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VOL. I. 


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The name of one Irish Dominican Father was mentioned as 
likely to write the life of Fr. Burke, and it was only on 
finding that he had relinquished the idea that I determined 
to apply myself to the task. Although the good friar would 
have been in some respects better qualified, it is certain that 
no priest could spare from graver duties the time and labour 

I deemed it my duty to bestow upon the work. 

To verify a few facts I have travelled from Dublin to 
Gloucester and from thence to Northumberland, not to speak 
of various other journeys. And here let me thank the Pro- 
vincial of the English Dominicans for the facilities of access 
and cordial reception which he ensured to me in every Domini- 
can convent in England. Some of my informants — Dr. Utili, 
amongst others — are since dead, and probably if I had delayed 
these personal inquiries, a few years more would have ren- 
dered this part of my task impossible. 

I also beg to thank the Very Rev. J. T. Towers, Pro- 
vincial of the Irish Dominicans. He promised help in the 
first instance, and that promise has since been amply fulfilled. 

II everybody who assisted me were to be named in detail, 
the list would be a long one. The contributions of Major 
Haverty however demand, perhaps, distinct mention because 
he wishes it to be known that they have been entered by him* 
for copyright, in America. 


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I took Up the subject with diffidence, but it was en- 
couraging to receive the assurance of one of the ablest 
Dominican fathers in Ireland, that the 'life of Fr. Burke 
could be best written by a layman, especially if that layman 
had been already the biographer of an ecclesiastic* It was 
probably this view of Fr. Burke's character that led the 
Bishop of Galway to say, when unable to take the chair — 
October, 1883 — in furtherance of the then contemplated 
memorial, that * as Fr. Burke's mission was primarily with the 
laity, there was a special fitness in a lay gentleman taking the 
lead to perpetuate his memory.' 

There may be some persons so strait-laced or so im- 
pervious to all sense of humour as to deprecate its existence 
in a priest. But, as Fr. Burke himself says, writing to Miss 
Rowe, ' There is no law that good people should be stupid. 
They may be Sankeymonious without being Moody! 

To suppress evidence of his irrepressible humour would 
be to destroy the individuality of the man quite as much as 
if one were to ignore his great attribute of humility. The 
reader, therefore, must be prepared to see ample illustrations 
of both interwoven with the records of his more public career. 
But there was another life, of which the world knew nothing 
— the wonderful inner life of Fr. Burke — in attempting to de- 
pict which I have been aided by the men who knew him best. 

Some may think that this book ought to be a grand 
panegyric — that too much of Fr. Burke as a humourist is 
shown and not enough of the great preacher whose appeals 
earned for him so high a reputation. But Fr. Burke's ser- 
mons are already familiar to all, while this pleasant side of 
his character will be new to many. At a public meeting in 
Dublin, convened to commemorate his fame and name, Judge 
O'Hagan spoke of the image of Fr. Burke himself rising 


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before him ' with his native laugh of playful scorn mocking at 
the idea of doing honour to him the poor, suffering, pain- 
struck friar. In no man whom I have ever known,' he added, 
* was a contempt of this world and its honours more deeply 
rooted. He had it by nature as the concomitant of that 
priceless gift of humour with which he was largely endowed, 
and which led him with a keen and discerning vision to see 
through and rate at their proper value the objects of the vain 
desires of men. But he had it also from a far different source, 
from that grace of humility which his prayers had won for 
him, and which he felt to be the root and basis of all real 
good that man can achieve.' 

It will be found that Fr. Burke, as far as possible, is made 
to tell his own life. Some things, of small import, no doubt, 
he sometimes mentions, but I was unwilling to exclude any 
personal reminiscence which Fr. Burke thought fit to record, 
the more so as his remarks are invariably permeated by a 
vein of that original humour which was so salient a charac- 
teristic of him. 

I once thought that perhaps the better title for this book 
would have been * Recollections of Fr. Burke by Himself 
and His Friends.' Until a year ago my part in it was little 
more than the laborious one of gathering illustrative afta 
from various sources both in America and nearer home. Of 
course I sought to prepare myself for the task by revisiting 
the various convents in which he had lived and laboured, and 
where the traditions of his inner life are tenderly enshrined. 

Sometimes the fear has occurred to me that my details 
have been too full ; but then it must be remembered that they 
largely describe traits and customs hitherto veiled from 
secular eyes, and therefore have their interest. Nor ought 
the words of Goethe to be forgotten, that ' On the lives of 


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remarkable men ink and paper should least be spared.' My 
ink, it is well to say at the outset, has not been expended in 
chronicling any very eventful career. Great as Fr. Burke was 
as an orator, he would have stood higher as a thinker had cir- 
cumstances arisen to reveal the depth and resources of his mind. 
But it was not his lot to be mixed up with any great public 
questions ; his history is little more than a personal one. 

Readers who expect to find in this book any ambitious 
composition will be disappointed. The testimony of succes- 
sive witnesses in an interesting inquiry makes no pretension 
to artistic style ; but the evidence thus marshalled has its 
value nevertheless. If my purpose was to produce a full 
biographic essay like that of Sir J. Stephen on St, Francis, 
no doubt it could be done, though not so well. Still I think 
it might be more easily accomplished than to gather, as I 
have done, from so many sundered sources, the testimony of 
men whose knowledge on the subject had been previously 
confined to themselves. 

After what I have said about the consumption of ink, it 
would be justly regarded as indefensible if I omitted any fact 
of personal importance. It ought, therefore, to have been 
mentioned at p. i66 of the first volume, had the matter then 
been communicated to me, that Thomas Burke, not having 
yet attained the canonical age at the date indicated in the 
text, it became necessary to obtain a dispensation from Rome 
before he could receive Priest's Orders. 

May I also add— touching a passage in the book— that 
there is some conflicting testimony as to whether an ancestor 
of Fr. Burke was called MacAndrew or MacAuley. 

W. J. R 
49 FiTzwiLLiAM Square, Dublin, 


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HI. A.D. 1847. iETAT. 17 80 









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Father Burke, during one of the ovations with which 
America hailed him as a great Irish patriot, surprised his 
audience by declaring that he was a very humble representa- 
tive of the Norman invasion. He said this in reply to Mr. 
Froude, who had included among the rebel Irish chieftains 
the Burkes and the Desmonds. 

The Norman arrived (Fr. Burke added). The Butlers and Fitz- 
geralds went down into Kildare, the De Burgs or Burkes entered 
Connaught The people offered very little opposition, gave them a 
portion of their lands, welcomed them, and began to love them as if 
they were their own flesh and blood. . . . When they passed from 
the English portion of the Pale, and went out amongst the people, 
what is the first thing we see? They began to forget their Norman- 
French and their English, and learned to talk Irish. They took 
Irish wives, and were glad to get them, and adopted Irish customs ; 
until we find, two hundred years after the Norman invasion, these 
proud descendants of William, Earl of Clanricarde, changing their 
names from Burke to Mac William. 

Passing on to the reign of Henry VIII. he said that — 

During all these years the Norman Desmonds, the Geraldines^ 
the De Burgs, were the head and front of every rebellion. The 
English complained of them and said they were worse than the Irish 
rebels — that they were constantly fomenting disorders. Why? 
Because they, as Normans, were under the feudal laws, and the 
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King's sheriff could come down on them at every turn, with fines and 
forfeitures of the land held from the King. So, by keeping the 
country in discord, they were always able to defy the sheriffs, and 
they preferred the Irish freedom to the English feudalism; therefore 
they kept up these discords. It was the boast of my kinsmen of 
Clanricarde that, with the blessing of God, they would never allow a 
King's writ to run in Connaught. 

This was the only occasion on which Fr. Burke claimed 
kinship to the lords of Connaught. A fine lady having 
asked him if he belonged to the Burkes of GHnsk or to the 
Clanricarde Burkes, he humbly replied that he was only the 
son of a poor baker. Once, indeed, he styled his father * the 
Master of the Rolls ; ' but, as he jokingly added, he was a better 
hand at making a bun than a pun. 

Throughout the long dark night of penal persecution the 
scattered descendants of the once proud Norman pursued the 
uneven tenor of their way, grasping by turns the staff of the 
pilgrim and the sword of the rebel. 

My name of Burke, it is true, is a Norman name (he said), but it 
is a name that has come down to me, through seven hundred years, 
from sires and grandsires that knew how to bleed and to die for 
Ireland. Thanks be to God, a man gets more of his nature — of his 
heart and of his blood — from his mother than he does from his father ; 
and my mother was a M^Donough, from Connemara, a stock that is 
as purely Irish as ever was that of Hugh O'Neill, or Red Hugh 
O'Donnell — as fiery in temper as ever St Columbkille was, and he 
was a true Irishman — as poor as England could make them, and, 
God knows, that was poor enough — as proud as Lucifer, and as 
Catholic as St Peter. ^ 

His grandmother was a MacAuley, or, as it is spelt in 
Irish, MacAmhailgaidh. Mary MacAuley, according to the 
family tradition, was so beautiful a woman that Martin, 
commonly called * Prince of Connemara,* got her portrait 
painted and hung in Ballinahinch Castle. The MacAuleys 
are said to have claimed kindred to the Martins, and to 

1 « On Temperance,' at Newark, New Jersey, U.S., October 23, 1873. 


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have shared in the vicissitudes of their race. Fr. Burke's 
mother is described as Margaret MacDonough of Moycullen. 
Sir Bernard Burke ^ states that the estate of the Martins 
embraced Moycullen. The MacDonoughs were probably 
tenants of Dick Martin, famous for his boast that he had an 
avenue to his door thirty miles long. His last representative 
died in destitution many years ago.' 

How the senior branch of the Connaught Burkes became 
Protestants like the Martins let Fr. Burke tell. Wentworth, 
afterwards Earl of Strafford, Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland, had 
obtained for King Charles L from the Irish Parliament six 

' Vicissitudes of Families, l^ sm, "p, dS, 

* The MartiDs had conformed to the creed of the State ; and their house con- 
tinued to be represented through successive generations by prominent, if not 
polished, men. Fr. Burke had preserved several traditions of Dick Martin, of 
which one. may be cited to show the humour of both. The Dominican, 
when vindicating his countrymen against the charge of intemperance, said, 
in a lecture at Boston, U.S., September 22, 1872 : 'No enemy of ours ever 
yet allied that we were gluttons. Thanks be to God for that ! The Irishman 
is a small eater, my friends. There was an Irish gentleman by the name of 
Colonel Martin, of Ballinahinch. He was over in England, and made a bet with 
an Englishman on this point. The Englishman said (he was a member of Par- 
liament also) : *' You Irish are not worth anything ; you are not able to eat as 
well as our people.", Martin foolishly said : " I will bet you five hundred pounds 
that I can bring you a man from my estate who can eat more than any English- 
man you bring. " The Englishman took the bet readily. The Irishman was brought 
over, the Englishman also appeared — a fine, big, strapping man, with a mouth 
reaching from ear to ear, and a great long body and short legs — plenty of room — 
and, to put him in trim, he did not eat anything for two days. The poor Irish- 
man was brought in— a ploughman, with the fine bloom of health upon his face— 
as well able to give an account of a sceagh of potatoes, with a *' griskin " or a bit 
of bacon, as the best of you ; but he was no match for the Englishman. They 
sat down to the work of eating. It was roast beef they got. The Englishman 
stood behind his man*s chair, and the Irishman stood behind his man's chair, look- 
ing at them eating. After a while, the Irishman had got his fill, while the English- 
man was only beginning to eat in earnest. There was a turkey on the spit roasting 
for the gentleman's dinner. Martin saw that his man was failing, and he spoke to 
him in Irish. "Michael,'* said he, *< what do you think?" And the man 
replied, in the same tongue, "Oh, roaster, I'm fiill to the windpipe." Ashe 
spoke in Irish, the Englishman did not understand him, and he asked Martin, 
"^^^^at does the fellow say?" " He says," replied Martin, "that he is just 
beginning to get an appetite, land he wants you to give him that turkey." " Con- 
found the blackguard," says the Englishman, '* he shall never get a bit of it. I 
^ve up the bet."' 

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subsidies of 5,000/. each. Great boons and graces were 
promised to Ireland, but Strafford violated his pledge ; ' and,' 
adds Burke, replying to Froude, 

he instituted a Commission for the express purpose of confis- 
cating in addition to Ulster — that was already gone — the whole 
province of Connaught, so as not to leave an Irishman or a Catholic 
one square inch of ground in that land. This he called * The Com- 
mission of Defective Titles.' They were to inquire into the title 
that every man had to his property with the purpose of finding a 
flaw in it, so that they could confiscate it to the Crown. Strafford 
began by packing the jury. He told the jurors that he expected 
them to find a verdict for the King ; and between bribing them and 
threatening them he got juries that found for him, until he came into 
my own county of Galway. And to the honour of old Galway, be it 
said, that as soon as the Commission arrived they could not find 
twelve jurors base enough to confiscate the lands of their fellow-sub- 
jects. What was the result? The County Galway jurors were called 
to Dublin before the Castle Council Chamber, and every man of 
them was fined 4,000/., and put into prison until the fine was paid. 
Their property was taken, and the High Sheriff of Galway died in 
gaol because he was unable to pay the fine. Not content with 
threatening th^ juries and coercing them, Strafford told the judges 
they were to get four shillings in the pound for the value of every 
piece of property they confiscated to the Crown. Then he boasted 
publicly tliat he had made the judges attend to this business as if it were 
their own private concpm. , . . Strafford instituted another tribunal 
called the * Court of Wards.' It was found that the Irish people, 
gentle and simple as they were, were very unwilling to become 
Protestants. I have not a harsh word to say of Protestants ; every 
high-minded Protestant must admire the strength and fidelity with 
which Ireland, because of her conscience, clung to her ancient faith. 
This tribunal was instituted in order to get the heirs of the Catholic 
gentry and to bring them up Protestants ; and it is to this Court of 
Wards that we owe the significant fact that some of the most ancient 
and the best names in Ireland — the names of men whose ancestors 
fought for faith and fatherland — are now opposed to their Catholic 
fellow-subjects. It was by such means that the men of ray own 
name became Protestants. There was no drop of Protestant blood 
in the veins of the dun Earl or red Earl of Clanricarde. There 
was no drop of other than Catholic blood in the veins of the heroic 


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Burkes who fought during the long five hundred years that went 
before this time.^ 

The penalty which followed the Martins overtook not the 
MacDonoughs, who, nerved with self-reliance, held on their 
course with industry and a good name. The brother of 
Margaret MacDonough,familiarly known among the peasantry 
by the name of Pedre Gow, continued to live at Moycullen 
until his death. Margaret had been led to the altar by a man 
who, probably without knowing it or bestowing a care on such 
thoughts, bore an historic name in Galway. This was Walter 
Burke, the father of the great Dominican. Heralds, when 
seeking to identify an ancestor, are always glad to find his 
distinctive Qhristian name transmitted through successive 
generations. * In 1271,' writes Hardiman, * Walter Burke, or 
the Burgo, died in the Castle of Galway ; ' and under a sub- 
sequent Walter Burke the trade of Galway is described as 
having greatly increased.* 

Mr. O'Hartenumeratesseveral Walter Burkes who flourished 
from A.D. 1332.' Walter is the Christian name of Lord 
MacWilliam Bourke in 1420/ It is also found in the ennobled 
branch of Baron Bourke.* Previous to and after the Williamite 
wars a further batch of Walter Burkes are named by Mr. 
D'Alton, some of whom sat in the Parliament of 1689, and 
others sat in cells as prisoners of war.® Others embarked in 
trade. In 1791 Walter Burke was Mayor of Galway.' 

Another Walter Burke, having engaged in the Rebellion 
of '98, lost a little property which he held on the Quay of 
Galway. This man was the grandfather of Father Tom 
Burke. He left four sons : I, Walter, father of the Domi- 

* Fr. Burke's Reply to Mr. Froudc, New York, November 19, 1872. 
Lecture IV. — 'Ireland under Cromwell.' 

* ZTm/. Galway t p. 259. • Irish Pedigrees^ p. 418. 

* Burke's Dormant and Extinct Peerage^ p. 66, * Ibid. p. 67. 

* King Jame^ s Irish Army List ^ v. 2, p. 136. ' Hardiman, p. 259. 
VOL. I. ♦ ij 3 


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nican ; 2, Loughnan ; 3, Edmund (now Captain Burke, who 
still lives and has given us these details), and, 4, Thomas, 
who died young. 

Concanon was the name of our friar's maternal grand- 
mother. If the Burkes were Norman, the Concanons were 
Celtic to the marrow. 'The ancient Milesian family of 
O'Concanon/ writes Sir Bernard Burke, ' derives its descent 
from Dermot, brother of Murias, 29th king of Connaught, in 
the ninth century.' But all such pride of ancestry our friar 
held in small esteem. However, just as the Child in the 
lowly house at Nazareth was related through Mary to the 
royal race of David, such points, though no matter for boast, 
are fair subject for history. 

The date of Wat Burke's marriage with Margaret 
MacDonough cannot be fixed. Her daughters say that she 
never furnished any closer approximation to the time than 
* we were fifteen years married when such and such an event 
occurred.' The contracting parties attached small importance 
to festive dates or social vanities. The oppressions of the 
Penal Code left all Papists only too glad to pursue in peace 
the humble crafts of their choice, while they saw the more 
ambitious vainly try to soar with the chains of disability 
clanking at their heels. Many became hewers of wood and 
drawers of water. 

I have more than once asked myself (said Fr. Burke) what is 
it that condemns this race, whom God has blessed with so much 
intellect and genius, upon whom He has lavished so many of His 
highest and holiest gifts, crowning all with that gift of national faith, 
that magnificent tenacity, that, in spite of all the powers of earth or 
hell, has clung to the living Christ and His Church — what it is that 
has condemned this race to be in so many lands the hewers of wood 
and the drawers of water? Qua regio in terris tiostri non plena 
laboris ? Where is the nation or the land that has not witnessed our 
exile and our tears ? * 

* Lecture on the Exiles of Eiin, New York, May 22, 1S72. 


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Some of Wat Burke's people became involved in the 
common vicissitude. When returning thanks for his health 
at a civic banquet in 1877, Fr. Burke said that he had replied 
to an English lady who once ridiculed his brogue, *"My 
father had it before me, but some of his progenitors had no 
brogue." " How is that ? " said she. " Because they wore 
only traheens," said L' ^ 

Well, if they wore not brogues, perhaps their ancestor 
wore, like Malachi, a collar of gold. 

In the * Act to prevent the further growth of Popery,' the 
importance of Galway being garrisoned by Protestants is 
distinctly stated, and 'that no person professing the Popish 
religion shall or may after March 24, 1703, take any house or 
tenement or come to dwell in the city of Galway or its 

Be this as it may, Wat Burke was found here early in the 
present century, always busily engaged in assisting the friars 
in their humble chapels, exercising his vote in favour of 
Bowes Daly, the friend of Grattan, and earning a reputation 
for baking good bread and for singing good songs. 

' Brogue is the name of a heavy shoe. Traheens leave the naked sole un- 
protected, and are confined to the upper leathers. 


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Brother Thomas Burke, called in the world Nicholas, the son of 
Walter Burke and Margaret MacDonough, who were joined in lawful 
wedlock, was bom in the city of Galway, in the kingdom of Ireland, 
on the eighth day September in the year 1830, as appears from the 
credible testimony of the Rev. George Commens, parish priest of 
that town. 

This entry, dated 'Die vigesima nona Decembris, anno 
1847,' appears in the records of the old Dominican Convent 
at Perugia, where Nicholas Burke made his novitiate and 
solemn profession.* September 8 is the Feast of the Nativity 
of the Blessed Virgin Mary, towards whom, as will be seen, 
he always manifested special devotion ; and it is no less note- 
worthy that, while in his last illness he invoked * Mary, Help 
of Christians,' he lingered until the Feast of her Visitation. 
His pious mother had often quoted the words of St. Bernard 
in the twelfth century, * Devotion to Mary is a mark of 
predestination.' ^ 

My mother had presentiment that I would be bom on Sep- 
tember 10, the Feast of St. Nicliolas of Tolentine, and made almost a 

» The entry is in Latin :— *Fr. Thomas Burke in saeculo vocatus Nicolaus 
Blius Walthieri Burke et Margaritas McDonough legitimorum conjugum, natus 
in civitate Galvisein Hybemiae R^no die octava Septembris anno 1830 ut constat 
ex fide Rev. Georgii Commens Parochi ejusdem/ 

* Among other distinguished men born in Galway may be mentioned the 
eminent preacher Walter Blake Kirwan; Roderick O'Flaherty, author of the 
Ogygia ; John Lynch {Cambrensis Eversus)\ Patrick d*Arcy, author oi Argument 
for Ireland (a.d. 1641) ; James Hardiman, the historian of Galway; and the 
eminent chdmist Richard Kirwan, who, like Walter Blake Kirwan, Dean of 
Killala, had been also a Catholic. 


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VOW that in such case I should follow his ' order/ but if I turned out 
to be a girl, I was to become a Sister of Mercy.' 

So long a period elapsed between the birth of the third 
sister and of Nicholas, that the parish stared when he 
appeared. Margaret MacDonough, of Moycullen, his mother, 
had been a woman of some beauty, and her appearance to 
the last was striking. Wat Burke had been a stooped 
elderly man as long as most Galway people could remember 
him, but noted for his vivacity, and he took with good humour 
the congratulations which greeted him on all sides after the 
birth of little Nicholas. It has been naturally assumed and 
generally asserted that Nicholas received that name in com- 
pliment to St. Nicholas of Myra, the patron saint of Galway ; 
but it was the Augustinian St. Nicholas of Tolentine to whose 
patronage he was consigned. Such intimate relations sub- 
sisted between the Burkes and the Augustinian Friars of 
Galway that hopes of his adhesion to the order had long been 
cherished. The selection of his second name was due to the 
fact that Mrs. Burke had early evinced a special devotion to 
•Good Saint Anthony.' When anything was lost by the 
neighbours they prayed her to use her known influence with 
that saint to effect its restoration, and the result was on 
the whole satisfactory. It is told in Galway by persons quite 
unconnected with her family that her last success was the 
discovery of some heifers which had strayed away from Mr. 
Ferguson, of Windfield. 

That • Father Tom ' was christened * Anthony ' as well as 
Nicholas will be new even to Galway. How it came about 
must not be ignored, though the circumstance is one of 
sacredly domestic interest. Fr. Ralph, O.P., having visited 
Mrs. Burke during her decrepitude, she made some marked 
allusion to St. Anthony in course of conversation. * I see 
you are a client of St. Anthony,' said the priest. 'Why 

» Fr. Burke to Miss Edith Moore. 


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shouldn't I be ? ' was the reply ; * didn't St. Anthony send 
him to me ? ' She had indeed prayed that God, through the 
intercession of this saint, might manifest His power and good- 
ness by sending a baby boy ; and at last one came to fill the 
long disused nursery-chair and brighten by its prattle the 
heart and hearth of the old man.* 

How old Mrs. Burke must have been when she gave birth 
to Nicholas may be inferred from his assurance to Fr. 
Reginald that she would describe to him scenes she had 
witnessed in the last century. 

Two sons had previously died, to the parents' great 
sorrow, but it afforded them some satisfaction to think that 
if five of their children were bom helots, Nicholas at least 
came into the world emancipated. 

On April 13, 1829 (he records), emancipation was proclaimed, and 
seven millions of Catholic Irishmen entered the nation's legislature 
in the person of O'Connell. It was the first and the greatest victory 
of peaceful principle which our age ever witnessed ; the grandest 
triumph of justice and of truth, the most glorious victory of the 
genius of one man, and the first great act of homage which Ireland's 
rulers paid to the religion of the people.* 

The house in which Nicholas was bom stood in Kirwan's 
Lane, off Cross Street, Galway, and is now reduced to ruins. 
The family afterwards removed to Dominick Street *My 
mother,' observes Fr. Burke, * had been a Franciscan Tertiary, 
or a member of the Third Order of St Francis. All the 
confraternities looked grave when she approached the altar 

' Margaret Burke rather reminds one of Jane d^Aza, the mother of St. 
Dominic, who with a similar object used to go to an old monastery and pray 
over the tomb of a sainted abbot of that name. One night Jane d'Aza dreamt 
that the coming child— also a third son— was born, under the form of a dog, 
who, with a burning torch in his mouth, was setting the world on fire. This 
dream caused Jane intense sadness lest her child should be a turbulent man ; * so 
she prayed with increased fervour, and later it was revealed that the child 
would be a faithful watchdog of the Church, setting the world on fire by his 
burning faith.* 

* Fr. Burke*s Funeral Oration on O'Connell, Glasnevin, 1869. 


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of Hymen* In point of fact, however, it is only cloistered 
Tertiaries who require leave to marry. How thoroughly 
her association with the rule of St. Francis spiritualised her 
mind and shaped the future of her son the sequel will afford 
abundant proof. * Not content with sanctifying his sons in the 
cloister by his holy rules,' Father Burke says, ' the saint, in his 
zeal and love for souls, went out, and in the foundation of his 
third order instituted a tradition of sanctity and grace which 
were peculiarly his own.' * Unlike Jane d'Aza, no startling 
revelation was made to Margaret Burke — a matter-of-fact 
woman who paid no heed to dreams. But the night her tiny 
son was bom — Fr. Eustace states — a distinct belief pre- 
vailed in the house that it was destined to hold in anointed 
hands the Banner of the Cross. 

Mr. Kyne, a merchant of Galway, a man of robust 
common sense and decision of character, stood sponsor. Mrs. 
Burke chose Mrs. Keene as godmother because of her great 
holiness. After she had discharged her duties at the bap- 
tismal font, she said, as Miss Burke well remembers, handing 
back the baby to its mother, * Here now is Father Nicholas 
for you.'* The baptism took place two days after his birth 
— namely, September lo, the Feast of St. Nicholas of 

Those were not the days of feeding-bottles. Mrs. Burke, 
being unable to do much for the baby herself, made inquiries 
for a healthy nurse. At last * Biddy,' a woman who seemed 
fitted to fulfil all requirements, was found and duly installed. 
In after years Fr. Burke's great fame afforded her natural 
pride ; and during his ovations she made pilgrimages to see, and 
if possible to kiss, her lovely boy. Nor was it in Connaught 

* Panegyric on St. Francis of Assisi, Oct. 4, 1884. 

' * Of what avail to me that a man pour water on my head and say, *' I baptize 
thee in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,'' unless that baptism, that 
water, have sacramental iufluence, instituted by the Lord, endowed with a peculiar 
power fur this purpose— the cleansing of the soul— and be tinged mystically with 
the saving blood of the Redeemer ? '— Fr. Thomas Burke. 


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alone that she followed his career thus literally. When Father 
Burke was giving a mission at Manchester in 1863, who should 
come upon the scene, radiant with * love and pride/ but Biddy 
herself ? Her love for Father Tom was increased by the fact 
that all her own children had died.' 

Besides the two brothers deceased, three sisters had 
preceded Nicholas ; and baby soon became * the pet of the 
petticoats.'* The names Bridget and Mary — those of his 
surviving sisters — ^he ever after regarded with peculiar ten- 
derness. Lecturing on St Patrick in America, he spoke of 
devotion to Mary as a great feature of Ireland's Catholicity. 

They called her in their prayers ' Afiden dhedish^ their darling 
Virgin. In every family the eldest daughter was a Mary \ every 
Irish maid or mother emulated the purity of her virginal innocence, 
or the strength and tenderness of her maternal love. With the keen- 
ness of love they associated their daily sorrows and joys with hers ; 
and the ineffable grace of maiden modesty which clung to the very 
mothers of Ireland seemed to be the brightest reflection of Mary 
which had lingered upon the earth. Oh, how harshly upon the ears 
of such a people grated the detestable voice which would rob Mary of 
her graces, and rob the world of the light of her purity and the glory 
of her example ! Never was she so dear to Ireland as in the days of 
the nation's persecution and sorrow. Not even in that bright day, 
when the Virgin Mother seemed to walk the earth, and to have made 
Ireland her home, in the person of St. Bridget, was her name so 
dear and the love of her so strong, as in the dark and terrible time 
when, church and altar being destroyed, every cabin in the land 
resounded with Mary's name, and invoked in the Holy Rosary the 
great devotion that saved Ireland's faith. 

Until he became a regular schoolboy the child was not 
distinguished for precocity. We do not hear of him, as of St. 
Dominic, that he would creep out of his warm cot and lie on 

* Fr. Albert Buckler, now Prior at Haverstock Hill, was his comp«nion in 
this mission. He tells us that Fr. Burke seemed not less delighted to see Biddy 
and gave her, on leaving, a nice present. 

^ Honor, of whom anon, is dead. Miss Bridget Burke, now of Galway, 
and Mary, married to Mr. Patrick Ferguson, of Windfield, survive. 


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THE angel's whisper. 1 3 

the ground as a commencement of his ascetic life. Whether 
our babe felt so inclined, certain it is that Biddy, his nurse, 
would not permit it He heard from her, however, some little 
incidents to which he made allusion at St Gabriers Church, 
New York. Speaking of what he described as the excess of 
credibility, or Irish superstition, which makes it so easy to 
realise the unseen, he asked — 

What could be more beautiful than some of its forms, as for 
instance when the mother rocks her infant in the cradle and it smiles 
in its sleep ? There is a mysterious ray of gladness and sunshine that it 
never remembers, but which certainly passes over the innocent young 
soul Now the Irish mother rocking her child, as soon as she sees it 
smile, bends down, kisses the child, and says it is an angel that has 
come to whisper to her infant something of the joy it itself feels 
before God. How beautiful the idea is ; how delicate is the thought 
and the sentiment ; how motherly is the act and the faith which that 
act proves ! We believe as Catholics that the child baptized becomes 
as an angel of God ; that no sin nor approach of sin is there ; that 
until that child comes to years of reason, and consequently is capable 
of committing a personal sin, it is in the eye of God even as one of 
His angels. This we Catholics believe, because we believe in the 
efficacy of baptismal regeneration. There is no fear of a Catholic 
priest, as I have known other ministers do, take ten or twelve 
children in a district and baptize them all together by dipping his 
finger into the water and giving them a sprinkle. There is no fear of 
a Catholic priest denying baptismal regeneration and then fighting 
his bishop on it, holding it as the truth. 

His sisters describe him in childhood as so puny that his 
mother never regarded him in any other light than as a loan 
from God. This delicacy kept him a good deal indoors. A 
kinswoman of his, now a Sister of Charity, informs us — and 
he himself told the same to others — that he used to equip 
himself from his mother's wardrobe, and taking his place in 
an upper window discourse fine music from some instrument 
that puzzled the street, but which was by turns a shoe-horn 
and a comb. The neighbours were so much interested that 
they called to ask the name of the lady on a visit with the 


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Burkes. Fr. Burke told Mr. Hodgens that sometimes he 
would put his mother's muflf on his head and personate a 
Grenadier drummer. 

By degrees his nerves and muscles strengthened, and the 
irrepressible vitality of his nature began to assert itself 
beyond domestic bounds. It will be remembered that Galway 
carts have projections behind almost rivalling in length the 
shafts in front. He told Mr. M. OTlaherty, J.P., that when 
he observed an empty cart leaving the town he flung himself 
upon the projection ; up went the shafts, ' and if/ as he said, 
* the horse had any kick in him, a sensation scene took place, 
all the attention of the driver became directed to his horse, 
and in the midst of the confusion tlie cause of it — convulsed 
with laughter — would decamp.* Another confession was that 
he threw a mouse into the churn of an incurable scold. This 
act so roused the ire of her household that half the parish 
was searched for the offender, who, with the agility of a lepre- 
caun, eluded grasp after grasp. 

To the Pastor of Galway Fr. Burke mentioned that some- 
times, when Mrs. Burke happened to call her husband from 
another room, he, mimicking his father's voice, would answer for 
him, and generally contrive to introduce some pert or gro- 
tesque word which could hardly fail to rouse retorts. Anon, 
still personating the father, he would call out to his mother 
from the foot of the stairs some protest against an imaginary 
act, the more irritating because undeserved. One word led to 
another, much to the glee of the concocter, and, indeed, also 
of the father as soon as he became alive to the trick.^ 

* Other members of the family besides Wat Burke showed that marvellous 
humour which descended to our hero. Augustus Burke, familiarly known as 
•Augy,* performed many tricks on his townsfolk, which Mr. Lynch often 
heard the Dominican beg his father to recount. So confidently is the following 
attributed in Galway to • Father Tom's boyhood * that we at first expressly gave 
it to him in this page ; but rigid tests at last dethroned it : — 

A tinker named Greene lived in a cellar and exhibited at his door for sale 
crubeens, lobsters, and eggs, not of the freshest. Like Bill Sykes, a dog usually 
attended him. One day when ' Bounce * was meandering, Augy Burke tied to 


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* Nicholas was gifted with the power of being able to catch any 
form of sound, and reproduce it to perfection/ writes Canon Burke. 
' From the crow of a cock to the cackle of a hen, from the volubility 
of the turkey to the chirp of the goldfinch, he puzzled the neighbours 
by his vocal tricks.' In this respect, at least, he did not resemble 
Sl Guthlac, of whom it is recorded : * Non variorum volucrum di- 
versos crocitus, ut adsolet ilia aetas, imitabatur.' 

A community of nuns at Galway, who had survived the 
rigours of the Penal Laws, possessed some energetic habits 
which nowadays would not be found in their more gentle 

From my boyhood (said Fr. Burke) I had a keen sense of the 
ludicrous. When acting as an acolyte something occurred which 
stirred my risible faculties. One of the Dominican nuns brought me 
into the Convent and gave me a beating. Sobbing I went home to 
my mother: *0h! my blessed boy,' she cried, *did the lord's 
anointed lay their hands on you ? ' * 

He remarked that on a subsequent occasion he had been 
beaten in error by the same nun, and she said, *I am 
very sorry for the mistake, Nicholas, but your own good sense 
will tell you that often when you richly deserved a whip- 
ping you escaped.* Mrs. Burke finally felt grateful to the 

his tail a can and then hastened to the tinker's to watch the result. Soon the dog 
was in full speed, followed by bo]rs, with wild halloos, flinging missiles. Down 
rushed Bounce into his master's den, overturning lobsters, cans, kettles, crubeens, 
eggs, and dust-pans. The tinker, suspecting Augy Burke, hurled a lobster at his 
head, and amid renewed uproar chased him to the Claddagh. 

Galwegians to this day give * Father Tom * the credit of the following inci- 
dent ; but on strict inquiry it appears that of this Augy Burke was also the hero. 
Old Wat Burke, while tears streamed down his cheeks with laughter, used to tell 
his son for the hundredth time the adventure of ' Uncle Augy : ' — 

A large heap of manure remained exposed in one of the back streets of the 
andeot town. The owner was urged to remove it, but in vain. Burke on a 
market day affected to sell it, and an amusing altercation subsequently took place 
at the heap between two men who had brought carts, each believing himself the 
buyer. A crowd collected, and in the midst of the row the owner appeared, 
demanding to know 'Who dar sell his dung?* *I'd almost say that is he,' 
replied one of the buyers, pointing to Burke, ' only the man who sould it to me 
was blind of an eye.' 

* When telling this story Fr. Burke sometimes said * the Spouse of the Lord* 
—which is more likely to have been the phrase Mrs. Burke used. 


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energetic sister. Some years before his death Fr. Burke, his 
mother, and the nun met The incident he himself described. 
• You ought to throw yourself on your knees in gratitude to 
this goQpl nun, who by her correction has helped to make you 
what you are.' 

Wat Burke was the senior of his wife. He was a little 
thick-set man, and his son, after silently studying him for 
some minutes, asked, * Was it his dancing, or what, that 
took your fancy, mother.^' His family, however, say they 
never saw him dance, though his small feet seemed naturally 
formed for * steps.' 

Music was Wat's ruling passion. His worthy friend Andrew 
Lynch has often seen him, his hand reposing in his breast, 
slowly follow a ballad-singer from street to street, and com- 
pletely absorbed in the song. And it is to be feared that 
while the burnmg words of the minstrel lured him onward, 
the staff of life was sometimes suffered to bum in the oven. 

In the father's footsteps the son followed. His sister 
Mary tells that Fr. Burke, when one day hurrying to keep 
some important appointment, happening to hear a minstrel 
play an air from Meyerbeer's PropMte^ in the streets of 
Rome, stood spell-bound, and lost his appointment. 

When we consider the nature of music (says Fr. Burke), the 
philosophy of music, do we not find that it is of all other appeals to the 
senses the most spiritual j that it is of all other appeals to the soul the 
most powerful ; that it operates not as much by the mode of reflec- 
tion as in exciting the memory and the imagination, causing the 
spirit and the affections of men to rise to nobler efforts, and to thrill 
with sublime emotions and influences ? And, therefore, I say it is of 
all other sciences the most noble and the most godlike, and the 
grandest that can be cultivated by man on this earth. 

He went on to say that he was not speaking of the laboured 
compositions of some great master — of a wonderful Mass or 
a grand oratorio — works that appeal to the ear refined and 
attuned by culture — works that delight the critic. 


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I speak of the song that lives in the hearts and voices of the 
people, the true national minstrelsy that comes down traditionally 
from remote ages, until, in a more cultivated era, it is interpreted 
into written characters, and then the world discovers beautiful 
melody in the music that has been murmured in our mountain 
valleys for hundreds and thousands of years. 

Speaking of the passion of Irishmen for music, and how 
It helped to relieve care, he said : — 

Over and over again, on a Saturday, when the market day in 
Galway had closed, and when perhaps the evening was wet, I have 
seen some poor man returning home, walking along by the side of 
his little cart ; and whilst the miserable horse was often hungry and 
inclined to stand on the way, I have heard this poor man crooning 
an old song, the beast with ears hanging down wending its weary 

Wat Burke did not know any musical instrument scien- 
tifically, but he taught his daughter Maiy by ear a large 
ripertoire of fine Irish airs, which she still performs on the, 
piano. He was delighted to welcome the humblest musical 
talent. A poor man used regularly to wait upon him to play 
on the flute what is described as ' the most doleful of airs.' 
Wat sat out the performance quite as much from a sense 
of duty as from pleasure. One day he was sitting at his shop 
door, when a piper began to play. * It strikes me,' said Wat, 
' that it is thirty years since I heard you play ; where have 
you been since .^ ' * In America.' ' And in all that time have 
you learned no new air ? ' ' Not one,' said the piper. As 
years advanced and decades gathered he became a little 
absent — finally a little childish, and tears fell as some plain- 
tive song, familiar in boyhood, caught his ear. He sang many 
Irish ditties, 

but in no song (observes Mr. Lynch) was he more effective than in a 
ballad which narrated feelingly the fall of Dr. Butler, Lord Dunboyne, 
whom he had seen officiate as Roman Catholic Bishop of Cork. He 
would describe him, mitre-crowned, singing the High Mass at St. 
Finbar's, and on a subsequent occasion conducting a lady from his 

' Speech at the concert for St. Xavier's Schools, Liverpool, October i8, 1880. 

VOL. I, C 


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carriage whom he married to perpetuate the peerage of Dunboyne. 
His recantation, the failure of all his plans, and his final return to 
the bosom of holy Church, were all sung with touching pathos by old 
Wat Burke. 

' The Jolly Miller ' and * The Miller and his Men ' were 
very favourite songs fifty years ago. Some people seem to 
have supposed that so musical a baker must necessarily be a 
miller, and we have heard persons who visited Galway de- 
scribe his big wheel near the bridge, suggestive of that in La 
Sonnambula. But that wheel was not Wat Burke's, and he 
was a miller only so far that he often bought the rough grain 
in the market and then sent it to the mill to be ground. 

He was a large-hearted man, and his generosity to all was 
restrained only by the limitation of his means. In his wife he 
found a worthy ally. After her marriage she became a 
member of the Sodality of Mount Carmel at the Augustinian 
Friary, and daily heard Mass there. Galway then, as now, 
abounded in professional beggars, but her motto was, * Give 
unto all, lest he whom you refuse should be Christ' When 
going out she would bring a bag of coppers with her, and 
' feed the beggars the whole way.' 

How different was all this to the cruel trick which 
Colonel O'Malley played on the beggars of Galway ! They 
had often worried him, and at last he told them to meet him 
at his hotel next morning at ten. They assembled in their 
hundreds, some borne on the backs of others, all full of fer- 
vent praise of O'Malley, only to find the heartless humourist 
on the balcony of the hotel with a Bible in his hand, and 
swearing by its contents that while he lived he would not give 
one of them a penny.* 

» We owe to Dr. Burke, Local Government Board Inspector, this and some 
other curious traits of a bygone type of humourist. He adds that O'Malley had no 
sooner spoken than the surging crowd, as if by one impulse, fell on their knees 
and cursed him. Whenever the mail-coach containing 0*Malley would stop to 
change horses all the beggars thronged to the windows, some trying to arouse his 
attention by prodding him with their homy fingers. He would rapidly raise the 
glass, and by squeezing their fingers compel them to withdraw. One old crone 


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To the solemnity of Margaret Burke her worthy husband 
presented a marked contrast Miss Bridget Burke informs 
us that such was the congeniality of disposition between old 
Wat and his son that they seemed more like brothers. Often 
she has seen them walking together, the son laughing im- 
moderately at the sire's stories, and vice vcrsd, 'You'll be 
the ruin of that boy, teaching him such folly ; why not show 
him an example of gravity and decorum ? ' became a daily 
remonstrance with old Mrs. Burke. This sort of intercourse 
continued for years ; and when in the zenith of his fame 
Fr. Burke visited his aged father, he would amiably encourage 
the more than twice-told tales by counterfeiting fits of laughter. 

It will be remembered that Margaret Burke's race — the 
MacDonoughs — hailed from Connemara. Fr. Burke told the 
Rev. D. Mulcahy that her relatives, whenever they paid her a 
visit at Galway, always knelt down and recited with her the 
* Rosary * in Irish, and that their very name Donoch was 
derived from * Domnach,' signifying ' Sunday.* 

Andy MacDonough acquired by his gravity quite a 
judicial repute. He lived at Killeen, in the barony of Dun- 
kellin. No Petty Sessions Court was held nearer than Spiddal, 
a distance of nine miles. A dispute about a goose. once 
arose, which cost the litigants lo/. owing to adjournments of 
the case. It was finally agreed upon by the people that 
henceforth Andy MacDonough should decide all disputes. He 
regularly held his Arbitration Court, the chair supported on 
either side by the local priests. Fathers Quinn and O'Dwyer.^ 

tied a doth round her wrist and protruded her hand for a coin. It held its position 

stoutly. ' I swear by this book,' he said, * thgt never ' 'Don't swear,* she 

said, * your honour's word is as good. * 

• Fr. Quinn— now the esteemed Pastor of Oranmore, to whom we owe this 
fact — is the cousin of Fr. Burke. 

How is it that the Burkes, unlike the MacDonoughs, were noted for pleasant 
baoyancy ? Those who have heard the lecture of Dr. Geikie, F.R.S., on * Types 
of Landscape : their Origin and Influence on Human Temperament and History,' 
may seek in his arguments for some solution of the divergent natures which 
marked the two races. The Donochs, or MacDonoughs, hailed from the Irish 
Highlands. 'The Highlander,' says Dr. Geikie, 'found himself pent up in 

C 2 


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* I remember a time in my life when not one word of the 
English I now speak to you was on these lips, but only the 
sweet old rolling Celtic tongue that my father and mother 
spoke before me.* These words occur in Fr. Burke's lecture 
at New York on St. Laurence OToole. Knowing how 
generally English was spoken at Galway, this statement led 
us to make some inquiry. ' Nicholas/ writes Canon Burke, 
' was put out to nurse at Oranmore, where he remained until, 
at least, his fifth year. He heard no language spoken but the 
Irish, and his childish prattle was lisped in it.' He eventually 
acquired a command of the vernacular; and we learn from 
one of his American interviewers that * among the poems which 
he first committed to memory were the most popular of 
Archbishop MacHale's Irish translations of the Melodies.' 
Luckily he did not live in the days of Edward III., when, as 
he tells us in replying to Mr. Froude, 

Lionel, Duke of Clarence, the King's son, came to Ireland and 
held a Parliament, and passed, among other laws : * If any man speak 
the Irish language, or be found keeping company with the Irish, or 
adopting Irish customs, his lands shall be taken from him and 
forfeited to the Crown of England.' 

Galway suffered forty y^ars ago from the inconvenience 
of having no water supply for the houses of the citizens, unless 
by the purchase of bucketfuls from men who fetched it through 
the streets. A wild member of the craft was known by the 
nickname of * Ma-the-bucket.' Whenever Nicholas Burke or 

narrow glens and surrounded by sombre mountains, and bad to make out his 
existence from a stony soil in a wet and cheerless climate. The natural charac- 
teristics of the race had been consequently replaced in his case by a serious tinge 
of melancholy deepening into gloom and a sternness of character. Those in- 
fluences were even traceable in the features of different people. In the Highlands 
th? grim-set, clenched aspect of the faces was suggestive of strife with the sur- 
rounding elements. He had been told that where the country was very flat, the 
people all had a broad grin more or less stamped on their faces, and the reason 
given for it was that the roads were very straight, and people meeting each other 
recognised one another so far off before they met that the smile of recognition 
gradually developed into a grin, and this had become confirmed in the features of 
the inhabitants all about the place. The characteristics of landscape had alsp 
aflectcd the poetry and the literature of districts.' 


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•the GALWAY curse/ 21 

others shouted out this nickname, it stung him to fury. Lay- 
ing down his buckets on the pavement, and seizing up stones, 
clods, turf, and sometimes even bad fish, he hurled them after 
those who manifested disrespect. He was quite regardless 
whom he hit, and the innocent sometimes suffered while * the 
lads ' escaped. Indeed, it more than once happened that while 

• Ma' was directing a fusillade in front, his arch-foe got rapidly 
round by a detour to the rear, and upset the contents of his 

Another odd character was a cobbler who worked at a 
stall exposed in the street He was known only by the nick- 
name * Egypt,' and Burke when passing always greeted him 
by it The cobbler would start up, drop the brogue he was 
hammering, and, seizing his great knife, rush down the street 
in pursuit. These scenes, in addition to the comicality of a 
pantomime, bore at times the glow of actual battle. • By the 
people,' Fr. Burke said, * I was more than once threatened 
with the Galway Curse.' * And what might that be ?* * Itching 
without scratching,' was its rude translation. 

Some of the queer people that thronged Galway in those 
days were idiots whom the county asylums have since 
received. Fr. Burke told his cousin the priest that, inte- 
rested by his father's stories, and retaining himself piquant 
recollections of several queer fellows, he, long after, accosted 
a survivor of the band, and asked what had become of • Dick.' 

• Ah, yer reverence,* was the reply, * he left Galway about the 
same time as yourself and another fool.' 

There were other strange characters and customs which 
Fr. Burke must be allowed to describe. Condemning at 
Hartford, U.S., a boast often heard — ' This is a free country, 
where we can all do as we like ' — he said — 

When I was a young boy, a beggar in the West of Ireland was in 
the habit of threatening people. He would meet a man or a woman 
in a lonely place, and walk up and say : * Give me something, or 
else ' (drawing off in a menacing attitude). One day a burly fellow 


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as big as he was met him. The beggar drew up as usual and said c 

* Give me something, or else ' *0r else what?' thundered the 

other. *0r else I shall have to go without it/ said the beggar, 
viewing the strong shoulders before him. In those days beggars 
were the only free men in the land. One of them went into a 
farmer's house, and sat down to the table and helped himself without 
saying as much as * By your leave.* He stayed several days, till 
finally the farmer said : ' As you have taken so much- liberty, I will 
take the liberty to kick you out,' which he did.* 

Fr. Burke went on to say that liberty does not consist in 
every man doing what he likes. Liberty consisted in every 
man, high or low, having his own rights, knowing them, and 
being protected in the exercise of them. He added that he 
would rather live in Russia with three rights than in a country 
where every one could do as he pleased. 

Scattered through his discourses, delivered in many lands, 
homely pictures are found which may be pressed into the 
mosaic of his life. That the innocently wild boy was yet an 
observant boy, and could think deeply, is shown in some of 
those retrospects. In the midst of his grandest orations his 
voice would suddenly drop to trace some grotesque image. 
After describing the nobility of man, made in the image 
and likeness of God, he drew a picture of the victim of 

Stand over him, my friends, and look at him as he lies there. 
Speak to him. You might as well speak to a corpse. Reason with 
him. You might as well reason with that table. Ask him to look 
at you. There is no light in his eyes. Did you ever see a man 
stupidly drunk and look into his eyes? I remember, when I was a 
little boy, seeing, at home, in the kitchen, in Galway, hanging up on 
a hook behind the kitchen door, a hake, that my mother had bought 
the day before. I was curious enough to go up and look at its eyes. 
It had been dead about twelve hours. That same day I saw a man 
drunk, lying in the gutter. Boy as I was, I said to myself, * The 
hake's eye again ! ' * 

Lecturing on the ' Evils of Ireland and their Remedy ' at 

• * On Civil and Religious Liberty.* 

* * Drunkenness the Worst Degradation,' New Jersey, September 17, 1872. 


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Harlem, U.S., October 14, 1872, he alludes to *his grand- 
father/ who seems to have been in arms in '98. His hearers 
were democratic, and as usual he sought to enlist the sympa- 
thies of his audience. 

I remember, when I was a boy, hearing at my own home the whole 
story, from an old grandfather, who was himself a strong man in '98 
and saw the whole thing pass before his eyes ; and he said these 
words — that the united effort would have been successful, but * the 
boys' got drunk. It was the drink that filled the river Slaney with 
Irish dead bodies on the day when they made their last stand on 
Vinegar Hill. 

Three days after, lecturing at New York, he said : ' My 
fathers before me were the sufferers, and I myself have beheld 
the remnants of their sorrow.' 

The dark era of the Rebellion Wat Burke remembered 
with that mingled tear and smile in his eye which descended 
as a little heirloom to his son. Lecturing on the Church at 
Brooklyn, U.S., in 1872, Fr. Burke mentioned : — 

There was a fool in the county of Galway in '98, the * year of the 
troubles,' and General Merrick went down to Galway and com- 
manded the troops. They were hanging the people then. The fool 
saw the General ride up with his cocked hat and the white feather in 
it, at the head of his troops. The fool made a cocked hat for him- 
self, and put a white feather in it. Then he walked around the town 
and said he was General Merrick. 

Father Burke told this in reply to an evangelical opponent 
who, denying Catholic infallibility, claimed himself the right 
to guide, to lead, and to teach. 

It is about this time that he is described by his kinswoman 
the nun as going into the street as a ballad- singer, his features 
disguised by a slouched hat, and his purpose kept a secret 
from the family. He moved on slowly, carolling the while, 
followed by a small crowd, until he at last halted before the 
parental homestead. Wat Burke, a man inferior to his wife 
in acumen, happened to be at his door, and was so moved by 
the ditty that, not suspecting who the recipient was, he pressed 
some money into the singer's hand. 


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His next freak was to counterfeit the appearance of one 
of the grotesque cripples with which Galway, even to this 
day, is full. But his sister Mary is not aware of his attempt- 
ing the trick on anyone except his father, along the step of 
whose door he stretched himself one evening when the old 
man was seen in the distance wending his way home. 

* Nicholas must go to school,' said Mrs. Burke sternly ; 
and accordingly he was placed under the preceptorial care 
of Mr. Magrath. This man, who partook of the character- 
istics of Mr. Wackford Squeers, liked to inflict corporal chas- 
tisement on his pupils. Learning and blows were with him 
almost convertible terms. *If I cannot drive it into your 
head, Til drive it into you somewhere/ was a phrase of his 
as stroke after stroke fell on the screaming victim. 

Old Magrath and his eldest son (writes Mr. Winston Dugan) 
were two very queer-looking men — awkward, ugly, ungainly — real 
old types of the pedagogue. Their school was in Cross Street 
Burke was constantly mimicking and playing tricks such as he well 
knew how upon these men. 

Among the schoolboys was Mr. J. J. Brady, now C.E., 

One day (Mr. Brady says) Magrath struck with a blackthorn 
a youth named Bodkin. Before a second blow could fall a small 
ink-bottle was hurled against Magrath's nose. The name of the 
child who threw it did not fully transpire, but it is my full impres- 
sion that the lucky interposition was accomplished by Burke. 

The circumstances under which Burke left Magrath's 
school nmst not be concealed. This man had a dog of un- 
prepossessing aspect. By dint of dividing his lunch with it, 
however, Burke was able to take liberties which others dare 
not attempt. An apartment off the schoolroom, known as 
' the masther's sanctum,' contained a pile of slates and books, 
surrounded by ink jars, and some eatables so placed that they 
might be out of the dog's reach. Nicholas got half a dozen 
school slates, and passing a string through the orifice of each, 


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tied them to the tail of Magrath's dog. Away ran the 
animal with deafening din until, penetrating the sanctum, 
he overturned with a crash the crazy pyramid just described. 
Straightway Mr. Magrath sallied forth, his brows black as 
midnight Citing Nicholas before his terrible tribunal, he 
ordered him to be stripped and to be placed on the back of 
Magrath, jun., in order to afford facilities for the applica- 
tion of the rod already in pickle. Retreat was hopeless. But 
young Burke was equal to the occasion. He placed firmly 
between his teeth a pin, to be used as a wasp wields his sting. 
He was duly hoisted — a blow fell heavily. The sufferer 
seemed to kiss, not the rod, but the back of the neck of 
Magrath's son. The latter screeched, dropped his burthen, 
and ran down Buttermilk Lane yelling, followed by Nicholas, 
the schoolmaster himself, and most of his pupils.^ Nicholas 
fled on, got into Lombard Street Churchyard, thence into 
Cross Street, Magrath still in pursuit, till Burke dodged him 
by rushing through a drove of pigs going towards the quay, 
and afterwards escaping by some of the lanes of Middle Street. 

If, as has been seen, two of the tricks hitherto fathered on 
our hero failed to stand the searching inquiry we prosecuted 
on the spot, there are fully half-a-dozen in which an act of 
faith may be made. 

The child one day observing an empty cart which had 
just delivered its load of turf, jumped into it, and, whilst the 
owner was taking a drink, beat the donkey into a canter for 
the sake of a jaunt. When Nicholas returned to the starting 
point the driver struck him across his face with a whip. The 
boy proceeded homeward, debating in his mind how best to 
punish this cruel carter. 

A citizen resided near the Burkes who did not hesitate to 
comport himself haughtily towards the hope of their house.* 

• This is given on the authority of Father Kernan, an esteemed priest of 
Gal way, who retired from the mission and joined the Patrician Brothers. He 
was present when the strange scene occurred. 

' Hardiman tells us, in 1820, that the Gal way merchants were famous for 


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He had just got his hall-door painted a gaudy colour, and 
the boy resolved to give him and the turf man a touch at the 
same time. He watched for the carter until he again 
happened to enter the town with turf. Affecting to have 
been sent, he offered the man one shilling less for his load 
than was at first asked, and said he would not put him to the 
trouble of carrying it in by baskets, but that he might upset 
his load at the hall door, which, he added, could be easily 
distinguished by its brilliant hue. The rude man from the bogs 
overturned his load right against the freshly varnished door, 
raising at the same time a cloud of bog-dust. Under cover 
of this, Nicholas fled with all his might, while the master of 
the house rushed out, collared the carter, and lashed his back 
soundly for what he regarded as a most exasperating outrage. 
Meanwhile Nicholas was in full speed, his heart beating 
wildly, when on turning a comer he ran full tilt against the 
imposing person of Father Rush, the Prior of the Dominicans, 
and who will be found later on receiving him into their Order. 
The boy struck headforemost in very much the style that a 
negro charges his foe. 'What I Nicholas,' exclaimed the 
good friar, as soon as he had recovered his breath from the 
effects of the collision, * this looks badly. What means 
yonder crowd, and wherefore such anxiety to get away }* 

The boy having made a clean breast. Father Rush took 
him by the hand into his mother's house. He told her with 
great gravity all that had occurred, and urged her to keep 
Nicholas somewhat more within doors. Father Rush had no 
sooner retired than Mrs. Burke brought her son into an 
inner room, where, locking the door, she knelt down and 
began the prayer, ' Direct, O Lord, our actions and carry them 
on by Thy gracious assistance,' &c. 

* When I saw my mother enter the room,' said Fr. Burke as 
he told the story, ' make the sign of the Cross, and solemnly 

pride ; but he adds, * This empty quality is gradually disappearing '—one, we may 
add, characteristic of the old Spaniards. 


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invoke the light of the Holy Ghost to direct her, I knew I 
could expect no mercy ; I never got such a beating as that one 
directed by the Holy Spirit, and I have never forgotten it' 

* I got another flogging/ he said, ' simply because I was 
not like Eustace Murphy.' This was the model youth in 
Galway. He was senior to Nicholas, and, at an early age, 
entered the ecclesiastical state. 

Bodily fears were now succeeded by supernatural ones. 
When delivering a pleasant lecture in England he referred to 
the Irish faculty of realising the unseen, from which arose 
the excrescence of superstition. He spoke of the fairies and 
peshouges which plagued the lives of Irish children. If a 
green tuft of grass was seen in a meadow, not only the 
children who were foolish, but also the old men and women 
would tell you that *the good people were dancing there.' 
If a child seemed wasting away, the mother would be easily 
persuaded that it was not her child at all that was there — 
that, in fact, the ' good people ' had spirited away her beautiful 
baby and left this sickly child in its place.* 

In the year 1830 Brother Paul O'Connor, armed with the 
' God speed ' of Bishop Doyle, proceeded from TuUow to 
Galway, and there founded the Brotherhood of St. Patrick, 
an educational body having for its object the preservation 
of youth from the contagion of vice. Mrs. Burke placed her 
boy under the special care of Brother Paul. It is right to 
add that though the instruction of the poor was ostensibly the 
mission of the monks of SL Patrick, a special arrangement 
was made whereby Wat Burke acknowledged handsomely 
the care bestowed upon his son, and in point of fact, with the 
exception of Magrath's, no other school existed at this time 
in Galway.* 

* Lecture at Liverpool for All Souls' Schools, October 5, 1880. 

' It has been said that, notwithstanding the atmosphere of decorum breathed 
under the monastic rule of Brother Paul, Burke's nature still remained untamed. Mr. 
Dugan, who knew him well in early life, has furnished an anecdote on the authority 
of another which we are inclined to think may be a confused version of the 


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' I was the monitor of Nicholas Burke in Brother Paul's 
school/ writes a man who has attained in another walk high 
distinction. * He was then not more than nine years of age, 
and to my mind a singularly handsome boy. We did not 
meet again until 1864 in Rome, when I became sincerely 
attached to him.' * 

Replying to the Galway address and presentation on his 
return from America, in March 1873, Father Burke said : — 

I have been in many climes and have visited many lands, and 
nothing that I ever heard could be compared in value to the words 
of wisdom that fell from the lips of Brother Paul O'Connor. 

And again : — 

In some of the great cities of America that I visited I often 
witnessed with regret the indifference to religion of people of other 
countries. Not so with Irishmen. As soon as it was announced that 
Father Tom Burke was to preach, every Galway man came to hear 
him ; and when the faithful Irish people thronged around me, and 
received my name with applause, I valued it only inasmuch as it 

incident at Magrath*s school. <A few days ago I was speaking to one of 
the brothers attached to the monastery in Galway, who confirmed the reports 
of young Burke's boyish freaks. One day Burke played some practical joke 
so audacious that Brother Paul, the Superior, pursued him through the rooms 
and from thence into various ramifications of streets.' On my submitting the 
story to the Vice-Guardian of the Patrician Brothers at Galway, he was 
disposed to doubt it — firstly, because during the many years he was associated 
with Paul O'Connor he never heard him allude to any such incident ; and 
secondly, the attitude imputed to him was entirely at variance with his character 
and system. A notice of Fr. Burke, written by Mr. Edmund O' Flaherty, who 
knew O'Connor well, says that he was < a monk of much learning, love, and 
patience, the three great characteristics of a teacher.' Whether he would have 
deserted the several hundred pupils who comprised his school for the purpose 
of pursuing one through a labyrinth of streets, is a question which, though 
it may be argued on the probabilities, cannot be settled by any appeal to direct 
evidence. We have been given the privilege of access to the papers of Brother 
Paul O'Connor, and have found several remarkable letters from Dr. Doyle. One 
thus concludes : — 

* Be always lenient to the children, and not angry even with the perverse ; 
don't hope to make them all good, nor require the practice of much piety from 
any of them, lest the yoke of religion become heavy to them ; rather permit than 
encourage the devotions of those whom nature may dispose to be fervent. In 
all things have a firm reliance on God.' 

* Letter of Marquis Oliver, San Francisco, November 7, 1883. 


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proved the love they had for the Catholic Church, of which I 
am a priest, and for our dear mother Erin, whose child I am ; 
but when they would crown me with honour, I laid that crown first 
at the feet of Almighty God, and then at the feet of Brother Paul 

This school was, indeed, the cradle of his career. 

Among the proudest recollections of my life (he continues) is 
that I was monitor of No. 7 in this school, and that month after 
month I came to Brother Paul to answer the inquiry made in a 
gentle whisper, * whether I had attended my monthly confession and 
communion,' and how he taught me that next to the God that made 
me I should love the Old Land of my birth. 

Part of Paul O'Connor's work was to organise a society 
known as * the Aloysian,' for the practical training of youth 
in Christian morality. This young Burke joined in 1841, 
and it may be mentioned that since its foundation it has 
given sixty priests to the Church. How Paul prospered so 
signally in his good work seems little short of a miracle. 
When he first arrived in Galway, his old pass-book records, 
' Cash in hand one shilling ! ' This institute throve so 
marvellously that in 1846 we find him able to instruct and 
feed 1,020 boys. 

It was stated in different obituaries of Burke, and even in 
a separate brochure, that he attended the High School of 
Erasmus Smith. This statement gave some annoyance to 
Fr. Burke's famil}-, and they desire to give jt emphatic con- 
tradiction. So uncompromising were his mother's principles, 
that she would be about the last to place her son in any 
school not under Catholic supervision. 

Now, in order that education may be bad (he says), it is not 
necessary to teach the child anything bad. In order to make 
education bad, it is quite enough to neglect the religious portion of 
the education. By that very defect the education becomes bad. 
And why ? Because such is our nature — such the infirmity of our 
fallen state — such the atmosphere of the scenes in which we live 
in this world — such the power of the agencies that are busily at work 


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for our destruction, that, educate the child as carefully as you may, 
surround him with the holiest influences, fill him with the choicest 
graces, you still run great risks that, some day or other, the serpent 
of sin will gain an entrance into that young soul in spite of you. 
How much more if that young heart be not replenished with Divine 
grace 1 How much more if that young soul be not fenced round 
by a thousand appliances and a thousand defences against its 
enemies ! And thus do we see that the principle of bad education 
is established the moment the strong religious element is removed. 

Thus he spoke at New York in a lecture on 'The 
Catholic Church.' Another, which has never been reprinted 
outside that city, furnishes an important anecdote. This 
anecdote we find translated into Dutch in a memoir of Fr. 
Burke, * by W. Van Nieuwenhoff, 'sHertogenbosch, W. Van 
Gulick, 1882.* 

Both here and in Ireland we have to bear the common burden 
of State education, which is hard, especially when we cannot avail 
ourselves of it. Not only in America, but in the old land, it is too 
bad that Catholics cannot send their children to the Queen's College 
or the Model School ; indeed, I remember a man coming into our 
house when I was being educated, and he said to my mother, * A 
great fool you are, paying 12/. a year for a classical education for 
your son, when, if you send him to the Queen's College he will be 
educated for nothing; and if he gets a prize he will bring you home 
twenty pounds.' * He will bring me home twenty pounds ! ' exclaimed 
my mother. * Not for ten thousand pounds would I allow him to cross 
the threshold of their Queen's College ; for the lessons that I want 
my child to be taught are that he shall know his duty to God and his 
duty to me ; and there he won't be taught either one or the other.* * 

My recollections of Fr. Burke date from a very early period of his 
life (writes Mr. Charles Dugan in a document whose important details 
are reserved for later stages of this narrative). At that time Galway was 
not well supplied with schools for Roman Catholics, and all boys of 
that persuasion who pretended to receive any sort of liberal educa- 
tion met together at one school.^ 

The scarcity of good schools was one of the direst effects 

» * The Catholic View of Education.* Lecture at St. John's College, 
Brooklyn, U.S. A 

» Letter of C. W. Dugan, Esq., Adelaide House, Clonmcl, October 6, 1883. 


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of the Penal Code. Fr. Burke, in his lecture on *Thc 
Genius of the Irish People/ says : ' The worst law that ever 
England made was that enacted during the penal times, by 
which it was declared that if an Irish Catholic father sent his 
son or daughter to an Irish Catholic school, that man became 
guilty of felony, and liable to transportation.' 

Dr. Johnson has said that * not to describe the schools or 
the masters of illustrious men is a kind of historical fraud by 
which honest fame is injuriously diminished.' The reader 
must, therefore, breathe a little longer the close atmosphere of 
the schoolroom. 

At a time when Tyrone Power was drawing crowded 
houses to see him play *Dr. O'Toole, the Irish Tutor,* a 
veritable Dr. OToole opened school at Galway, and acquired 
popularity and support. But the Galway pedagogue was a 
distinguished D.D., and afterwards became Vice-President of 
the Queen's College. His school, which Nicholas Burke is 
now found attending, was the most ambitious academic step 
ever attempted in Galway. 

There (observes Mr. John J. Brady, C.E.), Burke made the most 
marvellously rapid progress, leaving all his schoolfellows far behind. 
He ran through the Greek grammar at a stroke. He was brightness 
itself, and in all studies threw us into the shade. His good nature 
was equal to his genius, specially in showing those less gifted how to 
construe and master their often tough tasks. Bryan OToole, the 
brother of the principal, taught him French, and was a highly per- 
fumed pftif mai/re^ whom Burke nicknamed * Briney.' A boarding- 
school was attached, and on the common playground Burke was the 
life and soul of his companions. Football and hurling were favourite 
games with him. 

He greatly amused us by his stories and powers of mimicry, and 
even the Sanctuary was penetrated by his searching eye. One day 
he would be Bishop O'Donnell singing the * Ite, Missa est' On the 
next he would treat us to a sermon from Dr. Kirwan, marked by all the 
peculiarities of style that rendered him the most powerful preacher 
of his day. But his personation of Dr. O'Toole amused us most be- 
cause it came thoroughly home to us all. In assuming those various 


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characters, his power was such that the very shape of his features 
wholly changed, and we forgot in the contemplation of those matured 
portraits the fragile figure which produced them. 

Galway priests describe Bishop O'Donnell as a splendid 
vocalist The boy, therefore, found as grand an exemplar in 
that line as was Kirwan in the other.* 

In reading these descriptions of our friar preacher in boy- 
hood, one is forcibly reminded of the great Dominican,. St. 
Vincent Ferrer. 

The boys of his own age (we learn) looked up to him more as a 
master than an equal. St. Vincent, having great facility for imitation, 
would frequently assemble his companions, and, assuming the gestures 
and manners of the different preachers in the town, would repeat 
parts of the sermons he had heard, together with stories, which were 
certain to interest his youthful audience.* 

The aptitude for learning described by his schoolfellows 
would seem to have been hereditary with the Burkes. Some 
of his race, too, had become priests, and in sight of the gibbet 
had preached the Gospel. More than one had passed through 
the vicissitudes of the poor scholar. Of these a glimpse is 
caught in a lecture on the ' Irish People,' delivered in New 
York :— 

In spite of imprisonment and fines, the Irish people, who never 
have been serfs, refused to be the slaves of ignorance, In the worst 
day of our persecution and misery, there was one man who was 
always respected next to the priest ; and that was the 'poor scholar,' 
with a few books under his arm, going from one farm-house to the 
other, with a * God save all here ! ' He got the best of the house, 
the best bed, the cosiest place in the straw-chair. And the children 
were all called in from the neighbouring houses and from the village. 

* Fr. MuUins, now Dominican Prior of Galway, attended in 1843 at some 
examinations which were given at Dr. OToole's academy. Among the boys 
called up, Fr. Mullins was particularly attracted by the answering of *Wat 
Burke's son.* He was examined first in science and afterwards in Homer, 
Cicero, Virgil, and Sallust. The boy proved \i\m?jAi facile princeps. Bishop 
O'Donnell cordially congratulated him when presenting successively fourteen 

* Dominican Saints, p. 73. 


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He could spend a week from one house to another. Each was 
turned into a school-house at times Hence I have known men — 
old men of my own family — who remembered 1782. I have seen 
them, when a child, in their old age, and these men, brought up in 
days of penal persecution, with its enforced ignorance, were first- 
class controversialists. They knew how to read and write ; they knew 
Dr. O'Gallagher's sermons by heart. No swaddling minister could 
hold his ground five minutes before them. 

Another American lecture, which took a fling at the law 
of divorce, said : — 

The seed to be planted — the formation of the soul— is in the 
mother's hands ; and therefore it is that the character of the child 
mainly depends on the formation which the mother -gives it. The 
father is engaged in his office, or at his work, all the day long. His 
example, whether for good or bad, is not constantly before the obser- 
vant eyes of the child as is that of the mother. All depends upon 
the mother ; and it is of vital importance that that mother should 
blend in herself all that is pure, holy, and loving, and that she 
be assured of the sanctity of her position, of which the Church 
assures her by the indissoluble nature of the marriage tie. 

Jealous lest the vocation which she hoped to see develop 
should be in any way imperilled, his pious mother watched 
over him like a guardian angel. The organ of the Irish 
priesthood and people, in an able notice of Fr. Burke's career, 
stated that he possessed a wealth of irrepressible and even 
boisterous mirth, that made the wiseacres shake their sapient 
heads and mumble that * the contemplated vocation of the 
youth was not what nature had intended him for.* ^ 

» Mrs. Manning, in a brochure of some hundred verses, makes the same 
statement : — 

* They shook their heads and looked most wnse, 

And more than one foretold 
That, in the flashing of those eyes, 
As he some story told, 

* They read vocation not so high, 

Nor deep, nor broad, nor long, 
As that he chose for bye-and-bye 
From mother^s words and song. ' 

VOL. I. D 


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This passage has been reprinted in a brochure largely 
circulating, and by some readers has been misunderstood. 
Lest worse should be inferred, it is well to make a completely 
clean breast as regards those pranks which pained his mother. 
He smoked, and until five years before his death continued 
a smoker. He performed perilous passages as a swimmer. 
It is even said that one day he wandered from school to fish 
in Lough Corrib, and when asked if he caught anything, 
replied — ' Not until I got home.* He could thrash belligerent 
school-fellows, and continued to play practical jokes spiced 
with good-humoured mischief. 

Overflowing with vitality (writes Mr. Sherlock), he thought nothing 
of swimming, in conjunction with the more daring of his young 
companions, across the arm of Galway Bay that dips into the land 
close by the schools of Erasmus Smith, and on more than one occa- 
sion made the perilous passage in the depth of winter. ' 

He told his American friends that when playing among 
the ships in Galway Bay he would climb up the ladder-rigging, 
go out on the yard-arm, and drop into the sea. 

More than once Nicholas incurred chastisement for going 
to see a faction fight. When lecturing at St. Gabriers, New 
York, he spoke of the distinction won by Irishmen on every 
battle-field in the world, adding — 

Out of this very courage of our race there spring certain defects, 
just as we see that fairies, ghosts, and superstitions of that kind may 
even grow out of our exaggerated faith. I grant you that an Irish- 
man is a little too pugnacious. I myself have seen a fellow in 

' Fr. Burke, to the end of his life, was fond of swimming in the open sea. While 
thus employed fine thoughts swam through his surging brain. Thus, in his preface 
to the Cold and Alloy of his friend, Pere Monsabre, we find : * The ordinary 
man barely escapes sin, like a weak swimmer rising laboriously on a wave ; the 
saint dashes aside the temptation with a fury of energy, like a strong swimmer, 
who rises on the crest of the billow with brow erect and scarcely smitten with its 
spray. * 

Again, when lecturing on the * Church and Science,* at the Rotunda, 
Dublin, in 1874, he says that * there are two ways of going into the water. One 
man sneaks in, which is very uncomfortable. Another man gets upon a rock 
and boldly takes a " header." You will permit me, with your kind courtesy, to 
take a " header " into my subject this evening.* 


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Ireland trailing his coat after him through the streets of Galway, 
flourishing his stick, and asking everybody that passed, as a special 
favour, if he would not be kind enough to stand on the tail of it. 
But, after all, just as we see that there are some beautiful features 
attaching to their superstition, so there are fine features attaching to 
their courage, which often leads them to make a fight for the sake of 
the fight For instance, nothing is more common in Ireland, when 
a row is going on at a fair, when sticks are seen in the air and men 
are tumbling about on every side, than for a quiet, peaceable farmer, 
coming along with his scythe on his shoulder, to throw it down, 
quietly take off his coat, roll it up and place it on the roadside, then 
taking his stick, and, after looking on for a moment to see which side 
was winning, which was the weaker side, would then plunge into the 
thick of the fight and disable the first head that came to him. At 
any rate, it was a comfort to think that he hadn't the meanness to 
take the side which was ^tdnnibg. That is not an Irishman's way. 
When a side is winning because there is generally little fighting the 
other side want to run, but at Galway they go in for fighting and not 

The same lecture — which has been overlooked in the 
printed collection — reveals him in a more interesting attitude. 

Oh, how often have I spoken in Ireland with the father and the 
mother, left there in their old age, when the two or three strong, 
stalwart sons went away from them to America ! Oh, how often 
have I seen the eye brighten with pleasure when they told me that on 
such a day a letter would come that would bring them a little money 
and a little relief ! They were enabled to lean with perfect confidence 
upon the heart of that far-away, because that heart was the generous, 
manly heart of a Catholic Irishman. 

A large crowd was collected, in 1878, in front of the Jesuit 
Church at Galway, previous to the great sermon which Fr. 
Burke delivered on that occasion. An intelligent-looking 
old man surprised those about him by saying, ' There was a 
time when if I could have laid my hand on the same youth 
you would have had no sermon here to-day.* He was a 
retired nailer, and explained that his workshop stood in a 
recess partly under the road, to which he could only descend 
by a ladder-like gradation indented in the edge of a small 

D 2 


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cliflf. Nicholas Burke got a basket of rotten apples, with 
which from the road above he continued for ten minutes to 
pelt the nailer vigorously, leaving upon him marks seem- 
ingly sanguineous. The nailer declared that he never felt his 
gorge rise to such a pitch before or since. He placed in his 
furnace a rod of iron, with which when red hot he determined 
to scorch and sear his tormentor. Before this could be 
accomplished the ammunition of apples was exhausted, and 
the boy withdrew to achieve on another field some fresh feat. 

If brought to bay he was well able to hold his own. One 
of his schoolfellows at Dr. OToole's, Mr. Morris, now at 
the head of a Government department, and who himself 
supplies the anecdote, having indulged in some chaff, 
Burke gave him a sound beating. This incident created 
quite a local sensation. But the father of Mr. Morris took 
the matter so good-humouredly that when Wat Burke went 
to apologise for the assault committed by his son, old Mr. 
Morris said, * Devil mend him ! Why wasn't he able to box 
his share ? * Both boys became thoroughly attached friends. 
Mr. Morris states that Burke was the first who taught 
him to smoke. Much confidence and intercourse subsisted 
between them in after-life, and we owe to Mr. Morris different 
details elsewhere embodied.^ 

What ascetic, however exacting, would expect us to add 
that as his career advanced he disciplined and controlled 
such Celtic impulses as seemed to clash with the second 
Beatitude ? But strangers thought that they could discern 
a something in his face that, humble as he was, seemed 
at times to say, 'Nemo me impune lacessit' In 1873, at 
Galway, when receiving from his early instructor. Brother 

» In 1873, when about to visit Rome, he asked Burke if he could give him 
an introduction. *I know one right good fellow,' he replied, * and here is a 
letter you can give him.' * I thought he alluded to some genial Bohemian,' adds 
Mr. Morris, *and I never supposed he could have meant Cardinal Howard until I 
glanced at the superscription ; and the way in which hi:> Eminence honoured the 
introduction showed how sincerely he respected Father Burke.' 


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Paul O'Connor, an address of congratulation, Fr. Burke gave 
a touch of the humour inseparable from his nature : — 

I recollect, when describmg the Irish character in some of the 
great cities of America, I said that an Irishman is usually a tall, 
sinewy fellow, about six feet high, kind-hearted and generous, but 
ever ready to strike a blow for the old faith and the old country. 
This trait of the Irish character is well known in America. I re- 
member, when travelling in a railway carriage near the banks of the 
Mississippi, about 5,000 miles from this spot, there was a great big 
fellow in the same carriage, who was employed on one of the levees 
of the Mississippi. A Kentucky Yankee^ who was sitting near him, 
said, in my hearing, not knowing I was an Irish priest, * Look here, 
friend, you'd want to look sharp and mind what you say now ; that 
ere fellar, I guess, is an Irishman, and them sort of fellars can't stand 
a word about the Pope or about their own country, so you'd better 
look sharp now, and mind don't say a word against the Pope or the 
Irish, or I guess that chap would fetch you a lick over the bridge of 
the nose while you'd be looking about you.* 

Anthony Trollope describes his own school days as 
wretchedly unhappy, partly owing to * an utter want of that 
juvenile manhood which enables some boys to hold up their 
heads.' It was doubtless the possession of the opposite 
qualities that made Burke's later school days so enjoyable. 
Over and over again he is described in memoirs as a * wild 
boy ; ' but he knew where to draw the line. Fr. Ralph, O.P., 
and himself had been boys together in Galway. To Ralph 
he said of a local contemporary, * I never liked that boy, and 
I shunned him after one day he asked me to stray into paths 
which were distasteful to me.' 

There was one influence that he had been taught to seek 
regularly, and which of necessity restrained any divergence 
from the straight path. This he had learned from Brother 
Paul as naturally as a child learns to walk. 

The Catholic feels (he said) that ihe eye of God is upon him. 
He is told that^ every time the Catholic Church warns him to 

* Reply to the Address of the Aloysian Society at Galway, March 17, 1873. 


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prepare for confession. He is told that^ every time his eyes, wander- 
ing through the church, rest upon the confessional. He is told 
tliai^ every time he sees the priest with his stole standing there, and 
the penitent going in with tearful eyes, and coming forth beaming 
with joy. He is told this in a thousand ways ; and it is brought 
home to him by the precepts and sacraments of the Church at 
stated times in the year. The consequence is, he is made to 
believe that he is responsible to Almighty God; and therefore 
this obligation, creating a sense of responsibility, rouses and excites 
a watchfulness of his own conscience. The man who feels that 
the eye of God is upon him will also feel that the eye of his 
own conscience is upon him. For watchfulness begets watchful- 
ness. If the master is looking on whilst a servant is doing any- 
thing, the servant will endeavour to do it well, and he will keep his 
eye upon the master whilst the master is present. So a soldier, when 
he is ordered to charge, turns his look upon his superior officer, 
whilst he dashes into the midst of the foe. And so it is with us. 
Conscience is created, conscience is fostered and cherished in the 
soul by a sense of responsibility which God gives us through the 
Church and through her sacraments. It follows that the Catholic 
man, although in conscious freedom, is conscious that he must 
always exercise that freedom under the eye of God and under the 
dominion of His law; so that in him, even although he sin for a 
time, the sense of freedom never degenerates into positive reckless- 
ness or license.^ 

Some results of the yoke that he bore from his youth peep 
forth in the following recollections of the first cousin of our 
great Dominican, Mr. Michael Burke, now of Dominick Street, 
Galway : — 

During all our intercourse in childhood, though he got the name 
of being a wild boy, I never heard him utter one naughty word 
or breathe any exclamation approaching a curse — a practice then 
much indulged in by smart youths of progressive tendencies. In the 
midst of all his little tricks and mimicries his vocation for the Church 
was to me clearly visible. I remember him on one occasion calling 
to take me out to visit the various altars which, on Holy Thursday, 
are always handsomely decorated ; and how, when, having viewed the 
first and second, I was leaving the chapel to complete my inspection, 

> Fr. Burke, on *The Catholic Church,' delivered at Brooklyn, U.S. 


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he read me a little lecture, which, being my senior, he was warranted" 
in doing, that I should always kneel down and offer up a short 
prayer on such occasions.^ 

From all this and more it may be safely assumed that 
what Fr. Burke said of St. Dominic applied equally to him- 

No thought that might shame an angel crossed his mind. In his 
fifteenth year he was as pure of soul as when he was carried from the 
baptismal font with the water of Regeneration still glistening; upon 
his infant brow.* 

At Dr. OToole's school (his cousin continued) he carried off all 
the premiums so sweepingly that a movement was about being 
started by the pupils to protest against such monopoly. In the year 
1847 Nicholas and I separated to pursue our widely diflferent walks 
in life, and since then I have seen but little of him. 

Bishop O'Donnell conferred upon him the sacrament of 
Confirmation ; and soon after he made his first Communion. 

The Catholic religion (he says) preaches mysteries and speaks of 
things that no human eye has ever seen, but teaches them to be 
realities. It leads a man to believe in those things more promptly 
than even the things that his eyes behold or his hands grasp. For 
instance, who has ever seen Christ in the Blessed Eucharist ? Yet 
every Catholic child is taught, from the first day that reason beams 
upon him, that his God, his Lord, his Creator, his Redeemer, his 
Judge, is present, waiting in the Blessed Sacrament until that child 
is old enough to come to his first Communion and receive Him. 
What eye has ever seen the Holy Spirit of God, the Holy Ghost, the 
Third Person of the Holy Trinity ? But every Catholic knows and 
believes that the Holy Spirit of God is in His Church, that He lives 
with the Church, that He keeps that Church from ever telling a lie 
to the people, that He keeps that Church in holiness as well as in 
all truth, and that when the Bishop's hands are imposed upon the 

• He himself usually made an act of faith in the Real Presence, to the effect 
that he believed more firmly than if his eyes witnessed it ; for his eyes might 
deceive him, but God's written words never. Regarding the passage, * This is my 
body ; this is my blood,* he felt that until some other could be shown saying, 
« This is by no means my body,* the declaration was conclusive. 

* In St. Saviour's, Dublin, August 4, 1877. 


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head of the young child in Confirmation, that child receives the 
seven gifts of the Holy Ghost — wisdom, understanding, counsel, 
fortitude, knowledge, piety, and the fear of the Lord. Thus it is 
that not merely in the higher truths, regarding the unity and eternity 
of God, but even in those practical truths that come home to us and 
bring the Lord God to our very doors, the Catholic Church teaches 
the unseen and creates in man the faculty of realising it. ^ 

From what his cousin and he himself says, it is clear that 
a sound spirit of piety underlay the exterior of the exuberant 
boy. He said when speaking of a sainted man who pre- 
served his piety from early youth that in him * sanctity was a 
development and not a change.' '-* On further search we find, 
on the authority of his own casual admission, that the cap 
of a schoolboy covered the head of a contemplatist. 

Since I came to the age of reason, and learned my Catechism, 
and mastered the idea that was taught me of how God in heaven 
planned and designed the redemption of mankind, the greatest 
puzzle in my life has been — a thing that I could never understand — 
how anyone believing what I have said could refuse their veneration, 
their honour, and their love to the Blessed Virgin, Mother of Jesus 
Christ ; for it seems to me nothing is more natural to the heart of 
man than to be grateful, and that, in proportion to the gift which is 
received we find our hearts springing with gratitude within us, and 
a strong craving to find out how best we can express our acknow- 

He then went on to cite from the Scriptures various 
holy women who proved themselves benefactors of mankind, 
and asked, ' What did any of them do for us in comparison to 
what Mary did } ' ^ Indeed he was very much of opinion 
with Wordsworth, that 

She was our tainted nature's solitary boast. 

Alluding to early days, he says that she was always 

' * Catholicity as Revealed in the Character of the Irish People,* St. Gabriel's 
Church, New York, 1871. 

' On the Festival of All Saints. 

" « Good Works with Faith Necessary to Salvation,' New York, May 2, 1872. 


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addressed *not under the title of "Our Lady" or of the 
Blessed Virgin, but by the still more endearing name of 
Muire Mat/iair, ** Mary Mother." ' 

Galw^ians have been always prone to supernatural 
terrors. Fr. Burke, some months before his death, was inte- 
rested to read in the public press the depositions of persons 
who believed they had seen at Galway Gaol the ghost of a 
man recently executed. It might be supposed that a youth 
so fond of practical jokes would have availed himself of so 
ready a field wherein to play upon the fears of others. While 
so far advanced as to be studying the dead languages, he 
continued alive to a dread of ghosts. His lecture on Faith, 
when showing the national faculty of realising the unseen, 
mentioned instances of the abuse of it, and stated that the 
Irish child, as soon as he arrives at the age of reason, at 
once displays that faculty. 

When he comes out of the back door and looks into the field, 
he imagines he sees a fairy in every bush. If he sees a butterfly 
upon a stalk, it is a Leprechaun, I remember, when a boy growing 
up, studying Latin, having made up my mind even then to be a 
priest, there was a certain old archway in Bowling Green, Galway, to 
which a tradition attached. It was near the place where Lynch, 
the Mayor, hanged his son, hundreds of years ago, and near the 
Protestant churchyard. Grown as I was, learning Latin, knowing 
everything about the Catechism,^ and having made up my mind to 
be a priest, I was never able to pass under that arch after nightfall 
without running for dear life.* 

All this made so deep an impression on him that when 
speaking in St. Gabriel's Church, New York, he recurred to 
it, adding — 

* One of the passages in the said Catechism is, * The dead arose and appeared 
to manj.' Fr. Burke in his sermons often made effective reference to this 
appalling spectacle. Thus on Good Friday, 1882 : * Graves around the city 
opened, and the dead arose in all their terrors and stalked silently through the 
city, confronting the living and frightening them almost to death. * St. Patrick's, 
New York, March 17, 1872. 

* * The Christian Religion as Reflected in the National Character of the Irish 
Race and People,' New York, June 6, 1872. 


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That legend was the very torment of my young days. Not only 
when going to school, but in running errands for my mother, I had 
to pass through the blind archway very often. I always came up to 
it crying out, * Hail, Mary ! ' and calling upon all the saints to stand 
by me ; but with all my faith, there was at last nothing for it but 

* The faculty of realising the unseen ' continued with him 
to the end. In 1865 extraordinary emotions filled him on 
believing that he saw, during his celebration of High Mass, 
the eyes of the Madonna of Vicovaro move. The incident, 
described by a Dominican, will be found in its proper place. 

Alms had long been dispensed by a humane merchant, 
named Lynch. Nicholas often studied his pensioners as they 
thronged forward for relief, and in social hours long after has 
reproduced the scene, which, however, owed all its success to 
his face and ventriloquism. Among Lynch's pensioners was 
an old widow named Lacy. Cotheen, her son, was a half-fool 
given to drink. One day he came blubbering to say she had 
died, and Lynch gave him money to bury her. But the 
familiar wheeze of the old crone, some days after, as she came 
behind the high stool on which Lynch sat, scared him not a 
little ; and when Cotheen again called, he upbraided him 
with his deceit. ' Pardon me this once,* said Cotheen ; * give 
me js. 6d,y and I promise your honour that, living or dead, I 
will bury her on Friday.* 

Kohl describes the quaint city of Galway as of Spanish 
architecture, with wide gateways, broad stairs, and all the 
fantastic ornaments calculated to carry the imagination back 
to Granada and Valentia, while its monks, corded friars, 
churches, and convents complete the resemblance.^ 

* Besides the Dominican, Franciscan, and Augustinian friars now in Galway, 
it once possessed Capuchins and Carmelites ; but in troubled times they were 
banished and have never been restored. The habit of the Dominicans is black 
over white, and that of the Carmelites white over black, Fr. Burke, after he 
had become famous, was one day being photographed in his habit, when he came 
out in the negative with the white spots dark and the dark spots white. * This 


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From the accounts given of Wat Burke, his acts and tastes 
would almost remind one of the vivacity of Andalusia. 
Before the sixteenth century seamen and traders from 
Asturias and Navarre often formed alliances with Galway 
girls ; and who knows but that Spanish blood may have 
coursed through the veins of Angy and Wat Burke ? Those 
who have visited Spain cannot fail to have been struck by 
the same red cloak, which makes the Galway peasant so 
picturesque an object. Fr. Tom, apparently moved by the 
spirit of Galway traditions, has danced for his mother the 
Spanish cachuca^ accompanied by a grace and agility worthy 
of Fanny Elssler — performances which the matter-of-fact 
mother failed to view with unmixed satisfaction. 

