Born: 31 May 1566, Swords, County Dublin
Entered: 13 April 1592, Tournai, Belgium - Belgicae Province (BELG)
Ordained: 1596, Louvain, Belgium
Final Vows: 04 October 1610
Died: 29 November 1643, County Kilkenny
Parents Nicholas FitzSimon and Anne Sedgrave
Cornelius Lapide was a fellow Novice
Studied Humanities at Manchester - being an MA before Ent
Studied 3 years Philosophy 1 year Theology at Pont-á-Mousson
Studied 3 years Theology at Louvain
1596-1597 Taught Philosophy at Douai - gave the Bollandists the Life of St Feichín and other MS
1603 Tertianship at Tournai
Then 4 (or 20?) years as Military Chaplain at Castris
1608-1611 Called to Rome regarding Irish Mission and remained there till 1611. Then sent back to Douai for 5 years writing and confessing
1619 at Liège and 1625-1628 at Dinant
1625 published at Frankfurt a 12 mo on Philosophy of 704pp. It appears that he was an SJ from “Palface” and that such was not a real name - was it a Holy word? Or was it “Fitzsimon” or “White” or “Kearney”? P396 shows he professed at Douai. Hogan thinks it is “Fitzsimon” (Foley "Collectanea" p 524)
1630 To Ireland (7 years, 2 free, 5 captive)
◆ Fr Edmund Hogan SJ “Catalogica Chronolgica” :
Son of Sir Nicholas, Kt and Senator of Dublin, and Ann née Sidgreaves
Early education was at Manchester School, and then matriculated at Hart’s Hall Oxford, 26 April 1583. He then studied for four years at at Pont-à-Mousson, graduating MA, followed by some months at Douai in Theology and Casuistry, and received Minor Orders.
He was received into the Society by the BELG Provincial Manaereus and then went to Tournai.
After First Vows he was sent to Louvain for Theology and was a pupil of Father Lessius there. He also taught Philosophy for a while.
1597 At his own request he was sent to the Irish Mission. His zeal soon led to his arrest in 1598.
◆ Fr Francis Finegan SJ :
Son of Sir Nicholas and Anna née Sedgrave
Early education was in England and he matriculated to Oxford - though unclear if he graduated there.
He drifted into or was enticed into Protestantism, becoming a convinced one. In 1587 he went to Paris where he met the English Jesuit, Darbyshire, who reconciled him to the Church. He then went to study at Pont-à-Mousson where he graduated MA, before Ent 13 April 1592 at Tournai
After First Vows he studied Theology at Louvain where he was Ordained 1596
1597 Initially he was sent to teach Philosophy at Douai. However, as an Irish Mission was under consideration Henry was chosen to be part of this venture, and duly arrived at the end of 1597. He was based roughly in the Pale, and established a reputation for zeal and success in arresting the growth of Protestantism, and in encouraging the Catholics of the Pale to stand firm in their allegiance to the Catholic Church. His most powerful weapon in this ministry was the Sodality of the Blessed Virgin.
1599-1603 Arrested in December, 1599 he was imprisoned in Dublin Castle at the end of May 1603. Even from his prison cell his influence was felt and he debated theology with bitter opponents of the Church such as Ryder and Hanmer who visited him in prison.He was released and then deported back to the GALL-BEL Province.
1603-1608 He was based at Douai and for five years was an Operarius, a Military Chaplain and a Writer, as well as making his Tertianship.
1608-1611 Sent to Rome to advise on Irish Mission affairs.
