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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the latter ready to receive the Catholic faith, having already heard
of the result of the controversy. At his own request he was
accordingly baptized. But this was not all. The discussion served
to resurrect in the hearts of many, prior to that time not known as


Catholics, the slumbering embers of their holy faith, and induced
them to approach the sacraments of Penance and holy Eucharist.
Several children were also baptized.

Thus under God, this circumstance was the cause of beginning
the flourishing mission of Cape Girardeau.

Among those present at the controversy was a Protestant
gentleman named Ralph Doherty, who was married to one of
the first Protestant ladies of the neighborhood. Mr. Doherty
was greatly impressed with the truths there announced, and, until
then, quite new to him. Soon after this, Mr. Doherty fell
sick, sent for Father Timon, and became a Catholic. In a few
years afterwards, his whole family, except his wife, (who left him,)
became Catholics. His conversion, followed by several members
of the Sanford family, alarmed the bigotry of those inimical to the
Church. Then Mr. Doherty became the object of persecution.

In the interim, Father Timon had begun a mission at Cape
Girardeau. For six months, during each visit there, he said mass
very privately at 6 A. M., and gave communion to a few con-
verts. At 9 A. M. he would begin catechism for all the children
he could collect together, and at 11 A. M. preached for the many
Protestants who flocked to hear him. All this transpired in Mr.
Doherty's house. At last, so vehement had the persecution
become towards Mr. Doherty, that, to save the latter from losing
his property, it was found necessary to purchase it from him.
It is the most beautiful estate in that part of the country. The
seminary, with its large and spacious grounds, and the handsome
church of St. Vincent's, stand on a part of it. Finally, to aug-
ment the number of converts, the aged father of Mr. Doherty
also became a Catholic.

Several years afterwards the cholera raged fearfully in the
district of Jackson and Cape Girardeau. It so happened that
at this time Father Timon was returning from New Madrid, and
on his way stopped at the log cabin of the aged Mr. Doherty.
It was full of company, nearly all of them Protestants ; and so,
inviting the priest to adjourn to the garden, Mr. Doherty there
unburdened his conscience to his spiritual father.


As soon as he had finished, Father Timon bade good-bye to
his aged friend, and withont losing any more time, continued his
Journey to Jackson, a distance of ten miles. Here he stopped to
refresh himself and feed his horse. About 8 P. M., just as he
was again starting to ride, (as he very commonly had to do all
night long,) a messenger came to tell him that Mr. Doherty,
whom he had left only a few hours before, had been taken sick
with the cholera, and begged for his spiritual father to return
and comfort him.

Father Timon, from the depth of his charity for man, imme-
diately turned his horse's head in the direction of Mr. Doherty's
house, and through the rain, which by this time had began to fall
very freely, hastened back to the cabin of the poor old man in
the thick forest, where he arrived only to find that Mr. Doherty
was dead.

Father Timon then recited some prayers for the dead, and
gave a few words of exhortation to those present. When he had
finished, the wife of the deceased man declared her intention of
becoming a Catholic, and was immediately instnicted. Those pre-
sent were then invited to withdraw, there being but one room in
the house, and as the convert knelt by the side of the bed on
which her dead husband lay stretched, she, in accents of deep
penitence, made her holy confession. Tlie company were invited
to enter again, and, sub conditioner the sacred rite of baptism
was performed over the old lady, who expressed a great consola-
tion in being made a member of the true Church.

In the meantime, the rain had been falling more heavily, and
now poured in torrents. The forest became intensely dark, and
it being near midnight, it was impossible for Father Timon to
continue his journey further that night. As in all log cabins
at that time, there was but one room, and only one bed in the
corner, upon which lay the dead man.. Having been invited to
stay all night, however, Father Timon was not at a loss how to
make the best of the situation. So, pushing the corpse up against
the wall, a clean sheet was spread on the bed near it, and whilst



the rest of the company disposed themselves to the best advan-
tage upon the clay floor, the missionary was invited to share the
bed with the corpse. He did so, and slept soundly.

