The Nativity of St. John the Baptist

 Each year on June 24th the church celebrates the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist.  The liturgical calendar of the Catholic Church celebrates only three nativities (or birthdays) each year; those of John the Baptist on June 24th, the Blessed Virgin Mary on September 8th and the Nativity of Our Lord on December 25th.

 Usually, the Church celebrates the death of a person, because this is the day that they are born into eternal life.  But the feasts of the nativities of the Blessed Virgin Mary and John the Baptist are celebrated because of what they foreshadow – the coming of the Savior that was first promised in Genesis 3:15, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; They will strike at your head, while you strike at their heel.”

John’s conception was miraculous.  His parents were elderly, and his mother was barren.  Just like Sarah and Hannah before her, Elizabeth conceived in the normal human manner due to divine intervention.

John was born to be a Jewish priest.  John’s father, Zechariah was serving in the Temple as a priest when the angel Gabriel brought him the news of his son’s coming birth.  The Jewish priesthood was hereditary.  In the book of Numbers 8:23-26 is detailed the restriction of the Levitical service, “Everyone twenty-five years old or more shall join the personnel in the service of the tent of meeting.  But everyone fifty on up shall retire from the work force and serve no more.”  John’s lack of service in the Temple was either due to the early death of his father or a personal choice of John’s when he recognized the corruption of the Jewish priesthood in his day.

John lived most of his life in the desert.  Except for his birth and very early childhood, and his public ministry and death, John lived in the desert of Judea.  Tradition tells us that John’s father Zechariah was murdered in the temple and that John’s mother Elizabeth escaped with the child John to the desert.  Elizabeth died while living in the desert and John was there until his public ministry.

John was a Nazarite.  Until the age of 30, John lived in the desert of Judea.  Based on the way he is described in Matthew’s Gospel in Numbers 6:2-21 it is likely that John was a Nazarite.  The Nazarite vow involved three things, (1) abstinence from wine and strong drink, (2) refraining from cutting the hair off the head during the length of the vow, and (3) the avoidance of contact with the dead.  Other Nazarites were Samson, Samuel, and Paul.

John was an Essene.  The Essenes were a Jewish sect that began in the 2nd century BC (the time of the Maccabees) and lived in community at Qumran.  They practiced a more stringent ritual purity, copied books of the Jewish Scriptures, and wrote commentaries on the Books of the Prophets.  Tradition tells us that it is likely that John was associated with the group.

If you would like to read more about John, his story can read the following:

Prologue: Luke 1:5-80; John 1:6-18

Ministry: Matthew 3:1-17; Mark 1:4-11; Luke 3:1-22; John 1:19-42, 3:22-36, 4:1; and Acts 1:5, 1:21-22, 10:37-38, 11:16, 13:24-25, 18:25, 19:3-4

Prison and Death: Matthew 11:2-7, 14:6-12; Mark 1:14, 6:17-29; Luke 3:19-20, 7:18-25, 9:9; and John 3:24

Epilogue: Matthew 14:1-6; Mark 6:14-16; Luke 9:7-9; and John 5:30-38, 10:40-42

The Jewish historian, Flavius Josephus, mentions John the Baptist In Jewish Antiquities 18. 5. 2.  It can be easily found on the internet.

If you need a way to learn more about your Catholic faith and don’t know where to start, following the liturgical calendar more closely is a wonderful way to start.  Reading the daily Mass readings is easy.  We print the Mass readings in the bulletin each week. (see page 9 of this bulletin).  You can also access the readings on the Bishops’ website at

The above link also informs you of the feasts of the day.  Take the time to search the internet for more on the saint of the day.  Not all saints are mentioned on the universal calendar of the church.  A great website to read more about the saints is  It has many great categories to search by including alphabetical, date, patronage, and more.

God Bless!