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Memorial of St. Charles of Mount Argus, CP

Today is the feastday of St. Charles of Mount Argus, CP, the patron of our Juniorate (the nuns in temporary vows). 

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The Catholic Church has a beautiful Preface for the feasts of Holy Men and Women that would be a good starting point for our reflections today.  In it the Church prays to the Father:  “You renew the Church in every age by raising up men and women outstanding in holiness, living witnesses of your unchanging love.”

Fr.  Charles  Houben  of  Mount  Argus fits  that  description  perfectly.    He  was outstanding in holiness and a living witness to God’s mercy and compassion toward the sick and suffering.  Fr. Charles gave a  powerful witness  to Christ  the Healer,  whose  Heart  was  moved to compassion whenever  He  encountered those who suffer in body or in soul. 

Our saint was born John Andrew Houben in Holland on Dec. 11, 1821, the 4th of 11 children born to Peter and Johanna Houben.

God raised Fr. Charles up as part of the renewal of  the Catholic Church in Ireland just at the time when Ireland was coming out of the catacombs of 300 years of Protestant persecution.  Fr. Charles was a humble man of God who came into the midst  of the discouraged, poor and down-trodden Irish people.  He performed signs and wonders, giving them new hope that God did care about their afflictions and was still in their midst.  When people witnessed the healings of body and soul that God performed through Fr. Charles, they could have repeated what the crowds said of Jesus the Divine Healer: “A great prophet has risen among us.  God has visited his people.” (See Luke 7:16)   Charles spent his life easing pain, blessing the sick and interceding for them, and giving courage and hope to those who shared closely in the Passion of Jesus.

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300 years of Catholic persecution by Protestants had left Ireland in a state of spiritual devastation.  The people were illiterate regarding the Catholic faith;  they  had lost  hope; all  manner  of sin abounded;  and there had been  no  new churches or monasteries built there in over 300 years.  The old churches were now  in the hands of the government.  For three  centuries,  Catholics  had not  been free to  worship  God  openly.   But  now things  were changing.   In England,  John Henry  Newman,  renounced  his  faith  as  an  Anglican,  and  was  received  into  the  Catholic  Church  by  a  Passionist,  Bl. Dominic Barberi.  Newman called his times  “a  second spring....The Church in England had died, and the Church lives again!” he triumphantly cried.

Long before all this, in the year 1720, St. Paul of the Cross was making a 40 day retreat as he wrote the Rule for the Passionists.  During that time, Paul received a great longing for the conversion of the British Isles back to Catholicism.

He said he wanted to die as a martyr of the Eucharist in a place where this truth of the Catholic faith was denied.  In God’s plan, Paul was not to be able to fulfill this dream himself. Nevertheless, one of his spiritual sons, Fr. Dominic Barbari– now  a  Blessed  on  his  way  to  canonization–was  the beginning  of  the  fulfillment  of  Paul  of  the  Cross’  desire to  go  to England.  Dominic founded the first Passionist house in England in 1842, arriving there just 12 years after the Catholic emancipation, at a time when there was still a great deal of hatred for the Catholic Church.

Fr. Charles of Mt. Argus who was born in Holland, entered the Passionist Congregation in Belgium shortly after  Bl. Dominic died.  Later after his ordination as a priest, he was sent to England, where he worked for a few years before being sent to Dublin, Ireland.  It was in England that Fr. Charles first met the Irish who had fled Ireland during the potato famine and had come to work in England.  Fr. Charles immediately fell in love with the Irish people, a love he kept all his life.  His compassionate love became a lasting spiritual legacy he would leave them.

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His Prayer for a Happy Death

Mary, sweet refuge of  miserable sinners, when my soul is on the point  of leaving this  world, oh my most sweet Mother,  by the sorrow you  endured when assisting at the death of  your Son on the Cross, assist me with your  mercy.

Drive the infernal enemy far from me, and you yourself come to take my soul to yourself and present  it to the eternal Judge.    My  Queen,  abandon  me  not.    You,  after  Jesus,  have  to  be  my  comfort  in  that  terrible  moment.    Entreat  your beloved  Son  in  his  Goodness,  to  grant  me  the  grace  to  die  clinging  to  your  feet,  and  to  breathe  forth  my  soul  in  his wounds, saying, ‘Jesus and Mary, I give you my heart and my soul.’ Amen.”

Charles of Mount Argus was canonized by Pope Benedict XVI June 3, 2007.

Read eBook....The Life of St. Charles of Mt. Argus

Earlier Event: January 1
Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God
Later Event: January 6
Feast of the Ephiphany