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Chapter 9

This webpage reproduces a chapter of
The Life of Charles Nerinckx

by
Camillus Maes

published by
Robert Clarke & Co.
Cincinnati, 1880

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!


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Chapter 11

p160 Chapter X

1806‑1808.

Father Nerinckx' piety. — His daily life. — His zeal for the spiritual progress of his people. — The Dominicans. — Their advent the occasion of petty persecutions against Father Nerinckx. — Father Nerinckx asks to retire to some other field of labor. — Yields to Bishop Carroll's advice, and remains in Kentucky.

Father Nerinckx was a man of extraordinary piety and mortification, and aimed at the perfection of the catholic priesthood. The fact that all his writings were destroyed, after his death, prevents us from giving accurate details of virtues and daily practices, which every pious soul must divine, and which made his faith and love of God shine forth with such brilliancy as to stir up to piety even the imperfect christians of these early days. Says Bishop Flaget, for fourteen years a witness of his works, writing to Bishop England, of Charleston:1

"During the last forty years of his life, Mr. Nerinckx had labored for the glory of God and the good of his neighbor, with a constancy, an activity, and a zeal seldom equaled, never perhaps p161surpassed. His whole life had been one continued voluntary martyrdom and holocaust. He contemned this world, and panted only for heaven; but he ardently wished to go to paradise with a numerous escort of souls, whom he had been instrumental in rescuing from perdition and leading to salvation. This thought seemed to engross his whole mind and soul, and his life was but a carrying out of it."

A catholic priest can ambition no higher praise from the mouth of his Bishop; and that it was a well-deserved encomium is abundantly proved by a short account of his daily life which Father Nerinckx sent to his parents in 1805:

"We have some twenty-four missions to attend to. The most remote church is sixty miles from here,2 but we are sometimes called as far as one hundred and eighty miles in either direction. This does not happen often; but, thank God, when it does happen, I do not suffer from riding on horseback as I used to. Three hours in the saddle fatigued me very much; now, I have traveled one hundred and fifty miles on horseback in two nights and one day, through bad roads and all kinds of weather, and I stood it better than I expected.

"My usual occupations during the week are as follows: On Sunday morning I am in the saddle about four o'clock A.M. so as to reach one of p162my mission churches about half-past six. I there find a crowd of people awaiting my coming to go to confession. We first say the morning prayers, followed by meditation; I then give them an instruction on the sacrament of penance and prepare them for it. At intervals of half an hour, marked by my ringing a bell from the sacristy where I am hearing confessions, one of the congregation, whom I designate myself, says the beads at a determined intention, until about eleven o'clock, when I vest for Mass. Before beginning the Holy Sacrifice I deliver a short address, and I preach after the reading of the Gospel. After Mass, during which the people usually sing some English hymns, I have the children pray for special intentions as I did in Meerbeke. The congregation is dismissed between one and two P.M., when I baptize infants and bury the dead. Seldom do I eat anything before four o'clock except some water and milk; and it happens that some one is ready to take me out on a sick call of twenty or more miles by the time I have had a bite.

"This is my order of the day for Sundays and four of the six week days. I hear confessions every afternoon until seven, in Summer until eight or nine o'clock P.M.; so that I have to figure closely to find time to say my office. To‑day, November 8, 1805, I was still giving Holy Communion at five P.M., and that happens almost daily. I spend the other two days at St. Stephen's with Father Badin; and as soon as p163the people know that the priests are at home, we need not think of rest.

"I also undertook five weeks ago a very hard work, viz., to prepare the young ladies above fourteen years of age for their first communion; they number ninety in my three congregations. The exercises last seven weeks, and a few days of each week are set apart for spiritual exercises. To attend a dance, or to be unbecomingly dressed, is punished by refusal of admission to first communion, and I succeed wonderfully well in abolishing these abuses. Those of the first class in St. Charles, who were sufficiently instructed, made their first communion on the name's day of their holy Patron Saint. I now call up a new class of those who are from twelve to fourteen years old. It is the hardest work I ever undertook."

Father Nerinckx thoroughly understood that that day was going to influence their whole lives; hence he bent all his energy to their worthy preparation. He had, moreover, that which is the life of the priest — a lively faith in our Divine Lord Jesus Christ present in the Blessed Eucharist, and a reverence which made him look upon the best endeavors of man as a feeble effort to be less unworthy.