His personal appearance was not at first in his favour (writes 
Mr. E. O'Flaherty, who knew him in Galway at this time). His 
figure was without dignity, slender and ill-proportioned, the forehead 
unusually low and the expression in repose dark and melancholy, 
like most of the Spanish people of Galway ; but see him in the 
pulpit, when in the white robes of his order he held up the cross to 
the enthralled multitude, and the figure seemed to grow and swell 
into grandeur. At such a moment he might have walked from the 
canvas of Murillo. ^ 

He oflen related anecdotes of himself, but, like the saints, 
never aught that would tend to his commendation ; indeed 
rather the reverse, as the reader has already seen. An able serial 
edited by some Jesuit Fathers describes Nicholas Burke as 

a merry mischievous child, often incurring well-deserved chastise- 
ment from his good pious mother, who was not unmindful of the 
Wise Man's advice respecting the education of children. On one 
memorable occasion, which in afler-life he loved to talk of, a 
Franciscan friar came to his mother's house to complain of one of 
the boy's tricks. The misdoing was regarded as so serious, especially 
as it had excited the good friar's wrath, that poor Master Nick had 

is a wonderful studio of yours/ he said. * I entered it a Dominican, and I have 
come out a Carmelite.* 

' By a droll coincidence the name of the proprietor of the Galway newspaper 
is Ferdinand. 


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to take off his shirt, and the whip was applied with such vigour that 
he was soon * clothed in rags of his own skin/ ^ 

This latter phrase is obviously an embeUishment. It is 
one of the stories which Fr. Burke in hours of relaxation 
would tell to amuse his fellows and to humble himself. 
Possibly he may have unconsciously enlarged, just as a man 
on revisiting haunts of childhood is amazed to find them so 
much smaller than what the early impression retained. 
Describing to the Parochus of Galway a kindred incident, 
he said that the beating was inflicted for walking upon and 
crushing the pipes of the church organ. 

On a previous page it was mentioned that Mrs. Burke, 
before applying her cane, recited a particular prayer, and it is 
perhaps venial to recur to it, at least once, in writing the life 
of a man who himself in after-life continually harped upon it. 
This collect — better known as * Prevent, O Lord * — entered 
into some prayers which Dominicans repeat before Mass. 
Fr. Burke said, at Tallaght, with his usual humour, that he 
never heard it recited without feeling a cold thrill between his 
shoulders. Mrs. Burke, as the Jesuit Father correctly states, 
would kneel down and command Nicholas to repeat slowly 
after her the words of this collect. 

Dark indeed would seem to have been the outlook for 
the puny child, but his innate humour served to brighten 
such surroundings. He could even smile through his tears 
like a sunbeam in showers ; and while Mrs. Burke sonorously 

* Some persons, not relatives of Fr. Burke, vainly urged us to ignore these 
incidents ; and it is satisfactory to find the Jesuits, who have a special regard for 
his memory, taking the course that we ventured to adopt : — 

'After his own religious brethren,* they write, * least of all can the sons of 
St. Ignatius forget him. The personal fnend of many of them and the devoted 
admirer of their founder, never did he employ his wonderful powers of oratory 
to greater effect, never did his rich vein of original thought shine with greater 
brilliancy, never did he hold spell-bound his audience with greater skill and 
success than in the panegyric which he preached on the founder of the Society of 
Jesus. We mention it now as an additional reason why we should be ungrateful 
indeed were we to forget its author.' — The Alonih, September 1883. 


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repeated ' Prevent, O Lord, we beseech thee, all our actions,' 
he would pray in another sense, ' Prevent, O Lord ; ' but, as 
he often told his brother priests, ' it never did prevent,' and 
the lash continued to fall. 

How the boy at last came to regard those beatings 
passively was doubtless by allowing his powerfully imagina- 
tive mind to picture the greater sufferings of Him whose 
name was a household word. The various stages of His 
Passion as described in the * Meditations of the Rosary ' had 
been driven into the child's mind by Margaret Burke at all 
hours and at all places. The beads never left her fingers, 
and the unction with which she would recite ' the number of 
stripes they gave Him being upwards of 5,000, as revealed to 
St. Bridget* flowed into the ear of that gifted boy, whose 
intelligence was such that with one glance at his tasks he 
bore off every premium. The fertility of his mind and the 
exhaustive completeness with which it realised that dread 
scene is shown in many of his sermons. One on 'The 
Resurrection ' remarks that after the stripes it is only surpris- 
ing the Saviour survived three hours on the Cross. His 
discourses on St. Dominic lay stress on the advantage of 
pergonal flagellation. 

As the fact has obtained historic record that the youth 
received frequent corporal punishment, it is right to guard 
against unfriendly inference by telling the arch-offence which 
earned it ; and therefore we transpose from a more remote 
part of our book some notes on Fr. Burke's visit in 1875 to 
the house of his aged mother in Galway. 

He was in high spirits, and entertained with pleasant per- 
formances the old friends who had been asked to meet him. 

* I hope these mimicries don't annoy you, ma*am,' Mrs. Burke 
said, addressing a guest. * If there was one thing more than an- 
other that I chastised Nicholas for when a child, it was his habit of 
mimicking people. They used to call at my house to complain of 
him, and 1 tried to beat it out of him in vain.' 


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Mrs. Burke was the only person in the room who did not 
laugh. What pranks he played that evening will be found 
recorded at the proper time. The guest adds that Mrs. Burke's 
wrinkled hand was observed to wander instinctively towards 
her stick, whereupon Fr. Tom, thinking of the past, rubbed 
his shoulder, and sang forth with his grand baritone— 

Oh, thou hast been the cause of this anguish, my mother.* 

It must not be supposed that the stories which he used 
to tell of his mother's severity were allowed by him to impair 
the more tender impressions retained of her maternal cha- 
racter. At St. Gabriel's, New York, he asked — 

Do we not know what class of woman was the mother that reared 
us at her knee ? Oh ! are we not familiar with that beautiful image 
that rises before us of the woman with the silver hair and the sweet 
voice— the woman with the old Spanish beads in her hand, the 
woman that taught us when we were yet unable to appreciate it the 
sweet tale of the love of Jesus Christ for Mary His mother and the 
love of Mary for her Child ? 

Flogging was the fashion of the day, and Mrs. Burke 
must not be severely judged. From the Scriptures to Locke, 
authorities crowd to justify it. That great philosopher notices 
with praise 'a mother who flogged her child eight times 
without subduing it ; for had she stopped at the seventh 
castigation her infant might have been spoiled.* Margaret 
MacDonough, saint as she was, had herself been ruled with iron 
nerve in youth. She often told her daughters how she had 
been compelled not only to take care of, but to sleep with, 

* He told the Ursulines that his mother to the last seemed quite to forget that 
he had ceased to be a child. Whenever he went to visit her in Galway she 
would go on to lecture him in the old way. She would ask him, as he knelt 
down to receive her blessing, if he were a good boy. Fr. Burke said to a 
member of the author's family, when about to visit Galway in 1875, * ^^^^ upon 
my mother and get her blessing. She is really a saint, and I regard it as of 
great value. * This person waited upon Mrs. Burke, and when taking leave the 
old lady pressed her beads on the visitor's head, while she fervently invoked a 


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some maniac female relation to whom her parents humanely 
gave shelter. How children when adults will follow in the walk 
made for them in childhood is shown in the after-life of Mar- 
garet Burke. She was so compassionate to suffering humanity, 
no matter in what form it presented itself, that, a lady who had 
seen better days becoming insane, Mrs. Burke took her to live 
with them. The lady's delusion was that all the priests of 
Galway had entered into a conspiracy to hunt her down, and 
the frequent visits of Mrs, Burke's clerical friends did not tend 
to allay it. Her daughters — made unhappy by domestication 
with a daft woman — regarded it as a real relief when one day 
she left the house never again to return. Mrs. Burke, on the 
other hand, was filled by painful anxiety lest the demented 
creature in her flight should come to an untimely end. 

Meanwhile Nicholas Burke held on his course just as his 
bright instincts led him, but often compelled to pay the 
penalty. His career in youth— aglow with excitement and 
often marked by crosses — was like that of the place which 
boasts the honour of his birth. When Galway was young, 
suffering laid its heavy hand upon the city of St. Nicholas. 
In 1568, and long after, Mass was sternly prohibited. An 
Italian traveller in that year attended Mass in a private 
house in Galway. He saw at one view the Blessed Sacra- 
ment raised by the priest, boats passing up and down 
the river, a ship entering the port in full sail, a salmon killed 
with a spear, and hunters and hounds pursuing a deer. 
' Though I have travelled Europe,' adds the Italian, ' I have 
never before witnessed a sight which combined so much 
variety and beauty.' ^ 

Interwoven with the sufferings of the heroic men who 
went before, was a certain amount of wild adventure which 
invested with some romance the rdk of a friar. They bore 

' Hardiman's History of Galway^ p. 85. The old blood of Galwaj had a 
narrow escape of being completely wiped out. Hardiman tells us that the planta- 
tion of the town by a colony from Liverpool and Gloucester was strongly urged by 


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historic names, too, which carried prestige in Galway. 
* Where is the nation that was ever so loved ? ' exclaimed Fr. 
Burke, when lecturing on * The Irish People in Relation to 
Catholicity,' and as usual throwing in a grotesque phrase 
where least expected : — 

In the three hundred years of persecution, take the * Bhreathair,' 
the old Irish friar, the Dominicans, and Franciscans, who were of 
the first families of the land — the O'Neills, the Maguires, the 
McDonnels, the McDermotts ; down in Galway, the Frenches, the 
Lynches, the Blakes, and the Burkes. These fair youths used to be 
actually smuggled out by night, and sent off the coast of Ireland to 
Rome, to France, and to Spain, to study. Enjoying all the delicious 
climates of those lovely countries, surrounded by honour, leading 
easy lives, filling the time with the study and intellectual pleasures of 
the priesthood, still every man felt uneasy. To use the old familiar 
phrase, ' they were like a hen on a hot griddle ' as long as they were 
away from Ireland, although they knew that in Ireland they were 
liable to be thrown into prison, or be subjected to death. 

As he thought of the past his eye wandered in the direc- 
tion of the West Chapel — then ministered by the representa- 
tives of these men. He regarded with loving interest Fr. 
Folan, the most vigorous vocalist in Galway, and when that 
good friar sang, * Oh ! come to the west,' the seeming signifi- 
cance of the invitation was wholly accidental. 

Mrs. Burke, like most pious people, had her cross, and it 
passed to her son as a legacy. An allusion to it occurs in 
some remarks on the relief which confession brings : — 

If you find a true friend that can keep a secret, the next thing is, 
what can he do for you ? If you tell him your secret can he lead you 
out of the difficulty ? Can he enable you to throw off" the burden 
and think no more about it ? How many times do we meet a friend 
in whose honour we can trust, yet a fool who has not capacity to help 
us beyond saying ^Ah,^ I knew an old man once who looked very 
wise. I had something that was fretting me very much, so I said, 
' I want you to show me the way out of this difficulty.' The answer 
I got was, * Oh ! blood alive ! * I remember when a little boy my 
mother had some family trouble. She went to a confidential friend 


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to get advice and unbosom her care. She told the story faithfully, 
with all the circumstances about what ' she said ' and ' he said,' but 
all the counsel she could get as she rocked herself to and fro was, 
' Oh, wirra, wirra ! ' Now if our friends can do nothing more for us 
than to open their eyes and say * Lord help you,* and ' Oh, wirra, 
wirra ! ' it is not worth while to go to the trouble of telling our 
secrets, or of asking their advice. But God has provided in the 
Church a mighty vent for this natural craving of man. 

Mark how beautifully the confessional harmonises with all this. 
The Catholic who has something which is a source of mental 
anxiety, and the keeping of which is breaking his heart, knows that 
in the first priest he meets he has a friend whom God has provide<) 
for him, and in whom he can place implicit faith.* 

Fr. Burke, in his discourse on Cardinal Cullen, said: 
* Next to the Grace of God the highest blessing that man 
can receive is education. St. Thomas proves ignorance to be 
the root of all sin.' He urged ' the cultivation and develop- 
ment in a right direction of the intelligence, the heart, and 
the will ; ' adding, * Truth, natural and supernatural, is the 
virtue of the intellect, beauty the object of the affections, 
and a just estimate of the truly beautiful, their virtue; charity 
in its widest sense the guide and virtue of the will.* 

Dr. OToole's system of education, while developing the 
higher graces, fostered in his pupils a love of culture. Decla- 
mation being part of his programme, they were required to 
master some of the most memorable parts of Shakspeare, 
with what results we shall see. 

• Lecture on •The Harmony of Catholic Worship,* Boston, U.S., Septcm* 
ber 25, 1872, 

VOL. !. 


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The curtain rises to disclose a new act in the small domestic 
drama of this history. Nicholas Burke was attracted by the 
Temple of Thespis, and for weeks was stage-struck. But lest 
ascetics should start, it is well to tell at once that the 
theatricals which attracted him were purely amateur. One 
of the most promising of Dr. O'Toole's pupils — his friend 
Charles Dugan — had organised a small company which per- 
formed to crowded chairs in Flood's Lane. Miss Burke 
informs us that a friend of the family happened to visit her 
mother at this time, and astonished the good woman by say- 
ing that he had been kept spell-bound by the performance of 
her son. * Depend upon it/ he said, ' that boy will make his 
mark yet.' 'Sir, that is not the sort of mark Td like 
Nicholas to make,' was the reply of the Galway Tertiar}^^ 

I think that it was while at Dr. O'Toole's seminary we organised 
these private theatricals (writes Mr. Dugan). Like all young 
l>eginners, we were ambitious, and would commence at nothing less 
than Richard II L I played the ' crook-backed tyrant \ ' and as 
our company was small, Burke had two or three parts assigned to 
him. When young he had somewhat nice delicate features, and was 

> Mrs. Burke continued to the end to occupy that middle stage between the 
world and the cloister known as The Third Order. This institution, which dates 
from the thirteenth century, binds its members to avoid dances and theatres, to 
pray more frequently, to dress more soberly, to fast more strictly, and to practise 
works of mercy more systematically, than ordinary laics ; and they made simple 
vows to observe the rule. These Tertiaries are styled by St. Francis Brothers 
and Sisters of Penance. This circumstance helps to account for the austeiity of 
Mrs. Burke*s character. 


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very slim in person. He therefore took the part of l^dy Anne ; 
and I distinctly remember how well he looked the character and 
acted it toa We also had a play, Gisippus^ by Gerald Griffin, who 
just at this time had joined the Christian Brothers, and soon after 
died. An incident during the course of our histrionic career clings 
to my memory. Burke took the part of a personage, I forget what, 
whom I was to slay. He wore a green jerkin with plated buttons. 
I used a handsome dagger, blunted at the point, that we picked up 
somewhere. Acting our parts too well, and in the excitement of the 
action, I aimed the dagger under Burke*s arm, but struck too closely 
to his side, so that the buttons and portion of his jerkin and of his 
inner vest were cut away — in fact the blade grazed his skin. He 
turned white and staggered to the side scenes. I was so horrified 
that I rushed after him, all the while the audience applauding 
tremendously, thinking that all this was part of the acting. I found 
poor Burke almost fainting, lying on a chair, his hand pressed to his 
side, two or three of the other performers around him bathing his 
temples. I thought that 1 had killed him. It was a mere scratch, 
however. His faintness was owing to fright ; he had always some 
delicacy of the heart. But at all events I was nearly being the 
innocent cause of depriving Ireland of her future great Dominican. 

Our theatre was the large loft on an empty store in Flood Street 
belonging to my father. The scenes were painted by Burke and 
mysel£ I think he alone did the side scenes. The drop represented 
the Killamey lakes, and in doing this with me he showed much taste 
for painting. In those days costumiers were not so plentiful or apt 
as they now are, and our pocket money was too limited to have 
recourse to any such aids. The dresses were therefore made up at 
home. Lady Anne's dress was formed from an old black velvet 
dress-belonging to my sister. Burke got it trimmed with white fur. 
I think we cut up a valuable fur cloak of my mother's for this pur- 
pose. I can assure you that Burke in this attire looked the gentle 
Lady Anne to perfection.* 

One of the performers was Mr. J. J. Brady, now civil en- 
gineer, Galway. While some of the minor actors had merely 
tin dirks, which bent harmlessly on the breast, he wielded a 
veritable sword, which had whilom flourished at the Battle of 

* Letter of Charles Winston Dugan, Esq. [Adelaide House, Clonmel] to the 
Author, October 13, 1883. 



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Castlebar, when the royal troops fled in disorder. Thirty 
years after, Fr. Burke and Mr. Brady met at a banquet in 
Galway. One of Fr. Burke's first observations across the table 
was : * John, do you remember the night that you nearly cut 
the hand off Jack Toole, when he neglected to let down the 
drop ? * This is explained by the following reminiscence : — 

Mr. Dugan was Duke of Gloster, afterwards Richard III., and 
a capital Richard he was. I was Richmond, and also King 
Henry VI.*s ghost, and, concealed in a white sheet, accused my 
friend Dugan (Gloster) * of having punched several holes in my 
anointed body, &c.* .... And in a few moments I appeared as the 
victorious Richmond, on Bosworth Field \ and, having despatched 
Gloster, I tried a like experiment on our scene-shifter, who, for some 
unaccountable reason, did not let down the drop-scene at the proper 
moment ; but I, with one well-directed blow of my sword, cut the cord 
that held it The rapidity of its descent must have charmed the 
audience, as the applause on the occasion was immense ' 

His tastes gradually became more dramatic. Indeed, he 
may be said to have breathed in birth and boyhood a Thes- 
pian atmosphere. His natal spot in Kirwan's Lane was 
within a door or two of the Galway theatre. Hardiman, 
who published his History in 1820, describes its scenery as 
then elegant. • Barry, Mossop, Kemble, Cooke, Siddons, 
Walstein, and O'Neill visited these boards.' To this list may 
be added Edmund Kean, whom the present Dominican 
Prior of Galway remembers playing in Kirwan's Lane.^ 

A popular piece was O'Keefe's * Wild Oats,' in which the 
career of a strolling player is invested with romantic interest. 

> Letter of J. J. Brady, Esq., C.E., Galwa>, Nov, 5, 1883. There seems to 
have been more than one cast of the play. 

* This lane, now a line of ruins, exhibits decided traces of the architecture 
peculiar to Spain, and until the first quarter of the present century was peopled by 
persons of good position. Its chimney-pieces, which still cling to the roofless, 
floorless walls, reveal in their blackened hearths stories of social nights long passed 
away, and record in imperishable lines the strong Catholic feeling of their original 
owners. One of special massiveness displa3rs carvings of the crown of thorns, 
the sponge, pincers, and nails, surmounted by the letters ' IHS ' and the date 
'1615.* On a mined wall in Dead Man*s Lane, Galway, is cut the motto, 
' Vaniti of Vaniti and all is but Vaniti, 1624.* 


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• Once, when a dramatic company visited Galway/ said Fr. 
Burke, * my mother took the precaution of locking me up.' * 

Histrionic tastes were with him no passing fancy. Though 
as a priest the theatre was forbidden to him, he showed to 
the end dramatic passion and power. An English critic 
having gone to hear Fr. Burke preach, a few years before his 
death, noticed him in words which, for the curiosity of the 
thing, are pressed into this page : — 

The great Dominican's voice has a rare range, without break or 
deficiency in any part of the compass. In the portions of his speeches 
which are more easily delivered it is a mellow bass, heard without 
difficulty, though produced without eflfort, over the area of a large 
building. In the passages which are delivered with rising energy 
Father Burke's voice is a very fine, rich alto, with a slightly nasal 
timbre^ such as is often observable in great tragedians. If G. V. Brooke 
had suffered the tonsure towards the latter part of his life and donned 
the black and white habit of the Dominicans he would have been 
very much such a man as Father Burke is ; but Father Burke's bass 
is never sepulchral or artificial as Brooke's was apt to be.' 

Had it not been for that Divine Grace which in Nicholas 
Burke became a development and not a change— had it not 
been for the watchful maternal eye — it is hard to say in 
what r6le his career might not have been cast. 

The youth was free at least to read. From studying 
Shakspeare's plays, he was led to look into the chronicles 
on which those masterpieces were founded. The thrilling 
story of Macbeth and Duncan King of Scotland sent him 
to the history of that country. Antony and Cleopatra, Julius 
Casar^ and Coriolanus sent him to Rome. Traces of this 
reading will be found in his lecture on *The Supernatural 
Life of the Irish People.' 

Other duties led Dr. OToole to relinquish schooling, to 
the great regret of his pupil, who thereupon was sent to the 

» Fr. Burke to Miss Edith Moore. 

* The criticism, which runs to a column, appeared in the Liverpool JoumaL 


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academy of Mr. Michael Winter, in Galway.* * Now is the 
winter of our discontent/ he muttered ; but the sunshine 
which lit up his nature and surroundings would ever and 
anon gleam. Referring long after to his sojourn with Mr. 
Winter, * he described it,' writes Mr. Dugan, ' as his period 
of hybernation, punning on the teacher's name, and at the 
same time slily hitting at the little work he did or was asked 
to do.' Mr. Dugan did not meet Burke again until the 
year 1873. 

I was at that time in Birr, and as we had not met since we parted 
at Galway as youths on our different roads in life, I was of course 
most anxious to see him, now the famous Dominican. I drove to 
Roscrea, went to the sacristy of the church, and found that 
Burke was then engaged in the confessional. One of the attendant 
priests, however, volunteered to tell him that I was there. In a few 
minutes my old friend came in, and grasped me in his arms and wept. 
Twenty -five years before had we parted ; he was then a slim awkward- 
looking lad, now he appeared before me as the majestic ecclesiastic 
in the flowing picturesque habit of his Order. 

We talked together of old times, and during conversation some 
circumstances, as bearing on his future renown and career, were 
spoken of. Amongst others the following : — 

He and I were in the habit of walking very frequently from 
Galway to Salthill and Blackrock. Here, upon this rocky shore, 
where the Atlantic waves are ever breaking, he used to put small 
shells and pebbles in his mouth and declaim to the sea in a loud 
voice. I was his audience, and my function seemed to be to tell him 
whether he spoke sufficiently loud and clear to distinguish his words 
over the sound of the waters. His gesticulations were very marked : 
now he seemed to be addressing the waves — now the rocks — swaying 
about his thin body and long arms. To a person at a distance 
he. must have seemed a lunatic' 

' Miss Burke says that her brother went from Winter's school direct to Rome. 
Mr. Dugan's first impression was that he attended Winter's before O'Toole's. On 
pointing out the discrepancy, he has been good enough to make personal inquiry 
in Galway, and now endorses the statement of Miss Burke. 

' This fondness for the seashore continued to the end. For many years before 
his death Fr. Burke was in the habit of bringing with him to Kingstown, Bray, or 
Sandymount, the gifted young Dominican preacher, Rev. J. P. Daly, and, while 
sitting on the rocks, discussing points of deep interest to both. The voice and 


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He sometimes failed to express himself with the fluency he 
wished, and by the means I have mentioned he sought to strengthen 
his chest and nerve, and to acquire a loud voice. On speaking 
about those times I said, * Surely, Father Tom, you must then have 
had some foresight of your future career.' He replied, laughing, 
*No, Charlie, I was only aping Demosthenes.' Then suddenly 
he said, • There I used to speak to a sea of senseless water, but after- 
wards I had to speak to seas of human hearts. May God grant that 
they were not senseless also. Strange,' he continued ; ' perhaps 
these waves on the shores of Galway came to me as messengers to 
my spirit from a far-off western shore ' — ^an allusion to his mission 
in America. 

I do not think that any one save myself is aware of these 
interesting facts. At his desire we studiously kept our sea-shore visits 
secret as possible. 

Those rambles with the friend of his youth were full ot 
gfow. Twenty years after he adverts to both in words too 
precious to be cast aside. 

It is not, perhaps, the beauties of the land that we remember ; it 
is not the green hillsides, crowned with the Irish oak, made so 
beautiful in their clothing of the Irish fern, that rise before our eyes, 
and excite the tenderest emotions of our souls ; it was not the 
beauties of Avoca that captivated the poet when he sang — 

Yet it was not that Nature had shed o*er the scene 
Her purest of crystal and brightest of green ; 
'Twas not her soft magic of streamlet or hill, 
Oh I no — it was something more exquisite still. 

Twas that friends, the beloved of my bosom, were near, 
Who made every dear scene of enchantment more dear, 
And who felt bow the best charms of Nature improve, 
When we see them reflected from looks that we love. 

So, perhaps, it is not the material beauty of Ireland — the green 
hillside, or the pastoral beauty of glade or of valley; it is not, 

manner of Fr. Daly in the pulpit so resembled Burke's that it was oAen hard to 
distinguish between them. But Burke was entirely free from the jealousy found 
in other professions, and paternally guided to maturity the rising talents of his 
friend. Often, when the latter was about to preach, Fr. Burke would enter his 
room and place before him various plans of sermons from which to choose ; or 
sometimes to read for him, with the elocution of which he was master, his favourite 
poet, Alfred Tennyson. 


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perhaps, the running brook, the millpond, the green field, the 
moss-grown old abbey, around which we played in our youth — not so 
much these that command our love ; but it is the holy, tender asso- 
ciations of all that we first learned to love and to venerate : the 
pure-minded, holy, loving mother, the wise and considerate father ; 
the tender friend upon whom we leaned, and whose friendship was 
to us the earliest joy of our life : the venerable priest, whose smile 
we sought as we bowed our youthful heads for his blessing. These, 
and such as these, are the motives of our love for Ireland.^ 

But with his usually keen perception of the ludicrous he 
noticed the peculiarities of not a few friends. 'A lacka- 
daisical Galwegian,' writes Mr. MoUoy, 'had a habit on 
hearing any news, from an earthquake to the latest litter of 
kittens, of taking off his hat, slapping his forehead and ex- 
claiming, " Oh, good hour ! " If this departed worthy com- 
ported himself as droUy as Fr. Burke described him, a trip to 
see the sight would not have been amiss.' 

Those who remember Lever's pictures of Galway life fifty 
years ago, and of the Baby Blakes and Louisa Bellews who 
led hearts captive in that region, will understand that a youth 
specially susceptible to the influences of music and poetry 
would have been more than human had he stood within 
it wholly unscathed. But, as he says in his discourse on 
Cardinal Barnabo, 'Young blood, with passions to be sub- 
dued, are frozen into an icicle of Christian purity by the 
touch of Divine grace.' 

The lady who was the object of young Burke's boyish admira- 
tion (writes his early companion, Charles Winston Dugan) told me 
that from her remembrance of him he was a tall boy with large dark 
eyes and darker hair, fond of singing, and that he serenaded her 
with such lyrics as * I saw from the beach,' &c This lady was con- 
siderably above him in social position, so that most of his love- 
making was from a distance.^ 

'After his return from Italy and America, when he had 

* Lecture at the Academy of Music, New York, May 22, 1872. Those 
familiar with Galway will recognise all the places thus rapidly noticed. 

* Letter of Charles Wiston Dugan, Esq., Adelaide House, October 18, 1882. 


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become famous/ adds Mr. Dugan, 'they met at a friend's 
house, on which occasion he referred to the old days. He 
also mentioned that it was in that memorable dramatic affair 
of ours he made his dibut in public speaking.' The lady, 
who was the object of his boyish attention, was his senior. 
We believe that at the time of the conversation chronicled 
by Mr. Dugan she was a grandmother, so that ascetics must 
not pooh-pooh the priest for alluding historically to their 
early acquaintance. 

Had not Nicholas been, as his friends describe him, ' a 
retiring boy,' his marked attainments and devotion would 

probably have won the heart and fortune of some lady 

and thus a great light would have been lost to the Church ! 
Men given to 'gosther* said that, had he gone on and 
conquered, he would probably have become M.P. for his native 
city, and, like two other Catholic youths who sat for it, he 
might be now the Right Hon. Lord Chief Justice Burke, 
draped in ermined robes, and in the running for the woolsack. 

The youth soon realised with a start the anomalous 
character of his position — the instrument of music dropped 
from his hand ; he recalled the whisperings of his vocation, 
but without attempting to subdue the general exuberance of 
his animal spirits. He gave his voice to the Choir — his heart 
to the Church. 

Five years before his death he quoted the following lines 
in reference to a great priest whose eulogy he preached ; 
and the striking thought thus expressed is likely to have been 
previously applied by that vigorous manly mind to his own 
case. * He must be the Church's champion and defender, her 
true knight, her faithful and ever-loving spouse,' said 
Fr. Burke. *The Church of God, girding him with her 
cincture, said : 

" My knight, my love, my knight of heaven, 
O thou, my love, whose love is one with mine, 
I, maiden, round thee, maiden, bind my belt. 
Go forth, for thou shalt see what I have seen, 


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And break thro' all, till one will crown thee king 
Far in the spiritual city : " and as she spake 
She sent the deathless passion in her eyes 
Thro' him, and made him hers, and laid her mind 
on him. 

'To be admitted to these mystic espousals of holy love, 
devotion, and care of the Church of God,' added Fr. Burke, 
*is the very highest and most honourable form of Divine 

It will be seen that throughout his after-life he had but one 
earthly love — the Church. Every new temple that rose he 
regarded as an additional gem tending to the increased beauty 
of his bride. Beautiful he found her, ' in the beauty of faith, 
hope, and love,' to use his own touching words. 

The local castle-building which assigned to him a judicial 
destiny may have been promoted by the fact that he seemed 
to show legal leanings. Something of this is remembered 
by Mr. Dugan. 

As was wont with most of the young people at Galway (he 
writes), I used to frequent the Assize Court, and was frequently 
accompanied by Nicholas Burke. Monahan (afterwards Chief Justice), 
Gerald Fitzgibbon, Mathew Baker, James Blake, Keating (afterwards 
Judge), and Charles O'Malley, were the leaders at that time of the 
Connaught circuit Many of the celebrated men of the other circuits 
frequently came down special. I remember that we went to hear 
Keogh. ^Vhen I last saw Fr. Burke, some years before his death, I 
learned from him that he had come to know in private this remarkable 
judge. Amongst other judges attending Galway Assizes were 
Crampton, Torrens, Lefroy, Pennefather, and Perrin. 

I think it is Johnson who observes that the early years of 
distinguished men on minute inquiry furnish proof of the existence 
of that for which they are celebrated in after-life. Fr. Burke bears 
no exception to this. He was fond of oratory and of listening to 
great orators ; and in his mission as a preacher he remembered 
the dicta of Cicero and Quintilian, *The duties of an orator are to 
instruct, to prove, and to please.* 

The Court House at Galway, besides its criminal business, 

" Letter of C. W. Dugan, Esq., Clonmel, November 7, 1883. 


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was a famous arena for cases of breach of promise of marriage. 
The humour shown in cross-examination, and the acumen by 
which hearts and minds were turned inside out, tickled 
Burke's sense of the ludicrous and fed his knowledge of men. 
If the plausible platitudes of some counsel made him smile, 
the dignity and impartial bearing of the judges impressed 
him with respect for the seat of Justice.^ 

The succeeding page will find him in more thoughtful 
mood, and, like Hamlet, philosophising in churchyard and 
ivy-mantled ruins. In order to perform these pilgrimages he 
had, as he tells us, to travel fields and vales, where the beau- 
tiful melody of his native country floated from the milkmaid's 
song as she tripped homeward with her pail. He bade ' God 
speed ' to the woman who, at her spinning, carolled some 
touching ditty with which his own nurse had soothed him 
to rest. He wept with the mother who sent forth the 
keene over her daughter's grave. He halted before the forge 
where the blacksmith sang to the ring of his own anvil. He 
joyously recognised the shrines wherein the national music 
had been preserved ; and when afterwards aught arose to 
re-awaken these emotions, his whole soul would be stirred as 
fond memories of the past crowded to his mind. Twelve 
years before his death he addressed an American audience in 
words which throw light upon his life and thoughts : — 

Is there anything in this world that so acts upon our memory as 
the sound of the old, familiar song, that we may not have heard for 
years ? We heard it, perhaps, in some lonely glen, in dear old 
Ireland. We have been familiar from our youth with the sound of 
that ancient melody, as the man sang it following his horses and 
plough, as the old woman murmured it whilst she rocked the child ; 
as the milkmaid chanted it as she milked the cows in the evening ; 
it is one of the traditions of our young hearts and of our youn^ 
senses. Then, when we leiave the Green Land, and go out amongst 
strange people, we hear strange words and strange music The songs 

' O'ConneU will be remembered in the great case Routledge v. Routledge, 
heard at Gal way. T. B. Smith (who, as Attorney-General, afterwards prosecuted 
him) acted as his junior, and deferentially consulted with him on every point. 


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of our native land for a moment are forgotten, until upon a day, per. 
haps, as we are passing, that air, or old song, is sung again. Oh, in 
an instant, that magic power in the sound of the old familiar notes 
throngs the halls of the memory with the dead. They rise out of 
their graves, the friends of our youth, the parents, and the aged ones, 
whom we loved and revered. Our first love rises out of her grave, 
in all the freshness of her beauty. So they fill the halls of the 
memory, the ones we may have loved in the past, with the friends 
whom we never expected to think of again. 

Well does the poet describe it when he says : — 

• When through life unblest we rove. 

Losing all that made life dear. 
Should some notes we used to love 

In days of boyhood meet our ear, 
Oh ! how welcome breathes the strain, 

Wak'ning thoughts that long have slept— 
Kindling former smiles again, 

In faded eyes that long have wept.* 

No words of mine can exaggerate the power that music sheds 
over the soul of man. 

It was about this time that Dr. Davies attended Nicholas 
Burke in a severe attack of typhoid fever. A similar visita- 
tion was the turning-point in St. Augustine's life, and it has 
been often whispered that Nicholas had followed the early 
courses of that great Father until this historic illness came to 
bind him to God. But we know from the following admission 
that he was free from taint. The good physician who brought 
him through the crisis of his fever writes : * Many a time the 
poor fellow said to me that I had a great deal to answer for 
in not letting him, as he said, "go when he was young and 
innocent." ' * 

This great cross was his first vision of Predestination. 
For days his life lay in the balance. Not strictly belonging to 
this world or the next, he seemed to float on the confines 
between both, surveying the vanities of the one and con- 
templating the glories of the other. At last the crisis came, 
and he rose as if by a miracle. In one of his sermons he 

» LeUer of E. Davies, Esq., M.D., J.P., Athenry, October 23, 1883. 


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refers touchingly to this fever and its results, and again in 
almost the same words when describing the sickness of 
St Ignatius. 

The enforced rest which followed threw him back upon him- 
self, and to while away the hours of convalescence he began to 
read the Lives of the Saints. With his grand, simple faith he read of 
the great actions of the famous servants of God, and as everything 
heroic touched a fibre in his heart, he felt himself transported with 
strong desires to emulate the greatest of these saints. The utter 
hoUowness and vanity of the world and of earthly things came home 
to his mind with wonderful clearness, and returning to his Lives of 
the Saints he said to himself : * These men were of the same frame 
as I ; why should I not do what they have done ? ' 

Never was Fr. Burke more effective than when, preaching 
of others, he gave his own experiences. The flame of his 
love for Christ was fanned by his pious mother, who for 
many nights bent anxiously over the idol of her dream. He 
now returned to the little world around him, impressed by the 
glimpse that had been unveiled. The youth had now finally 
determined, though without openly avowing his resolve, to 
consecrate that life which had been so providentially spared 
to the service of Almighty God. 

His mother meanwhile took good care that the great 
influence, to which allusion has already been made, should 
continue regularly to assert its sway. 

Now, the only way to create that interior essence of virtue (he 
said in words addressed to an American audience) is to establish 
firmly in the soul and in the mind of man the idea of this 
responsibility to God for every thought as well as for every action 
and word of his life — to bring him face to face with Christ — to make 
him not only know, but feel that He whom he serves looks with a 
penetrating gaze into the very inner chambers of his soul. How 
does the Church do this ? By bringing that young man to confes- 
sion ; by putting him face to face with Christ, scnitinising and 
examining his thoughts, his words, and actions ; by making him search, 
by the light of memory, every craving of his soul and of his 


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A youth who was constantly brought by his mother to 
' chapel * — as the house of prayer, in deference to a habit 
contracted in penal days, was then styled — could not be 
without hearing plenty of sermons. Dr. Kirwan, P.P. of 
Oughterard, delivered discourses of such dramatic power that, 
if reported in days when stenography was not cultivated in 
Connaught, would have raised his fame to the highest rank ; 
but his sweetness was too long wasted on the desert air. We 
at first suspected, and on inquiry have discovered, that the 
oratory of the Oughterard priest had no small effect in form- 
ing the tastes and aspirations of young Burke. Daniel Owen 
Madden, hearing of this priest's power, attended with other 
Protestants a chapel where he preached. In 'Revelations of 
Ireland ' he prints a large sample of what he heard ; and in 
reference to a story which Kirwan introduced, adds that * a 
dramatic anecdote always moves a congregation, especially 
when told, as in this instance, with pathos of manner and 
with all the variety of gesture and tone requisite for oratorical 

This was the sort of stimulus to head and heart of which 
the boy Burke drank until his ambition to go and do likewise 
became fired. Kirwan constantly preached in Galway in the 
strain thus described. He had been previously charmed 
with the elocutionary promise displayed by young Burke at 
Dr. O'Toole's annual Academus. Evening after evening in 
church he is said to have recognised a glistening eye rivetted 
upon him ; and, just as Garrick would act to some special 
face, may not Kirwan too have been led by high hopes to 
soar } Those who care to see a fine specimen of Kirwan's 
style will find it in * Revelations of Ireland,' ist ed., 

pp. 57-9- 

All familiar with Burke's pulpit oratory will, on a compa- 
rison, recognise the model which in after-life perhaps uncon- 
sciously influenced him. No man was more fond of introducing 
an anecdotal episode, and a pin might be heard to drop when 


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once he entered upon it. This and much more we had written 
when confirmation of our idea was furnished by Burke's school- 
fellows, who say that he loved to mimic for their amusement 
Kirwan in the act of electrifying a congregation. 

If Burke's talents as a preacher received fostering stimulus 
from the example of Kirwan, his humour derived an impetus 
from association with Fr. Mat. Joyce. Between the latter and 
Fr. Peter Daly a perpetual fusillade went on. The priests of 
Galway had assembled for the purpose of nominating a 
Bishop, when Fr. Daly— an aspirant to the mitre — entering 
the room and accosting Fr. Joyce, brusquely said : * I suppose 
we shall soon congratulate you upon being the Right Re- 
verend ? ' 'I only know that you will be Left Reverend,' 
was the reply. A volume might be filled with the jokes 
of Joyce that we gathered at Galway. 

Of the subsequent short careers of Drs. Kirwan and 
O'Toole, a word remains to be said. Originally distinguished 
in promoting ' the propagation of the Faith,' Dr. O'Toole was 
eventually reproved for aiding to undermine it This startling 
statement demands explanation. He became Professor in, 
and at last Vice-President of the Queen's College, Galway, 
and, although some of the most prominent bishops declared 
themselves strong supporters of that system of education, a 
majority finally outvoted them. Pius IX. pronounced 
against the scheme, though Gregory XVI. had in 1841 
sanctioned it with safeguards ; and in the end Ireland rang 
with 'O'Connell's denunciation of the Godless colleges.* 
It is remarkable that Kirwan became the first President of 
the Queen's College, Galway, and both he and Dr. O'Toole 
were finally visited by reproof from Rome. Kirwan resigned ; 
O'Toole hesitated ; his position was made still warmer by the 
well-directed broadsides of Canons and the comments of 
Catholic journalists. O'Toole at last capitulated. He left 
Ireland and found at Abingdon, of Nvhich he became the 
priest, shelter and a grave. Kirwan in private had been 


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always a great social favourite ; he was eminently ornamental, 
and long before it was supposed that he would ever become 
'a Massillon/ Miss Martin, of Ballinahinch, introduced his 
fine character in a novel. His descent to the tomb was slow 
and tortuous. This great orator became paralysed in tongue 
and brain. With the sparkle of his once lustrous eyes quenched, 
and gazing around with vacant stare, the ex-President of the 
Queen's College presented a sad spectacle of fallen greatness ; 
but for some time he moved about mechanically in the 
attempted discharge of routine. At last the happy rescue 

Mrs. Burke's confessor was Father Austin MacDermott, 
O.S.A,, whom all the family loved so much that for more 
than twenty years he dined twice a week in their house. 

Fr. Burke often amused his friends the Jesuit Fathers 
with accounts of the great Augustinian of Galway. The 
ordinary confessor of Nicholas was Fr. Cummins, but once 
when the boy performed some trick specially repellent to the 
staid nature of his mother — 

I was brought before Fr. MacDermott (he said) sitting sternly in 
the tribunal. He wore large spectacles like a pair of gig-lamps, and 
he took such quantities of snuff that the penitent, as his head peered 
through the hole of the confessional, would be frequently sneezing, 
accompanied by exclamations of * God bless us ! ' ^ Fr. MacDermott 
looked so awful behind the big spectacles, furnished with this accu- 
mulated power to read my soul, steeped in the guilt of many 
mimickries, especially of himself, that I well remember when my 
mother brought me by the lug to his box I took care to provide 
space behind for retreat in case my judge should suddenly rise to smite. 

With reminiscences like these Fr. Burke, in intervals of rest 
in a life of toil, amused the genial sons of Loyola. It 
must be added, however, that Fr. MacDermott's 'bark was 
worse than his bite/ and Nicholas Burke at last came to love 

' From the time of Thucydides, sneezing has been regarded as a symptom of 
the Plague. In Italy the custom still exists of saying ' Salute,' and in Milan, as 
in Ireland, ' God bless us,' when a sneeze occurs. 


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him well. He was rather a remarkable man, and will be 
remembered by readers of the * Life of Bishop Doyle * as the 
fellow-student of * J, K. L.' at Coimbra, where, on the outbreak 
of the Peninsular War, both threw aside for a time their col- 
legiategowns and followed the column of Sir Arthur Wellesley. 

Fr. MacDermott was under fire at Caldas and Roleia, 
slept almost under the same tent as Wellington, held the 
honorary rank of captain, gave spiritual assistance to the dying, 
had a narrow escape at Vimiera, helped to rout the French 
headed by Junot in person, got the ague twice after the Con- 
vention of Cintra — due to the hardships of field and bivouac — 
returned to Ireland, applied for the Peninsular medal, became 
Provincial of the Augustinians and the confessor of Mar- 
garet Burke.* 

His intimacy with the family was partly due to the 
proximity of the Augustinian Convent to Wat Burke's house 
in Cross Street The modest * West Chapel of the Domini- 
cans ' stood at the extreme outskirt of Galway, and how 
Nicholas became specially familiar with it in boyhood will 
presently appear. 

For years (writes Fr. Towers, O.P.) the West Convent of Galway, 
as the Dominican house there is popularly called, was favoured by 
a succession of gifted fathers, who announced the Gospel with 
eloquence and power. Dr. French,' the last Warden of Galway, after- 
wards Bishop of Kilfenora, his brother Fr. Charles, Dr. Winter and 
others, are still remembered as great preachers by the old inhabitants. 
Perhaps this local fame may have insensibly influenced the future 

The contiguity of the West Chapel to the Claddagh is 
stated by Hardiman as not the least of the causes which 
attach that primitive race to their local situation. The 

* Several of his letters addressed to the present writer, detailing his early 
adventures, will be found in the Li/e of Bishop Doyle, 

* In 1849 a friend of the writer's, when dining with Fr. Nagle, P.P., Gort, sat 
between two ecclesiastics — one the son of a parson, the other the son of a lapsed 
priest. The first was Dr. French ; the second was Dr. Kirwan, Protestant Dean 
of Limerick, and son of the Rev. Walter Blake Kirwan, who conformed in 1787. 



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manners, habits, and character of its people are as distinct 
from the inhabitants of the adjoining town of Galway, as 
though they were of another country, and Nicholas, who, as 
Fr. Russell, O.P., states, * always loved to study everything 
quaint or queer,' was irresistibly attracted towards the strange 
colony. In the election on St. John's eve of the King, 
Mayor, and Corporation of the Claddagh, with its ringing 
mirth and primitive customs, Nicholas Burke often participated. 
In 1872 he was freely interviewed by the American re- 
porters. His bonhomie and candour made him communicative. 

He was the most restless of all scholars, as fond of play as he 
was devoted to his books. Men who grew up with him from boyhood 
relate the innocent jokes which he daily concocted to the confusion 
of the fishermen of the Claddagh, who loved him as much as they 
feared his schemes." 

His fondness for the sea and association with fishermen reminded 
me of St John (writes Dr. Davies). I remember that he spent most 
of his leisure hours among the fishermen of the Claddagh, and I 
often heard him ascribe the largeness of his ears to his mother 
having so frequently pulled them as punishment for his going so 
often to the Claddagh against her wishes. He was a very arch boy, 
but never vicious, as wild boys often are. In his wonderful powers 
of mimicry, here too he was peculiar — always true to the life, not 
unkindly sarcastic or cynical* 

It has been said that people l)orn with silver spoons in 
their mouths do not always make a stir in the world ; and the 
case of Nicholas Burke somehow recalls the idea. 

Another phase of impulse now swept across his mind, to the 
increased anxiety of his watchful mother; but it was an 
impulse reconcilable with sound spiritual tendencies. Bom in 
the era of Catholic Emancipation, he shared all the enthusiasm 
of O'Connell's triumph. The * Repeal excitement was now 
at white heat.' 

Speeches were made on every side (writes Mr. Sherlock) ; the air 

was thick with oratory ; the papers were crammed with the utterances 

» Redpaih's PTeekfy, New York, No. 346. ' 

* Letter to the author from E. N. Davies, Esq., M.D., J. P., Athenry. 


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of prominent politicians, and among them were some of the most 
stirring speakers that ever sought to rouse the souls of their fellow- 
men. Young Burke's spirit moved before a new impulse. He 
became the orator of his schoolmates. 

It was in such times that he found his power to move 
men's souls by language afterwards to be turned to high 
purpose in the pulpits of the Old World and the New. 

Blessed by the patriot prelate of the West, some of 
O'Connell's first monster meetings were held in Connaught. A 
picture of that at Clifton hangs before us as we write, with 
portraits of Smith O'Brien, Davis, and the Bishops of Meath 
and Ardagh ; while O'Connell himself stands in the centre, 
swaying the multitude with his grandly mellifluous brogue 
which Fr. Burke, natural orator as he was, did not disdain after- 
wards to borrow. In 1872 Fr. Burke preached at New York 
on * The Christian Man the Man of the Day.' 

Give me the man of faith. Give me the man of human power 
and intelligence, and the higher power of Divine principle and 
Divine love ! With that man, as with the lever of Archimedes, I 
will move the world. 

Let me speak to you of such a man. Let me speak to you of 
one whose form, as I beheld it in early youth, now looms up before 
me ; so fills, in imagination, the halls of my memory, that I behold 
him as I beheld him years ago, majestic in stature, an eye gleaming 
with intellectual power, a mighty hand uplifted, waving, quivering 
with honest indignation ; his voice thundering, like the voice of a 
god in the tempest, against all injustice and all dishonour. I speak 
of Ireland's greatest son, the immortal O'Connell. He came ; he 
found a nation the most faithful, the most generous on the face of 
the earth \ he found a people not deficient in any power of human 
intelligence or courage ; chaste in their domestic relations, who for 
centuries had lived, and died, and suffered, to uphold the Faith and 
the Cross. He came, and he found Erin, after the rebellion of 
Ninety-eight, down -trodden in the blood-stained dust, and bound 
in chains. He raised that prostrate form ; he struck the chains from 
those virgin arms, and placed upon her head a crown of free worship 
and free education. 

This is culled from a small collection of his addresses 


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published in this country, but the Irish American reports a 
passage neither in it nor in the large edition brought out at 
New York, and we are aware that it was a revision effected 
by Fr. Burke. 

He showed Ireland and the world that the highest genius can be 
exalted still more when consecrated to the sacred cause of religion. 
He taught the youth of Ireland the lesson they had learned so well 
from him — and from their fathers — that the secret of Ireland^s 
strength and ultimate glory lies in Ireland's adherence to her ancient 
faith. He taught them that that man alone is sure to conquer every 
enemy who has learnt to conquer himself. He has contributed 
largely to make a priest of me, for amongst the tenderest recollec- 
tions of my youth, aoiongst the things that made a deep impression 
on me as a boy, was when I stood in the chapel of Gal way to see 
the great 0*Connell — the man who shook the world — to see that 
great man coming to eight o'clock Mass in the morning, kneeling 
amongst us and receiving Holy Communion ; to watch him absorbed 
in prayer before God ; to read almost the grand thoughts that were 
passing through that pure mind ] to see him renewing again before 
heaven the vows that bound him to religion and country. 

O'Connell's monster meetings were great historic events. 
At Tara, where the Ardrigh and sub-kings of Ireland had 
met in council, there were present, under O'ConncU's banner, 
seven hundred and fifty thousand souls, * aye, and bodies 
too,* as he himself said when correcting this announcement. 
The assembly had just been enrolled teetotallers by Fr. 
Mathew ; and to their cool brains were largely due the strict 
discipline which reigned. Sir Gavan Duffy says that more 
men were present than possessed Scotland when Wallace 
raised the standard of independence, or Athens in the days of 
her world renown. There was much in Tara to excite 
historic memories from its ' Harp that once * to its battle in 
'98. On August 15, 1843, future soldiers, destined to fight 
in the Crimea and Egypt, stood there beside embryo bishops 
and priests. Did Nicholas Burke, with the dash of his nature, 
steal a march on his mother and stand there too.^ The 
revised report in the Irish American of oncf o his lectures 


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says : — * We were once nearly nine millions. / remember 
seeing 250,000 around Daniel O'Connell. You could scarcely 
find that number now in a whole province of Ireland/* 

In another address he made more detailed reference to the 
Tara meeting, though his impression again erred as to the size 
of the assemblage. But this may be explained by the fact 
that it was impossible from any one point to see the entire 
meeting ; the hill rose abruptly high from the bosom of the 
plain ; the people stood thick as bearded corn. Thousands 
could not get near the hill at all. The present writer, then a 
boy, was present, and could not even see the platform from 
which 0*Connell spoke. Tara had been the scene of a battle 
between the King's troops and the insurgents, who from the 
way they wore their hair were nick-named * croppies,' 

In the early morning there was a tent pitched upon the hill-top ; 
there was an altar erected, and an aged priest went to offer up the 
Mass for the people. Women with grey heads, who were bloom- 
ing maidens in '98, came from every side ; and they all knelt round 
the * Croppy's Grave ' ; and just as the priest began the Mass, and 
the two hundred thousand on the hill-sides and in the vales below 
were uniting in adoration, a loud cry of wailing pierced the air. It 
was the Irish mothers and the Irish maidens pouring out their souls 
in sorrow, and wetting with their tears the shamrocks that grew out 
of the * Croppy's Grave'* 

Nicholas was a youth of strong impulse, and his views 
were largely shaped by the books and the men to whose 
influence he bowed. It will be seen that though in '43 a 
strong disciple of the moral force policy of O'Connell, yet 
in '46 his sympathies went with Young Ireland. This 
change was entirely produced by what he read. Thomas 
Davis had urged that Ireland's then scanty stock of books 
should be increased. 

' * Catholicity as Revealed in the Character of the Irish People.* New York. 

« •The History of Ireland as told in her Ruins.' New York, April 5, 1872. 
But memories other than political were in Burke's mind when he visited Tara. 
It was on that hill that St. Patrick, holding aloft a shamrock, preached to the 
pagan people, and explained to them the mystery of the Trinity. 


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The influence on the young mind of Ireland of such works 
would be incalculably great Boys who read of their own will, read 
intently ; they are edified and instructed with Sandford and Merton ; 
they are loyalists with Falkland, and patriots with Lord Edward. 
The writer of books popular among boys may calculate on revolution- 
ising a country at the outside in thirty years. 

A journalist who met Fr. Burke in Philadelphia has given 
us the fruit of some impressions he gathered. 

When Davis endeavoured to waken into life the dead chivalry 
of Connaught, the last refuge of the Catholic Celt, and the last 
battle-field of Irish independence, he little thorght that a youthful 
reader was destined to kindle anew the love of faith and fatherland 
in Irish hearts in every quarter of the globe by the magic power of 
true eloquence. Little did the gifled poet of * Young Ireland ' know 
that his noble poem, * The West's Asleep,' sent the blood burning 
through the veins of a light-hearted, bright- eyed youth of Gal way. 
I can fancy how young Burke felt as he read the following inspiring 
lines of Davis : 

* And often in O'Connor's van 

To triumph dashed each Connaught clan — 

And fleet as deer the Norman ran 

Through Corlieu's Pass and Ardrahan, 

And later times saw deeds as brave ; 

And glory guards Clanricarde's grave — 

Sing, Oh I they died their land to save. 

At Augh rim's slopes and Shannon's wave.' * 

Fr. Burke in one of his extempore lectures referred to the 
man whose poetry left so deep an impression on him. 

Although Moore made every true heart and every noble mind 
melt into sorrow at the contemplation of Ireland's wrongs, as they 
came home to every sympathetic breast upon the wings of Ireland's 
ancient melody, yet he said to the harp of his country: — 

* Go sleep with the sunshine of fame on thy slumbers, 
Till waked by some band less unworthy than mine.' 

A hand less unworthy came — a hand more loyal and true than even 
his was — the immortal Thomas Davis. He and the men whose hearts 
beat with such high hope for young Ireland seized the sad, silent harp 
of Erin, and sent forth another thrill in the invitation to the men of 

• Standard [Philadelphia], July 14, 1883. 


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the North to join hands with their Catholic brethren— to the men 
of the South to remember the glories of * Brian the Brave.' To the 
men of Connaught, he seemed to call forth Roderick O'Connor from 
his grave at Clonmacnoise. He rallied Ireland in that year so 
memorable for its hopes and for the blighting of those hopes. He 
and the men of the Nation did what this world has never seen in the 
space of time, by the sheer power of Irish genius, by the sheer 
strength of Young Ireland's intellect \ the Nation of '43 created a 
national poetry, a national literature, which no other country can 
equal. Under the magic voices and pens of these men, every ancient 
glory of Ireland stood forth again. I remember it well I was but 
a boy at the time ; but I recollect with what startled enthusiasm I 
would arise from reading ' Davis's Poems ' ; and it would seem to me 
that before my young eyes I saw the dash of the Brigade at Fontenoy. 
It would seem as if my young ears were filled with the shout that 
resounded at the Yellow Ford and Benburb — the war cry of the 
Red Hand, ' Lam Dearg Abu ' — as alien hosts were swept away, 
and, like snow under the beams of the hot sun, melted before the 
Irish onset 

But a reaction of calm came. In a lecture on 'The 
Church the Salvation of Society,* our Dominican says : — 

The Church maintained the rights of the people, whenever those 
rights were unjustly invaded by those in power. But, to the people, 
in their turn, this Church has always preached patience, docility, 
obedience to law, legitimate redress, when redress was required. 
She has always endeavoured to calm their spirit, and to keep then 
back, even under sore oppression, from the remedy which the world's 
history tells us has always been worse than the disease— viz., the 
remedy of rebellion. 

Be this as it may, Burke's sympathies in '46 were, as we 
have said, on the side of Young Ireland. The death of Davis 
came as a heavy blow and intensified the boy's devotion to 
his memory. It may be mentioned as introductory to the 
following that a new writ for Galway town had been issued 
on the death of Sir Valentine Blake in 1846. The Right 
Hon. J. H. Monahan obtained 510, and Mr. Anthony 
O'Flaherty 506 votes. 

Fr. Burke (writes Mr. Meehan) was wont to recount his experi- 


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ences of those days in a humorous way. The older members of our 
race, who watch the progress of Irish agitation in the English Par-i 
liament, will remember the shock the * Repeal Party * received wheti 
Dr. Power, one of the members for Cork, and the brother of the 
then 'Vicar-General of New York, deserted the Repealers in the 
legislature, and voted openly with the Ministry on a question 
on which the Irish members were in opposition to the Government 
He got as his reward the Governorship of the British Colony of 
Santa Lucia, in the West Indies. The mxt break was when 
Monahan — another Repealer — took office as Attorney-General. He 
was one of the members for Galway, and the * Young Ireland * Party 
determined to make the issue on office-taking in his case, and fight 
the battle against him, though they had not a hope of defeating him 
— the influence of * Conciliation Hall,' as it stood then— the whole 
power of the Government, and all the local authorities being against 
them. Nevertheless, they sent down from the Confederation in 
Dublin a delegation composed of Smith O'Brien, Thomas Francis 
Meagher, John B. Dillon, Richard O'Gorman, and Michael Doheny, 
to fight the battle of Nationalism. When the delegates got to 
Galway they found that the game was already lost. The Government 
had adopted Monahan as their candidate, and there was no chance 
for the * Young Ireland ' man. Nevertheless, the young * revolu- 
tionists ' fought inch by inch the election, which in those times often 
ran for weeks. It was before the days of railroads in Ireland, 
and the expected orators had to travel from Dublin by coach. 
The roads were heavy, the weather adverse, and when the time 
came at which the expected speakers should have appeared to 
fire the audience, there was no evidence that even the stage coach 
containing them was anywhere within sight. It was suggested that 
they had better put up * Young Burke ' to fill the time until some 
of the looked-for celebrities should arrive. Accordingly the future 
Dominican was hoisted on the platform, and, as he used to say 
himself, was getting off one of his best school-boy rhetorical efforts, 
when some * unreconstructed ' old Irelander in the crowd cried out, 
* Ah ! go 'long out o' that, Nicky Burke, or I'll tell your mother what 
a goum (fool) you're making of yourself.' Fr. Burke used to relate 
this anecdote of his first appearance as a public orator with great 
humour, adding that he never dreaded criticism afterwards as he 
feared that threatened by his Galway co-patriot in the days when 
he was yet subject to the parental jurisdiction. 

The handwriting on the wall created not more complete 


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collapse. Just as gossiping Galwegians say that had Burke 
married he might possibly have become M.P. and Chief 
Justice, others aver that if he had not succumbed to this 
sneer the tiro tribune might have found himself in '48 
shoulder to shoulder with Meagher and O'Brien, and have 
enriched 'Political Speeches from the Dock' with another 
sample of sensation oratory. 

The effort, though an early one, was yet not his first. 

While wearing a bib I remember climbing up to a platform built 
on barrels, and spouting freely. Afler I had gone to bed my mother 
heard of it, and disturbed my dreams of oratoric glory by adminis- 
tering a condign rouser. 

< Hail, healthful Exercise, whose bracing charm 
Makes young blood tingle and keeps old blood warm ! ' * 

Wat Burke and his wife were strong disciples of O'Connell, 
whose policy of moral force had been opposed by Young 
Ireland.' A Galway election at that day was an elaborate 
incident : — 

Night and day the combatants were at work (writes Meagher). 
For more than a week they fought. From dawn to sundown the 
battle surged and thundered within the Court House. From sun- 
down to (lawn the theatre, the lanes, the streets, the suburbs, the roads 
all around, were scenes of furious action. 

The theatre was a ridiculous old building. At seven o'clock 
every evening of the contest, that paintless, lustreless, dishevelled 
temple of the drama, was in possession of the stormiest crowd. Pit, 
boxes, galleries, every seat, every standing place, from floor to 
ceiling, were black with people — even to the orchestra. 

Instead of trombones, fiddles, and kettledrums, were devoted 
Repealers, who beat time with their heels, and, previously to the 
chair being taken, enthusiastically whistled * Garryowen.' One of 
these performers was a man of huge limb, with shoulders broad 
enough to carry a dray, while the girth and shape of his arm recalled 
the colossal pugilist of Crotona, or * Hugh ' in ' Bamaby Rudge.' 
Every inch as sinewy and as large, he was as wild and shaggy in 
appearance, and almost as desperate in his onslaughts. 

» Fr. Burke to the Poor Clares. 

' £. N. Davies, Esq., M.D. (chairman of the Galway meeting), to the Author. 


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About seven the chair was usually taken — it had been the judg- 
ment seat of the Doge in the Merchant of Venice^ and had 
supported in their dying moments several dynasties of kings and 
queens. One evening the orators were half an hour late.* The 
people, growing impatient, resolved on something by way of a 
change, and had it When at last they arrived they beheld the 
chair placed close to the foot-lights, and a number of legs and arms, 
and big sticks, flourishing on all sides, and keeping time to the 
rollicking song, ' I am a ranting, roving blade.' 

One morning a man sought the attorney who acted as 
conducting agent, and, declaring that there were no less than 
eleven cases of assault against him, asked what he had 
best do } * Make it a dozen,' replied the lawyer. He left the 
court and did so. 

To another trivial incident Fr. Burke made some reference 
in a sermon preached at Brooklyn. 

What greater reproach can you put upon a man than to say * You 
turned your coat ; you have shifted your politics ! ' I remember once 
when I was a boy seeing a man in Galway who became a great 
* Repealer ' and wanted to get into Parliament His principles were 
well known ; up to that time he was a Tory. He came into 
the Court House, and a gentleman there, wanting to tell the people 
how he had changed his opinions, took off his coat and tumed it 
inside out I feel the impropriety of illustrating, on an occasion 
like this, my arguments with such familiar examples.* 

Fr. Burke, in fact, had been lecturing so much, and told so 
many stories, that for a moment he thought he was on the 
platform and not in the pulpit He stated at the Catholic 
University, Dublin, that once in the Opera House, Philadel- 
phia, where 6,000 heads surged before him, he made a large 

* It was here that the incident noticed by Mr. Meehan doubtless occurred. 
The chairman — probably because he had not arrived— fails to remember young 
Burke*s speech. But Miss Burke conHrms the account, including the threat to 
report Nicholas to his mother. He often described his complete collapse when 
the inflated rhetoric of a boy had been stung by a puncturing point. 

» * The Principle of Christian Life,' sermon preached at St, Paul's Church, 
Brooklyn, U.S., October 20, 1872 


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sign of the cross before beginning, and an Irish voice cried 
out, ' Long life to you, Father Tom.* 

The angry warmth of the election over, work and fun 
were by turns resumed. Pantomime tricks were now re- 
linquished in favour of higher comedy. Galway from time 
immemorial had been the port most frequented by foreigners. 
Mr. Andrew Lynch remembers young Burke wending his 
way to the docks and accosting the foreign sailors in 
gibberish accompanied by shrugs and other ambiguous ac- 
tion. Replies as clear as Cherokee fluently fell, only to be 
overwhelmed by an avalanche of gibberish. The foreign 
sailors generally got angry in the end, whereupon Nicholas 
simulated fury until a crowd would collect and the water- 
bailiff threatened to interfere. 

But his mother knew that these were mere lovers* quarrels, 
and prayed that in a moment of impulse he might not join 
some foreign ship which * rode the waters like a thing of life ' 
to find in the * land of the cypress and myrtle ' a home 
festooned with romance. 

Nicholas had such ah aptitude for expressing himself in 
the patois of foreign tongues that his father often utilised 
him as an interpreter in interviews with ship captains — his 
object being to effect large sales of biscuit Miss Burke 
says her brother was not only a first-rate salesman, but a 
capital accountant The same is recorded of St Francis of 
Assisi — the father of Mendicant Friars. 

* Walter Burke (observes Fr. Mullins, O.P.) occupied a re- 
spectable status as a trader, and got contracts for supplying 
ship-biscuits to the maritime service.* More fortunate than 
the episcopal hero of the ditty which he loved to chant, he 
had now an heir with marked ability to succeed him, but the 
mother's daydream continued unbroken. 

The father thought to keep him at the trade, being handy in 
shifting biscuits in the great oven (observes Mr. Lynch), but he 
never worked in the actual manufacture of bread. Bakers* ap- 


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prentices were a wild lot at that day ; and Mrs. Burke was anxious 
to rescue her son from the risks involved in such association. 
Whether to stimulate the ambition of the boy or not, Wat Burke 
was fond of dwelling on the history of Barney Hughes, originally 
a working baker in Belfast, and who at last was able not only 
to give a site for a new Catholic church, but to put down i,ooo/. as 
his personal donation. The Orangemen decided not to buy his 
bread. Hughes said, 'I'll make them beg for it and pay for it' 
In the famine year, when the peasantry made a raid on his bread- 
carts and carried off their contents, he reloaded them (Wat said) 
and sent all back to the same place for distribution among the poor. 

Thus, while he tried to awaken the boy's ambition for 
commercial enterprise, he would urge at the same time a fine 
example of Christian charity. Soon a more practical school 
for such inculcations was afforded. 

His contracts for the supply of ship-biscuits (Miss Burke said, 
addressing the present writer) left in his lofts a great quantity of 
biscuit sweepings, which my mother boiled down with beef soup, for 
a number of famishing creatures. I remember with what tribulation 
she one day witnessed the boy who was carrying out the pot let it 
fall and the contents spill on the pavement. But she was resolved 
that this disappointment should not extend to the poor, and promptly 
sent them out a satisfying supply of loaves. 

The law of charity which Nicholas heard preached by his 
pious mother, he himself continued to preach unto the end. 
Thirty years after, he said: — 

If a man come to you or me and says, ' Relieve me, I am in 
want,* we ask him the measure of his wants. If we find that he is in 
no great pressure of poverty we may of course relieve him, but we 
are not absolutely bound to give him our money or means. If that 
roan come to us in great necessity and tell us, with truth, * I have not 
broken bread to-day and I don't know where to turn for my day's 
food,' we are bound, because of his want, to relieve him ; and that 
wliich was left to our own free disposition a moment ago becomes a 
precept You cannot refuse him, no matter how poor you may be ; 
like the widow mentioned in Scripture, you are bound to divide with 
him the last measure of meal and the last cruse of oil. ^ 

* Cork Examiner ^ February 5, 1877. All that Fr. Burke said, his good 


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This sermon was preached at Cork. 

It was observed by the Dominican Fathers of that city that 
* trifles sufficed to amuse and interest him. During his sojourn 
at our convent here he would employ intervals of leisure in 
watching on the quays the sailors engaged in converse, or at 
their work.' 

When Fr. Burke, in the zenith of his fame, withdrew from 
the hum of adulation and wandered daily to the coal- 
begrimed docks to contemplate sailors hauling, smoking, or 
conversing, was he moved by the thoughts of an earlier 
day } 

Who can tell what revolved in that mind when he was 
seen to brood over the objects just described.? Was he 
thinking of the turning-points in his own life.? Just as 
an empire was saved by the cackling of a goose, he once said 
that he might have been saved by the scolding of an aged 
nun. If the apple had not fallen, where would have been 
Newton's principle .? That the mind of Thomas Burke was 
employed in higher thoughts than might at first sight be 
supposed, seems the more likely from the following, which 
comes to us from a venerable superioress of the Order of 
Charity : — 

Once, when wandering along the strand, at Salthill, Galway, ac- 
companied by friends, he was observed to lag behind and pause as 
if in contemplation of the waves as they rolled in unbroken from 
Labrador. * On what are you ruminating ? ' a friend asked. * I'm 
just thinking that if it were not for the providence of God I might 
now be a baker's apprentice, drunk every day of the week.' 

Intemperance prevailed to a grave extent in Galway at 

mother more than literally exemplified. < In the famine times,' writes Fr. 
Clatke, S.J., and we give the. statement entirely on his authority, 'Mrs. Burke 
took a family of starving children into the house and fed them with her own 
children, making them all kneel down and say the rosary before each meal. ' In 
all this she imitated St. Dominic, the originator of the rosary, who, when a 
great famine ravaged Pdlencia, laboured to relieve the poor. Trifles of this sort 
may have helped to turn her son's thoughts towards the Dominicans ; and he had 
read in Hardiman that it was Nicholas Lynch, a Dominican, who in 1627 
restored the devotion of the rosary in Galway. 


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this time ; and, as Mr. Lynch ' says, the bakers' apprentices 
were, for the most part, very demoralised. Even some of the 
little boys whom our stripling knew were smitten by the 

I have myself known (he says) a little boy, before he was fourteen 
years of age, to become a confirmed, irreclaimable drunkard, because 
every time that his father sent him to the public-house for whiskey 
or gin, the child took his share of it before he brought it home ! 
What remains of the joys that ought to surround that family at their 
domestic hearth? Not a vestige of tenderness or of comfort 
Demoralisation is there ; poverty comes in at last in its most hideous 
form, and brings in its train all the vices, all the crimes, and all 
the bestiality which are forced upon those who have the misfortune 
to be in that last and most degraded form of poverty.' 

How different the example that Wat Burke presented to 
his son ! — 

Oh ! my friends, what a blessing it is for the grown man in after- 
life to be able to look back to the days of his early boyhood, and say 
of the old man that is in his grave, < I never heard a bad word from 
him ; I never saw him in a position unworthy of a man ; I never 
heard from his lips, nor saw in his life, anything that could teach me 
sin or vice. His example, by which my character was formed, was 
as that of a saint—a perfect Christian.' This is the highest blessing 
that perhaps God can give to man ; and it is the precious blessing 
which the drunkard denies to the children given to him by God.' 

O'Connell's monster meetings ended with his imprison- 
ment. On appeal to the House of Lords, the gates of his 
prison opened amid a grand ovation, but a subtle disease had 
already begun to prey, and he walked forth with faltering 
step. The Irish Confederation, a powerful league, designed by 
Young Ireland to supplant the policy of O'Connell, started 
into formidable vitality. 

Cathedrals and parish churches, convents and monasteries, col- 

* Mr. Andrew Lynch is a highly respectable baker in Galway. 

" Lecture on Temperance, Irish Star, June 21, 1873. 

■ Lecture on Temperance (inediled), Irish Star, June 21, 1873. 


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leges and schools, orphanages and hospitals, sprang up over the land 
(says Fr. Burke); disciplinary laws, of necessity relaxed during the wild 
terrors of persecution, were again enforced ; the sacraments solemnly 
and properly administered ; the beautiful devotions of the Catholic 
Church publicly practised ; the young instructed ; the Gospel 
preached ; the people sanctified. 

In the midst of all this glorious work came a period the most 
terrible in our history.' 

But this Fr. Burke will describe in the next chapter. 

» Oration n the Pro-Cathedral, Dublin, Nov. 27, 1878. 


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A.D. 1847. ^TAT. 17. 

The hand of God was now to fall upon Ireland. The Angel of 
Famine and Death was spreading his wings over the land. The 
people who retained strength to move were about to rush from their 
island home as from a pest-house, and in their hundreds of thousands 
seek and find refuge beyond the Western Ocean.* 

These words were used by Fr. Burke when preaching in 
1877 the //o^e of Bishop Moriarty. A lecture on O'Connell, 
in New York, five years previously, adverts to the same time. 

Well I remember those fearful scenes 1 Then came the day when 
the news spread from lip to lip — ' There is famine in the land ; and 
we must all die.' So said eight millions in that terrible year of '46 — 
eight millions in that awful autumn that came upon us, when the 
people 'cried for bread and there was no one to break it to them.' 
The strong man lay down and died. The tender maidens, the pure 
and aged matrons of Ireland, lay down and died. They were found 
dead by the roadside, unburied ; they were found in their shallow 
graves — scarcely buried.* 

A sermon at West Chester, U.S., presents a more detailed 
narrative of some thrilling incidents that he had himself seen. 

I was but sixteen years of age, yet old enough to know good and 
evil, old enough to appreciate joy and sorrow. I found myself on 
the western coast of the island, in the midst of the people, when it 
pleased the Almighty God to send down His last and most terrific 
visitation upon us all ; when the Angel of Famine and Death spread 
his wings, and the baneful shadow passed over the land. I have 

> Sermon preached in the Cathedral, Killarney, at the celebration of the 
Requiem Office for the Bishop of Kerry. 

* Lecture on O'Connell at the Academy of Music, New York, Maj 13, 1872. 


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seen strong men lie down in the streets of the city, and, with ashy 
lips, murmur a last cry for food, and faint away and die ! I have 
seen the dead infant lying on the breast of the dead mother as she 
lay by the wayside ! I have seen the living infant trying to draw 
from the breast of the mother who was dead sustenance for its infant 
life ! Oh, God ! in Thy mercy let me never again see such sights ! 
Was she faithful or faithless to every tradition of holiness ? Was she 
still a nation of martyrs and of saints ? Ay, my friends. One case 
out of ten thousand : There was a family, far away on the western 
coast of the island. They were three days without food. The father 
and mother were there ; the young man, the young girls were 
there. There was no work to be done ; the country was a waste ; 
the Angel of Death had swept his hand over it ; the ungrateful soil 
refused to give sustenance to its sons ; they were living upon the 
dock-leaves and the grass, until they were so enfeebled as to be no 
longer able to go out and seek them ; and the whole family were 
here and there stretched upon the floor, dying in the slow agonies 
of hunger, when a sleek fanatical lady came in. On her arm she 
had a basket ; and in it she had bread and meat She had waited 
for a particular day ; and that day happened to be Good Friday. 
She looked around upon the dying intermingled with the dead ; she 
took out the bread and the meat, and laid them before the dying 
ones, and said, * If you wish to live, eat !' With their dying hands 
they pushed her away ; they averted their eyes from that which was 
the staff of life, and said, ' On this day Christ died for us ; and the 
Church commands us not to eat these things.' She returned ; she 
put back her bread and her meat into the basket and walked out ot 
the house ; and God only knows how many curses have been upon 
her head because she made the life of this world the trial of a people's 

Another example, and I have done. A good woman, who lived 
on the western shores of Ireland, a few miles from my native 
Galway, was accustomed, every Sunday, to be present at the Mass, 
and on the first Sunday of every month to receive Holy Communion. 
The fomine came. She was then an old woman. Her sons had 
gone away to look for work, with a promise that they would come 
to her and keep her in life if they could. Her daughters had emi- 
grated ; and she was left alone in the world, with her youngest, a boy 
of twelve or fourteen years of age. They lived together, the old 
woman and the boy ; and when the distress came upon the country, 
to such a degree that all were dying, the boy cried for food, and the 

VOL. I. G 


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old woman had nothing to give him. At lenglh, wasting away under 
her eyes, while she gave him all that she had, denying herself, one 
day he laid his head upon her bosom and died. She was so weak- 
ened by hunger that she was not able to go out of the house to the 
neighbours to get them to assist in burying him. For two days he 
lay dead upon the floor; and she dying — dying with a broken 
heart, without one to put a cup of water to her lips, dying of 
hunger and of thirst — she lay for these two days and nights beside 
the dead. On the third morning, which was Sunday, she heard the 
chapel bell ringing for Mass. The country at the time was a desert, 
no neighbours about it When she heard the bell, she crawled 
on her hands and feet out of the house, and tried to take herself to 
the chapel, about a milie away. Three times she fell on the road. 
Those who were nearly stricken as bad as she was. as they passed, 
lifted her up and laid her against the hedge and gave her a drink of 
water from the running stream. She fell again and again. At length 
she crawled — crawled until she came to a point on the road where 
she could see the chapel doors open. The priest was at the altar 
saying the Mass. When she caught sight of the altar she lifted up 
her hands and eyes to God and cried, ' Eternal praise to the Blessed 
Virgin's Son !' and fell back a corpse.* 

• They were dying,' an English newspaper said ; * as a race they 
were going with a vengeance.' Yes, they went in thousands and 
hundreds of thousands 'with a vengeance.' Thousands lay down in 
their martyr graves, and their souls went to God ; and hundreds of 
thousands turned their backs reluctantly— weeping for the land of 
their sires, and went into foreign climes where wealth and fortune 
awaited their intellect and Irish energy. And hither they brought the 
love that sanctified those that they left in their graves behind them.* 

Fr. Burke's impression of what he had read during the 
famine was correct. One of the most powerful leaders that 
appeared in the Times stated that a Celt in Connemara would 
soon be as rare as a Red Indian in New York. 

It was at this time, when returning from a rural ramble, 
he stumbled over the dead body of a beggar. He merely 
muttered, in the spirit of Jerrold, that it might be the cast 

> «The Hidden Saints of Ireland.' St. Raymond's, West Chester, U.S.A. 
All Saints' Day, 1872. 


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garment of an angel. Preaching at St. Joseph's, Liverpool, 
on September 5, 1880, he said, * If I were to live a thousand 
years, never could I banish from my memory, or shut out 
from my eyes, the terrible sights which I then beheld.' 
Some passages in his exordium on the death of Cardinal 
Cullen supply a sequel to those scenes. 

The storm passed away, bearing on its wings the millions of Irish 
victims and exiles, and leaving Ireland stunned by the greatness of 
her niia There seemed no hope for the nation. Ruined home- 
steads, abandoned villages, impoverished towns, workhouses filled 
to overflowing, prisons crowded with political prisoners, hospitals 
unable to hold the victims of cholera which came in the wake of war 
and famine ; trade and commerce destroyed, industry paralysed, a 
population wasted by disease and privation, scarcely able to realise 
life after such awful contact with death, and crushed by separation 
from so many loved hearts. 

To this may be added a climax found in his lecture on 
Civil and Religious Liberty, at Hartford, Connecticut. ' The 
hand of God was succeeded by the hand of man — the exter- 
minating hand of the landlord.' 

The special knowledge he acquired by personal observa- 
tion of the sufTerings of God's poor gave him an enormous 
vantage ground in his exhaustless sermons preached in the 
cause of mercy and charity. * Blessed is he that under- 
standeth concerning the needy and the poor,' saith Psalm xl. 
' What is this mystery ? ' he asked. * It is to explain it and to 
awaken your consciences to a good understanding of it that I 
have come here to-day.* Thus he spoke at Passage, co. Cork, 
when unlocking the hand of avarice, on August 10, 1873. 

To come back to the famine. No sorrow affected Burke 
long. With the vigorous philosophy of his mind, and the 
hearty buoyancy of his nature, he rose superior to such 
influences. His religious bias was fostered not a little by 
lonely rambles and explorations among the former abbey 
homes of the Irish Dominicans and Franciscans. From 
groping among the stones he turned to the books which 


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to)d of the founders, and his mind soon became full of 
St Dominic. 

Six hundred years after St Columbkllle's death (he tells us) a 
man was born away among the olive groves of Spain. This was St 
Dominic, a man of noble if not imperial birth. He was filled with 
the love of God. He found the Church disturbed by lieresy on the 
one side, and on the other by hundreds of thousands of armed men 
trying to enforce heavenly truth with the arms of flesh, while they 
were injuring the cause by the immorality of their lives. He 
restored peace in the Church by his preaching, a feat that was im- 
possible to all the forces of Christendom. After a while the 
Dominican Friars spread to Ireland, and the Irish people took the 
white-robed missionaries to their hearts.* 

Burke's enthusiastic love of music magically re-peopled 
the deserted walls around him. He heard the loud hosanna, 
' the full tide of sacred song swell through those wonderful 
cloisters whose very ruins still command our admiration and 
move us to tears.* So he said in his sermon on Church 
Music at * St. Mary Star of the Sea' in 1859. An American 
lecture—* The History of Ireland as told in Her Ruins ' — 
fondly retraces old paths. 

I am come to speak to you of the glory and the shame, and the 
joy and the sorrow, that these ruins so eloquently tell of; and when 
I look upon them, in spirit now, my mind sweeps over the inter- 
vening ocean, and I stand in imagination under the ivied and moss- 
covered arches of Athenry, or Sligo, or Clare-Galway. 

Describing the havoc wrought by Elizabeth, he went on 
to say that £$ was the price set upon the head of a friar, the 
same as upon the head of a wolf. 

These venerable ruins tell the tale of the nation's woe. As long 
as it was merely a question of destroying a Cistercian or a Benedic- 
tine Abbey, there were so few of these in the land that the people did 
not feel it much. But when the persecution came upon the Bhreahir^ 
as the friar was called — the man whom everybody knew— the man 
whom all came to look up to for consolation in sorrow ; when it 
came upon him —then it brought affliction to every village, to every 
» Fr. Burke at Swords, January 5, 1882. 


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man in Ireland. There were, at this time, upwards of eighty convents 
of Franciscans and Dominicans in Ireland. There were nearly 
a thousand Irish Dominican priests when Henry began his persecu- 
tion. He was succeeded, after a brief interval of thirty years, by 
Elizabeth. How many Dominicans, think you, were then left in 
Ireland? O God! there were four only 1 All the rest of these 
heroic men had stained their white habit with the blood that they 
shed for God and for their country. 

Black records follow which must not be opened, and then, 
adds Fr. Burke, 

came a little breathing-time. In fifty years there were six hundred 
Irish Dominican priests in Ireland again. They studied in Spain, in 
France, in Italy. These were the youth, the children of Irish 
fathers and mothers, who cheerfully gave them up, though they knew, 
almost to a certainty, that they were devoting them to a martyr's 
death ; but they gave them up for God. They studied in foreign 
lands ; and they came back again, by night and by stealth, and they 
landed upon the shores of Ireland ; and when Cromwell came he 
found six hundred Irish Dominicans upon the Irish land. Ten 
years after, and again the Irish Dominican preachers assembled to 
count up their numbers. How many were left out of the six 
hundred? But one hundred and fifty ; four hundred and fifty had 
perished — had shed their blood for their country, or had been 
shipped away to Barbadoes as sbves. These are the tales their ruins 
tell. Oh, if these moss-grown stones could speak, they would tell 
how the people gave up everything they had, for years and years, as 
wave after wave of successive persecutions rolled over them, rather 
than renounce their glorious faith or priesthood. 

With all this in his mind, Nicholas Burke became fired 
to follow in the footsteps of the old band, and it may, indeed, 
be said that he rose as a giant from the graves of the martyred 

Ireland (he exclaimed), what shall I say of thee? O mother, 
greatest and most faithful of all the nations, fairest and most loving 
of all the daughters of the Church ! The queen of martyrs on this 
earth, Ireland, for three hundred years, like the heroic mother of the 
Maccabees, had stood erect, cross in hand, whilst her children fell 
around her. Yet she bore it with a good courage for the hope that 
she had in God. 


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— words spoken in 1878 at the solemn office for Cardinal 

With * Hardiman ' under his arm, the boy is found pursuing 
with keen interest these visitations. 

The proximity of the West Chapel and graveyard of the 
Dominicans fostered his fondness for both ; and the remains 
of his father and mother have been since consigned to their 
hallowed embrace.* Nicholas found himself constantly drawn 
towards the shattered tombs of this cemetery — then open to 
all trespassers. In happy hours, thirty years after, he would 
allude to those days, and to amuse a brother friar describe 
the little girls of the Claddagh dancing on the flat tombstones 
of the Dominican graveyard. He would whistle the air to 
which they had capered, and hold out the skirts of his own 
habit with a grotesque grace. But when he mimicked the good 
Prior, rushing out to drive them from the sacrilege and 
puffing in the pursuit, the effect was indescribably comical.' 

These old tombs were to him the cradle of thought. 
There some of his kinsfolk slept. Speaking in St. Gabriers 
Church, New York, he said : — 

I remember when I was a boy my mother taking me to the graves 
where her father and mother and those who went before her were 
buried ; and also bringing me to the grave where my father's people 
were buried, and there, kneeling down, pouring forth her soul in 
prayer. She would make pilgrimages to these sacred places, and 
shed tears for those who had died twenty and thirty years before, as 
though they were lying recently dead, so fresh and green were they 
in her glorious Irish memory. And so it is with our people. They 
love their dead. The very dead in the Irish grave in the green soil 

> Many of these must have been English Dominicans. Fr. Williams, the 
present Provincial of England writes : ' They took refuge in Ireland, Scotland, 
and Belgium.' 

' On revisiting the Dominican graveyard since its enclosure, one fails to find 
the ruin which the wall professes to surround ; a remark which applies to many 
similarly preserved holy places throughout Ireland, and almost leads to the sus- 
picion that the * remains ' within must have been utilised in building the wall 


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over the ocean are the strongest bonds that bind you and me to the 
land of our birth this night. 

Fruit gathered from the rural graveyards of Ireland is 
found in many of his lectures. Thus, in * The Supernatural 
Life of the Irish People * : — 

Ireland looks forward to whatever of prosperity, whatever of 
freedom, whatever of glory is in store for her. She will not seek it 
before its time, with rash or rebellious hand. She has learned too 
well the lesson of patience. She will not seek it until God, in the 
revolution of ages, sends it to her; but it will certainly come, because 
that nation has preserved its national existence by preserving its 
supernatural life in God. It will not always be night. The clouds 
will not always lie there. It will not always be that the Irishman is 
uncertain of the footing that he has in the land, until he lies down in 
the grave. It will not always be, as I heard once an old woman say, 
weeping in a churchyard, * I had land, I had a place in this country, 
I had a house. They took them all from me, and nothing remains 
but this grave.' It will not always be thus. Justice, glory, power, 
are in the hands of God. Glory and power are His gifts to every 
nation. To some that glory and that power is given even after they 
have forsaken their God ; but when it comes to dear old Ireland it 
will be a reward for her faith, and for her love of Christ. 

It has been said (says Fr. Burke in one of his sermons) that the 
highest ambition of most Irish parents is to rear a son for the sanctuary, 
and this, which is sometimes said by the enemies of the Church as if 
it were a reproach, is the grandest testimony to the undying faith and 
devotion of a martyred people. But it is not every household that can 
produce a priest The Lord must truly build and guard such a house. 
There we must find a virgin faith sanctified by traditions of unbroken 
loyalty to the Church of God. There must the young Levite breathe 
from infancy an atmosphere of purity and domestic piety. The 
voice of prayer must be familiar to him from his earliest youth. 
From his mother's lips and the example of his father must he learn the 
first lessons of what is destined to develop into sacerdotal holiness.^ 

One night Nicholas Burke heard a sermon which clenched 
his future career. * Woe unto me if I do not preach the Gospel 
of God ! ' rang in his ear for days. At last his final decision 
was taken to enter the sanctuary and preach ' Christ crucified.* 

* * Month's Memory of Cardinal Cullen,* Nov. 27, 1878. 


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This resolve was remarkable. Mr. Haverty, when notic- 
ing O'Connell, Sheil, and other lay orators, wrote in 1872, 
from material gathered from Fr. Burke's lips—* It was 
confidently predicted that young Burke would, at a not 
distant day, make a figure as prominent as any of them in 
the political arena.* Mr. OTlanagan, B.L., who also learned 
from Fr. Burke some account of these days, adds : • In a short 
time the contest of election, the jar of politics, the battle 
between Whig and Tory, the emulations of old and young 
Ireland were to know him no more.' 

Shiel. Wyse, Rice, and other popular orators had risen to 
be British Ministers ; the coif and the ermine rewarded the 
rhetoric of others, but indeed the talents of Nicholas Burke 
were so varied that, no matter what path in life he chose, 
wealth and honour were sure to come. In his mind's eye, 
however, he saw nought but the halo of Heaven — his ambition 
looked not lower ; he preferred a life of self-sacrifice to 
worldly honours ; and vows of voluntary poverty gave place 
to the vows of vanity, whereby young Radicals like Disraeli 
told the world that its highest distinctions should yet be 

Fr. Burke mentioned to the good nuns to whom he had 
been for twenty years the spiritual adviser that he strengthened 
himself for his vocation by making a general confession. 
* When I finished (he said) I took up my cap, with a firm 
determination to turn over a new leaf and a blank one, and to 
cover it with the record of good work done/ 

The Father to whom he applied for admission into the Order of 
Preachers (writes Fr. Towers) had himself no mean repute as a sacred 
orator. All acquainted with the late Father Thomas Raymond Rush 
will not consider these few words of praise out of place. This good 
Father knew Nicholas Burke intimately, and had formed a high idea 
of his mind and disposition ; great, therefore, was his pleasure when 
he presented himself as a postulant for the Order. But, as there is 
no human happiness without alloy, so this choice of an Order was not 


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altogether pleasing to his good mother. For years her Confessor had 
been a holy Augustinian ; she therefore wished that her son should 
assume the same habit ; but when she saw that his predilection for the 
white-robed family of Dominic was not a boyish fancy, she cheerfully 

The impression of Fr. Burke's sister, which we elicited 
before this fact reached us, was, that if Mrs. Burke had had to 
select any particular Order for her son it would have been the 
Franciscan, because her favourite Saint Anthony had Wonged 
to it Indeed, more than once a statement has been con- 
fidently made that Nicholas was at first about to join the 

In the early years of our intimacy at Woodchester (writes the head 
of the Dominican Order in Ireland) he often spoke of the incidents 
of his religious vocation. But he never mentioned anything of the 
Franciscans. I heard the report when he became famous, and told it 
to him. He replied, * There is no truth in it' ' 

One or two circumstances not previously mentioned had 
tended to turn his thoughts towards the Dominicans. The 
brother of Mr. Winter, whose school he finally attended, was 
a Dominican Father of Galway much distinguished as a 
preacher. The Dominican Convent for nuns stood in Cross 
Street, near Wat Burke's house, and Nicholas had long 
served its morning Mass. These nuns follow the same rule 
as the Dominican Fathers, and are under the control of the 
same General.' 

It was a pardonable boast with Fr. Rush before he died 
that, though the Order of Preachers had been for six hundred 
years pioneers of civilisation, not one of them had shed a more 
sustained light on Christendom than the youth he had often 
playfully checked at the Claddagh. His undiminished high 

" Letter of the Very Rev. John T. Towers, O.P., to the author, Jan. 28, 1884. 

