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Studies from Court and Cloister: being essays, historical and literary dealing mainly with subjects relating to the XVIth and XVIIth centuries online

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In my judgment, and in that of other Fathers of consideration, he has
very greatly improved in his manner and conduct towards others. When I
was at Gratz last year he was in possession of a costly little alarum,
which he had received as a present from a nobleman. He was well pleased
that the clock should be taken from him, and sold for the benefit of
the noviceship. The seal which he used at missions, and which he would
willingly have kept afterwards, he gave up at once at the instance of
his superior. He had received a great many books as presents in the
course of his missions, to assist him in preaching, and these he
delivered up for the common use, after very little delay. The Fathers
whom I questioned answered that they had noticed nothing in Father Saxo
that might give scandal, nor had they ever heard anything of the kind
about him."

The complaints against Father Viller were less easily answered. He had
filled the office of Austrian Provincial between the years 1589 and
1595, and in the latter year was appointed rector of the college at
Gratz. During this time the Archduke Ferdinand chose him as his
confessor. Not long afterwards he was accused to the General of being a
courtier, an imputation so vague as to need a discursive reply. But his
long letter of self justification addressed to Father Aquaviva is
interesting on account of the vivid scenes it lays before us. Its main
contents are these: -

"Already fifteen or sixteen years ago, when Father Maggio had left the
province, certain Fathers in Vienna complained bitterly to the new
provincial, Father Blyssem, that I had a courtier-like mind, because
people about the court came to me, and I associated with them. I was,
it is true, in favour with the imperial council, with the bishops and
the Hungarian nobles, also with the apostolic nuntios Delphin and
Portia, and I laboured to the extent of my power in the interests of
religion. Father Provincial removed me from my office, and I became his
secretary and admonitor. Two years later, when a visitor, Father Oliver
came, he reinstated me as Master of the alumni, discipline among them
having become relaxed. When I had been another two years in this
office, I was again accused to the provincial. I was deposed, but in
the meantime, the baselessness of the charges brought against me having
been proved, I was appointed rector at Olmutz, and Father Provincial
assured me with tears that I had been unjustly treated. Five years
afterwards I was elected provincial, and the Father Visitor was able to
testify that I suffered much, even to the danger of losing my life, in
discharging the duties of this office in Bohemia and Hungary. The next
provincial (Father Ferdinand Alber) evinced dislike of me immediately
on his taking up office, the reason of which was, I believe, merely
that we do not share the same opinions. He, like Fathers Bader, Reinel,
and Scherer, is for public penitential exercises in the refectory
daily; I, on the contrary, am for a milder proceeding, such as I have
learned of Fathers Maggio, Everard (Mercurian) Goudan, Canisius, and
Lanoy. Therefore, I am called a courtier, even when I am not at court.
The whole college will bear witness that I go there less often than
Father Reinel, who at least went once a day, whereas I go on an average
but once a week.

"If it be objected that I suffer the princes to come frequently to the
college, I reply, as I replied to the Father Provincial, that I will
undertake they shall come no more, but the responsibility for this must
rest with others.

"I am further reproached with having invited the princes to dinner at
the vineyard, and also at the college, and that I even played with them
at the vineyard. As for the invitation, the princes themselves asked to
be invited, and the Apostolic Nuntio, and the Bishop of Laibach, were
present at the games, which were, in my judgment, honourable and modest.

"I have begged to be removed from both my offices, in order to remove
suspicion, and to obtain peace, for I see that I am not agreeable to my
provincial, he having forbidden me to hear the confessions of the
archduke and those of the dowager archduchess, who with her daughters
insists on confessing to me.

