Introduction to Venerable Holzhauser

Introduction to Venerable Holzhauser

by Thomas Beykirch

It would seem to be an instinct of our nature to anticipate the future. The sorrows and miseries, to which we have been doomed in consequence of the original transgression, render us impatient of the present, and ever anxious to read our coming destiny. Hence this irresistible inclination to pry into futurity is a proof at once of our immortality, and of the misery of our present condition. It is not surprising, therefore, that in all periods marked by great misfortunes or convulsions, prophecies should abound; and that man, bewildered by the contemplation, or suffering under the pressure of present evils, should seek in the unknown future a refuge and consolation. This was so in the heathen time. And under the Christian dispensation, this sentiment must be more lively, as the Gospel fixes our attention so strongly on the future, and hope purified and directed by divine grace, is exalted by Christianity into a virtue. Accordingly, in all ages of the Church, the Holy Spirit has raised up godly men to warn their contemporaries of the evils that were to come, or solace them with the hope of brighter days. It was only natural to suppose that such prodigious catastrophes as the Reformation of the sixteenth century, and the French Revolution of 1789, with all their ulterior consequences, that have so convulsed the Church and civil society, should have been foretold by holy seers. And so it is piously believed to have been. St. Bridget, St. Hildegard, John of Liliendael, an Augustinian Prior of the fourteenth century, the monk Hermann, of Lehnin, who flourished in the thirteenth century, Cardinal D’Ailly, (1414,) and John Muller, Bishop of Ratisbon, (1476,) severally predicted, with more or less clearness, the great revolutions of the 16th, 18thand 19th centuries. And without implicitly adopting these prophecies, or any one of them, in its integrity, it will be admitted, that the singular fulfillment of some of their predictions in relation to past events, or such as we are now witnessing, is a warrant for their truthfulness in respect to the future, or at least entitles them to the greatest respect.

A Catholic clergyman of Westphalia, Thomas Beykirch, has published a collection of Prophecies touching the condition of the Church in the present age, and in the times to come. The work, as may be supposed, has exited the greatest interest in Germany, and in less than a year has reached the third edition. Nothing can be (Beykirch, p. 122) more praiseworthy than the motives which have suggested this collection; in the first place, to counteract the many spurious prophecies now enjoying circulation in Germany, which, dictated as they were by fanaticism or cupidity, are designed to gratify only the passions or the curiosity of the populace; and secondly, to awaken and keep alive in the hearts of his countrymen, a hope for the future religious union and political unity of Germany.

Some of the prophecies are doubtless of great interest and importance from the matters they relate to, as well as from the character of their authors, and the notes of intrinsic credibility which they bear. Others again are of a much inferior stamp, coming from persons little known, being either local in their scope and object, or vague and obscure in their purport.

The nature and bearing of them all, as well as the weight which they are entitled to, it will be well to hear from the author himself.

“Non-scriptural Prophecies constitute no articles of faith. Let us on that account not believe all things, nor all men, but let us at the same time not reject all things. The best counsel in this matter is given by the Apostle Paul: ‘Despise not Prophecies. But prove all things; hold that which is good.’

“In order to facilitate such examination, we subjoin for the use of such persons as are unfamiliar with the subject, the following notes of genuine prophecy:

“1. Genuine Prophecies comprise nothing against religion and the Church, nothing against faith and good morals; they agree with Holy Writ, and must not be rejected by the Church.

“2. Genuine Prophecies have a prophetic form. They are set forth in marvelous images, in dark mysterious words; they often bring together totally dissimilar events, invert occasionally the order of time; while their authors, overpowered with the general impression of their visions, employ exaggerated language. For instance, ‘the blood will mount even to the horses’ bridles.’ From these peculiarities we see that a certain obscurity attaches to prophecies. But this very quality bespeaks their divine origin, as hereby they seem to bear a certain conformity to the other works of God. In nature and history, too, God conceals himself, in order that these only, who seek him in faith, may find Him.

