Miracles of St. John Berchmans
This webpage contains much information regarding St. John Berchmans interceding on behalf of those who put their trust in his prayers.
Miracles categorized under five headings.
1. Miracles which took place at the time of the funeral rites.
2. Favors and miracles operated in behalf of the religious of the Society of Jesus in Italy.
3. Favors and miracles wrought in behalf of his relations and countrymen.
4. His special protection of Virgins consecrated to God.
5. Wonderful favors conferred upon every class of persons.
Then, the Miracles placed before the Sacred Congregation of Rites, and approved by our Holy Father, the Pope.
The Acts of the Beatification
Brief of Beatification
Miracle needed for canonization
Canonization ceremony details
The Miracles of St. John Berchmans
Saint John Berchmans was not noted for extraordinary feats of holiness or austerity, nor did he found orders or churches or work flashy miracles. He made kindness, courtesy, and constant fidelity an important part of his holiness. The path to holiness can lie in the ordinary rather than the extraordinary… holding great store in the everyday activities of life. After his death, extraordinary, supernatural events began to occur in his name.
The miracles outlined below can be found in the book The Life of St. John Berchmans of the Society of Jesus, Fr. Boero, S.J., 1866, written in gratitude for his beatification on May 28,1865 by Pope Pius IX. With his canonization January 15, 1888, for following preface was added:
<<As with men so with Saints. To some we are drawn by a sweet attraction which we feel but cannot explain, while others we dare not approach. Only there is this difference that, while we shrink from some men, the fear is due to some real or imaginary defect we see in them, whereas with the Saints the feeling is one of awe that makes us admire them from afar on their high pinnacles of holiness, and leaves us timid to draw near in imitation of them, though we well know that what they have done we can also do. St. John Berchmans is one of the Saints whose youth, candor, mild disposition, and sympathetic nature instinctively attract us to him and win our confidence. His saintliness was the outcome of doing well and thoroughly the every-day duties of life, and he is hence represented in art as the model of common life, with rulebook, crucifix and rosary beads.
The sacerdotal golden jubilee of Leo XIII will be ever gratefully remembered, because, on January 15, 1888, the illustrious Pontiff signalized the event by “decreeing and defining to be a Saint, and inscribing on the catalogue of Saints, John Berchmans, confessor, of the Society of Jesus.” With him two other Saints of the same Society were decreed the public honors of the Church Peter Claver, missionary in South America, and Alphonsus Rodriguez, lay brother.
What is of special interest to the devotees of St. John Berchmans in these United States, as proving that he uses his influence with God in their behalf is, that one of the two test miracles chosen by the Sacred Congregation of Rites in the canonical process, and mentioned in the decree of canonization, was an American miracle. It was a miraculous cure wrought twenty years before the canonization by the intercession of the Saint at the Sacred Heart Convent, Grand Coteau, Louisiana, and stood the searching scrutiny of the Roman tribunal. We are indebted for the details of the event to one of the community who wrote them down at the time, as you will read below.>>
As he was dying, people throughout Rome spoke of the holiness of the young Jesuit scholastic, John Berchmans. Engravings were made of John Berchmans shortly after his death and copies were printed. In a few days, 24,000 of these engravings were sold in his native country in Belgium alone.
Immediately following his death, the people hailed him as a saint. Because of this, the Superior General of the Society of Jesus, ordered his Life to be written and published, and prefaced it himself with a great eulogy. Also documented was the early devotion to the young saint as well as the many miracles by which God was pleased to glorify him after death. Numerous testimonies to the perfection and sanctity of Blessed John were collected, praising his virtue and perfection, and God, always wonderful in his Saints, soon designed to confirm and augment this opinion, by manifesting through special revelations, accompanied by numerous miracles, the high post of glory, which, in accordance with His merits, his faithful servant had already attained in heaven.
Of the many claimed, below are only the well-documented and authenticated miracles and favors and visions, attributed to the intercession of our saint, approved after the severe scrutiny to which they had to be subjected in the Process for Beatification. There are so many miracles attributed to St. John Berchmans, that they are categorized under five headings.
1. Miracles which took place at the time of the funeral rites.
a. Catharine du Recati, a woman of seventy-eight years of age, who was blind of both eyes, having heard that a scholastic of the Society of Jesus had died in the Roman College with the reputation and opinion of sanctity, came to the church during the time of the obsequies, with the purpose and desire of approaching the body of the deceased, and of touching her eyes with his hands or clothes, hoping to receive aid and a remedy for her blindness. But as the concourse of people, which was almost countless, did not permit a near approach, she was unable to put her good desire into execution, and was forced to return home afflicted and disconsolate. It pleased our good Lord, for the advantage of this poor blind woman and for the exaltation of his holy Servant, that on the following day, which was the 14th of August, she should visit the house of the lady Victoria Altieri, who, moved by the fame of his sanctity, was desirous of seeing the body of the youth, to which sepulture had not yet been given, in order to satisfy many of the principal ladies, and amongst others that most noble lady the Duchess Sforza. Upon this the desire of the poor blind one, of doing what she had been unable to accomplish the day before, was renewed within her, and she said: Oh I if I too could go and see the body of this holy youth, I would hope to receive some favor for my eyes. The lady Victoria took her into the carriage with her and brought her to the church. Immediately Catharine had herself conducted to the bier, on which lay the deceased; and stating that she wished to touch her eyes with something appertaining to the Servant of God, she was told by one of the Society who was present, to take the fingers of the dead and touch her eyes with them. She did so, and instantly exclaimed: I am cured I see. She repeated the touch, and recovered her sight entirely; for at the proof made of it she could really see and discern the most minute objects. There were present at the miracle, Lorenzo and Lady Victoria Altieri, Maria Testa, and Serafina Mancini, who uniformly testify, that the said Catharine was blind, and that what is here written is true. And I, Aloysius Spinola of the Society of Jesus, have written this account, as I was present on the occasion, and was the one who said to the woman: take the fingers of the deceased in your hand and touch your eyes with them. For all of which be praise and glory to God, to the Blessed Virgin, and to the good John Berchmans forever and ever. Amen.”
