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Maher, Michael, 1860-1918, Jesuit priest
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Dates of existence
29 April 1860-3 September 1918
Born: 29 April 1860, Leighlinbridge, County Carlow
Entered: 2 October 1880, Manresa, Roehampton, England - Angliae Province (ANG)
Final profession: 2 February 1898, St Beuno's, Wales
Died: 3 September 1918, Petworth, England - Angliae Province (ANG)
◆ David Murphy. "Maher, Michael". Dictionary of Irish Biography. (ed.) James McGuire, James Quinn. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press, 2009.
Maher, Michael (1860–1918), Jesuit priest, philosopher, and psychologist, was born 29 April 1850 in Church St., Leighlinbridge, Co. Carlow. Educated at the school of Mr Conwell in Leighlinbridge, he later entered the Jesuit college at Tullabeg, King's Co., where his uncle, Fr William Delany (qv), was serving as rector. He studied for a BA while at Tullabeg, eventually obtaining his degree from London University, to which Tullabeg was then affiliated.
In October 1880 he joined the English province of the Society of Jesus, entering its school for novices at Roehampton. On completion of his noviciate (1882) he began studying philosophy, and on obtaining his degree was appointed a philosophy lecturer at Stonyhurst College (1885–91). He took an MA in philosophy and economics through London University, graduating in 1887. Alongside philosophy he studied psychology and in 1890 published Psychology: empirical and rational, which was immediately recognised as a comprehensive textbook, well written and showing intellectual sophistication. It became a standard text in a number of universities, especially catholic universities, in both Europe and America; by 1918 it had run to nine editions and remained a key text until the 1930s.
Ordained at St Beuno's, north Wales, in September 1894, he spent some time in France before returning to Stonyhurst, where he again taught philosophy (1896–1903). In 1900 he was awarded a D.Litt. by London University for Psychology: empirical and rational. Appointed as superior of the Jesuit seminary at Stonyhurst in 1903, he later served as an examiner for the RUI (and subsequently for the NUI) and, from 1914, for the University of Edinburgh. In failing health, he went into semi-retirement in 1917 yet still tried to undertake some duties as a university examiner. He died 3 September 1918 at Petworth, Sussex.
While his best-known publication was Psychology: empirical and rational, he also wrote articles for the Dublin Review, the Month, and the original Catholic encyclopaedia. He later published Tationis Diatessaron (1903) and English economics and catholic ethics (1912).
John J. Delany and James Edward Tobin, Dictionary of catholic biography (1962); Catholic University of America, The new catholic encyclopaedia (1967), ix, 77; William Ellis, ‘Father Michael Maher’, Carloviana, no. 36 (1988–9), 27–8; information from Fr Fergus O'Donoghue, SJ, Jesuit archives, Dublin
◆ Carloviana No 36, 1988/89
“These great men in the great universities of the world have bowed down and paid tribute to the intellectual supremacy of our boy from Leighlin”
Father Michael Maher
Compiled by William Ellis
Michael Maher was born at Church Street, Leighlinbridge, Co. Carlow on April 29, 1860. He attended the famous school of Mr. Conwell which had produced so many scholars of
Church and State. Among his school companions were the brothers, Patrick and John Foley who served the Diocese of Kildare and Leighlin so well, Patrick as Bishop and John as
President of St. Patrick's College, Carlow.
At an early age Michael went to the famous Jesuit school of Tullabeg, Co. Offaly which was then under the rectorship of an uncle of his, the famous William Delaney, S.J., LLD. While attending that school he attained a B.A. degree from London University to which Tullabeg was then affiliated.
On October 2, 1880 he joined the English Province of the Jesuit Order at Roehampton. He began his philosophy course in 1882 and on its completion in 1885 he was appointed to the lay philosophers' staff at Stonyhurst College where he remained until 1891. During this time he took his M.A. degree in Philosophy and Economics from London University (1887).
Fourteen years after joining the Jesuits, Michael Maher was ordained at St. Beuno's College in North Wales, on September 23, 1894. After ordination he spent some time in France.
1896 saw him back in Stonyhurst lecturing to lay philosophers once again until 1903. In 1903 he became superior at St. Mary's Hall, Stonyhurst, the Jesuit house of studies in
philosophy for young members of the Society.
In 1890 Michael Maher published his first edition of Psychology, a publication which he revised and updated nine tires before he died. He also contributed many articles to journals and magazines, including Dublin Review, The Month, Catholic Encyclopaedia.
It was his work in Psychology that was to bring him into the front ranks as a brilliant writer. The following extract is from an appreciation published at the time of his death in The Nationalist & Leinster Times :
“Several editions of his book were called for and each edition was revised and brought more up-to-date in view of the ever-widening sphere of modern psychological literature. The second edition, published in 1900 entitled “Psychology Empirical and Rational” was practically a new book and has gained for the author a world-wide reputation in this special
branch of scholarship. So prominent were the merits of this book that the Senate of the London University conferred on its author the Doctorate of Literature without any further test.
