30 December 2007

Some of Father Gallitzen's writings

This is the fun thing about genealogy, finding out the history and interesting nuggets that helped form and provide structure to the lives of my ancestors. Now that I have learned about my family's connection to Father Gallitzen, I had to look into some of his writings. A few letters of his were on the cause for canonization webpage and this is just a part of one. It was hard to break the letter into pieces, since his arguments build and carry through the letter, but this artificial break seemed like a reasonable stopping point. More later...

These writings from Father Gallitzen, called the "Apostle of the Alleghenies," are from 1815. The Catholic "settlement" isolated in the Alleghenies was subjected to hostilities from nearby Protestants. Although today's definition of ecumenicism is one thing, back then Father Gallitzen was considered to be ecumenical for his willingness to dialog with Protestants, but he never gives away the farm.



A SERMON preached by a Protestant Minister, on a day appointed by the government for humiliation and prayer, in order to avert from our beloved country the calamity of war, has been the occasion of the present letter.

The professed subject of his sermon on such a day was, or should have been, to excite his hearers to humility and contrition, and to a perfect union of hearts and exertions during the impending storm: but he, very likely alarmed at a much greater danger, of which nobody else but himself dreamed: alarmed I mean, and trembling for the ark of Israel likely to be carried off by those Philistines called the Roman Catholics; or alarmed, perhaps, at the very probable danger of an intended invasion from the Pope, who would, to be sure, avail himself of the confused state of the country to assist his English friends in the conquest of it, that he might by that means extend his jurisdiction; or in fine, alarmed perhaps lest our treacherous Catholics would take advantage of the times, and by forming a new gunpowder-plot, would blow up the congress-hall, state-houses, and all the protestant meeting-houses of the United States: alarmed, at least, by something or another, he suddenly forgets his subject, and putting on a grave countenance, enters the most solemn caveat against popish and heathen neighbours; cautions his hearers against their superstitions, and gives them plainly enough to understand that such popish neighbours are not to be considered their fellow citizens.

Attacks of that kind being so very common in this liberal country, I have always treated them with silent contempt. The present one, proceeding from a respectable quarter, I thought necessary to notice; and I expected that a few respectful lines, which I published in a Gazette, would have been sufficient to draw from the gentleman an apology for his uncharitable expressions. I found myself deceived in my expectation. After having waited in vain from September until some time in the winter, I made up my mind to send the gentleman the following DEFENCE OF CATHOLIC PRINCIPLES.


Dear Sir,
AFTER your unprovoked attack upon the whole body of Roman Catholics, it was expected that an apology for the same would have been considered by you as due to them. To exhibit above one hundred millions of catholics as standing upon a level with heathens; to represent the whole of them as a superstitious set, wandering in the paths of darkness, and finally to exclude the catholics of the United States from their rank of citizens, cannot be considered by you as a trifling insult. Now, sir, as a gentleman, you cannot be ignorant of the common principles of civility. As a christian, and especially as a teacher of the christian religion, you cannot be ignorant of that great precept of christian charity which our blesses Saviour declares to be the very soul of religion, on which depend the whole law and the prophets, Matt. xxii, 40. Wishing to act under the influence of those principles, I shall, according to the direction of your and my Saviour, (Matt. v, 44) return you good for evil, and pray God to bless you whilst you are persecuting and calumniating us. However, as you refuse us (what we think we are justly entitled to) an apology, I shall step forward in the name of my catholic brethren, and give you and the public an explanation of our principles, which will convince you, I trust, that we are not guilty of superstition.

If, instead of accusing us in a general manner, you had been pleased to state distinctly in what particular points we are guilty of superstition, a great deal of time would have been saved, as my defence would be confined to those particular points of attack; but now, not knowing for which particular points the attack is intended, I must be ready at all points.

In order to ascertain whether we are or not guilty of superstition, it will be necessary, in the first place, to give a distinct definition of the word superstition. Many disputes originate altogether in the misunderstanding of words, and might be entirely avoided by first agreeing about the meaning of those words.
Collet, a great divine of the Gallican church, gives the following definition of the word superstition, which you will readily grant to be correct.

Superstilio (says he) est inordinatus cultus veri vel falsi numinis -- which I thus give in plain English: Superstition is an inordinate worship of the true, or of a false divinity.

