John of Matha, St

John Of Matha, St., founder of the Order of the Holy Trinity (also called Fathers of Mercy in Spain, and Mathurins in Paris), was born at Faucon, in Provence, in 1154, of noble parents. He studied at Paris University, and then entered the Church. "At his first celebration of divine service," the legend goes, "he beheld a vision of an angel clothed in white, having a cross of red and blue on his breast, with his hands, crossed over each other, resting on the heads of two slaves, who knelt on each side of him; and believing that in this vision of the mind God spoke to him, and called him to the deliverance of prisoners and captives, he immediately sold all his goods, and forsook the world, to prepare himself for his mission." In conjunction with Felix of Valois he arranged the constitutions of the new order, and together they went to Rome to obtain the approval of pope Innocent III; Felix having had, the legend continues, a similar dream, the. pope gladly complied with their request, and the order was approved Feb. 2, 1199. Gaucher III, of Chatillon, having given them the estate of Cerfroi, they there established their first convent. They also obtained several other convents and hospitals in France and Spain, and a convent and church at Rome. Having collected large sums of money, John dispatched two of his brotherhood to the coast of Africa, whence they returned with 186 Christians redeemed from the Mussulman's bonds. The year following John himself went to Tunis, preaching on his way all through Spain, and creating many friends for his noble undertaking: he returned with 110 captives. From another voyage he returned with 120 Christians. Hereafter he devoted himself to preaching at Rome. He died there Dec. 21, 1213, and was canonized by Innocent XI, July 30, 1679. He is commemorated on February 8. The dress of the order consists in a flowing white gown, with a red and blue cross on the breast. See P. Ignace Dillaud, Vie de St. Jean de Matha (1695); Baillet, Vies des Saints, Feb. 8; Hoefer, Nouv. Biogr. Gen. 26, 441; Mrs. Jameson, Legends of Monastic Orders, p. 217 sq.

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