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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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15th, 1860, whilst the nation was rife with rumors, and States
were beginning to efface themselves from the map of the country,
he publicly declared his views, at once decided and patriotic:
" With all good citizens, we mourn over the dangers which now
threaten our beloved country. We, from earliest youth, eagerly
listened to the maxim, exaggerated perhaps, but as then in the
mouths of all, most assuredly breathing the true spirit of devotion
to our noble confederacy, ' United we stand, di^^ded we faU.'
Alas! what evils may not lurk in the dark clouds that now
thunder forth ^ Secession.^ But God, who was with our fore-
fathers, giving success against tearful odds ; God, whose Holy
Providence has guided our cherished country to wonderful
prosperity, giving her a rank among the first powers of the
earth, will, we hope and pray, yet speak peace to the storm.
He says, 'Ask, and you shall receive.' Let us, then, dearly
beloved, ask Him to soothe the angry emotions of many a
generous heart, to dispel the clouds that darldy brood over the
Union, save us from disunion and strife, and 'give us peace.'
To this end we ordain that the collect Pro Pace henceforward,
and till the feast of St. Joseph, March 14th, be said at mass on
all Sundays and festivals ; and that the following prayer,* at late
mass, during the same time, be recited before the sermon."



* The prayer alluded to we omit, as too lengthy for reproduction. Suffice it to say, that
among many things, he earnestly prayed that God would, in His wisdom, guide the councils
of the nation, and avert the calamities that threatened the disrupture of the glorious Eepublic



RIGHT KEV. JOHN TIMON, D. D. 283

This notice was read in each church, on the Sunday after
its reception. But the key note to rebellion and secession had
been sounded, and like falling meteors from a troubled firma-
ment, one by one, States sundered their connection with the
galaxy of the Union, and plunged themselves into a terrible civil
war. Abraham Lincoln had been inaugurated President. His
address, fidl of promise and pacific in its tone, was disregarded,
and the strife commenced in dread earnest. An electrical en-
thusiasm permeated the masses of the people of the North, when
the first call for volimteers was telegraphed throughout the land.
Flags fluttered from almost every housetop, and men and women
were compelled to establish their identity as patriots and Union
loving citizens.

Among thousands of others. Bishop Timon also testified his
devotion to his country, by unfurling to the Summer air the em-
blem of the Union, the Star Spangled Banner, which had been
kindly donated and raised by some gentlemen over his residence.
A number of citizens were assembled in front of his Episcopal
residence to witness the event, and congratulate him, as well as
themselves, on his firm and prompt response to the requirements
of patriotism. As soon as the flag had been raised, the Bishop
made his appearance at the door of his residence, and said :

''''Much Respected and Beloved Fellow-Citizens: Born under
our country's honored flag, which you now so kindly raise over
my dwelling; having, with enthusiastic love, looked up to that
flag from earliest youth, warmly do I thank you for the honor
you do me in planting it upon my house; greatly too, do I rejoice
in this patriotic display. Yet, the occasion is one in which joy
and sorrow strangely mingle. We all grieve at the disruption
of our glorious Union; we mourn over drops of blood already
shed, and in fear of the torrents that yet may flow during this
unwelcome struggle. For you, as for me, all the years that have
passed since birth or adoption, that made America our country,
have been years, during which the men of the South have been
loved and cherished as brothers. At first, our souls recoiled from



284 LIFE AUD TIMES OF



the thought of waging war against them. Alas ! there seems now
to be no other alternative. The issue has been forced upon us.
Our country calls; with patriotic zeal, with devoted hearts, we
should obey her call; yet, still, it is sad, for we fight against
brothers, misguided brothers.

