Born: 1562, Artane,Dublin
Entered: 1584, Verdun, France - Campaniae province (CAMP)
Ordained: 1593 Pont-á-Mousson, France
Final Vows: 04/10/1598, Padua, Italy
Died: 04 September 1626, Dublin
Superior Irish Mission 16 March 1604-04 September 1626
Studied Humanities at Paris and Ent June or January 1584
1584-1590 At Pont-á-Mousson (CAMP) Studying Metaphysics, Philosophy
1590 Studying Theology at Pont-á-Mousson
1593 Not in Campaniae Catalogue but at Dôle College
1596 Teaching Moral Theology at Venice College (Paul Valle and Anthony Maria Venù were teaching Scholastic Theology)
1597 At Padua College teaching Theology
1617 CAT Superior of Irish Mission, with 37 members in Ireland, 28 in Spain, 9 in Portugal, 7 in Belgium, 2 in Bavaria, 2 in Austria, 2 in Italy, 1 each in France, Mexico and Paraguay. 25 October 1617 proclamation against anyone harbouring Jesuits (1622 Catalogue)
He knew Bellarmine at Ferrara and Padua
◆ Fr Edmund Hogan SJ “Catalogica Chronolgica” :
Professor of Philosophy at Theology at Padua; Prisoner in Tower of London, Wisbech Castle and Framlingham Castle; Superior of Irish Mission for 23 years; Writer on Controversy and Physical Science; Especially denounced by James I;
Alias : Sacrobosco; Jo. Bus; Thomas Laundry (not the only one who took the alias “Bosco” - John Halifax of Yorkshire author of De Sphoera Mundi” in 13th century was also called “de Sacro Bosco)
He was heir to Artane Castle
He was appointed Superior of the Irish Mission, he travelled from Dieppe, January 1599, disguised as a merchant, was seized at Dover, carried to London and strictly examined by Lord Cobham and Secretary Cecil. First at Gatehouse Prison, Westminster then on the accession of James I moved to Framlingham Castle, and then deported 1603. He eventually reached Ireland from St Malo 1604.
(For his literary productions cf Southwell’s “Biblio Script SJ”, and De Backer’s “Biblioth. des Écrivains SJ”)
◆ Fr Francis Finegan SJ:
Son of Nicholas, Lord of Artane
After First Vows he was sent for studies to Pont-à-Mousson where he was Ordained 1692/3
1593-1958 Taught Theology successively at Dôle and Padua
1598 Appointed Superior of Irish Mission 26/09/1598 which had been undertaken by the Society at the request of Pope Clement VIII
1599 Set out for Ireland but was arrested on his journey at Dover, England, and imprisoned for refusing to take the Oath of Supremacy
1603 He was released from prison May 1603, but only to be deported
1604-1626 Arrived in Ireland 16/03/1604. For the next twenty-two years he organised the mission with such success that the number of Jesuits in Ireland increased from seven to forty-four while Residences were established in ten cities and towns. His influence with Catholics was so great that the Protestants called “Teacher of the Papists of Ireland”. He died in Office 04 September 1626, leaving behind a great reputation for holiness, prudence and love of the poor
He published two controversial works and a treatise on meteorology.
◆ Royal Irish Academy : Dictionary of Irish Biography, Cambridge University Press online :
by Judy Barry
Holywood, Christopher (1559–1626), Jesuit priest, was son of Nicholas Holywood of Artane castle, Dublin, lord of manors in Co. Dublin, Co. Meath, and Co. Wexford. His mother was a niece of Christopher Nugent, Baron Delvin. He was educated at the University of Padua and entered the Society of Jesus at Verdun (1584). He was subsequently professor of divinity and philosophy at Dole and Pont-à-Mousson, and of scripture at Padua. He was ordained a priest in 1593 and took his final vows in 1597.
In 1598, when a third Jesuit mission was sent to Ireland at the request of Pope Clement VIII, Holywood was appointed superior. He sailed for England disguised as a merchant, but was arrested at Dover. On refusing to swear the oath of supremacy, he was taken to London and examined by the secretary of state, Sir Robert Cecil, who told him that he would not suffer for his religion so long as he did not meddle in political matters. However, when Holywood persisted in defending his order, Cecil had him imprisoned at Wisbech castle and later at Framlingham castle, Suffolk, where he devoted his time to scholarly work. He was released in May 1603 and banished to the Continent, where he completed two books for publication in the following year: Defensio decreti Tridentini et sententiae Roberti Bellarmini, S.R.E. cardinalis, de authoritate Vulgatae editionis Latinae (‘Defence of the decree of the council of Trent and of the opinion of Cardinal Bellarmine concerning the authority of the Latin Vulgate’) and De investiganda vera ac visibili Christi ecclesia libellus (‘A treatise on the true and visible church of Christ’).
