Pope Pius IX

Scandalous Priest and Glorious Martyr

 

 

When July 9 rolls around each year I am always reminded of my personal belief that before our end, perhaps especially for those of us sunk deep in sin, God gives us an opportunity to atone and turn aside from the downward path.

In Sixteenth Century Holland one of the longest wars in history began between Spain and Dutch rebels.  The war was waged on both sides with sickening atrocities.  Among the most violent were the Sea Beggars, Dutch patriots or pirates depending upon one’s point of view.  In June of 1572 the Sea Beggars took the Dutch town of Gorkum, and captured nine Franciscan priests, Nicholas Pieck, Hieronymus of Weert, Theodorus van der Eem, Nicasius Janssen, Willehad of Denmark, Godefried of Mervel, Antonius of Weert, Antonius of Hoornaer, and Franciscus de Roye, of Brussels.  Two Franciscan lay brothers were also captured:   Petrus of Assche and Cornelius of Wyk.

The Sea Beggars also captured the parish priest of Gorkum, Leonardus Vechel of Boi-le-Duc, and his assistant, Nicolaas Janssen.  Also imprisoned were Father Godefried van Duynsen and Joannes Lenartz of Oisterwijk, director of the convent of Augustinian nuns in Gorkum.  Later imprisoned was a Domincan priest Joannes van Hoornaer who bravely came to Gorkum to minister to his imprisoned colleagues and joined them in their captivity,  Jacobus Lacops of Oudenaar, a priest of Monster, Holland, Adrianus Janssen of Brielle, and last, and no doubt he would say least, the subject of this post, Andreas Wouters of Heynoord.

To be blunt, Andreas Wouters had been a lousy priest.  A drunkard and notorious womanizer,  he had fathered several children.  Suspended from his duties  he was living in disgrace when the Sea Beggars captured Gorkum.  This was his cue to run as far away as possible, based on his past history.  Instead, perhaps understanding that God was giving him maybe his last chance to redeem himself, he volunteered to join the captive priests and brothers. Continue reading

MUNIFICENTISSIMUS DEUS

1. The most bountiful God, who is almighty, the plan of whose providence rests upon wisdom and love, tempers, in the secret purpose of his own mind, the sorrows of peoples and of individual men by means of joys that he interposes in their lives from time to time, in such a way that, under different conditions and in different ways, all things may work together unto good for those who love him.[1]

2. Now, just like the present age, our pontificate is weighed down by ever so many cares, anxieties, and troubles, by reason of very severe calamities that have taken place and by reason of the fact that many have strayed away from truth and virtue. Nevertheless, we are greatly consoled to see that, while the Catholic faith is being professed publicly and vigorously, piety toward the Virgin Mother of God is flourishing and daily growing more fervent, and that almost everywhere on earth it is showing indications of a better and holier life. Thus, while the Blessed Virgin is fulfilling in the most affectionate manner her maternal duties on behalf of those redeemed by the blood of Christ, the minds and the hearts of her children are being vigorously aroused to a more assiduous consideration of her prerogatives.

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Jefferson Davis and Pio Nono

Jefferson Davis was always a friend to Catholics.  In his youth as a boy he studied at the Saint Thomas School at the Saint Rose Dominican Priory in Washington County Kentucky.  While there Davis, the only Protestant student, expressed a desire to convert.  One of the priests there advised the boy to wait until he was older and then decide. Davis never converted, but his early exposure to Catholicism left him with a life long respect for the Faith.

When the aptly named anti-Catholic movement the Know-Nothings arose in the 1840s and 1850s, Davis fought against it, as did his great future adversary Abraham Lincoln.

During the Civil War, Pope Pius wrote to the archbishops of New Orleans and New York, praying that peace would be restored to America.  Davis took this opportunity to write to the Pope:

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Jefferson Davis and the Crown of Thorns

It has long been an article of faith of many admirers of Jefferson Davis that, while he was in Union captivity after the Civil War, he received a crown of thorns from Pope Pius IX woven by the hands of Pio Nono himself.  The Museum of the Confederacy in New Orleans has it on display.  It is a romantic story and appealing on an emotional level.  It is also false.  The Pope did send the imprisoned Davis his photograph with the text  from Matthew 11:28  ‘Venite ad me omnes qui laboratis, et ego reficiam vos, dicit Dominus.’ (Come to me all all ye who labor and are heavy burdened and I will give you rest, sayeth the Lord.)

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On Sin and Human Freedom

The cross-blog discussion that was initiated on the topic of “social sin” has now evolved into a debate over the origins and causes of sin. In response to my post on social sin, Nate Wildermuth at Vox Nova posted his own ideas about the relationship between society and sin, forthrightly admitting that he was going to “venture into heretical pastures” in doing so.

My intention here is not to beat up on Nate. He has expressed to me that he feels I may not be understanding his argument, though I do believe I have made the attempt in earnest. Rather than dissect in detail his argument once again, I am going to put forth here what I already placed in a com-box, but would like to open up to wider discussion – that is, my own view of sin and human freedom. Then Nate or anyone else may issue whatever challenges they like to any of my premises or conclusions, and perhaps we will have some clarity on the issue.

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Pio Nono, the Washington Monument and the Purloined Block of Marble

Well it took long enough.  George Washington had been dead for more than three decades before a society was founded to build a monument to his honor in the city which bore his name.  In 1832, the centenary of the birth of Washington, the Washington National Monument Society was founded.  The Society began raising funds and in 1836 announced a competition for the design of the monument.  The winning design by Robert Mills envisioned an obelisk arising from a circular colonnade.  The price tag was an astronomical, for the time, one million dollars.  Work on the obelisk finally began in 1848.  Nations around the world were invited to contribute blocks of marble for the monument.

On December 24, 1851, the American Charge d’ Affairs in Rome, Lewis Cass, Jr., wrote to the Society,  ”I have the honor to inform you that I have been apprized by His Holiness the Pope. . . of his intention to contribute a block of marble toward the erection of the national monument to the memory of Washington. The block was taken from the ruins of the ancient Temple of Peace, adjoining the palace of the Caesars, and is to receive the inscription of ‘Rome to America.”  No doubt Pope Pius IX recalled that George Washington had ever been a friend to Catholics.

On October 20, 1853, the marble block from the Pope arrived in Washington. Continue reading

Saint John Vianney Play To Debut In Houston

Saint John Vianney is being staged as a one-man production titled “VIANNEY” and will be debuting in the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston on August 4, 2009 AD.  This is in celebration of the 150th anniversary of the death of this patron saint of parish priests.  The play will continue in other dioceses across America.

Leonardo Defilippis plays the role of Saint John Vianney as he performs at various churches across the archdiocese.  Mr. Defilippis’s one-man stage production opens amidst the chaos of the French Revolution, a time which mirrors the secularization, materialism and anti-religious sentiment of today. Against this dramatic backdrop, a simple ignorant peasant priest enters the backwater town of Ars, a place where no one cares much about their faith, or sees the Church as particularly relevant. They don’t expect much out of John Vianney.

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