Pictorial Lives of the Saints – Saint John Berchmans, Confessor

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

Saint John Berchmans, whose feast is celebrated August 13, was born at Diest on the 13th of March, 1599. Having been blessed by God with good parents, they watched over their young son during the early years of his life, and endeavored to form within him a character that would be pleasing in the sight of God, and loved by men. That God blessed their work we can learn from those who came in close contact with him during life. His parish priest, M. Emmerick, observing him as a little boy of seven years, said that God “would work wonders in the soul of the child.”

The truth of this remark was soon to become evident to all. The future saint showed effects of God’s grace within his soul by his tender devotion to and care of his mother, who was much afflicted by sickness, when John was but nine years of age. His tender piety was exercised toward his youthful companions, among whom he acted as a leader, always making use of every opportunity to teach them to become good and holy in God’s sight. The youth’s devotion and anxiety to serve Mass, to listen to and profit by instructions and sermons, his love for the recitation of the Rosary and the making of pilgrimages to Montaigue were well-known facts in his early life.

On reaching the proper age, he entered the Jesuit College at Mechlin, and completed his course of studies up to and including rhetoric. His life as a student at college, aside from his studies, was a continuation and an increase of the works of piety he performed as a boy. Being now ready to begin the study of philosophy, he decided that he had a vocation to enter the Society of Jesus. After’ overcoming some opposition on the part of his family, he entered the novitiate at Mechlin on September 24, 1616. Spending two years at Mechlin, where he made simple vows, he was at last sent to Antwerp to begin the study of philosophy. Remaining at Antwerp only a short time, he set out on foot for Rome and arrived there on the 31st of December, 1618. After studying philosophy for three years, he was selected by one of his superiors to take part in a certain public disputation. Before the disputation was ended the young man became ill and died on the 13th of August, 1621.

John Berchman’s life as a member of the Society of Jesus was most exemplary and exact, particularly in the observance of the rules of his Order. It was in this way that the future saint of God’s Church raised himself by the grace of God to practice virtue in a heroic degree, and on account of which he was canonized a saint in the year 1888 by Pope Leo XIII.

MLA Citation

  • John Dawson Gilmary Shea. “Saint John Berchmans, Confessor”. Pictorial Lives of the Saints, 1922. CatholicSaints.Info. 14 December 2018. Web. 7 May 2021. <>