Then, around the time he was 20, John met the local bishop, a gentle and simple man, and John's life changed completely. He began to study the Scriptures and to listen to sermons. He was baptized and entered the service of the Church. At first, John focused on writing and on purifying himself through intense prayer and fasting. He even lived in a cave for two years. His fervor, however, pushed him to such an extreme that he damaged his health. He returned to the city to recover his strength and rededicate himself to serving the people of God. His mentor, the bishop, ordained him a deacon not long before he died. The new bishop would ordain John a priest.
John was now 40 years old. The bishop recognized that John had a way of speaking that was phenomenal, so he made preaching John's fulltime job. He brought many people to Christ and even calmed large civic disturbances.
Many thought that John would eventually succeed the local bishop, but his reputation had become so widespread that when the bishop of the capital city died, a deputation came and took John away to be consecrated bishop there.
John was suddenly one of the most high-profile bishops in the world, yet he remained monastic in his lifestyle. He worked for the unity of the Church as well as for the reform of the clergy and the religious. He challenged the rich, cared for the poor and built hospitals. He also had successes with diplomacy.
He proved much less successful with backroom politics, however. Rivals conspired with the rich and the powerful in an attempt to have John removed. Rather than risk bloodshed, John agreed to leave the capital. A popular uprising soon brought him back, but the hatred of the rich and powerful could not be stopped. During the celebration of the Easter Vigil, soldiers broke in and dragged John away.
During the next few years, John continued to write to the Pope and other bishops who were friendly to him. They did all they could, even to the point of provoking a schism, but to no avail. Moreover, exile and captivity was not enough in the minds of his enemies and even though John was now around 60, death by natural causes was not coming soon enough.
The soldiers subjected John to weeks of long forced marches through the summer’s heat, through the rain, and even at night. He succumbed on September 14.
Yet, John's enemies could not prevail for long. He was widely recognized as a saint and thirty years after his death, John's body was returned to his diocese with great celebration
His theological brilliance and his magnificent eloquence was preserved and passed on through his homilies and his writings. His reputation continued to grow after his death. He came to be known as the "Golden Mouth" - so much so that the Greek form of that title became a virtual last name.
Today, nearly 16 centuries after his death, St. John Chrysostom, patriarch of Constantinople and Doctor of the Church, is venerated both for his writings and his holiness, by East and West alike.
(adapted from an earlier post)