August 13th 1621 - Johannes Berchmans
† in Rome
He belongs to the sunny people whose lives are accompanied by innocence and cheerfulness, and whose memory radiates always light and warmth into our hearts.
On January 13th 1599 he was born in Diest, not far from Louvain in the Flemish Brabant, and entered on September 24th 1616 in Mecheln the Society of Jesus.
His parents were poor. His father was forced to give up his studies to earn the daily bread as craftsman (tanner). Later, after the death of his wife, he could resume the studies and was, due to privilege, ordained priest in the year 1618 already. His son Charles became also a Jesuit, and another, Hadrian, became Augustinian.
After his noviciate John was sent for the sake of study to Rome. On foot he set out on the long way (1800 km). Over Paris, Lyon, Milan, Loretto he reached Rome. As Scholastic of the Roman College he finished in 1621 the three-year study of philosophy.
At the beginning of August 1621 he fell seriously ill with pneumonia with high fever. His Brethren, who saw a Saint in him, were anxious about his life. Father General Mutius Vitelleschi and also Cardinal Johann de Lugo, who exercised a professorship at the Roman College, visited the patient invalid. After one week, on August 13th 1621, John Berchmans died. His body found its resting-place in the church San Ignazio, by the grave of St Aloysius. His pure and self-sacrificing heart is kept in the Jesuit College in Louvain. His canonization by Pope Leo XIII however took place not before January 15th 1888.
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