"If any one has told the provincial that the college is in a bad state,
ocular demonstration will prove the contrary; everything goes on in an
orderly way. The archduke receives Holy Communion every Sunday. He is
burning with desire to reinstate the Catholic religion, and he labours
for the conversion of the nobility. Only yesterday a man in a very high
position was received into the Church. As for your Paternity's
exhortation to guard against the spirit of the world, I thank you, but
I do not see how I am to do it, unless I flee from the court and from
those about it. I will take pains to satisfy my conscience and
obedience, but I fear that I shall not content those who look on the
dark side. If your Paternity thinks that I seek the favour of princes
more for my own sake than that of the Society, it is a bitter reproach,
for I would rather die than be guilty of such a fault. The archdukes
will bear me out how often I have spoken to them on this subject, and
how I have begged them to write nothing on my behalf to the General or
to the provincial; but they insist that if I lay down the rectorate I
must retain the confessorship."*

* Orig. G. Epist., 35, 479.


In the end, this suggested compromise was effected. Father Viller was
no longer rector of Gratz, but remained confessor to the archducal
family. Nevertheless, complaints of him did not cease, and he had to
defend himself against the charge of clinging inordinately to the
worldy advantages of his position. In a confidential letter to the
German Resident in Rome he wrote: -

"I call God to witness that I do not value the court and my present
office more than any other service which my superiors may call upon me
to render to the Society. I am cheerfully ready to leave the court at
any moment, and at the risk of losing the prince's favour, whenever my
superior expresses a wish that I should do so, to say nothing of
receiving a decided order. I have not so high an opinion of my person
that I seek consideration on account of the favour and affection of the
prince."

Still the attacks on Father Viller did not cease. Those who were for
unmitigated austerity looked on his broad views with horror. Father
Scherer, one of the most rigid, called him "the synagogue of
Libertines." The provincial, and the Spaniard, Father Ximenes, were
among those who judged him most severely. He was, moreover,
involved - and this is perhaps less to his credit than any supposed
laxness with which he was charged - in the squabbles between the
Hapsburg and Wittelsbach royal families, concerning the bishopric of
Passau. This had for long been an apple of contention between Austria
and Bavaria, and the new rector of the college at Gratz, Father Haller,
in describing the situation to the General, wrote: "Outsiders on either
side naturally throw oil on the flames, and as regards Ours, I doubt
whether they do their best to extinguish them, exercising the necessary
charity and prudence. Father Viller does the reverse, blaming and
condemning everything Bavarian, while he praises and defends the
Austrians indiscriminately. Both parties have their adherents, who
publish everything from their own point of view. As this one-sided
material is all that is laid before Ours, the danger is that the advice
given is not in favour of investigation. It is taken for granted that
all that comes before their eyes is true, and the other side is
condemned unheard. But as it is clear that the Christian cause in
Germany would be greatly benefited by a union of the two parties, it
would be well worth the trouble, seeing the immense influence which the
Society has over the princes and their advisers, for the members of the
Order to labour with more zeal than heretofore, to bring about this
reconciliation, particularly at Prague, Vienna, Munich, and Gratz." He
concludes with the wish that not alone the Society, but the rulers of
the Church also, might advance the cause of union.

In a postscript Father Haller returns to his charge against Father
Viller, who, he declares, has disregarded the rules of the fifth
General Congregation. At Ferrara, for instance, he engaged in a violent
controversy with the Bavarian agent, Sper, about the Passau question,
as well as that of the bishopric of Salzburg, which the Bavarians were
supposed to covet. Besides this, Father Viller, blinded by prejudice,
disapproved of the contemplated marriage between the Austrian Archduke
and the Princess Maria Anna of Bavaria, "which he would prevent if he
could. In short," wrote the provincial, "the good Father has
extravagant and dangerous notions, and gives no good example to the
college."

In his own defence Father Viller wrote that he was by no means averse
from the alliance, that he had himself secretly applied for, and
obtained, the necessary dispensation at Rome, and had frequently
expressed his earnest desire that the marriage might take place,
considering that a union between the two princely houses would conduce
to the honour of both, and to the protection and defence of the
Catholic religion in Germany.

