Dec. 17 - Saint John of Matha
St. John of Matha (1154-1213) was born near Provence, France to noble and pious parents, and was dedicated to God from his birth. He learned the arts of a nobleman and advanced in Christian virtue, tending the sick and giving alms to the poor. Through his study of theology at the University of Paris he discerned a call to Holy Orders and became a priest. On the day of his first Mass he had a vision which encouraged him to devote his life to ransom Christians who had been captured by Muslims and forced into slavery. After time spent in prayer and fasting, he went to Rome to gain the Pope's approval for a new religious order dedicated to this purpose. Pope Innocent III deliberated and ordered a fast, afterwards concluding that John's mission was inspired by God. He gave his approval for the foundation of the Order of the Holy Trinity, or the Hospitaler Order of the Most Holy Trinity and of Captives (Trinitarians). The habit of the order, a white scapular with a two-toned blue and red cross on the chest, was chosen according to what St. John saw in his vision. St. John of Matha and the Trinitarians collected alms and traveled to Moor-controlled areas, ransoming and encouraging many Christian captives. His feast day is December 17.