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Bartholomew Holzhauser

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Holzhauser BARTHOLOMEW, parish priest, ecclesiastical writer, and founder of a religious community; b. August 24, 1613, at Laugna in the Diocese of Augsburg, Bavaria; d. May 20, 1658. He was one of the eleven children of Leonard and Catherine Holzhauser—poor, pious, and honest people. His father plied the trade of a shoemaker, and was barely able to support his family. Young Holzhauser developed a great love for books and an earnest desire to enter the sacred ministry. At Augsburg he was admitted to a free school for poor boys, earning his living by singing at the doors and begging. He fell sick of an epidemic then raging, and after his recovery went home and for a time helped his father at work. Then, with the aid of kind friends and especially of the Jesuits, he continued his studies at Neuburg and Ingolstadt. His teachers were unanimous in praising his talents, his piety, and modesty, and entertained great hopes of his usefulness for the Church. On July 9, 1636, he received the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, then studied theology, in which he merited the baccalaureate on May 11, 1639. He was ordained priest by the Bishop of Eichstatt, and said his first Mass on Pentecost Sunday (June 12, 1639) in the church of Our Lady of Victory at Ingolstadt. He exercised his priestly functions at this place for some time, and was soon much sought after as a confessor. In the meantime he attended the lectures at the university and was declared licentiate of theology on June 14, 1640. On August 1 of the same year he came into the Archdiocese of Salzburg, and was made dean and pastor of Tittmoning. On February 2, 1642, the Bishop of Chiemsee called him as pastor to St. John’s at Leukenthal (then Leoggenthal) in the Tyrol.

In the spring of 1655, on the invitation of Archbishop John Philip of Schonthal, he went to Mainz and was soon appointed pastor at Bingen on the Rhine, and in 1657 dean of the district of Algesheim. Here he died at the age of only forty-five, after a life well spent in the service of God and for the welfare of his people and of his fellow-priests. Many wonderful things are related of him, extraordinary cures and the like. Lately a petition has been drawn up at Rome for his canonization. On the occasion of the second centenary of his death a great celebration was held at Bingen in the presence of Bishop von Ketteler of Mainz; his remains were again found, and in 1880 a new monument was erected over his grave at the parish church.

HIS INSTITUTE.—He founded the Bartholomites (United Brethren), or, as they are officially called, the “Institutum clericorum saecularium in communi viventium”, also called Communists. Great and many were the evils caused by the Thirty Years War among the faithful. Faith had become lukewarm; morals and discipline had relaxed not only in the laity but also in the clergy. In consequence Holzhauser, even in the early days of his university course, had been planning the formation of a congregation of secular priests, who would lead an apostolic life in community and become models of priestly perfection and zealous leaders of the people. Such as excelled in science and virtue he intended to place as teachers in the seminaries to educate a new generation of priests willing to use all their energy for the honor of God and the salvation of souls. The priests thus educated he would induce to join the community. The members were expected to live in the seminaries, or in twos or threes in the parishes, and to follow out a set routine of daily prayers and exercises. Funds were to be in common, and all female servants were to be discarded. No vows were to be taken, but a simple promise of obedience to the superior was to be made, confirmed by an oath. Holzhauser tried to establish such a community in the Diocese of Eichstatt, but did not succeed, though several priests were found quite willing to join him. At Tittmoning, encouraged by John Christopher von Lichtenstein, Bishop of Chiemsee, suffragan and principal adviser of the Archbishop of Salzburg, he made a good beginning. His first colleagues were George Kettner, a priest of noted piety who held a benefice at Ingolstadt, George Gundel, pastor of Mailing near Ingolstadt, and Michael Rottmayer, pastor of Leinting. Priests joined from the Diocese of Chiemsee and from other dioceses. At the death of Holzhauser the community had members at Chiemsee, Salzburg, Freising, Eichstatt, Wurzburg, and Mainz.

In 1643 Holzhauser took control of the seminary at Salzburg, and placed it under the direction of Rottmayer; in 1649 it was transferred to Ingolstadt. The Seminary of St. Kilian and later many other seminaries were entrusted to the care of the community. In 1653 Dr. Rieger, one of the members, set out for Rome to obtain papal sanction for the institute and its rule. Pope Innocent X lauded the work, but gave no formal approbation. This was given June 7, 1680, by Innocent XI at the request of Emperor Leopold I. After this the community spread in Poland, Sicily, and Spain. In Rome a house had been assigned them by the pope, but it was not long occupied. The institute had many enemies and did not meet with the appreciation it deserved, so that at the end of the eighteenth century it became extinct, after having had 1595 members (according to the necrology preserved in the archives of the cathedral of Mainz). After Holzhauser, the general directors of the institute were George Gundel, d. 1666; Michael Rottmayer, d. 1681; Stephen Hofer, d. 1693; John Appel, d. 1700; Sebastian Wittmann, d. 1725; Anthony Kippel, d. 1730; Matthew Kerschel, d. 1742; Lambert Gastel, d. 1769; John Christopher Hunold, d. 1770. During the last century the wish was frequently expressed that Holzhauser’s institute might be revived or similar unions formed.

