Miniature Lives of the Saints – Blessed John Berchmans

photograph of the Saint John stained glass window in Saint Joseph's Cathedral, Macon, Georgia, USA, artist unknown; photographed in the summer of 2003Article

The eldest boy of a poor cordwainer, in a small Belgian town, John was ever a dutiful, prayerful, and studious child. Our Lord called him when but young to leave his father and his father’s house, to serve Him in the Society of Jesus. And because young Berchmans was so good a son, so promising a scholar, it cost his father much to give him up to God; but he was too good a Christian to refuse outright John had no sooner become a novice than in his faithful keeping of his rule, the wonderful faultlessness of his life, his fervour in prayer, and his love of the brotherhood, he seemed to all, not so much a saint, as what indeed they called him, an angel. He had hardly taken his religious vows when he was sent to the centre of Christendom, the holy city of Rome. His life there was perfect as a student within his college walls; but his modesty, his purity, shone out as great virtue always does; and the young laymen who attended the lectures would come to gaze upon his beautiful and holy face, and go away the better for the sight. Three short years, and his last sickness found him sighing for heaven, and three days before the great feast of Mary’s Assumption in 1621, holding his rule-book and his crucifix in his wasted hands, with his rosary twined around them, the symbols of his obedience, his love of suffering, and devotion to his heavenly Mother, the young man breathed his last.

Blessed John’s favourite motto was, “Make a great deal of the very least things,” and this, like another of his, “Speak little, do much,” shows how in so uneventful and short a life he became so great a Saint. Nothing was of small importance to him that had to do with God.

Labour now a little, and thou shalt find great rest; yea, everlasting joy. If thou continue faithful and fervent in working, God will doubtless be faithful and liberal in rewarding. – The Imitation of Christ

When he was a boy of thirteen, his father’s slackness of business and his mother’s long illness seemed to make it impossible that John should go on with his studies. He was called into the sick-room, and there this was broken to him. It meant nothing less than the abandonment of his vocation to the priesthood. For a moment he was silent, then in tears he threw himselfon his knees, stretched out his hands, and implored his parents to let him but go on the few years longer, until he could be received into college. “Do not be alarmed about the expense. I shall be content to live on bread and water.” His poor parents could not refuse him. They gave way, and God enabled him to continue his studies.

Well done, good and faithful servant; because thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will place thee over many things. – Matthew 25:21

MLA Citation

  • Henry Sebastian Bowden. “Blessed John Berchmans”. Miniature Lives of the Saints for Every Day of the Year, 1877. CatholicSaints.Info. 9 March 2015. Web. 28 May 2017. <>