"From Richmond, the 1st Dec. 1578."
Further relief was extended to him, as appears by another letter from the Council, allowing him to remain in his house till Lady Day, when he was to appear and answer to the charge of papistry, "unless in the meantime God shall turn his heart otherwise."
Slight as were the penalties inflicted on Sir Henry when compared with those which his brothers were called upon to endure, troubles were not wanting to him in his old age He was not only a prisoner within five miles of his own house, subject to heavy fines for the privilege of absenting himself from the new service, but he was liable at any time to have his house searched* for priests and church-stuff, to have his household dismissed, and to be called on to endure religious conferences. He was, moreover, in feeble health, and to complete his misfortunes, his devoted wife was taken from him. On this occasion a letter from eight members of the Privy Council was delivered to him:—
* For "the search at Mr. Bedingfeld's house," and the anonymous letter which led to it, see Calendar of State Payers, Dom. Eliz. 1581-1590, p. 648, No. 76. A copy of a letter found directed to Cromwell accused Sir Henry of treasonable designs in conjunction with papists and recusants. "Diligent searches have been made at the house of Mr. Henry Bedingfelde, but nothing suspicious found."
"To our loving friend, Sir Henry Bedingfeld.
"We commend us unto you. Whereas about three years past, when you were sent for to have appeared before us, touching your disobedience in Religion, we were then moved in consideration of your sickness and infirmity, and the humble suit of Henry Seckford, your son, you being then in the way hitherward, to licence you to return back unto your own house, whither you were before committed, there to remain until further order should be taken with you. And whereas at this time your son has made like humble suit unto us that you may be suffered to remove from your said house unto St. Mary's, Wignollen, in Marshland, a house of your daughter Seckford, there to remain for a season until you may pass over the grief and remembrance of the lady, your wife, lately deceased, these are in that respect to give you licence so to do. And therefore you may, at your liking remove to that place, continuing yourself in like degree of restraints as you did in your own house, and these shall be your warrant in that behalf. So fare you well.
"From the Court at Whitehall, 28 of Dec. 1581. Your loving friends."*
* Exactly the same treatment was endured by his descendant Sir Henry Arundell Bedingfeld in 1713. The following instance affords a proof of the extraordinary persistence with which the penal laws against Catholics were enforced 110 years after Elizabeth's death.
"Licence from the justices, August 10, 1713, for Sir Henry Bedingfeld to go from home for a month.
"Whereas Sir Henry Bedingfeld of Oxburgh, Bart., being a recusant, and confined to the usual place of his abode, or within the compass of five miles from the same, and whereas it has been represented to us on the part of the said Sir Henry Bedingfeld that he has very necessary and urgent business, which does require his attention at this time, and whereas the said Sir Henry Bedingfeld has made an oath before us of the truth of the same, and that he will not make any causeless stay from his said place of habitation, we therefore, four of his Majesty's Justices of the Peace for the said county upon examination taken by us as of the premisses, do give this our licence to the said Sir Henry Bedingfeld to travel out of the precincts or compass of five miles from the place of his abode limited by the statute at all times, from the 13 of this instant August, until the thirteenth of September following, by which time he is to return again to his place of abode at the parish of Oxburgh, aforesaid. Given under our hand and seal this Loth of August 1713." Signed in the margin, "E. Bacon, T. De Grey, Tho. Wright, Nath. Life, H. Partridge, Dep. Lieut. I do assent to this licence."
Sir Henry Bedingfeld succumbed to his infirmities in 1583, and was buried in the Bedingfeld chapel in Oxburgh church, where an elaborate monument to his memory may still be seen. It is to be regretted that the loss of the Privy Council Registers for the year 1583 entails also the loss of any mention of the last days of this celebrated Englishman.
IV. THE CATHOLIC REFORMATION IN GERMANY
In spite of the valiant efforts of isolated Catholic reformers in Germany, to stem the tide of corruption which threatened to sweep the Church into a vortex of ruin, for a long time little impression was made on the vast sea of abuses, and but little permanent good was effected. It almost seemed as though the Poor Clares of Nuremburg, the brave Dominicanesses of Strassburg, Johannes Busch, Johannes Geiler, Cardinal Nicholas of Cusa, St. John Capistran, the Brethren of the Common Life, and the celebrated author of the Imitation of Christ had lived and fought, suffered and preached, in vain. They, and some few others were like brilliant meteors, only making the darkness of the night more apparent.
The nations were as little responsive to preachers of reform as were the princes of Europe to the appeals of the Pope for a crusade against the infidel Turk, who menaced, after his conquest of Constantinople, the very centre of Christendom. While the citadel was in danger, those who should have assembled vast cohorts in its defence were either suffering from the inertia that follows on some kinds of disease, or were actively employed in spreading the new heresies. Then at last struck the hour for the dawning of a new day. And here perhaps lies the solution to the problem why so much energy, self-denial, penance on the part of the preachers of reform, produced so little result; why such brave efforts failed to restore, renew and edify the Church. Was she then incapable of rising to a new life? The answer lies in the words of her Divine Founder: "My hour is not yet come." Until then, all reformers preached more or less in the wilderness; for few had ears to hear. God's hour was assuredly winging its flight, but it would not come till the Church was almost in extremis; till decay of faith following on decay of morals threatened her very existence. The catastrophe was hastened by the fatal pouring of the new wine of the later Renaissance into the old, now worn-out bottles of Mediaevalism, thereby paganising Rome and corrupting the College of Cardinals to so large an extent, that the election to the papacy of a Rodrigo Borgia was made possible.
Neither the fiery denunciations of Fra Girolamo Savonarola, nor the cold sarcasms of Erasmus of Rotterdam had a more lasting effect on the world than had Busch's missionary zeal or Geiler's ascetic discourses. Then arose Martin Luther, and centered in himself all those scandals and floating heresies, which for a hundred years had poisoned the spiritual and intellectual atmosphere. Insidious disease lurking in dark places was now become a stalking pestilence that braved the daylight unabashed. Faith was all but moribund. But the Church's extremity was God's opportunity; His hour had struck at last, and the spirit of the Lord brooded on the face of the waters.
Then the whole situation was changed. The enemy was not yet crushed, but formidable hosts were everywhere set in opposition to him. Instead of isolated efforts there was an almost universal movement towards reform. Begun in Italy, it spread into every country of Europe. Seminaries sprang up for the education of priests; St. Philip Neri became the Apostle of Rome, St. Charles Borromeo that of Milan. The Order of Theatines was founded, and the Barnabite Order, devoted to the education of youth was ready to send its members wherever the need was greatest. Above all, the long-deferred General Council, assembled at Trent in 1545, gave cohesion to all the various movements that were set on foot by defining disputed doctrines, and by drawing up a formula which declared the belief of the Catholic Church on all points attacked by the new sectaries. The Church was threatened with a dozen heresies, but so completely did she vindicate her doctrines at the Council of Trent, that for more than three hundred years no further General Council was needed. If Italy may boast of the victories achieved by her great Catholic reformers, France, though somewhat later in the field had her Bossuet, Bourdaloue, St. Francis of Sales, St. Vincent of Paul, and many other Catholic champions. To Spain were given St. Ignatius of Loyola, St. Francis Borgia, St. Francis Xavier, St. Peter of Alcantara, St. John of the Cross, St. John of God, St. Joseph Calasanctius, St. Teresa, and others whose names have first added a splendour to their native land, and have then gone forth to illumine the uttermost ends of the earth.
St Ignatius died in 1556, but the effect of the Society of Jesus on the Church was only just beginning. One of the earliest and most important tasks of his immediate disciples was the formation of the Carmelite nun Teresa, and her spiritual guidance in the unusual paths she was called to tread. Even in Catholic Spain hearts had grown cold and minds lax. The religious houses had long fallen from their first fervour. During the space of sixteen years St. Teresa founded seventeen convents, all following the original strict Carmelite rule. As early as 1474 Pope Eugenius IV. had formed the project of re-establishing the strict observance of the rule in all religious communities, but the times were not then favourable for carrying it out. He had therefore approved provisionally of a mitigated rule for all Carmelite houses, by means of which discipline was to be restored. The Carmelite general, John Soreth, made great efforts to enforce it, but his success was partial and short-lived.
