Imatges de pÓgina

A French ecclesiastic, after relating St. Dionysius's two miles' walk with his head in his hands, gravely observed that the saint had found soine difficulty in his first setting off: "I can easily believe that,” replied a gentleman who was present, for in such cases, it is only the first step that costs any trouble.” So it was with Xavier's reputation as a worker of miracles : a little management was required for the first setting it on foot, but when such a persuasion was once introduced, no matter how, the rest of the process was sufficiently easy. We have seen that Melchior Nunhez bears witness in the spring of 1554 to three particular miracles, declaring in general terms that there were inany more, of which an authenticated account would shortly be published. At the commencement of the year following, we have an epistle from Balthasar Diez, Rector of the Jesuit's College, in which we find the following passage:

“As for the death of our father Francis, there were many persons in this city, who have been in his company in various places, and have seen him do and say things among the infidels, evidently supernatural, and not inferior to those which we read of the ancient saints. Persons of great respectability came to me, demanding why we did not institute an inquiry and receive evidence of those things, in order that he might be canonized; but because this ought to be done by a person duly authorized, as well as for other considerations of propriety, I did not chuse to be the promoter of such a step:

in due time our Lord God will do what will be most for his own glory.”

Here we find the same vague generalities as in brother Melchior's communication; and it is worthy of remark, that after a lapse of nine months, no attempt had been made to draw up a regularly authenticated account of the saint's exploits. It was the policy of the Jesuits to allow them to float some time longer at random on the wide ocean of popular report, with the full assurance that the number of them was more likely to be increased than diminished.

A little after this time, our witnesses seem to have become rather more communicative; for towards the end of the year, Antonio de Quadros, Provincial of the Jesuits in Ethiopia, is able to specify nine miracles, reported by good men and true, besides many sick persons healed, and many devils expelled from the bodies of possessed persons.f We shall examine several of those in the sequel, and then our readers will perhaps know what to think of the remainder.

The next step, and a very important one, was a letter from John III. King of Portugal, to his Viceroy Barreto, dated A. D. 1556, in which, after premising that he had heard of Xavier's actions, sanctity of morals, continual toils, persecutions, sufferings, &c., both during his life time, and much more especially after his death, he directs Barreto to cause authentic accounts of all the miracles wrought by him, either alive or dead, to be drawn up and transmitted to Portugal the first opportunity. When a powerful Catholic king advertised publicly for miracles, in a colony filled with his own dependents, and with Jesuits who well knew of what inestimable value a saint of renown would prove to their rising order, as yet without a saint of any sort, we may be pretty sure that no pains would be spared to gratify his wishes, and that people would draw largely upon imagination, when memory was exhausted.

But though the foundation was thus happily laid and consolidated, the superstructure, for a long time, made little visible progress, and the next thirty years scarcely added any thing to the published catalogue of the

• Div. Av. fol. 188. + Diversi Avisi. fol. 205-210. One of those prodigies simply consists in Xavier's tell. ing some of the brethren, that in the ensuing year they would have bad news from Por. tugal. This is exactly in the style of an almanack prediction, and may be safely hazarded, any given year, respecting any kingdom in Europe. VOL. I.


saint's miracles. Emanuel Acosta, who brought out his account of the transactions in the East in 1571, deals somewhat more largely in general assertions, but adds nothing worth mentioning to the particulars previously communicated by Nunhez and Quadros; and it is observable that the annual epistles * of the Jesuits, who might have been supposed eager to communicate circumstantial accounts of their late associate's marvellous deeds, are singularly barren of information on this point. This reserve may be easily accounted for; if minute narratives of mira. cles, accompanied with all the circumstances of names, dates, and places, had bcen prematurely given to the world, persons still living might have been able to contradict them. However, the sons of Ignatius were far from being idle, but kept diligently, though silently, laying up magazines of prodigies, ready to be introduced when opportunity might serve.

