Blessed John Bono - 23rd October


We have two principal souces of information on the life of John Bono, the biography written by St. Anthony of Florence in the middle of the XV century, as also the process of his beatification (XIII century) which, through the large number of witnesses, gave more details regarding the life and evengelical spirituality which this hermit led in the XIII century. He was born in 1168 in Mantova and in his youth he experienced the death of his father. So as to earn a living, with his adventerous spirit, he started going over all of Italy as a juggler, or clown, showing his abilities in the streets and earning enough for a living from what was donated by his spectators. As a consecuence of this way of living, his life was morally a lax one.

Abandoned by him, his mother did not give up praying for his conversion. It was only after a sickness that nearly brought him to his death that John Bono decided to give up the style of life he was living; he pulled himself together and decided to devote his life to penance. He started to examine himself, with great sacrificies, and to live the life of a hermit in a place he made for himself close to Cesena. The burden of his earlier life made him shed tears for his sins. As always happens when one embraces the Gospel seriously, one starts making a mark on those whom one encounters. This is what happened in the case of John Bono and, in a few years, a number of disciples gathered with him in 1217 to the extent that, in 1225 they formed a community of religious.

Due to the fact that the ecclesiastical authorities wanted to see better control – because there were many penitential movements in those days - Pope Innocent IV gave then the Rule of St. Augustine as their way of life. For as long as he lived, through his model, authentic and austere life, the number of convents that inspired by that Rule grew to ten. The example that he used to give, although he was unable to read nor write, was that of an uncompromising Christian ready to give one hundred percent to what appertains to God and to the same extent to what concerns mankind as an image of God himself. He lived the virtues of faith, hope and love with greatest seriousness. As resulted from evidence given by his contemporaries, it appears that God adorned him with the grace to perform a number of miracles so as to gain for the Church various suspicious persons and doubters.

After an intense life, where from a juggler, animator of happiness that disappears with the wind, he passed to a life of penance and prayer, a fount of internal happiness, he died on 23 October 1249. As he was feeling that the end was nearing, he decided to spend the last few weeks of his life in the city of his birth, Mantova, where his remains, in all subsequent exhumations, were always found intact. The process to canonization was immediately started after his death, but was not continued for reasons that are unknown. It was Pope Sistus IV who declared him blessed.

Although John Bono never formed part of the Augustinian Order, the congregation which he founded, popularly known as the Giamboniti, was associated with the Order of St. Augustine in 1256 when a number of congregations of hermits became part of the Augustinian Order that had been established twelve years earlier. This is the reason for his remembrance in the Augustinian liturgical calendar.

John Bono – notwithstanding the fact that he lived a life so different and far from the present style of life – remains an example of the transformation that occurs in the life of human beings when who leave space for God. In the same way as what occurred in St. Augustine’s heart, as also in that of B. John Bono, God’s grace purifies mankind’s heart and leads it to the fullness of happiness in the service of one’s neighbour.

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