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Life of Cardinal Gibbons, archbishop of Baltimore (Volume 1) online

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"18. With much difficulty the next morning (Sun-
day) I said Mass and confirmed eight candidates, includ-
ing two converts, in the chapel. I retired immediately
to bed, where I remained till Monday, the 19th, when I
proceeded on to Wilmington with Father Gross, who


met me at Goldsboro. Father Townshend filled my en-
gagement at Goldsboro. My engagement at Sampson
is postponed.

"19. I arrived in Wilmington and am weak, but

Abimdant results were developing from his aggressive
administration. Further entries in his journal were:

"March 30. This morning William S. Caldwell
Esq.,* made me a present of his beautiful property sit-
uated on the Northeast corner of Marshall and Ninth
streets (Richmond). On the lot a beautiful three-story
house is erected. He also makes me a present of the
rich furniture which adorns the house. He sent me the
deed from New York. My intention is to use the build-
ing for a male orphan asylum. The property is worth
about $20,000. About a year ago it was purchased by
Mr. Caldwell at an executor's sale, Mr. C. being executor
of the estate, which had belonged to his late sister, Mrs.
Deans. The house and lot cost $16,000 and the valuable
furniture nearly $6,000.

"April 21. Mr. Caldwell has expressed the desire
that the house recently donated by him to me should
be used as a home for the Little Sisters of the Poor. The
Sisters were incorporated on the 16th under the title of
'The Little Sisters of the Poor in Richmond.' Both
houses of the legislature passed the bill unanimously,
suspending the rules in order to expedite its passage.
The Governor promptly signed the bill. It is my inten-
tion, as soon as the Sisters arrive, to hand the property
over to them, together with the furniture it contains."
[The Bishop here pasted the act of incorporation in his

* Father of Mary Gwendoline Caldwell, who afterward gave $300,000
for the founding of the Catholic University at Washington.


"May 23. Mr. W. S. Caldwell, the donor of the
property occupied by the Little Sisters of the Poor, died
today. R. I. P.

"Aug. 11. Assisted by Fathers Gross and Reilly, I
blessed the new Church of St. Mark, near Dr. Monk's
residence, in Sampson county. North Carolina. Re-
ligious exercises were held for three consecutive days in
the church and were well attended, especially on Sun-
day, the 11th, when nearly 500 persons were present.
The church is a neat frame building about 35 by ^^ and
was built chiefly by the exertions of Dr. Monk.

"Oct. 13. This afternoon the Little Sisters of the
Poor arrived and immediately took formal possession of
their new home, corner Ninth and Marshall streets. The
community numbers six members, of whom the superior
is Sister Virginia — very appropriately called. * * * I
have deeded the property to them and in accordance with
the wish of Mr. Caldwell, which he made known to Mr.
Charles O'Conor, of New York, I shall deliver to the
Sisters the $2,000 which were bequeathed to me by the
late Mr. Caldwell.

"Dec. 4. I returned from a visit to Lancaster and
Northumberland counties, whither I went on the 29th
inst. with Father Tiernan. We found about 20 Catholics
in both counties. There is much religious indifference
among the non-Catholics. The few faithful manifest
generally a zealous spirit. I preached in an old shop
at Lancaster Court House, the court house having been
refused me. The audience was small.

"Feb. [1876]. On Sunday, Jan. 30, I introduced
to the congregation in Petersburg the new community of
Sisters of Charity just established there and afterward
preached during the High Mass.

"6. I preached at the rededication of St. Bridget's
Church in Baltimore.^

■* His only pastoral charge.


"March 25. Bishop Kain, of Wheeling, having
asked of the Holy See a redistribution of the dioceses of
Richmond and Wheeling, the Cardinal ® inclosed to me
a copy of the Right Rev. Bishop's petition. I imme-
diately wrote to the Cardinal, objecting to the proposed
change, which was that the diocese of Wheeling should
include all West Virginia and the diocese of Richmond
all Virginia. This morning I received a reply from the
Cardinal acquiescing in my objection and declining to
authorize any change.

"June 7. I replied to Dr. Benoit, President of Mill
Hill College, England, accepting his proposal of send-
ing to Richmond two fathers for the evangelizing of the
negroes. I promise to pay traveling expenses and one
thousand dollars a year for three years.

