Posts Tagged ‘Counter Reformation’

St. Peter Canisius 1521-1597

In 13 History on 2016/07/22 at 12:00 AM
While many are familiar with the major personages of the Reformation and Counter-Reformation period, there is one of note that often escapes the eyes of the world.  At first the Council of Trent, which had tremendous effect on Bavaria, had little effect on the rest of the German states.  That is, until St. Peter Canisius dedicated his life to patient labor among the German people.

It was only his and his fellow Jesuits’ patience, in seeking out and leading individuals to convert from Lutheranism, that slowly but surely increased the ratio of Catholics to Protestants in Germany. Often called the Second Apostle of Germany, St. Peter Canisius is claimed as a son by both Germany and Holland.

His nine-times Burgomaster of Nijmegen Catholic father sent young Peter to the University of Cologne at the tender age of 15.  There, Canisius was a leading light in the loyal Catholic party formed in opposition to the Catholic archbishop who had secretly transferred his allegiance to the Lutheran camp.  It was Canisius who was chosen by this group to seek out the German Emperor, who, in turn, deposed the archbishop and averted a calamity in the Catholic Rhineland.

Canisius then met Father Faber, one of St. Ignatius of Loyola’s first companions, and under his guidance made the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius.  It was during this retreat time that he found the answer to his own question: How could he best serve God and his stricken German church?  He joined the Society of Jesus.

The scholarly Canisius became known for his editions of works of St. Cyril of Alexandria and of St. Leo the Great and in 1547 he attended the Council of Trent as an assistant to the Bishop of Augsburg.  At Trent he was motivated by the spirit of the Catholic Counter-Reformation.

And it was he who was behind the important decree against absentee bishops who were now required to reside in their diocese.  He was also a major figure in the establishment of seminaries that purposed to provide correct preparation of men for the priesthood.

At age 28, Peter Canisius was sent on a mission to Germany; this would become his life’s work.  The Duke of Bavaria requested that Canisius and two other Jesuits become professors of theology at the Universities of Ingolstadt and later the University of Vienna.

By 1555 Peter Canisius issued his famous CATECHISM and through it he rendered a tremendous service to the Church.  His Catechism was a clear and simple exposition of Catholic doctrine geared to the needs of the day. It met the timely needs with great clarity and produced great success in its countering of the devastating effects of Luther’s Catechism.  More than four hundred editions were made of Canisius’ Catechism within the following one hundred years, and it was translated into 15 other languages.

Canisius also later then went to Bohemia where the situation of the Church was desperate.  Despite tremendous opposition, he established the University of Prague.

At age 35 he became Provincial of the Jesuits in Southern German and he established boys’ colleges in six different cities.  His main task was to provide Germany with well-trained priests.  From the seminaries he established, he regularly sent young men to study in Rome.

Canisius travelled constantly throughout the German states and always preached God’s word.  Although he at first encountered either hostility or apathy, his great learning and zeal soon turned that tide, bringing people from even far away to listen to him and packed churches.  Often, in his travels, he entered a town without a pastor and he immediately began to preach and administer the sacraments.

To those who said he was over-working himself, he simply replied: “ If you have too much to do, with God’s help you will find time to do it all.”    He was inexhaustible.  He found time to write letters.  In fact, printed copies of his correspondence amount to more than eight thousand pages.

His letters comforted, rebuked and counseled persons of all social levels, very much in the manner of St. Bernard, who also feared no man, be he pope or emperor, bishop or prince, or the ordinary laity.

His great powers of influence were notable at the conference between Catholics and Protestants held at Worms in 1556.  It was his influence that enabled the Catholics to present a united front and resist Protestant invitations to compromise on points of principle.

Two years later, he checked an incipient threat to the traditional Faith in Poland.  He also healed a breach that year between the pope and the emperor.  During a break in the Council’s sessions, Canisius and three Jesuits crossed the Alps in winter to deal with the Holy Roman Emperor, Ferdinand, who while a loyal Catholic had been critical of the pope.  The patient, but unyielding, Canisus carefully explained to the Emperor, who was not too intelligent, exactly what was being done and the Emperor ceased his pressing demands.

A history full of distortions had been written: The Centuries of Magdeburg.  Canisius was asked to counter this huge attack on the Catholic Church and did so with his two works: The History of John the Baptist and The Incomparable Virgin Mary.

Soon after his death in 1597, his tomb in Fribourg began to be venerated and numerous miracles were attributed to his intercession.


The Scandinavian countries had also turned to Lutheranism, and Catholics were persecuted.  However, the Jesuits serving secretly in Sweden decided in 1580 to reveal themselves as priests, though not as Jesuits.  Shortly, thereafter, in a dramatic sermon, the Swedish Lutheran Archbishop called his entire congregation to embrace the Catholic Faith and ordered Luther’s Catechism to be replaced in all schools by that of Canisius.

The people’s response was overwhelmingly enthusiastic.  People from the surrounding countryside also made profession of the faith they had held in silence.

One famous convert was Queen Christina of Sweden (1626-1689).  In her days the Jesuits prepared a special Swedish edition of Canisius’ Catechism.  Also, numerous young Swedes, Fins and Lapps were sent to German seminaries to prepare for the priesthood.


Pope St. Pius V 1540-1572

In 13 History on 2011/05/12 at 10:23 PM

Pope St. Pius V was a history-making pope and one of the giants of the whole history of the Western world.  He is called the Father of the Catholic Reformation and savior of Christendom.


In 1556, a Dominican monk, Antonio Ghisliere, who prayed the rosary daily, was chosen pope in 1556 in a unanimous roll call vote because of his passionate devotion to Christ, the Church, his iron courage, relentless perseverance and spotless reputation. He begged not to be chosen but the whole Church joyfully celebrated his selection.  

