samedi 7 novembre 2015

Saint PATRICK (CHRISTOPHER) FLEMING, martyr franciscain

Patrick Fleming, OFM M (PC)

(also known as Christopher Fleming)

Born 1599; died at Benesabe, Bohemia, November 7, 1631; cause for canonization opened in 1903.

Christopher Fleming has always been regarded as a martyr for the faith in Ireland, and venerated within the Franciscan Order. He is also remembered as one who preserved the record of the Irish missionary influence on the Continent.

Openly practicing Catholicism in Ireland or England was dangerous during this period. So the Franciscans, Jesuits, and Dominicans opened more than 20 colleges on the Continent for their education. At the age of 14, Patrick joined his uncle Christopher Cusack (Cusach), founder and rector of Saint Patrick's College, in Douai, France. On March 17, 1617, he joined the Franciscans in Louvain and took the name Patrick. He studied for the priesthood for six more years at Saint Anthony's at Louvain.

Then he was transferred to Rome, where he spent several years under the strict rule of Father Luke Wadding, founder of Saint Isadore's Irish Franciscan College. The rule there was so strict that the brethren of the college gained the reputation for impeccability--it is said that the devil could never find idle hands to tempt there. Here Patrick was ordained to the priesthood and met the laybrother Michael O'Clery and his three collaborators who were gathering material for a massive history of Ireland. (During a time of comparative peace (1632-1636), the four worked near the ruins of the Franciscan monastery at Donegal. They published their research in the Annals of the Four Masters.)

Following his ordination, Father Fleming taught theology and philosophy at the college in Louvain. While there he was enlisted by Brother O'Clery to find material in various parts of Europe, including the great monasteries of Bobbio, Saint Gall, and Regensburg. This was immensely important work because the history of Ireland was being eradicated. Use of the Gaelic language was forbidden. The death penalty was imposed for those who possessed, and would not surrender, Irish manuscripts. Among other documents he located were the life of Saint Columbanus written by Jonas. Flemings' findings were published after his death as Collectanea Sacra.

In 1630, Father Fleming was appointed head of a new Franciscan seminary in Prague, donated by Ferdinand of Austria, intended to relieve the pressure of Irish Franciscan vocations at Louvain and Rome. The school was opened in July 1631. Unfortunately, the Saxon Protestant troops overran the city, and all Catholics were placed in danger. Patrick Fleming, aged 32, and his young deacon Matthew Hoare were butchered by armed Lutheran peasants as they were taking a walk (D'Arcy, McCarthy, Montague, O'Kelly, Tommasini).


Patrick Fleming

Franciscan friar b. at Lagan, Couny Louth, Ireland, 17 April, 1599; d. 7 November, 1631. His father was great-grandson of Lord Slane; his mother was daughter of Robert Cusack, a baron of the exchequer and a near relative of Lord Delvin. In 1612, at a time when religious persecution raged in Ireland, young Fleming went to Flanders, and became a student, first at Douai, and then at the College of St. Anthony of Padua at Louvain. In 1617 he took the Franciscan habit and a year later made his solemn profession. He then assumed in religion the name of Patrick, Christopher being the name he received at baptism. Five years after his solemn profession he went to Rome with Hugh MacCaghwell, the definitor general of the order, and when he had completed his studies at the College of St. Isidore, was ordained priest. From Rome he was sent by his superiors to Louvain and for some years lectured there on philosophy. During that time he established a reputation for scholarship and administrative capacity, and when the Franciscans of the Strict Observance opened a college at Prague in Bohemia, Fleming was appointed its first superior. He was also lecturer in theology. The Thirty Years War was raging at this time, and in 1631 the Elector of Saxony invaded Bohemia and threatened Prague. Fleming, accompanied by a fellow-countryman named Matthew Hoar, fled from the city. On 7 November the fugitives encountered a party of armed Calvinist peasants; and the latter animated with the fierce fanaticism of the times, fell upon the friars and murdered them. Fleming's body was carried to the monastery of Voticium, four miles distant from the scene of the murder and there buried.

Eminent both in philosophy and theology, he was specially devoted to ecclesiastical history, his tastes in this direction being still further developed by his friendship for his learned countryman Father Hugh Ward. The latter, desirous of writing on early Christian Ireland, asked for Fleming's assistance which was readily given. Even before Fleming left Louvain for Prague he had massed considerable materials and had written a "Life of St. Columba". It was not, however, published in his lifetime. That and other manuscripts fell into the hands of Thomas O'Sheerin, lecturer in theology at the College of St. Anthony of Padua who edited and published them at Louvain in 1667. Fleming also wrote a life of Hugh MacCaghwell, Primate of Armagh, a chronicle of St. Peter's monastery at Ratisbon (an ancient Irish foundation), and letters to Hugh Ratison on the lives and works of the Irish saints. The letters have been published in "The Irish Ecclesiastical Record" (see below). The work published at Louvain in 1667 is now rare and costly; one copy in recent years was sold for seventy pounds.

D'Alton, Edward. "Patrick Fleming." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 6. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1909. 7 Nov. 2015 <>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Joseph P. Thomas.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. September 1, 1909. Remy Lafort, Censor. Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York.

Fleming, Patrick, Rev., of the family of the Lords of Slane, was born in the townland of Lagan, County of Louth, 17th April 1599. At thirteen he was sent to the Continent, and studied diligently at Douay and Louvain; at the latter place he took the habit of St. Francis on 17th March 1617. At Paris he became intimate with Hugh Ward, and perceiving his capacity for the task, induced him to undertake the work of collecting materials for a work on the lives of the Irish saints. In 1623 he removed to Rome in company with Hugh MacCaughwell, afterwards Archbishop of Armagh.
After studying in St. Isidore's at Rome, Fleming returned to Louvain; and in a few years removed to Prague, where in 1631 he was appointed President of the Irish College. When Prague was about being besieged by the Elector of Saxony in 1631 he fled with a companion, but was set upon by some peasants and murdered, 7th November in the same year. Fortunately when departing for Prague he left his Collectanea Sacra in MS. in the hands of Moret, a printer in Antwerp. It appeared in Louvain in 1677. The work is now extremely rare, having at Dr. Todd's sale brought £70. An exposition of the contents, by Dr. Reeves, will be found in the Ulster Journal of Archaeology, vol. ii.
11. Archaeology, Ulster Journal of. Belfast, 1853-'62.
339. Ware, Sir James, Works: Walter Harris. 2 vols. Dublin, 1764.