St. John, the son of Zebedee and Salome, was among the apostles named “the beloved” of Jesus, as is signified in those words “The one whom Jesus loved.” At the Last Supper he merited to lay his head on the bosom of his Divine Master. This Apostle responded to his Lord’s great love by repaying Him with a like heartfelt affection, for which we have abundant proofs in his writings and his life.
This love for Jesus, however, was ever accompanied in St. John by a singular love for Mary, as Jesus Himself bore testimony on the cross. Indeed, while the Redeemer was suffering the agonies of the crucifixion, He pointed out St. John to Our Lady, who was there present on Calvary, saying to her: “Woman, behold thy son”; and to St. John: “Behold thy Mother.”
Thus did Our Saviour signify that St. John was to be united to Our Lady as a dear son is united to his mother, even in the same manner as Jesus Himself was united to her. St. John himself tells us how faithfully he corresponded to the mission entrusted to him, for henceforth he received Our Lady into his home. Hence tradition represents him as the faithful guardian of Our Lady while she remained on this earth.
As love is preserved and fostered by mutual friendly intercourse, we may say that St. John was the person who loved Our Lady most after St. Joseph, for no other person, except the chaste Spouse of Mary, dwelt with her so long or with greater intimacy. This familiar living with Mary merited for St. John that spiritual insight into the things of God, which is apparent from his writings. Indeed, we see that he, more than the other apostles, penetrated into the heavenly mystery of the Incarnation and the hidden things of the adorable Heart of Jesus, whence he is called the Apostle of Charity.
St John was visited with heavenly visions in the island of Patmos and prophesied the future events of the Church. No less conspicuous was he in the great dignity of the Apostolate, for he founded and governed the Churches of Asia, suffering persecutions and even the torment of martyrdom for the Faith, although he did not actually suffer death at the hands of the persecutors. He was the last of the apostles to pass out of this life and this in his ninetieth year, being adorned with the triple halo of Apostle, Doctor and Virgin.
Illustration from Pictorial Lives of the Saints With Reflections for Every Day in the Year (New York: Benziger Bros., 1922). Text from Alexis M. Lepicier, The Fairest Flower of Paradise (London: Burns, Oates & Washbourne, Ltd., 1922).