Saint John Macias

From New World Encyclopedia

Saint John Macias
San Juan Masias.jpg

Statue of St. John Macias
Laybrother, Porter
Born March 2, 1585 in Ribera del Fresno, Extremadura, Spain
Died September 16, 1645 in San Luis District, Lima, Peru
Venerated in Roman Catholicism
Beatified 1837

by Pope Pius VII

Canonized 1975

by Pope Paul VI

Major shrine Our Lady of the Rosary of Lima Church
Feast September 18

Saint John Macías, (Spanish San Juan Macias alt. sp Massias) (March 2, 1585 - September 16, 1645), was a Spanish Dominican religious laybrother and later Catholic saint who evangelized in Peru in 1620. He was born to a pious but impoverished Spanish family in Ribera del Fresno, Extremadura, Spain. Orphaned young, he worked as a shepherd on a South American cattle ranch around Cartegena, Colombia.

In his 30s, Macias was received by Dominican lay brothers at their house at Lima, Peru on January 23, 1622. He worked as porter and doorkeeper for his friary for over 20 years. Noted for his visions, his care for the poor of Lima, and his endless praying of the Rosary, he offered all his prayers for the release of souls in purgatory. Tradition says that Saint John Macías freed over a million souls through his prayers. He was friend of the Dominican, Saint Martin de Porres.

Saint John Macias died September 16, 1645 in Lima, Peru of natural causes. His name meant, "God is gracious; gift of God (John)." He was beatified in 1837 by Pope Pius VII, and was canonized in 1975 by Pope Paul VI. His main image is located at the main altar of the church of Our Lady of the Rosary of Lima and is venerated by the local laity in Peru. A temple was built in his honor in 1970 in San Luis, Lima, Peru.


Born as Juan de Arcas Sanchez on March 2, 1585 in Ribera del Fresno, Extremadura to Pedro de Arcas and Juana Sánchez, it is not known why he changed his name. One clue may be that he was orphaned at the age of four, after which he was reared by an uncle who trained him as a shepherd. A some point during his youth he reportedly had a vision commanding him to travel to Peru.

At the age of 25, he started working with a wealthy businessman who offered him an opportunity to travel to South America. The ships which crossed the seas in those days carried all sorts of people: soldiers on their way to conquer, led by the lure of gold or glory; missionaries going to preach the Gospel to unknown races; merchants and those seeking adventure; and also the poverty stricken hoping to find better luck in a new land. John Macias was one of the latter.

He first arrived at Cartagena de Indias Colombia and then at Reino de Nueva Granada. He also stayed at Pasto and then Quito, Ecuador, ultimately arriving in Perú where he would remain for the rest of his life. Confident in his abilities and talents as a sheepherder, he worked with other shepherds in the outskirts of the city. It would be in Lima that he would began his formal religious life.

In Lima, he was able to observe the Dominican Order of Preachers. His sense of piety eventually led him to part with all of his belongings, giving them to the poor. He was much engaged in community service. He also supported the Dominicans, whom he approached at the friary of Santa María Magdalena where he was admitted as a cooperator brother on January 23, 1622, finally accepting the Dominican habit. One year later, on January 25, 1623, he took his final vows.

He was a friend of Saint Martín de Porres, a fellow Dominican brother who was beatified in 1837 by Pope Gregory XVI and canonized on May 6, 1962 by Pope John XXIII.

Counsel to the rich and poor

At the friary, John Macias's life was filled with fervent prayer, frequent penance, and charity. As a result of his austerity, he soon fell ill and had to have a risky surgery. Nevertheless, he continued to care for the sick and needy as they waited at the friary gates. Beggars, disabled people, and others of the disadvantaged where commonplace throughout Lima, and they flocked to him at the friary gates for counsel and comfort. The upper classes where also no strangers to him; they also sought his counsel at the gates.

Saint John Macias, however, expressed a greater desire to spend more time in contemplative solitude rather than engage in conversational activities with others. He confessed this to Father Abbot Ramírez, who said, “If he were to never follow his vow of obedience, nobody would have ever seen his face." But his official position as the friary's porter, which he held for over 20 years and went against his natural inclinations of solitude, served to continue disciplining him, as well as bringing him into contact with others. This filled him with a joyful sense of fulfillment. He died of natural causes in 1645.

Social message of his work

John Macias never preached and and left no writings. This humble brother who is now honored before the whole Catholic Church would have been very surprised if he had been told that his life carried a social message for the world.

John Macias became a saint because he lived in love with the poor. He himself was poor, underprivileged, and uprooted, and was therefore able to understand what those like himself wanted most: to be loved, to be recognized, welcomed, and accepted as brothers.

One of the miracles associated with him—the multiplication of rice for a poor community—is very much in the same line.


The image of Saint John Mathias located at the main altar of the church of Our Lady of the Rosary of Lima in San Luis, Lima, and is venerated by the local laity in Peru. A temple was built in his honor in 1970 in San Luis. His remains are transferred annually every September 21 from the Peruvian sanctuary of Santo Domingo to the church of his same name in Lima.

An annual public procession also takes place in Peru every third Sunday of November in Lima. His image, along with that of the more famous Saint Martin of Porres, his friend and contemporary, are paraded around the streets and venerated by the faithful of Peru.

John Macias knew what it meant to be uprooted and torn away from his natural surroundings, from everything he was used to. He knew what it is like to plunge into the unknown. He experienced the normal mixture of hopes and fears, and the difficulty of putting down roots and adapting to new ways. He was one of those millions of people who down through the ages have been shuttled from one country to another, not for fun or for adventure's sake, but because they had to. He became a saint in the deprived world of displaced people, among the very poor.

He was beatified in 1837 by Pope Pius VII. Several miracles were attributed to him during his life and after his death, which led to his ultimate canonization in 1975 by Pope Paul VI.

Saint John Mathias' feast day is on September 18.

ISBN links support NWE through referral fees

  • Butler, Alban, and Burns, Paul. Butler's Lives of the Saints: September. Liturgical Press, 2000. ISBN 9780814623855
  • Heffernan, Thomas J. Sacred Biography: Saints and Their Biographers in the Middle Ages. Oxford University Press, 1992. ISBN 9780195079074
  • Sullivan, Randall. The Miracle Detective: An Investigation of Holy Visions. Atlantic Monthly Press, 2004. ISBN 9780871139160
  • Woodward, Kenneth L. Making Saints: How the Catholic Church Determines Who Becomes a Saint. Who Doesn't, Touchstone, 1996. ISBN 9780684815305

External links

All links retrieved December 22, 2022.


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