“3. Every genuine Prophecy must either bear the name of a man worthy of credit at its head, and it must be certain that it proceeded from him, or it must have been in part fulfilled, and proved to be of very great antiquity. Hence let us beware of all (Beykirch, p. 123) such predictions, as go under the title of ‘Cardinal Laroche,’ ‘Lenermand,’ ‘Nostradamus,’ ‘Sybilla,’ ‘the Millennial Kingdom,’ ‘the year 1850, by Paolo,’ ‘Remarkable Prophecy of a Clairvoyant,’ or a‘Female Somnambulist,’ ‘Oracles,’ etc. They contradict each other, and either predict things which every man of sense can foresee, or prophecy according to men’s wishes; and the wilder they are, the more easily are they credited.

“4. True Prophecies have a good object in view. They aim not at the satisfaction of curiosity, but are designed to instruct, solace, and warn. A corrupt age must see written on the wall its ‘Mane, Thecel, Phares,’ and humanity must be made to perceive that apostasy from the true faith and the Church, is the cause of all the misfortunes, distresses, and afflictions of our time. Christians must thereby be awakened from a dead to a living faith.

“5. A chief characteristic of the Prophecies of our time is that they all, in a remarkable way, coincide in four points. 1. That God will visit with severe judgments this unbelieving and immoral age, because of the overflowing measure of its sins. 2. That the religious schism will cease, and all Christian communions be united in one fold, and under one shepherd. 3. That Germany will attain to union under a POWERFUL MONARCH. 4. That prosperous and happy times will follow the days of contest.” (Thomas Beykirch, collection of prophecies, 1849, pp. 6– 8.)

Some of these Prophecies are taken from printed works of acknowledged repute; other from manuscripts; and a few which were current among the people, have been derived from word of mouth. A great number have been taken from an old book entitled, “Liber Mirabilis,” which was compiled by an ecclesiastic of the diocese of Munster, from the year 1800 to 1808. But by far the most important of these Prophecies are taken from the “Visions,” and the “Commentaries on the Apocalypse,” by the Venerable Bartholomew Holzhauser: a work which stands second on our list. As this very important work serves to illustrate and confirm the minor prophecies contained in M. Beykirch’s book, and moreover possesses on some points a peculiar interest for the English reader, we shall give a more detailed analysis of its contents, prefixing a biographical sketch of the venerable author. We shall afterwards revert to the “Prophetic Voices” of M. Beykirch.

M. Clarus, well known for a much esteemed History of Spanish Literature, has recently translated from the Latin the Visions of Holzhauser, as well as his Commentary (Beykirch, p. 124) on the Apocalypse. The translations are well executed. The author has prefixed an able philosophical Introduction, in which he investigates the different species of Prophetic Visions, the genuineness of Holzhauser’s, their symbolic character, and the psychological incidents connected with such phenomena. He has also added a Commentary on these obscure Visions, which, though laboring under the fault of prolixity, yet abounds with many solid and ingenious remarks. He has likewise translated a Biography of the Author, composed in Latin about sixty years ago, and which supplies much useful and edifying information respecting the holy man of whom it treats.

From this biography, which is, however, too diffuse, we shall now proceed to draw up a sketch of Holzhauser’s Life.

