Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Rev Fr Engelbert Frohn, C.SS.R. (†1900)

When the Redemptorists were suppressed in Germany, and the Fathers forced to leave their monasteries and churches, many of these victims of Bismarck’s hatred of the Catholic Church were welcomed and received in the monasteries in Ireland, England, and Scotland.

One of the first to arrive was Father Frohn. This was in 1873. He was then a young man, not more than two years a priest. At first he was attached to the Perth Community, Scotland, and at once set himself to learn English with characteristic earnestness and perseverance. That his efforts were soon rewarded with success, is clear from the fact that in a short time he was able to go on the Missions given by the Fathers in Scotland, and in the towns of Northern England. This was the beginning of upwards of twenty-five years of apostolic work in those countries and in Ireland.

We find him a member of the Community at Limerick, Ireland, towards the end of 1876, and he continued to take part in the Missions given from this house until the close of the year 1880, when he was transferred to Bishop Eton; the chronicles add: “to the great regret of his confreres at Limerick.” He was not again attached to the Limerick house, though he often worked afterwards on the Irish Missions.

Father Frohn became a master of the English language, and was possessed of considerable powers as a Mission preacher. His charitable and cheerful spirit made him ever an agreeable companion, while his unmistakeable love for the people of this country, whose devotion to the Holy Faith he admired so much, was a means in his hands that enabled him to do much good for souls.

For the three years previous to his return to Germany, Father Frohn was Novice Master. During his term of office the Novitiate was changed from the Redemptorist Monastery at Bishop Eton, Liverpool, to that of Perth. When the German Fathers were again admitted to their houses he was recalled, but died two years later as Rector of Bochum 4th of January 1900. †

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Rev Fr James Connolly, C.SS.R. (1822 – 1891)

Father Connolly was beloved by his religious brethren, as he was always cheerful and charitable, and ever sought to make those around him happy. The following account of his life and funeral is from a newspaper of the time:

“The deceased Redemptorist Father had just entered his seventieth year, having been born on the 26th of May, 1822. Father Connolly was a native of Sligo. As a boy he was remarkable for great piety, quickness of understanding, and love of study. Already in the preparatory college of his native diocese, he was a remarkable student, and passed a brilliant examination on his entrance to Maynooth. In the Alma Mater of the Irish priesthood he pursued his classical studies with great diligence, and under the direction of some of the most illustrious of those professors, whose names have shed such lustre on Maynooth, he became intimately acquainted with all the masterpieces of Pagan literature, and to his latest day he could discourse about all the known Greek and Latin authors with the ease of a master. But it was as a Theologian that Father Connolly most distinguished himself.

“When his ordinary course was finished he was promoted to the Dunboyne foundation, where he spent two years. The studious habits of his early life remained with him to the end, and no sooner was he home from a Mission or retreat, than he was to be seen in his cell or in the library, surrounded by several large volumes of the Greek and Latin Fathers. He was especially fond of studying St. John Chrysostom. A classical scholar and a Theologian, Father Connolly forgot not the melodious Celtic tongue of his beloved Connaught. He studied the Irish language carefully, and during the long years of his missionary life he was continually called upon to preach and hear confessions in his native tongue.

“Ordained on May 17th, 1856, he laboured as a secular Priest, in the diocese of Elphin, for about seventeen years, and for many years discharged the duties of Administrator. He joined the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer in 1872. He was stationed for several years in the various houses in Ireland, England and Scotland.
“For nearly twenty years Father Connolly had laboured incessantly giving missions and retreats, until old age and infirmity began to weigh upon him. He was possessed of a voice of singular strength and clearness, and his sermons were remarkable for their simplicity, solidity, and power. During the last ten years of his life his work consisted for the most part in giving retreats to the clergy, religious communities, and colleges.

“Although growing feeble from the weight of years, Father Connolly worked up to the end. During the Lent of the present year he took part in a Mission at Youghal. Soon after he was at a Mission in Aglish, Co. Waterford. Then he conducted a retreat for the clergy of the diocese of Galway, Kilmacduagh and Kilfenora, at Lisdoonvarna; on his return home he offered himself to help at the renewal of a Mission at Newtown Sandes in Kerry. When the work was near its end Father Connolly complained of being unwell. Dr. Dillon, who was called in, declared from the first that his illness would probably prove fatal at such an advanced age. When his fellow-missioners returned to Limerick, Rev. Father Moynahan went at once to take care of the invalid, and nothing could equal the kindness and attention of the Rev. Father Dillon, P.P., Newtown Sandes, to the dying Father and his companion.

“When he heard that his case was hopeless, ‘Blessed be the Holy Will of God,’ answered Father Connolly, ‘I have been preparing to hear this news for seven and thirty years.’

