School anecdotes

The following anecdotes, which were sometimes a bit shortened, are excerpts from the book "Herman Wijns, a love magnet", written by Lucienne De Maeght.

Big joy

When Herman has received his First Communion and his mother tucks him in that evening, he asks: "Mother, can I receive communion too tomorrow?" "Yes, Herman, tomorrow, and every day if you desire." "Oh mother, what a big joy that is."

Herman Wijns the acolyte

Herman Wijns the acolyte

Pay attention!

Herman's favorite game is playing Mass. If uncle Mon visits him, he gets the role of acolyte. He's on his knees with a little bell in his hand, while Herman is dressed in one of his mother's skirts and other attributes. It's quite an amusing sight!

But Herman takes it all very seriously. If his uncle forgets to ring the bell, Herman makes it clear to him one should pay attention during Mass.

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.


Father Janssens takes Herman to the nuns at the monastery to celebrate mass. Outside, a storm is raging and they both are caught in the chilling wind and the lashing rain.

Father Janssen wraps his coat around Herman and pulls him against his body. Herman is overjoyed by this gesture and when he's returned home, he glowingly recalls: "the priest protected me with his coat".

In the afternoon, the father visits the parents and says: "I'm a seasoned priest, but I've never been impressed like this by an acolyte! Such modesty! When I turned around during the "Orate Fratres", I saw him in a halo of light!"


The night's quietness is disturbed by the sound of air raid sirens. The first bombs are already falling. The house is shaking on its foundations. The windows are shattered. Father is shouting: "Herman, to the cellar, quick! Don't you hear or see anything?"

Herman is standing on top of his bed, points to the crucifix, and answers calmly: "Father, what about this then?" and he gets back under the sheets.

Herman, the diligent student

Herman, the diligent student


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: angels' hair, silver garlands, and stars. He wraps the statue in all of these shining items, leaving only her face exposed.

He's contented: Now Our Lady is beautiful.

The ice cream

After school, the older boys regularly accompany Herman on his way home. Remarkably, these elder boys are attracted to the "little one", considering him to be both funny and wise.

On one of the first hotter days of the fast, they spot an ice cream seller, a temptation they can hardly resist, if their pocket money allows it. So the boys buy an ice cream, but Herman doesn't participate. They tease him: "I bet you don't have any money!" "But I do", and he shows them the coins in his little purse. "I'm not in the mood for ice cream today", he proclaims. In the meanwhile, he notices a little boy watching the scene. Judging by the looks of its clothes, the child is quite poor, and he tries to sell rabbit skins door to door.

Herman buys an ice cream now and gives it to the boy. The boy is amazed and won't accept it, he's not at all used to such a treat.

"Take it" says Herman. Dismayed, the boy accepts the ice cream and mutters an inaudible "thank you".

Herman's buddies teasingly tell him: "Herman, you're nuts, now you don't have any money left!" He shrugs his shoulders. To his friend Willy, he remarks: "What I give here, I will get in return a hundred times in heaven."


One noon, Herman returns home, his clothes covered in blood. His mother asks him: "Herman, how come your clothes are covered with blood? Are you hurt?" " No mother, a boy has fallen on our playground." He considers this explanation sufficient. A couple of days later, the parents accidently find out what had really happened.

On the school's playground, a boy had fallen on a sharp piece of stone. Upon hearing his cries and shouting, all the children come running to him. The supervisor quickly arrives at the scene, because the boy has a gaping wound with blood gushing out. The bystanders are dismayed by the sight of so much blood and they start to leave.

Herman sits on his knees next the boy, and uses both of his hands to squeeze the wound shut, telling him: "You shouldn't cry, Roger, because it will even hurt more. It's better to laugh than to cry." And Herman tells a few jokes to Roger.

When the brother arrives to help, he finds both boys laughing, and thinks to himself: "Strange creatures, these children!"

The doctor who takes care of Rogers' wounds tells Herman: "Good job, young lad! Without you, your friend would have bled to death!"


During the fast of 1941, a meeting of butchers is organized at the home of the Wijns family. They bring a box of pralines. Father asks Herman to present the box to every attendee. When everyone has been served, Herman's father notices he has closed the box without taking a praline himself.