" Yet, with the sadness which such thought must bring, there
is much to console. And first, how noble is the outburst of a
nation's enthusiastic patriotism. As I look around, I see my
country's flag from almost every house, consecrated by it as a
fortress for patriotism, honor and duty. Each man and each
woman seems a soldier. Sublimely grand is this spontaneous
outburst of patriotic, generous sentiment. It was thought by
some that jDatriotism had long died away from the American
heart, supplanted by the love for money, and by a love for un-
bridled license. We have had a long peace; in the inaction of
prosperity and peace the more generous impulses of our nature
seemed to sleep, whilst base weeds, choking up the nobler plants,
stifled more and more each generous demonstration. The strife
of races, and the enmity of creeds began to dishonor our land.
!Not long since, a party denounced their Catholic brethren; not
long since, a party attacked their adopted fellow-citizens. It was
often said the age of patriotism had passed away. But the storm
reached us; the sickening air of inaction was purified; and now,
we see on every side patriots, generous patriots, rushing to sacri-
fice even life, if necessary, for country's sake; we see noble and
generous patriots who make the greatest sacrifices in order to
save or to aid a beloved, imperiled country. We also see Cath-
olics and Protestants united as brothers, in the same military
band, to battle together, and mingle their blood in defence of
their beloved country. We see Americans, Irish, and Germans,
vieing with each other for the post of danger, in defence of a
common, much beloved country. Hence, long years of peace
had only lulled to sleep the determined patriotism, the generous
spirit of our forefathers. The blast of war has awakened to
energy the noble and sacred impulses of our nature; the trumpet
Bound of the coming storm has made those generous sentiments



JRIGHT KEY. JOHN TEVION, D. D. ' 285

sink their roots deeper in the American heart, whilst it also up-
rooted the foul weeds of dissension, of party strife, and of religious
intolerance

" Our country it is our duty not to question, but to obey. So
much the more holy will be the war, as it is not one of passion,
but of duty. Those gallant soldiers do not rush to battle through
enmity, hatred or revenge. Ah, no! they love their brethren of
the South; they mourn over the necessity of arraying themselves
in arms, against their late beloved fellow-citizens. A very few, the
guilty authors of disunion, are blamed, others are pitied as de-
ceived, and are all still loved as brothers. But the South hegan
the warj the North cannot hack out without forfeiting its manhood^
its ho7ior^ a/nd its glorious future. So says our lawful govern-
ment, so say the \^se and the good, throughout the length and
breadth of our untainted land. This war, then, is not one of
hatred or personal enmity; it is a war of duty, of lofty patriotism,
of obedience to our country's call. It is a war to preserve the
high standing of our ])eloved country among the nations of the
earth. It is a war which, if successtiil, (as wlio can doubt,) will be
one of benefit to patriotic citizens, in the South as well as in the
North. Hence, with our sorrow there is mixed consolation, in
evidence of which are the patriotic virtues of our gallant volun-
teers, some of whom grace by their presence the raising 'of the
stripes and stars over tliis dwelling. In earlier years, when I
loved to seek wisdom from the pages of history, I learned one
think which I can never forget. Lately, I have had no time to
revise what I then learned. I am a soldier, an officer, having
others under my direction. I am a counsellor at law, often, tnu,
an attorney at law, but in a law of wondrous extent, that inter-
twines itself with the most mysterious fibres of the human heart.
I am a physician, ha^nng under me a large stafi^ of physicians,
all skilled in the care of souls diseased, and also seeking my
directions. Such duties now leave me no time to studv historv,
or to follow closely the politics of the day. But from the studies
of earlier times, I remember that the \visdom of past ages de-
clared this as an axiom. If war must he waged., let it he waged with



2S6 LIFE AND TIIVIES OF



mgor; thus alone can it he rendered less Moody ^ thus alone can it end
speedily in peace. May the uprising of a nation overawe all discord,
and make rash and daring men recoil before the consequences.
May God give us peace before war, or make that war short.
Gallant soldiers, who go to battle for your country, trust in the
mercy of Him who is not only the God of peace, but also the Lord
God of armies. If, as I trust, you march and you fight as christian
soldiers, God's mercy will be with you. Venerable doctors, great
theologians have taught that the soldier's death on the battle field
in defence of his country's rights, has special privileges of mercy,
prepared by the Lord God of Hosts, who is also the God of mercy,
to aid at that moment when mercy is most needed the dying,
patriotic soldier. But my prayer to God will be, that this up-
rising of a great nation may induce misguided men to pause and
retrace their steps. Or, if war must come, tha* its evil time may
be short, and will be soon followed by a peace that will be per-
petual."

This decided expression of patriotism was well received by
persons of all denominations, and quieted the apprehensions of
many, that Catholics, and particularly their Bishops and priests,
were sympathizers with rebellion.

On the 2d of June, the "Second Provincial Council of the
Ecclesiastical Province of I^ew York," convened at the cathedral,
and was a very interesting afikir in the history of the Church.