"July 20. I visited Danville and preached there at
night in the Odd Fellows Hall.

"July 28. Went by private conveyance to Coving-
ton, Allegheny county, a distance of 42 miles,' having
crossed the North Mountain.

"30. Preached and confirmed in the Methodist

"Oct. 13. Sent Cardinal Franchi 126 pounds sterling
and 13 shillings for the Holy Father. I urged also the
early appointment of a Vicar Apostolic for North Caro-

"Nov. 26. During the present month, at the request
of Archbishop Bayley, who is infirm, I administered con-
firmation in several churches in Washington and Balti-
more, also at Laurel.

"Jan. 3 [1877]. I bought for the Little Sisters of
the Poor the property known as Warsaw, occupying a
whole square bounded by Harvie, Main, Penn and Floyd
streets. The property cost $12,500."

* Cardinal Franchi.
' From Lexington.


A robber broke into Bishop Gibbons' room at the house
of a Mr. Conigland at Halifax, North Carolina, while
he was visiting there early in January, 1874. His
journal shows that he had preached on the evening be-
fore in a schoolhouse to a "congregation of about 20
persons," the small size of which he accounted for by
"the exceedingly dark night and rainy weather." He
added: "It was with much difficulty that we could be
conveyed from Mr. Conigland's to the schoolhouse."

That night the Bishop was disturbed about 4:30
o'clock by the barking of dogs. Awaking, he heard at
first indistinctly, but soon with clearness, a noise in his
room caused by a thief who was searching for plunder.
With the fearlessness which he always showed in emer-
gencies of every kind, he leaped from his bed to attack
the robber, who fled precipitately, not daring to risk the
impending conflict. The Bishop wrote in his journal
in describing the incident :

"I called out once or twice 'Who is there ^' but re-
ceived no answer, and, suspecting a robber, I jumped out
of bed and the robber just escaped, leaving my vest at
the door, which contained about $150. Fortunately I
missed nothing, though my Cross was lying on the table
and my watch under the pillow. I have reason to thank a
watchful Providence for the safety of my effects and
still more for the preservation of my life. The would-be
robber had entered the house through a window and on
retreating left on the ground the print of a large naked
foot. It was fortunate that I did not seize him, as he
probably would have overpowered me."

While in Wilmington on one of his visits, the Bishop
issued a pamphlet on "Sacramental Confession" which


he records was "in reply to a 'charge' by the Right Rev.
Dr. Atkinson, Protestant Episcopal Bishop of North

His journal also shows that after his return from the
Vatican Council he took occasion to preach or lecture
frequently on the much discussed work of that gathering,
particularly the declaration of the infallible teaching
office of the Papacy. Entries of this kind are numerous
in his memoranda of labors in both Virginia and North
Carolina. Another subject which he often discussed in
the pulpit was Christian education, there being a great
lack of parochial schools in the diocese and vicariate.
Already he had begun to devote a considerable share of,
attention to work in behalf of temperance in the use of
liquor, and his journal shows that not a few of his ad-
dresses on that topic were made at the request of and
before non-Catholic organizations.

His records of the finances of his diocese present some
interesting figures. For the year 1874 his tabulation
indicates that the clergy of the Richmond Cathedral were
by no means affluent, the following being among his
memoranda :

Clergyman's salaries, $320.41 ; servants' wages,
$333.50; organist's salary, $300.00.

The household expenses for the several clergy
who resided with him were set down in the list as


Everywhere he went, Gibbons was a "Defender of the
Faith," a role in which he took unquestioned preeminence
later. He thus related the story of the conversion of
an infidel in Richmond:


"I was requested by a lady in Richmond to call on her
husband, who was suffering from a fatal malady, while
his mind retained its vigor. This gentleman had been
brought up in the school of Voltaire and his followers,
whose infidel teachings he had imbibed, and he avowed
himself not only an unbeliever in the Catholic faith, but
even a skeptic in all revealed religion.

*'In my conference with him I endeavored by every
argument at my command to remove his objections
against Christianity, and to prepare him for a rational
acceptance of our holy religion. After listening to me
with great patience and close attention, he courteously
but frankly informed me that my remarks did not alter
his views on religion, that between him and me there
was an impassable gulf which no reasoning of mine could
bridge over.

