Herman Wijns:  Life:  Student

School - First Holy Communion

At the age of five, Herman enters the first school year at the Saint Eduardis-Institute. He's very pleased with it and achieves excellent results.

In the second school year, the seven years olds receive their First Communion. Herman, who attends Holy Mass with his dad every day, would like to receive his First Communion too, and he asks his father about it. After long insistence, he refers him to the priest, who agrees. On June 14, 1937, Herman receives his First Communion. Like all the children at this age, he's proud of his white outfit. He admires himself in the mirror, he smiles and winks at his mirror image. When he enters the chapel with his schoolmates, he feels like he's in heaven. The altar shines with light and is beautifully decorated with roses and white hortensias. During Mass, he's united with his Great Friend Jesus. From this day on, he will go to communion every day, as it is a "great joy" for him.

After receiving his First Communion, his next wish is immediately granted when Brother Elianus asks him if he wants to become a Eucharistic Crusader. He's overjoyed and can't talk about anything else for the rest of the day. He has a particular adoration for Our Lady Help of Christians and marks all of his books with her initials.

Anecdote: decorated

On a day in May, Herman asks his mother whether she wants to buy flowers for the statue of Mary. She agrees, but she forgets about it.

He climbs to the attic and takes what he finds among the Christmas tree decorations: angel hair, silver garlands, and stars. He wraps the statue in all of these shining items, leaving only her face exposed.

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School - Acolyte

When Herman reaches the age of six, the cozy life of the Wijns family is disrupted. They are driven into poverty by the prewar crisis and the war itself. So-called friends stay away, and often there is hunger. Herman suffers, but he wants to spare his parents, and he remains cheerful when he's at home. When a Brother asks Herman how he likes his new home, he answers: "It's dark Brother, but when you laugh, it becomes bright and beautiful."

It appears his inner life flourishes more and more in this period. He acquires the habit of retreating himself into his room between 7 and 8 PM to pray. He's only seven years old by then. With Josef Wijns being unemployed, he visits Mass every morning with his son. Every evening, they pray the rosary together in front of the Holy Heart statue, in front of which a sanctuary lamp is being lit all the time.

Numerous examples exist of utmost loyalty to the Eucharist, and also of self-deprivation when it comes to studying and physical comfort. More than other children, he has consideration for the poor, children in need and especially for the salvation of people in general. He has a limitless confidence in God's protection, even in times of war.

At the age of nine, and once again after much insistence, he became an acolyte (one year early). He has written it down in his pocket agenda and he invites family, friends and acquaintances to attend his first Mass as an acolyte. His grandmother Dens gives him a missal. He adds about 20 holy cards to the pages where corresponding prayers are mentioned.

Anecdote: too much

At home, Herman regularly plays Mass at his father's desk. He uses a large, thick book as his decorum, on which he places his missal. The Holy Host is represented by an old wafer from the pharmacy.

He's so fond of playing Mass over and over again, his mother has to tell him: "Herman, come to dinner now and leave the "Oremus" for what it is now."

"Yes", replies Herman, I have to stop now, "because my stomach is swollen". It was the result of drinking too much during his masses.

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School - Eucharistic Crusader

Even at temperatures of -20░ C, even when his feet are covered with open wounds, even when the streets are dangerous because of wartime air raids, nothing can hold Herman back from attending Mass every day.

He rigorously observes the fast and doesn't consume meat on Fridays, although this rule was abolished by the church because of the war. Every first Friday of the month, he only eats bread and water. More and more, he dedicates his life to subservience and sacrifice. For example, he buys an ice-cream, not for himself, but for a poor child. Or he takes part in a game not because he likes it, but because his playmates enjoy it. Or he doesn't take part in visits to the countryside during warm summer days, in order to pray in every funeral procession.

After a 3 year trial period, Herman is solemnly enrolled in the Eucharistic Crusaders. He uses some of his savings to have himself photographed: the E.C.'s badge of honor pinned on his winter coat, which he earned himself by folding brochures.

He encourages people to pray, and he attends Masses for the benefit of people who don't attend church. He attempts to be a ray of sunshine at home and to do his best at school. He pays attention to poor children and those in need. He possesses a mental attitude which isn't often found in children of that age - or adults. He tries to do well and is filled with confidence in God.

He is well liked because of his joyful nature and as he grows older, people also start to like him because of a certain indefinable quality.

The missionary who observes him surrounded by an aureole, the curate and the priest who are struck by the depth of his young soul, the police officer who's charmed by his pleasant charisma, the shopkeeper who enjoys small talk with Herman as he passes by, the dignified lady who gets a lesson in humility, the deeply moved father who won't let Herman kneel, the boy that doesn't bleed to death because Herman closes the wound, an older schoolmate who regards him as a wise child, the neighbor who learns to pray. During the course of his life, Herman Wijns moves of a large number of people on a deeper level.

Anecdote: light

Father Janssens goes with Herman to the sisters in the convent to celebrate mass. Outside the storm is raging and both are caught by the icy wind and pouring rain of the thunder storm.

Father Janssens then wraps his big coat around Herman. This gesture moves Herman deeply and, once home, he tells about this wonderfull event: "To walk under the coat of a priest!"

In the afternoon he father visits the parents and tells them: "I am a priest since a very long time, but I have never been so impressed by an acolyte. What a modesty! When I turned around while praying the "Orate Fratres", I saw him surrounded by an aureole of light."

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