1611-1618 He was sent back to Douai and continued his earlier ministries of Writing, Military Chaplaincy and Operarius
1618-1620 He was sent to follow the same ministries at Liège
1620-1623 At the outbreak of the Thirty Years War he left Belgium to minister to Irish soldiers in the Imperial Army (Hapsburgs), and was with them until 1623
1623-1631 Was at Dinant, and by 1628 had served twenty years as a Military Chaplain
1631 He sent to Ireland after a thirty one year exile. Over the preceding decades he repeatedly sought permission to return, but the Mission Superior (Holywood) decided that Fitzsimon's return if discovered by the Government could only jeopardise if not ruin the works of the Irish mission. On return he lived at Dublin as Confessor and Preacher until the surrender of Dublin and expulsion of priests. After a difficult time he eventually arrived in Kilkenny, where he died 29 November 1643
◆ Royal Irish Academy : Dictionary of Irish Biography, Cambridge University Press online :
by David Murphy
Fitzsimon, Henry (1566–1643), Jesuit priest and controversialist, was born on 31 May 1566 at Swords, Co. Dublin, son of Nicholas Fitzsimon, merchant, and alderman of the city of Dublin, and Anna Fitzsimon (née Sedgrave), one of the Sedgrave family of Killeglan and Cabra, Co. Dublin. She was related to Henry Ussher (qv) and James Ussher (qv), both of whom were later Church of Ireland primates. Henry Fitzsimon's paternal grandfather was Sir Knight Fitzsimon.
In 1576 Henry went to England for his education, where he converted to protestantism. He studied grammar, rhetoric, and humanities in Manchester for four years, and on 26 April 1583 he matriculated for Hart Hall, Oxford. By 1587 he had moved to Paris, where he carried out further studies. He also encountered an English Jesuit, Fr Thomas Darbyshire, and after instruction from him, reconverted to the catholic faith. Entering the university at Pont-à-Mousson, he studied rhetoric and philosophy, graduating MA (1591). Further theological studies followed, both there and at Douai, and, taking minor orders, he was admitted to the Society of Jesus at Tournai (April 1592). He completed his noviciate in Tournai and in June 1593 he went to Louvain to complete his theological studies, where he associated with prominent counter-reformation theologians such as Dr Peter Lombard (qv) and Fr Heribert Rosweyde. Appointed as professor of philosophy at Douai, he also began to collect manuscripts with the intention of writing a history of Ireland.
In 1597 he was sent to Ireland at his own request as a member of the first Jesuit permanent mission to the country. He travelled in the company of Fr James Archer (qv), who was being sought by the English authorities, and this made life extremely dangerous for him. Nevertheless, he concentrated his work in the Dublin area, where the greatest efforts were being made to convert the local population to the protestant faith. He began preaching in public, often to large crowds, and was successful in reconverting many catholics who had converted to protestantism. Touring the county of Dublin, he called on prominent catholics, exhorting them to remain loyal to their faith. A catholic nobleman also gave him the use of a house, which he converted into a chapel where he celebrated high mass. The atmosphere in Dublin was so tense at the time that many men came armed to mass, determined to resist any attempts to arrest them.
Fitzsimon was a flamboyant character by nature and rode around the city and county with three or four retainers. Openly hostile to the government's religious policy, he was arrested in 1599, and in many ways his imprisonment served to enhance his public status. Many protestant divines came to his cell to debate points of religion and it soon became known that he was more than a match for them. Among those who debated with him were Dr Luke Challoner (qv), Dean Meredith Hanmer (qv), Dean John Rider (qv), later bishop of Killaloe, and an extremely young James Ussher (qv). These debates resulted in further written exchanges. In January 1601 he sent a manuscript to Dean Rider entitled ‘Brief collections from the Scriptures, the Fathers, and principal protestants, in proof of six catholic articles’. Rider published an answer to this manuscript in 1602 entitled A caveat to Irish catholics. Fitzsimon in turn replied to Rider's Caveat in a manuscript, which he sent him in 1603, Rider publishing his pamphlet Rescript in response to this in 1604. These exchanges only served to create a friendship between the two men, and Rider not only later acknowledged Fitzsimon's superior debating skills, but also began to send him food, drink, and other comforts. Among those who petitioned for Fitzsimon's release was Hugh O'Neill (qv), and in March 1604 James I signed an order that he be freed. In June 1604 he left Dublin and travelled into exile on the Continent.
