VATICAN CITY, MAY 29, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is an adapted version of a biography of Father Charles of St. Andrew (1821-1893), which was published by the Holy See. Benedict XVI will canonize the priest on Sunday.
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Father Charles of St. Andrew, known in secular life as John Andrew Houben, was born on Dec. 11, 1821, in Munstergeleen, in the diocese of Ruremond, Holland, the fourth of 11 children.
He was baptized the same day with the name John Andrew. He received his first Communion on April 26, 1835, and the sacrament of confirmation on June 28 in the same year.
He began his formal education in Sittard and then in Broeksittard. In 1840 he had to interrupt his studies to enter the military. It was during this latter period that he first heard about the Congregation of the Passion.
At the end of his military service he completed his studies and requested to be admitted to the congregation. He was received by Blessed Dominic Barberi, Passionist, and he entered the novitiate in the Belgium city of Ere, near Tournai on Nov. 5, 1845.
In December of that same year he was vested with the Passionist religious habit and was given the name of Charles of St. Andrew. Having completed the canonical year of novitiate, he professed first vows on Dec. 10, 1850. At the conclusion of his studies, he was ordained a priest by Bishop Labis, the ordinary of Tournai.
Immediately he was sent to England where the Passionists had founded three monasteries and it was here that, for a period of time, he undertook the ministry of vice master of novices in the monastery of Broadway. He also did parochial ministry in the Parish of St. Wilfred and neighboring areas until 1856 when he was transferred to the newly established monastery of Mount Argus, on the outskirts of Dublin.
Blessed Charles Houben lived almost the remainder of his life in this retreat and was greatly loved by the Irish people to point that they referred to him — a native of Holland — as Father Charles of Mount Argus. He was a pious priest, outstanding in exercising obedience, poverty, humility and simplicity and to an even greater degree, devotion to the Passion of the Lord.
Due to his poor mastery of English, he was never a formal preacher and he never preached missions. Rather he successfully dedicated himself to spiritual direction, especially through the sacrament of reconciliation.
The fame of his virtue was such that crowds of people would gather at the monastery to seek his blessing. There are also numerous testimonies to the miraculous cures that he worked, to the extent that even during his lifetime he was known as a miracle worker.
Precisely because of this fame that extended throughout all of Great Britain as well as in America and Australia, in 1866, to give him time to rest, he was transferred to England where he lived for a time in the communities at Broadway, Sutton and London. There he ministered as usual and there too, inside and outside the monastery, he was sought by the faithful, both Catholics and non-Catholics.
He returned to Dublin in 1874 where he remained until his death on Jan. 5, 1893.
During his funeral, there was proof of the popular devotion that had surrounded him throughout his life. A newspaper of the time reported: “Never before has the memory of any man sparked an explosion of religious sentiment and profound veneration as that which we observed in the presence of the mortal remains of Father Charles.”
The superior of the monastery wrote to his family: “The people have already declared him a saint.”
The cause of his beatification and canonization was introduced on Nov. 13, 1935, and on Oct. 16, 1988, Pope John Paul II proceeded with the beatification.
The miracle that led to his canonization was obtained through his intercession on behalf of Adolf Dormans of Munstergeleen, the birthplace of the blessed.
The diocesan inquiry “super miro” was also undertaken in the Diocese of Roermond, Holland, from Nov. 6, 2002, until Feb. 19, 2003, at which time the validity of the miracle was recognized by a decree from the Congregation for Saints’ Causes on Nov. 7, 2003.
The medical consultation board was convoked on Nov. 24, 2005, and following the investigation of the matter, the members unanimously expressed that the cure of Dormans of “perforated, gangrenous appendicitis with generalized peritonitis that was multi-organically compromising and included extenuating and prolonged agony” was “not scientifically explainable.”
The theologian consultors, in the particular congress of Feb. 21, 2006, and the Ordinary Congregation of Cardinals and Bishops of Dec. 12, 2006, also gave their unanimous approval of the supernatural aspect of the said healing.
The decree concerning the miracle was given in the presence of the Holy Father, Benedict XVI last Dec. 21.