John Gabriel was the second child and the oldest son in the family. It was presum¬ed that he would follow his father in running the farm. It so happened that from his youngest years,.he was esp-ecially intelligent and pious. Before he was five years old, he could say all his prayers from memory ( and the French used many many prayers in those days and also, most of the cate¬chism. He not only prayed with the family, but often by himself at home or in the church, kneeling very straight and concentrating with his whole heart on the prayers.

At 6 years of age, he was given charge of the small flock of sheep. According to the custom at that time all children worked at home or on farms for 6 months of the year in summer. For the other 6 colder months, they went to the parish church, where the pastor taught them catechism and usually had a small school to teach other subjects. When John Gabriel was 8 years old, he began
going to the parish school. He loved to read, but he al-ways finished his work first. At school, he was often put in charge of the class when the teacher was absent, because he was the most popular boy with the other stu-dents and all obeyed him. After class, other students who were not so bright, came to him for help in their lessons; he always gave his time to train even the slow¬est students.
Meanwhile, his piety was noticed by the pastor and all the people. He loved to visit the Blessed Sacrament and pray. They called him the little saint and said that when he was praying "you could walk over him and he wouldn't no-tice it". At that time, students were permitted to make their first Confession and first Communion between 14 and 16 years of age - and only after strict catechism exam-inations. The pastor allowed John Gabriel to make his first Communion when he was only 10 years old. Not one other student nor parent got jealous or complained; they knew he was special and they all liked this happy little pious fellow.

It was typical of John Gabriel that on the night before his first Communion, when his brothers and sisters were asleep, he came before his parents and on his knees ask¬ed them to forgive him for all his faults and the trouble he had caused them. After his first Communion, he immedi¬ately joined the Blessed Sacrament Society of the parish. He loved the poor and often saved his bread from meals to give to wandering beggars, of whom there were many because of the French Revolution. Meanwhile he was such a good worker on the farm, that his father made him an overseer of the hired men. These men were rough and were used to cursing and very bad language. When John's father advised him to command them to stop, he honestly answered: " I dare not; I'm too young." Though all his life he was short and thin and of feeble health, he was never afraid of the hardest work. All of this information comes from his parents, family and neighbors who were still alive after his early death.


Louis Perboyre had always followed his older brother's example in intelligence, study and piety. He expressed his desire to be a priest. His parents decided to send him to Montauban, where his uncle, Rev. Jacques Perboyre, C.M., was conducting his own seminary. Since Louis was only 13 and quite sickly, the parents sent John Gabriel, then 15, with him. John could look after Louis' health for a few months and help him in his studies, for it was winter and there was little farm work. John, too, could take a few higher classes of his own such as grammar and mathematics.At the seminary, Fr. Jacques Perboyre, C.M., at that time was 54 years old, a very wise and holy priest. As a young priest, he had wanted to go to China, but the French Rev-olution broke out and he had to spend years hiding in
caves and ditches to avoid being captured and killed. This had ruined his health. But he ran this seminary at the invitation of the Bishop and he instilled into his nephews his same love of the Vincentians and of the China missions.

John Gabriel's first letter was written to his parents at this time. It was very short and loving. Like many students away from home, he asks for money to buy clothes From this time on until his death, John was an excellent and faithful letter writer. Most of his letters to his family and friends were kept by them, because he was always considered a special saint. These letters are preserved today in the Archives of the Congregation of the Mission in France.

After a few months, John's father went to Monauban to visit his sons and Fr. Jacques, his brother, and to bring John back home to the farm for the spring work. Fr. Jac-ques persuaded him that John, as well as Louis, had a vocation to the priesthood. The kind father left the de-cision to John Gabriel, who asked to have a few days to pray and think about it. The father returned home alone and a few days later, John wrote his second letter home. He wrote that he thought it was God's will that he be-come a priest, if his parents would give their permission In this case, he wrote, he would need some more money for clothes and a seminarian's cassock. Naturally, the parent were saddened to see their oldest and second sons both gone from home for good, but they cheerfully made the sacrifice.

John began to study Latin. Since he was so very intelligent and studious, he was able to help his brother Louis and several cousins. Soon he was having daily classes for his classmates and younger students. His devotion to the Blessed Sacrament and to Mary were noticed by all, especi ally his love for the rosary. Again he was known to the professors and students as "the young saint". He did not care for sports. The other students liked him and playa tricks on him, which he took in good nature and laughed a much as they did. After his death, the professors and fellow students all gave testimony of his holiness and no one could find a single fault in him.