"Though mortified and discouraged by his candid
reply, I did not despair, but resumed the conversation,
substantially as follows : 'You certainly acknowledge, as
an intelligent man,' I said, 'the existence of a Supreme
Being, the Author of all creation and of all life.' 'Every
man,' he replied, 'that uses his brains must concede that
truth.' 'You must further admit,' I continued, 'that as
this Author of our being is omniscient. He knows our con-
dition; as He is omnipotent. He has power to succor us,
and as He is infinitely good, He is not insensible to our
wants. He, from whom all paternity is derived, must
possess in an eminent degree, those paternal feelings that
an earthly father has for his child.' 'That truth,' he re-
plied, 'irresistibly follows from our conception of a Being
infinitely intelligent, powerful and beneficent.' 'Is it not
reasonable to suppose,' I added, 'that a Creator so benevo-
lent will be moved by our entreaties, and that He will
mercifully hearken to our petitions^' 'I cannot deny,' he
said, 'the reasonableness of your conclusion.'

" 'Then,' I observed, 'you admit the utility of prayer,


and I ask you to promise me to offer up to this Supreme
Providence this short petition: O God, give me light to
see the truth, and strength to follow it.' He gave me
the earnest assurance that he would repeat this prayer
day by day as long as he had strength.

"Some days later I received a pressing message from
my invalid friend to visit him again as soon as possible.
I did so, and on entering his room I was deeply impressed
with the glow of enthusiasm that shone on his face.
Before I had time to address him he burst forth into an
eloquent profession of faith in the divinity of the Catho-
lic religion, and begged to receive the grace of Baptism
in the presence of his old friends and associates, some
of whom had shared in his unbelief. He died some weeks
afterwards, fortified by the consolations of religion.

"From the depth of his spiritual darkness he had im-
plored light from the Father of Light, and the Lord
darted into his soul a ray of heavenly light that illumined
his mind and tranquillized his heart more effectually
than any human reasoning could have accomplished." ^

During the five years when Bishop Gibbons presided
over the Richmond diocese, the number of churches in-
creased from 15 to 24, with about the same number of
chapels or stations, to which 24 priests ministered. Ten
new parochial schools were established. The diocese was
kept virtually free from debt.^

He was not able during this period to obtain the ap-
pointment of a Vicar Apostolic for North Carolina. The
faithful Father Gross wrote in February, 1876:

"When, on the death of the Bishop of Richmond,
Bishop Gibbons was nolens volens inducted by his Holi-

* He gave this account in a sermon on "Prayer, Source of Light, Com-
fort and Strength."

^Catholic Standard, Philadelphia, October 27, 1877, quoted by Reily,
Collections in the Life and Times of Cardinal Gibbons, Vol. 2, p. 113.


ness Pius IX into the See of Richmond, with the title
of Administrator Apostolic over the vicariate of North
Carolina, it was but the change of an additional new
field, bringing an increase of the same arduous duties.
The change was, and still is, keenly felt by the people
and especially by the clergy of North Carolina. But
the vicariate is not forgotten, nor is it neglected. Fre-
quent visits are made in the State, when the Bishop lec-
tures upon Catholic truths and cheers the hearts of all,
laity and clergy, by his presence. The citizens of Wil-
mington, Raleigh, Charlotte, Salisbury and Fayetteville
frequently enjoy his strong and engaging discourses in
explanation of Catholic doctrine. He has multiplied
his help by the admission of priests for the mission. . . .

"But, thank God, if the field of North Carolina has
been well worked, the fruit has been abundant. No
Catholics are more fervent; no people are more easily
won over to the faith. Of three missions, two of them
can boast of a hundred converts each ; the other of thirty.
Male and female Catholic schools have been established.
In a word. Rev. Dr. Gibbons found in North Carolina
in 1868 three priests (one borrowed, since returned),
now there are seven or eight; he found 700 Catholics,
now there are 1600; . . . The word is still 'onward'
in North Carolina.

"An impression prevails that the Catholics could not
support their Vicar and Bishop, hence his removal. They
could not honor him, indeed, with these episcopal sur-
roundings becoming, but not necessary to, his sublime
office of Bishop. Such wealth of catholicity North Caro-
lina does not possess. The Pope's Vicar did not come
to find and enjoy the becoming honors and dignity of an
established diocese, but to accept and to perform the
duty of a Bishop — to preach the gospel, to convert souls;
to accept the poverty of a vicariate, and by his apostolic
labor, to make it rich with the wealth of Catholic faith.


