Weninger’s Lives of the Saints – Saint Louis Bertrand, Confessor

detail of a stained glass window of Saint Louis Bertrand stained glass window, date and artist unknown; swiped with permission from the flickr account of Father Lawrence Lew, OPArticle

Saint Louis Bertrand, whose name is recorded in the Roman Martyrology, on the ninth of this month, was born at Valencia, in Spain, in the year 1526. He manifested, already in his childhood, signs of his future holiness; for, from his seventh year, he daily recited the Office of the Blessed Virgin; evinced great pleasure in going to Church; eat nothing from morning to mid-day; obeyed his parents implicitly; showed no taste for childish amusements, but sought and loved solitude, and occupied himself in prayer, study, and spiritual reading. When older, he fled secretly into the desert, that he might give himself entirely to prayer and mortification. His father brought him home again, but could not prevent his entering into the Dominican Order, where he made such progress in virtue and sanctity, that after seven years he was made instructor of novices, a function he most carefully attended to. Sometimes he was sent into other cities to preach the Gospel, and his missions always resulted in the conversion of many souls. God had bestowed upon him the gift of looking into the innermost heart, and of foretelling future events, which aided him greatly in reforming sinners. Thus, he one day met a shepherd, to whom he said: “Dear friend, I know that you are in a bad condition: it is three years since you made a good confession. If you value your salvation, delay no longer to atone for your faults, for death is near you. I am ready to absolve you.” The shepherd, greatly disturbed at first, soon recognized God’s mercy in the exhortation of Saint Louis, confessed his sins with repentance, and died three days afterwards.

In 1562, Saint Louis went, with other priests, to the West Indies, desiring to win souls for Christ, and to give his life for his faith. How zealously he administered his apostolic functions, no pen can describe. He occupied the whole day in preaching and instructing without ever becoming weary, and without omitting the many and austere penances he had practised from his youth. The number of the infidels whom he converted was very great, and is known only to the Almighty, who guarded him in all dangers, and wrought many miracles through him. It is known that, although he preached in one language only, yet he was understood by people who spoke in different tongues. Several times the heathen tried to poison him, – to put a stop to his converting so many, but God prevented His faithful servant from being mortally harmed. A nobleman took, as meant especially for himself, a sermon in which the Saint had severely inveighed against a certain vice, and in consequence resolved to shoot him. He had already levelled the weapon, when the Saint, perceiving it, made the sign of the Cross; and the nobleman, instead of his weapon, held a crucifix in his hand. Moved to repentance by this miracle, he fell at the feet of Saint Louis, and begged pardon. At another time, some savages were about to stone him; but he spoke so kindly to them that he completely won them, and they desired him to instruct them in the Christian faith. One day, a heathen was about to kill him with an axe; but, as he struck, God caused the axe to glide from the Saint’s head, without in the least injuring him, and bury itself deep in the ground. Many similar examples of the protection of Divine Providence are to be found in the Saint’s history.