Truly strange scenes frequently occurred in those missions,
then so poor and wild. But to a disposition like Father Timon,
whose heart knew no fear but the fear of God, these scenes as
related to us and which seem so strange, were as commonplace

He once preached near Xew Madrid, on the banks of the
Mississippi. Six young children were offered to him for baptism
by their Protestant parents, with the promise that they should be
brought up as Catholics. After the ceremony was over, Father
Timon mounted his horse to leave for the next station, a distance
of fifteen miles, in order to meet an appointment for the following
day. He had hardly left the crowd, when an old man, also on
horseback, rode after him, and, in accents that showed him to be
an Irishman, exclaimed :

" Ah ! but my heart w^armed to you as you spoke, for I too am
a Catholic ; but you are the first priest I have seen for forty
years. , Often these ' swaddlers ' tried to get me to change my
religion, telling me that I could never expect to see a Catholic
priest here, and that it was better for me to have some relioion
than none at all. I, at times, almost believed them, but when-
ever I thought of joining them, upon my word, it seemed as if my
confirmation was about rising in my throat to choice ine. And /
coiddnH do it. But I married a Protestant who was never bap-
tized. We have many children, and I have often spoken to them
of my religion, and I think they can easily be made Catholics.
Come wdth me, my wife is very sick, it may be her salvation."

Father Timon was not astonished at the poor man's history,
such a scene was common to him ; and, although he had to turn
in a direction quite opposite to that he had intended to take, he
willingly did so, entering a dark forest just as the shades
of night began to fall, and the rain from the threatening black
clouds overhead was making music on the leaves of the trees
above them.


Father Timon, upon inquiring found, as was usual with all
frontier settlers, that there was but one room in the house, and
this room was occupied by the sick woman. Therefore, after a
moment's reflection and prayer, he turned to his companion at
his side, and said :

" But, my friend, if I go and baptize your wife, I must also
marry you both."

"Sure, that's what I want," replied the man.

"Then," said Father Timon, "you should first make your con-
fession and be prepared."

" And sure, it's willing I am," sorrowfully rejoined the poor
man, " but how or when can I get confession ? "

" Here," said the missionary, " even here as we ride along this
solitary road."

"And will that do?"

"Why not?" answered Father Timon. "God is good. He
wants us only to do the best we can, and surely, there is no other
way than this for you now. So prepare yourself, by examining
your conscience carefully, and when you are ready I will hear
your confession."

Thus encouraged and advised, the old man devoutly took oflf
his hat, made the sign of the cross, and then, riding on in silence,
prepared himself to reconcile his long deferred account with his
Maker. It was indeed an humble, but at the same time sublime
scene. The forest was intensely dark, and no noise could be
heard than the heavy fall of rain, as it spattered in heavy drops
from the leaves of the trees, through which they were winding
their way. Priest and penitent, now trotting along the night
path of the forest, now leading their horses through some imcer-
tain spots in the wood, thus journeyed on for some time in silence.

Presently the man declared himself ready to confess, and
aided by the priest as they both started their horses into a gentle
canter, the confession was soon finished, the priest's sacred duty
performed, just a few moments before they reached the door of
the log cabin, where lay the sick and anxious wife.


But the rest of tlie incident is soon told. Before midnight,
Father Timon had instructed the whole family, and baptized the
children. Just as morning began to dawn through the apertures
of the cabin, the wife had been also iiistmcted and baptized,
and the happy couple re-married. By daylight, Father Timon
had to leave, and at a hurried pace, ride to meet an appoint-
ment, some distance away, besides saying mass and preaching
before noon.


MoNS. J. M. Odin.— Bishop Eosatti JlSD the Bakrens.— Embaebassments of the
Seminary.— Meeting of the Professed Priests.— Father Timon Speaker foe the
CoMMrxiTY.- Bishop Rosatti Eespoxds.— Eev. J. B. Toenatori Chosen Superior
of the Missions.— Purchase of the Doherty Estate.— The Sick Woman.— Her
Conversion.— Incidents.— Condition of the Missions.— Discouraging Peospects.—
Father Timon Vanquishes six Ministers in a Discussion.— Interview tfith a
Condemned Man.— Mr. Odin goes to Feance.

