Historian and theologian, b. at Waterford, Ireland, Oct. 16, 1585; d. at St. Isidore's College, Rome, Nov. 18, 1657
I. BIRTH AND EDUCATION.—He was the son of was to Walter Wadding, a citizen of eminence, and Anastasia make his. bishop of Armagh. He was the eleventh of fourteen children and was baptized on the feast of St. Luke. Many members of his family distinguished themselves in their various careers. His brother Ambrose, the Jesuit, taught philosophy with applause at Dillingen, Bavaria, where he died in the flower of his age. His cousins Richard Wadding, the Augustinian, and Peter and Michael Wadding, Jesuits, shed lustre on their respective orders. He was brought up piously by his excellent parents, who, Harold tells us, required all their children, boys and girls, when able to read, to recite daily the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin, and, at stated times, the Penitential Psalms with the litanies and orations, the Office of the Dead, and other prayers contained in the so-called minor Breviary of Pius V, then much in use among Catholics in Ireland. At the age of thirteen he had already acquired a good knowledge of the Classics, and had learned to write Latin, prose and verse, with facility. The excellence of his early classic training shows out through all his writings. He lost both parents at the age of fourteen, but his brother Matthew took charge of his education and put him to study philosophy. He read logic and part of physics in Ireland, and then entered the Irish seminary at Lisbon, prosecuting his studies under the Jesuits. After six months he left the seminary to enter the noviciate of the Friars Minor in the Convent of the Immaculate Conception at Matozinhos, near Oporto. Having made solemn profession and received minor orders in 1605, his superiors sent him to Leyria, the house of studies, to specialize in Scotistic philosophy for two years. Richard Synott, of Wexford companion of Wadding’s noviciate and studies, and afterwards Guardian of S. Isidore’s, Rome, died a martyr in Ireland at the hands of the soldiers of Cromwell. Wadding read theology at Lisbon, and then for three years at Coimbra, hearing in this latter place Didacus Limadensis, O.F.M., at the College of S. Bonaventure, and Suarez and Aegidius a Praesentatione, O.S.A., at the university. The Benedictine monk Leo a S. Thoma bears witness to the great talents he displayed (see Harold, “Vita”, c. v.). Ordained priest in 1613 and commissioned to preach, he showed himself a perfect master not only of rhetorical art but of the Portuguese and Castilian languages. He commenced in 1613 to draw up a sylva or commonplace-book of quotations from the Scriptures, the Fathers, the lives of the saints, etc., which is still preserved in two large volumes of MS. in the archives of the order at Merchant’s Quay, Dublin. After a brilliant academic display at Lisbon during a provincial chapter, Antony a Trejo, the vicar-general of the order, sent him to Salamanca for fuller opportunities. Here he mastered Hebrew composed his work on the origin and excellence of that tongue, and was assigned the chair of theology in the College of St. Francis.
II. EMBASSY TO ROME.—He filled the office of professor till 1618, when, though only in his thirtieth year, he was chosen by Philip III for the office of theologian to the embassy which Philip was then sending to Paul V to promote the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception. Antony a Trejo, Bishop of Cartagena, who, as vicar-general of the order, had been Wadding’s patron and admirer, was the legate-extraordinary appointed for the purpose. Leaving the Court of the Catholic King on October 1, 1618, the embassy reached Rome on December 17 In search of materials for the work entrusted to him, as well as for his other studies Wadding spent whole days in the libraries of tome, visiting also those of Naples, Assisi, Perugia, and other cities. The composition of the more important vota of the legate, the preparation of the pleadings before the pope, and the solution of the theological difficulties devolved in great measure on him. He has given us the history of the embassy in his “Acta legations”, a succinct and objective statement of the proceedings and of the theological issues demanding solution. At this time we find him in close correspondence with the exiled Archbishop of Tuam, Florence Conry, to whom he sent a MS. copy of his “Acts” to Louvain. In May, 1620, the legate returned to his diocese in Spain, but Wadding was ordered to remain in Rome to assist the new charge d’affaires. While the commission lasted he was its accredited theological adviser. Philip IV, in a gracious letter, thanked him profusely for his services in this connection. The three opuscula on the redemption, baptism, and death of the Blessed Virgin (1655 and 1656), were written as contributions to the question before the commission.