In 1524, when Teresa de Ahumeda was still a child, Clement VII. addressed a brief to the General Chapter of the Carmelites, assembled at Venice, commanding them to reform their order. The brief was cordially received, and the Chapter passed many resolutions all aiming at the removal of abuses, such as the careless and hasty admission of members, so that thenceforth no person might be received into the order without the consent of the provincial, or before the age of fifteen. Another resolution passed in this Chapter referred to the private property of the friars; but lest more harm than good should be done by sudden and violent measures, it was decreed that in every province certain houses should be set apart for those members who had received the mitigated rule of Pope Eugenius, and who were therefore considered as reformed. But together with these houses others should be tolerated for a season, while the religious were gradually accustomed to a state of discipline. Those who had not accepted the mitigated rule were to be allowed temporarily to enjoy their patrimony, as also the emoluments accruing to them from teaching, preaching, and other services rendered. There was to be no difference in their treatment, and the religious habit was to be the same for the reformed and the unreformed brethren. Subsequent Chapters-General continued to pass similar wise regulations, but they were by no means promptly carried out; and at Vicenza, in 1539, it was decreed that provincials and friars must undertake the reform of their convents in the course of one year, in default of which their subjects were to be released from the obedience they owed them. Only reformed friars might be elected superiors.*
* Monsignanus, Bullarium, ii. 59 c, 47 b.
At this assembly, the representatives of the Lower Rhine Province were Theodoric of Gouda, Martin Cuperus, and Eberhard Billick. They presented a petition praying that the Universities of Mainz and Trier might be included in the course open to Carmelite students, the reason being that in order to successfully combat the Lutheran heresies, great need was felt of men of wide knowledge, possessing degrees high enough to inspire respect in their opponents. Many students, by reason of the evil times, were not in a position to meet the expenses attendant upon a sojourn at Cologne and Louvain, and the living at Mainz and Trier was cheaper. To this petition the Carmelite general answered by ranking Cologne first, Louvain second, Mainz third, and Trier fourth, in the curriculum of studies.
But the progress made in Germany was the reverse of rapid; opposition was encountered at every step; nevertheless, the resolutions passed at the Chapter-General at Venice in 1524, had introduced the thin end of the wedge, and it is apparent from the decrees of the Provincial Chapter held at Mechlin in 1531, and presided over by the general himself, that nearly all the houses of the Lower Rhine Province had by that time accepted the mitigated rule. It was enforced in this Chapter that if a convent fell away from the reform, the provincial was to appoint a reformed prior, and to send thither reformed brethren. Friars who refused the reform were to be banished for ten years. Another accentuated point was the rule which forbade the possession of private property. One common purse only was allowed, and thenceforth, no Carmelite might, under pain of excommunication, keep money in his possession for more than twenty-four hours. Absolution for an infringement of this rule could only be obtained from the provincial or general. Those religious, who at their death were found to possess property were to be buried in unconsecrated ground. When, a year later, Theodoric of Gouda presented himself at the Chapter-General held at Padua, he was able to state that the Lower Rhine Province had joined the observance, and was entitled to the privileges belonging thereto.
But another and more insidious danger had arisen. In many of the Carmelite houses of Germany the new doctrines had been more than favourably received; and at Strassburg, the rector, Tilmann Lyn had been deprived of his office for having openly preached the Lutheran heresy. Three other friars of the same house who with him had gone astray were imprisoned. In vain the friars were forbidden, under pain of excommunication, to possess or to read books that had been condemned by the Holy See. Heretical writings continued to find entrance into many of the religious houses, and were even read aloud in refectories, and used as text-books by the professors. It must, however, be admitted that some of these books, including several works of Erasmus which were also prohibited, would now scarcely come into the category of heretical writings. Still, many of the diatribes which Erasmus permitted himself against the religious orders were not in any sense edifying, though there was much truth in his pungent satire; so that the papal legate Aleander did not hesitate to declare that the Dutch scholar had done more to undermine faith than even Luther, and he accused him of being the fomenter of all the troubles, of subverting the Netherlands, and all the Rhine district. This may indeed have been the truth indirectly in spite of the certainty that Erasmus had no intention of playing into the hands of the Lutherans, whom he hated. But he was a cynic, and a cynic's eyes are not the best through which to see things. The monks offended him, and he poured out upon them, not the vials of his wrath but the sharp vinegar of sarcasm. His favourite, oft-recurring themes, the ignorance, immorality, and greed to be found in monasteries, the quarrelsomeness and worldliness of the friars would lead the unwary to suppose that there was not a religious community left where the rule was kept and the religious led commonly respectable lives. But even a slight acquaintance with Erasmus shows us that he is incapable of justice towards monks and friars. They loved scholasticism, the enemy which he considered himself born to slay, and there was war to the knife between him and all upholders of Scotus and Aquinas. The monks of the Charterhouse, who died the death of martyrs rather than perjure themselves, win no meed of praise from Erasmus—they were, forsooth, schoolmen; and the noble Friars-Observants who, when threatened with a living tomb in the river Thames, for the same cause, calmly replied that the road to heaven was as near by water as by land, are nothing to him, for did they not learn their theology of Duns Scotus. Even Henry VIII. himself at one time begged the Pope's favour for the Observants, saying that he could not sufficiently express his admiration for their strict adherence to poverty, for their sincerity, their charity, their devotion;* but they were Scotists, and Erasmus could not therefore admire them.
* Henry VIII. to Leo X., Add. MS. 15,387, f. 17; B.M. Printed by Ellis, 3, 1st series, 165.
From his own showing it appears that the Canons Regular of St. Augustine at Emmaus in Holland led a good life, but he makes no honourable exception of them when he denounces other houses. He complains of all monks that they are gluttons and wine-bibbers, utterly careless of their rule; yet his own plea for returning to the world after taking his vows is that his health would not stand the fasts and vigils, the long prayers and the fish diet, things which accord ill with a reputation for laxity. In a letter to his former prior, he says: "I left my profession, not because I had any fault to find with it, but because I would not be a scandal to the order." And again, "My constitution was too weak to bear your rule."* These are either empty phrases, or they mean that the life was a strict one.
* Life and Letters of Erasmus, lectures delivered at Oxford by J. A. Froude, pp. 24, 162.
Nevertheless it would be idle to say that there was not or had not been a great falling-off in the fervour of monks and friars generally at this period. As the new doctrines spread, so did also the distaste for the religious life, and the number of those who renounced their vows increased yearly. But many, from various causes, soon repented, and desired to return to the cloister, and it became necessary to legislate for such contingencies also. Moreover, it was made obligatory on every prior to arrest notorious apostates, and all those who, without letters of obedience, or who, abusing them, were found wandering about the country. They were to be punished conformably to the rule, and if necessary were to be imprisoned.
One good effect at least resulted from Erasmus's attacks on the ignorance of monks, and this was the revival of learning in most of the religious orders. Every inducement was offered by the Carmelite superiors in the Lower Rhine Province to cultivate a taste for study. Those who had gone through a three or four years' course of theology creditably had a distinct right to a post of some dignity, and took rank immediately after those priests of the order who had celebrated their jubilee, and before all conventuals who had an inferior record as to studies. The faithful discharge of offices for a prolonged period was also rewarded by honourable recognition. The sentiments thus appealed to may not have been of the loftiest, but it must be remembered that the reform was to be gradual, and higher motives could be suggested when the subject was ready for them. The superiors of this province were supported in all their efforts by the general, who was bent on a thorough renewal of the religious spirit throughout the Order; but in the midst of all these righteous aspirations it is a little startling to find that a decree of the Chapter-General was needed to put down drinking-bouts in sundry houses of the Rhine Province.*
* Dr. Alois Postina, Der Karmelit Eberhard Billick. Ein Lebensbild aus dem 16, Jahrhundert, Freiburg im Breisgau, 1901, p. 25.
In 1541, Eberhard Billick was appointed provincial, and almost immediately began to visit the houses in his jurisdiction. At Cologne he found a condition of things sufficient to make the boldest reformer quail. The Lutherans had entirely gained the upper hand, and a certain Count William of Neuenar and Mors, who had been for some tine a follower of the new doctrines, was bent on introducing them by force into Mors. He first forbade the practise of the Catholic religion among his tenants, and then tried to seduce the religious. They were forbidden to say Mass except on Sundays, and then even none outside the convent were to be admitted to it. Their church was given over to the Lutherans, and the friars were forced into being present at the Protestant sermons. Not content with this, Count William inflicted seven Lutheran beneficiaries upon them, obliging them to lodge and feed them gratis. Lutheran preachers and school teachers were salaried out of the convent revenues, which the Count managed by fraud and cunning to confiscate. That portion of the convent buildings which bordered on his property he turned into stables for his own horses, so that entrance to the friar's quarters was open to his servants, while the Carmelites were themselves forbidden to go in and out on that side.
