Saint Stories: St. John the Baptist

St. John the Baptist professed to his crowds that he was nothing, and that the coming Messiah was everything. His 1st century BC birth to Zechariah and Elizabeth was miraculous because both parents were older. His mother had been through menopause and had even been unable to have children during child-bearing years. While performing duties as a priest in a temple in Jerusalem, Zechariah learned of the impending miracle. As the priest burned incense, Zechariah was told by the angel Gabriel that Elizabeth would bear a child, that they would name him John, and that he was destined for a special purpose.

Today St. John is revered in the Christian church as the forerunner or precursor to Jesus Christ, but he is also recognized in other religions, including Judaism, Islam, Baha'i Faith and Mandaeism. In the Quran, he is known as the prophet Yahya.

As a modest man, John believed in a messianic figure greater than himself, and baptized those who repented ahead of the coming of God's Final Judgment. John spent a period of solitude in the desert, often referred to his time preaching in the wilderness. Later, he resided in the lower Jordan Valley region, where he gained disciples, including Jesus. John believed one would come who would not be baptized with water, but baptized with the Holy Spirit. This belief was realized when John baptized Jesus in the river Jordan. As Jesus emerged from the water, the Holy Spirit descended from the heavens to Jesus like a dove. A voice from heaven was heard to say, "You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased."

St. John the Baptist is described in the fourth gospel as a man sent from God to bear witness to the light. With this witness of the light, everyone would believe through John.

St. John the Baptist is discussed in four Gospels, including Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

Quick Facts about St. John the Baptist

Born: Late 1st century BC

Died: AD 31-36

Feast Days include June 24 (Nativity); August 29 (beheading); January 7 (Synaxis, Eastern Orthodox)

Patronage: Patron saint of Jordan, Puerto Rico, Knights Hospitaller of Jerusalem, French Canada, Newfoundland, Cesena, Florence, Genoa, Monza, Perth (Scotland), Porto, San Juan and Turin