When it is known that this coveted distinction was conferred only ten times since the University of London was established... As a rule the reports of University examiners are very brief, and confidne themselves to a bald statement that such a candidate 'had qualified' or 'attained 'sufficient marks'.
In regard to Father Maher the examiners report that he had submitted as thesis a work entitled “Psychology Empirical and Rational”, and that in consideration of the special excellence of this thesis they recommend that the degree of Doctor of Literature be conferred on him without any further examination”. The examiners further report:- “The author is a good psychologist and a philosophical thinker of independent judgment; his criticisms prove the author to be a man of acute powers of mind, both in his special subject of Psychology and in the larger questions of Epistemology and Metaphysics, which the plan of the work includes.”
The writer of the appreciation continues:- “The foregoing statement was signed by Professor Stout of Oxford and by Professor Alexander, Victoria University, Manchester. These great men in the most famous universities of the world have bowed down and paid tribute to the intellectual supremacy of our boy from Leighlin." "Is not this something of which the people of Carlow, and the people of Leighlin, and above all the friends and relations of Father Maher may feel justly proud. He was a great scholar, a profound thinker, a brilliant writer, a veritable mine of intellectual wealth which was always at the service of the great cause of sound Christian education to which he had devoted his life. Let it be a comfort to his
many friends to remember that he has done a great work, the good effects of which will survive after we have all passed away."
Among the many posts that Father Maher held were, Examiner for the Diploma in Teaching for the Royal University of lreland, and on the foundation of the National University of Ireland he retained the same position.
During the last years of his life, Father Maher suffered from indifferent health and had to retire from active ministry. His Mass on the Feast of the Assumption, August 15, 1917 was to be his last until the same Feast in 1918 when he was allowed to offer Mass again. On August 24 he celebrated his last Mass, for the next day he was confined to bed. He received the
Last Rites on the 27th.
Father Maher longed to die, and asked those around him to pray that he might do so, and hoped to be in Heaven for the feast of our Lady's Nativity, to whom he obviously had a great devotion. His prayers were answered for he died at Petworth, Sussex, England on September 3, 1918.
On Monday, September 23, 1918 an Office and Requiem Mass was celebrated for the repose of his soul in his native Leighlinbridge. Celebrant of the High Mass was Very Rev. James Coyle P.P. and among the large number of clergy present were his school companions. Most Rev. Dr. Patrick Foley, Bishop of Kildare & Leighlin and Very Rev. John Foley, D.D., President St. Patrick's College.
Sources : Letters and Notices, a Jesuit publication, The Nationalist & Leinster Times; Rev. T. G. Holt,S.J., Archivist English Province of the Society of Jesus, Harnlyn Dictionary of dates and anniversaries.
◆ Letters and Notices January 1919
Father Michael Maher - died at Petworth September 3rd, Second Notice
The graduate students of Fordham University, New York have written to the Rector of Stonyhurst to offer to the Fathers of the English Province their profound sympathy on the death of this greatly esteemed Father and to express the high estimate of his abilities and work entertained by all Catholic educationists in America. The following letter was addressed to Father Delaney SJ (Fr. Maher’s uncle) by the President of University College, Dublin, Sept. 8, 1918 : “I have just heard of the lamented death of Fr. Michael Maher, and I hasten to offer you my deepest sympathy in the great affliction which you have sustained. Fr. Maher seemed a year or two ago when coming to the University Examinations so well and active that one could hope for him many further years of fruitful labor, and continued distinction in that high domain of Catholic Science in which he had taken so great a place. Now that he has passed to his reward, many will remember with pride the one intellectual work which won him universal recognition, but I am sure that there will be joined to it by those who came into personal contact with him the memory of a sweet and lovable personality, modest and rare. That is the impression which I formed in my meetings with Fr Maher and in which I shall always regard his memory. With deepest sympathy my dear Fr. Delany, I am, yours very sincerely, Denis J. Coffey
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Maher, Michael, 1860-1918, Jesuit priest
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- County Carlow » Leighlinbridge
- England » Sussex » Petworth
- County Offaly (King's) » Ballycowan (Bar.) » Tullabeg » St Stanislaus College
- Wales » St Asaph » Tremeirchion » St Beuno's
- County Carlow » Carlow Town » Carlow College
- England » London » Roehampton » Manresa House (London)
- England » London » Bloomsbury » Malet Street » University of London
- England » Lancashire » Clitheroe » Stonyhurst College
- United States of America » New York » New York City » The Bronx » Fordham University
- County Carlow » Leighlinbridge » Ballynaboley » St Lazerian's National School
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