated devotion, John was made the steward of themonastery.

After four years St Sabas decided to make John a priest. However, he didnot know that John was a bishop in Armenia. John had kept the secret tohimself. Upon arrival at Calvary for the ordination, John requested aprivate meeting with the patriarch Elias of Jerusalem. He confessed tothe patriarch that he was a bishop who fled from his duties in Armenia.

This startled the patriarch who stopped the ordaining and immediatelyinformed St Sabas about his decision but did not reveal John’s secret.St Sabas panicked and thought that John had committed a crime, but afterpraying, 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 toconvince him to stay. He also promised that he will keep the secretsafe. For the next four years, John lived in his cell secluded notspeaking to anyone except the person that brought him essentials.

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

When St Sabas returned to the monastery, he convinced John to returnwith him and he agreed. However, John was accustomed to conversing withGod only and he found anything else empty. He returned to his oldsolitary cell and pursued his obscurity and humility. He lived there forforty more years and never turned away any of the people seeking counseland instruction.


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

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

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

Death and Patronage

John died in 558 at the age of 104 due to natural causes. He lived alife of solitude for 76 years interrupted by 9 years he spent as abishop of Colonia. His Feast Day is on the 13th of May.

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

5 Interesting Facts About St. John the Silent

  1. When John was in the wilderness, legend has it that he was protected
    by a lion that lived nearby.
  2. When John was in the desert, a man mysteriously appeared and gave
    him hot white loaves, wine, oil, fresh cheeses, eggs and a jar of honey.
  3. St John 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 forothers. Grant us the signs we seek for discerning Your will and purifyour hearts, dear Lord, that we may serve You more perfectly. In Christ’sname we pray. Amen.