The new Provincial succeeded in time by dint of courage and firmness, in getting back all that the Count had seized by force; but other houses were in as deplorable a condition, and little could be done to improve matters. Billick appealed to the Emperor, who had taken all the Carmelite convents in Lower Germany under his protection; but the Emperor's goodwill surpassed his power to help, the whole of his money and energy being needed to oppose the Turks, the French, and the Duke of Cleves.
The greatest danger and difficulty lay in the behaviour of Count Hermann of Wied, Archbishop and Elector of Cologne. From the outset his rule had been detrimental to the Church. The best that could be said of him in his youth was that he was "kind and peace-loving, fond of hunting, but not particularly learned." Charles V., in a letter to the landgrave Philip of Hessen, who had joined the Lutherans, says: "How should the good man be able to reform his diocese? He has no Latin, and has never said more than three Masses in his life. He does not even know the Confiteor." Philip replied: "I can assure your Majesty that he reads German industriously, and interests himself in religious questions."
Unfortunately, these "religious questions" threw the archbishop into the arms of the Lutherans, and already in 1536, Aleander considered him as much lost to the Church as Philip of Hessen himself, who made no secret of his apostasy. Melancthon was his dear friend already when he made the acquaintance of Martin Bucer at the Diet of Hagenau in 1540.
Two years later, Archbishop Hermann invited this violent and notorious heretic to preach in the minster at Bonn. Immediately, Cologne rose up in protest, and the Cathedral Chapter, the clergy and the Magistrate presented the archbishop with a remonstrance. Hermann replied by sending Melancthon to support Bucer at Bonn, and thus, by entrusting the work of reform to men whose sole aim was to subvert Catholic doctrine and to disorganise Christian society, proved himself faithless to the solemn promise he had made neither to introduce religious novelties into his diocese, nor to abolish customs founded on Catholic tradition.
The Chapter, fully alive to the critical nature of the situation, drew up a memorandum, dated 5th February 1543, in which they showed good reasons why Bucer could not be tolerated as a minister of religion in the diocese. His broken vows, his marriage, his open profession of Luther's doctrines, proved sufficiently that he was no longer a member of the Catholic Church. Further, his preaching at Strassburg had resulted directly in the wholesale destruction of images and altars, and ultimately in the abolition of the Mass in that place. The memorandum went on to affirm that, in patronising such a man the Archbishop was acting in direct disobedience to the Pope and to the Emperor.
Bucer's answer to these objections was devised in such a manner as to cause his opponents some embarrassment. It was written in the Swiss dialect, an unknown tongue to the clergy of Cologne, as well as to the university. Nevertheless, before long, an epitome of its purport was furnished to the Chapter, and the refutation of the doctrines therein set forth was entrusted to the Carmelite provincial, Billick.
The two champions were personally not unknown to each other, as they had met at the Diets of Worms and Regensburg, where Billick had made a point of studying the Strassburg heresiarch carefully. The Carmelite now skilfully exposed the weakness of Bucer's arguments, together with his frequent misinterpretation of Scripture and the Fathers, Billick showing himself to be an experienced polemical writer; but the taste and tone of his book are repugnant to modern ideas, and betray the same acrimony which characterises the writings of Luther against Erasmus, and vice versa. Accusations of hatred, cunning, lying, slandering, and double-dealing, are cast like a hail of bullets, with no especial aim at any of Bucer's arguments in particular. Interspersed with much able criticism are choice epithets of abuse and reflections on Bucer's personal character, which, although perfectly in accordance with sixteenth century methods of controversy, are quite beside the mark, and certainly not such as to promote peace in any age.
What the Church in Germany needed at this juncture, was not so much a fiery defender of the faith, or a scholar to taunt the heretics in finely-pointed sarcasm with their want of learning, as a saint, demonstrating in his own life the beauty of holiness, while laying aside polemics, he expounded the philosophy of Catholic doctrine. The need for reform was patent to all; many, like the zealous Carmelite provincial, were already putting their hands to the plough. The movement had been set on foot, but it lacked an apostle to lead and govern it. Such a man was at that moment being formed at the University of Cologne-the second apostle of Germany, as St. Boniface had been the first-Blessed Peter Canisius.
Canisius was a native of Nymwegen in the Low Countries, and was born on 8th May 1521. Having studied at Paris and Orleans, he became tutor to the sons of Rene Duke of Lorraine, whose wife was Philippine of Guelderland. From an early age Peter had desired to consecrate himself to God in the priesthood, and his father having given his consent, the young man proceeded to Cologne for his course of theology and civil and canon law. No sooner did he appear in the lecture rooms than he attracted universal attention. It was not merely the clearness and conciseness of his reasoning, nor altogether the humility of his bearing, but perhaps the mingled charm of each that roused the interest of professors and students alike. That interest led them to watch him closely, and they not only noticed that he seemed altogether unconscious of the plaudits which he excited, but they discovered that he was in the habit of imposing privations on himself, in order to have money to give to poor students, that these might be better fed and clothed, and more amply furnished with books. It was soon related of him that he frequently went out of his way to instruct, counsel, and rescue those (and there were many of them at Cologne) who had fallen upon evil ways. Broad-minded, large-hearted, enlightened beyond his companions, and possessing a strong and well balanced character, it needed no great gift of prophecy to foresee that Peter Canisius would do great things in the future.
In the meanwhile, Father Peter Faber, the first associate of St. Ignatius, was at Mainz, whither he had been sent by Pope Paul III. to counteract the spread of the new doctrines by all the means in his power. His reputation for holiness Was so great in the Society of Jesus, that St. Francis Xavier invoked him when in danger from a storm at sea, and inserted his name in the Litany of the Saints while he was yet living. At Mainz Father Faber gave the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, and obtained many wonderful conversions.
His fame soon reached Cologne, where Canisius, yet uncertain as to his future, was praying, studying, and exercising himself in all good works. Suddenly, it became clear to him that his vocation would be made known to him through Father Peter Faber. He hastened to Mainz, and at their first interview Canisius was convinced that he was called to join the new Society. He made the Spiritual Exercises, and on the fourth day bound himself by a vow to do so. He returned to Cologne as a novice, and continued to live much as before, pursuing his theological studies and making a deep impression on all those with whom he came in contact. Associated with two other novices, also university students-the Spaniards Alfonsus Alvarez and John of Arragon—he received a common rule of life from Faber, and in their zeal they soon exceeded it. They preached, instructed children in Christian doctrine, begged alms for the poor from door to door, nursed the sick in the hospitals, and, in short, seized every opportunity of self-denial and humiliation.
When Faber heard of all this he wrote to Canisius, commending the charity of the trio, but reminding them at the same time that study was their paramount duty, and would lead to more valuable work in the future than anything they could then do for souls.
"As obedience requires you to finish your course of theology," he wrote, "you must not neglect it, thinking to do more by succouring your neighbour in his temporal necessities."
Soon Faber came himself to Cologne, and lodged with the Carthusians, those valiant sons of St. Bruno, whose boast it is never to have quite departed from the spirit of their founder.
On the 8th May 1545, his twenty-fourth birthday, Peter Canisius made the three simple vows of the Society and the same year was ordained priest. By this time his reputation as a Catholic reformer was as great as his reputation for learning. His capacity for work was prodigious. He lectured twice daily; every Sunday he preached in one of the churches, great crowds flocking to hear him. At home, every hour was occupied either in teaching or in receiving those who came to him for advice and help in their doubts. He answered them all with so much insight, wisdom, gentleness, and humility, that even Lutherans dropped the usual epithets, and spoke of him with respect. Every free moment was devoted to literary work, which also obtained a certain celebrity.
But to all these strenuous efforts the Archbishop Elector Hermann von Wied persistently remained a stranger. Relations between himself and his Chapter were strained to the utmost. A deputation of his clergy had waited upon him and solemnly entreated him to retrace his steps, and to cancel the novelties he had introduced. On his refusal, they declared that they would with a clear conscience, and for fear of incurring the divine wrath if they further delayed, proceed by all legitimate means to remove so grievous a scandal. Then the Chapter, including representatives of the lower ranks of the clergy and the university, made a public protest, and drew up appeals to the Pope and the Emperor. They at once informed the archbishop of these measures, and again attempted before taking irrevocable steps to bring about a peaceful solution. But all was useless; and, forced to extremities, they solicited for their appeal the support of other dioceses and learned academies, in order to obtain more speedy relief. The best and most distinguished of the bishops and clergy, as well as the universities of the whole province, joined in the appeal, and the University of Ingolstadt also signified its intention of seconding them.