The procession formed in front of the Archej^iscopal residence
in Mulberry street, and moved thence to the cathedral. Among
the distinguished prelates present, were the Archbishop of l^ew
York, Eight Kev. John Hughes; the Bishops of Hartford, Port-
land, Newark, Brooklyn, Buffalo, Boston and Albany ; and the
Bishops of Guadalajara, and San Luis Potosi, Mexico.

At the conclusion of mass. Bishop Timon delivered the sermon.
It was very elaborate in its reasonings, and very forcible in its
hypothesis. He spoke of other creeds, and by comparison with
the Catholic Church, made the latter stand more prominent and
in bolder relief:



RIGHT KEY. JOHN TIMON, D. D. 287

" When Luther and Calvin separated from the ancient Church,
they excused that rending of Christ's mystical body on the
grounds that gross immorality prevailed, that rapacity and
grasping after riches were universal, and that not only were
morals corrupt, but that faith had become affected, that errors of
doctrine had crept in, and the purity of the ancient faith had
been obscured and tarnished. Such were the grounds on which
they based their justification. Faith, as they alleged, had not
been preserved inviolate, and so highly did they estimate that
theological virtue, that they declared faith without good works
sufficient for salvation, and proved their belief in the inefficacy
of good works, by discarding them altogether. Lideed, as one
of their own writers observed, they taught that if man believed
firmly, he might sin boldly, and be sure of heaven notwithstand-
ing. Look at the descendants of these men now, and mark the
reverse of this doctrine. Faith, considered the one thing neces-
sary then, is now deemed of no account, and morality is in the
fashion. Let a man, they say, believe what he pleases, so long
as he does not believe what the ancient Church teaches, or believe
nothing if he likes that better; but let him live a good moral life,
keep up appearances, pay a due regard to the proprieties of life,
and commit none of those acts that make humanity shudder, and
he will be saved. How strange it sounds to hear the descendants
of those who, three centuries ago, preached the all-sufficiency of
faith, now teach that salvation can well be gained without it
And yet, both these extremes look to the Bible as their guide
and rule of faith. Both refer to the Sacred Yolume as their au-
thority and inspiration. I turn to the Bible and read: '"Without
faith it is impossible to please God,' and, ' the just man liveth by
faith;' but I also read, 'faith \vithout good works is dead,' and I
know that St. Peter, speaking of the Epistles of St. Paul, said,
' there were many thinsis in them difficult to be understood, which
the unlearned and the unstable wrested to their own destruction.'
The Bible cannot decide apparently conflicting texts, and besides,
the Bible, as a rule of faith, is imperfect, as I learn from its own
pages; much of it has been lost. How do I know but that part



288 LIFE AND TIMES OF



which has been lost contained matter that it was necessary for
me to know. It might have unfolded some thing to me of which
I was ignorant, or it might have elucidated some thing which is
obscure. In this view of the case, another important considera-
tion is the length of time that elapsed before the Bible was
written. If it had been so essential to salvation, would the world
have been left so long without it?

" Generations passed away in the saving faith of the Jewish
Church, before one line of it was written. Four hundred and
thirty years after the establishment of that Church, Moses first
committed the sacred deposit of truth to writing. Before that
time written testimony was not necessary; and we find that in
each epoch of the world, God chose different means of preserving
alive in the human heart the remembrance of His works and
ways. Before the flood, the knowledge of God was preserved
by transmission; the highest human testimony runs through that
period, the life of one man, (Methuselah) connecting Adam with
Noah. Methuselah had talked with Adam, and heard from him
in all its freshness the history of the creation; he was two hundred
and forty-three years old when Adam died, and two hundred
and sixty-nine years old when ISIoah was born. After that event
he lived six hundred and two years, and died, we may say, on
the eve of the deluge. In this antediluvian period, therefore, we
find the life of one man connecting its two extremes, linking ttie
dekige with the creation, conversing with Adam and Il^oah, and
transmitting from the first to the second founder of the human
family, the knowledge of God's marvelous mercy and power.
Throughout this history we have no idolatry, for the sins and
vices of the antediluvians arose not from pride of intellect, but
from corruption of heart; and during this period we have no
written records.