Only, the health of the bride must be considered no less than her great
and remarkable piety, as it was important to provide for the
continuation of the line of the august house, into which it was
proposed she should enter. He had thought that as marriage was so
delicate an affair, foresight was needful, in order that no want of
physical health and beauty might in course of time change affection
into aversion, such as was to be daily observed in the marriages of so
many illustrious persons. This, Father Viller declared, was his whole
mind on the subject, and such as he had in all humility expressed it to
the prince. With his whole heart he wished both exalted personages the
tenderest love, firm union, and continuous happiness. He believed that
the Archduke Ferdinand could not form a more suitable alliance with any
other family in Europe, but at the same time, no one should quarrel
with him, Father Viller, for wishing that the bride might possess
sufficient corporal health and beauty to ensure the well-being of their
issue, and the continuance of conjugal affection. For this reason he
trusted in the great piety and noble character of the duke and duchess
that they would not endanger the future of their daughter, and that of
her children, as well as the happiness of their prospective son-in-law,
by concealing a want of health on the part of their most devout and
admirable daughter.*

* The reports as to the condition of the Princess Maria Anna's health
appear not to have been without foundation. Hurter mentions her
delicacy, and Koch says that she was unhealthy. She died on the 8th
March 1616.


But Duke William of Bavaria was deeply offended with the Archduke
Ferdinand's confessor, and even after the marriage which took place on
the 23rd April 1600, at Gratz, Father Viller having indiscreetly
reopened the subject of the bride's want of health, complaints of him
reached the General. But, in spite of all this, he did not lose the
archduke's favour, retaining his entire confidence to the end.

An incident connected with the jealousy with which the Society guarded
its rule of non-interference in politics, is furnished by the same
Father Viller, who, in 1599, was appointed to go to Rome on a mission
from the Austrian archduke. On this occasion the General, Father
Aquaviva, wrote to Father Viller as follows: -

"As at the present time general suspicion is aroused, especially in
Venice, by any semblance even of politics, it will be difficult to
avoid remarks, when it is seen that your reverence is charged with an
embassy from the archduke to the Pope. And as the good prince has
deserved so well of the Church and of the Society, and especially as
your reverence has resisted so long, excusing yourself in prudent and
religious fashion, it appears to me that a via media is possible, and
an exception may be made. That is to say, that if the mission has
nothing whatever to do with politics, but has merely regard to matters
of faith, concerning heretics or the Turks, your reverence is at
liberty to undertake it, and may set out as soon as is desired. But if
the business is a political one, you must entreat the archduke,
appealing to his love for the Society, to send some one more suitable
in your place. This will be better for the archduke himself, and will
confer a benefit on the Society."*

*Ad. Austr., 1573-1600.


It cannot be denied that during the reigns of the Archdukes Ferdinand,
Charles, and Rudolph, the Court of Gratz was a model of purity,
uprightness, and activity. As the Jesuits were all-powerful there
during the whole of this period, it is obvious that this satisfactory
condition must, in a large measure, be attributed to their influence.

The introduction of the Society into Innsbruck was the work of the
Emperor Ferdinand, and the first Jesuit to labour in the new field was
the Tyrolese, Father Charles Grim. At Innsbruck, in 1561, lived the
five so-called queens, daughters of the emperor, who lived a
semi-religious life, and who desired to be confessed, directed, and
preached to by members of the Society. In 1563 the emperor paid a visit
to his daughters, and inspected the new college at Innsbruck. He
expressed his satisfaction with it, and presented the community with a
garden.

The five "queens," Magdalen, Margaret, Barbara, Helena, Joanna, had a
great reputation for piety and charity. A young girl, who had received
severe injuries from a fire, was received into their palace and nursed
with the most loving care. Certain persons were charged by them to
inform them of cases of need as they arose. Father Edmund Hay told the
General that three of the "queens" had dedicated themselves to God by a
vow, and had resolved to remove as soon as possible from the turmoil
and luxury of the court into greater solitude. One of them was
especially pious, frequented the sacraments once a month and oftener,
and would practise very great austerities if her confessor would allow
her. In 1565 people already declared that the court of these
archduchesses was like a convent; every sign of pomp and splendour had
disappeared, and humility and modesty reigned in their stead.