He insists to Herman: "Well Herman, aren't you going to take a praline yourself? Otherwise people would get the impression they aren't any good!" Herman joyfully replies: "Father, these pralines will still taste good after the fast, don't you think?"

Herman's house in the Wuytslei

Herman's house in the Wuytslei

Without hands

The Wijns family is in financial trouble, and to allow Herman to keep attending school, all the family jewels, including Josef Wijns' wedding ring are sold. Month after month, Herman and his father pray novene after novene to obtain a job.

On the last day of the 25th novene, Josef Wijns finds a job. Herman cheers: "Father, now you see, persistence pays off!" All three of them are overjoyed. Herman asks: "Father, I won't have to attend the communal school, won't I?" "Of course not, my boy". Out of sheer joy, the boy takes the Holy Heart statue into his arms and dances around the room, singing.

At that moment, the statue drops to the ground, its hands are broken off. Herman looks dismayed. "Oh come on", his father says, "it's not that bad, our Lord will still be able to bless us without his handsů" And a smile reappears on Herman's face.


The winter months of 1940-1941 are bitter cold. There's severe snowfall, accompanied by temperatures of -20░C. Josef Wijns advises his son not to attend church due to this weather. Herman replies: "That's fine with me father, but if I can't go to church, I can't go to school either!"

His room is freezing cold, the windows are covered with frost-flowers, but it doesn't bother him. Every evening, he's in his room, praying. He develops chilblained feet. When his mother discovers this, she feels her heart shrink and gets tears in her eyes. "But Herman, how can you walk on feet like that? Why haven't you told me about this before? You must be in great pain?" "Mother, don't tell father, otherwise he won't let me go to church anymore!" She decides to keep quiet about it for the moment. She gets out of bed half an hour earlier to help him get out of bed and to take care of his feet before he attends the first Mass at 6 AM.

One morning, his father enters the kitchen the same moment his mother is taking care of his feet. He is dismayed at the sight of his feet. They have turned into two raw, festering lumps of meat. How can this child still be able to walk? What pain must he endure?"

"Herman, we're putting you into bed, otherwise your feet won't be able to heal. They should be kept warm." "But what about my Mass?" "It will continue, even without you!" "And what about my communion?" "Herman, within a couple of days, your feet are healed and you'll be able to attend church once again." The child is deeply unhappy and cries.

His parents negotiate among themselves and they decide his feet will be taken care of in the evening. His feet are bandaged with ribbons made out of old bed sheets. He then puts 3 pairs of socks over the bandages, followed by a pair of slippers and finally his fathers' rubber shoes. He attends church like this every morning for two months in the bitter cold of winter.


An acquaintance of Josef Wijns advises him to take Herman to pilgrimage to Father Paul's grave, in order to aid the healing of Herman's' feet. First, they meet Father Balduines, who is known to be a holy man. He's a ninety year old monk who is now hospitalized.

As Herman enters the room, he's frightened. Father Balduines is emaciated and pale, it's not a pretty sight. After hearing their story, he says: "First, pray by the grave of father Paul, I will talk to him myself in the meanwhile."

When they return, Father Balduines is very moved. "Herman, my boy, do you really want to become a priest?", he asks, deeply touched. "Yes father, and nothing else". "Come here, I will bless you with father Paul's cross.

Everyone in the room get on their knees and Herman wants to do the same, but Balduines says: "No, not you!" As he blesses him, the tears roll over his face. He gives them powder made out of the leaves of roses which grow on the grave of the Holy Benedict in Italy. They have to apply it to Herman's feet, which Herman's mother takes care of with great attention.

The following morning, Herman is very agitated. He rushes down the stairs and triumphantly shouts: "Mother, my shoes, quick, where are my shoes? My feet have healed!" His mother laughs and says: "Quiet Herman, you're going to wake the neighbors upstairs!"

"Well mother, they may hear all about the good things that have happened here!" In the kitchen, he stands in front of father Paul and says in Antwerp dialect: "Well, Pol, you've done a very good job!"