“He spent all the time that remained to him in prayer, and received the last Sacraments on Tuesday, May 26th, his sixty-ninth birthday, and on Friday, at four o’clock in the afternoon, he passed painlessly away. Well might he exclaim as he gave up his beautiful soul to God: ‘I have fought the good fight I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.’

“He was, pre-eminently, a man of faith; for him there was no such thing as chance. In every, even the most insignificant event, he recognized the dispensation of Divine Providence, from his spirit of faith sprang his unbounded confidence in the power of prayer, and his almost constant communion with God. In one word, everyone who knew Father Connolly, declared that he was, undoubtedly a holy man. He has now passed away, and as a finished classical scholar, a Theologian, an adept in the Irish language, a man of boundless experience and uncommon sanctity, he was an ornament to the diocese from which he went forth, an ornament to the Congregation of which he was so long a member, and he was an ornament to his country.” R.I.P. †

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Friday, 10 July 2009

Rev Fr John-Nicolas Bakker, C.SS.R. (1853-1890)

No greater love hath man than this…

John-Nicholas Bakker was born in Sloosten, near Amsterdam, Holland, on the 25th of March 1833. This holy religious could hardly have foreseen his destiny: but who can guess the decrees of Providence? For Providence alone is able to turn the humblest son of men into a monk, a priest, a hero.

After joining the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer in 1857 as a coadjutor brother, John Bakker took his religious vows in 1860. He had wished to be, as he said, a true religious, i.e. someone who does not care for his own comfort, and to joyfully go wherever obedience would have him. His wish was soon fulfilled, as the Surinam Mission had just been accepted by the Dutch Redemptorists, and the new Brother was sent there after a few years in Amsterdam.

He landed on the 24th of November 1866, together with two other coadjutor brothers, Br Baptist and Br Francis, in Paramaribo, and it is in this town that he spent the first nine years of his stay overseas. Then in 1875, Mgr Swinkels, the apostolic delegate for Surinam and Superior of the Paramanibo community, founded an orphanage for boys in Livorno.

Brother John was immediately designated for this important but demanding foundation. "I never thought," he said in a later note, "that I would one day look after these poor Surinamese children. But how often, thinking of their material and moral misery, have I asked God that they should be relieved!" Such relief was finally given, and Brother John soon acquired the main responsibility for managing the orphanage, and he was naturally given the name of the orphans Father.

Those sacrifices were great, for it was a ceaseless effort. To get up as early as four in the morning, and to end one's laborious day at ten thirty at night: such was the monotonous, albeit diversely fruitful path along which the good Brother's life was shaped. "It's a bit harsh," he sometimes said laughingly, "but at the end of the day, the suffering is only ours."

Sublime words indeed that show the generosity of this great heart! But yet, how much he loved his dear orphans! They were his whole life. "If I were offered the choice," he wrote once to the Very Reverend Provincial Father of Holland, "to live for something else but God, that would be for the Surinam orphans." This is why their playfulness was unable to undermine his patience. "These children play a lot of tricks on me," he said, "and not always the kindest ones, either. But all in all, they are good boys."

But who could tell of all the sacrifices he had to endure on a daily basis? Brother John's charity, patience, amiability never fainted. However, the good religious man's solidity of judgement and eminent virtues had inspired his superiors to make a resolution: he would be prepared to receive the holy orders.

Thus he started studying Latin, then theology and in 1885, Mgr Schaap, Mgr Swinkels' successor, conferred priesthood to this worthy son of Saint Alfonsus. At the same time, he sent him to the rescue of the lepers' hospital in Batavia. All the graces attached to the sacrament of the order would be needed to help Father Bakker bear the cross that was awaiting him there.

"I am convinced," Saint Teresa says somewhere, "that the measure of our strength for suffering is the measure of our love. A great love bears great crosses, while a small love only bears little ones." If these words are true (and who would deny that they are), divine love must have raged within the brave missionary's heart, whose life we are sketching here.

One day, at Batavia's hospital, a poor soul was about to die. Full of remorse, he declared that he had poisoned several persons. He had also succeeded, he said, in having Fr Bakker take a slow acting poison, as a revenge for a blame that Father had cast on somebody's work. Hence the leprosy that the religious man was currently suffering.

This terrible confession was unfortunately true! Some dreadful symptoms soon revealed to the holy religious that he was indeed affected by the terrible disease. Everything became a nightmare to him: walking, sitting down, standing up, all meant agony. A continuous, excruciating pain attacked his bone marrow, and the sensibility of his limbs was such that the most insignificant contact triggered the most atrocious suffering. In addition, an obscure feeling of weariness and ponderosity in the legs brought his pains to their extreme.

Who can tell of Fr Bakker's anxiety, and with what terror he would follow, over many years, the progress of the disease that was mining him? But he had perfect resignation. "To suffer," he wrote in 1886, "this is my lot henceforth. Yet, I am happy. This illness is a gift of God, and while you never get accustomed to the inner feeling of being rejected from society and feared by your neighbours, such a vivid pain is still part of God's will: therefore, it is also part of mine."