"Nothing," says Bishop Flaget,3 "could exceed the devotion of Mr. Nerinckx to the Holy Sacrament of our altars; in this respect he was a model for every clergyman. In his churches, you saw only plainness except about the altar; but his devotion led him to aim p164at magnificence in this place, especially as regarded the tabernacle, which was to contain the Holy of Holies. Every thing connected with the Holy Mysteries called forth the exercise of this devotion. Never did he permit a day to pass without celebrating Mass, unless grievously ill, or engaged in a long journey; and a rule of his monasteries is to keep up, even during the night, the perpetual adoration, by a succession of two sisters to two sisters, before the Holy Sacrament, to pay their homage to the God who loved us so dearly, as, after having suffered death for us, to give us, under the sacramental veils, His flesh to eat; and to repair in some degree, the disrespect with which this Sacrament is treated by the ingratitude of the human race.

"This good man had also great filial piety to Mary, the Mother of Jesus, and he desired to excite this affection for the mother of our Saviour in all those with whom he had any intercourse. He admired her spirit of patient love and resignation in sufferings, especially when she beheld her dearly beloved — her Creator and her Son — upon that cross, at the foot of which she was weeping. Often did the pious ejaculation which he was in the habit of teaching to others, escape from his own lips: 'Oh! Suffering Jesus! Oh! Sorrowful Mary!' In all the churches which he attended he established the Society of the Holy Rosary, and the Confraternity and Sisterhood of the Scapular; and almost all the p165catholics of his congregations are still enrolled in one or more of those pious societies.

"Nothing could be more edifying than his piety toward the dead. It is quite impossible to pass by any of the numerous cemeteries which he has laid out, without feeling deep sentiments of religion, and having a sweet sensation of deep melancholy, blended with the hope of the christian. In the midst of each abode of the dead is reared the glorious emblem of the christian's faith, a large cross, surrounded by a balustrade for the convenience of the pious friends who come to pray for their departed brethren. At the head of each grave, you will find the emblematic cross, inscribed with the dates of the birth, death, and the name of the brother or sister whose bones are there laid up in the hope of resurrection. . . . He never permitted a week to pass without offering up a Mass for the repose of the departed.

"His love of retirement was such that he never paid a visit of mere ceremony. Indeed, he never visited, except when the good of his neighbor or the duty of his ministry made it obligatory on him to do so. His watching, even during his longest and most painful journeys, were very long, and were always spent either in study or in prayer. Prayer appeared to be his greatest and only solace, in the midst of his continual labors."

Left to himself, in what is little less than a wilderness, deprived of the exterior pomp and p166majesty of the catholic ritual, which is, we may say, a necessary help to spirit and truth, and without which the most lively faith is apt to grow cold, the missionary pioneer has but too often to forego all these pious practices of more privileged catholic regions, where religious societies and sodalities keep alive and set aglow the spiritual life of their inhabitants. Busy forming congregations and building churches; roaming through the woods from settlement to settlement, continually on the go from house to house, celebrating the Holy Mysteries; fasting almost every day in the year, in order to give to the hurriedly collected people a chance to go to confession and holy communion;a and hurrying away again to some distant station where others equally desirous of fulfilling their duties are anxiously awaiting his coming — it is an almost impossible task for the priest to attend to the less essential practices of religion, implied in the establishment of devotion al societies, seemingly doomed to vegetate and die out in his absence. But Father Nerinckx was too essentially a "Spiritual man," not to try to have his people gather that spiritual manna of devotion in the desert. The additional faculties which he obtained from Bishop Carroll4 for the benefit of his flock, prove beyond a doubt his solicitude in this respect.

