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White, Stephen, 1575-1647, Jesuit priest
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Dates of existence
1575-23 April 1647
Born: 1575, Clonmel, Co Tipperary
Entered: 13 October 1596, Villagarcía, Galicia, Spain - Castellanae Province (CAST)
Ordained: c 1601, Salamanca, Spain
Final Vows: 06 January 1613
Died: 23 April 1647, Galway Residence
Younger Brother of Thomas - RIP 1622; Uncle of Peter White - RIP 1678; Cousin of William White - RIP 1625
His name appears on a list of 8 who got a BA from Salamanca University in 1595 and then entered
1597 At Villagarcía College Age 22 Soc 6. Already a BA and studying Theology
1600 At Salamanca studying Theology Age 25 Soc 3
1603 Age 29 Soc 7. Professor of Arts at Salamanca University
1605 Came from CAST to GER SUP
1606-1609 At Ingolstadt lecturing in Theology. Age 32 Soc 10 and a Doctor of Divinity. Confessor and “Oreses Religiosorum in Convictu”
1610-1323 At Dilingen teaching Sacred Scripture “vires mediocres”
1612 Professor of Scholastic Theology at Dillingen and Pres of Casus. Confessor
1623-1627 Went to Pont-á-Mousson (CAMP) - Confessor and Spiritual Father to Germans
1628-1630 At Metz Confessor, Spiritual Father and Prefect of Cases
1630 Came to Irish Mission
Usher praised White in his Collectanea 1621 Tom V & VI)
◆ Fr Edmund Hogan SJ “Catalogica Chronolgica”:
c1617 he was in Bavaria
1634 Distinguished Professor of Theology (IER)
The Protestant Archbishop Ussher in “Primordia” p 400 calls him a man of exquisite knowledge in the antiquities, not only of Ireland, but also of other nations.
Robert Nugent, Superior of Irish Mission in a letter from Kilkenny 10 January 1646 to Charles Sangri, speaks of his works which he had sent to censors for examination.
Professor of Theology at Dillingen, Ingolstadt and Pont-à-Mousson etc.; Writer; Antiquarian;
Called a “Polyhistor” by Raderus, Colgan and others on account of his extraordinary learning.
(cf Oliver Stonyhurts MSS; Dean Reeves “Memoir of Stephen White”; de Backer “Biblioth. des Écrivains SJ”; De Buck “Archéologie Irlandaise”)
◆ Fr Francis Finegan SJ :
Had already graduated with a BA in Arts and in Theology abroad before Ent 13 October 1596 Villagarcía
1598-1601 After First Vows he was sent to Royal College Salamanca for studies and was Ordained there c 1601
1601-1605 Taught Philosophy at Irish College Salamanca
1605-1609 To the disappointment of his Spanish Superiors he was withdrawn by the General from CAST and appointed to a Chair of Theology at the College of Ingolstadt in the Upper German Province (GER SUP). At the end of two years here he was reported to the General as having departed from the ratio studiorum in his teaching. His lectures were represented to the General as “partly temerarious, partly dangerous and in great part to be retracted”,
1609 In September 1609 General ordered that Stephen be dismissed from his post and sent back to Ireland. But his health was never robust and his physician decided against the return journey to the Irish Mission. Later the General was to learn that White had not been so unorthodox, he had merely been expounding the opinions of Vasquez and was not the only Jesuit who approved of that scholar's teaching.