' This fine institution has long since been removed from the ruined premises 
in Cross Street, and now flourishes in the rural grounds of Taylor's Hill, Galway. 
The old house still stands, a perfect memorial of the Spanish settlers. It passed 
through many vicissitudes, and even, after the nuns had been cruelly hunted from 
it, and previous to their re-entry, was converted into a barrack. 


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spirits did not prevent him from continuing to cherish an ardent 
love for the religious life ; and the sense within him of having a 
gift of speech only strengthened his desire to consecrate it to 
God's service. Other religious orders learned with regret that he 
was not to occupy a cell in their enclosures. But he saw that 
' the monk must not remain in the cloister — that he must 
come out and show himself to the world. He must be brought 
to bear on society* — Fr. Burke's words when preaching on 
St. Dominic of Osman. 

The modest West Chapel by the Claddagh seems to have 
been one of the first built after the relaxation of the Penal 
Laws.' So plain is it that Byron's line on St. Peter's — 
Enter, its grandeur o'erwhelms thee not 

— would apply equally, though in an opposite sense. It ori- 
ginally had a thatched roof, which was replaced long ago by 
one of stauncher stuff. A lecture by Fr. Burke on * The 
History of Ireland ' makes a touching allusion that ought not 
to be overlooked ; — 

We advance just half a century up the highway of time, and 
come upon that which has been familiar, perhaps, to many amongst 
you, as well as to me — the plain, unpretending little chapel, in some 
bylane of the town or country, with its thatched roof, its low ceiling, 
its earthen floor, its wooden altar. What does this tell us? It tells 
of a people struggling against adversity — of a people making their 
first effort, after three hundred years of blood, to build up a house, 

* On the petition^ of the people of Galway to Innocent VHI., the spot 
on which the West Chapel now stands was granted by Bull in 14S8 to the 
Dominican Friars. That cruel warden, already noticed by Fr. Burke, who, 
in 1493, immolated his son at the shrine of public justice, erected its choir. In 
the reign of Elizabeth its treasures were scattered, and in 1642 Lord Forbes, 
landing here, took possession of this house, which he converted into a battery. 
He defaced the church, dug up the graves, and burnt the coffins and bones. In 
1652 the monastery was razed to the ground to prevent its being converted by 
Cromwell into a fortification. The friars lingered round their ancient home of 
sanctity and peace just as Magdalen lingered by the empty tomb in Jerusalem. 
Early in the eighteenth century the Dominicans regained possession of their 
ancient convent, and in the visitation of 1731 it is reported by the mayor of 
Galway that on searching it * he found ten chambers and eight beds, but could 
find none of the friars. ' 


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however humble, for their God ; it tells us of a people who had not 
yet shaken off the traditions of their slavery, upon whose hands the 
chains still hang, and the wounds inflicted by those chains are still 
rankling ; it tells us of a people who scarcely yet knew how to engage 
in the glorious work of Church edification, because they scarcely yet 
realised the privilege that they were to be allowed to live in the land 
that bore them. Let us reverently bow down our heads and salute 
these ancient places — these ancient, humble little chapels, in town 
or country, where we — ^we men of middle age — made our first con- 
fession and received our first communion ; let us salute these places, 
hallowed in our memories by the first, and therefore the strongest, 
the purest, holiest recollections and associations of our lives ; and, 
pilgrims of history, let us turn into the dreary, solitary road that lies 
before us. It is a road of three hundred years of desolation ; a road 
that is wet with tears and with blood ; a road that is pointed out to 
us by the sign of the Cross, the emblem of the nation's faith, and by 
the site of the martyr's grave, the emblem of Ireland's undying fidelity 
to God. 

After Emancipation the old West Chapel assumed a 
fresher, brighter air. Standing in a maritime suburb, it was 
frequented by the Catholic dite^ who in that day thronged 
from adjoining counties to Salt Hill for the season. The 
Prior, Fr. Rush, whose portrait reveals a fine specimen of the 
traditional friar, smiled paternally on Nicholas, and the boy 
in turn looked into his genial face with responsive regard. His 
popularity was largely due to the fact that he took a leading 
part in every public movement, and always spoke with elo- 
quence and to the point. Another Galway Dominican — not 
without interest for Nicholas — was Fr. Folan. The youth had 
once paused under the windows of his cell to hear him sing 
the old ditty * Shule Agrah,' which he was famous for intoning 
with a strength of lung that well-nigh made itself heard at 
the Claddagh. 

The Order of Preachers sustained their old prestige. The 
pulpit oratory of the West Chapel was above the average. 
The Dominican Fathers restored some fine functions of the 
Church, with nice attention to liturgical detail. Wat Burke 


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and his son listened reverently while Fr. Rush expounded 
the depth of Catholic truth ; and Fr. Ralph, O.P., says that 
Wat was one of the sweetest of the singers who walked in 
Rosary procession, while Nicholas swung the censer and 
assisted in the Sanctuary choir. 

While famine held its ghastly festival O'Connell died. 
His death, which occurred on his way to Rome a few months 
before Burke's departure for the same place, left Ireland 
fatherless. Our Dominican, standing by the Tribune's tomb 
at Glasnevin on the occasion of the translation of his remains, 
gives the sequel of a tragedy shadowed on a previous page : — 

The people whom he had so faithfully served, whom he loved 
with a love second only to his love for God, were decimated by the 
dread visitation ; nations trembled and men grew pale at the sight of 
Ireland's woe. Her tale of famine, of misery, of death was told in 
every land. Her people fled affrighted from the soil which had 
forgotten its ancient bounty, or died — ^their white lips uttering the 
last faint cry for bread. All this the aged father of his country saw. 
Neither his genius, nor his eloquence, nor his love could now save 
his people, and the spirit was crushed which had borne him 
triumphantly through all dangers and toil ; the heart broke within 
him— that brave and generous heart which had never known fear, 
and whose ruling passion was love for Ireland. The martyred 
soirit, the broken heart of the great Irishman, led him to the holiest 
spot on earth, and with tottering steps he turned to Rome. The 
man whose terrible voice in life shook the highest tribunals of earth 
in imperious demand for justice to Ireland, now sought the Apostle's 
tomb, where from that threshold of heaven he might put up a cry for 
mercy to his country and his people, and pray God to accept the 
sacrifice of his life. Like the prophet king, he would fain stand 
between the people and the angel who smote them, and offer himself 
a victim and holocaust for the land he loved. 

It was stated in the New York Star^ and afterwards by 
other journals, that it was by the advice of Archbishop 
MacHale Burke went to Rome. On testing the accuracy 
of this statement, we learn that it is wholly untrue. The 
example of the gifted prelate, however, influenced the young 
Levite. When Dr. MacHale, at the head of his clergy, 


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addressed Fr. Burke on his return from America, the Domini- 
can spoke of him as * one whom as a boy he had read and 
heard of with wonder and delight ; whom as a youth he had 
proposed to imitate ; and whom as a man he had learned to 
regard with respect and love.* 

The youth, as he tells us, was now known among his friends 
as 'the old gentleman ;' but, he added, amid much laughter, 
* I don't mean old Nick, you know.' This dropped from him 
in his lecture ' On the Church in America,' delivered at Cork 
in 1873. 

The hour was now approaching when domestic ties must 
needs be severed. To this period of his life Fr. Burke made 
reference when describing in America the career of St. 
Laurence O'Toole : — 

The father, like an Irish father, gave up willingly the son whom 
he loved best of all ; for it is the peculiarity of Irish parents to give 
to God the best that they have, and give it cheerfully, because * God 
loveth a cheerful giver.' I have seen in other lands— in France and 
Italy— young men asking 10 be admitted to the priesthood, and the 
father and mother saying, * How can we give him up ? How can we 
sacrifice our child?' trying to keep him back with tears and en- 
treaties. Oh, my friends ! when I witnessed that, I thought of the 
old woman in Galway, who had no one but me, her only son ; I 
thought of the old man, bending down towards the grave, with the 
weight of years upon him ; and I thought of the poverty that might 
stare them in the face when their only boy was gone; and yet 
no tear was shed; no word of sorrow was uttered ; but, with joy and 
pride, the Irish father and Irish mother knew how to give up their 
only son to the God that made him. 

Speaking at St. Anthony's, Liverpool, on February 20, 
1 88 1, Fr. Burke said :— 

When the Emancipation Act passed the friars were persecuted. 
They were the only body in Catholic Ireland whose existence the 
Relief Bill refused to acknowledge ; and I stand before you as a 
felon in the land, because of the habit that I wear.* 

* This law, passed in 1829, has been suffered to remain a dead letter. 


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He was born emancipated ; but in now assuming the role 
of a preaching friar he thus early showed how thoroughly he 
embraced the Cross. 

Throughout the lectures and sermons which Fr. Burke 
delivered in many lands, he makes touching allusion to the 
pain of exile. Addressing an American audience, he said : — 

Hear the lament of St. ColurabkiUe, one of Ireland's greatest 
saints and sons, who banished himself, in penance, to the far island 
of lona. He tells us that, when he wished to calm the sorrow of his 
heart, he generally sat upon the high rocks of the island, and turned 
his eyes to catch a glimpse of the faint outline of the shore of Ireland. 
* From the high prow I look over the ocean ; great tears are in my 
eyes, as I turn to Erin, where the song of the birds is so sweet ; 
where the monks sing like the birds ; where the young are so gentle, 
and the old so wise ; where the men are so noble to look at, and the 
women so fair to wed.' * 

The man who translates with such heart these forgotten 
pieces must have felt in his own case similar emotions. * But 
once entered on the straight path,' we are told, ' he never 
faltered.* From his sermon on St Laurence we learn some- 
thing of the inner thought of the youth who, in answer to his 
vocation, exclaimed, ' I come ! * — 

Let no man deceive you ; the best lover of God and of his 
country is the priest — the man who, in the days of his youth, in the 
days of his awakening passions, in the days when nature makes her 
loud demand for enjoyment — the man who then says, *I will sacri- 
fice my heart, my affection, my life, my body, and my soul ' — for 
whom ? For God alone ? No ; for he does not go into the desert ; 
he goes out amongst his fellow-men ; he grasps every man by the 
hand with a loving grasp, and he says, * I belong to God and to you.' 
No man is so consecrated to his fellow men as the priest ; because he 
comes to them with a consecration from God. There is no man 
upon whom the people can fall back as they can upon the priest ; 
for, no matter what angel of pestilence may hover in the midst of them 

* * Fair to wed ' is printed thus in the lecture on The Exiles of Erin, published 
by Cameron and Ferguson, p. 231. Fr. Burke, quoting the same poem in his 
lecture on St. Columbkille, merely says, *the women so fair.* See Haverty's 
Lectures and Sermons of Fr, Burke, 2nd series, p. 92. 


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— no matter what demon may scatter destruction around — every 
man may fly ; the priest alone must not, dare not, cannot fly, because 
he is sold to God and to his neighbour. 

Undeterred by the famous words of Felicaja, ' Italia, 
Italia, o tu cui feo la sorte,' * and with which he was familiar 
through Byron's translation, our youth, wrapped in moral 
strength, decided on proceeding to Italy, and testing his 
vocation by a rigid novitiate. The shores of the Tiber were 
now to be traversed instead of the banks of Lough Corrib, 
the Apennines for the crags of Connemara. He fervently 
followed in the footsteps of the great Tribune, who, weary 
of politics, * had sought the Apostle's tomb.' 

What might be styled a four-leaved shamrock of coinci- 
dence marked this epoch. O'Connell — to whose power of 
moving the masses Fr. Burke has often been compared — had 
just died. The tread of the Irish exodus had begun — slow 
and solemn as the Dead March in Sau/. All Hallows* 
College — which O'Connell helped to start in the teeth of 
much opposition — was now just ready to pour out its priests 
to minister to the thousands of Irish peopling the New 
World. And the man who was destined to bind them toge- 
ther in love of faith and fatherland — who was to rekindle and 
foster the finest feelings of religion, poetry, and patriotism in 
the hearts of Irish exiles— is found wending his way from 
Galway to Rome to begin his religious life. 

Fr. Burke told Arthur Moore that his mother's last words 
to him when going away were never to speak to a soldier. 
From this it would seem that the old woman, knowing the 
chivalrous impulses of her boy, had fears lest military enter- 
prise should wean him from his vocation. 

The Midland Railway was then open only from Athlone 
to Dublin. The scenes which met his eye along the route 
were not calculated to cheer him. 

1 * Thou who hast the fatal gift of beauty ! * — Ckt'lde Harold^ canto iv. 


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The domestic virtues and feelings of our people are so true and 
deep (he says, preaching at the Cathedral, Dublin), their affections so 
strong, as to add an intense bitterness to the sorrow of death and 
separation. Whoever wishes to see the sublimity of sorrow, has only 
to stand at a railway station in Ireland, and see the young emigrants 
leaving father and mother, kinsfolk and friends, behind them. It is 
impossible to witness such a scene without paying tribute to their 
grief by shedding involuntary tears. Thus the afflictions incidental 
to all peoples are deepened in Ireland by the quick susceptibilities 
and tender and strong affections of our race. 

On arrival in Dublin, he presented himself at the old 
chapel house in Denmark Street, where he saw Fr. Conway 
and the other Fathers. Partly to account for his lank appear- 
ance, he remarked incidentally that his mother had placed the 
whole household on short commons in order to supply the 
famine-stricken poor who thronged her door. 

The old route to Rome was from Dublin to Liverpool, 
and from thence, vid Dieppe, to Civita Vecchia. Fr. Burke's 
cousin, the present Pastor of Oranmore, tells us that old 
Wat had formed some exaggerated idea as to the length 
of the sea voyage before him, and one hundredweight of 
sea-biscuits were specially made to sustain him throughout 
the passage. Nicholas saw no need for so large a stock, and, 
without hurting his father's feelings by declining it, quietly 
made over the biscuits to Fr. Quinn. 

Miss Burke is of opinion that the seeds of her brother's 
subsequent sufferings were sown during this journey. Her 
impression is that he neglected himself, got cold ; and if it 
had not been for the paternal care of Fr. Costello, a native of 
Galway, who also became a Dominican in Rome, the world 
might never have heard of * Fr. Burke the preacher.' 

This journey was made during the inclement winter of 
1847. He described it as slow in the extreme. Part of the 
way the diligence was drawn by bullocks. Telling his beads, 
he sat cooped up in a close corner, and obliged to inhale 
breaths vilely redolent of garlic. 


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There were no through tickets then, and when paying my fare 
for part of the route I made a great blunder, one which the French 
official — who was a survivor of Napoleon's Imperial Guard— petu- 
lantly refused to rectify un my appealing to his sense of justice. My 
laic blood was now up ; and I knew no way of stinging him but to 
exclaim, ' Bah I Vaterloo V He scowled, and my chances of con- 
cession were not bettered. It was so dark at one time in the dili- 
gence that I persuaded an Italian to hold a light while I ate a cold 
chicken, promising to give him, as a reward, whatever was left of it* 

With a high heart (observes Judge O'Hagan) did Burke proceed 
to fiilfii the spirit of his mission. Seven centuries have passed away 
since the saintly founder prescribed it as the special function of his 
sons to teach and preach the word of life to men, amongst whom 
then, as at all times, and never more than now, ignorance of the 
thing that it deeply concerns them to know is the malady most 
requiring the hand of the healer. It is a singular attestation to the 
tenacity of great ideas that the same order of friar preachers has in 
our own days produced two of the foremost pulpit orators of the 
world — in France Lacordaire, and in Ireland Thomas Burke. 

Another fact quite as • singular ' claims record. Nearly 
every other religious order has undergone reforms which split 
them into various branches. That formed by Dominic alone 
remains intact. 

How Nicholas Anthony Burke became known by the 
familiar name which Judge O'Hagan applies to him is easily 
explained. Every person who enters a conventual life takes a 
name in religion ; and in his case was chosen that of Thomas 
Aquinas. He himself never much cared for the name of 
Nicholas, and he declared if ever he became old it would be 
still more objectionable. 

Rome ! How many thoughts fill the heart and rise to the lips at 
the sound of her name 1 (exclaims Father Burke). In the olden time 
God had given her the empire of the world, and all the nations bowed 
down before her universal sway. All that the earth contained of 
riches, power, and glory found its centre in Imperial Rome, and men 
thought that she had attained the summit of her greatness when the 

» To Rev. Fr. Hickey, O.P. 
VOL. I. H 


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whole world acknowledged her empire and the wisdom and justice 
of those laws which enabled her to govern all that the valour of her 
armies had conquered. But far higher was the destiny and glor)' yet 
in store for Rome. Her universal temporal empire but foreshadowed 
the wider and more lasting empire which was to be hers as the head 
and centre of God's Universal Church. Rome was to be the Jeru- 
salem of the new law, the heart of Christ's mystical body — the 
Church whence came forth the life-blood of the Church's doctrine, 
government, and jurisdiction, and towards which all the Christian 
nations turned with obedience, confidence, and love. Peter, who was to 
represent Christ and be the Vicar and Viceroy of God on earth — 
whose faith was never to fail — Peter, who was to confirm his brethren, 
to feed the lambs and sheep, to hold the keys of the kingdom of 
heaven — he was crucified on the Janiculum, and on the neighbour- 
ing hill of the Vatican he found his grave and established his throne. 
Henceforth the Bishop of Rome is Peter's successor, inheritor of all 
his peculiar privileges and powers, receiving from Peter, by aposto- 
lical succession, all that Peter had received from Christ, and conse- 
quently the supreme ruler, the unerring and infallible guide, the 
point and centre of all authority and jurisdiction in the Church of 
God. But that which was destined to be the centre and safeguard of 
the religion of Christ was also, in the designs of God, to be the 
centre of the intellectual world. The Church, as a rule, naturally 
selected the greatest of her sons to fill in succession the Apostolic 
Chair. Hence the roll of the Popes is brilliant with the names of 
men, not only famous for sanctity and lore, but who attracted and 
drew to them all that was holiest and most learned in the world for 

They were the preservers and saviours of ancient literature and civi- 
lisation, the patrons and protectors of every high art, the friends and 
encouragers of science, and of its most ardent votaries, the protectors 
of the weak, the shield of the oppressed, the assertors of justice, the 
guardians of law, the apostles of peace, the powerful and dreaded 
enemies of tyranny and injustice. What wonder if all that was 
highest, best, noblest, purest, were attracted by them ? What wonder 
that the greatest saints, the most eloquent orators, the grandest 
poets, painters, sculptors, historians, antiquarians, philosophers, astro- 
nomers, jurists, theologians should have loved in all ages to sit in the 
protecting shadow of the Pontifical throne ? 

Such was Rome in ages gone by. Such I believe it is destined 
to be, in spite of temporary vicissitudes, unto the end of time. And 


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such was the Rome which opened up before the wondering eyes of 
the young Irish student who now entered its gates. ^ 

A lecture on the Pontificate of Pius IX. delivered at 
Yonkers, New York, on December i6, 1872, furnishes an 
interesting reminiscence of this time : 

I saw in 1847, in Rome, a stalwart man— his hair was black as 
the raven's wing ; his eye was bright, with the commingled beauty of 
the pure soul that shone through it, and the manly vigour of his form 
— for this man had been trained in his youth for a soldier — stately, 
kingly, more than kingly even in his physical appearance, he seemed 
a man every inch fit to be a ruler of his fellow men ; with a confor- 
mation indeed where God had seemed to set the seal and give the 
world assurance of a man. I saw him on that day, when my young 
eyes, fresh from the Green Isle, full of Irish faith and love, looked 
with a timid glance on the Vicar of Christ — on that day when he was 
surrounded by the plaudits of the Roman and Italian people. 

Nicholas Burke seems to have derived from the example 
of this Pontiff, then in the zenith of his glory, that spirit of 
humility which was a specialty with him to the end : 

I saw, as the shouts of their applause grew louder and filled the 
ambient air, that the object of that applause went down visibly deeper 
in the depths of his own personal nothingness and humilit}', humbling 
himself before God. Then was I reminded, looking upon him, of 
the words of the Royal Prophet of Israel : * I swear that the more 
the Lord my God shall lift me up the more will I humble myself 
and will cast myself down before Him.' That humility came in order 
to preserve him ; for if the man had built on the foundation of his 
splendid fame and the passing praises of the hour, he would have 
crumbled to ruin and his heart would have broken under the reverses 
that God sent him. 

Then it was that the men who had been loudest in their 
hosannahs exclaimed, ' Crucify him ! ' * Crucify him ! ' 

Perugia was at this time the novitiate of the Irish province, 
which, since the Penal Laws, had not been completely recon- 
stituted. Old in years and honours, Perugia was now, after 

■ Fr. Burke in the Church of the Conception, Dublin, Nov. 27, 1878. 

H 2 


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a fevered career, reposing calmly in the embrace of the States 
of the Church. . Hither Nicholas sped. His journey from 
Rome — nearly one hundred miles — was made beneath a blue 
Italian sky, through a country paved with mingled memories. 

In Etruria the clangour of battle and the song of victory 
had long resounded. Here Tarquin was at last crushed ; 
here Brutus sealed Rome's freedom with his blood Along 
this route had raged the Veientine war, with its wearying 
length of strategy and slaughter ; and our pilgrim, on asking 
to be shown the site of Veii — once greater and grander than 
Rome itself — was pointed out a pile of stones, around which 
sheep grazed and husbandmen tiHed earth that once had been 
the remains of men. * And is this,' he mused, * all that re- 
mains of a city which withstood a siege longer than that of 
Troy, and along whose walls fifty thousand helmets shone f 
Sic transit gloria mundi I ' Our traveller, though now twelve 
miles from Rome — the former subjugator of Veii—could dis- 
tinctly see rising in the distance its victor-head untamed by 

Following very much the course of the Tiber, he crossed 
it at the Bridge Felice, ascended glittering heights, passed 
through dark forests, viewed roaring cascades, and at last 
entered Spoleto, where the Papal troops later on gave battle 
to Victor Emanuel. 

The route now lay through a district infested with 
brigands, and as the 'Mai di Posta,' guarded by Papal 
cavalry, rattled forth from Spoleto, Burke was not sorry to 
follow for some miles under its protection. He was thus 
unable to give more than a passing glance at the Temple of 
Clitumnus, immortalised by the Roman bards, and by Byron. 
But he was traversing the ground where Spoleto repulsed 
Hannibal, after the bloody battle of Thrasymene, and this 
in itself was a thought as full of warmth as the glass of 
cognac which the vetturino had just quaffed to nerve him 
for the road. No region could be better suited for the 


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designs of freebooters. Roads with sudden curves, and great 
defiles masked with dark foliage, afforded large facilities for 
ambuscade. No human form was to be seen unless an odd 
Papal soldier, peering from the guard-houses which dot the 
route ; but the brigands in their deeds of blood and plunder 
too often eluded even Pontifical sentinels. 

On, on he went, through perhaps the grandest panorama 
in the world. But it was that fair Umbrian valley of 
Assisium, the birthplace of Francis, the founder of Mendicant 
Friars, that roused the liveliest emotions in our pilgrim's 
breast The order created by that Saint has always walked 
hand in hand with the Dominicans. Friends in life, Francis 
and Dominic left their friendship as a heritage to their 

Passing the Tiber once more, he began the ascent of the 
mountains of Perugia, and soon entered the historic city of 
that name. After having traversed a maze of most narrow 
streets, he at last arrived at the old convent of St Dominic, 
where Father Masetti, the Master of Novices, paternally 
received him. 

Never shall I forget how, on my way to my novitiate in Italy, 
while yet a child, as I was crossing the hills of Perugia in the 
beautiful light of an Italian sunset, the thought frequently occurred 
to me — ' I wonder will the person who is to teach me be like Brother 
Paul O'Connor? I wonder can I love him as I loved the gentle 
monk in Galway ? ' And when I was a while under the care of my 
novice master, I told him in Latin — ' I think, sir, I can love you ; 
I hope I will be good and do as you desire me, because you are 
like the man who taught me in Galway.' I could not then say 
Mr. O'Connor in Latin.* 

Among the records of the old Dominican convent at 
Perugia, we find, under date 'Dec. 29, 1847,' an entry in 
Latin, of which the following is a translation : 

After the usual preliminary examination before the Fathers, and 

* Reply to the Galway address on Fr. Burke's return from America, published 
in the Galway Vindicator^ March 1 9, 1873. 


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with the advice and consent of the chapter, he received the religious 
habit in the choir, in the presence of the community, at half-past 
eleven o'clock in the forenoon, from the hands of the Very Rev. 
Fr. Master [in Theology] Thomas Rinaldi Prior, Provincial at Rome ; 
and a probation of one year from that date was prescribed to him. 
It appears from the authentic letter of the Rev. Father Provincial of 
Ireland, that he was received for our convent of the Blessed Virgin 
Mary at Gal way.* 

The habit thus received consisted of two garments which 
Lacordaire had just compared to the white robe of innocence 
and the black mantle of penance. They seemed at first 
strange to Burke, but the wisdom of becoming early familiar 
with the dress is shown by his own admission when lecturing 
in New York on the * History of Ireland : * 

From the day I took this habit — from that day to this — I never 
felt at home in any other dress ; and if I were to come before you 
this evening in black cloth, like a layman, and not like an Irish 
Dominican friar, I might, perhaps, break down in my lecture. 

In many other ways he found throughout his after life 
daily confirmation of the truth of the word — ' It is good for a 
man when he hath borne the yoke from his youth.' 

Fr. Masetti, in the document he has been good enough to 
send us, states that Nicholas Burke on arrival, being ignorant 
of Italian, used the Latin, but very quickly learned the 
vernacular ; that, a short time before, another Irishman who 
had received the religious habit was obliged by serious ill- 
ness to divest himself of it, and Burke, full of charity for the 
invalid — who could not speak a word of Italian — ministered 
to him with such devotion that the sick man often reproached 

* Father Burke never became an inmate of the West Convent at Galway. In 
explanation of the above passage, the Superior writes : 

* West Convent, Galway: March 14, 1884. 

' When a candidate seeks admission to our order, he is told to apply to the 
Prior of some one of our houses. When he does so, and is accepted by the 
Prior and community, he is registered on its book, and becomes a son of that 
house. Father Burke complied with that rule, was received, and made a son 
of the West Convent. He brought a testimonial with him to that effect to Rome.' 


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him with the injustice done to himself. * His voice still 
rings in my ear, feebly enunciating, in the dead of night, 
** Nich-o-las." * In thus ministering to the sick, he imitated 
Francis of Assisi. 

Perugia (said Fr. Burke) was a place that anything that is in a 
man, intellectual or otherwise, it was certain to bring out — even 
corns. I found there a novice who had nearly lost his life from ill- 
ness contracted by going to bed with cold feet. To obviate this 
danger, I used to dance in my cell every night before going to rest* 

His cell not being floored, but tiled, no one's repose was 
disturbed by this agile performance. The monastery of 
Mount St. Bernard was not more cold than Perugia in the 
winter of 1847. 

The special dread with which Italians regard consumption 
entailed irksome confinement and isolation. Thomas Burke, 
while discharging the r6le of nurse-tender, got leave to read one 
English book which he happened to have with him — a standard 
history of the French Revolution. This he read over and 
over again, till he knew most of it by heart.^ Possibly the 
close study of one book may have laid the foundation of the 
logical conciseness which so enhanced the power of his elo- 
quence. His unfailing flow of spirits, and wonderful charm 
of manner, which was to win so many souls to God, proved 
welcome elixirs to the prostrate sufferer. 

Fr. Burke told his brother Dominicans that he had often 
to leave the sick man's chamber four times in the night, and 
go down to the kitchen to heat whey or broth. * Many a time 
I returned,' he said, ' more asleep than awake, holding the key 
of the novitiate in my mouth, while in one hand might be a 
jug of steaming slop, and in the other a hot linseed poultice, 
or perhaps dressing for poor Behan's blister.' 

It was a mark of confidence to entrust so young a neo- 

• To Fr. Hickey, O.P. 

' This identical book (Thiers' History) is still preserved with Fr. Burke's few 
effects, at Tallaght. He liked the book so much th^t some years before his death 
he bought a new edition of it. 


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phyte with the key of the novitiate house, through which only 
the infirmary could be reached. Behan, who was a native of 
Dublin, at last rose from his sick bed, but, after a brief rally, died. 

The novitiate on which Br. Thomas had entered was a 
period of probation appointed to try by searching means how 
far a true call had moved him, and whether he possessed 
the needed qualities for living up to monastic rule. Until his 
profession, the novice is not bound to the order any more than 
the order is bound to retain, much less to profess, the novice, 
if his call should seem doubtful ; and he incurs no blame for 
deserting the cloister under such circumstances.* 

He had read of * the monastic life ' in the * Imitation of 
Christ : * ' If thou wilt stand as thou oughtest and make 
progress, look upon thyself as a banished man, a stranger 
upon earth ; ' and, 'Here men are tried as gold in the furnace.' 
Fortifying himself with such thoughts, he bowed cheerfully to 
the rugged forms of his rule. The fine black hair which had 
whilom helped to make the rdle of Lady Anne a success was 
shorn off, leaving the tonsure to imply, as St. Thomas ex- 
plains, that the brain should be free for contemplation. The 
fringe of hair which encircles the brow he styles * the corona 
or priestly dignity ;* the cleanly shorn cheeks and beard, the 
cutting away of all temporal concerns.^ This * corona * is also 
meant to typify the crown of thorns. 

* Moreover, he is free to take with him any property he brought into it or 
might afterwards acquire. By a decree of the Council of Trent, a novice cannot 
renounce such property in favour of the order unless by special dispensation, but 
he may make a will to that effect, because wills are always revocable. Renuncia- 
tion of his property would tend to shackle his free action in case he should after- 
wards wish to return to the world. The one year's probation is devoted to the study 
of the spiritual life, the rubrics, divine office, and the constitutions of the order. 
Humanities and rhetoric are usually studied before entering, according to present 
rule. After one year's novitiate a * simple profession of vows ' is made ; but in 
Fr. Burke's time there was only solemn profession. At present this takes place 
at the end of three years. "While a simple vow makes marriage unlawful, 
a solemn vow makes marriage invalid. Luther styles the novitiate ' the bed of 
the civil death of the novice, who expires to the world by profession ; ' but this 
hardly conveys an accurate idea of his position. 

2 Just as moralists tell us that in order to correct a vice one should practise the 


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He was leaving favourite pastimes and breaking fondest 
ties, but a whisper came that in his new calling he might 
yet find friends thick as summer leaves. ' No cross, no crown/ 
and the first must needs be braved. At midnight the novices 
rose to pray ; matins said, they were permitted to retire, and 
all returned to their cells in profound silence and holy con- 
templation.^ At 5 A.M. came Mass, meditation, and a study 
of their rule. Vespers and Lauds follow at due. intervals ; 
from 4 to 8 o'clock exercise is taken. The novices are not 
allowed to break silence unless during recreation. They 
are told to be Carthusians within and Apostles outside.' But 
as musical psalmody is part of the cloistered life, Thomas 
Burke was always happy when joining in its outburst, and 
with powerful effect it roused his zeal and re-awakened 
dormant memories. 

Here the tired Crusader (he said), exhausted after his Eastern 
wars, would refresh his soul with holy song; and at the midnight hour 
would come the proud fierce baron to matins, and there hearken to the 

opposite virtue ; the tonsure tended to correct the absurd practice, which 
prevailed for centuries, of priests wearing perukes. In 1690 Jean Baptiste Thiers, 
Doctor in Theology, wrote a book to decry the wig— a work deemed so useful 
that it was translated into Italian, and reprinted in 1722 at Benevento. The 
abuse, however, was continued by the clergy, not only in France and Italy, but 
in England and Ireland. Arthur O'Leary and Dr. Gahan wore wigs ; the last 
ecclesiastic who followed the fashion being Dr. Beatagh, V.G., of Dublin. His 
wig, a cumbersome and solid piece of head-gear, is still preserved as a sacred 
relic by the Presentation nuns. It is to be feared that the bobwig worn by 
priests in the last century too often excited a prejudice against them. A slang 
song, by Dr. Burrowes, describes in 17^9 a capitally convicted culprit : 

' Then in came the priest with his book ; 
He spoke him so smooth and so civil ; 
Larry tipped him a Kilmainham look, 
And pitched his old wig to the Divel I* 

The tonsure was angelically in advance of this vile custom. Fr. Burke recognised 
the wise arrangement, and pleasantly said that it was only a poor soil which 
required much top-dressing. Inasmuch as the Church prescribes that the head 
shall be uncovered during the Holy Sacrifice, any priest who wears a wig must 
obtain a dispensation before he can say Mass. 

» On the Feast of St. Dominic, St. Saviour's, Dublin, 1877. 

' Carthus'ans are presumed never to speak. 


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tender notes of the organ so skilfully touched, till in the very depths 
of his soul he would be moved to the humility of Christian sorrow 
and the heroism of Christian forgiveness.* 

Many years after, when conducting a retreat for the clergy 
of Cork, he showed that by a resolute will the ecclesiastical 
spirit could subject itself to any discipline : — 

When I first entered upon my novitiate, my naturally effervescent 
nature was greatly oppressed by the discipline of its rule, and I used 
to be put in penance for breaking silence at forbidden times — some- 
times for whistling. Rising in the dark for matins, I made some 
remark on the weather to a French novice whom I had overtaken 
on the staircase. In reply he merely placed his forefinger across his 
lips. The solemnity of his responsive attitude touched me deeply, 
and this reproof from him did more good than all the penance it 
would have been possible for my superiors to impose. I never once 
broke the rule after. 

In describing the same incident to Br. Joseph he said, 
' That look went through me.* 

These ebullitions were impelled by his love of ' friendship 
— that mysterious cement of the souL' Our novice, even when 
hurrying to fulfil a pious exercise, did not like to go alone. 
We catch a glimpse of his nature in a sermon preached the 
year before his death. He described Jesus 

taking with Him Peter and James and John that He might prove to 
us how truly He was man, and by that very craving for human 
friendship which is so natural to man. He turned to those three 
friends and said, ' Will you come and pray with me for an hour ? ' ^ 

If Burke sometimes found himself in trouble, even for 
whistling, disciplinarians must remember that he was still a 
mere boy. The keen observer and philosophic thinker Blair 
notices the good which even this small indulgence brings, 
and describes 'the schoolboy whistling aloud to bear his 
courage up.' Fr. Burke to the end was a * fine open boy,' to 

* Sermon at St. Mar>'*s, Sandymount, Sept. 8, 1859. 
« Good Friday, 1882, St. Saviour's, Dublin. 


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adopt the words of his brother Dominican, the Bishop of 

The stern hint of the graver novice set him thinking ; and 
once more the words of k Kempis rang in his ear (Book I. 
c. xvii.) : ' Know that thou art called to suffer and to labour, 
not to be idle and talkative.' 

Fasting has always held high rank as a great subjugator, 
and in the rule of St Dominic it holds a front place.* At 
Perugia and at the Sabina Br. Burke was taught that the way 
to heaven was narrow and full of practical difficulties and 
practical hardships, and that any religion which professed to dis- 
pense with them was simply delusive, and gave the lie to God.^ 
These considerations nerved him for the ordeal. As regards 
fasting, a novice is presumed not to eat meat from the begin- 
ning to the end of his course, but leave to relax the rule is 
granted in case of sickness. What thoughts helped to sustain 
Thomas Burke may be gleaned from his discourses. He 
would put before his hearers the image of the Saviour after 
forty days of prayer and fasting, weak and wasted — how the 
devil came, ' a strong-made form, and bore Him away in his 
arms, now to the Temple, then to Jerusalem ; but at the close 
the Man who was spent and worn away with fasting crushed 
His enemy and drove the devil from Him.'* 

For the experimentum crucis he braced himself by compar- 
ing it to the long novitiate of suffering through which the 
Church, in its first stages, had passed. For three hundred 
years it had undergone every misery to maintain the religion 
of Christ.* 

His novice master, Fr. Masetti, states that, 'with the 
exception of some guileless ebullitions, he passed praise- 

* Fasting includes abstinence from tobacco. To smoke would earn expulsion. 
Our novice, who was a smoker from childhood, found this not the least of the 
mortifications which he cheerfully embraced. 

' St. Saviours, Dublin, March 13, 1881. [Even by Dominicans, Fr. Burke 
was thought to be too rigid ; but of this hereafter.] ■ Ibid, 

* Lecture on ' Faith,* Kingstown, July 1869. 


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worthily through the novitiate, showing himself devout in 
practices of piety, attentive in choir, and in the services of the 

' It is no small matter,' writes k Kempis (Book I. c. xvii.), 
' to dwell in a monastery, and to live therein without reproof, 
and to persevere faithful till death.' 

He had mastered so thoroughly the Italian language (proceeds 
Fr. Masetti), not only the phrases and idioms, but also the pronuncia- 
tion, that he seemed bom in Italy ; so that he was able to deliver, 
one Sunday in Lent, according to the custom of the novices, a 
sermon in Italian in the refectory during supper.* 

One of the distinguished band who formerly occupied San 
Clemente, Rome, in making reference to Burke's * marvellous 
linguistic talents,' adds : 

Twenty years afterwards I heard old Dominicans of the Minerva, 
Rome, speaking of the wonderful Fra Thomas Burke, who used to 
tell the 'Arabian Nights' in felicitous Latin to the novices and 
Fathers during their recreation hours in the gardens of Santa Maria 
della Querela.* They remembered him as *Questo maraviglioso 
giovane Irlandese ' (this marvellous Irish youth).' 

* I also puzzled them with two Italian versions of *' The 
House that Jack Built " ' (he tells Canon Burke), 'one grandly 
heroic d la Dante — *' Behold the edifice Giovanni constructed " 
— the other in slang Italian.' 

His linguistic progress was helped by the culture and tact 
of his elder sister Mary. She had been taught a grammatical 
knowledge of Italian, and corresponded with him in that 
tongue during the two years he remained at Perugia. Some 
of their letters are in French, of which, however, he failed to 
acquire the same command as of Italian. 

> Letter of Fr. Pius Masetti to the Author. Fr. Masetti is now one of the 
Grand Penitentiaries or £xtraordinary Confessors of the Church of St. Mary 
Major, Rome. 

' The Novitiate for French Dominicans at Viterbo. Here Lacordaire received 
the habit. 

' Letter of the Very Rev. G. D. Power to the Author, St. Louis, U.S. A., 
August 7, 1884. 


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He took other means besides story- telling to amuse his 
iellow novices ; 

Among some recent arrivals (writes a Dominican) were several 
from Luconia in the Philippine Islands, where we have a mission. 
One day Burke yellowed his face, donned a fez, and addressed them 
in a gibberish with which he mingled words that he had picked up 
from their own talk. They were greatly puzzled, and at last said, 
when unable to answer or to penetrate him, that he must have come 
from one of the remote and hardly known islands of the Philippine 

All this time — 'the scholastic year,' as Fr. Masetti re- 
minds us — he was studying and mastering the science of 
philosophy with a talent and zeal that earned the cordial 
praise of his preceptors. 

The hour was now near when Thomas Burke should 
make his solemn profession, and with a firm step he advanced 
to the sacrifice. So stringent is the preparatory course for 
this scene, that had the novice interrupted it even by two 
hours — possibly by leaving the convent with the idea of 
joining another order— he must begin the year all over again 
from the date that he renewed his determination of becoming 
a Dominican. Entire personal liberty is essential to make 
the profession valid. Even a bishop cannot be professed 
unless by Papal dispensation, nor a married person except 
with nuptial consent, and a slave is wholly ineligible. On 
November 30, 1848, as the official record states, 'the usual 
Protestation was made to Br. Thomas Burke by the 
Prior.' The young religious was asked whether he acted 
by his own choice or under parental or other compulsion ; 
whether he understood the nature of a vow, or was he in any 
way incapable of taking the obligation of the vows; was 
there any secret impediment such as disease; and lastly, 
whether he had been professed in any other religious order ? 

The sequel may be gathered from the records of the old 
• Conventus S. Dominici de Perusio.* 


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Under date * Die Quinta Januarii, 1849/ appears : 

Br. Thomas Burke (we quote from the Latin), having completed 
the year of his probation, and having passed the examination in 
letters and morals with unanimous approval of the Fathers, and 
having been also received by the Chapter, the permission of the 
Master- General of the Order having been previously obtained, in 
conformity with recent decrees, made his solemn profession, in 
presence of the Very Rev. Fr. Thomas Vincent Rinaldi Prior, 
Provincial at Rome, on this fifth day of January, 1849, '" ^^^ night 
choir,* in presence of the community ; at this time the Most Rev. 
Fr. Master Vincent Ajello being General of the Order. 

In testimony of the above, I, Brother Thomas Burke, have of 
my own free will made my profession, and here sign my hand. 

And, as witnesses to his signature, a Father Hyacinth and 
a Fr. Franciscus append their names, while the official seal, 
and the words * Ita est,' from the * Novitior Magister,' give 
the document its final ratification. 

Fr. Masetti s letter explains that the examination embraced 
the ' obligations, vows, and rules, as well as the rubrics of 
the order, and that Thomas Burke came with full votes to be 
approved for the solemn profession.* 

This consists of a voluntary promise to be loyal to the 
institute of his choice, and to embrace its three vows. These 
bind to the observance of poverty, obedience, and chastity. 
St. Dominic regarded the institute as his bride, to whom 
he vowed to be faithful ; their sons, spread over many 
lands, are the lineal fruit of that alliance. Thomas Burke 
made his vows the more readily because their substance had 
been already marked out by our Lord Himself. In takinjj 
that of poverty, he embraced it in an unusually large sense. 
* Blessed are the poor in spirit ' was one of the apothegms 
proclaimed on the Mount. Fr. Burke held that if poverty 

* In our convents abroad there are usually two choirs, one in the church, the 
other in the house, but with windows looking into the church. In this latter 
Matins and Lauds are generally recited either in the night or in the early morn ; 
hence the name Chorus Noctumus, or Night Choir. — Vety Rev, J, 71 Towers^ 
Provincial of the Irish Dominicans^ to the Author, 


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meant privation — an emptiness, an absence and renunciation 
of some things — poverty of spirit then would mean a casting 
away of desires, affections, enjoyments, seeing that the spirit 
of man is of all these the centre. He felt that before he 
could put on the image of Christ he must cast away all 
fleshly impulse, and hence he cultivated as the beginning of 
the Christian character poverty of spirit, the first of the Eight 

He next received minor orders, by which he was made 
an acolyte, an exorcist, and a reader. Preaching on St. 
Patrick in i88i he referred to his own personal mission as 
given by the various prelates who had laid their consecrating 
hands upon him, adding : * The first hand that ever touched 
this unworthy head was that of the present Pontiff, Leo XHI.' * 
Monsignor Pecci was then Bishop of Perugia. 

There is preserved in Holy Cross Convent a long letter 
from Thomas Burke giving an account of a vacanza or 
vacation which he spent at this time. Fr. Masetti, addressing 
the present writer, says : 'I brought him in October 1849 
to Assisi, to the sanctuary of St. Francis, which gave 
him great pleasure, and left a lasting joyful remembrance.' 
It was in Assisi that the Order of Friars Mendicant had 

Never did the world require a glimpse of Christ more than in the 
twelfth century (said Burke) ; for though in some respects it was a 
glorious age; though the Catholic Church was the one unquestioned 
sole authority in matters of Divine faith, and the one acknowledged 
representative of the revealed religion of Christianity; although 
sectaries in various forms had not yet appeared, nor other serious 
schism broken up the united Church, yet men's minds were beginning 
to forget the Christ, even in the sanctuary ; with kindred sins simony 
and usury had found their way there ; and the most strange form 
of heresy that, perhaps, ever sprang up in the Church of God 
appeared at that time. Peter of Waldo and the Poor Men of Lyons, 
who erred in faith as well as morality, yet who presented themselves 

> Sermon in St. Saviour's, Dublin, St. Patrick's Day, 1881. 


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to the people under the form of men who had embraced abject 
poverty for the love of Christ, made their protest against the Catholic 
Church. . . . Francis of Assisi, a youth tinged with the harmless 
vices of the period and inflamed by the pursuit of military glory, 
whilst preparing to march against the Emperor Frederick, happened 
in Spoleto to spend a restless night. His sword and shield were there 
by his bedside, his armour was shining ready for the morning's 
march; but within him he heard a voice saying, * For whom, Francis, 
are you going to fight? You are going to fight for a fellow-creature ; 
but I am the Lord, your Creator and God — I ask you to come and 
fight for Me.' Francis sprang up agitated. He strove to put the 
thought out of his mind ; it would not go. At last, throwing himself 
on his knees, he said, * I am Thine ; to Thee I consecrate my life.' 

Francis found an ally in Dominic of Osman, and this 
study of the life of both strengthened Burke's zeal. 

As our novice advanced through Assisi he observed traces 
of tiie great annual pilgrimage attended by thousands who 
throng to kiss the altar where Francis had first made his vows. 
In pressing forward many faint and fall, and on one pilgrimage 
years before ten persons were trampled to death. Indeed, 
it was meet that sacrifice should be made on ground which 
had been stained by Canaanitish sin.* Here the memory 
of Francis received all but divine honour; but, not with- 
out allowable pride, Burke remembered that the Order of 
Dominic had embraced fourteen canonised saints, three popes, 
one hundred cardinals, several patriarchs, two hundred arch- 
bishops, including an Archbishop of Canterbury, dozens of 
beatified men, and one thousand bishops, besides Masters 
of the Sacred Palace, whose oflSce has been always filled by a 
friar preacher in succession to its first occupant, St. Dominic 

The Dominican system of govern mentis so beautifully com- 
plete, that Washington in framing the American constitution 
borrowed it in its breadth. Priors, provincials, and even the 

1 It has been stated by Athenaeus and Strabo that the Canaanites were the 
ancestors of the Etrurians, who in perpetuating the sin of that race produced 
eventual weakness of mind and body. 


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master-general, are all elected by votes, and their rule lasts 
but a few years. Though conservative in some respects, it is 
thoroughly representative and republican, and Thomas Burke, 
whose political sympathies had a dash of both, became very 
much charmed by it 

After solemn profession, three years are devoted to the 
study of philosophy, and four to theology.* 

Letters and lore dignified Perugia. An atmosphere re- 
dolent of the flowers of culture was difiused. There the finest 
pictures in the world might be seen. Classic poems daily 
appeared from the pen of the brilliant Bishop of Perugia, now 
Pope Leo XIIL Learned professors became to Burke fami- 
liar objects in the streets, especially Vermigliolt, the great 
explorer of its wonderful and recently unearthed necropolis. 
Botanic gardens, fostered by the university, displayed their 
fragrant wealth. Friars in cowl and cassock, priests in their 
great hats, nuns on hallowed thoughts intent, traversed the 
city walls and castle terrace. Beneath, a grand range of 
country spread, embracing the valley of the Tiber and the 
distant Umbrian Apennines, while within the convent the old 
tastes of the Etrurians for arts and science flourished. 

Among its hundred and twenty churches one had special 
interest for Thomas Burke. In that of San Domenico a 
great treasure reposed. The monument of Benedict XL, 
which represents him lying upon his bier beneath a Gothic 
canopy supported by angels, is pronounced a triumph of the 
revival in sculpture, and when our novice first heard the 
tradition that this great Dominican had been foully done to 
death after a reign of eight months, his impressionable heart 
was deeply moved. It is said that Philippe le Bel, incensed 

» Pokmic theology and Scriptural exegesis form part of the course, and canon 
law is studied at the same time as dermatic theology. An examination takes 
place every three years for nine years after ordination ; but it is made by new 
confessors only, and in moral theology only. There are several titles of dis- 
tinction, such as Predicator-General, Bachelor, Lector or Licentiate, and Master 
in Theology, or • D.D.,* all of which Fr. Burke hojA, — Utter 0/ Vay Reiu P. 
Kenny ^ 0,P.^ Prior^ tc the Author, 



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by excommunications, sent an emissary, disguised as a lay 
sister, to present to the Holy Father, in the name of the 
Abbess, a basket of poisoned fruit. 

Spots sacred to historic students were within easy access 
of Perugia. A propos of Trasymenes, where 15,000 Romans 
fell, Eustace speaks of a sound heard after sunset like the 
clashing of shields and the tramp of distant armies ; and it was 
not without strange sensations that the impressionable novice, 
who, as he tells us, would rush nervously past a Galway grave- 
yard, traversed the rank plain or crossed the stream which 
still retains the name of Sanguineto. 

Just as one of the twelve disciples was the first to betray, 
the first blow struck against the Vicar of Christ was by 
Perugia, that ancient State of the Church. Suddenly its calm 
gave place to tempest, its culture to anarchy. Fr. Burke, 
when preaching a Lenten sermon more than thirty years after, 
made striking reference to this period of his life. Surrounded 
by hundreds of penitents, some hesitating at the very door of 
the confessional, he said, speaking of auricular disclosure : 

I recognise that it is difficult, and in all its fulness I actually 
sympathise with the man I see weeping with agony at the very 
thought of going to confession. I have seen in my experience a 
brave man stand upon a hill while a regiment of 1,100 soldiers were 
firing at that hill. I have seen him there as the bullets fell around 
him thick as snowflakes. That was in Italy ; and brave as he was, 
he had not courage to go to confession. There are men who stare 
at death and expose themselves to danger, but they have not the 
courage to confess their sins.* 

' These were times to try men's souls.* Pio Nono, as 
Burke tells us (99, ante), had himself been educated to be a 
soldier. SS.' Francis and Ignatius had both been greatly 
dazzled by the pursuit of military glory. Burke's fidelity 
to his bride was now to be tried. ' I well remember how 
much excited I would be on hearing the drums teat under 

' Sermon at St. Saviour's, Dublin, March 20, 1881. 


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the Windows of my cell, but when I thought of the old 
woman in Galway the temptation passed away.' * 

Trampling upon his passions (observes Fr. Burke), the man of love 
goes straight towards God ; and, in that journey to God, he will allow 
nothing to hinder him. No matter what sacrifice that God calls upon 
him to make, he is ready to make it ; for the principle of sacrifice is 
Divine love.' 

During the political excitement of 1849, Burke is likely 
to have witnessed the destruction by the Perugians of the 
Citadella Paolina or fortress, begun in 1540 by Paolo III. and 
now converted into a pleasant promenade. 

The revolt of Perugia proved a formidable assertion of its 
wayward will, and Pio Nono incurred some criticism for having 
caused a medal to be struck in commemoration of the general- 
ship by which it was at last subdued. 

The ' bullets falling thick as snowflakes ' led us to ask 
the Prior of San Clemente* for some information on the 
point ' This battle,* he writes, ' must have been on the occa- 
sion of the entry of the Austrians into Perugia in 1849.* Burke 
afterwards told Fr. Towers how favourably impressed he had 
been by the physique and good behaviour of these troops. 

By some indulgence or accident ' Brother Thomas * seems 
to have been allowed to converse with the Austrian officers. 
The report by the Irish American of his lecture on 'The 
Exiles of Erin' mentions that he had formed the acquaintance 
of Field-Marshal Nugent, towards whom he had been attracted 
by his Irish descent. 

Canon Brownlow's notes of circumstances mentioned to 
him by Fr. Burke himself may here be quoted : 

During the revolution at Perugia, the Giunta sent people to take 
inventories of all the contents in the religious houses. Brother 

• Fr. Burke to Arthur Moore, M.P. For this gentleman— the nephew of the 
present writer— Fr. Burke entertained a cordial friendship, as well as for his mother 
and sisters. In Rome their intercourse was particularly frequent. 

• Lecture on 'The Irish People in Relation to Catholicity.' 

• The Very Rev. Dr. O'Callaghan, now Coadjutor- Bishop of Cork. 

I 2 


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Burke was in his cell when the agent came to note down its scanty 
furniture, and just as he began to jot down a few items, Brother 
Thomas indignantly stopped him, saying, * Those things are mine.' 
The agent, with a sneering smile of mock politeness, replied, * Ah, 
Signore, adesso siamo liberi.' * Whereupon the novice thundered 
out, * If you don't get out of my room this instant, I'll send word over 
to the English consul, and complain of you for touching the property 
of an English subject.' The attitude of the tall Irish youth was so 
threatening that the Italian beat a hasty retreat. The brotherhood, 
hearing high words, were afraid the Irish brother's pugnacity would 
get the convent into a scrape, but Burke, in telling the story, added, 
* I daren't for my life let that be known in Ireland, for they'd never 
forgive me for acknowledging myself to be a British subject' 

Fr. Burke, after his arrival at Woodchester, described the 
Grand Inquisitor chased round the halls of the convent ; but 
he was so fond of a joke that it is hard to say how far the 
story may be true. 

The excitement into which the Revolution threw the inmates of 
the convent (continues Canon Brownlow) impaired for a time all 
regularity in discipline. The father who taught theology spent the 
whole day on his knees before the Blessed Sacrament, some could 
settle to nothing, while Br. Thomas paced up and down the corridor 
with a long stick, which he held to his mouth, and manipulated like a 
trombone, making the strangest noises in accompaniment. The 
others would point to him sadly and shake their heads, evidently 
thinking that the tumult had turned his brain. 

While at Perugia his master of novices often spoke of him to the 
Nuns of Blessed Columba, who lived and died in Perugia; and 
through him Fr. Burke became acquainted with them, as he was their 
confessor. The friendship thus begun continued to the end of Fr. 
Burke's life, and he frequently sent them assistance through the nu- 
merous friends whom he interested in their beha'f, after they lost 
all their property in the Revolution of i860.* 

During the two years which he spent in Perugia (writes Fr. 
Masetti, also addressing the present writer) the religious as well as the 
master of novices were always content with his conduct. He was 
ever lively and joyous, and kept his companions cheerful with healthy 
conversation, jokes, and pleasant stories. 

' * Ah, sir, now we are free.* 

* Letter of Very Rev. Canon Brownlow, M.A., Torquay, Oct 21, 1884. 


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Throughout his after career as master of novices, prior, 
and preacher, Fr. Burke taught that a wide field for recreation 
lay open for the practical Christian, and that rational amuse- 
ment was entirely compatible with the service of God and the 
observance of His law. 

Peace having now reassumed her sway in Rome, though it 
was not until April that the Pope returned to it, we find 
Thomas Burke on January 3, 1850, leaving Perugia and 
becoming a theological student of the Minerva. A reign of 
terror had prevailed to an almost incredible extent, assassina- 
tions took place in the public streets ; more than one Domi- 
nican fell dead in his habit ; the dying were refused religious 
consolation, the chaplain-in-chief, Gavazzi, declaring that 
martyrdom sustained in defence of fatherland freed the soul 
from all stain. The stiletto which killed Rossi was borne 
with honours through the city ; a society calling itself the Con- 
grega d'Inferno was established ; physicians were threatened 
with death if they did not poison their patients ; Lorenzo 
Agristi died from the effects of a sharp steel thrust up his 
nostrils, lacerating the arterial and venous vessels. ' Some- 
times in sport,' records the Fatti Atroci, *the assassins used 
to leave the priests half killed that they might die in greater 
torture.' The churches were filled with yells, blasphemies, 
and tobacco smoke, while the sacred ornaments and often the 
holy elements were flung about. ' One of the prolaners took 
the Calendario and, laying it upon the altar, affected to read 
out of it some gibberish ; some lit the candles ; one of the mob 
intoned the "Te Deum," which the crowd roared after him; 
another preached from the pulpit a blasphemous sermon.* 
* Even the pyxes and chalices were carried off. in obedience to 
a Government circular, as the property of the Republic' Some 
of the soldiers greased their shoes with the consecrated oil ; 
others drank wine out of the chalices, with ribald songs. In 
certain schools in Rome the children were taught to say Dio 
maladetto (accursed God). Arduini, an apostate priest, from 


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the stage of the Apollo Theatre, exhorted the mob to scoff at 
religion. Parodying a sermon, he took for his text, ' In prin- 
cipio erat Verbum,' which he blasphemously translated, ' In 
the beginning was chatter/ ' This was probably the same 
priest who, Mr. Maguire in his work on Rome states, cele- 
brated pontifically in St. Peter's, and from the great balcony 
blessed the multitude in papal fashion amidst the peal of 
bells and roar of cannon. He adds that the Sacrament 
was borne in mock procession, often trampled beneath the 
feet of harlots and galley slaves. Even the awful solemnity 
of the bed of death was outraged by impurities. In the 
hospitals the ministrations of nuns were foully travestied. 
Pope Pius IX. addressing the prelates of Italy in his allo- 
cution of December 8, 1849, dated from Portici, writes: 
* And even the miserable sick, struggling with death, deprived 
of all the aids of religion, were compelled to yield up their 
souls in the midst of the wanton solicitations of lewd harlots.* 
These beings had been liberated from the prison of 
St. Michele, and afterwards paraded themselves through the 
blood-stained streets, lolling in carriages seized from the car- 
dinals and other princes. At last France came to the rescue, 
and anarchy ceased to reign.* 

Two years previously (says Fr. Burke) I heard Pius applauded 
to the skies by the people to whom he gave every privilege which the 
modern ideas of freedom claimed. I now saw him on his return 
from exile at Gaeta, and those few years seemed to have added half 

> These are but a few items extracted from many too repulsive to be noticed, 
and enumerated in the Fatti Atroci dello Spirito Demagogico (Florence, 1853). 
The data are compiled from official records. 

« It was regarded as a stigma on the French arms, that in their first attack on 
Rome they were finally repulsed by the insurgents, with a loss of five hundred 
men. Oudenot's explanation did not tend much to mend his blunder. While 
making the attack, he followed the guidance of an old map of Rome, whereon 
was marked a gate described as the Porta Pertusa, not far from the present Porta 
Angelica. When the hottest part of the struggle came it appeared that the so- 
called Porta Pertusa had been built up for two centuries. This fact escaped 
the vigilance of Mr. Maguire in his otherwise exhaustive account of that time. 


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a century to his life. The heart within him seemed broken ; he was 
stooped and bent, and the silver of sorrow had already whitened 
his head. ' If this continues/ thought I, ' the man must die.' It 
has continued : trial has been added to trial, and cross to cross ; 
but the man raised himself up in the power of God, and he has borne 
more than ever Pope did since St Peter, and he has outlived the 
longest life of any save he.* 

No sooner had the Pope been reinstated, than he pro- 
nounced a magnanimous sentence on his enemies : 

Come back, you exiles in every foreign land ; come back to your 
own blue sky and sunny soil ; come back to the bosom of Italy. I 
am not so much your king as your father, and I will trust myself to 
the love, to the gratitude, and to the affection of my people. 

This act (adds Fr. Burke) I witnessed. I saw the exiles return 
and bathe the hand of their liberator with grateful tears. I saw the 
eyes of the little children, whose fathers came back to them from out 
their dungeons, rejoicing under the smiles of the man whose hands 
unbarred those prison gates.' 

In the great halls of the Minerva, where Thomas Aquinas 
had taught, Burke found a high incentive to go and do like- 
wise. His residence here exercised a deep influence on his 
life. Loving allusions to that time are constantly made, 
large views were fostered, prized friendships formed. When 
he first entered it the stain of blood on the pavement had 
hardly dried. Not long before, as Fr. Towers reminds us, 
'the parodio of the Minerva was called out from his dinner 
and immediately shot. French troops now held its halls.' 

One day our novice surprised his master by saying 
that * when reading the " Summa " one's faith was gone.' In 
explanation he said that in the ' Summa ' mysteries ceased 
to exist, so vividly were the Divine scenes brought before 
him.' Burke subsequently said that after St. Thomas had 
been three hundred years in his grave, and when the Church 

» Fr. Burke in Cork Cathedral, May 29, 1877. 

» Pontificate of Pius IX., Vonkers, U.S., Dec. 16, 1872. 

* Sermon on the Triduum, Sept. 12, 1869. 


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assembled at the Council of Trent, on the right of the 
Pontifical chair were the Holy Scriptures, and on the left the 
' Summa,* being the only books admitted into the Council. 

The * Summa ' continues to hold this high repute. One of 
the first Encyclicals issued by the present Pope ' stated that 
in it the very ideal of all that was brightest, greatest, truest, 
and most glorious was to be found. 

A mind fed on such aliment could not fail to thrive. 

It would hardly become me (observes Judge O'Hagan) to speak 
of the theological attainments of Fr. Burke. But I may be per- 
mitted to relate what fell from his own lips. He was an ardent and 
zealous student of the great doctor of his order, his own patron St. 
Thomas ; and to his familiarity with the pages of that unrivalled teacher 
may be attributed the ease, fulness, and accuracy with which the 
exposition of theological topics fell without effort from his lips. I 
heard him say that in his noviceship, so great was the delight with 
which he followed and meditated on the truths of faith in the 
magnificent exposition of St. Thomas, that he could not expect again 
to drink such joy until he found those truths realised face to face in 
the presence and vision of his Creator. 

He drank these truths with the greater zest from the fact 
that the Angel of the Schools had had for his teacher in 
philosophy an Irishman. 

The gems of thought which our inquirer found in the 
depths of the ' Summa ' brought to him at times the glow of 
actual excitement. Once only Fr. Burke made public reference 
to this book. It was at Cork in a lecture on ' Catholicity and 
the Age we Live in.* Opening Milner's ' History of Latin 
Christianity,' he read aloud the following in reference to 
Thomas Aquinas : * No man ever lived that investigated 
more fearlessly even the most awful questions than did this 
great saint. No atheist that ever was born went more fear- 
lessly into the question of the existence of God, or threw out 
more terrible arguments against it, than St. Thomas.' 

« On the Feast of St. Thomas of Aquin, 1881. 


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He was fearless (explains Fr. Burke) because his own soul rested 
upon the immutable truths of his religion and his faith. He knew 
nothing could interfere with them. No discovery or argument could 
upset them, and therefore he went out with a sense of utter security, 
and fearlessly pushed his inquiries into the gravest questions ever 
presented to the mind of man. 

Fr. Burke went on to show that the Catholic Church was 
not afraid of scientific investigation. 

Br. Thomas was now a member of the Holy Family of St. 
Dominic. Like an ardent scion who proudly gazes on the 
portraits of his ancestors in the great gallery of his home, 
Thomas Burke spent hours in the companionship of St. Vin- 
cent Ferrer, St. Peter of Verona, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. 
Pius the Fifth, Blessed Albert the Great, and other illustrious 
fathers of his order. These names — the aristocracy of sanctity 
— inflamed his ambition, and did not make him less a man. 

One day when Burke was taking a country walk with a 
priest — as we learn from a Dominican — they observed a man, 
stiletto in hand, crouching behind. There was something in 
the fellow's eye that meant mischief. Burke grappled with 
him and pinned him to the ground, until a constabile coming 
on the scene rid them of further danger. 

An American journalist, from information supplied by 
one of Fr. Burke's associates, writes of his residence at the 
Minerva : ^ ' Here his aptitude for learning, his retentive 

> As Mi^ire and Eustace furnish no details of the Minerva, the following 
account, kindly supplied by the Very Rev. P. V. Kenny, O.P., Prior, will Ije 
welcome : ' The principal church and convent of the Dominican Order in Rome 
is San Maria sopra Minerva, so called because built on the ruins of the ancient 
temple of Minerva, in the Campus Martius. A statue of Minerva armed with a 
lance has been lately discovered in the grounds of the cloister. The church was 
built after the design of a lay brother of the Order, and is one of the best specimens 
of Italian Gothic. Under the high altar, which was consecrated by the late Pope, 
reposes the body of St. Catherine of Siena. St. Antoninus, Archbishop of Florence, 
and some beatified members of the Order were priors of this convent. It consists 
of two large quadrangular cloisters of unequal size, the larger being the convent 
proper, the smaller being the residence of the general of the Order and his com- 
panions, and the Dominican Cardinal, at present Cardinal Zigltara. The Secretary 
of the Index also resides here. In the convent proper are two great libraries, the 


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memory, the poetry of his diction, and his felicity of illustra- 
tion, astonished not only his fellows, but his superiors.' 

It was about this time that a Jew violated the civil law by 
engaging a Christian servant This girl privately got one of 
his children baptised. The ecclesiastical authorities, when 
the matter became bruited, took a year to examine the proofs, 
and decided that the Church must take charge of the child. 
It is interesting to know, on the authority of so great a thinker 
as Fr. Burke, that one of the most momentous events of modern 
times hinged on this seemingly trivial incident. * I believe 
myself, being a witness of these facts and analysing them, that 
the case of that child was the beginning of the troubles that 
have issued to-day in the loss of the temporal dominions of 
the Pope, and in the bloody revolution.' This Fr. Burke said 
at New York on December i6, 1872. He recurs to the same 
time in a lecture delivered at Waterford : 

When the Jewish child Mortara was relegated to the Catholic 
faith by being baptised, he became at once the special charge of the 
Pope, as the earthly head of that Church. Once baptised, Pius IX. 
could not give him up, and nobly did the grand old man discharge 
his trust The fleets of England and France blocked up his ports 
whilst the demand was made upon him for the surrender of the child. 
Cabinets sent their envoys here and there, but the illustrious Pontiff", 
relying on the unchangeable word of his Divine Master, thoroughly 
conscious of his duty, was fully equal to the occasion. *No,' 

Conventual Library and the Cassanatansioni, so called from Cardinal Cassanata, 
who gave it to the Order. It is the second in Rome in the number of printed books 
and manuscripts — the latter embracing not less than 4,000. At present it is a 
national library. Three theologians and as many lay brothers of the Order attend it 
everyday from nine tiU six P.M. to assist visitors and afford all information required. 
To be a ' Cassanatansian ' theologian is one of the highest honours to which a 
Dominican can be raised in the Order. There are large halls for the Faculties of 
Theology and Philosophy, the convent having the privilege of granting degiees in 
Thomistic Philosophy and Theology. The Minerva was also historic as the arena 
wherein the meetings of the Holy Office had long been held. Here Galileo 
received that memorable sentence beginning, * Whereas thou, Galileo,* and in the 
Minerva he abjured his condemned opinions. But since the Italian Government 
entered the Porta Pia this once formidable tribunal has become a sinecure. It 
may be added that the Records of the Inquisition were seized during the Revolu- 
tion of 1S49, and now repose in the library of Trinity College, Dublin. 


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replied he, * no; you may imprison me, but that child can never be 
surrendered. Non possumus ; it cannot be done.' The hand of that 
child Mortara I have shaken as he grew up to the priesthood, and 
I will never forget him.* 

To compensate for pleasures relinquished, Thomas Burke 
indulged, so far as his rule allowed, a love of the liberal arts. 
' While still a novice,' observes his late Provincial, ' he was 
surprised to receive one day a few pounds from home. He 
waited on his superior, and asked leave to buy a piano for 
the use of the novices during their hours of recreation. The 
request— then a very unusual one — was granted.' ^ 

This happiness was now heightened by the thought — and 
the words are his own — that if his ear was charmed by music 
or his eye delighted by art, the Church must be recognised as 
their mother, in so far as to have brought them forth from the 
chaos that followed Pagan civilisation. His admiration of 
art was strengthened under the example of the great Domi- 
nicans who had gone before him, especially Angelico. It was 
a tradition in the Convent of Santa Sabina that this great 
master of the ethereal touch never laid his brush to the 
Saviour or the Madonna except on the day that he had 
received Holy Communion. The * Crucifixion ' he painted 
reverently on his knees. * We read of him,' says Fr. Burke, 
' that whilst he depicted the Divine sorrow in the Virgin Mother 
for the Saviour on the Cross, whilst he brought out the God- 
like tribulation of Him who suffered there— he was obliged 
to dash from his eyes the tears of love and of compassion 
which had produced the high inspiration of his genius.' 

To the gifted Father Angelico he also refers in a passage, 
relevant to the present period. It occurs in a sermon on 
'The Church the Mother of Inspiration and Art,' Apropos of 
the completion of the fine Dominican church at New York : 

It is fitting that, in a temple of my order, when I look upon 

» Lecture at Waterford, February 3, 1875. 

« Very Rev. B. Russell, O.P., to the Author, August 18, 1883. 


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yonder image of my Holy Father, in imagination and without an 
effort I travel back to the spot where I had the happiness to live 
my student's days, and where in the very cell in which I dwelt I 
beheld from Angelico's own hand a glorious specimen of his art. 
These are the gladness of our eyes, the joy of our hearts. They 
give us reason to rejoice with Him who said : * I have loved, O 
Lord, the beauty of Thy house, and the place where Thy glory 
dwelleth.' We rejoice because they are not only fair and beautiful in 
themselves, but are also the guarantee and the promise that the 
traditions of ecclesiastical painting, sculpture, architecture, and music 
in this new country will yet come out and rival all the glories of the 
nations that for centuries upheld the Cross. They are a cause 
of gladness to us, for when we have passed away our children and 
our children's children shall come here, and, in viewing these pictures, 
will learn to feel the love of Christ 

The grand pictures with which Italy abounds, illustrative 
of the various stages of the Passion, had no small effect in 
educating Burke's mind for the work of the pulpit. 

Later on, when the rigours of his novitiate ended, and he 
returned to Rome a fully developed Dominican, he styled 
himself a polygamist in his devotion to the nine Muses, not 
excluding those of Rhetoric and Tragedy. How often have 
favoured friends heard him declaim the best of Shakspere's 
plays I But for Thalia, Muse of Comedy, he bore through 
life a passion quite undying. Even Terpsichore was not 
excluded ; he more than once danced for the amusement of 
some genial brother, his habit imparting a fantastic effect to 
his personation of Cerrito in the Shadow Dance. 

Fr, Burke's sermon on Cardinal Cullen describes Rome 
at this time. Though the men he names were now dead, 
monuments of their genius extended on every side, and 
served to educate our student's eye. 

The museums of the Vatican were springing up and being filled. 
The greatest scholars of the day were at work in Rome : Mai 
rescuing from the palimpsests the precious and long-lost treasures of 
ancient Roman eloquence ; Mezzofanti speaking all known languages, 
the wonder of the age ; Few unlocking the treasure-house of archaeo- 


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logy; Canova recalling the best days of Grecian sculpture ; Francesco 
Cancellieri writing on all recondite and strange subjects ; Conte and 
Calandrelli, astronomers who laid the foundations of the higher fame 
of Vico, and of the great Jesuit Secchi : in a word, a host of 
men illustrious in every walk of learning, science, and art, who 
seemed to have brought back again to Rome the glories of the 
Augustan era. Into this bright home of learning and sanctity (he 
adds) the Irish boy enters joyfully. 

He was something of an aesthete, but an aesthete regu- 
lated by asceticism ; he liked culture, but used it as tending 
to make brighter the path to heaven. A philosopher, but with 
a philosophy tempered by the discipline of religion ; otherwise 
it ' might clip an angel's wings.' * Perhaps,* he declared, 

The best that can be said of the highest intellectual culture is that it 
is a good immediate preparation for the development of the third 
and highest life of man — namely, the spiritual life. The philosophers 
of old knew the names of all the virtues, but they were unable to 
practise one. They taught the beauty of purity and chastity in man, 
but when it came to the trial of temptation the best among them has 
left behind him a name stained with unutterable crimes.* 

Rome was now occupied by French troops. Their 
presence awakened stirring memories of past triumphs. 
Burke did not forget his mother's parting words ; but a 
fatherly interest in le petit tambour involved no infringe- 
ment of her injunction. How badly paid the French troops 
were, we learn from his 'Address to the Young Men of 
Brooklyn ' (December 15, 1872), the word • cents' being used 
to make the value of the coin clear to his audience : 

I remember once at a review of the French troops seeing a poor 
little drummer boy running up and down all day, beating his drum 
wherever he was sent, in order to call the troops together \ and when 
he came in exhausted in the evening I said to him, * Well, have you 
enjoyed yourself to-day?' ^ Eh ! ma foiP answered he, *it was a 
hard day for two sous.' After he had paid for his clothing and 
victuals, he had just two cents coming to him. 

' Sermon at Westland Row, Dublin, December 2, 1876. 


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For reasons which will soon appear, our novice was* 
removed from the Minerva to that venerable structure on the 
Aventine Hill known as Santa Sabina. This old convent by 
the Tiber had been once occupied by St. Dominic himself. 
His cell remains very much as he left it six hundred years 
ago, and the hall still stands where he gave the habit to St. 
Hyacinth. Burke on entering Santa Sabina was struck by an 
old fresco over the great door depicting Dominic returning 
hither at night, and escorted by angels ; but a still more 
curious relic was found in the stone, still shown, and which 
tradition states had been cast by Satan at the saint after 
having overcome a temptation. 

* Santa Sabina,' says Fr. Burke, ' covers the spot where 
lived Marcellus, the first to introduce monastic life into the 
Western Church. Here St. Jerome preached conferences to 
her virgins, and on the site thus endeared Dominic founded 
the novitiate of his order.' * Santa Sabina was remarkable 
for its strict primitive observance of our rules and constitu- 
tions,* writes an esteemed correspondent. 

The year Fr. Burke was sent from the Minerva to Santa Sabina was 
the same year that our province in England was re-established, and 
the General appointed Fr. Burke, whilst not even a sub-deacon, to be 
its first Master of Novices. And that he might be able to introduce 
strict observance into England, the General wished him to spend 
some time at Santa Sabina before his departure. Here is the simple 
explanation, which I often heard from Fr. Tom himself* 

Br. Burke placed himself unreservedly in Fr. Jandel's 
hands, to be regulated just as the Master- General pleased. 

The fruit which grew from his thoughts at Santa Sabina we 
find him long after casting among the ardent souls who thirst- 

> Rev. P. V. Kenny, O.P., to the Author, St. Saviour's, October 5, 1884. 
He adds : * S. Sabina does not belong to the Roman Province of the Order, 
and is not subject, as the Minerva is, to the Roman Provjncit-l. It is directly 
under the control of the Dominican General. In many of the provinces of the 
Order the General, for special reasons, reserves to himself the immediate juris- 
diction over one or two houses of men or women. In the Irish Province, Siena 
Convent, in Drogheda, is subject immediately to the General, who has appointed 
as his commissary or visitor over the convent Fr. Conway, late of Tallaght.* 


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PfeRE BESSON. 127 

ingly followed him in his retreats. At no time did he appear 
in greater strength than when conducting these exercises for 
ladies at Loretto. Among the notes kindly sent for our use 
by Miss Rowe — the convert daughter of a Devonshire rector 
— we find : * Think of St Dominic and St. Francis meeting 
at Santa Sabina at sunset ; how they had not got through 
their meditation on the wondrous mysteries of the incarnation 
before the sun rose over the Alban Hills.' 

What were the points which so prepossessed Jandel in favour 
of this Irish youth } Among various accounts of his progress 
at Santa Sabina we heard one which struck us as harmonising 
with his own account of the youthful St Lawrence O'Toole. 
The words, though warm, may perhaps be borrowed to paint 
his higher characteristics : 

They knew what was demanded of the monk and the consecrated 
priest, they knew by the experience of years how complete the sacri- 
fice of the heart must be. But the presence of the youth among 
them as he came forth in his monastic habit, with his eyes cast to the 
ground, and his face radiating with the love of God, came like rays 
from the brightness of heaven ; they saw in that youth, kneeling 
hour after hour before the presence of God upon the altar, they heard 
in that voice ringing clear and high in the tones of praise above the 
choms of voices of those who praised the Lord, as if an angel were 
in them, striving to uplift his spirit totally upon the wings of song. 

It would have been impossible for the aspirant to Christian 
perfection to find a retreat more redolent of sanctity, or one 
which inclosed higher types of asceticism. A man eminently 
deserving of beatification was P^re Besson, Prior of Santa 
Sabina. Br. Thomas having chosen him as his confessor, 
frequent visits to Besson*s room became necessary. It had 
been often observed that Besson evinced a special objection 
to any person entering his inner cell ; but Burke, with the 
curiosity of youth, watched his opportunity to peep in unob- 
served. He entered with a tripping air, which immediately 
gave place to a shock very unusual with him. Bluebeard's 
wife, when she opened the secret chamber, was not more 


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appalled by what she saw. The room contained no furniture 
beyond one stool, a table, and a black coffin with gaping jaws, 
while the white walls around bore daubs of human blood. It 
afterwards transpired that P^re Besson slept in this coffin, 
from which at two o'clock A.M. he rose for matins. He regu- 
larly used the discipline or scourge, and with a degree of seve- 
rity that may be inferred from the state of the walls. Perhaps 
he thought of the blood of the lamb, which led God to spare 
such doors as were marked by it. Fr. Besson — on this occa- 
sion responding to a summons — had left his penitent in an 
outer room, but promising to return to hear his confession. 
'Never,' said Fr. Burke, as he told the incident to his 
novices, * never did I make so complete an act of con- 
trition as I did then.' As an artist, though not equal to 
Angelico, Besson yet possessed talents of a high order, and 
painted some frescoes in the chapter-room of St Sixtus 
at Rome. Thomas Burke was much struck by this man — 
one indeed so remarkable that lives of him have been written 
not only by Dominicans, but by Protestants ; and the same 
remark applies to his colleague, Lacordaire. Br, Thomas 
watched Besson at all seasons ; to the last hour of his life 
Besson was vividly present to his mind, and his example 
nerved him tlirough the many trials of a chequered course. 
Fr. Burke, when preaching one of his Lenten sermons at 
St. Saviour's, Dublin, reminded his * dearly beloved brethren 
and fellow-sinners ' that many a man goes forth to his daily 
occupation and lies down at night without offering through- 
out the whole day one prayer ; or at most, the mere thought- 
less recital of a set form of words. 

But (he added) where is the soul, where is the spirit crushed 
before God, where is the man knowing his own infirmities, remember- 
ing his own past sins and bewailing them in a spirit of contrition, who 
with temptation around him still clings to God ? Do you ever pray in 
this fashion? Let every man look into his own conscience. Do you 
know how to pray ? I scarcely know how to pray, and I have been 
at it five-and-thirty years as the profession of my life. Listen to me. 


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T renaember seeing a priest kneeling before a crucifix in the oratory of 
a convent in Italy on a Good Friday morning, and he did not know 
I was watching him until he ceased to pray ; he was praying there 
before a lifelike image of the Crucifixion — our Lord bleeding from 
the cross. His mind, his heart and soul went into that cruci- 
fixion. For three hours he realised every agony, every pain and 
pang of the soul and body of the crucified Lord ; but he was not 
able to speak, and I saw him rise up from his prayer, his eyes fixed 
in a glassy stare upon that cross, and he threw himself about the 
foot of it, and fell in a swoon as if he would die. I fled terrified, for 
I was a youth at the time, and I left the man there whose prayers 
had crushed him. Ah, how little do we know how to pray ! It is 
the first and most necessary duty amongst us, and if any man here 
expects to enter heaven he must open the way by prayer. In the 
name of God, take up this practice. Throw yourselves, like men, 
heart and soul into it, put before Him your wants and necessities, for 
He who is your Father, who knows your soul so well, is only waiting 
to hear that prayer in order to grant that which is so necessary for us,* 

It was at this period that Thomas Burke first became 
familiar with a disciplinary practice which is uniformly veiled 
from the sight of the world. But his Discourses often make 
reference to it Thus on St. Patrick's Day, l88i, he speaks 
of a servant of God * scourging his virginal flesh until the blood 
flowed down on every side — lacerated from head to foot by 
the unsparing hand of this awful disciplinary penance.'* 

Burke's own cell was little better than Fr. Besson's. He 
entered it, in the first instance, unchilled by the words of 
Lacordaire, who styles it a tomb which the religious inhabits 
during his mortal life only to pass to the tomb that pre- 
cedes immortality. Even then he is not separated from his 
brethren, but is laid to rest wrapped in his habit ; and it is 
part of the Dominican rule to regard the habit as their coflSn. 

Besson, Jandel, and Lacordaire had made their studies 
tc^ether, and traversed Italy with knapsacks on their backs. 

■ Lenten Sermon at St. Saviour's, Dublin, March 20, 1881. 
* /M. March 17, 1881. 

VOL. I. K 


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When Lacordaire, however, compares the cell to a tomb, it 
must not be taken quite literally. The phrase would apply 
more to a monk than a friar, and though many Cathojics 
regard them as synonymous, they are wholly different. The 
monk is a solitary ; the mission of the friar or brother is 
to go among the people, advising and consoling them. 

That winding path down the Aventine Hill which St. 
Dominic had daily travelled on charitable thoughts intent 
soon became as familiar to Burke as the staircase in his 
mother's house. 

An old orange tree planted in the garden of Santa Sabina 
by Dominic's own hand, after having dispensed for six 
centuries its refreshing fruit to the pilgrim or student, had at 
last given symptoms of decay, when suddenly it sent forth a 
strong new sucker teeming with blossoms, which grew into 
golden fruit. This the General seemed to regard as earnest 
of renovated strength in the Order ; and Fr. Burke, some 
years later, brought home to Ireland as a souvenir one of the 
oranges. He gave it to a member of the author's family, who 
still preserves the shrivelled relic. 

Thanks to the legislation of the Italian Government (writes Fr. 
Towers, O.P.), if you visit Santa Sabina at the present day, memory 
will have to re-people its empty cells with the holy generations that 
once occupied them ; but when the young Irish novice went there a 
numerous community, by their strict observance of rule, showed 
themselves to be true children of St. Dominic. 

It was his good fortune to form the acquaintance at this 
time of a great priest who afterwards did much to make 
history and influence men. A Galwegian writing in the 
New York Sun tells us that Cardinal Wiseman formed a 
warm affection for young Burke, whom he met on one of 
his many visits to Rome. He was particularly captivated by 
the merry spirit of jest and Irish fun which played inces- 
santly around a nature as open, artless, and sincere as a 


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child's. ' That young man/ he often said, ' has a wondrous 
power of inspiring love. He will be a great priest yet' The 
Galwegian adds that it was chiefly from the opinion of his power 
thus early expressed that Fn Burke was afterwards selected to 
preach the Lenten sermons which Dr. Wiseman himself, when 
head of the English College at Rome, made celebrated, and 
which at once, by a bound, brought him into a world-wide fame. 
Some apt words used by Dr. Wiseman were afterwards 
quoted by Fr. Burke as thoroughly harmonising with his own 
impressions of Rome : 

The life of the student in Rome should be one of unblended 
enjoyment If he loves his work — if he throws himself conscientiously 
into it — it is sweetened to him as it can be nowhere else. His very 
relaxations become subsidiary to it. His daily walks may be through 
the field of art— his resting-place in some seat of the Muses — his 
wanderings along the stream of time, bordered by precious monu- 
ments. The student at Rome so peoples his thoughts with persons 
and things seen and heard, that his studies are, or ought to be, 
turgid with the germs of life, rich as the tree in early spring, in the 
assurance of bloom and fruit. On the darkest page of abstruse 
theology there will shine a bright ray from an object perhaps just 
discovered ; but on the lighter one of history and practical doctrine 
there literally sparkle beams of every hue. The whole of Chiistian 
life and history — legible still, even to the traditional portraiture of 
apostles, martyrs, and their Head, traced from catacomb to basilica 
and cloister, make the history of the Church, her dogmas, practices, 
and vicissitudes, as vivid to the eye as any modern illustrated book 
can make a record of the past. But it is written, 'Rejoice there- 
fore, O young man, in thy youth, and let thy heart be in that which 
is good in the da)rs of thy youth, and walk in the ways of thy heart, 
and in the sight of thy eyes : and know that for all these God will 
bring thee into judgment' (Eccles. xL 9). 

The eye is not filled with seeing, nor the ear with hearing, even 
when the sights and sounds are those of Christian Rome (continues 
Fr. Burke). The young student of theology knew that his first duty 
lay directly to God, and that there are some things far better than 
knowledge, even when that knowledge is of things Divine. 

The retirement and peace of Roman life, so sweetened by study^ 


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SO sanctified by contemplation and prayer, so enlivened by the 
highest and grandest functions and ceremonial of the Church, so 
pleasant in its learned and holy associations, were now to be ex- 
changed for another life, more laborous still.* 

In the holy company at Santa Sabina, Burke, in the natural order 
of religious life, would have spent some years (writes Fr. Towers), but 
his sojourn was suddenly interrupted, as the General called him 
elsewhere to fill an arduous and responsible position. The old 
Orders in England, except the Benedictines, never recovered the 
blow they received at the Reformation, and so recently as 1850 
there were no Carmelites, no Augustinians, only two or three 
Franciscans, whilst the Dominicans had only one convent 

The tirne had now come when the friars-preachers of 
England were to be reorganised. 

Candidates for the Order presented themselves in fair numbers 
(continues Fr. Towers), and, that they might be trained thoroughly 
in religious discipline, the young Irish student was taken from his 
studies and sent as Novice Master to Woodchester, when he had 
barely attained his twenty-first year. 

The Master-General who took this bold course was the 
Thre Jandel, and his resolve to make Burke an important 
instrument in the work was not suddenly formed. But 
before we enter on this new era, not in his life only, but in 
that of the now flourishing Dominican province of England, 
a retrospect and preamble become necessary to make both 
thoroughly understood. 

» • Ojrdp* &c. for 1879, vide p. 270 </ scj^. 


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The Dominicans possessed at the Reformation fifty-four 
priories in England and Wales. In 1538 persecution drove 
them into exile, and the province became utterly disorganised. 
A few stealthily remained, sufficient to keep its smouldering 
embers alive, and no more. Fr. Blagrave was the first who 
suffered death. Edward Byng, a Cromwellian officer and 
afterwards a chief of the Body-guard of Charles 11.^ was 
one of those who, becoming a Catholic, made his profession 
as a Dominican, officiated in London, and suffered for the 
faith. Fr. Molineux, grandson of one of Queen Elizabeth's 
generals in Ireland, is found labouring on the English mission 
in 1664. The archives of the Master-General at Rome con- 
tain full record of the Fathers who, throughout the long 
dark night of persecution, kept the flame of religion burning. 
Some are described as baronets, as Graham and Martin ; one 
is Raymond Greene, attached to the Royal Household at 
Windsor and St. James's ; he was sent to Oxford by the 
Dean and Chapter of Windsor to read for the Church of 
England, but he embraced instead the Dominican rule, and 
under his mother's name, Westby, did duty as a zealous 
priest in London. The first English Dominican of whom 
we have clear tradition is Fr. Norton, * who sharpened his 
razor on the knee of his leather breeches,' and eked out sub- 
sistence by selling pints of gooseberries from his garden at 
Hinckley. Here he built a little chapel in 1767.* 

* One day, when Dr. Ambrose Woods, a distinguished theological writer 
and Dominican Ruler, called, he found Fr. Norton washing cabbage with his own 


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Fr. Norton had also been a Protestant. His unobtrusive 
life concealed virtues and gifts worthy of a F6n61on. At 
Louvain he proved his power, filled a chair, became D.D., and 
finally its rector ; while his writings won prizes from learned 
societies. It should be mentioned that after the Dominican 
heroes of England had fallen during the tornado of persecu- 
tion, their head-quarters and novitiate continued for two 
centuries at Bomhem, in Holland. This house had been 
founded by Cardinal Howard, O.P., brother of the Duke of 
Norfolk. One day Fr. Norton received his appointment as 
Prior of Bomhem. No man is a hero to his valet ; and the 
old woman who acted as his servant said — while Hinckley 
tendered its congratulations—* If they knew as much about 
you as I do, they'd never make you Prior of Bomhem.* 

Retuming to England, he served Leicester from 1783 to 
August 1785. One day a local trader waited upon the 
mayor, saying, after he had very carefully closed the door, 
' I know where there is a priest.' 

* This is an important business,' replied the mayor. ' Come 
to me to-morrow, when there will be a full bench.' 

Meanwhile the mayor, who respected Norton's gifts and 
worth, privately sent him word to fly. Fr. Norton's old 
leather small-clothes were soon in rapid motion, and ere 
next day's sun had set they might be seen with their owner 
speeding towards Douay. Meanwhile it appeared that the 
informer was heavily in debt and trying to get clear of his 
creditors ; and the mayor not only foiled his scheme, but 
had influence enough to lodge him in gaol as a defaulting 

The French Revolution drove the English Dominicans 
out of Bomhem. Fr. Norton founded a mission at Coventry, 

hand. The good man bade him welcome, and hewed a large piece of fat bacon 
from the flitch. During dinner the guest plied his knife and fork, but merely 
feigning to eat ; and while Fr. Norton left the room for something to drink, the 
guest adroitly put upon his host's plate the slices to which he himself had been 


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and returned to Hinckley, where he died in 1800, bequeath- 
ing Kis bones to the bit of Leicestershire soil that shel- 
tered him and had grown the fruits on which he had 
vegetated. Few visitors to Aston-Flamville churchyard are 
allowed to leave it until the sexton shows them Friar Norton's 

The connivance extended by Leicester to the proscribed 
Dominican led Fr, Ambrose Woods, O.P., to open a secular 
school and small novitiate at Hinckley, and to build a chapel, 
which was licensed for public worship in 1825. One of his 
colleagues was Fr. Brittain, a convert At Hinckley the priest 
who, as * Fr. Augustine,* will be found filling an important 
role later on, made his studies. This novitiate did not even 
make its sons wear the habit; and Hinckley was no doubt 
quite unsuited as a foundation. The army of friars-preachers 
assigned to each country is called ' the Province.' The recon- 
struction of the English Province, with strict primitive observ- 
ance, had long been the day-dream of Fr. Augustine's thoughts ; 
and a voice whispered in his ear that he was the man to do it. 
England possessed a few Dominican Fathers, hardly recog- 
nisable as such, and officiating ostensibly as parish priests. 
The shoulders that they were urged to put to the wheel they 
shrugged. It was a habit they learned in France before the 
Reign of Terror drove them to England. They preferred the 
frying-pan to the fire. During the penal laws it was not 
unusual for the General, in memory of past triumphs, to give 
to some Italian the purely honorary title of Provincial of 
England. This empty rank at last died out, but, thanks to 
Holland, the English Province, though often laid waste, was 
never extinguished. 