Once had the Right Rev. Jos. Rosatti been called to the
Episcopate, and feeling it painful to his humility, had respect-
fully refused. In 1824, however, he was forced to accept it, and
in the church of the Ascension (and parish of that name in the
State of Louisiana,) he was consecrated Bishop, in partihus
mfidelium, of Tenagre, and Coadjutor of K'ew Orleans. In the
meantime the few priests at the seminary were gradually dis-
persed, whilst the Bishop himself was often forced to be absent.
Thus, for a considerable length of time, Mons. Odin was left, the
sole priest at the seminary. Besides the discharge of his duties
as provisional Superior, parish priest, and confessor to the
Drothers, seminarians, collegians, and Lorentine Nuns, he was
obliged to direct the general course of teaching in the college.
Nay, more, often on Saturdays particularly, he would be out
until ten o'clock at night, on a sick caU or other important duty,
and when he came home, he found the students and brothers
waiting to go to confession, and occupying him the greater part


of what remained of the night. But, despite the tedium of this
excessive labor, he cheerfully fulfilled his duty, with a holy zeal
and peace of heart, that alone can account for his not having
entirely lost his health. He suffered much, however, and sick
headaches, often for days, would be the penalty for having taxed
both body and mind too much. But, as has been already stated,
on the 20th of May, 1824, Bishop Eosatti was named first Bishop
of St. Louis, and Administrator of l^ew Orleans. On the 1st of
January previous, however, he had solemnly laid the corner stone
of a new stone church, near the seminary, on the plan of the
chapel of the mission near Monte Citorio, Rome.

Although Bishop E.osatti loved the calm retreat of the Barrens,
and thought of making it his residence, to govern his diocese
from it, he reluctantly abandoned that idea, at the instigations of
a certain missionary, whose opinions on the subject were such as
to show that it would not have been for the glory of God or the
good of souls. Meanwhile much dissatisfaction existed among
the few priests of the mission. As yet they did not possess an
inch of ground ; on the contrary, they were burdened with
heavy debts.

Even some of the first brothers, who had been in America
twelve years, murmured less at their poverty than at the pros-
pect of spending the close of their lives in the poor house. Some
thing had to be done to relieve the community from their embar-
rassing dilemma. Accordingly a meeting of the professed priests
was held at the seminary of the Barrens, to wliich Bishop Rosatti
was invited, in order to hear the complaints that were necessary
to be made. Father Timon was delegated to act as speaker for
the community, and in compliance ^vith the wishes of his fellow
priests, he reverently but at the same time firmly and distinctly,
laid before the Bishop all the complaints and the existing feelings
of dissatisfaction. Bishop Rosatti was an attentive listener to the
clear and eloquent language of the young and zealous Lazarist,
and as an expression of his sympathy for the community, he
kindly consented, at the conclusion of the meeting, to give the


congregation a deed of the property, assume some of its debts,
and at the same time promised to make some provision for such
of the seminarians as might not be occupied in teaching.

After Bishop Rosatti had fixed his residence at St. Louis, Rev.
J. B. Tornatori, an Italian priest of great learning and piety, was
sent to the Barrens, as Superior of the whole mission. In this
connection it may be proper to observe that, owing to the persecu-
tion he had received from his bigoted friends and acquaintances
for the abjuration of his Protestant faith, Mr. Ralph Doherty
came nigh losing his valuable piece of property. It was only
through the intervention of his brother-in-law, Mr. Hen. Sanford,
of Jackson, Mo., that he was relieved of this persecution, by
selling the property to the community of the Lazarists. This
occurred during the administration of Rev. Mr. Tornatori. For
this purpose Father Timon was sent to Potosi, and whilst there
he negotiated with a Mr. John Casey for a loan of $2,000, (or
about 10,000 francs). From Potosi he went by the way of Selma
to the city of St. Louis. At Selma he was very successful in
obtaining an endorsement on his loan, by a rich Protestant gen-
tleman, Capt. J. M. White. But on his arrival at St. Louis,
Father Timon found the good Bishop exceedingly displeased at
hearing of the purchase of the estate. A little explanation soon
followed, and, of course, when he discovered that the Doherty
property had been bought without putting him under any pecuniary
obligations whatever, he was again much pleased. Subsequently
Father Timon bought more property at a low figure, by purchas-
ing a number of tracts of valuable land from Congress, at about
one-tenth their value.

