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 27 of 30)
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the German tongue, so as to enable him to travel through those
countries with ease. Often, when the rest of the household had


retired for the night, luis the Bishop been seen after midnight,
seated at his table buried in a mass of papers and books, writing
away, at times nodding over his labor, overcome with the stupor
of fatigue, and then suddenly arousing, as though from a reverie,
to renew with refreshed vigor, the pursuits of his brain and

lie was the first to rise in the morning, " and often," said a
student, " have I been awakened by him as early as three o'clock
in the morning, to rise and go to the dark and cold cathedral to
assist at his morning mass. Atler mjiss would be over, he
returned to the house, and, without refreshment, letl, satchel in
hand, to take the first morning train to some part of h*s diocese.
To see him going down the steps of his house and through the
streets, hiee (hep in snow, as though it were mere play, fille«l me
with indescribable astonishment, for he was then past sixty years
of age, and needed care and rest." And thus otlen, unannounced
and unexpected, would he arrive at some mission, to the surprise
of botli priest and congregation. At such times he was sure to
observe every circumstance likely to favor or disfavor the conduct
of the priest in the administration of the afiairs of the parish or

If he observed anything that was discreditable, he frequently
said nothing at the time. But later, when the circumstance of
the Bishop's call had almost been forgotten, perha|w a month, or
two months afterwards, some thing was sure to happen. Hence,
the Bishop made freipient changes from mission to mission. An-
other motive of the Bishop in removing and displacing his priests,
besides mal-administration of the spiritual or temporal affairs of
a mission, was to test their vocation. .At other times, when a
priest complained how hard was his position, or, as it really hap-
pened, that his life was threatened by impious men, because he
would not conform to their views, the Bishop simply silenced
their mumnirs by quoting appropriate texts from Scripture, or in
vehement tones would exclaim: "Why do jou complain? "Why
did you become priests, if you cannot bear the responsibilities?



Do you suffer more than I do. A true soldier, when he enlists
in defence of his country, bears and suffers everything rather
than yield to the foe. "Will you be less courageous in defence of
the truths of holy religion, and the interests of those committed
to your care? Go! and do not come again until you have con-
quered." Tliough severe, the Bishop always tried to discriminate
justly, and had many ways of rebuking or reproving another, be-
sides an indiscreet use of the tongue.

On one occasion, a certain priest, since fallen from his vocation,
imagined that liis character had been vilified before Bishop Timon
by a layman. Filled with this idea, he dared to approach the
Bishop in order to retort on the good name of his supposed viliiier,
and, in the course of the conversation, adroitly sought to inform
the Bishop that this gentleman was a man that could not be
trusted, that he was a Free Mason, etc., etc. The Bishop, as
though encouraging the information, listened eagerly to all the
priest had to say of him, and whilst the latter was still speaking,
wrote a letter to the poor layman to come and see him imme-
diately. Without interrupting the conversation, he touched a
little bell, to which a seminarian resj^onded. In an undertone
he directed the latter to take his private carriage and deliver the
letter to the layman, and, if possible, bring him instantly to the

Twenty minutes had scarcely elaj^sed, when, to the dismay of
the priest, the lajnnan, of whom he had ceased speaking, entered
the room.

The Bishop, however, not wishing to provoke any enmity be-
tween the two, simply rose, and, taking from his private desk a
small box, containing a precious relic, a little piece of which had
become loose, he turned to the layman, and said :

" My esteemed friend, here is a small box, containing a pre-
cious relic, a piece of which has become slightly detached, as
you see, and I sent for you to take it home, and repair it, as best
you know how. It is very valuable to me, so valuable, that I
would not part w^th it for any sum of monev. I thought of no


one whom I could trust with greater confidence than you, and I
know you will do nie the kindness to fix it. That ^v'ill do my
child." The circumstance suggests its own moral.

