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Murphy, James F, 1852-1908, Jesuit priest
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Dates of existence
18 September 1852-22 March 1908
Born: 18 September 1852, Clonmel, County Tipperary
Entered: 27 November 1869, Milltown Park, Dublin
Professed: 15 August 1891
Died: 22 March 1908, Tullabeg, County Offaly
Twin brother of John Murphy - RIP 1898
Father Provincial of the Irish Province of the Society of Jesus: 13 November 1900-1905
Novice Master: 1905 - 1908
by 1871 at home for health
by 1873 at St Beuno’s, Wales (ANG) studying
by 1874 at Roehampton, London (ANG) studying
by 1875 at Laval, France (FRA) studying
by 1885 at Oña Spain (ARA) studying
◆ HIB Menologies SJ :
He was a twin brother of John Murphy SJ - RIP 1898. He was also a brother of Canon Henry Murphy of Arran Quay and Lieutenant Colonel William Reed Murphy DSO, who had a distinguished career in the Indian Civil Service.
After First Vows he studied Rhetoric at Roehampton and then three years Philosophy at Laval, where Fathers Bucceroni and Fredet were teaching at the time.
He was then sent as a teacher to Tullabeg and later as a Teacher and Prefect of Studies at Clongowes for Regency of seven years.
1884 he was sent to Oña to study Theology. This was at that time the largest Theologate in the Society, whose chief Theologian, Father Mendine, was of great repute. Here he read a most distinguished course in Theology and shortly after his return to Ireland he was appointed a Chair of Theology at Milltown. He was a profound and able Theologian. Whilst this work was significant, he also found the time to exercise his love of children and the poor, by gathering the local poor boys together on Saturday evenings to teach them.
1895 He was appointed Master of Novices.
1900 he was appointed Provincial, and when he finished this in 1905 he went back to Milltown which he loved, including all his former work. he was not known as a Preacher as it was not necessarily in his gift, though when speaking or talking to groups who could follow his high train of thought, he was very effective. In this regard, his Priests Retreats were highly valued, and he also earned a great reputation as a Spiritual Director, adding prudence and sanctity to his learning.
Early in 1908 his health became a concern. From the outset there was not great hope that he would recover, and he died at Tullabeg an edifying death 22 March 1908.
At his end he was said to have described his experience as being like a man travelling from Dublin to Bray Head, shut up in a dark stuffy tunnel, but expecting at every moment to dash out into the sunshine with a glorious view before and around him, the glittering sun stretched out on his left, and inland on the right, green fields, woods and fair mansions, and in the distance the beautiful mountains. “Some happy change like that of a spiritual sort is before me please God”. In his dying he didn’t seem to suffer much, never tired of thanking those around him, and they considered themselves privileged to have witnessed his dying.
◆ James B Stephenson SJ Menologies 1973
Father James Murphy SJ 1852-1908
Fr James Murphy was one of those men who left an indelible mark on the Province. He was one of those men to whom those who met him could not be indifferent. One might put it this way : Fr Peter Kenney was to the infant Mission what Fr Murphy was to the growing Province.
Born in Clonmel in 1852, he entered the Society in 1869, where he had the famous Fr Sturzo as Novice Master. After a brilliant course of studies, especially displaying exceptional intellectual ability in Theology an Oña Spain, he was appointed to the chair of Theology in Milltown Park. In 1895, he became Master of Novices, his favourite Office in the Society. He used to say that God had given him the “tit-bit” of the work of the Province. He had a special flair for training novices. He had immense and infectious enthusiasm for the Society. His influence on the novices was profound and lasting, the central strand of which was his spirituality, a strong and effective love of the Lord. Regnum Christi was the inspiration of his life.
He was a fluent and forceful speaker and had a special gift of expounding attractively deep spiritual truths like the varietes of grace. His way of giving the Exercises, such as the Foundation and the Kingdom, so impressed his hearers, that novices could approach it only from his direction, and when afterwards as priests, they themselves had to give the Exercises, they revealed at once the Master from whom they learned.
He aimed at making the novices men of principle. “What is right is right” he would say, “and what is wrong is wrong, and that settles the question”. He did not forget the traditional methods of training in the Society, and by public and often unconventional commands, he raised them in poverty, obedience and humility. The great majority of his novices always admitted that he was the greatest influence on their lives.
In 1900 he was appointed Provincial, and he set about moulding the Province to his own high standard of spiritual values and ascetic living. As Provincial he was a man of vision. Foreseeing the growing importance of Biblical Studies, he sent three brilliant Juniors to the University of Beirut to learn Oriental languages. One of these, Fr Edmund Power, by his distinguished career at the Biblicum and Milltown Park, more than justified Fr Murphy’s foresight. He retired from this post in 1905 to become once more Master of Novices.
Health failed him in 1908, and he died on March 22nd at St Stanislaus College, Tullamore. To the end he displayed these high principles of the spiritual life, which he had inculcated into generations of novices.
His actual death was most edifying, painless and effortless. From his deathbed he delivered his last exhortation to the novices gathered round him, gathering up the gist of his teaching, which left an indelible mark on all of them. Describing the scene that bursts on one emerging from a stuffy tunnel at Bray Head, he said “Some happy change like that if a spiritual sort is before me, please God”. The bystanders considered themselves privileged to have witnessed so holy a death.
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Murphy, James F, 1852-1908, Jesuit priest
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Place access points
- County Tipperary » Clonmel
- County Dublin » Dublin City » Sandford Road » Milltown Park
- County Kildare » Clane » Clongowes Wood College SJ
- France » Pays de la Loire » Laval
- Spain » Castilla y León » Oña
- England » London » Roehampton » Manresa House (London)
- Wales » St Asaph » Tremeirchion » St Beuno's
- County Offaly (King's) » Ballycowan (Bar.) » Tullabeg » St Stanislaus College
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