Juan Macias was born in Ribera, Spain in the year 1585. He was orphaned at the age of four and adopted by his uncle, for whom he tended sheep as a child. Juan experienced visions from heavenly patrons, the most significant and frequent being his namesake St. John the Evangelist.
When Juan Macias was twenty years old, he went to Mass in the church of the Dominicans in a neighboring city. For a moment it seemed that his vocation was to join the Friars Preachers at that Priory, but a vision bade him journey southward and take a ship for "distant lands." In 1619 he embarked for the Indies, where many Spaniards were going, either to convert the indigenous people or to seek a fortune. After a long, stormy transatlantic crossing, Juan reached Lima, Peru where for two years he herded cattle in the green foothills of the snow-capped Andes. But Juan yearned for more in his life and this desire led him to the Dominicans in Lima.
There were four convents of the Friars Preachers in Lima at that time: the College of St. Thomas - the house of St. Rose; Saint Dominic or Holy Rosary, where St. Martin de Porres lived: and the Priory of St. Mary Magdalen, which was small and poor. Juan decided to enter the Dominicans at the Priory St. Mary Magdalen and, in 1622, he received the habit of a lay brother.
Juan began a life of prayer and penance. "I began to pray six or seven hours daily and truly the time seemed to me like fifteen minutes." Juan was plagued by temptations. He was attacked bodily and tossed about by the devil who tried to disturb his inner peace and union with God.
Juan was appointed assistant to the porter and lived in the gatehouse. It was there that the poor came begging for food, and the rich for advise. Juan loved the poor who flocked to the Priory gates. Rising at 4 A.M., he would prepare and serve meals to more than two hundred people daily. He would send his donkey to various parts of the city loaded with two large hampers of food, clothing and medicine, enabling the poor to take what they needed.
Biographers have called him the "Helper of the Poor Souls." Every night he offered three rosaries for them, praying on his knees despite bodily fatigue. His friend, Saint John the Evangelist revealed to him that his prayers had released more than one million souls from purgatory. Juan Macias practiced severe austerities, he scourged his back every night and maintained an unbroken fast and abstinence.
On September 2, 1645, Juan took ill and was confined to a bed from which he was never to arise. He suffered for two weeks and died on September 16, 1645. He is buried in the church of St. Dominic along side the bodies of Saint Rose of Lima and Saint Martin de Porres. Many cures and other favors have been performed at his tomb.
Prayer to Saint Juan Macias
Just and Merciful God,
your love prompted our brother Juan Macias
to become the servant of all.
By his example and prayers
draw us into the mystery of your goodness
so that we. too, may serve our sisters and brothers.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God for ever and ever.
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