Intent upon the advancement of the souls committed to his care in the science of the p167Saints, he insisted upon their complying with the rules and regulations he laid down for their daily conduct. The greater number thankfully received his ministrations, and endeavored to live up to the model of perfection he constantly held before their eyes. But the devil, who is always ready to thwart the exertions of the good, stirred up a few evil ones, who took a pretext from Father Nerinckx' severity to persecute him: "It is also my lot," he writes to Bishop Carroll, June 2, 1806, "to be persecuted by some, and to be annoyed by a rather intense hatred, giving itself vent in threats against my life; whilst others, not inferior in numbers, prove themselves to be religious, docile, willing, and fervent in all practices of piety, and are not badly affected toward me. I can hardly see in what I am displeasing to my persecutors; surely not in temporal matters, since I have received nothing, and have given the half of my annuity toward the restoration of the church. However, this will not benefit the church any, for the religion of this people does not go so far as to practice sacred liberality. They hardly ever understood, or truly believed, that there is a God, or that man has a soul. I think, however, that the bawls of these lunatics are especially owing to the fact that he who keeps them prisoners in the infernal darkness, admonished by the word of God, and fearing to be expelled from them, torments these miserable beings above measure. But we know that these contradictions p168are the daily food and delicacies of the apostolic laborers after their works and fatigues."5

Father Nerinckx tried to stem the evil by public reproof; but the rebels only grew bolder, confident that the Dominican Fathers would uphold them, or at least be more lenient with them than their pastors.

These religious had arrived in the United States in 1805, and after a short stay in Baltimore had removed to Kentucky in the Spring of 1806. Father Fenwick, accompanied by Father Wilson, purchased a farm in Washington county, and established the Convent of St. Rose of Lima, thus becoming the founder of the Order of St. Dominic in America, the superiorship of which he soon resigned into the hands of Father Wilson.

"The Dominicans," writes Father Nerinckx, in 1807,6 "have permanently settled in St. Ann's congregation, which I attended up to this time, some ten miles from our home. They pay $5,000 for a farm of five hundred acres, on which there is a stone dwelling of two stories with out-houses, and a saw and grist mill, with sufficient water power to run them both six months in the year. They reside two miles from Springfield, our county town, which has fifty or sixty houses, and where a lot has been set apart for a Catholic church which is not yet begun. p169They have called their residence St. Rose, after St. Rose of Lima, the first and only known American Saint who belonged to their Order. The Fathers have already ten or twelve students, out of whom they may perhaps gain a few to increase their community. This appears to be their only object; they do not intend to serve on the mission. In the meantime they have accepted care of souls in St. Ann's congregation and environs, amounting to about two thousand souls; but they refuse to attend distant missions, and our work is scarcely diminished. . . ." Fathers Badin and Nerinckx had hailed their advent with genuine delight, and gave unsparing and oft-repeated praise to these new co-laborers. But they had been trained in different schools; holding the same principles, they often differed in their practical application, a fact which made their opinions clash in the eyes of the people, and gave the discontented a specious reason to rebel.

There is no denying the fact, that in the last century the French clergy were considerably tainted by the Jansenistic teachings, which up to this day bear their bitter fruits, in the neglect of the sacraments evinced by the French people, and the severity of the Gallican priests in the administration of the Sacrament of Penance. Father Badin had received his education and most of his theological training in France; and Father Nerinckx, himself no laxist, testifies in p170his letters that the Vicar-general was "of more than necessary severity, which, if tempered with a little of the honey of kindness, would be more palatable to the people, and of more use in curing inveterate sinners and loathsome wounds." The same spirit had pervaded the theological teachings of most of the Belgian Seminaries; and not only had Father Nerinckx found it in his books, and had been imbued with it by his eminent professors, but he had practiced its rigorous teachings for well nigh twenty years in the ministry of his native land, where he had found obedient intellects and pliable hearts. No wonder then, if, with his naturally severe character and indomitable energy, he strove at forming his people in the more austere practices of religion. The few writings we have of him prove that he was austere unto rigor, that the ruling motive of his piety was rather fear and its objects than love;7 and knowing that fear usually affects p171people in a more salutary manner than the consideration of the goodness of God and of His infinite perfections, he naturally strived to encourage his people, apathetic by nature, to the practice of virtue, by the fear of the punishments reserved to those who neglect the service of God.