Fr. Augustine, while Regent of Bomhem, eflfected the sale 
of all the property in Flanders. Twice he became Provincial, 
and from 1832 to 1850 was pastor of Hinckley. *In the 
latter year the number of Fathers was so reduced as again 
to threaten extinction,' writes their present Provincial, Fr. 


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Williams. Fr. Augustine, nothing daunted, continued to urge 
energy on his colleagues. At their final meeting at Hinckley 
four Fathers threw themselves on their knees, and resolved 
that if any feasible opportunity presented itself they would 
labour to reconstruct the long-disorganised English Province. 

Next day a stranger, as he descended from the stage- 
coach at Hinckley, was observed making inquiries for Fr. 
Augustine. This was Mr. Leigh, an eminent English con- 
vert, who came to offer him the handsome Gothic church he 
had built at Woodchester. 

But though the shackles of penal pressure had been partly 
Unlocked, ugly marks remained behind, and the cold of the 
iron had entered their souls. The news seemed, indeed, too 
good to be true ; the Fathers rather shrank from the generous 
boldness of the proposal. Mr. Leigh asked leave to retire to 
the chapel while they renewed their deliberations. Here his 
orisons gathered increased fervour, and he returned to find 
all difficulties smoothed. The Fathers had decided upon 
accepting his proposal and sending a contingent of not less 
than three to Woodchester. 

Woodchester Paik had long been the home of the 
Moretohs, ancestors of Lord Ducie. Every man on the 
property tells wonderful stories of their orgies through succes- 
sive generations, and which ended at last in an incident akin 
to that of * Lord Lyttelton and the ghost.' Nor are these 
stories confined to the people. In the Halliwell family — long 
the neighbours and attached friends of the Ducies — it is told 
how a figure in white, supposed to imply the Dominican 
intruder. Scared the late peer, probably in a dream, during 
his last nights in the park. In June 1840, Lord Ducie filled 
his house with guests, as if trying to forget in their society 
the unpleasantnesses that had long tormented him. But just 
as he was conducting a lady into dinner, he stood aghast to 
see his father's spirit in the very chair that he as host was 
about to occupy. Hurrying from the room, Lord Ducie 


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repaired to London, and returned to Woodchester Park no 

This is told from Stroud to Stone, and how six parsons 
tried to lay the ghost. At last Mr. William Leigh, a D.L. for 
the counties of Stafford and Lancaster, bought the property. 
He placed, as caretaker in the house, 'a bailiff who feared not 
God, man, or devil* One morning very early, this man pre- 
sented himself to his employer vowing that not all the 
gold in Gloucester would tempt him to pass another night 
in that house. Mr. Leigh pulled down the historic house, 
with its secret chambers behind the arras, and raised the 
beautiful new church in which the Dominicans have long 
worked such good. Woodchester Park, a place not inferior in 
picturesque grandeur to Studley Royal, and whose island in 
the ornamental water and tower overlooking it were added 
on the suggestion of George IV., had been old Church pro- 
perty ; and Mr. Leigh felt that in building a temple to God's 
honour he had condoned past sacrilege and freed the place 
from ban. In point of fact, however, all interdict had been 
removed by the accession of Queen Mary. Mr. Leigh also 
built a church in Australia* At his death, in 1873, he left 
unfinished on the site of the haunted house a castle worthy 
of royal occupation, but which his son seems determined never 
to complete. This forsaken structure, roofed certainly, but in 
other respects a skeleton, through which the night wind pite- 
ously howls, is not calculated to dispel the popular superstition 
attaching to the spot. 

The Dominicans stopped for the first night of their arrival 
at Mr. Leigh's house, near Nymphsfield. The good Fathers, 
on getting into a cab next morning at seven, and telling 
the driver where to go, heard him mutter, ' A strange hour, 
surely, to go to church.* 

Fr. Augustine took possession of Woodchester Church on 
October 8, 1850, and full of zeal at once proceeded to organise 
the convent and novitiate. He became Novice<»Master, Vicar- 


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Procurator, and Parochus ; Fr. Dominic Aylward not having 
been installed as first Prior of Woodchester until July 6, 1854. 
Fr. Augustine seemed well qualified to direct the studies, 
having been himself Regent of Bornhem College ; but how 
much he disappointed expectations the sequel will show. 

The old house in which primitive monastic observance was 
to be revived clung to the side of a steep hill not far from 
the site of the present beautiful church and priory. 

The spot chosen for the novitiate house was inhospitable in the 
extreme (writes Fr. Taul Stapelton, O.P.) Nothing but utter poverty 
stared everyone in the face, and the stolid, wan, nay austere figure of 
the vicar only added to the terrors of the necessary hardships. 

Fr. Augustine — the priest just referred to — with the 
strongest zeal to carry out the rule of St. Dominic in strict 
integrity, was yet ignorant of the traditions and practices of 
the Order. This is not surprising when we remember that his 
career from 1825 had been mainly that of a secular priest in 

Few Dominicans who made their novitiate or even served 
as priests under Fr. Augustine can look back without a chill 
to that period of their lives. Giving too literal an inter- 
pretation to the Constitutions in some instances, and deducing 
an utterly wrong meaning in others, he exacted from the 
religious, already bound by solemn vows of obedience, an 
observance of rigours never contemplated by St. Dominic, and 
which would have made Thomas Aquinas smile. But Fr. 
Augustine had little in common with the Angel of the Schools 
unless a lively faith and an indomitable strength of purpose. 
Fasts came first, and Fr. Augustine found a luxury in their un- 
due severity. The Dominican Lent lasts for seven months, 
during which time only four ounces of dry bread are allowed 
for the morning collation — breakfast it cannot be called. 
This, however, is strictly according to the Constitutions. A 
good dinner is allowed ; but how did Fr. Augustine supply 
It.? Meat under no circumstances was permitted within the 


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walls during this time. He laid in a stock of salt herrings, 
which he purchased by the cask. 

Week after week, and month after month, came the same 
monotonous menu. At last a keg containing mullets, which 
the vicar probably got cheap, was opened, and immediately 
sent forth an odour by no means inviting. The good vicar 
is said to have been deficient in smell and taste, which will 
account for his mistake — and he was influenced by a laudable 
desire to expend with economy the small funds at his dis- 
posal. It was not until after the arrival of Br. Thomas that 
Fr. Augustine became alive to the truth. The keg, ere half 
consumed, received funeral honoui-s in the garden.* 

On the Feast of St. Dominic during the year of Fr. Burke's 
arrival, as is well remembered by the novices, their dinner 
consisted of a red herring and cold apple-pie. This day is 
kept universally in the Order as one of exceptional festivity. 

In August 1851, the Master-General Jandel arrived from 
Rome to make an inspection of Woodchester Convent. * This 
is all very well,' he said, ' but you're not living according to 
the spirit of St. Dominic. I will send you a young man from 
Santa Sabina who is thoroughly competent to expound the 

There is much more to be told on this point ; but mean- 
while we must return to Br. Thomas, who is seeing after 
what he called his * duds,' preparatory to starting for * Merrie 
England.' * They rigged him out in second-hand clothes from 
the " Ghetto," ' Canon Brownlow writes, ' so that he looked 
more like a smuggler than a friar.' This is the general belief 
among the friends of Fr. Burke, one which he himself did 
not discourage. In point of fact, however, the clothes were 
his own — the same suit which was worn by the lank youth 
five years before when leaving the field of Irish famine. 

> Fr. Augustine's resolute asceticism in electing to live in this style— if it in- 
volved some mistakes— preached a good moral lesson. * When at Hinckley he lived 
like a prince ; he kept a splendid table— no doubt in compliment to the sons of 
the Catholic aristocracy who resided wiih him as pupils.' 


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This is known to all the Fathers who were then his novices 
By no means harmonising with the outgrown attire was a 
long Roman hat, like a capsized canoe, which the P^re 
Jandel urged him to wear. But observing some tittering 
at his expense, Fr. Burke relinquished at Paris the Roman 
hat, and, ' because it was the cheapest, bought a jockey cap ! ' 

The money placed in his hands to reach Woodchester 
had been calculated by the Procurator on rigid rules ot 
economy, and soon ran short. When Burke landed at 
London Bridge he had not enough to pay for a cab. Dazed 
by the noise and glare .of the great city, the timid youth 
hardly ventured to ask his way. When he got into the 
Poultry he felt more at home ; but Chcapside disappointed 
a man who thought to get his dinner for sixpence. Amen 
Corner and St. Paul's nerved him somewhat for the road, 
until steep Holborn Hill — there was no Viaduct then — 
again tried his strength. He thought, however, of the 
old Dominican house at Holborn, in which Thomas Aquinas 
assisted at the general chapter ; * and the youth's step be- 
came firmer when he remembered that the ground had been 
trodden by that angelic man. By the time, however, that he 
reached Paddington he was, as he said, more dead than alive. 

It was nightfall when he entered the terminus of the Great 
Western Railway. He had not a farthing left, and his 
stomach was as empty as his purse. Thinking that he was 
now within measurable distance of his destination, he asked 
the porter if he knew a place called ' Woodchester ; * but Tierra 
del Fuego would have been quite as familiar. At last he 
learned that it was much farther down than Reading, or even 
Cheltenham ; and when he thought how much it would 
cost to reach it his face fell. The clock tower now tolled 
midnight, and it sounded like his knell. ' The youth was so 
crushed and humble,' Fr. Pius Cavanagh, O.P, states, 'that he 

' This old house — now an Inn of Court for law students— still possesses, 
atnidst the din of a great city, its peaceful aspect. 


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accosted the porter with the same deference in which he 
would have spoken to his superior. He told the porter 
exactly how he was situated, and the circumstances which 
had brought him to England/ The only part of the station 
in which there was a fire was the lamp room, and here they 
let him siL 

He told me (writes Canon Brownlow) that when sitting cold and 
hungry at Paddington Station, and thinking of Rome and the 
brothers and Convent he had left there, then it was that the porter 
thrust a hunch of bread with a bit of herring under his nose, saying, 
* Here, poor devil, eat that ! ' The coarse way in which he did his act 
of charity grated very harshly on the sensitive youth fresh from the 
politeness of Italy, and he burst into tears. 

Nevertheless he felt grateful to this porter; and years 
after, when he had become the great Fr. Burke, he visited 
Paddington Station, and, assisted by Fr. Pius Cavanagh, 
searched every part of it with a crown piece in his hand to 
bestow on the man who had erst befriended him. 

Nestling in a comer of the lamp room, the weary tra- 
veller at last sank to sleep — possibly dreaming of ' Aladdin 
and the Wonderful Lamp * — which he had loved to recite in 
Italian to the novices at Santa Sabina. But a shrill railway 
whistle disturbed ' the Arabian Nights' Entertainment,* and 
roused him to a deeper sense of his painful position. What 
was he to do f 

At last (says Fr. Austin Maltus) he bethought him of one of the 
priests of the Oratory, which then stood, not at Brompton as now, 
but in King William Street, Charing Cross. He had known this 
Father at Rome, and had been of some use to him. Luckily 
the Oratorian was at home. He recognised Br. Thomas not without 
difficulty, owing to the strange dress he wore, and extricated him 
from his trouble by timely help. 

There was no rail from Stonehouse to Woodchester 
then, and those only who made the journey forty years ago 
can realise the difficulties which beset it. The journey termi- 


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nated by an ascent, which seemed to our footsore and 
benighted traveller like that of the Great St Bernard. He 
probably took the wrong turn and crossed the hill by a 
tortuous path. 

* When I got to the convent the Prior had retired to rest, 
and they took me for a robber.* It was not until I sonorously 
said, " Nay, I am Brother Thomas from Rome," that the bolt 
was withdrawn which launched me into my new duties.* 

The date of his arrival was October 4, 185 1, the feast of 
St. Francis. Br. Thomas cut a strange figure. With trousers 
much too small for him, and a coat whose sleeves ran sadly 
short, he looked like Smike in ' Nicholas Nickleby ' ! 

The Superior, though holding vanity in austere contempt, 
saw next day that this apparel would never do. Straightway 
every valise in the monastery was requisitioned for aid. Fr. 
Aylward contributed a coat, Fr. Augustine a vest, and so on. 
Nothing annoyed Br. Thomas more than the acuteness with 
which each article was recognised by the novices ; and this 
was among the keenest of the humiliations that met him 
in England. 

Br. Thomas was pacing up and down his room at an 
early hour of the morning that followed his arrival, when a 
young novice named Morgan, in the joy of his heart, ran in, 
exclaiming, ' So you're the new Novice-Master. Oh, Brother 
Thomas, Fm so glad youVe come.* 

No grand inquisitor could have looked more stem than 
did Burke in acknowledgment of this friendly overture. 

* Pray, is not this silence time ? ' he said, to the great confu- 
sion of the boy, who slunk away, quite ashamed of himself 
for forgetting that from bedtime till after Mass next morning 
solemn silence is prescribed. 

■ Canon Brownlow heard that the lay brother, thinking he was a robber, 

* threatened to set the dog at him.* On inquiry*, it appears that there was no dog 
then or since at the monastery. The dog incident must have occurred at a farmer's 
house which he mistook for the convent. 


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This loquacious novice Burke afterwards nicknamed 
* Morgan Rattler ' — the hero of Tyrone Power's farce, ' How 
to Pay the Rent/ Morgan, on being convinced by Fr. Burke 
that he had no real vocation for the rule of St. Dominic, 
finally went on the mission, and died. 

The Fathers who were then novices under Burke say 
that for the first year they never saw him smile. The young 
man was evidently oppressed by the weight of the respon- 
sibility that had been put on him. Another reason helped 
to make his position not a happy one. The solemn Vicar, 
Fr. Augustine, never viewed him cordially. He looked on 
Burke as a sort of spy sent by the Italian General to watch 

The Rev. S. P. Rooke, one of the six Qxford parsons 
officiating at St. Saviour'?, Leeds, who came over to the 
Catholic Church, entered as a novice at this time. He 
states that when Burke arrived first at Woodchester, though 
strengthened with the authority of his oflSce as Master of 
Novices, he seemed the shyest of the shy, even when brought 
face to face with his companions in religion. 

Though less severe and more accurate than Fr. Augustine 
he soon proved himself a rigid taskmaster, as every Father 
who served their novitiate under his rule, while loving and 
respecting him, will not hesitate to endorse. Among his 
novices was another English convert of high attainments. 
When the new master — expounding the Constitutions and 
enforcing their observance — would give a mandate or any 
instruction, the novice generally said, ' Aw.' Fr. Burke, in 
reference to those days, long after confessed that he would 
rather receive a torrent of Irish abuse than hear that simple 

• What we are now about to add has no reference to the distinguished convert 
just named, who was a man of high attainments and of real apostolic spirit. 
Father Burke said that he found converts manifested a great greed for austerities 
and penances rather than cultivated attention to their rule, of which obedience 
is the essence. 


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We have seen it stated that the intensity and beauty of 
the addresses which he delivered before the novices at Wood- 
Chester was something wonderful, and their general plan was 
that which he mostly afterwards used ; but his vivid imagina- 
tion would constantly present new facts and points of view, 
which he illustrated in a manner that quite altered the original 
treatment of the subject. 

This account is confirmed by Fr. Lewis Weldon, who says 
that he never heard anything more beautiful than his chapter 
exhortations, especially one which viewed in glowing words 
all the past saints of the Order. 

These exhortations were in Latin. He spoke English 
so imperfectly on his arrival from Rome that some instruc- 
tion became necessary. There were masons at work near 
the monastery. ' Good morrow,' said Fr. Burke, addressing 
one. * Good morning-, we say in this country,* said the mason. 
The Master of Novices, quite abashed, came into the convent, 
informing them how he had been corrected by a workman. 
Some time after, the mason remarked to him encouragingly 
that he was 'coming on in his English* — a compliment 
which he received with dubious feelings. 

The MS. of Fr. Paul Stapelton, one of the novices of that 
time, after remarking how much Br. Thomas on arrival from 
Rome must have found to chill him, goes on to say : 

Nothing daunted, however, the Rev. Brother Thomas Burke 
betook himself with primitive ardour to his task, and the * chapter of 
faults ' weekly, and sometimes oftener, made all to tremble. The 
Father vicar, who was not for corporal chastisement on the one hand, 
proved rigid to a degree on the other, in the line of abstemiousness 
and fasting ; and though Fr. Thomas now and then fruitlessly re- 
monstrated in behalf of his charge, whom he declared suffered 
unfairly from the effects* of parsimony and neglect, strange to say, 
he was scarcely less reasonable himself as a scourger and flogger, 
for he laid down most emphatically not only the principle and 
advantages of this discipline, but insisted upon its public use in 
chapter whenever he presided as novice-master. From this saluUry 


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practice he only desisted on the understanding that the discipline 
be Uken privately thrice in the week — a standing order which has 
never been violated for thirty years, 

Br, Thomas had studied the life of St. Dominic, and was 
very familiar with this practice. After describing the saint, 
who remained after midnight matins before the altar, and 
rapt in contemplation until dawn, he adds (August 4, 

There were not only traces of tears upon the pavement, but the 
stains of blood — for this faithful man, as he knelt alone, would 
scourge himself until the same effect was produced as on the 
body of Christ when He knelt in His agony in the Garden of 

Some Dominicans tell an incident, said to have happened 
to Fr. Burke, known as * the eel-pie story,* Having inquired 
into it, we may at once say that two Fathers, who were 
at Woodchester at the time, and to whom we owe the pre- 
ceding facts, say that it is new to them.^ A story, however, 
which many believe, and Fr. Tom himself encouraged, must 
not be rudely repulsed. Among the novices who preferred 
leaving their salt herring uneaten were Br, Thomas and 
his novice, Kerril Amherst, afterwards Bishop of North- 
ampton. To eat at other than meal times is regarded by 
Dominicans as a serious breach of rule. But might not a 
case arise which would become justifiable under the circum- 
stances.? One day, finding himself oppressed with great 
hunger and exhaustion, Fr. Thomas is said to have asked a 
lay brother for something to appease it. Nothing remained 

' Woodchester at present is very different to what it was. Work and cheer- 
fulness go hand in hand— exemplifying the nuns sana in €orpor€ sano* Its 
handsome new buildings present a luxury of art. Fresh fish, glittering like silver, 
come daily to the gate ; of this the poor from every side claim the d^ifris ; loaves 
are freely distributed ; hot tea dispensed ; and the avidity displayed shows how 
well the dole is valued. The poor all belong to the Protestant faith, as well as 
the farm-labourers who work for the Fathers, and more conscientious scr\-ants 
they would not care to have. 

VOL. I. L 


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available unless an eel-pie. He tasted it, liked it, went 
deeper and deeper, until, fnding he had inflicted some 
unsightly havoc, he thought it best to make a complete 

At last dinner-hour came. The savoury smell from the 
oven had diffused itself through the entire building, and all 
had looked forward to the eel- pie, just as Goldsmith did to 
the pasty. 

At the sides there was spinach and pudding made hot, 
In the middle a place where the pasty was not. 

Great mystery prevailed as to its fate, and, of all men, the 
Master of Novices was not suspected. After the meal Fr. 
Augustine decided upon holding the capittilum ctdparum^ or 
chapter of faults, v/hen each religious is bound to disclose, 
in an audible voice, some recent failing.' The Superior 
threw himself back in his arm-chair, and each successively 
accused himself of a fault. When it came to the turn of the 
Master of Novices, he mentioned having eaten out of meal- 
times. *I don't distinctly hear you.' The disclosure was 
repeated. 'What did you eat?' 'Pastry.' 'What sort?' 
• An eel-pie.' 

All such questioning after particulars — to the confusion of 
the offender — would not now be sanctioned, assuming that the 
Scene really occurred. The spirit of the Constitutions would 
be satisfied by an avowal of this breach in 'eating out of 
meal-times.' Sometimes in chapter a Father or novice gently 

• • This/ says St. Thomas of Aquin, • is a work of humility which is agreeable 
to God and salutary to the sinner.' It is so r^arded by St. Francis de Sales, who 
recommends it amongst other works of perfection. The Jesuits say in their Con- 
stitutions, * The religious ought not to be constrained to give an account of con- 
science out of confession, because they are allowed an entire liberty herein for ^ach 
person's particular comfort ;* and Rodrigues says, * No person is obliged to give 
an account of any grievous sin ; for the rule does not oblige him thereto, as it 
would be too severe, and few could submit to it, and such proceeding would be 
against the intention of the rule and of the founder.* — Vide Life^ Times ^ and 
Correspondence of Bishop DoyUy vol. i. pp. 523 6. The title 'Chapter* took 
its origin in th^ fact that it was, and is, customary with monks to assemble daily 
to hear a chapter of the Rule read. 


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reminds another of a fault, and notwithstanding the risk and 
delicacy of such a course, not a particle of pique ever results. 
How rigorous Fr. Burke was in abstinence we know from the 
Dominicans with whom he finally lived ; but it must have 
been carried to a remarkable degree when the newspapers 
thought fit to notice it In 1874, a memoir — the result of 
careful inquiry — appeared in the Nation. Among other 
glimpses of his life, we learn — 

Nor is it known how often, in times of fast, after an hour or more 
in the pulpit of St Saviour's, he has returned, without the smallest 
refreshment, to his convent at Tallaght, that he might keep intact the 
rule of his Order. Patient and even cheerful endurance prove a 
man's resoludon and heroism more than scaling the breach or 
charging up to the cannon's mouth. 

The Fr. Vicar had required them to observe the rigid fast 
on Sundays ; but it was clear to Burke and the more intelli- 
gent Fathers that this mandate infringed the Constitutions ; 
and an opportunity was taken to leave the book on his table, 
hoping that, by some lucky thought, he would open the part 
that explained the law. What was their delight when the 
vicar one day came in wearing an unwonted smile, and 
remarked, ' Would you believe, I was quite wrong in includ- 
ing Sundays ? * Had the novices, or even Fathers, ventured 
to point out his mistake, he would simply have replied, * No, 
sir,' and, if possible, tightened the curb. 

* Fr. Vicar, I'm hardly able to speak with a bilious head- 
ache — may I retire to my cell ? * a novice asked. * No, sir,* 
was the reply of this dauntless soldier of suffering. 

Once while matins were being sung at midnight, a novice 
fell insensible in the choir. The Vicar had him stretched at 
full length, and then resumed the Psalmody, during which he 
gradually recovered. 

It is often necessary to bless the alb, and Fr. Burke 
told his Irish brethren that, instead of sprinkling with 
holy water, the Vicar all but saturated it— literally inter- 


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preting, as usual, the words from Ezek. xxxvi. 25 : * I will 
pour upon you clean water, and you shall be cleansed/ The 
good Vicar, however, well knew that holy water possesses no 
virtue of its own, and derived its utility from the prayers said 
over it by the Church, that all who use it may gain spiritual 
and temporal health/ 

Of course the novices dare not read newspapers ; but it 
gratified Br. Thomas to gather that, on the great trial, 
• Achilli z/.- Newman,* at this time. Lord Campbell, after a 
careful study of the Constitutions of the Dominican Order, 
pronounced them a truly admirable code. 

No contrast could well be greater than between the 
stirring scenes of Rome and the enforced seclusion of Wood- 
chester; but he remembered how even laics, like Southey 
and Wordsworth, had fled from the vanities of the world, 
and lived hermits from choice, among scenes equally seques- 
tered. By degrees he found that Rome and Woodchester 
were interwoven by ties other than religious. The plough- 
share had turned up Roman coins, fine tesselated pavement, 
fragments of Italian pottery, and other relics, which led to 
the conclusion that the Emperor Hadrian had erst made 
Woodchester— or, as he styled it, * Udecestre '—his abode. 

All this time Fr. Augustine, in addition to his work as 
Procurator, discharged the duties of parish priest, and some 
conversions were, no doubt, due to him. One day word came 
that * the erring man wished to see him,' He hurried down, 
but found that it was merely the herring man, who was desirous 
of knowing when it would be convenient to settle his account. 

Br. Thomas never allowed the novices out, unless when 
he himself, or a J£?««j specially delegated, accompanied them. 
There was one walk through the park which he frequently 

» The alb, or while linen vestment with sleeves— the emblem of purity— has 
been worn from the earliest times by Priests during the celebration of Mass. 
Fr. Augustine, continuing to interpret surlaUttre, remembered that the Priest, 
when puiting on the alb, is bound to repeal the prayer, * Wash me, and I shall be 
whiter ♦h^n snow.' 


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brought them, and led to a rugged seat that he called 
' usque ad lapidem' One day, Br. Vincent observing that a 
great shower was likely to fall, asked leave to return to the 
convent. ' Go on,' said Burke, * you're not made of sugar or 
salt ; * and on he stalked, his ample robe fluttering in the breeze, 
and followed by the little brood that he gathered under his 
wing. He had not got far when the floodgates of heaven 
opened, and all were speedily wet to the skin. Burke led 
the van home with drooping plumage ; and the entire party 
cut such a forlorn figure, that in passing the village alehouse 
a peal of loud laughter was raised at their expense. Burke 
winced under the taunt. The men renewed their merriment. 
That evening he wrote to a Mr. Clark, their employer, who 
threatened to dismiss the men unless they begged Br. Burke's 
pardon. Fr. Augustine was mystified next day on observ- 
ing a gang of men round the priory door ; they asked to 
see the Master of Novices. ' Please, sir, we're sorry,' the 
spokesman said. * But it wasn't we — it was the ale.' The 
tavern where the incident occurred is the * Nag's Head*— a 
name in itself suggestive of stirring memories to a theo- 
logian. There was a factory in the town, and Fr. Burke, on 
his return to Ireland, described the operatives — their faces 
all blue and with sardonic grin — peering out of the windows 
as they passed. One fellow yelled after them, * Dominus vo- 
biscum ' — alluding, of course, to the well-known words used 
by the priest when, during Mass, he turns to the congregation. 
Br. Thomas had heard from his novices that more than 
once they had been pelted with stones, and he judged that 
it would be well to show some manhood. Whenever such 
incidents were repeated — and they are an experience with 
every Father who has been at Woodchester — they found it 
wise to advance calmly towards the enemy, who thereupon 
slunk away. ' To fly from such missiles,' he said, ' would only 
lead to a renewal of the sport ; ' and he explained that it was 
possible to interpret too literally the * Imitation of Christ,* 


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where it says (III. ch. xiii.), 'Show thyself so submissive and 
so little that all may trample on thee and tread thee under 
their feet as the dust of the road.' 

Every walk discovered new beauties or some thrilling 
tradition. In Berkeley Castle — the most perfectly preserved 
specimen of ancient feudal architecture — is shown the room 
in which Edward II. was murdered ; ' his wailful noise (says 
Holinshed), as the tormentors fell upon him, did plainly 
move many within the town to compassion.' Br. Thomas 
often visited the graveyard, and traced with deep interest the 
epitaph penned by Swift, beginning : 

Here lies the Earl of Suffolk's fool, 

Men called him Dicky Pearce ; 
His folly served to make folks laugh 

When wit and mirth were scarce. 

Poor Dick, alas ! is dead and gone, 

What signifies to cry ? 
Dickys enough are left behind 

To laugh at by-and-by — 

a piece of philosophy which our Dominican thoroughly 
endorsed. Foster Court was ariother branch of the property 
round which the same class of tradition as at Woodchester 
floats. Woodchester Park had belonged to the historic 
Huntleys ; and the circumstances under which Colonel 
Huntley came by his death here encourages the popular 
belief that all night long a spiritual horseman traverses its 
hills and dales. 

There was something which Br. Thomas held in livelier 
dread than witches on broomsticks or even spectral horsemen. 
Among minor worries, rats now appeared. One noisy creature 
having been caught by the foot, was playfully pressed on 
his acquaintance, by a person who felt so privileged. The 
Master yelled so loudly that the austere Vicar rushed to the 
spot, but with his usual energy in trying to kill the rat he 
smashed the trap. 


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Thomas Burke tried to effect some changes at Wood- 
chester. These the Fr. Vicar would freezingly cut short by 
replying, * We don't do such things in England.' After 
Fr. Burke's arrival, and in fact until recently, all continued 
to rise for matins at midnight 

During the rainy and cold months of the year (writes a Dominican 
Father) it was found exceedingly trying to rise from a warm bed to 
walk down a wet or snowy road to the cold damp church for mid- 
night matins, especially during the long fasting season. Still the 
courageous little band of apostolic men persevered in their zeal. 

A large sewer was being made across the road, and one 
night a Father disappeared altogether- Fr. Austin Maltus 
was a man of weakly frame and emaciated habit ; and it 
was not without some trouble that stronger arms rescued 
him from what seemed his living grave. Work being the 
real object with friars-preachers, Fr. Burke wisely felt that 
strength ought not to be impaired by broken sleep. He 
quietly represented this and other ill-judged austerities to 
the Master-General Jandel. 

At 3.4s A.M. all rise to their day's work at Woodchester. 
Each religious is called with the words ' Benedicamu.*? Domine, 
to which comes the prompt response, ' Deo Gratias,' * 

» The writer having been, through the kindness of the Fathers, an inmate of 
the monastery for some days, he is able to convey an idea of the routine. Matins, 
4 to 5 A.M. Contemplation, 5 to 6. Angelus Domini, 6 [repeated at 12, and 
6 p.m.]. Mass, 6.45. Collation 7.15. From bedtime till after Mass next day 
profound silence reigns, which is a grave fault to break. Simple silence is 
observed until after dinner at 12.30. During meals Scripture and history are 
read aloud. If such a rare case occurs as that there has been great violation 
of rule, the offender gets bread and water. After dinner converse is allowed until 
V^espers at 1.30. Study or instruction is then resumed, ending sometimes with a 
walk. Compline and Rosary then cume, and at times Benediction. It is a grand 
spectacle to see the religious, hooded and motionless, engaged in contemplation of 
the various stages of Christ's Passion. In Fr. Augustine's time no meat under any 
circumstances was allowed. Fish as diet is still the rule ; but one room is now 
set apart for those whose strength requires meat to sustain it. Here one Father 
is allowed to talk during dinner, it being probably felt that even pleasing mono- 
logue favours digestion. Fr. Burke was the Bist to explain to Fr. Augustine that 
the Rule as framed by St. Dominic was full of a holy liberty. As regards the 
period when simple silence is understood to prevail, it may be remarked that the 


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Although Br. Thomas was sent by the General, charged 
with a certain weight of authority, he bore his faculties 
most meekly, and the Father Vicar was, of course, his 
superior, whom he was bound to obey. Br. Thomas felt 
with a Kempis (Book III. c. xiii.) that *if a man does not 
freely and willingly submit himself to his superior, it is a sign 
that his flesh is not as yet perfectly obedient to him.' 

Among the trials on which the survivors look back was 
an order to make a new road near the convent. Br. Burke 
and the novices daily toiled at their uncongenial work. 
But that which teased them most was the gibes and rustic 
coquetries of the factory girls as they passed to and fro. 
One novice was accused of not working well, and they 
threatened to report him to his * master.' Other coarse chaff 
— needless to reproduce here — followed. The novices re- 
presented to Fr. Augustine how disconcerting all this was, 
but the intrepid ascetic told them to regard it as suffering 
for justice' sake. Down went the pick-axe, stroke after 
stroke, as if seeking to stifle language so unhallowed. Spades 
would ply with increased clink and activity ; and as the 
stony soil rattled into the cart, it recalled to some of the 
orphaned novices the day when similar sounds came from 
a mother's grave. One woman, whom Burke had nicknamed 
' Rhoudlum,' brandished a fork zis he passed, and felt privi- 
leged to say to him, ' Thee shall marry I.' One day he 
stood scared to hear that this forward person was actually 
at the convent gate. ' I'm coom for instrooct ions,' she at last 
said, when challenged to explain. She became a pious con- 
vert, and to this hour remains steadfast* 

real spirit of that rule is never to speak without necessity. If a lay Brother or 
Father should be addressed by a stranger, he may respond on the presumed leave 
of the Prior. Fathers are sometimes told off to entertain visitors; and none 
brighter could be desired. To us they seemed to unite the rich humour of 
Rabelais to the polish of a Chesterfield. 

' Her name is Daniel. Her daughter is now * sacristaness ' of the Dominican 
Church at Woodchcsler. Fr. Burke made effective reference to the above 
ncident in one of his sermons. Our revtrend informant describes her as re- 


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' The crucial test * was now about to be applied. 

The Church (says Fr. Burke) admits within her sanctuary, to 
minister at her altars, only the eyes that have never looked upon 
evil, the hands that have never been defiled, the feet that have never 
trodden in the paths of iniquity ; she demands from every one of her 
ministers the searching crucial question. Is there a virgin soul in a 
viigin body ? and if not she bids them stand aside, save themselves 
in some other walk of life, but not to dare enter the sanctuary. 

And again : 

Why this esteem of the Church for holy purity ? Because in 
God there is nothing material He is a pure Spirit, pure action. 
And, therefore, whatever approaches by immateriality — ^as virginity 
in its highest form does to God — in the same proportion does that 
thing become holy and Godlike. * Why,' asks St. Jerome, * was John 
the only one of the twelve allowed to lay his bosom on Christ at the 
Last Supper ? ' They are all there trembling with fear — they appre- 
hend for the first time the mystery of mysteries ; they are going to 
receive their Lord. One overpowered with love comes and sits side 
by side with Jesus, and leans his head upon that bosom, until his ear 
catches the beating of His Sacred Heart 'How had he such 
courage ?' demands St. Jerome. He was the only one of the twelve 
a virgin, and, therefore, he was the most loved and honoured of all.* 

In 1852 our novice received the Holy Orders of the sub- 
diaconate and diaconate, at Oscott, from Dr. Ullathome, 
Bishop of Birmingham. 

Among the privileges thus conferred was one most con- 
genial to him — that of singing the Gospel at High Mass. 
He could also give Communion in case of necessity ; preach 
if permitted, and baptise with the parish priest. The deacon 
in earlier times exercised other important functions. In the 
Apostolical Constitutions he is pronounced to be ' the ear, eye, 

sembling Meg Merrilies. He never could understand why Fr. Burke called 
her * Rhoudlum ; * but this character wiU be remembered in Lever's Knight of 

* Fr. Burke for the Magdalen Asylum, Cork, February 4, 1877. He had the 
authority of St. Paul (i Cor. vii. 25) for its use in the above sense, and of Tenny- 
son, * For I was ever virgin save for thee. * 


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mouth, heart, and soul of the bishop ; * and even whole con- 
gregations were committed to his care. But while formerly a 
man often remained a deacon all his life, the office is now 
regarded as a preliminary one to the priesthood. - Traces of 
the ancient discipline are still found at Rome, where some 
cardinals, like Antonelli, remain deacons for life.' 

It was now five years since Thomas Burke had seen his 
relatives in Galway. He did not like to present himself to 
his sainted mother until he had something to show which 
would gratify her long-cherished desire, and prove that his 
religious training had produced fruit. His tonsure, his Roman 
collar, long-tailed coat, and solemnity of expression, made 
' Nicholas,' as he knelt for the maternal blessing, acceptable 
in her sight He then visited Dr. Lawrence O'Donnell, the 
venerable Bishop of Galway. This prelate belonged to the 
old school, and, noticing his tonsure, said, * What God gave 
you man might lave you.' Before he left Galway, Thomas 
Burke exercised his privilege as deacon of assisting at a 
Pontifical High Mass in the church of St. Nicholas. Here 
his tonsure again became the subject of comment. Its use 
was not general among Irish Dominicans until ten years later ; 
and Galway knew not what to make of it ' What a shame 

* The bishop followed the usual rite by questioning the archdeacon in attend- 
ance as to whether the aspirant for deacon*s orders was thoroughly eligible ; and 
then appealed to all present to state publicly any reason within their knowledge 
tending to disqualification. After a pause the bishop proceeded to enlarge upon 
the duties and dignities of the deacon. An anathema is pronounced against any 
novice who would leave the church when the mysteries of ordination had once 
commenced ; and he is warned that, if the vocation should seem to falter, to wiih- 
dr\w ere it be too late. To the administered vows of perpetual chastity, poverty, 
and obedience, the novices, if numerous, express assent by one simultaneous 
step forward. They then cast themselves on their faces and remain prostrate, 
while the choir recites the Litany of Saints. Dr. Ullathorne gave thanks to God 
for the institution of the Sacred Ministry, and then proceeded to the essence of 
the rite. Placing his right hand on our Levite, he said, < Receive the Holy 
Ghost for strength and for resisting the Devil and all his temptations in the name 
of ihe Lord.* Then investing him with the stole on the left shoulder, he made 
him touch the Gospels, while he prayed God to enable him * to perform the w<»rk 
of the ministry by the gift of His sevenfold grace.' The sacrament was finally 
crowned by the imposition of hands, as taug* t in the Acts of the Apa<:tles. 


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to let that young man officiate, and he just after putting the 
fever over him/ was a remark which our deacon overheard 
as he stood at the foot of the altar. All this and more he 
told Fr. Lewis Weldon on his return to Woodchester. The 
wonder only is how, on the last occasion described, he was 
able to keep his countenance. But he had always great 
power of facial command and restraint. 

St. Thomas holds that the diaconate is as much a sacra- 
ment as the episcopate and priesthood. Any baptised may 
receive the first validly provided he intends to do so.* ' A 
deacon,' said Fr. Burke, * is recognised by the Council of 
Trent as belonging to the hierarchy divinely constituted.'* He 
attached such just importance to the diaconate, and he looked 
so innocent, that a funny Galway priest sought to persuade him 
that the office might be discharged by any prudish spinster. 
He was even reminded, on the authority of the Apostolical 
Constitutions (viii. 27), that deaconesses assisted at the bap- 
tism of females by giving unctions after the deacon ; that 
they received Orders ' by laying on of hands,' and in some 
cases received even the stole and chalice.' But our deacon 
replied, with Tertullian, that the exclusion of women from 
ecclesiastical affairs was a principle of the Latin Church, 
though Pliny certainly mentions two Christian minisircs. 

It is said that Fr. Augustine tried the humility of Br. 
Thomas and the novices by imposing on them such menial 
offices as to sweep out their cells, and sometimes the church ; 
but all are obliged by the Constitutions to do this work in 
turn. One day Br, Thomas told a novice to go to Br. Dal- 
matius for the broom. This was a lay brother whom the 
people always insisted on calling ' Brother Damnation.' * The 

' But the Thomists aver that an infant or maniac may validly receive any 
order except the episcopate, and it is the only opinion of St. Thomas Aquinas 
that cannot well be maintained. 

' For the Ladies* Association of St. Vincent de Paul. 

• Vide Hefele, ConciL i. 429 et seq, 

* They also called Fr. Antoninus *Fr. Ananias.' An old woman, whenevei 
she wanted to see Fr. Fife, O.P., asked for • Fr. Flute.' 


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novice returned to say that he was using the broom. ' Go 
again/ said the Master of Novices. Once more the novice 
returned without the broom. * What does he say ? * said the 
Master of Novices, colouring. ' He said he'd give it to you 
about the back ! * declared the truthful envoy. Burke could 
hardly believe his ears. He at once lodged a complaint 
with the Fr. Vicar, who cited Br. Dalmatius before his austere 
presence. * Did )'ou say this i ' ' Yes, Father/ After a 
solemn pause the Vicar continued, * Did you mean it .? ' ' No 
— merely as a joke.' • There, Br. Thomas,' said the Vicar, 
' perhaps you are now satisfied/ Burke became so at once, 
and returned to the novices loud in praise of that grand old 
man, whose finest feature was his strict sense of justice. 

One of Burke's favourite novices was Br. George King, a 
youth of marked mental power and genial qualities, who has 
been twice elected Provincial. He received his education 
under Fr. Augustine at Hinckley lay school, and was present 
when Mr. Leigh ^ made his pilgrimage thither to offer Wood- 
chester to the Dominicans. 

Burke christened him * Georgius Rex,' just as he called 
Fr. Lewis Weldon * Lud/ and sometimes ' We/I done^ thou 
true and faithful servant' Our Master of Novices is next 
found with * Georgius Rex ' beating carpets. He had now 
begun to see that it was in him to do higher things ; and, 
though he never grumbled against such orders, his nature quite 
recoiled from the work, and he told * Georgius Rex ' exactly 
what he felt. 'The first time I preached/ says Sydney 
Smith, * I raised such a cloud on striking the cushion that I 
lost sight of my congregation/ Similar clouds now rose, but 
without the excitation attendant on pulpit oratory. Burke 

* 'William Leigh, Esq., lord of the manor of Woodchester and Nymphsfield, 
was bom in 1S02, and married in 1828 Caroline, daughter of Sir J. Geers 
Cotterell, Bart., Hereford. Mr. Leigh became a Catholic at the time of the 
Oxford movement, and in testimony of his services to the Church received from 
the Pope fi Knight Coromandership of the Order of Saint Gregory the Great. 
Mr. Leigh's grandson is now in the Diaconate of the Catholic Priesthood. 


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Winced under this drudgery, and his feeh'ngs probably found 
a safety valve in the muscular strokes which fell ; but at last 
the carpets passed to other hands. 

He had been now at Woodchester more than a year ; and 
during that time his face — solemn as a sepulchral urn — never 
for a moment relaxed. We have already tried to account 
for the cloud which seemed to shadow his generally bright 
nature. Further light may be thrown by some thoughts of 
his own. 

The pleasure of standing upon the soil of our birth ; the pleasure 
of preserving the associations that surrounded our boyhood ; the 
pleasure — sad though it be — of watching every grey hair and wrinkle 
that time sends even to those whom we love, these are amongst the 
keenest and the best of which the heart of man is capable. There- 
fore it is that, at all times, exile from native land has been looked 
upon by men as a penalty and a grievance. This is true even of 
men whom nature has placed upon the most barren soil. The Swiss 
peasant, who lives amidst the everlasting snows of the Upper Alps, 
who sees no form of beauty in Nature except her grandest and 
most austere and rugged proportions, yet so dearly loves his arid 
mountain-home, that it heart-breaks him to be banished from it, 
even though he were placed to spend his days in the choicest 
quarters of the earth. Much more does the pain of exile rest upon 
the children of a race, at once the most generous and the most 
loving in the world, a race who look back to the mother-land as to 
a fair and beautiful land ; a climate temperate ; soil fruitful and 
abundant ; scenery, now rising into the glory of magnificence, now 
sinking into the tenderest pastoral beauty ; a history the grandest ; 
associations the safest, because the most Christian and the purest 
These, and more, enhance the pain which the Irishman, of all men, 
feels when exiled from his native land. 

But cheerfulness is the daughter of employment, and he 
had soon quite enough to do to perform the increased work 
that his superiors had mapped out for him. 

How his ways became more genial and his face less 
imperturbable may be told. One day Br. Thomas chanced 
to hear that, owing to the severity with which he enforced 
among his novices a strict observance of their Rule, he had 

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acquired the nickname of ' the Nigger/ * His complexion 
being sallow, the sobriquet seemed to fit him. Instead of 
showing the annoyance which he certainly felt, Br. Thomas 
amiably sought to put them at ease by assuming henceforth 
the pleasant exuberance of a genial schoolfellow. He became, 
indeed, in a new sense, the angel of the schools. The fun- 
niest performances were enacted for the amusement of his 
astonished followers. His first mimicry was of a thing 
inanimate. There stood in the sacristy of the church a tall, 
gaunt old clock, whose oak-cased breast seemed to heave 
with its wheezy tick and weight of years. Our deacon 
'posted himself* against the wall, made his face like a dial, 
and swung his arm as a pendulum to the measured stroke of 
tick, tick, tick, tick ! followed by the guttural sound which 
always preceded its effort to announce the hour. 

When anything in a convent happens to be mislaid, a 
paper announcing the fact is put on the loser's door. An old 
priest in second childhood, who amused himself with a Noah's 
ark, lost several things, and one of the first proofs of Br. 
Thomas's humour was a list suspended from the priest's door, 
which announced in Hudibrastic verse the various * deficits.' 
This document created quite a noise in the cloisters.* 

A man who is said to have been associated in this squib 
was Br. Bernard Morewood. He had been a Protestant, and 

> It hardly needs to add that, while recognising him as a severe taskmaster, his 
novices loved him too. ' An intense affection always existed between Fr. Tom 
and all the Fathers of the English province,* writes their present head, Fr, 
Williams, O. P. , one of his novices. ' He was quite at home with us, and seemed 
to understand us so well, and we revered him and loved him in the most genuine 
manner.' — V. A*. Antoninus IVi/iiams, O.P.y to the Author^ August i8, 1884. 

* The Rev. Louis Gerard, known in religion as Fr. Mary Joseph, having 
witnessed many of the horrors of the French Revolution, took refuge in the fleet 
of Admiral Lord Hood during the siege of Toulon, and became a naturalised 
Englishman. He taught for eleven years in London, co operated in founding five 
missions, served under Milner, and finally joined the Dominicans at Woodchester. 
Here the old man went through his novitiate with beardless boys, and on March 25, 
1853, made his solemn profession. Whenever Fr. Burke whistled the (^a ira 
it threw Mary Joseph Gerard into an agony. Though hailing from the land 
of the light fantastic toe, he had always proved himself * dead against dancing.' 


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*GO DOWN, sir!' 1 59 

surprised his friends by joining the small Dominican colony 
at Woodchester. His wit and antecedents attracted Fr. 
Burke. Many a discussion on subtle theological points took 
place between them ; and the shower of sparks which fell 
from the clash of their weapons was at times bright enough. 
The doctrine of exclusive salvation, as laid down in the 
damnatory clause of the Athanasian Creed, had long been a 
principle of the Church of England. Morewood had sub- 
scribed to it in both churches. Seemingly struck by the 
Scriptural passage, * The Father is greater than I,' Morewood 
one day personated a Socinian. Burke called him a block- 
head, adding, ' What will be your feelings when you hear 
the devil exclaim, " Here comes Morewood for the fire ! " ' * 
Later on he nicknamed him ' Le BrQld' 

With increased work came the need for wholesome 
relaxation ; and Thomas Burke is sometimes found much the 
same boy that Gal way knew him. His old powers now 
burst forth the more freely because of the reserve that had so 
long enchained them. 

On one occasion, when silence was understood to prevail, 
though not severely prescribed, Br. Thomas, standing on a 
stool, was mimicking for the amusement of his novices the 
cross-examination of equivocating witnesses, ending with 
' You may go down, sir.' The handle of the door suddenly 
turned, and the austere face of the Vicar peeped in, sternly 
saying to Burke, who keenly felt it, ' Go down, sir! ' 

When pastor of Cobridge his flock begged for permission to dance. For a time 
Fr. Gerard seemed inexorable, but at length relented. * De gentilmen,* he said 
* must dance in one room, and de demoiselles in anoder. * This was not meant for 
a joke. Fr. Gerard was utterly impervious to all sense of humour, and regarded 
the relentless efforts of the Master of Novices to chaff him as the eflfect of some 
mental eccentricity which only excited his pity, lie survived until October 1856, 
when he fell with the leaves, and was buried in the cloister yard. 

> Two other converts who came to Woodchester about (his time were Robert 
Fenton. a citizen of Gloucester, and Joseph Piatt from Leicester. Both entered 
as lay Brothers, and remained with the Dominicans until their death— the first in 
1873, the latter in 1880. Morewood became a priest and went to India, where he 
very suddenly died. 


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Part of the awe which the Father Vicar inspired — he had 
filled the highest offices in the Order — was due to the fact that 
he never addressed the friars as * Father/ but always frigidly 
as * sir.* * You'll preach to-day, sir/ would be the only notice 
given some twenty minutes before the sermon — often even less. 
One day, during some church service, after the Father Vicar 
bad removed the chasuble, he peered down the aisle, and, 
observing a friar who disliked to preach on short notice, 
raised his fleshless finger and beckoned him to the pulpit. 
Obedience is the spirit of the Dominican Rule, and this Supe- 
rior constantly sought to test it. 

We learn from an Irish Dominican, on Fr. Burke's own 
assurance, that one day when he was going into the pulpit 
to deliver a well-prepared sermon on the Passion, the 
Vicar ordered him to change the subject to matrimony, as 
he judged from the character of the congregation that it 
would be more likely to interest them. So sudden a change 
was embarrassing ; but Fr. Burke taking as his text, from 
Genesis, * A spouse of love thou art to me/ preached on the 
union of Christ and the Church as the type of matrimony, 
and naturally passed into the region which the vicar had 

To * preach in season and out of season * was among the 
Master's new duties. ' He wrote out carefully word for 
word his sermons, and took great pains in getting them 
up,' writes his novice, now a distinguished preacher himself, 
Fr. Pius Cavanagh. ' He used to preach with his eyes shut, 
and showed a certain timidity. His natural modesty and 
simplicity of character made him shy of the public gaze/ ' 
Fr. Paul Stapel ton's MS. may now be quoted : 

There was a simplicity and yet an earnestness of purpose in Fr. 
Burke that was bound to succeed ; for instance, in his early days at 
Nympbsfield be would rehearse before his two companions, now 

' Letter of Fr. Pius Cavanagh, O.P., St. Dominic's Priory, Ncwcastle-on- 


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remarkable Fathers in the order, his discourse or catechism, and ask 
them what to amend and alter ; and with quite childlike docility he 
took their advice, though much his juniors and his subjects besides. 
And not only in his pulpit experiences was this his habit, but in what he 
really excelled in by way of diversion — marvellous histrionic powers. 
His art of mimicry was the result of study ; for any picture in Punchy 
or any scrap that contained * a character,' was enough for him. With 
a mirror and the original by its side, he set to, and put his face 
through so many contortions that at last he cried, * Victory,' and at 
once proceeded to call in a friend or * novice ' to witness his success ; 
and woe betide the one who would Msily comply with his question, 
* Is that it — look ?* To say * Yes ' in an off-hand way would not do. 
It was a serious business, and whether Fr. Tom was or was not as good 
as the old fish-wife, or decrepit old toper, or dilapidated old pedlar, 
in the picture, was a crucial test of many a one's power of percep- 
tion. Yes, even to the least twitch of the mouth or turn of the lips, 
&C., again and again he would sit for the observer, and to the 
slightest suggestion he was as responsive as the least little one in 
the nursery. Nor would he desist ui.til perfection was attained. 

Mr. Capes, a distinguished Oxford convert of the Low 
Church School, and afterwards editor of the Ramblery 
maintained close relations of intimacy with the friars, and 
would probably have donned the Dominican habit but that 
he was already married. Burke, on his return from Italy, 
spoke and wrote Italian better than English ; but he now 
hammered away at the MS. of his sermons with such vigour 
that they seemed to develop into sheets of gold-leaf — ornate 
enough, but wanting in simplicity, and were therefore con- 
demned. He first submitted the MS. to his novices, and 
finally to Mr. Capes for revision. 

The same stern correction which made Burke a good boy 
now made him a good writer. In one of his MSS. he de- 
scribed the women of Jerusalem as precipitating their child- 
ren from its walls. Burke said that Mr. Capes gave him 
the choice of * tossed ' or * cast,' * and confessed that he felt 

» Statement of Fr. Burke to Fr. Lewis Weldon, O.P., to Very Rev. C. IL 
Condon, O.P., and others. 



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tempted to 'precipitate' jaw-breakers into the fire. As 
this episode is not without instruction for young preachers, 
some further details may be added. 

I well remember Fr. Burke telling me (writes a Dominican) how 
his censor, who was a man of much culture, but severe in his taste, 
used mercilessly to prune away all his fine fancies and exuberant 
imaginations, and bid him keep to more sober narrative in his exposi- 
tion of the Gospel history. One of the canons he laid down for 
guidance in the choice of words was never to use an English word 
coming to us from the Latin when he could get a word of like mean- 
ing of Saxon birth; the latter, he contended, being more forcible and 
more readily understood than the former.* 

Mr. Capes still lives, and he tells us that this is * the advice 
he should give to any man who wants to write in a clear, 
pure, and forcible way.' Mr. Capes was an able writer, but 
his vigorous views seemed sometimes to overleap the line of 
Catholic orthodoxy. For a time he returned to the Church 
of England, but has again been received back by the Domi- 
nican Fathers. It is to be regretted that Fr. Burke did not 
live to see his return, for he had never ceased to deplore the 
loss of Capes to the Church. 

Fr. Paul Utili, D.D., heard Burke's first sermon. 'His 
eyes remained closed throughout the entire delivery, and his 
mouth gave constant indications of its parched and fevered 

He was, indeed, very nervous, and the religious prejudices 
with which he had now come more directly into contact in- 
creased this feeling. Addressing an American audience on 
civil and religious liberty, he referred to these days : 

I have lived as a priest in England, afraid to go outside my own 
door for fear of insult and outrage. In passing along the streets in 
a town where the population embraced but few Catholics, I have 

> Letter from the Very Rev. M. A. Costcllo, O.P., to the Author, San Clemcnte, 
Rome, May 15, 1884. 


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been personally assailed by the school children with stones, and the 
teacher did not reprimand them.^ 

Happily, such incidents are now as rare as the fall of 
meteoric stones. During the period that Fn Burke minis- 
tered in England sectarian feeling ran high, consequent 
on the nomination by the Pope of bishops to rule English 
sees. A propos to which some one said that the English were 
bad judges of cattle, because when the Pope sent them a bull 
they thought it a bore, Fr. Burke told Fr. Eugene Browne 
that a lady who admired the writings of Cardinal Wiseman 
sped to catch a glimpse of him at Gloucester, where he was 
advertised to preach. Her thoughts were so full of Cardinal 
Wiseman that every cleric she saw in the train was at once 
suspected to be the man. At last, observing on the platform 
a pompous-looking person with a red nose, she commissioned 
a porter to inquire as to his identity from the party himself. 
On his return he said that it must be his Eminence, and on 
being asked why, answered, ' Because he told me to go to the 
devil.' The reply is expressive of the feeling with which 
Roman Catholic ecclesiastics were regarded at that time. 

No doubt Fr. Burke's undisguised nationality had some- 
thing to do with the * rubs ' that occasionally met him. 
When lecturing at Liverpool three years before his death, he 
said : 

1 may perhaps be met at the outset by the objection that there 
are no distinctive national features amongst the Irish race. Bosh 1 
You are just the same as any other people. Not a bit of difference 
between you. Let me ask, Is there a human animal on two feet 
walking on the face of the earth that is more easily known than an 
Irishman? Six-and- twenty years ago I spent the first years of my 
priesthood in England, and no one ever yet saw my face and heard 
me open my mouth without instantly exclaiming, good-naturedly or 
ill-naturedly, * Sir, you are an Irishman.' There was no mistaking. 
The Almighty has branded it upon my face ; He has put it upon every 

' At Hartford, Connecticut, May 7, 1872. 


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member of my body ; He has, I hope, imprinted it upon my soul, 
and certainly He has put it upon my tongue.^ 

Quiet Woodchester was disturbed at this time by hand- 
bills announcing that certain unhallowed practices of Rome 
would be exposed by one who had cast off the slough of a 
slavish superstition.' Fathers Gavazzi and Achilli had created 
a furore by lectures of a similar spirit and aim, and this new 
crusade promised to prove not a bad speculation. Alessandri 
Messina, the lecturer on this occasion, claimed to be the son of 
a Papal Count, and was familiarly known as * the Prophet.' 
The sequel exhibits the growing spirit of Burke. Knowing the 
bigotry of the rural population, and their readiness to s)^ allow 
any absurd tale that favoured their prejudices, he quietly 
resolved to attend the lecture, and, if possible, confute the 
reviler. One version of this incident states that Burke, not 
relishing the task, his Prior put it on him as a duty to go ; 
but inquiry has proved the statement to be untrue. In the 
Dissenting chapel at Nymphsfield the thunder threatened 
to roll. Burke, accompanied by Fr. Bernard Morewood, 
entered while evening service was going on. He found a 
large congregation, composed largely of peasants, but includ- 
ing also some persons of culture and status. At last * the 
Convert Italian Prophet ' opened his indictment. With much 
absurdity of assertion, disregard of history, and ignorance of 
the places he described, were mixed up some sharp points ; 
and the hot flesh and blood of the young Celt somewhat 
winced under the punctures. Addressing the presiding clergy- 
man, he claimed the right of reply ; but it was intimated 

' * ITie Church in its Relation to the Irish People,' at Liveipool, Oct, $, 

' Other preachers of a low type afterwards came. The visit of Murphy 
occasioned much bad feeling, and Squire Leigh's carriage, as it passed that in 
which Murphy sat, was stoned. Mr. Leigh ordered his coachman to stop, and, 
pointing to Murphy, said, ' Do you see that roan with red hair and nose a little 
redder still —would you be able to know him again?' This sally created more 
merriment than alarm. However, Murphy soon after wholly collapsed, and 
the neighbourhood has since enjoyed the pastoral peace for which nature de- 
signed it. 


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that such could not be allowed. Again he begged leave 
to give an account of the faith that was in him. 

* Fr. Burke told me/ writes Mr. Molloy, the brother of 
one of his novices, * that he got several broad hints to make 
himself scarce ; and, as well as I can recollect, he had at one 
time some apprehension of personal violence. His pluck 
and ready wit pulled him through. He admitted that the 
priests might have offended them, that the Pope was not 
infallible ; but what had he, Tom Burke, ever done 1 He 
managed to get on some " stump," and in half-jest, whole- 
in-eamest, played them as he would a salmon in his native 

Immediately a man cried out, * Fair play for Purgatory ; * 
and another said, * Hear the long fellow.* The strange scene 
ended by our Dominican, fully habited, mounting the Protestant 
pulpit and delivering a discourse. He showed the ignorance, 
the disingenuousness, the invention of Messina. He had 
himself studied in the very college where some of the things 
alleged by the lecturer were said to have occurred, and he 
proved from the man's own statement that he could never 
have been there. Further, he showed his utter ignorance of 
the Italian language. ' Out of thy own mouth I judge thee * 
was never more literally exemplified. Meanwhile the soi- 
disant Italian disappeared, leaving Burke master of the field. 
His reply, if it did not completely carry the audience with 
him, at least satisfied them. 

Mr. Joshua Smyth and his wife were amongst the first who 
became Catholics at Nymphsfield. We lately visited them, 
and were glad to find that they well remembered Fr. Burke 
and his encounter with ' the Prophet.' Smyth says that his 
real name was Benson. He cut a great splash, and arrived 
in a chariot and horses from Cheltenham. Routed by Fr. 
Burke, he drove away in the same style, finally drawing up 
at the bank on the plea of getting a cheque cashed, wherewith 
to pay the job-master s bill. The postillion waited patiently. 


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and at last went into the bank to see what was keeping him. 
The prophet, after entering by the front door, had gone out at 
the rear, and thus, as a local wag said, * there was ^. false profit 
on the job.' 

It is stated by Fr. Pius Cavanagh — himself highly distin- 
guished as a preacher— that the first real outburst of Burke's 
power in the pulpit was shown on the occasion when Fr. 
Aylward, who had been conducting a retreat, fell ill, and the 
young Irishman on short notice was ordered to take his 
place. Fr. Aylward was no ordinary man. He wrote several 
books on the mystical element in religion and other subjects, 
was a Lector of Philosophy and Theology, and twice filled 
the office of Provincial. 

On Holy Saturday, March 26, 1853, Thomas Burke was 
ordained priest by Dr. Burgess, Bishop of Clifton. 

The holy oil of the priesthood was poured upon his head, and 
with the sacred unction his hands were anointed, and head and 
hand were henceforth dedicated to the sole service of his Saviour — 
that head endowed with mind, that hand clean of all guilt before God.* 

Fr, Burke received final orders with a deep sense of the 
powers that conferred such privileges, and, without making 
any demonstration, became filled with zeal for the salvation 
of souls. He thought of the friars who in early ages had 
raised the standard of the Cross, and resolved that at the 
fitting time he would emulate their labours. 

His first Mass was celebrated on Easter Sunday 1853, in 
Woodchester Church. Fr. Towers, now head of the Irish 
Dominicans, was the first incumbent of the Nymphsfield 
mission, but, leaving England in the April of that year, 
Thomas Burke succeeded to the charge. The work was so 
light here that Fr. Stapelton, in his MS., styles it * a small 
domestic mission, belonging to Woodchester Park, the resi- 
dence of William Leigh, Esq.* 

> Fr. Burke on St« Dominic, St, Saviour's, Dublin, Aug. 4, 1 877, 


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Thrown in with Woodchester Park — the property which 
Mr. Leigh bought from Lord Ducie — is the village of 
Nymphsfield, on the old coach road from Gloucester to 
Bristol. ' These villagers/ said Mr. Bridges, * are the descen- 
dants of Beer and Sin.' Here are a Protestant church and 
a Dissenting chapel. A few villagers embraced Catholicism, 
and Mr. Leigh converted a disused inn, three hundred years 
old, into a chapel and sacristy sufficient for the wants of a 
small mission. Meagre as his audience was, Fr. Burke was 
said to have felt so dazzled by their stare that he preached 
with his eyes shut. 

Was he trying to repeat correctly the discourse he had 
prepared by excluding all cause of distraction ? The chapel 
had been the ball-room of the deserted hostelry ; and, thanks 
to local tradition, he could almost hear renewed the notes of 
the old violin and the tramp of those, long since in dust, who 
danced down the floor in Sir Roger de Coverley. 

And then what memories would the old fireplace awaken ? 
Hundreds had sat round that hearth listening, mayhap, to 
thrilling tales, or the side-splitting jokes of Dicky Pearce, 
to whose grave Fr. Burke had made a pilgrimage in the 
spirit of Shakspere's soliloquy on Yorick. Swift, too, is said 
to have sat in the old hostelry during his many visits to 
Lord Berkeley, whom he at last accompanied to Ireland as 
private secretary. The past came back so vividly, that one 
could almost see Dr. Johnson mounting the old staircase of 
the inn, and breakfasting voraciously, while Goldsmith sipped 
his sassafras,^ and Boswell's pencil ran. These are said to have 
been amongst the thoughts that rose while Burke paced 
the worm-eaten floor of the priest's room at Nymphsfield.* 

' Goldsmith's insatiable love of this old-fashioned decoction from Laurus 
bark is shown in the perpetual charge for ' sassafras ' made in the bills of his 
landlady, and which Mr. Forster prints in the ninth chapter of his * Life.' 

' Johnson and Bos well are found in these parts in 1776. Of one of the inns 
we read, * It was so bad, sir, that — Boswell wished to be in Scotland.' — Life of 
Dr. yohnsoHf ch. Ivi. 


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Why his eyes remained closed while he preached to the 
people, puzzled them. But a passage in one of his sermons 
makes it clear : 

If any one amongst us wishes to think profoundly, he shuts his 
eyes. The greatest poets that the world has seen were blind men, 
for poetry is the creative power by which every faculty of the soul, 
gathered into itself and concentrated in itself, afterwards pours out 
by the tongue or the pen its own richness. * 

Week after week Burke opened Divine service in the 
quaint old house that he christened * the Cathedral.' Rustic 
penitents, who confessed in a dialect which would have 
bothered Mezzofanti, were consoled and shriven. He fed 
them with the Bread of Life, and afterwards helped to trim 
their cottage fires, while, like the Soggarth Aroon? he entered 
into their domestic joys and sorrows. 

Though most of the bishops at the Council of Trent 
believed in the Immaculate Conception, they hesitated to 
define it further than a declaration that while the whole 
human race fell under original sin, they did not intend to 
include the immaculate Virgin Mary. In 1849. P^us IX. 
addressed a letter to every Catholic bishop in communion 
with Rome, asking for a statement of opinion on the expe- 
diency of defining the question as doctrine. Nearly five 
hundred Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese prelates approved. 
Many bishops of France and Germany, and even Archbishop 
Murray of Dublin, deemed the time inopportune. The ques- 
tion has always had much interest for Dominicans, and at 
Woodchester it was frequently discussed. Gregory XV., when 
forbidding, in 1622, any one to maintain even in private 
that the Blessed Virgin had been conceived in original sin, 
allowed this privilege to the Dominicans, provided that they 
confined to their own Order the expression of adverse views. 
Fr. Burke, in a lecture on Pius IX., remarked : 

> Charity sermon for St. Joseph's Blind Asylum, Dublin, May 20, 1877, 
* Aftg/u^—ihe darling priest. 


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I once said to a poor peasant in the west of England, * Do you 
think the Pope will declare the Immaculate Conception of the 
Blessed Virgin Mary? ' * Whether he does or not/ was the answer, 
* we know it is the truth, and when the time comes he will know 
better than any one else.* In these words he showed that he knew 
this great attribute of the Pope. 

On December 8, 1854, Pius IX., attended by two hundred 
bishops, defined the Immaculate Conception as an article of faith. 
Meanwhile quieter doings were in progress at Woodchester. 

The rural stroll -covering the distance from the monastery to Fr. 
Burke*s spiritual charge (resumes Fr. Stapelton's MS.), all equipped 
as he was for a night's stay, as each Saturday came round, finally 
became quite an occasion of leavetaking. It was known that the 
Father Master of the Novices would not be back for a week or 
more. Now, what could detain him amongst a handful of Catholics 
— perhaps less than thirty? The fact was that there resided, or 
existed, a Most Reverend Archbishop at Mr. Leigh's house, who, 
having experienced a stroke of paralysis while on a passing visit 
en route to his diocese of Corfu, had remained as a heavy but an 
honourable charge in Mr. Leigh's hands. A pitiable cripple the 
good prelate certainly was, who simply might be said to be vege- 
tating, for, by degrees, every member of his body seemed to be 
attacked by the creeping malady he endured. Archbishop Nichol- 
son was from the North of Ireland, and his attachment to Father 
Burke and our dear Father Master's love for the decrepit and 
helpless prelate were most admirable. In short, Fr. Tom Burke 
became the Archbishop's secretary, and this was no sinecure, as even 
the novices found out by degrees. With the pliability of genius, 
Burke fitted in anywhere, and already his duties were multitudinous. 
Fr. Prior Aylward, too, was anxious that the talent he so readily dis- 
covered in Fr. Burke should find its legitimate issue. And, not- 
withstanding all his engagements, he informed Burke at last that 
really he must preach, and that in the church too. Hitherto a 
few homely but very beautiful discourses to his smallest of all small 
flocks at Nymphsfield had simply made Mr. and Mrs. Leigh quite 
happy, and, no doubt, had much ' quickened ' — as the phrase goes — 
their spiritual being. But now, at last, Fr. Tom Burke's turn for the 
pulpit was to assume its right direction and proportion. And on 
the given Sunday, much to the intense curiosity and interest of at 
least three Oxford M.A.s, who resided at Woodchester, Fr. Thomas 


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Burke was to preach his first sermon. Was it possible ? Yes, Fr. 
Thomas trembled like an aspen leaf. He was as pale as a sheet, 
and his voice even faltered, but lo ! gradually it grew in bulk, 
though at no time could it be said to have really filled the 
little priory church. And more than all, while several of the 
audience seemed spell-bound, Fr. Thomas Burke never moved a 
muscle. At length — but yet much too soon — the sermon was over, 
and the Mass was resumed, as it was, of course, the usual Sunday 
morning inter sacra-, Mr. Matthew Bridges, M.A., coming afterwards 
to thank Prior Aylward for the immense treat that he had had. 
We never remembered to have heard a better in our church.* 

Mr. Bridges was a retired barrister, whose love of elo- 
quence had been fanned by Brougham, Ellenborough, 
Erskine, and Eldon, and he was one of the first to recognise 
the power of Edward Irving when he began to preach in 
Hatton Garden. He seems to have been the representative 
of Robert Bridges, who, in 1722, bequeathed 500/. for 
clothing and educating the little boys of Woodchester. 
Mr. Matthew Bridges took an hereditary interest in the 
place ; and, as Fr. Paul Stapelton states, called upon Prior 
Aylward to congratulate him on his promising son. He 
next sought and cultivated the acquaintance of Fr. Burke. 
One day Burke conveyed to Mr. Bridges the welcome news 
that a great ecclesiastical light from the University of Turin 
had been appointed by the Master-General Regent of 
Studies at Woodchester. This was Dr. Pozzo, and both 
went to meet him on the evening of his arrival at Stroud. 
But Dr. Pozzo's appearance was so peculiar, and he made so 
bad an attempt to speak English, that the old critic, whis- 
pering Fr. Burke, said, * Poor prospect for a preacher, sir.* 

But Pozzo could practise very much to the purpose ; and, 
strengthened by a great prestige, he soon won golden opi- 
nions by his wisdom as a spiritual adviser, and by the ease 
with which he could unravel the most intricate questions of 
moral and dogmatic theology. 

* MS. Recollections of the Very Rev. Paul Stapelton, O. P., communicated to 
the Author, August 29, 1884. 


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Fr. Burke chose Dr. Pozzo as his confessor. The lips of 
the Director must always remain inviolably sealed, but the 
penitent is free to tell all that passes between the confessor 
and himself. Our young preacher reproached himself with 
having felt an emotion of vanity on a recent occasion 
when his sermon had proved a success. He described to 
his English novices— now eminent Fathers — the pain with 
which he saw a ripple of contempt play across Dr. Pozzo's 
face. *Wnat/ exclaimed the Regent, 'vain of that poor 
shambling thing ! ' — and he then went on to point out its 
defects with such acumen that it crushed for ever, Fr. Burke 
added, all possible germs of professional vanity. Hence- 
forth he went to confession before delivering his sermons, 
'simply to keep himself straight' 

Fr. Burke was the reverse of handsome, and he con- 
stantly made jokes at the expense of his own face. * I took 
a rise out of Dr. Pozzo in return,' he said. ' I conveyed to 
him soon after that I was vain of my looks.' He added 
that this time Pozzo placed his hand all over his mouth, as 
though trying to hide a laugh of derision, and which he 
thought would prove a searing touch of caustic to cure the 
raw vanity of a boy.* 

One day, when Fr. Burke was mimicking some well-known 
characters, Dr. Pozzo said, * Could you mimic me ? * 

Pozzo was a podgy man. He is described as carrying 
himself like a bundle of rags, and walking in a peculiar way. 
Fr. Burke, tucking up his habit, at once stumped across 
the room, inhaling a prolonged pinch of imaginary rappee. 
Everybody felt that the thing was done to the life. 

Dr. Pozzo, as Regent of Studies, had introduced ' De- 
fensios,' or circles. On a certain St. Patrick's Day the 
subject of the 'Defensio' was the apostle of Ireland. The 
conflict went on with much spirit, until, coming near the 

* Fr. Burke was probably joking when he told this, but the anecdote furnishes 
an illustration of bis humour. 


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end, Fr. Burke ventured to say to the austere Father Vicar, 
that, in honour of the day, the combatants ought to be pro- 
vided with shillelaghs and potheen. The ' Defenslo ' was, 
of course, all in Latin, and the chief humour of the joke lay 
in the learned language in which it was clothed. It does not 
appear that the Vicar smiled ; but the Regent of Studies, 
like most Italians, thoroughly understood a joke, and at once 
led the way for the laugh which was ready to burst out 

Under Fr. Burke, his English novices acquired not only a 
thorough knowledge of their Rule, but of Irish humour as 
well. It was, indeed, a more than fortuitous arrangement 
which placed under his influence those whose future work was 
chiefly among the Irish in the great towns of England. To 
the end of his life he spoke with delight of the aflection he 
experienced from those who had been his English novices. 

Describing Bishop Moriarty's theolc^ical course, Fr. 
Burke realised his idea of what the young Levite ought to be, 
and the picture seems a reflex. * Like the young St. Thomas 
of Aquin, he was a modest youth, not inclined to assert or 
vindicate his own opinions, but, when occasion demanded, 
pouring forth with easy and commanding eloquence the ample 
resources of a richly stored mind.' * 

From these possibly tedious tracings of ours, the reader 
will again gladly turn to the genial recollections of Fr. Paul 
Stapelton, O.P., kindly written for this work : 

But now, was the Master's own titne of probation over, that he 
could so lord it over his novices ? Evidently not, as Father Burke's 
promotion to office had been premature ; he had yet to fill the time 
of his curriculum as a student. And the time and opportunity came. 
Father Master Pozzo and a young lector had arrived at Woodchester 
and instituted a college of theological studies. And at the making 
of the college, as its earliest student, together with Fr. Damian 
Borgogna, Fr. Thomas was enlisted.^ In spite of his other work, he 

» In the Cathedral, Killamey, Oct. 8, 1877. 

* The Rev. T. Borgogna, now of the Convento Domenicano, Corbara, 


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was informed that he must consider himself a formal student, bound 
over to read up and take his degree within a twelvemonth. To any 
one else this would have been a cause of exemption from novitiate 
cares, and by anyone else time would have been economised for 
closer study, till, as the day approached for the ordeal of a public 
* Defensio,' agitation would have left its traces upon every feature, and 
fever heat would have set in. But not at all. Fr. Thomas seemed 
unconcerned. Reading he was fond of ; but how he got his theology 
in between the mass of English light literature he devoured I could 
not say. Was it at nights ? — and where ? In fact, he was seldom 
seen with the * Summa * in hand, except when going to class. Yet 
Fr. Master Pozzo had never to complain of his student Fr. Thomas 
invariably knew his lesson, and often word for word by heart, as 
is customary. Here were evidences of extraordinary talent. Fr. 
Master Pozzo could trust his man, with whom at times he could not 
compare in argument himself. Suffice it to say that the curriculum 
was over. Such was his confidence that he felt no difficulty, as the 
Regent of the Studies, to make a public announcement that Father 
Thomas would defend Theses in universa theologia against all comers. 
Then indeed, till within a few weeks of the appointed day, Fr. 
Thomas began to look serious and preoccupied, and especially by 
the arrival at Woodchester of eminent professors from all quarters. 
A great tournament might be expected. 

With clothes that hung about him as though they had 
been thrown on a hat-stand, Br. Thomas, on appearing some 
time before at the head of his novices, quite looked the 
character of Dominie Sampson ; and one cannot doubt, from 
the innate humour of the man, that he strengthened the re- 
semblance by imparting to his face a vacant expression. 
Great, therefore, was the surprise with which Fr. Augustine 
viewed the sudden outburst of his genius. Fr. Paul Stapelton 
continues : 

It is curious to recall the names of the visitors and competitors 
or disputants in Woodchester Church on this memorable and indeed 
unique occasion. The disputants were Father Gastaldi, of the Order 
cf Charity (afterwards the illustrious Archbishop of Turin, and one 

Corsica, studied with Fr. Burke at Perugia, and afterwards at the Minerva, 
Rome. He accompanied him to S. Sabina, and followed him to Woodchester. 
Fr. Borgogna is the best witness of Burke's inner life when in Italy. 


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of the greatest lights of the Vatican Council) ; Fr. Jones, S.J., of St. 
Bueno's, N. Wales ; Father Christie, of Faim Street ; the late Canon 
Williams, of Clifton; and Fr. Raphael, of the Passionist Order; while in 
the well-attended circle figured Mgr. Howard (now the eminent Car- 
dinal Bishop of Frascati), Fr. H. Vaughan (the indefatigable Bishop 
of Salford), and Bishop Ullathorne, O.S.B. This experienced and 
venerable prelate was the President of the Discussion, which in its 
vigour at one time quite reminded him, as he said, * of a Balaclava 
charge.' Fr. Master Pozzo, O.P., supported his brilliant student, and 
no doubt was proud, as indeed we all were, of the ability, the readiness, 
the good Latinity (a matter Fr. Prior Aylward, then his superior, so 
much admired as a scholar himself), and the nice patient civility of 
our noble representative, as he bowled over every objection with 
marvellous dexterity and good humour. This wnmg from the 
Benedictine bishop a prophetic speech ; for he assured us that this 
most creditable display of theological acumen and strict scholastic 
form and dialects would strike a chord that must reverberate through 
the length and breadth of the land, and would be responded to and 
re-echoed in other climes. How this has been fulfilled the Catholic 
world can answer. It wjis the tribute of a prelate of universal 
fame to a simple friar, over whose tomb might be written the Apo- 
stolic dictum — that the sound of his voice has gone throughout the 
world. * 

The date of the tournament was August 3, 1854. On that 
day Burke passed his examination as a Lector of Theology. 
There were three Lectors present, who had each five votes ; 
and it is curious to see how the voting went. For conduct 
Burke got thirteen out of fifteen votes ; while in * Scientia,' or 
knowledge, he got only ten out of the fifteen. Fr. Borgogna, 
whose answering was far inferior to Fr. Burke's, got higher 
votes. All this transpires on consulting the original record 
at Woodchester. There is a faint tradition that Dr. Pozzo, 
whom Burke had mimicked, may have allowed himself when 
voting to be moved by pique, but inquiry has satisfied us that 

* Fr. Jones, S.J., ever after entertained an affectionate admiration for Fr. 
Burke, whose pre-eminence as a preacher, writes Rev. Matthew Russell, S.J., 
* I heard Jones attribute in part to his consuro^nate knowledge of the *' Summa " 
of St. Thomas.' 


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he would be quite incapable of it. One of the voters was Dr. 
Utili, who informed us that the Regent of Studies felt that 
Burke, instead of giving his time to the acquisition of know- 
ledge, frittered it away at his small mission and in telling 
stories to Archbishop Nicholson. He held that no man, 
unless a second Thomas Aquinas, ought to get the full 
number of votes to which a voter is entitled. Dr. Pozzo gave 
Burke two blacks in the voting, Dr. Utili two more, and the 
austere Fr. Augustine gave one. The entry recording the result 
is signed : ' Aug. Pozzo, S.T. Mag. et Reg.' Minor or weekly 
'Defensios' had been previously held, and the name of 
Thomas Burke uniformly received honourable record. How 
he answered so brilliantly puzzled them, for he seemed 
never to prepare. They did not know that he had already 
learned by heart, in Rome, almost the entire * Summa.' 

At last the Archbishop of Corfu died — some said, 
but untruly, in a fit of laughter induced by one of Fr. 
Tom's stories, and he was ordered to preach the funeral 
discourse, although Dr. Pozzo, previous to it, rather dis- 
concerted the young preacher by warning him to avoid much 
panegyric. The sermon is well remembered as one of rare 
power. The Archbishop had been a Carmelite, and this 
afforded good scope for praise of the religious life. The 
remains were consigned to the crypt of Woodchester Church, 
and a monument was soon after raised to his memory. Here 
several members of the Leigh family also repose. 

We have already seen how Burke's feelings revolted when 
compelled to beat carpets with * Georgius Rex.' Another 
duty required both to feed the furnace which blazed in the 
crypt ; and our Dominican in his snow-white robe is next 
found discharging the r6le of a stoker. But even here — 
down among the dead, so to speak — his cheerfulness well 
sustained him; for while his features, bronzed by the red 
glare, twisted about in divers shapes, he greatly amused 


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Georgius by producing on the wall of the crypt shadows 
of weirdly suggestive outline. To this youth, now a highly 
distinguished Father, Burke was greatly attached ; and he it 
was who would hold up the caricature cartoons while the 
Master of Novices shaped his own face after the model. 

* I had to light two fires before saying Mass, and had 
hardly time to wash my hands before going on the altar,' 
♦were among the recollections with which Fr. Burke interested 
his brethren at Tallaght. 

We have seen how dissatisfied Dr. Pozzo was with Burke 
for .spending so much of his time at Nymphsfield. The 
latter had found some gross cases of religious ignorance ; and 
among the most obstinate was that of a farmer who often 
fell into conversation with him. 

Argument after argument, taken from Scripture and from his late 
studies, did Fr. Tom pour do\vn this man's throat — and still no im- 
pression — when he was startled and not a little angered by the 
reply, * Yea, friend, but be the Bible true ? ' Often afterwards were 
we told by Fr. Tom that when he came to England from Rome he 
could not have believed it possible that such an observation could 
have been made in this * enlightened ' country. Suffice it to say, 
that really he was too disconcerted to * settle ' the farmer on the 
spot ; but eventually he sought another and better interview, and laid 
the seeds of a complete Christian training in him and others, with a 
previous groundwork of the necessary existence of God, and who 
He was, and what He had done.* , 

Some hours were also given to the society of * Squire 
Leigh,' and much interest was awakened by Fr. Burke's vivid 
exposition of points in ecclesiastical history not as yet fully 
clear to the distinguished convert. Mr. Leigh was a strong 
Tory in politics; and from him Fr. Burke first imbibed 
certain Conservative tendencies, never entirely relinquished. 

In Mr. Leigh's house was found, after Fr. Burke had left 
Nymphsfield for ever, some * Thoughts ' in the handwriting of 

» MS. Recollections of Rev. Paul Stapelton, O.P., August 7, 1884. 


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the young Dominican, and designed to guide and guard him 
in his now increased exposure to the dangers and tempta- 
tions of the world. This remarkable document— one very 
much in the spirit of Job's compact with his eyes * never to 
think on a virgin * — will be found in our Appendix. 

The people of Nymphsfield, being nearly all Anglicans and 
Dissenters, required information on some controverted points, 
and Fr. Burke satisfied that desire. When the preacher 
was one day on his way home, a gentleman said, * Sir, I 
cannot agree with you in your devotion to the Virgin ; and I 
object to the monotony of your Hail Marys.' * What will 
you do when obliged to sing Holy, Holy, Holy, for all 
eternity ? ' replied Burke, and the good humour of the re- 
sponse made both good friends.* 

After the broadside which he discharged at Messina he 
came to be familiarly known by the nickname * Long Tom,' 
in allusion to the famous piece of ordnance. 

One day an incident occurred to which reference is made 
in a sermon preached at Brooklyn, U.S., on May 5, 1872. 
After showing the beneficial action of the confessional on 
society and its importance in restraining theft, he asks : 

How is it that Protestant employers and masters are so anxious 
to have Catholic servants, Catholic apprentices, Catholic helps about 
them ? Because they are shrewd enough to know that the confes- 
sional which they despise creates honesty and enforces it There is 
no stronger way to enforce honesty than to get a man to believe that he 
cannot live without Jesus Christ, and that Jesus Christ is on the altar 
waiting for him ; to tell him that between him and the Saviour stands 
a barrier that he must overcome if he turns dishonest, and that 
barrier he cannot pass without restoring to the last farthing whatever 
he has unjustly got ; to tell him that if he becomes a thief— public 
or private — the accumulation of his thievery will build up an im- 
penetrable wall between him and God ; and that, until that wall is 
pulled to pieces by restitution, he never can approach the sacraments 
here nor the glory of God hereafter. An English Protestant clergy- 

> Fr. Burke to Rev. F. A. Hickcy, O.P. 
VOL. I. N 


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man came to me once, when I was on the English mission^ and he 
said, 'Father, I come to complain of one of my man-servants.' 
* Well, sir,' I replied, ' what have I to do with your servants ? ' * Oh,' 
he said, * all my servants are Catholics, and I would not think of 
employing anybody else.' * What complaints,* I said, * have you to 
make of them ? ' * Well,' he said, * I insist on their going to confes- 
sion once a month, and this man has not been there for months. So 
I came here to insist on his going.' * Well, but you do not believe in 
it ? ' * No,' he said, * I cannot say that I believe in it ; but so long 
as my Catholic people go, they will not steal from me, and so 
long as they do not go to confession and communion they will not 
receive any wages from me.' 

And Fr. Burke then went on to show the great agency 
which touches vice and creates honesty. 

In' September 1854, the rigid Fr. Vicar was removed from 
Woodchester to Hinckley, Leicestershire.* Cardinal Wiseman 
had long desired that the Dominicans should undertake the 
Kentish Town mission, London. He had known Fr. Burke in 
Rome ; and if a special invitation once reached the young 
friar preacher, it would not have been easy to decline it. 
Dr. Russell, then head of the Irish Dominicans, wishing to 
utilise Fr. Burke's talents for his own province, called him 
home to found a novitiate and House of Studies. *We 
parted,' writes Er. Paul Stapelton ; * but it might well be 
said that so deeply had Fr. Burke made his mark at Wood- 
chester, that to this day his very form seems familiar, and 
time cannot obliterate either his presence or his work.' 

* We are unwilling to take leave of Fr. Augustine without recording the 
testimony of Fr. Towers, now Provincial of the Irish Dominicans, who served as a 
priest under him. Fr. Towers — himself an Irishman— assures us that he received 
more paternal kindness from this cold Saxon Vicar than at the hands of many 
Irish Superiors to whom he was afterwards subject. 


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During the bitter time of penal laws and persecution, the Irish 
Dominicans always maintained their ground (writes their Provincial, 
Fr. Towers), and many a martyr and confessor of their order are 
witnesses of the hard battle they fought The convents of Italy, 
Spain, Portugal, and France received generously the youth who pre- 
sented themselves for the Irish mission. In course of time three 
colleges were endowed even for the sole education of Irish Domini- 
cans — San Clemente, Rome ; Holy Cross, Louvain ; and Corpo 
Santo, Lisbon. At the close of the last century the French Revolu- 
tion swept away Holy Cross; the continuance of Corpo Santo 
became inexpedient San Clemente only remained, but its limited 
revenue, and the premonitory symptoms of the changes which after- 
wards occurred in Rome, prevented the Irish Fathers from trusting 
to it exclusively to recruit the ranks of their province. It was deter- 
mined to open a novitiate at home. 

Years after the great Dominican spoke of the need of 
entering with thorough earnestness into ' the great work,' as 
he says, * of preparing Levites for the sanctuary— a succession 
of the good and faithful priesthood who from the days of 
Patrick have been the best beloved, as they were the truest 
servants of the Irish race.' He well knew 

how careful must be the training of him whose feet are to tread in 
the sanctuary, and whose hands are to touch the Lord. The legend 
of St. Nennius of the Clean Hand, who, when he heard as a child that 
he was one day to be a priest, wrapped up his right hand so as never 
to touch anything until the day of his anointing, was a beautiful 
symbol of the mind of the Church, who seeks in her ministers virgin 
souls ih virgin bodies.^ 

* Sermon in the Cathedral at Killamcy, Oct. 7, 1877. [From orig. MS.] 

N 2 

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To promote these great ends the house and demesne of 
Tallaght had been bought for a novitiate. Describing it in 
1883, Fr. Burke said : * At the foot of the hills, which go on 
increasing in grandeur and beauty until they are lost to view, 
there is a place most ancient in Ireland's history.' * It had 
been already familiar to Burke through the early bard of his 
choice — Davis —who, in his ' Landmarks of Border Raid,' 
invests it with deep interest. But Tallaght was paved with 
historic memories from Partholan and his hosts 2,800 years 
before Christ, to Angus the Culdee and St. Melruan, both of 
whom compiled the 'Martyrology ' of Tallaght, an ancient Irish 
MS. now preserved in the Burgundian Library at Brussels. 
In the eighth century St. Melruan — styled the bright sun of 
Ireland — rebuilt the monastery of Tallaght, and diffused 
through the religious houses of Ireland ' peace, piety, and 

This went on for several hundred years (records Fr. Burke), and 
then the Irish monks died away, and others, strangers indeed by 
birth, but still brothers by faith — the Canons Regular of St Augus- 
tine—came to the sacred house at Tallaght, sang the praises of God, 
and preached His Word unchanged, as I preach it to-day. Then 
came another change for Tallaght, and the place passed from the 
monks to the Archbishops of Dublin. They loved the place, and 
they brought with them their priests and canons ; and the same 
Word continued, and the same praise went on, and the same worship 
sanctified the spot. 

Fr. Burke then referred to the Reformation — how the 
Protestant archbishops took possession of Tallaght, and how 
great cruelties were performed on its hallowed ground.^ 

In 1729 the ruling prelates built a castellated residence here 
with the dibris of the more venerable pile ; and it continued 
to be occupied by their successors until Archbishop Magee, 
authorised by Parliament, sold the demesne to Major Palmer, 

* Sermon at St. Xavicr*s, Liverpool, April 8, 1883. 

* Open-air Discourse of Fr. Burke at Tallaght on the occasion of laying the 
comer stone of his new church there, Oct. i, 1882. 