At Cape Grirardeau, a house formerly used as a store-house,
and adjoining one of the princijDal residences, was converted into
a church. At first, once in every three months, then once in a
month, Father Timon rode down there from the Barrens, said
mass and catechised, with very happy results in dissipating the
prejudices of the Protestant people.

About two weeks after he had held his regular mission,
and consequently at a time when no one expected a visit from


him so soon, Father Timon was sent by his Superior to com-
plete some arrangements about the deeds of the Doherty estate.
The shades of evening had begun to gather when he arrived at
the Cape. In about a half an hour after his arrival he unex-
pectedly received a visit from one of the most resj)ectable persons
of the place, a gentleman who subsequently became its Mayor.
This gentleman called to request the priest to visit his step-mother,
who was dying.

"Is she a Catholic?" inquired Father Timon.

" Oh, no, there is no Catholic in my house, sir," replied the

Father Timon, thinking (as it often before had so occurred,)
that the dying Protestant lady wanted him only to pray for her,
very willingly consented to accompany the gentleman, and
accordingly took neither vesture nor holy oils with him, which,
in administering extreme unction to a dying Catholio^ are so
necessary. He found the lady very ill, but, as far as religion was
concerned, very well disposed. At her request he exposed aloud
the faith of the Catholic Church, in the presence of her children
and friends, to which she readily assented, and exjjressed the
desire to become a Catholic and be baptized. Father Timon was
a little surprised at this- eagerness on her part to embrace the
faith, but observing that she sought to become a member of the
Church with earnest emotions, and with an expression of much
devotional feeling, he hastened to get baptismal water and holy
oils. As he was leaving the sick room, however, and entering
another, the lady of the house and wife of the gentleman who
had called him to visit his sick step-mother, followed him, and in
an earnest tone of voice said :

" Sir, there is something very extraordinary in all this. My
motlier has never yet been in a Catholic church. Only once in
her life time has she heard a Catholic sermon, and yet she has
for months thought that she heard a voice saying almost continu-
ally to her, ^ If you want to he S(med^ you must heoome a Catholics
She has often related this to us, and begged us to send for you ;
but we thought it only the wild freak of a wandering mind, and



of course we refused to comply with her wishes. A few days
ago, she thouglit she had a vision of a man dressed like you, who
ffave her a Grucijix to kiss, and at the same instant the voice said,
^Do what this priest will tell you, and you shall he saved.''

"She started from her sleep, told lis of the vision, and begged
us to send for you. But we refused, as it was a long journey to
the Barrens, and we thought it seemed only a wild frenzy on her
jjart. Just as we were debating the matter with her, a neighbor
came in and told us you had already arrived, and then it was
that we determined to send for you."

The lady here ceased, and altogether the circumstances of the
case seemed very strange, and at the same time marvelous to
Father Timon. It only served to give greater zeal to the haste
he made to obtain the necessary articles with which to pre^jare
her for her reception into the Church, and to bestrew her path
to eternity with the roses of devotion and piety. In a very short
time he returned, and approaching the bedside of the sick woman
he presented the crucifix to her to he hissed, and as he did so, he
remarked that she pressed it with eager emotion to her lips. He
then baj^tized her, suh conditione, heard her confession, and
administered to her the holy Sacraments of the altar, and extreme
unction. It was near midnight before all the religious ceremonies
were finished. In a few hours afterwards the happy woman, her
countenance lit up with the radiance of an inward serenity of
heart, and the consolation of having embraced the true faith, lay
back on the j)illow and gave her soul to her Maker.

This circumstance seemed strange to Father Timon, and ac-
cordingly he inquired of her relatives what were the antecedents
of the deceased lady, and discovered that during life she had
been particularly distinguished for her charity to the poor and
the sick. It was this no doubt, he concluded, that drew down
upon her a special mercy from heaven in her last hour. Soon
one alter another of the rest of the family became Catholics, and
many years afterwards, when a fine stone church, dedicated to
St. Yincent, had been erected on that very spot, Mons. L'Eveque
de Forbin Janson confirmed the last convert of that family.


