St John the Baptist

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The story of St John the Baptist is recorded in the four Gospels. He is also mentioned by the Jewish historian Josephus. John was the son of Zachariah, a Temple priest and Elizabeth, a quite old cousin of the Virgin Mary. An angel foretold his birth, adding that he would prepare people for the Lord.

In the Gospel of Luke Our Lady travelled to the hill country to visit Elizabeth immediately after the Annunciation. Mary was pregnant with Jesus and Elizabeth was pregnant with John the Baptist. Even though he was still in his mother's womb, John became aware of the presence of Christ, and leapt for joy. Elizabeth also recognised the presence of Jesus and said: 'Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.'

John lived in the wilderness and began public ministry around 30 AD. He dressed in camel skin, preached and baptised in the River Jordan. He became known for attracting large crowds across the province of Judaea. When Jesus came to him to be baptized, John recognized him and said, "It is I who need baptism from you."

"Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire." he cried. "I baptise you with water but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and with fire."

When Jesus asked to be baptised by John he was reluctant to do this, saying: "I need to be baptised by you." Jesus said of him: "there is not a greater prophet." He said of Jesus: "Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world."

Following his baptism of Christ, John's popularity grew so much that he alarmed King Herod. Herod ordered him arrested and imprisoned.

John spoke with Herod on several occasions and condemned his marriage to his half-brother's wife.

This condemnation would be his downfall as King Herod had promised to grant a wish to his daughter. In revenge for John the Baptist's condemnation of her mother's scandalous marriage to Herod, she asked for John's head. King Herod reluctantly obliged. John the Baptist died sometime between 33 and 36 AD.

St John the Baptist's feast day is June 24. The anniversary of his death is August 29 and is sometimes celebrated with a second feast. John the Baptist is the patron saint of Jordan, Puerto Rico, French Canada and many other places.