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•time makes all things even.' i8i 

one of the conditions being that he should demoh'sh the 
palace ' lest it should ever thereafter become a monastic 
institution.' The covenant was strictly observed, and the 
task of removing the ruins occupied three years. * No wonder 
the new archbishops tired of it/ continues Fr. Burke. * There 
were memories round the spot — there were voices in the air 
— voices of ancient saints and holy ones — that made them 
rest uneasily upon their beds of down.' ' 

The vicissitudes of Tallaght at last culminated in a mort- 
gage, and the place passed into the hands of Mr., now Sir 
John, Lentaigne, C.B., who leased the greater portion of the 
demesne to the Dominicans for 999 years. * They got hold 
of the spot sanctified by centuries of prayer and martyrs' 
blood, and again erected the cross where the upas tree had 
been planted.'* 

On the site of the castle they built their monastery; 
the stable in which the archiepiscopal stud so long found 
luxurious mangers having been converted into a modest 
chapel, thus bringing Tallaght back to its original state, and 
verifying Byron's apothegm that ' time at last makes all things 

On Fr. Burke's arrival in 1855, he surveyed with in- 
terest in the priory grounds some relics of the past, in- 
cluding a huge walnut tree, traditionally said to have been 
planted by St. Melruan's hand, and which, though riven to 
the earth by the great storm of 1839, still yields its fruit 
Another object was the tower— used as a belfry to this day 
— originally part of the palace of Dr. De Bicknor, who from 
1 3 17 to 1349 ruled as Archbishop of Dublin. 

Fr. Burke liked his change of residence. Seven miles 
away Dublin unfolds its length like a monster map. Mount- 
ing to an adjacent pinnacle, he could view the fine pro- 

' Open-air Discourse of Fr. Burke at Tallaght on the occasion of laying the 
corner stone of his new church, Oct. i, 1882. 

* Sermon at the Jesuits* Church, Liverpool, April 1883. 


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spect, which stretched from Taney Hill to Ireland's Eye ; 
from the Phoenix Park to the Plains of Meath; from the 
Three Rock Mountain to the Hill of Lyons ; the intervening 
valleys * with verdure clad ' (the name of a sacred song specially 
familiar to him) brightened the view. Thinkers who heard him 
preach at Tallaght in after years were struck by the contrast 
between the grandeur of the sermon and the meanness of 
the structure in which it was delivered. The fact of its 
having been originally a large stable was not without its uses 
and suggestiveness to one who loved to preach upon the 
lowly birth at Bethlehem. 

The glory of Ireland's priesthood, the glory of St. Columba (he 
once said), the glories of lona and Lindisfame, weigh upon me 
with a tremendous responsibility, to be of all other men what the 
Irish priest and monk-must be, because of that glorious history ; the 
glory of the battle that has been so long fighting and is not yet 

In the peaceful seclusion of Tallaght, Fr. Burke found 
leisure not only to lay up a store of learning, but to cultivate 
his gifts of speech. He preached in season and out of season, 
and practice makes perfect. Time was when, as Dalton 
records, ' the OTooles invaded and devastated Tallaght with 
deadly enmity and destruction ; ' * and the pupil of Dr. 
OToole was not the man to be unmoved by such memories. 
Burke's fame soon spread beyond the Dublin Ridge, and 
crowds of rude mountaineers — the descendants of the race 
just named — instead of coming down in avalanches as of 
yore, rushed for shrift and sermon. 

* With something of the surprise that one would view a troop of Red Branch 
Knights march down Cork Hill, Dublin, people read of renewals of the old 
conflicts between the OTooles and the Palesmen, and which became at last the 
subject of judicial inquiry at Tallaght. The Irish Times announced ' desperate 
faction fighting near Tallaght between the inhabitants of Crumlin, &c. &c., on 
one side and the mountain men on the other.* Constable Burke deposed that 
• over lOO people were injured in one of these fights ; numbers from the mountains 
have been assaulted on their way home from Dublin owing to the bad feeling 
promoted by these fights.' 


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Spieaking of the relief that confession brings, he told the 
following incident from his own experience : 

I remember a man coming to me to confession once— a big, 
strapping, whole-souled Irishman, of six feet two — and when he 
finished his confession and got up from his knees, he did this [here 
the lecturer threw his hands above his head and stretched himself to 
his full height]. * Just look here, your reverence, look at me. Did 
you see that stretch ? ' 'I did.* * That was more than I was able to 
do at all when I came in.' If there be any Catholics amongst you 
who neglect this sacrament ; if there be any Protestant friends 
amongst you who do not believe in it, tell me, my friends, is it any 
great advantage to you to be carrying your harrowing secrets to the 
grave? Is it any advantage to you — humanly speaking — to bear 
this incrustation of sin and remorse, when before you is a man — his 
Divine commission in his hand, and Christ himself at his side — 
saying, ' Whose sins you shall forgive upon earth shall be forgiven in 
heaven ' ? ' 

In a region where the Hell-fire Club had once held its 
orgies his lot was now cast. Hardened consciences melted 
before the fire of his eloquence. He well knew his own 
strength, and felt that a day might come when he should be 
called upon to exert it widely in bringing souls to God, 
pleading the cause of the orphan, and in refuting error. In 
anticipation of such a call, he daily drew aliment from the 
tomes of ripe scholarship that, like the trees laden with 
generous fruit, stood around him. The Fathers and the 
Chroniclers, the poets and the essayists, all placed their 
treasures before him ; for, like the Jesuits, and unlike 'the 
only form of religious life recognised up to the sixteenth 
century, when its course of studies was rigidly confined to 
sacred subjects,' he strengthened his mind with general 
literature.* The result was that, when the hour for action 
came, it found a battery fully mounted. This discloses one 
of the causes of his marvellous success in America, where, 

* Lecture on * The Harmony of Catholic Worship,* at Boston, U.S., Sept. 25, 

' 'St. Ignatius ancUhe Jesuits,* a Sermon, July 31, iSSo, 


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often without a minute's preparation, he poured broadside 
after broadside into seemingly impregnable positions. 

In 1855 he was asked to assist in conducting a mission at 
the adjacent parish of Crumlin. The chapel was old and 
primitive ; his audience were rude and unlettered, but he 
prepared as carefully, and addressed them with as much 
ardour, as though they were the congregation of a cathedral. 
The * P.P.' nicknamed him Savonarola, and said that a great 
light had once more risen amongst the Dominicans. 

During the year 1857 F*"- Burke took part in a mission 
at Rathfarnham. 'His companions in arms,' as he called 
them, were Dr. Carbery, now Bishop of Hamilton, his early 
patron, Fr. Rush, and the Very Rev. J. T. Towers. Here he 
also won golden opinions. But so retiring was the man that 
during the few years that elapsed between the missions and 
his great sermon at Sandy mount, we find him labouring 
chiefly with his novices or reclaiming rustic sinners. 

Twenty-seven years ago a Fr. Daly, C.C., of Rathfarn- 
ham, was much beloved. Ultimately his health broke 
down. He was sent to Rome, and again to Australia, where 
he died. During the mission at Rathfarnham, Fr. Daly, then 
a languid invalid, drove up, and Burke went out to the old- 
fashioned covered car in the chapel-yard to rally him. Fr. 
Daly was much depressed on viewing the scene of his former 
labours. Burke said : * Fr. Daly, you are not forgotten ; ever 
since we came to this mission your name is in every mouth ; 
the whole congregation, even the little children; are repeatedly 
talking of you. There, they are at it now. Come over.* He 
helped the sick man from the car to the chapel porch, where 
his ears were greeted with the .well-known hynm, commenc- 
ing, * Daily, daily/ &c. * There they go/ said Fr. Burke, 
' shouting out for you from morning till night* ' Thus/ adds 
our informant, 'dear, good-natured Fr. Burke sought to bring 
back the long-absent smile to the poor sufferer's face, and 
certainly succeeded.' 


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FR. power's recollections. 1 85 

At Tallaght, we are told, * not less by reason of the lofty 
intellect which commanded admiration than by the sweetness 
of his nature, he enjoyed the respect and affection of all with 
whom he came in contact' 

Among those who knew him best at this time was the 
Very Rev. G. D. Power. 

Having been an old and intimate friend of Fr. Burke (he writes), 
I take the liberty of sending a few reminiscences. I was his 
novice for two years, was a member of the community of San 
Clemente during his Priorship there, was constantly his companion 
while in Rome, and for many years enjoyed his familiar intercourse 
and confidence both in Italy and Ireland. 

Some of the details thus inclosed illustrate a more ad- 
vanced period of our narrative ; the following concerns this 
page. It may be premised that the habit was restored to 
the Irish Dominicans in 1852. An order from Fr. White, 
then Visitor-General of the Irish Province, made it obliga- 
tory to wear it : 

I was one of four young boys from the city of Cork who entered 
the novitiate of St. Mary's, Tallaght, in 1857. Fr. Burke was the 
Master of Novices. I can never forget the impression his ascetic 
appearance made upon me as he entered the parlour to see the 
postulants for the Order. His tall, graceful, and attenuated figure, 
clad in his white habit, his stem, rigid face, shaded by the cowl 
which he wore over his head, his hands folded under his scapular, 
and the deep, sonorous voice — sepulchral in its tone — all presented 
to my youthful gaze the living image of a vigorous, ascetic Domi- 
nican monk. That figure might have stepped down from one of the 
pictures of Fra Angelico's groups of saintly Dominicans which hung 
upon the walls of that reception room. I was frightened. He 
looked the very personification of the austerity and rigour of the 
Order of St. Pius V., Saint Louis Bertrand, and Vincent Ferrar. 
On our way up to the novitiate he turned quietly round to the 
thinnest lad in the group, and said, * My boy, we must feed you.' 
This touch of humanity and humour softened me a little. The 
present Bishop-Auxiliary of Cork, the Right Rev. F. H. O'Callaghan, 
was one of that group In the observances of the rigid rule of the 


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Order, in the abstinences, fasts, and mortifications of the religious 
life, he was always the most observant and rigid of the community. 
He might have been one of the monks of San Marco in Florence, 
under the priorship of Fra Jerome Savonarola. In all the recreations 
of the novices he was playful, buoyant, and enthusiastic. With the 
avidity and abandon of his simple, sportive nature, he would join 
in our out-door games of ' hurly,' football, and handball, and be 
as jubilant in victory or depressed by defeat as the youngest among 

* his boys,' as he used to call his novices. 

The ' ferverinos ' or homilies which Fr. Burke daily 
addressed to his novices were masterpieces of touching 
eloquence. Neophytes are sometimes requested to preach 
sermons as a sample of their growing power. After the 
delivery of one, opinions were invited and given. * It's all 
in Hay,' said one. ' It would be a long time there till you'd 
make a suggawn of it,' said Burke. It may be explained 
that Dr. Hay published an excellent volume of sermons, and 
that suggawn is the Irish for a hay rope. 

A lay friend and near neighbour, who from the year 1855 
to i860 saw him daily, has committed to writing, at our 
request, his impressions of the man. These embrace no 
stirring incidents, and their value is derived from the accuracy 
with which his hidden life is reflected by — so to speak— a 
village photographer : 

My own recollections of Fr. Burke go back to the time the 
Dominicans took up their abode at Tallaght. We lived there in a 
cottage hard by and saw a good deal of the Fathers. As time went 
on they accepted as novices a younger brother of mine, who died 
at Cork, and a sister, who is now with the Dominican nuns at 
Drogheda. We left Tallaght about 1870, and since then we rarely 
saw our old friends. Up to i860 I saw him almost every day, 
sometimes several times during the day. A joyous, pure, and 
lofty spirit, simple and unaffected and sincere. He was wonderfully 
winning, and with a certain graciousness that had not a tincture of 

* condescending ' about it He often reminded me of Curran. The 
low spirits, ill -health — again the high spirits and keen enjoyment of 
the bright moment— the flash from darkness to light— the shape of 


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the jaw, the mouth, the eyes (differing in colour, but Curran's 
glorious eyes were there), ihe stately flow of phrase and unstudied 
but 'speaking' gesture, the fearlessness, the love of the dear old 
land, purified, perhaps intensified, by his holy calling and exalted 
pursuits. The pall of 1 817 fell again on Ireland in 1883. 

At Christmas 1859, he had made a collection for the poor of the 
villages about Tallaght He asked me to write out some names and 
assist him at the distribution. * The wind of the word ' was enough 
to attract a crowd. He managed tolerably well, but had to make 
raids more than once upon a small Reserve Fund. Business 
was disposed of very quickly, and with the dissatisfaction usual on 
such occasions. When Fr. Burke saw a poor woman moving off 
empty-handed, silent and sad, he called her and said, * My child, 
why did you not come up ? ' * Well, Father, I was afeared.' She 
had been famous for a propensity to share in any village row. 
Fr. Burke again retired and brought back a few shillings — wealth 
to the recipient. With these he bestowed a very few sweet kindly 
words — a couple of seconds did it all. She shook with emotion, and 
went her way ; and I observed tears glittering in his dim eyes. 

I was with him at a morning concert (his first) at the Rotimda in 
Grisi, Alboni, and Mario's time. We arrived early, and Fr. Thomas got 
into a great state of nervousness at finding no priest present. Time 
went on, still no priest Fr. Thomas had serious notions of leaving, 
tod seemed to have lost faith in my assurances that priests were 
always to be found at morning concerts. At length one arrived, 
then another, then two, three, and so on. He came from his * stool 
of repentance ' as he recognised some of them, and thenceforth gave 
himself up to enjoyment as thoroughly as a schoolboy on his holiday. 
He was amused that she — described in the bill as Alboni — ^should 
prove to be so stout 

Coming home that evening, he was full of the great vocalists, and 
gave snatches of the songs, with quaint imitations of the performers. 
After this he got a fancy to visit a * horsemanship ' exhibition, 
of which he knew nothing unless from pictures and placards 
on the walls. We arranged the day and hour some time before. 
I was embarrassed by his boyish elagemess, and had not the courage 
to refuse to be his companion, hoping, however, every day to hear 
him say that he could not go, or that somebody would tell him of 
the unfitness of such a place for him. To my delight, the evening 
before the great day I received the following characteristic note, 
covered with horrible faces and quaint marginal pen-and-ink devices : 


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S. Mary's, Tallaght : 

Ye evening of Sunday. 

Dear Richard — I have received an unmistakable hint from *a 
person in authority ' that my appearance at the astounding circus to- 
morrow would not give unmixed satisfaction, so I must look upon 
it, as far as I am concerned, ' no go ; ' I am doomed to be unhorsed 
and left hors de combat, 

I hope I have not put you out in any way. I shall be going in 
[to Dublin] as I said, and Til call for you, so that part of our 
arrangement remains unhurt. 

Be ready to join me, and mind to bring the price of a hat in your 
pocket, as if you went down to Galway in a jerry they'd be pressing 
you to accept of a hat, but your prospects would be ruined. I once 
heard a very respectable party in Galway express a decided objection 
to gentlemen in jerry hats. 

Yours, till the night of my wake, 

Thomas Burke, O.P. 

*The very respectable party' was probably his mother. Some 
time after he visited me, it was one of his bad days, for his health 
was always treacherous. His spirits were much depressed, and a 
heavy languor seemed to double him up. He asked me to walk 
with him to the Convent, which I did, he leaning heavily on 
me. When we got there he asked me if I could run up in an 
hour or so, when his * lecture ' to his novices would be over. I pro- 
mised I would if I could make time. I went up, and on my way 
heard shouting and laughing, and there was the Master of Novices 
in the midst of them joining in their * recreation.' He had a short 
stick fighting for bare life to win the ball from one of the players, 
who was by no means disposed to let it go. Up and down, round 
and round they went, their habits tucked up and their wrists bleed- 
ing. It was about as droll a sight as I have ever witnessed, and 
when Fr. Thomas at length threw down his ' common ' and came 
across to me, I was delighted to see that low spirits were over for 
that day at least. 

His recovery from those fits of depression was generally rapid. 
After one of them I have seen him dancing down the stairs in his 
habit with all the airs and graces of wild girlhood, singing — 
My mother has lots of old china. 
And no fair heiress but me. 

Men accustomed to matins find it second nature to rise early. 


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Before dawn I have been awakened by his voice outside my cot- 
tage singing Balfe's ballad. A mkhant father had played a practical 
joke : 

To his daughter*8 balcony he brought 

Her monkey in muslins arrayed, 
The youth was o'erjoyed, for he thought 
Twas the form of his beautiful maid. 

But his inner life — as beautiful as that of his own St Dominic — 
how shall that be described ? To get full insight into it one should 
visit all the convents of his Order and see how his holy words have 
been cherished. His *wit and humour' were almost involuntary 
scintillations, the bubbles of the brilliant well within — ^all his deeper 
thoughts he gave to Heaven. 

Those gems of quiet domestication at Tallaght were 
not without spiritual advantage to him. A community life 
which absorbed a man into itself formed all his habits, 
fostered his virtues, corrected his faults, and surrounded him 
with all the helps and comforts of association and example. 
These were very nearly his own words. 

Fr. Burke's boyish wish to see what a hippodrome was 
like leads us to say that, in point of fact, there was no more 
rigid stickler for ecclesiastical discipline than he, or one who 
appreciated more thoroughly the reforms which had just been 
introduced under the auspices of Archbishop Cullen. Years 
after he said, when preaching the praises of that Prelate : 

The restoration of ecclesiastical discipline enforced by the de- 
crees of Thurles, which in their turn were but a repetition of the 
mandates of the Council of Trent, involved some sacrifice on the part 
of the clergy ; the surrender of pleasures which, though innocent, 
were not priestly ; their greater withdrawal from the world, the daily 
and diligent exercise of prayer and study, the yearly exercises of 
retreat, their external habit and clothing — ^in a word, all that 
goes to make the holy priest and fitting minister of the dread altar 
of God. 

It does not surprise us to hear from one of Fr. Burke's 
pupils that, ' unless at time of play, or on recreation days, 


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on which occasions a looker-on would be at a loss to know 
who amongst them was the Master, no one could be more 
strict or more severe, particularly if he saw the least de- 
liberate neglect or violation of rule.' 

He also took every opportunity of making his students humble 
(adds the Rev. J. P. Prendergast), and he would very often drop 
remarks hurtful to our feelings, and tell something before others cal- 
culated to raise a laugh at some poor fellow's expense ; but if any 
one did laugh, or if any of the other students forgot himself for a 
moment, as by word or act to show that he was amused at the little 
humiliation of the other, then Fr. Burke was down on him in an 
instant, and would give him such a dressing ; and all who knew 
Fr. Burke knew that he had a tongue which cut one through like a 
sword. Many a time would his hard words bring bitter tears from 
the poor fellow who was con-ected ; while in a few minutes afterwards 
they were all at play as though there was no difference between them. 

On the evening before the first batch of students were to leave 
Tallaght for Rome, the Provincial, Fr. Russell, paid the students a 
visit, and wine was produced for the occasion. Fr. Russell, taking 
the glass of wine, said * he drank the health of the future Priors and 
Provincials of the Province.' Immediately after he left Fr. Burke 
returned to his students, and lest any little seed of vanity might have 
fallen from the Provincial's words, he said to them, * Priors and Pro- 
vincials, indeed I There is not a man amongst you that has either 
the brains or the piety to fit you for any position in the Order, and I 
doubt if you are even fit to be lay brothers.' Of these students one 
is now an Archbishop, and all, with one exception, have held posi- 
tions of honour in the Order. His remark was in keeping with his 
own character for humility, as he had a most extraordinarily humble 
opinion of himself; indeed, if possible, he carried his humility to a 
. fault. 

Fr. Burke, in addressing his novices, felt that a few 
splashes of cold water make a strong man stronger. 

Fr. Prendergast continues, after mentioning that Fr. Burke, 
notwithstanding his strictness, * was very much beloved : * 

When Fr. Burke's first batch of students were going from Tallaght 
to Rome in 1857, Fr. Folan, of Galway, who had been appointed 
Prior of San Clemente, accompanied them. On the recommendation 


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of the present Bishop of Hamilton, all went to an hotel in Trafalgar 
Square. Fr. Burke next day had an idea that the expenses might 
not be so reasonable as his Lordship had supposed, and so Fr. Folan 
asked for the bill The result was a rapid retreat to a more handy 
and less costly hotel. Fr. Burke, as Master of Novices, went with 
the students as far as London, and one day took charge of them and 
brought them to see Whitehall. As is well known, two of the guards 
on horseback, glittering in their bright cuirasses and helmets, are always 
to be seen in the adjacent gateway on duty. On this day there was 
a splendid-looking fellow of colossal size, and Fr. Burke, to the 
amusement of several bystanders, proceeded to march the students 
before and beside him, unctuously describing and calling attention in 
the most marked manner to his grand proportions and accoutrements, 
flattering first to the individual himself, but at last rather calculated 
to provoke the big man to draw his sword. The shy novices would 
have given anything to get away ; but no, his chest, his fine head, 
his feet, his calves, all must be admired — when suddenly we heard a 
shout and a loud whistle so commanding that even in the din of 
London it aroused us. Looking round, we saw the Prior's head 
frowning out of a four-wheeler, and his little finger in his mouth about 
to give another and more penetrative whistle to call our attention to 
the restraining influence of his presence.* 

In London, Fr. Burke heard some distinguished Anglican 
divines preach. We learn from the secretary of the late 
Cardinal Cullen that one of the mimicries with which he used 
to amuse his Eminence was that of the late Bishop of Oxford. 
Fr. Burke, in two of his sermons, quotes Wilberforce. The 
higher the distinctions Burke acquired, the deeper sank his 
own humility. He maintained that grace and not knowledge 
was the subjugator of every evil passion : 

Where shall we find the means of emancipating our will from 
passions and other bad influences (said Burke) ? Will knowledge do 
it ? No. Will faith do it ? No. It is a strange thing to say, but 
knowledge, no matter how extensive or how profound, gives no 
command over the passions ; no intellectual motives influence them. 
• When you can moor a vessel with a thread of silk,' says a great 
orator. Dr. Wilberforce, * then you may hope to elevate this human 

> The letter of Rev. J. P. Prendergast, to the Author, St. Pancras, Lewes, 
March 4, 1884. 


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knowledge, and, by human reason, to tie down and restrain those 
giants— the passions and the pride of man.' I know as much of the 
law of Go(i as any amongst you — more, probably, than many — for 
we are to teach. Does my knowledge save me from sin? Will 
that knowledge keep me in the observance of the sacred vows I took 
at the altar? Is it to that knowledge that I look for the power and 
strength within me to keep every sinful passion down in sacerdotal 
purity — of restricting every desire in monastic poverty — of keeping 
down every feeling of pride in religious obedience ? I might know 
as much as St Augustine, and yet be imperfect. It is the grace 
of God we need coming through fixed specific channels to the 

The feast of St. Dominic in 1857 was celebrated by a din- 
ner at the old convent in Denmark Street, Dublin. The pre- 
sence of two great hierarchs — Dr. Ryan, Bishop of Limerick, 
and Dr. Moriarty, Bishop of Kerry— tended to shed around 
some slight restraint, which the Prior tried to remove by calling 
upon Fr. Burke, who had hitherto comported himself with 
the modesty of a novice, to give the company one of his 
* Imitations.' Italian priests, with a very limited knowledge 
of the English tongue, had become very popular as preachers 
in Ireland. The saintly Gentili was one ; the burly Rinolfi 
another. Enormous audiences attended whenever the latter 
preached. Fr. Burke stood up and, for the first time, under- 
took to personate an Italian priest, lecturing the faithful in 
broken English. His first move was to cast with demonstra- 
tive vigour the folds of his robe from the dexter side right 
over the left shoulder. With finger upraised he began his 
performance by undertaking to answer Dr. Gumming, but 
whom he always spoke of as * Doctor Cummingo.' He urged 
his hearers to avoid 'otiosity," to become tinkers, and re- 
minded them that ' without face you cannot be shaved.' But 
when at the end of each objurgation the preacher, while 
seemingly trying to avert the doom which awaited sin, would 
say, ' You be da — a — a— a — med,' the effect was irresistible ; 

^ Otiasus, free from business. 


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old Bishop Ryan hardly liking to laugh outright at the 
phrase, but obliged to put his napkin to his mouth to con- 
ceal its expansion. The ice thus broken, a sociable evening 
was passed, and from that hour dated the commencement 
of the intimacy between Bishop Moriarty and Burke, which 
death alone dissolved. 

This study he afterwards changed into that of an Italian 
Jesuit conducting a retreat for the English visitors at Rome. 
In this, Lazarus was spoken of as reposing in Abraham's 

About the year 1858 (writes Mr. Sherlock) I attended at a pro- 
fession of liuns in the little convent chapel of Richmond Fairview. 
The fitting moment for the sermon had arrived, when a tall figure 
rose from its kneeling posture before the altar, and strode with quiet 
majesty to its appointed place on the platform. The figure was 
draped in the white and black of the Dominican habit. The 
sanctuary was filled with a dim religious light, which just revealed a 
tonsured head, fringed by a ring of thick black locks that surmounted 
a dark and sun-stained face, with features that were eloquent of 
strength and power, and with eyes that kindled into flame as their 
gaze seemed to centre upon the glories of an unseen world. The 
preacher spoke. The subject of his discourse was the religious life. 
The chapel was small, and his voice never rose above a whisper, but 
every whisper thrilled the nerves of his hearers. All were fascinated. 
He spoke of the beauty and purity and perfection of the religious 
life ; he showed how it tended to raise man, even in the life below, 
almost to a level with the angels ; he expounded with marvellous 
lucidity the meaning of the vows Religious take, and explained their 
bearing on the holy state ; and with a fervid peroration that carried 
his hearers away from earthly things left them in earnest contem- 
plation of a glorious future It was no mere effort of polished 
rhetoric we heard on that occasion ; no skilful weaving of brilliant 
phrases into rounded sentences such as may gratify the ear without 
ever reaching the heart. It was the full flow of an apostolic soul 
that came down on the congregation then assembled, and swept 
everything away on its irresistible tide. There were worldly men 
present, but the worldliest among them went along in silence, ponder- 
ing upon the nothingness of his own pursuits. It was a sermon to 
make a scoffer stand self-condemned. It was a discourse that, being 
VOL. I. O 


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heard, must be embedded in the memory for a lifetime. As the con- 
gregation slowly defiled out of the little chapel, the question was on 
every lip, * Who was the preacher?' At length one was found to say, 
* Fr. Burke — one of the Denmark Street friars.' * 

This sermon — delivered in the private oratory of an 
obscure suburban convent — was, of course, never reported ; 
and, except by those who chanced to be present, nobody ever 
heard of it. Such was its strength that for days after — as 
Mr. Sherlock assures us orally — he was torn by a strong desire 
to leave the world and become a monk. 

Fr. Burke*s antecedents had been so modestly veiled that 
Canon Dillon — the then chaplain to the convent — ^had never 
before heard of him, but he could not avoid exclaiming, ' He 
is the coming man.' 

' Denmark Street had been the head -quarters of the Dominicans from 1 780. 
The Friary stood within two minutes* walk of the Archbishop's parish chapel 
in Liffey Street— called the mensal parish, because it supported his mema or 
table. Dr. Troy, himself a Dominican and a most influential Suffragan Bishop 
previous to his promotion to Dublin, is likely to have obtained for his late 
colleagues the privilege of opening this chapel almost at the gate of the Archi- 
episcopal church. The parochial clergy, like the friars, are dependent on elee- 
mosynary support. Denmark Street Chapel is described by Cox's Irish Magazine 
for 181 2 as the most fashionably attended place of Catholic worship in Dublin. 
The Order had previously passed through a highly chequered career. Asso- 
ciated with their monastery they opened, in 1428, a school of philosophy on 
the opposite side of the Liflfey, and built the bridge connecting them known 
as *01d Bridge.' It was the first of the six bridges across the Liffey, and 
De Bur^o says that he remembers to have seen, in his youth, the font fiom which 
it was usual to sprinkle with holy water all who crossed it. The Provincial of the 
Irish Dominicans thus communicates to the present writer the sequel of their 
movements : * After the courts of law were removed to the neighbourhood of 
Christ Church, our old monastery became the " King's Inns," and remained so 
until the building in Henrietta Street was completed ; it was then demolished, 
and the present Four Courts erected on its site. Until the Reformation we 
always occupied the site given us by the Cistercians of St. Mary's Abbey. During 
the reign of James II. we had possession of our old house; in it was held the 
Parliament at which James presided. After the Revolution of 1688 our abode 
was in Cook Street, where we had a chapel ; from thence, about the year 1740, 
we moved into Lower Bridge Street ; in 1780 we changed to Denmark Street. 
Our old chapel in Bridge Street became the parochial church of St. Audeon's, 
and continued so until the present church in High Street was opened. The old 
building is still in existence — used as stores by Vance and Beers.' In 1786 Dr. 
Troy became Archbishop of Dublin. The first stone of the Pro-Cathedral in 
Marlborough Street was laid November 14, 181 5. Liflfey Street Chapel was soon 
after relinquished. 


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Fifty years ago critics were fond of discussing the question 
why pulpit eloquence was so inferior to that of the senate or 
the bar. If Scotland could point to its Alison and Chalmers, 
it was submitted that they were not comparable to its 
Erskines and Broughams. * In England/ asked Madden, 
* where are we to look for divines, in the history of the last 
hundred and fifty years, who rival in oratory Bolingbroke, 
Chatham, Pitt, Fox. Burke, Sheridan, and Canning ? ' 

The Catholic Church in the eighteenth century, fettered by 
penal bonds and fearful of arousing its persecutors to renewed 
vigilance and oppression, was not in a state to send forth 
pulpit orators of pretension. The only preacher who attained 
much distinction was Walter Blake Kirwan, a Franciscan friar, 
who afterwards joined the Established Church on the plea of 
obtaining more enlarged opportunities of doing good. Avoid- 
ing controversy, he generally preached on behalf of orphan 
charities. * His irresistible powers of persuasion,' records his 
widow, * often produced 1,200/. at a sermon, and his hearers 
sometimes threw in jewels or watches as earnest of further 
benefactions.' From the stories told of Kirwan's action in the 
pulpit it would appear that he did not deem divinity too 
high for dramatic treatment. His death, in 1805, was fol- 
lowed by a long pause in the oratory of the Protestant 
pulpit. In 1 83 1 Dr. Whately arrived as Anglican Archbishop 
of Dublin. He had been thrice chosen * Select Preacher to the 
University of Oxford,' and earned European fame, it was said, 
by his Bampton Lectures. But, notwithstanding the prestige 


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surrounding an Archbishop, we find James Grant writing of 
Whately in 1835 : 

Oratory is not his forte. He speaks in so low a tone as to be 
inaudible to those who are at any distance from him, and not only 
is his voice low, but it is unpleasant from its monotony. In his 
manner there is not a particle of life or spirit. 

After the Catholic Church had lost Kirwan it no doubt 
found able exponents of its strength in Molloy, Clarke, Hayes, 
Beatagh, Keogh, Maguire, and Cahill. Molloy and Clarke 
— the latter a Dominican — died early in the century. Hayes 
was finally silenced for opposing with vehemence the Veto. 
Keogh outlived his fame and survived to 1833. Maguire 
was noted not for his eloquence, but for toughness of logic in 
polemic argument. Cahill, who latterly preached in a sitting 
posture, had many admirers, but after the death of Arch- 
bishop Murray his voice was never more heard in the metro- 
politan diocese. All these men, Cahill perhaps excepted, 
were forgotten when Burke's powers shone upon Dublin, and 
all were certainly inferior to him. 

France may proudly point to Bourdaloue, Bossuet, and 
Massillon, and Italy to its Segneri ; but a deep thinker 
who may be regarded as an expert in this line has shown 
that, high as these names stand, they are really below 

I am about to be very bold — rash, perhaps— and to leave myself 
open to criticism (declares the Rev. Nicholas Walsh, a chief of the 
Jesuits), but the opinion is my own, founded, as I believe, on good 
and solid reasons. I believe that Fr. Burke, taking him for all in all, 
was the greatest, the most illustrious, and the most extraordinary 
preacher of whom we have any record. A study of the lives of 
great preachers of the time of Massillon, Bourdaloue, Bossuet, and 
Segneri, showed that they were men who either preached not often 
in the year, or who had abundance of time to prepare. They gene- 
rally stood in the pulpit of some magnificent cathedral on some 
extraordinary occasion, amidst surroundings which stimulated and 
inspired Some of them never preached under two months' notice ; 


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Others, like Segneri and Bourdaloue, had their three months of 
unbroken retirement to prepare their Latin conferences. Others, 
like Massillon and Bossuet, could, from their very position, command 
their own time. To picture one of these illustrious preachers not 
only preaching often in his own church, but hurrying, for twenty-five 
years, through the length and breadth of the land, or of three lands, 
at the beck of every struggling nun and curate, bishop, parish priest, 
and charitable institution, preaching every Sunday and holiday— at 
times thrice a week, sometimes thrice a day — preaching often in 
old, uncomfortable, or new unfinished churches — with for nine long 
years an insidious disease torturing and wearing his life — such a 
picture of any of those illustrious preachers would be a caricature, 
because unreal. We read of nothing like this in the lives of those 
men, and yet we all know it to have been for years the life of Fr. 

It IS told in the diocese of Killaloe that Dr. Jeremiah 
Donovan, Domestic Prelate to Gregory XVI., was once 
invited by the pastor of Feakle to preach on the occasion of 
placing the organ in his church. A laige audience assembled, 
but the new organ failed to arrive. Dr. Donovan had carefully 
prepared his sermon on church music and boldly delivered it, 
the absence of the instrument notwithstanding. When driving 
to Ennis that night his driver came violently into collision with 
some obstacle which proved to be the organ, and its dibiis 
was comically compared next day to 'oiganic remains.' 
Happily, no contrariety occurred to spoil the effect of the 
sermon which Fr. Burke had prepared in September 1859, on 
the occasion of opening the organ at St. Mary Star of the 
Sea, Sandymount. 

An addition had been made to the interior adornments of the 
beautiful church (writes Fr. Nugent), and Dean O'Connell, its zealous 
pastor, was anxious that the occasion should be signalised by the 
delivery of a sermon by some preacher of note. He asked Fr. 
Eustace Murphy, another Dominican, to preach, but the good 
Father, having other engagements to fulfil, was obliged to decline. 
•Will you get me a substitute, then?' said the priest 'With 
pleasure,' was the reply; *a young man shall be sent to you who can 
preach far better than V 


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Neither the Dean nor his zealous coadjutor, Fr. David 
Mulcahy, were thoroughly satisfied with the arrangement, and 
their confidence in the result of the appeal was not strengthened 
by observing on entering the vestry a priest robed for the 
pulpit whose face seemed to them singularly vacant. There 
can be now no doubt that this was one of the freaks of facial 
distortion in which Burke sometimes indulged to puzzle 
people whose thoughts he read. He possessed the faculty, 
shared by Cardinal Cullen in a less comical degree, of 
assuming at times an appearance of stupidity. Perhaps . 
both saw wisdom in Montaigne's precept, ' The best policy 
is to seem foolish and to act wisely.' That the first im- 
pression produced on Fr. Mulcahy was due to waggery on 
Burke's part is the more likely when we compare it with 
the account given of the way in which his majesty of aspect 
impressed all who heard his sermon at Fairview, and at a 
time when no prestige enshrined his name. 

Fr. Burke ascended the pulpit at Sandymount (records a writer 
in the Liverpool Times\ and, taking for his subject the intimate con- 
nection between art and the genius of the Catholic Church, preached 
a sermon in which eloquence, richness of imagery, originality of 
thought, and freshness of illustration were so charmingly combined 
that the congregation were rapt in wonder and delight Fortunately 
there was a representative of the Freeman* s journal present, and 
next day the lengthy report which appeared in that widely circulating 
journal was perused with keen interest throughout the country. 

After the sermon a person by no means rich said to 
Fr. Mulcahy, * I came to give you one pound, but this man 
has knocked five out of me.' 

The orator threw his whole heart into this sermon. 
Music at all times went to the depths of his very soul, and 
stirred every fine feeling and tender sympathy. Of Burke it 
might be said as of Byron, that he woke one morning to find 
himself famous. 

Next day (writes Mr. J. R. OTlanagan, who shares the warmth of 


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descriptive power possessed by the Irish Bar), Dublin was ringing 
with the account of the wonderful sermon preached at Sandymount 
Never was anything finer. It equalled Massillon — it surpassed 
Bossuet — it rivalled Kirwan. 

The reporter sent by Dr. Gray, the Dublin journalist, to 
Sandymount, was Mr. Frank Sullivan. His attention became at 
once so riveted, he tells us, that he made no attempt to report 
the eloquent preacher, but followed him, from the vestry to the 
parish priest's door, and there ventured to explain his object. 

* If you will take from under the folds of your habit the MS. 
of your sermon and kindly let me see it, the favour would be 
appreciated.' • How do you know I have a MS. .^ ' replied 
the Dominican. * By the artistic and logical an-angement of 
your discourse.' * But if I give you up my MS. what will 
St. Thomas say ? ' At last he smilingly surrendered it, saying, 

* Twice to-day I have been made to stand and deliver ; ' and 
this is how so full a report appeared. 

The fame of this sermon reached France ; and the P^re 
Mercier tells historically that it was * dans un sermon pr^ch^ 
dans TEglise de TEtoile de la Mer qu'il apparut pour la premiere 
fois ce qu'il devait fitre.' » The Very Rev. G. D. Power, Fr. 
Burke's former novice, writes to the same effect. Indeed, 
even most of the Fathers of his own Order in Ireland seem 
to have been quite unprepared for this success. But we now 
know on the authority of the men who worked with him in 
Gloucestershire that his sermons thus early were such that 
even old critics of the long robe called to congratulate his 
superiors on the marvellous eloquence of the young preacher. 
Cheerfully obeying the mandate which sent him * to organise 
the novitiate ' in Ireland, he relinquished, as it seemed, the r6le 
for which God and nature meant him, and to which passionate 
instinct — but not ambition — pointed. Speaking of the Sandy- 
mount sermon as * his first great one,' Fr. Power adds : 

I well remember how one afternoon he came to recreation with 

* VAnnh Dominicainey p. 408, 


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the sermon he had prepared. Walking up and down the * Friars' 
Walk/ a lovely shady avenue of the beautiful grounds at Tallaght, 
he read his sermon to the novices, stopping frequently to ask me 
or them 'if that would do/ and requesting suggestions. This 
was done in genuine simplicity and great humility. The beautiful 
story of the Good Samaritan was the gospel for the Sunday. I 
remember very vividly the application of the neighbourly and humane 
acts of the Samaritan, his pouring on the oil, and dressing the 
wounded man from Jericho, &c., to the action and inspiration of the 
Church in her use of music, to soothe, elevate, and spiritualise fallen 
human nature. The passages here were very fine, full of poetry, and 
suggestive of a high artistic cultuie. * I believe they liked the sermon,' 
was his remark on his return from Sandymount, where he had 
preached ; one which immediately placed him in the fore-front of 
pulpit orators. 

Fragments from this sermon appear at pages 84 and 
105. ' Ce fut pour tous, selon la parole du P. Lacordaire, le 
premier coup de clairon de sa renomm^e/ records ' L'Annee 
Dominicaine.' And yet at the opening of the new Dominican 
church in Dublin, soon after, Fr. Burke was not the priest se- 
lected to preach the oration. 

The success at Sandymount was followed, on November 25, 
1859, by ^^ eloquent panegyric on St. Catherine, preached in 
her church, Meath Street, by Fr. Burke. Another on St. 
Vincent was delivered at Castleknock. He was also asked to 
conduct a retreat at Maynooth College. In its halls, filled 
with the echoes of genuine sacred oratory, his voice was warmly 
welcomed. His discourses, unlike penitential exercises, shed 
such fascination that old and young thronged forward long 
before the hours for which they were announced, and took up 
their positions anxiously looking out for the rich treat coming. 
' We have found a hitherto undiscovered mine,' said Canon 
Farrell. This was the beginning of one of the most prominent 
phases of his career. He was regularly employed in conduct- 
ing retreats for the clergy in various dioceses, having directed 
so many as twelve in a single year; while from all parts of 


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the country innumerable demands were made on him for cha- 
rity sermons. 

Spiritual retreats, which Dr. Doyle revived with salutary 
effects, owed their birth in the first instance to St. Ignatius 
of Loyola, whose book on the subject exhibits a rare know- 
ledge of the human heart The retreat formerly lasted four 
weeks ; but a shorter period is found to work best. Priests, 
laics, students, all confessed the advantages they derived 
from Fr. Burke when conducting those sacred exercises. 
Retirement, silence, self-examination with a firm resolve to 
make the retreat as though it were to be the last, were all 
mighty materials on which the preacher worked. 

About this time Dr. Thomas FitzPatrick met him travel- 
ling by boat, on the beautiful river Lee, accompanied by 
Fr. Falvey, the eminent polemic and pastor of Glanmire. 
Repartees were freely interchanged. The priests, like two 
practised swordsmen, fenced and parried, cut and thrust, 
brightening the interest of that proverbially picturesque 
journey. Falvey, like Burke, was a mimic, and he cleverly 
portrayed the peculiarities of his own Bishop, Dr. Murphy. 

The second occasion on which Mr. Frank Sullivan met Fr. 
Burke was at the station of the Ulster Railway in Dublin. 
The Dominican was going to preach at Dundalk, and Sullivan 
was deputed to report him. Anxious to enjoy the sweets of 
his society in undisturbed luxury, he persuaded the guard to 
place a private compartment at their disposal. The preacher 
jumped in, the pressman followed, feeling almost as grateful 
to the guard as if he were St. Peter, who held the key of 
still higher privileges. The enjoyment of that journey, Mr. 
Sullivan says, served his memory as an elixir for years 
after. While cigars were freely smoked, rich anecdotes and 
stories of rare comicality fell in exhaustless profusion, 
until at last the porters, sonorously yelling ' Dundalk,' re- 
minded Sullivan that all terrestrial joys are doomed to end 
too soon. 


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As it IS notorious that Fr. Burke was a smoker, it may be 
well to add that for some years before his death he added 
to the suffering of his life the mortification of abstaining 
from the use of tobacco. His Prior says that it would 
have proved a solace to him' in pain and solitude, but his 
superiors felt that the practice was one not quite suited to 
a religious. A physician has said that 'smoking favours 
contemplation ; * the contemplation referred to in this sense, 
however, is not of the kind inculcated by St. Dominic. 

Father Burke's first Mass in Galway was celebrated under 
painful circumstances. His sister Nora had long been 
stricken by illness, one of the most touching features of which 
was an occasional gleam of hope in her own recovery, but 
hallowed by the most perfect resignation to God's will, Fr. 
Burke received from the Bishop permission to say Mass in 
her bed-chamber. During its celebration she was supported 
on a mattress by her mother ; and Fr. Burke happening to 
raise his eyes for a moment saw that she was dead. Mrs. 
Burke had previously noticed the same sad fact, but, impressed 
by the solemnity of the holy sacrifice, never betrayed the 
slightest emotion of grief or surprise until it had terminated ; 
and the celebrant felt bound to keep his feelings under similar 

He had probably this scene in his mind when preaching 
at Killamey on the decline and death of the girl in the Gospel. 
'Gradually her strength decayed, and the light faded out of 
her eyes ; the pulsation of her heart ceased.' Fr. Burke s ap- 
preciation of suppressed sorrow was shown in his grand de- 
scription of Christ solemnly entering the house, silencing those 
who filled it with the noise of their vain lamentations, and 
saying, ' The maid is not dead, but sleepeth.' 

The splendid Dominican churches of Cork and Limerick, 

* Mrs. Burke's philosophic calmness is inherited by her daughter Bridget. At 
Fr. Burke's funeral, while other members of the family indulged in paroxysms of 
grief, Miss Burke's silence implied ' the composure of settled distress.' 


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contrasting so strongly in their grandeur with the modest 
West Chapel long familiar to him in Galway, charmed and 
delighted him. In his former pilgrimage to the ruined 
Abbey of Athenry, and in his visits at eventide to the 
sadly defaced sculpture which surrounds the West Chapel, 
close by his native spot, he had mingled his tears with the 
dew that stood in sparkles on the tombs. Thinking of the 
words of St. Augustine, *In that He died He showed Him- 
self man ; in that He rose again He proved Himself God,* 
Fr. Burke said : 

Has not the Irish Church risen again to more than her former 
glory ? The land is covered once more with fair churches, convents, 
colleges, and monasteries, as of old ; and who shall say that the reli- 
gion that could thus suffer and rise again is not from God ? 

It was about this time that Fr. Burke's connection as con- 
fessor to and conductor of retreats in Loretto Abbey, Rath- 
farnham, began. Tallaght is about four miles from Loretto, 
and the frequent walk to his work served Burke's health, un- 
less on one occasion when during frost he fell, and for some 
time after was disabled from the effects. The Superioress 
of Loretto observes in one of her kind communications 
addressed to the present writer : 

For more than twenty years his wise and holy counsels were 
never wanting to us, and even now his voice, ever urging us on 
in the service of God, seems still to echo within these walls, yet our 
memories are of the earnest religious, who devoted his energies year 
afler year, in spite of harassing pain, to the laborious work of training 
souls for God. His frequent retreats to nuns, children, and to ladies 
living in the world were always marked by great variety and exquisite 
adaptation to the needs of those to whom they were addressed. It 
was touching at these times to see the simple humility with which 
our dear Father concentrated his great powers on saying to each 
'the word in season' which would sink into the heart and bear 
fruit. 1 

Mrs. Frances Ball, the foundress, was a person of such a 

' Letter of the Superioress, Loretto Convent, Rathfarnham, Nov. 23, 1883. 


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Stately and judicial bearing that her brother, Mr. Justice Ball, 
humorously said that ^ sJie should have been the judge, and he 
the reverend mother.' This great nun was so important a 
personage that Fr. Coleridge and the Rev. Dr. Hutch have 
each written her life. Fr. Burke found his first interview 
with Mrs. Ball a little embarrassing to a man of his humility 
and social shyness, and he often told friends the mode by 
which he made the frigid nun relax. He described himself 
as sitting in deep awe on the extreme edge of his chair, 
twirling his hat, when one of the young ladies who accom- 
panied the Superioress glanced casually at a mirror. Mrs. 
Ball at once admonished her, quoting from Proverbs xxxi. 30 : 
' ** Beauty is vain ; the woman that feareth the Lord, she shall 
be praised." Comeliness, child, is a grace from God, and we 
should carry it so in His honour. The Creator who gave it 
can remove it by sickness. It is an old remark that children 
who are fair to view grow up downright ugly.' * The excep- 
tion is sometimes found, reverend mother,' said Burke. ' / was 
noted for being a very handsome child, and I have preserved 
my good looks.' Mrs. Ball smiled ; the child smiled too, and, 
the ice thus broken, Fr. Burke at once felt himself at home. 
Next day one of the younger pupils, encouraged by some 
fantastic faces which Fr. Tom made for her amusement, asked 
him why his mouth was so wide. Mrs. Ball sternly reproved 
this levity, but he sought to put the awed children in good 
humour by explaining apologetically that when he was an 
infant his mother crammed him with solid stirabout, and, 
moreover, with the same big spoon which his father used. 

Fr. Burke's features, it will be remembered, were not hand- 
some, nor did his tonsure tend to improve nature's work. He 
often ridiculed his own face, and latterly, when mixing with 
boys on their playgrounds, he has amused them by subjecting 
his nose to funny changes. At some of the nuns* schools, 
when singing * Annie Laurie ' and other sentimental ballads, 
he has produced much comic effect by pointing — at touch- 


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ing moments — to the same feature. But though his face in 
repose was not commanding, yet, when delivering a divine 
message, it would light up with earnestness, and the search- 
ing eye suggest massive power and majesty. Mrs. Ball, 
writes the Rev. G. D. Power, * regarded Fr. Burke with the 
highest and holiest esteem. He was her spiritual adviser 
and counsellor for years.' 

Part of his generous plan was to utilise the gifts of wit 
and humour with which he was endowed by spreading around 
him some alleviation of the cares and woes of life. He 
sometimes followed Liston's imperturbable example, and the 
lady who has succeeded Mrs. Ball as Superioress assures 
us that she cannot recall an instance — even during his hap- 
piest sallies — that he really laughed. For a long time he 
regarded as the first law of gravity, * Never to laugh at your 
own jokes.' Later on, when surrounded by clerical listeners, 
his stories gathered increased piquancy from the infectiousness 
of his laugh. 

In conjunction with Fr, Towers, he opened in May 1861, 
at Navan, a week's retreat to the Young Men's Society. It 
was about this time that when travelling by train a tourist 
whom he knew fell into conversation with him. * Yonder is 
one of the round towers of Ireland,' said Burke, pointing 
towards a well-known object of archaeological interest, * and 
here is another of them,* he added ; thus informally present- 
ing Fr. Towers, who was then of a much fuller habit than 

In conducting a retreat for the clergy of Meath, his master 
hand swept the chords of their various emotions. Previously 
it had been the fashion to surround retreats with gloom. 
Novel expressions now roused the attention of an audience 
who under the former system might sometimes drift into 
drowsiness. It was during the Meath retreat that he took 
one of the Latin hymns and translated it into beautiful English 
words. * I also heard him give one retreat to the clergy of 


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our diocese of Ferns/ writes no lenient critic — Canon Doyle, 
of Ramsgrange. * His eloquence quite fascinated me. I 
could listen to him for hours.' The canon, in conclusion, 
speaks of him as * the gifted, the beloved soggarth^ as he was 
affectionately and familiarly called.' ' 

In 1862 Fr. Jandel, General of the Dominicans, made a 
visitation to Ireland. One of the regulations then enforced 
was the tonsure. Fr. Burke assured Fr. Callan, S.J., that to 
him was due the restoration of the tonsure. Thus it would 
appear that he urged it on Jandel ; but we have heard that 
other Fathers were quite as anxious for it. According to 
Fr. Mercier, O.P., * Fr. Burke was named by his Order 
member of the Committee for the Revision of the Constitu- 
tions ; ' * but this cannot have been until the grand chapter 
of 1871. 

From the time of Tertullian, Christians were exhorted to 
avoid vanity in the arrangement of their hair, and the Fourth 
Council of Toledo in 633 ordained that all priests should shave 
their heads, leaving only a rim of hair behind. The Synod 
of Worcester in 1240 prescribed that the tonsure should in- 
crease in size with each step of the priesthood ; adding a re- 
minder that St Paul had made a complete clearance in this 
respect. During earlier ages the use of the tonsure became 
the subject of angry controversy. Jerome took a middle 
course and condemned eccentricity, both as regards long hair 
and shaven heads.* 

On June 30, 1862, Fr. Burke preached at the dedication of 
a new church at Lanesborough. A like ceremony at Clondalkin 
on August 10, 1862, brought out his powers to such purpose 
that Dr. Lynch, now Archbishop of Toronto, who officiated 
with Dr. CuUen at the function, was so much struck by the 

* It is pleasant to find that, unlike some other advanced politicians who ceased 
to admire Fr. Burke when he failed to join their platform, Canon Doyle's appre- 
ciation of the man has continued undiminished. 

' VAmUe Dominuaine, No. 279, p. 409. 

■ ViJt In Erech. xliv. 


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man that the thought of getting him made a bishop in 
Canada seems to have had its birth during the delivery of 
this sermon. When we come to the year 1875 this point will 
be more fully noticed. 

The profession of a nun, at which Fr. Burke was so often 
a conspicuous figure, is a very interesting spectacle. The 
Bishop, seated on his throne, asks the novice if she is willing to 
persevere in the observance of celibacy, and, on receiving her 
acquiescence, he places her hands between his while she 
solemnly pronounces her perpetual vows. The Bishop then 
kneels in front of the altar while the choir chants the Litany 
of the Saints. At a later stage the professed nun retires to a 
robing room, and reappears, when the prelate puts the ring on 
her finger and the veil on her head, together with a bridal 
wreath. A profession cancels a promise of marriage, and 
unless in the most extreme case, sanctioned by Papal dis- 
pensation, a girl once professed can never return to the world 
or even enter another Order governed by milder rules. In 
some Orders a4>lack pall is spread over the prostrate nuns 
while they make their vows. The formula of reception takes 
place one year anterior to the profession* The postulant 
kneels before the Bishop in a splendid bridal dress, and then 
her hair is cut off. A beautiful sermon on Faith, Hope, and 
Charity by Fr. Burke rendered memorable the reception 
into the Convent of St. Clare, Harold's Cross, of Miss Whelan 
by Dr. Meagher, V.G. This took place on December 19, 
1862, and on February 10 following he preached oh a similar 
occasion, Dr. Meagher, as usual, officiating. 

I accompanied Fr. Burke with a number of pious ladies to the 
profession of a nun at a country convent (observes Canon Pope). They 
seemed so subdued that he deemed it well to rouse them by some 
fantastic performance. Reducing his height, he personated to the 
hfe the liny Vicar General, Dr. Meagher, in the act of receiving a 

novice, and asking the solemn question, * My child, are you ' 

&c. The little falsetto voice in reply was inimitably natural, but 
the fictitious Dr. Meagher was so perfect that I could have sworn it 


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was he who spoke. On the same occasion he gave an admirable 
imitation of the notes of a fiddle d la Paganini. 

The solemn ceremony of a profession always wound up 
with a d^jeunery which Fr. Burke never failed to make most 
enjoyable by his exhaustless fun. One moment he was making 
puzzles to amuse children, the next telling some of the 
strange stories which have been elsewhere described. Sir John 
Lentaigne praised his sermons as very flowery. * No wonder 
rd hG floury* replied Fr. Tom ; 'wasn't my father a baker? ' 

Up to this period, but not after, Fr. Burke prepared his 
sermons. Dr. MacNally, Bishop of Clogher, a prelate who 
earned increased prestige from brilliant antecedents as head of 
' the Dunboyne ' at Maynooth, paid Fr. Burke the compliment 
of asking him to preach on the occasion of blessing a bell in 
his diocese. Fr. Burke, to make his sermons as perfect as 
possible, pressed into the service every point that could 
enhance their effect ; and on receipt of Dr. MacNally's letter 
he procured from Mr. O'Byrne the 'German Anthology of 
Mangan,' merely to see Schiller's lines on the founding of a bell. 
Dr. MacNally had long been famed as a rigid observer of mi- 
nute detail in all church ceremonials ; but in this instance he 
innocently travestied a rite which.under circumstances of less 
difficulty could not have failed to prove imposing. From the 
following statement of the bare facts furnished in writing by 
the highest ecclesiastical authority in the diocese it will be 
guessed how much Fr. Burke made of the materials when at 
Maynooth College, on a social occasion, he described the scene : 

In the summer of 1861 (records the document before us) the 
blessing of the bell of St Mary's Church, Clontibret, took place, the 
officiating prelate being the late Most Rev. Dr. MacNally, who is 
well remembered as a great stickler for the observance of the 
liturgical rubrics. When the Bishop was equipped for the ceremony 
he insisted on going aloft to the tower, where the bell had been 
previously hoisted. Clad in cope and mitre, with pastoral staff in 
hand, he proceeded to squeeze himself up a very narrow staircase and 
afterwards to make the ascent of a high ladder, preceded and followed 


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by a posse of priests and acolytes, including Fr. Tom Burke, who 
was to preach the sermon of the day. The small chamber, already 
half filled by the bell, was so crowded that one of the clergymen 
unfortunately trod on the Bishop's toes, on one of which there was a 
troublesome corn. The Bishop could not repress an audible ex- 
pression of pain, adding that there was no rubric for such acts. 

Here the chanters intoned the proper Antiphon, but were 
summarily pulled up by Dr. MacNally complaining that the note 
was incorrect, and calling on Fr. Burke to set them right Fr. 
Tom then attempted the intonation, but he too was incontinently 
silenced, the Bishop declaring that they were ' all wrong ! all wrong ! ' 
With admirable simplicity Fr. Burke requested his Lordship to give 
them the proper note, whereupon the prelate made some audible 
effort, and the whole affair proceeded as well as could be under 
trying circumstances. 

There was one part of the performance which Dr. Mac- 
Nally did not silence — Fr. Burke s sermon. This mentioned 
how God had commanded Moses to make trumpets of beaten 
silver to announce the passing of the ark. Having eloquently 
dwelt upon the second great purpose of the church bell, the 
daily commemoration of the mystery of the Incarnation by 
the sound of the Angclus, he said that in its familiar chimes 
various emotions would be expressed. It would be busy 
ringing on festivals. In the crisp air of Christmas it would 
gladden their hearts. Easter would be ushered in by its joy- 
ous notes ; not only the feasts of the Church, but their own 
joys and sorrows would find their voice in this tongue of the 
Church. The glad young bride coming to put her virgin hand 
in that of her husband, would rejoice to hear the bell telling 
of two hearts made happy in God. When the aged lay on 
the bed of sickness, feeling that the soul was ebbing into 
eternity, while the terrors of judgment made the agony of 
death well-nigh insupportable, the bell would toll its sad, 
deep note, calling upon all who heard its voice to put up a 
prayer to assist their dying brother ; and when they and their 
children would be laid at the foot of the altar, while the 
Church intoned over them the words, * I am the Resurrection 


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and the Life/ the sad note of the bell tolling in its tower 
would sound like a prayer that He might raise them up 
again. He concluded by telling them to remember that the 
bell would be consecrated by chrism and holy oil, that its voice 
might go forth with the potency of God's blessing upon it to 
dispel the evil phantoms of the air, to scatter the spirits of the 
storm, to shield them from * the business ' that walketh about 
in the dark,' and to save their crops, flocks, and families from 
any devastating angel that might spread its wings above them. 
The MS. before us concludes with a scene hardly of 
sufficient importance to print, but which perhaps ought not 
to be excluded, coming from such a source. The Bishop and 
Fr. Tom left the church together, and as they were taking 
their seats in a carriage observed a cripple seated in a box on 
four wheels drawn by a dog, and appealing loudly for alms. 

• Where are you from ? ' asked Dr. MacNally. * Galway, my 
Lord,' he replied, while Fr. Burke's eyes sparkled to hear it. 

* You should stay at home,' said the prelate. * Your Holiness, 
that wasn't the way the Apostles treated the poor cripple at 
the door of the temple.' * What did they do for him ? * The 
cripple said, after some hesitation, 'Well, your honour, if 
they gave him nothing, I'm sure they did not take the nose 
off" him.' * Good, my Lord,' whispers Fr. Tom ; ' that deserves 
half-a-crown.' The Bishop took the hint, enjoining the man 
to return to Galway as fast as he could. 

* His favourite helps in the preparation of his sermons,' 
writes his former novice, Fr. Power, * were the works of St. 
Thomas, Paolo Segneri, and John Henry Newman.' But 
indeed there never was a man who had less need to prepare. 
The digestive faculty of his mind was most remarkable. He 
had but to skim hurriedly a chapter of the * Summa,* and its 
cream remained ready for immediate use. Proofs of his 
marvellously retentive memory will be found in facts men- 
tioned later on by Fr. Power. 

* Vidt Douay Bible (Psalm xc. 6). In the Anglican version 'pestilence' is 
given instead of * business,' and the Psalm is the 91st. 


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Missionary work, on which Fr. Burke now more fully 
entered, is an authorised crusade to some remote parish with 
the object of arousing the tepid to ardour, and by a succes- 
sion of strong blows putting error to flight. He found that 
sermons often left some snug comer of the conscience un- 
reached, and hence the need of a series of appeals, prayers, 
and meditations searchingly stimulative of penitential feelings. 
Among the fruits of a popular mission are the rekindling of 
faith, the relinquishment of old feuds, the repudiation of criminal 
connections, the re-cementing of separated couples, and the 
restitution of dishonest gains. It cannot be denied that some 
persons confess to the missioner who might hesitate to di- 
vulge to the resident pastor ; and, moreover, missioners are 
armed with powers to deal with cases ordinarily reserved 
for episcopal absolution. If Fr. Burke found it necessary, 
like St. Vincent Ferrar, to rouse by terrifying themes, he 
never failed to reassure in the end with beautiful exordiums 
on the mercy and love of God. These often brought forth 
floods of tears. From the pulpit he would proceed to the 
confessional, and there reap the rich harvest sown by his 
eloquence. The mission generally ended with a renewal of 
baptismal vows, and the dedication of the parish to his early 
patron, the blessed Virgin Mary. All persons well acquainted 
with the scenes of these missions cannot fail to have been 
struck with the changed face of family and parochial life by 
which they are invariably succeeded. 

On the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, Frs. Burke 
and Prendergast, O.P., commenced a good work at Sheffield. 

For the opening ot our new mission (writes Fr. Prendergast) a 
Protestant church of some kind had been obtained at White Cross, 
Sheffield. Fr. Burke and I went there for three weeks ; we had Mass 
at five o'clock a.m. at the new place, and had evening service both 
there and at the parish church daily. Immense crowds attended. 

The mission began with a sermon from Fr. Burke, ex- 
plaining its objects and the means to reach them. There 



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were three discourses each day. Fr. Burke preached en 
death, judgment, hell, intemperance, cursing and blaspheming, 
scandal, &c. The ninth sermon was one of crowning gjrandeur 
— on Heaven — the last on Perseverance and the observance of 
the Ten Commandments. Fr. Burke's first sermons at Sheffield 
during the retreat were at a quarter before five A.M., and 

even then (observes Brother Joseph) a large audience had assembled. 
On the last night of the mission one discourse on the Apostles* Creed 
lasted from seven to a quarter past ten. This was followed by some 
splendid psalmody, in which all the congregation joined. Among 
several remarkable conversions made was that of an infidel with a 
wife and seven children. Previous to this change Burke told the clerk 
that the chief difficulty he found was in providing godfathers and 
godmothers for so large a party. ' Til supply all that,' said the 
clerk, and of course he did so. A tall black man was one of the 
most punctual and exemplary attendants. During the mission Fr. 
Burke, in one of the more sensational sermons which missioners are 
sometimes obliged to introduce, bemoaned that the devil had entered 
into their midst All eyes were immediately turned to the spot where 
the sable stranger stood, much to his own and the preacher's dis- 

Fr. Burke was greatly pleased to see the fruit of his labours, 
especially the number of converts made. Yet God did not 
permit his joy to be full. Years after, when preaching in 
America on the vice of intemperance, he told the following 
painful incident : 

I was on a mission, some years ago, in a manufacturing town in 
England. I was preaching there every evening ; and a man came to 
me one night, after a sermon on drunkenness. He came in— a fine 
man ; a strapping intellectual-looking man. But the eye was almost 
sunk in his head ; the forehead was furrowed with premature wrinkles ; 
the hair was white, though the man was comparatively young. He 
was dressed shabbily, scarce a shoe to his feet, though it was a night 
of drenching rain. He came in to me excitedly, after the sermon. He 
told me his history. * I don't know,' he said, * that there is any hope 
for me ; but still, as I was listening to the sermon, I must speak to 
you. If I don't speak to some one my heart will break to-night.* 
What was his story ? A few years before he had amassed in trade 


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twenty thousand pounds. He had married an Irish girl — one of his 
own race and creed — young, beautiful, and accomplished. He had 
two sons and a daughter. For a certain time everything went on 
well. * At last/ he said, * I had the misfortune to begin to drink : 
neglected my business, and then my business began to neglect me. 
The woman saw poverty coming, and began to fret, and lost her 
health. At last, when we were paupers, she sickened and died. I 
was drunk,* he said, * the day that she died. I sat by her bedside. 
I was drunk when she was dying.* *The sons — what became of 
them?* 'Well,' he said, 'they were mere children. The eldest of 
them is no more than eighteen ; and both are now suffering penal 
servitude.' ' The girl ? ' * Well,' he said, * I sent the girl to a school 
where she was well educated She came home to me at the age of 
sixteen — a beautiful young woman. She was the one consolation 
1 had ; but I was drunk all the time.' * Well, what became of 
her?' He looked at me. *Do you ask me about that girl?' he 
said ; * what became of her ? ' And the man sank at my feet * God 
of heaven ! She is on the streets to-night ! ' The moment he said 
those words he ran out 1 went after him. • Oh, no, no ! * he 
said ; * there is no mercy in heaven for me.' He went away, cursing 
God, to meet a drunkard's death. He had sent a broken-hearted 
mother to the grave ; he sent his two sons to perdition ; he sent his 
only daughter to be a living hell ; and then he died blaspheming God ! 

The Rev. J. P. Prendergast, who was his colleague in this 
memorable mission, is now priest of St. Pancras, Lewes, and 
has been kind enough to write down some details of small 
incidents which grew out of it. 

After the mission Fr. Burke and I went to see the cathedral at 
York. When we had gratified our curiosity and had returned to the 
railway station, and had taken our tickets for Dublin, we met one of 
the English Dominican Fathers on his way from Newcastle to Stone 
to assist next day at the consecration of Mother Margaret's new 
church. He induced us to alter our intentions, and we went on with 
him that night as far as Derby. We put up at an old English inn 
near the Catholic church. We could get but one room in which 
there were only two beds, and, as we were three, it was clear that one 
only could have a bed for himself. It was my fortune to have the 
bed, and Fr. Burke and the other arranged as best they could. 
However, there was very little time for sleep, owing to inexhaustible 
gossip on old times with the Father from Newcastle, who was an old 


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friend. I should have mentioned that soon after our arrival at the 
inn we learned from the crowd and from the light in the windows 
that there was something going on at the church. So we went over 
and found that one of the Fathers from Haverstock Hill was con- 
ducting a short mission, and doing it all himself. We called on the 
parish priest. The Dominican Father had begun the evening service, 
and was giving his instructions, after which he would preach, and 
then give Benediction. Father Burke's arrival was most opportune 
to supply a sermon. The parish priest and the Father from New- 
castle attacked him on the subject, and although I never saw him so 
unwilling to preach, yet he gave way, and the parish priest expressed 
delight that there was such a treat in store for his people. Fr. Burke 
robed himself and retired to a private room to put a few thoughts to- 
gether for the occasion, and we were saying what an agreeable surprise 
it would give the congregation. Meantime the parish priest wrote on a 
slip of paper and sent it out to the Father who was giving the retreat : 
* Fr. Burke is here and will preach the sermon for you.' After a 
few minutes the boy returned with the same slip, on the back of 
which was written, * Thanks ; I will preach myself.' I need not say 
what confusion there was in the camp, and Father Burke was not 
well pleased in being asked to make a fool of himself. But he spoke 
pleasantly of the incident after, and with the Pastor of Aries, said, 
' He who preached himself did more than St. Paul did, who preached 
Christ crucified.' Next day we went on to Stone, assisted at the 
consecration of the church of the Bishop of Birmingham, heard the 
Bishop of Northampton preach, was present at a grand entertain- 
ment in the Town Hall, and then returned to Ireland. 

During the progress of the Sheffield mission, Fr. Burke 
had recruited his energies at intervals by the strange expe- 
dient of making a puppet sailor dance for the housekeeper, 
Mrs. Uttley, and Mr. Stephens, clerk of the church. This 
performance was given on the kitchen flags, when by 
some invisible thread he caused the automaton to dance 
every form of jig and reel to the music of his own oral 
whistle. Mr. Stephens became so much charmed by Fr. 
Burke that he followed him to Ireland and entered under 
him as a lay novice at Tallaght He is now well known as 
Brother Joseph, attached to the Dominican house in Dublin. 
It may be explained that, as female servants are ex- 


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eluded from monasteries, all domestic services are dis- 
charged by lay brothers. The success of the rehearsals just 
referred to led Fr. Burke to give on his return to Ireland 
several performances of the dancing man. He originally got 
it from a friend whom Fr. Burke always called * Puss White/ 
and who lived under the ' Hell Fire Club/ near Tallaght. 
Between this wonderful story-teller and Burke the closest 
intimacy subsisted. He had largely derived the tales 
from his grandfather, Bumbo White, and T. O'Mara. Mr. 
White tells us that the first time he introduced the dancing 
man at a clerical gathering, a priest, utterly confounded by 
the trick, and failing to make the automaton move on being 
challenged, traced with his thumb a cross over the mysterious 
thing — possibly not uninfluenced in his suspicion by the 
/aca/e from whence it hailed. The rapidity with which * Puss 
White ' could change his dress and assume strange characters 
charmed the kindred spirit of our genial friar. White had 
been at school with Gustavus V. Brooke, when he probably 
first acquired his Thespian taste. 

On Montpelier Hill, near Tallaght, stands the old struc- 
ture wherein the meetings of the ' Hell Fire Club ' once held 
sway. Fr, Burke when one day taking his novices for a walk 
over the hill showed them the house to which on a tem- 
pestuous night he had been summoned to the bedside of a 
dying Christian. Their ramble becoming interrupted by a 
shower, all entered this house for shelter, and Fr. Burke was 
^ soon recognised with passionate exclamations of gratitude and 
delight by the mother of his former penitent. 

In May 1863, Fr. Burke entered on a mission at St. 
Wilfrid's, Hulme, Manchester, in which he received most 
valuable assistance from the Very Rev. J. T. Towers, now 
Provincial O.P., and Fr. Albert Buckler, an eminent English 
Dominican at Haverstock Hill. * After this date/ writes Fr. 
Towers, * he gradually fell off from mission work, the calls 
upon him for charity sermons becoming so incessant' 


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When engaged in conducting those missions the voice of 
the friar preacher reached many a seared conscience. Men 
might be there who had committed sins worse than those 
that brought the deluge of fire upon the cities of Pentapolis. 
Such men were reminded that if they had violated the laws 
of this world as they had outraged the laws of God — if they 
had insulted human society as they had insulted the Lord 
Jesus — if their iniquities were only taken cognisance of by 
an earthly tribunal — how heavily they would be dealt with. 
They would perhaps be dragged from their firesides by the 
arm of justice and taken publicly through the streets, every 
eye peering curiously, every hand upraised. Possibly the 
criminal might be flung into a prison, and, after days and 
days of waiting and anxiety, again find himself in the open 
court. The world would be called on to bear testimony of 
his crime. No feeling of his would be spared, nor durst he 
shrink into a corner to hide his guilty head. In his transit to 
the prison he might be exposed to the groans of the multi- 
tude previous to being disposed of as the world deals with its 

But (he would sometimes add — substituting the lamb for the lion) 
if this sinner appear before the Son of God and say, * Saviour Judge, 
let us enter into judgment,* Christ takes him by the hand, wards off 
the crowd, brings him into a secret tribunal, calls no witnesses against 
him, allows no finger of shame to be pointed, listens to what he has 
to say against himself. He says, * Speak, my son, and speak freely.* 
He speaks his deeds of shame, it is true, in the ears of man. That 
man is there as the representative of the Lord Jesus, Whose mercy 
he is about to minister. He hears the whispered word. It must not 
be heard by the Angel of Mercy who is there, but only by the sinner 
and the priest of Christ That word falls upon the priest's ear ; for 
a moment it enters into his mind, and in a moment it passes 
away — ^just as on a calm summer evening some person takes a 
pebble and flings it into the bosom of a deep, placid lake ; for an 
instant there is a ripple, the waters close, and no human eye shall 
ever see it again. So, for an instant, the sound of the sin makes but 
a ripple upon the mind of the priest, thrills for an instant, and passes 
Into the unfathomable ocean of the merciful heart of Christ The 


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waters of His mercy close over it, and that sin is gone — ^gone for 
ever ! Not eye of angel, not eye of man, nor eye of God at the hour 
of judgment shall ever look upon it again ; for the blood of Jesus 
Christ has fallen upon it and washed it away. How little it costs the 
priest to say, ' I absolve thee in the name of the Father, Son, and 
Holy Ghost' How little it costs the sinner ! Scarcely a humilia- 
tion. If, indeed, a man had to proclaim his confession, and make 
it publicly ; if a man had to make it before the faithful, on a Sun- 
day, as all the people come crowding in to Mass ; even then, if such 
a confession would obtain pardon for me, great God, would it not be 
a great boon to be able to purchase such a grace even at such a cost 
— nay, even at the ruin of my character ? It would be cheap, con- 
sidering what I got in return. If the law of Almighty God said to 
the sinner, * I will bring thee to the stake — and only at the last 
moment, when the last drop of life's blood is coming from that 
broken heart— then, and only then, will I absolve thee.' Would it 
not be cheaply purchased — this pardon of God, this grace of God, 
this eternity of God's joy in heaven — even by the rendering of the 
last drop of our blood ? But no ! Full of love, full of commisera- 
tion, Christ comes to us with mercy, sparing every feeling of the 
sinner, making every difficult thing smooth, trying to anticipate, by 
His sweetness, all the humiliation and all the pain, shrouding all 
under that wonderful veil of secrecy which has never for an instant 
been rent since the Church was founded ; and in the end it is the 
only tribunal where, when a man is found guilty, the sole sentence 
pronounced is one of acquittal. In other tribunals he receives his 
punishment. In that of penitence, all a man has to say is, ' Of 
these am I guilty before my God, with sorrow I confess them ! ' The 
only sentence is, 'You are acquitted ; go in peace.' 

It was about this time that the Rev. J. P. Prendergast and 
Fr. Burke conducted a mission for a fortnight at the parish 
church, Navan. 

But still more important work (writes Fr. Prendergast) was the 
mission at Crosskeys, Co. Cavan, where with four other Fathers 
we laboured for four weeks. We lodged at the house of a very 
good old gentleman who was the cause of much amusement during 
the mission, and who was a great admirer of the Sovereign Pon- 
tiff, and particularly of Fr. Burke, but who very often failed to 
carry his admiration so far as to go through snow and frost about a 
mile to hear him. On these occasions he was always most anxious 


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to cover his absence by marked praise of the sermon. When 
we would be coming to his house from the church, no matter 
what the time, he would meet us with a glass and the brandy 
bottle, and say, * Well, now, Fr. Burke, you're lost ; a little of 
this will do you good.* Then, when each in turn declined the at- 
tention, he would say, * Ah, you are not wise ; ' and, taking it 
himself, exclaim, * Here's to the health of the good holy Father ! ' 
Particularly on the occasions when he remained at home he would 
say on our return, * By the virtue of my solemn oath (this was a 
favourite expression), Fr. Burke, you are the greatest preacher in 
Ireland.' When asked how he liked the sermon, he said, * You sur- 
passed yourself to-day; the devil such a sermon was ever preached 
before in Ireland.' I need not tell you how Fr. Burke would adroitly 
draw out the old gentleman, and what a constant source of amuse- 
ment all this was during our recreation and rest from our hard work.* 

Fr. Prendergast adds that he has not an idea as to the 
date of the mission at Crosskeys ; this will be found sup- 
plied in the following portion of the ' Recollections * which 
the Bishop of Kilmore has kindly placed at our disposal : 

The Crosskeys mission, parish of Denn, diocese of Kilmore 
(writes his Lordship), took place in October 1862. It may well be said, 
without any reflection on the good zealous Fathers who were with him, 
that Burke was indeed the very soul of it. The late Rev. Patrick 
Gib-oy was parish priest then of Denn, and lived in the remote 
hamlet of Crosskeys. Gilroy was a low-sized, guileless man, who 
had a very high idea of himself and his people, and who said a 
thousand good things without being conscious of it. It is quite a 
common thing in Kilmore yet to say, * As Fr. Gilroy would put it' 
Burke enjoyed Gilroy very much, and drew him out wonderfully. 
* I tell you, Fr. Burke,' said Gilroy, after the mission, * it was the Denn 
mission that made a man of you ; ' intimating that Burke had been 
quite an obscure monk till he had the good fortune to be sent to the 
Crosskeys mission. Gilroy ever after remained a 'character' in 
Fr. Tom's eyes. Whenever he visited Kilmore afterwards he would 
not be happy without Gilroy, and to see Gilroy was enough to set him 
off in a kink of laughter. In October 1868, Fr. Burke preached in 
our Cathedral, in aid of the orphanage attached to Poor Clare Convent, 
Cavan. Of course the sermon was a great success in every sense, 

» Letter of the Rev. J. P. Prendergast, St. Pancras, Lewes, March 4, 1884. 


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BISHOP conaty's recollections. 219 

and a large party— lay and cleric — was invited to dinner, which 
came off in the refectory of the school. As in duty bound, 
according to the good old custom, I gave the health of the distin- 
guished preacher when the cloth was removed. Burke responded 
in his own felicitous way, beginning in a low tone, and looking very 
serious all the while. As he got on with his speech, glancing down 
to where Father Gilroy was sitting, he said that his sermon would 
not have been half such a success were it not for the presence of the 
good parish priest of Denn, whom he happened to see in the church. 
The very sight of him had actually inspired him. Gilroy's name was 
almost as well known in Rome as in Cavan ; for everywhere Burke 
went he hung some racy anecdote on his name J 

' Denn's Theology ' was of course among the chaff with 
which Burke plied poor Gilroy. 

Fr. Burke took a special interest in the diocese of Kil- 
more. At one time the Bishop of Kilmore was the only 
Catholic prelate in all Ireland. 

The infirmities of Dr. Browne, the venerable occupant of 
this see, led him in 1863 to call for the help of a coadjutor, 
A feeling prevailed that his choice ought to fall on the great 
preacher who had just won golden opinions in Cavan, and we 
learn from the Galway priests that they were anxious to see 
Burke wear its mitre. But Burke himself was more desirous 
to wear the cap and bells for the amusement of his novices 
in hours of play, and was sincerely happy when, on May 24, 
1863, Dr. Conaty accepted the burden. 

Canon Burke, the late Pastor of Saggard, was a man 
of formal manners and aspiring social tendencies. He was 
almost the only priest who attended the Viceregal levies^ and 
had the honour of receiving at his table the Commander 
of the Forces, Lord Strathnaim, and the Chief Secretary 
for Ireland. He liked ceremony, and expected, if he did 
not openly require, its observance. Part of Tallaght was 
under his jurisdiction. Canon Burke announced a visit to 

» Letter of the Lord Bishop of Kilmore, Cullies House, Cavan, to the Author, 
May 6, 1884. 


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the convent by command. Father Tom, with his usual love 
of fun, organised a band of boys, who, as the parochus 
advanced, struck up * See, the conquering hero comes ! ' They 
were not very conspicuously posted, and their instruments 
seemed to consist of every imaginable sort, from the sack- 
but to a jews-harp. A rather effective noise was produced and 
favourably impressed the visitor, who, innocent of the science 
of music himself, was easily played upon by others. What 
seemed a fiddle, bagpipes, &c., were doubtless vocal sounds 
produced by Fr. Tom himself. The delicacy and danger of 
the experiment gave additional zest to the performance of it. 
This canon, irreproachable in the discharge of his priestly 
functions, was even stern and sometimes querulous. Curates 
regarded Saggard as Purgatory, and would have preferred to 
receive an appointment to Siberia. One false note might 
have betrayed the trick and led to irksome consequences. 

The Rev. W. H. Anderdon, whose face was quite a sermon 
in itself, had been for some years a very popular preacher in 
the church of the Catholic University, Dublin, Dr. Newman 
being its rector. On the retirement of Fr. Anderdon to 
England, to which he was naturally attached by birth and 
belongings, for Dr. Manning was his uncle, Fr. Burke took 
his place in the pulpit. Here he introduced that class of 
discourse known as Conferences, whereby Lacordaire and 
Monsabr6 had enchained audiences in Notre Dame. Fr. 
Burke never saw Lacordaire ; but the Dean of the Catholic 
University, who had been listening to Lacordaire for years in 
Paris, was greatly struck by Burke's resemblance to him as a 
preacher. Lacordaire, he says, used such graceful action that 
when his exquisitely fashioned hands would emerge from 
beneath his habit all regarded it with pleasure ; and the same 
remark applies to Fr. Burke. Our Dominican's Advent Con- 
ferences at this time, mainly on the Eight Beatitudes, have 
been published in America. Of the second — one peculiarly 
his own — he said : 


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The Christian must be not only a man of faith, living for Divine 
purposes, influenced by supernatural motives, grasping at the in- 
visible beneath the forms of things that appear ; but he must also 
be imbued with the virtue of meekness. 

It is the opinion of a sound critic, Mr. W. K. Sullivan, then 
Professor in the Catholic University, and afterwards President 
of the Queen's College, Cork, that Fr. Burke's sermons at 
this time greatly surpassed the orations which, when he 
became more famous, he delivered in Cork. 

He was now Prior of Tallaght, but his activity outside was 
not hampered by the cares of government. From March 2 
to 30, 1 863, we find him daily preaching in the church of 
the Catholic University ; at other times attracting large 
audiences in the old Dominican Chapel, Denmark Street. 

Time was when from timidity or other causes he preached 
' with eyes shut. The face of each edified listener now became 
familiar to him. 

There is a third motive for our joy this morning. May I, 
dearly beloved, in this, which I may call the closing day of our Lent, 
congratulate those whom T see before me I The constant attendance 
of many amongst you during the last forty evenings has made your 
faces familiar to me. Over these countenances have I seen from 
time to time the expression, now of sorrow, now of joy, but always 
one of sympathy with Jesus Christ. Of this am I a witness, and on 
this do I congratulate you. If it be true that the Christian man is, 
indeed, a man in whom Christ lives, according to the words of the 
Apostle, * I live no longer, I, but Christ lives within me ; ' then, 
according to His words, you are lost to yourselves, you are dead, 
and your life is hidden with Christ in God. If, then, the Christian 
man be the man in whom Christ lives, well may I felicitate you 
upon every emotion of joy and of sorrow that has passed through 
your hearts and over your faces during these forty blessed days ; 
because these emotions were the gift of Christ, and the evidence of 
the life of Christ in you, and of your familiarity with Christ's image. 
May I congratulate you on a good confession and a fervent commu- 
nion ? May I, in heart and spirit, bow down before every man 
amongst you to day, as a man who holds in his bosom Jesus Christ ; 
as a man whose heart is not an empty tomb, like that in the garden 


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outside Jerusalem ; not occupied merely by an angel, but whose 
heart is the sanctuary wherein the glorified Saviour dwells this day? 

The Dominicans at Tallaght, unlike secular priests, recite 
the Divine Office together in choir every morning ; but it occa- 
sionally happened that Fr. Burke, owing to special engage- 
ments, failed to join his brethren, and therefore was obliged 
to read it alone. All priests are bound to repeat the Office 
daily, under pain of mortal sin ; but among their various 
duties it is not easy to grasp this observance at hours perhaps 
best suited for its study. Hence it is that a priest engaged 
in reading his Office in a train or along some rural road, as 
he walks, is an object familiar among us. 

Any one single passage of the Scriptures (observes Fr. Burke) 
represents, in a few words, a portion of the infinite wisdom of God. 
Consequently, any one sentence of those inspired writings should 
furnish the Christian mind with sufficient matter for thought for 
many a long day. Now we priests are obliged, every day of our 
lives, to recite a large portion of the inspired Word of God in the 
form of prayer. Never was there a greater mistake than to suppose 
that Catholics do not read the Scriptures. All the prayers that we 
priests have to say — seven times a day approaching the Almighty^ 
are all embodied in the words of Holy Writ ; and not only are we 
obliged to recite them as prayers, but we are also obliged to make 
them the subject of our daily and our constant thought 

Fr. Burke having been detained at a long church service 
in Dublin, sought fresh air on the outside of the omnibus 
which ran part of the way to Tallaght. His Breviary was soon 
produced, and he was deep in its contents when an eminent 
manufacturer of aerated waters — an Evangelical — having 
joined the other passengers on the top, felt privileged to 
read him a lecture. 'The Lord tells us, sir,* he said, 
' that when you pray you should not be as the hypocrites 
who love to pray in public, and at the corners of streets, 
that they may be seen by men. Now,' he added, ' when / 
pray, I enter into my closet, and when I have shut the door, 


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I pray in secret/ alluding of course to our Lord's words 
(St. Matthew vi. 6). Without looking up, Fr. Burke replied 
aloud, ' Yes, and then you come on the top of an omnibus 
and tell everyone all about it ! ' 

When they again met it was inside. Mr. , on enter- 
ing, said, * It's as hot as Purgatory.' A general titter followed. 
' So you believe in Pulsatory ? ' said Fr. Burke. * Not I, 
indeed,' responded the polemic disdainfully. Fr. Tom, with 
a solemn face but a twinkling eye, retorted, * Well, if you 
won't believe in Purgatory you may go to hell.' For an in- 
stant the other waxed indignant, but, catching the real mean- 
ing of his reprover, laughed heartily. A new Prior, however, 
who had succeeded Fr. Tom, and happened to be also in the 
car, failed to see the wit of the alternative offered, and 
enjoined him by his vow of holy obedience to be silent. 

Fr. Burke's final interview with his tormentor belongs to a 
more advanced period, but is inserted the more readily because 
it furnishes an amicable sequel. 

There was a novice who began his course with Fr. Burke 
in 1857, but whose theological progress, owing to sickness 
and other causes, was so much retarded that, when Fr. Burke 
returned Prior to Tallaght, he found the same man still a 
novice under him, Burke, chagrined by this and other wor- 
ries, one day sought the calming influence of the open air 
by travelling on the omnibus. He again took out his book, 
feeling that he was as much entitled to read travelling as the 
man mentioned in the Acts who, * sitting in his chariot, read 

Esaias the prophet* He was again twitted by Mr. , 

who, full of religious zeal, seemed constantly on the watch 
for him. The friar paid no heed. At last, one remark 
more pointed than the rest was followed by another to the 
effect that Fr. Burke evidently did not know him. * I know 
you too well,' he replied. 'You are the windy water-maker.' 

Mr. replied, 'You are in anger with me, and if this 

heavily laden 'bus were now to capsize, it would not be well 


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for you.* Fr. Burke gave him his hand, and we believe that 
they never met again. 

To the last he was fond of the top of a tram bound for 
some rural or marine suburb, and of returning by the same 
conveyance. It required courage on his part to do this, for 
some ascetics think that a position of such prominence is ill- 
chosen by a priest. Fr. Burke was amused by an incident 
which occurred at this time. The Vicar-General, afterwards 
Cardinal MacCabe, observing Fr. Dan O'Keefe, of St. Paul's, 
perched in the situation described, wrote to * Dear Keefe ' 
suggesting that in future he should travel inside the vehicle. 
O'Keefe, who was a rough diamond, replied, * Dear Cabe, I 
have often seen you on the top of a horse. Get thee hence- 
forth inside the animal.* 

Within the Order or outside it Fr. Burke's sense of the 
ludicrous was ever sensitively ready to be tickled. 

A big strapping fellow fromWaterford (writes Fr. Power, one of the 
novices) was presented for the reception of the habit. When led to 
the altar steps by Fr. Burke (then Master of Novices), the postulant 
was asked by the Provincial what religious name he desired to 
assume. In a strong thick brogue the good young fellow answered, 
* Joachim, Father,' which he pronounced very emphatically, * Choke 
hitn^ Father,^ It went very hard on Father Tom to repress a broad 
smile at the idea suggested by the big lay brother.^ 

1 The district round TaUaght was his world. Its pastor, who had done 
good work in his day, had now become effete ; and this inertia greatly struck our 
preaching Friar, so full of life and energy. This priest was informed by his 
Bishop that really he must preach. Novices and others were amused by Fr. 
Burke's portrayal of the old man trying to do so, but coughs and expectoration 
were the result of the effort. The Archbishop told him to get a book and read 
an Instruction to the People. Fr. Burke said that thereupon he bought an old 
book called the * Mirror of the True Religious ; or, the Glories of the Mission. * 
Our Friar created much amusement by personating the old pastor, doubled up with 
lumbago, and reading aloud the * Mirror/ whilst an acolyte held a candle to assist 
him. * St. Francis lived on bread and water *— (groan) — * and slept on the floor * 
— (groan)— ' and when the saints had to do so much to save their souls, how much 
more ought ye to do ? * 

The reflections of the 'Mirror* were marked by rigorism, and it was men- 
tioned that for a priest to break silence before Mass was a mortal sin. ' He did 


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Tallaght in the month of May appears at its best. 
Not a day now passed that he did not preach among the green 
trees to the people, or address ' Ferverinos ' to his novices. 
One of his sermons on Mary, delivered in America, glances 
through a vista of the past : 

Oh, when I think of the women that I have met in the dear old 
land of faith ! the women oppressed from one cause or from another 1 
— some with sickness in the house ; some with, perhaps, a dissolute 
son ; some with a drunken husband ; or the fear of impending calamity 
— how often have I seen them coming to me in the month of 
May, and, brightening up, say, * Thank God, the month is come ! I 
know she in heaven will pray for me, and that my prayers shall be 
heard 1 ' And I have seen them so often come before the end of 
I he month, to tell me with joy in their eyes that the Mother heard 
their prayer ; then was I reminded of the mysterious cloud that broke 
out in the heavens and rained down the saving rain. One have I 
before me, whom I knew and loved, a holy nun who for more than 
fifty years had served God in angelic purity and heroic sacrifice. 
For seven months she was confined to a bed of suffering that 
deepened into agony. And during those months her prayer to God 
was to increase her pain ; not to let her leave the world until one 
whom she loved dearly, and who was leading a reckless life, should 
be converted unto God. Weeks passed, and month followed 
month, and frequently did I sit at the bedside of my holy friend. 
That time she spent upon the cross, truly, with Christ. But when the 
first day of May came I knelt down by her bedside, to cheer her with 
prayer and sympathy. She said, * I feel that the month is come that 
will bring me joy. It is Mary's month, the month when prayer 
grows most powerful in heaven.* Before it was over he for whom 
she prayed was converted to God. The sacrifice of suffering was 
accepted, and she who began the month in sorrow ended it with joy. 
His sacred graces are poured out at the instance of Mary's prayer. 
They will produce to-day the flower and leaf of promise.* 

As Fr. Burke's undying devotion to Mary is constantly 
found asserting itself in his life, it may be well to inform some 

nut know till long after,* said Fr. Burke, * that the book had been condemned by 
the Council of Trent* 

But there can be little doubt that inaU this he was amusing his novices with a 
scene more likely to take place than one which had actually occurred. 