When traveling, whether by rail or water, no one ever found
him idle. Either he occupied himself in reading his breviary, or
in saying the rosary; at other times he perused some pious book, or
engaged with others in conversation, during which he never
tailed to make a most profound impression. On the cars he has
frequently been seen kneeling in his seat, engaged in devout
prayer. Conductors and railroad men knew him well, and
saluted him with high respect. In his travels to Europe, during the
long and weary sea voyages, he devoted certain hours in the day
to religious profit and instruction, to which he cordially invited
all to be present. In 1862, he went to Europe, and on board
ship preached most eloquent sermons to the passengers, most of
whom were Protestants. Ilis charity to the sick on board waa
unceasing; forgetful of himself, mindful only of others, especially
the poor and friendless, he called on each individually, and as-
sisted and revived all by the sweetest words of encouragement and
consolation. One instance, in particular, deserves mention, in its
resemblance to the life and deeds of the great St. Yincent de
Paul. Finding among the passengers a little infant boy, three
months old, whose father, mother and nurse were lying sick, he
took the child and carried it around the vessel in his arms, try-
ing to please and amuse it. Finally, he asked a Sister of
Mercy, accompanying him to Ireland, to take charge of it, which
she did with pleasure. Father Burlando, in a private correspon-
dence, observes:

" Bishop Timon was very remarkable for kindness to others
whilst among us, on all occasions caring little for himself. If he
was traveling with some of his confreres, and happened to put
up at some place on the way for the night, he was always sure
to choose the worst room, or the most uncomfortable bed. He
looked at the w^ants of everybody else, but his own. I well re-
member the attention he paid to me once, when traveling with
him from the Barrens to Cape Girardeau. It was a very cold


day in the month of February. Before starting, he, with his own
hands, and truly fatherly feelings, adjusted the clothes about me,
and carefully fixed the wrappers around me, that I might not be
inconvenienced by cold in riding, (as I was then quite inexpert
in the mode of traveling,) whilst he, however, entirely overlooked
his own comfort,"

When he was building a certain charitable institution in this
city, he one day threw himself on his hands and knees, to draw a
rough plan of the building on the floor. In doing so, the slippers
became detached from the heels of his feet, and exj)osed his
stockings, which were very badly worn. His humility was such,
that the remark of the Sister present, who observed this poverty,
and said: "Oh! Bishop, how much your stockings need mend-
ing," did not in the least disconcert him, for he quietly continued
on and merely replied, that "it were better to have holes in one's
stockings, than sins on one's soul."

Bishop Timon's favorable characteristics were well known
in Europe. The Pope, it seems, placed deep confidence in his
integrity, and esteemed him highly, if we may judge by the
warm and ardent receptions he received. On one of his late
visits to Europe, Pope Pius IX sent him as a Papal courier from
the court of Rome to the throne of France, to Napoleon, with im-
portant verbal despatches. Among many of the high dignitaries
of the Germanic race, his name was a synonym for piety, zeal,
and benevolence. Hence, on reading an account in one of the
Paris papers, of the labors of Bishop Timon in his diocese, and
the struggles and embarrassments he suffered in order to succeed,
a certain Germanic prince, generously and voluntarily, opened
his purse, and sent him a handsome sum ot money as a donation
for such pious purposes as the Bishop saw proper.
Father Smarius writes :

" Seminary of the Sacked Heart, )
" Rochester, K Y., July 6th, 1869. )

" Charles G. Deuther, Esq.,

''''Respected Sir: Your letter came to hand on the eve of my
departure from Chicago to this place. Allow me to inform you


