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The life and times of the Rt. Rev. John Timon, D. D. : first Roman Catholic bishop of the Diocese of Buffalo online

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share of public good. Not only (as has been already intimated,)
were children provided for who had been taken from the " flats "
and other places, but even children whose parents had died in the
hospital from cholera and other diseases, were received into the
orj^han asylum, and rescued from conditions of life with which
they necessarily must have become assimilated, to the detriment
of their morals as well as their mental and physical being, if it
had not been otherwise ordained.

Thus the first two works of charity originated in Buffalo by
Bishop Timon, had gained a foothold on the soil, and despite the
rude and unwelcome breezes that shook their feeble beginning,
they gradually gained growth, to culminate finally into two of
the finest institutions in the city.



RIGHT KEV. JOHN TIMON, D. D. 169



CHAPTER Y.



Bishop Timon and the Act of Incorporation.— St. Joseph's Orphan Asylum. — Cob-

RESPONDENCE. — BiSHOP TiMON TRAVELS THROUGH MEXICO, ETC. — LEARNS SPANISH. —

Keturns Home.— Lectures on Mexico.— Notjcio Bedini Arrives.— His Dealings
WITH St. Louis Church.

Bishop Timon was an indefatigable worker. "We mean to say
by this that he spared neither time nor his own personal com-
fort to carry out his plans. This will appear so much more
remarkable when, advanced in years, we find him still vigorous
and indifierent to ease, and the care that old age requires.

An interesting circumstance, as an illustration of this trait in
his character, will aid to corroborate our opinion.

Towards the close of the session of the Legislature, in 1851,
Bishop Timon was in Albany, anxious to secure the incorpora-
tion of an institution since known as " St. Joseph's Boys' Oi-phan
Asylum."

It was late in the session, and there seemed scarcely time to
introduce and pass a bill. But the Bishop, however, after soli-
citing the kindness of a member to assist him, proposed to obviate
the difficulty in his own way, provided the latter would give his
support to the measure. The reply was of course afiable and
affirmative. They parted. During the long hours of the night
sleep never closed the vigilant and waking eyelids of the Bishop,
but poring over manuscripts and books, he could be seen silently
and rapidly drawing up the required papers, until, with the dawn
of morning, he finally laid his pen aside with an evident air of
wearied satisfaction.

As early as possible after breakfast, with the papers in his
pocket, the Bishop sought his friend, to whom he presented
them, with the observation, "the papers are all ready." The
latter, after examining them, introduced the requested act of
incorporation, of which these papers were the original, and
much to his astonishment it passed, as though the best legal
talent had been employed on them.



170 LIFE AJSTD TIMES OF



Although not incorporated as a charitable institution until
1851, still the feeble beginning of " St. Joseph's Boys' Orphan
Asylum " dates back to the year 1849.

It was during this year, in the month of August, when the
cholera raged fearfully, that the first efforts were' made in BuflPalo
for a boys' orphan asylum. Bishop Timon and his clergy were
comjjelled to take this step, as the orphans of very j)oor parents,
who had been swept away by the pestilence, were principally
supported by them in Buffalo, until they were removed to
Lancaster, in April, 1850. As has already been stated, this
institution was incorporated on the 2d of August, 1851, under
the title of " St. Joseph's Boys' Orphan Asylum." It continued
in Lancaster until the 19th of April, 1854. At this time, the
zealous Bishop most earnestly desired, (in addition to the usual
branches of education,) that these orphans should learn a trade,
to adapt them afterwards in life to habits of industry. The
resources of a location outside of the city limits rendered this
impracticable. Therefore, on the 19th of April, .1854, the orj^hans
were removed from Lancaster to Buffalo, to a building located on
Best street, but scarcely adequate to their wants and number.
Here they remained, however, until August 27th, 1856, when,
at the earnest solicitation of the managers of the asylum. Bishop
Tlmon donated sixty acres of ground, contiguous to the Holy
Cross Cemetery on Limestone Hill.

A few letters here given, will give the reader an idea of the
zeal of the good Bishop:

"To .

" BuFFAxo, August 20th, 1854.

'•''Dear Sister: I just returned from a visit to a part of my dio-
cese, and about to start to visit another portion of it, when I
received your letter. It is a pleasure to hear from one whom I
esteem so much as a good and faithful servant of God in works
of charity. I hope that you still continue to pray for me, for,
alas! I home too little time to pray for myself.