He arrived in Dublin (16 March 1604) to take up his original appointment and was sheltered by Sir Christopher Plunkett (qv). The mission under his direction numbered six Jesuits and was at first centred on Dublin and the Pale. This was partly because he and his companions came mainly from gentry families in the city and county of Dublin and did not speak Irish, and partly because of a new government policy insisting on the declared loyalty of the patrician leaders of the city. Up to this point the evidence of open catholic practice had not been regarded as sufficient reason to doubt the political loyalty of the municipality, and indeed the Dublin merchants had been active in raising money in support of the war against O'Neill. In 1600 Patrick Plunkett, Baron Dunsany, had written to Robert Cecil advising that Holywood be released, since the priests in the English Pale were ‘firm in dutiful allegiance’ and quite different from ‘Tyrone's priests’.
Under Sir Arthur Chichester (qv), however, anxiety about security led the government to demand that leaders of the civic community take the oath of supremacy and attend protestant service on Sundays and holydays. Those aldermen who refused were imprisoned and proceedings were taken against them in the court of castle chamber. Holywood and his fellow Jesuits were active in encouraging a defiant attitude among the catholic patriciate, and assisted in preparing the defence of those who were brought to court. Their affirmation that they could give political allegiance to James I, but could not acknowledge that he had jurisdiction over spiritual matters, formed the basis of the campaign for legal redress led by Patrick Barnewall (qv).
Although the Jesuits were few at first, their familiarity with Dublin city and county, and the tightly knit network of blood and matrimonial ties to which they had access, ensured them protection and hospitality, and their letters indicate the range of pastoral services to which they attended. As the mission expanded, it extended its operations. In 1610 Holywood organised a system of separate ‘residences’, each responsible for a particular area and each with a spiritual father. By 1619 he had established these in Dublin, east Munster, west Munster, and Connacht. Expansion prompted greater discretion and Holywood successfully opposed the return of James Archer (qv) and Henry Fitzsimon (qv) to the Irish mission. In 1617 and 1619 he received papal permission to set up sodalities, including those with female members, in Carrick, Cashel, Clonmel, Cork, Kilkenny, Limerick, and Waterford. A sodality introduced to Drogheda without papal authorisation (1619) led to a protracted conflict with the Franciscans and Dominicans, in the course of which Holywood disregarded instructions from the Jesuit general in Rome that were designed to bring the dispute to an end.
Although he often expressed a desire to retire, he died in office on 4 September 1626. By that time there were 43 Jesuits in Ireland and many more Irish Jesuits abroad. In 1619 Holywood had published a new edition of De investiganda and written an unpublished treatise ‘Opusculum de virtutibus’ (‘Little work on the virtues’). Shortly before his death he wrote another book, which the Jesuit censors rejected. Until 1618 he used the pseudonym ‘John Bus’ (or ‘Bushlocks’): later, he called himself ‘Thomas Lawndrie’. Occasionally, he used the Latin equivalent of his name, ‘a sacro bosco’.
CSPI, 1599–25; DNB; Edmund Hogan, SJ, Distinguished Irishmen of the sixteenth century (1894), 393–499; James Corboy, SJ, ‘Father Christopher Holywood, S.J., 1559–1626’, Studies, xxxiii (1944), 541–9; Proinsias Ó Fionnagáin, SJ, The Jesuit missions to Ireland in the sixteenth century (c.1970; privately published), 76; John Kingston, ‘The Holywoods of Artane’, Reportorium Novum, i (1956), 342–3; Fergus O'Donoghue, SJ, ‘The Jesuit mission in Ireland’ (Ph.D. thesis, The Catholic University of America, 1982); Colm Lennon, The lords of Dublin in the age of reformation (1989), 174–85, 209–12
◆ Irish Province News
Irish Province News 1st Year No 3 1926
On the 4th September the Irish Province will celebrate the tercentenary of the death of one of its most distinguished members.
Fr Christopher Holywood entered the Society in 1582, and in course of time became Professor of Philosophy and Theology at Padua,
On his arrival in England he was arrested and kept in prison until I 603, when he was exiled, and ordered not to return, However, the following year he succeeded in reaching Ireland.
Two other Missions of Jesuits had been sent to Ireland by the Popes: the first comprised Frs. Salmeron and Brouet, 1541 ; the second under Fr David Wolfe, 1560.
The first lasted a very brief time; the second held on until 1986. Some of the members were exiled ; others were martyred or died in prison. When Fr. Holywood arrived he found just five Jesuits in the country. His first care was to provide for the future by having candidates for the Irish Mission accepted in Spain, Italy, and other Provinces. The effects of his work ih this respect are traceable for more than half a century, The Irish Catalogue, 1910, gives the state of our Province in I609: (Holywood became Superior in 1604), 18 priests in Ireland, 20 priests, 82 scholastics, and I brother scattered through Europe, I priest *in Paraguay. He remained Superior to the end of his life. When he died the Irish Mission had been thoroughly organized. There were 42 Jesuits in the country, with reserves in various places in Europe. There were residences in Dublin, Kilkenny, Waterford, Clonmel, Cashel, Cork, Limerick, Galway, and in Ulster. Fr. Holywood had permanently established the Society in Ireland. To him, too, must be given the credit of keeping the faith alive amongst the Anglo-Irish Catholics.