The Dominicans, on the other hand, had learned great forbearance in the school of adversity, and may have been too lenient in their eagerness to induce even the most neglectful to comply with their religious duties. Driven out of England by a bitter and long continued opposition to religious orders, they were first compelled to seek relief in Belgium; and they had scarcely established their college at Bornhem on a good footing, when the French revolution threatened to involve them in the general onslaught on religious houses which had proved so disastrous to their brethren in France. Not knowing what to do, Father Wilson, then President of the College, cultivated the friendship of some of the Republican officials, and even consented to take their sons as students of the institution, in the hope of saving it. By dint of concessions, he held out against the tide of oppression,8 until 1805, when his conscience told him that he could stretch condescension no further; p172and he had to wander again, until, under the leadership of Father Fenwick, he and his brethren emigrated to America. Here they found the people little instructed, and grown callous, because of long continued neglect; and they naturally felt inclined to be lenient, to the delight of those who looked upon Fathers Badin's and Nerinckx' teachings as too severe.

Drawn by the novel ceremonial of the Dominican Order, and its picturesque dress, which, as experience teaches, are powerful attractions in the eyes of people unused to such interesting displays, the catholics flocked to them from far and wide. Moreover, Father Fenwick, by birth a Marylander, as were most of the catholic settlers of Kentucky, naturally thought that he understood better than the missionary priests the wants of his countrymen, who liked the Dominicans all the better from the fact that both spoke fluently the English language, their mother tongue. The Dominicans were thus the innocent cause of what threatened to become a serious contention, intensified, it may have been, by the fact that they sought more the success of their Order and the evangelizing of the people by missionary exercises, than parochial work.b

On the 6th of February, 1806, Father Nerinckx wrote to Bishop Carroll,9 from "Holy Mary's at the Rolling Fork:

p173 "Two Dominican Fathers10 have already arrived in this region, and have begun to work in the interest of the missions, helping the poor people, pressed, nay, giving out for the want of spiritual food. But it appears that their aid will be of little duration, since it is known, owing to their repeated assertions, that they came out, not to exercise the ministry in favor of the missions, but to extend their Order. They say, however, that they will do what they can in the neighborhood of their monasteries; a sure sign that the property of the missions and of the newly established churches will have to be given to them, and that there will be very little hope of having the spiritual field properly cared for. This is an incongruity; all the greater from the fact that the field is overrun with weeds and thistles, which, owing to the lack of laborers to cut them in time, choke the good seed."

As time went on, the missionaries experienced more and more difficulty in dealing with the dissatisfied portion of their flock. Many negligent christians took a malign pleasure in going to the Dominicans and contributing more for their buildings than even the richest were asked to do for the support of their parish priests. Father Badin went to consult the Bishop of Baltimore about the matter, and Rev. Nerinckx wrote at the same time the following letter, p174dated June 2, 1806:11

"Father Badin can hardly refuse to acknowledge, by this time, that he experienced the truth of my prognostic assertions with regard to the Dominicans. We and they differ very much in speculative theology, but in many things entirely so in practice. I dare not judge for myself how much it is expedient to say, but I can positively assert one thing, viz.: May be 'they will multiply the nation, but they will neither increase the joy nor renew the face of the earth.' (Isaiah ix.3) The insolent grow more so; and those who, being without love of God, were a little coerced by fear, now that the reins are loosened, rush headlong to the city of refuge, which they boast of having found. They expect, moreover, many extraordinary privileges from the two other Dominicans whose arrival is anxiously looked for; they confidently imagine and publicly assert that these will bring plenary indulgences, not only for absolution of the pains due to sin after the sin is forgiven, but for preventing them from incurring the guilt of sin at all. The people call these reverend gentlemen easy; Rev. Badin pronounces them extreme laxists, and I (who, although severe, look upon my colleague as altogether too rigid and stern,) think that he is not mistaken in his estimate of them. However, many begin to grow tired of these honeyed means of salvation, and, appreciating the difference between peace and peace in matters of p175eternal consequence for their souls, apply to us for the former remedies, howsoever bitter they may be said to be. Matrimonial matters are decided according to the desires of the parties without regard for the sanctity of the matrimonial state; every thing is allowed, and by and by every thing will be expedient. . . . If these and similar teachings and practices can be adhered to against the express law of God, the repeated counsels of the Apostles, and the opinion of all sound theologians, I do not see what can be opposed to the private interpretation of the Bible by heretics. . . .