RIGHT REV. JOHN TIMON, D. D. 171

" Your Sisters are well, the orj)han asylum is full, and we have
one now for boys at Lancaster.

"Recommending myself to the kind prayers of your good
Sisters, I remain, in haste,

" Most respectfully,

" Your obedient and humble servant,

"+ JOHN, Bishop of Buffalo."



"To .

"Baltimore, November 15th, 1855.

^^Dear Sister : I have received your kind letter on my return

from Emmetsburgh. I was much pleased with all I saw, and

you may be siu-e that I was much pleased to see apparently

in excellent health. I will try to stop at Wilmington* for a few

hours, in eight or ten days, as I return to Buffalo.

" Pray for most respectfully,

" Your humble and obedient servant in Christ,

"-I- JOHN, Bishop of Buffalo."



"To .

" Buffalo, October 22d, 1853.

^ Dear /Sister: Many thanks for your kind letter, kind remem-
brance and pious prayers. Continue to pray for your old father
in Christ, who will not forget you in his prayers.

" Father Burlando wrote to me from Paris, saying that the
Superior General is pleased with the prospect of a foundling
asylum, etc., here, but that he wishes me to wait till Spring.
Hence I have not written, as I intended to request the Mother
Superior to send the commimity she promised for that institution,

of which, no douht, you and will form a part. Tell this, if

you please, to Mother , and present her my respects and

best wishes for time and eternity.

" Dear and respected Sister,

" Your humble and obedient servant,

" -j- JOHN, Bishop of Buffalo."

* The Bishop did not stop at Wilmington, where he arrived at midnight. At daylight he
came to say mass, and spent a few hours, when he left for Philadelphia, practicing such con-
descension to oblige a poor Sister of Charity.



172 LIFE AND TIMES OF



"To .

" BriFFALO, February 6th, 1854.

'■''Dear Sister: It gives me great pleasure to hear from you and
from Emnfietsburgli^ although I am often vexed that Emmets-
hurgh is at EmmetsburgJi. Business calls me to Baltimore and
Washington. I have just time to go, or perhaps one day more.
I started as a last time to give that one day more to a trip to
Emmetsburgh, but the cars were detained, and I had to hurry
home again to labor. God's blessed will be done. He ordains
some to labor, others to sweeter rest in Him.

" Present my respects and best wishes, that God restore health
to your excellent Mother Suj^erior. Tell her that I would vote
for her canonization, not now but fifty years hence, if she would
send a good book-keeper and a Sister for the pharmacy at our
hospital.

" Most respectfully,

" Your humble and obedient servant in Christ,

"_j_ JOHN, BisU-p of Buffalo:



The necessities of the diocese, as well as the new projects set
on foot or about to be commenced, particularly a Cathedral, of
which more will be said in the succeeding pages, induced Bishop
Timon, in 1853, to pay a visit to Sj)ain, Mexico, and other coun-
tries, in search for pecuniary aid. Although familiar with
several languages, still the Bishop was not so thoroughly conver-
sant with Spanish as to feel confident in the use of that tongue
upon his travels, particularly through Spain. Accordingly, when
he reached New Orleans, he took up his abode there for a time,
in order to acquire a little more proficiency in the Spanish
tongue. For this purpose he placed himself under the instruc-
tion of a Spanish priest. Intuitively the Bishop was an apt and
ready scholar ; his acquisition of knowledge upon any subject
whatever was quick and decisive. This characteristic likewise
predominated in him under other circumstances. In moments
of emergency or necessity, when it was dangerous or even



EIGHT REV. JOHN TIMON, D. D. 173



disadvantageous to procrastinate, he almost invariably adopted
the safest plans, and expressed the most wise views, if he took
any action in the matter at all.

Pimctually every morning at six o'clock, both pupil and tutor
met together for the morning's exercise. So rapid was his
acquisition of this language that in a few weeks he resumed his
journey, able and confident to satisfy all demands upon his
Spanish education. Bishop Timon profited vastly on this jour-
ney, both pecuniarily and mentally.

On his return from Mexico, he gave an interesting discourse
in St. Patrick's church, for the benefit of St. Yincent de Paul's
Society, on his journey through that country, and as he found it.
He treated the subject in a very graphic manner, and as it waa
considered at the time a very remarkable address, no doubt the
reproduction of it in the pages of this book will not be altogether
superfluous.

LECTURE ON MEXICO,

DELIVERED IN ST. PATRICK'S CHURCH,
On Sunday, Septembee Ioth, 1853.

