Lutherans, and the friars were forced into being present at the
Protestant sermons. Not content with this, Count William inflicted
seven Lutheran beneficiaries upon them, obliging them to lodge and feed
them gratis. Lutheran preachers and school teachers were salaried out
of the convent revenues, which the Count managed by fraud and cunning
to confiscate. That portion of the convent buildings which bordered on
his property he turned into stables for his own horses, so that
entrance to the friar's quarters was open to his servants, while the
Carmelites were themselves forbidden to go in and out on that side.
The new Provincial succeeded in time by dint of courage and firmness,
in getting back all that the Count had seized by force; but other
houses were in as deplorable a condition, and little could be done to
improve matters. Billick appealed to the Emperor, who had taken all the
Carmelite convents in Lower Germany under his protection; but the
Emperor's goodwill surpassed his power to help, the whole of his money
and energy being needed to oppose the Turks, the French, and the Duke
The greatest danger and difficulty lay in the behaviour of Count
Hermann of Wied, Archbishop and Elector of Cologne. From the outset his
rule had been detrimental to the Church. The best that could be said of
him in his youth was that he was "kind and peace-loving, fond of
hunting, but not particularly learned." Charles V., in a letter to the
landgrave Philip of Hessen, who had joined the Lutherans, says: "How
should the good man be able to reform his diocese? He has no Latin, and
has never said more than three Masses in his life. He does not even
know the Confiteor." Philip replied: "I can assure your Majesty that he
reads German industriously, and interests himself in religious
Unfortunately, these "religious questions" threw the archbishop into
the arms of the Lutherans, and already in 1536, Aleander considered him
as much lost to the Church as Philip of Hessen himself, who made no
secret of his apostasy. Melancthon was his dear friend already when he
made the acquaintance of Martin Bucer at the Diet of Hagenau in 1540.
Two years later, Archbishop Hermann invited this violent and notorious
heretic to preach in the minster at Bonn. Immediately, Cologne rose up
in protest, and the Cathedral Chapter, the clergy and the Magistrate
presented the archbishop with a remonstrance. Hermann replied by
sending Melancthon to support Bucer at Bonn, and thus, by entrusting
the work of reform to men whose sole aim was to subvert Catholic
doctrine and to disorganise Christian society, proved himself faithless
to the solemn promise he had made neither to introduce religious
novelties into his diocese, nor to abolish customs founded on Catholic
The Chapter, fully alive to the critical nature of the situation, drew
up a memorandum, dated 5th February 1543, in which they showed good
reasons why Bucer could not be tolerated as a minister of religion in
the diocese. His broken vows, his marriage, his open profession of
Luther's doctrines, proved sufficiently that he was no longer a member
of the Catholic Church. Further, his preaching at Strassburg had
resulted directly in the wholesale destruction of images and altars,
and ultimately in the abolition of the Mass in that place. The
memorandum went on to affirm that, in patronising such a man the
Archbishop was acting in direct disobedience to the Pope and to the
Bucer's answer to these objections was devised in such a manner as to
cause his opponents some embarrassment. It was written in the Swiss
dialect, an unknown tongue to the clergy of Cologne, as well as to the
university. Nevertheless, before long, an epitome of its purport was
furnished to the Chapter, and the refutation of the doctrines therein
set forth was entrusted to the Carmelite provincial, Billick.
The two champions were personally not unknown to each other, as they
had met at the Diets of Worms and Regensburg, where Billick had made a
point of studying the Strassburg heresiarch carefully. The Carmelite
now skilfully exposed the weakness of Bucer's arguments, together with
his frequent misinterpretation of Scripture and the Fathers, Billick
showing himself to be an experienced polemical writer; but the taste
and tone of his book are repugnant to modern ideas, and betray the same
acrimony which characterises the writings of Luther against Erasmus,
and vice versa. Accusations of hatred, cunning, lying, slandering, and
double-dealing, are cast like a hail of bullets, with no especial aim
at any of Bucer's arguments in particular. Interspersed with much able
criticism are choice epithets of abuse and reflections on Bucer's
personal character, which, although perfectly in accordance with
sixteenth century methods of controversy, are quite beside the mark,
and certainly not such as to promote peace in any age.