b. Arsilia Altissimi of Tivoli, had been suffering for several days with a most acute pain in the side, which drove sleep from her eyes and allowed her no repose. As she resided near the Roman College, having heard the “bells tolling for the dead on the morning of the 13th of August, 1621, she called her daughters Victoria and Anna, and placing herself with them before the oratory, where she was accustomed to pray: she said: “Let us recite a De profundis for the one who must have died in the College.” Thrice did she force herself to begin the prayer; and thrice, in place of the De profundis, the Te Deum rushed into her mind and upon her tongue; and the same thing happened to her two daughters. Astonished at this, she arose and said: “Some great servant of God has expired in the College.” At the same time she felt engendering in her heart a lively desire of seeing him, and a firm confidence of being cured of her malady through his intercession. The evening of the same day, accompanied and supported by her daughters, with great difficulty and much suffering, she reached the church, when a great number of people were still assembled. Approaching the corpse, she was seized with an internal movement of spirit, it appearing to her, as she said that she saw an Angel of heaven. She placed her handkerchief over the face of the dead; she then applied it to her side, and in that instant was free from all pain and perfectly cured. Grateful for the benefit received, she of her own will committed all the facts to writing at that time, and the year following deposed to them upon oath in the Process, which was compiled in Rome on the virtues and miracles of John Berchmans.
c. Before the funeral rites, a noble youth of 15 years, who was much esteemed by all for his wisdom, goodness, and purity of life, with much simplicity and ingenuousness asked the Perfect, why the Fathers had put those diamonds on John’s forehead. After interrogating the youth about it, it was deemed a supernatural occurrence, as if a halo of most vivid light which dazzled above his eyes.
d. Father John Baptist de Ruschi, all remedies of medical art having failed, was at death’s door, in the same infirmary as John Berchmans. Reports spread of the miraculous favors obtained through his intercession, while his corpse was still present in the church. Father John Baptist was placed on the mattress on which John died and that from that time forward he regained his strength, and arose from his bed completely restored.
e. Doctors had given up hope for Julius Rettabene, a young scholastic after long and complicated maladies. Julius, with courage and confidence, with great tenderness of devotion exclaimed: “O good John, aid me, you, who see how much I suffer… If it be for the greater glory of God and the salvation of my soul, obtain for me of his divine Majesty the desired health: otherwise give me strength and patience to support my pains to the last.” Having finished this brief prayer, he took the relic of John’s heart into his hand, kissed it, and in a very short time regained his strength and recovered his health perfectly.
f. Louis Gabrieli of Fano, a religious of the Society of Jesus, was very dangerous fever, prayed to Venerable John, promising him, if he was cured, that he would strive to be devout to him, to honor him, and to proclaim his virtues to all. On this, the pain in his head vanished at once.
g. Lorenzo Mori, a Lay Brother of the Society, was attacked about the June 24, 1621, with so great a pain in the head, accompanied by fever, that he became completely delirious. Two days after John’s death, Lorenzo had a vision of John touching his head and, after recommending to him the exact observance of the Rule, John disappeared, leaving him entirely cured.
2. Favors and miracles operated in behalf of the religious of the Society of Jesus in Italy.
a. Father John de Angelis suffered 6 years and, in 1627, the disease had increased to such a degree, that, not being able to maintain himself upon his feet, he was forced to lie in bed, attacked by the most violent pains. He had already lost all feeling in the right arm, and in addition to this, his legs, knees, and stomach became unusually swollen; and his condition threatened to terminate in the dropsy with an obstinate obstruction of the liver. The physicians employed all their skill and industry, at least to mitigate the violence of so many diseases united; but all availed nothing. Then the sick man, having nothing more to hope for from human remedies, turned with lively faith to implore the aid of heaven, invoking the intercession of Venerable Berchmans, whom he had known in the Roman College, and to whom he bore a great affection. To him therefore he recommended himself from his heart; and in that very instant he found himself free from his disorders, and arose from his bed in better health, than that which he had enjoyed before his sickness. The news of a cure so sudden and so perfect spread through the city, and formed for a long time a great theme of glory to God and of exaltation to his servants.
b. A speechless and paralyzed Joseph Spinelli, 22, Palermo, Sicily, on February 11, 1634, received the last sacraments, and then had a miraculous vision of Blessed Aloysius and the Venerable Berchmans. He was cured, arose immediately from bed, and full of vigor and strength went down into the church, where he served mass and received Holy Communion. On the completion of his studies he was made priest, went to the missions of India, and was sent to the Philippine Islands, where he lived and labored many years like an apostle, and terminated his life by a holy death.