All this great work was carried on in the midst of constant danger. He tells the story himself in a letter written in 1617. “Our brethren” he writes, “are so hotly pursued that, in order to keep at large and perform the functions or their ministry, they have to travel by out of-the-way paths, and pass over walls and hedges, and through woods, and even to sleep on straw, in cornfields and old ruins at which times they always sleep in their clothes in order to be ready to escape”
However, God abundantly blessed their strenuous work. Fr. Holywood again writes in 1622 : “Your Paternity has every reason to thank God for the great success of the Irish Mission SJ, the fragrance of which is the fragrance of a full field which the Lord hath blessed. People never cease admiring and extolling the charity and humility of our Fathers, who shrink from no labour or trouble in working for the salvation of Souls.”
Fr. Holywood is the author of two theological works, and a Latin treatise, De Metearis. The man, whom we may fairly call the founder of the Irish Province, died in Dublin, his native city, the 4th September 1626.
◆ James B Stephenson SJ The Irish Jesuits Vol 1 1962
Christopher Holywood (1598-1626)
Christopher Holywood, son of Nicholas Holywood, lord of Artane, was born in 1562, and entered the Novitiate of the Society of Jesus at Verdun, in France, in the month of June, 1584. Having completed his studies at the University of Pont-à-Mousson, he lectured on theology at Dôle in France, and at Padua and Milan in Italy, On 26th September, 1598, he was appointed Superior of the Mission to Ireland undertaken by the Society at the request of Pope Clement VIII. Having made his solemn profession of four vows at Padua on 4th October, 1598, he set out on his journey, but was arrested on landing at Dover in January, 1599, and imprisoned for refusing to take the oath of supremacy. Released and banished in May, 1603, he made his way back to Ireland, arriving there on 16th March, 1604. During the next twenty-two years he organised the Mission with such success that the number of Irish Jesuits increased from seven to forty-four, and Residences were established in ten towns : Dublin, Drogheda, Kilkenny, Waterford, Carrick-on-Suir, Clonmel, Cashel, Cork, Limerick, and Galway. His influence with Catholics was so great that the heretics called him the Teacher of the Papists of Ireland. He published two controversial works and a treatise on meteorology, He died on 4th September, 1626, leaving behind him a great reputation for holiness, prudence, and love of the poor
◆ James B Stephenson SJ The Irish Jesuits Vol 1I 1962
FATHER CHRISTOPHER HOLYWOOD SJ 1559-1626
Fr Christopher Holywood was the first Superior of the first permanent mission of the Society of Jesus in Ireland. In previous articles I have sketched the lives of Fr Henry Fitzsimon and Fr James Archer. These two pioneer Jesuit missionaries were eminent men of their day in Ireland, It was they who established the mission which was ruled and organised for twenty-three years by Fr Holywood, the subject of the present biography. The task of preparing the way for an organised mission had been a long one. It was not set up, finally, until the last years of the sixteenth century. Before giving an account of Fr Holywood's life, it is opportune to review briefly the activities of the Irish Jesuits from their arrival in Ireland until that time.
The first mission to arrive in Ireland and actually the first Jesuit mission outside the continent of Europe was that of Frs Alphonsus Salmeron and Paschase Brouet. They were the Pope's nuncios apostolic. Three Irish princes - Conn O'Neill, of Tryone, Manus O'Donnell of Tyrconnell, Morogh O'Brien of Thomond - had begged Paul III to send envoys to Ireland. They arrived in this country on the 23 February 1542. Their work was carried out under the greatest difficulties. The Irish Chieftains who had already surrendered, in word at least, to Henry VIII were afraid that the presence of Papal Legates might compronise their position in the eyes of the king, During their short stay of thirty-four days the two Jesuits succeeded in visiting many of these chieftains. Thus on their return to Rome they were able to give a first-hand account of the state of affairs in Ireland. Possibly, too, they helped to bind the people in greater union with Rome, a union which later became so outstanding a characteristic of the Irish Catholics.
The next Jesuit mission was not inaugurated until 1561, some sixteen years later. Laynez, General of the Society of Jesus, was requested by the Pope to send a holy and prudent man to Ireland to confirm the people, both cleric and lay, in obedience to the Holy See, Fr David Wolfe, a Limerick man, was chosen; for not only did he possess the stipulated qualifications of prudence and sanctity of life, but he was also an experienced missionary. On the 20 January 1561 Wolfe landed at Cork, Having declined the episcopal honour offered by the Pope, he was appointed Apostolic Commissary and was given the fullest faculties, including power to open schools, reform monasteries and report on the dispositions of the Irish Bishops.