Biography of Bartholomew Holzhauser

Bartholomew Holzhauser was born in the year 1613, of poor parents at Langua, a Swabian village not far from Augsburg. In his childhood he was distinguished for his piety, innocence, and love of reading. In his eleventh year, he was favored, according to his biographer, with a vision of our Saviour and the Blessed Virgin, accompanied by a luminous cross in the heavens; and that cross he afterwards took to be an omen of the many trials and afflictions, which he was to encounter in life. At his earnest request, his parents sent him to the Latin school; but here he was compelled to live by alms. Here he was cured in a wonderful way of the pestilence; but he was compelled shortly afterwards to return home, where he was put to his father’s business, which was shoe-making. His insatiable desire for learning, however, making this occupation extremely irksome, his parents yielded to his urgent entreaty to allow him to go to college. Provided a few pence from his father, and a rosary from his mother, and a blessing from both, young Holzhauser went on his way to find out a foundation for himself. He was not successful in the episcopal city of Eichstadt; but hearing that at Neuburg on the Danube, there was a college directed by Jesuits, where all poor students, who could sing in choir, and possessed some acquaintance with music, were boarded, lodged, and educated gratuitously, he resolved to try his fortune there. Having presented himself to the Superior of the house, and humbly stated his request, he was asked whether he was acquainted with music. To this question he replied, (Beykirch, p. 125) that he had learned the elements at school; but on the Professor’s bringing him a difficult trio, he executed it with such surprising skill, that he was much applauded by the Prefect of the Choir, and immediately admitted into the establishment. In this effort, however, he was evidently assisted from above; for a few days after, he was unable to sing a piece of music set before him. The Prefect in his indignation would have turned him out of the house; but the great meekness and piety evinced by the boy, during his few days’ stay in the College, quite disarmed his wrath, and induced the Superior to allow him to remain. He was however, sent down from the first table, where he had been placed, to the lowest, where sat the students who were totally ignorant of music; but the place he had lost, he soon rewon by his great application to music. During the five years Holzhauser remained at Neuburg, he was a model of piety, virtue, and diligence in his studies. In the year 1633, after having completed his course of Humanities at Neuburg, he repaired to the University of Ingolstadt, to prosecute the study of Philosophy. Here, at first, it was only by begging alms he could procure a subsistence, till a benevolent citizen admitted him into his house, and at a later period he was allowed to take his meals at a Jesuit College in that city. This excellent custom is still retained in Germany, where not only the secular and regular clergy, but the charitable laity, make it a point to provide a daily repast for one or several poor students, according to their means.

During his abode at the University, Holzhauser was remarkable for his love of prayer and contemplation, his humility, meekness, and resignation, and his great charity towards the sick and poor, with whom he after divided the scanty alms he had collected. After three years’ study of philosophy, he took the degree of Doctor, and then studied theology under the Jesuit Fathers of Ingolstadt. Much as his time was taken with up with prayer, meditation, visiting of the sick, and catechetical instruction of children; yet he found time punctually to go through all the prescribed studies; and though his abilities were not above the average standard, still when he spoke of divine things, he evinced a rare sagacity and penetration of mind. Hence his fellow-students ascribed much of his knowledge on sacred subjects, to an internal illumination of the Holy (Beykirch, p. 126) Spirit. During his years of studentship, Holzhauser conceived the plan of an Institute for the introduction of a life of community among the secular clergy—a plan which he lived to accomplish, and which has been productive of the greatest blessings to the Church in Southern Germany. At the same period he wrote one or two ascetical books, and was favored with celestial visions.

On receiving Holy Orders, Holzhauser obtained a benefice in the diocese of Salzburg, where he first founded his Institute. A few years afterwards, he was appointed to the rural deanery of Leoggenthal in the Tyrol, where his Institute spread, and he was allowed to bind its members by an oath. In the exercise of his pastoral duties, he was a model of piety and zeal—so fervent in the oblation of the Holy Sacrifice—so persuasive in the pulpit—so enlightened in the Confessional—so charitable to the poor—so soothing in attentions to the sick and dying. Even as a student he had practiced severe mortifications, and had been remarked for his love of prayer, and his gift of tears. Nothing could exceed his resignation under sickness, want, and privations of every kind, nor his admirable patience under the contradictions and opposition of men. Much misrepresentation and obloquy had to endure from lax and worldly-minded ecclesiastics, adverse as they were to the spread of his Institute. The Almighty was pleased to work several miraculous cures through the hands of His faithful servant; and his wonderful faith and humility gave him extraordinary power over evil spirits, whom, in two cases of very obstinate possession, he was enabled to cast out. One of his most remarkable cures was that of a boy lame in both feet, whom after anointing with oil taken from a lamp that burned before the altar of St. John the Baptist, he instantaneously cured. (See his Biography, p. 108, ed. Clarus. Also see p. 100 – 112, where the two cases are stated at length. Also see many examples cited in S. 5, p. 117, of his Life.)

