Charles George Deuther.

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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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 26 of 30)
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endeavoring to make them comprehend the "Deity." His dis-
course was listened to for nearly an hour, during which he made
a most favorable impression.

On previous pages of this work, we have spoken of the
patriotic interest which Bishop Timon took in the welfare of the
country during its recent struggle for the restoration of the Union. '
The following correspondence, illustrative of our remarks, will

speak for itself:

"BuTTALo, May 18,1864.

^^ Madam: The Sovereign Pontiff, Pope Pius IX, luis, through
His Eminence Cardinal Barnabo, notified me that, with the
deepest sorrow and the most fraternal interest, he has heard of
the number of gallant soldiei-s wounded in our many battles, and
that he desires me to give, in his name, and out of his private
purse, five hundred dollars, as some aid to alle^aate their suf-

"Your truly p^o^•identially organized society has done very
much to aid our wounded soldiers; hence it seems to me that
there can be no better means of accomplishing the kind and
paternal wish of His Holiness, than to hand over to you this check
for five hundred dollars, with my humble and fervent prayers
that God's blessing may not only rest on your gallant wounded
soldiers, but also on the honored members of your Commission,
who aid them so generously.


" Accept the expressions of respect and esteem with which I
have the honor to be

" Your most obedient, humble servant,

"+ JOHN, Bishop of Buffalo.
"Mrs. Horatio Seymour,

"■President B. U. 8. Sanitary Commission"

" General Aid Society foe the Ariviy, ]
" Buffalo, May 19, 1864. f
" Rt. Rev. John Timon,

'"'' Dear Sir : It is with no ordinary feelings we acknowledge
tlie receipt, at your hands, of five hundred dollars from the
Sovereign Pontiff, Pope Pius IX, for the relief of our wounded
soldiers. Large contributions have been received from foreign
countries for this humane object. We are deeply touched by
such evidences of interest in our present struggle for national life,
and the endorsement of this national channel for our charities,
which we believe to be the most direct, humane and efficient one
through which the good will of a christian people can be conveyed
to the wounded patriots in field or hospital.

"Please present our thanks to His Holiness, and accept for
your part in this munificent act, the grateful acknowledgments of
the society. With sentiments of the highest regard,

"Yours, truly,


At this point in our present writing, a circumstance of a very
delicate and painful nature commands a careful and concise
explanation. We allude to it with regret, though in justice to
the memory of the deceased Bishop, we can not pass it by in
silence. In the Spring of the year 1864, Bishop Timon received
an anonymous correspondence in the form of printed circulars,
the contents of which were scandalous, and betrayed, in language
too evident to be denied, a malicious and villainous disposition, as


well as a disappointed ambition. The most foul-mouthed loafer
on tlie street corner would blush to be even accused of using such
language to one of his equals.

The correspondence was a confused mass of vituperation, from
beginning to end, in which the guilty authors, (like thieves in the
dark,) under a blank signature, endeavored to stab at the life of
a good and pious prelate, whose shoe-laces they were unworthy
to untie.

They evidently possessed neither the moral courage of men,
much less the princii^les of good christians, to openly face their
victim. They accused him of cruelty, of avarice, of injustice,
and numerous other faults, all in highly colored terms, that were
entirely false, if we judge him merely from the good uses to
which he put all the monies, no matter from what source they
were collected. As for cruelty towards any person, it was not in
the nature of Bishop Timon to be cruel, as all well disposed people
who knew and loved him, will testify. In point of injustice, if
any priest felt chastisement at his hands, it was either because
he deserved it, or else, if he did not deserve it, no man than
Bishop Timon was readier to retract, and make amends for an
offence given. A little incident will explain:

On one occasion, a priest had contemplated leaving' the diocese,
because he had been reprimanded in a very gentle way by the
Bishop, for a slight dereliction of duty, in which, however, we
are free to confess. Bishop Timon was acting from misinforma-
tion. No sooner, though, had he discovered his error, and (non-
intentional) injustice to the priest, than he immediately sent for
the latter and invited him to dinner. At the dinner table, in order
to show him full honor, he placed the priest at the head of the table,
in his own seat, and during the meal conversed with him more
particularly than with the others at the table. After dinner, as
usual, all adjourned to the library for their accustomed half-hour
recreation. They had just entered the library, and were com-
mencing to enjoy themselves, when Bishop Timon, as if to save
from embarrassment the feelings of the pious priest, suddenly
observed :


" By the way, my dear child, I have something important to
tell you. Please, let us adjourn to my room." And, taking the
arm of the priest, they went to the Bishop's room. Here they
found Bishop Young, of Erie, who was making a retreat at the
Bishop's residence.