Fr Wolfe seems to have made a very favourable impression on the Irish. Barefoot, the people travelled miles to meet him and made their confessions, and it is recorded that they returned to their homes filled with a great esteem for the Church of Christ and the Holy See. In a few months he rectified over a thousand marriages which had not been validly contracted. With the help of two other Jesuits, Fr William Good, an Englishman, and Edmond O'Donnell, an Irishman, he opened a small school at Limerick, which owing to the persecution then rife had shortly to be transferred to Kilmallock, later to Clonmel and finally to Youghal, where it continued to exist for about fifteen years. After its suppression, the Jesuits could not dare to make any other foundation until the reign of James I. David Wolfe was one of the most remarkable Irishmen of the century and possibly had more influence in ecclesiastical affairs in Ireland than anyone else of his time. He was arrested at least twice, but managed to escape. He died in Lisbon in 1579. His companion, Edmond O'Donnell, was captured by the English, given a mock-trial and, having been tortured several times, was condemned to death for the faith. On the 25 October 1572 he was hanged, drawn and quartered at Cork - the first of a long line of Jesuits to die for the Faith in Europe.
Dr Tanner, Bishop of Cork, writes of two other Jesuits, Frs Charles Lea and Robert Rochford, who arrived in Ireland about this time: “They are spreading the best of their institute in Youghal, where they teach school and, with great industry, train their scholars in the knowledge of the Christian doctrine, in the frequentation of the sacraments, and in the practice of solid virtue, In spite of the hardships they endure, their efforts are attended with the greatest success”. Lea was arrested soon after his arrival in Ireland, but was later released and laboured in the country until his death in 1586. Rochford, more famous than his companion, is frequently mentioned in contemporary official documents. For many years he was well known as a zealous missioner, rousing the suspicions of the English who offered a reward for his capture, dead or alive, In 1501 he had to leave Ireland and, after his escape, at least four persons were hanged for affording him shelter, Seven years later in 1588, another Irishman, a novice of the Society of Jesus named Maurice Eustace, was hanged, drawn and quartered in Dublin.
Thus almost all the Jesuit missionaries who came to Ireland in the sixteenth century was either executed or banished from the country, From 1586 to 1596 there was no Jesuit in Ireland; but several attempts were made by Irish bishops and Princes to induce the Pope or the General of the Society of Jesus to send Irish Jesuit Fathers to Ireland. This would not have happened had not the names of their predecessors been held in high veneration among the Irish. Perhaps one might wonder why the Irish Jesuit mission was not opened again until so late at 1596? Why did Fr Aquaviva, General of the Jesuits, hesitate so long before sending his men to Ireland?
Possibly he was influenced by the sad state of affairs in England. There he would have heard in 1595 of the martyrdom of Frs Walpole and Southwell, the imprisonment of Frs Jones and Baldwin, and the banishment of Fr Jasper Haywood. Already Frs Campion, Cottam and McMahon, an Irishman, had died on the gallows at Tyburn, and Fr Persons was in exile on the continent. The fate of the Jesuits who had come to Ireland was little better, as we have seen. No wonder then that Aquaviva hesitated. But finally, yielded to numerous appeals, he agreed to reopen the mission to Ireland.
The history of the first five Jesuits to be sent to Ireland at that time can be told briefly. Fr Henry Fitzsimon was imprisoned in Dublin Castle two years after his arrival. · A few years later, his companion Fr James Archer was forced to go into exile, barely escaping with his life, while Fr Christopher Holywood did not even reach Ireland, being captured in England and lodged in the Tower of London. In 1602 Dominic Collins, a lay-brother, was captured in Cork and hanged. Only one of these men, Fr Richard de la Field, temporary Superior in the place of Fr Holywood, was able to work in comparative peace and elude the hands of the English. It was in these circumstances that Fr Holywood undertook to establish a permanent Jesuit mission in Ireland. With what success we shall see later.
Christopher Holywood was born at Artane, near Dublin, in the year 1559, one year after Elizabeth's coronation in England, Belonging to a very old Anglo-Irish family, his father, Nicholas Holywood, was Lord of the manors of Artane, Great Holywood in Santry, and of several other estates in the counties of Dublin, Meath, and Wexford. His mother was the niece of Baron Devlin and heiress-general of the fifth Earon Dunsany.. Holywood could count as relations such prominent families as those of Dunsany, Fingal, Westmeath, Inchiquin and Netterville. This factor was of the utmost importance later, when these houses came under the influence of the reform movement.