"I hardly believe that the Dominicans will succeed in building a monastery here, considering that they are not willing to put up with humble beginnings, and that they will get but little pecuniary assistance from the people. But if the Order does succeed, I think it necessary, and it is my most ardent wish, that a man be called here from some other Dominican monastery, who will instill into them a true religious spirit. That man should be a true lover of regular observance and inflamed with zeal for the salvation of souls.12 For, what is to be p176hoped for the glory of our holy religion from an institution whose members abhor the weight and heat of the day, and are removed so far away from the vigilant eye of their superiors, who would prove their censors and make them adhere to the monastic discipline? Let me not be understood to say that they are bad; far from me to insinuate any thing of the kind; yet I do say, that, in my humble opinion, they have too little zeal for the religious observances of their Order. . . .

"I feel all the more free, my Lord, in writing to you as I have done, from the fact that I foresee that the Dominicans will be professors of our Ecclesiastical Seminary in Kentucky, or at least will constitute a majority of our clergy, if Providence does not interfere; and I might be sorry afterward, but too late, not to have spoken my mind on the subject, since you expect me to look after the interests of Religion in this region. . . ."

Soon after the arrival of the Dominicans at St. Rose's, Father Nerinckx had given up to them Springfield, where he had every thing prepared for the erection of a church; also St. Ann's, on Cartwright's Creek. It was especially in these places, where his influence was no longer felt, that his enemies exerted themselves in the most p177shameless manner to destroy whatever good he had effected, and to cause his name to be odious to the people; the Dominicans holding themselves aloof, or being perhaps unable to counteract the evil influences of these rebels. The picture the holy man draws of the state of affairs on Cartwright's Creek, two years after he had left it, made his heart bleed: "This congregation," he writes to Bishop Carroll,13 June 30, 1808, "was the best of all my missions. They abhorred public conventicles, especially nocturnal ones, dances, marriages with heretics and relations, worldly fashions and ornaments. The children and youths applied themselves earnestly, to acquire the knowledge of the christian doctrine and to the practice of virtue, stimulated as they were by public examinations and rewards. Married people abstained scrupulously, and for virtue's sake, from all license injurious to their state; and on Sundays, by far the greater number attended piously and religiously, from early morning till the end of the services, at the church ceremonies. But now, from what I hear, all that has passed away like a shadow; marriages with heretics are but too easily contracted; dances are allowed in daytime and are no sin; and so on (for I like to be brief, having written to your Lordship about these things before this). . . . Yet, tumult and trouble always arise at weddings and dances in Scott county, St. Ann's, and Simpson's Creek, from that more comical than evangelical practice p178of electrifying the feet of the guest by the sounds of the fiddle. . . . If I even conceded, and I never dreamed of conceding it, that there is no evil in all that, still I could never see why the Dominicans did not uphold what was generally complied with without murmur. Surely the church can not be complimented on the introduction of all these new disorders."

Nor did the discontented stop at that. Put up to it by "B––––– E–––––, a man who has done a great deal of harm in these parts, and who is held in supreme contempt by all good people, and by the more honest protestants,"14 they sent to Bishop Carroll a long list of accusations against their former pastor.

Aware of their underhand workings, Father Nerinckx sent, in the beginning of 1807, a letter to Bishop Carroll, the substance of which he gives in a subsequent communication,15 as follows: "In it I mention how I distributed the sacred vestments, bought for the greater part with my own money and that of my relations. I also write some two or three pages about myself, not that I act the apologist — for, thank God, I never yet wanted to sound my own praises, nor ever will, unless the glory of God and the good of my neighbor demand it. But I explain the practice I have followed in the ministry, for the last p179twenty years, under the eyes of so many venerable men, may be martyrs, but without doubt intrepid confessors of the orthodox faith, and with the consent of his eminence, John Henry, Cardinal de Frankenberg, whose letters of approval of my conduct and teachings I religiously keep. Not that I want to peddle around my own praises, for nothing but confusion is due and left me in time and for eternity; but that I may always have a fixed rule of action which I may safely follow. Finally, having maturely reflected on the actual state of religion in Kentucky, and compared my present position with the one I foresee, from the actual unpleasant state of affairs, will undoubtedly be mine in the future, I closed my letter by handing in my resignation, with many thanks to your Lordship for the repeated favors conferred on your humble servant. I only added the request to be allowed, for the time I remain here, to say Mass in my private dwelling."