that rny acquaintance with the late lamented Bishop Tinion was
confined to the three last years of his saintly lite. I never was
among the Indians as a missionary, and only once as a Visitor,
and long after Bishop Timon's missionary days. None would
more readily and cheerfully add his mite to the general fund of
biographical knowledge, which you are gathering together in
honor of the blessed man of God, whose memory shall live for
generations among the people wliom his zeal converted to, or
strengthened in the faith, whom the examples of his rare virtues
led to justice and holiness of life. Never shall I forget the days
of the missions for the laity and of the retreats for the clergy,
which I had the pleasure to conduct in the cathedral of Buffalo,
during the three or four years previous to his holy demise. The
first to rise in the morninor and to ring the bell for meditation
and for prayer, he would totter from door to door along the cor-
ridors of the Episcopal residence, with a lighted candle in his
hand, to see whether all had responded to the call of the bell,
and betaken themselves to the spot marked out for the perform-
ance of that sacred and wholesome duty. So great^was his own
love for that holy exercise, that, but a year previous to his death,
W'hen, on account of his increasing weakness and multiplied infir-
mities, he could scarcely stand up or kneel in prayer and
meditation, he would, despite all persuasions to the contrary, be
the first to reach, and the last to quit the chapel and its
sanctuary, where we assembled to commune with God in con-
templation. And then, that last general confession, (last as he
called it, for he seemed to have had a presentiment of his not far
distant dissolution,) how fervent the zeal, how intense the piety,
witii wdiich he prepared the ways of the Lord, who was coming
less as a judge than as a bridegroom to welcome His servant to the
heavenly nuptials. And then, that more than fatherly heart,
that forgiving kindness to repentant sinners, even such as had
again and again deservedly incurred his displeasure, and the
penalties of ecclesiastical censures or excommunications. 'Father,'
he would say, ' I leave this case in Your hands, I give You all
power, only save his soul.' And then, that simple, childlike


humility which seemed wounded by even the performance of
acts which the excellence and dignity of the Episcopacy natur-
ally force from its subjects and inferioi's. How often have I seen
him fall on his aged knees, face to face with one or other of my
clerical brethren, who had fallen on their's to receive his saintly
blessing. May God send the Cburch of America many such
devoted pastors.

" Your obedient servant,

"C. F. SMARIUS, S. J."


Eeview of the Bishop's Character.— His Spirit op Prayer.— His habitual Peacb
OF MIND.— His Humility.


1. ITis Spirit of Prayer. — ^Bishop Timon lived as a Lazarist from
the hour that he joined the community, until his saintly death.
He rose every morning, (when at home,) at five o'clock. Half
an hour was then given to dress. If the seminarians forgot to
ring the bell at the appointed time in the morning, he himself
rang a little bell, which he had ready for this purpose near his
bed. At the second sound of the bell, all the household, priests,
seminarians, even including the servants, assembled in one room.
The Bishop, kneeling at the side of a table, then recited the
morning prayer ; after this, his Yicar General read the meditation,
with the usual points and stops ; this meditation usually ended
with a prayer from the Bishop himself. The morning exercise
concluded with the Angelus, during the recital of which a semi-
narian rang a bell three times.

At six o'clock A. M. the Bishop began his mass, at which he was
assisted by two seminarians, sometimes by his Yicar General,

* For the information contained in this chapter, I am gratefully indebted to the Rev. Gteo.
Pax, formerly Secretary to the Bishop.


and at other times by a deacon and subdeacon. lie went to con-
fession regularly every week to his Yicar General, and generally
after tlie hours of meditation, when he would rise and invite his
Yicar General to follow him to his room. He recite<l those
prayers with profound gravity and punctuality. Afler saying
his mass, he often heard another before leaving the sanctuary,
usually the mass of his Vicar General. Speaking once in synod
about the honoraries of the mass, he observed that, although he
often read such masses for the intention of those persons who
ordered them, nevertheless he r)ffered up the Iloly Sacrifice fre-
quently for such priests who, by their irregular conduct, mostly
needed it.

He went to breakfast at 8 A. M., to dinner at 12 J P. M., and
to supper at 7 P. M. During the hour of breakfast, a semina-
rian or a priest read chapters from the "Imitation of Christ," of
which little book the Bishop was very fond. He wjis accustomed
to say that, after night prayers, and when the business of the
day would be so very distracting as not to enable him to sleep,
he nourished his soul and calmed his mind by reading a few
pages from this charming little volume. Before conferences, he
ordered passages from the same work to be read.