^'' Fellow Christicms^ and Fellow Citizens:

***** * * ***

" Not in the mere human order do I wish to consider Mexico.
I am no politician. During all my life as a clergyman I have
kept aloof from politics. Should any party wrong my religion,
I would fly to the defence of the truth committed to my charge.
In doing this, should I say a word or do a thing that might
oflfend any party, it would only be because that word or that act
was necessary to defend a sacred right, a Divine truth, from un-
provoked attack. I leave the mere human order to men of this
world ; but much in the human order has connection with the
superhuman order. The history of Mexico, as regards faith and
morals, regards also eternity ; regards the end w^here virtue is
rewarded, and faith changed into the blessed vision of God. In
that order alone I wish to treat my subject. I have indeed



174 LIFE AND TIMES OF



required that the blessed Sacrament be, for greater reverence,
removed to the lower chapel ; yet I do trust that, though not in
our usual mood, neither word nor action here will be unworthy
of the sacred place, or the presence of Him whom we adore.

" My stay and my position in Mexico gave me extraordinary
opportunities of examining the religious state of that country.
The judgment I have made upon it, with all simplicity and sin-
cerity, I will now communicate ; and, lest it might be thought
that I make hasty assertions on points that have been viewed in
a quite different light by some, I have taken notes, which, as far
as may be needed, I beg permission to read as we proceed.

"In the vast and fertile territory of Mexico, blest with every
variety of climate, and with nearly all the productions of the
vegetable and mineral kingdom, exists a population most inte-
resting indeed, but in number wholly inadequate to reap the
exuberant harvest which nature is ready to offer. Where
thirty millions would scarcely suffice, between seven millions
and eight millions are found. Kearly four millions of these are
of Indian race, jpure and unmixed^ about two millions are of
Indian mixed with other races, and about one million three
hundred thousand are Creoles, descendants in unmixed blood
from Europeans, chiefly Spaniards. All these are Catholics.
According to statistical returns to government in 1850, there
were only five thousand four hundred and twelve foreigners in
the whole republic. Of this small number, three thousand and
forty-seven were Spaniards. To allow for deficient returns, we
may double the number, and still find there very few of foreign
birth. It is important to remember these elements of the
Mexican population, when we judge the nation in a civil or
religious aspect. A great proportion of the inhabitants are
Indians or of Indian race, pure or mixed, and they are christians.
Trace back this people to their painful, wild, migratory and
slavish life in the thirteenth century; see them, up to the fifteenth
century, wretched and struggling with extreme poverty in their
reed habitations, amidst the marshes of the Mexican lakes, and
from their fishes and wild fowl snatching a precarious subsistence.



EIGHT REV. JOHN TIMON, D. D. 175

See thein in continual, bloody wars, the slaves of a despot,
and the slaves of a horrid idolatry, which consumed yearly about
fifty thousand human victims, and called them to horrid canni-
balism. See them now, all christians, living in profoimd peace,
the convulsions around scarcely affecting the pure Indian race ;
murderous wars of tribe against tribe no longer exist ; famine is
almost unknown. Occasional labor and the rich, teeming fruit
of a prolific soil amply supplying their simple wants, see them,
with touching devotion, offering the adorable victim of our altars
to the true God alone, to thank Him for the blessings they enjoy,
and to beg Him to guide them safe to the better land, where
holier blessings await them. See all this, and then look at what
they were but a few centuries ago, and you will find a progress,
not great as with us, nor in the same direction, but, under cir-
cumstances the most disadvantageous, great for them.

" In substance the same remarks have been made by a most
interesting Protestant writer, who, alas ! too often utters words of
sarcasm against Catholic faith. The parallel in the extract
proves that in Mexico, as elsewhere, the religious instincts of our
nature and vague remembrance of primitive revelation estab-
lished practices more or less like the time-honored practices of
the Catholic Cluirch.

" ' The Aztec worship,' says Prescott, ' prepared its votaries for
the pomp and splendor of the Roman ritual. It was not difficult
to pass from the fasts and festivals of the one religion to the fasts
and festivals of the other; to transfer their homage from the
fantastic idols of their own creation to the beautiful forms in
sculpture and painting which decorated the christian cathedral.
But, if the philosopher may smile at the reflection, that conver-
sion. Under these circumstances, was one of form rather than of
substance, the philanthropist will console himself by considering
how much the cause of humanity and good morals must have
gained by the substitution of those unsullied rites for the brutal
abominations of the Aztecs.'