The archbishop on his part was also careful to procure himself allies. As Elector of Cologne he summoned the Landtag, and its members declared themselves in his favour. The landgrave, Philip of Hessen, to whom Luther had given licence to commit bigamy, and other Protestant princes naturally promised him their support, and the Schmalkaldian League did likewise.
The Catholics of Cologne agitated that the case might be brought before the Reichstag at Worms, to which they had sent their representative, the Dominican, Johann Pessel.
But the archbishop appealed to a General Council, or rather to a National Synod, to be held in Germany and to be entirely independent of the Pope.
At this juncture Eberhard Billick wrote one of his most violent letters to Pessel, attacking the counter appeal of the archbishop which would shortly be presented to the Reichstag, and which was calculated by its affectation of piety to deceive even the elect. But let them be on their guard. It would be seen that Hermann despised the Pope, the Emperor, and the Oecumenical Council already assembled at Trent. He set his own authority above all councils, although they had been instituted by the common consent of Christendom, and he appealed to a lawless, headless council which might only meet at Bonn or at Schmalkald, in order that it might be unrestrained by any authority whatever. There was, continued the Carmelite, no end to the archbishop's innovations. In defiance of all justice and precedent he had transferred the Chapter to Bonn, where people and preachers were split up into parties, and persecuted each other with persistent malice. This he had done, not because there was any greater safety at Bonn than at Cologne, where senate, clergy, and people lived in peace and unity as before, and where his friends in the Chapter might act with all freedom,* but because at Bonn he was sure of a majority in his favour, for loyal Catholics, in spite of his safe-conduct, would not go there. By this stratagem it would appear as if all ranks in the diocese had consented to his measures.
* Others maintained, however, that some of the canons known to be inclined towards Lutheranism had been threatened with death.
Billick went on to complain bitterly that the sentence against the archbishop announced by the papal nuncio, Verallo, as imminent, had not yet been passed. "Every postponement of the imperial mandate," he wrote, "means a weakening of our cause and a strengthening of that of our opponents. At Worms they speak fair, and assume a supplicating attitude; but at Cologne they go about their business boldly. Paintings are scratched off the walls of the churches, statues are hurled from their pedestals, heretical preachers are multiplied and forced upon the Catholics against their will. Four days ago, the archbishop attacked the parish priest of Bruhl, because he still said Mass, and forbade him to do so in future. And much more is done in this enormous diocese which entirely escapes our notice." In conclusion, Billick implored the Dominican to do his utmost with the Emperor, the Cardinal of Augsburg, the Apostolic Nuncio, and the other Catholic authorities in order that the mandate might be issued without further delay, adding, "Gropper, the indefatigable champion of our cause, is ill, otherwise he would have sent a learned and luminous disquisition on this subject."
At last, the Emperor was moved to abandon the passive and procrastinating attitude he had hitherto assumed; and towards the close of the Reichstag he answered the Cologne appellants by citing the archbishop to appear within thirty days, and answer the charges of innovation brought against him. In the meanwhile he was to cancel all the novelties he had introduced into the diocese.
Charles V. on his way to the Netherlands stopped at Cologne, and in a personal interview with Hermann, represented to him the terrible consequences that would ensue if he persisted in his disobedience.
The archbishop demanded a short time to consider and to consult with his advisers. His answer, written on 19th August, after the Emperor's departure, was to the effect that he could not change his opinions. He was then cited to appear at Brussels within the space of thirty days. At the same time Paul III. sent him a brief, commanding him and his adherents to justify their conduct at Rome within sixty days.
Hermann paid no attention to either of these citations, but with renewed zeal continued to advance the Protestant reformation. On the 8th January 1546, Verallo suspended him, and confiscated the revenues of the diocese. The archbishop made a solemn protest, but showed no sign of yielding, and on the 16th April, the Pope proceeded to his ex-communication, at the same time depriving him of all his ecclesiastical dignities, offices and benefices.
By a special brief of 3rd July, Hermann's coadjutor, Adolf von Schauenburg, was made administrator of the archdiocese, and Gropper and Billick were appointed to examine the deposed archbishop with regard to his attitude towards the Catholic religion. The result was unsatisfactory, but the Emperor could not be induced to take any immediate steps against Hermann, his whole attention being directed towards crushing the Schmalkaldian League. It was not till November that the archbishop was officially informed of his excommunication, when he made a further protest, declared the Pope incompetent to judge him, and again appealed to a German Council. The time now seemed ripe for putting pressure on Charles V. to carry out the Pope's sentence. The imperial arms had been victorious over the league, and the Catholics of Cologne commissioned Billick to proceed to the camp, and to petition the emperor to formally depose the archbishop.
The biographers of Blessed Peter Canisius for the most part claim him as the hero of this expedition, which was in fact entrusted to several delegates, of whom the principals were the veteran Carmelite provincial, and Johann von Isenburg. Canisius was deputed to go first to Liege, and to beg that its bishop, George of Austria, son of Maximilian I., and uncle to the Emperor, would facilitate their journey, the country through which they would have to pass being invested with the enemy's troops. During the time which he spent at Liege, Canisius completely won the heart of the prince-bishop, who ordered him to preach in his cathedral and in his private chapel, expressing himself greatly edified with what he had heard. His visit being unavoidably prolonged, Canisius gave the Spiritual Exercises, took part in theological conferences with the Lutherans, visited the sick in the hospitals, and catechised the children. Crowds followed him wherever he went, and there was but one opinion of his learning, eloquence, and charity.
It is probable that on his return to Cologne, having given an account of his mission, he started with the other delegates for Worms.
Writing to the coadjutor Adolf, on 6th December, Billick says that at Mainz they heard that all the roads were occupied by the enemy. In order to avoid all appearance of an embassy they left their baggage behind them at Mainz, and being advised by the vicar-general, Scholl, the Carmelite separated from his companions, and hastened on alone to Worms to present his letters to the Dean of St. Andrew's. Here he lay hidden for four days, in the greatest anxiety and doubt as to his further progress. Neither he nor his advisers could hit on a safe mode of continuing the journey, as it was known that separate parties of defeated Schmalkaldians were making their retreat good by various roads back to the Rhine. To add to his alarm and embarrassment Billick discovered that his horse had been rendered useless by a mysterious wound, so that he had reason to think he had been betrayed. Just then, however, he received information that the imperialists were in hot pursuit of the Schmalkaldians, and having bought another horse from a Jew, he set out for Speyer. At Speyer he fell in with a nobleman belonging to the imperial army on his way back to the camp, and Billick joined him, without however revealing his name or his mission, so necessary was it to regard every stranger as a possible enemy.
At last the road to the Emperor was open, and the delegates, who all arrived simultaneously at Krailsheim on the 5th December, were received by Cardinal Granvelle. The object of their embassy was then speedily attained. Charles V. issued a mandate, ordering the Landtag to assemble at Cologne on the 24th January following; and at the date fixed two imperial commissioners appeared to conduct the proceedings.
On the same day the coadjutor Adolf was inducted as archbishop, in spite of the opposition of a large number of the representatives of the Landtag, who, however, gave in their adhesion by the end of the month. Hermann still offered a futile resistance, but on 28th February 1547 was at last forced from a position that had become untenable. He died on the 15th August 1552.
During these proceedings Peter Canisius had attracted the attention of Cardinal Otto Truchsess, who desired to have him as his second theologian at the Council of Trent, Father Le Jay having already been sent there as first theologian to that prelate. The cardinal, in a letter to St. Ignatius, laid stress on the circumstance of Peter's intimate acquaintance with the state of religion in Germany, and on his being able therefore to suggest to the Council the best means of meeting the prevalent evils. These reasons had great weight with St. Ignatius, and scarcely had the young Jesuit returned to Cologne, when he received orders to set out for Trent. Great was the lamentation among the burghers of Cologne. All whom he met in the streets greeted him with tears and supplications not to depart out of their midst. His leaving, they declared, would mean triumph to the enemies of the Church. The university conferred on him unanimously the title of doctor of divinity as a proof of their gratitude, esteem, and regret at his loss. The clergy and senate presented him with two precious relics—the heads of two of the martyred companions of St. Ursula.
At Trent Canisius found four of his religious brethren, and joined them at their lodgings in the hospital. Here the five Jesuits followed the special rule of life which St. Ignatius had sent to them. "Three things I wish you to bear in mind," he wrote:—
"(1) at the sessions of the Council the greatest glory of God, and the general good of the Church; (2) outside the Council your fundamental principle to labour for the salvation of souls, a matter that lies especially near my heart in this your journey; (3) when at home not to neglect yourselves." He recommended them to behave as prudently as possible at the Council, not to speak hastily, and to be ever on the side of peace. Every evening they were to confer with each other on the day's proceedings, and to make resolutions for the morrow. "Moreover," he continued, "you will allow no opportunity to escape you of acquiring merit in the service of your neighbour. You must always be on the watch to hear confessions, to preach to the people, to instruct the little ones, to visit the sick." In their sermons they were to avoid controverted dogmas, and to lay stress on all that appertained to the reform of morals, and obedience to the Church.
