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Pierre-Jean Beckx

Twenty-second General of the Society of Jesus, b. February 8, 1795; d. March 4, 1887

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Beckx, PIERRE-JEAN, twenty-second General of the Society of Jesus, b. at Sichem, Belgium, February 8, 1795; d. at Rome, March 4, 1887. Father Beckx was ordained priest, March 7, 1819, and appointed to a little parish near Brussels; eight months afterwards he resigned this office and entered the Society of Jesus at Hildesheim, Germany. Having learned the German language, he was soon able to preach, hear confessions, and give retreats in German. The Duke and Duchess of Anhalt-Kothen were converted to the Catholic Faith in 1825 and asked for a Jesuit chaplain; Father Beckx was appointed to this duty and went to live in Kothen. He found only twenty Catholics there; in four years he had 200 converts. In 1830 he went to live in Vienna, where he was the only Jesuit for many years. From time to time he was called to Rome and sent on important missions to Lombardy, Hungary, and Bavaria. In 1852, he was made Provincial of Austria and brought back the Fathers of the Society to Innsbruck, Linz, and Lemberg. The next year, on the death of Father Roothaan, he was chosen General of the Society by the unanimous vote of delegates from all parts of the world. The new father-general brought to his office a deep spirit of faith; a profound knowledge of the human heart; firmness and dignity; serenity of mind in extreme trial; faultless manners; and a remarkable soundness of judgment.

During the thirty-four years that Father Beckx governed the society its membership was doubled, new provinces were established in Ireland, France, Spain, Portugal, and America; new missions were begun in different parts of the world; the education of youth was continued with success; new colleges were opened in every province. During his term of office eighty Jesuits were raised to the honors of the altar; all but three of these were missionaries or martyrs. The society was expelled from Italy in 1860, from Spain in 1868, from Germany in 1873, from France and the French colonies in 1880. In 1873 Father Beckx went to live at Fiesole near Florence, where he remained until the election of Father Anderledy as Vicar-General, in 1883; then he went back to Rome, abdicating his charge entirely. There, four years later, he died at the advanced age of ninety-two years. Father Beckx was the author of “Der Monat Maria”, Vienna, 1838, which passed through thirty editions in German, and was translated into English, French, Italian, Dutch, Polish, Armenian, and Arabic.


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