He spent periods in Spain and Flanders, and in 1608 travelled to Rome. Most of his publications date from this time and he established himself as one of the most erudite minds of the counter-reformation. In 1608 he published A catholick confutation of Mr John Rider's claim to antiquitie and a calming comfort against his Caveat etc., which was printed in Rouen as a last exchange in his debate with Rider. Attached to this publication was another pamphlet, An answer to sundrie complaintive letters of afflicted catholics. By 1611 he was also writing an ecclesiastical history of Ireland, ‘Narratio rerum Ibernicarum’, which, if ever completed, was not published. Later publications included The justification and exposition of the divine sacrifice of the masse (Douai, 1611) and Britannomachia ministrorum in plerisque et fidei fundamentis, et fidei articulis dissidentium (Douai, 1614), a defence of catholic doctrines and a refutation of theories of reform. In 1619 he edited Catalogus sanctorum Hiberniae, published in Liège.
In 1620 he travelled to Bohemia as a chaplain to the forces of Emperor Ferdinand II, later publishing a history of the campaign using the pseudonym ‘Constantius Peregrinus’. He volunteered to return to the Irish mission and travelled in 1630 to Ireland, where he resumed his work among the poor of Dublin. After the outbreak of the 1641 rebellion, he was condemned to be hanged on suspicion of being involved with the rebels. He spent his last years on the run from government forces, finally reaching the relative safety of the confederate camp in Kilkenny. Worn out by work and hardships, his health finally broke and he died in Kilkenny on 29 November 1643.
His papers and writings have remained a focus of interest for historians of the period. Edmund Hogan (qv), SJ, included many excerpts from his papers in his publications on Henry Fitzsimon, and in 1881 edited a collection of Fitzsimon's papers, publishing them under the title Diary of the Bohemian war. This included Fitzsimon's An answer to sundrie complaintive letters of afflicted catholics under the new title Words of comfort to persecuted catholics. There is a large collection of Fitzsimon's papers in the Jesuit archives in Dublin.
Webb; Allibone; Edmund Hogan, SJ, Life, letters and diary of Father H. Fitzsimon (1881); id., Distinguished Irishmen of the sixteenth century (1894), 196–311; Dictionary of catholic biography; James Corboy, SJ, ‘Father Henry Fitzsimon, SJ’, Studies, xxxii (1943), 260–66; Louis McRedmond, To the greater glory: a history of the Irish Jesuits (1991); information from Fergus O'Donoghue, SJ, of the Jesuit archives, Dublin
◆ James B Stephenson SJ The Irish Jesuits Vol 1I 1962
FATHER HENRY FITZSIMON SJ 1566-1643
Henry Fitzsimon was born at Swords on the 31 May 1566. His father Nicholas, a Dublin alderman and an eminent merchant of his day, was the son of Sir Knight Fitzsimon. His mother was Anna Sedgrave or Edgrave, and he was related to Henry and James Ussher, both of whom where afterwards Protestant Primates of Armagh, At the age of ten Henry Fitzsimon went to England, where he lost the (faith) and became a zealous Protestant. On the 26 April 1583, he matriculated as a member of Hart's Hall, Oxford. It is not known how long he remained here; but after a few years we find him in Paris, where according to himself he was “so farre overweening of my profession, that I surmised to be able to convert to Protestancie any incounter whosoever ..... At length by my happiness I was overcome by F.Thomas Darbishire ane owld English Jesuit long tyme experienced in the reduction of many thowsands to the Catholic religion”.
After his conversion in 1587 he went to the University of Pont-à-Mousson, where he studied rhetoric and philosophy, becoming. a Master of Arts in 1591. On the 15 April 1592, he entered the Society of Jesus, Having spent only fifteen months in the novitiate of Tournai, he was sent to Louvain in 1593 to finish this theological studies, where he had already begun before his entry into the Society of Jesus. Here he made such great progress, under the able supervision of the famous Fr Lessius, that in a short time he was appointed professor of philosophy at Douai. Here also he made the acquaintance of Fr Rosweyde, the pioneer of the future Bollandist Fathers, and Dr Peter Lombard. In his writings he frequently recalls these two scholars as having been intimate friends. At this time, already interested in Irish history, he says that he “ransacked all the libraries in his way for our country's antiquities, and found a hand-written life of St Patrick in the library of our college at Douai”. He remained at Douai until his return to Ireland towards the end of 1597.