" As to Prescott's assertion that ' the form is changed, not the
substance,' I would remark, that all religions contain some good ;



176 LIFE AND TIMES OF



as there is no pure poison on earth, so is there also no pure error.
Some truths mingled even with the folly of idolatry. The
substance of those truths the Indian retained, and added the
substance of other truths as yet unknown. The secrets of eternity
will tell how blessed an effect this change operated in the order
of sanctity, and even of time. I do not say that all are good, or
that no evil mingles with the good ; alas, such is the condition of
our fallen nature, that in every nation we find '•Bona mixta tnalis^
et mala 'mixta honis^ good mixed with evil, and evil mixed with
good. Why should the Indian or Creole of Mexico be an
exception ?

"The Mexican has indeed his vices, but he has also his virtues;
parental and filial love, hospitality, humility, unbounded charity,
meekness, patience, resignation, and other touching virtues, are
general in Mexico; but it is also true that some vices are probably
more common in Mexico than elsewhere. Gambling is for many
a passion ; lying is not held in due horror ; and among the lower
classes thieving is too common. Those vices, however, are far
from being general ; they are vices common to the Indian race,
and, alas! but too frequent in our own favored country. In
Mexico, however, as here, those who practice our holy religion
either never had, or soon cease to have, such practices, l^ow
when we consider that, for the last forty-three years, Mexico has
been in continual agitation, convulsed by civil wars and revo-
lutions, those deadly enemies of faith and morals, we must
gratefully adore that special Providence which has not only
preserved a distracted comitry from more horrid crimes, and
from wider spread corruption, but which has also kept even the
late Indian pagans in the practice of many touching virtues, in
general piety, and in the blessed unity of christian faith.

" To judge correctly of a painting, much depends on the point
whence we view it. So it is also in judging a community or a
nation. If we view solely in the light of time, solely as regards
earthly pilgrimage, we will form judgments of what is good and
what is bad, widely different from the estimate we would form,
should the light of eternity mingle strongly with that of time.



EIGHT KEV. JOHN TIMON, D. D. 177

uicl if, under the decided conviction that the practices, rites, and
elief of the Roman Catholic Church are absurd or idolatrous,
^e estimate a nation's religious character through its exterior
emonstrations, we will pity or despise what a Catholic would
dmire. If our estimate for the good, the sublime, and the beau-
ful be exclusively found in a narrow circle of the cold North; iu
le warmer climates we will judge practices superstitious and
nnatural, which appear natural and holy to minds and imagina-
ons t^at glow in the sunny South. Thus a iine writer, viewing
'ith a Protestant eye the Catholic ceremonial, and its powerful
ffect on the Mexican idolater, says :

" ' The Roman Catholic communion has, it must be admitted,
)me decided advantages over the Protestant. The dazzling
omp of its service, and its touching appeal to the sensibilities,
ffect the imaginations of the rude child of nature, much more
owerfully than the cold abstractions of Protestantism. The Pro-
jstant missionary seeks to enlighten the understanding of his
:)nvert, by the pale light of reason. But the bolder Catholic,
indling the spirit by the grandeur of the spectacle, and by the
lowing portrait of an agonized Redeemer, sweeps his hearers
long in a tempest of passion, that drowns everything like reflec-
ons. He has, however, secured his convert by the hold on his
flections.'

" Without stopping to inquire how far God has willed that the
sensibilities,' the imagination, and all our nature, (and, indeed,
,11 nature should serve in the great work of confession and salva-
ion,) we see to this day the ceremonies which once swept the
)agan Indian along in a tempest of holy passion, now, like the
etters in our Bibles, recalling to the minds of his christian
;hildren truths which first awakened the father's heart to deep
smotions of christian piety. And those who attend the sacred
ites during the Holy Week, see the powerful effect which the
iving lessons of our christian ceremonies have, not only on the
neek and humble Indian, but also upon the most instructed
Mexican Creole or Spaniard.

(12)



178 LIFE AND TIMES OF



" It is true that most of the Indians, and many of the Mexicans,
are employed in low offices. It is true that, (as in the days of
Cortes, a friendly monarch could send almost an army of temanes^
or men of burden, to do the work of horses or oxen,) so even now
are there many temanes who carry burdens whicli astonish us.
Yet, generally the hopes of religion sweeten this toil; often, too,
do they give to the Indian countenance, an expression of calm
and of cheerful content, which the rich might envy.

