Butler, Reuben J, 1890-1959, Jesuit priest
- IE IJA J/980
- 21 October 1890-05 December 1959
Born: 21 October 1890, Foilnamuck, Dolla, Nenagh, County Tipperary
Entered: 24 October 1912, Senbahanoor, Madras, India - Tolosanae Province (TOLO)
Ordained: 31 July 1923, Milltown Park, Dublin
Final Vows: 02 February 1926
Died: 05 December 1959, St Anthony’s Hospital, North Cheam, Surrey, England - Madurensis Province (MDU)
Transcribed : TOLO to MDU
by 1921 came to Milltown (HIB) studying 1920-1924
by 1925 came to Tullabeg (HIB) making Tertianship
◆ Irish Province News
Irish Province News 35th Year No 2 1960
Fr Reuben J Butler (1890-1950)
Reuben Butler was born on 21st October, 1890, at Dolla, Nenagh, in Co. Tipperary. He did his secondary studies at Mungret College, 1906-12, In the Mungret Annual for 1913 there is the note: “R. Butler, B.A. is in the novitiate S.J. at Shembaganur, India, for the Madura Mission”. He did his Philosophy in the same house after the Noviceship.
The following brief account of the saintly life and death of Fr. Butler. is given in the Chaplain's Weekly, 30th December, 1959 :
He entered the Society at Shembaganur, S. India, on 24th October, 1912, for the Madura Mission, now a Province, but then dependent on the Province of Toulouse. He taught at St. Joseph's College, Trichinopoly, from 1917-1920. Then he came for Theology to Milltown Park, where he was ordained on 31st July, 1923. Tertianship followed immediately and was done at Tullabeg. In the summer of 1925 he became chaplain at New Hall, Chelmsford, Essex, where he also took his last vows and where he spent the rest of his priestly life. In July 1959 he entered St. Anthony's Hospital, North Cheam, to undergo an operation, but he gradually grew weaker. He was anointed on 30th November and he died very peacefully on 5th December. His nephew, a priest from Ireland, was with him a few hours before he died, and shortly after his death Archbishop O'Hara, the Apostolic Delegate, who happened to be at the hospital, prayed by his bedside. In view of his long and devoted connection with New Hall, the Mother Prioress asked that he might be buried there and her request was granted. She writes the following account :
Fr. Butler came to New Hall in the summer of 1925 and during his thirty-four years as Chaplain all whose privilege it was to know him came to appreciate the sincerity, sympathetic understanding and unfailing kindness that was so characteristic of him. A scholar, widely read and knowledgeable on a number of subjects (1), leading an unobtrusive life, he had words of wisdom and sound advice and encouragement for the many who sought his guidance. Above all it was the evident sanctity that attracted people, giving them confidence in his judgment and making them aware of the strength imparted by the holiness of one whose priestly life was so wholly hidden in Christ. On 8th December, twenty-one weeks after he had left us to undergo an operation, his body was brought from Cheam and the Office of the Dead was sung by the community. His nephew, Fr. Joseph Butler, remained in the chapel during the night. On the following day Solemn Requiem was sung by Monsignor Wilson, P.P. of Chelmsford, in the presence of the Bishop of Brentwood, who was attended by his Chancellor, Monsignor Shanahan, and his secretary, Fr. David Donnelly. Fr. Cammack represented the Provincial and many of the diocesan clergy, who also provided the altar staff, attended. His two nephews, Frs. Reuben and Joseph Butler from Ireland, his sister, Mrs. Slattery, and his niece were present, while the large congregation of local people showed how much he had been esteemed during his long years at New Hall. The Absolutions after the Mass were performed by the bishop and the burial in the convent cemetery followed immediately”.
Mother Prioress adds : “We shall miss him more and more as time goes on. His quick recognition of difficulties and the needs of others and his prompt meeting of them kept so much running so smoothly. How much he was doing comes perhaps to be realised only when it ceases to be done. May he rest in peace”.
(1) In 1948 Fr. Butler published a book, The Words of the Mass (Clonmore and Reynolds, Dublin), which was very highly praised in The Clergy Review. He had hoped to follow it up with a book on the Divine Office, but ill-health forced him to give up the idea.
◆ The Mungret Annual, 1913
Letters from Our Past
Father Reuben Butler SJ
India - Reuben Butler writes from Sacred Heart College, Shembaganar, Madura District, India, March 12th, 1913:
I am praying that it may be God's will to send some good labourers from their (the apostolics') midst, to Madura. It is a beautiful mission. I do not think that any mission in India has such a history, We have St Francis Xavier, Blessed John de Britto and Father de Nobili with a host of other apostolic ancestors to urge us on, and to look after us in Heaven.
The mission is extremely well regulated. Every month the missioners meet at a convenient centre to look after the interest of their souls, and to enjoy a little holiday. The work is rather trying. Their parishes are large and of course the heat is sometimes strong. Their converts are sufficiently nunerous but possibly not always fervent, and of course the missioner cannot see them all very often.
There is a crying need for more labourers here. There are villages quite close to us in which there are no Catholics and this want is solely due to want of priests. There is no one who can be spared to go to them. It is the same story all over the mission. The devil reigns supreme in many places and over many hearts. It is heart-rending to see the Sacred Heart deprived of such a beautiful country.
The Protestant missionaries do a good deal to hinder Catholicity, anyone whom they are unable to catch themselves they try to prevent from becoming a Catholic.