To appreciate the value of Fitsimon's work in Ireland, we must review briefly the political and religious state of the country at the end of the sixteenth century. The Reformation in Ireland during the sixteenth century - i.e., under the Tudor dynasty from Henry VIII to Elizabeth - was primarily a political movement. Not until the advent of James I, was any real attempt made to establish a Protestant mission all over the country. Ireland had been saved from undue religious persecution because the English could not exert political control except in or about Dublin and in some of the other towns. But the results of the Nine Years' War changed the whole aspect of the situation. In 1603 Ireland lay at the feet of her conqueror. Never before was there such an opportunity for propagating the reformed doctrines. It was in these years, so crucial for the Catholic religion, that the Jesuits of the first permanent Mission in Ireland arrived. Among them few had wider influence than Father Henry Fitzsimon.
Although Fitzsimon was imprisoned after the first two years, the result of his work was lasting. During that short period he had visited most of the influential families of the Pale. He has been particularly active in the City of Dublin, where he knew the brunt of the battle was borne. Every Sunday and feast-day he said Mass in the city and preached at least one sermon. On week-days he travelled into the country and visited the houses or the gentlemen of the Pale. His exhortations to remain steadfast in the Faith were generally successful and he converted to a more fervent life several who had grown remiss in the practice of their religion.
One instance typical of his work will suffice to give some notion of the nature of his activities. Describing the actions of the Dublin Council prior to the death of Elizabeth, he says: “A sudden and violent persecution burst upon the Catholics. By order of my Superior (Fr Holywood), I confirmed the chief men of the city by letters of consolation, by messages and by many other ways. The other fathers also performed their duty with increasing care and with ardent zeal and devotion”. But unfortunately the Catholics had not been well instructed in the doctrines of Faith and therefore might easily be duped by the reformers. In several parishes in Dublin the people were ordered to attend the Protestant Services, but all refused. Finally, a number of the inhabitants were summoned to appear before the magistrates. Fr Fitzsimon visited them all personally and instructed them before the meeting. In his own words “all stood firm, rejoicing that they were deemed worthy to suffer reproach for the name of Jesus”. This victory strengthened the Catholics in the other cities of Ireland.
Of his work in Dublin we have an interesting account from the pen of Fr Hamill, a secular priest. Writing on the 25 December 1598 he says: “As the Catholics increased daily, Fr Fitzsimon thought it well to erect a chapel in the house of a nobleman, at which the faithful night assemble. He got the hall lined with tapestry and covered with carpets, and had an altar made, which was as handsome and as elegantly furnished and decorated as any altar in Ireland. In this chapel Fr Fitzsimon celebrated High Mass, an event which was phenomenal in the Dublin of the time”. Fr Hamill, referring to his apostolate, says: “He converts hundreds to the faith. Not to speak of others who have returned to the Catholic Church in Dublin, one hundred persons, who last communicated according to the Protestant fashion, this year received instruction, reconciliation, confession and communion for the good father”. For two years he worked incessantly and indeed most successfully to stem the tide of reform, but his good fortune did not last long. In November 1599, he was captured by the authorities and imprisoned in Dublin Castle.
Had Fitzsimon devoted himself solely to the active ministry of preaching and administering the sacraments, his main work would have ended here and his period of imprisonment would interest us both little. But his apostolate was more varied, and his most notable achievements lay in another field. As a controversialist he scarcely had an equal during his time in Ireland. On his arrival in 1597 We find him issuing challenges to all comers. Like St Paul, he excalimed that he himself had been defiled with almost the very same errors which he now sought out and refuted. “Why do I spend”, he says “so precious time and so much pains? Only to confound my errors and to do satisfaction to truth and religion which I impugnated. This also was the cause that, for two years after my return to Dublin, I was burning to dispute with the ring-leaders of the Reform - I wished it even, for this reason alone, that where my error had given disedification, my condemnation of error might wipe away the stain”.