" Speaking of the Mexicans in the sixteenth century, Prescott

says :

" ' The whole nation, from the peasant to the prince, bowed
their necks to the worst kind of tyranny, that of a blind fana-
ticism.'

" He then speaks of their human victims, and their feeding on
human flesh, and says :

"'Cannibalism suggests ideas so loathsome, so degrading to
man, to his spiritual and immortal nature, that it is impossible
the people who practice it should make any great progress in
moral or intellectual culture. The Mexican furnishes no excep-
tion to this remark.' Prescott continues in these words: 'In
this state of thhigs it was beneficently ordered by Providence,
that the land should be delivered over to another race, who would
redeem it from the brutish superstitions that daily extended
wider and wider, with extent of empire.'

" "We know how slowly, how reluctantly a nation changes the
wild, unfettered, savage life, for the life of restraint, which high
civilization imposes. It required ages to bring the Greeks and
the Komans, the Gauls and the Britons, to anything like^ our
form of civilization. Hence, apart from the result on our faith,
we need not wonder at this assertion of another Protestant
writer on Mexico :

"'The Indians of Mexico,' says he, 'are divided into numer-
ous tribes, speaking upwards of twenty languages, wholly distinct
from each other. Their character remains much the same as it
is alleo-ed to have been at the time of the Conquest. Indolence,
blind submission to superiors, and gross superstition, are as much



RIGHT REV. JOHN TIMON, D. D. 179

their characteristics now as formerly. The form of their religion
is changed, and that is all; they take the same childish delight in
the idle ceremonies and processions of the Catholic Church, as
they once took in the fantastic mummeries of their aboriginal
idolatry.'

"Excusing the words of insult, the writer expresses what was
always true of every barbarous nation, during ages of slow
progress from Indian life. In Mexico conquest, forms of govern-
ment, climate, nature itself account for deficiencies. What there
is of progress is due to religion alone; and for the whole nation,
in all classes, it is indeed religion alone that has preserved some
thing of nationality, and some bond of union, to prevent the dis-
solving, destroying effect of civil wars for more than a generation.
The mild climate of Mexico, its perpetual Spring, exempts the
native from the necessity of protection from winter cold ; plants
of ffiant veo-etation, yieldino; fruit at all seasons, render famine
almost impossible. The stern law of necessity, which in northern
climates says 'work or die,' is not known in Mexico, Hence,
many cabins of the poor, still like those described by the Con-
querors, are small huts of lava, of rough stone without mortar, or
of reeds, poles, brambles, or rushes, the thatch which covers the
hut being often the only part impervious to the winds or to the
driving rain. That hut gives shelter to a family, some times so
large that all can scarcely stand erect in the narrow space.
Yet, there the domestic ties are so strong and tender as often
to diffuse around sweet and cheerful content; some picture or
image of the crucified Saviour and of His blessed yet sorrowful
mother, teach lessons of resignation and patience. The Holy
Week, and occasional pilgrimage give, in the religious order, a
touching variety to life. In the fairs that frequently occur, the
Indian and his family think they enjoy as much as the greatest
believe that they enjoyed at the ' World's Fair ' in the Crystal
Palace. Along a sweet valley, embosomed in the giant Andes
accompanied by the truly learned, pious and estimable Bishop
Mungiua, I once rode to visit Indians who reside in the romantic
island of a lake in the mountain plain. I shall not easily forget



180 LIFE AJSfD TIMES OF



their looks of mingled cheerfulness and piety. Ambition and
the cursed thirst of gold never tormented them. The scene re-
minded me as much of the first christians as any thing I ever
noticed out of the holiest cloisters.

" Kear Lagos, late on Sunday, accompanied by the pastor, 1
visited an Indian village; a beautiful square lay in front of the
church, in which the Indians had passed the morning and most
of the evening in religious duties. The sun was setting, diffusing
its mellow rays over a scene of fairy beauty. The fragrance of a
thousand plants, unknown to our clime, seemed the incense of
nature to the God whose blessings were spread so luxuriantly
around. All the men of the village were gathered in the square;
the men of age sat, in Indian fashion, on the ground, conversing
together, telling of the past, or commenting on the sermon; and
the smile and the frequent laugh told how happy they were.



Online LibraryCharles George DeutherThe life and times of the Rt. Rev. John Timon, D. D. : first Roman Catholic bishop of the Diocese of Buffalo → online text (page 15 of 30)