Saint John Cantius, known as the patron saint of teachers, students, priests, and pilgrims, was born in Kanty, Poland, on June 24, 1390. This small town is just thirteen miles from where Pope John Paul II was born. At 23, John Cantius enrolled at the Jagiellonian University in Krakow, the then capital of the Polish Kingdom. This university, established in 1364, was also where the famous astronomer Nicolas Copernicus studied about 80 years later.

John Cantius pursued a degree in the Department of Liberal Arts and earned his doctorate in philosophy in 1418. He spent the next three years preparing for the priesthood while teaching philosophy at the university.

After becoming a priest, he was appointed rector at the Canons Regular of the Most Holy Sepulcher school in Miechow. His acceptance at a young age highlighted his exceptional intellect and talents. Here, he delved deeply into the teachings and spirituality of St. Augustine, shaping his future work.

In 1429, John Cantius returned to the Jagiellonian University, joining the Philosophy Department. He lived at the university until his death, also studying theology. After 13 years of combined studies, teaching, and serving as the head of the Philosophy Department, he received his doctorate in theology. He later became the director of the university’s Theology Department following his mentor Benedykt Hesse’s death.

John Cantius was known for diligently hand-copying manuscripts of the Holy Scriptures, theological texts, and other scholarly works. He managed to complete over 18,000 pages, though only 26 volumes have survived.

In Krakow, he became renowned for his generosity towards the poor and needy students at the university. He was committed to helping them in all aspects of their lives and was a fervent defender of the faith.

Upon his death on December 24, 1473, the people of Krakow already revered him as a holy man. This was confirmed by the numerous miracles attributed to him posthumously. His tomb in the university’s Collegiate Church of St. Anne became a pilgrimage site.

It took 150 years after his death to start the process of his beatification, and in 1676, Pope Clement XIII canonized him as a saint of the Roman Catholic Church. His feast day was initially celebrated on October 20th.

Pope John Paul II, who also studied at the Jagiellonian University, often visited Saint John Cantius’s grave for inspiration. In 1997, during his pilgrimage to Poland, he prayed at the saint’s tomb and spoke of the bond between knowledge, wisdom, and holiness to professors from their shared alma mater.

Photo credit: Henryk Borawski via Wikimedia Commons

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