Holywood was sent to the University of Padua when he was twenty years of age. Here he came into contact with the Jesuit Fathers of the city, and in 1584 he entered the Society of Jesus. Having made his noviceship at Dôle in France, he afterwards distinguished himself in his philosophical and theological studies. In 1593 we find him at the University of Pont-à-Mousson. The Chancellor of the University at the time was another Irishman, the renowned Fr Richard Fleming, who had succeeded the even more famous Fr Maldonatus in the chair of theology. For a short period Holywood was engaged in teaching philosophy in the University, after which he professed theology at Dôle and later at Pont-à-Mousson again. Finally he was sent to Pauda to teach Sacred Scripture. Here he took his final vows in 1597, at the same time making the acquaintance of Robert Bellarmine. In 1598 he was in Milan. On the 10 June of the same year he wrote to the General of the Jesuits asking for special faculties for the fathers who had gone to the Irish mission. Unfortunately we do not know the circumstances of Holywood's own mission to Ireland, and when we next hear of him he is a prisoner in the Tower of London.
On the 1 May 1599, writing in the third person under the pseudonym of John Bushlock, he gave an account of his journey to England and his capture. From Rome he travelled to Switzerland, then into Spires, finally to Brussels, where the Superior of the house warned him that it was dangerous for a Jesuit to travel through Holland. Leaving Brussels, he went to Arras and then to Abbeyville, where, although disguised as a merchant, he was recognised as a Jesuit. Whereupon he left hastily for Dieppe and, “finding an obscure inn, told its owner that he was an Irishman and a subject of the Queen of England. He was returning home, but feared that English on account of the war which some of the Irish were waging against the Queen”. The inn-keeper stood the test valiantly and at once gave Holywood a secret room. Unable to procure a ship for Ireland, he was compelled to board an English vessel. Very soon he was suspected of being a traitor, but the inn-keeper informed the hesitant captain that “he was a merchant and no traitor”. Taking no risks, Holywood abandoned the ship and travelled on another, whose captain was a French Huguenot. Having arrived at Dover, he was tendered the oath of supremacy and, of course, refused to take it. Instantly he was cast into prison and later placed in the Tower of London. As yet the English did not know that their captive was a priest, much less a Jesuit. After several futile attempts to secure his liberation, he was brought before Lord Cobham, to whom he made known his identity. He declared that he was returning to Ireland solely for the salvation of souls, To Cecil he gave the same information, but only succeeded in rousing his anger - for, according to Holywood, Cecil feared and hated the Jesuits. He issued an order that the priest be placed in close custody.
After some time Holywood was offered his release, if he would take an oath to persuade the Irish that it was unlawful to resist the royal power in Ireland, He refused the offer and was transferred from the Gatehouse prison to Wisbeck Castle. The Superior of the English mission, Fr Henry Garnet, who in a few years was to die a martyr for the faith, reported in May 1600 that Holywood helped to comfort the other Jesuits at Wisbeck and edified all while he was in the Gatehouse. Like his comrade, Fr Fitzsimon, who at this time was closely confined in Dublin, he must occasionally have endured the greatest privations, for we know that the prisoners were not even provided with beds to sleep on. Like Fitzsimon, too, while a prisoner, he held many disputations with the Protestant ministers.
On the death of Elizabeth in April, 1603, Holywood was removed from Wisbeck to Framlington prison in Suffolk. Very soon after this time - the date is uncertain - he was sent into perpetual banishment. He proceeded to Belgium, whence he wrote to his General begging either to be permitted to return to Ireland or to be sent back to his own province at Dôle. The General granted the former request, and on the 16 March 1604. Holywood landed in Ireland. He was again appointed Superior of the mission, and for the next twenty-three years filled that office with remarkable success. The uncertainty of the times did not favour the fostering of a new mission; but, thanks to the prudence and courage of Fr Holywood, rapid strides were made and successful reports poured in from every side. Holywood himself was in constant danger of capture and had to change his abode frequently. Writing to the General of the Jesuits, he says: “I have not been able to write since Easter, as I was obliged to go to remote parts, in order to keep clear of the more than usually troublesome presence of our adversaries. In this retreat I devoted myself to help a very extensive diocese, and I did so at the invitation of its ruler. With our assistance he has set his province in very good order and has given regulations adapted to the tines”. In a letter written about the same time, Fr Wise, a Jesuit living in Waterford, says: “Our pilor, Sacrobosco (Holywood), was fiercely pursued, but escaped; he is accustomed to these storms ...”
All through the first half of the reign of James I. the Irish priests and especially the Jesuits were continually harassed by the government. Thus it was almost impossible for Holywood to set up an organised mission of even the most flexible nature. He had not yet founded a single fixed abode for his men. For almost twenty years after the arrival of Fr Archer in 1596, the Jesuits lived in private houses, or stayed with a bishop or priest in the remote part of the country, and were of course, always disguised as laymen. In spite of these hardships I think it is not untrue to say that their success in Ireland was hardly excelled by that of even the most famous Jesuit missions of the day. For all that they are scarcely mentioned in the ordinary school text-books, and in the histories of the counter-reformation they find no place.