His imprisonment did not put an end to his controversial activities. On the contrary it seems that it increased his opportunities for disputing with the reformed leaders. Prison life in Ireland at this time was not always a pleasant experience, as anyone will understand who peruses the accounts left of the suffering of Father David Wolfe or Archbishop Creagh. Fitzsimon himself gives us a description of his life during these days and of the hardships he had to endure. “From the time the Spaniards landed (September 1601) care was taken that I should be kept in the closest confinement, and be deprived of books and of every comfort that might alleviate the monotonous misery of prison life. By employing the most savage keepers he (the Governor of the prison) can find, by flogging some for being over-indulgent to me, by dismissing eight of them on that ground alone, and by suborning false witnesses against me, he shows the excess of his hatred against the name we bear (Jesuits) and the end we have in view”. It is a remarkable fact that, before he left the prison-cell, Fitzsimon had made a fast friend of the governor, Yet in spite of these hardships Fr Fitzsimon never ceased to carry on the work of the apostolate. The Protestant historian Wood, speaking of him at this time, says that he was the most able defender of the Catholic religion in Ireland. In prison he was always eager for the fray, and he compared himself to a bear tied to a stake waiting for someone to bait him.
It is interesting to note that Hugh O'Neill, on hearing of Fr Fitzsimon's imprisonment, demanded his instant release. He threatened even to renew hostilities with the government if his request was not granted, saying: “Wherefore as ever you think, that I shall enter to conclude tieher peace or cessation with the State, let him be presently enlarged”. But he added that he was “no more ‘beholden’ to him than to an Irish Catholic that is restrained in Turkey for his religion”. The precise reason for O'Neill's antagonism to him is not clear. Some authors infer that Pitzsimon had no sympathy for the Irish in their effort to withstand by force of arms the efforts of the English to conquer the country. But there is no evidence for these assertions, and all we can say is that Fitzsimon's primary interests lay not in matters of state or politics, but as far as possible in purely spiritual affairs, his love for Ireland rests not merely on such meagre proofs as his desire to write her history and, as an exile, to forward her religion, but above all, as we shall see later, it is shown by his longing to return to a country wherein he knew that death would surely be his destiny if only he were once more captured by the authorities.
During his imprisonment Fr Fitzsimon had controversies with many of the Protestant ministers, including the most outstanding men in the Dublin of the time. Among these were Dr Challenor, Dean Meredith Hanmer, James Ussher and Dean Rider. To assess the moral value of this work, we need only recall the great advantage secured by the reformers in Germany - and by Luther in particular - on account of the lack of outstanding supporters of the Catholic cause. The history of the Catholic Church in France in the eighteenth century evinces the same defect. And we need only glance back over the history of the sixteenth century in Ireland to understand the vital necessity to the Catholic Church of able defenders of the Faith. Fr Fitzsimon fully realised the inestimable advantage that would accrue to Catholics by the overthrow of the most prominent of their opponents. He saw that what the Catholics most needed was leadership. He would seek out their enemies, therefore, and refute their false doctrines, thus strengthening his own people in their Faith.
The language Fitzsimon used in the disputations might be considered unbecoming or even vulgar in our age, but such was the in language of controversy of the time. That he has no personal enmity for his opponents is shown by the extraordinary number of them whom he converted. Even the gaoler, who had been so antagonistic to him, became a Catholic before Fitzsimon was released. Hanmer too, as we shall see, became his friend and never molested him again. Fitzsimon was too good-humoured to be easily upset by criticism and too disinterested in his work to take personal offence at every slight indictment.
Of his encounter with Challenor, Fitzsimon gives us a short account. “As I knew the Protestants considered Challenor as one of their champions, I challenged him. He refused to have any dealings with the Jesuits, because they were disliked by his sovereign. This was an excuse created by his cowardice ...” When Challenor failed, Hanmer, nothing daunted, accepted the challenge. He had already written against Edmund Campion and was esteemed very highly by the reformers. Fitzsimon, with his usual candour, gives us an account of their meeting. “Dean Meredith Hanmer.... came with many high people to my prison. As he remained silent, I, trusting in the goodness of my cause undertook to defend what was weakest on our side and to attack what seemed strongest on theirs”. But Hanmer, unable to uphold his side, yielded and, from that time forward, refused to debate on controversial subjects with Fitzsimon. It is typical of the latter that after their dispute he should make friends with his discomfited rival. Hanmer, on his part, was not ungrateful, as we learn from Fitzsimon, who in a time or great need received from his former adversary a barrel of beer, a sack of flour, and the use of his library.
