St. John Facundus was born at Sahagun, León, Spain, c. 1430; he died in Salamanca, June 11, 1479; beatified in 1601; canonized in 1690. He was known throughout his life as a peacemaker and tireless worker for justice, defending the rights of the poor. He was a sincere and humble man, noted for his fervent preaching, whose devotion to the Eucharist marked all aspects of his life.
Saint John was educated by the Benedictines at the great abbey of his native Sahagun (from Sant’Facun). While still a boy, his father, Don Juan Gonzalez de Castrillo, procured for him a small benefice. The bishop of Burgos and the abbot of Sahagun gave him four other benefices by the time he was 20, because his family was influential and these leaders recognized a promise of greatest in John. Thus, when John was ordained in 1453, he held five benefices in Burgos at the same time without holding residence in any of them–two acts of disobedience to Church ordinances. Instead he was majordomo in the household of the bishop.
Repenting of such pluralism upon the bishop’s death, he gave up all but the one assigned to the chapel of Saint Agnes in Burgos, where he celebrated the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass each day, catechized the ignorant, and preached. He had converted his life to one of evangelical poverty. With this benefice John financed his theological studies at the University of Salamanca. The education he received there gave him the confidence he need to minister more effectively in the nearby parish of Saint Sebastian, while holding a chaplaincy in the College of Saint Bartholomew.
At that time Salamanca was deeply divided and crime-ridden, which gave John ample opportunity to preach reconciliation and conversion. He followed up his preaching with individual counseling in the confessional. John had a remarkable gift for reading souls, which drew still more to his confessional. He was rigid in refusing or deferring absolution to habitual sinners and ecclesiastics who did not live in accordance with the spirit of their profession. John’s fervor in offering the Mass edified all who assisted. In fact, it is related that he was privileged to see the bodily form of Jesus at the moment of consecration. The grace God poured into his soul during his prayers and communions overflowed into his preaching–especially against vice in high places. He is quoted as once saying: “… a preacher must be prepared in his soul to speak the truth, both in denouncing and correcting shortcomings and in praising virtue, to such a point that he is willing in that cause even to face death.”
After a grave illness in 1463, and still not satisfied with his life as a diocesan Priest, he requested to joined the Augustinian Order in 1463 in the same city and was professed on August 28, 1464. His Augustinian brethren recognized his abilities, and chose him twice to serve as Prior of the Salamanca Monastery. He was a delegate to every Province Chapter held during his years in the Order. He also undertook the office of novice-master, while continuing his public preaching. His work for reconciliation bore fruit: a pact of peace was signed by hostile parties in 1476.
In 1479, John predicted his own death, which occurred the same year. At Alba de Tormes his life was threatened by two thugs hired by the duke because of his public denunciation of oppressive landlords. In John’s presence, however, the would-be assassins were struck with remorse, confessed their errand, and begged his forgiveness. But John’s preaching brought further rancor. It is said that John’s death was hastened by poisoning, brought about by a woman in Salamanca whose paramour he had reformed.
By his fearless preaching, John effected profound change in the social life of Salamanca; for this he won the popular acclamation of apostle of Salamanca. Soon after his death, miracles and pilgrimages occurred at his tomb. His relics survive in a feretory in the cathedral of his adopted city of which he is patron. In art, he is portrayed with a host in his hand in memory of his devotion to the Eucharist.