1610-1622 He was sent to the College of Dilingen, and he was not reinstated as a professor of Theology for the next two years. But this temporary disgrace incurred at Ingolstadt proved to be providential. The two years of freedom from the lecture-hall were not spent idly by Stephen. From this time dates his interest in the rich manuscript materials for Irish history and hagiography buried away in German monastic libraries. By Autumn, 1612, he had composed a work on the lives of Irish Saints but the General ordered that the book be submitted to rigid censorship in case it might cause offence to people of other countries. That same Autumn, he resumed his theology lectures in Dilingen, and was congratulated by the General who warned him, however, not to deflect from the 'sententia ordinaria". During these years he was professor, for a time, of Sacred Scripture. He remained in Dilingen as professor of dogmatic theology until 1622
1622-1627 Ever since 1620 White was anxious to leave the Upper German province and in 1622 was allowed to pass to CAMP where he was assigned to the University of Pont-à-Mousson. Although he had been advised in advance that he could not expect a Chair in that University, he taught Theology in fact there over the next three years, although his status might be better described, perhaps, as coach and not professor. But the five years, 1622/27, spent by him at Pont-à-Mousson were mostly taken up with historical research. For within a year of his arrival, 1623, he had ready for the press his celebrated “Apologia pro Hibernia”. But the General stopped the printing of this work at Antwerp.
1627-1630 He was transferred to Metz but held no teaching post there.
1630-1644 The General in response to requests from the Irish Mission allowed White to return to Ireland. Very little is known with certainty about his career on the Irish Mission. There is no mention of his name again in the sources until 1637 when the CATS simply recapitulated his past career but gave no hint of his address or occupation that year. It also said that his was in poor health. That Winter he wrote to the General asking that the Will which he had made at Dilingen before his final profession should be implemented to the benefit of the Irish Mission. His well-known letter to John Colgan O.F.M., 31 January 1640, implies that he had been engaged in research work ever since his return to Ireland and that he had spent the previous decade for the most part at Dublin where he had access to the library or Archbishop James Ussher.
1640 His later years, after the Puritan occupation of Dublin were spent in Galway. Correspondence of 1644 and 1646 indicates that he had a work approved for publication. He died sometime in or after 1646. Stephen White was one of the most remarkable Irish scholars of his time. His ability as philosopher and theologian was widely acknowledged in Spain, Germany and France. But his enduring fame rests upon his pioneering work in unearthing the manuscript treasures that preserved so much of the story of Ireland's past. He transcribed manuscripts for the Bollandists, for John Colgan, for James Ussher. Both the latter acknowledged their indebtedness to him. His magnum opus, the “Apologia pro Hibernia”, did not see the light until two centuries after his death but Lynch had a precis of the work before him when he was writing his “Cambrensis Eversus”.
White was the first Irish writer to voice the national tradition which rejected as spurious the grant of Ireland by Pope Adrian IV to Henry II of England. Though his troubles at Ingolstadt gave him the heaven-sent opportunity of turning to historical research, it is to be noted that his contemporary Irish fellow- Jesuits seem to have had no appreciation whatever of his contributions to Irish historical scholarship. Indeed there is plenty of evidence to hand that he was plagued by members of the Irish Mission with invitations to return during his years at Ingolstadt, Dilingen and Pont-à-Mousson. When he returned to Ireland in 1630 he had very probably little facility in speaking either Irish or English after his forty years abroad. The mission itself was unable to furnish him with the library facilities needed for his research work. Yet taking into account all the successes, misunderstandings and disappointments that mark his career, he will always be regarded as the most eminent Irish Jesuit produced in the Old Society. He died at Galway 23 April 1647.
◆ Royal Irish Academy : Dictionary of Irish Biography, Cambridge University Press online :
by Terry Clavin
White, Stephen (1574?–1646/7), Jesuit priest, academic, and antiquary, was born in Clonmel, the son of Pierce White. His was a remarkable family, two of his brothers also being priests: James was vicar apostolic of Waterford and Lismore and Thomas White (qv), a Jesuit, was the founder of the first Irish college on the continent. Another brother was deposed as mayor of Clonmel in 1606 for refusing to take the oath of supremacy. He was probably educated in the catholic school at Clonmel before travelling to study at the Irish college at Salamanca founded by his brother about 1590. After graduating BA, he entered the Society of Jesus on 13 October 1596 at Villagarcia. He remained at Salamanca, continuing his studies in theology, and obtained a doctorate of divinity about 1605.
