Pope Pius XII’s Letter on Luke Wadding
Dignitaries of Church and State were abundantly present at Gormanston Castle, 18th November, 1956, to mark the blessing and dedication of the new Franciscan school, commemorating the tercentenary celebration of the death of Luke Wadding. The President of Ireland, Seán T. O’Kelly, was accompanied by his aide-de-camp, Col. O’Sullivan, and inspected a Guard of Honour from Gormanston Military Camp. Both the President and the Irish premier, John A. Costello, were greeted by the Rector of the College, Very Rev. Felix Butler, O.F.M., and the Provincial, Very Rev. Hubert Quinn, O.F.M.
Pontifical High Mass was celebrated by the Bishop of Meath, who also blessed the foundation stone. Other prelates in attendance included the Apostolic Nunio, the Primate of All Ireland, the Bishop of Raphoe, and the Bishop of Kokstad.
Those present at the ceremonies included General Richard Mulcahy, Minister for Education, General Seán MacEoin, Minister for Defence and Éamon de Valera. State officials attending included Maj. General P. A. Mulcahy, Chief of Staff, and Daniel Costigan, Commissioner of the Irish police. Members of Waterford Corporation, along with members and officials of many other public bodies, were also present.
Cardinal John D’Alton, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, opened the ceremonies with the reading of a letter from Pope Pius XII to those present, which is appended below. He then gave a glowing eulogy of Fr Wadding, paying strong tribute to his religious devotion and patriotic ideals. The Cardinal spoke admiringly of his having realised the desperate needs of the Irish Church at a time of extreme persecution and establishing the Irish Franciscans at St. Isidore’s College, “which holds cherished memories for so many Irishmen from its foundation down to our own day”. The Cardinal noted that three years after the foundation of St. Isidore’s, through the good offices of his friend Cardinal Ludovico Ludovisi, “he succeeded in establishing a college for the training of students for the secular priesthood and during its infancy watched over its destinies with paternal solicitude”. The Ludovisi College would develop into the Irish College. Cardinal D’Alton, through his own experience, could confirm that Irish College seminarians were always conscious of the deep gratitude and affection they owed to Fr Wadding, “one of the most illustrious of our exiles, who loved Ireland sincerely and served it unselfishly”.
Strong admiration was expressed by the Cardinal for Fr Wadding’s intellectual achievements. Having left Waterford as a boy, Fr Wadding was soon to win high distinctions in the universities of Portugal and Spain. He began his studies in philosophy and theology in Portugal before being invited to join the Spanish province. He became a lecturer in theology at the world-renowned University of Salamanca, which brought him into contact with some of the greatest theologians of his day, including Suarez. He quickly established himself as a leading intellectual and at age 30 was chosen by King Philip III as a theologian to the Commission sent to Rome to promote the doctrine of Our Lady’s Immaculate Conception.
The Cardinal noted that “his literary achievements were acclaimed in every Catholic country in Europe. Two of his works, his monumental history of his Order and his masterly edition of Duns Scotus, would have sufficed to keep most scholars busy for a lifetime, but they were only a small part of the writings that came from his versatile and indefatigable pen.” (Indeed, Fr Wadding is still regarded as the father of the Franciscan Order’s history, and in 2007 the archive of the General Order in Rome was named after him.)
Cardinal D’Alton also noted his work on behalf of Irish interests, appealing to Catholic states in Europe for assistance, and also his diplomatic activities in Rome (see here: IV: ‘Work for Ireland’).
But ultimately, the Cardinal said, “his dreams for an Ireland liberated and resurgent were shattered all too soon. The failure of the Confederation, the departure of the Nuncio, a sad and disillusioned man, the death of Owen Roe [O’Neill], and the landing of Cromwell on our shores must have stricken that ardent patriot with sorrow and dismay.”
The following is the text of the letter from Pope Pius XII read out by Cardinal D’Alton to those present:
It is to the undying glory of the Irish people that, even in times of storm and distress, not only did they retain pure and inviolate the Catholic Faith which in times past they received from St. Patrick, but also that they produced sons without number, who, renowned for their reputation of learning and holiness, shed lustre upon religion and upon their motherland. Justly and rightfully in the number of these is counted Luke Wadding, the glory and pride of the Franciscan Order, whose memory it is your wish to honour with due meed of praise on the tercentenary of his death.
We know the many services which he performed for the benefit of the Church, nor are We ignorant of the great force of his example as a further incentive to virtue, either among the members of his own Order or among your fellow citizens. There, at this auspicious and fitting time of rejoicing, We desire with a father’s heart, to be present with you by this letter, which, by God’s favour, may enhance the joy of the tercentenary celebration and increase its fruits. When We recall his life and his achievements there seems to live again before our eyes that wonderful zeal for the Catholic faith which was handed down by your ancestors, and with which the greatness and the weal of the Irish people seemed always to be linked. Fully instructed, as he was, and strengthened in the Faith though only a boy, he did not hesitate to face the hardships of exile, since in his own country, at that time, religion had been brought to a hazardous pass.
Later, after his reception into the Franciscan Order, one can scarcely credit the number and the magnitude of the works at which he laboured and which he successfully concluded, on behalf of the Church, his Order and his country. Although Portugal and Spain, where he was eminent for his learning and sanctity, first nurtured and confirmed his resolution, it was Rome which, without doubt, gave fuller scope and vigour to his apostolic ardour and zeal. Witness to this are the many momentous tasks to which he was assigned by Our predecessors, the rare prudence he so admirably displayed in filling different offices, and, likewise, the high renown which his learning won for him, both through his researches into the history of his Order and the importance of the works which he published.
In a special way, however, love of country shone in him. In Ireland at that period, the enemies of the Catholic name were striving not only to dispossess the people of their civil liberties, but also to root the ancient Faith out of their minds: so, to the very end of his life, the man of God generously came to the aid of his oppressed fellow-countrymen by every means in his power. Thus he showed the effectiveness of love for one’s own country when it is joined with truly great love of God. Therefore, it is fitting to call to mind the twin colleges, of which Luke Wadding was the founder, erected in this gracious city, the one for students of the Franciscan Order, the other for secular priests as they are styled, destined all of them for Ireland. In this way, there was given to young men chosen from among your people the opportunity to drink deeply of the Faith of Rome and daily to foster and cherish more their loving respect and dutifulness towards the Roman Pontiff.
The results justified the expectations. Learned in the Catholic Faith, well grounded in doctrine and sound morals, many from that day to this, have left a life of ease for the heat and the dust and won golden opinions from the Church and their country by their outstanding intellectual gifts and their unrivalled example. Therefore, for many reasons, beloved Son, the Franciscan family, as well as the whole Irish race, will celebrate the tercentenary of the day on which death came serenely to that admirable disciple of the Patriarch of Assisi, that most devoted defender in your land of the Catholic religion, the untiring helper of the Roman Pontiffs, the exacting worker in the history of the Franciscans.
You have in him a noble pattern of the religious life. You have in him an admirable example of virtue combined with patriotism. Gaze and meditate on his example, and courageously imitate him. In answer to your humble prayers, may God, by his heavenly aid, grant that you may follow his example more and more closely in the daily duties of your state in life. Meanwhile as an augury of heavenly graces and as proof of Our paternal benevolence, We liberally impart the Apostolic Benediction to the dear people of Ireland, and expressly to you, beloved Son, and to the entire Franciscan family.
PIUS PP. XII
Posted on July 20, 2011, in Cardinal John D'Alton, Irish Church-State Relations, Irish Colleges on the Continent, Irish History, Luke Wadding, Persecution, Pius XII, Portugal, Spain. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.