During dinner hour, however, "Bancroft's History of the United
States, " or similar works, were read, and whenever he met with
remarks in the book against religion, or when the reader made a
fault in pronunciation, the Bishop immediately turned about to
criticize and correct. He even appointed persons to read, whose
familiarity with the English language was not complete, in order
to correct and improve their mistakes. On these points he was
very rigid, particularly when guests were at the table. He once
very playfully observed to Bishop Domenec,* of Pittsburgh:
" Do you remember when I gave you your first lesson in English,
how I pulled your hair?" In these corrections, however, he was
truly like a father. Often, after having corrected a reader very
strongly, he would say : " ^ow you pronounce better, and if you
continue to listen, you will improve, and read well in a very short

* He was a Spaniard.


time." These corrections were likewise made at the supper hour.
After dinner, the " Marty rology " was read, and then followed
the usual prayers of the breviary. On the eve of certain feasts,
he ordained Butler's feasts and fasts to be read, according to
the festival, upon which he made historical remarks from time
to time.

From these rules of his household he never deviated when on
visits to priests, so far as it was possible. At eight o'clock P. M.,
he generally attended night prayers, and then spent the greater
part of the night in reading, writing, studying and praying.
Night prayers were said in the same room in which the luorning
exercises were held. Before retiring to his room for the night,
he gave his orders to his priests for the next day's duties. Besides
his usual office of the breviary, he daily recited his beads. In
this pious exercise he might be seen, beads in hand, walking up
and down the graveled walks of his garden, or making a solemn
round of the aisles of his cathedral. AVhen returnino; from
Episcopal visitations of his diocese, he went regularly to the
prayer room, even though he came a little while before the hour
for rising.

Religious communities, such as Sisters of Charity, the Passion-
ists, of Dunkirk, and others, were often astonished to find the
Bishop already in the prayer room when they entered it for their
accustomed morning prayers. They often recount strange but
edifying stories about such visits, and say they were never positive
not to have the Bishop next morning at their prayers. Thus he
watched over every religious community in his diocese.

On one of his visits to Europe, Bishop Timon called upon the
Rev. Mr. Pax,'* at his parish of Dubling, in the diocese of Mertz,
France, • This reverend gentleman received him in a most mag-
nificent manner, and entertained him in conversation, mostly
about the affairs of St. Louis church, until very late at night.
Both then retired. Early next morning, however, to the intense
surprise of Father Pax, Bishop Timon was already in the church,

* Former parish priest of St. Louis church, who was so shamefully ahused bv the trustees,
and compelled to leave at the peril of his life.


and had been there before daybreak. As soon as the congrega-
tion had come together, Bishop Timon suddenly left his seat,
went to the sacristy and asked Father Pax to hear his confession.
The acolytes of the mass were told to leave the sacristy. But
the Bishop said, " No ! I will go to confession where every body
goes." Father Pax was confused. The Bishop insisted. Thus
he went to confession, at the usual confessional, to the good parish
priest, in the presence of the whole congregation, greatly to their
edification. Bishop Timon held Father Pax in high esteem, and
observed that "in all his relations with St. Louis church, that
congregation could find no fault with him as their parish priest."
In a letter to Father Pax, dated January loth, 1867, in which he
exhibited his presentiment of death, the Bishop wrote : " Please
to add to your kind prayers that when the Lord will call the poor
old Bishop of Buffalo to judgment, he may be assisted by sacra-
ments and holy helps, and thus meet, in hope, his Judge.'*

His devotion to prayer was sometimes unusual. Li the year
1864, in the beginning of one of the private sessions of the synod,
as he was reading the passion of our Lord out of the Scripture,
he stopped at once and commenced to shed tears, so that a priest
had to continue the lecture. Frequent sighs could be heard
as he recited his prayers, especially at the memento of his
mass, if some serious trouble weighed heavily on his mind.
ITothing troubled him so much as the disorders of some un-
fortunate clergymen. " It is better," he said, " to deal with
ninety-nine bad congregations than with one clergyman who
deliberately disobeys the injunctions of his Bishop and superior."
Bishop Timon never gave any important advice or decision at
once ; he always said, " Let me pray first," or " Come about this
time or that time, and I will, in the meantime, reflect in holy
prayer what, before God, will be best to do."