"The field of North Carolina, with its poverty and
trials, and sparse Catholicity, was, and is yet, not too
much for our Vicar, nor for any one whom the Holy
Father may judge to send. Everything has a beginning.
Even the gospel of Christ has its seed. Others may enter
into our labor and may enjoy its fruits. The more
numerous and imperative wants of the Richmond diocese,
widowed by the death of Rev. Dr. McGill, removed our
Vicar. Rather the spiritual poverty of the Richmond
diocese caused the transfer than any failure in North

"Our Vicar was removed with the promise of another;
but our Bishop's zeal is so untiring, his charity so un-
selfish, that though we constantly regret, we feel the
less his transfer. Catholicity is still advancing in North
Carolina, and rapidly, though our Vicar's undivided
efforts would, of course, produce still greater results." ^°

Bishop Gibbons' ties with the archdiocese of Baltimore
were closer during his period of residence in Richmond
than while he had lived in Wilmington. He frequently
visited Baltimore to assist in ecclesiastical ceremonies
and became, in fact, almost as much identified with one
diocese as the other. His selection as the preacher at
the consecration of the Baltimore Cathedral May 25,
1876, was singularly happy, as no one could have been
expected to speak with more deeply aroused sensibilities
of that edifice. ^^ It had been a part of his life and his
life had been a part of it.

The occasion was one to move powerfully any Catholic
prelate. Within two hundred feet of the Cathedral had

*" Letter to the Southern Cross, February 9, 1876, quoted by Reily, Vol.
II, p. 106, et seq.

*^The comer-stone of the Cathedral had been laid in 1806 by Arch-
bishop Carroll, but it was not free of debt until seventy years later.


been old St. Peter's Church, the first of the Catholic
religion in Baltimore, erected about 1770 on the north
side of what is now Saratoga Street, near Charles Street,
on land bought six years before from Charles Carroll,
father of Charles Carroll of Carollton. For the realiza-
tion of his dream of a Cathedral, Archbishop Carroll had
raised $225,000, a great sum in those days, by collections,
subscriptions and even by a lottery, which accorded with
the custom of the times. Benjamin H. Latrobe, the
architect of the Capitol in Washington, drew the plans.

The Cathedral was cruciform in its original outlines.
It is now capped by Byzantine towers which dominate its
architectural tone. The great blocks of granite for its
construction were hauled from EUicott City, ten miles
distant, by oxen. John Eager Howard, hero of the bat-
tle of the Cowpens, gave much of the large lot on which
it stands and which lends to it the spaciousness of lawn
and terrace lacking in so many Cathedrals planted in the
midst of crowded building areas in American cities.

The War of 1812 stopped the work, and while still un-
finished the edifice was dedicated May 31, 1821, by
Archbishop Marechal. Seven years later the same Arch-
bishop gave it a large bell, bought in his native France,
and completed one of the towers. Archbishop Eccleston
finished the second tower and Archbishops Kenrick and
Spalding erected the noble portico adorned with huge

In the crypt of this venerable church the bodies of
Carroll and the succeeding Archbishops have found
sepulture. The Provincial Council of 1829, the first of
the Catholic Church in any English-speaking country


since the Reformation, was held within its walls. Among
the historic church edifices of America the Baltimore
Cathedral is easily first in importance, though not in

In his sermon at the consecration, Bishop Gibbons
dwelt on the history of the Cathedral and the permanency
of the Church and then struck a note which had already
become characteristic of him. He said:

"Need it be repeated that the Church is slandered
when it is charged that she is inimical to liberty*? The
Church flourishes only in the beams of liberty. She has
received more harm from the tyranny and oppression of
kings and rulers than any other victim of their power.
We pray for the prosperity of this our young country.
In this, its centennial year, we rejoice that it has lived
to show a sturdy life of liberty and regard for right and
we raise the prayer, 'esto perpetua' "

The same note from the same strong voice was to be
heard in the Cathedral pulpit only a little more than
a year later when the Bishop of Richmond had become
Archbishop of Baltimore. The way was being prepared
for the honors that were to come to Gibbons. On March
28, 1875, he wrote in his journal:

"Archbishop McCloskey is created Cardinal, being the
first American who has received that dignity."