The meetings of the Council being adjourned till 1550, Canisius was called to Rome, where he remained for five months, under the personal guidance of St. Ignatius himself, who submitted him to the most humiliating trials in order to prove his virtue. He sent him to beg and to preach in the most frequented parts of the city, and to nurse the sick in the hospitals, where he was day and night at the beck and call of exacting officials, who set him to perform the most loathsome tasks, and often curtailed his sleep and food. St. Ignatius would then cause inquiries to be made at the hospitals concerning the behaviour of his novice under this kind of treatment.
In the spring of 1548, Canisius was sent with eleven companions to Messina, where the Viceroy, Don Juan de Vega, had founded a college. On the eve of their departure St. Ignatius put to them four questions in writing. Canisius answered the questions thus:—
1. "I am ready, with the help of God's grace, to remain here or to go to Sicily, to India, or wherever it may be that obedience requires me.
2. "If I am sent to Sicily I affirm that I will accept with joy whatever office is conferred on me, even should it be that of porter, cook, or gardener.
3. "I am ready to learn or to teach in any department of science, although hitherto I may have been quite unskilled in it.
4. "I will regard as best for me whatever my superiors may decide to do with me, whether they entrust me with any office or with none. I promise this day, the 5th February, for my whole life never to demand anything for myself concerning my lodging, office or any other similar thing, but once for all I leave the guidance of my soul, and every care for my body in the complete submission of my judgment and will, to my father in God, the Rev. Father General, 1548. Peter Canisius of Nymwegen."
Hereupon St. Ignatius appointed him professor of rhetoric at Messina, and Canisius wrote to his friends at Cologne: "As I am useless for any spiritual office I am entrusted with the insipid department of belles lettres. I teach rhetoric for which I have little aptitude, but I take pains to form these good youths, and am always ready, with God's help, to do all that obedience requires of me."
After a fruitful year, during which he had learned Italian, and having preached in that language, had obtained some wonderful conversions from sin, he was recalled to Rome, where he laid his four solemn vows* in the hands of St. Ignatius. Immediately afterwards he was told to prepare for his apostolate in Germany.
* The first three of the solemn vows taken by the Jesuits are those of poverty, chastity, and obedience. The fourth vow is the promise to go wherever the Pope may send them.
William IV., Duke of Bavaria, surnamed the valiant, on account of his faithful adherence to the Catholic Church, at a time when so many of the reigning princes of Germany fell away, saw, with distress and alarm, the daily increasing dangers to which his beloved fatherland was a prey. Even in the college which he had himself founded at Ingolstadt, heresies were steadily gaining the upper hand, and he besought St. Ignatius to send him learned men, imbued with the apostolic spirit, to stay the progress of error.
The Church was not wanting at this time in men of learning and piety. Theologians, such as Cardinal Cajetan, Gropper of Cologne, Eck of Ingolstadt, Cochlaeus, and others, had a European reputation. The first members of the Society of Jesus were all saints and scholars. Lainez, Salmeron, Lefevre, Faber, Le Jay, Bobadilla, were formed for the exigencies of the time; but for the special work required of him, Canisius effaces them all, or rather, gathers up in his own character each of the great qualities which they possessed. His strength, moreover, was equal to his enormous task. Westphalia, Bavaria, Saxony, Bohemia, Austria, Franconia, Suabia, Moravia, Tirol, Switzerland, from the falls of the Rhine to its source in the Alps, both banks of the Danube, from Freiburgim-Breisgau to Pressburg, the banks of the Main and of the Vistula—all this was the scene of his labours during a period of fifty-four years; and within these limits, it is an incontrovertible fact that there is no city or district still remaining Catholic but owes its faith to him.
St Ignatius answered the demand of the Duke of Bavaria by sending Fathers Le Jay, Salmeron, and Peter Canisius, the three most distinguished men of his Society. On the way to Germany they stopped at Bologna, in order that the two first might receive the degree of doctor, Canisius, as we know, being already a graduate of Cologne. The German heretics prided themselves so much on the few individuals in their ranks who had attained to it, that it was important to provide them with opponents whom they might meet in controversy on equal grounds. At Munich Duke William welcomed them, assuring them that nothing lay nearer to his heart than the maintenance of the Catholic religion in his states, but that heresy had already taken possession of many of his towns and villages, and had even ventured to lift its head in the University of Ingolstadt. The three missionaries proceeded at once to that place, where they were received by the principal dignitaries of the University.
A few days later they began their lectures: Salmeron, with a commentary on the Epistle of St. Paul to the Romans; Canisius, with a dissertation on the Sentences of Peter Lombard; Le Jay, with an exposition of the Psalms. From the beginning their success was assured, but in a few months the whole work devolved on Canisius, Le Jay being sent to the Diet of Augsburg, Salmeron going to support Lainez, at the re-opened Council of Trent, as the Pope's theologian.
So great was the confidence which Canisius inspired, that already, in 1550, the University, by unanimous consent, elected him its rector. Humility prompted him to refuse the office, but St. Ignatius bade him accept it. The need for drastic changes in various departments was only too apparent; Canisius not only secured the good he aimed at, but by his tact escaped the odium which so frequently attaches to the crusader against time-honoured abuses. As he accepted none of the emoluments belonging to his offices, he was the more free to insist on the perfect probity with which the administration of the funds of all offices should be conducted.
He next tools away from the students all heretical books, and obtained from Duke William a mandate, forbidding the booksellers to sell such. He abolished gambling, to which the students had been much addicted. He settled disputes between them and their professors, and the ancient rules and regulations concerning studies ceased to be a dead letter. His words animated his hearers with a love of work, creating a stimulus and a desire to excel. He re-established the unjustly discredited syllogistic form of argument, and reverted to the learning of the Schools in its primitive purity, deprived of the excrescences with which would-be scholars had disfigured it. Lastly, he succeeded in freeing the University from every reproach of immorality and license, and this was, perhaps, his most signal victory at Ingolstadt. The annals of the University abundantly testify to the greatness of the work accomplished.
At the end of his six months' rectorship, Canisius gave an account of his administration, and declined the chancellorship then offered to him. Ingolstadt, in that short space of time, had been transformed, and in order to perpetuate the benefits conferred on it, the Duke resolved to found a college to be handed over to the sons of St. Ignatius.
Next to Bavaria, Austria was to share in the blessings which the very presence of Canisius seemed to draw down from Heaven, but the whole German-speaking world clamoured for his possession. The Bishop of Saxony entreated him to come and change the deplorable state of his diocese. Duke Albert, son and successor of William IV., stoutly maintained that he was needed at Ingolstadt, and that he could not suffer him to leave it; while St. Ignatius was besieged with demands for the services of his most learned disciple. The Prince-Bishop of Freising and the Bishop of Eichstadt each claimed him as his theologian at the Council of Trent. Ferdinand, King of the Romans, urged that "the Light of Germany" should be instantly sent to the capital of the Austrian dominions, then plunged in the darkness of heresy. Pope Julius III. solved the difficulty by desiring that he should proceed at once to Vienna, and St. Ignatius softened the blow to Duke Albert in these words: "The formal demand of his Holiness obliges me to send Father Canisius to Vienna, but without taking him absolutely from your Highness; I am merely lending him to the King of the Romans for a time, after which he shall return to Ingolstadt."
The capital of Austria had fallen a complete prey to heresy. For twenty years not a single priest had been ordained there; religious vocations were no longer heard of. Scarcely the twentieth part of the population had remained Catholic. Three hundred country parishes near the city were entirely without priests. The University, instead of providing a remedy, aggravated the existing evils by a teaching that was more or less heterodox. Society, moreover, was rotten to the core, and needed to be entirely reconstructed. Such was the condition of things when, at the call of the feeble but devout Ferdinand I., Blessed Peter Canisius arrived at Vienna in March 1552. Thirteen of his religious brethren had preceded him by nearly a year, and had opened a college which already promised well.