3. Favors and miracles wrought in behalf of his relations and countrymen.
a. Sr. Mary Berchmans, aunt of John Berchmans, afflicted for 13-14 years with a flow of blood, which would at times flow for fifteen or more days, even from her mouth and nose. Reduced thus to extreme weakness, she was obliged for the most part to lie in bed, and to pass many days in a total prostration of strength, which she was not able to restore by taking even the least food. To this were afterwards added most acute pains in the head, which deprived her of her reason, and caused her to rave like a maniac. The physicians of greatest reputation in the University of Louvain were consulted, and after having vainly employed all the remedies their skill could suggest, unanimously declared, that no further hopes were to be entertained of the cure of the invalid. With most edifying resignation to the will of God, Mary received the news of the happy death of John, her nephew, which took place in Rome on the 13th of August, 1621; she was also informed of the miracles which God wrought by his intercession, and of the relic of his heart, which had been brought from Rome to Louvain. In consequence, the desire of miraculously recovering her health was aroused within her; and having procured an image of her dear nephew, she placed it devoutly beside her bed. The disease nevertheless, so far from giving way, increased beyond measure, and the pious lady prepared herself for death by the reception of the holy Viaticum and Extreme Unction. When reduced to this state, she one night thought she saw the Servant of God, who, stretching forth his right arm from the image, and as it were approaching her with a countenance full of love and pity, said to her: “You, dear aunt, shall be free from your infirmity.” On hearing this, she rallied, and found herself perfectly cured.
b. A little daughter of the nobleman Everard Pipenpay having been attacked by a violent and malignant fever, her mother had recourse to the intercession of John: and in a very short time the good parents obtained the favor they desired.
c. So also, a youth named Sixtus, the son of Mr. Vander Laen, who was brought to the very point of death under the force of a raging fever, recovered his health instantaneously, by lighting two candles before the image of John, and reciting a few prayers in his honor.
d. Rainer Hautmans, a student of theology in the College of Louvain, Belgium, at the beginning of the Easter vacation in 1623, fell dangerously ill. By good chance he happened to be present, when Father Leonard Lessius was reading some letters which had just arrived from Rome, in which it was related, how the Servant of God, John Berchmans, had after his death, aided his clients with miraculous favors, and that the Sovereign Pontiff Gregory XV had given orders that juridical investigations should be made regarding his life and virtues. On hearing this, he felt springing up in his heart a firm confidence of obtaining by this means a speedy cure, and that too so as not to disarrange his studies. He promised John to be singularly devout to him, and recommended himself to him with ardent affection. He was heard according to his desires; for on the morning of the Monday after Low Sunday, on which day the schools are resumed, he recovered on the instant, and was able to continue his studies with the others as before.
e. It was perhaps this favor which gave courage to Andrew Van Boeregen to seek a similar one for himself. In the October of the same year, 1623, he was seized in Louvain with a fever, which becoming tertian, was gradually wasting his strength. He too had recourse to John, and promised to recite every day five Paters and Aves (Our Fathers and Hail Marys) before his image. Having pronounced his vow with great tenderness of affection, which caused him to shed abundant tears, he fell into a placid sleep, and as soon as he awoke, he knew that he was entirely cured. He presented himself before the ecclesiastical tribunal, and deposed upon oath to the favor received.
f. Father Anthony de Greef, also a religious of the Society, escaped, thanks to the Blessed John, not from sickness, but from imminent danger of being imprisoned or put to death. He was a missionary apostolic in the United Provinces of Holland, and was exercising the sacred ministry in Nijmegen, while that city was occupied by a strong garrison of heretics, who through hatred to religion were hunting down Catholic priests. Being obliged one night to go out of the house, he fell in with a heretic soldier, who, recognizing him for what he was, grasped him suddenly by the arm, and threatened to bring him as a prisoner before the officer on duty. In this strait the Father could do nothing else than raise his mind to God, and place himself under the protection of John Berchmans, whom he invoked interiorly with great confidence. At that very moment, a young man of most beautiful aspect, who in his features was Berchmans himself, made his appearance, and turning to the soldier, with a firm voice, said to him: “let go this man, for he is a good citizen,” and the assailant left him free, and took his departure.
g. I conclude by citing an attestation, in the Roman ordinary Process: “We, the municipal authorities of the city of Diest in Brabant, and in the archdiocese of Mechlin, at the instance of the Reverend Fathers of the Society of Jesus in Louvain, attest that the devout lady, Anna Vlaeyen, aged about 75 years, appeared before us, and upon oath declared, that sixty years before, some lads having met together in the house of her parents, Philip Vlaeyen and Catharine Vanpantegen, situated opposite the convent of the Cenobites, as they were gathering powder to load some pieces of artillery, it happened that a quantity of it, which had been placed in a corner of a room near the kitchen, and over which hung an image of the Venerable John Berchmans of the Society of Jesus, accidentally took fire, and greatly damaged the whole house. The passage leading to the room came down in pieces, as well as the walls, and the ceiling above. The window-frames were wrenched from their places, and every pane of glass was broken; the pewter plates and all the copper vessels that were in the kitchen, were thrown to the ground, and all the images in that room, ruined and shattered, except that of the Blessed John Berchmans, which, though hanging immediately above the powder, still remained suspended by a cord to the wall, and without sustaining any injury. And what is still more wonderful is, that a servant of Mr. Van Budinghen, who happened to be in the same room, was thrown to the ground and taken thence as dead, after those of the house had extinguished with beer the fire which was near his clothes; and the same accident happened to a maid-servant who was going up stairs carrying in her hands some bottles of beer. But neither the one nor the other suffered any harm either then or afterwards. All of which things were always regarded both by those then present and by others who afterwards heard them related, in the light of a miracle, wrought through the intercession and merits of the Venerable John Berchmans. And in testimony of the truth we have ordered that this attestation be subscribed by one of our Secretaries, and be authenticated with our seal, this 13th day of February, 1742.”