Having labored several years with untiring zeal in the conversion of the infidels, he was recalled to Europe. During the voyage, he calmed a terrific storm by the sign of the Holy Cross. The rest of his days he passed in the administration of several offices which obedience had laid upon his shoulders, until he departed this life by a holy death, in his 55th year on the 9th of October, as he himself had prophesied. No one doubted that the many and great hardships which he had undergone while in the West Indies, converting the heathen, as well as the severity that he had used towards himself, had shortened his days. Before he died, God visited him with several maladies, all of which he suffered with wonderful patience. Although he had cured many sick by a certain prayer of Saint Vincent Ferrer he would not make use of it for himself, but often called on God in the words of Saint Augustine: “Lord! here burn, here cut; but spare me in eternity!” He was sorry when he saw that they took so much trouble to relieve his sufferings, partly because he deemed himself unworthy of so much care, and partly because he submitted entirely to the Divine will, saying: “Let us leave God to work after His own good pleasure. His will be done.” His humility was as wonderful as his patience. He thought himself the greatest sinner, while others regarded him the greatest Saint of his time. His maxim was to despise him- self, but no one else; to despise the world, but not to care if the world despises us. He was greatly distressed, and generally went away when he was praised. But one day, when some noblemen abused him as the most wicked of all men, he listened to them quietly, and at last said: “What you have said, gentlemen, is true: you know me better than others do.” When some one praised him on account of the many miracles he wrought, he said: “Do you regard this as a sign of holiness? If so, you are mistaken: it is only the result of faith. Oh! how much greater power and gifts did Lucifer receive, and yet he went to destruction.” His purity he kept unspotted to the last, by means of prayer and constant mortification. More than once he had to fight hard for it. One day, a wicked person hired an unchaste woman to tempt the Saint to evil; but taking his girdle, Saint Louis whipped her so long, with all his strength, that she was glad to run away. How shall I worthily praise all the other virtues that the Saint possessed? Especially great was his love of prayer, and his constant union with God. Every forenoon he passed two hours in prayer, and as many in the afternoon, but with such ardor that he was often found raised above the ground, or surrounded by bright rays. During the day, he frequently raised his heart to God in devout exclamations. By prayer, he nourished and increased his burning love of God and man. Nothing gave him more pain than when he saw or heard God offended, and nothing caused him greater joy than to see or hear anything done in honor of the Almighty. One day, he offered to God his own life for the preservation of that of another zealous missionary, who labored very successfully for the salvation of men. Notwithstanding these and other heroic virtues, he was continually tormented by the fear of being eternally lost. His whole body sometimes trembled at the thought of it; and, when they would encourage him by reason of the good he had done, he would answer, sighing deeply: “Ah! much more good have others done; many more graces have they received than I, miserable man that I am: and yet a Lucifer, a Judas, have been condemned with so many others. How terrible would it be, if such a misfortune should happen to me! O misery of miseries! How is it possible that a sane man should be free from fear, having no security to escape punishment!” He was often heard to say: “O God! how shall I be able to justify my whole life before Thee, – I, who have not the courage to give an account of one single day: nay, even of one hour! O great justice of God! O human weakness! How is it possible to think of this without fear?” Shprtly before his end, he said sorrowfully to the religious who were present: “Oh! pray for me, for I may still be condemned.” This fear made Saint Louis very careful to avoid all danger of committing sin. It caused him also to persevere in his penances, and incited him to do good. When some one perceived, during the Saints last illness, that he had a heavy stone lying upon his breast, and said to him: “Why, reverend brother, do you wish to give still more pain to your emaciated and suffering body?” the Saint replied: “My father, what else can I do? Death is so near, and heaven suffers violence/’ The holy man desired until his end to labor, fight and suffer for heaven. But at last the love of God conquered fear in the heart of the dying Saint, and his last moments were marked by the fullest and calmest confidence. His soul, at its departure from earth, was seen by many to ascend into heaven, beaming with divine radiance, and accompanied by a large number of holy Angels. Countless miracles which took place at the touch of his body, which exhaled the most fragrant odor, or by his intercession, manifested to the world the glory he enjoyed in heaven.

Practical Considerations

• “Death is near; and heaven suffers violence.” Thus spoke the Saint to those who would persuade him to discontinue his voluntary penance. These two points should restrain us from evil and incite us to good, especially to penance and mortification. Death is near, and you have but a short time in which you can work out your salvation. It is not long before you must appear before a Judge, who will sentence you for all eternity. Oh, do not offend this Judge; as, otherwise, what have you to expect? Neglect not the short time left to you. When death opens the door of eternity, not a moment will be left to you to work for your salvation. How sorry will you then be, when you think: “I have had time, opportunity and means to work out my salvation; but I have not improved them. Now, I have neither time, opportunity nor means to work out my salvation.” Death is so near, and heaven suffers violence. By an easy and sensual, or an idle and luxurious life, one cannot go into heaven. Violence must be used; penances, interior and exterior mortifications; self-restraint must be employed if one would enter heaven, to which crosses, sufferings and uninterrupted penances led so many holy martyrs and confessors.

• Saint Louis, after so severe and holy a life, yet feared to be condemned. What is the reason that you, leading an idle or even sinful life, have no fear, as if you were in no danger of being condemned? There is no day in which you cannot say with truth: “Today I may be damned.” For, either you are in mortal sin or not. If you are, who can assure you that you may not die at any hour and be condemned? If you are not in mortal sin, tell me, where is the day in which you may not become guilty of it, and, dying in it. go to never-ending punishment? See, then, how near you are to hell. But can it be that you believe this, and yet live without fear, or as if you felt quite secure? Fear, then, but fear in the same spirit in which Saint Louis feared. This fear incited him to use those means which he knew were necessary and useful to escape hell. In the same manner do you fear. Should you, therefore, be in mortal sin, tear yourself away from it, and do penance. And if you are free from sin, take care that you do not become guilty of it. Pray daily to God in your morning prayer, that He may protect you and guard you from all sin, that you may not die in it and go to perdition. Fear the Almighty, who alone has power to condemn you. To fear Him rightly, is not to offend Him. Should you have offended Him, reconcile yourself with Him without delay, by true penance. “Fear the Lord and keep his commandments.” (Eccl. 13) “He that fears God, neglects nothing;” (Eccl. 13) nothing that is necessary to appease Him; nothing that is necessary to escape hell.

MLA Citation

  • Father Francis Xavier Weninger, DD, SJ. “Saint Louis Bertrand, Confessor”. Lives of the Saints, 1876. CatholicSaints.Info. 10 May 2018. Web. 18 September 2018. <>