His next opponent was James Ussher, who was appointed Archbishop of Armagh later. Even at the age of fourteen Ussher had shown signs of genius. At that time he had already made a careful study of Ancient History, the Scriptures and the Meditations of St Augustine. Soon afterwards he made an extensive study of Latin and Greek authors, became interested in polemics, and was eager to read all the Fathers of the Church from the earliest tines up to the Council of Trent. Whether Ussher really understood what he had read is extremely doubtful. But at least the vast learning that he had attained - superficially or otherwise we cannot discuss here - incited him to undertake the defence of the reformed doctrines against anyone who would dispute with him. He visited Fitzsimon in prison and had several discussions with him. Finally Ussher sought a public disputation, which Fitzsimon refused. Many writers, following Elrington, hold that the Jesuit shirked a trial of strength with this brilliant young man of eighteen. But even the Protestant historical Wood is of opinion that Fitzsimon grew weary of disputing with Ussher, as he probably saw that further argument was futile. Even though we admit the talent of Ussher, yet when we compare the age, experience, and theological training of the two, we prefer to accept the statement of Wood, which in fact is corroborated by a letter or Fitzsimon himself. In it he says: “Once indeed a youth of eighteen came forward with the greatest trepidation of face and voice. He was a precocious boy, but not of a bad disposition and talent as it seemed. Perhaps he was greedy of applause, Anyhow he was desirous of disputing about most abstruse points of divinity, although he had not yet finished the study of philosophy. I bid the youth bring me some proof that he was considered a fit champion by the Protestants, and I said that I would then enter into a discussion with him. But as they did not think him a fit and proper person to defend them, he never again honoured me with his presence”. Even a cursory glance through Fitzsimon's writings is enough to convince one of his vast erudition, his prodigious knowledge of Scripture and the Classics, and his innate ability to turn an argument against an opponent.
Fitzsimon's final encounter was with Dean Rider, who later was appointed Bishop of Killaloe. Rider himself provoked the disputation but once Fitzsimon had accepted the challenge, he lost heart and kept postponing the ordeal. Finally Rider was forced to admit of his adversary “that in words he is too hard for a thousand”. Fitzsimon remained in prison for five years, but during that time he defended the Catholic cause with such success that, at the end of the period, he could sincerely declare that the reformers in Ireland were “clouds” without water, wafted by the winds: they are autumn trees, barren and doubly dead”. On the 5 April 1604, Fitzsimon gave an account of his five years' imprisonment. “I have been five years in prison, and I have been brought eight times before the Supreme Court... The Governor of the prison has been my deadly enemy.... At present they deliberate about driving me into exile... this is dearer to me than anything else in this world except death for the Faith”. Soon after this he was released and banished from the country.
For the next twenty-six years Fitzsimon worked on the Continent. Many of his written works belong to this period, and he attempted even a History of Ireland, which unfortunately is not extant. He was chaplain to the Emperor in the Bohemian Campaigns of 1620 and was an intimate friend of the greatest generals on the Austrian side. Little is known of his activities during these years, but in 1630 he was sent back to the Irish Mission. He was then about sixty-four years old. From casual references here and there we can gather that age had not damped his zeal or enthusiasm. In 1637 it was reported that he was in good health for his years (he was then seventy-one) and that he still preached and heard confessions. In 1660 his contemporary Fr Young wrote a sketch of his life where we find a description of his last years.
In the winter of 1641, Fitzsimon then about seventy-five years old was condemned to be hanged. In company with many other Catholics he fled to the Dublin mountains, where he sought shelter in a shepherd's hut, Even at this time he did not remain inactive, but went from house to house instructing the children of the poor and administering the sacraments. At last, worn out by fatigue, and hardship, he was taken to the quarters occupied by the Irish army - probably at Kilkenny. There he was entrusted to the care of his religious brethren, but in a few months he was dead. The date of his death is uncertain, but it was probably the 29 November 1643. Writing of Fr Fitzsimon, Fr Young says that heresy feared his pen, and that Ireland admired and loved him for his piety and for the great gifts of nature and grace with which God had endowed him.
