Saint John the Baptist, Patron Saint of Conversion

St. John the Baptist

Saint John the Baptist
St. John the Baptist is the patron saint of builders, tailors, printers, baptism, conversion to faith, and more. Bamby-Bhamby/Getty Images

St. John the Baptist is a famous Bible character who is also the patron saint of many different subjects, including builders, tailors, printers, baptism, conversion to faith, people dealing with storms and their effects (like hail), and people who need healing from spasms or seizures. John also serves as the patron saint of a variety of places throughout the world, such as Puerto Rico; Jordan, Quebec, Canada; Charleston, South Carolina (USA); Cornwall, England; and various cities in Italy.

Here's a biography of John's life and a look at some miracles believers say God performed through John.

Preparing the Way for Jesus Christ to Come

John was a biblical prophet who prepared the way for the ministry of Jesus Christ and became one of Jesus' disciples. Christians believe John did so by preaching to many people about the importance of repenting from their sins so they could grow closer to God when the Messiah (the world's savior) came in the form of Jesus Christ.

John lived during the 1st century in the ancient Roman Empire (in the part that is now Israel). Archangel Gabriel announced his upcoming birth to John's parents, Zechariah (a high priest) and Elizabeth (a cousin of the Virgin Mary). Gabriel said of John's God-given mission: "He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. ... he will go on before the Lord ...

to make ready a people prepared for the Lord."

Since Zechariah and Elizabeth had experienced a long time of infertility, John's birth would be a miracle -- one that Zechariah didn't believe at first. Zechariah's disbelieving response to Gabriel's message cost him his voice for a while; Gabriel took away Zechariah's ability to speak until after John was born and Zechariah expressed true faith.

Living in the Wilderness and Baptizing People

John grew up to become a strong man who spent lots of time in the wilderness praying without unnecessary distractions. The Bible describes him as someone of great wisdom, but with a rough appearance: He wore crude clothes made of camel skins and ate wild food like locusts and raw honey. The Gospel of Mark says that John's work in the wilderness fulfilled a prophecy from the Book of Isaiah in the Old Testament (Torah) that says "the voice of one crying out in the wilderness" will usher in the Messiah's ministry work and announce "Prepare the way of the Lord; make his paths straight."

The key way that John prepared people for Jesus Christ's work on Earth was by "proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins" (Mark 1:4). Many people came to the wilderness to hear John preach, confess their sins, and be baptized in water as a sign of their new purity and renewed relationships with God. Verses 7 and 8 quote John as saying about Jesus: "'The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals.  I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

Before Jesus began his public ministry, he asked John to baptize him in the Jordan River. Matthew 3:16-17 of the Bible records miracles that happened at that event: "As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, 'This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.'"

Muslims, as well as Christians, honor John for the example of holiness that he set. The Qur'an describes John as a faithful, kind role model: "And piety as from us, and purity: He was devout, and kind to his parents, and he was not overbearing or rebellious" (Book 19, verses 13-14).

Dying as a Martyr

John's outspokenness about the importance of living with faith and integrity cost him his life.

He died as martyr in 31 AD.

Matthew chapter 6 of the Bible says that Herodias, the wife of King Herod, "had a grudge" (verse 19) against John because he told Herod that she shouldn't have divorced her first husband to marry him. When Herodias convinced Herod's daughter to ask Herod to give her John's head on a platter at a royal banquet -- after Herod had promised publicly to give his daughter anything she wanted, not knowing what she would ask -- Herod decided to grant her request by sending soldiers to behead John, even though he was "deeply grieved" (verse 26) by the plan.

John's example of uncompromising holiness has inspired many people ever since.