4. His special protection of Virgins consecrated to God.
a. Sister Mary Perpetua Ruis, Oblate, 1623, a month confined to her bed with a constant fever, experienced some grief that she was not able to keep Lent or apply to her ordinary duties in the monastery. She implored the intercession of the Blessed John Berchmans, and was restored to perfect health.
b. Sister Catharine Giacinta Sacripante, a religious of the Monastery of St. Bernard, in the city of Narni, was ill for about two years and a half. Hearing from a professed nun, some details of the life of the great Servant of God, John Berchmans, who died with the reputation of sanctity. At her wits end, she explained: “If it be true that the Servant of God, John Berchmans, is in Heaven, and enjoys the glory of God, as it is said, let him obtain for me the favor to recover from my sickness.” The sister who heard her reproved her for this. And yet, from that moment on, she was free from her violent cough and fever, from the pain in the breast, and from every malady; she at once got ready for the community prayer, and continued to perform all the regular exercises and duties of one in perfect health.
c. Physicians of the highest repute unanimously declared that Sister Maria Angela Guinigi was in such a desperate state, in so emaciated a condition that she looked like a mere skeleton. On August 13, 1672, when hearing the Mother infirmarian read the life of the Blessed John Berchmans and realizing that it was the anniversary of his happy departure from this world, she turned towards a picture of the Servant of God, which was hanging near her bed, and prayed through his intercession. She was instantly restored to health, knelt for half an hour in thanksgiving, climbed four flights of stairs to tell the other sisters. The physicians testified that it was absolutely impossible for her to recover her health by any human means.
d. On September 29, 1740, Sr. Mary Frances di Monteils, France, was instantaneously freed from a paralysis, which extended to her whole body, having prayed a novena in honor of the Servant of God. The news soon spread throughout the city; and a multitude of relations, friends, and people of every rank and condition came for several days to the monastery, desiring to see with their own eyes the wonders of God,
e. Sister Claudia Begina Cellard, in the year 1756, was ill of a fever headaches, difficulty of breathing, violent fits of vomiting and other very serious and dangerous symptoms followed in rapid succession. Not a ray of hope for her recovery being left, the good religious directed all her thoughts to her soul; and having received the last sacraments on the 16th of October, she asked that the prayers for the dying should be recited, in order to prepare herself for her departure from this life. At this time a Father of the Society of Jesus came to see her, and suggested that she should have recourse to the intercession of the Blessed John Berchmans. The physician also arrived, who, hearing of her prayer to the Servant of God, declared, that if she were cured it would be by a manifest miracle. The sick nun asked for a relic of John, which was immediately brought. All the religious who had assembled to unite in recommending her soul to God, knelt down to pray while Sr. Claudia applied the relic to the parts of her body which were suffering from her infirmities. To apply the relic and to be cured, were one and the same thing. At the news of this miracle, the physician repaired without delay to the monastery and saw his patient, who was now cured, and vigorous and strong with the other religious in the choir was returning thanks to God.
f. A miraculous cure occurred March 13, 1729, his birthday. Maria Costanza Chiaramonti, seven years of continued sickness, had been reduced to so emaciated a condition and to such an exhaustion of natural vigor. Her malady was not merely of one kind, but a strange complication of various ailments, which attacked her at one time singly, at another time with their united strength. She suffered from deafness and a ringing in the ears; from headache and softening of the brain; from colics and a twisting of the bowels; from the heart-disease; from violent contortions of the limbs; finally, from deadly fits and a total loss of motion, especially in the arms, knees, and withered lower extremities. The many remedies applied to her case, in so long-continued an illness, were of no avail except to prolong the exercise of her patience; and she had already tranquilized her mind and prepared herself to suffer until death, without any hope of relief from her miseries. However, seated one day in her chair, she heard Sister Maria Ignazia Mauri, who was also ill, speak at length of the angelic life of the Blessed John Berchmans, and conceived a great devotion towards him, and a lively confidence in his intercession. But as her maladies, far from diminishing, were daily increased she lost heart, and relented much in her fervor. The Servant of God appeared several times in a dream to Sister Mauri, and ordered her to admonish Sister Costanza to renew her devotion, if she wished to receive the grace which she had asked. The admonition produced a good effect. She revived her confidence in the Servant of God, began to read his life, and noticing that he was born on the 13th of March, the very day when she renewed her fervor, she said: “O great Servant of God, will you not grant me the desired favor on this your birthday?” The same evening, towards sunset seated in her chair, she asked the religious, who were present, to place her on her bed. They raised her accordingly, she herself being powerless; but in the act of laying her on the bed, she fell with her face downwards, and appeared like a dead person, all her limbs being rigid. She was for a time motionless and insensible, and seemed momentarily about to expire. As she later testified: “Then, the other Sisters began to recall to my mind the confidence which I had felt in the Servant of God. They brought me one of his pictures, and placed it upon my spine: I immediately felt a certain twittering in my lower extremities, while at the same time, I could not say how, my right arm was extended, though still continuing rigid. At this unexpected change, the nuns yet more confidently hoped to obtain my cure, and therefore recited three Our Fathers and three Hail Marys, in honor of the Blessed Trinity, praying the Servant of God to complete the favor. I was moved and consoled by the confidence which the nuns manifested in the Servant of God. Either while saying those prayers, or after them, they laid the picture on my breast, and I immediately extended both my arms, and was able with them to press the picture to my heart. Their confidence still increasing, they placed the picture below my breast, that motion and vigor might return to the upper portion of my body, and at the same time they applied a small piece of linen dipped in the blood of the Servant of God. At this moment, I felt perfectly free to move and to turn myself at pleasure. I could also sit in my bed without assistance. They then repeated the same prayers, and touched my knees with the picture and the linen; after which I was bid to rise, they removing at the same time my chair: but the truth was, that my lower limbs had not yet been healed, and I would have fallen upon the floor, if I had not been supported in the arms of the nuns. I therefore remained sitting in my chair. At the same time it occurred to me that perhaps my confidence was rather presumption, in wishing to obtain all the favors at once, and on the day which I myself had selected. I humbled myself I resigned myself to the divine will. The nuns who were present then said that my knees should again be touched in the same manner. This they did, and consigning into my hands the picture of Venerable Berchmans, said to me with great confidence: Arise now, you are cured. I arose, supported by the nuns, and being well balanced on my feet, at that moment I experienced a great vigor in my knee and leg, so that, extending my foot to make the first step, I said that they should leave me, for I was cured. In fact I felt perfectly restored and free from all my former maladies. The nuns left me to my own efforts, and I began to move myself and walk briskly with the same freedom and vigor that I now possess. I went immediately to thank the Blessed Sacrament. Afterwards I repaired to the refectory in sight of all the religious, who were overwhelmed with astonishment. I bore in my hand the picture of my deliverer. The following morning the Te Deum was sung in choir by all the nuns, by order of the Mother Abbess.”