What the Church in Germany needed at this juncture, was not so much a
fiery defender of the faith, or a scholar to taunt the heretics in
finely-pointed sarcasm with their want of learning, as a saint,
demonstrating in his own life the beauty of holiness, while laying
aside polemics, he expounded the philosophy of Catholic doctrine. The
need for reform was patent to all; many, like the zealous Carmelite
provincial, were already putting their hands to the plough. The
movement had been set on foot, but it lacked an apostle to lead and
govern it. Such a man was at that moment being formed at the University
of Cologne-the second apostle of Germany, as St. Boniface had been the
first-Blessed Peter Canisius.
Canisius was a native of Nymwegen in the Low Countries, and was born on
8th May 1521. Having studied at Paris and Orleans, he became tutor to
the sons of Rene Duke of Lorraine, whose wife was Philippine of
Guelderland. From an early age Peter had desired to consecrate himself
to God in the priesthood, and his father having given his consent, the
young man proceeded to Cologne for his course of theology and civil and
canon law. No sooner did he appear in the lecture rooms than he
attracted universal attention. It was not merely the clearness and
conciseness of his reasoning, nor altogether the humility of his
bearing, but perhaps the mingled charm of each that roused the interest
of professors and students alike. That interest led them to watch him
closely, and they not only noticed that he seemed altogether
unconscious of the plaudits which he excited, but they discovered that
he was in the habit of imposing privations on himself, in order to have
money to give to poor students, that these might be better fed and
clothed, and more amply furnished with books. It was soon related of
him that he frequently went out of his way to instruct, counsel, and
rescue those (and there were many of them at Cologne) who had fallen
upon evil ways. Broad-minded, large-hearted, enlightened beyond his
companions, and possessing a strong and well balanced character, it
needed no great gift of prophecy to foresee that Peter Canisius would
do great things in the future.
In the meanwhile, Father Peter Faber, the first associate of St.
Ignatius, was at Mainz, whither he had been sent by Pope Paul III. to
counteract the spread of the new doctrines by all the means in his
power. His reputation for holiness Was so great in the Society of
Jesus, that St. Francis Xavier invoked him when in danger from a storm
at sea, and inserted his name in the Litany of the Saints while he was
yet living. At Mainz Father Faber gave the Spiritual Exercises of St.
Ignatius, and obtained many wonderful conversions.
His fame soon reached Cologne, where Canisius, yet uncertain as to his
future, was praying, studying, and exercising himself in all good
works. Suddenly, it became clear to him that his vocation would be made
known to him through Father Peter Faber. He hastened to Mainz, and at
their first interview Canisius was convinced that he was called to join
the new Society. He made the Spiritual Exercises, and on the fourth day
bound himself by a vow to do so. He returned to Cologne as a novice,
and continued to live much as before, pursuing his theological studies
and making a deep impression on all those with whom he came in contact.
Associated with two other novices, also university students-the
Spaniards Alfonsus Alvarez and John of Arragon - he received a common
rule of life from Faber, and in their zeal they soon exceeded it. They
preached, instructed children in Christian doctrine, begged alms for
the poor from door to door, nursed the sick in the hospitals, and, in
short, seized every opportunity of self-denial and humiliation.
When Faber heard of all this he wrote to Canisius, commending the
charity of the trio, but reminding them at the same time that study was
their paramount duty, and would lead to more valuable work in the
future than anything they could then do for souls.
"As obedience requires you to finish your course of theology," he
wrote, "you must not neglect it, thinking to do more by succouring your
neighbour in his temporal necessities."
Soon Faber came himself to Cologne, and lodged with the Carthusians,
those valiant sons of St. Bruno, whose boast it is never to have quite
departed from the spirit of their founder.
On the 8th May 1545, his twenty-fourth birthday, Peter Canisius made
the three simple vows of the Society and the same year was ordained
priest. By this time his reputation as a Catholic reformer was as great
as his reputation for learning. His capacity for work was prodigious.