III. LITERARY ACTIVITY.—But Wadding’s activity was not confined to the work of the embassy. His predominating idea for a long time had been to vindicate the name of his order by rescuing from oblivion the memory of the men who had rendered it illustrious in every age. The publication of their writings and the recording of their deeds he considered the best answer to those who charged the order and its founder with being professionally opposed to learning. He found an ardent and effective supporter in the general for the time being, Benignus a Genoa, who in 1619 by encyclical letters to the whole order ordained that suitable men should be told off in each province to transcribe and forward to Rome all documents bearing on the history of the order. The materials thus accumulated were handed over to Wadding. The most distinguished of the collaborators referred to were Bartholomew Cimarelli and Jacobus Polius, the former working in the archives and libraries of northern and central Italy, the latter in those of Germany.
As a first installment Wadding published in 1623 at Antwerp a complete and annotated edition of the “Writings of St. Francis”, which he dedicated to the brothers Trejo, the cardinal and legate. This work was enough to show that St. Francis himself was above all suspicion of enmity to learning. While the edition of the “Writings of St. Francis” was in course of preparation, Marius a Calasio, a learned Franciscan, died in Rome, leaving unpublished four large tomes of a Hebrew concordance, besides a Hebrew grammar and dictionary. Wadding undertook the publication, being able, through the munificence of Paul V, to establish for the purpose a printing-press with Hebrew type at the Convent of Ara Coeli. To this work, which was considered at the time a valuable contribution to Biblical knowledge, he prefixed his own essay “De hebraicae linguae origine, praestantia et utilitate ad ss. litterarum interpretes”, which he had composed at Salamanca. About the same time he undertook the publication of the works of Angelo del Paz, a friar of great learning who died in the odor of sanctity some twenty years before in the convent of Montorio. The first tome appeared in 1623, being Angelo’s commentaries on the Gospel of St. Mark; the commentaries on the Gospel of St. Luke followed in 1625 and 1628, with the promise of two other volumes which, however, never saw the light. In 1624 he issued in one volume the “Concordance of St. Antony of Padua” and the “Promptuarium morale” of an anonymous Irish Franciscan, probably Thomas Hibernicus, adding ample marginal notes of his own. In this same year (1624) there appeared at Vienna, but under another name, Wadding’s account of the martyrdom at Prague of fourteen Friars Minor, put to death for the Faith by the Bohemian heretics. Hieronymus Strasser, to whom the author sent his MS. with a view to certain corrections, published the whole under his own name: Wadding himself, who gives Strasser a place among the “Scriptores”, gives us at the same time the true genesis of the German friar’s work. It was also in this year (1624) that he published his “Legatio Philippi III et IV”.
In 1625 he issued at Madrid his “Apologeticum de praetenso monachatu augustiniano S. Francisi”, in refutation of the theory that the founder of the Friars Minor had been an Augustinian. The third edition (Lyons, 1641) contains the author’s response to Thomas Herera, a learned Augustinian. The singular theory has not since been broached. At the desire of Urban VIII, Wadding undertook in 1630 to correct and edit, in collaboration with Victorelli and Ughelli, the “Lives of the Popes and Cardinals” by Alphonsus Ciacconius. Other minor publications were: a “Life of Bl. Peter Thomas, Patriarch of Constantinople” (Lyons, 1637); a corrected and annotated edition of the metrical “Life of St. James della Marchia” by John Petrucci, Archbishop of Tarentum (Lyons, 1641); an edition of the “Oculus moralis” of Joannes Guallensis, O.F.M. (which had been hitherto attributed to Raymundus Jordanus, Canon Regular of St. Augustine); and an edition of the “Collection of sayings and deeds of celebrated Philosophers” and of the treatise “De sapientia sanctorum”, by the same writer (Rome, 1655); a “Life of St. Anselm”, Bishop of Lucca, from materials which the author had come across in his studies on the pontificate of Gregory VII (Rome, 1657); an edition, on a new plan, of the “Summa casuum” of Emanual Rodericus, brought out at Salamanca when the editor had just completed his theological studies (1616); “Epigrammata pia”, a collection of Latin verses and inscriptions composed by Wadding when professor at Salamanca, and published by Francis a Susa, ex-general of the order, in his “Sanctorale seraphicum” (Salamanca, 1623). Marraccio (ap. Joan. a S. Antonio) refers to the publication by Wadding of a tractate, “De scandalis in controversia Immaculatae Conceptionis”, and Sbaralea (Supp.) mentions a posthumous work on the Jansenists, published in 1696. Finally, the author himself in his “Scriptores” mentions among his published writings “Officia plurima, praesertim lectiones II Noct., Sanctorum Ecclesiarum tum in Hispania, Germanica, Bohemia, Hungaria”, etc.—liturgical offices written in his capacity of consultor to the S. Congregation of Rites.
