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H. Henry Meeter Center: Specializing in John Calvin, Calvinism, the Reformation, and Early Modern Studies


John Calvin's 495th Birthday Party (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!