The story of the Irish Jesuit mission between 1604 and 1626, that is during Holywood's period of leadership, is one of intermittent persecution and of constant insecurity. Externally the mission had no organisation. It is true that the letters of the times frequently make reference to residences; but the name if residence was loosely applied to a large district in which a number of Jesuits worked under one superior, but did not necessarily live in the same or in any fixed abode. Thus the residence of Galway comprised all the Jesuits who were working in Connaught, living from hand to mouth in private houses, but under the supervision of the same superior who usually resided in Galway. The Irish Jesuits did not establish their first college in the modern sense until 1619 at Kilkenny - and they had no noviceship for almost another thirty years.
Internally, however, the mission was remarkably well organised, and to this factor more than anything else its success can be attributed. All the year round, the Jesuits travelled through the country ministering and preaching to the people, hurrying from place to place as their identity and place of residence became known to the authorities - at one time preaching in the open air to a group. of. poverty-stricken people, at another uniting chieftains and their ladies: who were at daggers drawn, encouraging all alike to remain steadfast in the practice of their Faith. Everywhere they went the people received them with a never failing welcome. Often they made their confessions on the roadside as the Jesuits passed through the district. Not once do we hear of a betrayal or an act or disloyalty, at a time when treachery meant money and fidelity meant hardship and penury.
In 1619, Fr Holywood wrote a long letter to his General describing the missionary activities of his men. By this time he had established residences in Dublin, Kilkenny, Waterford, Cashel, Clonmel, Cork, Limerick, and one house in Connaught. The first school of the mission was founded in Kilkenny in 1619, After speaking of the work of the Jesuits in the country, he goes on to say: “There are so few priests in the Kingdom that one priest has often charge of four or five parishes. To help them, our fathers go from village to village by day and by night, according to the necessities of the faithful, hearing confessions, giving communion, baptizing, attending the dying, preaching, teaching the catechism, and promoting the interests of peace”. Down in Cork and Kerry we hear of a “successful mission, which they reached by difficult ways, through robbers and Protestant foes, over bogs and mountains, often being without food or drink or a bed. They approached in disguise, converted, and prepared for death nearly all the forty seven pirates captured on the southern coast ...” Fr Galway, a Cork Jesuit, visited the islands. north of Scotland and ministered to the faithful there, many of whom had not seen a preist for years. In the north of Ireland, Fr Robert Nugent gave a running mission over a sixty-mile area. These few examples are typical of the work that was being done all over the country. At this time there were about forty Jesuits in Ireland and all were engaged in active missionary work.
Before I conclude this short sketch of the life of Fr Holywood, I shall refer briefly to his literary work; for besides being an outstanding organiser, he was also an author of no small merit. After his release fron prison in 1603 he went to the continent and in the following year published at Brussels two works entitled “Defenso Concilii Tridentini et sententiae Bellarmini de actoritate Vulgatae Editionis” (a book of four hundred and sixteen pages), and “Libellus de investiganda vera et visibili Christi Ecclesia”, a much smaller treatise. It is interesting to note that James Ussher, in theological lectures which he delivered in Dublin in 1609, quoted Holywood's “Defensio Concilii Tridentini” thirty times. His second work he wrote while in prison in England to help the Protestant ministers and learned men who came to him for advice. In 1604 also he wrote another work entitled “Magna supplicia a persecutionibus aliquot Catholicorum in Hibernia sumpta”, which remained unpublished until Fr Edmund Hogan edited it in the “Irish Ecclesiastical Record” of 1873. In it he gives an account of the fate that befell many of the religious persecutors in Ireland between the years 1577 and 1604, and ends with a eulogy of the Irish Catholics who, despite every persecution, could not be induced to give up the Faith. After his return to Ireland in 1601, Holywood had no further opportunity for literary work.
In February 1622, Holywood was reported to be in bad health and unable to write. Two years later he founded the first Jesuit residence in the north of Ireland. When next we hear of him in 1626, he is still Superior of the mission; but, worn out by the labours and hardships of twenty-three years of missionary activity, he died at the end of the year. It was to his prudence and zeal, in a time fraught with the greatest difficulties, that the General Fr Vitelleschi attributed the success of the mission. On his arrival in Ireland there were only five Jesuits in the country; at his death they numbered forty-two and had nine residences. Until late in the second decade of the seventeenth century, the Jesuits were usually attached to the houses of the gentry, whence they made frequent incursions into the country to give missions and administer the sacraments, After that, through the enterprise of Fr Holywood, they obtained residences of their own, some of which had a community
to eight members, while none had less than three. Thus during his period of office as Superior, the Irish Jesuit mission was stabilised and, became a province of the Order in every respect save in name.