His humility was no less moving. "I have indeed deserved it and more," he wrote, "I am in no doubt about this, and until now I have born my cross lovingly. My main concern is that I can not work anymore, and being very much like the fifth-wheel of a car." Who would not admire such a sublime feeling in a man who had devoted himself entirely to the salvation of these poor lepers?

Apparently, one of the saddest effects of leprosy is the selfishness it provokes among its victims. Fr Bakker did not suffer such misery. Thus, God seemed to show how his divine hand somehow softened the stroke that was given. Never did the holy religious man cease to give thanks to his benefactors, his superiors, and his congregation as a whole! How thankfully he remembered the gifts that had been made to his poor orphans, to the lepers he lived with! With what zeal he prayed and had others pray for the contributors to his work! He also bore his superiors continuously in his mind, and for them he would at once climb up to God. "With all I have received," he would write them, "how may I even think about sufferings? In Heaven, we shall forget everything we call suffering down here." He also said once: "The question remains - what shall I return to the Lord for all He has given to me ? All I can give to God is myself, and I shall do my best to give myself to Him with a thankful heart."

A letter for the new year sent to the Very Reverend Provincial Father of Holland brings even more light on the inner feelings of such a noble heart. "My Most Reverend Father," he told him, "let me wish you a very happy new year together with my most humble thanks for all the good which I hold, God permitting, from your Reverend. And since you know my limitations, I am confident you will not find me indiscreet to beg for your intercession towards the Most Reverend Father General. I know of no other way to show how thankful I am but by observing my Rules in as much as my disease permits me, and by providing all the help, however insignificant, that I am able to provide - and then, by suffering with love - yes, hopefully, with love!"

A huge consolation had, until 1888, supported Father Bakker in his terrible trial. By the end of that year, however, it was taken away from him. His fingers had to be amputated after being attacked by the leprosy, which prevented him from then on from celebrating the holy sacrifice of mass. Three years of helplessness went by in these conditions, three horrendous years from a natural point of view, yet sanctified by the most sublime resignation. "Fr Bakker," a fair judge in terms of devotion wrote, "seems to forget his own pains so as to concentrate on those of others. Before I left for Europe, I asked him if he longed for any sort of relief, whether or not I could do something for him? – 'No, Your Excellence,' he answered, 'I don't need anything. But be generous with our poor lepers.' And the old prelate added with much reason, 'I take him as a saint, and I think he is one indeed.'"

In August 1890, Father Bakker's pains increased considerably. A violent oppression and evil fevers were added to his sufferings without altering his unshakable patience. On August 23rd, knowing he had come to the end, he called one of his fellow priests and told him: "Father, would you please give me the last rites, since I am going to die shortly." He received the sacraments with astonishing devotion and, as he was asked whether he wished something special to be told to his superiors or to his family, he said, "Oh, no! But make sure my superiors, and in particular His Eminence, are thanked for all the good things I received from them in the Congregation." Then he added in a whisper, "I have always lived for the Congregation, and now I die for it."

Then, he begged for forgiveness from all his fellow priests and brothers in the various houses for all the trouble he had possibly caused them, and he expressed his desire that his death should be announced to his relatives. On August 26th, he communicated for the last time. He entered his agony in the afternoon, but all of a sudden, he came back to reason for a short while: "Oh!" he said, "How much I long for Heaven!" And then he died. It was half past nine in the evening.

Father John-Nicolas Bakker was 57 years old. He had spent 35 years in the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, including 24 in Surinam and 7 in the lepers institution of Batavia.

Travellers visiting Batavia's cemetery may see there, at the foot of a great mission cross, surrounded by five thin palm trees, three tombs marked by crosses, forever worth of our veneration: that of Blessed Father Peter Donders, that of a secular priest, Fr Hémink, who also sacrificed his life for numerous lepers, and finally that of Fr Bakker. Tears come to the eyes at the thought of these obscure and sublime devotions, which only the Catholic religion is able to generate; but who could think, without an equally profound joy, of the wonderful crown that is the reward of such admirable virtues? †

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Thursday, 9 July 2009

Rev Fr George Kaiser, C.SS.R. (1867- 1929)

The Reverend Father George Kaiser was born on 13 February 1867 at Rahling, but spent most of his early years at Pont-a-Mousson where his parents had moved in 1870 during the Franco-Prussian War. Whilst still only a young boy, he entered the Redemptorist Minor Seminary that at that time, October 1879, was situated at Contamines. By the curiosity of his mind, sharp intellect, calm and equable temperament and genuine piety, he displayed to everyone clear indications of a heavenly vocation to the religious life.

