Posts Tagged ‘Jesuits’

On Ignatius’ feast day, thanks to an early New York Jesuit

Tuesday, July 31st, 2012

Today, July 31, is the feast of St. Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus. This is an appropriate day to write about the contributions of one of his sons, whose name is known by so few, but to whom the Catholics of New York owe so much: Father Anthony Kohlmann, S.J., the first vicar general of the Diocese of New York.

In 1808, Pope Pius VII created four new dioceses in the United States. One of them was New York. The pope named a Dominican friar, Father Luke Concannon, as the first bishop. The new bishop made plans to sail here from Naples, but Napoleon got in his way by placing an embargo on American ships. Realizing that he wasn’t going to get to his new diocese anytime soon, Bishop Concannon wrote to the pope and asked for a vicar general to be appointed in the meantime. The pope named a German Jesuit, Anthony Kohlmann, to the position while the bishop tried unsuccessfully to set sail. Bishop Concannon died in Naples in 1810 and Father Kohlmann went on serving as vicar general until 1814.

At the time of Kohlmann’s arrival, there was just one church for New York’s 14,000 Catholics, St. Peter’s. The pastor there was ill and shorthanded; the Catholics were, shall we say, a tad lukewarm in their practice of the faith. The energetic Jesuit soon could report that Mass was being celebrated in three languages, religious education classes were thriving, and the Catholics were outgrowing St. Peter’s.  It was a time for a second church and what a church it would be: the first St. Patrick’s Cathedral.  It was built on the site of a cemetery, well north of the northern border of New York City, Canal Street. Many Catholics complained that the site was too far out of town, but Kohlmann apparently understand that the city was growing and had only one way to go: north. This was a lesson a future ordinary of New York, Archbishop John Hughes would learn, too.

So we owe what is now properly called the Basilica of St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral to a Jesuit. But we owe him more. Good Jesuit that he was, Father Kohlmann and his companions established a college near the first cathedral. However, the need for additional space led to the purchase of a site four miles north of New York, near Columbia University’s Elgin Gardens. The Jesuit college moved up and into a mansion that already stood there. However, the Maryland Province of the Jesuits ordered this college to be closed so that the Jesuits could concentrate on another college they ran, the one in Georgetown. And what happened to the property? It became of the site of the current St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Fifth Avenue.

Today, as we honor the founder of the Jesuits, we New Yorkers should give thanks especially for Father Anthony Kohlmann, who built the church of New York in mortar and practice.

Thanks to Thomas Young, author of a marvelous history of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, New World Rising (Something More Publications 2006), for the story of Anthony Kohlman, S.J.

Halloween: fantasy, reality and a family tale

Monday, October 31st, 2011

Today, Oct. 31, is the day most children love and many parents hate…because the latter have to deal with youngsters flying high on all the sugar they ingest with those Halloween treats.

It’s also a night for scary movies and nightmares. But have we lost the real meaning of death and the dead? We tend to avoid the topic except around this time of year, when All Hallows Eve is followed by All Saints Day, All Souls Day, and a whole month dedicated to the  holy souls. British Jesuit John McDade, writing for “Thinking Faith,” has some reflections on the reality of All Hallows Eve, death and Purgatory. You might find them very interesting and enlightening.

If you read Fr. McDade, you’ll also see his reference to cracks in the cosmos. We of Celtic background have  another phrase to describe this phenomenon: thin places. It’s said that if you chance on one of these thin places, you can hear the voices of those who have gone to the next life. You don’t hear them only on All Hallows Eve and they are not out to get you. But they know you are there.

Let me tell you a story from my Irish cousin Michael, who was a very staid businessman with a lovely family when he told it to me. On our old family farm in the west of Ireland, there was a spa well (it had a mineral vein), which was said to be a thin place. When Michael was a teenager, he didn’t believe a word of this. However, he reasoned, fear of voices at the spa well might be a way to get close to a pretty girl. So he’d bring the girl to the well, tell her tales, scare her to death, and then put a protective arm around her. You can figure out the rest.

Well, our Michael had great success with this gambit until late one night, when he was coming home alone on his bicycle. There was no moon and the rain was pelting down in sheets. Just as he passed the deserted spa well, the chain on his bicycle broke and he went sprawling into the mud. As he untangled himself from the bike, wiped the mud from his face and tried to get to his feet, he heard gales of laughter.

For the rest of his life, Michael never again stopped at the spa well and whenever he drove past it, even in broad daylight, he floored the gas pedal.

Boo!

 

Something Wonderful from America Magazine’s “In All Things”

Thursday, September 16th, 2010

Our friend, Father Jim Martin, SJ, associate editor at America, the Jesuit newsmagazine, always has something fascinating on his blog, “In All Things.” This time, however he has really outdone himself with a video from his brother Jesuit, Father Mike Rogers.

Check out this beautiful tour of the rooms in Rome in which St. Ignatius Loyola actually lived and died. And get out your handkerchiefs. Father Jim is right. The video, with musical background from the soundtracks of The Mission and Kenneth Branagh’s Henry V, will leave in you in tears. It may also leave you with a burning desire to know more about this extraordinary saint, the founder of the Society of Jesus.