But Wadding’s fame as a writer and a critic rests chiefly on his monumental edition of Scotus, on the “Scriptores”, and, above all, on the “Annales ord. minorum”. In 1639 he published at Lyons a complete edition of the writings of the Subtle Doctor, in 16 volumes, having devoted four years to the proximate preparation. He corrected the text throughout according to the best MSS. and earliest impressions, inserted everywhere critical notes and learned scholia, and enriched the edition with the commentaries of MacCaughwell, Hickey, Lychetus, Ponce, and others. It was a colossal undertaking, and would alone have immortalized his name. His life of John Duns Scotus, which is prefixed to the first volume, appeared separately in 1644. The “Scriptores ord. minorum” he published in 1650 in one folio volume. It is an alphabetical list of the writers of the Seraphic Order with a syllabus of their works. It still holds its place, along with the “Supplementum” of Sbaralea, as the standard work on the subject. A new edition by Dr. Nardecchia of Rome is now nearing completion. But Wadding’s greatest literary achievement was the “Annales ord. minorum”, a history of the Franciscan Order from its foundation. Eight volumes appeared between 1625 and 1654, bringing the work down to 1540. Two other volumes were to appear, but death intervened. He closed the eighth tome with the words: “suspenso calamo illud unum agam quod potissimum necessarium est: animae scilicet procurandae totus incumbam”. This great work, which critics, worthy of the name, have never ceased to extol, has placed its author in the foremost rank of ecclesiastical historians. To say that the work is free from defects would be to demand for it more than is given to man to accomplish. Considering the magnitude of the undertaking and that the author’s work was, largely, the work of a pioneer, it must be acknowledged to be a compilation of exceptional accuracy. The strictures of those critics who find “serious chronological errors” and a “want of accuracy and scientific method” in the Annals are hardly borne out by a close study of the work itself. “Only those who have consulted the Annals hundreds and thousands of times”, writes Holzapfel (Geschichte des Franziskanerordens, 582), “can appreciate Wadding at his true worth.” Wadding has had several official continuators of the “Annales”, but all of them vastly inferior to himself, the author of Vol. XIX being perhaps an exception.
Besides the works he succeeded in publishing, Wadding had projected various others, for which he left a considerable amount of material. Among them were the following: history of Popes Clement VIII, Leo XI, Paul V, Gregory XV, and Urban VIII, and of the cardinals created by them; an edition of the rarer works of famous Franciscan writers; the Annals of the Kingdom of Ireland (from which project he withdrew owing to the impossibility at the time of obtaining necessary documents from Ireland); a volume of his own letters; the Acts of all the Chapters General of the order (in which work he was anticipated by Michael Angelo of Naples, who began the publication of the “Chronologia historicolegalis” in 1650); a history of all the bishoprics of the Universal Church; and an exposition of the Rule of St. Francis. Our admiration at the activity displayed in so many works increases as we recall the circumstances under which he wrote. His daily occupations, says his biographer, were so numerous that most of his literary work was done in the quiet hours between sundown and midnight. He himself, in his preface to Vol. VI of the “Annales”, writes: “In solo noctis decursu licuit opus compingere, die universo per molesters curas distracto.” Moreover, though his energy was prodigious, his physical constitution often proved unequal to the strain. From the age of twenty-two he suffered from headaches of the most violent kind, once and often twice in each month.