g. Two months had not passed, when the joy and thanksgiving of the same monastery were renewed by the cure of Sister Maria Ignazia Mauri. She had been seriously indisposed for three years, having finally lost the use of her voice, and her arms, which were contracted. After Sister Costanza Chiaramonti had obtained her cure, in which Sister Ignazia had a great share, the latter was ordered by her confessor to recommend herself to the intercession of the Blessed John Berchmans, who had so often appeared to her, and towards whom she entertained a very tender devotion. She obeyed, and upon the application of his relics was instantaneously healed. May 3, 1729.
Her medical doctor wrote: “I visited her about four o’clock, and having prescribed bleeding the following morning, in order to relieve the contraction of the arms, I departed. Being recalled about an hour afterwards, I found the religious suffering from a contraction of her lower extremities, attended with convulsive motions, like those in the arms, together with shortness and difficulty of respiration, so that she was unable to swallow a drop of water. Seeing that all human skill was powerless in her case, and the sick person, though unable to speak, manifesting a desire to see her confessor, I advised the religious to send for him without delay, as there was danger of her dying of suffocation, her pulse being also very bad; and I promised to return that evening to see if she were able to take any remedies. I returned at six o’clock, and meeting the Father Confessor, as I was about entering the door of the Monastery, I was told by him that Sister Maria Ignazia had been cured through the intercession of the Servant of God, John Berchmans, and that she was then going into the choir to return thanks to our Lord. After a short time, Sister Maria Ignazia with all the religious, related to me the miracle performed by the Servant of God, John Berchmans, with the touch of his picture and of a small piece of linen dipped in his blood, by which applications an instantaneous cure had been effected, leaving the patient free from all pain and debility. I remained for some time rapt in astonishment, knowing that I had left the patient in a most dangerous condition, and with but little hopes of recovery.”
h. Not inferior to the former cure, both in regard to the serious nature of her disease and the suddenness of her recovery, was the following event. In 1731, Sr. Maria Teodora Omaccini, 20, from Florence, was afflicted with various and complicated infirmities, joined with a violent coughing, spitting of blood and continued fever. Although nothing was left undone to arrest so many maladies, by the application of remedies the best adapted and most efficacious which art and experience could employ; notwithstanding, all were of no avail; for the sick person continued for nine successive years to grow worse, suffering from pains in the head and breast, difficulty of breathing, convulsions, loss of appetite and sleep, together with extreme debility, particularly in the knees. Hence, the physicians regarded her as incurable, saying that she had reached the last stage of consumption. It happened, that while Father Valeriani of the Society of Jesus, was preaching in 1760 in the same monastery, and was fervently recommending to the religious devotion to the Blessed John Berchmans, Maria Teodora felt in her heart a very lively confidence of obtaining through the intercession of this immaculate youth, the grace of recovery which she desired. For this purpose, she resolved on the 4th of April of the same year to make a devout novena to the Servant of God. When the novena commenced, and during its progress, instead of getting better, her malady constantly grew worse. Her respiration became still more impeded, her fever increased, and the sick person was reduced to extremities. The physician, to give her some relief, wished to minister new remedies to her; but reviving her faith, she refused them, and sent to the abbess, requesting her to come quickly and apply the relic of the Venerable Servant of God, feeling certain that, without the aid of human remedies, she would instantaneously recover her health. And such in reality was the case: for upon the application of the relic an unusual healthy vigor ran through all her frame. Not doubting her cure, she exclaimed: “I am healed: the Blessed John Berchmans has done me the favor.” Saying this, she arose from her bed, dressed herself without assistance, and went with the other religious to the church to return solemn thanksgiving to God. The same day, the 14th of April, she dined with the other religious in the common refectory, went up and down the most inconvenient stairways of the Monastery, nor had she anything ever afterwards to suffer from her former ailments.”