On 8 September 1885 he was clad in the habit of St. Alphonsus and entered the novitiate at Stratum in Holland under the guidance of the novice-master, Reverend Father Zephyrinus. On the very same date the next year he set out for the House of Studies at Dongen. There, from the very outset, he took pains to foster piety and to lay the foundations of the spiritual life. He was tireless in becoming thoroughly acquainted with all the disciplines of the Church and was extremely keen to investigate the most profound questions, especially in Sacred Theology. He immersed himself in the works of the great master, the Angelic Doctor, whom he held in great affection for as long as he lived. Moreover, by studious reading he voyaged through the works of the Holy Fathers, imbibing the sublime wisdom of the books, particularly the works of St Augustine whom he took as his patron from that time onwards.

He was ordained to the priesthood on 4 October 1892 and boarded the ship that would carry him and his companions, Fathers Houel and Dupont, to the shores of South America. He reached Riombaba, Ecuador on 13 August, but in November the following year he was transferred to the monastery at Concha to undertake the job of teaching six American students. However, when the students were posted six months later to the House of Studies of St. James in Santiago, Chile, the Reverend Father Kaiser returned to the monastery at Riombaba to undergo there a second novitiate.

During this period of solitude he prepared himself with the greatest diligence for the apostolate – an apostolate to the most lowly, to whom he was driven with a hunger to win them over for Jesus Christ. He composed public sermons with the intention to effect the conversion of those ignorant of Christ through a speaking style that was completely open and clear. So in January 1895, near the end of his second novitiate, by tireless effort he succeeded in amassing a copious series of discourses and instructions to use in his apostolic mission.

But as soon as the missionary began to attempt to communicate with those who came to listen, he found that he had not achieved at all the outcome he had intended in his written discourses. Indeed, he realised that the rationale of his sermons was flawed: he needed to find a method that truly allowed the speaker to communicate with the listener. He had no doubt that the fruit of all his speech-writing labours should be thrown on the fire.

Once again, therefore, he set about composing sermons, but with a fresh approach. He worked studiously and assiduously to achieve a style of preaching after the manner of St. Alphonsus, who appealed to simple people. That apostle had, by dint of enormous effort, become a man whom both the uneducated and the learned would listen to with an open mind, because his method of preaching was clear, easily grasped and aflame with enthusiasm. Moreover, although Father Kaiser treated the Word of God with due reverence, he did not fail to add every day a fresh force and strength to his preaching by preparing to fulfil his task with the greatest diligence.

In explaining doctrine to the people he made considerable use of ideas developed by the Holy Fathers. He strove with all his might, by using examples taken from the lives of the Fathers themselves, to make his points immediate to his listeners, as if he were placing the evidence before their very eyes. What is more, in order that his teaching might be truly useful and bring about the desired results, he showed his listeners with kindly care how they could put these things into practice.

On 21 January 1895 Reverend Father Kaiser set out for Concha with the intention of remaining there to the end of his life. For 35 years, except for a short interval when he was entrusted with running the novitiate training of the coadjutor brothers, he did not cease to travel throughout every part of the huge diocese of Concha. There was not a parish or a small village that lacked the benefit of his apostolate; nor did he ever succumb to an illness that could effect his strength at all or interrupt his apostolic labours.

Right up to the end of his life, the patience and courage he showed while enduring his hard work won the admiration of his brethren; indeed, he provided for them the perfect example of a missionary of the Most Holy Redeemer – a man who took no account of the state of his health nor sought any alleviation from the privations, troubles or various discomforts with which a missionary life abounds.

So, from the early days of his apostolic work, Father Kaiser attained such renown that not only was the fame of his name spread throughout the entire region, but he also won over the hearts of men wherever he travelled. He treated the needy and the wretched, whoever they might be, with such kindliness, fellow-feeling and mercy that they could all approach him with the greatest confidence. Even if it was not in his power to satisfy every request that was made of him, he never sent anyone away without first consoling them in their affliction with fatherly counsel.

The popularity of the hard-working missionary was no less widespread throughout Concha than in the parishes of the province of Azuaya, for there was no-one who did not share his friendship. Not even those whose minds were perverse in their feelings about religion were excluded from his paternal care. For as a zealous Redemptorist he in no way neglected this grace. He would address such men with words so telling that many of them, seriously contemplating eternal matters, especially on the point of death, would summon Father Kaiser as a friend and unburden their consciences with him. And so it came about that Father Kaiser obtained remarkable conversions.

Our beloved Father Kaiser wrote to a colleague in a letter dated 23 September 1929: “Having celebrated the Feast of St. Michael, I am about to undertake my annual spiritual retreat. O blessed solitude, O sole beatitude! Afterwards I must leave for the Missions to be held in those regions bordering on Concha. I shall return home on 20th December. The work does not cease. However, we should take particular pains to attend properly to what has to be done, following the example of the Master who 'did all things well'.” But soon death would attack him whilst he held his weapons in his hands, fighting in the battle-line. He had no suspicion at the time that the Lord would summon him to eternal life so soon.