Without further ceremony. Bishop Timon turned to the priest,
and adverted to the unhappy circumstance that had taken
place, in which he (the Bishop) had been inadvertently mistaken.
II& then threw himself on his knees before the reverend gentleman^
in the presence of Bishop Young^ and humbly asked to be for-
given. The good priest could not refrain from tears, and said
such apologies were not suited for him to make, for he was
already forgiven. Such was a sample of Bishop Timon's aruelty
and injustice!

But, whilst we know that the character of Bishop Timon is
such in the hearts and veneration of his people and generous
minded men, that it needs no vindication from our pen in this
j^articular, since the bullet intended to blacken his name shot
wide of its mark, we still are forced to allude to this circumstance
as having an important connection with his life. We confidently
declare from the opinions of well informed men, who knew Bishop
Timon intimately and well, that he was never the same after he
received this anonymous correspondence, until the day of his
death, and indirectly it was one of the causes that hastened the
early termination of his life. This printed defamation of his
character completely unnerved him. All the difficulties he had
ever met with in his whole career as a servant of Christ, even
the imminent dangers to his personal safety, failed in every in-
stance to affect him. But in this case it was far different. He
published a disclaimer to these aspersions of his conduct and
administration, which nearly all of the priests of his diocese
signed. At close of the diocesan synod, held in September, 1864,
he turned to his priests, and in a voice full of emotion and tears,
and on bended knees at the foot of his throne, asked every
one present if he had in any manner treated them unjustly, for


which he had not yet atoned, and if so, he fervently asked to be
forgiven, even as he forgave all who had borne false witness
against him.

During the subsequent four remaining years of his life, he fre-
quently referred to this unfavorable document, and asked himself
if lie really did deserve, in the least particular, any of the accu-
sations contained therein. It affected him mentally more than
bodily, and he endeavored by renewed devotions, by prayer and
fasting, to prepare for the hour when the Bridegroom should come,
lie knew his own fraiity, and, therefore, increjised his austerities
and penances. We pass over to the well merited contempt of
posterity the authors of this infamous libel, since they deserve no
better mention for their conduct. Though he felt liimself daily
declining in health, he continued to discharge the usual routine
of duty throughout the diocese, such as Episcopal visitations, ser-
mons, lectures, and a variety of interesting correspondence.

In 1866, he lectured in Dansville, and during the delivery of
his lecture was obliged to be seated. The Rochester Union re-
ferring to it, observed in sul)stance:

" Bishop Timon lectured last Sunday evening at Dansville, but
was obliged to be seated during tlie delivery of the lecture. As
usual, it was one of the good Bishop's happiest efforts, although
suffering so much from ill health. But from all apearances, it
seems, the Bishop is resolved to die in the harness."

Gradually, however, the infirmities of age made a serious raid
upon his vitality, and compelled him to confine himself to his
house. His career as a public man, therefore, ends here, and as
we depict in sad and solemn diction the last moments of this
truly christian prelate, let us pause to admire his virtues and
drink '•'deep draughts of wisdom" from the lesson of his self
sacrificing and charitable life. In an unfavorable hour, his heart
bursting with zeal for the wants and wishes of his beloved flock,
he contracted a fatal disease, which, as the immediate cause of
his death served to destroy rapidly what little vitality remained
after the rude shock he had received from the anonvmous
correspondence referred to, which might appropriately be called