Canisius began by preaching sermons at court, and to the people, by catechising children, and by seizing every possible opportunity of doing good. Then the plague broke out, and he devoted himself to the stricken. The Pope proclaimed a jubilee, and Canisius profited by the occasion to vindicate the honour of indulgences. His method everywhere seems to have been to do the next, the obvious thing, whatever it might be, and to throw himself heart and soul into it. Not content with his work in the city, he evangelised the country places. The poorest hamlets attracted him most, and as he went on his way, he instructed, consoled, heard the confessions of a life-time, gave the sacraments to the living and the dying, and brought back many hundreds of lost sheep to the fold. He continued to work thus without a break during the winter months, among people who were Christian but in name, intemperance, ignorance, and long neglect, having brutalised them almost beyond human reach. But where he passed, every village changed its aspect; conversions little short of miraculous marked his progress everywhere. Words that from the mouth of another might have returned unto him void, uttered by Canisius carried compunction into the hardest hearts. It was his sanctity, his entire abnegation of self and whole-hearted dependence on the Divine Will, far more than his learning, vigour, or energy that gave his words wings, and worked wonders among this forsaken and degraded country folk; and his charity was such that he would have been well content to have laboured among them for the rest of his life.
But meanwhile Vienna was suffering from his absence, and all sorts and conditions of men clamoured for his return. The episcopal see having become vacant, the king besought the Pope and St. Ignatius that it might be conferred on Father Canisius. But the utmost he could obtain after long importunity was that Canisius should administer the affairs of the diocese for one year, pending the election of a bishop, with the proviso that he should not touch a single farthing of the rich revenues belonging to the see, which he was to govern as a simple religious.
The arrangement was one admirably adapted to the restoration of order in the existing state of chaos, while no sacrifice of its discipline was forced on the Society by the promotion of one of its members to rank and dignity.
Canisius was afterwards made Dean of the University, in the hope that he would do for it what he had already done for Ingolstadt, and he set about the work in the same masterly fashion that distinguished all his schemes of reform. His first act was to obtain a royal decree, limiting the admission of professors to those who had submitted themselves to a rigorous examination in religious doctrine, and had given irrefragable proofs of orthodoxy. The same conditions were in future to be exacted of all who presented themselves for degrees. The university teemed with Lutheran literature; it was swept away by the same inexorable root-and-branch measures that had been so successfully employed at Ingolstadt.
The next care of the reformer was to petition the king for a seminary wherein the ranks of the clergy, thinned almost to extinction, might be reinforced by men carefully trained to a due appreciation of their high calling. The result was the foundation of the seminary of priests of noble family, recruited mainly from the college which the Jesuits had opened at Vienna, and to which had flocked students from all the great families of Hungary, Bohemia, Poland, etc. In conjunction with this seminary, St. Ignatius, about the same tune, founded the celebrated German College in Rome, for the regeneration of Germany by means of a clergy that should be as learned as it was morally irreproachable.
In the midst of his multifarious occupations, Canisius continued his sermons at court, in the Cathedral, and in the principal churches of Vienna. Lutherans frequented them largely, and some, touched by the power of his doctrine and eloquence, asked him for conferences, which he gladly accorded them. Among these were two preachers of some celebrity, pillars of Protestantism, who defied him to answer their arguments in a public disputation. He accepted the challenge, and the day, place, and hour were fixed. A great concourse of people, composed largely of the new sectaries, were assembled, prepared to swell the expected triumph of their champions. The two heretical doctors held their dissertations, one after the other, and sat down amid the applause of their sympathisers. Then Canisius stood up with religious modesty and humility, his bearing expressive of the calmness and benevolence of one who has the whole Catholic Church, past and present, on his side. His prodigious memory and profound knowledge enabled him to refute easily every charge brought by his adversaries, whom he completely crushed with the overwhelming consistency of his logic. They both acknowledged themselves defeated; one returned to the Catholic Church, and a few months later entered the Society of Jesus, of which he remained an edifying member till his death; the other became a more determined advocate of heresy than before, and swore to avenge his defeat by a persistent persecution of the Jesuits.
Nor were enemies wanting on any side; the more converts the Jesuits made, the greater was the hatred they inspired. Calumnies were sown broadcast, and the life of Father Canisius was in constant danger. Ferdinand, warned of a plot to murder the holy man, obliged him, greatly to his discomfiture, to accept a bodyguard whenever he went out. But the work of reform and conversion went on steadily, and from all parts of Germany, bishops, princes, and governors sought to obtain the presence of the illustrious apostle. "I am ready," he wrote in this regard to St. Ignatius, "to go wherever obedience calls me, and to work for the salvation of souls however abandoned they may be, whether in Poland, Lithuania, Russia, Tartary, or China, wherever I am sent."
He was sent to Prague, perhaps the most God-forsaken spot in the whole empire. Every imaginable sect had accumulated in Bohemia during the preceding twenty years. Scarcely a vestige of Catholicism remained, and Hussites, Wicklifites, Vaudois, Lutherans, Zwinglians, and various other offshoots of the principal sects, were busy relegating each other in eloquent terms to eternal damnation, when the arrival of Catholic missionaries gave the signal for a coalition against the common enemy of them all. At Prague itself, where Canisius was charged to found a college with the injunction not to leave Bohemia until it should be solidly established and in a flourishing condition, the Hussites outnumbered the others. Scarcely had he arrived and set to work, when the Duke of Bavaria, reminding St. Ignatius that Canisius had only been lent to Austria, claimed him, at least temporarily, for the foundation of the college which the Society was to establish at Ingolstadt. The claim was admitted to be just, and accordingly the affairs of Prague could only be proceeded with four months later, when Canisius returned from Germany, having been made provincial.
It was the beginning of Lent 1555, and on the 21st April twelve priests sent to him from Rome by St. Ignatius, arrived to second him in his perilous undertaking. The first time the Jesuits appeared in the streets they were saluted with handfuls of mud cast at them by the city urchins, who had been bribed to insult them. The cry "Dogs of Jesuits" (a play upon the word Canisius) followed them wherever they went. Father Peter was himself assailed with a large stone hurled through the window of the church as he stood at the altar saying Mass. A plot was formed to throw the whole community one by one into the Moldau, as they passed over the bridge that connected the old and the new town; and ruffians, who had received a part of their reward in advance, were stationed in the middle of the bridge to waylay them. But a timely edict issued by the Archduke of Bohemia threatened with the most severe penalties whoever should raise a hand against any member of the Society, or even treat any one of them disrespectfully. He went still further, and sent a detachment of guards to the college daily, with orders to accompany each of the priests wherever he went, and in sufficient numbers to prevent any attack.
Added to the open enmity and fierce hatred which they inspired, the Jesuits had to encounter the jealousy of the University professors, who would have been willing enough that they should preach, but who, on the opening of their college, did all they could to hamper them and prejudice people against them.
The reputation of the Society for teaching was great all over Germany. Wherever a college was established by them, it immediately attracted students from all parts, and it was perhaps natural that other educational institutions should fear for their own existence. But the pettiness and meanness with which this fear was expressed at Prague resulted for the Jesuits in a penury so abject, that for many months they had nothing to eat but bread and cheese, and nothing to drink but water from their own well. For several days they were even prevented from going out for want of suitable garments. Nevertheless, however much they might have to suffer in any one place, struggling through a painful existence to the end in view, the work of reform went steadily forward.
About this time, the cathedral at Regensburg was in need of a preacher; the Diet was about to assemble in that city, all the princes and electors of the empire were to take part in it, and the new sectaries were expected in great numbers, in order to wrench, if it might be, such concessions from the authorities as they had not yet been able to obtain. The chapter therefore appealed to Father Canisius, and besought him to throw himself into this important breach. Realising all that was at stake, he started at once for Regensburg.
His first appearance in the cathedral pulpit was a splendid testimony to the opinion in which he was held. The vast building was filled with a brilliant throng, on the fringe of which the people hung in dense crowds overflowing into the streets. In a letter to Father Lainez (who had succeeded St. Ignatius as General of the Society) in September 1556, Canisius describes his efforts as successful in supporting and strengthening the persecuted Catholics, but he goes on to say that the Lutheran representatives at the Diet let loose a string of calumnies against him, and did all they could to poison the minds of the weak and simple. But for the States of the Empire they would have cast him out of the city as one so dangerous to the Protestant cause that they declared it would be wrecked altogether if Canisius continued to preach there.
