Dominican lay brother (1585–1645).
Born at Ribero del Fresno in Estremadura of a family of ‘distressed gentlefolk’, he was orphaned at an early age and brought up by his uncle who put him to work as a shepherd. He found the solitude conductive to prayer and meditation, but at the age of thirty-five, as a consequence (it was said) of a vision of St John the Evangelist, he decided to go to Peru. After working on a cattle ranch for a few years, he became a lay brother in the Dominican house at Lima in 1622.
There he practised severe personal austerities, sometimes zeal overrunning discretion, but the dominant element of his life was compassion for the poor. This was exercised through his office of porter. The sick and the needy gathered at the monastery door; he would beg for food and medicine on their behalf, and he even trained a donkey to go round without him so that offerings could be put in its panniers. His inspiration was the more famous Martin de Porres, his contemporary. Miracles were attributed to both of them, before and after death, and the cults of both were approved in 1837. John was called in Peru ‘father of the poor’, and his cult also developed around Badajoz in his native country. He was canonized by Pope John Paul II in 1975. Like Martin, he was outstanding in his care for the unfortunate of all races. Feast: 16 September.
Bibl. SS., ix. 12;B.L.S., ix. 154.