But it was with the gift of prophecy this holy man was pre-eminently endowed. Various predictions uttered by him relative to matters purely contingent, were realized by the event. For these, we must refer the reader to the pages of his biographer. But there are ten remarkable (Beykirch, p. 127) Visions with which Holzhauser was favored, and to which we shall soon have occasion to call the reader’s attention. At the request of his assistant priests, and with the special permission of the venerable Bishop of Chiemsee, he wrote down those Visions towards the end of January, 1646, and collected them into a volume. They have reference to the errors and vices prevalent in the seventeenth century and the following ages; to the religious and political destinies of the German empire; and to the return of our own dear country, England, to the Catholic faith. As soon as he had compiled these Visions, Holzhauser, urged by the Spirit, hastened to the city of Linz, to present the same to the Emperor, Ferdinand III., and immediately afterwards hurried to Munich, to offer another copy to the Elector, Maximilian, Duke of Bavaria.

It will be well now to hear the opinion, which the learned theologians of the University of Ingolstadt, the friends and teachers of Holzhauser, entertained of these Visions. After the Author’s death, the learned Jesuit, Father Lyprand, wrote as follows respecting them:

“In regard to the prophecies of Bartholomew Holzhauser, different opinions were commonly entertained; some rejecting them as of no importance, other, but only a few approving them. Father Simon, once the most distinguished theologian of that country, and my colleague at the University of Ingolstadt, and who had been for a year Bartholomew’s teacher, and was a man of acute judgment, said, after reading his prophecies, that their style was truly prophetic, and that from his knowledge of Bartholomew’s parts and capacity, they could not be the product of his invention. A like judgment was pronounced by Father Peter Breier, who was also Bartholomew’s teacher, and my colleague in theology. The three first visions respecting the country of the Lech, the city of Ingolstadt, and the kingdom of England, I immediately understood and examined; but as I knew that in such matters it was easy to be deceived, and that often deception has occurred, and still occurs in divers things of this kind, I attached not much importance to the first two prophecies. But after Holzhauser had explained to me more fully the prophecy respecting England, and how that country would fall into extreme misery, and the issue of the whole would be that the king would be slain, and that then peace would ensue, and afterwards the kingdom of England would return to the Roman Catholic faith, and the English achieve more for the Church than on their first conversion to Christianity. I was then apprehensive that the evils which he had foretold respecting the Lech and Ingolstadt, might come to pass. This apprehension was the more lively, as among the prophecies, (Beykirch, p. 128) which Father Kollnag was obliged to write down in obedience to his superiors, there was a similar one respecting England. These prophecies of Kollnag, which I have read in the Italian language, he holds for divine inspirations. They were about the year nineteen of this century, communicated to me by Father Rupertus Randell, my then confessor, a man of talent and discernment; but in these there is no mention of the execution of the King of England, nor of the storm, whereof Bartholomew speaks. When some years afterwards the said Bartholomew returned to Ingolstadt, the visit his young people studying here, I took occasion, as a report had been for some time current that King Charles of England (Charles I) was disposed to embrace the Catholic faith, I took occasion, I say, to tell Bartholomew, that such a report squared not with his prophecy about the kingdom of England. Thereupon he replied in a very confident manner: ‘King Charles of England is neither now a Catholic, nor will he ever become a Catholic.’ The event proved the truth of his words. At the same time he informed me, he knew from God, the Swede would never have a footing in the German empire, and that the Rhine would return to its ancient master.

“To speak now in general as to Bartholomew’s prophecies, I have always been of opinion, that he went to work without any guile, and that his natural parts were inadequate to their fabrication…….