The first detailed account we find of Xavier's proceedings, is in Maf. feius's Historica Indica, published about 1588. In this, we have a pretty complete outline of the saint's real history, but wofully deficient in those marvellous embellishments which were afterwards added with so profuse a hand. He enumerates about a dozen circumstances which he affects to represent as miraculous, most of them of a very easy and equivocal description. If a violent storm ceases, or a ship is got off a shoal, or a Portuguese creole or missionary recovers from a fever, all is duly ascribed to the merits of Xavier.f We have, indeed, a repetition of the old chorus, that he wrought many more prodigies, which the historian was in too great a hurry to relate, and so, by way of regaling his readers with the cream of the narrative, Maffeius gives them, not the most extraordinary and prominent particulars, but precisely the most equivocal and unimportant, such as in the more finished legends cut no figure at all, and are hardly equal to Prince Hohenlohe's exploits in the hospital at Bamberg.

All this time we hear nothing of King John the Third's authenticated reports, except that they were duly forwarded to Rome, where, for aught appearing to the contrary, they were locked up in the Pope's bureau, and lay undisturbed for upwards of thirty years. At the expiration of this period, the crop of miracles, of which the Jesuits had sown the seed so long before, began to shew tokens of approaching maturity. In 1594, Tursellinus published at Rome a life of Xavier, in four books, which is a wonderful improvement upon the meagre narratives of his predecessors ; particularly in the marvellous part of the story. He had access to King John's documents, and to all the information which the Society of Jesuits were then able to furnish; aud altogether, he contrived to make his hero into a saint of very decent dimensions. However, shortly after the publication of this important piece of biography, such abundance of new light flowed in upon him from various quarters, that in 1596, he found it necessary to publish another life, in six books,

In an epistle dated January, 1558, Melchior Nunhez, then in Japan, gives several instances of Xavier's intrepidity and self-denial; and adds, “This magnanimity and unconcern for life were so admired by the Japanese, that many of them still entertain a great opinion of his sanctity.We might have expected him to add, “ this persuasion was greatly strengthened by such and such miracles which he wrought," but of those, we hear not one word! though, according to the full-grown legends, prodigious ones were wrought by him in Japan, seven and eight years before.

+ We have an early instance, during Xavier's journey from Rome to Lisbon, of the rescue of a gentleman from drowning. This was effected, as Maffeius cautiously expresses it, “ by the pious intercession, as people affirm, of Xavier.” According to Bouhours, Xavier, with all becoming modesty, disclaimed all sort of merit in the matter, and attributed all to the prayers and merits of the ambassador Mascarenhas! We Protestants are unenlightened enough to think that divine Providence was quite able to accomplish such a thing without the help of either.

"considerably enlarged and revised.” In his address to the reader, after pithily remarking that second operations are generally the best, as well as second thoughts, he apologizes for the scantiness of his former narrative, which he attributes to the defective and confined nature of the King of Portugal's documents; in which it appears that, though the commissioners diligently collected every thing then known, many important matters had been totally omitted ; and, more especially, the saint's memorable and illustrious deeds in China and Japan had nearly all been involved in silence and obscurity. How grateful ought we to be to those who so happily brought them to light after an interment of almost fifty years, and thus enabled Tursellinus to devote two additional books to the honour of his hero!

By the above publications, and the persevering efforts of the Jesuits, the faithful were written and talked into such a persuasion of Xavier's sanctity, that in ten or twelve years, regular steps were taken to get him canonized in due form. Philip III. king of Spain, kindly took him under his protection, and memorialized Pope Paul on the subject; who deputed a number of Cardinals, skilled in such matters, to make a due examination, and report accordingly. They therefore set about collecting information from Spain, Portugal, and the Indies, and exa witnesses at Rome; and finally, after long deliberation, pronounced Xavier quite worthy of a seat in the celestial senate. We might suppose that this was enough to set the matter at rest : but a process of canonization is much more tedious than a chancery suit, and more expensive than a contested county election, and when kings and emperors are the petitioners, the good people at Rome understand their business too well to let them off as cheaply as plebeians.* Paul V. got no further than beatifying the candidate, a step which puts him indeed out of all danger of purgatory, but gives him no particular power or influence in heaven; and The ulterior proceedings were spun out till the Pope and King of Spain were both dead. When Philip IV. came to the throne, he lost no time in beseeching Gregory XV. to expedite an affair which he had greatly at heart; and he was powerfully seconded by the joint intercession of many other princes and prelates, and of the whole clergy of India. Gregory, proceeding warily in a matter of so great weight, ordered the whole affair to be rigidly re-examined by a congregation of his Cardinals, for why should not Philip IV. have the gratification of contributing