Fr. Fitzsimon's end was marked with a note of tragedy and even of apparent failure. An outlaw on the hills, he died far from the scene of his constant toils. Probably no priest had done more for the Catholics in the Pale than he had. No opponent had ever encountered him and gone away victorious. Yet, despite all his controversies, he had very few personal enemies. “By his death” says Wood “the Catholics lost a pillar of the Church, being esteemed a great ornament among them, and the greatest defender of religion, and the most noted Jesuit of his time”. From these facts it is clear that Fitzsimon played a large part in the Catholic counter-reformation in Ireland.
Perhaps, before concluding this brief sketch of the life of Fr Fitzsimon, it might be well to refer to his literary activities. He was one of the most voluminous writers of the time. Two of his books were written in refutation of the theories put forward by Dean Rider, whom we have already mentioned. These are “A Catholic Confutation of it, M John Riders clayne of Antiquitie” and “A Reply to M Riders Postscript!” These and another book, “An Answer to certain complaintive letters of afflicted Catholics for Religion”, were printed at Rouen in 1608. The latter has been edited by Fr Edmund Hogan, SJ, under the title of “Words of Comfort to Persecuted Catholics”. It gives a description of the persecutions which Catholics had to endure at the beginning of the seventeenth century in Ireland.
His next book was a treatise on the Mass. Printed at Douay in the year 1611, it is entitled “The Justification and Exposition of the Divine Sacrifice of the Masse, and of al rites and Ceremonies thereto belonging divided into two bookes”. In the words of Fitzsimon, his first book treats of “controversies and difficulties, and devotion belonging to the Masse”, while in the second book “the first masso in the missal is justified, and expounded for all and everie parcel thereof”. This treatise, which contains almost 450 pages, displays remarkable intimacy with Sacred Scripture and with the writings of the Fathers of the Church.
The next work we know of is entitled “Britannomachia ministrorum in Plerisque et Fidei Fundamentis, et Fidei articulis Dissidentiunt”. Divided into three books it contains a defence of Catholic doctrines and a refutation of the theories propounded by the reformers. In 1619 Fitzsimon edited at Liège the “Catalogus Sanctorum Hiberniae”, which has been annotated by Fr Paul Grosjean, SJ, in "Feil Sgribhinn Eoin Mhic Neill”. The “Bohemian Campaign” he published in 1620 under the pseudonym of “Constantius Peregrinus”. This work is really a diary written during the wars in Bohemia. He also published another work, in connection with this campaign, under the title of “The Battle of Prague”. After his return to Ireland in 1630, Fitzsimon was so harassed by persecution that no opportunity was given him for further literary work.
James Corboy SJ
◆ James B Stephenson SJ Menologies 1973
Father Henry FitzSimon 1566-1643
Our ablest and unsurpassed controversialist was Fr Henry FitzSimon. He was born at Swords County Dublin on May 31st 1566 of wealthy and prominent parents. These latter, dying when Henry was young, he was brought up a Protestant.
He got his early education at Manchester, and studied later at Christ Church College, Oxford. He was converted to the Catholic faith in his infancy by Fr Thomas Derbyshire in Paris. He retained one relic of his Protestantism, an aversion to holy water. One morning however, on his way to Mass, having a violent pain in his thumb, he plunged it into the Holy Water font, and was instantly cured.
In 1592, at Tournai, he entered the Society, and he came to Ireland with Fr James Archer in 1597. Most of his work was carried on in the Pale. He displayed a fearlessness in the face of Protestants in Dublin, which in the opinion of his Superior, almost amounted to recklessness. For example, he set up a chapel in the house of a nobleman, and had High Mass celebrated with a full orchestra, composed of harps, lutes and all kinds of instruments, except the organ. The like had never been seen in Dublin for years, and hundreds flocked to the ceremony. Most important of all he founded the Sodality of Our Lady, the first in Ireland.
Arrest followed in 1599 and he was lodged in Dublin Castle. But “stone walls do not a prison make, nor iron bars a cage” was certainly true of him. He held conferences in prison with the leading Protestant divines, Challenor, Ussher and Dean Rider. On the naccession of James I, he was released and banished to Spain.