» * Divine Faith the Principle of Christian Life,* Brooklyn, Oct. 29, 1872. 

vol* I. Q 


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readers who do not belong to his Church that it never ap- 
proached ' Latria/ or divine honour. Preaching at St. Vincent 
Ferrer's, New York, on May i, 1872, he asked, * Is it lawful for 
you or me to kneel down and adore the Blessed Virgin Mary, 
the mother of God > No. Adoration belongs to God alone.' 
He was never happier than when joining on Corpus Christi 
in the splendid Office of the Blessed Sacrament — ^almost the 
last work of Thomas Aquinas. 

Not only must the grandeur and truth of their religion be ever 
brought home to Catholics (says Fr. Burke), but their duties must be 
constantly put before them, the laws of God and of the Church 
explained to them in practical detail and homely example; the 
various emotions of joy and sorrow frequently aroused, conscience 
kept alive by remonstrance and reproof, and appealed to by the 
arguments of their faith ; error, danger, and sin detected and de- 
nounced ; access to the Sacraments rendered easy j the services of 
the Church made attractive; and interest in the things of God 
excited in the hearts of alL' 

The lay correspondent who has already given us a glimpse 
of Fr. Burke at Tallaght writes that — 

He was seen to even more advantage at what he called ' func- 
tions ' than in the pulpit — such as the blessing of the great bell at 
Tallaght ; processions in the * Friars' Walk,' where still stands the 
granite socket of an ancient cross. At the May processions an altar 
was erected beneath a canopy of trees on a natural eminence, to 
which the Blessed Sacrament was carried and benediction given, the 
priests and novices chanting litanies and little girls in white scattering 
rose leaves. The people knelt on both sides of the * Friars' Walk.' 
I remember once a poetical friend whispering to me, * See, the daisies 
bend their heads as the procession passes, and now see, they bend 
their heads the other way as it returns.' Fr. Thomas was a great 
stickler for the minutiae of the * functions,' and if he could not have 
them with all the pomp and observances of San Clemente or the 
Minerva, he exerted himself unsparingly in trying to carry them out 
even to the smallest detail (which he loved to tell had a deep mystic 
meaning) with the means at his disposal. He playfully told me that 
he hoped he'd go to heaven some time, and that functions would be 
continually going on there. Many a time in his poor little chapel at 

* Sennon at Pro-Cathedral, Dublin, Nov, 27, 1878. 


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Tallaght he'd preach to his confraternities and small audience as 
carefully, as fervently, and as earnestly as if his congregation were 
vast, mixed, and critical. Unspoiled by fame, there was as little 
* self,' beyond his actual personality, in the last sermon he preached at 
Tallaght in 1883 as in the first in 1855. ^ would sometimes say a 
flattering word to him after hearing one of these grand discourses, 
and he'd reply, * I suppose I am becoming a talking machine,' and 
then very quickly change the subject to something pleasant and not 
over-profound ; then there would be the merry laugh and passing 
jest, bright as the flash of the firefly. 

This, however, anticipates. Tallaght is a secluded spot, and 
somewhat inaccessible to visitors. Our correspondent's de- 
tails, though trivial, may be given, because the outer world 
knew nothing of the scenes he described. During the delivery 
of the discourses to which he above refers, Fr. Burke noted 
every face to such purpose that when he next saw some 
cloistered .sisters whom he highly esteemed he would amui?e 
them by mimicking every yawn, every squint, every wheezy 
cough that marked his lowly audience. To another favoured 
few he depicted one ragged old crone in the body of the 
chapel, who never ceased scratching her chest and diving her 
hand into the same region to bring forth a lozenge which she 
placed in her mouth. The same crone one day, in her ad- 
miration of the preacher, offered him, as he left the chapel, 
some of these sweetmeats. 

At St. Mary's, Tallaght, a pyramid formed from the 
vertebrae of a whale adorned one of the wide walks. It was a 
legacy from the Protestant archbishops who had lived there. 
Towards the close of one Lent, when people were beginning 
to tire of fish diet, a party of visitors turned in to inspect 
the fine grounds attached to the convent. 

They came upon Fn Burke, who was strolling along in a meditative 
mood (writes the Rev. G. D. Power). ' Father,' asked one, * would you 
be so kind as to tell us what those huge bones represent ?* * Certainly, 
ma'am. Those are the remains of the Wonderful Whale which Jonas 
swallowed — ^a terrible fellow for fish.' Not one of the parly noticed 
the inversion of the Bible story. 



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The following, given on the authority of a priest who 
witnessed the incident, reminds one of the acts recorded of 
Lacordaire. We tell it with hesitation ; but we feel fortified 
by the words of the P^re Chocame, O.P., the biographer of 
Lacordaire : 

Ought we not simply and frankly to tell the truth at all risks? 
... It seems worthier of the man whose victories we are relating. 
Why should we not now have the courage to tell and the public to 
hear of those things which he had the courage to do ? 

At a raffle held for a charitable purpose the prize offered 
was a silver teapot. During the drawing the name of a rich 
priest peeped forth as the winner, and Fr. Burke, on the spur 
of the moment, said, * Oh, what does he want with it } — draw 
again.' Late that night the novices heard loud knocks, and 
these were to summon them to an adjoining room, in order 
to hear an avowal which their master wished to make. He 
then publicly reproached himself with what he had done, and, 
kneeling down, required the novices to approach him in suc- 
cession., and for his penance and humiliation to place their 
right foot upon his neck. 

From 'grave to gay,' was his daily programme. 

From every class may be gathered traits of the man. 
A gardener at Tallaght tells that on one occasion after 
Father Tom had got his tonsure shaved, and was leaving 
the barber's house, he met at the door a swain who wanted 
to get his hair dressed for a walk with his sweetheart. 
* Take care how you go in there, or you may be treated bar- 
barously,' Fr. Burke said. * See what he has just done to me.' 
The youth, scared by the shorn spot to which Fr. Burke 
pointed, went away resolving to make his conquest without 
the vain aid he had contemplated. 

A reporter, gifted with graphic power in description, but 
who had never mastered the science of stenography, had long 
been attached to a leading journal. Whenever Fr. Burke 
preached he waited on him with a request to commit to 


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writing an abstract of his sermon. A brother Dominican has 
often seen him start, when prostrate after the labours of the 

day, on hearing the announcement that Mr. was below. 

He would rather make a pilgrimage with peas in his shoes 
to Lough Dearg than re-travel with pen the ground orally 
gone over ; * it took more out of him/ he said, * than half 
a dozen sermons.' But he was so amiable that he would 
generally do violence to his feelings and act as desired. It 
was about this time that the services of Father Burke were 
enlisted to preach at St. Catherine's, Meath Street, on the 
occasion of opening a new organ. A most interesting sermon 
was expected, and Fr. Burke had previously promised to pre- 
pare a vigorous outline for the reporter. The discourse 
surpassed expectation, and at its conclusion the preacher was 
informed that the pressman awaited the MS. But Fr. Burke 
had forgotten all about it, and declared to his dismay that he 
could not possibly find time to supply it even then. Matters 
were beginning to look awkward, when the Rev. James Daniel 
undertook to represent to the preacher that if no report ap- 
peared next day it would occasion comment and possibly cost 
the reporter his place. * I have now to go to Rathfarnham to 
hear the confessions of the nuns,' replied Fr. Burke, * and as I 
must return here by six to meet the parish priest and his guests 
at dinner, you will see that with every disposition to oblige 
it is wholly impossible.' The tact of Fr. Daniel smoothed 
the difficulty. He proposed to follow Fr. Burke by car to 
Loretto, and there to take down from his lips a rUhauff^ of 
the sermon that had just delighted Dublin. The preacher 
assented. Fr. Daniel repaired to Rathfarnham. There, in a 
few detached intervals between the confessions he heard, and 
the whispered instructions offered, Fr. Burke, in a room 
usually allotted to his use, re-delivered to empty chairs the 
coveted oration. Next morning * Fr. Burke's last sermon,' 
strengthened in its process of regeneration, was duly given 
to the world. 


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* I heard something in your last sermon which I never 
heard before/ a prelate once said ; but when asked what it 
was, replied, * I heard the clock strike twice.' Instead of 
delicate hints like this it is customary in some churches to 
sound an alarm bell whenever any of the curates whose turn 
it was to preach exceeded the limits prescribed by the Council 
of Trent. On the occasion of one of Burke's finest sermons 
in Meath Street, an active cleric, opining that he had spoken 
long enough, disconcerted eveiyone, except the preacher, by 
sounding the alarm. 

He had been advertised to preach at Blackrock, near 
Dublin, and, being the season when people frequent the seaside, 
a great audience gathered. The hour arrived, but not the 
preacher. At last a carriage dashed over the gravel into the 
chapel-yard. Fr. Burke hastily explained how he had been 
finishing a retreat at Rathfarnham. But a bishop who offi- 
ciated at a function with which it wound up had illustrated the 
saying, * Great people move slowly.' And had not Mr. Talbot 
Power placed his blood horses at Fr. Burke's disposal there 
would have been no sermon at Blackrock that day. 

In a small bright room off the Loretto Chapel, Fr. Burke 
heard for many years the confessions of the nuns. He sat in a 
plain oak chair with his back to what was seemingly a partition, 
but which consisted of a cross-barred brass lattice, within which 
was stretched and secured a large sheet of green silk. Through 
this rigid barrier the person who knelt behind could not be 
recognised. The community embraces at least one hundred 
nuns and novices. Three whispered words from each * peni- 
tent'— as even saints in confession are technically styled — 
sufficed to tell Fr. Burke which of his spiritual children was 
there. Each particular case, with all its little joys and 
sorrows, he knew as thoroughly as though it were his own ; 
and the aged nun who told us this adds that in six words he 
was able to afford as much consolation and counsel as would 
take any ordinary confessor half an hour. 


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It was about this time that Fr. Burke first undertook the 
perilous game of mimicking Cardinal Cullen. On the first 
occasion that he attempted it he was rather taken aback by the 
Cardinal suddenly coming behind him, asking, * Whose speech 
was this ? ' Fr. Burke in reply muttered something about the 
Bishop of Peterborough. 'And what does he say?' 'He 
says he has got no dogma, my Lord.' * * And he's right/ 
proceeded the Cardinal, turning away satisfied. Later on his 
Eminence became so fond of Burke that the latter could take 
what liberties he liked with him. ' Come up here, Fr. Burke, 
and tell some of your funny stories,' was almost a stereo- 
typed invitation when dinner and grace had concluded. But 
Burke held his head higher than that of the mere Court jester ; 
and his opinion was often invited on questions of gravity. 
Fr. Burke, in his panegyric on Cardinal Cullen— at the Pro- 
Cathedral, Dublin — described 'his days spent in labour of 
mind and body with scarcely a shadow of relaxation, nights 
of which the greater part was given to toil, prayer, and study.' 
And in the same sermon he referred to ' his cheerfulness and 
joyousness, which is the inheritance of the pure of heart.' 

Fr. Burke would sing for the Archbishop several songs, 
part of whose piquancy was due to the fact that the author 

» Fr. Burke, in his lecture on * The Promise of Christ FulfiUed,* says that 
the bishop's words were, ' It is the proudest boast of our Church of England that 
she has no dogma '~that is to say, no fixed form of opinion. ' I do not harbour a 
thought^ much less express it, ' added Burke, ' which would be painful or dis- 
respectful to any man.' 


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always refused to supply a copy of the words. These included 
* The Lower Castle Yard/ and a song illustrating the results 
of a proselytising lady's crusade. At Kingstown there is 
an institute called * The Bird's Nest ' : 

Her child she sold for paltry gold, 

To Kingstown he did go, ma'am, 
From the mother's breast to the vulture's nest. 

The robin will soon be a crow, ma'am. 

Another lyric was devoted to recording the vicissitudes of 
a cook, ' Hanna McGorman.' This wild doggerel was set to 
a most peculiar tune which seemed to include three airs. In 
singing it Fr. Burke was at his best. The climax went on to 
record, if we correctly remember : 

As she rode into Tralee town 

Upon a horse of high renown, 
The night being dark she sliddered down 

And fell behind a tradesman. 

One evening Dr. CuUen, in his usual matter-of-fact 
manner, asked, * And what became of her then ? ' * Oh, she 
went into the workhouse and died, my Lord.' * I hope she 
received the last rites of the Church,' the Archbishop said, in 
a half-abstracted way, and true to official instincts. Having 
heard * Hanna McGorman ' on a subsequent occasion sung» 
he said, * That is a very strange song ; it has neither beginning 
nor end to it.' All who knew this great hierarch will pardon 
these traits of his simplicity. 

The song called *The Lower Castle Yard,' which Fr. 
Burke used to sing for Cardinal Cullen, was written under the 
following circumstances. A printer of Quilp-like aspect, named 
Nugent, published for many years in Cook Street an almanac 
highly seditious in tone and filled with strictures on Dublin 
Castle, the seat of Viceregal government. He was at last 
summoned to show cause why information should not be 
taken against him, and returned for trial. Then it was that 


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the melancholy muse was wooed by a supposed street ballad- 
si n^jer. 

* Oh, VVirra ! Wirrasthrue,' says she, 
' Sure Dublin's noblest bard 
Is tuck before his tyrants 
In the Lower Castle Yard.' 

The prisoner s counsel, Mr. Curran, however, having offered 
to give sureties for his client's appearance if the Crown desired 
to continue the prosecution, the proposal was agreed to, and 
Mr. Porter, the police magistrate, dismissed the case. 

So good luck to Frank Thorpe Porter, 

That expounder of the laws. 
Likewise to Adye Curran, 

Who was counsel in the cause. 
They tanned the hide of long Whiteside 

And did him disregard, 
And freed our printer from his fangs. 

In the Lower Castle Yard. 

A Viceregal A.D.C. drove up to Nugent's door in Cook 

Street, and asked for a copy of this song. * Go to ,' was 

the reply, naming a region even less inviting than Cook 
Street. * I that have defied three Governments in their 
efforts to snuff me out, am I to be bearded in my den by a 
flunkey like you ? ' 

Authentic stories are told of Fr. Tom's practical joking, 
before which the pranks of Hook and Lever pale. An 
American Bishop arrived at Cork in the midst of the fuss 
incidental to the opening of a new bridge. Travelling by rail 
to Dublin, desiring information regarding the country through 
which he passed, and having but a few days at his disposal to 
see it, his Lordship addressed himself to a solemn-looking priest 
who sat opposite. This was Fr. Burke, and the opportunity 
for a practical joke was too tempting to resist * Yonder,' he 
said, * is the Gap of Dunloe, to the left is the Giant's Cause- 
way, with its endless pillars of basalt ; Vinegar Hill rises to 


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the right, and between its base and the Sugar-loaf the waters 
of Lough Neagh stretch forth their broad expanse of blue.' 
The Bishop's eyes glistened as they followed with vivid in- 
terest the storied panorama. A sheet of water was pointed 
out as Killamey, and, when passing a bog on which a ray of 
sickly sunshine fell, the Bishop, in reply to a polite query, was 
told, * Oh, that is the valley lay smiling before me.* * And 
these military,' said the Bishop, ' how is it that at every 
station we pass a detachment is drawn up ? ' Fr. Burke con- 
veyed that it was to do his Lordship honour, though the real 
fact was that the Viceroy had been expected to open with due 
pomp the new bridge in Cork. On they went, travelling ' from 
pole to pole,' until, entering the Archdiocese of Cashel, a 
castle caught the Bishop's eye. ' That, my Lord, is the 
Castle of Thurles,' said Fr. Burke, as indeed it was, 'the 
great stronghold of the Cullens in days of yore,' which of 
course it was not. ' The patrimony of Thurles is still held by 
the present representative of the race, Paul CuUen.' 

* And that structure crowning yonder hill,' said the Bishop, 
' pray what might that be ? ' * The hill and hall of Tara.* 
* Wonderfully good state of repair,' said the Bishop. • Yes — 
we wish to preserve such things as historic memorials.' It 
was the workhouse. 

So charmed was the stranger that he ascribed to some 
more than blessed accident the good fortune which brought 
him face to face with so bright a cicerone, and when at last they 
were compelled to separate, his expressions of gratitude were 
loud and warm. 'To whom am I indebted for so much 
pleasure and information } ' said the prelate. * Fr. Amherst,' 
was the meek reply. Meanwhile his Lordship, on arrival in 
Dublin, was asked by Cardinal Cullen how he liked Cork and 
such glimpses of the country as he had been able to obtain. 
He replied that he had already seen every object of interest 
in Ireland, including the patrimony of the Cullens, and that 
he owed all to the assistance of a priest whom he had 


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casually met. * I suspect I know the gentleman/ said 
Cardinal Cullen. The version usually given of this story 
goes on to say that presently the door opened, and ' the Rev. 
Thomas Burke * was sonorously announced, while almost at 
the same moment the welcome news that dinner was served 
averted the awkwardness of a presentation. 

Some say that their second meeting took place not in 
Dublin, but the following year in Rome during the Vatican 
Council. The American Bishop had felt deeply hurt by the 
trick ; and Cardinal Cullen, whether to reconcile the two men, 
or for the humour of the thing, brought them together. 

* Think not my spirits are always as light,' was as true in 
Burke's case as in Moore's. Their second meeting is said to 
have been one of the few instances in which Burke collapsed, 
though he was afterwards able to amuse social audiences with 
a graphic account of the whole adventure. He left Cardinal 
CuUen's table early, whispering to a friend that this was about 
the most practical retreat he had ever conducted. It was Fr. 
Burke's fate to meet this prelate again in America, and we 
regret to add that a reconciliation never became complete.* 

Burke on another occasion, when travelling by rail from 
Dublin to Cork, personated a German professor of languages, 
and in that character conversed all the way with some 
affable cosmopolites. 

Fr. Burke one day observed in a toy-shop a demi-mask 
so like the P^re Jandel, Master-General of his Order, that 
he at once secured it A pair of spectacles increased the 
resemblance ; and when a Fr. Villaraso, O.P., visited Tallaght, 
Fr. Burke entered the room where he sat, and, personating 
the general, conversed with him for some time in French 
without awakening suspicion. On another occasion, at night, 
a lay brother in charge of the hall door escorted the fictitious 
general downstairs, and held a light to show him the way. 

• The above is compiled from the recollecjlions preserved by various priests who 
heard Burke himself teU ths story. 


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Some of the greatest minds have not hesitated to con- 
coct similar amusement. In the ' Life of the Rev. Sydney 
Smith ' ' such things maybe found ; and many practical jokes 
are recorded as having been played by Sir James Mackintosh, 
Dickens, and Moore — not to speak of Hook and Lever. 

From what has been already stated, it hardly needs to 
say that Cardinal Cullen and Burke continued good friends. 
For many years no banquet took place at the Archiepiscopal 
Palace which Burke was not asked to ^race and enliven. 
The Cardinal liked genius and wit in a priest, provided that 
he who bore both was a humble man. Swagger he snubbed. 
But Burke was humility itself, and innocent as a child. The 
endless adulation he received only made him think the less of 
himself. In this fact is found the secret of Cardinal CuUen's 
affection for him. This prelate, borne down with care, worry, 
and work, as he often was, found it a real relief to listen 
to Fr. Tom pour forth his exhaustless stream of humour ; 
and so intimate did they become that many persons have 
seen Burke mimic him in his own presence. This may 
have been permitted for another reason besides that found in 

* Lady Holland describes Sir James Mackintosh bringing with him as a gaest 
to the Rev. Sydney Smith's a young Scotch officer. Sir James passed off the 
future Canon of St, Paul's as Sir Sidney Smith, the hero of Acre, * Giving 
Mr. Smith the hint, he instantly assumed the military character, performed the 
hero of Acre to perfection, fought all his battles over again, and showed how he 
had charged the Turks, to the infinite delight uf the young Scotchman, who was 
quite enchanted with the condescension of "the great Sir Sudney," and to the 
torture of the other guests, who were bursting with suppressed laughter. Nothing 
would serve the young Highlander but setting off at midnight to fetch the piper 
of his regiment to pipe to " Sir Sudney," who said he had never heard the bag- 
pipes ; upon this the party broke up instantly, for Sir James said his Scotch cousin 
would surely cut his throat if he discovered his mistake. A few days afterwards 
Sir James Mackintosh and his Scotch cousin met Mr. Sydney Smith with bis wife 
on his arm. He introduced her, upon which the cousin said in a low tone, ** I did 
na ken the great Sir Sudney was married.** " Why, no," said Sir James, a little 
embarrassed, **not ex-act-ly — married -only an Egyptian slave he brought over ; 
Fatima— you know." Mrs. Smith was long known in the little circle as Fatima.* 
Moore's Diary (v. 300) describes the subsequent Chief Justice Doherty and 
Sir P. Crampton, armed with squirts, lying in wait until the coaches were starting, 
Crampton saying, 'Reserve your fire till the coachman says •*A11 right ! " and 
then I'll take the front outside passengers and you the hind ones. ' 


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the winning humility of the man. It is related in one of Fr. 
Segneri's sermons that a grand cavalier of Lombardy was 
stalking through the streets of Milan, when a snow-ball 
struck him. The blood mounted to his cheeks, and, grasping 
his sword, he turned to resent the insult. But, finding that it 
came from a lady whom he had known and loved, he was 
quite flattered by the attention. 

Canon Walter Murphy was a man so precise and natty 
that Fr. Tom in his stories often made him the polished peg 
whereon to hang them. Archbishop CuUen, from his long 
residence in Italy, was always amused by Fr. Burke's pictures 
of Italian life, including that of the quack dentist from 
Tuscany, who with falsetto voice and bray of trumpet drives 
down the Piazza di San Agnesi at Rome, and implores all 
sufferers to submit to his muscular arm. Burke has described 
before a roomful Canon Murphy sitting down in the piazza 
and abandoning himself to the small mercies of the dentist, 
who meanwhile would try to encourage his patient by ex- 
hibiting a bag crammed with trophy tusks, including the 
tooth of Melchisedech. The dialogue in mingled Italian 
and French was very comically given. At last Burke, start- 
ing up, would get behind the Canon's chair, and, holding his 
chin, seem to extract the peccant member. The glitter of a 
dessert knife suggested a forceps, and at last the climax came 
in the exhibition of something like a tusk, but which was 
part of the ivory handle, disclosed by sleight of hand while 
the rest lay concealed. Once, when asked to give this per- 
formance, he complied, saying that * he was an old hand at the 
stump! If no one chanced to be present on whom he cared 
to operate, he used a loaf of bread as the skull, previously 
surrounding it with a napkin. 

This was a performance for which Fr. Tom was often 
asked. Owing, however, to the exhaustive style in which he 
gave it, the effort proved a more serious tax on his strength 
than a Good Friday sermon. 


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But once begun (writes an English Dominican), Fr. Burke in his 
excitement has been known to seize the first head which came to his 
hand, and he had been operating on an eminent Cardinal for a 
minute before he became fully alive to the temerity of his act • 
but his Eminence took the thing well, and laughed as heartily as 
any of them. 

When the dentist's patient was a willing confederate, it 
always bettered the effect. Fr. Burke said that an Hon. and 
Right Rev. Prelate was his best ally, because he always 
knew the right moment to scream. 

Among other Italian studies was that of the Impnrvisatore ; 
the man playing on the mandoline ; and the Roman barber. 
Fr. Burke, as he put his dinner-napkin round the neck of some 
willing victim and feigned to shave him, accompanied the 
operation with an oral torrent of news about the Pope and 
cardinals — all, of course, in the vernacular tongue. But his 
repertoire included local portraits too. 

Some years ago a blind beggar and his dog daily took up 
position in Nassau Street, Dublin. The man played doleful 
airs upon a tin whistle, and the dog held in his mouth a small 
bag for coin. * Tip ' was quite as great a character as his master. 
Burke amused social circles by portraying both. Some of 
the time he was posed as the dog begging, his hands hanging 
down like paws, his face now one of perfect canine expres- 
siveness, and he did not hesitate to hold between his teeth 
the little skull-cap of his Order. Next moment he changed 
into the blind man, discoursing music from a flute. 

Another mimicry was that of Zozimus. But Burke had 
never seen Zozimus, and his performance, however pleasant, 
was merely an imitation of an imitation. Fr. Tom was greatly 
amused at seeing the thing done by a brother humourist, and 
in this instance the pupil surpassed the master. 

Zozimus was the sobriquet of a * beggar ' vocalist and 
lecturer named Moran, who thirty years ago boasted that he 
walked in the footsteps of Homer^ and was as well known in 


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Dublin as Nelson's Pillar. What old citizen does not re- 
member that tall, gaunt, blind man, dressed in a heavy long- 
tailed coat and a dinged high hat, armed with a blackthorn 
stick secured to his wrist by a thong and finished by an iron 
ferule ? His upturned face displayed the whites of sightless 
eyes ; his boldly marked facial muscles gave decision to his 
aspect ; his guttural voice often highly sonorous— his Dublin 
brogue, rich and mellifluous — accompanied by a strange lisp on 
special words— tempted mimics to go and do likewise. Even- 
ing after evening Zozimus made his pilgrimage through the 
streets, advancing with slow and measured steps, and halting 
at intervals to collect in a hat, whose crown frequently let coin 
escape, the alms of the faithful. The dirty man often seemed 
ill at ease during his recitals, and by way of explanation said, 
' My buzzom friends have become my backbiters.* His 
great popular recitation was ' The Life, Conversion, and Death 
of St. Mary of Egypt, who was discovered in the Wilderness 
in the fifth century by the pious Zozimus.' This extra- 
ordinary poem, compiled from the 'Acta Sanctorum,' was 
written in the last century by Dr. Coyle, Bishop of Raphoc, 
and opened with some notice of the imperial throne of 
Theodosius, a holy hermit in Palestine — 

Whose shining virtues and extensive fame 
The world astonished — Zozimus his name. 

Other versions of the poem were given by our Dublin street 
bard, including — 

On Egypt's plains, where flows the ancient Nile, 
Where ibex stalks, and swims the crocodile. 

And which in due time became most sacrilegiously parodied. 
Not the least amusing part of the man's recital had 
been its frequent interruption by * jackeens,' and by his own 
threats to * cut the shins from undher them if they didn't stop 
their irreverent devarshion.' When making a' halt, he would 


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cry, * Gather round me, good Christians. Am I standin' in 
puddle ? ' They would lead him to a dry spot ; but too often 
tricks were played which again made him threaten, * If you 
don't give over TU leave some of yez a case. You all remem- 
ber what St. Paul said in his Epistle to the Romans (for he 
never wrote to the Protestants) : " A halfpenny won't make 
you or break you.** ' He would then resume his * full, true, 
and particular account of the career, severe penance, priva- 
tions, and miraculous conversion of St. Mary of Egypt — 
blessed be her holy name.' * 

Fr. Burke would sometimes change to another well-known 
beggar by pulling down over his eyes his small skull-cap to 
represent a shade, and grasping by both hands a blackthorn 

At other times types of character rather than indivi- 
duals were depicted, including news-boys shouting in the 
streets exaggerated versions of alleged sensation incidents, 
with which Dr. Cullen's name somehow generally got 
mixed up. 

Gloomy men condemned Fr. Tom's exhaustless mirth. 
They failed to see the motives that prompted it and the 
benefits it produced. Such men should weigh the words of 
him who said : 

I know of nothing equal to a cheerful and even mirthful con- 
versation for restoring the tone of mind and body, when both 
have been overdone. Some great and good men, on whom very 
heavy cares and toils have been laid, manifest a constitutional 
tendency to relax into mirth when their work is over. Narrow minds 

1 Zozimus had been always a favourite * part * with local wags, and it is on 
record that a sham ' Zoz * once took his rounds on the same night as the real roan, 
and created quite a sensation on Essex Bridge, where both met and their sonorous 
tones mingled, to the confusion of their respective followers. On this occasion 
the real man called the other an *impostherer,* but the latter gave back the 
epithet, and touchingly complained of the heartlessness of mocking a poor dark 
man. Words ran high, and the sham * Zoz * said, * Good Christians, just give me a 
grip of that villain, and I'll soon let him know who the real "impostherer " is.* 
Then pretending to give his victim a * guzzler,* he pressed some silver into his 
hand and vanished. 


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denounce the incongruity ; large hearts own God's goodness in the 
fact, and rejoice in the wise provision made for prolonging useful 
lives. Mirth after exhaustive toil is one of nature's instinctive efforts 
to heal the part which has been racked or bruised. You cannot too 
sternly reprobate a frivolous life ; but if the life be earnest for God 
or man, with here and there a layer of mirthfulness protruding, a soft 
bedding to receive heavy cares which otherwise would crush the 
spirit, to snarl against the sports of mirth may be the easy and useless 
occupation of a small man, who cannot take in at one view the whole 
circumference of a large one. 

Years went on. The Cardinal drudged through his daily 
toil, and the brilliant Dominican stood at his side. We well 
remember that during the distribution of prizes at the 
Carmelite College Fr. Burke whispered his jokes to such 
purpose — especially when punning on the name of one 
applicant — that his Eminence was unable from laughing to 
articulate the formal words which it became his duty to 

An alderman was fond of giving full-dress soirees must- 
calcs. Their great attraction was Fr. Burke, but too soon came 
his whispered adieu, saying it was time for the Cinderellas to 
leave. On one occasion here he gave, with other things, 
imitations of a mendicant family whom he had often heard 
sing in the streets of Rome. The voices of father, mother, 
and daughter, the last a real alto, were powerfully given, 
accompanied by the twang of three distinct instruments on 
which they played. The father's blindness Burke imitated by 
throwing his eye-balls seemingly into the back of his head, 
and exhibiting while he sang nought but whites. 

He also often amused the Jesuit Fathers with these freaks, 
and they assure us that * in portraying the singing family, 
and especially in the change of features, one could almost 
swear that several persons were engaged in giving the per- 
formance.' Another was that of a troubadour serenading his 
love. Near the convent in which some years of his life were 
spent in Italy lived a Juliet, who was occasionally brought to 
VOL. I. R 


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her casement by the * Com' ^ gentil ' of a love-sick swain. It 
was a rich scene' when Burke, at some clerical party, struck 
up on a tongs or bread-basket, if no guitar was at hand, a 
• tum-tum ' accompaniment to his bursts of passionate melody. 

These things are nothing when told in print All their 
merit was due to Burke's marvellous mobility of features 
and play of hands, not to speak of his ventriloquial gifts. 
But some of his friends expect that a record of them should 
be made, and we pretend to give little more than a dry list. 

Among the songs that Fr. Burke sang at this time were 
' Finegan's Wake,' * Scroggins's Ghost,* and the * Galliant 
Hussar.* The Irish melodies, of course, had their turn ; but 
he was equally good at English lyrics, and nobody surpassed 
Fr. Tom in the feeling and force with which he rendered 
' Tom Bowling ' and 'All's Well.' 

When Prior of Tallaght, he was very intimate with a 
family who lived at Ardavon, a picturesque retreat over- 
hanging the river Dodder. Its proximity to Loretto made 
it specially convenient to him. His rule rarely allowed him 
to dine out, but his evenings were frequently given to the 
society of that genial family. Here he would sing, both in 
comic and sentimental vein, accompanying himself on the 
piano with a touch worthy of the Abb^ Liszt. One of the 
best of the more touching lyrics was, * What are the Wild 
Waves saying } ' — suggested by the story of Paul Dombey. 

When the librettist of 'Patience' introduced that mar- 
vellous litany of jarring and incongruous names, including 
Thomas Aquinas and Anthony Trollope, the association was 
not so absurd after all. If Fr. Burke, at Tallaght, gave his 
mornings to Thomas Aquinas, he gave his evenings to 
Anthony Trollope. His favourite story was ' Barchester 
Towers,' which the novelist himself used to tell had been 
written entirely in the train. But the * Ingoldsby Legends,' 
by the Rev. R. H. Barham, was his sovereign antidote for 
blue devils. How often has he amused his friends, and 


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sometimes his novices, in their hours of play, by reading for 
them, with rare elocutionary tricks, ' The Jackdaw of Rheims,' 
'The Lay of St. Aloys,* 'The Legend of Palestine,' 'Roger 
the Monk,' or * The Ingoldsby Penance,' and ' My Lord Tom 
Noddy I ' He greatly liked the * Copperfield ' of Dickens, 
and confessed that over many passages in it he had often 
wept. This was no exaggeration. He was at all times as 
easily moved as his own audiences. A brother Dominican, 
Fr. Kenny, has seen him weep when reciting the ' Morte 
d' Arthur ' of Tennyson. 

But Fr. Burke, though an omnivorous reader up to a 
certain period of his life, finally held this appetite in check. 
Among the notes supplied for our use by Mrs. Grehan, from 
whom we shall have frequent occasion to quote hereafter, 
are the following : 

Once in a severe fit of illness he was given Trollope's tale of the 
' Three Clerks * to read. He liked it much. ' Though I was in 
such agony this morning,' he said, ' I could not help laughing out 
loud over poor Charlie's first eflbrt of genius. Then he read out 
passages in the most amusing manner. But in another book by the 
same writer he was quite horrified that one of the heroines, while 
engaged to a particular man, tried to captivate another. ' Do you 
tell me,' he said indignantly, 'that such things can take place in 
society ? ' This suggested a train of most beautiful thoughts on the 
sanctity of the tie of betrothal, and what ought to be its good effect 
on the character, even of persons not actually religious. Afterwards 
he seemed to scruple this innocent recreation. ' I had been read- 
ing a harmwing story,' he said ; ' and it would come into my 
head in my prayers — in and out like the teeth of a saw. No, it is 
impossible to combine novel- reading and mental prayer. My poor 
mother had only one weakness, and that was a good novel. Up to 
the age of fifty she would read it if it came in her way, and then 
would fiing it aside with anger at having so wasted her time.' 

Fr. Burke did something as a magazine writer and 
reviewer at this time. We can particularly identify a paper 
in the 'Hibernian Magazine* for April 1864 as his, which 
opens with a feeling reference * to the dear child of genius 

R 2 


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just dead — Adelaide Proctor.* This paper shows how familiar 
he was with poetic literature generally. Scott's * Marmion ' 
and Dante's ' Inferno ' are both noticed. Fr. Burke remarks 
that a Cork poet, Mr. Condon, had rendered into English, 
with much fidelity, * the rhyme and metre, the turn of 
thought and phrase of the great Florentine,' and he hoped 
that the entire * Divina Commedia ' would soon be translated. 
This poet was the brother of one of his favourite novices. 

On Sunday, May 29, 1864, was laid the first stone of 
the new convent of the Irish Novitiate House at Tallaght. 
While the Provincial handled the trowel, Fr. Burke embedded 
the earthenware vessel containing coins and a parchment 
record. He preached the sermon on the occasion, and a 
modest record states 'that while Frs. Condon and Verdon 
sang the Mass " De Angelis," Fr. Burke presided at the 
harmonium.' To some Lt seemed a sad coincidence that it 
was in this house that the founder should find his death- 
bed. But Fr. Burke became so fond of Tallaght that, during 
his wanderings in other lands, in broken health, and often 
depressed in spirits, he compared himself to the hare panting 
to the spot from whence it fled, and there lying down to die. 


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There is no virtue more manly and ennobling (said Fr. Burke, when 
preaching on the Second Beatitude) than that which enables a man 
to govern himself and his own passions. How can a man rule others 
who is unable to rule himself? How can a man associate with others 
who is powerless and unable to live with his own soul in peace ? He 
truly is fitted to be an Anax Andron — a, king of men — who has 
learned by meekness to keep the little kingdom of his own soul and 
body in the proper order of subjection to reason. Every virtue is a 
power — the very word ' virtue ' means power — and what is more terrible 
in its power than meekness ? 

Fr. Burke's colleagues saw that he possessed in an eminent 
degree these latter gifts. Therefore the young man was en- 
trusted with the duty of ruling others. In obedience to the 
voice of authority, he once more prepared to leave his native 
land, and take up the reins of government as prior of the oldest 
Basilica in Rome. But it was a spot consecrated in his eyes 
by glorious memories of those old Irish Dominicans, on whose 
trials and triumphs he loved to enlarge; and with a light 
heart he entered on his work. 

Since 1667, when San Clemente had been handed over 
to the white-robed preachers, it had been always a centre 
of that culture for which they are distinguished. Here two 
very remarkable Irishmen had already held office — Thomas 
Burke, or De Burgho, Bishop of Ossory, author of the 
• Hibernia Dominicana,' and John Thomas Troy, Archbishop 
of Dublin. 

The Very Rev. P. V. Kenny, late Prior of St. Saviour's, 


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Limerick, and now Fr. Vicar of St. Mary*s, Tallaght, has 
communicated to us for insertion the following details of the 
journey to Rome : — 

In September 1864 Fr. Burke was appointed by the late Master- 
General of the Order, the Most Rev. Fr. A. V. Jandel, Rector of the 
Irish Dominican College of San Clemente, Rome. He was also 
appointed to the office of Master of Professed Novices or Students, 
and Lector in the Second Part of the Sumroa of St Thomas of Acquin. 
This latter post he held at San Clemente for two years. On Sep- 
tember 20 he set out for the Eternal City, taking with him four 
students — Brs. V. Hood, A. Wheeler, D. MoUoy, and P. V. Kenny. 
Fr. Conway, O.P., of Cork, and Fr. M. Lynch, O.P., of Tralee, accom- 
panied him. Fr. Burke had charge also of two nuns of Loretto 
Convent, Rathfamham, who were going to spend the winter at 

All were seated in the train at Holyhead, when a man 
came to the door, and, although the carriage seemed full, 
forced himself in. Fr. Burke offered some slight objection, 
but the traveller replied that he had paid for his seat as well 
as he. Fr. Burke addressed the novices in Latin, after which 
he proclaimed profound silence. Opening his breviary, he 
read for an hour, and then, with the most solemn of faces, 
proceeded to stare at his vis-d-vis. The man thought that 
he had got among a lot of lunatics, and, ere the train had 
fully stopped, sprang upon the platform. 

It may be premised that * Quarter Tense,' or Ember Days, is 
a period of severe fast with Catholics. Fr. Kenny continues : 

It was the Vigil of the Feast of St. Matthew Ap. and Quatuor 
Tense. We took nothing for breakfast but a cup of tea and a little 
bread, so that when we arrived in Holyhead, after four hours' sail, 
our appetites were pretty sharp. They were destined to remain so, as 
we could not get meagre fare at the railway hotel there. The tedious 
run to London, therefore, was by no means a pleasant trip. We 
put up at Ford's, in Manchester Square, and next day went to the 
Foreign Office to procure our passports. It was with no little diffi- 
culty we succeeded, being quite unknown in those quarters. We 
visited Westminster Abbey, St. Paul's, and the Houses of Parliament. 


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In the Commons we saw Prince Humbert, now King of Italy. I 
shall never forget his hollow, delicate, and apparently careworn 
appearance. You would not give a year's purchase for his life. 

We crossed over to France vid Newhaven and Dieppe in a very 
bad boat. Nearly every one on board was sick. In Paris we stayed 
at the Vatican Hotel, which Fr. Burke failed to recommend to future 
voyageurSf saying that there is very little in a name. Next day we 
went to our Convent of the Cannes, Rue Vaugirard. Here Fr. 
Burke made the acquaintance of Fr. Monsabr^, the great preacher 
of Notre Dame, and a friendship sprang up between them which 
nothing but death could sever. They had gifts in common. Both 
were sons of SL Dominic, great preachers, great humourists, and 
great, too, in their deep humility. We spent Sunday in Paris. P>. 
Monsabr^ preached in our church. Fr. Burke was struck by the 
fact that the audience were ail women— not a man in the vast build- 
ing. The following day Fr. Burke took the students to a hatter's to 
procure Roman or long clerical hats for them. He was told by the 
Fathers of the convent that the hatter lived in the Rue du Cherche- 
Midi, Fr. Burke forgot Rue^ so we spent the whole day walking 
through Paris looking for Cherche MidL Often did he stop to ask 
where was Cherche Midi. * Cherche Midi ! je ne sais pas, monsieur,' 
was the usual answer. Addressing a gendarme, Fr. Burke said, * Je 
cherche le Cherche Midi.' The alliteration tickled the oracle in the 
cocked hat so completely that ' his moustache went up and his nose 
went down.' At last, happening to meet an Englishman well acquainted 
with Paris, he put to him the usual question, and received for reply, 
* You are in it, and the hatter you want lives two doors from where 
you stand.' The Fathers of the convent had a good laugh at us when 
we returned late in the evening, quite tired, searching for Cherche 

We left Paris for Lyons, and here another mistake occurred. Fr. 
Burke had omitted to write to the Fathers of our convent that they 
might expect us; so when we arrived late at nijjht they had retired to 
rest. We knocked and knocked at the door, but all in vain. At last, 
making all the noise we could for nearly half an hour, a lay brother 
appeared and let us in. The Fathers got us some supper, and as they 
had made no preparation for our arrival, we had to go to the nearest 
hotel for the night. The Prior sent a lay brother with us to show us 
the way, for we had long since dismissed our drivers. On our way 
to the hotel we came suddenly on a travelling menagerie, the show- 
man holding forth to a vast crowd of the lowest class in Lyons. Seeing 


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a number of Religious in their white and black habits walking through 
the streets at eleven o'clock at night was something new to them, 
and stranger than the menagerie, for they immediately left the show- 
man and his wild animals and followed us to the hotel, shouting all 
the way and uttering severe threats. The hotel-keeper had great 
dift'iculty in keeping them from bursting into his hotel. This was 
our first taste of a French mob, and it was not a pleasant one ' We 
left next day for Marseilles. We stayed for some short time at our 
convent there, and visited Notre Dame de la Garde. The weather 
was fearfully hot, and we suffered very much ascending the hill to 
the sanctuary. Fr. Burke went from Marseilles to our convent at 
St. Maximius, in the Department of Var, for three Irish Dominican 
students whom he was to take with him to Rome. Their names 
were Brs. P. Power, D. Slattery, and V. Prendergast The journey 
was made in a diligence. Coming back with the students, he found 
that every place in the inside of the coach was occupied ; so there 
was nothing for it but to mount on the top and make the best of it. 
It was late in the evening when they left St. Maximius. The night . 
was fine ; so covering themselves with some oil-cloths, and making 
a pillow of a big dog they found there— a gentle drowsy beast — they 
went to sleep and did not awake until they found themselves next 
morning in Marseilles. 

Thursday evening we sailed from Marseilles, and touched at 
Genoa next day, where the steamer remained eight hours. We dis- 
embarked and visited the * City of Palaces ' and churches, and saw 
nearly all that is worth seeing in * Genoa the Proud.* In the evening 
we left the port and arrived next day at Leghorn. The steamer 
would wait for some six or seven hours, so Fr. Conway, Br. P. Power, 
and Br. P. V. Kenny resolved to take a drive to Pisa, about eight 
miles off, and see the Duomo, the Campo Santo, Leaning Tower, and 
Baptistery. It was a lovely day, and the ride was most enjoyable. 
Fr. Burke was amused at my astonishment to see a man ploughing 
with a yoke of oxen, and holding the plough with one hand, whilst 
with the other he held a large green umbrella over his head to shade 
himself from the hot sun. It was the first time I had seen an 
Italian plough, which a man could easily carry under his arm. We 
left Leghorn in the evening and arrived in the Papal harbour of 
Civita Vecchia on Sunday morning. We immediately disembarked and 
went to hear Mass at our church in the city. About twelve o'clock 

* The brutal spirit shown to Fr. Burke and his novices culminated, not long 
after, in the massacre, by the Commune, of the Dominican Fathers at Paris. 


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we took the train for Rome. After dinner at San Clemente we went 
to pay our respects to the General at the convent of the Minerva, 
and were just in time to see the great procession of the Holy Rosary 
pass into our church. 

The Nuncio at Paris had said to Fr. Burke, ' I would wish 
to entrust to your care some despatches for Cardinal Anto- 
nelli — place them under your head every night until you 
reach Rome.' On arrival he proceeded with Fr. Mullooly to 
the Vatican. Fr. Mullooly remained in an ante-room while 
Antonelli took Fr. Burke into an adjoining scdon^ of which 
he closed the door. The Cardinal's servant, unconscious 
that he was watched by Mullooly, placed his ear at the 
keyhole, while his Eminence conversed with Fr. Burke. 
Fr. Mullooly reported the circumstance to the cardinal, who 
subsequently discovered the man to be a spy in the pay of 
the Sardinian Minister. 

It was on Rosary Sunday, 1864, that Fr. Burke entered 
on his duties as Prior of San Clemente. Everything con- 
nected with that devotion attracted him. The brads were 
never from his side by day ; he wore them round his neck at 
night.' His new church at Tallaght he dedicated to Holy 
Mary of the Rosary. 

The following letter, addressed to an old lady who had 
been already the favoured correspondent of Bishop Doyle, 
is about the longest that Fr. Burke was ever known to write. 
The idea expressed, that he was not to preach for the next 
three years, proved, as will be seen, delusive. His * dear 
children of Rathfarnham ' means the nuns of Loretto : 

San Clemente, Rome : November 12, 1864. 

My dear Mrs. Jones, — Your kind letter was the first and only one 
I got since my arrival in ihe Eternal City. It gave me very great 

1 The use of beads, as a help to memory in reciting prayers, is so old a practice 
that we find the monk Paul in Pherme holding 300 pebbles in his lap, and casting 
them away one by one as each orison ended. This is recorded by Palladius in the 
fifth century. 


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pleasure, for which I thank you most sincerely. It was so kind of 
you to think of the poor * exile of Erin,' and to send rae such good 
and welcome news about my dear children of Rathfamham, &c. &c. 
Well, we got safe to Rome— no accidents — no banditti — no sickness. 
All — even Fr. Conway, who is so hard to please — enjoyed their 
journey, more especially after we got into Burgundy and the South of 
France. The weather was delightful. Since my arrival in Rome I 
have given myself up altogether to fasting and mortification, and I 
am become already so spiritualised that there is a project mooted to 
run my head into a tub of plaster of Paris to serve as a model of 
St. Bernard. Wouldn't it be delightful ? If the idea be carried 
out, I'll send you a nice little bust to put on the chimneypiece in 
your own room, and when your lady friends visit you, you can take 
the favoured ones to see it, and they will turn up the whites of their 
eyes and say, * Ah ! there he is 1 ' Now to be serious. I said 
my first nine masses in Rome for you, as I promised, and I make the 
express memento for you, which I also promised. I cannot say the 
other masses which you ask, for the following reason. There is a 
great multitude of obligatory masses attached to this convent, and 
one of the rules of the house is, that each priest celebrate for 
the house every day and enter his mass in the sacristy book. Of 
course a man is allowed now and then to apply his mass for a private 
intention, but this very rarely. Now, if I were to say so many 
private masses, being prior of the house, the other priests might 
think it unfair to be so exacting on them ; so, you see, noblesse oblige, 
I must first do myself, and then only can I call upon others to do. 
This rule extends to everything else as well as to the masses, and so 
my life here just now is what you would call hard enough; but, thank 
God, I am in rude health, and able for it. My appetite is wonder- 
fully improved ; my cough is gone, and I have not had any necessity 
to wear the red flannel as yet, but it will stand well to me in the 
winter, which promises to be severe in Rome this year. Well, now 
that I have done with my detestable self, let me ask ho^ you are. 
I hope well in mind and body, living an interior life of patience, 
prayer, and union with God. I'm sorry for Kate that Fr. Eustace 
was so hard about the music As for your enjoyment of the matter, 
you can do without it ; you have not much enjoyment, but neither 
have you much labour; not like poor Kate, who would require 
a little treat and relaxation, poor child.* You can offer all such 

» The sister of Mrs. Jones had become the wife of Vincent Wallace the com- 
poser, but the marriage failed to prove a happy one ; Wallace was a Protestant, 


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privations to God; and, without some such mortification, I don't 
see how you can come up to all that God justly expects of you. 
Think how little of this world's joys the Virgin Mother tasted, and 
how great her joy was on earth, notwithstanding all her sorrows, and 
how great her glory is to-day. Now, don't be afraid, I'm not going 
to preach. I have given up preaching for the next three years. 
The Sundays appear so queer to me — no congregations — ^no sermon. 
I intend to get into the pulpit some day, when the church is 
closed, and bawl out a bit, just for * Auld lang syne.' I inclose you 
the copy of Fr. Justin's request, and I hope that ypu will be successful 
in helping poor dear Tallaght. Please to give my kindest regards 
to Mrs. James and my young friends. When 1 get an opportunity I 
will send you some little souvenir blessed by the Holy Father. Pray 
for me, and believe me sincerely and affectionately yours in Christ, 

Br. Thomas Burke, O.P. 
Fr. Conway is well and desires to be remembered. 

The Prior's humility is shown by signing his name after 
the manner of a lay brother. 

The project to make him sit for a bust of St Bernard 
claims explanation. Fr. Burke had been asked by Mr. War- 
rington Wood,^ the sculptor, to afford facilities for a study of 
his head. The compliment was conveyed to Fr. Burke in terms 
so flattering that his friends in Ireland failed to gather the 
extent of it from the misleading remark he dropped. Indeed 
it was regarded as one of his jokes, and few are aware of the 
existence of this fine bust. * I remember accompanying Fr. 
Burke to see it,' writes Dr. Maziere Brady. ' He said it was 
not a good likeness, as it was not ugly enough. I never knew 
a man with so little personal vanity.' 

The prolonged fast of which Mrs. Jones is apprised was at 
last relaxed. Writing to his sister, he says : * Your letter 

Miss Kelly a Catholic. Dr. Doyle's letter to Abp. Murray, requesting his per- 
mission for the marriage, is now before us. Mrs. Wallace resided with Mrs. Jones 
in Rutland Square, Dublin, within a few doors of the Dominican Friars. Mrs. 
Jones died in June 1884. 

1 This, we believe, was the same artist who made a study of his head in 
plaster. Copies in relief were largely sold in Rome, and a small cast of it is 
now preserved at Tallaght. * The likeness seemed so good,' observes a Domini- 
can, ' that the artist was entrusted with the monument to Gregory XVI.' 


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enriched the luxury of a cup of chocolate and a fresh egg, on 
which I was regaling when it reached my hand. This, you 
will say, is nice mortification for a poor Dominican.* 

Even in Rome (writes Mr. Sherlock) Fr. Burke was not destined 
to obtain release from his extraordinary labours as a preacher. Here 
Cardinal Wiseman had been wont to deliver in English the cus- 
tomary Lenten sermons at the Church of Santa Maria del Popolo. 
When his promotion to the head of the newly created English hier- 
archy made it necessary that he should quit Rome, his place in the 
pulpit was taken by Dr., now Cardinal, Manning. Called suddenly 
to England on the death of Dr. Wiseman in 1865, Dr. Manning in 
turn left the pulpit of Santa Maria vacant. A successor was looked 
for, and the Superior of San Clemente was selected. At short notice 
he took up the course of Lenten sermons, and even there, in the very 
centre of the Catholic world, his zeal, piety, and eloquence purchased 
for him the title of Prince of Preachers.* Lent after Lent his 
sermons were gladly called into requisition. 

For some months previous to the events just described 
Fr. Burke preached. Persons who were in Rome at the close 
of 1864, and in January 1865, describe Fr. Burke as then a 
familiar figure in the pulpit. 

These services used to be attended by large and critical 

audiences, consisting largely of Protestant tourists whom the feasts 

of the Holy Season attracted to the Eternal City (writes Mr. 

T. P. O'Connor, M.P.) 

* How can they preach unless they be sent ? ' Fr. Burke 

more than once muttered. But the answer was assuring. He 

felt his mission strengthen while he traced in an unbroken 

chain the power the Church possessed from the day when 

the hands of Christ pressed upon the head of Peter. Not 

one link in that chain was wanting, he said. The Catholic 

> The Illustrated London News of July 14, 1883, says of Fr. Burke, 'This 
eminent divine, by far the most impressive and popular orator in the Roman 
Catholic Church, was designated by Pius IX. as the " Prince of Preachers." It 
was not only in his native tongue, but also in Italian, that he preached with won- 
drous eloquence.' As regards the title said to have been bestowed by the Pope, 
we record the statement, but cannot find authority for it. We have heard the 
epithet, however, applied to Burke by Cardinal Cullen. 


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preacher was sent by Pius, who was of Gregory, who was of 
Pius, who was of Leo — and so on until he came to Clement, 
who was of Cletus, who was of Linus, who was of Peter, who 
was of Christ, who was of God. 

These thoughts had been fostered by a great stimulus. 
Years after, when preaching in Dublin on the death of Pio 
Nono, Fr. Burke said : 

It was my privilege to know something personally of him, for 
years to live under the light almost of his presence, to behold him in 
the moment of supreme glory, to behold him kneeling before the 
altar of God in the presence of Jesus Christ — when he instantly, and 
apparently without an effort, fell into that wonderful abstraction of 
prayer, so that the very sight of him was a most vivid memento. 

These were the days of temporal as well as of spiritual power. 

That triple crown which rests upon the Pope's brow (Fr. Burke 
explained) is made up of three distinct circles of gold. The first is 
symbolical of the universal episcopate of the Pope, for • there shall 
be but one fold and one Shepherd ; ' the second represents the 
supremacy of jurisdiction by which the Pope governs not only all 
the faithful in the world at large, feeding them as their supreme 
pastor, but by which also he holds the supremacy of jurisdiction over 
the anointed ministers and the episcopacy itself in the Church of 
God ; the third circle of this crown represents the temporal influence 
which the Pope has exercised and enjoyed for over one thousand years. 

Wher^refuting, at New York, a statement that the Pope 
had heavily taxed the Roman people, he said : 

The house I lived in, if calculated from the amount of land that 
we paid taxes for with what is levied in Ireland, would be exactly 
1 6/. a year. What do you think we paid? — and we were more 
heavily taxed than the lay people, because Pius IX. put the heavy 
taxes on the priests, and spared the people — 15 dollars a year. 

When I was in Rome there were hundreds of schools, one in 
almost ''very street. At eight o'clock a.m. the priests of St. Joseph's 
would go out ringing a bell and calling at every house, making the 
parents send their children to school, and if they had not breakfasted, 
they would give them a breakfast And in the evening they did not 
allow them to go about the streets, where they could not fail to learn 
vice, but each one was returned home. You would see the children 


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marched out like soldiers, and with each ten or twelve of them a 
priest to bring them back to their parents. 

Fr. Burke speaks of 'the house in which he lived.' 
He took up his residence in San Clemente during a very 
interesting period. Tradition has always maintained that 
the modern church of San Clemente — the most perfect 
model of an early Christian basilica — is built upon the actual 
site of the saint's dwelling. The original basilica was dis- 
covered in 1857 by excavations prosecuted under the direc- 
tion of good Fr. Joseph Mullooly. The capital of a buried 
pillar having in the first instance peeped forth, he was led to 
dig deeper, with results full of charm. Nave, aisles, rows of 
deftly chiselled columns, came to light. While the earth was 
being removed, the long buried walls gradually disclosed 
strange figures in fresco — all busily engaged in the movement 
of various stories familiar to historic students. As a link of 
ancient Christian art with the early Italian school which 
miraculously escaped the devastations of Diocletian, those 
frescoes— with their outstretched hands — were warmly wel- 
comed. This attitude — one of ardent devotion — characterises 
every votive painting in the crypt Later on will be found 
some funny stories connected with Fr. Burke and them. 

San Clemente is indebted to Fr. Mullooly in other ways. 
During the Garibaldian revolution the insurgents entered the 
wine vaults of the community outside Rome, drove in the 
heads of the casks, and drank the contents. Thereupon Fr. 
Mullooly hoisted the British flag over San Clemente, and 
thus preserved its treasures. 

Fr Burke was very popular with the English-speaking 
people, and whenever he preached the church was packed. 
Here is a sample of the style which he found they liked best. 
It is the opening of a long sermon preached on the second 
Sunday of Advent, 1865, in Santa Maria del Popolo. This 
church IS built on the site of Nero's Tomb ; and Luther, 
when in Rome, lodged in the adjoining monastery : 


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The Catholic Church is a puzzle to the world. Men reproach 
her for her ambition in desiring the first place, and brooking no 
rival. Not content with labouring for her own children, she is con- 
stantly trying to convert others to her faith and disturbing: the world 
in her search after proselytes ; thrusting her theology and her 
disputes under people's noses, distracting men from their business, 
disturbing the peace and quiet of families, compromising Christian 
nations with the heathen by the efforts of her missionaries. She 
won't leave the Chinaman to smoke his opium in peace, or the 
Japanese to hug himself in his isolation, but she must provoke them 
to acts of cruelty and persecution. She must be building churches, 
founding missions and establishing Orders, spreading convents, fight- 
ing, disputing, criticising, and even anathematising. The world tries to 
silence and quiet her, now by contempt, now by threats, now by 
getting angry and making nasty laws, and yet she will persist in 
making herself heard and felt Every now and then some English 
or American paper cries, \Vhere are we ? These Catholics are going 
to devour us. Look at England I Ten years ago there were only so 
many bishops, so many churches, so many monasteries, and now 
they are trebled. Look at America. Why, we are all going to be 
made Romans whether we will it or not Contrast the Catholic 
Church's perpetual turmoil with the placid quiet of the Oriental 
Churches. Compare her fierce ambition with the modest bearing 
of the Church of England. . . . Look at these Jesuits ! — you 
find them everywhere; we are constantly offended by the sight of 
Catholic priests, books, crucifixes, nuns. Everyone received into 
the Church seems to be suddenly changed, filled with an unquiet 
spirit, and a thirst to bring in others. When a Protestant he was 
a quiet, gentlemanly fellow, not bothering his own head or his 
friends ; but he got bitten by those Ritualists, and he's gone over to 
Rome, and gone stark mad as well. He's constantly talking about 
religion ; he goes to Mass at strange hours in the morning ; he can't 
get on without his priest ; men say that he has lost interest in many 
things, and hint that he is thinking of joining one of the Orders, and 
going to get murdered in the Chinese missions, or to kill himself 
slaving in the slums and hospitals of some great city. 

On the other hand, we children of the Church also are struck with the 
amazing energy of our Mother. We know her to be the oldest institu- 
tion in the world, yet we see in her no sign of old age. Old age brings 
with it a cessation of growth, a wasting away, a decline of strength, 
an apathy and neglect of the purposes of life, a second childhood. 


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But the Church is acknowledged, even by her enemies, to be as 
fresh and vigorous as she was two thousand years ago. She still 
grows, and the aged mustard-tree puts forth leaf and branch, flower 
and fruit, in every land. She questions every comer, examines 
every doctrine, prescribes for every moral disease, denounces and 
punishes every crime, with as keen an interest and as vital an 
energy, as in the days when the Apostolic Council sat in Jerusalem, 
when John the Evangelist denounced Cerinthus, when Paul ex- 
communicated the incestuous Corinthian, when Peter preached in 
Corinth and in Rome. The secret of all this is faith, and it is 
to this that I invite your attention to-day. Friends admire and 
enemies decry the activity of the Church and of her children, but 
friends and enemies alike admit it. We are accused of many things, 
but no one dreams of accusing the Church of apathy, of indifference. 
Nay, our very activity is the foundation for those charges of ambition, 
of intrigue, of restless zeal, of troublesome intermeddling, which 
are made against us ; and yet, if we reflect upon the nature of Divine 
faith, we shall find that this very activity is one of its essential 
attributes, one of the signs whereby it may be known to exist among 
men. For faith is the image of God, the reflection in the human 
intelligence of that truth which is God Himself. And consequently, 
faith must be not only one, because God is essentially one, but it 
must also be active, because God is pure, essential, and eternal action. 
* Deus est actus purus,' says St, Thomas, the prince of theologians. 
This is a high and mysterious saying. Let us consider it. 

He then went on to show how, when time began, God set 
on all things the stamp of that wonderful life and action 
which was His own essence. The features of Christ's work 
were followed, and the energy of unfailing life in the Catholic 
Church recognised. He also preached in the church of Santa 
Maria de Monte Santo; and his sermons at St. Andrea 
della Valle, the Theatine Church, are well remembered.' 

* He had the entree to all the artistic salons,' records an 
American memoir of Fr. Burke, * and during his visits to the 

» * Here during the octave of the Epiphany every year there is celebrated 
solemn High Mass in one or other of the rites sanctioned by the Church. The 
Dominican rite has the day after the feast, the Ambrosian the following day, 
then the Easter rites fall in in turn. A sermon is also preached in a different 
language every day.* — Very Rev, P, V, Kenny, 0,P., to the Author. 


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Studios picked . up very many valuable paintings and rare 
line engravings/ This belief is general, but Count Sherlock, 
who was Fr. Burke's companion on these expeditions, con- 
fesses : ' I cannot boast that either of us was very successful 
in our trouvailles, or that we ever got hold of any real 
treasure/ Some pictures which had seemed the work of the 
old masters, Fr. Burke brought to Ireland, but the candour 
of Dublin art critics quite disenchanted him. A few really 
good ones, however, remain at Tallaght as memorials of Fr. 
Burke's taste for art. His own word paintings, such as the 
' Groupings of Calvary,* often derived breadth from contem- 
plation of the grand works in which Rome abounds. 

When I lift up my eyes here (he said), it seems as if I stood bodily 
in the society of these men. I see in the face of John the expression 
of the highest manly sympathy that comforted and consoled the 
dying eyes of the Saviour. It seems to me that I behold the Blessed 
Virgin, whose maternal heart consented in that hour of agony to be 
broken for the sins of men. I see the Magdalen, as she clings to 
the cross, and receives upon that hair with which she wiped His feet 
the drops of His blood. I behold that heart, humbled in penance 
and inflamed with love — the heart of the woman who had loved 
much, and for whom He had prayed. It seems to me that I travel 
step by step to Calvary, and learn, as they unite in Him, eveiy 
lesson of suffering, of peace, of hope, of joy, and of love. 

The only thing he really valued was a * beautiful soul ' (writes Miss 
Wyse, who knew him well in Rome); no matter where he found it, in a 
duchess or a beggar, it won his friendship and appreciation. I have 
seen many instances of it As usual, he was most attracted by the 
poor. He considered the highest piety was found amongst them. I 
remember his standing before a large crucifix in San Clemente, 
and telling me, with tears in his eyes, of the beautiful sight he 
often witnessed when he came out to say Mass — in an old woman, or 
oftener many a young one — groups of them — kneeling in prayer 
before it and kissing it ; and the earlier, the greater the number. And 
then how wonderfully he would speak of the beauty of the souls of 
little children — * the real temples of God and the abodes of the Holy 
Spirit.' ' I am always happy,' he said, * when I am with a little child.' 
I frequently met Fr. Burke in Rome in 1865 (observes the late 
VOL. I. S 


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Archbishop of Tuam), and was at a loss to know which to admire 
most, his wonderful eloquence and delivery in the pulpit, or his 
brilliant social qualities, which I had frequent opportunities of 
appreciating at the Minerva and elsewhere. 

Canon Brownlow, formerly of Cambridge, has supplied us 
with some graphic jottings. Those illustrative of the present 
period now come : 

My recollections of Father Burke date from October 1864, when 
he gave a retreat of ten days to the students of the English College. 
I had never heard of him before, and my first impressions of him were 
formed from his spiritual side. I have got the notes of that retreat 
now. It was admirable in its arrangement, solid in its matter, clear 
and precise in its theology — every point resting on a definition of St 
Thomas — full of happy and telling quotations from Holy Scripture in 
the Vulgate— and every now and then a burst of tender piety or an 
appeal to every noble and generous sentiment in the young clerics 
whom he was addressing. Sometimes, if he saw us looking depressed 
or drowsy in the afternoons, he would cheer us up and rivet our 
attention by some racy anecdote or graphic sketch of incidents that 
might happen to us in our future priestly life. Some thought his 
ideal of the life of a priest too highly pitched, but it was what he had 
set before himself, and he could hold up no lower model to those 
whom he directed either in his retreat addresses or in the more 
personal words which fell from him in the confessional. Those only 
who knew him in public or social life can form an idea of what a 
real spiritual man he was underneath all that brilliant surface of wit 
and humour which dazzled and often misled those who met him only 
in society. The malady which finally carried him off had already 
attacked him, and he was advised to smoke as an alleviation of the 
pain that often prostrated him. He was afraid of the students being 
scandalised at seeing the ascetic preacher of the retreat indulging in 
a cigar, so he used to come up to my room, as he thought my more 
mature years would understand the necessity for this relaxation, and 
this was the beginning of our friendship. My attraction for him 
needs no explanation ; but I suppose my being a convert, and being 
able to tell him many things about English Protestant life and modes 
of thought, interested him, and I always found a warm welcome at 
San Clemente. I once had the happiness of spending ten days with 
him and his novices in their convent of San Michaele at Tivoli, and 
the charming little excursions, and merry flow of humour at the 


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recreations with which he tempered the severity of the monastic 
discipline for these young Irish religious, will ever remain among the 
happiest recollections of my life. I remember one Sunday we 
walked over to the Irish College there, and the intense delight that 
his arrival caused among the students, who were kept under a rather 
rigid discipline even during the vilieggiatura. He pitied them for not 
having the freedom that we English students enjoyed, and as often 
as he could he visited them, and had them all crowding round him 
to listen to his ever-ready fund of amusing anecdote. The peals of 
merry laughter would attract the attention of the grave rector, who 
would come to see what was the matter, and would speedily be seen 
laughing as heartily as the rest There were not many books at San 
Michaele, but I remember distinctly the works of Dr. Newman, and 
some of Mr. Kenelm Digby's. For Dr. Newman, Fr. Burke had the 
greatest reverence. He had never seen him, but he would get very 
indignant when any attack was made upon him by some over- 
zealous Catholic, who misunderstood certain expressions of the great 

Fr. Mullooly (adds Canon Brownlow) was as great a contrast to 
P>. Burke as can be conceived, kind-hearted, worthy man as he was. 
Being most matter-of-fact, he was very slow in seeing the point of 
a joke, and many were made at his expense by his lively Prior. Yet 
Fr. Burke had a profound respect for him. On Burke's appointment 
as Prior, when the Irish novices were put under his charge, Fr. Mul- 
looly retired into the position of syndicate, and thus continued to 
manage the temporalities of the convent with that prudence and 
thorough knowledge of Rome and the people which his long resi- 
dence there had made habitual to him. On Fr. Burke's installation he 
assembled the community and addressed them in chapter, paying a 
well-merited tribute to the wisdom of Fr. Mullooly, and, turning to 
him, said that he trusted he should always have the benefit of his 
counsel and experience, and declared that he should never, during 
his term of office, do anything without his advice. After the 
chapter was over, Fr. Mullooly remarked to another Father, ' Seems 
a sensible young man, that ! ' 

It was about this time that beneath San Clemente the 
interior of the Temple of Mithras was discovered. The 
antiquity must be great, for De Rossi says that, after the 

' Letter of the Very Rev. Canon Brownlow, M.A., St. Mary's, Torquay, 
July 4, 1884. 

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death of Julian the Apostate, the use of subterranean ceme- 
teries ceased. But some clue to the site of the temple is said 
to have been afforded by certain lines of Prudentius, and Fr. 
Mullooly dug with a will. Mullooly was not handsome, but 
graced with learning and holiness. 

Among the objects of interest dug up in the subterranean church 
was a marble bust of a young man. This (writes Canon Brown- 
low) was affirmed by the learned to be Adonis, and Fr. Burke 
succeeded in persuading the good bursar that it bore a striking 
resemblance to his own rather homely features ; and his great 
amusement was to get the simple-minded roan to explain the 
antiquities to an admiring throng of visitors, and to prompt them to 
ask questions about this bust Poor Fr. Mullooly fell into the trap, 
and would tell his audience that it was a bust of Adonis, adding, * I 
am told that it bears a striking resemblance to me.' A celebrated 
French archaeologist announced his intention of visiting San Clemente 
to see the antiquities. Fr. Burke managed to get hold of him before 
he saw Fr. Mullooly, and persuaded him to enter into the joke. 
After going through the other objects of interest with Fr Mullooly, 
they came to this bust, and the savant gravely pronounced it to be 
Adonis, and then looking repeatedly from the bust to Fr. Mullooly, 
he cried out, ' Mais, c'est vous ! ' After this Fr. Mullooly was more 
than ever confirmed in his persuasion, and used to quote Monsieur 
X.'s opinion as decisive. 

Fr. Mullooly's spirit of archaeologic enterprise had been 
fanned by the example of another Dominican Prior— the 
Pere Besson — who, In 1856, had unearthed beneath Santa 
Sabina fragments of the wall of Servius Tullius, formed of 
peperino, and a very ancient Roman house paved with fine 
mosaic. On Besson's death most of his discoveries were 
earthed up again ; but it was a pleasant sign of the times 
that both England and Prussia gave Mullooly a helping hand. 

Canon Brownlow has referred to Fr. Burke's indulgence 
in cigars. For this Fr. Mullooly felt himself privileged to 
remonstrate with him gravely. The Prior made his venerable 
friend stare by pretending that the Pope had sent him a 


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share of a chest of Havannas worth a dollar each, which a 
Mexican son had forwarded to the Vatican as an offering. 

One day the Protestant monk, Fr. Ignatius, arrived in 
Rome, and at once went in quest of Mr. Brownlow. The 
latter brought him to San Clemente, but, Fr. Burke being 
away, he never saw Fr. Ignatius. 

The Italian lay brother at San Clemente told Fr. Burke that I had 
been there, with two English monks, in a strange habit which he 
could not quite make out. Fr. Burke explained that they were not 
real monks at all, but were Protestants. 'Come! portano T abito 
religiose e non sono Cristiani ! ' * exclaimed the lay brother, utterly 
puzzled by so strange a phase of Protestantism.^ 

Fr. Mullooly had sometimes very distinguished guests. 
Fr. Burke described him conducting the Empress of Russia 
through San Clemente and the larger catacombs. She at last 
came to an old fresco of St. Clement depicted in the act of 
giving his blessing with only two fingers raised. With an 
expression of delight the Empress reminded Mullooly that 
this was the formula of benediction in the Greek Church.' 

The descent by the sickly light of a taper into this dark 
crypt — dear to martyred men — presented a contrast so great 
to the bright and busy world above that, if it were not for 
Fr. Burke's lively sallies, visitors would often have found 
themselves in solemn mood. Here, in listening to his deep 
voice, a strange feeling would be produced on the minds of 
historic thinkers when they remembered that within the same 
walls, and beneath the same roof, had already resounded the 
sonorous tones of St. Augustine and Gregory the Great. 

' ' What ! They wear the dress of a monk and are not Christians ! ' 
• Letter of the Very Rev. Canon Brownlow, M.A., Torquay, July 23, 1884. 
" Later on she had the satisfaction of finding on the end wall of the naye of 
San Clemente SS. Cyril and Methodius in episcopal robes of the Greek rite. But 
in the subterranean basilica a more remarkable fresco presented itself— a votive 
picture of our Saviour blessing according to the Greek form. Even Fr. Mullooly 
was puzzled. * Why this composition should be found here . . . who can say?*— 
Vide S/, CUmeni and his Basilica^ by Joseph Mullooly, Rome 1873, p. 302. 


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Fr. Burke mentioned that he had been asked to conduct 
the Prince of Wales through the great catacombs, or, as 
they are sometimes styled, ' the crypt of St. Sebastian.' The 
Prince was mainly desirous to see the paintings with which 
the early Christians decorated their cemeteries. These in- 
clude remarkable representations of our Saviour, of the 
Madonna, and the saints, and of the miracles of the Old 
and New Testament. Some English Catholic ladies, mostly 
converts, were in Rome at this time. They seemed divided 
in their devotion between the Prince and the pictures, and 
that evening conjured Fr. Burke to tell them exactly what 
His Royal Highness said of the frescoes. But he tantalised 

them by merely saying, 'He said ,' and then pausing. 

This went on for some minutes, Burke taking pleasure in 
exciting their curiosity. * For mercy sake, what did he say ? * 

exclaimed Lady A in a perfect flutter. 'Yes, yes, I'm 

coming to it,' replied Fr. Burke, and ended their suspense by, 
'Hesaid— «Aw!"' 

In point of fact. His Royal Highness said much more ; but 
Fr. Burke was not the man to boast. The Earl of Granard, 
in a letter dated February 21, 1885, speaks of 'Fr. Burke's 
intimacy with the Prince of Wales, who made his acquaintance 
at Rome and had a great liking for him.' 

Fr. Tom had been constantly asked to act as guide to the 
Catacombs, and would afterwards give the comments of the 
visitors who hung on his words. A military officer clenched 
each new exposition with 'By Jove,' a phrase he never 
varied ; a Ritualistic parson said ' Exactly so ' to everything, 
and so on. It was a favourite piece of humour, when acting 
as cicerone^ for Fr. Tom to mimic the tones of the professional 
guide, a doctor of some attainments. 

On the Feast of the Purification I accompanied Fr. Burke to St. 
Peter's for the ceremony of the Blessing of the Candles (writes the 
Very Rev. G. D. Power, formerly of San Clemente). After the 
function in the Basilica the parish priests, rectors, and heads of 


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the religious houses, proceeded to the Audience Chamber in the 
Vatican Palace to present a handsome wax candle to His Holiness 
Pope Pius IX. 

The Pope humorously remarked to the Prior of San Clemente, 
that such a large candle would be of some service in the subterranean 
Basilica of San Clemente which was then being excavated, and 
which the Pope had found badly lighted on the occasion of one ot 
his visits. Fr. Burke asked His Holiness in his sly, humorous way, 
* if he might convey that message to the venerable Fr. Mullooly, 
whom the Pope as well as the bystanders knew to be most touchy on 
the subject of the perfection of the works going on in the excava- 
tions.' * Oh, no,' replied the Pope, laughingly, and with the slightest 
imaginable shrug. On our return through the suite of ante- 
chambers which led out of the audience room, one of the Noble 
Guard muttered some expression of supercilious contempt as Fr. 
Burke and his companion passed by. 

The Prior of San Clemente overheard the remark, and suddenly 
wheeled round and faced the Guard, and in the most vigorous strain 
and impassioned Italian, gave him *a piece of his mind.' The 
Noble Guard, stung to the quick, and ashamed of himself, slunk 
away utterly confounded by the scathing rebuke administered by the 
Irish Friar. * Si, signor,' he said, in a tone of indignant rebuke ; ' si, 
signor, sono un povero frate. Son anche Irlandese; ma adesso 
sono nella casa di mio Padre.' ' He gave it to him. The only thing 
he could never stand was a sneer. A big lusty Italian ventured on 
another occasion in the street to use some insulting remark as 
Fr. Tom passed. He was obliged to make an ample apology on the 
spot, and then sneaked away. 

I was present at his Lenten conferences preached in the church 
of Santa Maria dei Monti, in Rome. 

He would take me out for a walk outside the walls some days 
previous to his preaching, and go over the points of his coming 
exposition. In the condensation and conciseness of his synopsis 
he would display a strong analytical mind, put his discourse into 
a simple syllogism, and develop it into one of his grandly eloquent 
conferences. His discourse on * Divorce and Modern Society ' was 
one of the finest of that brilliant series. These conferences were 
attended, among other personages, by the Duke of Norfolk, Cardinal 
(then Mgr.) Howard, Anglican clergymen, and nearly the entire 

' • Yes, sir . . . yes, sir, I am a poor monk ; I am also an Irishman, but now 
I am in my Father's house.* 


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community of Anglicans in Rome, the students and rectors of the 
English colleges and religious communities in Rome. 

They used to take their stations on the street outside the 
church long before the doors were opened. 

When that law of divorce was established in England (says Fr. 
Burke himselQ I happened to be in Rome, and a Protestant lady, 
engaged to a Protestant English gentleman, was there too. She 
heard a sermon of mine on these questions of marriage and divorce, 
and she said, * I am bound to become a Catholic out of self-respect 
and in self-defence ; ' and she wrote that very day to release herself 
from her engagement, saying, * My dear friend, if you will become a 
Catholic, and will share with me the belief of the inviolable tie of 
marriage, I will marry you ; but if you remain in a religion which 
makes divorce possibky I cannot marry you.' * 

Before delivering these sermons he maintained his old 
habit of soliciting the suggestions of his novices, who were 
indeed but beardless boys ; and one of them, who is now 
Coadjutor Bishop of Cork, has recognised in the discourses as 
subsequently preached the thoughts which, for some subtle 
discipline, he courted. 

One day the Master of Novices opened a volume and 
began to expound its teaching to the youths who surrounded 
him. The author was Cuniliati, a Dominican, who wrote on 
Moral Theology. One of the novices ventured to remark 
that Cuniliati was a theologian of extreme austerity. 'Al- 
ways take a high theory,* replied Fr. Burke, * because your 
practice is sure to fall under the mark.* 

He would occasionally take up some great moral writer, 
read a chapter, and then supplement it with new and wonder- 
ful points of his own. Faber (he said) was the only devo- 
tional author whose expositions he could not further develop.* 

On another day he said, * I never despair of a man if he 
observes his daily meditation and examination of conscience. 
He impressed upon his novices always to try and foresee 
what they would be exposed to during the day.' 

> * Catholicity the Safety of America.* Lecture at Perth Amboy, N J., U.S., 
Nov. 7, 1872. « Very Rev. P. V. Kenny, O.P., to the Author. 


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In Rome he bought the complete edition of Dickens, pub- 
lished by the Baron Tauchnitz, and refreshed his memory of 
the characters. These he reproduced by personal perform- 
ance for the amusement of the novices and Fathers. 

For Thackeray's novels he had not the same fondness. 
He thought them too satiric, and often jaundiced in their 
view. But he greatly liked the earlier efforts of M. Angelo 
Titmarsh, especially * Mrs. Perkins's Ball.' Often he enacted 
the whole scene for his novices, and stalked among them as 
*The Mulligan of Bally Mulligan.' 

Dr. Magee, Professor of Theology at Carlow College, used 
to tell us an incident of his first visit to Rome, that, requiring 
some trivial information in one of his classic rambles, he 
addressed himself to a monk who paced the Piazza del Popolo. 
The monk seemed impenetrably stupid. He did not know 
Italian ; when asked if he could speak French he replied 
' Very little ; * of Latin he seemed shamefully ignorant ; 
Greek he declined with a shrug. At last the monk contrived 
to convey that he hailed from Dublin, whereupon some 
observations in English were eagerly addressed to him by 
Dr. Magee. A fluent response in vernacular Irish served 
only to puzzle the Professor the more, and made him feel 
ashamed that he should be ignorant of the language of his 
native land. Dumbfounded and crestfallen, he turned away, 
and it was not until long after that he discovered that the 
mysterious monk, all shrug and solemnity, was the great Fr. 
Burke. But Magee's name, face, and failings were perfectly 
well known to Fr. Tom. Magee was an irrepressible talker ; 
'brilliant flashes of silence' rarely marked his monologue. 
He liked to boast of all the tongues he had mastered ; how 
he could draw forth sparks of electricity from inert masses ; 
read a man's soul, and diagnose * sham ' with one glance of his 
piercing eye. Noodles thought it a coincidence that M should 
be the initial letter of Mezzofanti and Magee. This was the 
man whom Burke — on the impulse of the moment — decided 


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to confound and silence. Fr. Tom had been familiar with 
Magee's name through an ingenious Latin epitaph composed 
by the Rev. Dr. Taylor, and which is now printed for the first 

time : 

Hie jacet 

£t tandem tacet 

Joannes Magee 

S. T. P. 

Vitam egit in loquendo 

Semper nova proponendo 

Nihil autem faciendo. 

This epitaph was penned twenty years before Magee's death, 
and its author pre-deceased its subject, who, however, seems 
to have been unconscious of its existence. We are bound 
to say that, socially, few men were more beloved than 
Dr. Magee. 

There was no language in Europe that Burke could not speak 
fluently (observes Mgr. Sheehan). But there was one language in 
the knowledge of which he took more pride than that of any other 
tongue — the grand old Celtic of his native home. His Irish was 
rich and full, and spoken with what Irish-speaking people call bioss^ 
meaning taste and finish.' 

I saw a good deal of Fr. Burke in his different visits to Rome 
(writes John Count Sherlock) ; he could make fun and wit out of 
anything. There is a view which I heard more than once hazarded, 
and which I looked on at the time as worthy of note, that much of his 
jocularity was put on in order to disqualify him from being raised to 
the post of Bishop, which he very much dreaded. No one would have 
been more likely to urge his promotion than my late valued friend Car- 
dinal CuUen, and nowhere more than in his presence did Fr. Burke ex- 
pand. I scarcely remember an occasion of dining with his Eminence 
with few or more guests, either in Dublin or in Rome, that Fr. Burke 

* In one of his lectures Fr. Burke said that his knowledge of the Irish tongue 
enabled him to converse freely with natives of the Scottish Highlands. Spoken 
before the deluge, Gaelic is venerable for its antiquity. O'Halloran went so far 
as to assert that it was the language of Japhet and also of Paradise. Fr. Burke 
was not much of a philologist, and expressed no opinion as to its origin. But 
he held with Dr. Haughtcn that Irish was the only tongue which the Devil never 
could learn, and that it was a puzzle how, thus ignorant, he succeeded in tempting 


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was not a standing dish, and no one more enjoyed, the scene of the 
mountebank Italian dentist, or the concert of the itinerant musicians 
composed of halt and blind, than his Eminence. There was one 
subject, however, that never found him otherwise than serious. 
He had from an early period become known to and greatly 
cherished by the late Mrs. Ball, of Loietto Abbey, Rathfarnhani, a 
very gifted and remarkable woman, who saw the rare qualities of the 
young religious and the career that was in store for h:m. He was 
always ready to acknowledge that he owed very much to her advice, 
and that he could never show too much gratitude to her memory. 
His buoyancy of spirits would give way to periodical depression 
consequent on his state of health. 

No wonder that our great Dominican should have been in 
dread of a mitre : for his predecessor, Fr. Mullooly, had been 
nominated * Dignissimus' for Ardagh, but shrank from the 
post. From the seventeenth century to the present hour the 
Priors of San Clemente — including Dr. OTynan, whose mitre 
proved a crown of thorns — have frequently been chosen for 
episcopal duty. 

Nowhere was Fr. Burke more himself than when the subterranean 
church of San Clemente was thrown open to the public (continues 
Count Sherlock). He would cicerone numbers of English, and when 
showing and explaining the frescoes strongly defend their great 
antiquity, whilst at the same moment, within a short distance in the 
church, a rival ecclesiastic, leading a crowd of American hearers, 
would throw out objections, and endeavour to shear them of some 
centuries of antiquity. On these occasions good Fr. Burke on his 
return would say, * Did I not back Mullooly well ? ' ' 

Fr. Burke's strong reh'gious feeling in the same capacity 
IS shown by Canon Brownlow, who was making his studies in 
Rome at this time and saw a great deal of him. 

One day an English lady came to San Clemente, and asked to see 
the subterranean church. After Fr. Burke had explained the paint- 
ings, &c., the lady said in a patronising and somewhat supercilious 
tone, ' I think you are Irish, are you not ? ' Fr. Burke immediately 
went into a kind of rapture of gratitude. ' Ah, yes I It was no merit 

» Letter of John Count Sherlock to the Author, Oct. 2, 1884. 


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of mine, but the great goodness of God, who caused me to be bom 
in that glorious land of the faith. How can I ever be grateful 
enough ! Why, I might have had the misfortune to have been bom 
in England and have been an utter stranger to the truth ! I suppose, 
ma'am, you are a Protestant? ' The lady assented. * Ah ! ' continued 
the Father, * and so might I have been, if it had not pleased the 
merciful God that I should have the unspeakable blessing of being 
born in Ireland.' The lady went away much abashed at having 
evoked this unexpected reply to her condescending remark.* 

No reader, we hope, will infer that Fr. Burke was a bigot 
Speaking at St. Paul's, Brooklyn, of ' Essays and Reviews/ 
he said they were ' written entirely by Anglican clergymen, 
learned men and honest men. God forbid that I should hurt 
their feelings, for some of the dearest friends I have in the 
world are Protestants and Englishmen.' And, in his lecture 
on * The Christian Man * (March 22, 1872), he says : 

Call me no bigot if I say that the Catholic Church alone is the 
great representative of Christianity. I do not deny that there is 
goodness outside of it, nor that there are good and honest men who 
are not of this Church. Whenever I meet an honest, truthful man, I 
never stop to inquire if he is Catholic or Protestant ; I am always 
ready to do him honour, as the noblest work of God. 

One day a person who can hardly be called a lady waited 
upon the Prior of San Clemente and sought to draw him 
into controversy. She used offensive language in regard to 
the Blessed Virgin, and expressed utter incredulity that 
clerical celibacy could exist. Fr. Burke stood up, rang the 
bell, and to the lay brother said, * Show this lady to the door, 
and be cautious henceforth what class p( person you admit' 

* Letter of Canon Brownlow, M. A., Torquay, June 25, 1884. 

' It so happened that at one time a large and well-ordered institute fieiced 
the house in which Fr. Burke lived. The good Dominican, as he paced his 
room, was more than once tormented by the vision of a female at early mom, who, 
probably from want of thought, would stand at the window, in the cuirass of a 
well-steeled stays, and with outstretched arms bind the tresses of her hair. When 
next the apparition came he shouted loudly an epithet which began with a 
* B,' and was confined to a monosyllable. Henceforth his meditations were not 
disturbed, nor his eyes offended. In this act he proved himself a true son of 


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In a subsequent lecture on *the Wants of Society,' he 
said : 

The Catholic Church creates purity amongst the people because 
she creates a perfect type of purity in her priesthood and in her 
sanctuary. The Catholic Church says to the people ; Oh, you men ! 
oh, you husbands ! be faithful, be pure, be self-restrained men ! 
Look at your fellow- men in the sanctuary ! Look at the men who 
minister unto me at my altars I Behold, I have taken them in the 
bloom of their youth, in the strength of their manhood ; and I have 
enabled them so to annihilate their passions and their bodies that 
no thought or shadow of a thought to sin allied is ever allowed to 
linger in its passage across their imagination ; that no act unworthy 
an angel of God is ever committed by them ; that they are in the 
flesh, indeed, but exalting the spirit over that flesh ; and, therefore, 
it is that I admit them to my most holy altar, because they are com- 
plete victories, and the embodiments of victory, over their passions. 
In the purity of her priesthood, in the virginal purity of her priest, 
and monk, and nun, the Church of God proves to the world that 
this high virtue is possible ; that it is easy and feasible to man ; and 
that all that any man has to do is to look up to Jesus Christ in 
prayer, and in sacrifice, and in humility, in order to obtain that gift 
of innocence and purity which is the adornment of the Christian soul. 

The object attributed to Fr. Burke in assuming so much 
exuberance — namely, that his tonsure might be kept free from 
the weight of a mitre — seems to have been tolerably successful. 

The inexhaustible flow of fun that bubbled out so naturally from 
the witty Prior of San Clemente (writes Canon Brownlow) seemed 
to certain grave divines somewhat lowering to his dignity, and it got 
whispered among the Cardinals that their Eminences were at times 
the objects of his jokes, and that he even presumed to mimic those 
exalted personages. Some of them spoke seriously about it, and 
asked the Dominican Cardinal Guidi to admonish him to behave 
with greater gravity. Cardinal Guidi repaired to San Clemente, 
and proceeded to deliver his message, and Fr. Burke received it 
with becoming submission. But no sooner had the Cardinal finished 

St. Thomas Aquinas, who, when his relatives sent a (air visitor to him in the hopt 
of weaning him from holy thoughts, put her 10 flight with a flaming brand. The 
story of St. Kevin repulsing Kathleen from Glcndalough rests on less sound 


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than Fr. Burke imitated his manner, accent, and language, with 
such ludicrous exactness, that the Cardinal burst into a fit of 
laughter, and declared that it was so amusing he could not tell him 
to stop.* 

It is satisfactory to know, on the authority of Steevens, that 

Democritus, the laughing philosopher, lived one hundred and nine 
years ; Heraclitus, the crying one, only sixty. Laughing, then, 
is best (he adds), and to laugh at one another is perfectly justifiable, 
since we are told that the gods themselves, though they made us as 
they pleased, cannot help laughing at us. 

Fr. Burke no doubt lengthened by his pleasantry the 
useful lives of his mortified brethren ; meanwhile his inner life 
was worthy of Lacordaire. 