He lectured twice daily; every Sunday he preached in one of the
churches, great crowds flocking to hear him. At home, every hour was
occupied either in teaching or in receiving those who came to him for
advice and help in their doubts. He answered them all with so much
insight, wisdom, gentleness, and humility, that even Lutherans dropped
the usual epithets, and spoke of him with respect. Every free moment
was devoted to literary work, which also obtained a certain celebrity.
But to all these strenuous efforts the Archbishop Elector Hermann von
Wied persistently remained a stranger. Relations between himself and
his Chapter were strained to the utmost. A deputation of his clergy had
waited upon him and solemnly entreated him to retrace his steps, and to
cancel the novelties he had introduced. On his refusal, they declared
that they would with a clear conscience, and for fear of incurring the
divine wrath if they further delayed, proceed by all legitimate means
to remove so grievous a scandal. Then the Chapter, including
representatives of the lower ranks of the clergy and the university,
made a public protest, and drew up appeals to the Pope and the Emperor.
They at once informed the archbishop of these measures, and again
attempted before taking irrevocable steps to bring about a peaceful
solution. But all was useless; and, forced to extremities, they
solicited for their appeal the support of other dioceses and learned
academies, in order to obtain more speedy relief. The best and most
distinguished of the bishops and clergy, as well as the universities of
the whole province, joined in the appeal, and the University of
Ingolstadt also signified its intention of seconding them.
The archbishop on his part was also careful to procure himself allies.
As Elector of Cologne he summoned the Landtag, and its members declared
themselves in his favour. The landgrave, Philip of Hessen, to whom
Luther had given licence to commit bigamy, and other Protestant princes
naturally promised him their support, and the Schmalkaldian League did
The Catholics of Cologne agitated that the case might be brought before
the Reichstag at Worms, to which they had sent their representative,
the Dominican, Johann Pessel.
But the archbishop appealed to a General Council, or rather to a
National Synod, to be held in Germany and to be entirely independent of
At this juncture Eberhard Billick wrote one of his most violent letters
to Pessel, attacking the counter appeal of the archbishop which would
shortly be presented to the Reichstag, and which was calculated by its
affectation of piety to deceive even the elect. But let them be on
their guard. It would be seen that Hermann despised the Pope, the
Emperor, and the Oecumenical Council already assembled at Trent. He set
his own authority above all councils, although they had been instituted
by the common consent of Christendom, and he appealed to a lawless,
headless council which might only meet at Bonn or at Schmalkald, in
order that it might be unrestrained by any authority whatever. There
was, continued the Carmelite, no end to the archbishop's innovations.
In defiance of all justice and precedent he had transferred the Chapter
to Bonn, where people and preachers were split up into parties, and
persecuted each other with persistent malice. This he had done, not
because there was any greater safety at Bonn than at Cologne, where
senate, clergy, and people lived in peace and unity as before, and
where his friends in the Chapter might act with all freedom,* but
because at Bonn he was sure of a majority in his favour, for loyal
Catholics, in spite of his safe-conduct, would not go there. By this
stratagem it would appear as if all ranks in the diocese had consented
to his measures.
* Others maintained, however, that some of the canons known to be
inclined towards Lutheranism had been threatened with death.
Billick went on to complain bitterly that the sentence against the
archbishop announced by the papal nuncio, Verallo, as imminent, had not
yet been passed. "Every postponement of the imperial mandate," he
wrote, "means a weakening of our cause and a strengthening of that of
our opponents. At Worms they speak fair, and assume a supplicating
attitude; but at Cologne they go about their business boldly. Paintings
are scratched off the walls of the churches, statues are hurled from
their pedestals, heretical preachers are multiplied and forced upon the
Catholics against their will. Four days ago, the archbishop attacked
the parish priest of Bruhl, because he still said Mass, and forbade him
to do so in future. And much more is done in this enormous diocese
which entirely escapes our notice." In conclusion, Billick implored the
Dominican to do his utmost with the Emperor, the Cardinal of Augsburg,
the Apostolic Nuncio, and the other Catholic authorities in order that
the mandate might be issued without further delay, adding, "Gropper,
the indefatigable champion of our cause, is ill, otherwise he would
have sent a learned and luminous disquisition on this subject."