the remote cause of his early demise. This disease was Erysi-
pehis. He was called to the bedside of one of those "angels of
mercy," a dying Sister of Charity, to administer to her the last
sacraments of the Church. This happened two or three years
prior to his death, and it is thought that, whilst in the act of
hearing the Sister's confession, he contracted the sickness of
which the Sister herself was dying. The Bishop took medical
advice to rid himself of the malady, and visited Avon Springs,
"New York, and other places that he thought would benefit his
condition. But whatever efforts he did put forth, were entirely
insufficient to save him. His worthy physician, James P. White,
M. D., in whose skill Bishop Timon had unbounded confidence,
prescribed faithfully and skillfully for him. He forbade him to
be so severe in his religious discipline, such as fasting and exces-
sive labor, since an invalid in his condition needed repose and
refreshment to recover. But his piety and religious fervor
made him forget the warning injunctions of his friend and medi-
cal adviser. In fact, though depressed in health. Bishop Timon
did not expect to die so soon. About a month before his holy
death, he contemplated making another visit to Europe, in June
following, partly on business and partly for his health, and had
even named for the Yicar General of his diocese, during his ab-
sence, Rev. William G-leason. But his days were numbered.
During the holy season of Lent, prior to his death, he actually
increased his mortifications and self-denials, so that, on Palm
Sunday, when he entered the pulpit of his cathedral to pronounce
the last sermon he should ever deliver to his people, he was
obliged to be seated. On that day he felt for the first time the
symptoms of his immediate demise. He spoke feelingly and sad
of his position then, and knew he had but a few hours to live.
He asked his people to pray for him, exhorting them, as usual,
to think of themselves and eternity. His remarks were sad and
funereal, and when he rose, almost exhausted, to leave the pulpit,
there was scarcely a face in the congregation but was suffused
with tears.


He returned to liis room, where he principally busied himself
in preparing for a happy death. During the whole day he was
compelled to lie down, whilst kind and willing friends gathered
around to pray and comfort him. Still, it was not definitely
thought that his hour was near. Tiiough weighed down with
the cares and perplexities of his station, (for, amid all his sick-
ness, he ever anxiously thought of his duties, and Episcopal
obligations,) and suifering from the pains of his bodily ailments,
he bore all afflictions with fortitude, forbearance and chris-
tian resignation. During the day he felt himself gradually
sinking, and found but little aid in stimulants. Early on M<^>n-
day morning of Holy Week, he arose as usual, though with
difHculty, and, according to rule, assembled with his priests
for morning prayer. Generally, towards the close of the prayer,
it was customary tor the Bishop to ask the assembled priests to
pray in particular for some pious object or purpose, in which all
readily joined. But on this morning he asked them to join \nth
him in prayer for a happy death, as he felt his end was near.
All turned to him with commingled apprehension and surjn-ise,
as if to ask the meaning of this strange request. Alas! his pre-
diction verified their fears about thirty-six hours later. He then
went to his room, and with great efforts readied his bed, which
he never left again alive. His physician was duly summoned,
but he conld not arrest the progress of dissolution that was
rapidly going on. It being evident that the Bishop was dying.
Bishop Lynch, of Toronto, and Farrell, of Hamilton, were tele-
graphed for, who arrived a few hours before he died, and
administered the last rites of the Church, according to the ciLStom
on the death of a Bishop. In the meantime, the news of the
Bishop's serious indisposition, spread like wildfire throughout the
city and diocese. The air was rife with conflicting rumors, and
a gloom of sorrow hung like a shadow on the countenances of all.
We do not exaggerate in this particular, for Bishop Timon's
name in the city was a household word. Protestants vied
with Catholics in their respect and esteem for him, whom
they regarded not as a sectarian, but as a great and good man.


as a christian prelate, as a humanitarian in the coramunity in
which he lived, and as a citizen, with whose memory were linked
some of the eariiest reminiscences of the locality in which he

