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- Studies from Court and Cloister - 20/61 -


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


Studies from Court and Cloister - 20/61

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