" In the second epoch, we find idolatry and the knowledge of
the true God, side by side, but for a long time unmixed ; gradu-
ally the true and the false become blended together, and in this
confusion of right and wrong, something more trustworthy than



EIGHT REV. JOHN TIMON, D. D. 289

mere human testimony is required. Those who have traveled
down the Mississippi, must have observed for what a distance it
preserves the purity of its waters uncontaminated after its junc-
tion with the Missouri. Side by side they run together for miles,
and boats cross and recross from one to the other, and yet the
difference is as marked as if they were in different regions. But
gradually tliey commingle, and then the pure bright waters lose
their identity, and the amalgamation is complete. In the same
way, as we come down the stream of time, we find true and false
religion flowing side by side together, but separate, then gradually
blending and becoming one.

" In this epoch, it is not an individual nor a family that is set
a})art to preserve the truth of revelation inviolate, but a whole
nation, governed by law imposed by God Himself; a true theo-
cracy, a nation whose march through time was a succession of
stupendous miraclfes, a focus, towards which all the scattered rays
of primitive truth converged, and from which the refulgent rays
of revealed truth diverged."

It is now in the Spring of 1862, a period in the Bishop's life
when the splendid exhibition of his talents seemed to wane. At
the advanced age of sixty-six, and suffering somewhat from the
infirmities of age, owing to the austerities and labor of his youth,
the Bishop now began to reveal symptoms of decline. By the ad-
vice of his physician, he was compelled to use gentle stimulants, to
recuperate the wasting vitality of his body. This prescription
was particularly odious to him, on account of his strict, temperate
and abstemious habits, and, although compelled to obey his phy-
sician, he nevertheless endeavored to avoid as much as possible
the full amount prescribed. Though the winter of age " crept on
apace," and wasting vitality forbade him the freedom of exercise
and labor to the extent he had in earlier years enjoyed, he, by
no means, ceased to watch carefully for the welfare of his beloved
flock. About this time, a petition to defray the expenses of the
free school attached to St. Yincent's Orphan Asylum, was laid
before the Common Council of the city. It was referred by that

(19)



290 LIFE AND TIMES OF



body to the usual committee. Majority and minority reports
were made to the council, in which the minority was disj^osed
that the prayer of the j^etition should be granted.

After some debate and enquiry through sub-committees, the
report was finally adoj^ted. Subsequently, in April, Bishop
Timon was called to Rome. He sailed from New York on "Wed-
nesday, April 23d, 1862, in company with several other Bishops.
Before leaving, he was presented with a handsome purse of
money by the members of the Young Men's Catholic Association,
of Buffalo, New York, accompanied with a neat address. Bishop
Timon arrived in Rome on tlie Idth of May following, wliere Ijo
"was graciously received and tenderly embraced hy the Holy Father.

The object of the Bishop's visit was to assist at the canonization
of the Japanese martyrs, or, as a correspondent expressed it,
" Our glorious Pius IX invites the Catholic Bishops of the whole
world to the Eternal City, as he is about to place diadems of
heavenly radiance on tlie heads of the tAjoenty-six martyrs* of
Japan."

The ceremonies on this occasion were beyond description. In
these ceremonies om" Bishop took an active part. A sumptuous
dinner was prepared in the library of the Yatican, at which all
the Bishops with the Poj)e were j^resent. After the solemnities
were entirely over, most of the Bishops returned home by the
way of Ireland, where, among many others. Bishop Timon was
well received by His Grace the Arclibishop of Tuam. He was
the guest of the latter, and during his stay improved his time in
visiting cathedrals, convents, nunneries and schools. At length,
after an absence of nearly four months, Bishop Timon, on the
7th of August, 1862, reached Buffalo. Here, as ujDon former
occasions, a demonstration was made to receive him, as he
alighted from the cars in the depot. An immense procession
greeted him, composed of the various civic societies in full rega-
lia. Even non-Catholic citizens joined in the welcome tendered



* These martyrs sufifered death by crucifixion, on the 5th of February, 1597, outside the
walls of Nagassa, in Japan.



RIGHT KEV. JOHN TIMON, D. D. 291



to the aged and holy man. At his residence appropriate re-*
marks ensued, and a happy exchange of "welcome" lent
sunshine to the joyous hour.