But during all this state of uneasiness on the part of his people,
Bishop Timon was dying. He continually ejaculated, "Lord,
into Thy hands I commend my spirit;" "Jesus, Mary and
Joseph." He held the crucifix in his hands, which he occasion-
ally raised to his lips, at the same time joining in the prayers
that were continually said around his bedside by his pious
clergymen and friends. At intervals he would address some
particular individual in the room, exhorting him to some par-
ticular duty towards the Churcli, or gave his last requests v/ith
regard to certain unsettled affairs. He lingered all day and
during the night of Monday, without apparent serious change in
his condition, his mental faculties still in good order. Early on
Tuesday morning, however, a rapid decline set in, and as the day
wore on he was expected to die every minute. Has physician
sat near his bedside as he died. At length evening dropped her
shadows over the scene, and he drew near his last. The prayers
for the dead were said, and as the weary watchers and mourners
prayed for a happy eternity for his soul, all that was immortal
of John Timon, the first and well-beloved Bishop of the diocese
of Buffalo, took to flight. He expired on Tuesday evening, at
forty minutes after eight o'clock, April 16th, 1867.

Thus passed away from the diocese of Buflfalo, a man endowed
with faculties of the most remarkable order.

It will be the purpose of the closing pages of this work, to deal
a little with the character of this prelate, and bring out, in bold
relief, the beautiful virtues he possessed, as well as relate the
pious practices he indulged in, but of which his deep humility
and retiring modesty refrained from maldng any jDublic display.
He loved to worship God in silence and in solitude. He sought
consolation and spiritual happiness in prayer and other practices
of devotion. He would be found often, (when at home,) in the
church, making the stations of the cross ; or when wanted on


some occasions where pleasure would be the leading feature of an
evening's entertainment, snch as festivals or suppers, he frequently
absented himself and sought refuge in his cathedral, where, in
the deep shadow of one of the pillars that support the superstruc-
tnre of his beautiful church, he buried himself from the world
and its vanities, and offered up to his Creator the spirit of self-
denial and continence. We couM write pages on the character
of the subject of this memoir. "We loved the subject itself when
amongst us, and we are candid when we say a secret impulse of
reverence and of duty impels us to build a monument of praise
such as is due to the memory of Bishop Timon. However, under
distinct headings, we will consider more appropriately the further
development of his character.


Bishop Timor's Body Embalmed. — His Residence draped in Mocrnino. — XnrETT
Thousand Persons visit his Remains. — The Funeral. — Procession. — The Boot
Deposited in a Vault of the Cathedral. — Bishop Timon's Characteristics. — His
Habits. — Letter from Father Smarius, S. J.

Immediately after death his body was embalmed, and placed
in a richly mounted cottin. The lower parloi-s of his residence
were magnificently draped in mourning, relieved by beautiful
rosettes, from which large festoons hung suspended in graceful
though sombre profusion from the ceilings and sides of the w.ilU.
The taste exhibited in the adornment of this room was goveiiu-l
by the style that was used on the occasion of the death of Em-
peror Alexander I, of Russia. The gentleman who superintended
the work was a Russian* himself, and a most intimate friend as
well as warm admirer of Bishop Timon.

Here, beneath this stately canopy of funeral honor, were the
remains laid. By a preconcerted plan, arrangements were so
made as to enable all who desired to take the "last view" of their
Bishop, to do so without difficulty.

• Greorge A, Deuther.


During the whole week, (it being Holy Week,) a continuous
stream of people, both from this city and from abroad, passed
through the room to pay their respects to the deceased. It is
estimated that over ninety thousand jjersons availed themselves
of this oj^portunity to see him.

At length the solemn hour for his funeral arrived. Early on
Monday, April 22d, every civic society in the cities of Buffalo,
Rochester, and other places, congregated in immense numbers on
the squares and streets of the city. A large catafalque, drawn by
six gray horses, was prepared, ui^on which the coffin was to be laid
in the funeral procession through the city. From an estimated
opinion, the procession was nearly three miles in length. The little
orphans, who had experienced his kindness and charity, trod the
streets ankle deep in mud, clad in their thin habiliments, vieing
with the stalwart and robust members of the various civic
organizations in doing honor to their beloved Bishop. The
pupils of the various parochial schools also joined the ranks ;
acolytes in full dress, priests in numbers, with the various Bishops
and Archbishops of the Province, as well as from abroad,
followed, the Bishops seated in carriages. Thus, in 8j)lendid
order, the procession slowly and mournfully meandered through
the principal streets of the city, until it finally returned to the
cathedral. Here the solemn obsequies of the dead were per-
formed over the corpse, and amid the tears and grief of thousands
the mortal remains of Bishop Timon were deposited in a vault
beneath the floor of the sanctuary, near the high altar. The slab
concealing the entrance to the resting place of the illustrious
dead was then rej)laced, and closed with cement and mortar.