At last, the Emperor was moved to abandon the passive and
procrastinating attitude he had hitherto assumed; and towards the close
of the Reichstag he answered the Cologne appellants by citing the
archbishop to appear within thirty days, and answer the charges of
innovation brought against him. In the meanwhile he was to cancel all
the novelties he had introduced into the diocese.
Charles V. on his way to the Netherlands stopped at Cologne, and in a
personal interview with Hermann, represented to him the terrible
consequences that would ensue if he persisted in his disobedience.
The archbishop demanded a short time to consider and to consult with
his advisers. His answer, written on 19th August, after the Emperor's
departure, was to the effect that he could not change his opinions. He
was then cited to appear at Brussels within the space of thirty days.
At the same time Paul III. sent him a brief, commanding him and his
adherents to justify their conduct at Rome within sixty days.
Hermann paid no attention to either of these citations, but with
renewed zeal continued to advance the Protestant reformation. On the
8th January 1546, Verallo suspended him, and confiscated the revenues
of the diocese. The archbishop made a solemn protest, but showed no
sign of yielding, and on the 16th April, the Pope proceeded to his
ex-communication, at the same time depriving him of all his
ecclesiastical dignities, offices and benefices.
By a special brief of 3rd July, Hermann's coadjutor, Adolf von
Schauenburg, was made administrator of the archdiocese, and Gropper and
Billick were appointed to examine the deposed archbishop with regard to
his attitude towards the Catholic religion. The result was
unsatisfactory, but the Emperor could not be induced to take any
immediate steps against Hermann, his whole attention being directed
towards crushing the Schmalkaldian League. It was not till November
that the archbishop was officially informed of his excommunication,
when he made a further protest, declared the Pope incompetent to judge
him, and again appealed to a German Council. The time now seemed ripe
for putting pressure on Charles V. to carry out the Pope's sentence.
The imperial arms had been victorious over the league, and the
Catholics of Cologne commissioned Billick to proceed to the camp, and
to petition the emperor to formally depose the archbishop.
The biographers of Blessed Peter Canisius for the most part claim him
as the hero of this expedition, which was in fact entrusted to several
delegates, of whom the principals were the veteran Carmelite
provincial, and Johann von Isenburg. Canisius was deputed to go first
to Liege, and to beg that its bishop, George of Austria, son of
Maximilian I., and uncle to the Emperor, would facilitate their
journey, the country through which they would have to pass being
invested with the enemy's troops. During the time which he spent at
Liege, Canisius completely won the heart of the prince-bishop, who
ordered him to preach in his cathedral and in his private chapel,
expressing himself greatly edified with what he had heard. His visit
being unavoidably prolonged, Canisius gave the Spiritual Exercises,
took part in theological conferences with the Lutherans, visited the
sick in the hospitals, and catechised the children. Crowds followed him
wherever he went, and there was but one opinion of his learning,
eloquence, and charity.
It is probable that on his return to Cologne, having given an account
of his mission, he started with the other delegates for Worms.
Writing to the coadjutor Adolf, on 6th December, Billick says that at
Mainz they heard that all the roads were occupied by the enemy. In
order to avoid all appearance of an embassy they left their baggage
behind them at Mainz, and being advised by the vicar-general, Scholl,
the Carmelite separated from his companions, and hastened on alone to
Worms to present his letters to the Dean of St. Andrew's. Here he lay
hidden for four days, in the greatest anxiety and doubt as to his
further progress. Neither he nor his advisers could hit on a safe mode
of continuing the journey, as it was known that separate parties of
defeated Schmalkaldians were making their retreat good by various roads
back to the Rhine. To add to his alarm and embarrassment Billick
discovered that his horse had been rendered useless by a mysterious
wound, so that he had reason to think he had been betrayed. Just then,
however, he received information that the imperialists were in hot
pursuit of the Schmalkaldians, and having bought another horse from a
Jew, he set out for Speyer. At Speyer he fell in with a nobleman
belonging to the imperial army on his way back to the camp, and Billick
joined him, without however revealing his name or his mission, so
necessary was it to regard every stranger as a possible enemy.