i. Maria Anna Girelli, a religious of the Maestre Pie, at Rome, in the school, was the victim, for some years, of most violent convulsions and contractions of the nerves. In the June of 1731, these maladies increased to such a degree that they became insupportable, both on account of the frequency with which they assailed her, and the pain and spasms which they caused throughout her entire frame. Having been advised by Father John Charles Senepa, of the Society of Jesus, to have recourse to the intercession of John Berchmans, she began a novena, and imposed upon herself to visit daily the tomb of the Servant of God, and when she was unable to do so, on account of her sickness, to send there in her place one of her religious sisters. Towards the conclusion of the novena, her malady was much augmented, and for five successive hours, she endured the pangs of death, her whole person being contracted and drawn up, and her respiration so slight and difficult, that it merely indicated that life was not extinct. In this utter prostration of her system, it seemed to her that she saw before her a member of the Society of Jesus, a youth of most beautiful countenance, who said to her: ” Well! this is the last time that you shall suffer from this malady; the grace is already obtained; send for Father Senepa, for I wish him to be present.” The Father came, bringing with him a relic of the Servant of God, which, while reciting some few prayers, he applied several times to the sick nun. In her own words, found in the testimony she submitted to the Church: “Then, as if aroused from a profound sleep, shedding tears, I extended my arms and said: Yes, my venerable patron, I will do so; I will begin from this day to read your life. Give me my dress I wish to clothe myself; I am free from all my ailments. All the by-standers testify that I spoke thus: although I do not remember what I said or where I was, I can only say what I conjecture and believe to be certain. I again saw the Jesuit youth standing before me, and I certainly knew that it was the Blessed John Berchmans. He kindly reproved me for the tepidity of my life; but in so earnest a manner that he excited in me a great sorrow, which I still retain, for my past defects. He commanded me to read every day a small part of his life and to put it in practice, never to omit my mental prayer, the great ad vantages of which he praised, and finally added: Well, this is the last day of your sickness, and you shall be delivered from it. All this I certify, on oath, it appeared to me that I saw and heard. My dress was placed in my hands; I arose, and felt as strong as if I had never been unwell. From that time forward my convulsions did not return, and I always enjoyed perfect health.”
j. On the first of June, 1745, three daughters of Monsieur Digne, Consul of France, entered as pupils the Monastery of the Ursulines at Rome. The second of these children, aged about six or seven years and Theresa by name, besides having an issue on one of her arms, was afflicted with ulcers on both ears which constantly emitted a putrid matter, whose odor was insupportable. Placed under the care of Sister Ursula del Crocifisso, a lay-sister, the latter suggested that the child should recommend herself to the Blessed John Berchmans. The obedient pupil consequently recited every day some few prayers to the Servant of God, at the end of which she added: “If it be the will of God, cure my ears.” In the meantime the malady constantly increased and from the ear extended to the nostrils. The most experienced physicians and surgeons were consulted, who, after employing all the remedies of art, finally came to the conclusion that the malady was altogether incurable. The good lay-sister then exhorted the child to place still greater confidence in the intercession of the Servant of God. On the morning of the third of May, 1745, having recited her customary prayers, the little sufferer felt impressed with lively sentiments of devotion and confidence, and begged the Sister Infirmarian to touch her ears and forehead with the relics of the Blessed Berchmans. This was done. At their touch the issue was immediately closed, her lost hearing was restored and the child perfectly cured, continued afterward to enjoy uninterrupted health: as the following witnesses attest upon oath: The Superioress Maria Adelaide Koffeni, Sisters Joseph di Middebborg, Saveria Spezzani, Lanora della Torre, Eleanora Saracinelli, Clara Deva, Costante Isabella Alippi, Victoria Ossoli, Agnes Resse, Louisa Schiantanelli, Cassandra Depuis, Serafina Buzi, Ursula del Crocifisso, all Ursuline religious.
5. Wonderful favors conferred upon every class of persons.
a. Muzio Cittadini, a native of Siena and a notary by profession, while at Rome in the September of 1621, was attacked by a most violent fever attended with rather dangerous symptoms and was instantaneously when another prayed for him at Berchmans’ new tomb. A relative of the sick man, Donna Ersilia Altissimi by name, informed of the fact of his illness, had immediately gone to the church of the Roman College, and prayed for a considerable time for his recovery, inspired by the confidence which the extraordinary favor she had already received through the intercession of the Venerable John Berchmans, gave to her petitions. Having returned home, she is met by the wife of Muzio who, with serene countenance and joyful heart, informs her that the patient is not only out of danger, but instantaneously cured, she knows not how, nor by whom. But upon remarking the hour and moment of the cure, it was found to have occurred at the very time in which the intercession of the Servant of God was implored. Hence it was, that on the same day the entire family of Muzio, together with Donna Ersilia, went to return thanks to God, and to offer two candles, as was then customary, to be burned before the sepulcher of the Venerable John.
b. In the October 1621, Magdalene Navarra, 22, for three months was having the most frightful spasms. As she had done earlier in her life, she called upon the intercession of St. John. A relative of hers had given her a piece of the habit of St. John and with devotion she put it around her neck, earnestly prayed and was suddenly and was entirely cured.
c. Fr. Aloysius Riccardi, Rector of the Church of St. Antony in the city of Corneto, in 1621, was beyond the help of doctors. He received a small piece of John’s black garment in a letter, not knowing where it had come from. Upon finishing the reading of the letter and the explanation of the piece of his cassock, the priest arose without delay from his bed, walked through the city to the astonishment and amazement of every one, going first, in gratitude, to the sepulcher of the Servant of God.
d. On July 15, 1622 the wife of Octavius Sabaudi, residing in the diocese of Amelia, 60 miles north of Rome, was completely cured of a major illness when she prayed through the intercession of John Berchmans having placed a picture of him on his head.
e. In like manner, by the mere application of a relic of the blessed youth, Dorotea Grisalli, of the district of Palo, and diocese of Bari in the Kingdom of Naples (350 miles southwest of Rome), was cured of a most violent headache which during fifteen days almost deprived her of reason. A dangerous cancer appearing in her leg, she was unwilling to obtain the services of a physician or a surgeon. She applied to the diseased part the relic of John Berchmans; the tumor suddenly disappeared, and she was entirely healed.
f. Lucretia Pettorelli, a Roman, not wanting medicines or physicians, had herself carried to the tomb of the venerable Servant of God as she could not walk because of a large tumor in her knee that caused her the most intense pain. When there, with bare knee she placed herself on the marble slab, and having made a short prayer, arose without pain and speedily returned home free from all suffering.
