Fr. John A. Hardon S.J.
b. June 18th, 1914 - d. December 30, 2000
64 year a Jesuit, 53 years a priest
"Pain is the Proof of Love"
Father John A. Hardon was born on June 18th, 1914 in Midland, Pennsylvania. When he was just a few months old, his parents moved to Cleveland, Ohio. One day while at work, his father, John Sr., noticed a beam of steel dangling over the heads of his coworkers who were eating lunch. He scrambled up the scaffolding, thinking only of their safety. The scaffold gave way and he fell to his death. Johnny was only one year old when his father died.
Johnny's mother, Anna Hardon, was a Third Order Franciscan, a very devout women. She taught Johnny to kneel before he was able to walk. As she often said, your knees are for kneeling to pray before God. When he was four years old, he went to his first all night vigil at Our Lady of Consolation parish in Carey, Ohio. His mother made a bed for him on the first pew. Anna prayed on her knees throughout the night while Johnny slept.
John was blessed with a Catholic school education. From his sixth birthday he can remember going to daily Holy Mass with his mother who worked hard to keep a roof over their head and John on the straight and narrow. Anna worked as a cleaning women in an office building nights and also took in two girl boarders who were Lutheran. Young Johnny asked his mother why the girls didn't have to fast from meat on Fridays. His mother took this as a sign to have the girls request permission from their minister to fast from meat on Fridays. Their Lutheran minister gave them permission and again peace reigned in the Hardon household.
John was an intelligent boy and the sisters at the Catholic school could see he had a flare for acting. While in sixth grade he put on a one-man show called "Pockets." For one solid hour he kept the audience laughing with his explanations of what he carried in his pockets. John sat next to a girl named Jo, and for the most part through school until college, she remained a pretty constant person in his life. Jo was a very intelligent girl and good competition for John, sharing many of the same interests.
John attended John Carroll University in Cleveland for four years of college during which he and Jo kept in contact the entire time. As time passed, Jo was making plans for them to marry. But John's mother told him if the reason he was going to marry was so that she would not be alone without anyone to care for her, he was not to be concerned. God would take care of her with His divine grace as He always had. With that, John's decision to enter the Society of Jesus was made. He had only one more hurdle to jump. How to tell Jo? He already had the date set to enter the Order. John and Jo went out to a fine dinner on a Sunday evening. Just after ordering the meal, John told Jo that he was entering the Society of Jesus on the following Wednesday. Jo cried all through the meal. But Jo's loss was the Church's and world's gain!
At the age of 22 years old, John Anthony Hardon embarked on the road to the priesthood in the Jesuit Order. He studied hard and achieved excellent grades. John was ordained on his 33rd birthday, June 18th, 1947 at West Baden Springs, Indiana. His mother, Anna, was there to see this fulfillment of her prayers and good example.
When John was 43 years old he wrote his first book which has yet to be published, but ensuing works have found their way around the world and inspired and educated millions. Father Hardon has been a member of the Society of Jesus for 63 years and an ordained priest for 52 years. Father Hardon holds a Masters degree in Philosophy from Loyola University and a Doctorate in Theology from Gregorian University in Rome. He has taught at the Jesuit School of Theology at Loyola University in Chicago and the Institute for Advanced Studies in Catholic Doctrine at St. John's University in New York as well as helped organize and publish the series of catechetical books for youth and adults. A prolific writer, whose works have appeared in leading religious and educational periodicals as well as various collections, he has authored over forty books, including The Catholic Catechism, Religions of the World, Protestant Churches of America, Christianity in the Twentieth Century, Theology of Prayer, The Catholic Lifetime Reading Plan and recently two question and answer catechisms on the Holy Father's encyclicals The Gospel of Life and The Splendor of Truth. In addition, he has been actively involved with a number of organizations, such as the Institute on Religious Life, Marian Catechists, Eternal Life and Inter Mirifica, which publishes his catechetical courses.
Only God will slow down this dedicated priest of God for at the age of 85, Father Hardon is still giving classes in person and by teleconference. He is actively giving days of recollection and retreats. Father Hardon has just published a book called the Prophet for the Priesthood, the story of the life of Father Gerald Fitzgerald. He is the founder of the Servants of the Paraclete and the Handmaids of the Precious Blood.
More and more people are realizing that Father John Hardon, S.J. is the man that God ordained to be our help and our educator in this time of great confusion and our true father in Faith. May the Lord bless us with his presence for many years to come.
We are grateful to Susan Schoenstein for her major contributions to this biography.