In Spain he did trojan work for the Irish Colleges from 1604-1630. In that year he returned to Ireland. In the Confederate War, he was forced to take to the Dublin hills, where he ministered to the people for a year. Finally, overcome by old age, exposure and hunger, he collapsed, and being conveyed to Kilkenny, in spite of tender care, he died on November 29th 1643.
◆ George Oliver Towards Illustrating the Biography of the Scotch, English and Irish Members SJ
FITZSIMON, HENRY, was born in Dublin, in 1567,his Father was an eminent merchant. He was matriculated at Hart’s-hall, Oxford, 26th April, 1583. Nine years later, at the age of 25, he associated himself to the Society of Jesus at Douay. Under the instructions of the great Lessius, he soon was qualified for the chair of Philosophy, which he filled for several years. An ardent zeal for Religion urged him to solicit his return to his native Country; and I find that he reached Dublin late in the year 1597. Here he gave abundant evidence of commanding talents as a Preacher, of a fearless spirit and unbounded charity. Strange to say, he ventured to have a solemn High Mass, performed with great variety of musical instruments a sight that Dublin had not witnessed for Forty years before : and he also instituted a Sodality or Confraternity in honour of the B. Virgin Mary. But he was at length apprehended and detained in prison for five years, during which period, at eight different times, he was brought into Court; but was always remanded. Soon after the Accession of K. James, great interest was made for his discharge, and alter much negotiation, he was hurried as an exile on board a ship bound to Bilboa, without being allowed to take leave of his friends. Before he left the jail, he had reconciled many to the Catholic Church, and during the voyage his zeal produced the happiest effects among the crew and passengers. On the 14th of June, 1604, he landed at Bilboa. Rome, Liege, and the Low Countries admired his devotion to the labours of his Ministry : it was his pleasure and delight to visit the sick, to attend the infected, to assist prisoners and persons condemned to death; but his heart panted to re-enter the field of hardship and danger in his beloved and afflicted Country; and at last Superiors allowed him to follow his own inclinations. Like the giant he exulted to run his course : and the fruits of his industrious activity everywhere appeared in the numerous conversion of heretics, and in the strengthening of Catholics in practical religion. The Civil and Military Authorities marked him out for vengeance. In the winter of 1612, in the darkness of the night, he effected his escape from Dublin. Winding his way through sequestered woods and dells, he took up his quarters in a wretched cabin that he found in a Morass, where he was safe from those who hunted after his blood. Though exposed to the pitiless storm, and suffering every privation, this blessed Father never lost his serenity and elastic gaiety, and was always ready to administer consolation to others. But this Winter campaign broke down his constitution. Removed to a place of comparative comfort, he was treated by his brethren with the most affectionate care and charity; nature however was exhausted, and after a short illness, full of days and fuller of merits, he passed to never- ending rest, with the name of Jesus on his lips, on the 29th of November, 1643, or as another account has it, on the 1st of February, 1844. “By his death the Roman Catholics lost a pillar of their Church, being esteemed a great ornament among them, and the greatest Defender of their religion, in his time”. Wood’s Athenae. Oxon, vol. II. p. 46. This eminent writer left to posterity,
1 “A Calholic Refutation of Mr. John Rider’s claim of Antiquity”. N.B. This Rider was Dean of St. Patrick, and subsequently appointed to the See of Killala.
- “Reply to Mr. Rider s Postscript”.
- “An Answer to certain Complaintive Letters of afflicted Catholics for Religion”.
All these were printed in a 4to. Vol. Rouen, 1608.
- “The Justification and Exposition of the Divine Sacrifice of the Masse, and of all Rites and Ceremonies thereto belonging”. 4to. 1611, pp. 356. I think printed at Douay.
- “Britannomachia Ministorum in plerisque et fidei fundamentu a Fidei Articulis dissidentium”. 4to. Douay, pp. 355.
- “Catalogus Sanctorum Hiberniae” Svo Liege, 1619, pp. 117.
This was appended to the Hibernice sive Antiquioris Scotiae vindicia adversus Thomam Dempsterum, an 8vo. printed at Antwerp, 1621. Its author adopted the initials G. F.