On Sunday 1 December 1929 at the parish centre at Vallis, he began his spiritual exercises, after having done so for two whole months in the neighbouring parishes and districts nearby. On that same day he sent a message to the Reverend Father Rector saying that he and his missionary companion were in the best of health; but in the evening, when he sat down to eat before attending the spiritual exercises, he felt unwell. As he was attempting to get up, he fell down unconscious. His associate, the parish priest, tried with every care and effort to lift him up and bring him back to consciousness. It was in vain. A quarter of an hour later the good servant crossed over to his true fatherland to receive a fitting reward for a long and fruitful apostolate.

The entire state of Concha was upset at the news of his death. Many people mourned a loving father, a kindly and prudent counsellor or a most devoted friend whose conspicuous goodness they held in the highest possible esteem. Through the president of the Municipal Council the rulers of the city made known their wish that there be a memorial to make clear both to the resident French officials and to the Redemptorists the benefits which the now deceased father had brought to the entire community.

On the second day of the week his dead body, accompanied by a great throng of the pious inhabitants of Vallis, was transported to Concha where a crowd of citizens too numerous to estimate awaited its arrival. At the point when the bier was to be lowered into the community’s burial ground, Dr. Michael Cordero, an aristocrat of Concha and a Catholic deputy who had defended Church rights so strongly at the Convention of the Republic, gave an eloquent address. An very close friend of Reverend Father Kaiser, Dr. Cordero recalled and celebrated the virtues of the dead man who had been so dear to so many.

A sweet and deeply-felt hope that this beloved brother possesses an eternal reward for his labours fills us. Indeed, we are not prevented from asking with a simple heart that he might help us to follow his example with a firm and steady pace treading in the footsteps of Our Divine Saviour, snatching souls from Hell and putting them in the hands of God. †

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Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Rev Fr Michael Müller, C.SS.R. (1825 -1899)

Father Michael Müller, who so highly deserves credit for the rebuilding of the Annapolis church and monastery (Maryland, United States of America,) saw the light of this world in the humble village of Brück in the Diocese of Trier, Germany on 18 December, 1848. His early education was that of country-boys. On leaving school, he sighed after the priesthood.

His holy desire was furthered by his admission to the Gymnasium of Trier. In spite of all difficulties, he obeyed the voice of God calling him to the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer. At St Trond, in Belgium, he made his novitiate and pronounced his vows in 1848, and then continued his studies at Wittem. There he imbibed that spirit of prayer which the saintly Father Passerat had left as a holy heritage.

In 1850, Father Bernard Hafkenschied, the American Provincial, had visited Europe and augmented his small number of apostolic labourers in America by the addition of several young Fathers and clerical students from the Old World. Among the latter was Br Michael Müller. He and his companions finished their studies in America, at Cumberland and Rochester, and were ordained by St John Neumann, then Bishop of Philadelphia, on 26 March, 1853.

Shortly after his ordination Father Müller was sent to New Orleans. He did not stay long there, as the southern climate proved unfavourable to his constitution. In May, 1854 therefore, he was transferred to Cumberland, where the important office of Spiritual Prefect of Students was entrusted to him. This was an evident sign that his superiors placed great confidence in his solid piety and prudence. As Prefect he strived by word and example to inspire the young clerics with the spirit he had himself imbibed in Belgium. After three years, that is in 1857, he was made Master of Novices and Superior at Annapolis.

In 1865 he was moved to Baltimore as Rector of St Alphonsus Monastery, being at the same time consulter of Father Provincial. Later on he was attached to the new foundation at St Louis, Missouri, where both as subject and especially as superior he did much to relieve the house of its financial embarrassment. Fr Müller had passed a successful apprenticeship as financier at Annapolis, and he believed firmly that his bank, which was nothing else than Divine Providence, would never become bankrupt. He did not, however, lose sight of such human means as prudence would suggest and were within his reach. For the benefit of the “Rock-Church”, as the Redemptorist Church in St Louis is sometimes styled, he published pamphlets and books, and gave lectures in some of the larger cities, hoping by the proceeds to help his struggling community. It was there too that he wrote the first books in English about Our Mother of Perpetual Succour.

At the time of the separation of the Provinces he was affiliated to the Western, or St Louis Province, and became for one term also, from 1877 to 1880, Rector of St Michael’s, Chicago. Later on, from 1884 to 1887, he was called back East and filled for three years the rectorship of St Philomena’s, Pittsburg. Everywhere Father Müller displayed untiring zeal for the welfare of souls committed to his care, and for the maintenance of regular discipline.