On April 27 he noted:

"I was present with many prelates at the ceremony
of conferring the (red) biretta on Cardinal McCloskey
in the Cathedral of New York."

"Riordan, Cathedral Records, pp. 93-98.


While his thoughts at the time were far from associat-
ing his own career with that honor, it is interesting to
observe that he viewed it in much the same light as that
in which his appointment as Cardinal afterwards im-
pressed him — an honor to his country and to its Prot-
estant as well as Catholic people. He thus expressed

"The Hierarchy of the United States will rejoice to
hear that this eminent dignity has been conferred on an
American prelate who has endeared himself to the Church
by his long services in the cause of religion, his marked,
ability, his unostentatious piety and great suavity of
manners. I am persuaded also that not only the Catholic
body of this country but our citizens at large will receive
with just pride the intelligence that the Holy Father
has determined to associate an American Bishop with
the members of the Sacred College. There is no doubt
that the venerable Archbishop of New York will fill with
marked distinction and wisdom that exalted and re-
sponsible position." ^^

While serving in Richmond Bishop Gibbons uttered
the first of those vigorous declarations on public ques-
tions which the whole nation came to heed later. He
assailed the proposal made by President Grant in a mes-
sage to Congress December 7, 1875, ^^^ ^^^ enactment
of a Constitutional amendment tending in the direction
of Federal control of education, saying :

"The Constitutional amendment regarding the school
question, recommended by President Grant, if carried
out, would reduce our American republic to the condi-

"New York Herald, March 14, 1875.


tion of things that existed in pagan Rome. In the Old
Roman empire the individual was absorbed by the State,
which was a political juggernaut crushing under its
wheels all personal liberty. . . .

"The most crushing of all despotisms is that of a
centralized government. It is the idol before which the
citizen must offer in sacrifice his personal liberty as well
as his parental rights over his children, for the govern-
ment, in assuming the education of the child, usurps the
place of the father and robs him of his most sacred privi-
lege — that of directing the training of his offspring. And
what becomes of liberty when it is lost in the individual
and the family? It is to that personal freedom (which
always involves personal responsibility and personal
energy) that we are chiefly indebted as a nation.

"The general government has no more right to dictate
to the father when and where and how he must educate
his children than it has to prescribe his food or the shape
of his clothes. Those who advocate this system of cen-
tralization are slavishly imitating the most absolute gov-
ernments in Continental Europe. Besides, if popular
education is wrested from the family and the State and
placed in the hands of the Federal government, of what-
ever political party, it will give the administration an
overwhelming patronage which would destroy all balance
of power and reduce minorities to a mere cipher. Nor
do I see how paganism and religion can be simultaneously
excluded from the schools as the President proposes, for
if an education excludes all religion it is necessarily
pagan, there being no medium between the two terms.

"To tax church property and charitable institutions is
putting a premium on infidelity and avarice and makes
religion and philanthropy arduous by imposing a penalty
on those who maintain Christianity and support chari-
table houses. The inevitable result of such taxation
would be to cripple the churches and increase the burden


of the State by making it the almoner of those poor who
are now maintained by private benevolence." ^*

The Bishop expressed the belief that the American
people would never indorse such proposals/^

The Bishop's farewell sermon to the people of his
diocese in St. Peter's Cathedral, October 14, 1877, when
he had been elevated to the See of Baltimore, reflected
the modesty with which he contemplated the results of
the task that had been fulfilled. Though he had done
so much for Virginians, he gave the human credit to
his predecessor. Bishop McGill. He said:

"Ever since I took charge of this portion of the Lord's
vineyard, God has singularly blessed us. To Him be
all the honor and glory. Every other cause of success
is secondary to Him. Paul soweth, Apollos watereth,
but God giveth the increase. Without Him, we would
have made no progress. We would have fished all night,
like Peter, and caught nothing.

"Next to God, you are indebted to my venerable and
illustrious predecessor, who left the diocese in a solvent
and healthy condition. He was a man of eminent pru-
dence and discretion, and of caution verging on timidity.
He might have gained for himself a great name for
enterprise and material progress by erecting churches
and other institutions throughout the diocese, without
regard to expense. But with all that, he might have

Online LibraryAllen Sinclair WillLife of Cardinal Gibbons, archbishop of Baltimore (Volume 1) → online text (page 12 of 41)