On the 11th January 1566, Father Dirsius wrote to the General, St.
Francis Borgia, in behalf of the "queens" Margaret, Magdalen, and
Helena, telling him that their brothers, the emperor, and the Archdukes
Ferdinand and Charles, fully concurred in their making the
above-mentioned vow. They had wished, he said, to remove to Munich,
with their attendants, and to live there in a convent of Poor Clares,
apart from the world. But this plan their brothers opposed, and desired
them to remain in Austria. The emperor had even offered them deserted
convents in Corinthia, but in those parts there were too many heretics
to please the princesses. Everyone advised them to remain at Innsbruck,
where they already edified the faithful by their virtuous example, and
prevented apostasy. They themselves were willing to remain; at least
they wished to be in a place where there was a college of the Society,
and were thinking of taking the newly-built Franciscan convent, the
Italian Franciscans for whom it had been constructed being unlikely to
remain on account of the climate and the difficulties they experienced
in mastering the German language. In case the archduchesses did not get
possession of this convent they had also in view a house in the
neighbourhood of Innsbruck. In this event they humbly begged for
fathers to direct them spiritually, and to undertake the care of other
souls in the place.

In answering this letter St. Francis Borgia said that the Society was
ready to help the archduchesses spiritually, if only out of gratitude
to their father and brother, but that it was contrary to the Institute
for the members of the Society to live for any length of time apart
from their colleges or houses, and it would in any case be displeasing
to the Fathers themselves to forego the company and edifying example of
their religious brethren. It seemed, therefore, advisable that the
three princesses should take up their abode where there was a college
or house of the Society, and preferably at Innsbruck, where they might
inhabit the house built by their father, or some other of the same
description, where they might observe the rule of life they had
adopted, and keep the vow they had taken before God. The Fathers might
hear the confessions of the princesses and preach to them. A proviso
was afterwards made that, in the event of the "queens" founding a
convent, the Jesuits should no longer be their confessors, as this
would be directly contrary to the intention of St. Ignatius, as
expressed in the Institute.

The General then sent Father Canisius to Innsbruck to arrange matters,
and the holy apostle of Germany formulated the opinion that "Ours
should not easily receive permission to direct women, even the most
exalted in position, for we have experienced to our detriment and the
detriment of this college in particular, that Ours are liable in such
matters to suffer in their vocation, and as a consequence to become
unbearable."*

* Kroess, p. 177.


The next year (16th August 1567), Father Peter Canisius reiterated his
apprehension: "I consider it extremely difficult to keep Fathers to
their obedience and religious discipline when they are in any way bound
to the court," he said.

Meanwhile, the "queens" had chosen Hall, a little town near Innsbruck,
as their residence, and Father Dirsius announced the circumstance to
the General in these terms: -

"The Queens have purposed for years to withdraw from the world. Now,
with the consent of their brothers, they have decided to reside at
Hall, and there with some of their ladies and attendants who wish to
imitate them, to lead a religious life in common, but without adopting
a habit or the rule of any religious order. They need priests, however,
and wish for Fathers of the Society. They beg, therefore, that the
church to be built at Hall with all its treasures may be taken over by
the Society, for which they also wish to found a novitiate there."

But Father Borgia again objected, foreseeing nearly all the
difficulties which arose later on. The Society might not undertake the
direction of a community of women, even though these were not leading a
thoroughly conventual life. It was not advisable for the Fathers to
accept the church offered to them at Hall, because the college they
were to establish in that place would have its own church connected
with it, which would suffice. Further, it was not convenient that a
church, communicating with the house where the archduchesses lived with
their suite, should be handed over to them, and lastly, it was not the
custom of the Fathers to go daily from their own to another church at a
distance, to conduct divine service there. The General concluded his
letter with the remark that, as the project of the "queens" was
directly opposed to the Institute, nothing further need be said about
such a foundation.

In a second letter he instructed Blessed Peter Canisius to impress upon
the archduchesses that they should be content with the confessor chosen
by the Society as the one best suited to them. Canisius was then to
name Father Lanoy, whom the General was sending to Innsbruck from
Vienna, the empress having been very well contented with him. If they
demurred, it was to be represented to them that it was not becoming for
"Ours" to frequent palaces much. The less frequently they were seen
there the better, and the less people testified their affection for
them by sending them food and clothes, the better would they be enabled
to live a community life, and observe the Institute. The better also
would they be able to render spiritual service.

