Letter of Cardinal Cullen to the Catholic Clergy, Secular and Regular, of the Diocese of Dublin

6th November, 1873

Very Rev. and Dear Sir,

Within the present week an important circular regarding the Catholic University will be addressed to you by the Rector, the Very Rev. Monsignor Woodlock.

I beg of you to read that document for your faithful flocks, and at the same time to impress upon them the necessity of upholding the cause of religious education, and providing the youth of the country with the means of acquiring not only all useful scientific knowledge, but also solid instruction in the practices and doctrines of the one, holy, Catholic Church, out of which there is no salvation. If this be not done, and if children be not brought up in the fear and love of God, and inspired with a spirit of respect and obedience for the laws of God and the Church, they will forget the interests of their immortal souls, and their eternal salvation will be exposed to the greatest danger. For, according to the Scripture, if a young man gets into a wrong path, even when he grows old, he will not retire from it.

Unhappily, in our times, indifference or hostility to religion is very prevalent, manifesting itself in private and public, and especially in the columns of a licentious press. In order to propagate this perverse spirit, efforts are made to banish the name of God, and of the Cross the emblem of redemption from the school, to limit instruction to the mere things of this world, to reduce education to a sort of paganism, and to leave children without any love of religion, and any knowledge of its sublime and consoling truths. Were the advocates of godless education and indifferentism to succeed in carrying out their projects, the world would be reduced to a state of chaos and confusion: in this life we should be left without a ray of light to guide our steps, abandoned at the same time to a hopeless despair in reference to our future state of existence.

To this evil spirit of the age, which tends to corrupt and degrade, religion opposes the maxims of the Gospel and the words of our divine Lord, who teaches us to prefer the interests of our souls to all earthly concerns. “Seek ye first,” says He, “the kingdom of God and His justice, and all other things will be added to you.” He also asks, “What doth it profit a man to gain the whole world, if he lose his own soul?” And, again, he proclaims “that there is but one thing necessary”— that is, to serve God, to sanctify ourselves, and to work out our eternal salvation. Do not these maxims of divine truth distinctly demonstrate the folly and absurdity of those modern theorists, who pretend that youth should be brought up and matured, continually engaged in the study of mere earthly and material things, without acquiring any knowledge of spiritual matters, and never taking into account that period of existence which awaits us beyond the grave?

Impressed with the maxims of the Gospel, and attaching due importance to the salvation of those souls which have been, purchased by the precious blood of Jesus Christ, you, Rev. Brethren, and your faithful flocks, have always zealously laboured in the cause of religious education, and you have made generous sacrifices (to say nothing of the lower classes of schools) in establishing and supporting a Catholic University in which the higher branches of science should be taught, and knowledge imparted under the hallowing influences of religion.

This was a great and holy undertaking, which will ever reflect great honour on the Catholics of Ireland, and which will be recorded in heaven as most meritorious. Yet, though much has been done, we must still continue our exertions, and, having once put our hand to the plough, we cannot think of returning back. But in this matter, whilst expecting success from heaven, we must rely on our own exertions. Indeed, the events of the past months show us that, as far as our rulers are concerned, though they grant vast sums every year to support a godless system in the Queen’s Colleges, and leave in the hands of a body, consisting principally of Protestant clergymen, for non-Catholic educational purposes, immense revenues, derived in great part from the confiscated property of Catholics, or from the public taxes of the country; yet, however they may be disposed, they are either unable or unwilling to give any grant to Catholics for the education of their children, or to make to them due reparation for the glaring acts of injustice and spoliation which they suffered in the past.

In these circumstances I need not exhort you to act with generosity towards the Catholic University; you have done so for the past, and I am sure you will display the same spirit in the future. By giving your contributions you assist a work of faith, aiding to uphold religion and its salubrious influences; you also assist a work that has been blessed by the successor of St. Peter, and which is dear to the heart of Pius IX, and is admired by the Catholics of the world as a miracle of the courage and charity of Ireland. God will not leave your generous and charitable contributions without an ample reward.

Having invited your flocks to assist in providing for Catholic education, you will be pleased to remind them that Friday, the 14th November, will be the Feast of St. Laurence O’Toole, patron of this diocese, and to exhort them to celebrate that day with great devotion, begging of this glorious Saint to watch over the diocese which he fertilized by his labours, to preserve it from the ravages of infidelity and immorality, and to banish from among us the dreadful vice of drunkenness, the prolific source of innumerable evils. Point out to the people the firmness and vitality of the faith of St. Laurence, his extraordinary spirit of prayer, and his wonderful charity to the poor, which induced him, whilst spending nothing on himself, to devote the whole wealth of the See of Dublin to the relief of the suffering members of Jesus Christ.

In preparation for the approaching festival, I beg of you to celebrate in all the churches and chapels a devout Triduum in honour of the Saint, commencing on Tuesday, the 11th, and finishing on the 13th. Let the Rosary of the Blessed Virgin be said on these days, if the devotions be in the evening; but if after Mass, the Rosary may be omitted; in either case benediction shall be given each day, the Litany of the Blessed Virgin, with the Tantum ergo, having been previously chanted.

A prayer in honour of St. Laurence is to be added to the Litany, and, if possible, a short exhortation should be delivered on the virtues of the Saint.

During the Triduum the faithful should not forget to pray for our Holy Father the Pope, who is still in prison, surrounded by difficulties and dangers, and insulted and misrepresented by the wicked and corrupt votaries of the world. Pray also for the Bishops and Priests, secular and regular, and for the communities of nuns, who, in many countries, are suffering exile or imprisonment, and persecutions equal in astute malice to those which were inflicted by Julian the Apostate on the Christians of the fourth century. We should at the same time thank God for the peace and tranquillity which we enjoy, and show our gratitude to Him by observing His commandments, and endeavouring to correspond to His graces.

In conclusion, it is meet that whilst a neighbouring great Catholic country, France, is passing through a dangerous crisis, we should offer up fervent prayers to God, begging of Him to restore to her a firm and permanent government, neither despotic nor licentious, but able to restrain the violence of revolution, to maintain the liberty of religion and education, to uphold the just interests of the people, and to protect all the arts that render a country safe and prosperous. France welcomed St. Laurence to her shores, and afforded him an asylum in his last sickness. She also preserved his remains with pious care, exposing them in the town of Eu, where he died, to public devotion, in a magnificent shrine; and tens of thousands of faithful Christians visit his tomb every year, to pay a tribute of honor and respect to this Irish Saint, and to implore his intercession. Let us hope that he will obtain on his festival great blessings for the country which pays him so much honor, and that by his intercession the eldest daughter of the Catholic Church may, after so many misfortunes, recover her ancient glory and power, become again the right arm of the Apostolic See, and send out new Pepins and Charlemagnes to punish the insults offered to the successor of Saint Peter, and to restore the Vicar of Christ to the free exercise of his rights and privileges. We are now more bound than ever to pray for France, because her destinies are in the hands of a great warrior of Irish descent [this is referring to Marshal Patrice MacMahon – shane], filled with the same faith which animated his forefathers in the dark days of persecution.

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.

Archbishop of Dublin and Primate of Ireland.


Posted on May 26, 2011, in Bishops' Pastorals, Cardinal Paul Cullen, Catholic Education, Catholic University of Ireland, Ecumenism, France, Irish History, Persecution, St. Laurence O'Toole. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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