Son of a poor muleteer, he was destined to follow in his father’s footsteps had not the Dominicans given him a good religious and secular education. A professor of philosophy and theology, he also held various positions of authority in his community.  He was a living example of monastic virtues and the spirit of his order’s founder, St. Dominic.


In 1556 he was made bishop. His zeal against heresy led him to be chosen to be an inquisitor of the faith in Italy and later for all Christendom.

He began his pontificate by giving large alms to the poor. As pontiff he practiced the virtues he had is displayed as a monk and a bishop. A simple man, he only owned two coarse woolen shirts and dined on and egg and a few vegetables. Daily, he made two meditations on his knees in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament.  In his 7 years as pope, he visited the hospitals and sat by the bedside of the sick, consoling them and preparing them to die. He washed the feet of the poor and embraced the lepers. An English nobleman was said to convert on seeing him kiss the feet of a beggar covered with ulcers.


He addressed the cardinals exhorting them to reform themselves and their households and avoid the kind of life that had given so much scandal in the past to the humble members of the church.    

He declared that he intended to carry out the decrees of the council of Trent to the letter. He banished luxury from his


court, raised the standard of morality, labored with his intimate friend, St. Charles Borromeo, to reform the clergy,    


obliging his bishops to reside in their dioceses and the cardinals to lead lives of simplicity and piety. 


He appointed Borromeo as the head of a special commission or the reform of the clergy as he had already done so in Milan.  Consequently, a cardinal who had left the church and married, was thrown out and six heretical bishops were removed, as well as one bishop who stormed out on Christmas day, denouncing the pope, throwing down his mire and staff and stormed out of the church, mounting a horse and riding away to join a Calvinist army.  Also, a whole religious order was also suppressed.

Pope Pius also ordered that the catechism of the Council of Trent be published, and it was done within a year. St. Peter Canisius, a German Jesuit, immediately made the German translation.  Soon it appeared in Polish, French, and other languages

Right at the beginning of his pontificate, he had the new General of the Jesuits, St. Francis Borgia,  set to work on a general history of the church to refute the distorted Protestant history circulating. With the indispensable aid of the Jesuits

and many others, the pope began the reform of the Church, or as it is called, the Catholic Reformation, a gigantic  

undertaking that would require more than a full generation to complete.

Pope St. Pius took all the words and examples of Christ literally.  The famous Protestant historiographer, Ludwig Von Pastor wrote that everyone who met him “felt that he was in the presence of a man of unshakable firmness and of a profound seriousness, which, far removed from anything in this world, was fixed entirely on spiritual things.”  


Not only did he reform the religious orders, but he had imprisoned bishops who refused to live in their dioceses, insisted on regular Sunday religious instruction, regular attendance by children to instructions, establishment of seminaries, ordered bishops to visit their parishes and make regular visits to Rome. In 1570, he approved of a common liturgy and missal.  

During this period of tremendous religious and political upheaval, the Church was fortunate to have this powerful and persuasive leader.  In Germany he supported the Catholics oppressed by the heretical princes; in France he encouraged the League by his counsels and with financial aid; in the Low Countries he supported Spain. The Pope often said that Philip II of Spain was the only king upon whom the Church could consistently depend.  


He eventually excommunicated Elizabeth of England and supported the cause of her imprisoned cousin, Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots, writing her in prison to console her.  

Philip II sent the  Spanish Armada to capture Elizabeth and replace her with the legitimate descendant of Henry VII. 

The two great and constant worries for him were the struggle against the Protestants and the Ottoman Turks.  He constantly tried to unite the princes of Christendom against their hereditary enemy, who sought to destroy Christendom.  

In 1570 Suleiman attacked Cyprus threatening all Christendom, he did unite the forces of Spain and Venice.  Don John of Austria, the commander-in-chief of the expedition, had in his flagship a replica of Our Lady of Guadalupe.  

On the day of the Battle of Lepanto, October 7, 1571, the pope was working with the cardinals, when, suddenly, interrupting his work opening the window and looking at the sky, he cried out: “A truce to business; our great task at present is to thank God for the victory which He has just given the Christian army”.

When eventually the new of the victory arrived, the Pope burst into tears.  LEPANTO’s fame has echoed down the centuries as a magnificent victory over the Muslims, a battle which dealt the Turkish power a blow from which it did not recover until modern times.  Cervantes, author of Don Quijote, fought in this battle and said that it was: “the greatest

day’s work seen in centuries.”

Having requested all Christendom to pray the rosary during the battle, this devout son of St. Dominic, consequently instituted the feast of the Rosary to be celebrated the first Sunday of October in honor of Mary, “Help of Christians.”

This simple, devout and Christlike pope is remembered for his rare virtue and an unfailing and inflexible integrity.  

Note: See post 9/11 in Category: History and post Bagels, Croissants, Capuchino and Shish-kebobs in Category: Historical Tid-bits.

St. Francis De Sales (1567- 1622)

In 13 History on 2011/05/09 at 9:54 AM

Francis belonged to an aristocratic family. He learned rhetoric and humanities from the  Jesuits.  Originally a  lawyer, Francis followed God’s call.

Pope Clement prophetically said to Francis: “Drink, my son from your cistern, and from your living wellspring; may your waters issue forth, and may they become public fountains where the world may quench its thirst.”

In 1594 he volunteered to evangelize in Geneva where the Reformed Faith had been imposed. Risking his life, he journeyed through the canton, preaching constantly and by his zeal, learning, kindness and holiness people responded. He confuted the preachers sent by Geneva to oppose him; he converted prominent Calvinists. Read the rest of this entry »