Butler, James, 1790-1820, Jesuit priest

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Butler, James, 1790-1820, Jesuit priest

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13 November 1790-22 August 1820

History

Born: 13 November 1790, Dubln
Entered: 07 September 1808, Hodder, Stonyhurst, England - Angliae Province (ANG)
Ordained: 1814, Palermo, Sicily
Died: 22 August 1820, Clongowes Wood College, County Kildare

◆ Fr Edmund Hogan SJ “Catalogica Chronologica” :
1814 Studied Humanities at Stonyhurst and Theology at Palermo, graduating DD and where he was Ordained.
He went with a band of choice youths who were destined to replant the standard of St Ignatius in Ireland, to Palermo, where he made his studies, graduated DD, and returning to Ireland, had a prominent part in the foundation of Clongowes (Oliver, Stonyhurst MSS)
Dr Olvier gives an extract from a letter to himself from Father Esmonde with edifying details of the death of this learned and holy father. He says that he was in his twenty-ninth year “beloved by God and men”, and that he was a rare association of piety, learning and simplicity. He had said his last Mass at Clongowes on the Feast of the Assumption and went to Dublin the same day for a change of air. “I shall never forget his last night, which I spent at his bedside, it was a practical lesson in how to die. Having asked for and received the last Sacraments with tranquil, unaffected piety, answering to all the prayers, he fell into a slumber. At length awakening he said ‘Farewell, I am dying’, and then giving me some commissions, he added ‘I shall see Clongowes no more. Salute the community in my name. Assure them of my sincerest affection’. He then spoke very calmly of his impending death”
According to Father Bracken, a competent judge, he was by far the most gifted and learned of the Irish Jesuits of his time, and was a Professor of Theology at age 25. He was a most hardworking student and Professor, and of childlike simplicity.
He was carried off by a premature death from consumption.
He had the good and wholesome habit of renewing his Vows every day. (cf Oliver, Stonyhurst MSS for a long sketch)

◆ HIB Menologies SJ :
After studying Humanities at Carlow and Stonyhurst, he proceeded with a band of choice youths (who were destined to replant the standard of St Ignatius in Ireland) to Palermo, where he went through a course of Philosophy and Divinity. In 1814, this highly gifted young man returned to his native country with a DD, to take a prominent part in the organisation of Clongowes. Here, his classical attainments, his varied learning, but above all, the example of his religious virtues, insured universal esteem and admiration. But a pulmonary complaint was undermining his constitution, and to the grief of every genius and friend, the lamp of life was extinguished on the 22nd August 1821. Two days after a train of sorrowing friends and admirers followed his remains to Mainham Church, adjoining the demesne of Clongowes”
Note from Br John O’Brien Entry :
It may not be out of place to mention that Edmund Hogan stated that the Italian Fathers told James Butler, of Clongowes fame, in 1805, that an Irish Jesuit Synnott was the last to leave off the Jesuit habit worn at the time of the Suppression in 1773 - “Go and tell His Holiness that it was an Irishman was the last member to put aside the habit”. So, Brother O’Brien was the last Brother to put aside the tall-hat in 1892 in obedience to the order of the Provincial Timothy Kenny.

◆ Fr Joseph McDonnell SJ Past and Present Notes :
16th February 1811 At the advance ages of 73, Father Betagh, PP of the St Michael Rosemary Lane Parish Dublin, Vicar General of the Dublin Archdiocese died. His death was looked upon as almost a national calamity. Shops and businesses were closed on the day of his funeral. His name and qualities were on the lips of everyone. He was an ex-Jesuit, the link between the Old and New Society in Ireland.

Among his many works was the foundation of two schools for boys : one a Classical school in Sall’s Court, the other a Night School in Skinner’s Row. One pupil received particular care - Peter Kenney - as he believed there might be great things to come from him in the future. “I have not long to be with you, but never fear, I’m rearing up a cock that will crow louder and sweeter for yopu than I ever did” he told his parishioners. Peter Kenney was to be “founder” of the restored Society in Ireland.

There were seventeen Jesuits in Ireland at the Suppression : John Ward, Clement Kelly, Edward Keating, John St Leger, Nicholas Barron, John Austin, Peter Berrill, James Moroney, Michael Cawood, Michael Fitzgerald, John Fullam, Paul Power, John Barron, Joseph O’Halloran, James Mulcaile, Richard O’Callaghan and Thomas Betagh. These men believed in the future restoration, and they husbanded their resources and succeeded in handing down to their successors a considerable sum of money, which had been saved by them.

A letter from the Acting General Father Thaddeus Brezozowski, dated St Petersburg 14/06/1806 was addressed to the only two survivors, Betagh and O’Callaghan. He thanked them for their work and their union with those in Russia, and suggested that the restoration was close at hand.

A letter from Nicholas Sewell, dated Stonyhurst 07/07/1809 to Betagh gives details of Irishmen being sent to Sicily for studies : Bartholomew Esmonde, Paul Ferley, Charles Aylmer, Robert St Leger, Edmund Cogan and James Butler. Peter Kenney and Matthew Gahan had preceded them. These were the foundation stones of the Restored Society.

Returning to Ireland, Kenney, Gahan and John Ryan took residence at No3 George’s Hill. Two years later, with the monies saved for them, Kenney bought Clongowes as a College for boys and a House of Studies for Jesuits. From a diary fragment of Aylmer, we learn that Kenney was Superior of the Irish Mission and Prefect of Studies, Aylmer was Minister, Claude Jautard, a survivor of the old Society in France was Spiritual Father, Butler was Professor of Moral and Dogmatic Theology, Ferley was professor of Logic and Metaphysics, Esmonde was Superior of Scholastics and they were joined by St Leger and William Dinan. Gahan was described as a Missioner at Francis St Dublin and Confessor to the Poor Clares and irish Sisters of Charity at Harold’s Cross and Summerhill. Ryan was a Missioner in St Paul’s, Arran Quay, Dublin. Among the Scholastics, Brothers and Masters were : Brothers Fraser, Levins, Connor, Bracken, Sherlock, Moran, Mullen and McGlade.

