Item 23 - Letter from Fr Michael Browne SJ to Mr Hilary Lawton SJ stating that there was no need for a previous apology

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IE IJA J/4/23

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Letter from Fr Michael Browne SJ to Mr Hilary Lawton SJ stating that there was no need for a previous apology

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  • 5 October 1933 (Creation)

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3pp

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Name of creator

(22 April 1853-20 November 1933)

Biographical history

Born: 22 April 1853, Limerick
Entered: 07 September 1877, Milltown Park, Dublin
Ordained: 27 July 1891
Final vows: 02 February 1893
Died: 20 November 1933, Rathfarnham Castle, Dublin

Early education at Clongowes Wood College SJ

by 1888 at Leuven Belgium (BELG) studying
by 1896 at Chieri Italy (TAUR) making Tertianship

◆ HIB Menologies SJ :
Note from Br Thomas Johnson Entry :
He was assisted in his last moments by his Spiritual Father, Michael Browne, and died 27 May 1900.
Note from James Dempsey Entry :
He finally retired to Tullabeg and he died there 03 October 1904. he was assisted there in his last moments by the saintly Michael Browne, Rector and Master of Novices.

◆ Irish Province News
Irish Province News 3rd Year No 1 1927

Jubilee : Fr Michael Browne
The official celebration in Fr Michael Browne's honour took place in Rathfarnham on the 29th September. After a good deal of College work, Rector of the Crescent, Clongowes and Tullabeg he was Master of Novices at three different periods and is now Spiritual Father to the fifty-seven Juniors at Rathfarnham and, whenever he gets a chance, spends, at least, seven days a week giving retreats,

Irish Province News 9th Year No 1 1934
Obituary :
Father Michael Browne
Father S. Brown has kindly sent us the following appreciation :
On the morning of November the 28th died Father Michael Browne in his eighty first year.

He was born in Limerick in 1853 and was educated partly at Crescent College in that city and partly at Clongowes. On leaving the latter college he applied to enter the Society. Superiors thought him too delicate and rejected the application. He accordingly went to Carlow College to study for the priesthood. But the call was insistent. After a visit to Rome and to Lourdes he tried again and this time was successful. He entered the Novitiate at Milltown
Park on the 7th of September 1877. The fifty-six years of his life in the Society were outwardly uneventful. He had relatively little contact with the outer world and shunned all
appearances in public. But within the Province he held nearly every office of trust and responsibility with the exception of that of Provincial. He was Master in the colleges (Tullabeg
1883-85, Clongowes '86 and Mungret 1891-94). During this last period he was Prefect of Studies. He was Spiritual Father in Clongowes ('96- '99) and later in Rathfarnham (1924-51). He was Rector of Tullabeg from 1920 to 1924, again 1918 to 1910. During these two periods of office he was Master of Novices. He was Rector of the Crescent (I905-7). Finally he was for eleven years Socius to the Provincial. That is surely a remarkable record.
But he will perhaps be remembered not so much for his eminent services to the Society as for his personality. For throughout his life he was known to be a man of deep and genuine holiness and there were many who did not hesitate to speak of him as a saint. Despite all his efforts to conceal it his austerity was well known. Especially in his Tullabeg days he was merciless to himself, Without being a very close observer one could know that he was all tied up with hair-shirts and chains. Indeed this was the origin of some of his characteristic gestures. Superiors had to exercise constant vigilance to see that he took sufficient food. He was more lenient in his later years, but even in his last year he sometimes made his meal of dry bread. He never smoked nor drank wine or spirits. He had schooled himself in the most rigid observance of “custody of the eyes.” He seldom, in fact looked at the person to whom he was speaking and he not infrequently made upon outsiders an impression of aloofness and indifference. There was indeed no little aloofness in his way of life. He made few friends and acquaintances. But his manner was by no means cold and repelling. He had a temper but it was under such stern control that few suspected its existence.
He was the most unworldly of men. He never read newspapers and took little or no interest in the little events of the day. He preached a lofty spirituality that soared high above the earth. One felt oneself among naked mountain peaks and breathed a somewhat rarefied atmosphere. Still humor, of a simple and homely kind, was by no means banished from
his Retreats and exhortations. He even courted a hearty laugh from his audience. He himself could laugh heartily in his deep bass voice and often when telling some amusing anecdote
the tears would run down his cheeks and his mirth would so choke his utterance that listeners sometimes failed to catch the climax or the point of the story. His memory held a great
store of such anecdotes centering very largely in Limerick, which always held a warm place in his heart.
He was always an intense student and a lover of books. He wrote, so far as I know, nothing for publication, but he accumulated copious notes, largely written in shorthand. Many
years ago he discarded large quantities of MS. material relating to his work as a master. He loved to pick up for a few pence in second hand bookshops books that appealed to him. His friends knew that books were the only gifts that would be acceptable. He belonged, one might say, to the Victorian epoch. In literature as in other things, modernity had no appeal for him. His taste was for history and biography and he seems never to have read fiction.
He went to God as straight as he knew how, without hesitations or compromises and regardless of the cost. He thought, as he lived, in straight lines, looking neither to right nor left. His character was strong and simple without subtlety and without crookedness of any kind. On subjects about which he cared at all his principles were fixed, his mind was made up. And as with principles of thought so with principles of conduct. Early in life he had laid down such principles for himself and to these he adhered undeviatingly to the end.
His spiritual life was hidden with Christ in God. One could only guess at its characteristics. It included certainly a great love for Our Lady and he never began an exhortation in the
chapel without reciting in full an Act of Consecration to her. Much of his time, especially towards the end, was spent in the chapel. All who really knew him were convinced of his great holiness.
As long as strength remained to him he worked unsparingly. I have known him to give as many as seven Retreats on end. During these Retreats he was the despair of the Sister who
waited on him at meals. In the last year of his life he was still giving domestic exhortations and lectures in various convents. He held the honorable post of confessor to the Archbishop of Dublin.
In his last illness, as long as his mind held good, he was his old self, concerned only about the trouble he was giving, and praying almost without interruption.

◆ James B Stephenson SJ Menologies 1973

Father Michael Brown 1853-1933
Fr Michael was preeminently the Ascetic of the Province. His austerity was well known, in spite of all his efforts to conceal it. Especially in his Tullabeg days as Master of Novices, he was merciless on himself. He was a great believer in hairshirts and chains, and Superiors had to exercise vigilance to make sure he took sufficient food. Yet he was not a solitary, given over to lone contemplation. In his time, he held every administrative post in the Province, save that of Provincial, though he acted as Vice-Provincial on one occasion. He was untiring in giving retreats, even up to his last years, and was known to have given 7 retreats on end, without interval.

At the same time he was not a repelling character, rather he engendered great respect and affection. He had his sense of humour, and his deep laugh was familiar to all his listeners.

He went straight to God as he knew how, without compromised. His use of creatures was mainly by abstention. When he died on November 22nd 1933, after 56 years in the Society, one eminent fellow Jesuit remarked that Fr Michael Brown’s holiness was reminiscent of the old Irish monks, to which an equally eminent Jesuit replied “Nay more, his eminence was pre-Christian”.

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Letter to Mr Hilary Lawton SJ from Fr Michael Browne SJ, Rathfarnham Castle, Dublin, stating that there was no need for a previous apology made by Mr Lawton to him. Fr Browne asks to be included in Mr Lawton’s prayers to the Virgin Mary. He states, ‘She has done marvellous things for me all through life, but especially during my 56 years in the Society’.

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2003

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