In 1602 he taught a one-year course in humanities at Salamanca, marking the start of a distinguished academic career, and followed this up with a three-year course in mental philosophy. Such was his reputation that he was appointed to the chair of scholastic theology in the University of Ingoldstadt, one of the most distinguished universities in Germany, inaugurating his lectureship on 7 January 1606. In 1609 he went to lecture in the University of Dilingen on the Danube, being first professor of scholastic theology, and librarian of the university, and by 1612 confessor of the religious orders. He remained there for fourteen years, becoming one of the most accomplished theologians in Germany. After departing Dilingen he retired from academic life, being confessor to the Germans at Pont-à-Mousson, Champagne (1623–7), and spiritual father at the college of Metz (1627–9).
After 1611 two factors led him towards the study of Irish history. First, there had been little contact between Ireland and continental Europe since the early middle ages; the little that was known about Ireland tended to be from invariably hostile English sources. Second, Scottish antiquarians, capitalising on the fact that prior to the late middle ages the inhabitants of Ireland had been called Scots, claimed the Irish scholars and missionaries, who were a ubiquitous presence across the continent in the early medieval period, as their own. This opportunistic attempt to deprive Ireland of its saints and scholars, and of its best case for being a civilised Christian nation, did not go unchallenged, not least from White. He was aided in his scholarly labours by his academic contacts. Dilingen received students from abbeys and monasteries all over Germany and beyond, facilitating his access to vast reservoirs of ancient manuscripts relating to Ireland.
White wrote his Apologia pro Hibernia adversus Cambri calumnias between 1611 and 1613, declaring ‘The sole purpose of my writing is to defend the injured reputation of the old Irish whom I, and my fathers, for four hundred years have shared a common fatherland.’ He refuted the allegations of the twelfth-century Welsh author Gerald (qv) of Wales whose Expugnatio Hibernica justified the Norman conquest of Ireland through portraying the natives as barbaric and semi-pagan. The Apologia demolished such allegations but was marred slightly by his highly personalised attacks on Gerald. Although White was of Norman ancestry, he identified with the Gaelic Irish. During his career he wrote many works glorifying Ireland's past and refuting the Scots’ claims. He also transcribed a number of manuscripts on the lives of early Irish saints. However, none of his works was published during his lifetime, partly because of a lack of funds but also because of the politically sensitive nature of the material. A generous scholar, he freely shared his writings and discoveries with his contemporaries; others prospered from his unselfish spadework while he remained in comparative obscurity. His knowledge was such that he was accorded the title of ‘polyhistor’, or walking library.
The Irish Jesuits had frequently requested his transfer to Ireland, and in late 1628 he returned to his homeland, after an absence of thirty-eight years, to teach in a Jesuit college just established in Dublin. However, in January 1629 it was suppressed by the government. He returned to his native diocese of Waterford and Lismore, where the teacher who had lectured in some of Europe's most renowned academic institutions spent his autumn years teaching street children. During the late 1630s he was based in Dublin, and at this time embarked on his most celebrated and remarkable antiquarian collaboration. He several times met James Ussher (qv), Church of Ireland primate of Ireland and one of the most brilliant scholars of his age, who shared White's passion for Irish history. Ussher showed him his library and praised his learning. In return White gave Ussher his manuscripts on the lives of the early Irish saints.
After the start of the 1641 rebellion he fled Dublin to settle in Galway city. By then he was too infirm to carry out any more work or to become involved in the turbulent events of the 1640s. While in Galway he met John Lynch (qv), whose Cambrensis eversus was based on White's Apologia. His most likely date of death is shortly after January 1646 but some accounts have him alive in April 1647.