One feature of his zeal for souls was his literary activity. Fr Müller published several books and one major work - God, the Teacher of Mankind - in nine volumes. Most of his writings were intended for the laity, but some were written for priests and especially for religious.

Books written by Fr Müller include:


  • The Golden Rule

  • Our Lady of Perpetual Help in the Work of our Redemption and Sanctification

  • The Prodigal Son; or, the Sinner's return to God

  • Prayer, the Key of Salvation

  • Public School Education

  • The Blessed Eucharist. Our Greatest Treasure

  • Triumph of the Blessed Sacrament, or History of Nicola Aubry

  • The Religious State

  • Devotion to the Holy Rosary

  • The Purgatorian Consoler

    Of his nine-volume work - God, The Teacher of Mankind; or, Popular Catholic Theology, Apologetical, Dogmatical, Moral, Liturgical, Pastoral and Ascetical - the volumes are as follows:

  • Volume I. The Church and Her Enemies.

  • Volume II. The Apostles Creed.

  • Volume III. The First and Greatest Commandment.

  • Volume IV. Explanation of the Commandments continued.

  • Volume V. Dignity, Authority and Duties of Parents, Ecclesiastical and Civil Powers. Their Enemy.

  • Volume VI. Grace and the Sacraments.

  • Volume VII. The Holy Mass: The sacrifice for the living and the dead, the clean oblation offered up among the nations from the rising to the setting of the sun.

  • Volume VIII. Holy Eucharist and Penance.

  • Volume IX. Sacramentals, Prayer, Vices and Virtues, Christian Perfection, etc.

Father Müller also published four Catechisms: For Beginners, For Parochial and Sunday Schools, For Academies and High Schools, and For the Family and Students.

He continued his arduous labours almost to the time of his death. It was only in the latter years of his life that his health began absolutely to fail, although he could never be counted among the robust. It was permitted to him to end his days at Annapolis, where he had erected an everlasting monument to his zeal and piety, and where also he had the consolation of a grand celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of his religious profession. He died in Annapolis on 28th August, 1899. †

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Sunday, 5 July 2009

Rev Fr Daniel Doherty, C.SS.R. (1837-1887)

It was in the direction of souls that this Father especially distinguished himself. It has been written of him: “His principal work in the ministry lay in the confessional, and persons of every class were his penitents, rich and poor, learned and ignorant, old and young, mitred heads and well as the simple faithful.”

Daniel Doherty was born at Carndonagh, County Donegal, Ireland, on the 1st of November, 1837. When he had completed his preliminary studies there grew within him a great desire of consecrating himself entirely to God and to the saving of souls. It was in these dispositions he sought admittance into the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer. He was received, and at the end of his Novitiate in Bishop Eton, near Liverpool, he made his Vows, on the 26th of April, 1863. He was never robust in health and during his higher studies became very delicate. His Superiors thinking that he would never have the strength sufficient for missionary work hastened his ordination that he might apply himself to domestic offices. He was therefore ordained on the 22nd of December, 1866, by the Right Rev Dr Goss, Bishop of Liverpool. The priesthood seemed to have given him new strength and he continued his studies for two years more.

When he left the House of Studies he began his Apostolic work. He took the humble part of instructor in many Missions in Ireland, England, and Scotland, taking at the same time a principal part in hearing confessions. This was pre-eminently the work to which God had destined him, and all who knew him saw how faithful he was to this duty, especially during the many years he passed in Limerick and Dundalk. He won sinners by his kindness, and his wisdom and prudence helped him to draw many souls very near to God.

He had excellent taste in all that belonged to the beauty of the House of God, and we owe to him much of that perfection which one may see in the Church and Altars of St. Joseph’s, Dundalk.

Already in the earlier part of September, 1887, he was suffering much, but some days passed before anyone apprehended danger. He gradually got worse, and for ten days his illness lasted. He received the last Sacraments with his wonted piety. Between one and two o’clock on the 30th of September, surrounded by the community, praying for him, he expired.

To him were justly applied the words: “Cujus memoria in benedictione est.” His body now reposes in the crypt of that church in which he took such holy delight. †

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Friday, 3 July 2009

Rev Fr James Johnson, C.SS.R. ( † 1886 )

The Freeman’s Journal of February 9th, 1886, in announcing the death of Father Johnson, published a notice which was written by Very Rev Canon Daniel, P.P., Francis-street, Dublin, and which we reprint here:

“We announce with deep regret the death of the above-named zealous and widely esteemed priest. Father Johnson died in the afternoon of Sunday in the House of his Order in Dundalk, surrounded by a large number of his brethren in the ministry, and blessed with all the consolations of religion. He had attained a ripe age, and although humble and unostentatious beyond measure, he leaves behind him a goodly record of solid work done for father and country.