“Although I hold it to be probable enough, nay, as extremely probable, that Holzhauser had received from God the gift of prophecy, yet I would not venture to assert that he had always rightly understood the prophecies communicated to him; for it is agreed among theologians, that the first gift may exist without the second.” [Life of Holzhauser, pp. 114 – 116.]

It was also during his abode at Leoggenthal, Holzhauser wrote his great work—the Commentary on the Apocalypse of St. John, that wonderful book, in which, according to St. Jerome, there are as many mysteries as words. This Commentary extends only to the fifth verse of the fifteenth chapter. Holzhauser, according to his biographer, wrote it under the pressure of great tribulations. During this time he gave himself up to continual prayer, and passed whole days without eating or drinking, wholly removed from the society of men. Having been asked, what we the state of his soul, when he wrote this work, he burst into tears, and replied: “I was like a child, whose hand was led, while I wrote.”

After passing ten devoted years of the ministry at Leoggenthal, where he had achieved immense good, Holzhauser received an invitation from the Elector, John (Beykirch, p. 129) Philip von Schonborn, Archbishop of Mayence, to settle in his dominions. The latter bestowed on him the rectory of Bingen, while the priests of “the Institute” were entrusted with the direction of the seminary of Wurzburg. Holzhauser won the esteem and confidence of the Elector to such a degree, that the latter took the greatest pleasure in his society, and consulted him on matters of the greatest secrecy and importance. Shortly after his arrival at Bingen, Holzhauser had an interview with our King, Charles II., then an exile, but hoping speedily to be recalled to the throne of his ancestors. Let us hear the account given of this interview by German biographer.

“This favourable opinion of Holzhauser, the Elector evinced by a continual praise of his conduct and virtues. As on one occasion, Charles II., King of England, who was still in banishment, but entertained the hope of speedily returning to England, descended the Rhine in company of the Elector, as far a Geisenheim in the Rheingau, and there passed the night with his guest, the latter took occasion to mention the name of Holzhauser. The King took occasion to mention the name of Holzhauser. The King learned from the Elector, that a priest was living in the neighborhood, who a long time ago had foretold wonderful things of the English kingdom and English king. The King expressed so much desire to see this priest immediately, that he was fetched from Bingen late in the evening, and after incurring no little danger from a storm which had suddenly arisen while he was on the Rhine, he arrived at Geisenheim at about twelve o’clock at night. Having been introduced to Charles II., and questioned about his vision in regard to the kingdom of England, and the destinies which had befallen her king, Holzhauser replied on these several points to the monarch. He recommended to his Majesty’s protection the Catholic religion, and the priests who were laboring in England in its behalf. The monarch gave him his hand, and promised to be mindful of his request.

“It is astonishing with what a burning zeal Holzhauser labored to bring about the conversion of England. This was the marrow of his thoughts—the subject of his conversation—the sum of all his desires; with his blood would he fain have washed away, had he been so permitted, all the errors of heresy. no resolution was so fixedly implanted in him, as to go to England and there, utterly regardless of any risk he might run for his life, make a beginning towards a restoration of the Catholic faith. He awaited only the Elector’s permission to prosecute this voyage. This permission he would have sought with earnest prayers, had he not been overcome by the still more urgent solicitations of his friends, Gundel and Vogt, and been induced to defer for one or several years the execution of a project, which he never would entirely give up, in order (Beykirch, p. 130) in the first place by his presence to consolidate his rising Institute, until such time as his presence might be mere easily dispensed with. It was with difficulty he could be held back from this project.” [Holzhauser’s Life, p. 69.]

But this holy man, so burning with love for the kingdom of heaven, it now pleased the Almighty to call to Himself. At the moment when new prospects seemed to open to his indefatigable zeal, and his Institute [This institute was approved by the Holy See.] was taking root and spreading in new dioceses, he was summoned to receive the reward of his many virtues. On his dying bed he recommended to his brethren zeal for the glory of God, humility, patience, resignation, and attachment to the Institute which they had embraced: and having been provided with the last sacraments of the Church, he breathed out his pure soul on the 20thMay, 1658, and in the 45th year of his age.

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