At last the road to the Emperor was open, and the delegates, who all
arrived simultaneously at Krailsheim on the 5th December, were received
by Cardinal Granvelle. The object of their embassy was then speedily
attained. Charles V. issued a mandate, ordering the Landtag to assemble
at Cologne on the 24th January following; and at the date fixed two
imperial commissioners appeared to conduct the proceedings.
On the same day the coadjutor Adolf was inducted as archbishop, in
spite of the opposition of a large number of the representatives of the
Landtag, who, however, gave in their adhesion by the end of the month.
Hermann still offered a futile resistance, but on 28th February 1547
was at last forced from a position that had become untenable. He died
on the 15th August 1552.
During these proceedings Peter Canisius had attracted the attention of
Cardinal Otto Truchsess, who desired to have him as his second
theologian at the Council of Trent, Father Le Jay having already been
sent there as first theologian to that prelate. The cardinal, in a
letter to St. Ignatius, laid stress on the circumstance of Peter's
intimate acquaintance with the state of religion in Germany, and on his
being able therefore to suggest to the Council the best means of
meeting the prevalent evils. These reasons had great weight with St.
Ignatius, and scarcely had the young Jesuit returned to Cologne, when
he received orders to set out for Trent. Great was the lamentation
among the burghers of Cologne. All whom he met in the streets greeted
him with tears and supplications not to depart out of their midst. His
leaving, they declared, would mean triumph to the enemies of the
Church. The university conferred on him unanimously the title of doctor
of divinity as a proof of their gratitude, esteem, and regret at his
loss. The clergy and senate presented him with two precious relics - the
heads of two of the martyred companions of St. Ursula.
At Trent Canisius found four of his religious brethren, and joined them
at their lodgings in the hospital. Here the five Jesuits followed the
special rule of life which St. Ignatius had sent to them. "Three things
I wish you to bear in mind," he wrote: -
"(1) at the sessions of the Council the greatest glory of God, and the
general good of the Church; (2) outside the Council your fundamental
principle to labour for the salvation of souls, a matter that lies
especially near my heart in this your journey; (3) when at home not to
neglect yourselves." He recommended them to behave as prudently as
possible at the Council, not to speak hastily, and to be ever on the
side of peace. Every evening they were to confer with each other on the
day's proceedings, and to make resolutions for the morrow. "Moreover,"
he continued, "you will allow no opportunity to escape you of acquiring
merit in the service of your neighbour. You must always be on the watch
to hear confessions, to preach to the people, to instruct the little
ones, to visit the sick." In their sermons they were to avoid
controverted dogmas, and to lay stress on all that appertained to the
reform of morals, and obedience to the Church.
The meetings of the Council being adjourned till 1550, Canisius was
called to Rome, where he remained for five months, under the personal
guidance of St. Ignatius himself, who submitted him to the most
humiliating trials in order to prove his virtue. He sent him to beg and
to preach in the most frequented parts of the city, and to nurse the
sick in the hospitals, where he was day and night at the beck and call
of exacting officials, who set him to perform the most loathsome tasks,
and often curtailed his sleep and food. St. Ignatius would then cause
inquiries to be made at the hospitals concerning the behaviour of his
novice under this kind of treatment.
In the spring of 1548, Canisius was sent with eleven companions to
Messina, where the Viceroy, Don Juan de Vega, had founded a college. On
the eve of their departure St. Ignatius put to them four questions in
writing. Canisius answered the questions thus: -
1. "I am ready, with the help of God's grace, to remain here or to go
to Sicily, to India, or wherever it may be that obedience requires me.
2. "If I am sent to Sicily I affirm that I will accept with joy
whatever office is conferred on me, even should it be that of porter,
cook, or gardener.
3. "I am ready to learn or to teach in any department of science,
although hitherto I may have been quite unskilled in it.
4. "I will regard as best for me whatever my superiors may decide to do
with me, whether they entrust me with any office or with none. I
promise this day, the 5th February, for my whole life never to demand
anything for myself concerning my lodging, office or any other similar
thing, but once for all I leave the guidance of my soul, and every care
for my body in the complete submission of my judgment and will, to my
father in God, the Rev. Father General, 1548. Peter Canisius of
Hereupon St. Ignatius appointed him professor of rhetoric at Messina,