IV. WORK FOR IRELAND.—When he arrived at, Rome in 1618 he found the name of Ireland partly ignominiously ignored, partly (owing to the wiles of her traditional enemies) disparaged and reviled. But he lost no opportunity of rectifying matters, and soon succeeded in making Ireland known and respected. Two flourishing institutions founded by him now spoke in her favor—the Irish Franciscan College of St. Isidore and the Ludovisian College for Irish secular priests, St. Isidore’s he founded in 1625, being authorized thereto by letters patent of the general (June 13) and a special Bull of Urban VIII (October 20). Such men as Antony Hickey, Patrick Fleming, John Ponce, and Martin Walsh were the first professors. Wadding proceeded to extend the existing buildings (a suppressed Spanish convent), which the generosity of his friends enabled him to purchase. The college, as it stands today, is practically his exclusive creation. He procured for the library 5000 select works, besides a precious collection of MSS. bound in 800 volumes. During the first thirty years of its existence this college educated 200 students, 70 of which number filled chairs of philosophy and theology in various countries of Europe. Others, returning to Ireland, worked in the ministry, and many of them were called to lay down their lives for the Faith. Each year Wadding kept the Feast of St. Patrick with great solemnity at St. Isidore’s; and it is due to his influence, as member of the commission for the reform of the Breviary, that the festival of Ireland‘s Apostle was inserted on March 17 in the calendar of the Universal Church. A few years after the foundation of the College for Irish Franciscans, Wadding prevailed on Cardinal Ludovisi, protector of Ireland, to signalize his protectorate by the endowment of a similar institution for the Irish secular clergy. The cardinal consented, and, Wadding having drawn up a code of constitutions, the college was opened on January 1, 1628. The students attended lectures in the halls of St. Isidore’s until 1635, when Wadding and his brethren surrendered the administration of the college to the Jesuits. By a Rescript of Alexander VII given at Castel Gandolfo in 1656, Wadding founded another house at Capranica, a town some thirty miles north of Rome, to serve as a novitiate to St. Isidore’s.
Wadding was not only the official representative and indefatigable agent in the Roman Curia of the archbishops and bishops of Ireland, but the Holy See itself took no measure of importance concerning that country without consulting him. The Supreme Council of the Confederates, by letters patent of December 6, 1642, nominated him their agent and procurator in Rome and the whole of Italy. It was at his suggestion that Father Scarampi, the Oratorian, was sent in 1643 as papal envoy to Ireland, with supplies of arms, ammunition, and money. Wadding himself had sent similar supplies in the preceding year, as well as Irish officers trained in the armies of France and the Netherlands. He procured letters from the Holy See to the Catholic powers of Europe to enlist their sympathies and secure their aid in favor of the Irish war. In 1645 he prevailed on the new pope, Innocent X, to send another envoy to Ireland, with the powers and dignity of an Apostolic nuncio, Archbishop Rinuccini being sent. On his departure from Rome the nuncio received from Wadding the sum of 26,000 scudi towards the Irish cause. Wadding sent him a similar sum the year after through Dean Massari, to mention only some of his contributions. Great was the interest now evinced in Irish affairs at the Roman Court. The tidings of O’Neill’s victory at Benburb (June 5, 1646) caused much rejoicing; a solemn Te Deum was sung in the Basilica of St. Mary Major, and the standards taken in the battle, being sent out by the nuncio, were hung as trophies in the cupola of St. Peter’s. Innocent X, through Wadding, sent his blessing to Owen Roe O’Neill and with it the sword of the great Earl of Tyrone. But jealousy and disunion among the Confederate chiefs ruined all, and no one felt the blow so much as Wadding.
V. OFFICIAL CAREER.—Luke Wadding was a lector jubilatus of sacred theology and “chronologist of the whole Order of Friars Minor” He was guardian, for four terms, of St. Isidore’s, and praeses of the Irish College. He was appointed procurator of the order in 1630, but did not take office; reappointed in 1632, he retained the position to 1634. In his capacity of procurator he was Lenten preacher to the papal Court. Being nominated vice-commissary of the order in the Roman Curia in 1645, he insisted on being dispensed; but he was obliged to assume the duties of commissary in 1648. Paul V nominated him qualificator of the Holy Office, and Gregory XV consultor of the Index. He was made consultor of the Rites and of the Propaganda by Urban VIII, and named member of the commission for the reform of the Roman Breviary and the other liturgical books by the same pontiff. He was, besides, the trusted adviser of successive popes, many cardinals, and the superiors of his order. Were it not for his humility, he might have attained to the highest honors in the Church. He was postulated for many episcopal and metropolitan sees, but constantly refused the dignity. He was invited by prominent members of the cismontane section of the order to join their family, with a view to qualifying for election to the generalate (which they promised in that event), but he declined. The Supreme Council of the Confederation sent letters to Urban VIII on June 14, 1644, and to Innocent X on November 23 of the same year, to raise Wadding to the cardinalate. But he himself succeeded in suppressing the documents at Rome, and it was only after his death that they were discovered among his papers. Writing to the Supreme Council, Wadding excuses himself for this act of humility, alleging that he thought he could serve his country more effectively in a position less prominent than that of cardinal. It is stated of Wadding by contemporary writers that he received votes to be pope. If this statement be true, it must have reference to the conclaves of 1644 or 1655. Wadding’s piety was equal to his learning, and his death was that of a saint.