g. One of the legs of Julia Drosolini, likewise a Roman, was in a still worse condition. By a strange contraction of the nerves, she had become a cripple. She could neither move herself, nor walk, without the assistance of another. With all her heart she recommended herself to the protection of the venerable John Berchmans promising, if cured, to carry as a mark of gratitude, a leg of silver to his tomb. Her prayer being finished, she immediately received the desired favor, and went herself the same day to the church and fulfilled her vow.
h. Lady Angela Filisboni, a Roman, towards the end of April, 1729, was attacked by hysterics, to which from time to time she was subject. On this occasion, however, their violence was very great; for besides suffering from difficulty of respiration and palpitation of the heart, her throat was so compressed that for eighteen successive days she was unable to take any food, and found herself reduced to the utmost debility. No remedy availing, she sent for the Curate of S. Maria di Trastevere, her Confessor, to administer to her the last sacraments. He, seeing the condition of the sick lady, returned home for a picture of the Blessed John Berchmans which he possessed, and visiting immediately his penitent, made with the image the sign of the Cross three times over her, putting his confidence in the intercession of the Servant of God. The lady at the same moment recovered her strength, and exclaimed: “I am cured, and the Venerable Berchmans has conferred on me this favor.” And such was really the case; for, free from all pain, she left her bed, as strong as she ever was, and what was more remarkable, she never afterwards suffered from the same infirmity.
i. On September 8, 1742, an artery in the chest of Peter Spadoni, 22, of Rome, burst and he began and continued for eight entire days to vomit blood in very great quantity. Abandoned by the physicians, he received the last Sacraments, and with great piety prepared himself to pass from this life. The prayers of the dying were being recited for his soul and Extreme Unction administered, when someone suggested to him to pray through the intercession of John Berchmans, whom God at that time was glorifying by astounding miracles. The sick young man took in his hand a picture of the Servant of God, and kissing it several times, with tender affection, placed it upon his breast. A short time afterwards he fell asleep with a vision of St. John Berchmans in mind; he awoke perfectly cured. He proceeded to the Church of St. Ignatius, in order to receive Holy Communion, and to return thanks at the tomb of his heavenly preserver. In proof of this fact we have the sworn depositions of Rev. Andrew Secci, Rector of the College of Salviati; of Fabricius Leandrini, infirmarian; of Cipriano Cipriani and Charles Cecchetti, pupils of the College; and of two physicians, who acknowledged that the cure could not in any manner have been attributed to human remedies.
Miracles placed before the Sacred Congregation of Rites, and approved by our Holy Father, the Pope.
a. Maria Angela Gilivet was born at Rome in March, 1717. She contracted from her parents, who both died a few months after her birth, so delicate and diseased a constitution, that through fear of approaching death, it was necessary without delay to baptize her. God willed, however, that she should survive; but she was physically malformed and lived with great weakness in her limbs, along with utter exhaustion of strength and difficulty of respiration. After a time her gums appeared swollen and pregnant with black and putrid blood, which gradually infected all her teeth, and her entire body was covered with livid spots, which soon took the form of pustules and running sores. Desiring most ardently to consecrate herself to God, she wanted to become a nun. Though initially denied entrance into the Monastery of St. Bernard, on account of her feeble health, because of her piety she was admitted. She was subject to epileptic fits and convulsions, contractions of the nerves and tendons, lesions of the bones and paralysis of the limbs. In 1747, her left leg was contracted, and a few months afterwards also her right one; and one of her ribs being moved from its natural position, was contracted, while its point entered near the breast. Two years from that time the poor sufferer was taken with most violent convulsions in all her limbs, followed by the almost entire loss of the use of her tongue and arms.
Thus, with her most acute pains, she remained powerless to perform any duty of life. The physicians, to whose care she was entrusted, after having for many years uselessly employed all the remedies of their art, declared that Angela Maria was affected with scurvy in the highest degree, which therefore naturally could not be cured. In fact they ceased to apply other remedies and abandoned the case as desperate.
On the 12th of August, 1749, the Bishop of Nepi exhorted her to recommend herself to the intercession of Venerable John Berchmans. The whole community united in fervent supplications to God, and Angela Maria conceived the firm confidence of obtaining her cure through the intercession of Venerable Berchmans.
One morning she awoke completely cured of all her current and lifelong diseases. In her words: “I awoke, and perceived that my limbs were completely unbent, that my neck was erect, and upon touching my left side, I found that my rib which had been very considerably raised, had returned to its natural position, and did not differ from the others. I felt that the pressure on my left shoulder had been removed, and that the arm attached to it was free and possessing its natural strength. At first, I thought that I was deluded by my imagination, but upon moving all the parts of my body, I felt persuaded that I had been miraculously healed, and without delay sprang from my bed as lightly as a feather. Finding myself well, and endowed with such strength as I never before had, while my gums were exempt from all humors; alone, without any assistance, I put on all my clothes, and experienced very great regret, that I had not made known the miracle to my sister, Innocenzia Gilivet, who slept in the same room, and had already gone to the choir; but when I was about to awake, it seemed to me that I was dreaming. After having clothed myself, I arose, made my bed and arranged everything in my room. I then left it and went to a grate which was near the choir, while the religious were reciting matins, for the purpose of hearing a mass which was offered at the altar of our Lady, opposite the above-mentioned grate. I might almost say that I flew from one place to the other. I heard the holy mass, affectionately thanking my Venerable John Berchmans, and I mentally repeated that I united myself with him, who was now in heaven, in thanking the most august Sacrament and the Blessed Virgin for the great miracle operated upon me through his intercession, which I had invoked. Meanwhile the Mother Abbess came out of the choir: I knelt before her, saying; A miracle, mother; I am perfectly cured through the intercession of the Venerable Servant of God, John Berchmans. The Mother Abbess was astounded, and told me that I should thank God and the Venerable Berchmans: I replied that I had already done so in the Mass which I had just heard. Meanwhile the religious came out of the choir, and all were astonished at seeing me healed. Some of them wept, while others laughed, and each one endeavored to embrace me and rejoice with me. To give the whole community a proof of the miracle performed upon me, the same day I swept the kitchen, carried the wood and rang the bells, which sounded merrily on account of the approaching festival of our glorious St. Bernard.”