Dr. Milner, by way of proving the trustworthiness of those Roman saint-makers, tells us that "so far from being precipitate, it employs them whole years, to come to a decision on a few cases, respecting each saint."'. End of Controv: Lett. 24. He might have added that the slowness of the process is in the exact ratio of the wealth and rank of the suitors; and that at every postponement or revision of it, the dataries, notaries, secretaries, auditors, et hoc genus omne, require ample fees, by way of refreshers. The discussions respecting the sancity of Maria a Jesu de Agreda were spun out for nearly eighty years, during the pontificate of nine different Popes. They cost the kings of Spain, who made a state-affair of it, as much as would have equipped several large fleets and armies, and came to nothing at last! In looking over the Roman Martyrology, it is impossible not to be struck with the prodigious number of saints promoted by Pope John XXII; and when we consider that he publicly taught that there was no beatific vision till after the general resurrection, we may think it extremely preposterous that he should make any saints at all. But when we learn that twenty. fare millions of florins were found in his coffers at his decease, we must confess, in that felicitous phrase with which Mr. Charles Butler smooths over the “ fantastic claims" of the Popes to universal monarchy, that worldly wisdom caunot condemn him. The fees of all sorts have been considerably raised since the days of Pope John, and were so ex. orbitant in the seventeenth century, that a relation of Cardinal Borromeo, a saint of Paul the Vth's manufacture, pathetically entreated his children, that they would content themselves with being honest men, and never think of becoming saints; as the canonization of their cousin had proved a most ruinous concern, and his rage for working miracles, instead of being any benefit to his kindred, had well nigh reduced them all to beggary.

some of his superfluous treasure towards promoting the exaltation of Xavier, and improving the revenues of the Court of Rome? His officers having made their examination, and reported progress, a formal motion was made in a public consistory, to have the matter brought to an issue. The cautious Gregory made answer, “that he would consult the matter once more, with all the Cardinals and Bishops of the Roman Court;" and accordingly, consistories, public, half-public, and secret, were held in abundance, with the detail of which we will not trouble our readers, but shall hasten at once to the denouement of the drama. When all preliminary conditions had been duly complied with, the ceremonies of canonization were performed in a most splendid manner in St. Peter's Church at Rome, on the twelfth of March, 1622; and thus after seventy years toil and anxiety, the affair was brought to the desired termination.

Tantæ molis erat Romanum condere Sanctum ! At the same time was canonized the great father of the society, Ignatius Loyola, nearly sixty-six years after his death. We do not learn that the bells of Madrid rung that day of their own accord, like those of Lisbon on the apotheosis of St. Anthony of Padua; but to make amends for this, the Jesuits hailed those glorious events with a joy almost frantic, and it would occupy a volume to give an abridged account of the processions which they made, and the pageants which they exhibited, and the sermons which they preached; some of which were as absurd as if they had been written to burlesque the whole proceeding. Gregory XV. dying soon after, the bull of Xavier's canonization was published by his successor, Urban VIII. This document and the life by Tursellinus have served as the basis of the subsequent narratives by Garcia, Lucena, Bouhours, Alban Butler, and others : some of them more and some less extravagant and fabulous ; but all of them bearing much the same proportion to any contemporary account of him, as Turpin's or Ariosto’s grotesque caricature of Charlemagne does to the simple and unadorned portrait of the faithful Eginhard.