Trouble was not long coming. Protestants were upset that the Jesuits were in Ireland and sent a petition was sent to Parliament, suggesting that the Vow of Obedience to the Pope meant they could not have an Oath of Allegiance to the King. In addition, the expulsion of Jesuits from all of Europe had been a good thing. Kenney’s influence and diplomatic skills resulted in gaining support from Protestants in the locality of Clongowes, and a counter petition was presented by the Duke of Leinster on behalf of the Jesuits. This moment passed, but anto Jesuit feelings were mounting, such as in the Orange faction, and they managed to get an enquiry into the Jesuits and Peter Kenney and they appeared before the Irish Chief Secretary and Provy Council. Peter Kenney’s persuasive and oratorical skills won the day and the enquiry group said they were satisfied and impressed.

Over the years the Mission grew into a Province with Joseph Lentaigne as first Provincial in 1860. In 1885 the first outward undertaking was the setting up of an Irish Mission to Australia by Lentaigne and William Kelly, and this Mission grew exponentially from very humble beginnings.

Later the performance of the Jesuits in managing UCD with little or no money, and then outperforming what were known as the “Queen’s Colleges” forced the issue of injustice against Catholics in Ireland in the matter of University education. It is William Delaney who headed up the effort and create the National University of Ireland under endowment from the Government.from the Government.

◆ James B Stephenson SJ Menologies 1973

Father James Butler 1792-1820
On August 22nd 1820 in Clongowes died Fr James Butler, who according to Fr Bracken, was the most gifted and learned Jesuit of his time.

He was born in Dublin in 1792 and entered the noviceship at Hodder in 1808. His philosophical and theological studies were carried out at Palermo with such success that he was Professor of Theology at the early age of 25.

Returning to Ireland in 1814, he took a prominent part in the organisation of Clongowes. But, he was suffering from a pulmonary complaint which carried him off at the age of 29. Fr Bartholomew Esmonde has left us an account of his death :

“I shall never forget his last night, which I spent at his bedside. Awaking from sleep he took my hand, saying ‘Farewell, I am dying. I shall see Clongowes no more. Salute the community in my name, ensure them of my sincerest affection’. Of his impending death he then spoke very calmly, asking me to repeat from time to time a favourite Italian hymn ‘O bella mis Speranza’. ‘Tell me Fr Butler’ said I, ‘you are younger than I am, and if restored to health might do much good. If the choice of life and death were left to you, which would you choose’. He paused for a moment, and then turning to me with a smile said ‘If the choice were left to me, I would make none, but leave it to God, for he knows best’. In a few moments his strength was gone, and lisping the names of Jesus and Mary, he died”.

◆ George Oliver Towards Illustrating the Biography of the Scotch, English and Irish Members SJ
BUTLER, JAMES, after studying Humanities at Carlow and Stonyhurst,he proceeded with a band of choice youths (who were destined to replant the standard of St. Ignatius in Ireland) to Palermo, where he went through a course of Philosophy and Divinity. In 1814, this highly gifted young man returned to his native country, with the diploma of Doctor of Divinity, to take a prominent part in the organisation of Clongowes College. Here his classical attainments, his varied learning, but, above all, the example of his religious virtues, insured universal esteem and admiration. But a pulmonary complaint was undermining his constitution : and to the grief of every friend of genius and religion, the lamp of life was extinguished on the 22nd of August, 1821. Two days later, a train of sorrowing friends and admirers followed his remains to the grave in Mainham Church, adjoining the demesne of Clongowes College. The following extract ot a letter which I received from his Colleague, F. Bartholomew Esmonde, will interest and edify the reader:
“The lamented F. Butler died, I may say, in my arms, in his twenty-ninth year, dilectus Deo et hominibus. What a rare association of learning, piety, and simplicity! the Octave of the Assumption of B. Virgin Mary was his last day upon earth. He had said Mass at Clongowes for the last time on the feast of the Assumption, and came up to Dublin the same day for change of air. In a day or two it was evident that his dissolution was near at hand; and as his strength declined, his piety seemed to increase. I shall never forget his last night, which I spent at his bed-side : it was a practical lesson how to die. Having demanded and received the last sacraments with tranquil unaffected piety, answering to all the Prayers, he fell into a slumber. At length awakening he gave me his hand, saying, ‘Farewell, I am dying’, and then giving me some commissions, he added ‘I shall see Clongowes no more. Salute the community in my name : assure them of my sincerest affection’. Of his impending death he then spoke very calmly, asking me from time time to repeat a favorite Italian hymn by Bd. Ligouri in honour of the Virgin Mary - :
O bella mia Speranza, &c.
This seemed to give him exquisite pleasure. To my inquiry if he was quite happy, if any thing gave him pain, he answered, ‘thanks to God and to the Madonna, I am perfectly happy and resigned’. ‘But tell me’, I resumed, ‘Dr. Father Butler, you are younger than I am, and if restored to health, might do much good. Tell me then if the choice of life and death were left to you, which would you choose?’ He paused a moment, as if I had proposed a difficult question : then turning to me with a smile he said, ‘If the choice were left to me I would make none; but would leave it to God : for he knows what is best’. In a few moments his strength was gone, and lisping the names of Jesus and Mary he expired”.
Who is there that does not envy such a death ?

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Angliae Province of the Society of Jesus, 1622- (1622-)

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Irish Vice-Province of the Society of Jesus, 1830- (1830-)

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