John was born at Wycliffe (near Barnard Castle) and was educated locally at Eggleston Abbey, and then at Oxford. A Catholic, a theologian and a Bible translator, he recognised the need for the Bible to be in the language of the people. He was very influential, especially in the years following the plague while based in Oxford. He taught at Balliol College, but then retired to Lutterworth in Leicestershire because of ill health and increasing controversy over his teachings. He taught consubstantiation – that the consecrated host ‘is naturally real bread and sacramentally the Body of Christ’ (which was at the time considered a shocking idea).

In his last two years he wrote prolifically before dying of a stroke; but he was posthumously condemned and his remains were dug up, burned and scattered. This was because he had protested that such a high proportion of parish giving was required to go overseas to swell Vatican funds, and because of his objection to the sale of indulgences. The Roman authorities disliked his teachings on consubstantiation and his policy of encouraging others to learn and tell Bible stories in English.

His family name is often spelled in several different ways. Through the centuries he has inspired many to translate the Bible into the mother tongues of people all over the world, including the Wycliffe Bible Translators who have taken his name.

Lord God, fix in us a true understanding of the value of the Bible and a love of its teaching. Inspire us to support those who translate it for the often forgotten minority language groups of the world, and those who seek to put it into modern forms of language that are readily understood. Fix in us also, Lord, a knowledge of what is essential to the Gospel and never changes, and an understanding of those things in which we must be flexible for the sake of unity among Your people. Amen.