WRITINGS.—(a) “Constitutiones et exercitia spiritualia Clericorum saecularium in communi viventium” (Cologne, 1662; Wurzburg, 1669; Rome, 1680; Mainz, 1782, etc.). These constitutions, used in many seminaries during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, were of value also for the spread of primary education among the people (Katholik, XXXIX, 359). In the third chapter Holzhauser advises his disciples to be solicitous in immediately and extensively establishing schools in which the young are taught reading, writing, and the rudiments of religion. A new edition was published by Gaduel at Orleans and Paris in 1861 under the title “Venerabills servi Dei Bartholomaei Holzhauser opuscula ecclesiastica”. They contain: (I) “Constitutiones” … (2) “Constitutiones pro spirituali temporalique directione instituti cler. saec. in communi viventium, ab Innocentio XI approb. die August 17 1684”. (3) “Stationes quotidianorum exercitiorum spiritualium”. (4) “De diversis orandi modis et de modo meditandi”. (5) “Manipulus piarum precum”. (6) “Instructiones de via perfectionis et principiis practicis pro statu clericali et pastorali”. (7) “Instructiones concionatoribus catholicis valde utiles”. (b) “Epistola fundamentalis”, written in 1644 for the consolation and encouragement of his disciples in their heavy trials, when enemies tried to destroy the community. (c) “De humilitate”. (d) “Tractatus de discretione spirituum”. (e) “Documenta pro iis qui conversioni haereticorum et infidelium se impendunt”. (f) “Visiones”.

The last-mentioned work contains the ten visions of Holzhauser, presented by him in 1646 to Emperor Ferdinand III and to Maximilian of Bavaria, together with the explanations given to Vairvaux, confessor of Maximilian. They are entitled: “De septem animalibus”; “De una monarchia et duabus sedibus”; “De s. Michaele archangelo et sedibus”; “De ecclesia sponsa Dei”; “De propria persona Jesu”; “De egressione Danubii”; “De verme grandi”; “De conversione Germaniae”; “Exprobratio vitiorum, exprobratio impoenitentiae, quomodo revertatur?”; “De duabus personis”. These visions, with a commentary showing their partial fulfilment, were published in German in 1849 by Ludwig Clarus. One of the prophetic visions is about England. Holzhauser foresees the execution of Charles I and the complete ruin of the Church in that kingdom, but also that, after the Holy Sacrifice has ceased for 120 years, England would be converted and do more for religion than it had done after its first conversion. This seems to have been fulfilled, for prohibition of Mass under penalty of capital punishment was enacted in 1658, and partially recalled in 1778 (Rhode Island, 1663-1683).

(g) “Interpretatio Apocalypsis usque ad cap. XV, v. 5.” This commentary, which Holzhauser wrote at Leukenthal, exists in several manuscript copies; printed in 1784 at Bamberg; in German in 1849 at Ratisbon by Clarus; in 1850 at Vienna. Holzhauser’s idea is: The seven stars and the seven candlesticks seen by St. John signify seven periods of the history of the Church from its foundation to its consummation at the final judgment. To these periods correspond the seven churches of Asia Minor, the seven days of the Mosaic record of creation, the seven ages before Christ, and the seven gifts of the Holy Ghost. Since, he says, all life is developed in seven stages, so God has fixed seven periods for regeneration. The first age of the Church, the status seminativus, from Christ and the Apostles to Pope Linus and Emperor Nero, is typified by the first day of creation “Spiritus Dei ferebatur super aquas”, the gift of wisdom and the age from Noe. Similarly he treats (2) the status irrigativus, the days of persecution; (3) status illuminativus from Pope Sylvester to Leo III; (4) status pacificus from Leo III to Leo X; (5) status afflictionis et purgativus from Leo X to a strong ruler and holy pope; (6) status consolationis from that holy pope to the birth of Antichrist; (7) status desolationis from Antichrist to the end of the world. The central features of this commentary—the strong ruler and the holy pope, a favorite subject of medieval prophecy, as well as the division of church history into seven periods; the idea that the Holy Roman Empire is to be the last on earth, and Chosroes, the Persian king, the predecessor of Antichrist; the special significance of the 1260 days of Apoc., xii, 6, are borrowed from Joachim di Fiore (d. 1202; cf. “Hist.—pol. Blatter,” CXVIII, 142). Still the commentary is considered an instructive and edifying book.


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