The reason for that important step was, that in his opinion the Dominicans were altogether too lenient with the people, and that their diversity of opinions, and especially of practice, could not but be a source of scandal to the faithful and of mutual annoyance to themselves. Father Nerinckx, therefore, concluded to leave the field to the Fathers, and so take away all cause of contention.

He soon after ascertained the nature of the accusations against him, and that they were p180signed by only a few, and noticed them in a letter to his Ordinary of Baltimore, dated June 30, 1808,16 in the following strain:

"The principal heads of accusation against me, in as far as I can ascertain them from sayings, writings, and testimony of my own conscience, are as follows: 1. I advise early rising at four A.M. Rev. Father Fenwick is my accuser on this head, and that is the hour that he himself as a religious ought to keep; but he errs when he says that I refuse absolution to those that sleep longer. . . . 2. I promiscuously forbid dances as bad. 3. I prohibit promiscuous visits between persons of different sex. 4. I forbid and am against marriages with heretics, etc. 5. Before marriage, I require preparation for it, proclamation of the bans and the reception of the Sacraments. 6. I prescribe rules to be kept by those that are married. 7. On Sundays and Holy days I order public prayers, kept up the whole morning, with intervals of rest, however. 8. I make continual exactions for the church treasury — fortunately they do not say that I make them for myself. 9. I forbid excess in clothing and unseemly ornamentation. I would add that I have female censors of mature age to see to it that this rule be observed in church. 10. I am too bitter in giving corrections. B––––– E––––– calls me a tyrant. 11. Finally, they say I impose too much restraint on the people.

p181 "If all that be true, I wonder why wherever I go, so many crowd every day around my confessional, and besiege my ears from morning till night? . . . I do not know whether there are any other accusations against me. When I read of similar practices in the life of St. Charles and other Saints, I fancy these things are mentioned to commend them; and I do not know what judgment shall be passed upon a confessor who would attempt to induce or oblige his penitents to do the very reverse of these practices, viz.: that no preparation is required before marriage; that no rules are to be followed in married life, etc.

"Moreover, if my crimes be true, why am I not cited canonically, etc. Why am I condemned among the people before I am convicted in court.

"Tali dedicatore damnationis nostrae gloriamur. (Tertul. ad Neronem.) I forgive, from my heart, the man who is the instigator of all this, for all the injuries which he publicly loaded me with, without any provocation on my part (his letters are publicly given to read);17 for I admit in him stupid and invincible ignorance. I only desire him to remember, in the bitterness of his soul, if it is not yet callous, what troubles he has caused in the house of God, the results of which he is accountable for, and to think seriously of reparation. With mind unbiased, I judge that p182man to be unworthy of receiving the Sacraments, as long as it is not universally known that he has repaired the scandal given. That impostor loudly boasts that he has ample permission and indorsement from your Lordship for all he says. I do not doubt but these assertions are without foundation in fact, and he misrepresents you; but, to be sincere, I am afraid that the letters which these few hypocrites and rebel families carry around as yours (I have not seen any), add a great weight to their calumnies. If these letters are genuine and contain what these men claim they do, I shall greatly deplore it, because I do not see how matters can be mended, unless the last chapter of the Book of Esther would suggest a way of doing it. . . .

"Many of our people deplore this calamity, and come in crowds, offering to sign a protest against my calumniators. This they have already done without my knowledge, and I intend, next Sunday, to forbid them strictly to take up my defense, because I am conscious I have wronged no one. I therefore commend every thing to God, who will do what is pleasing in His sight. In the meantime I rejoice that I came not here animated by earthly hopes; I rejoice that I have not only received no temporal advantages here, but have spent every thing that Divine Providence gave me, for the greater glory of God. (Such, at least, is my hope.) . . .

"This is what I desired to add to my previous p183letter, Right Rev. Sir. Commending myself again and again to your benevolent prayers, and with the wish of receiving, as soon as possible, my demissorial letters in the form of testimonials, I remain,

"Right Rev. Sir,

"Your Lordship's most humble and obedient servant,

"Charles Nerinckx."

Bishop Carroll answered to this letter on the 9th of August, with his usual prudence and wisdom, advising the zealous priest to bear patiently the troubles of his position, and to remember that diversity of opinions can be consistently held without harm to religion or loss of souls. He concluded by stating that he saw no reason why he should leave his missionary station.