Mr. O'Hara, Q.C., in spending happy hours with Fr. Burke 
at the house of Count Sherlock in Rome, had been asked to 
bring his family to visit San Clemente. One day they left 
home with that object, and, hearing that Father Burke was 
somewhere about the church, entered in search of him. No- 
where did he appear. At last a solitary figure, motionless 
before the tabernacle, and seemingly lost in an ecstasy of con- 
templation, arrested Mr, O'Hara's eye. Long and patiently 
the party waited, hoping that the figure would at last rise ; but 
the man, whose knees ought to have been stiflT from kneeling, 
tired out his patient visitors. They at last withdrew, not less 
amazed than edified, that piety so strong should animate one 

* * The Dominican Cardinal Guidi used often to visit San Clemente in my time,' 
writes a friar preacher, * and sometimes dine with the community or at our country 
house without the city walls. Previously Cardinal Guidi had been himself prior 
and professor of theology in San Clemente. He went from thence to the 
University of Vienna, and it was whilst teaching St. Thomas's theology there that 
he was made cardinal and archbishop of his native city, Bologna. He was after- 
wards made a suburban bishop — Cardinal Archbishop of Tusculum (Frascati). ' A 
subsequent letter says : * ** Our country house " is situated at our vineyard about 
two miles without the Porta Maggiore. The schools give a vacation of one 
day each month in Rome, and we used to spend that day at the vineyard in com- 
pany of many friends, English and Itali m. Among other frequent visitors not 
previously mentioned were the correspondent of the Times and Dr. Silas Chatard, 
rector of the North American College, and now Bishop of Vincennes, U.S.* 


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whom they had previously known only as an irrepressible 

What were the thoughts that filled his mind ? The Holy 
Eucharist in the Tabernacle led to other reflections hardly 
less absorbing. In cold clay, beneath the altar of San 
Clemente, reposed St. Ignatius of Antioch, who had been 
martyred in the Coliseum ; St. Cyril, St. Servulus, and the 
colleague of St. Paul — St. Clement himself. Some lines of 
Newman, written long before he became a Catholic, remind 
us that 

The Fathers are in dust, yet live to God : 
So says the Truth ; as if the motionless clay 

Still held the seeds of life beneath tlie sod, 
Smouldering and struggling till the Judgment day. 

People used to go to confession to Fr. Burke, thinking that he 
would prove an easy-going director. Never was expectation more 
utterly disappointed. They found themselves in a vice.* 

His command and mastery of Italian were wonderful (says 
Fr. Power). Both the facility and felicity in the use of idiomatic 
Italian, his familiarity with popular phrases, and the delicacies of 
the soft Tuscan tongue, astonished and delighted the Italians. 

I remember a dinner party composed exclusively of Italians, 
ecclesiastics, and gentlemen of the literary and learned professions in 
Rome in 1865. He kept the entire company in roars of laughter by 
his recital of Irish stories, told with an idiomatic accuracy, rounded 
off in his own inimitable way, invested in all the paradoxes of 
Hibernian humour, in the musical Italian language. 

' Fr. Burke, from the day he made his solemn profession, had diligently 
studied, and as far as possible followed the inner life of Dominic. Ten years 
after, at St Saviour's, Dublin, he described an incident that had due in- 
fluence upon him : * He (Dominic) took his station in front of the sanctuary, 
and then through the long silent hours of the night, alone with God, he poured 
forth his whole soul in prayer. Then God heard from the lips of this man such 
words as He hears in Heaven from the highest and the holiest of his angels — 
bursts of love and ardent aspirations to be permitted to suffer and to die for the 
love of God. And when the grey dawn broke through the cathedral windows, 
and the canons returned, they found him pole and exhausted, like one worn out 
by some great physical emotion.' 

* Fr. Pius Cavanagh, O.P., to the Author. 


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I observed that he could write Italian as correctly and with as 
much facility as he spoke it (continues Fr. Power), and more 
naturally than if penning a letter in English. It was necessary 
that the Constitutions of a great religious institute, founded ui 
Ireland by a distinguished lady, should come fully before the Pro- 
paganda ; and I remember how kindly he exerted himself on 
behalf of the Institute. He translated their Constitutions currentc 
calamo for the authorities, and got them approved. 

His memory was most retentive. He often told me that he 
rarely forgot anything he ever read. He could recite the Psalter in 
I^tin, and rarely used a Breviary when reciting the Offices de com^ 
muni or the Office of the Dead. 

Having an excellent ear for music, he would repeat with great 
accuracy a song with words once sung in his presence. His readi- 
ness in extemporaneous versification would recall the quickness of 
Hook by their apposite and descriptive touches. 

In his leisure he would read from Thackeray or Dickens for the 
recreation of his hearers in his own inimitable vein of dry humour 
and elocutionary power. He could recite pages of a book after one 

During the tedious work of excavating under the modern church 
of San Clemente, to lay bare the ancient basilica which the inde- 
fatigable Fr. Mullooly had discovered, his tedious operations and 
untiring industry were partially rewarded by finding amidst the debris 
pieces of old Roman coins, pavement, and other relics, which 
perhaps Cyril the philosopher had already touched. We found 
Fr. Mullooly in unusually good humour one morning. He had found 
in the excavations a large fragment of what he styled a veritable 
Tuscan vase. He held it up with the gratified pride of a virtuoso, 
showed it with great delight, and dilated on the beauty and dura- 
bility of the specimen. Fr. Burke, as Prior, summoned the com- 
munity to see this interesting relia He took the fragment deli- 
cately in his hands and turned it up and down, eyeing it in every 
direction. * What a lovely specimen ! This is tlie first and only 
piece of the genuine Tuscan article you have found, Fr Mullooly ! 
You ought certainly to give it an honourable place in the collection 
of your antiquities.' ' Certainly, sir, certainly. There's nothing like 
it in all the museums of Rome.* And the precious fragment duly 
got its niche of honour. 

Something of the mystery of Wilkie Collinses * Moonstone' hung 
around this Tuscan pottery. One or two knew the mystery. . It 


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FR. power's recollections. '273 

was an awful secret — ^and the divulging meant a terrible fuss and 
bursts of indignation in some quarters. It was kept — for some time. 
Like all secrets, it must out 

An unknown hand had, I may say, sacrilegiously placed that 
fragment one dark afternoon deep down in the excavations after the 
workmen had retired. Where that * Tuscan vase * was originally 
found, and to what uses it had been formerly applied, remain 
a portion of the secret till this day. De Rossi and other an- 
tiquarians rejected it as ancient Tuscan manufacture, and deemed it 
more modern, and English in its artistic workmanship and style of 

One day in August Fr. Burke brought the students out for the 
usual * Caraerata.' During the walk we struck a river. It was the 
classic Anio. * Now for a swim ! ' cried out the students. It did 
not take long to obtain Fr. Tom's permission, as he was one of those 
most exhilarated by that prospect 

It was a sultry afternoon, and the Anio invited us to bathe in its 
cool waters. Fr. Burke reminded us that Virgil had found it re- 
freshing eighteen hundred years before. 

* Quique ahum Prseneste viri quique arva Gabinse 
Junonis, geliduntqtu Anienem et roscida rivis 
Ilemica saxa colunt.' — Virg. Ain, vii. 

In he went with a rush, and splashed and swam and dived in 
the Anio, so loved of Horace and Virgil. 

About a week after the Prior surprised us with the * row ' we had 
all got into with a community of monks whose monastery overlooked 
the river where we had bathed. 

A most formal complaint had been lodged at head- quarters 
against the Prior of San Michaele, Tivoli, for the awful outrage of 
swimming in the middle of the broad day in the Anio. 

I must say that if there was a lonely, sequestered place, the 
spot we had chosen was very emphatically such. There was no house 
in view. The monastery lay away up in the grove, and we were 
rejoicing that no observation could possibly mar the unspeakable 
luxury to Irish boys of a swim on an August afternoon in Italy. 

The Prior was brought over the coals by the General of the 
Order — then Pfere Jandel — but who laughed a good deal when the 
Prior convinced him of the absolute necessity of teaching Irish boys 
how to dive and swim, who were to live in a country like Ireland, 
full of beautiful lakes and entirely surrounded by water; and the art 



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of swimming was, he submitted, the only means of escape left open 
to the Irish in case of being obliged to run out of the country. 

Maybe we didn't think those Italians squeamish, and haters of 

Fr. Burke was a familiar figure in the chambers of the 
Vatican, where the long-buried statues of ancient Greece once 
more see the light of day and challenge the admiration of 
mankind : — 

One afternoon (continues Fr. Power) we were sauntering through 
one of the marble halls which branch off the Sculpture Gallery, 
stopping to examine and admire any piece of ancient or modern 
sculpture that stnick us as particularly worthy of closer observation. 

I remarked the strong attraction which the ancient statues of 
Fauns, Satyrs, and mythological monstrosities had for Fr. Burke. He 
was ecstatic over the skill of the cunning hand, the faithfulness to 
life, the realistic effects of the works of some one of the old Grecian 
or Roman artists. But his humour and marvellous mimicry were 
excited. He would pause, examine, attitudinise, pose, grin, smile, 
cry — producing a facsimile of the statue which rivetted him to the 
spot. He would laughingly ask, 'Am I like it?' *Is that it?' * I'll 
do it better next time— now look.' And then he would throw him- 
self into the attitude, and invest himself in its peculiarities and classic 
expression. Minus the habit, he might have been cast in the flesh in 
the same mould which perhaps served Daedalus, Phidias, Pythagoras, 
or Praxiteles, Zenodorus or Antinous for their classic models. His 
imitations were transformations — the alter ego of the statue before 
him — perfect transfigurations. 

We paused for a long while opposite the Laocoon, and refreshed 
our classics by recalling Virgil's description : 

Post, ipsum, auxilio subeuntem ac tela ferentem, 
Corripiunt, spirisque ligant ingentibus ; et jam 
Bis medium amplexi, bis collo squamea circum 
Terga dati, superant capite et cervicibus altis. — j^n, ii. 

The intense suffering, the writhing agony, the expression of one 
superuhman effort to uncoil the huge encircling serpent ; the despair 
and weakening efforts of the Laocoon will never be forgotten by 
anyone who has visited the Vatican Museum and gazed upon one of 
the grandest pieces of sculpture in the world. 

We looked around. There was no one in sight. * I'll try him I' 


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and in a twinkling there was the LaOcoon : the marvellous power of 
contortion, of personification, the agony, the strength of the terrible 
struggle, the despair, were displayed in realistic effort by the won- 
derful Fr. Tom. *Is that like him?* The effort took his breath 
away. We had been watched ; a party of ladies and gentlemen 
came upon us, stood opposite the Laocoon, looked at it, and then 
turned their eyes full upon Fr. Burke. In his inimitable way, as if 
by way of no harm, he remarked to one of the party, * I was only 
trying my hand at the Laocoon.' 

* Oh, do try it again ; do, please.* An introduction and an ac- 
quaintance was made on the spot, and the English party, one of 
whom was a clergyman of the Church of England, became fast and 
admiring friends of Fr. Burke, and during their stay in Rome were 
frequent visitors at San Clemente, and attended his sermons during 
the following Lent in the church of Santa Maria del Angeli in the 

Fr. Power says that, minus the habit, Fr. Burke might 
have been cast in the same mould which produced our most 
famous classic statues. Even the habit he afterwards utilised 
by drawing its white hood over his head when, in recumbent 
posture, he personated the Sphynx. Revisiting Woodchester 
before his death, he made the long, narrow table of the 
reception room a well-proportioned pedestal for this pose 

One day a very interesting incident occurred. The Prince 
of Wales called at San Clemente. 'The treasures of the 
Church,* writes Canon Hegarty, 'were under the protection of 
the British flag. They dared not keep them where they might 
tempt the cupidity of the rapacious Italians.' The Canon adds 
that ' His Royal Highness inquired after the safety of San 
Clemente, in reply to which he was informed that they were 
as yet undisturbed ; but who could tell how long that happy 
state of things might continue } * 

The Very Rev. M. A. Costello, O.P., addressing the present 

» MS. Recollections of Fr. Burke, supplied to the Author by the Rev. 
G, D. Power, formerly of San Clemente, Oct. 17, 1884. 


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writer, states that what is now added is within his personal 
knowledge : 

Before leaving Rome the Prince said that * if anything sinister 
should occur, Fr. Mullooly must write to him at once.' 

' When we here, at San Cleraente, were in a state of much anxiety, ' 
continues Fr. Costello, ' lest our house should be involved in tlie 
general suppression of ecclesiastical corporations by the Italian Govern- 
ment, the Prince interested himself much in our favour, recommending 
our case warmly and eamesdy to the good offices of Sir A. Paget, the 
then British Ambassador to the Italian Court, who, as I know, worked 
well and successfully in our cause.' ' 

The result is that the Dominicans now hold San Clemente 
on a title independent of Pope or King. 

San Clemente was an harmonious spot during the reign 
of the * Prince of Preachers.' Vocal and instrumental music 
filled its venerable walls. For this he had good precedent. 
*The love St. Columbkille had for Ireland,' he says, 'was a 
spirit common to all Irish saints. Whilst they were crowned 
with high church dignities in foreign lands, still, as recorded 
in the history of St. Aidan, first Archbishop of Northumbria, 
whenever they wished to enjoy themselves they assembled 
and celebrated in the Irish language, with sweetest verse, to 
the sound of harp and timbrel, the praises of their native isle.' 

* Ah ! ' he sadly says on another occasion — 

Italy has no such song. Great as the Italians are as masters, 
they have no popularly received tradition of music I have lived 
amongst them for years, and the Italian peasant, while working in 
the vineyard, has no music except two or three high notes of a most 
melancholy character, commencing upon a high dominant and ending 
in a semitone. The peasants of Tuscany and of Campagna, when, 
after their day's work, they meet in the summer evenings for a dance, 
have no music ; a girl takes a tambourine and beats upon it, marking 
time, and they dance to that, but they have no music. So with other 
countries. But go to Ireland ; listen to the old woman as she rocks 
herself in her chair, and pulls down the hank of flax for the spinning ; 

» Very Rev. M. A. Coslello, O.P., to the Author, San Clemente, Rome, 
April 5, 1885. 


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listen to the girl coming home from the field with the can of milk 
on her head, and what do you hear ? — magnificent melody. Go to 
the country merry-makings and you will be sure to find the old 
fiddler or white-headed piper, an infinite source of brightest music. 

'"Moore's Melodies" were his favourite songs,' writes Fr. 
Murphy — 

Their plaintive airs harmonised with the deep sympathy of his 
nature, for, however genial he might appear to the external world, 
there was always a vein of melancholy running through his inner life. 
The deep pathos of the history, the sweet sentiment, which was the 
very inspiration of the melody, caused him to pour out all the wealth 
of feeling that slumbered in his soul. 

Our Dominican considered that music lost its best inspira- 
tion when it fell from the guidance of the Church. He fancied 
— and the words are his own — that it was too often applied 
to the magnifying of human pride, to the celebration of human 
passion, to the illustration of all that is worst in man ; and that 
the highest theme of modem composers was not the * Stabat 
Mater' — the wail of the Virgin's sorrow — not the 'Alleluia,* to 
proclaim the glories of the risen God, but some story of sensual 
love, set forth in all the charms and meretricious embellish- 
ments of art. He also regretted to see that the halo of divine 
light surrounding Mary's face as it brightened beneath the 
creative hand of the young Dominican painter of Urbino died 
out in a subsequent school of art. 

Look at the Magdalens — the Madonnas of Rubens (Fr. Burke said). 
Rubens was a Catholic, yet his pictures display the very genius of 
Lutheranism. If he wanted to paint the Blessed Virgin, he chose 
some gross-looking woman in whom he found a ray of mere sensual 
beauty, and he put her on the canvas, and held her up before men as 
that Virgin whose prayer was to save, and whose power was above 
the Angels. The artist who would truly represent her must have his 
pencils touched with the purity of heaven. 

Simplicity of faith and great devotion to the Blessed Virgin struck 
me as remarkable features of Fr. Burke's religious life (continues 
Fr. Power's MS.). He surpassed himself in his sermons on the 
life, dignity, and virtues of the mother of God. During the summer 


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vacation of 1865 at San Michaele, Tivoli, he inaugurated a pilgrimage 
to the famous shrine of Our Lady of Vicovaro. This little mountain 
village was about eighteen miles from Tivoli. The pilgrims started 
about four o'clock in the morning, and along the route up the nigged 
hills and mountain roads, led by the fervent Prior, recited the Litanies, 
Psalms, and the Rosary, till the procession of the devout clients of 
Mary reached the litde village church, and attended the solemn 
High Mass, sung by Fr. Burke. 

One of the novices who accompanied Fr. Burke to Vico- 
varo was the late Prior of St Saviour's, Limerick, and his 
notes supply an interesting sequel : 

We students were informed by him that whilst singing the High 
Mass he was favoured by seeing the eyes of Our Lady in the picture 
move. We could see that something must have appeared to him 
during Mass, as his own appearance became so changed. He had 
ever after a great veneration for * Our Lady of Vicovaro.* 

It is mentioned in the inner life of Lacordaire, who had 
been a strong sceptic, that he believed in a similarly miracu- 
lous quality possessed by a picture also of the Madonna. But 
we are bound to add that such views are quite exceptional 
with Catholic priests. The emotions which visibly affected Fr. 
Burke's face during High Mass may not have been induced 
entirely by changes real or fancied in the wonderful picture 
at Vicovaro.* Fr. Burke, whenever he celebrated Mass — espe- 
cially High Mass, which being of great length and solemnity 
affords abundant time for thought — realised the powers of 
his office to an extent not always found with officiating 
ministers. Once, when referring to the words of Chrysostom 
describing the virgin purity of the priesthood, Burke ex- 
claimed : 

■ At the same time, it would be hard for any man who pinned his faith, as 
Fr. Burke did, to so high an authority as Thomas Aquinas, to exclude a belief in 
the supernatural. ' St. Thomas thinks,* writes the Rev. W. £. Addis, ' that God 
has communicated to the saints a permanent power of appearing on earth when 
they please.' In the *Summa' (Supp. qu. 69, a. 3) will be found a theological 
disquisition showing that God, for wise reasons^ may permit departed souls to 
appear on earth. 


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This life is a God-like life ; this professioQ is an angelic pro- 
fession. How can I find words to express the full sanctity of 
that state ? Oh ! great God ! a man speaks a few words standing 
at an altar, holding a piece of bread in his hands, and all heaven 
is in commotion. Every angel prostrates himself in adoration, for 
the Almighty God rises on His throne, and places Himself, by 
a wonderful incarnation, in the hands of him whose voice calls 
forth a response from heaven. How can I speak of the dignity 
rnd holiness of that state which brings a man into such awful contact 
with the Almighty — to hold God in his hands, and speak to God as a 
roan speaks to his friend ? Such is the brightness of the glory of the 
priesthood ; such was the sight shown to Moses on the mountain, 
which ever after enrayed his head with glory ; and as Moses came 
from the mountain, having seen God, so the priest comes down from 
the altar with the awful sanctity of having seen Jesus Christ* 

Fathers who lived with our friar say that for several 
years after ordination he was much troubled by scrupu- 
losity. The obligations of the sacred ministry were com- 
pletely realised by him. He felt, and felt correctly, that 
he had received not only supernatural powers, but a grace 
beyond any merits of his own. The responsibilities of his 
position pressed heavily on him, and when he placed in the 
balance his own weakness, and the weight of the trust reposed 
in the priest, it struck him as forcibly as though a contrast 
had been instituted between man and God. The exhortation 
in Timothy to remember the grace he received rung in the ear 
of Thomas Burke. At Tallaght he usually went to confes- 
sion two or three times a week ; but if he said Mass daily he 
went still oftener ; and with his sacred vestments on him 
he would suddenly drop on his knees in the sacristy, to any 
priest who happened to be there, and at once disburthen his 
mind of some scruple which otherwise might have tended to 
distract him during the Holy Sacrifice. 

1 Sermon at consecration of Bishop Hendricken, Providence, April 28, 187a. 


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Much that was purely professional in the life of the good 
Prior must remain unrecorded. It is not necessary to cite 
proofs of the highly spiritualised character of the man, or to 
show the rich harvest of conversions which he reaped in the 
confessional. All this time, the course of his inner life con- 
tinued to flow ; but the cell wherein he prays is almost too 
sacred for intrusion ; and our task concerns itself more with 
the man in lighter hours. 

During his priorship of San Clemente, Fr. Burke invited on 
a visit a youth then in delicate health, whose family had been 
kind to him in Ireland. For three months he was the daily 
companion of Fr. Tom. Part of the time he acted as amanu- 
ensis in taking down notes for a course of Lenten sermons. 
But it was his 'mems' for a great discourse on Church 
music, which, for their comic eccentricity, left most impression 
on his guest. These notes seemed to the uninitiated wildly 
irrelevant, but Fr. Burke explained that they served their 
purpose by prompting a particular course of thought. * I 
can compare it to nothing but a chapter of Mark Twain,' 
the amanuensis said ; * never shall I forget after an extract 
from Polydorus being called upon to write down : 

With that an arch wag 
Stuck a pin in his bag, 
When the music flew up to the moon too soon.' 

This, it afterwards appeared, belonged to an old ballad 
which his father used to sing about ' a piper who pla)zed before 


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TIVOLI. 281 

Moses ! ' When on completing his job his friend read aloud 
the notes, Fr. Burke laughed heartily, and fervently prayed 
that in an unguarded moment he might not make the awk- 
ward mistake of giving out the * mem ' meant for other uses. 

The lay guest looks back with special pleasure to some 
trips to Tivoli, * under the patronage of St. Martin of Tours' 
on which Fr. Burke brought him from Rome, accompanied 
by his novices. They drove there and back, a distance 
of thirty-six miles. Fr. Burke generally walked over the 
olive-crowned hills, which spread away for miles — visiting 
Corinthian temples of the Augustan age, and viewing the 
steep falls of the Teverone. Sometimes he would hire a 
donkey, and, getting astride, lead the van with dignified 
humour. Wit and wisdom and classic lore flashed and made 
the day a joy. * Our evenings at San Clemente were equally 
pleasant. With a majesty of intellect he was yet a child 
among children.' ' 

Shakspere he considered a good educator. Fr. Burke 
seemed to have his best plays by heart ' He would delight us, 
by not merely repeating, but acting them. His face assumed 
new features for every character.' 

One day Fr. Mullooly, during his excavations, unearthed 
a valuable pillar known as ' Rosso antiquo.' The Pope called 
at San Clemente to see it. 'This would look well in 
the Vatican,* said his Holiness. Fr. Mullooly conveyed 
without saying it that it looked better where it was. Fr. 
Burke afterwards gravely sought to persuade Fr. Mullooly 
that he would be obliged by a sense of holy obedience to 
surrender the pillar ! This would indeed have been a cross. 
If cut up into mosaics for the ornamentation of altars, the 
pillar, he said, would be worth 4,000/. British.* 

* When viewing the niins of Horace's villa overhanging the Anio, jokes were 
freely made even at the expense of sacerdotal friends, including Fr. Horris, then 
residing at Tivoli Terrace, Kingstown, and whose residence gave rise to obvious 
punning. Fr. Burke felt with Horace, * Dulce est de§ipere in loco.* 

' Fr. Burke*s persiflage veiled deeper thoughts. Speaking of the infinite 


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A modem fresco at San Clemente depicts a visit of Pope 
Pius to that basilica, and prominent in the picture is a likeness 
of Fr. Burke. 

The good Prior not only gave shelter and hospitality to 
the young Irish layman, but did his best to compensate for 
the monastic gloom which at times prevailed by exerting 
himself like a true host in trying to amuse him. The Car- 
nival was now on, and the Prior undertook to provide his 
guest, at short notice, with an Oriental fancy dress. A capa- 
cious night-shirt was hastily donned, then a large railway 
rug was artistically draped round his person, and secured at the 
waist by the coils of Fr. Burke's plaid muffler. Already the 
transformation was striking; but when the Prior produced a tas- 
selled fez, or, as it is called by the natives, a tarboosh, and put 
on a beard, the youth became so changed that his own mother 
would not have known him. * The Turk,' as he called him- 
self, proceeded towards the Corso, but had not got far when 
a volley of pellets made him duck his head. Next day he 
found that his pursuer, mysteriously muffled, was no other 
than the Prior of San Clemente, who had followed him a 
short distance, and then returned to his cell. The young 
Irishman looked the character of an Oriental so completely 
that on a subsequent day he again donned the dress and sat 
for the very effective photograph which is now before us. The 
costume seems to be that of an Algerian Arab. 

Among graver incidents of Fr. Burke's experience he told 
Br. Paul O'Connor that he was one day reading the Divine 
Office at San Clemente when a knock came to the door of his 
cell. On opening it he found a man who said he wanted to make 
his confession. Fr. Burke replied that when he had finished 

sanctity of the sacrifice offered on the altar, he s^d, when preaching at Fermoy, 
Aug. 1 8, 1878 : ' What wonder that the Church of God from the very beginning 
sought out the costliest materials, opened the very hearts of the mountains, that 
she might bring out the brightest and the most glistening marbles, and ransacked 
the depths of the sea for ** many a gem of purest ray serene " to place upon the 


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his Office he would hear him. Ten minutes later he opened 
the door and said, ' Kneel down.' The man obeyed, but after 
a moment asked what was he kneeling for. It turned out 
that the first applicant had gone home, while the second 
visitor had come upon utterly different business. The man 
admitted that he had not been at confession for twenty years, 
and resisted Fr. Burke's exhortations to repentance. But he 
reasoned with him patiently, and on looking down at the sleeve 
of his habit he found it, to his amazement, sparkling with 
tears. Never was conversion more complete. The penitent 
often returned to the same room, and became as familiar a 
face as the fresco of St. Alexius.* 

The twin Orders of St Dominic and St. Francis main- 
tained in Italy, as at home, the same fraternal intercourse. 
Amid all his Italian surroundings Fr. Burke did not forget the 
old land ; and on the Feast of St. Patrick 1865 he preached 
at St. Isidore's the doge of the Apostle of Ireland. Taking 
his text from Eccles. xliv. i, * Let us now praise men of re- 
nown,' he said that one of the duties of God's Church to which 
she had ever been most faithful is the celebration of her saints. 
* They are her heroes, and therefore she honours them ; just 
as the world celebrates its own heroes, records their great 
deeds, and builds up monuments to perpetuate their names 
and their glory.' In describing the zeal and humility of 
Patrick he seems to have been influenced by the example 
of the saint. Do not the following words foreshadow the 
suflTering through which for years he triumphantly laboured ? 
— ' Therefore did he make himself the slave and the servant 
of all, that he might gain all to God. And in his mission 
of salvation no difficulties retarded him, no labour or sacrifice 

' One of the old frescoes is of St. Alexius as a mendicant — ' the father does 
not recognise his son, who asks his alms.' Fr. Burke used to say that he also 
performed a similar feat on his father. The case, however, is wholly different. 
St. Alexius ran away from his bride the day he had been married, and stalked the 
world disguised as a pilgrim. 


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deterred him, no sickness, no infirmity of body or mind 
overcame him.' 

Fr. Burke also preached at Rome the panegyric of St. 
Agatha, the Patron of the Irish College. 

One day when hurrying to attend some great function at 
the Minerva, his eyes buried in a book as he walked, Burke 
came into collision on the Piazza Sancte Apostole with a pillar, 
and, tripped by his habit, he fell heavily to the ground. A 
report reached Galway about this time that Fr. Tom was 
dead. Mr. Lynch, an old friend, called at Mrs. Burkes 
house. Business was suspended and the shutters closed. 
His sisters were sobbing piteously; the old mother stood 
apart Mr. Lynch advanced to console her, but she seemed 
quite resigned. She had not dropt one tear. * Long since I 
gave my boy to God,* she said, * His holy will be done ' — and 
Mrs. Burke proceeded to discharge her ordinary occupations. 
Of late years, though she had become very feeble, she con- 
tinued to walk to church every morning and hear Mass. 

What Fr. Burke wrote to Sister Aloysius in 1876, that *it 
was a day up and a day down with him,' applied long before, 
and at no time more than the present. The Vice- Rector of 
the Irish College hearing how ill he was, called at San Cle- 
mente and found him in his cell confined to bed, visibly suf- 
fering, and extremely low. The Vice-Rector during the 
interview happening to take up a volume of Shakspere, the 
Prior asked if he knew anything of that great master, and 
received for reply that in the Levitical family from which he 
sprang he had little opportunity of hearing much of him. 
The sufferer, raising himself from his pillow, then proceeded 
to recite for his visitor, with grand elocutionary effect, some 
of the finest Shaksperian scenes, gracefully prefacing each 
with a few explanatory words. The good priest was greatly 
interested by the unlooked-for treat, and came away much 
the better for his visit. 

How completely Fr. Burke*s mind was saturated in 


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Shakspere is shown by phrases which occur in his dis- 
courses. Hamlet asks * why thy canonized bones have burst 
their cerements ? ' Apostrophising St. Laurence OToole, 
Burke asks, ' Why didst thou not burst the cerements of the 
tomb ? ' &c. And in a sermon on the Cathoh'c Church, *At the 
sound of his voice the cerements of sin burst' 

The late Rev. P. J. Nolan will be remembered for the 
eneigy with which he put down Donnybrook Fair, and for 
his activity in raising funds to build the handsome church 
that now marks the site of former orgies. How marvellously 
au courant Pius IX. was with such Dublin doings as tended 
to God's honour has often surprised Irish visitors to Rome, and 
his relish for a joke was no less proverbial. ' Fr. Nolan had 
made a pilgrimage to Rome,' said Burke, * to try and persuade 
the Holy Father to unlock from the treasury of the Church 
some special favours for those who materially aided his new 
church. One day the good priest was announced. His 
Holiness exclaimed, with that pleasant twinkle in his eye so 
familiar through the portraits, " What, Fr. Nolan, who put 
down Donnybrook Fair ! Our Carnival had better look sharp." ' 

Fiddling, feasting, camivalling, masking, 

conveys also some idea of the more vulgar Donnybrook. 

Notwithstanding the cordial praise of Pio Nono so hand- 
somely bestowed by Fr. Burke in his Lectures, it must be 
confessed that an expression which fell from his Holiness 
at this time wounded him. He got leave to introduce his 
novices to the Holy Father, and he had no sooner pre- 
sented them than the Pope was heard to mutter * Feniani* 
The Fenian rising had just taken place, and the word had 
become very familiar. Those who knew the temperament 
of Pio Nono will hardly doubt that he meant the remark for a 
flash of humour ; but had it been a flash of Jove's lightning 
it could not have seared its way more fatally to the sensibili- 
ties of his visitors. The fact that the novices and their master 


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had come from Tallaght — the scene of the Fenian camp — gave 
point to the joke. One of the most gifted of the novices 
had a red face. The Pope, with an arch- smile, muttered 
« Red Republican.* 

At the same audience, the Commissary-General of Buenos 
Ayres tried to kiss the Papal slipper, but was so obese that 
he failed ; and, without waiting for the Pope to put out his 
hand, he seized and kissed it. The Holy Father, on hearing 
that he was a Spaniard, said, * He is a Spaniard and a half.' 
The Pope was a reader of newspapers, and, in conversation 
with Bishop Conroy, asked what was ' Ho-mfe Ru -Ife.' 

There was one great personage in Rome wielding un- 
bounded power, in whose presence Fr. Burke never felt re- 
straint — Cardinal Barnabo, Prefect of the Propaganda. Fr. 
Burke had frequent interviews with him, partly in getting 
approved the Constitutions of a new order of religious, but 
also, as he told a friend, in giving a helping hand — though 
unofficially — in the conduct of correspondence. 

The man who is called to preside over this vast tribunal (says Fr. 
Burke) is, next to the supreme head of the Church, the most im- 
portant personage in the world. He must be full of wisdom ; he 
must have the most varied knowledge for the conditions of each 
different country, with an energy superhuman. He has four thou- 
sand bishops under him. They come to him with all theu* difficulties, 
doubts, and dangers. He is the centre of that mighty organisation 
by which the Church goes on, destined, until the end of time, 
to conquer. And to this position of unexampled labour and respon- 
sibility was Barnabo called ; and, whether as secretary or cardinal of 
the Propaganda, he has been, for a quarter of a century, the very 
centre of that mighty system; and forth from his mind, from the 
zeal of his heart, from the superhuman natural energy of his 
character, intensified by his devotion, came that wonderful power 
which has made the Propaganda the real consolation of the 
Church for the last twenty years. A strange sight it was, indeed, 
that it has been my privilege more than once to witness, to stand 
there in the Cardinal's chamber, where he receives the various 
missionaries, to see them — the grave Oriental Bishop, in his 


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gorgeous robes, grand-looking and kingly — speaking of the sor- 
rows and cares of a people who had never been heard of in this 
Western land — to see this man, who had journeyed for months from 
the cradle land of the world ! Outside the door is a Jesuit, waiting 
to be heard, who has come from the Polar Regions of North 
America, and whose eyes have for many years scarcely seen anything 
but snow and frozen rivers. Perhaps standing side by side with him 
is the bronzed and embrowned foreign missionary from the Cape 
of Good Hope, or the strange-looking Chinese missionary, who, 
perhaps, only escaped from prison to recount his trials, and on his 
return bear the tortures of those who were languishing in their cells. 
In a word, a motley group, representing the universal aposto- 
licity, were there; and he, with a patience that nothing could 
overcome, and with an energy that nothing could break down, 
was answering all. For God had prepared him, by his exile 
and contact with the outer world, for this mighty work. He 
acquired the widest knowledge and experience of the locality of each 
diocese, and the wants of each people. And so he laboured from 
the morning watch even until night, working, toiling as a slave in the 
vineyard of God. For him there was no rest His work was holy. 
And what was his recreation ? The moment that he could snatch an 
hour from the labours of the day, that hour was spent with Jesus 
Christ in the Blessed Sacrament ; or he went, with hurried steps, to 
some convent or place where a mission was going on, to instruct 
little children; or he passed into the confessional to become the 
victim of his zeal. Everyone cared for his mind and heart except 
one, and that one was his own great self. 

One object of Bamabo's solicitude and labour had 
been the restoration to England of that ancient Episcopacy 
which in the sixteenth century had been shattered ; and no 
doubt the reconstruction of the Dominican province had a 
share in his projects. Bamabo liked Burke so much that 
both were often asked to meet each other at the hospitable 
board of the Irish College. 

Fr. Burke described an incident which occurred at this 
time, when lecturing at New Orleans on ' the Church in 
America : ' 

Any one who wishes to mark attentively the course of events of this 


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world must recognise in all that he sees around him the hand of God 
and the hand of the devil — God influencing all things for good, and the 
Devil coming in on all sides and trying to spoil God's work. Now, 
amongst the works of God is the Christian religion and the Catholic 
Church, and amongst the many means the devil employs to gain his 
end — viz. to inspire nations * and peoples with a kind of dread of the 
Church,' he says to the nations, * Don't listen to her ; don't have 
anything to say to her. She will corrupt, she will bewitch you.' He 
gives them no reason for this. He has no reason for it. Nothing 
must strike a man more at first sight than the strange repugnance 
and unreasoning fear with which so many sectarians regard the 
Catholic Church. I remember a very enlightened, highly cultivated 
English lady came to Rome with her daughter. The daughter be- 
came a Catholic and I received her into the Church. Her mother 
came to me the same day, wild with grief, the tears streaming from 
her eyes — a heart-broken woman. She says, * What have you done 
to my child ? Oh ! you wicked man, what have you done to my 
child ? You have ruined my child and broken my heart* I said, 
* How is that ? ' * Well,' she said, * you have made a Catholic of my 
daughter.' * Yes, that is true. Under God, I have been the means 
of making a Catholic of her. But is that a sufficient reason for 
breaking your heart ? ' * Yes, it is,' said she. * You are a well-edu- 
cated lady,' I said to her, * I simply ask you one question. What point 
is there in the teachings or practice of the Church to which you ob- 
ject ? ' She paused for a moment * Well,' she said, * I don't know ; 
but I know that you have bewitched my child and broken my 
heart' * Can you find fault,' I said, * with any one doctrine that 
your child has embraced?' She said she could not. And yet 
the woman acknowledged to me, * If my child had declared herself 
an Atheist I would not be so grieved as I am for her to become a 
Catholic,' and that without any reason under heaven. Well, as it 
happened, within twelve months I had the happiness of receiving 
this same mother into the Church. 

Denis Florence MacCarthy, who, like Longfellow, happened 
to be in Rome at this time, urged him to hear a sermon from 
Burke. The American poet was so much struck by his eloquence 
that he asked MacCarthy to introduce him to the Dominican, 
The result was that both bards met at the hospitable board of 
the Prior of San Clemente. MacCarthy celebrated the event in 


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some lines which he sent to the Rev. B. Russell, then Pro- 
vincial of the Order. 

Longfellow used to delight in listening to him portray the 
eccentricities of Italian life (writes an eye-witness, who proceeds to 
describe the itinerant Roman dentist already noticed at page 237), 
The great preacher played the part of the clever cavadenti^ while the 
author of * Evangeline ' would take the part of the unfortunate vittima 
— of the quack. The pleasantries and associations of the Irish Prior of 
San Clemente and the author of the * Golden Legend 'are unique, as 
they are suggestive and interesting in the lives of two great men in the 
nineteenth century — great in two spheres, apparently so wide of 
each other — a pleasant reminiscence of the laureate orator of Ire- 
land and poet laureate of America, ' 

Meanwhile it may be mentioned that Fr. Burke, at this 
time, preached during the month of Mary. May has been 
always a favourite month with poets, and it is not surprising 
that Longfellow joined in the devotions as well as the author 
of * Waiting for the May.' Longfellow seemed so liberal that 
Fr. Burke had great hopes of his adhesion to the Church. 
The following passage occurs in one of Burke's American 
homilies : 

Everything in the Church's teaching harmonises with the works 
of the human intelligence; everything in her moral law harmonises 
with the wants of man's soul ; everything in her liturgy or devotions 
harmonises with man's imagination and sense, in so far as both help 
him to a union with God. And so everything in the Churqh's devotion 
accords with the nature around us and within us, and with that reflection 
of nature in its highest and most beautiful form which is in the spirit 
and in the genius of the Blessed Virgin Mary. I remember once 
speaking with a very distinguished poet — one of a worldwide reputation 
and a name which is a household word wherever the English language 
is spoken— and he said to me, ' Father, I am not a Catholic, yet I have 
no keener pleasure or greater enjoyment than to witness Catholic 
ceremonial, to study Catholic devotion, to investigate Catholic doc- 
trines ; nor do I find,' he said, * in all that nature or the resources 
of intellect open before me greater food for poetic and enthusiastic 
thought than that which is suggested to me by the Catholic Church.' 

' Letter of Very Rev. J. D. Power, fonnerly of San Clemente, Aug. 7, 1884. 


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And SO it is not without reason, that the Church is able to account 
for every iota of her liturgy and devotions. 

Bishop Whelan was fond of securing Fr. Burke for those 
little dinners which friends pleasantly remember, and to meet 
a bishop is one of the few occasions on which a friar is pre- 
sumed to dine out. The last evening Fr. Burke passed at Dr. 
Whelan's he sang ' Barney O'Hea/ with pianoforte accom- 
paniment, adding that he had not done so since he sang it 
for Longfellow at Rome, who assured him that of all Irish 
ballads he liked that the best. 

The thoroughly Irish hospitality of the Prior of San 
Clemente gave a new attraction to the Eternal City. In 
1866, during the visit of an old Galway man to Rome, Fr. 
Burke summoned him to his table, and on the guest arriving 
he was surprised to find forty others, including several bishops. 
The * old Galway man ' was Alderman Tarpy ; and the prox- 
imity of the Tarpeian Rock gave rise to much obvious joking. 

Mr. (now Sir Charles) Gavan Duffy, who had already held 
high office in Australia, and was destined to become Prime 
Minister there, and afterwards Speaker, wintered in Rome at 
this time. Old memories became awakened. We remember 
how fascinated the Galway youth had been by the tone and 
brilliancy of a national journal which owed both to Gavan 
Duffy. Both men met for the first time, and the impressions 
of the ex-Minister will be found in the following document 
which he has placed at our disposal : 

It was in the winter of 1866 at Rome that I saw Fr. Burke for the 
first time. I went there with my family to avoid the rigour of De- 
cember in the north, and the morning after our arrival he was good 
enough to call on us. I had been ten years away, more than ten 
thousand miles from Ireland, and when his name was announced I 
barely recognised it as that of a Dominican Father who had become 
a popular preacher in the interval. To be a popular preacher is a 
reputation I had known various persons attain without finding myself 
prodigiously moved when I came to listen to them; and no one 
could possibly assume less on the strength of his success than the 


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SIR C. G. DUFFY'S NOTES. - 29 1 

frank, genial priest who fell into cordial talk on the spot, and who 
demeaned himself like an old friend. He was preaching at the time 
in one of the churches in the Piazza del Popolo, where sermons are ' 
delivered weekly for the English, Irish, and American visitors of 
various creeds who winter at Rome. I took an early opportunity of 
hearing him, and his sermon was one of the most profound surprises 
of my life. I had learned in the interval, through constant inter- 
course, what keenness of insight, natural humour, and knowledge of 
character Fr. Burke possessed. It was impossible to know him at 
all without recognising that he was a man of many gifts and a wide 
range of information, but I was not prepared for the power and grasp 
of his pulpit oratory. I had heard all the contemporary preachers of 
note, in the Catholic Church at least, and all the Parliamentary 
orators of the day, but I was moved and impressed by that ser- 
mon beyond any human utterance to which I had ever listened. 
I despair of conveying the sort of impression it made upon me ; but 
I think persuasiveness was its most striking characteristic. You were 
gradually drawn to adopt the preacher's views as the only ones com- 
patible with truth and good sense. He marched straight to a fixed 
end, and all the road he passed seemed like a track of intellectual 
light His accent was Irish, but his discourse bore no other resem- 
blance to any Irish utterance with which I was familiar. We have the 
school of Grattan and the school of O'Connell, the artificial and the 
spontaneous, into which most Irish oratory may be distributed ; but 
it belonged as little to one as to the other. The lucid narrative which, 
without arguing, was the best of arguments ; the apt illustration, which 
summed up his case in a happy phrase, might have recalled Plunket ; 
but in truth, like most original men, he resembled no one but himself. 
After that winter in Rome it was more than a dozen years 
before I heard him preach again, and in the interval he had been in 
feeble health and sometimes prostrate with suffering. It was in the 
Jesuits' Church, Farm Street, London, where he made the annual 
i/oge of St Ignatius. The subject had been exhausted by a hundred 
predecessors in that pulpit ; it had perhaps special difficulties for a 
Dominican, and his health was known to be failing fast. But it 
stands out in my memory as one of the three or four greatest orations 
I have heard. It was a fresh character-portrait, drawn in bold 
striking lines, and set in a narrative lucid as the waters of the Medi- 
terranean. Again the master charm was persuasiveness. I could 
not help thinking, if he had not already found his life task, here was 
a man who could plead the cause of his native country with more 

u 2 


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winning force than anyone to whom I have listened in later years — 
perhaps than anyone to whom I ever listened. He did not wield 
the Thor*s hammer of O'Connell, crushing and crashing whatever 
impeded its stroke, and he could not thrill with the passionate en- 
thusiasm sometimes evoked by Thomas Meagher ; but to win the 
assent of the conscience, and convince the judgment, no one excelled 
him. Much of this force was mesmeric, the outcome of the whole 
moral and intellectual nature of the man. The orator is not always 
made ; sometimes, like the poet, his gifts are born with him. Fr. 
Burke was a born orator ; the charm of voice and eye and action 
combined to produce his wonderful effects. When his words were 
printed, much of the subtle spell vanished. One rejoiced to hear 
him over and over again, but re-read him rarely, I think. Other 
generations who can know him only as a writer will find it hard to 
understand how he came to be regarded not merely as the greatest 
preacher, but in later years the foremost orator of his race. 

That winter of 1866 in Rome holds a pleasant place in my 
memory. It was a rare enjoyment to visit the monuments and 
historic sites of such a city with such a guide. If a holiday-maker 
has seen the birthplace or the grave of the local artist or preacher, 
poet or patriot, where chance conducts his steps, he counts his day 
well spent But where the painter is Raphael or Claude, the poet 
Tasso, the patriot Rienzi, and the preacher Saul of Tarsus or St. 
Matthew the Evangelist, written words are but a pale shadow of the 
feelings they evoke. To visit for the first time the noble halls and 
galleries, cabinets and courts of the Vatican, which vie in beauty with 
the treasures they contain, and make all other museums mean and 
dingy, is an education in art ; and what an historical study is the 
Collegio Romano, where one might see the identical rooms occupied 
by eminent missionaries and saints of the Society of Jesus two cen- 
turies ago, still containing the books and furniture they used when 
they were students or professors, and its noble library, where it was 
a pleasant surprise to find the works of Savonarola on its shelves, 
and the portrait of Galileo in its observatory? And where can the 
early history of Christendom be better studied than in the Catacombs, 
the hiding place of early popes and saints, and richer than the Colos- 
seum itself in the blood of Christian martyrs ? Of the early history 
of Ireland there is San Pietro in Montorio, where our martyrs lie 
buried. But nothing in the capital of the Christian world, not St. 
Peter's or the Sovereign Pontiff, was a sight fit to match in interest to 
Irishmen the exhibition of the Accademia Polyglotta, where students 


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from Asia, Africa, Australasia, and Europe spoke, each of them, the 
language or chanted the music of his birthplace, and from three con- 
tinents and their outlying islands the students bore names that 
marked them of our own indestructible people. The remote history 
of Europe, when the children of Conn gave missionaries to half the 
known world, seemed revived again in that spectacle. What a volume 
steeped in tears, but illuminated too with glorious incidents, might 
be written on the Irish monuments and institutions in Rome ! His 
own San Clemente furnished my friend with a constant text, for its 
Irish friars were the hosts and often the trusted counsellors of princes, 
from Charles and James Stuart and Charles Edward in a later genera- 
tion down to Albert Edward of Wales in our own day ; and, what is 
nobler and better, the constant guardian Of Irish interests, when Ire- 
land had a foreign policy and a diplomatic corps hid under the black 
or brown robes of monks and professors. And he did not forget that 
other Irish house founded by the great Franciscan who was ambas- 
sador from the Confederation of Kilkenny to the Holy See, or the 
more modem college in whose humble church the heart of O'Connell 
is preserved. Mangan and Fr. Meehan have made the graves of 
the Earls familiar to Irish readers ; but when the time comes there 
will be work for other pious hands in honouring the memory of later 
exiles. There is a granite obelisk in the Piazza del Popolo which 
Julius Caesar set up in that place before the Redeemer descended on 
the earth, and which is covered with hieroglyphics sculptured by 
Egyptian artists before Moses received the tables of the law on Mount 
Sinai ; it has seen cities grow and perish, generations and cycles 
come and go, the Goth and the Gaul in turn masters of Rome, the 
piratical soldier of fortune and the crowned emperor hold the cradle 
of Christianity to pillage, but it still lifts its eternal face to the sun as 
fresh in the days of Bismarck as in the days of Caesar. The eloquent 
Dominican saw in this Eastern monument a type of the Celtic race, 
destined to outlive chance and change and remain fresh and imperish- 
able in the old age of the world. 

Fr. Biu-ke's flow of pleasant talk was wise and witty by turns. 
I will not, after so many years, attempt to recal any fragments of it. 
One weighty saying, indeed, I remember, because I have often quoted 
it since. Speaking of Frederick Lucas's memorable mission to Rome 
in 1855 on behalf of the second order of the Irish clergy, he said I.ucas 
failed because the case of Ireland against England was necessarily 
ill understood at Rome. The Holy Father and the Propaganda saw 
every day men who bore names which they had read in English history, 


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and who were officials of the Roman Court, Talbots, Howards, and 
Cliffords. The only Irishman they saw was probably some priest 
with an unpronounceable name, and whose Latin or Italian jarred 
upon Southern ears. They received habitually touring English nobles 
and ecclesiastics ; and national prejudice, which is strong enough in 
an ordinary Englishman, is stronger in a noble, and strongest of all 
in a priest. And this class prejudice (he remarked) was not local 
but general ; one of the bitterest enemies of Poland he had ever 
encountered was a Russian nun, probably of noble birth. The 
Poles being a Catholic nation did not counterbalance the fact that 
they were bad subjects to his Majesty the Czar. 

To the question why he did not himself undertake this neglected 
duty, of representing Ireland truly to the Holy See, he replied that 
Rome was the head-quarters of the Churcli militant, where its states- 
men and rulers were assembled, and he, for his part, was simply 
a private soldier in the ranks. 

It was part of his Irish nature, part perhaps of the predisposition 
of a man of genius, that he loved to relieve a mind burdened with 
thought by constant badinage. He overflowed with comic stories, of 
which he was himself oftentimes the butt I have heard him tell a 
room full of his guests at San Clemente anecdotes of this kind which 
only a person of unusual naivete would accept, or was expected to 
accept, au pied de la lettre. One was the prank he professed to have 
played on an American bishop of Irish descent with whom he travelled 
from Cork to Dublin. The tourist was eager to see the historic places 
of which he had heard so often, and Fr. Burke declared that he 
thought it a pity not to gratify him on the spot Out of the window 
of the railway carriage he showed him in turn the field of the 
Boyne, the church of Dungannon, the Parliament House of the Irish 
Confederation, the city sacked for three days by Cromwell's fanatics, 
the river from which Sarsfield sailed away to France, and the sites of 
the monster meetings at Tara and Mullaghmast^ 

Fr. Kenny, O.P., to whom we owe many interesting facts, 
tells us that the subsequent Prime Minister addressed a letter 

1 Critics will notice that this repeats, with a slight variation of detail, an in- 
cident already described ; but we did not feel warranted in mutilating the paper 
which Sir Gavan Duffy entrusted to us. He is mistaken in supposing the trick 
on the American Bishop fabulous. It is well known to Dominicans that, though 
Fr. Btuke embellished it in recital, the trick was really played. 


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to Fr. Burke, in which he strongly urged him to come to 

I cannot fix with any certainty the date at which the correspond- 
ence you inquire about took place (writes Sir C. G. Duffy), but I 
remember very well the feelings from which it sprang. Fr. Burke 
possessed missionary gifts in an eminent degree, and there was no 
place on the globe where, to my thinking, they could have been used 
with such prodigious results as in Australia and Australasia. On that 
continent and those islands are springing up a new France, Italy, 
Germany, Spain, and England, and by the labours of half-a-dozen 
men of his calibre, all the Catholic Church lost at the Reformation 
might be regained in the newest new world. I did not want to see 
him a Bishop or Archbishop, however fit he was for these dignities, 
but a preacher, a missionary, a new St Francis. The adventurous 
and laborious population who are occupying and civilising these 
countries are very accessible to generous and humane influences, 
and such a man, who would live the life of an apostle among them 
and whose tongue was touched with the fire of conviction, would, I 
felt persuaded, have an apostle's career. 

Nowhere would Fr. Burke have been a greater success 
than in Australia. The Archbishop of Sydney but expressed 
the sense of a vast portion of that great colony when, in his 
recent lecture on ' Self-Culture,' delivered before the Literary 
and Debating Society of Sydney, his Grace pronounced a 
grand eulogium on Fr. Burke.' 

The celebration, in June 1867, of the eighteenth centenary 
of the martyrdom of SS. Peter and Paul, was an event second 
only in magnitude to the CEcumenical Council, with which 
it opened connection. The Sovereign Pontiflf called every 
bishop in the world to assemble round the shrines of the 
Apostles, and to assist at the canonisation of twenty-five 
saints. Thereupon mitres rose up in the vales of the Hima- 
layas, glittered on the Alleghany Mountains, emerged from 
tropical climes and Arctic regions, and even the Antipodes 

» Reported ia the Tablet^ Jan. 31, 1885. Previously, at a literary and debating 
society in Sydney, Mr. P. Farrell delivered an able essay on * The Life and 
Labours of Father Tom Burke.* 


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sent their contingent. From the jungles of India to the 
Curragh of Kildare, ecclesiastical life was astir. Five hun- 
dred and ten prelates, 2,500 priests, and 100,000 laics, of 
whom many were red men and negroes, traversed smiling 
prairies and sandy deserts. Some of the bishops we learn 
were * mounted on camels for fourteen hours for forty days.' 
Mostly aged men, what wonder if a few faltered and fell ? 
The Bishop of Vancouver's Island was summoned to another 
Eternal City ; the same remark applies to Dr. Kilduff, Bishop 
of Ardagh. The prelates of Spain walked in procession 
through the streets of Barcelona to the port of embarkation. 
An interesting spectacle was presented in the Chinese Bishop 
of Nankin, who, on seeing the Pope for the first time, pros- 
trated himself in tears, exclaiming, ' Tu es Petrus I ' Fr. 
Daniel, who accompanied the Irish contingent, tells us that 
the Syrian bishop, according to Eastern custom, took the 
Pope's hands in both of his, raised them to his head in token 
of submission, then to his lips, then to his heart, signifying 
that in all he could do, speak, or think, he was of his Holi- 
ness the most docile son. 

The discipline and devotion with which these dispersed 
soldiers of Christ marched to the centre of unity, not in 
obedience to a command, as at the Vatican Council, but to the 
whispered desire of the Pope, carried a high moral signifi- 
cance which delighted Fr. Burke. The advance of such 
enormous columns preached with eloquence the faith and 
unity of Catholicism, and showed that its vitality had not 
been impaired by time. But, while edified by the grandeur 
of the ceremonial, Burke was not the man to shut his eyes to 
the eccentricities presented in some individual members of the 
Church militant. Amongst them were Oriental patriarchs 
and prelates of every rite in communion with Rome. Thq 
Armenian and the Chaldean, the Greek and the Copt, the 
Maronite and Slavonic, the Roumanian and the Melchite 
mustered. They were men of the holiest nature, but some- 


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times of the most fantastic contour. One, accompanied by 
an interpreter, was especially desirous of procuring well- 
authenticated cases of diabolic possession and obsession. 
To those who may not have explored the somewhat occult 
volumes which treat on this subject, it may be explained 
that, though any person in mortal sin is regarded as 
' possessed,' it is distinctly taught that there are times when 
the devil inhabits the body of his unhappy victim. In obses- 
sion he assails his prey from without, and presents strange 
phantoms to his senses, but does not enter his body. Even 
in possession he cannot inhabit the soul, much less master the 
free will, but he may fearfully increase the power of tempta- 
tion, overpower the body, and produce madness, in which 
state the person possessed may commit actions outwardly 
sinful. Fr. Burke told his friend, the Rev. T. Mulkerrin, that 
he had been asked by an African prelate who was compiling 
data on these points if he had ever known any instances 
of possession. ' Oh ! such cases are quite common in my 
native town,' he replied ; * a shoemaker went out, and, after 
drinking freely, bought twelve balls of hemp, six lasts, ten 
awls, two pounds of cobbler's wax, fifty whangs of leather, 
with pegs and sprigs ad libitum^ all of which he swallowed ! ' 
* The devil must clearly have entered into that man,' replied 
the African prelate, as he noted in detail the articles swal- 
lowed. * I differ from you,' responded Fr. Burke ; ' after bolting 
so big a meal I should just like to know what room remained 
for the devil ? That you should have swallowed so much is 
quite as wonderful as the feat of the Galway shoemaker.' 

Not the least imposing part of the prolonged ceremonial 
■of that year was the gorgeous procession on Corpus Christi. 
Those who witnessed it will retain a vivid impression of 
the solemn dignity with which Fr. Burke, representing San 
Clemente, as some said, walked in the grand cortege. The 
Dominicans take precedence of the Franciscans, for although 
the order of Assisi had the start of the Dominicans, yet the 


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Franciscan Rule had not been approved by Rome until some 
days subsequent to that of St. Dominic. 

Fr. Burke had now completed the full three years of his 
tenure as Prior of San Clemente, and was looking forward to • 
the resumption of his work in Ireland, when Archbishop 
Joachim Gonin wistfully fixed his eyes on him in the hope of 
persuading him to become Coadjutor Archbishop of the Port 
of Spain. Fr. Burke's title would be, until succeeding to the 
See, ' Bishop of Alabanda in partibus infidelium^ with juris- 
diction over Trinidad, Grenada, St. Vincent, St. Lucia, and 
Tobago. The archiepiscopal province also includes Jamaica, 
Honduras, Demerara, and. Cura9oa. He did not give the 
idea much encouragement, and on Fr. Ford, Canon of Trini- 
dad, requesting him to consider it, replied, * I would prefer 
Irish stew to a Turkish bath.' Fr. Burke informed Mr. 
Haverty that, if he had not happened to be in Rome, the 
bulls would have been issued for his consecration. Later 
on another Dominican, Fr. William O'Carroll, accepted the 
post, but his exertions in the vineyard beneath a tropical sun 
abridged a career full of usefulness, and within the present 
year a third Dominican Bishop — Dr. Hyland — has succumbed. 
It will be seen that in 1874 Sir Patrick Keenan was charged, 
on behalf of Archbishop Gonin, to renew these overtures to 
Fr. Burke. 

All this time his humility was such that he went out of 
his way to make his appearance the reverse of attractive. 
Some Irish ladies having arrived in Rome, who claimed his 
help as a guide, they observed him during successive days 
keeping his engagements with a neglected growth of bristly 
beard and his person wrapped in a cloak which displayed an 
accumulation of mud splashes — some of Irish origin. They 
reminded him that even in this he resembled St Dominic, 
whose biographer describes ' his black cloak showing marks 
of long journeys through wind and rain.' ' Ah,* replied Fr. 
Burke, dryly, ' Rome is a grand place for people who don't 


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care to be clean/ And yet these ladies had seen the King 
and Queen of Naples stop their carriage in the street to con- 
verse for ten minutes with the poor Dominican. 

He had such a grave way of saying queer things that 
many persons felt it a heresy to doubt him. He told that an 
Italian artist begged him to give sittings for a great picture 
he was painting of * The Temptation in the Desert.' * For 
our Lord, of course,' said the ladies. * No, for the devil.' 
And to this hour they believe the assurance with steadfast 

Fr. Burke's humility was learned in the best of schools — 
the school of suffering (writes Fr. Clarke, S.J.) But, indeed, 
from his start as a missionary preacher, his humility was 
conspicuous. He seemed naturally so humble that few ever 
suspected the poignant pain it gave him to cultivate habits 
calculated to earn the contempt of worldling^. In order to 
realise the full extent of his sacrifice we must peer into his 
thoughts, and there read the book of his soul. Addressing 
the Young Men's Society at Cork, in June 1874, he inci- 
dentally remarked : 

You may despise a man without injuring or insulting him — 
you may simply hold him in utter contempt ; and I believe that 
is worse than either insult or injury. I myself would rather be 
injured and insulted than despised. Anything but that. I re- 
member once speaking with an Englishman of the treatment Ireland 
received from the English. I said that she had been injured and 
insulted by them in every way. I was angered when I spoke. 
* Oh ! ' said the Englishman, * don't get angry. We don't insult you, 
we really don't We don't intend to injure you. We only despise 
you.' And that made me ten times more angry. Anything but 

Fr. Burke's prejudices softened eventually. In his plea- 
sant lecture on Music at Liverpool, in April 1883, he said 
he had lived amongst them for years, and he could say that 
a little alcohol never took more kindly to a piece of sugar 
than did an Englishman on meeting a genial Irishman. 


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Father Burke (observes Mr. Lane) was of all things an Irishman, 
and in nothing was he more so than in his voice and accent Sheri- 
dan said that an Irishman should carry his honour and his brogue 
unsullied to the grave. Burke did both. It is the fashion to deride 
our brogue. I have heard two who had it meted out to them in full 
measure — O'Connell and Burke. In no other form of the language 
could I find a medium more perfectly adapted to sustain and reflect 
the full freight of thought that it bore upon its brimming tide. It 
seemed capable of all forms of expression, and, for my part, I would 
not barter it for the most accomplished drawl of a West-End drawing- 
room or the cold primness of Oxford or Cambridge. 

Rome was now specially full of Anglican converts, but a 
number of English visitors who held aloof from the fold 
of Peter • wintered ' there too. Fr. Burke, on accepting an 
invitation from an English Countess to attend her soir^e^ 
found himself almost the only Catholic in the room. The 
great preacher of Santa Maria del Popolo was asked to sing. 
* I only sing polemic songs,' he replied. * Oh, pray sing 
them,' was ejaculated on every side. *I began " The Devil 
among the Soupers,*' ' said Fr. Burke, and I soon found that 

the company, headed by Lady S herself, enjoyed it as 

thoroughly as though my audience hailed from Stoney 

There can be no doubt that Fr. Tom's pleasant ways 
often attracted Protestants who finally became converts. 
Had he been an austere ecclesiastic these adhesions would 
have been much fewer. The Bishop of Cloghcr writes, 
April 8, 1884:— 

I was once present at a sort of operatic burlesque given in 
Rome by Fr. Burke and a young English gentleman, a Protestant, 
but a convert in expectation. It was ineffably funny to hear Burke 
and him imitating the altissimo notes, and the quavers, shakes, &c, 
of the great vocal performers. The whole business was bewitchingly 

This served as a good rehearsal for a much more elaborate 
performance between the Pfcre Monsabr^ and Fr. Burke. 
Dr. Lilly, O.P., observes : 


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MONSABRfi. 301 

I doubt if any living member of our Order can compare with Burke 
as an orator. Pbre Monsabrd, the Lent preacher at Notre Dame, is 
the only living Dominican who can sut'ay the masses with a power 
equal to his. Monsabrd and Burke were trained in the same school, 
and resemble each other in many particulars. Both are endowed 
with the same fervid temperament and the same unfailing command 
of language. 

The Bishop of Kilmore met the rival Dominicans at this 
time. His Lordship has been kind enough to give us his 
recollections of Fr. Burke, and the following is the portion 
which belongs to this stage of our story : 

I was in Rome in 1867; Monsabrd, the celebrated French Domi- 
nican preacher, was also at San Clemente. On one occasion Fr. 
Burke gave a very large party, to which many high ecclesiastics were 
invited, including the late Cardinal CuUen. It was an occasion not 
to be easily forgotten. The black spectre of cholera had just then 
entered Rome, but the flow of wit from Burke and Monsabrd made 
us forget the gloom it brought To say the truth, we were all proud of 
the two distinguished sons of St Dominic It was hard to decide 
which was the greater genius. Burke gave out his witty things first 
in English for the accommodation of the English-speaking guests. 
The French and Italians thought we had lost all our ecclesiastical 
gravity, we laughed so at Burke's sayings ; but we soon had our 
revenge when he told them the same stories in French and Italian. 
Their sides ached with laughter. Monsabr^ was a ventriloquist as 
well as a wit He would make you believe he had captured a bee 
at one time ; at another that he was sawing timber with an old, rusty 
saw. Burke was inimitable at the bagpipes — that is, imitating 

It may be explained that Monsabr^, while seeming to 
catch on a window a blue-bottle fly or bee, imitated its 
buzz, from the bass abandon indicative of freedom to the 
falsetto of closing capture. Monsabr^ had succeeded Lacor- 
daire, and had now become Honorary Canon of Notre Dame, 

* Letter of the Bishop of Kilmore to the Author, May 6, 1884. It may be 
added that Fr. Burke * was not only a master of pure Italian, but to his stories and 
dialogues he added great effect by the use of slang Italian.' — Rev, B, RusseU, 
aP., toihe Author, 


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and also of the Cathedral of Metz. He evinced from his 
childhood marked powers of mimicry, and began even on 
the steps of the altar. The priest whose Mass he served 
gabbled over the Latin with such haste that little Monsabr6, 
in giving the responses, imported to them a jerkiness which 
the priest recognised as a travestie, and sternly reprehended. 
When Burke and Monsabr^ met it was diamond cut diamond 
between them. Both felt that 

A little nonsense now and then 
Is useful to the wisest men. 

Bishop Delany was present, as he tells us, when the pair 
produced an Italian burletta full of richest harmony and 
humour. Indeed, had they cared to go more in earnest to 
work, Gilbert and Sullivan might look to their laurels. The 
amateur opera was performed in San Clemente on a large 
table, in presence of Cardinal Cullen, Bishop Butler, and 
many other prelates. Nothing could be more piquant than 
*the business' between Monsabr6 and Burke. The latter, 
however, was stage manager, orchestra, prompter, and pro- 
perty man as well as prima donna, Denis Florence MacCarthy 
was among the visitors, and he said that if the Bishops 
could have been photographed as they laughed the picture 
would have been one of priceless piquancy. 

Fr. Burke's command of Italian eloquence led Fr. 
Doussott, then Master of the Italian Novices at Santa Sabina, 
to invite him to address them in a series of discourses 
couched in the language of the country. The native Fathers 
and novices preferred his Italian to that of the more legiti- 
mate instructors. 

With the object of interesting and amusing his friends 
Fr. Burke was fond of putting the Pope in a position of 
friendly familiarity with him. The following is not an 
article of faith, but, as characteristic of the man, must not be 

Describing a grand levt^e at the Vatican, where all the 


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great English converts assembled in their strength, the Pope, 
he said, turned to him for information as to the antecedents 
of several persons who were seen advancing. ' Thomas, my 
son, who may this hei' ' The Duchess of Leeds, most Holy 
Father.' 'What a colossal figure!' 'Yes, Holy Father, 
faith moves mountains!' Wgl will not say 'with that his 
Holiness laughed like for to split,' but perhaps it may be 
assumed that he appreciated the readiness of this scriptural 

He said that the Pope on another day made a reply 
in Italian, and which translated was, ' You're a Janius* 
That day Burke asked all sorts of ecclesiastics, ' Am I a 
janius ? Deny it at your peril, for the Holy Father says I am.' 

Fr. Burke, different from a great sacerdotal wit still 
living, did not shine at repartee. The points in which his 
strength lay are already familiar. His smart replies are 
easily gathered. 

The Capuchin Church and Catacombs at Rome present 
in several respects a remarkable spectacle. The light which 
burns before the altar is enclosed in a monk's skull ; the chains 
whereby it is suspended are formed by a multiplicity of joints 
gathered from fleshless fingers. In the mortuary chapel 
skeletons, fully draped in cowl and cassock, take their stand ; 
when viewed from behind the resemblance to living monks is 
so great that visitors often receive a start by the ghastly 
results of a fuller acquaintance. Fr. Ashe, a Dublin Capu- 
chin, remarked of the head house of his Order that he would 
end his course in joy if his own remains should be consigned 
to its Catacombs. ' They will never make an Ash-^xX, of it,' 
responded Fr. Burke. To see the full point of the reply it is 
well to tell what manner of man Ashe was. He was very 

* Sir Samuel Ferguson contributed to Bltukwood an amusing sketch, since 
reprinted, called 'Father Tom and the Pope.' But his padre was Fr. Tom 
Maguire, and the remark said to have made Gregory XVI. laugh was * Your 
Holiness is not the first Pope that I floored.* The Rev. T. P. Pope had been 
Maguire's opponent in controversy. 


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sarcastic, and fond of tripping up talkers with execrable puns. 
He could never agree with Cardinal Cullen, under whose 
jurisdiction he lived, or even with his own Order, from which 
he at last withdrew. 

In 1867, just before Fr. Burke's tenure of office expired, a 
third discovery was made beneath San Clemente. As relic 
after relic came to light, Frs. MuUooly and Burke fairly 
divided the excitement between them. One declared that it 
was the original cell of St Clement, the other pronounced it 
to be the cavern near San Clemente to which, A.D. 999, the 
Emperor Otho retired with his confessor and abandoned him- 
self to holy exercises. 

Shortly after the termination of his priorship in Rome, 
Fr. Burke returned to Ireland and was assigned to the convent, 
30 Rutland Square,' in connection with St. Saviour's, Dominick 
Street, Dublin. 

On September 9, 1867, we find him lecturing on Ecclesi- 
astical Architecture. The lecture proved so successful as an 
aid to the charity for which it was given, that he repeated it at 
Wicklow and other places. On the 22nd he preached at St. 
Mary's, Rathmines, to liquidate the debt incurred in the decora- 
tion of that fine temple. The Rev. P. J. Ryan, now Archbishop 
of Philadelphia, was then in Dublin, and followed Fr. Burke's 
lecture with another, ' On the Use of the Beautiful in Catholic 
Worship.* That evening our Dominican called on a friend 
and rapturously expressed the pleasure with which he had 
listened to it ; and we believe that the great intimacy which 
afterwards subsisted between Dr. Ryan and Fr. Burke dated 
from this incident. Fr. Burke's elation was not a little 
stimulated by the opening, a day or two before, after three 
centuries of proscription from London, of the handsome 
Dominican Church at Haverstock Hill. 

Among his speeches at this time was one commendatory 
of St, Bridget's Orphanage, ' Though Ireland lost her posi- 

» The Rev. J. T. Towers, Provincial O.P., to the Author. 


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TENEBR^. 305 

tion as a nation, and lost her wealth, and once or twice lost 
her temper, yet she had never lost her faith.' 

An eminent Protestant preacher and elocutionist, the Rev. 
Chancellor Tisdall, D.D., wishing to hear Fr. Burke, repaired 
to Dominick Street one evening in Holy Week, when £t 
Tenebrae service * was being sung. 

I have seldom listened (he writes) to a more admirable discourse. 
The preacher's mode of treating his subject — God's hatred of sin— ^ 
was original and argumentative, and the application and peroration 
were among the most powerful specimens of pulpit oratory I ever 
heard. Occasionally, his bursts of eloquence somewhat reminded 
me of Lacordaire, whom I once heard preach a Lenten sermon at 
the Church of St Roch, in Paris, many years before. I was brought 
to hear Fr. Burke by a friend who was anxious to have my opinion 
of him as a preacher. The only seats we could get in the densely 
crowded building were in the gallery at the west end. I was, there- 
fore, at a considerable distance from the speaker, but so distinct was 
his utterance, and so skilfully managed his voice, that I did not miss 
a word of his fine sermon, which occupied fully an hour in delivery, 
The most effective voices and the most agreeable to listen to that 
I ever heard were those of 0*Connell, Isaac Butt, Chief Justice 
Whiteside, Mr. Spurgeon, and Fr. Burke. 

Dr. CuUen was the first Irish bishop who wore a cardinal's 
hat, and on his arrival from Rome he held a levie at Clonliffe 
College to receive he congratulations of his friends. This 
lev^e was marked by great pomp and circumstance. But we 
are reminded by Dr. J. B. Kavanagh, a most observant 
ecclesiastic, that it was the lowly friar, Fr. Burke, and not 
the new Cardinal, who seemed to engross all the attention and 
homage. Within the next few days a subscription list was 
opened for the purpose of purchasing a coach for the Cardinal. 
' A deputation is about to wait upon the faithful,' said a pious 
collector to Sir Percy Nugent, a prominent but not wealthy 
Catholic baronet. 'Then I shall be one of the faithful 

* This service is mainly taken from the Lamentations of Jeremias, and is most 
tpuching. The lights are extinguished as each Psalm ends, until at last only one 
is left burning. Then it was that Fr. Bu- ke ascended the pulpit. 



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departed^ he replied, * for on this evening I leave Dublin for 
my quiet retreat in Westmeath.' ' But even there you will 
not be suffered to rest in peace/ was the reply. 

Assisted by Frs. Rooke, Prendei^ast, Buckler, and Cava- 
nagh. Fr. Burke proceeded in 1868 to open a mission in 
Lincoln's-inn Fields Church, London. 

The crowds (writes Fr. Prendergast) made it necessary for us 
to divide, and Fr. Albert Buckler and I went to St John's,' Great 
Ormond Street, so as to have the overflow congregations from 
Lincoln's-inn Fields. 

The latter had been known for nearly a century as the Sar- 
dinian Ambassador's chapel ; but when the attitude of Victor 
Emmanuel became so menacing, Cardinal Wiseman declined 
to sanction the subsidy of 150/. a year which it had long 
received from Sardinia, and decided that henceforth it should 
be known as the Church of St. Anselm. That in Warwick 
Street, Golden Square, had previously been the chapel of the 
Bavarian Embassy, and during the penal times some Domini- 
cans had liberty to enter these chapels unchallenged and to 
pass as the servants of the Ambassadors. 

It was not very long before the opening of this mission 
that the Hon. and Rev. George Spencer, in his Redemptorist 
dress, had been mobbed through the streets. Our Dominicans 
lodged in Bloomsbury Square, and as, after each hard day's 
work, they walked home in their habits, sneers were made 
which hurt Fr. Burke more than if struck by stones. Happily 
they escaped, however, without a renewal of * the O.P. riots ' in 
a new sense. A passing glance through the railings of St. 
Giles's churchyard awakened old memories. There by the 
pale moonlight rose the tombstones of the three Dominicans — 
Fathers Atwood, Munson, and Bradley — who in perilous times 

> It should perhaps be added that the church of St. John of Jerusalem is small, 
and, with an hospital, had been founded and endowed recently by a convert 
baronet, Sir George Bowyer. On July 18, 1867, a grand Requiem Mass for the 
Emperor Maximilian took place here, the Royal Families of England and of Italy 
being represented on the occasion. 


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had served the mission of Lincoln's-inn Fields. Fr. Peter 
Atwood and Fr. Albert Munson had both been condemned to 
the gibbet at Tyburn. Their successor, Fr. Patrick Bradley, 
got on better. In 1750 he was consecrated Bishop of Deny 
in LincoIn's-inn Fields chapel, but, resigning the mitre, he 
returned to that mission and served it until his death. There 
was thus a special fitness in Fr. Burke and his colleagues 
conducting the mission of 1868 on a spot memorable in the 
annals of their Order. 

The Catholic journals of the day furnish wonderful ac- 
counts of it. The confessionals of Fr. Burke and his com- 
panions were crowded ; countless conversions were made, 
Fr. Rooke looks back upon the mission as the hardest work 
in which he had ever been engaged. Fr. Burke, with his 
wonted humour, declared that it had the effect of wearing 
threadbare two pairs of the finest Blarney cloth garments 
which he had just bought How he recuperated his ex- 
hausted energies and cheered his fellow-labourer is very 
characteristic. Some rare intervals of leisure were spent 
by him in the Zoological Gardens, watching with intent 
gaze and kindly interest the various animals. On his return 
he amused Fr. Rooke by a most perfect portrayal of the 
animated nature he had studied. In these mimicries he 
seemed to lose his own identity completely. Anon he would 
shift the scene and the subject ; now he would treat his friend 
to views of classic statuary. One minute he was the dying 
gladiator ; the next he was a Sphinx, drawing over his head 
the white hood of the habit ; and sometimes he was a Burmese 
idol, erect and impassive, with legs crossed in a way which it 
would have puzzled an athlete to manage. 

Fr. Paul Stapleton's recollections of his Novice Master 
conclude with some account of Burke's subsequent visit to 
the old ground near Woodchester. This was made during 
Fr. Stapleton's incumbency as parish priest of Stroud, and 
afterwards as prior of the monastery. 


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One day, while in solitude at my infant mission, I was startled by a 
ring, and the accents of a well-known voice. Who could it be? 
Nothing could delight me more— it was actually the great Fr. Tom 
Burke, for such he had become, come to see me and take me by 
surprise. My dear old mentor would put up, if I could only accom- 
modate him anyhow, and so at once we were ' at home ' as in the 
olden days. 

Time had evidently knocked off some of the corners of our good 
and now illustrious father. The strong vein of humour was there, 
the ringing laugh, the queer and racy touch of brogue and blarney. 
It was surely Burke, as self-forgetful and wholly abandoned to God's 
gracious providence as ever, but yet toned down and gentler, and 
less * brusque ' — the saintly religious, and yet the ever natural, true, 
and warm-hearted Irishman — the best fellow- well- met in the world. 
So, even before bit or bite, he plunged into the middle of half-a- 
dozen stories, until I could scarcely contain myself with mixed 
pleasure and surprise. All at once a ring at the door strikes 
Father Thomas quite dumb, and he collapses. The stranger walks 
in, and, knowing the person myself, I simply entreated Burke to 
finish his story. It was his famous Mrs. Lynch and the Relief 
Board of Galway story, which he simply acted. By degrees the 
stranger began to laugh, and I too got merry ; but so loud and 
almost hysterical became my latest visitor, that I feared he would 
tumble off his seat, and I strove to assist him. Still the story went 
on, but a pause allowed us to recover our senses; suddenly the 
mysterious visitor pulls out his watch, finds that he is very nearly 
missing his train, and hurries off. I accompany him to the door, 
leaving Fr. Tom Burke to puzzle over the apparition, and to 
wonder if perchance he had done wrong in doing what I told 
him. At the door, and away from Fr. Burke's hearing. Bishop 

C , for it was he, seized me, and cried out, almost breathless, 

'Who's that?' *Why,' 1 reply, * don't you know him? It's Fr. 
Burke.' * Well,' he said, * I thought so. 1 must come and meet him 
again ; I have no time now.' Back to the parlour I returned and 
ditto occurred. Father Thomas rushes at me : * Who's that ? ' I 
calmly reply, repressing a laugh, ' Why, don't you know ? It's the 
bishop of the diocese.' Looking unutterable things, and thumping 
his breast, Fr. Tom at once exclaims, * You don't mean it ? — no, 
surely — that a bishop ! How different from our solemn-looking 

prelates — no — come ! That - the celebrated Bishop of C too ; 

no — surely.' 'Certainly, I am really not joking,' was my answer. 


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* Lord have raercy, then/ said Fr. Tom. • Oh, forgive me ! I never 
would have gone on like that if I had known. Oh why, my dear 
Paul, did you not tell me ? The Lord be merciful to me ! ' (and 
another thump). * I almost killed him outright 1 I had him on the 
floor 1 ' Such is a pen-and-ink sketch of a scene simple and mirthful. 
But I have reason to know that it was the beginning of a most 
intimate and constant friendship between the prelate and the friar, 
that was often renewed and cultivated in aftertime in diverse parts 
and in the Eternal City. 

While on his way viA Bristol to Cork, on another occasion, Fr. 
Burke called at his favourite old monastery, and right glad I was 
again to receive my old novice master, who now found me in the 
responsible post of presiding over another generation of the youthful 
charges which in earlier days he so loved. At once he must, at 
my request, entertain them stw modo^ and soon we formed a circle 
around the great man, and a series of characters, including the 
foreign preachers in English, were all paraded, and the old Lynch 
story was called for, and others ; but a call for the monkey and 
Egyptian God being given, I refused to allow the first, as he said 
it was the most perfect take-off, and he did it to the life.^ 

Fr. Burke, in previously doing the monkey, had strengthened 
the resemblance by pulling down upon his forehead the small 
skull-cap of his Order. This, of course, the graver Fathers 
could not sanction. He once said that if the Darwinian 
theory were true, *We are all apes, minus the tail, and 
nothing remains but for each one to mount his own particular 
branch of the gum-tree, and there crack his own nut' 

Very cordial relations subsisted between Fr. Burke and 
the Capuchin Friars. In June, 1868, he preached on the 
occasion of laying the foundation-stone of their new chapel 
in Church Street, Dublin, not far from the spot where Emmet 

At home or abroad Fr. Burke loved to speak of his 
mother's virtues and his father's genial ways. Of course he 
made a special visit to the old homestead at Galway. 

> MS. Recollections of Very Rev. Paul Stapleton, O.P., Dominican Priory, 
Haverstock Hill, London, August 29, 1884. 


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A dinner was given at the College house here (observes its good 
Parochus) to celebrate Fr. Burke's return from Rome, where he had 
been assisting at the canonisation of the Japanese martyrs. Fr. 
Burke's stories began with the soup. More than once he stood up 
to imitate the salaams of the Eastern bishops. Endless anecdotes 
followed amid roars of laughter, while he himself remained imper- 
turbable. During these parodies he would be eating, but some of the 
company were at last dismayed to find dessert come in before they 
themselves had begun to think seriously of dinner. 

Fr. Burke brought home with him a pleasant story. Prince 
Napoleon visited Galway in his yacht ; and a local swell, 
rejoicing in an historic Christian name, who plumed himself 
on his scholastic attainments, undertook to compose and to 
read, in the name of the town commissioners, an address in 
French to the Prince, He had pompously proceeded through 
the introductory sentence only, when his Highness, inter- 
posing, said, in excellent Saxon, * Perhaps you would not 
mind addressing me in English, for, alas ! gentlemen, I do not 
understand Irish.' 

Fr. Burke having preached at an ecclesiastical function in 
Meath^ a dinner wound up the doings of the day. Previous 
to entering the room he asked a lay friend * what was the P.P.'s 
hobby.* * I only know that / sold him a horse for 50/.,' was 
the reply. That evening the preacher rose to propose the 
health of the pastor, and all were astonished to find, the 
speech full of horsey slang and turf phrases which seemed to 
show that he had studied BelVs Life as well as belles lettres. 
The pastor, at first puzzled, finally realised the joke. 

He met at dinner another Meath priest, who was rather 
proud of his white horse. After a few preliminary canters 
the Dominican asked where he had bought his famous white 
charger. The other, suspecting that Burke was chaffing him, 
and in what he called * a pepper>' way,' replied, ' My white 
horse was bought in Galway, where all the high-fliers and 
high-steppers come from.' ' I didn't mean to tread on the 
corns of the " white horse of the Peppers/* * responded Fr. 
Tom — alluding, of course, to Samuel Lover's play. 


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On May 14, 1869, when the remains of 0*Connell were 
removed from their original resting-place to the crypt be- 
neath the tower at Glasnevin, Fr. Burke pronounced the 
funeral panegyric. At his side stood 'Speranza/ Denis F. 
MacCarthy, and various Bishops ; before him clustered the 
survivors of the old Catholic and Repeal Associations, the 
Municipalities of Ireland, and high officials who attained their 
positions by the Act of Emancipation. A sea of heads surged 
round him. The scene was striking and picturesque. Beneath 
a vast awning were all the preparations for the solemn rite of 
a Pontifical Requiem Mass. Sublime Gregorian music rose 
from four hundred voices ; a grand procession formed and 
moved slowly through the cemetery ; the robes of the clergy 
and the corporators intermingled their hues with the rich 
foliage of trees and flowers. Fifty thousand persons were 
there to honour the memory of O'Connell. Among them 
stood Lord Chancellor O'Hagan, Chief Justice Monahan, 
Lord Bellew, several baronets, and Chief Baron Pigot, who 
soon after passed from judging to be judged. O'Con- 
nell's youngest son Dan remarked, ' Poor father had many 
monster meetings, but this is the greatest of all.* Fr. Burke's 
oration occupied two hours. Here is an extract : 

His glorious victory did honour even to those whom he van- 
quished. He honoured them by appealing to their sense of justice 
and of right ; and in the Act of Catholic Emancipation England 
acknowledged the power of a people, not asking for mercy, but 
clamouring for the liberty of the soul — ^the blessing which was bom 
with Christ, and which is the inheritance of the nations that em- 
brace the Cross. Catholic emancipation was but the herald and the 
beginning of victories. He who was the Church's liberator and 
most true son was also the first of Ireland's statesmen and patriots. 
Our people remember well, as their future historian will faithfully 
record, the many trials borne for them, the many victories gained in 
their cause, the great life devoted to them by O'Connell. Lymg, 
however, at the foot of the altar, as he is to-day, whilst the Church 
hallows his grave with prayer and sacrifice, it is more especially as 
the Catholic Emancipator that we place a garland on his tomb. It 


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is as a child of the Church that we honour him and recall with tears 
our recollections of the aged man, revered, beloved, whom all the 
glory of the world's admiration and the nation's love had never lifted 
up in soul out of the holy atmosphere of Christian humility and 
simplicity. Obedience to the Church's laws, quick zeal for her 
honour and the dignity of her worship ; a spirit of penance refining 
whilst it expiated, chastening whilst it ennobled, all that was natural 
in the man ; constant and frequent use of the Church's holy sacra- 
ments, which shed the halo of grace round his venerated head, — 
these were the last grand lessons which he left to his people, and 
thus did the sun of his life set in the glory of Christian holiness. 

Fr. Burke touchingly referred to the famine, which broke 
O'Connell s heart and led to his pilgrimage to Rome. 

For Ireland he lived, for Ireland did he die. 

On the shores of the Mediterranean the weary traveller lay down. 
At that last moment his profound knowledge of his country's history 
may have given him that prophetic glimpse of the future sometimes 
vouchsafed to great minds. He had led a mighty nation to the 
opening of * the right way,' and directed her first and doubtful steps 
in the path of conciliation and justice to Ireland. Time, which ever 
works out the designs of God, has carried that nation forward in the 
glorious way. With firmer step, with undaunted soul, with high re- 
solve of justice, peace, and conciliation, the work which was begun by 
Ireland's Liberator progresses in our day. Chains are being forged 
for our country, but they are chains of gold to bind up all discordant 
elements in the empire, so that all men shall live together as brothers 
in the land If we cannot have the blessings of religious unity, so 
as ' to be all of one mind,' we shall have ' the next dearest blessing 
that heaven can give,' the peace that springs from perfect religious 
liberty and equality. All this do we owe to the man whose memory 
we recall to-day, to the principles he taught us which illustrate his life, 
and which, in the triumph of Catholic emancipation, pointed out to 
Irish people the true secret of their strength, the true way of pro- 
gress, and the sure road to victory. The seed which his hand had 
sown it was not given to him to reap in its fulness. Catholic emanci- 
pation was but the first instalment of liberty. The edifice of reli- 
gious freedom was to be crowned when the wise architect who had 
laid its foundations and built up the walls was in his grave. Let us 
hope that his dying eyes were cheered and the burden of his last 


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hour lightened by the sight of the perfect grandeur of his work ; 
that like the prophet-lawgiver he beheld * all the land ' — that he saw 
it with his eyes, though he did not ' pass over to it ; ' and that it was 
given to him to * salute from afar off' the brightness of the day which 
he was never to enjoy. The dream of his life is being realised to- 
day. He had ever sighed to be able to extend to his Protestant 
fellow-countrymen the hand of perfect friendship, which only exists 
where there is perfect equality, and to enter with them into the com- 
pact of the true peace which is founded in justice. Time, which 
buries in oblivion so many names and so many memories, will exalt 
him in his work. The day has already dawned and is ripening to its 
perfect noon when Irishmen of every creed will remember O'Connell, 
and celebrate him as the common friend and the greatest benefactor 
of their country. What man is there, even of those our age has 
called great, whose name, so long after his death, could summon so 
many loving hearts around his tomb? We to-day are the represen- 
tatives not only of a nation but of a race. ' Quae regio in terris 
nostri non plena laboris ? ' Where is the land that has not seen the 
face of our people and heard their voice ? and wherever, even to the 
ends of the earth, an Irishman is found to-day, his spirit and his 
sympathy are here. The millions of America are with us ; the Irish 
Catholic soldier on India's plains is present amongst us by the magic 
of his love ; the Irish sailor, standing by the wheel this moment in 
far-off silent seas, where it is night, and the southern stars are 
shining, joins his prayer with ours, and recalls the glorious image 
and venerated name of O'ConnelL He is gone, but his fame shall 
live for ever on the earth as a lover of God and his people. Adver- 
saries, political and religious, he had many, and, like a tower of 
strength, 'which stood full square to all the winds that blew,' the 
Hercules of justice and of liberty stood up against them. Time, 
which touches all things with mellowing hand, has softened the re- 
collection of past contests, and they who once looked upon him as a 
foe now only remember the glory of the fight and the mighty genius 
of him who stood forth the representative man of his race and the 
champion of his people. They acknowledge his greatness, and they 
join hands with us to weave the garland of his fame. But far other, 
higher, and holier are the feelings of Irish Catholics all the world 
over to-day. They recognise in the dust which we are assembled to 
honour the powerful arm which promoted them, the eloquent tongue 
which proclaimed their rights, the strong hand which, like that of the 
Maccabee of old, first struck off their chains and built up their holy 


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altars. Mingling the supplication of prayer and the gratitude of 
suffrage with their tears, they recall with love the memory of him 
who was a Joseph to Israel, their tower of strength, their buckler and 
their shield, who shed around their homes, altars, and graves the 
sacred light of religious liberty and the glory of unfettered worship. 
* His praise is in the Church ; ' and this is the surest pledge of the 
immortality of his glory. ' A people's voice ' may be * the proof and 
echo of all human fame,' but the voice of the undying Church is the 
echo of ' everlasting glory ; ' and when those who surround his grave 
to-day shall have passed away, all future generations of Irishmen to 
the end of time will be reminded of his name and of his glory. 

