Scripture records that Mary was told by the angel Gabriel that her cousin Elizabeth was also with child. We know that Mary set out in haste to visit Elizabeth - a long and tedious journey in those days - and remained with her for a period of time during her pregnancy.
John, son of Elizabeth and Zacharias, was a child of God's promise. His father Zacharias, a Hebrew priest, was struck dumb by the angel Gabriel when he would not believe the angel's news that his wife Elizabeth (an older woman) would conceive a child. John was probably born at Ain-Karim, a small town southwest of Jerusalem. Zacharias received his voice back when, on the day of John's circumcision and naming, he wrote down that the child's name would be John. The commemoration of John's birth is celebrated by the universal Church on June 24.
Though cousins, John and Jesus did not live near one another and it is not known whether they met during childhood. After his birth, Scripture is silent about John until it records his appearance in the Judean desert where he lived as a hermit until about A.D. 27. When he was thirty, he began to preach on the banks of the Jordan against the evils of the times. John attracted large crowds. He preached a baptism of repentance "for the Kingdom of Heaven is close at hand". The presence of John and his disciples was not felt until about one year before the beginning of the ministry of Jesus.
When Jesus came to him, John recognized Him as the Messiah and baptized Him, saying, "It is I who need baptism from You". John inspired many of his followers to follow Christ when he designated Him "the Lamb of God" among them Andrew and John, who came to know Christ through John's preaching.
When Jesus left to preach in Galilee, John continued preaching in the Jordan valley. Fearful of his great power with the people, Herod had him arrested and imprisoned, for John had denounced Herod's adulterous and incestuous marriage with Herodias, wife of Herod's half brother. John was beheaded at the request of Salome, daughter of Herodias, who asked for his head at the instigation of her mother. The commemoration of John's death is celebrated by the universal Church on August 29.
John is presented in the New Testament as the last of the Old Testament prophets. He is known as the Baptist, the Precursor, the Forerunner of Christ, because of his role in preparing the people for the coming of the Messiah. Other than that of the Lord Jesus and His Mother Mary, John is the only saint whose birthday is celebrated within the church's liturgical year - June 24. He is also remembered on the Feast of His Martyrdom / Beheading, August 29.