He was a native of the diocese of Ferns, but received his education in the College of Kilkenny. At the close of his collegiate course he was selected for the position of Editor of the Wexford People, and for the five years of his editorship many of the ablest, most spirited and patriotic articles that appeared in its columns came from his pen. He abandoned worldly pursuits after his resignation of the Editorial Chair, and prepared himself for the Priesthood.

Since his ordination his life has been one of active, laborious, and fruitful missionary toil, and during his thirty years of membership of the Redemptorist Congregation he has preached and left memorials of his ardent zeal in nearly every part of Ireland. Thousands to whom his form and voice have been familiar will affectionately remember the good and gentle Father Johnson, and pay back the tribute of their thankfulness for much holy work done by him for them, in fervent prayers for his soul.

Father Johnson, as missionary, was called into the vineyard late in life, he would himself say that he was called at the eleventh hour. Be that as it may, he certainly laboured more than many who began in the early morning of life. From his ordination until his death he never sought any relaxation; his one thought was to save souls. In the twenty-five years he worked as a Redemptorist priest, he gave 192 Missions and renewals, and many retreats to all classes of people. He was nearly always occupied with our own people, whether he was in in England and Scotland, or in Limerick or Dundalk. He worked to the very last.

During 1885 he had given Missions as usual. He had finished a heavy retreat in Dublin just in time to return to his Community for Christmas. The year 1886 found him wearied out, but with no desire to give up his fight against sin. While preaching to others he did not neglect himself.

Hence, he began his own yearly retreat of ten days on the 18th of January. He went through all the exercises for five days when, finding his strength fail him, and fearing he might not profit of the holy exercises as he desired, he asked the Father Rector to allow him to reserve five days for another time. His request was readily granted. The next day, Saturday, Feast of the Espousals of the Blessed Virgin Mary, he said Holy Mass at the Altar of Our Mother of Perpetual Succour. This was his last Mass. On the evening of that day he took to his bed, never to leave it again.

Father Johnson was a model of humility, piety, and charity to all his brothers in religion during the twenty-nine years which he spent in the Congregation. He was, above all, a model in his devotion to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, and to Our Mother of Perpetual Succour. At home and on Mission he would spend his free time before the Tabernacle, or at an Altar of Our Blessed Lady. In Jesus and Mary he placed all his hopes for his own salvation, and from them he sought that grace with which he touched the most hardened sinners.

His desire to do homage and reparation to Jesus Christ ever present on the Altar caused him to take great interest in, and give much encouragement to a number of devout souls in Limerick, who had formed themselves into a community for the special purpose of keeping up a constant adoration before the Most Holy Sacrament. These pious efforts were well rewarded, for it was this humble beginning that led to the introduction into the city of the Order of Marie Reparatrice, a Community of nuns whose lives are wholly given up to the devotion Father Johnson had so much at heart.

The virtues and devotions of his life were the virtues and devotions of his last days. He received Holy Communion every morning and would count the hours until Our Lord would visit him again. Sometimes he would slumber in the evening and when he awoke his first request was for Holy Communion; and when he was informed it was evening, he would say: “Welcome be the Will of God.” He hungered for the Bread of Life and God satisfied his longings to the very end. His mind and his heart were frequently turned towards the Tabernacle. He had the Picture of Our Mother of Perpetual Succour near his bed and he entertained himself with his Blessed Mother with as loving a familiarity as if he saw her.

One day after his confession, turning to the picture, he said: “It is she who will do everything for us.” On the fifth day of his illness the doctors declared that it was mortal, and that the end might come very soon. He then received the last Sacraments with the greatest devotion. Henceforth all his thoughts were for God, and he prayed constantly until his weakness became extreme, then he kept himself calmly recollected.

He passed away so quietly and sweetly that it was some time before those present could be sure that the soul of this most zealous missionary had gone to be judged by the Supreme Pastor, Jesus Christ. †

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Rev Fr Richard Crofts, C.SS.R. (1842-1888)

Richard Crofts was the seventh of a family of eleven children. His father, who was an auctioneer, lived in Thurles. It was in this town that Richard was born, on the 28th of September, 1842. He was baptized on the following day, the Feast of St. Michael. From a written account of his boyhood, which gives many details of his school life, it is evident that he was a boy of more than ordinary zeal for study. He went for many years to a school taught by the Christian Brothers, and it is stated that great attention was bestowed by his masters on his intellectual and religious training.

The fruit of this care was shown in his exemplary life, and in the fact that he was chosen after some years as teacher in some of the principal colleges in the country. But the vocation of this talented young man was not to be a professor, but a Missioner. Indeed, we have it from himself that one of his reasons for accepting the Professorship of English in a Dublin College was to accustom his family to his absence from home, and so to make his entrance into a religious Order less trying to them.