James Corboy SJ
◆ James B Stephenson SJ Menologies 1973
Father Christopher Holywood 1562-1626
Christopher Holywood was born in 1562 at Artane Castle, which may still be seen in the grounds of Artane Industrial School. He entered the Society at Verdun in France in 1584.
He is the founder of the Irish Province of the Society as we know it today. He was a brilliant Professor, occupying chairs at Pont-á-Mousson, Dôle and Padua. He was personally acquainted with St Robert Bellarmine, whom he defended against his enemies in a book he published entitled “Defensio Decreti Tridentini”.
In 1596 he was chosen to head the Mission to Ireland, but was captured en route and imprisoned in the Tower of London. Ultimately he was released on the accession of James I of England. He took up duty in Ireland in 1604.
For 22 years he organised the Mission with such success, that on his death on 4th September 1626, he left 42 Jesuits where he found seven, and established Residences in ten towns, one of these in the North.
In his voluminous correspondence, he was force to use many soubriquets, Thomas Lawndrie, Jophn Bushlock, John Bus Jobus, but his favourite one was John de Sacro Bosco, the name of an ancestor, who was a famous mathematician and lectured in Oxford and Paris in the 13th century.
He published two controversial works and a treatise on Meteorology.
◆ George Oliver Towards Illustrating the Biography of the Scotch, English and Irish Members SJ
HOLIWOOD, CHRISTOPHER, (often called a Sacro Bosco) was born in Dublin, in the year 1562. At the age of 22, as it appears by one of his letters, he embraced the Institute of St. Ignatius, at Dol, in France, and in the sequel distinguished himself as a Professor of Philosophy and Divinity at Padua. Ordered to Ireland to preside over his brethren, he took shipping as a merchant in January, 1599, at Dieppe, but was apprehended on reaching Dover, and committed to prison for refusing the Oath of Supremacy. Escorted to London he underwent an examination by Lord Cobham, Governor of the Cinque Ports, and was then forwarded to Secretary Sir Robert Cecyll. The Father told Sir Robert at once, that he was a Priest and a Member of the Society of Jesus. (He was induced to do so, as he was aware many persons then in the kingdom were well acquainted with him at Padua.) The Secretary inquired the motives of his coming hither. He answered for the Salvation of souls. But what need have we of your assistance? said the Secretary. Are not we Christians? That is not at all sufficient, said the Father, unless you be Catholics. Well, replied the Secretary, as no one can help your believing what you think right, until God enlightens your mind, you shall not suffer anything for your Faith; but if you are found guilty of meddling with changes and state affairs, 1 promise you, you shall not escape with impunity. The Father rejoined. Long since I have renounced the world : I no longer mix myself up with secular concerns, and I am unable to do so : for they are foreign to my Institute. The Secretary then began to inveigh against the Society of Jesus, on which the Father boldly undertook its defence, and plainly told him, that the Society proposed nothing to its members which was not praiseworthy; on which the Secretary ordered him to be removed, and kept in close custody in which state he continued for three months, until his relation, Lord Dunsany obtained for him the liberty of the prison, which consists in this, that he is not denied the liberty of receiving his friends. The above particulars I collect from a letter, dated Dublin, 11th of May, 1599.
F. Henry Garnett, in a letter of the 19th of April, 1599, announces the apprehension of F. Holiwood as a recent event : and in his letter of the 22nd of May, 1600, says of him, “he doth much comfort our friends at Wisbich, and was of exceeding edification in the Gatehouse. There is hope of getting him at liberty, and sending him into his Country”. Change of prison, however, was the only relief that this Irish Father could procure, while the tyrannical Elizabeth swayed the sceptre : his friends at length obtained his removal to Framlingham Castle, which he quitted for perpetual banishment, in virtue of the Proclamation of James I. at his accession to the throne of England. I find the Father writing from Lisle, 30th of June, 1603, and from Douay, 16th, of July, 1603. In the last dated letter, he states, that a short time before the queen’s death, the Catholics in Dublin had experienced the storm of persecution. The instigators were Terrell, the Mayor of the City, and Rider, the dean of St. Patrick s, and polemical antagonist of F. Henry Fitzsimon. Many Catholics quitted the town, and the leading citizens were committed to gaol. Baron Mountjoy was then absent in Connaught; at his return the citizens presented a memorial of their grievances. Turning to the Mayor, his Excellency said, “I am putting an end to warfare abroad, and you, Sir, are sowing the seeds of wars at Home”. It was thought that his Excellency had received information of the Queen’s dangerous illness, with instruction to pacify and conciliate the public mind. The letter adds, that on the news of Queen Elizabeth’s death reaching Ireland, in the cities of Waterford, Kilkenny, and Cork, and in various ether places the churches were seized on and restored to Catholic worship. Lord Mountjoy began to apprehend lest the greater part of the island would join in the insurrection. He had come to a composition fortunately with O’Neil, and having collected all his forces from the North he hurried down to the South to arrest the progress of discontent : and having succeeded in his object, sailed from Dublin to England. F. Holiwood embarked from St. Malo, and reached Ireland the 16th March, 1604, the Eve of St. Patrick, “Omen uti spero felix”, as he expresses it. Towards the end of Lent he met FF. Nicholas Lynch, Richard Field, Walter Wale, and Barnaby Kearney, brother to the Archbishop of Cashell, and Andrew Morony. At this time the Catholics of Ireland enjoyed a certain negative freedom of their religion. But this was of short duration. As soon as James thought himself sufficiently secure on his throne, he basely recalled all his promises of toleration. His subsequent conduct shewed how dangerous it is for the civil and religious rights of subjects to depend on the will of any man, and especially on the caprice of a drunken and voluptuous sovereign, as James unquestionably was. His Proclamamation, dated Westminster, 4th July, 1605, was published with great solemnity in Dublin, on the 28th September, in which his Majesty desires that no one should hope for his tolerating the exericse of any other worship, but that of the church established by law; he commanded all his subjects to attend the Protestant Churches on Sundays and festivals - requires all Priests to withdraw from the realm before the 10th of December; forbids any of his subjects to harbour any Priest; and renews the penal statutes of the late Queen against Popish Recusants and Popish Priests and Jesuits.
