Saint John of God was born João Duarte Cidade (Portuguese form, the Spanish form is João Cidade Duarte) in Montemor-o-Novo, now in the District of Évora, Kingdom of Portugal, the son of André Cidade and Teresa Duarte, a once-prominent family that was impoverished but had great religious faith. One day, he heard a visiting Spanish priest speak of adventures in the new world with the discovery of America. That very night he ran away from home to travel with the priest and never saw his parents again. According to his original biography, his mother died from grief soon after this and his father joined the Franciscan Order.
The young João soon found himself a homeless orphan in the streets of Oropesa, near Toledo, Spain. There, in a foreign land, he had no one to care for him, nothing on which to live and he had to be content with whatever food he could find. He was eventually taken in by a man called Francisco Mayoral and the boy settled down as a shepherd caring for his sheep in the countryside until he was 27.
The farmer was so pleased with João’s strength and diligence that he wanted him to marry his daughter and to become his heir. Feeling pressure to marry the manager’s daughter, whom he loved as a sister, João left to join the Spanish army in the war against France. As a soldier, he was hardly a model of holiness, taking part in the gambling, drinking, and pillaging that his comrades enjoyed. One day he was accused of being involved in the theft. He was condemned to death, and that would have been his fate had not some more tolerant officer intervened to win his pardon.Read More »