b. Not less extraordinary was the aid received from Heaven, through the intercession of the Blessed John, by Sister Maria Angelica, of the Most Holy Trinity, a novice of the third order of St. Francis, at Ronciglione, in the Monastery of St. Ann. She fell sick in the beginning of July, 1732, and her malady took such hold of her that the doctors regarded her case as hopeless, and directed that the last Sacraments should be administered to her without delay. The sisters were grieving to lose so prematurely a young person, hoped to obtain, through the merits of Blessed John Berchmans, himself young when he died, the favor of a miracle. The Mother Abbess exhorted the afflicted nun, to confide in the protection of the Venerable Berchmans and to promise, if cured, to send to his tomb a silver heart. The sister fell into ecstasy, as if seeing John Berchmans himself. She was completely cured. But, failing to fulfill the vow she made to send it to his tomb a silver heart, the novice relapsed into the same sickness, and in four days was again brought to the verge of the grave. She made no delay in requesting to have some wax candles burned on the great altar of the Church of St. Ignatius, before which lie the remains of the Servant of God. The patient recommended herself to him once more with great fervor, and after receiving the sacraments, while all feared that her death was near, she was again cured in an instant, and arose from her bed entirely healed.
c. Sister Maria Crocifissa Ancaiani, a professed religious of the Order of the Visitation, had also been cured, as witnessed by many, of a cancerous tumor and much pain. From March through December 1728, she was so ill and nearing death. Her physicians had given her many remedies; but she received not the least relief from them. Her malady grew constantly worse, and to such a degree that not only did the usual slow fever continue, but at times the pain in her breast became more violent, while her coughing and spitting of blood likewise increased; whence the same physicians judged that her malady was a consumption that was absolutely incurable. The left part of her body, arm, thigh, and leg, were so entirely paralyzed, that she could not move them. Her physicians hoped to relieve her from this new affliction by bleeding her in the right arm and foot; but it was all in vain. She was taken with strong convulsions, and her jaws closed so tightly that she was unable to open her mouth, either to eat or to speak.
The sacraments having been ordered, her confessor came, and she confessed by signs and received absolution. She was unable to receive the Blessed Eucharist; Extreme Unction was delayed on account of her having fallen into a lethargy, from which it was hoped she would be aroused, so as at least to be restored to a slight degree of consciousness.
The Mother Superioress, Sister Angela Eleanora Lazzari together with the infirmarian, on the evening of the April 6, 1729, presented her a picture of the Venerable John Berchmans. The following day, having recovered a little strength, she placed the picture to her forehead and breast and, with the image, she made the sign of the cross, and that very instant she felt that she was free from all her maladies, her mind was restored to its usual tranquility, and all her senses to their normal condition. She was able to open her mouth and to speak without any difficulty. Her left side, which for a long time had been paralyzed and motionless, suddenly recovered its mobility. She at once sprang from her bed and knelt down in prayer reciting three Our Fathers and Hail Marys to the Holy Trinity, in honor of the Venerable John Berchmans. The physicians and surgeons, who had attended her, upon being called, united in the opinion that her cure was supernatural, and an incontestable miracle effected instantaneously by the Almighty, through the intercession of his Servant, the Venerable John Berchmans.
The cured Sister Maria Crocifissa continued for two years and two months in a state of perfect health, exercising the office of porteress, and employing herself in all the duties of the monastery. In October, 1731, she fell ill again; but her malady was quite different from the former. She experienced at first a severe pain in the right side of the breast, which was soon found to be the effect of a cancerous tumor that annoyed her exceedingly. Unwilling through modesty to submit herself to the examination of a physician, she made use of a very violent remedy, prepared by an inexperienced and unprofessional man. The result was that her ailment far from being diminished, was only the more aggravated. Her right arm contracted and was benumbed, and from the irritated ulcer of the breast issued an humor, corroding, bloody, and fetid. Constrained by obedience to place herself in the hands of physicians and surgeons, they came to the conclusion that her blood was already corrupted, and her malady by its nature was incurable. The 13th of August, the anniversary of the death of the Venerable John Berchmans, drawing near, Rev. Francis Calucci, the ordinary confessor of the monastery, exhorted the sick nun to make a devout novena to the Servant of God, and earnestly to beg him to grant a new cure. She obeyed, and on the morning of the 19th of August, after having passed a very restless night, she slept a little; as soon as she awoke, the thought of the Servant of God came to her mind and she exclaimed: “My venerable patron, grant me the
desired favor.” With these words she arose from bed and kneeling down, recommended herself with all her heart to the blessed youth. She continued for some time thus praying with internal consolation; when upon a moment’s reflection, she noticed that she was able to move freely her whole body, and was entirely without pain. Then, like one filled with astonishment, she said to herself: What is this? “Am I dreaming, or have I received the desired favor?” She was radically cured: the cancerous tumor had disappeared; her ulcers were healed; all pain had ceased. Unaided she dressed herself, and hastened to call the religious to join her in thanking her heavenly benefactor. The physicians and surgeons, who had attended her, upon being called, united in the opinion that her cure was supernatural, and an incontestable miracle effected instantaneously by the Almighty, through the intercession of his Servant, the Venerable John Berchmans.
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