Father Nerinckx was too humble a man not to defer to the advice of his Bishop, and did so fully and without reserve. After having given his reasons for being afraid that the diversity of action between himself and the Dominicans would produce harm to Religion, he continues:18 "Your Lordship judges that I should not leave the ministry of Kentucky. God himself forbids, in the book of Tobias, 'to do any thing without counsel;' and, in another place, it is said that 'the will of God is announced to us by the Bishops of His church.' It is now three years since I p184promised almost blind obedience to your Lordship; howsoever great, therefore, be the danger of my being lost, it seems to be God's will that I should wait a while before totally abandoning the ministry. I will, therefore, until the Lord disposes otherwise, continue to guide souls, a blind man leading the blind, in fact ear and trembling, trusting that your Lordship will pray that both fall not into the pit."


The Author's Notes:

1 U. S. Catholic Miscellany, December 8, 1824.

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2 MSS. letter, written from Holy Mary's at the Rolling Fork, 1805‑6. Sup. Cit.

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3 United States Catholic Miscellany, ut supra.

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4 See Sup., pg. 54.

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5 Baltimore MSS.

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6 MSS. letter in the Bollandist Library, Brussels.

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7 This does not go to prove that his piety was false, by any means; for, piety, founded on chaste fear, is solid and true piety, but is less noble and perfect than piety founded on love. As a reverend friend observed: That Father Nerinckx was a man of extraordinary piety and great love of God, I do not think admits of any doubt whatever. I really believe him to have been a man of heroic virtue, in the strict technical sense of the terms. Nor is this adverse, in my meaning, to the fact that, following the authors then studied in the seminaries, he was an extreme man in some things, and was moved rather by fear than by love. St. Liguori's piety seems to me to have been informed mainly by fear. The more amiable St. Francis de Sales had piety that always breathed the sweetness of love; both were saints, and great saints. St. Ignatius' piety is full of intellect; of intellect leading the will "ad majorem Dei gloriam;" his was pre-eminently "obsequium rationabile." Hence, we may say: "Deus mirabilis in sanctis suis."

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8 Letter of Father Nerinckx to Bishop Carroll, 1806. Baltimore, MSS.

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9 Baltimore MSS.

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10 Father Tuite is mentioned as one of the two in a subsequent letter of June 2, 1806. He probably took Father Fenwick's place, who was to bring the fourth one from Baltimore.

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11 Baltimore MSS.

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12 Father Nerinckx was surely actuated by the best of motives in writing as he does. He did not find fault with the illustrious Order of St. Dominic, but with the actions of a very few of its members. That he formed a correct idea of the state of affairs at St. Rose's may be gathered from the following extract of Archbishop Spalding's Life of Bishop Flaget, Louisville, 1852, pg. 288: "In August, 1828, the Rev. F. Raphael Munos arrived at the convent, as prior. He had been commissioned by the General of the Order to re-establish therein, in its full vigor, the holy rule of St. Dominic; which, amidst the trying circumstances and distracting cares of the missionary life the earlier Fathers were compelled to lead, had suffered some relaxation. The Order is now in a highly prosperous condition."

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13 Baltimore MSS.

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14 Letter to Bishop Carroll, 1808. Baltimore MSS.

Thayer's Note: Some rather long excerpts from Nerinckx' violent, vitriolic (and rather entertaining) letter are given in Catholic Historical Review, VI.36. In it, not only is Basil Elder's name given in full by its author, but punned on to boot: it is Maes who makes the ellipsis.

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15 The letter of 1807 is not to be found in the archiepiscopal archives. The substance of it, as here given, is taken from the one of 1808. Baltimore MSS.

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16 Baltimore MSS.

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17 He was in Baltimore at the time, and had had an interview with the Bishop.

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18 Letter to Bishop Carroll, September 24, 1808. Baltimore MSS.


Thayer's Notes:

a The non-Catholic, and even Catholics if young enough, might take this for a non-sequitur: but until the late 20c, a priest was required to fast several hours before offering Mass — so a priest who had not fasted could not say Mass, and thus not offer communion to a congregation.

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b The difference in the methods used by the Dominicans and by Badin and Nerinckx can be simply stated — to use computer terminology — as "depth-first" for the former, "breadth-first" for the latter. Both have their advantages.


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Page updated: 27 Jan 12