St. John Berchmans 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.
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 practise virtue in a heroic degree.
Text from Pictorial Lives of the Saints With Reflections for Every Day in the Year (New York: Benziger Bros., 1922).