We have thus, at the risk of being thought somewhat tedious, traced the rise and progress of the legend of St. Francis Xavier; and we now leare our readers to make their own reflections upon it. They will not fail to remark an extraordinary difference between the renown of saints and that of mere seculars. The great deeds of our Marlboroughs and Wellingtons make the most noise while they are alive ; but the most marvellous exploits of the Pope's heroes excite the greatest sensation, and are capable of being ascertained with the most precision, long after they are dead, and when all those who witnessed the performance of them are dead also. They will doubtless admire the dexterity of those sagacious and conscientious prelates in happily bringing to light so many hundredst of Xavier's miracles after they had been buried fifty, sixty, and seventy years in “ silence and obscurity;" and they will have no difficulty in finding a satisfactory clue to their success, in the brief but comprehensive adage dead men tell no tales."!!

In our next number we mean to enter into a separate and detailed

• The happy fruits of this redoubled diligence may be seen in Tursellinus's third life, of the saint He found, good man ! that his curæ posteriores, or second operations, had still left the matter short ; and so he now comes out with another edition, augmented with a lengthy “appendix of miracles from the report made in the secret consistory before Gregory XV.” and therefore, doubtless, worthy of all acceptation and belief! A careful comparison of the three lives will be found very instructive by those who have curiosity and leisure enough to make it.

+ We have seen somewhere an elaborate calculation of the immense progeny which may be raised in a few years from a single couple of rabbits. The three miracles vouched for by Melchior Nunhez, seem to have proved equally prolific.

examination of a select number of the saints' miracles, by way of giving a still fuller illustration of the excellent manner in which “ they order those matters at Rome.”



To the Editor of the Protestant Guardian. Sir,—The danger of excluding reason from its proper office in religion, and of affecting to make religious impressions by the agency of the imagination, has been strikingly shown in the case of the Church of Rome. The progress and termination of this attempt are described so justly in the following passage of a discourse of the Rev. H. H. Milman, that you may perhaps deem it worthy of a place in the Protestant GUARDIAN.

"The religion of the dark ages, to almost the whole of which the Church of Rome adheres with blind and unwise pertinacity, was addressed exclusively to the imagination, and found its way through the imagination alone to the feelings. If this system was formed and perfected in misjudging compliance with the state of the human mind, candour as well as charity will acknowledge, that the motive for its original adoption may have been pious and christian. The progress of Barbarisin and the progress of Roman Catholic doctrines were simultaneous. For in the Barbarian, as in the child, the imagination is the most active and easily excited faculty; the reason is dormant. The Christian therefore was taught by symbolic representation rather than argument, and the prophetic office delegated to the outward ceremony and significant rite. Thus the imagination being the only channel through which religious knowledge could be easily conveyed, its task was facilitated by all practicable means; every thing was, as far as possible, brought down to the comprehension of the senses ; and the conceptions of the imagination assisted by embodying, as it were, the truths of religion in the painting and the statue. The whole of the evangelical history, to say nothing of the monstrous and incoherent legends, which were engrafted upon it, all the facts of Christianity were made graphic and visible: the life of Christ was told by pictures of his miracles, his death preached by the crucifix. Wherever oral teaching was attempted, the preacher held the cross in his hand, and exemplified and enforced the truth of its arguments, by pointing to the wounds, and appealing to the bleeding image.

“That, however, which began in pious condescension to the weakness of man ended in confirming that weakness, and substituting a superstition alınost heathen for the spiritual doctrine of Christianity. That, which was first adopted to enforce the higher articles of the creed on an ignorant and unreasoning people, became itself the creed. The ritual, which was intended to preach by lively representations, hallowed its forms and images, as if they were an integral and essential part of the religion. All those doctrines, which were subsequently abused by the fraud, or retained by the blindness of ecclesiastical tyranny, grew up gradually out of this system of teaching. Not only the worship of images, of saints and angels, with that of the virgin, but unquestionably Transubstantiation itself, and the Sacrifice of the Mass, may be deduced from the increasing desire of governing the mind through the imagination. The symbol was transformed into the God by precisely the same process, that the pagan idol, which represented the attributes of some immaterial and beneficent being, became the actual adored and dreaded divinity.

« AnteriorContinua »