Extraordinary diligence, an insightful mind, a good heart – it is thanks to these qualities that love and loyalty to the pious professor were felt not only by students, but also by the poor people of Krakow. His perseverance, patience, and prudent management of time is a model for every young person who wants to achieve something important in his or her life.
A talented student of Kęty who came from a wealthy bourgeois family, his adventure with education started relatively late because he was already 23 years old by then. That is when he began his philosophy studies, studying scientific arguments about the meaning of human life and searching for answers in the revealed truths. He was ordained a priest, then, at the request of the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre in Miechów near Krakow, became the head of the local convent school. He preached sermons in Polish and transcribed works, including those of St. Augustine. He did this for 40 years, even after returning to Krakow, copying the works of other authors, as well. The result of this painstaking work is 18 thousand pages of manuscripts that came from his pen, and 28 volumes of codes. One can be impressed by the professor’s versatility of scientific interest and his respect for knowledge. At the Faculty of Philosophy of the Academy of Krakow, he lectured in logic, physics, and economics of Aristotle, and served as dean for several years.
For 14 years, St. John – already as a professor at the Faculty of Philosophy – studied theology at the Krakow Academy and finished off his studies with a master's degree in theology (equivalent to today's doctorate). He earned the highest levels of education available at the time, but he earned the love and respect of his contemporaries through unprecedented goodness of heart and sensitivity to harm of the poorest inhabitants of Krakow. To the best of his abilities, he would stop near those in need and share what he had in order to help them. Chronicles tell us that he introduced a custom in the student dining hall. If a beggar came during the meal, a servant would notify him by saying: "A poor person has come." And John would immediately answer: "Christ has come," and would go to feed the poor.
This kindness returned to him, because those who experienced his gestures of love opened their eyes to those needier than themselves, thus creating a true "relay of goodness," which often began and ended at the saintly professor.
Today, St. Jan Cantius is the patron of Poland, Krakow, academic environments, and teachers. But we can all learn sensitivity of heart from him, through which every good deed multiplies.
The relics of John Cantius rest in a baroque altar-tomb in the collegiate church of St. Anne in Krakow, which is the city’s academic church.