Bishop Timon, in this visit to Europe, acquired still further
information and knowledge of the religious houses as thev were
conducted on the continent, hoping to add some of their features
to his own institutions; but the gradual decline of life, and the
foreshadowings of death, were too overpowering to admit of an
application, and he, therefore, reluctantly laid aside those pious
intentions.



-o-



CHAPTER Xin.



Public School Text Books.— Bishop Timon Lectores at the Central School.— Cor-
respondence WITH the Sanitary Commission. — Anonymous Correspondence. — Its
Authors Guilty Wretches.— Incident. — One Cause of the Bishop's Death. —
Depressed Spirits.— Lectures at Dansville. — Catches the Erysipelas.— Declinb
OF Life, but does not e.xpect to die soon. — His L.^sT Sermon. — Confinetd to the
House.— Predicts his Death.- Death of Bishop Timon.

Although the premonitions of death were-continually remmd-
ing him that liis hour was near at hand, still Bishop Timon «>trove
to discourage this unwelcome idea, and endeavored to exert anew
the gradually wasting energies of his physical frame for God's
greater glory and honor. His devotions were more frequent and
longer protracted than before ; his intellect, keen though pliant,
grasped with such circumstances as it could combat, whilst his
eager eye was constantly alert lest the wary foe of religion should
invade the soil over which he held spiritual supremacy. Thus, at
the Central School of Buffalo, a text book* on Moral Philosophy
had been introduced for the advanced pupils. Ils^one could receive
a graduate's diploma from this school unless he had studied this
text book, which, upon examination, was tbund to be so fraught
with contradictory statements, as to be unworthy of the name. A
copy of this work was shown to Bishop Timon, who took special

* By Prof. Laurence P. mcock, D. D.



292 LIFE AND TIMES OF



time to peruse and criticize it. In the words of the Bishop, the
author of this text book was proven to be " christian and anti-
christian ; tlieist and atheist ; pantheistic and a believer in a
personal God." In the columns of the organ of his diocese — the
Sentinel — under date of January 17, 1863, he published his views
at some length, reviewing several chapters, and showing the
flagrant inconsistencies of the author's (im)moral philosophy.

Thus, with pen and voice, he labored for the rescue of christian
principles and the preservation of the holy faith. In May of this
same year, he published another lengthy article on "Public School
Text Books," in which he exposed the indirect insinuations of
bigotry, contained therein, against the Catholic Church, and
unveiled the immoral expressions* so contaminating to the plastic
mind of the child. By dint of a continued demand for their
removal from the public schools, it ultimately was brought before
the attention of the City Council, whose action compelled the
superintendent to substitute other text books of less objectionable
character. Here and there, in the public newspapers of the day,
and personally from the pulpit, did the Bishop labor for his flock
and principles of true religion. In the Fall of 1863, he accepted
an invitation to lecture before the scholars of the Buffalo Central
School, and chose for his subject the "Deity." To the author of
this work, (a pupil of the above school at that time,) was given
the honor and pleasure of waiting on Bishop Timon, and escort-
ing him to the Central School. As we left the house together,
we entered the cathedral, in order, as the Bishop remarked, " to
ask God's goodness to bless the efforts he might make in the
midst of an audience of dissenting religious views."

I watched him as he bent before the altar and bowed his aged
and venerable head, and observed the devotion with which he
prayed ; and as he finished his prayer, he arose to go, a sweet



* "Do not blush if the Dutch dunce is drunk." — Page 51.

" If they communicate the story that this man's concupiscence destroyed our connubial
love, I will declare it confutable." — Page 174.

" The Bishop is a bibber and a bigot."— Page 73.

" The clergy in a certain Church, though fervent, are not perfect."— Page 68.

—Parker & WcUson's Text Book.



BIGHT REV. JOHN TIMON, D. D. 293

and heavenly smile illumining his countenance. It made a deep
impression on me at the time, and afterwards, as he began to
deliver his lecture before the young men and women of the school,
tlie same smile revisited his countenance, but this time more
vividly and strong; his voice, still firm though flexible, grew by
degrees more eloquent, until, towards the close of his remarks, he
dispelled the unfavorable reception he at first received, and
dissipated the fears, the gibes, the sneers of contempt which,
though in a suppressed manner, could be plainly seen in the
countenances of a few of the scholars. Both teachers and pupils
were dumbfounded at the display of knowledge he evinced, and
listened with avidity to the magnificent similes he employed in



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 25 of 30)