Here in Shembaganar the surroundings are very beautiful and extremely interesting. It is well suited to a naturalist's taste. There are all kinds of insects, birds and reptiles and also a good selection of animals. The blackberries are ripe here now, though they are not so plentiful as on the “Blackberry Road”. There seems to be no regard for seasons here. Some trees are just in blossomn while others of the same kind are bearing ripe fruit. The highest temperatore recorded this year has been 26° centigrade, that is, in the shade. The thermometer has fallen to 4°c during the month of January. We see hoar-frost on the mornings of villa-days, a little higher. up in the mountains,
◆ The Mungret Annual, 1915
Letters from Our Past
Father Reuben Butler SJ
writing from Madura, tells us of an exciting event :
I was in Madras, when it was bombarded by the Emden, but escaped with being dis : tracted during Iny evening examen....
There is fine work here in a climate that is no doubt hard, but in which one can live and work with ordinary health. There is no lack of labour. There are about 6,000,000 pagans to be converted here in Madura alone. There is no fear of being a martyr unto blood, though all may be martyrs of charity.
◆ The Mungret Annual, 1920
Letters from Our Past
Father Reuben Butler SJ
Rev Reuben Butler SJ, writes from Trichinopoly:
Though St. Francis Xavier laboured a good deal in the mission, it was really founded in the early 17th century by Fr de Nobili, a man famous in missionary history in India for his efforts to convert the Brahmins by a complete adoption of their social customs. He was succeeded by such great men as the martyr, Blessed John de Britto, and Fr Beschi, The latter was not only remarkable for his apostolic labours and sufferings, but is also one of the foremost names in Tamil literature, the language spoken in this part of India. The mission cultivated by these men was much larger than the present, and numbered at the beginning of the 18th century some 150,000 Christians. During the suppression of the Society in the Portuguese Dominions the Mission suffered severely; some Christian, centres were completely ruined, others were played havoc with by the Protestants. It was again handed over to the Society in 1838, and later on constituted a diocese. The present diocese numbers over 267,000 Catholics, out of a total population of over 6,000,000, mostly Hindus, and covers an area of 16,500 square miles. Imagine, if you can, our difficulties -137 priests have to look after our various institutions and 267,000 Catholics spread over an area of two-fifths that of Ireland, and to try to convert a population half again as large as that of Ireland, For the year ending June, 1918, the latest returns that I have, there were over 9,000 conversions from paganism. No other reason for the fewness of conversions is needed than the want of missionaries; our missionaries are all busy with their Christians, and they can exert but a very indirect influence on the pagans. If one could set aside a certain number of men for the pagans alone, I have no doubt but that things would be otherwise.
Long, long ago, St Patrick heard the voices of the Irish calling on him to come to their rescue, and to bring them out of the darkness of paganism to the light of truth. St Patrick responded to the call, and it is due to his faithful response that Ireland is a holy Catholic Ireland, The very same cry is wafted to-day not from the children of Ireland to the ears of the youthful Patrick, but from the children of India steeped in paganism, to the children of Ireland, glorying in the possession of the Faith. How many generous souls listen to it?
Speaking of St. Joseph's College, he says:
In St Joseph's College we have well over 2,000 students, divided pretty equally between the school and college departinents. Of these, over 700 are Catholics, the major portion are Hindus, mostly Brahmins, with an insignificant sprinkling of Protestants and Muhammadans. Of the 700 Catholics, about 500 are boarders, who spend the day from sunrise until after dark in a special institution called the Semiboarding, set aside for them. The home life of the poorer people in India is very badly adapted for studies. About 200 of our Catholic students attend the University classes in the College department.
It would be difficult to give you any idea of the standard of knowledge required in the students, but the standard is very high, and the studies are extensive and require a very well-equipped institution. The physics and chemistry laboratories have few equals in private colleges the world over. Our library is up-to-date, and contains nearly 12,000 volumes; and the museum is a great centre of attraction for visitors. A large hall, capable of containing between two and three thousand students, serves as a theatre for the college assemblies, debates, etc, and for a study for the students during leisure hours. You have no idea as to the size of the various buildings; they are simply colossal.
In the school the numbers of students in a class are limited to forty, so we have the phenomenon of one class being divided into several sections. In the college there is no limit, the number of students in a class ranges between 120 and 200, and approaches nearer the latter in the History branches. It is wonderful with what ease those large classes can be managed. I do not suppose that a class of European boys, of like size, would be so easily controlled.
◆ The Mungret Annual, 1960
Father Reuben Butler SJ
The death took place on December 5th of Father Reuben Butler SJ, at St Anthony's Hospital, Cheam.
Born in Ireland in 1890, he came to the Apostolic School in 1906. Leaving in 1912, he joined the Madura Province of the Society of Jesus. After Philosophy he taught in the College of Trinchinopoy 1917-20, and then came to Milltown Park for Theology, where he was ordained in 1923. After Tertainship he became Chaplain to the Convent of the Holy Sepulchre, New Hall, Chelmsford, Essex, where he spent the remainder of his priestly life. All at New Hall came to appreciate his sincerity, his sympathetic understanding and unfailing kindness. He was a widely read scholar, but it was his sanctity that attracted people, giving them confidence in his judgment and making them aware of the strength given by holiness in one whose life was hidden in Christ. To his nephew we offer our deep sympathy. RIP