St. John, a super old book and mercy in action

If the Catechism is the user’s guide to Catholicism, then some of our Catholic classics are the weird fandom wikis that give us way more info than we could ever use on the subject. For example, The Cantena Aurea gives the early Father’s reflections on the Scriptures, while the works of Josephus and Eusibius give us an understanding of life in the early Church. My personal favorite, The Golden Legend, tells the lives of over 150 of our early saints.

To be honest, some of the stories read like absolute nightmares (looking at you, St. Thais the Courtesan). I guess these horror stories somehow helped rebut the paganism and hedonism that were so prevalent at the time. However, other stories capture what had before been mere oral tradition about many of our favorite saints. You’re bound to find new stories by reading about them.

In my humble opinion, St. John the Evangelist is the second greatest man to have ever lived, after only Christ himself. Luckily, The Golden Legend has several stories about him that aren’t found in his Gospel. Mercy is a recurring them in all of them, but especially so in the story of his prodigal disciple.

Many years after Our Lord died, St. John converted a “handsome and headstrong young man and commended him as a ‘deposit’ to certain bishop.” In other words, St. John brought this young man into the Church. When he had to travel elsewhere, he entrusted his spiritual son to the local bishop.

Unfortunately, the young man left the bishop and became a robber. St. John eventually made his way back and asked the bishop for his “deposit” back. The bishop informed him that the young man was spiritually dead and leading a band of robbers in the mountains.

This is where the story gets interesting. Remember this is St. John we’re talking about. This story takes place after the Lord revealed the Apocalypse to him, but before he recorded his Gospel. He travelled around Asia and Greece spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ. He was in constant demand to come to local churches, as he was the only disciple who had followed Christ all the way to Cross. In other words, he was kind of a big deal.

And yet, when he heard that one person had turned away from Christ, he didn’t give up on him or shrug him off as inconsequential. Instead, he began to tear his clothes and beat himself.  “A fine guardian you have been for the soul of a brother whom I left with you!” he screamed at the bishop.

Even though he was super old (the Golden Legend doesn’t say exactly how old, but it says “despite his age” a lot), St. John jumped on a horse and “rode fearlessly toward the mountain.”

The young man saw him and was overcome with shame. He, too, jumped on a horse and tried to run away. St. John put his spurs to his horse, and begged the boy for his soul.

“What, beloved son! Do you flee from your father, an old man, unarmed? My son, you have nothing to fear! I shall account for you to Christ, and be sure I will gladly die for you, as Christ died for all of us,” he shouted.

The young man turned back and wept bitterly. St. John knelt in front of him and began to kiss his hand.

I love this image. Sometimes the story of the Prodigal Son seems a little worn, or I’ve spent so much time with it that I can’t hear anything new. That’s when I love to come to this one. I love the image of the elderly St. John chasing after this young man, with his Gandalf-beard streaming behind him as tears slip down his face. I love thinking about the deep love and spiritual fatherhood he held for this young man, even though his own bishop had given up on him.

That’s the image for the Year of Mercy. Even as God is chasing us like St. John, we, too, should chase our family and neighbors relentlessly until they truly know the mericful love of Christ.

St. John in Art

COMING UP: Team Samaritan cyclist goes ‘Everesting’ for the homeless and hungry

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When it comes to the daily sufferings of those who are homeless, there’s nothing like a 29,029-foot bike ride to keep things in perspective.

That’s exactly what Corbin Clement will be doing this Saturday, June 19, with a couple of his riding buddies as they attempt an “Everesting” ride to raise money for the Samaritan House homeless shelter in Denver. Starting at Witter Gulch Road in Evergreen, the three riders will climb Squaw Pass Road to a point in Clear Creek County and ride back down the hill for over eight laps, which amounts to roughly 190 miles in distance and the equivalent of the elevation of Mt. Everest in terms of vertical climbing – hence the name “Everesting.” Their goal is to complete the feat in 20 hours or less.

Oh, and they can’t sleep. It is, indeed, just as crazy as it sounds. Those who aren’t avid cyclists might be wondering, “How in the world do you train for something like this?” 
“For training, it’s been just more or less ride as much as possible,” Clement told the Denver Catholic. “The training is structured around endurance, and that’s of course what Everesting is. It’s just a lot of peddling. So, a lot of my training so far has just been trying to ride as much as possible and ride longer high elevation rides.” 

In March, an Irish cyclist set the world record for Everesting when he completed the feat in six hours and 40 minutes. Clement isn’t trying to set a record, but regardless, it’s quite a feat to undertake, even for a seasoned athlete like him, whose pedigree includes snowboarding and rock climbing. 

“Our ride will be the same thing, but it’ll be pretty different,” Clement said. “We don’t have any sort of special bikes or super focused diet or a really regimented plan or a crew that’s very well-instructed on how we’re going to tackle this. I’ve read a couple of things to just kind of make it into a party — have friends come out to support you, get people to join you on certain laps…that’s kind of the approach we’re taking.” 

Clement has already raised $5,200 for Samaritan House, with a current goal of $8,000. This is Clement’s first year riding for Team Samaritan, but his dad, Kevin, has ridden for the team for several years. When his dad offered to give him an extra kit and uniform, Clement accepted, but didn’t want to take it without doing something help the cause. He could’ve simply opted for a nice ride in the countryside, but he chose to do something a bit more challenging.  

Corbin Clement used to experience the challenges that homeless people face on a daily basis when commuting through downtown Denver to work on his bike. This Saturday, he will raise money for Samaritan House homeless shelter by “Everesting,” a 190-mile bike ride that is the equivalent of the elevation of Mt. Everest in terms of vertical climbing. (Photo provided)

“For some reason, the Everesting idea popped into my head,” he explained. “I think it’s one of those things that has a little bit of shock value for people who hear about it. It’s certainly something that’s gained more popularity and visibility in the last couple of years with endurance athletes. I wanted to choose something that would actually be a challenge for myself and something that I’d have to work towards.” 

Clement currently resides in Utah, but he used to live in Denver and commute by bike to work every day. During those rides to his office, which was located near Samaritan House, he would pass many homeless people and have conversations with them. This experience was also a motivating factor for his Everesting attempt for Team Samaritan. 

“It’s very different when you’re on a bike versus in a car because you’re right there,” Clement said. “If you stop at a stoplight and a homeless person is on the corner, whether or not they’re panhandling or something like that, you hear the conversations, or you’ll have a conversation with them. There are things you smell or you hear or you see that you just never would if you were in a car. So, it kind of made sense, too, with the biking aspect. It’s part of my community that I’ve lived and worked in for a very long time.” 

Clement’s Everesting attempt is one event in a series of endurance event’s he’s doing over the summer that culminates with the Leadville 100, a single-day mountain bike race across the Colorado Rockies. In that race, he will be riding to support young adults diagnosed with cancer by raising funds for First Descents.  

Both causes are near to Clement’s heart, and he said that while his Everesting attempt will be a form of “suffering,” it pales in comparison to what the homeless face day in and day out. This is ultimately why he’s riding and raising funds for Team Samaritan. 

“Any time we see a homeless person or people who have to live on the streets,” Clement said, “That is true suffering — true endurance — with no end in sight.” 

To learn more about Corbin’s fundraising efforts or to donate, click here.