Saint John Chrysostom

13 September

St. John Chrysostom was born at Antioch, at the time, the second city of the Eastern  part of the Roman Empire, about the year 347.
His father Secundus, a Latin, was an officer of high rank in the Syrian Army. Soon after John’s birth, his father died and Anthusa, John’s mother, a Greek, only twenty years old, dedicated herself to the education of her two children, John and an elder sister. She sent him to the best schools in Antioch, where he studied under Libanius, a most famous pagan orator of those times. John was highly intelligent proving to be a gifted student.

When he was 18 years old he experienced a spiritual conversion, he was baptized and he started a deep study of the Bible. After 3 years he joined a group of monks and later he moved further in the mountains to live in a cave as a hermit. But this kind of austere life took a toll on his health and he returned to join the monks once again in Antioch. Soon he became known for his biblical knowledge and his eloquence in speech. He was 39 years old when he was ordained priest. He continued to speak out in favour of the people who were experiencing unjust treatment or as mediator. In fact he intervened when the people revolted against the Emperor because of the heavy taxes he had imposed to strengthen his armies.
At 51 he was appointed Bishop Patriarch of Constantinople.

As a Bishop he lived a simple life, giving away possessions from the Bishop’s residence, so that the proceeds could go for the building of hospitals and other charitable works. He took a strong stance against the rich for not sharing their wealth with the needy, while he appealed strongly to the powerful, attempting to get rid of violence. He set out on a path of reform for the somewhat lax lifestyle of both clergy and the bishops. He spoke out eloquently in favour of charity and social justice.

His appeals irked the authorities, in every sphere of society, including the Empress Eudoxia. Although he had the support of Pope Innocent l, he was still denounced, accused of misconduct, and exiled to Cucucus, Armenia. Later, he was exiled even farther to the farthest boundary of the Empire near the Black Sea.
He died on his way there in 407.

St. John Chrysostom is one of the Greek Fathers who has been declared Doctor of the Church because his ‘writing and preaching stands out as a guide to the faithful during the history of the Church.’ He has been described as “a prophet who comforted the disturbed and disturbed the comfortable”. John was given the title Chrysostom – Golden Mouth, because he was talented as an eloquent preacher.

As parents and carers, we can try to instill in the children in our care, the trait of a ‘golden mouth’, by instilling in them the courage to speak in ‘golden’ terms, by being honest and truthful and that ‘honesty is the best policy’ because it inspires trust.
Teaching a character trait is quite challenging and requires perseverance. The first basic step is to start early and to be role models ourselves.

When you find that the child is not telling the truth:

  • avoid calling him/her a liar,
  • avoid asking questions when you already know the answer as this will prompt the child to continue with the lie
  • try to discover if there is an underlying factor that is prompting the child to lie.

Consider relating the story of ‘The Boy who cried Wolf’ to show that lying does not work.
PRAISE the child when they are honest and have spoken the truth.

St. John had to be brave to change  situations for those who suffered, even though it cost him.

  • Find opportunities to encourage the children to speak up in the classroom/groups / activities when there is an injustice being done to them or to others, to stand up for what is right and against bad behaviour, foul speech.
  • Discuss ways to do it by being assertive and not aggressive, by speaking their mind without being cruel.
  • You might role play a situation that the child or a friend had already experienced.
    Encourage them to speak about their experiences and ‘celebrate’ their courage with the rest of the family.

Family Prayer Time

Lead the children in prayer, for the people who are being treated badly, thanking God for helping them when they have been strong and spoke up, asking for help to face situations they might be experiencing at school/ groups, where they need to take a stand.

From a Children’s Bible go through the story of Moses who needed a great deal of courage to speak up to the formidable Pharaoh on behalf of the Hebrews, because he felt he was not qualified. Encourage the children to follow God’s voice in their heart, speak up and ‘leave the final result to God.’ 

How to use this space

God speaks to us in many ways, including through the Saints of the Church. Here you will find useful background and activities to better understand the holy life, helping you to connect the saints to daily life in a meaningful way.