Father Borgia communicated this instruction to the rector of Innsbruck
College also, and added that he feared the Fathers were too much
spoiled by presents from the "queens," who were in the habit of sending
meals daily from their palace to them. In answer to the rector's
question as to what was to be done with the food thus sent, the General
replied that it was to be given to the sick, or to those in need. It
was to be desired that the "queens" might be persuaded to send no more
things of the sort. If they wished to bestow an alms on the college,
they should do so in a more useful way. On no consideration should
their confessor be allowed to take his meals in his own room; sickness
being the only exception to this rule.

It was some time before the princesses could be induced to give up
sending delicacies to their confessors, two lackeys being daily told
off to carry the various dishes from the palace to the college. At
last, however, the unwelcome favours were stopped by the rector
declaring that the dinners thus sent did not reach the destination
intended, but were distributed to the sick members of the community and
others, the "queens" confessors partaking of the ordinary fare.

Nevertheless, the archduchesses gained their point as regarded the
other matter, for in the end, the General gave an unwilling consent to
their choosing their own confessors, but he told Canisius that this
arrangement only held good during the lifetime of the "queens," and was
to form no precedent. After their death the Society would not continue
to direct the community of ladies which they had founded, such work not
being in accordance with the rules of the Institute, which, in this
particular as in others, had been approved by the Holy See.

In order to secure the Jesuits permanently as their directors, the
pious archduchesses determined to found a novitiate at Hall, and to
offer it to the General of the Society. St. Francis Borgia accepted the
offer, but on condition that no responsibility was to accrue to the
Society respecting the future of the community, and he wished it to be
impressed on the princesses how much he had condescended in allowing
their confessors to associate with their court, such frequent
intercourse with seculars, especially with ladies, being undesirable
for religious, and giving occasion to idle and frivolous remarks.

In the meanwhile, the Archduchess Magdalen had given notice that the
whole machinery of her court would be broken up in six months. Those of
her ladies, ladies' maids, and attendants who desired to do so might
follow her and her two sisters into their spiritual solitude at Hall,
no longer as servants, but as companions in the service of God.
Accordingly, by the end of October 1569, all was in readiness, and the
three princesses, accompanied by six of their suite who had resolved to
share their penance, removed to Hall, where they themselves performed
nearly the whole of the housework, two servants only being engaged for
the roughest portion of the labour. Hereupon, a storm of abuse broke
over the heads of the Innsbruck Jesuits, who had, of course, originated
the whole affair, seeking their own advantage. It was they who had
persuaded Magdalen to found a novitiate, and it was their fault that
the "queens" washed the clothes, plates, and dishes of the new
community with their own imperial hands, cooking also the meals of
which they partook. Rumours were afloat to the effect that the emperor
and the archdukes were furious.* All this was, however, but the
malicious invention of enemies, and the facts communicated to the
General by the Fathers at Innsbruck reveal nothing but satisfaction on
all sides. The archduke concurred in all that was done, and the
princesses were brought to acquiesce in the arrangement by which the
Fathers were to live at some distance from their house, and the Jesuits
rejoiced, inasmuch as they were left free to use the building handed
over to them as a school or a novitiate, or to put it to any use they
thought fit. Father Hoffaus wrote that the archduke had accorded him a
long and very gracious audience, and had assured him of his affection
and esteem for the Society. On the 5th December, High Mass had been
sung in their church at Innsbruck, and on the preceding day he had
announced a plenary Indulgence to all who should assist at it, on
account of the departure of the "queens." The archduke, the "queens,"
and the whole of the nobility had been present. The archduke had shown
himself extremely gracious and kind, and had paid a visit to Father


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Online LibraryJ.M. StoneStudies from Court and Cloister: being essays, historical and literary dealing mainly with subjects relating to the XVIth and XVIIth centuries → online text (page 12 of 28)