St. John was born, in answer to prayer, A.D. 1330, of poor parents, at Nepomuc in Bohemia. In gratitude they consecrated him to God; and his holy life as a priest led to his appointment as chaplain to the court of the Emperor Wenceslas, where he converted numbers by his preaching and example.
Amongst those who sought his advice was the empress, who suffered much from her husband’s unfounded jealousy. St. John taught her to bear her cross with joy; but her piety only incensed the emperor, and he tried to extort her confessions from the Saint. He threw St. John into a dungeon, but gained nothing; then, inviting him to his palace, he promised him riches if he would yield, and threatened death if he refused. The Saint was silent. He was racked and burnt with torches; but no words, save Jesus and Mary, fell from his lips. At last set free, he spent his time in preaching, and preparing for the death he knew to be at hand.
On Ascension-eve, May 16th, Wenceslas, after a final and fruitless attempt to move his constancy, ordered him to be cast into the river, and that night the martyr’s hands and feet were bound, and he was thrown from the bridge of Prague. As he died, a heavenly light shining on the water discovered the body, which was buried with the honors due to a Saint. A few years later, Wenceslas was deposed by his own subjects, and died an impenitent and miserable death.
When his shrine was opened, three hundred and thirty years after his decease, the flesh had disappeared, and one member alone remained incorrupt, the tongue; thus still, in silence, giving glory to God.
How many times each day do we forfeit grace and strength by sins of speech!
Illustration and text from Pictorial Lives of the Saints With Reflections for Every Day in the Year (New York: Benziger Bros., 1922).