Saint John Cantius (Latin: Joannis Cantii) (Polish: Jan z Kęt or Jan Kanty) (23 June 1390 – 24 December 1473) was a Polish priest, scholastic philosopher, physicist and theologian. He is also known as John of Kanty or John of Kanti or John Kantius.
He was born in Kęty, a small town near Oświęcim, Poland, to Stanisław and Anna Kanty. He attended the Kraków Academy at which he attained bachelor, and licentiate. In 1418 he became a Doctor of Philosophy. Upon graduation he spent the next three years conducting philosophy classes at the university, while preparing for the priesthood.
Upon his ordination, he became rector at the school of the Canons Regular of the Most Holy Sepulcher in Miechow. While there, he was offered a professorship of Sacrae Scripturae (Sacred Scripture) back at his alma mater, the Kraków Academy, which would later be named the Jagiellonian University. He attained a doctorate in theology and eventually became director of the theology department. He held the professorship until his death in 1473. John spent many hours copying manuscripts of the Holy Scriptures, theological tracts, and other scholarly works.
In physics, he helped develop Jean Buridan's theory of impetus, which anticipated the work of Galileo and Newton.
During his time in Kraków, John Kanty became well known in the city for his generosity and compassion toward the poor, especially needy students at the university. He subsisted on what was strictly necessary to sustain his life, giving alms regularly to the poor. He made one pilgrimage to Jerusalem and four pilgrimages on foot to Rome.
Michael Miechowita, the medieval Polish historian and the saint's first biographer, described the saint's extreme humility and charity; he took as his motto:
Conturbare cave: non est placare suave,
Infamare cave; nam revocare grave.
(Beware disturbing: it's not sweetly pleasing,
Beware speaking ill: for taking back words is burdensome.)
He died while living in retirement at his alma mater on 24 December 1473, aged 83. His remains were interred in the Collegiate Church of St Anne, where his tomb became and remains a popular pilgrimage site. He is the patron of the diocese of Bielsko-Żywiec (since 1992), and of the students.
John Cantius was beatified in Rome by Pope Clement X on 28 March 1676. He was named patron of Poland and Lithuania by Pope Clement XII in the year 1737. Ninety-one years after his beatification, Blessed John Cantius was canonized on 16 July 1767, by Pope Clement XIII.
The Roman Breviary distinguishes him with three hymns; he is the only confessor not a bishop who has been given this honor in the Roman Catholic liturgy.
St. John Cantius is a popular saint in Poland. A number of churches and schools founded by Polish diaspora communities throughout North America are named in his honor, in cities as far-ranging as Cleveland, Ohio; Winnipeg, Manitoba; Detroit, Michigan; Chicago, Illinois; Rolling Prairie, Indiana, Milwaukee, Wisconsin; St. Cloud, Minnesota; Wilno, Minnesota, Philadelphia, Erie, and Windber, Pennsylvania; New York City and Buffalo, New York.
"John Cantius" has been used as a first and middle name—see, for example, John Cantius Garand.
In 1998, a new religious institute was founded, based in Chicago, which took St. John Cantius as their patron saint. Thus they are the Canons Regular of Saint John Cantius.
When Saint John Cantius's feast day was first inserted into the General Roman Calendar in 1770, it was initially assigned to 20 October, but in the 1969 revision it was moved to the 23 December, the day before the anniversary of his death, which occurred on Christmas Eve 1473. The extraordinary form of the Roman rite, which uses the calendar as it was in 1962, continues to observe the feast on October 20.
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