Sometimes he made a short retreat of a few days at his house,
just as religious do. Silence was then observed. After dinner
he took a short recreation of about half an hour. " Pray for me,"
was the usual way he dismissed a visitor or a friend. He was a
continual example of prayer to his priests and people. In


traveling, he carried with him copies of the litanies of the
"Blessed Virgin" and of the "Holy ISTame of Jesiis," and
other pious prayers. These he recited immediately after his
breviary or his beads. He was known to always recite the
" Itinerarium " of the breviary in the beginning of a journey.
In fact this prayer he knew by heart, so that if, on any occasion,
he was disturbed in reciting it by a pious clergyman, who was
unaware of the interruption he caused, he was enabled to readily
continue his recitation. Indeed, amid all the turmoils and
troubles of a long and laborious life, Bishop Timon was able to
maintain the spirit of prayer.

2. W^s habitual peace of mind. — Although Bishop Timon
was naturally of a lively and even quick-tempered disposi-
tion, he rarely manifested either dejection or anxiety. He
was prepared for contradiction and disappointment. He sought
himself so little, that he seldom experienced much pain from
disappointments. N^ay, his will was kept in such constant
subjection, that amidst all his trials his first impulse was to bless
the hand that sent them.

Once he unfortunately was thrown from a buggy, whilst riding
with Rev. Mr, Quigly from one mission to another, owing to a
fright which the horse received. When he arrived home, he
exhibited a bruised hand, eye and cheek, and though suffering
inconvenience as well as pain, he never murmured in the least.
In fact, he never complained. He even seemed strange in his
patience. Once a priest came to him and said that he had a
difficulty in his mission, that threatened to be serious to himself.
The answer was simply, " Our Lord says : The kingdom of heaven
suffers violence, and only the violent will carry it away. Our
holy state of priesthood makes no exception to this general rule."

Sometimes, in answer to complaints, he oj)ened the Bible with-
out saying a word, except to quote appropriate texts, most of
which he knew by heart. In reply to another, who came with
many complaints about the bad spirit of the missions, the Bishop
promptly stood up and said :


""Why did yon become a priest? answer!" The priest did
not answer, being afraid of the serions tone of his Bishop. He
asked him again, and getting no reply, he said, "Know this, then,
that yon became a priest to suffer, to be persecuted, according to
the example laid down by our Lord Jesus Christ."

To another he said : " Well, then, take my seat and be Bishop
for a few days, and I mil go to your church for a week as pastor.
At the end of that time we will see who will have suffered the

Another priest complained of threats against his life, and that
he stood in danger of dying in his mission. "Well, then," re-
plied the Bishop, " you will die in a good cause."

In defending the interests of poor Catholic orphans, before a
large assemblage of citizens, he boldly said : "I want the Catholic
orphans for my asylum. I will take care of them at half price.
I will not allow decisions to be made for Catholic orphans."
Some bigot present said : " Shut up ; what do we care for an old
Catholic Bishop?" But the Bishop was not confused, and im-
mediately said, " I will not keep silence here, for I am an
American citizen, and as such have a right to exhibit my claims."

His maxims of charity and peace were : " If I have to choose
between being too severe or too lax^ I prefer to be too lax', because
I want to be judged by Almighty God rather with mercy than
with severity." (Good and great maxims, indeed.) He always
wished to be informed when others went astray, that he might
remedy the evil in time. He was always astonished to be the
last who knew any thing about an evil or a scandal.

He was in habitual peace of mind, come what might, and was
one of those men spoken of in the "Imitation of Christ," who are
prompt to promote the peace of others.

3. Els Humility. — From what has already been said, it nnist
be concluded that his virtues were solidly founded on humility.
When he first came to Buffalo, a great procession led him to
St. Louis church. It was thought he was in the carriage, but
the night being dark and rainy he could not be readily distin-
guished. To the surprise of many, however, he was found,


carpet-bag in hand, walking after the procession. His humility
was grave and dignified, yet simple and natural, because it was
sincere. He possessed no affected politeness.

In the last synod held the year before his holy death, he said
to his priests : " My life is drawing to a close. I feel this sensibly.
I have but a short time to live, and this will he the last time that
I shall see my venerable clergy together again. When I think of
what my diocese was when I came to Buffalo, and what it is now,
I have reason to congratulate my venerable clergy for their
generosity, zeal and sacrifices, which with God's blessings and
graces helped to accomplish great works. We were laboring
together with God's grace and help. But as I have soon to

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 27 of 30)