From an interesting letter of F. Holiwood, dated 10th of December, 1605, I discover, that to strike terror amongst the Catholic population of Dublin, who nobly refused to sacrifice their religion to Mammon the Lord Lieutenant and Privy Council, had sent to prison on the 22nd and 27th of November, several members of the Corporation, and some of the principal citizens. A deputation of gentlemen from the Counties of Kildare, Meath, and Louth, upon this, waited on his Excellency, and petitioned for a suspension of the system of coercion, until they could be allowed to visit his Majesty s Court, and represent their case. After a delay of fifteen days, his Excellency, in the exercise of despotic power, threw some of the deputation into gaol, and ordered others to confine themselves to their houses, and neither to write to any one, nor speak to any person who was not part of the family, under the penalty of a thousand pounds English money. A large body of troops was assembled at Dublin, and detachments were drafted off for the apprehension of Priests all over the kingdom. F. Holiwood incloses the lists of some of the Prisoners :
The following are citizens of Dublin : “Mr. Walter Seagrove, John Shelton, James Beelowe, Thomas Penket, Kennedy, Stephens, Tornor, Kearroll, &c.
These and others were first commanded to go to church by proclamation; again by special commandment; last by commandment upon the duty of allegiance, under the broad seal, and therefore indicted after, in the Star Chamber, fined, and committed for contempt. Noblemen and gentlemen committed for putting in of a petition.
‘My Lord Viscount of Gormanston, My Lord of Lowth (as I heare), Sir Patrick Barnwall, close Prisoner, Sir James Dillon. John Finglass, Richard Netirvil and Henry Burnell, committed to their howses only by reason of their adge’.
But the heart is sickened with these abominable reprisals on conscience with these impious attempts of a government to force its novel opinions on a nation, and rob a people of its religious freedom. The history of the Irish Reformation is indeed a compound of absurdity and barbarity, unprecedented in the Annals of mankind.
To return to F. Holiwood. He continued in very difficult times to render essential services to his county and to religion, by his zeal, wisdom, charity and fortitude, until his pious death on the 4th of September, 1616. His pedantic and blgotted sovereign had expressly denounced him in his speech to the Parliament, 1st of May, 1614, and the Royal Commissioners reported in 1615, that “Hollywood, a Jesuit, was kept and harboured by Sir Christopher Plunkett”.
From the pen of this Father we have :
- “Defensio Concilii Tridentini et Sententice Bellarmini de auctoritate VuLgatae Editionis”, with an appendix.
- “Libellus de investiganda vera et visibili Christi Ecclesiae”. This is a 4to. volume printed at Antwerp, 1604. It was re-printed with additions at Antwerp, in an 8vo form, 1619, under the name of John Geraldini.
- A Latin Treatise “De Meteoris”.
- He sometimes signs himself Johannes Bushlock
- This hollow and rotten hearted prince had been a pensioner of the Pope, and the king of Spain. F. William Creitton, in a letter to F. Thomas Owen, dated Billom, 4th of June, 1605, says also. “Our Kyng had so great fear of ye nombre of Catholikes, ye pui-saunce of Pope and Spaine, yet he offered Libertie of Conscience and send me to Rome to deal for the Pope’s favor and making of an Scottish Cardinal, as I did shaw the Kyng s letter to F. Parsons”. In the sequel this contemptible tyrant considered a petition presented for Liberty of Conscience as an indignity, and committed the petitioners to gaol for their presumption!
LAWNDY, THOMAS, was the acting Superior of the Irish Mission in 1623,4,5, as his letters demonstrate, and appears to have had habits of business.