The inscription on the plate of the coffin read :


First Bishop of BufiFalo,

Died April 16th, 1867,

Aged 72 years.

E. I. P.

Both Archbishops Kenrick, of St. Louis, Mo., and McCloskey,
of New York, pronounced panegyrics at the funeral services of
the dead Bishop.


The city was unusually thronged with visitors, whilst flags
liung at half-mast throughout the city. The Common Council
passed appropriate resolutions to the memory of the deceased,
whilst from all parts of the country came words of condolence
and sympathy from an honest though non-Catholic press.

Bishop Timon was a remarkable man. He was a self-made
man. In stature he was not tall, his average height being but a
little over five feet. His hair, at the time of his death, was iron
gray, and worn combed back behind his ears. To the casual
observer, his eyes seemed very small ; but this was not the case.
Owing to an accident that occurred to him on the Mississippi
river, when only a young man, as well as constant application to
study and correspondence afterwards, his vision became cpiite
indistinct, and he was obliged to keep his eyelids partly closed,
as he could not bear the full rays of light.

The accident above referred to consisted in this, that when he
was a young man, the Mississippi river overflowed its banks at a
certain locality where there was a convent of Sisters. The lower
portions of the building were inundated, driving the inmates to
the upper stories and to the roof Among many who volunteered
to go and rescue them from their perilous position, was young
Mr. Timon. It was a very hot, sultry day in August, and the
sun, glinting askance the bright water of the river, reflected
very sharply and severely upon the eyes of Mr. Timon. He suc-
ceeded, however, in saving all the Sisters in his small boat, and
with them returned to St. Louis. But he lost the temporary use
of his eyesight. It was only by being kept in a darkened room, and
proper treatment administered to his eyes, that he recovered a
partial use of his sight. The phrenological characteristics that
predominated largely in Bishop Timon, were secretiveness,
benevolence, veneration, combativeness, casuality and compari-
son. He possessed other traits of character, though less developed,
and to a great extent had learned to keep them under selt-control.
If, at times, the vehemence of his nature overstepped boundary


lines, it was quickly arrested before serious injury either to
himself or others had been done. This peculiarity was particu-
larly noticeable when unforeseen obstacles thwarted his ]3ious
purposes. On such occasions his temper would sometimes
attemj^t to assert its superiority, but the discipline under which
he governed himself was such that he finally, though gradually,
succeded in curbing its vehemence. He was a rigorous Church-
man and an exact disciplinarian. Nothing displeased him so
much as disobedience to the laws and discipline of the Church,
as we have seen in the case of St. Louis church. He was
likewise jealous of the temporal rights of the Church and the
Pope. In the columns of his organ he assiduously wielded his
pen in defence of the Popes and their temporal sovereignty.
Even Brownson, the able reviewer, came in for a share of the
good Bishop's criticisms on several subjects, in his treatment of
which the Bishop seemed to find statements and inferences in
conflict with theology or other sciences.

If he lacked in any thing, it might have been individuality.
This was, in some instances, exemplified in the conduct of priests he
ordained, who afterwards gave much trouble. But in his zeal to
extend, as rapidly as possible, the benefits of religion through all
parts of his diocese, necessity seemed to excuse him for not
exercising more precaution in his selection of persons to be
ordained. After returning from frequent Episcopal visitations,
and disengaged from the consideration of any particular business
at home, he studiously occupied himself either by storing his
memory with knowledge from valuable books, or in acquiring a
further acquaintaince with chemistry, theology or philosophy.
He was a man of continual labor. He was proficient in four
languages, and during his frequent travels abroad had be-
come very familiar with two or three other foreign tongues.
He knew English, Latin, French and German well. At the
advanced age of fifty, he undertook and mastered a sufficient
acquaintance with Italian, Spanish, and a few of the dialects of

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 26 of 30)