Fr. Burke's sister states that he arrived from another 
country only in time to deliver this great oration ; and the 
moment it was over, instead of waiting to hear the elaborated 
thanks which were being prepared for him, he hurried off to 
the Mater Misericordiae Hospital, in order to obey a letter 
which had been sent to Italy by a poor widow, expressing 
anxiety to see him before she died. He walked the wards of 
the hospital, eagerly scanning each bed as he passed, and was 
about to enter another room when he heard a feeble voice 
mutter his name. So emaciated was the poor sufferer that 
he had failed to recognise her face. 'Father,' she said, *I 
waited for you.* He bent over her with touching fervour, and 
administered the consolations of religion. This good work 
he had barely finished when she sank to rest, wearing the 
sweetest expression of happiness. 

Mr. Sherlock, who had been nearly made a monk by hear- 
ing Fr. Burke preach, continued like a true disciple to follow 

Night after night (he writes) vast crowds came to St Saviour^s, 
bearing oppressive heat and well-nigh intolerable crushing, to 
listen to Fr. Burke's most masterly series of Lenten sermons. The 
lessons he taught sank deeply into many a heart, and abide there 
still. Lent after Lent, Advent after Advent, he continued to give 
powerful and instructive discourses, often preaching three times in 
the cburse of one day. How he bore up through this overpowering 
labour, and sustained the fatigues of constant travel while still ad- 


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hering to the rigid rule of his Order, can only be explained by 
his possession of a vitality given rarely to men. 

One great feature in Fr. Tom (writes the Rev. Paul Stapleton, 
O.P.) was his fast friendships so singularly kept up and strangely cul- 
tivated ; never by letter, for a more careless correspondent there did 
not live. Heaps of letters unread and unseen were waiting for him 
nearly everywhere. He would not and could not keep pace with that 
sort of thing, and so he tried to allow it to lapse. The ubiquitous friar 
was universally known and adored, and letters were bound to come. 
Now, some could not understand this, while others laughed it off. 
* What ! no answer from Fr. Tom, and it's two months since I wrote I 
I hear that So-and-So has had a line. I'll write again.' And so up 
went the pile, but no answer. And this was the experience of hun- 
dreds. But Fr. Tom was not oblivious. Seldom would he pass a 
friend by. In London I remember him taking me to Lady Reding- 
ton's. There was quite a flutter of delight when he was announced. 
The young ladies especially seemed itre aux anges^ but to a chorus 
of *Why did you not answer?' all round, came the meekest and 
sweetest of responses — * Why, my dears, would you have me so poorly 
express my affections, when 'tis only by seeing you I can do justice 
to them ? ' 

It has been said that a letter timely written is a rivet to 
the chain of friendship, but a letter untimely delayed is as 
rust to the solder. Fr. Tom was a wonderful man to preserve 
— despite his epistolatory shortcomings — the troops of friends 
who, all over the world, cherished for him their love. 

Many instances will be found, ere this narrative ends, to 
confirm Fr. Stapleton's account of his friend. There is, how- 
ever, no rule without an exception. If letters did, at wide 
intervals, drop from Fr. Burke, they were as rare as the stars 
which fall from heaven. In 1869 a highly^ifted woman, 
Miss O'Connor Morris, now Mrs. Bishop, asked him a question 
touching the threatened disestablishment of the Irish Church. 
He thus replied, but it is remarkable that this letter, which 
she has preserved as a sacred relic, displays no signature, 
not even his initials : 

My dear Miss Morris, — I was glad to hear from you, and I regret 
that I cannot give you much information on the subject to which you 


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allude. St. Thomas does not treat it expressly, for in his day the 
Catholic Church was established in all the civilised countries of 
Europe. But when the rights of Mendicant Orders were questioned, 
he in his answer to Gulielmus de Sancto Aniore vindicates the rights 
of Dominicans, Franciscans, &&, to subsist upon the voluntary offer- 
ings of the faithful, and so far he indirectly touches on the great 
question of to-day. His arguments, however, do not help us much 
in our present difficulties, for he deals principally with poverty as a 
feature of evangelical perfection, and as a higher state requiring a 
special vocation as distinct from the vocation to the priesthood. He 
throughout takes for granted the endowments of the Church and the 
profession and protection of her on the part of the State. Now the 
dangers arising out of the voluntary system are twofold, and both of 
the gravest kind. The first affects doctrine, the second the sacra- 
ments. There is always danger that where the people have the 
support of their pastor in their own hands they may be inclined to 
dictate to him and impose then* own views and opinions on him, 
whilst he, knowing that he depends on them for his bread, is tempted, 
nay, even forced, to adopt these religious views and opinions. This 
great evil is rife amongst Dissenters, whose preachers complain bitterly 
from time to time of their slavery. This, I imagine, will be the utter 
disruption of Protestantism in Ireland now that the Church is disen- 
dowed The Catholic Church is saved from this danger of the 
voluntary system by her dogma; The objective reality (pardon the 
terms), truth, and consequent oneness of her dogmatic teaching saves 
the people from the tyranny of the priest, who cannot force his 
personal views or opinions on them, and saves the priest from all 
dictation or pressure of opinion on the part of the people, who must 
accept his preaching (it being the doctrine of the Church), and look 
upon him as their teacher and superior even whilst they furnish him 
his daily bread 

The disestablishment of the Irish Church had been long 
an object dear to the heart of the Rev. Sydney Smith, 
Macaulay, and many other Protestant thinkers. Cardinal 
Cullen attended at Marlborough Street on the occasion of 
a Triduum in thanksgiving for this great boon. Fr. Burke 
preached. The same absence of vulgar triumph which marked 
Fr. Burke's sermon is traceable in his lecture on Faith at 
Kingstown delivered in the subsequent July. 


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It was no more a victory for Catholics than for Protestants, 
rightly viewed While they rejoiced in the strength of their holy 
religion, they should not forget that Protestants had given them the 
change, acknowledged the power of principle, and yielded the 
triumph to purity and faith. Catholics were now satisfied to stretch 
out the hand of frank fellowship to all their coimtrymen, so that good 
might be worked for Ireland. They wanted no ascendency. The 
word was hateful to Catholic ears. It stood not in their vocabulary ; 
it lived not in their yearnings. They had, indeed, two words which 
they loved — Unity and Equality. 

Lecturing on ' Ireland's Faith the Triumph of the Age,' 
on October 15, 1827, he told a trivial incident of this time : 

Four years ago I met a poor fellow in Galway going along the 
road ; he had his pipe in his mouth, and when he came up and saw 
the priest he took it out, and with a guilty expression of countenance 
put it behind his back. ' What's the best news, your reverence ? ' 
he said. 'Only this,' I replied, 'that they are making an Act of 
Parliament in England declaring that the Protestant Church is no 
longer to be the established religion in Ireland.' ' Do you mean to 
tell me,' said he, ' that the English Parliament made that law ? * 
* Yes, there's no doubt of it,* said I. * Well,' said he, * by the piper 
that played before Moses I never heard of them making any law 
for the Catholics of Ireland before, except coercion bills, pains and 
penalty bills, fines upon this and taxation upon that ; and I don't know 
whether it was God or the divil taught them how to change.' And 
then the poor illiterate man made use of a remark which suggested 
to me the subject of this evening's lecture : * Well, sir,' said he, * it 
is a strange thing that they should have disestablished the Protestant 
Church. We are not making any row about it O'Connell is dead ; 
there is no arming now going on, no fighting in the country, and the 
boys are everywhere so quiet' 

Archbishop Cullen, now raised to the purple, continued to 
manifest towards Fr. Burke the same affection as of old, and 
during his few intervals from toil took pleasure in hearing 
him unfold his pranks and oddities, In their deep humility 
both were thoroughly akin. 

Guileless as a child (said Fr. Burke) and thinking no evil, free 
and joyous in his intercourse with the humblest of his clergy, tender 
and merciful to the poor and penitent, hoping all good things even 


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3i8 LIFE OF Father thomas burke. 

for the fallen, nor breaking the bruised reed, nor extinguishing the 
smoking Aax, preaching with the strength and pathos of learning, 
authority, and the unction of sanctity combined; with unadorned 
eloquence, yet with great clearness and power instructing his people 
' in season and out of season,' wearing the purple not so much with 
stateliness as with a wonderful dignity of repose ; the head of his 
nation, the guardian of the flock, the delight of his clergy — O Father, 
what have we not lost in thee whose face we shall see no more ! 

This was part of the funeral sermon delivered in 1878. 

The only time I ever saw the Cardinal laugh heartily (observes 
Dr. Brady) was at the dinner in celebration of St Dominic's Day, 
when Fr. Burke mimicked his Eminence to the life ; but I thought 
he spoiled the effect by following it up with his personation of the 
Italian lazzaronu 

One evening at the palace, after Fr. Burke had sung ' The 
Lower Castle Yard,* Cardinal Cullen asked what sort of a 
place was Cook Street, where lived the hero of the song. This 
led to a story, and it may be observed parenthetically that Fr. 
Tom's power in this line was shown in producing comicality 
out of the most solemn and depressing subjects. The success 
of this story led to its repetition on subsequent occasions. It 
is said that every Bishop laughed at it except Dr. Coffin. 

One morning, going into Tallaght, I was met by a poor woman 
named Crosbie, swaying herself from side to side apparently in great 
grief. She burst out at once. * Oh, Father Tom ! he's gone at 
last 1 he's gone, oh dear ! ' 

* Well, well, Molly,' I replied ; ' you know he has been given over 
for some time past by the doctors, and you said you would be con- 
tent if he was well prepared to go ; he was well prepared, and you 
ought to be more resigned.' 

* Oh,' said she, petulantly, * that is not what*s troubling me ; but 
he's been so long sick that every penny is gone, and now he'll have 
to be buried by the parish.' 

Recognising the universal desire of the poorer classes to give, at 
any cost of suffering to themselves, a good funeral to their dead, 
I said, * Well, now, Molly, I will get you a pound out of the poor- 
box ; you can go up to Dublin and buy a coffin, and I will see that 
he is not buried by the parish.' 

She dropped on her knees, and, with upraised hands, said, * Oh, 


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Father Tom, jewel, may every hair on your head turn to a mowld 
candle to light you to glory ! ' 

The poor woman walked to Dublin, and at once proceeded to 
Cook Street This is a narrow street, devoted almost solely to 
the manufacture of cofiins. Big hulks of coffins are to be seen 
leaning their shoulders against door-sills, others stick their heads 
into the street as if looking out for customers, and inside are piles 
of every size. Little coffin-lids may be seen holding up windows, 
and a continued rat-tat-tat resounds all day from the different shops, 
where men are engaged in putting on the tin ornaments that adorn 
the coffins of the poor. 

When Molly came to the head of the street, and saw all the pre- 
parations for burial, her tears welled up, but before she had time to 
cry, the owner of one of the establishments, always on the look-out 
for such cases, came up and said, ' So your poor man is gone at last 
Ah, God be with him ; he was the dacent fellow.* 

* Oh, then you knew my poor husband ? ' 

* Yes, indeed — (a lie, by the way) — many's the time we went 
to Bully's Acre' together, and he would stand his pint as well as any 
man.' By degrees he drew over towards his shop, and when at it, 
said, ' I suppose it's a coffin youll be wantin', ma'am.' She nodded 
sadly. ' No doubt you'd like plenty of ornaments. How would this 
one do?' pointing to a big coffin standing inside the door. 'You 
know it was some time since I saw him, and he may have grown stout' 

Mrs. Crosbie thought it would about do, and put her hand over 
to feel its thickness. He immediately launched out into praise of 
his work. ' That's a fine article, ma'am ; it's made out of the best 
boards we get from Archangel' 

* From the Archangel ? Oh, the Lord be good to us ; do they 
supply you with boards ? ' 

* Oh yes ; we keep nothing but the very best Do you know 
Mr. Fox that lives in Francis Street ? Well, he's a very snug ould 
bachelor ; only last week he got sick, and the doctors gave him up. 
He sent for his housekeeper. " Mrs. Mooney," said he, " they tell me 
I'm going to die." " Oh, don't talk that way, sir," said she. " You'll 
dance at all their wakes yet" " Oh, don't interrupt me," said he, 
cross-like. ** I want you to make me a promise," said he. ''Any. 

* Bully*s Acre— formerly the site of the Monastery of the Knights of St 
John — had become a pauper burial-ground near Dublin, but is remarkable for 
possessing the historic tomb of Donagh, son of King Brian Boroihme, who fell 
at Clontarf A.D. 014. 


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thing in raison, sir/' said she. ** Well, then," said he, " whenever I 
am taken I want you to go over to Mick Nowlan's in Cook Street and 
order my coffin." " I will, sir," said she. " Then I'll die aisy," said 
he, " for I know I'll get the dacent article." ' 

Just then Molly pointed out a knot-hole. * Oh,' says Nowlan, 

* I'll fix that at once.' Then calling up the little crooked stairs, he 
roared out, ' Jim, bring me down a handful of angels.' These are 
block tin ornaments with which the coffins of the poor are adorned. 
When the angels were brought he took a hammer and tacked one 
over the knot-hole, and one on the opposite side for uniformity. 

* Now,' he exclaimed, bestowing on it a benign smile of admiration ; 

* but in any case, maybe Crosbie wouldn't object to have a little hole 
to escape to heaven at the sound of the last trumpet— mine is ever- 
lasting work and screwed down as tight as tuppence.' The widow 
expressed herself satisfied, and then put the crucial question as to 
price. Nowlan, in his most insinuating tones, replied, ' The price of 
the article is a pound, but on account of the man that's gone, and 
your desolate condition, I'll give it to you for seventeen and six.' 

* Seventeen and six for that ! I'll give you ten and sixpence and not a 
farden more.' Here Nowlan's late suavity of manner left him, and with 
a cynical scowl he said, ' Go on out of that, you ould strap ; ten and 
six for a coffin like that? It's a coffin made of orange boxes or of 
cholera-boords you want, and not the best article in the street. Go 
over there to Foley's, and get something to suit your pocket The 
last corpse he coffined was shivering with the cowld before it left the 
street. I/e'W give you one made of cholera-boords, so he will, with 
your ten and six, and before your man is twenty-four hours under 
the sod, the sack-em-ups * will have him, so they will, with your ten and 
six. Yes, and they'll take out his liver and lights, and preserve thera 
in spirits in Steeven's Hospital — thanks to your ten and six. Aye, and 
they'll sell his shin-bones to Amott to make handles for parasols— so 
they will— with your ten and six. Worse nor that, they'll take out 
his teeth and sell them to Hudson, the dentist, and he'll put them 
in the mouth of some vile ould renegade to assist him in aitin' 
meat on Friday, and where, at last, they'll be gnashing for all 
eternity — so much for your ten and six.* Mrs. Crosbie, who was 
writhing in agony during the first part of the philippic, could not 
withstand the last fearful threat ; she paid the sum demanded, and 
went off with her dead bargain. 

. > Men who effected premature resurrections for anatomical purposes were 
called * sack-em-ups.* 


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Fr. Burke was now selected by the Bishop of Dromore to 
accompany him to the Vatican Council as his theologian. It 
was the first General Council held for three hundred years, . 
and great interest grew round its solemn sittings. After the 
new d<^ma had been defined, Fr. Burke expressed some views 
which merit preservation. 

How completely the great assembly of Trent had done its work 
is matter of history (observes our Dominican). But every age brings 
its own dangers and difficulties in the Church of God. A spirit of 
blank infidelity had sprung up, resulting in the hideous atheism 
which has left its awful mark on our own days. The rage is now 
turned from the invisible to the visible head of the Church. Who 
is this man who dares to thrust dogmatic definitions upon us and 
speak the language of despised faith to the nineteenth century ? Is 
it for this that the human intellect shook off the yoke of authority 
three hundred years ago ? — for this that science has attained to the 
white light of an almost perfect knowledge ? Are we to become as 
little children again, and sit down to be taught by an old man, the 
head of a worn-out Church, and the vicar of an exploded God ? Let 
us pull this aged pretender from his throne, let us cast him forth, 
unknown as Peter was of old amongst the ignoble crowd of the fol- 
lowers of Christ. Thus the pride and passion of the world arose 
against the head of the Church, and heresy, infidelity, and revolution 
joined hands to abolish him. They taught, and rightly, that if they 
could but destroy the head, the mystical body of Christ would soon be 
a corpse at their feet ; if they could but strike the shepherd, the sheep 
would be dispersed. Then the great crime of the nineteenth century 
was publicly perpetrated. Truth, justice, honour, plighted oath, 
necessity, history, were glike trapipled upon ; and in the spoliation 
VOL. I. Y 


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of the Sovereign Pontiff a new principle of government, public action, 
and law was announced and accepted. 

But was the Church to stand idly by whilst her head — Peter's 
successor and Christ's vicar — was thus dishonoured ? — the Church, 
which from the beginning acknowledged him as the centre and 
source of her authority, the one wholly infallible witness and exponent 
of her faith and guardian of her law — which never called a council 
nor promulgated a decree, nor expressed a dogma of her faith but at 
his calling and with his sanction. The hour predestined in the 
Divine decrees is come, when the Catholic Church must proclaim 
authoritatively to the world all that she had ever taught and believed 
of Peter and his successors. Before sacrilegious hands can touch 
his temporal crown — the only thing within their reach — whilst the 
lingering glories of Rome, Catholic and Papal, yet surround him ; 
the Church hastens to assemble and, with united voice and faith, 
proclaims Peter's successor the Pope of Rome to be, in virtue of 
Christ's special prayer, and by the interposition of the Holy Ghost, 
preserved from all possibility of error in his teaching as Head of the 
Church. This great declaration of faith was made in the form of a 
dogmatic utterance, that expressed clearly and distinctly the mind of 
the Church— the mind of God the Holy Ghost, her guide. Such an 
expression of the Church's faith is as true, as solemn, as binding, as 
the revealed word itself, for it is as much the expression of the mind 
of God. 1 

People were fond of comparing the grandeur and import- 
ance of the Vatican Council with that of Trent ; but Trent 
was an obscure town in the Tyrol, and merely presided over 
by legates, while the CEcumenical Council of 1869 was held 
under the personal auspices of the Pope, and in the centre of 
unity, Rome. Eight hundred and three Fathers took their 
seats, being one hundred and thirty-five more than the united 
attendance at the three councils of Nice, Constantinople, and 
Ephesus. This solemn senate of the Vatican opened on 
December 8, 1869, with a pomp of ceremonial not likely to be 
soon forgotten by those whose privilege it was to witness it 

The prelates, vested in white copes and mitres, assembled (Canon 
» In Marlborough Street Cathedral, Dublin, Nov. 27, 1878. 


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Pope writes), and two and two moved in solemn procession down 
the Scala Regia, through the vestibule, into the nave of St Peter's. 
The entire route was fringed by a triple line of secular priests and 
members of the religious orders in their various costumes, and by the 
Palatine Guard, the Zouaves, the Antibes Legion, and other regiments 
in brilliant uniforms, which seemed like a great border of flowers 
dyed in every variety of tint. After the procession had occupied an 
hour in its transit, his Holiness passed into the basilica, amidst the 
hum of thousands and the sheen of naked swords flickering as they 
moved over the officers' heads and were lowered to the pavement ; 
amid the crash of musket -butts as the military knelt and presented 
arms ; amidst the thrilling strains of martial music, booming bells, 
and thundering volleys of artillery discharged from the Aventine 
mount and the Castle of St. Angelo. 

Bishops bronzed and black sat vis d vis to the pallid 
Archbishop of Westminster and to .the polished prelates of 
La Belle France. Bishops bent with age, others erect as 
the Cross, entered into the work before them. Prominent 
among the former was the venerable Bishop of Dromore, 
by whom it was correctly judged that Fr. Burke, though 
acting nominally as his theologian, would, from his know- 
ledge of all things Roman, prove an invaluable cicerone 
and socius. His Lordship occupied apartments at San 
Clemente, as also Fr. Burke's great friend. Dr. Moriarty, 
Bishop of Kerry ; Archbishop Errington, coadjutor to the 
late Cardinal Wiseman in Westminster ; and Dr. O'Connell, 
Bishop of Grass Valley, San Francisco, California. These 
prelates were of opinion that to define the Pope's in- 
fallibility would prove inexpedient They were familiarly 
known as * Inopportunists,' and San Clemente was facetiously 
styled by Cardinal Cullen*s adherents as Port Royal — ^the 
stronghold of the Jansenists in days of yore. But there were 
some ecclesiastics at San Clemente not persistently Inoppor- 
tunists, amongst whom may be specially mentioned Dean 
Neville, the theologian of Dr. Moriarty. Here a fast friend- 
ship was fostered between Dr. Neville and Fr. Burke, which 

V 2 


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continued uninterrupted to the end. We may add that Fr. 
Burke was an Inopportunist ; so was Archbishop MacHale» 
who spoke twice against the proposed definition. Both were 
opposed to it, not on doctrinal but on political grounds, 
and lest it should imperil Catholic unity. But by far the 
most strongly-developed Inopportunist was David Moriarty, 
Bishop of Kerry. Part of their hostility was due to the fact 
that until the Council met, no intimation was made of any 
intention to define the infallibility. 

The procession of near eight hundred bishops, mitred and 
coped, as they emerged from St. Peter's two by two, gracefully 
bowing to each other while they conversed, was a spectacle to 
be remembered. Some of the Eastern prelates wore crowns. 
Even physically they presented a fine specimen of manhood. 
A Protestant who watched them asked, * Have these men 
been selected for their appearance ? * 

The Rev. James Daniel contributed to the Freeman's 
Journal at this period some gossiping letters from Rome, 
Under date December 13, 1869, he writes : — 

Your distinguished fellow-countryman, Father Thomas Burke, is 
delivering on the Sundays of Advent a series of sermons for the in- 
struction of the English-speaking portion of the residents and strangers 
at Rome. The attendance to-day was particularly large, and com- 
prised several foreign bishops and priests, who, I suspect, understood 
very little of what the eloquent Divine was saying. He had, however, 
the happiness of seeing amongst his audience several prelates of his 
own old country, amongst them being the Archbishop of Tuam, who, 
after his five-and-forty years of unceasing toil in the Episcopacy, 
looks the very perfection of health and vigour ; Dr. Nulty, Bishop of 
Meath ; Dr. Donnelly, Bishop of Clogher; Dr. Derry, Bishop of Clon- 
fert ; Dr. McEvilly, Bishop of Galway ; Dr. Leahy, Bishop of Dro- 
more, &c. Dr, Kenrick, Archbishop of St. Louis; Dr. Grimley (Cape 
of Good Hope) ; Dr. Feehan, Bishop of Nashville, U.S., and the 
Rev. Maziere Brady, the well-known Protestant ecclesiastical historian, 
formed a part of the congregation. 

A subsequent despatch announces ' to those who take an 


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interest in Fr. Burke, and their name is l^ion/ that, owing to 
illness, these attractive sermons had been temporarily inter- 
rupted. Fr. Daniel notes as remarkable that foreign divines, 
who could ill understand what he said, thronged to hear Fr. 
Burke. But so expressive was his action, that deaf mutes 
were as much charmed as though they heard his words ; and 
it will be seen that, for clerical critics, he once successfully 
preached in pantomime. Fr. Burke's sermons were delivered 
in the Church of Santa Maria del Popolo, famous for its works 
of art, including the windows of Peter and Claude, two great 
Dominicans of Limoges, whom Leo X. summoned to paint the 
glass of the Vatican. Fr. Burke found a formidable rival in 
Dr. Manning this year. His Grace preached the St. Patrick's 
Day sermon at St. Isidore's, and the * Freeman ' does not fail 
to announce that an edified listener appeared in the person 
of Fr. Burke. 

As time advanced, the discussion in the Vatican Council had 
become more animated. But on the whole progress was so 
slow that, if it had not been for Father Thomas, time would 
have dragged. The Right Rev. Mgr. Sheehan has been kind 
enough to commit to writing for our use some reminiscences 
of a highly laughable incident: 

One would imagine that the gathering together of the prelates of 
the Universal Church to debate and decide questions of the highest 
importance could hardly have given an opportunity to the most 
enthusiastic promoter of fun to ply his calling ; and yet so keen was 
Father Tom's perception of the ridiculous, and so insatiable his 
thirst for drollery, that even in the solemn time of an (Ecumenical 
Council it would manifest itself. A good deal of hospitality was 
shown to the prelates by the upper classes resident in Rome. 
Amongst the English Catholics, Mr. Bodenham was distinguished 
for the frequency and brilliancy of his entertainments. Amongst 
his guests were naturally found the English-speaking bishops, but he 
did not by any means limit his invitations to those who spoke his 
mother tongue. 

He had frequently at his house the Oriental prelates as well. 


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With a kindness worthy of all praise, he had an apartment arranged 
for their reception, as far as possible, after the fashion of their 
Eastern clime. There was a divan well-cushioned, and an abundant 
supply of coffee, and it may be of sherbet, and no end of the most 
delicately flavoured tobacca The prelates sat cross-legged on the 
luxurious cushions, and sipped their coffee in solemn silence, as 
clouds of smoke went up towards the gilded ceiling. 

Towards the end of one evening, Mr. Bodenham proposed to 
his English, Irish, and American friends that they should pay a visit 
to the Orientals, who were so tranquilly enjoying themselves. As 
they moved along and bowed their respectful greetings, the eyes of a 
Munster Bishop, from an historic Irish city, became at once rivetted 
upon a figure, not clothed in the full Oriental costume of his fellows, 
but smoking and sipping coffee as well as the best of them, and, like 
all his companions, sitting crosslegged and holding his tongue most 
industriously. * Why, Father Tom/ exclaimed Dr. Butler, • is that 
you ? What in the world brought you here ? * * Well ! my Lord/ said 
the Dominican, I heard there was plenty of coffee and tobacco to be 
had here, and I saw no reason why a Western should leave all those 
good things to the Orientals ; and I wanted to prove, moreover, that 
there were wise men in the West as well as in the East.' ^ 

Fr. Burke, when preaching on St Patrick, said : ' The 
Chinese are perhaps the oldest civilised people in the world — 
Apostles have preached to them, and at their hands some 
of the greatest saints have won the martyr's crown. The 
Chinese nation up to this has persistently refused to accept 
the faith.' Be this as it may, two Chinese bishops attended 

> Fr. Burke told this story himself with some extra details. A door covered 
with baize attracted his notice on various occasions, and an exquisite aroma of 
tobacco escaped whenever it opened. Anxious to penetrate the arcana within he 
put on a bold face. Seeing some Oriental garments hanging near the door, he 
was tempted by old dramatic instincts to throw one carelessly over his shoulder. 
Entering the S3nnposium, he found himself in presence of men who seemed a cro^s 
between the Grand Cham of Tartary and the Nizam of Hyderabad, and all of whom 
puffed from hookahs heavenly Havannah. Grand salaams were made. Finding 
that the place had been allotted to Eastern patriarchs and prelates, he at first felt 
somewhat shy, but his love of a good joke carried him through. Hailed as one 
of themselves, he passed a day or two within that privileged circle. He told Dr. 
Power, V.G., thnt one Irish prelate with whom he conversed did not recognise 
him, though the acuteness of the Bishop of Limerick at last detected the im- 


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the Vatican Council, and their names will be recognised in 
the list of those who swelled the grand procession to St Peter's. 

In one of his lectures he said: 'The Chinaman has no 
bridge to his nose, and his eyes turn inwards as if both were 
occupied watching where the bridge ought to be.' This 
shows how diligently Fr. Burke had studied the genus, and in 
casually accosting the Chinese bishops he suitably arranged 
his face. He heard the Bishop of Nankin say to the other 
in Chinese, * It certainly sounds like our language, but we 
cannot discuss here the question he raises.' 

There was no * part' in his repertoire that Fr. Burke practised 
more than that of the Chinaman. On another occasion he asked 
a French missioner from China if he spoke its tongue ; and on 
receiving a prompt affirmative, proceeded to overpower him 
with a torrent of celestial eloquence. The missioner, with some 
warmth, said that he did not understand such Chinese. ' Oh, 
probably because mine is Court Chinese,' replied Fr. Tom. 

Cavillers might say that this sort of thing tended to break 
down respect, and solemn men may shake their heads. The 
venerable Bishop of Cork but expresses the view held of Fr. 
Burke by all the English-speaking prelates whom he knew in 

None (writes his Lordship) could more ardently desire to have 
the highest tribute of respect paid to one whose varied and brilliant 
talents commanded the admiration of all who had any opportunity of 
estimating his rare gifts. It was reserved to those only who had the 
happiness of close intimacy to discover fully the hidden virtues of the 
man, his piety, humility, charity, and holiness as a true religious 

Mgr. Sheehan, Vicar- General of Cork, declares that 

Father Burke was the readiest wit, and his charming power 
of song was most remarkable. His was the largest repertory 
of wondrous anecdotes, which he told with the utmost point and 
humour. The fact of his being a brilliant social companion would 
subtract nothing from our estimate of him as a priest. It was 
not because a man was a great theologian and preacher that he 


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should hang down his head and say nothing to enliven his time 
and amuse his companions. That was not Fr. Burke's way. His 
whole object was to make himself agreeable, and he invariably 

The social circle was Burke's playground, and no boy 
could enjoy himself more when once he entered it. 
* When we spoke together on serious topics ' (writes Mr. 
Lane), 'nothing struck me more than the breadth of his 

And then his conversation with Bishop Moriarty. How 
often he referred to that great privilege afterwards. Their 
acquaintance, dating from 1857, when the young Dominican 
personated an Italian preacher, had now ripened into a 
generous friendship* Let us hear from Fr. Burke those 
points in the bishop which so favourably impressed him. 
These he described on October 7, 1877 : 

Nature had invested him with great strength and dignity of 
character, a courage that never knew fear, gentleness, and natural 
amiability, which education and intercourse with the refined had 
matured to the charm of a perfect urbanity^ and with a heart most 
generous and loving. Intellectual and spiritual graces followed. 
Every faculty was trained and enlarged with varied learning. The 
instmcts of a student were his to the last. Priest and bishop, 
he was still a hard reading maa History, especially that of the 
Church, was an open volume in his memory. The lighter forms of 
literature were not neglected, and his pure eloquence proved not 
only the light of his mind, but also that he had copiously drunk of 
' the well of English ' undefiled. The classical knowledge of ancient 
languages, acquired in boyhood, was dear to him as a man, and often 
he returned to them, renewing his youth and refreshing his wearied 
spirit But the gifts of nature, though largely bestowed, the endow- 
ments of intellect, though carefully cultivated, were as nothing com- 
pared wiih the higher spiritual graces which made him beloved of 
God and man. He was a man of prayer. Rising before the sun, he 
gave the first four hours of the day to immediate and undisturbed 
intercourse with God. 

A distinguished prelate who lived under the same roof 


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with Fr. Burke at this time writes from the far fields of 
California : 

He was a many-sided man, and we may truly say of Fr. Burke what 
Brougham, I think, said of Csesar, * One might be truly great without 
being as great as Csesar.' I saw only the sunny, that is the funny, 
side of Fr. Burke during my sojourn in San Clemente. His pious 
practices and exercises he studiously concealed from me. It was only 
during his hour of relaxation, for the bow can't be always bent, that I 
was favoured with his conversatioa He struck me from first to last as 
another St Philip Neri, the Apostle of Rome, especially when preach- 
ing to admiring thousands in the Eternal City ! With what fruit it is 
not for me to tell. But numerous converts live to attest the value of 
his sermons. Gifted as he was> there wasn't a streak or fibre of 
pride in him. So small was he in his own estimation, that I heard 
him when proceeding to the pulpit request a few * Hail Marys ' 
from the crowd that lined his way, * that I may not make a fool of 
myself 1 ' He realised the maxim inculcated by the author of the 
* Imitation of Christ ' — viz. * If you wish to make true progress in 
Christian perfection, love to be reputed as nothing in this world.' 
It was with this view he indulged in such innocent jokes — most 
generally at his own expense. But never did he wound the feelings 
of another. Lady Clanricarde — whose family name is Burke — 
approached him when surrounded by an admiring throng, and 
claimed kindred with hinL But he assured her Ladyship with an 
emphasised brogue that the son of Wat Burke the baker couldn't 
aspire to such a privilege. So little did Fr. Burke think of worldly 
honours. I have seen him writhing in pain, and when condoling 
with him he said, * I deserve to suffer the torments of hell.' His 
schoolmates assured me that in his wildest sallies they never saw 
anything which could possibly disedify.' 

Such replies as those made to Lady Clanricarde were, 
no doubt, the fruit of previous thought and formed part of 
his discipline in creating a thorough humbleness of spirit. 
In a sermon preached in Kilconnell in November, 1878, he 
said : 

We all know that St. Joseph was the keeper of his Lord, but 

> Letter of the Right Rev. Dr. Eugene O'Connell, Bishop of Grass Valley, 
California, to the Author, October 18, 1885. 


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before men he was the father, for the Son did him honour. If any- 
one would have asked the carpenter's son, Jesus Christ, who was 
his father ? He would have answered, * My father is Joseph, the 
poor carpenter at Nazareth.' 

From the time of Henry II. the Burkes were regarded as 
Lords of Connaught, but Fr. Tom did not encourage any 
attempt to engraft him on the great family tree. At a 
formal dinner party the stereotyped question was put to him 
across the table by a lady who liked blue blood. * I do not 
know much of the Burkes of Glinsk, myself/ he said, * but I 
remember my mother served them with bread.' It was in 
the same spirit that he replied to a lady, who, speaking rap- 
turously of his voice, asked him what means he had used 
to bring it to such beauty, tone, and power. ' Ah, 'tis easy 
to account for it. My father was an oysterman, and oysters 
are the best things in the world for the voice.' Another 
lady, on being presented to him after one of his sermons, 
said, ' I am charmed with your discourse more than I can 
express, and I am a wee bit anxious to know if you are 
equally au fait in any other accomplishment ? ' ' Well, I'm 
not a bad hand at making pancakes, ma'am,' was his reply. 

The Bishop of Clogher is loud in his praise of the ser- 
mons he heard Fr. Burke preach in the church of Santa 
Maria during the Vatican Council Perfectly original, these 
often became more like historic lectures. His audience fre- 
quently embraced nearly every Catholic bishop in the world. 
Archbishop MacHale and Bishop Moriarty declared after 
having heard one of these sermons that their hearts were too 
full to express all they felt 

A great prince of the Church who saw him in more 
thoughtful and ascetic mood than some other prelates speaks 
of Burke's voice as one of the ' most eloquent that I have ever 
heard — a priest whom I truly loved.* Cardinal Manning 

I had known Fr. Burke long and well. Our friendship began at 


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Rome, and through its streets we walked together, and there was a 
bond of affection between us — ^mutual knowledge and confidence — 
which was never relaxed, but grew more close and intimate even 
to the end. And now we shall no more hear that eloquent voice, 
eloquent because so simple, for in all he spoke for God ; he remem- 
bered God and forgot himself ; it was the eloquence not of study 
nor self-manifestation, but of the great soul filled with God and 
speaking for God. The whole man spoke, and yet in the pathos, 
and beauty, and light of what he spoke we never remembered the 
speaker. He concealed himself, as it were, and therefore he 
touched and moved and swayed the hearts of those who heard him. 
That eloquent voice is silent to us, but it is not silent in the eternal 
world, for it is always to be going up in the midst of that multitude 
which no man can number before the eternal throne. 

Theologians of every clime were unanimous in their 
verdict Mgr. Seton, of New York, declared that he had 
never listened to a speaker who so completely captivated his 
audience; and when it was announced that the great Do- 
minican was coming to the States, Dr. Seton expressed a fear 
that the people would hardly realise the treat in store for them. 
Soon after Fr. Burke's retirement from Rome the Lenten 
sermons which had been so long an attraction, thanks to Car- 
dinals Wiseman and Manning and himself, came to an end. 

Speaking of the dangers attendant on the adulation that 
pursued Fr. Burke, Fr. Clarke writes : 

He had a most profound sense of the vanity and emptiness oi 
all worldly esteem and honour. God and the Chiurch were his one 
thought He had praise and adulation enough to ruin any man, 
but it never seemed to make any impression upon Fr. Burke. It 
somehow slipped past him unnoticed. It was the work God had 
given him to do which absorbed his thoughts. He had attained that 
high level of the religious life where self consciousness, ^>r rather a 
consciousness of self, disappears altogether. It was only when 
some attempt more obvious than usual to glorify him at the expense 
of truth attracted his notice and roused his ire, diat he paid any 
attention to such things. 

But touch his sense of the ludicrous and at once his eyes 


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Aubrey de Vere beheld him at a greater distance than 
most of the men whose impressions we have given. 

I saw him frequently at Rome (he writes). I was much struck 
by him, though unfortunately I did not hear him preach. He 
seemed to me a noble specimen of the priest, and of the Irish 
priest — abounding in genius and in geniality; strong, simple, 
manly, at once one of 'Nature's gentlemen,* and a true son of 
the Church ; empty of self, and full of the apostolic spirit. He 
and my dear friend Dr. Moriarty, Bishop of Kerry, were doubtless 
among the highest and purest of that vast assemblage of Christian 
priests gathered that year around the throne of Peter. 

The fact is incidentally mentioned by Fr. Ralph, a Do- 
minican officiating in America, that an effort was made 
during the Vatican Council to persuade Fr. Burke to accept 
the Coadjutor Archbishopric of San Francisco, but nothing 
could tempt him to relinquish the habit of a poor preaching 
friar — not even the gold of California. The Archbishop, Dr. 
J. Sadoc Alemany, had worn the mitre since 1850, and as the 
priests of the diocese were nearly all Irishmen, the proposal 
seemed pleasanter than transplantation to Trinidad.' This is 
not the only case in which Fr. Burke preferred a cell to a 
palace. Quoting from k Kempis (Book I. c. xvii.) he said, 
* Thou camest hither to serve, not to rule/ 

In order to put a quietus upon such efforts, Fr. Burke 
continued to make his deportment somewhat unepiscopal. The 
following comes from a late Vice- Rector of the Irish College 
at Rome : — Fr. Tom having visited a zoological collection, a 
very amusing scene took place at the monkey house. The 
opportunity of mimicking those caricatures of humanity was 
too tempting to lose. Fr. Burke posed before the animals, 
and made the most hideous faces and gestures. The monkeys 
got angry, screamed, pulled at the bars of their cage, and 
finally clawed each other. At last the keeper begged Fr. 
Burke to bring the sensational scene to a close, which of 

' Full details will be found in vol. ii. (page 118), of the attempt made to 
induce Fr. Tom to accept Episcopal dignity in Trinidad. 


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course he at once did, much to the disappointment of a school 
who were enjoying a holiday. 

* Sleep/ says St. Ambrose, *is to be less indulged in 
than Nature demands. Disturb it with groans.' (Paraen. ad 
Penit, p. 272.)* It was some time previous that Fr. Burke 
for less ascetic reasons serenaded, d la Don Pasquale, and 
seeming to accompany himself on the guitar, Father Joseph 
Mullooly after he had retired for the night. He began — 

*0h, Fr. Mullooly, 
Turn, turn, &c' 

and went on seeking the most unlooked-for rhymes. The 
incident would hardly be noticed here but to correct a 
frequently told story that the performance took place at Sligo 
under the windows of Bishop Gillooly. Fr. Tom varied the 
programme by the mewing of a cat, which he pursued through 
every variation of key from the feline serenade to its note 
of defiance in battle. Next day he learned with remorse 
that he had kept awake an Irish bishop for whom he bore 
the most affectionate consideration. And this was the man 
of whom Fr. Kane, S.J., has said that * so great was the 
power of his words on the human heart that strong men as 
they listened would weep aloud.' 

On another occasion he produced an operatic study by 
mewing, and showed that after all there was little difference 
between cat and Catalani. He was amused by a joke that a 
cat was a great prima donnas and that if boot-jacks were 
bouquets her nine lives would be strewn with roses. It will 
be seen that when almost on his deathbed he compared him- 
self to a dying cat still able to mew. 

The Franciscans of St. Isidore's make St. Patrick's Day 
rather than that of St. Francis their feast day, because Rome 

> This is a passage to which Fr. Mallooly gave prominence in his book on the 
subterranean treasures of San Clemente. In many of Fr. Tom's jokes a deeper 
meaning is found to lurk than might at first sight appear. 


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IS crowded with English visitors in March and would be 
deserted in October. Fr. Burke was always the grand 
attraction put forward on those occasions He told among 
other stories how, after he had arrived as Prior of San 
Clemente, he ordered a kid to be roasted for dinner. A 
little Italian lay-brother felt himself privileged to urge the 
cook to boil it instead. The Prior, chancing to hear of this 
countermand, entered the kitchen, and, armed with all the 
weight of his great authority, solemnly ordered the Italian to 
be put into the oven. The simple man, thinking that his 
Prior was serious, is said to have cried for mercy. 

Fr. Burke also mentioned that one day at San Clemente, 
observing Fr. Mullooly slowly approaching along a corridor, 
he made some unearthly vocal noises outside the door of a 
certain grave Bishop, and then rapidly withdrew. The 
Bishop opened his door wide just as Mullooly reached it, and 
with a puzzled expression peered over his spectacles at the 
man whom he unjustly regarded as the source from whence 
the disturbance came. 

Amongst the brightest sallies of fun in the midst of laughter in- 
extinguishable (writes a Jesuit Father) he was serious in an instant 
if he were consulted by those who needed his advice in matters 
spiritual or temporal. Every trace of the boisterous merriment was 
gone, and the quiet earnest tone of heartfelt sympathy was always 
ready to bind up the broken heart and pour balm into the wounded 
soul. Those who saw him in his lighter moods could scarcely believe 
how grave and wise was his spiritual counsel ; how he spoke as one 
whom God had commissioned to convey His Divine message to the 
troubled soul. 

Mass he celebrated daily. To quote the words of Fr. Burke 
himself : 

You will say, perhaps, ' Was not the sacrifice of Calvary sufficient ?' 
Perfectly sufficient, a perfect atonement, a complete sacrifice ; so that 
if any man deemed other sacrifice necessary besides tfiat of Calvary 
the thought would be blasphemy and the expression of it heresy, 
involving the censures of the Church. But yet a sacrifice may be alj- 


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sufficient and yet it may be continued through the love of Him who 
first made it The same sacrifice which took place in a revolting 
manner on Calvary takes place mystically on this altar ; the same 
body is here and the same blood Who therefore will dare to say 
that the Catholic Church had set up any other sacrifice, or has 
denied the all-sufficiency of the sacrifice of our divine Lord on 

But he held that the altar of the Church was even greater 
than Calvary. On the former He sheds His blood and passes 
not away as he did on Golgotha. 

When the bishops returned to San Clemente jaded after 
the discussions and deliberations of the day, it was impossible 
to foresee what fun Fr. Burke might not^have in store to rouse 
them. The burlesque opera between him and Monsabr6 was 
now reproduced with improved effects. Bishop Moriarty, 
who had not attended the Centenary in 1867, was specially de- 
lighted by its comic business. But other prelates were present, 
including a very solemn one, Dr. Leahy, Bishop of Dromore. 
The genial Bishop of Cork, who saw much of Burke at other 
times, tells us that he would not only sing the most comic of 
songs, but seem to give an accompaniment of various instru- 
ments in chorus, and perform next minute the still more difficult 
feat of presenting one of Moore's best-known melodies without 
singing a word of it This was the ' Last Rose of Summer,' 
when by facial expression and general pantomime he told its 
tale with touching fidelity. He also translated the same 
lyric into fine Italian. But it was when portraying an old 
maid as the last rose of summer left blooming alone that he 
rose to highest dramatic strength, and there is now before us 
a veritable photograph of Fr. Burke taken in the character of 
the forsaken spinster. Previous to sitting he placed upon 
his head that appendage known to aged ladies as a front. 
Where he picked it up no one could tell. Limp corkscrew 

• «The AlUr and the Sacrifice,' Fennoy, August 17, 1878. 


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ringlets hung on either side of his strangely disguised face ; 
and a copy of the photograph is enclosed in the following note 
addressed to his niece in Galway : 

My dear Katty, — ^You are blessed with a scatter-brain uncle. I 
forgot to inclose you the photograph. Take care of it : * a thing of 
beauty is a joy for ever.' Glad to hear that papa and mamma are 
better. lx)ve to them and Margaret 

Ever thine, 

T. Burke, O.P. 

One evening the solemn Bishop of Dromore deprecated 
his exuberance of spirits as unworthy of the priestly dignity. 
' If it were not for this blemish/ he said, * there is no distinc- 
tion to which your talents would not entitle you.' He replied, 
• I often heard you express regret that you had ever been made 
a bishop. If your Lordship had followed my example and 
had a little more fun in you, that burthen would never have 
been laid upon you.* In point of fact his love of fun failed 
to harm him in the estimation of wise heads. They felt 
with Addison, ' One should take care not to grow too wise 
for so great a pleasure of life as laughter.* 

To Fr. Burke's genial energy is due various pleasant 
picnics to TivoH and Ostia, which the Irish and American 
bishops keenly enjoyed. Associated in the enterprise was 
Miss Wyse, the niece and future biographer of the late 
British Minister at Athens. Fr. Burke's friendship for this 
lady began under circumstances which may as well be 
mentioned. Years previously she had been inquiring for 
some able priest, capable of affording wise counsel, not on 
any case of conscience, but in relation to matters requiring 
the guidance of that most uncommon of gifts — common 
sense. People urged her to consult Fr. Burke ; but the 
suggestion made little impression. Miss Wyse spoke to 
various ecclesiastics, but their replies were weak and wordy. 
At last, happening to hear Fr. Tom preach in Dominick 
Street Church, Dublin, she became so much struck by the 


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logical tone of his sermon, that after he had left the pulpit 
she entered the vestry, and ventured as an utter stranger to 
lay her case before him. Fr. Burke gave bis opinion with 
such conciseness and strength, that in a moment all difficulties 
were smoothed, and she felt herself for life the debtor of the 
great Dominican. It was not until long afterwards that he 
heard who she was ; but Fr. Burke was the most accessible of 
men, and ready, at all times, to pour balm into every bruised 

Their acquaintance gradually strengthened into friendship 
until Miss Wyse, finding at last her letters unanswered, some 
danger of it coming to an abrupt end seemed to loom. The 
lady was hurt, and let the Dominican know it. He soon 
appeared in person, threw himself upon her indulgence, and 
confessed — what he had never told another — that he had 
offered up three retreats in the fervent hope of being able to 
cure himself of a habit, doubtless indefensible, but which, 
though it gave him no end of trouble, he found it hopeless to 

If Miss Wyse when at Rome helped Fr. Tom to organise 
picnics for the bishops, he greatly enhanced their enjoyment 
by throwing around the fruit of his local lore. Well re- 
membered was their trip to Ostia, a see founded in the time 
of the Apostles, and of which St. Cyriacus was first bishop. 
This once great seaport — the boldest triumph of Roman 
magnificence — fell before the Saracens ; and that which once 
numbered near 8,000 inhabitants found in 1870 not quite a 
dozen ; enough, however, to form the bishopric of a Cardinal 
deacon. Excavations were then in progress, disclosing every 
day fresh 'finds' of classic statuary. Fr. Burke seemed one 
moment like Marius moaning over the ruins of Carthage, 
the next found him full of fun and song. The party, after 
dining under the pines, strolled to the lovely beach. Who 
can forget the thrilling effect of the glee with which at 
eventide the Archbishop of Halifax and he sang — 

VOL. I. z 


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I saw from the beach, when the morning was shining, 
A bark o'er the waters move gloriously on, 

I came when the sun o'er that beach was declining, — 
The bark was still there but the waters were gone ? 

The singers then went on to show, in the words of the 
poet, that * such was the fate of life's early promise.' The 
waters, however, were not entirely gone. The habits of boy- 
hood clung to Burke to the end, and some of the bishops 
were surprised to see him later on wading about in the blue 
Tyrrhenian sea. 

Incidental to such trips a good deal of walking became 
necessary ; and the portly physique of the Bishop of Kerry 
might be seen leading the van. He whose jurisdiction covered 
Mangerton, Aghadoe and MacGillicuddy's Reeks was not 
easily daunted. Bareheaded, and ever and anon passing a 
handkerchief across his beaded brow, Dr. Moriarty pursued 
the tenor of his way, tramping over Roman pavement — the 
site of early Christian marytrdom, and later of Cardinal 
Roviire's bloody rout of the French. Ostia grew in interest 
under Fr. Burke's rapid allusion to its history. So prosperous 
had it at one time become, that its suburbs touched Rome ; 
but the one grand street that had erst united the two is 
now described as a road through a desert Next day he 
waited upon Miss Wyse, and with a long face declared that 
her conscience was not clear. The crime of having killed a 
bishop rested upon it. Dr. Moriarty lay prostrate for a week 
after, sore in every joint, but aglow with pleasant thoughts. 
Another trip to Ostia discovered new points of interest, and 
Dr. Moriarty paid a compliment to the first by eagerly 
joining the party. Fr. Burke showed Mrs, Bishop the house 
where Monica, the mother of St. Augustine, died, and he 
is described as singing Moore's melodies the whole way back 
to Rome. 

Mr. Arthur Moore, then Chamberlain to the Pope, 
belonged to a family with whom Fr. Burke was very intimate. 


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Crossing the Piazza di S. Pietro, one night, both sang with 
all the strength of their Irish lungs ' Tell me, ye shepherds.' 

Mozart was his favourite (Miss Wyse writes in the notes she 
has been kind enough to make for our use), and it was quite a study 
to watch him listening with eager interest to one of his sonatas. I 
seldom heard a more sympathetic voice than Fr. Burke's. He gave 
us the ' Pilgrim of Love,' by Bishop, when asked to sing ; and he 
put more soul into it than any one else I ever heard. 

But the most touching thing I know was his singing of the 
Passion on Good Friday. He never missed it for years, and said it 
could not be Good Friday to him without it. Also the Prophecies, 
&c, on Holy Saturday ; they sounded quite different when sung 
by him — he seemed to charge them so completely with the grandeur 
of their meaning. 

Fr. Burke asked himself how it was that his race evinced 
such irrepressible love of song. 

How are we to account for this ? We must seek the cause of it 
in the remotest history. It is a historical fact that the maritime or 
sea-coast people of the north and west of Europe were, from time 
Immemorial, addicted to song. In remote ages, the kings of our 
sea-girt island, when they went forth upon their warlike forays, were 
always accompanied by their minstrel, who animated them to deeds 
of bravery. Even when the Danes came sweeping down in their 
galleys upon the Irish coast, high on the prow of every war-boat sat 
the Skald^ or poet — white-haired, heroic, wrinkled— the historian of 
all their national wisdom and their national prowess. And when 
sweeping with their long oars through the waves, they approached 
their foe, he rose in the hour of battle, and poured forth his soul in 
song, and fired every warrior to the highest deeds. Thus it was in 
Ireland, when Nial of the Nine Hostages bore down upon the coast 
of France and took St Patrick, then 4 youth, prisoner ; the first 
sounds that greeted the captive's ear were the strains of our old 
Irish harper celebrating in a language he knew not the glories and 
victories of heroes long departed. 

Fr. Tom had jokes to suit every rank and walk in life. 
A Dublin Alderman happened to sit next him at dinner, 
apd asked, after the singing had begun, if he knew anything 



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of the Messrs. Waters, who had been lai^ely engaged in 
tanning. Difficulties had threatened their house ; an ac- 
countant was sent down to examine their books and stock, 
consisting chiefly of bark, and he reported that there would 
be 20S. in the pound to pay every creditor, but he regretted 
to add that the principals had left the country. ' The bark 
was still there, but the Waters were gone,* commented Fr. 
Burke, as he quietly passed on to another topic. 

As in the history of governments and parties there was 
always some sa/oUy like that of the Duchess of Devonshire in 
1789, where the Opposition found a social spot for reunion, 
one great rendezvous for the Inopportunists during the pro- 
gress of the Vatican Council was the house of Mrs. Augustus 
Craven, authoress of ' R^cit d'une Sceur.* * 

The receptions held by Mgr. Dupanloup, Bishop of 
Orleans, every Sunday after breakfast were also important in 
their character. These took place at his elegant villa resi- 
dence, and lasted from two to four o'clock, Mgr. Dupanloup 
greatly admired Burke's qualities of head and heart. 

At the house of Mr. Macpherson charades with tableaux 
vivants were performed for the amusement of mainly clerical 
guests. Needless to say, there was no more enjoyable co-opera- 
tor than Fr. Tom. Mrs. Macpherson was intellectual, and had 
written a Life of Mrs. Jameson. In the salon of Mrs. Charles 
Moore, the sister of the present writer, Fr. Burke was a pro- 
minent figure. Here he made some English visitors stare by 
attending her soiries in his habit, but they partook of the 
character of conversaziofii. This lady belonged to the Ultra- 
montane side, and after Pio Nono had been despoiled of his 
temporal power presented him with 1,000/. But it was neces- 
sary to meet Fr. Burke dining here on a quiet day to see him 
in the full openness of his boyish nature. One minute he 

' Mrs. Craven states that she never received a letter from Fr. Burke ; modestly 
adding, * and although I admired and revered him so much, it was only like the 
many who heard him preach and were lost in the crowd that listened to him,* 


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would be a nun, with the dinner napkin on his head, gently 
whispering seraphic words ; later on — especially when some 
younger persons joined the party — he was the greatest child 
of them all. * He could make himself the ugliest man th^t 
ever lived,' observes Mr. J. W. 0*Donnell, Chief Police Magis- 
trate; but this recollection applies to an evening at Lord 
O'Hagan's. Fr. Burke admitted to Miss Moore that, after a 
full course of these facial fantastics, his face would be sore for 
days. Anon he would give samples of a retreat in broken 
English after the manner of Fr. Dominic, famous for having 
made a monk of the Hon. George Spencer, and of one far 
more illustrious, who is now an English Cardinal, In the 
following persiflage, Fr. Dominic is supposed to be addressing 
a community of nuns :— 

You tink, my dear Shisters, dat de devil is only outside in de 
world. Nay, he is inside de convent too ; but you never see much 
of him, only a bit of de tail One nun says, ' I am of good familee, 
unlike So-and-so.* Ah ! dere is a bit of de tail. Anoder says to 
heiself, ' I have de good judgment, and am made de referee.' Here 
again de tail peeps out. Sometimes de temptation whispers, ' I am 
comely to view.' [Here Fr. Dominic would distort his face into 
a hideous expression of contempt as his eye swept the line of nuns.] 
But though de devil is the fader of lies, he would not go de length 
of saying dat 

It was the same good Father who, when announcing to a 
school a day of recreation, promised the children, * Sheep 
tripes, and bones ' — meaning cheap trips and buns. 

Fr. Burke (observes our correspondent Mrs. Grehan) certainly 
realised the truth of what Faber has said of the advantage of a sense 
of humour, even in the spiritual life. All barriers of stiffness, human 
respect, self-consciousness, and conceit, broke down at once before 
the tide of his exuberant and overflowing spirits. The perfect confi- 
dence he inspired as if by magic brought many to higher things, 
who were at first only attracted by the charm of his wit and humour. 
' A man,' says Newman, ' who divests himself of his own greatness, 
and puts himself on the level of his brethren, and throws himself 


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on the sympathies of human nature, and speaks with such sim- 
plicity and such spontaneous outpouring of heart, is forthwith in 
a condition both to conceive great love of them, and to inspire 
great love towards himself.' 

An anecdote occurs to my mind (writes the Archbishop of 
Philadelphia). Several members of an old and wealthy American 
family had been received into the Catholic Church, and were tem- 
porarily residing in Rome, and became great friends of Father Tom. 
A very bigoted Presbyterian daughter-in-law of the lady at the head 
of the family arrived in Rome, and was told that Father Burke had 
been invited to spend the evening. ' I shall not call him Father 
Burke,' she said, ' because I acknowledge no spiritual paternity in 
a Catholic priest. I must call him Mr. Burke or Doctor Burke.' 
After the arrival of Father Tom in his monk's habit, he entered into 
conversation with this lady, of whose bigotry he had heard. She 
addressed him as Doctor Burke. * Faith, madam,' said he, * sure I'm 
not a doctor at all — I'm not even an apothecary I ' The lady laughed 
heartily, and I believe Father Tom had the gratification of receiving 
her into the Church. Certain it is that she is now a most fervent 

Fr. Burke, during the progress of the Vatican Council, 
had been one of the strongest of the Inopportunists who 
mustered at Rome. Unlike many other divines who have 
since received marked promotion, Fr. Burke made no dis- 
guise of his sentiments. These views were strengthened by 
constant association with Bishop Moriarty, whose deep theo- 

* Letter of the Archbishop of Philadelphia to the Author, July 19,1884. This 
eminent prelate is justly regarded as the greatest Catholic preacher now living. 
Referring to the saints of Ireland, his Grace, in a recent sermon, said : * This 
subject formed a theme, many a time, for that great man and great patriot whose 
brain and heart rest for the last time and for the first — for he never rested until he 
went to the lowly grave at Tallaght, — the Dominican preacher and patriot whom I 
felt proud to caU my friend, and whom you ought to love — who, when we are 
all forgotten, will be remembered for the divinity of genius, and that purity of 
intention, consecrated by supernatural motives, wherewith he proclaimed the 
truths of God, and for which he shall live in story and in the history of our 
people.' How completely Fr. Burke commanded the respect of the ecclesiastics 
who knew him best is further shown in the fact that the archbishop made a 
special pilgrimage to Tallaght, where, during rain and the piteous moon of the 
winter's wind, he knelt down bareheaded upon the grass-grown grave, and prayed 
for Fr. Burke's eternal repose. 


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MRS. bishop's recollections. 343 

logic lore, uncompromising attitude, and conclusive way of 
putting points left him more than once master of the situa- 
tion. When at last the definition of the Infallibility had 
become inevitable, Fr. Burke waited upon his gifted friend, 
Mrs. Bishop, to say that he had received orders from his 
General, the Pire Jandel, to be more guarded in his words 
and that she must try and fot^et all he had previously said. 
How intimate he was with this accomplished convert one 
anecdote will show. Among other recollections she gives us 
as an instance of his readiness as a preacher that one day, 
when she happened to go into the sanctuary of Santa Maria 
during his course of sermons, and just before his appearance 
in the pulpit, he said : ' IVe only this minute come, and Fm 
debating in my mind what the theme shall be.' He always 
addressed this lady by her Christian name, and he now 
asked her to decide for him. She said, * Let it be the 
Blessed Eucharist' He passed straight to the pulpit, and 
spoke, she says, like one inspired. He dwelt on the 
Eucharist as the fulfilment of the designs of God, and like- 
wise of all the wants of man. 

Mrs. Bishop knows more of his inner life, and possessed 
more of his confidence than many ecclesiastics who were his 
frequent associates. One day he told her that the rock 
against which he was on his guard was vainglory, and hence 
his efforts to crush it by fostering an opposite feeling. The 
reader, in following his continued ovation in America through- 
out the next two years, would do well to bear these words 
in mind. 

Mrs. Bishop of course knew him during his hours of 
relaxation also, and describes him as singing the best part of 
* Don Giovanni,' accompanying himself on a guitar. He had 
a great admiration for Mozart's Masses, and said that after all 
there was nothing like them.' 

During several successive sittings the question of the 

» To Rev. F. A. Hickey, O.P. 


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Infallibility was discussed with great eloquence and power. 
On July 13, being the eighty-fifth General Congregation, the 
voting was — ^^ Placet/ 451, and 'Placet juxta modum/ 62, 
while 88 declared themselves * Non Placet' 

The Bishop of Kerry read aloud a passage from the Acts 
of the Apostles. * It hath seemed good to the Holy Ghost 
and to us, to lay no farther burden upon you than these neces- 
sary things,* and, said the Bishop, ' a warning follows not to 
multiply, without great necessity, laws and definitions.' He 
pronounced the Councils of Ephesus and Rimini * infamous 
in the history of the Church,' because the bishops, under 
threats of exile, basely betrayed their trust. Dr. Moriarty 
recognised with joy that peace reigned around while the 
Vatican Council sat, and that no secular threat could possibly 
influence it. 

Dr. Moriarty's attitude was in some respects exceptional. 
Fr. Burke> three years later, thus looks back on the time : 

But when do we find the unity of the Church so strongly deve- 
loped and shown as in the last General Council of the Vatican ? 
Eight hundred Bishops from all ends of the earth were there. Never 
did the Catholic Church behold, assembled together, so great an array 
of mitred Prelates. Around these eight hundred Bishops were 
hundreds of leamed men, philosophers, and theologians, filled with 
the stores of theological knowledge which the experience of eighteen 
hundred years had supplied. There they were, the Bishops of the 
Universal Church, no longer confined to this country or to that, but 
spread out over the whole world, speaking the language of every 
clime under the sun, arrayed in different costumes, with different 
habits, thoughts, and prejudices ; and there in the midst of them 
stands the sceptred monarch of the Church of God, * the grandeur 
of Pope Pius IX.' 

Before the final vote was taken, forty-five of the dissen- 
tients had retired, including Archbishop Kenrick ; twenty 
had received formal leave of absence ; the Bishops of Dro- 
more, Marianapolis, and Northampton were invalided ; three 
died, Doctors Derry, Maccabe, and Grant, and at the last 


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division two prelates only voted 'Non Placet.* These were 
Dr. FitzGerald, Bishop of Little Rock, and Mgr. Riccio, 
Bishop of Cajazzo, Naples. The Vicar of Christ arose and 
uttered the magic words, ' Consummatum est' The scene 
that followed was eminently striking. Acclamation ascended 
on every side. Old bishops — tears coursing down their 
cheeks with emotion — embraced each other, and gave thanks 
to God that they had lived to see that day. But to the 
dismay of the assembled Fathers, the Bishop of Little Rock, 
the youngest prelate in the world, stood up and enunciated 
two words which were supposed to repeat the refractory 
' Non Placet' Even during so solemn a scene some jokes 
were whispered, and one was * See Little Rock opposing the 
Great Rock.' His Lordship's observation — seemingly indica- 
tive of opposition to a dogma already defined — caused pain- 
ful perplexity, which was only allayed by the assurance that 
what he really did say was * Nunc Placet' ^ To correct the 
misapprehension he clasped his pectoral cross, and in a sten- 
torian voice cried, * Nunc credo et ego, nunc et ego firmiter 
credo ! ' 

Riccio made his submission on hid knees, and both 
prelates were at once received by the Pope with expressions 
of parental affection. The roar of ordnance without shook 
the Basilica and ten thousand cheers rent the air, while 
the joy bells of St Peter's pealed their gladdest chime. On 
the same day Napoleon IIL declared war against Prussia. 
Within a week every absent prelate reverently sent in his 
adhesion to the dogma. 

We have seen that the Bishop of Dromore and his 
theologian Fr. Burke had been, in common with other able 
Dominicans, Inopportunists. They were of opinion that 
' it was for the good of the Church to leave untouched the 
question of Infallibility.' One of the most powerful speeches 
made in sustainment of this view was by Cardinal Guidi, O.P. 
> Oral statement of the late Cardinal CuUen. 


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Once, however, that the definition was made, the Cardinal, 
together with the Thomist Bishops and the Dominican 
General, Pire Jandel, laid before the Pope, in the name of 
the entire Order, an address declaratory of the fervent faith 
with which they accepted the dc^ma. Fr. Jandel held the 
same rank as a bishop at the Council, in so far as he could 
vote, define, and subscribe. 

The Bishop of Dromore and his theologian, after an 
absence of nearly seven months, had returned to Ireland before 
the conclusion of the Council. Fr. Burke's devotion to the 
Centre of Unity was not diminished by breathing once more 
an Irish atmosphere : 

The world now beholds the Church as Christ established her (he 
exclaimed), in all spiritual loveliness, in majesty, unity, and power. 
When it sees eight hundred of her bishops meeting in council, and 
all hearing the word of one man, and before that one bowing down 
as before the voice of God, they bear willing testimony to that 
wonderful unity of faith which is in the Church. 

As to Bishop Moriarty, we learn from Fr. Burke when 
preaching his panegyric, that ' the last public act of his life 
was to forward to Rome the loving and generous tribute of 
himself and his ancient diocese,' and we learn both from his 
lips and his life that devotion to the Holy See is one of the 
strongest signs of the holy priest and the true Catholic. 
This great bishop, in addressing his flock, declared that, 
humanly speaking, he believed even with more reason in the 
decrees of the Vatican Council than he did in Trent, because 
the Church was more largely represented, and embraced 
bishops not only from the oldest churches in Christendom, 
but from Churches which did not exist, and from countries 
unknown, when the Council sat at Trent. 

The name of Dr. Kenrick, Archbishop of St. Louis, has 
been mentioned on a previous page, and before leaving Rome 
an anecdote may here come in which he has told more 
than once. Shortly after the Infallibility of the Pope became 


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a dogma, the Archbishop found some difficulty in reconciling 
it to the mind of a convert lady in his diocese, and a visit to 
the Eternal City was suggested as a good mode of clenching 
her faith. She made her pilgrimage and had an interview 
with the Pope. Hearing that she was from St Louis, he 
asked after the health of Dr. Rosati. This prelate — the 
first bishop of that See — had been in his grave for thirty-two 
years, and the lady returned to St Louis with her faith in 
Papal Infallibility far from strengthened by the audience. Dr. 
Kenrick became coadjutor to Dr. Rosati in 1841, and two 
years later succeeded him. It may be added that the 
Vatican Council merely requires Catholics to believe that 
God protects the Pope from error in definitions on faith and 
morals, when, ex catludrA^ he imposes a belief upon the 
Universal Church. 

When Fr. Burke reached London he took an opportunity 
to visit the purlieus of Blackfriars, so called from the black 
cloak which Dominicans wear. Their grand old convent 
here, built in 1286, became the scene of some very interesting 
spectacles. Its erection was encouraged by the gift of two 
whole streets near St. Paul's, which the Corporation of London 
presented to the Black Friars. Successive Parliaments met 
in this house. Charles V. of Germany lodged here in 1522. 
It was here, too, that Cardinal Wolsey sat as judge in the 
case of Henry VIII., when Catherine of Aragon eloquently 
repudiated the jurisdiction of that Court. Fr. Burke found 
the exact site in Playhouse Yard where Shakspere's theatre 
was built with the dibris of the Dominican Friary. The 
Bard of Avon had stood upon the very spot where Burke now 
stood. The same thoughts doubtless occurred to both, and 
probably suggested passages in * Henry VIII.' worthy of 
Dominic himself. Amongst others : 

I charge thee, fling away ambition : 

By that sin fell the angels ; 

Love thyself last : cherish those hearts that hate thee. 


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On June 3, 1870, Fr. Burke was appointed Sub-Prior of 
St. Saviour's, Dublin. This year he preached the pan^yrics 
of St. Dominic, St Francis Assisi, and St Laurence O'Toole, 
in Dublin. Other occasions which brought out his powers as a 
preacher were the dedication, on August 7, of the new Do- 
minican Church at Newbridge, on the 14th of St Anne's, 
Bohemabreena, and on the 24th the blessing of the bell en 
the relinquishment of the wooden chapel of St Kevin. On 
September 4 he preached from the altar at Drogheda when 
the comer-stone of its new Dominican Church was laid by 
the* Primate. But the grand incident of the year was the 
Triduum in celebration of the dogma of the Infallibility. 
Twelve prelates who had spoken at the CEcumenical Council 
attended in Marlborough Street to hear Fr. Burke preach an 
exhaustive discourse in explanation and defence of the decree. 

Cardinal CuUen's restoration of certain grand functions 
and ceremonials of the Church in which it was our Domini* 
can's lot to take a leading part is thus noticed by Fr. Burke 
in a sermon preached on the death of that Prelate : 

The order and magnificence of public worship in the old law, 
which was but the shadow of future blessings, was amply provided 
for by the Almighty, as we read in Leviticus. How much more 
must we consult for the worship in the new law, where God Him- 
self is immediately present, where eveiy movement prescribed to the 
ministers of the altar is an act of feith in that Awful Presence, 
derives its meaning from it, and is intended as a poweiful aid to the 
faithful to realise the presence in a feeling spirit of adoration and 
love. Such scenes as these, with the Cardinal Archbishop as their 
centre, have we witnessed often in this great church, and our memoiy 
recalls them as amongst the happiest moments of our lives. 

The Dublin people, like the Athenians of old, are fond of 
music and eloquence; and wherever Fr. Burke ministered 
they were sure to have both. At St Saviour's his confessional 
was always crowded. The penitents were lai^ely composed 
of artisans, but all classes met at that centre of attraction. 


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*When Luther arranged that henceforth men might live 
without confession, it was a terrible denial ' (says Fr. Burke) 
* of the greatest of earth's comforts.' After some lengthy 
remarks on its advantages, Fr. Burke added : 

Thus it is that the voice in the confessional acts on society. If 
the whole world were Catholic, and all men consented to approach 
regularly the tribunal of penance, this alone would put an end to sin. 
There would be no more heart-breaking, no more tears, no more dark 
records of robberies and murders, no more women hardening their 
hearts and making them more ferocious than the tigress when she 
devours her young ; no more of that cautious, cold, calculating 
dishonesty, men casting their wiles about each other like a web, to 
entrap each other ; no misery in this world — all would be happiness 
if men would only open their festering souls and let in the salt of the 
power and the grace of Jesus Christ' 

The Dominicans have got the name of being very strict 
directors; but even by them Fr. Burke was deemed too 
rigorous in the confessional. A proPos to this point the 
reader should see under the year 1879 Canon Brownlow's 
recollections of Fr. Burke as a confessor. 

He sought, indeed, no popularity in the tribunal of 
penance by maintaining impassiveness, no matter what tale 
of sin transpired. Like an upright judge, he boldly interpreted 
the law that was outraged. His uncompromising theology 
worked great good. We catch a glimpse of it in words which 
deserve to be recorded. 

Thus it is that from the confessional spring those virtues by 
which man acts upon his fellow- man. The index virtue is purity ; 
and the next virtue in relation to our fellow-man is honesty. The 
third is charity ; and behold how the confessional acts here. If a 
man speaks badly of his neighbour, if he ruins that neighbour's cha- 
racter or reputation, if he gets that neighbour thrown out of some 
lucrative employment by his whisperings or his tales, he goes to con. 
fession, and says, ' I am sorry for my sin ; ' but he finds, perhaps, to 
his astonishment that the priest will say to him, ' There is another 
difficulty.^ Until you make good that man's character there is no 
* The Confessional : its Effect on Society, Printed in America only. 


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absolution for you ; until you have retracted there is no pardon for 
you ; until you have restored to your neighbour the fair name and 
fame of which, by your whispering and enmity and injustice, you 
have robbed him, there is no heaven for you. What greater, what 
stronger motive could there be to make a man guard his words, to 
preserve him from detraction, to make him measure well his words 
before he inflicts an injury on his neighbour, when he knows if he 
gives way to this mean envy or enmity, if he says these things or 
publishes them, even though men may forget, God will not forget it 
in the interest of his neighbour 1 'To Communion,' this man must 
say, ' I cannot go, nor can I enter heaven until I have gone out and 
eaten the lie that I have told.' 

He often said that all courts of law could do was to send 
the robber to prison. The Church alone so lays hold of the 
thief that it enables those who were plundered to get their 
own again. Later on, addressing an American audience, he 
said : * I say it is within my own knowledge, as indeed of 
every priest actively engaged on the mission, that sums 
amounting in the aggregate to something enormous are con- 
stantly being restored through the confessional.* 

As a spiritual director of men of the world Fr. Burke had 
no easy time of it. Men who would bend the knee to no 
other priest made special pilgrimages to his ' box.' It will 
surprise many to learn that on such occasions he did not 
hesitate to press into the service of Grod his powers of wit 
and humour ; and if we did not find this statement made 
by the Jesuit Fathers with whom he constantly associated 
as a consultant and genial friend, we should be slow to 
record it : — 

As in the pulpit so in the confessional (we are told), his exuberant 
power of fun was of great advantage to him. He was at once en 
rapport with his penitents. He buoyed them up with his own 
wondrous buoyancy of heart, he turned their thoughts away from 
themselves by his dashes of well-timed humour, he filled the most 
diffident with confidence, he introduced thoughts of heaven and 
aspirations after God in such a genial and natural way that virtue 
became attractive to those who had before shrunk from it, and 


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religion could not fail to seem full of cheerfulness and joy when 
spoken of by one who was himself so cheery and joyous.^ 

Fr. Burke's fame as a great priest was now in its zenith. 
The wavering sought his aid as well as the sick. Sometimes 
he is found receiving converts, at other times drying the 
tears of repentance by the bed of death. 

•Were you ever called upon to attend any sick person who 
declined the Sacraments or refused to let the thought of death near 
them ? ' he was asked by his old school-fellow John Brady. Fr. 
Burke replied, * The friends of a young married woman, knowing 
the danger of her position, had, with the parochial priest, vainly 
urged her to prepare for death. At last they begged of me to go. 
She was a beautiful girl with long tresses of golden hair. Her heart 
seemed set upon the vanities of the world, and I merely whispered, 
" I don't say you are going to die, but, my child, what harm can it 
do you to receive the rites of Holy Church?" This tone being 
different from that in which she was previously addressed, she 
yielded, and made her confession. When I saw her again she wore 
the sweetest expression of resignation. I called a third time and 
found her dead.' 

The circumstances under which he was summoned were 
as varied as the changes of the kaleidoscope. In St. Paul's, 
Brooklyn, U.S., March 3, 1872, he mentioned how he had 
stood by the bedside of a man whose physician had just 
brought him through six long days of delirium tremens : 

The doctor said to him, ' As sure as God created you, if you 
touch alcohol for the next week you will be a dead man I ' I was 
trying to see if the poor fellow would go to confession. A flask of 
brandy stood near him on the table, for they had had to give it to 
him. While the doctor was yet speaking, I saw his eyes fastened on it 
and the hand creeping up towards it ; and if ever you saw a hungry 
horse or mule looking at oats, it was he, when, with his eyes devour- 
ing the bottle, he reached out, clutched it, and put it to his head, 
after hearing that, as surely as God made him, so surely would he 
die if he drank of it 1 He could not help it. Where, then, was 
that man's freedom ? It had perished in the habit of sin. 

» The Month [edited by a Jesuit Father], September, 1883. Fr. Burke had 
sobriquets for most of his penitents. One lady he always accosted as * Pilgrim.* 


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Dr. Shannon once attended a tedious and critical case of 
illness in conjunction with Fr. Burke, who offered his spiritual 
ministrations. Both were sitting in an ante-room with the 
sister of the patient, when she at length broke a solemn pause 
by the remark, * After all, I would rather be a priest than a 
doctor.* * Then you would find it easier to preach than to 
practice,* was Fr. Burke's ready rejoinder. 

A book more curious and instructive than ' The Diary of 
a Late Physician' might be compiled from the materials 
which have survived Fr. Burke. These reminiscences of the 
dead and dying are found scattered through his sermons ; a 
few are now given — more are reserved. 

Curran once said to Fr. O'Leary, * I wish you were St. 
Peter, for then you could let me into heaven.' * It would be 
better to have the key of the other place,' was the reply, ' for 
then I could let you out' Fr. Burke in graver mood re- 
peatedly told his hearers that the golden key which opens the 
gate of heaven is mercy. Christ will say, * As you are merciful 
to the poor you are merciful to Me. I have said, " Blessed 
are the merciful, for they shall find mercy." ' 

Preaching on the 'Attributes of Catholic Charity,' he 

Nowhere without the pale of the Catholic Church do you find 
charity organised. You may find a fair ebullition of pity, here and 
there, as when a rich man dies and leaves, perhaps, thousands to 
found an hospital. But it is an exceptional thing, as when some 
grand lady, magnificent of heart and mind — like Florence Nightin- 
gale — devotes herself to the poor and goes into the hospitals. If 
you travel out of the bounds of that fair and beautiful compassion 
that runs in so many hearts, and go one step farther into the cold 
atmosphere of State aid, there is not one vestige of true charity there; 
it becomes political economy. The State believes it is more 
economical to pick up the poor from the streets and lanes, to take 
them from their sick beds, transferring them into poor-houses and 
hospitals, and there, overwhelming them with the miserable pity that 
patronizes, making its gills a curse and not a blessing, by breaking 
the heart whilst it relieves the body. Such is * Slate charity.' I 


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remember once in Dublin I got a sick call. It was to attend a 
poor woman. I went and found in a back lane a garret room. 
I climbed up to the place. There I found, without exaggeration, 
four bare walls, and a woman seventy-five years of age, covered 
with a few squalid rags, and lying on the floor — not as much as 
a little straw had she under her head. I asked for a cup to give 
her a drink of water. There was no such thing to be had ; and 
there was no one there to give it I had to go out and beg 
amongst the neighbours; until I got the loan of a cupful of cold 
water. I put it to her dying lips. I had to kneel down upon 
that bare floor to hear that dying woman's confession. The 
hand of death was upon her. What was her story? She was 
the mother of six children — a lady, educated in a lady-like manner — 
a lady beginning her career of life in afiluence and in comfort. The 
six children grew up. Some married, some emigrated. But the 
weak and aged mother was abandoned. And now she was literally 
dying, not only of the fever that was upon her, but — of starvation I 
As I knelt there on the floor, and as I lifted her grey-haired head 
upon my hands, I said, ' Let me, for God's sake, have you taken to 
the workhouse hospital ; at least you will have a bed to lie upon I ' 
She turned and looked at me. Two great tears came from her 
dying eyes, as she said, ' Oh, that I should live to hear a priest talk 
to me about a poor-house ! ' I felt that I had stabbed this already 
broken heart On my knees I begged her pardon. ' No,' she said, 
• let me die in peace ! ' And there, whilst I knelt at her side, her 
chastened spirit passed away to God — but the taint of the * charity of 
the State ' was not upon her. 

If it was his lot to witness too often the drunkard's death, 
he had the happiness, at least in one instance, of hearing 
joyous news. Andrew Lynch, Fr. Burke's oldest friend, gives 
us the following instance of his wit A gentleman with 
whom Fr. Burke was well acquainted indulged so freely that 
the priest bemoaned his state to a common friend. * Oh, he's 
quite reformed, and has now joined our rowing club.' * Then 
he has given up Jameson and taken to Roe,' replied Fr. 
Burke, alluding to the two great distillers, but inwardly 
ejaculating * Deo Gratias ! ' 

Some of the painful scenes described by Fr. Burke were 
also witnessed by less demonstrative Dominicans. When 
VOL. I, A A 


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Spending the evening with the community, Fr. Burke, to 
relieve their minds and his own, often personated as many 
characters as Charles Mathews the elder. He was once 
mimicking the precise and polished Russell, Provincial of the 
Order, when to his confusion he found him standing at his 
elbow, having entered the room unobserved. He would not 
only mimic some of his most distinguished colleagues of the 
cowl, but for several he had nicknames. One voluntarily 
over-worked Father he called *the maid-of-all-work,* * the 
skirts of his habit as they flitted rapidly past not weakening 
the simile. The energy of this zealous worker knew no rest ; 
he rarely sat down to take a meal — a crust of bread in the 
hand as he hurried to overtake some task of the hour serving 
him for refreshment. 

One day, as Fr. Burke emeiged from his convent, ac- 
companied by a distinguished friend who addressed him with 
much animation, he failed to heed an old crone who begged 
for alms. Losing temper, she exclaimed, * Ah ! you're all for 
the rich. Fr. Eustace, the darlin', he's the man for the poor.' 
• Of course you gave her a flea in her ear ? * said a priest to 
whom he told the incident. * I hadn't even a flea,' replied 
Fr. Burke. 

In speaking of the human and natural side of the argu- 
ment in favour of confession, Fr. Burke more than once 
recurred to the great relief it was to find a friend to whom a 
man might throw off the burden of his soul, just as Simon 
lifted the Cross from the shoulders of Christ. But where 
were we to seek a man on whose honour and secrecy we could 

It is very hard to find such a man. I do not speak at all of 
finding a woman. I remember once I was going to preach a sermon 
in Dublin one Sunday for some charity, and they came to me at 

* Fr. Burke, though fond of nicknames, never gave an unkind one unless to a 
public character, and we know no second instance in which it occurred. At a time 
when Bismarck was imprisoning bishops and priests, he called him *Beastsmark.' 
See lecture on « The Church and Civil Government,* Waterford, 1875, 


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the last minute and said, 'Will you preach on Sunday? We want 
money for this thing or that* 

* Very well/ said I. It was on Friday. 

* But,' said they, * there is no time to publish it' 

'Oh,' I said, 'do you leave it to me, I'll publish it' And I went 
to a lady friend of mine and said, ' I want to tell you a secret They 
have asked me to preach on Sunday at such a place, but I would 
not have it known.' ' Ah,' said she, ' I am the soul of honour.' I 
went away. I came back that road in about half an hour, and I met 
four or five people on the way. ' Well, Father Tom, >ou are going 
to preach at a certain place on Sunday.' There was not a paving 
stone in Dublin that did not hear it There is our first great difficulty 
to find a reliable friend. 

It seems almost inconsistent in God— if I may so say — to have 
given to man such a nature, such a heart, that he cannot bear his 
own sorrows alone, and yet to make the true friends so difficult to 

Until about ten years before his death, when he ceased 
attendance, Fr. Burke — his collar buttoned up to avoid 
observation — was yet a familiar figure at concerts and public 
readings. How often have his more domestic brethren been 
amused with imitations of what he heard, especially of a 
Shaksperian elocutionist whose readings were ever and anon 
interrupted by the yelping of a cur dog ! ' I have seen him 
wrapt almost in ecstasy,* writes Fr. Murphy, * as he sat in a 
public hall when the artist went through the creations of the 
great masters and the grand music thrilled the very air,' 

Mr. Kennedy, who is known in the musical world, happened 
to sit next him during a concert. Though not previously ac- 
quainted, they exchanged observations, more especially in re- 
ference to one song which Fr. Burke seemed most anxious 
to hear. Encores had retarded the progress of the pro- 
gramme, but just as that part was reached to which both 
had eagerly looked forward, he rose to leave, whispering 
in reply to an expression of surprise, * Ordered to be home 
by ten.' 

•In the year 1871,' writes his friend and Provincial, the 


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Very Rev. J. T. Towers, * he preached 1 72 sermons and gave 2 1 
retreats. With him a retreat was four sermons for seven 
days, so that in one year he spoke publicly about 700 times.' 
Among those retreats was one at Maynooth for ecclesiastical 
students, which made many uneasy consciences. He depicted 
with such strength and vividness the grave responsibility 
involved in the priestly state that not a few drooped under 
the fear of personal un worthiness. His appeals awakened a still 
higher spirit of asceticism in pursuit of their sacred calling. 
He warned them of the dangers which would attend their 
absence from college during the recess, and urged them to 
guard with equal vigilance their vocation and their vacation. 
He begged them to avoid the fashionable * sea-side,* where 
he had known most promising students to form acquaintances 
which afterwards led to a friendly letter that bore unseen 
the germ of romantic mischief. Some of these dangers 
Florentius, the master of k Kempis, had already pointed out 
to his novices. 

Among his discourses this year were two dedication sermons 
— one on May 21, in thi Parochial Church, Donegal ; the other 
in the south, for the Bishop of Ferns. This latter is noticed 
in the MS. diary of the Bishop of Clogher : 

1871. yune 2 Sy Sunday. — Met Fr. Burke at Ramsgrange, co. 
Wexford. Sermon a masterpiece. I was celebrant at a Pontifical 
High Mass, the Bishop of Ferns assisting on the throne. The crowd 
immense. Dinner in the evening ; some short speeches and songs, 
and countless jokes from Fr. Burke, until at 11 p.m. he went off with 
Sir James Power a drive of twenty-six miles to Edermine. 

August 15. — He preached at the la3ring of the foundation stone 
of St Michael's, Enniskillen. Many Protestants present I forget 
in what rdie I assisted, whether as celebrant at the Mass or merely 
as bishop of the diocese. Collection about 1,000/. Fr. Tom chock- 
full of fun all that day and following day. Three interruptions to 
his sermon — two by people fainting away, and a third by a noisy 
intruder who had to be removed. 

August 16. — Profession of two nuns in the Convent of Mercy, 
Enniskillen. Fr. Tom preached later on that day. There was an 


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excursion organised and started down Lough Erne in a small 
steamer. The excursionists formed a large party, of which Fr. Tom 
was the sun and centre. All kinds of fun. One great incident of 
the trip was the triai of a priest present on board who had rendered 
himself somewhat disagreeable, on a charge of horse-stealing ! Fr. 
Tom acted as Attorney-General in the prosecution, and displayed 
great powers of eloquence in his address to the jury. A verdict was 
given against the prisoner, and a severe sentence passed.' 

All the officers quartered in Enniskillen attended the 
sermon. Major Esmonde White, the only Catholic in the 
regiment, was glad to observe the favourable impression pro- 
duced by the manner in which Fr. Burke discharged his 
delicate task. • After the solemn function of the day, Major 
White met him at dinner, * The evening was one roar of fun 
from six till ten.' 

A general chapter of the Dominican Order was held this 
year at Ghent, and Thomas Burke, like Thomas Aquinas at 
the chapter in Holbom, was deputed to attend it as ' defi- 
niton' His duty, as ' L'Ann6e Dominicaine,' states, was ' to 
revise the Constitutions.' This passage some persons read 
as altering or amending the Constitutions. But it would 
require three general chapters to change a Constitution, 
and Fr. Burke's duty was to revise a new edition of that 
invaluable book. The work of revision formed, however, but 
a small part of his programme. Fr. Sablon says that the 
chapter in its discussions resembled a parliament He 
describes Fr. Burke as working so hard that he had barely 
time while it lasted to swallow his dinner. An occasional run 
upon the ramparts, with a view of the quaint old city built 
on twenty-six islands and united by three hundred bridges, 
was pleasant and bracing. 

• In the Chapter of 1871,' writes Fr. Sablon, 'it was re- 
markable that of all the Fathers there assembled the merriest 
were the two best preachers of our Order — Fr. Burke, the 

* MS. Diary of the Bishop of Cloghcr. 


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Definitor from Ireland, and Fr. Monsabr^, the Socius to the 
Dcfinitor for France/* 

During this autumn we find Fr. Burke preaching in 
Dominick Street, Dublin,' both morning and evening, a series 
of farewell sermons previous to his departure for America. 

The church (writes the late W. J. Battersby) was crowded to its 
utmost capacity by a congregation who hung with sorrow and pride 
on the last accents of the gifted preacher — sorrow that Ireland 
should lose, even for a season, the services of one whose wondrous 
and winning eloquence was familiar throughout the length and 
breadth of the land, and pride in anticipation of the added lustre 
which the display of his genius in another hemisphere would be 
sure to reflect on the land of his birth. 

There is a poor community of nuns in a southern 'suburb 
of Dublin whom he had often visited to advise, to cheer, or to 
console. The Rev. Mother has pointed out to us the granite 
step on which Fr. Burke, in calling at this time to bid them 
farewell, knelt down to ask the blessing of a Sister whom he 
esteemed. She herself did not witness the incident, but the 
Sister, who is still there, told her of it with wonder. 

Before starting for America he repaired to Galway in 
order to receive from his aged parents what might prove a 
last embrace and blessing. Visiting Tuam, he became the 
honoured guest of * the lion of the fold of Judah.* We find 
in an American journal, the Western Watchman, a speech 
delivered by Fr. Burke one year later in reply to the health 
of Archbishop MacHale. This toast was proposed at a dinner 
given to Fr. Burke by the Knights of St. Patrick at St 

I Letter of Very Rev. P. Sablon, O.P., Definitor for England at Ghent, to the 
Author, April 20, 1885. 

' On investigating the title of the ground on which the Dominican Chtirch 
now stands in Dominick Street, Dublin, it appears that the street derives its 
name, not from the Dominicans, as many people assume, and has been publicly 
alleged, but from Christopher Dominick, the grandfather of Emilia St George, 
who married, Nov. 4, 1775, William Duke of Leinster. She was a great heiress, 
and inherited, with other wealth, the property of Christopher Dominick, whose 
house and demesne adjoined the site of the present Dominican Church. The Duke 
of Leinster still retains a residence in Dominick Street. 


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Louis, Missouri. What he said we venture to press into the 
mosaic of his hTe : 

At this very time twelvemonth, just one week before I started 
for America, I spent eight days in the company of that venerable 
man, and every morning at six o'clock, rain or shine, there was the 
aged Archbishop, his white hair falling like the untrodden snow 
over his shoulders, observed in prayer at the foot of the Cross before 
the altar of the Cathedral of Tuam. Well do I remember having 
preached in his presence, not without fear and trembling, and return- 
ing with him, clad in my Dominican habit, into his house, and the 
old man sitting in the corner of his room, pulled out his Irish harp, 
and flinging open his purple soutane, and shaking his aged head, he 
drew his trembling fingers over the strings, and with his grey eye 
uplifted in inspiration, and mild with tears, he applied his whole 
heart to the accompaniment of that lyre ; and it seemed to me as if 
I beheld Brian the Brave as he sat in his tent on the morning of 
Clontarf, and invoked the God of battles by the sound of his Irish 

' He never wore purple,* said Canon UHck Burke to Fr. 
Tom some years after. * Well, if he didn't, he ought to have 
worn it,' was the reply. 






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