However, continue he did during the whole of the sessions, save for a short interval of absence. In this interval he visited Innsbruck, in which town a college of the Society was nearing completion; and Augsburg, whose bishop, his old friend the celebrated Otto Truchsess, desired to consult him on the affairs of his diocese. There, overwhelmed with his almost superhuman labours, Canisius fell ill. He desired to be taken to the college at Ingolstadt, and Cardinal Truchsess accompanied him thither, while the Duke of Bavaria sent him his physicians. Thanks to their skill and to the enforced rest of his mental and physical powers, he soon recovered, and was able on the 1st December to return to his post at Regensburg. On all the Sundays of Advent he preached at the cathedral, but as it could not contain the vast concourse of people who crowded to hear him, he was obliged to preach three times in the week also. From the pulpit he went to the confessional, and when he returned to his lodging he was besieged by those who came to seek his advice-princes, concerning the interests of religion in their dominions, prelates, in regard to the reform of their dioceses, or to their own spiritual needs. The King of the Romans, and the Duke of Bavaria often sent for him to confer with him, and all admired the humility, simplicity, and patience with which he listened, no less than the frankness and freedom from human respect with which he proffered his advice. But time was wanting for all the demands made upon him; and that all might be satisfied he drew up for the use of bishops a short treatise on the means of reforming the clergy, and of introducing good morals among their flocks.
The Diet of Regensburg ended in nothing but resolutions to continue the controversy at Worms, and fearing the objections of Canisius, who was known to feel great repugnance towards these public conferences with heretics which never came to any practical conclusion, Ferdinand sought to anticipate his refusal by obtaining a promise from Father Lainez that so able a defender of Catholic doctrine should also be present.
Canisius had already written to the general thus:—
"Knowing as I do my poverty of intellect, my great want of aptitude, and my incapacity, I confess that I should like to run away from this place, and would rather go and beg in India than involve myself in those dangerous disputes, out of which nothing can come but perpetual disgrace to religion, and great harm to the rights of the Church. But the Lord God will make known to me His will by His servant my Superior, and when I know it I shall have no further fear, but shall appear with boldness in the enemy's camp; for all my confidence and all my strength are in obedience. I can be nothing else but a beast of burden in the house of the Lord all the days of my life."
Father Lainez shared to the full the opinion of Canisius as to the uselessness of these conferences, which were exacted by the Lutherans in the hope of wresting something to their own temporal advantage, and the Pope differed from neither in his estimation of the small amount of good to be hoped from them. But as the Emperor was not to be restrained from granting concessions which all Catholics agreed were futile, it was extremely important that the interests of religion and the rights of the Holy See should be ably defended; and Father Lainez therefore insisted that Canisius should not only remain at the Diet of Regensburg to the bitter end, but that he should hold himself in readiness to reopen the campaign at Worms.
In the interval Canisius went to Rome to pay his respects to the new General, and on his return to Germany visited Munich. The capital of Bavaria was also a hot-bed of heresy, and after a brief sojourn there he wrote to Father Lainez, entreating that he would send some Fathers capable of attracting people by their sermons and of edifying them by the holiness of their lives. He then went to Ingolstadt, and was greatly consoled by the results that had been obtained by the newly founded college. Heresy no longer ventured to raise its head where formerly it had flaunted its colours unabashed, and in every respect the university was worthy of the care that had been bestowed upon it. The place was naturally dear to his heart, as the magnificent first-fruits of his labours for Germany, but tearing himself reluctantly from the piety and peace which he had so successfully planted there, he proceeded to confront the enemy at Worms.
The greater number of the Lutheran disputants had already arrived, but of the six Catholic theologians deputed to enter the lists against them, the most celebrated, Johann Gropper, Archdeacon of Cologne, was conspicuous by his absence. Canisius wrote to entreat him to come, but Gropper was so thoroughly convinced of the uselessness of the disputations, that he persistently refused to take part in them. The organisation of the whole matter therefore devolved on Canisius, who prepared the plan of defence, and appointed to each Catholic theologian the subject of which he was to treat. Besides this, he continued to preach, to hear confessions and to take counsel with his colleagues daily. At night he allowed himself but a brief interval of sleep, the rest of the time being spent in prayer and study.
He had stipulated before the opening of the conferences that none but those Protestants who belonged to the Confession of Augsburg, and who were the only regular, and to some extent, disciplined body among them should take part in the disputations. This condition had been accepted, but from the very beginning, Anabaptists, Sacramentarians, and heretics of every imaginable sect appeared, and claimed the right of speech. Those of the Augsburg Confession were furious, and refused to make common cause with the new arrivals. Recriminations, invectives, and threats were hurled about the Protestant camp till a formidable tumult ensued. The Augsburg Lutherans at last succeeded in turning out the other sects, but ashamed of the spectacle they had presented to the eyes of the Catholics who were all united, they left Worms secretly, and contented themselves with attacking each other in the usual vituperative terms.
"It was," wrote Canisius, "as if the giants of old were seeking to rebuild the Tower of Babel. God visited them with the same spirit of confusion which prevented their understanding one another, so that Melancthon was punished by the work of his own hands, like those who are devoured by the wild beasts which they have themselves bred up with great pains and difficulty."
Cologne, Strassburg, and his own native Nymwegen next came in for a share in the apostles' labours. The Bishop of Trent begged him to come and found a college in his diocese; the Duke of Bavaria called upon him to organise the one he had already set on foot at Munich, and to establish another at Landshut. But Straubing, by reason of its extreme need, detained him longer than any of these places.
Charles V. had himself been mainly responsible for the worst of the difficulties and complications that existed at Straubing, on account of his famous interim, which granted to all, on his own personal authority, permission to communicate under both kinds, pending the decision of the Council of Trent on this point. Straubing had availed itself without exception of the permission, and even after the decision of the Council persisted in retaining the custom. A few priests had attempted resistance, but numberless apostasies and half an insurrection had followed on their action, and now the position had come to be regarded as impregnable.
Canisius made no attempt to storm the fortress; he arrived, and was gentleness itself. He had scarcely passed a week in the town when he was regarded as the friend and adviser of all its principal citizens. His sermons drew crowds as usual, and his instructions on the subject of Holy Communion, of which his hearers proved to be strangely ignorant, were continued in the confessional, and on every possible occasion. At Easter nearly the whole population approached the sacraments, and communicated without making the least difficulty, under one kind. The apostle, broken with fatigue, for he had preached throughout Lent, three times a week, besides catechising, visiting the sick, hearing confessions, and answering the objections of all who came to him, was yet beaming with joy, so markedly had his labours been blessed.
It would be superfluous to follow Canisius in his journey to Poland, in his fruitful sojourn at Augsburg, in his campaign against the ignorance of the clergy at Wurzburg, against the Calvinism of the Swiss Protestants. Everywhere the story is the same: ignorance, vice, and heresy fled before the bright light of his presence, and his wisdom provided, that where he had planted the good seed, others should follow him, to keep it watered, so that there should be no return to the former errors. Long after his death, the colleges of the Society which he had founded continued his work, and formed an efficient barrier against the modern spirit of revolt from authority and order.
If in a sense the old ages of faith were dead, the new age witnessed a wonderful resurrection, the effect of which is still going on in our own day. And the scourge of heresy wherewith the Church in Germany was scourged to its ultimate salvation in the sixteenth century, lies now a thing of nought, effete and all but lifeless, while the Bride of Christ has renewed her youth like the eagle.
V. JESUITS AT COURT
Lacordaire once wrote in a letter to Madame Swetchine these remarkable words concerning the disciples of St. Ignatius:
"Tout ce qui m'a tombe sous la main m'a toujours revolte par l'emphase ridicule de l'eloge, ou par l'impudeur du blame. II semble que cette nature d'hommes ait toujours ote la raison a ses amis et a ses ennemis. Je voudrais leur consacrer dix annees d'etudes, ne fut ce que pour mon plaisir propre; mais Dieu nous donne et nous prepare une bien autre besogne, et il faut dire avec l'auteur de l'Imitation, 'relinque curiosa.' Les Jesuites continueront a faire du bien, et a le faire mal quelquefois; ils auront des amis frenetiques et des ennemis furieux, en attendant le jour du jugement dernier, qui sera pour bien des raisons un tres-interessant et tres-curieux jour."
At no time has the world been more occupied with the Jesuits than at the present moment, and the prophecy of the celebrated Dominican above quoted seems more than ever likely to be fulfilled. If their friends are indeed still as extravagant in their praise as Lacordaire found them, perhaps on the other hand criticism is even louder, hatred more profound, accusation more wild and general. Most of the governments of Europe have banished them, on the ground that they are the enemies to progress, to liberal ideas, that they have meddled in politics, and constitute a danger to the State, by seeking to grasp the helm of public affairs, secretly stirring up the nations against their rulers.