To accuse us of superstition then, is to say, that we either worship the true God in an inordinate mannor, or that we worship false Gods, or that we are guilty of both.

To which of the tenets of the catholic church does any of these three modes of superstition apply?

I reply boldly, to none: and in order to convince you and your hearers that I am justifiable in saying so, I shall give you a short sketch of our catholic principles; but do not expect to find, arrayed amongst them, those pretended catholic principles which ignorance, prejudice, and, I am apprehensive, sometimes malice and ill-will, falsely attributed to catholics. This I shall say nothing about the infallibility of the Pope, the Pope’s power to grant licenses to commit sin, or dispensations from the oath of allegiance, about the worship of saints, and many other articles falsely attributed to Roman catholics, and which (I have too much reason to believe) are industriously propagated to answer certain iniquitous purposes.

May the great God give me grace to display before your eyes, and before the eyes of the public, the beauties and perfections of the catholic church.
. . .
By the help of natural philosophy, physick, anatomy, astronomy, and other sciences, many of the beauties and perfections of nature have been discovered, which give us the most exalted idea of the power and wisdom of their Creator; many more however are, and will remain wrapt up in mystery, and are thereby the better calculated to give us some, though faint idea, of the immensity of God. . . . It was created, we believe, for the use of man during his mortal life, to afford him a comfortable and happy existence. But, sir, man is not created for this visible world alone; his body was formed of clay, and his soul, his immortal soul, is the image of God, the breath of the most high: "And the Lord God breathed into his face the breath of life, and man became a living soul" --Gen. ii, 7. We believe that the soul of man was created for everlasting happiness; and that created to the image of God. With St. Augustine we exclaim-- "Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord; and our hearts are restless until they rest in thee."

We believe that, although created to the image of God, we may defile in ourselves that image, and thus remove ourselves from our original destination. We believe that we shall only then attain the object of our destination, if we try to keep up in ourselves that image undefiled; or in other words, if we try to be, and to become more and more similar to our Creator. "Be perfect (says our Saviour) as also your heavenly Father is perfect" --Mat. v, 48. We believe, then, that in order to become ripe for Heaven, we must try to keep ourselves pure and undefiled, shew the most perfect obedience to our Creator, the most perfect submission of our heart and understanding: practice humility, chastity, justice, and above all the most perfect charity; that is, we must love God above all things, and our neighbour as ourselves. The will of God must be always the only rule of our conduct; we must love what he loves, hate what he hates, and with due proportion do as he does; consequently, we must consider sin as the greatest of all evils; and be willing to sacrifice even life itself, rather than offend our Creator by a wilful transgression of his commandments. As Almighty God is infinitely just, infinitely good to all men, even to the worst of men, so must we be strictly just and charitable to all men, even to our enemies, without distinction of believer or unbeliever, Christian or Jew, or Mahometan, or Heathen, &c. In short, sir, we believe that, in order to become saints in heaven, we must lead a holy life upon earth; and that all the external acts of religion which we practice, can never afford a substitute for a holy and virtuous life. We believe and teach from all the catholic pulpits in the world, that confidence in external acts of religion, unsupported and unaccompanied by the practice of virtue, is a most abominable presumption and real superstition.

To convince you, sir, that such is the real belief of catholics, I refer you to all the catholic catechisms, prayer-books, meditations, sermons; in short, to all the spiritual books of any kind that ever were published in any part of the catholic world. Being provided with books of that kind from almost every catholic country in Europe, I readily offer them to the inspection of any person curious to ascertain the doctrines of catholics on so important a subject, on which misrepresentation has created so many prejudices. What more common, indeed, than to bear it said that a catholic, or if you choose a papist, puts so much confidence in his priest, that it matters little to him whether he commits sin or not; for after having broken all the commandments of God, he thinks he has nothing to do but to confess his sins to the priest, and behold, from the gulph of perdition he leaps at once into paradise!


tara said...

swissmiss: that was an enjoyable read. The truth of our Catholic Faith is so easily available--nothing is hidden. If protestants only just read what we truly believe--instead of what they "think" we believe, everyone who wanted to live in God's truth would become Catholic--too often they judge us by our human sins--of course they never look at their own.

Laura The Crazy Mama said...

I wonder if there was ever a response?

Divine Mercy said...

good post!