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John Calvin's Birthday: 2004

Two minute birthday speech

On the Occasion of my Good Friend
Jean Cauvin’s 495th Birthday

by Guillâume Farel (Bill Stevenson)
July 9, 2004

Merci, et bonjour, Mesdames et Messieurs! I am happy to join you today to celebrate the birthday of mon bon ami, Jean Cauvin. Jean and I were the best of friends, over many years.

But I want to introduce you to a side of Jean that was not widely known. Jean was—how do you say it?—a whiner. Yes, it is very sad, but it is very true. Jean was a great man, and he did great things, but he was always a “woe is me” kind of man. When you are good friends with someone, of course, you look past their faults. So I did not worry too much about my friend’s spots, stains, or wrinkles. But, really, he has been dead a very long time now! Surely we can tell the full story of this man!

Do you know that I think Jean went out of his way to complain to me of his troubles? Ever since I prevailed upon Jean to remain in Geneva, I think he felt obliged constantly to remind me that he suffered because of my petitions! Really!

Here is how he began a letter to me from October, 1540:

“Cher Guillâume,

“When your letter was first brought to me I could scarcely lift a finger, on account of bodily weakness…. On the third of September I was seized with stuffing of the head…. Next day—the Lord’s day—when I got a little warm in the delivery of the forenoon sermon, I felt those humours which had gathered in the head begin to loosen and dissolve. [But] before I could leave the place the cough attacked me, and I was very much troubled with the continual defluxion until the Tuesday. On that day, when I was preaching, as usual, and found great difficulty in speaking, owing to the nostrils being blocked up with mucous and the fauces choked with hoarseness, all of a sudden I underwent a strange sensation; the cough ceased, but… the head continued to be crammed with evil humours…. [Then] I was seized with a fainting fit…; [after that] severe paroxysm, intense burning heat, [and] a strange swimming of the head. When I got up on Wednesday, I felt feeble in every limb and member… I dined sparely. After dinner I had two fits, with frequent paroxysms afterwards…. There was such a degree of perspiration that nearly the whole mattress was moistened by it. While I was under this sort of treatment your letter arrived.”

Sacre bleu! How do you Americans put it? This is too much information! Now I feel very sorry for Jean, but what does he expect me to do? Am I supposed to write back and say, “Oh, Jean, you poor, poor man.” I mean, really!

Well, at any rate, you can see now that I am the one who suffered for our friendship! But of course I am just joking. Jean was a good friend, and I join in the celebration of his birthday. Happy Birthday, Jean!