Burgundian Library, Brussels, xxi, nos. 7658–61; The whole works of Sir James Ware concerning Ireland, ed. and trans. W. Harris (1745–6), ii, 103; John Lynch, Cambrensis eversus, ed. Matthew Kelly (Dublin Celtic Society, 1848–52), ii, 394; Stephen White, Apologia pro Hibernia adversus Cambri calumnias, ed. Matthew Kelly (1849); William Reeves, ‘Memoir of Stephen White’, RIA Proc., xiii (1861); DNB; Edmund Hogan, ‘Worthies of Waterford and Tipperary’, Waterford ASJ, iii (1897), 119–34; William Burke, History of Clonmel (1983), 457–64
◆ James B Stephenson SJ Menologies 1973
Father Stephen White 1576-1646
In the estimation of historians and antiquarians, both Catholic and Protestant, Irish and continental, Fr Stephen White was a scholar of the first order. He was a nan of encyclopaedic knowledge, with a bent for antiquities. His contribution to the Annals of the Four Masters and their invaluable help in their compilation is attested warmly and generously by Michael Colgan, the greatest of them.
Born in Clonmel of a family which gave many illustrious sons to the Jesuits, he joined the Society at Villagarcia in 1596, and having pursued a brilliant course in the various continental colleges, professed Philosophy and Theology for many years in Germany and France.
A long wished for project in education, an Irish University, was started in Back Lane Dublin in 1629. Fr Stephen was sent home to profess in it. Its life span was short. For the next ten years Fr White spent most of his time teaching young boys in Waterford.
On the outbreak of the Confederate War he went to Galway, where he died an old man of 72 in 1646.
His works include : “Apologia pro Hibernia’, “Geste Dei”, “De Sanctis et Antiquitate Hiberniae” together with numerous philosophical and theological tracts. A great deal of these works are lost, indeed were never published through fear of exacerbating the English authorities.
◆ George Oliver Towards Illustrating the Biography of the Scotch, English and Irish Members SJ
WHITE, STEPHEN. This Irish Father deserves a fuller eulogium than I am able to supply. He was the author of some historical pieces relating to Ireland, in confutation of the assertions of Giraldus Cambrensis. The Rev. John Lynch, who had the custody of this valuable MS mentions it in Chapter I and XIV of his “Cambrensis Evcrsus”, printed in 1662, and expresses his deep regret that a considerable part of it was lost during the Civil Wars. Archbishop Usher, an excellent judge of these matters, in p. 400 of his Primordia, gives F. White the character of being “a man of exquisite knowledge in the Antiquities, not only of Ireland, but also of other nations”. In a letter of F. Robert Nugent, Superior of his brethren in Ireland, and addressed from Kilkenny, the 10th of January, 1646, to F. Charles Sangri, I read what follows.
“I have given the commission to four of our Fathers diligently to examine the works of F. Stephen White, and to forward their judgment to your paternity, conformably to the directions you have recently sent us. His works are various, and as our Fathers live in places very distant from each other, and notwithstanding the most Reverend Bishops, (who are ready to defray the expenses of the printing), as also the supreme Council very earnestly insist, that a certain work of his, “De sanctis et Antiqititate Ibcrniae” be instantly sent to the Press, I find it difficult and next to impossible to resist their reasonable demand, since the Manuscript itself has been perused by several them, and has been pronounced not only worthy of being printed, but highly necessary for the credit and advantage of this Kingdom. Therefore I have written again to the Examiners, that each would privately report their opinion on this work as soon as possible to your Paternity; though all in their letters to me greatly extol it, and declare it most worthy to issue from the Press. But 1 am unwilling to allow any work to be printed that can give just cause of offence to any person : and yet there is less cause of apprehension in this case, as this book merely treats on the Saints and Antiquity of the Kingdom of Ireland”.
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White, Stephen, 1575-1647, Jesuit priest
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- County Tipperary » Clonmel
- Spain » Galicia » Villagarcía
- County Galway » Galway City
- Germany » Ingolstadt
- Germany » Bavaria » Dillingen
- France » Pont-à-Mousson
- Belgium » Antwerp
- County Dublin » Dublin City
- France » Metz
- Spain » Salamanca » Irish College (Salamanca)
- County Dublin » Dublin City » Back Lane
- County Galway » Galway City » Galway City residence (Jesuit)
- County Waterford » Waterford City
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