In 1829, Mr. De Xeckere was named Bishop of New Orleans.
At first he hesitated much, and consulted his friends as to the
feasibility of his accepting of it. Among others, he solicited the
opinion of his friend. Father Tinion, who advised him to refuse
the Episcopacy, alleging that his character and constitution were
such as would cause him to sink under its burdens in a very few
years. In effect, the saintly Bishop died about three years after
his consecration.

From 1829 to 1835, the priests of the congregation of the
missions continued to labor and make the sacrifices which had
marked their early career. Several priests fell victims to their
zeal. Mr. Cellini, Mr. Borgna, Mr. Eosti, Mr. Pernoli, and
others, were engaged separately in different missions in Louisiana.
Mr. Dahmen was laboring with great zeal at St. Genevieve, and
the adjacent country. At the Barrens, the college suffered much
from sickness. Many of the pupils neglected to pay their bills ;
that of one family, amounting to six thousand francs, was never
paid. Several other bills, still unpaid, approached nearly to that
amount. Debts against the seminary began to accumulate. The
house was still in an unfinished state ; the building of the new
church had been stopped after the saintly death of brother Oliva,
who, fortunately, had finished the stone work of the building
before he had been called away. On every side circumstances
conspired to cast a gloom over the prospects of the mission.
Protestant ministers again began to preach in the vicinity of the
seminary. One of the missionaries (Father Timon,) was sent to
meet a minister at the court house at Perry ville, Mo. ; there the
minister endeavored to rally his logic and theology in defence of
his religious opinions, but to no purpose. He was put to shame,
and forced to avow himself vanquished ; but he intimated that
on a certain day, at a place the distance of six leagues from
there, his Bishop and several of his brother ministers would
assemble for a general conference and prayer meeting, and that
if the priest wished to go there he would meet his match, and
have the error of his ways pointed out to him. Father Timon
asked him if he meant what he said as a challenge.


"N"o," said the minister, "I don't invite you; I only say that
you may go there if you choose." This, of course, under the cir-
cumstances of the case, Father Timon refused to promise. He soon
publicly declared that he would not go, and that he would not
have been there (Perrysville) then, if it had not been for the
calumnies and public insulting attacks of the baffled Protestant

In the meantime, for the distance of four or five leagues around
the seminary, the minister, counting on impunity, spread the
report that the Catholic priest had 2^^<^f)^^ himself to meet the
ministers in the intended public discussion.

By accident, however, the night preceding the day appointed
for the conference. Father Timon heard of this artifice, and
accordingly early next morning, he saddled his horse, and hastily
rode to the scene of action, where his maligners lioped to gain a
bloodless victory. Here he found the crowd to be very large,
and in order to be able to accommodate all, the church had been
abandoned, and benches hastily constructed under the shade of
the trees of a neighboring wood. Just as Father Timon had
reached the ground, a minister was finishing his last prayer. In
the meantime, some of the bystanders whispered into the ear of
Father Timon that one of the ministers had been endeavoring to
show the folly of the "Real Presence," and the wickedness of
" Transubstantiation." He had said, also, that there was "a Rom-
ish priest" present who, "if he dared to come forward, would
have the error of his ways pointed out to him," and, said the
informant, "we all thought he spoke of you."

When the minister had finally concluded his prayer, Father
Timon, mounting the stump of a tree, in a loud tone of voice
annoimced that he would, in a quarter of an hour, preach on the
Real Presence and Transubstantiation. Six preachers immedi-
ately surrounded him with violent gestures, as if they intended
to strike him, declaring that he would not or should not preach
in that place. But Father Timon, nothing daunted, appealed to
the people, and to their credit be it said, they resolutely consented
to hear him.


Father Timon first showed the unworthy trick that Jiad been
attempted to be practiced at the expense of his name, but which
by God's Providence he had been enabled to defeat. He then
took a Protestant Bible from the hands of one of the ministers,
and read fourteen texts from it, and explained them. He showed
the meaning of Transubstantiation, by its entering in a slow yet
real manner into the economy of God for the growth and existence
of all that lives. He continued at some further length, advanc-
ing undeniable proofs of his thesis, and appealed to either 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 4 of 30)