The subject appears to be of perennial and universal application, since even in this twentieth century, and in so tolerant a country as England, people have been moved to some apprehension lest we should be incurring a danger in suffering the Jesuit to live unmolested in our midst. But it is not our present ambition to settle so burning a question as the right of members of the Society of Jesus to exist anywhere; rather would we make an excursion into the domain of history, and inquire what have been the rules and regulations, and what has been the practice of the Society concerning politics in the past, what has been the attitude of its members, prescribed and actual towards kings, potentates, and dynasties.
Certain facts have recently come to light, bearing on the history of the Jesuits at the various German courts in the sixteenth century, and the scattered remains of the private correspondence belonging to the archives of the old Society before its suppression have been gathered together. What was done more or less in secret is now proclaimed on the housetops, and the result, as might be expected, is in many ways interesting and instructive.*
* Die Jesuiten an den deutschen Furstenhofen des 16ten Jahrhunderts. Auf Grund ungedruckter Quellen. Von Bernhard Duhr, S. J., Freiburg im Breisgau, 1901.
This correspondence consists of communications between the rank and file, and the superiors at Rome, and vice versa, and includes the letters which passed between the General and the kings, archdukes and other reigning princes, who were ostensibly friends of the Society, but who did their best to put frequent spokes in the wheels of the Constitutions.
The great dearth of learned preachers and confessors that prevailed about the middle of the sixteenth century appealed strongly to the Jesuits to throw themselves into the breach, and thus against the original intention of their founder, they became the spiritual guides of those who made the history of Europe for the next hundred years and more. It was a delicate and an onerous task, fraught with temptations from without and from within.
Ignatius of Loyola, being a man of the world as well as a saint, was well aware of the perils to which he exposed his sons, in sending them forth into the midst of vanities, while at the same time, having had some experience of courts, he knew that princes love not contradiction. But he decided after mature deliberation that after all his "least Society" was created to do a certain work in the Church and in the world, the need of which work was only too apparent in the decayed state of faith and morals. It was not by turning his back on courts that he could hope to regenerate them; but it would be interesting could we discover whether by a contrary decision he would have averted some of the odium which the name Jesuit has accumulated in the course of ages.
John III. of Portugal was the first king to demand a Jesuit confessor, and to him Ignatius sent Father Luis Gonzalez de Comara, much against the desire of the said individual. To his entreaties and objections the first General of the Society made answer, on the 9th August 1552, that he was indeed edified by the humility which caused Father de Comara to shrink from a position which many envied; nevertheless, he was of the opinion that he should obey his Highness in this, as in other things, "for the honour of God our Lord." St. Ignatius went on to say that he need not occupy himself with any but good and pious objects, neither had he reason to fear that the king would, against the will of the Society, confer upon him those honours and dignities with which it was the custom to distinguish other confessors. If moreover, his remaining at court was a cross to him, he must bear it with patience as he would all else that obedience required of him.
At the second General Congregation held in 1565, the question arose whether Cardinal Otto of Augsburg might have a member of the Society attached to his court, as theologian. The Congregation decided not to allow any member to reside permanently at the court of any prince, spiritual or secular, or to consent to his following the said court on its travels, either in the capacity of preacher, theologian or confessor, and that no appointment of such a kind should be permissible for longer than one month or double that period at the most.
Ten years later, the Provincial Congregation of North Germany was reminded of this decree in drawing up propositions to be placed before the third General Congregation, and it was expressly stated that none but the General of the Society himself should have the power to make such appointments, that they should be made as rarely as possible, experience having proved that more harm was done to the confessor by his residing at court than good to the penitent by his ministrations. The reply to this proposition was to the effect that with the General alone should rest the appointment.
By degrees, further legislation became imperative, and the fifth General Congregation, held in 1593, forbade in the most solemn form every member of the Society to interfere in politics or any public affairs whatever. The decree was so absolute that not only did it ensure the imprudent from taking part in the questions of the day, but timid confessors were thereby prevented by their scruples from giving counsel, when appealed to on matters that could scarcely be supposed to border on politics.
In order therefore, to correct all misapprehension, the General, Father Aquaviva, issued an Instruction for the confessors of princes, which was formally approved by the General Congregation of 16o8. This was considered so important a document that it was incorporated into the Institute, a sort of code, containing the Constitutions which St. Ignatius drew up, as well as the decrees of General Congregations. The Instruction was in fact a summary of all previous experience on the subject. It provided, first of all, that in cases where the Society could not avoid compliance with the demand for a confessor at court, great care should be taken in the choice of the individual member to fill the office, so that he might conduce to the welfare of the prince, the edification of the people, and the avoidance of all injury to the Order. The last clause bore reference to the fact that not infrequently the Society was called upon to suffer in one place for wounds inflicted on it in another. Rules for the said confessor were then laid down, to fit every possible emergency, and in minute detail.
For instance, the king's confessor, although attached to the royal chapel, must not only lodge exclusively in a college of his Order, but he must remain subject to the rule, like any other member of the Society. Even when travelling with the court he was obliged to sleep in a house of his Order, or if passing through a town where no such house existed, he must beg hospitality of any other religious community, preferably to passing the night at court.
It was again solemnly impressed upon him not to allow himself to be drawn into any secular concerns, which rule the king was humbly petitioned to enforce.
Neither must the confessor undertake to be an emissary between the prince, his penitent, and any of his ministers, or other officials.
As regarded the prince himself, he was bound to listen to his confessor, not merely when he exhorted him on the subject-matter of his confessions, but also in matters relating to the prevention of injustice, oppression, or other scandals such as often came about through the fault of officials, and which were unknown to the sovereign.
None might undertake the office of permanent confessor at court without the consent of his provincial. It was, moreover, the duty of the provincial before according such permission, to hand this Instruction to the prince in order that he might thoroughly understand what the Society was willing to bestow upon him. The prince was further to be reminded in modest but decided terms, that superiors retained the right to the obedience of the individual who became his confessor, as absolutely as to that of any other member of the Society.
At first there seemed no great need for these precautions. The emperor, Charles V., chose Dominicans for his confessors, and his successor, Ferdinand, followed his example. But Ferdinand held the Society in great esteem, and at his death Father Lainez, who was then General, ordered that each priest in the college at Dillingen should offer twelve Masses for the repose of his soul, and the lay-brothers were to say certain prayers with the same intention. The Society was not only indebted to him for his unvarying friendship, but owed to his munificence the foundation of four colleges, viz., those of Vienna, Prague, Innsbruck, and Tyrnau.
Ferdinand's son and successor, Maximilian, having Protestant leanings, dispensed with a confessor altogether, but his wife, Doha Maria, sister of Philip II. of Spain, was provided with a Spanish Franciscan, who was chosen for her by her brother. Maximilian's sons all chose Jesuit confessors, as did also his daughter, the Queen of Bohemia.
At that time the Lutherans thought that Catholicism was at its last gasp, and they eagerly anticipated the banishment of the Jesuits. But Maximilian, in spite of his Protestant tendencies, was well disposed towards them, and their college at Vienna received many marks of his favour, to the great disgust of his Lutheran subjects. The Protestant nobles assembled at the Landtag held in Vienna, attached three conditions to their votes of supplies for his war against the Turks:—The abolition of the procession of Corpus Christi, the confirmation of the Confession of Augsburg, and the banishment of the Jesuits. They declared that if the emperor refused to grant these requests, they would not furnish him with the required subsidy for the war. Maximilian replied that it was his business to repulse the Turks; the other things did not concern him, but the Pope.*
* Orig. G. Epist., 6, 48 seq.
Disappointed in their hopes, the Lutherans, allying themselves with the enemies of the Jesuits within the Church, began to circulate false reports against the Society. At one moment they accused Father Peter Canisius of prejudicing the Pope against the emperor, at another, the whole community at Vienna were declared guilty of openly insulting the Protestants. Reiterated complaints poured into the emperor's ears ended by alienating Maximilian from his former friends, and it was difficult, almost impossible for them to obtain a hearing. But the empress remained loyal to them, and would perhaps have been termed by Lacordaire frenetique.
Father Maggio, who was then court preacher, seems to have been a man of great prudence and mildness, thoroughly imbued with the spirit of religion. By degrees he not only convinced Maximilian of the injustice of the attacks made upon the Society, but the two became fast friends, so that when he was made Provincial of Austria in 1566, the appointment gave much satisfaction at court. He was frequently summoned to private audiences, and the emperor treated him with so much confidence that Father Maggio would sometimes venture to address to him written words of exhortation, words which Maximilian invariably took in good part. The empress, observing the affection of her husband for the Jesuit would consult Father Maggio as to the best means of confirming him in the Catholic religion.