While in Dublin he communicated with the Father Rector of the Redemptorists at Limerick, and entered the Novitiate at Bishop Eton in May, 1862. His Philosophical and Theological studies were made in Holland. And one who knew him in the house of studies writing after his death sums up an account of his student days in these words: “His student life was passed in quiet humble observance of rule, in steady application to study, in simple and sincere charity to his companions, and in the patient suffering of the many little trials that are the lot of everyone. But above all, like St. Joseph, he was a hidden, interior man.”

To remain hidden and unnoticed seems to have been Father Crofts’ favourite virtue throughout his religious life. He was, without doubt, possessed of a talent too great to go unnoticed, and instances are related where, even as a boy and later on when a student in Holland, he filled both his masters and companions with admiration by unconscious displays of talent. Yet his wish was to be in the background.

After he became a Priest his life in the different Communities, to which at various times he was attached, whether as subject or Superior, was so toned by this genuine modesty that it is difficult to remark anything unusual in it. But his humility was not such as to lead to inactivity. Amongst his many daily occupations in his round of student and priestly life, he found time to undertake the study of Irish, and in his time there were not the helps and encouragements that there are now, nor did he rest satisfied until he had acquired a good knowledge of the language.

It may be said that he met his death while working. What was, indeed, the warning call of death, came to him while engaged in missionary work in the town of Kilkenny. Here he received a stroke of apoplexy, and though he rallied somewhat it was the drawing near of death.

The end came when he was on a visit at the Redemptorists’ house, St. Joseph’s, Dundalk. His last illness was one of much pain.
The lay brother who nursed him writes: “Father Crofts never once lost his heroic patience. He never complained, he never expressed a wish to live or to die, to get better or get relief from pain, he seemed to bear everything with a holy indifference.”

This illness lasted fourteen days, then came a short space in which he was free from pain. In this state of peace he breathed his last, on the 27th of September, 1888. †

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Thursday, 2 July 2009

Liturgy of Blessed Nicholas Charnetsky in Liverpool

Mr Matthew Alderman, the Sacred Architecture correspondent on The New Liturgical Movement reported the existence of a film clip of a Byzantine Liturgy in Liverpool. This little clip, which has been put up by "British Pathe" (who have very kindly given us permission to link to their site) is none other than footage of the Pontifical Greek Catholic Divine Liturgy served by the Blessed Redemptorist Hieromartyr Nicholas Charnetsky (click this link to the page). Only a few seconds long it is none-the-less a precious find. There are also a number of still shots of the Liturgy provided on the same page as the film clip.

Blessed Nicholas was the Apostolic Visitator appointed by the Holy Father Pope Pius XI to the Catholics of Byzantine Rite in North Western Ukraine. At the period those Catholics had often recently returned to Holy Unia from 50 years of forced disunion while their territory had been ruled by the Tsars. Thus, as will be seen in this short clip, Blessed Nicholas' himself celebrates most regally in the "Synodal" manner, the rite used to a large extent by those of whom he was the apostle.

During his August, 1937, trip to Great Britain Bl. Nicholas celebrated a Pontifical Divine Liturgy in Manchester. Soon afterwards he was invited to celebrate in Liverpool by Archbishop Downey who circulated a special pastoral letter throughout his whole archdiocese inviting all for "the very beautiful Liturgy of the Eastern Rite."

On 5 September, 1937, he celebrated at the outdoor altar above the crypt and within the demarcated area of the Liverpool Cathedral then still under construction.
More than 100 priests and some 15,000 Liverpudlians were present. The 70 strong Greek Catholic choir from Manchester sang during this Pontifical Liturgy. Archbishop Downey delivered a moving sermon about the variety of Rites in the Catholic Church and the beauty of the Eastern Rite.

A message, signed by Eugenio Cardinal Pacelli (the future Pope Pius XII), was read in which it was stated that [...], "the Holy Father bestows upon Your Grace, upon Bishop Charnetsky, upon the clergy and the faithful gathered in the cathedral square, His heartfelt Apostolic Blessing. "

On Mr Alderman's post a sensible commenter has added this touching true story: "After the imprisonment of Bishop Nicholas in Lviv, one of our fallen away Ukrainian Catholics was at his interrogation, and plucked at his beard, mussed up his hair, kicked at him, cursed him, raged at him, stomped on him. And the bishop did not even defend himself; he merely looked at him with sympathy. This continued for several days, but the bishop did not break down... Finally, the exhausted and bloodied bishop was taken back to the cell. A few days later, the same cutthroat, when he could no longer sleep or eat, came to the bishop, fell on his knees, and asked the bishop to hear his confession. The bishop confessed him, embraced him, and kissed him..."I can never forget that gracious glance," he said later. "I cannot forget his eyes, which gazed at me, full of goodness, sympathy, and forgiveness for me, a scoundrel and a villain...This is a Saint in our own days!"
. . . . indeed. †

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