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A New Saint for Ireland

The Passionist Congregation are delighted to inform you that a date has been announced by the Vatican for the Canonization of Blessed Charles of Mount Argus. This will take place in Rome on Sunday 3rd June 2007.

There is a shrine to Blessed Charles in The Graan Monastery, Enniskillen and people come from all over the North to be blessed with the special relic of Blessed Charles in The Graan.

Blessed Charles was born John Andrew Houben on 11th December 1821 in the village of Munstergeleen in Holland. He was enrolled for military service from 1840-1845 and it was during this time he heard of the Passionists and resolved to join them at first opportunity. In 1845 he entered the novitiate at Ere, near Tournai, in Belgium, and was ordained in December 1850. In November 1852 he was sent to England and came into contact with the Irish who were emigrating in the wake of the famine. He transferred to Ireland on July 9th 1857 – 150 years ago this year. He arrived at the new monastery of Mount Argus at Harold’s Cross, Dublin, which had been founded just the year before. He was not a good preacher and never quite mastered the English language, but it was in the Confessional and in comforting the sick that he excelled. He soon became extraordinarily popular not only in Dublin but all over Ireland.

It was his gift of healing the sick which is most clearly remembered. As many as 300 people a day came to be blessed by him from all over Ireland and beyond. He was transferred back to England in 1866 and returned to Ireland in 1874, remaining at Mount Argus for the rest of his life. The daily pilgrimage of sick and distressed resumed immediately on his return. He went out all over Dublin and into the country blessing people. He was constantly available. During the last few years of his life his own health was failing, having spent himself so much. He said his last Mass on 8th December 1892. Word of his illness spread through the city and crowds gathered to ask after him. At 5.30 in the morning of 5th January 1893 he passed peacefully away. His body was brought to the Church and lay in state for 5 days. Many thousands filed past his coffin with the police keeping order. His funeral was reported to have been bigger than Parnell’s two years before. His remains were laid to rest in the cemetery beside Mount Argus Church and soon his grave became a place of pilgrimage where people came daily to pray. When in 1949 his remains were moved inside the Church the Shrine became the place of prayer.

Father Charles was Beatified by Pope John Paul II on 16th October 1988 after the cure of a Dutch lady, Mrs Octavia Spaetgens Verheggen, was approved as a miracle attributed to the intercession of Father Charles. Many people come daily to be blessed with the relic of Blessed Charles. It is the approval of a second miracle, the cure of Mr Dolf Dormans, also from Holland, that has now paved the way for the Canonization of Father Charles. This will be a wonderful and an historic occasion, not just for the Passionists and the people of Mount Argus, but for the whole Church in Ireland.

A new portrait by James Hanley will feature on a postage stamp to mark the occasion. A new song has been written and performed by Liam Lawton. Plans are underway for a pilgrimage to Rome for the Canonization and this will be paralleled by a series of events in Mount Argus itself. We invite everyone in Ireland to rejoice with us at this wonderful news. Ireland has a new saint whose remains and shrine are here in Dublin. He is a saint for the poor, a saint for the sick, a saint for immigrants and emigrants, a saint for everyone. Thanks be to God!


December 2005

This is the cure that, having passed through stringent medical scrutiny in the Netherlands, has now been given unanimous approval by the even more stringent Vatican Medical Council as a miracle attributed to the intercession of Blessed Charles of Mount Argus.

Mr. J.H.A. Dormans comes from Munstergeleen in Holland, birthplace of Blessed Charles. On March 29th, 1999, his doctor had him taken in to the emergency room of the Maasland Hospital in Sittard. What he had experienced as abdominal pains turned out to be a ruptured appendix. Complications emerged. The oozing acid had damaged the small intestines to such an extent that, every other day, the inside of his abdomen had to be rinsed out under fall anesthetic. From the outset Mr. Dormans had surrendered his faith into the hands of Blessed Charles, praying for a positive outcome to his disease, and a blessing on the hands of the physicians who were treating him.

On April 11th his grandson, Simon, was due to make his First Holy Communion. All dressed up, he was brought to see his papa in hospital. On arrival it was discovered that Mr. Dorman’s wife, Mia, and the other family members had been sent for. His condition had worsened. The surgical procedure that morning had exposed totally weakened and already porous intestines. Every action taken by the surgeon to improve the situation seemed to have the opposite result. When he wanted to close a hole, a little touch caused the intestines to leek even further. The doctor informed the family that from a medical point of view nothing more could be done and that there was no hope of recovery. His condition was so bad that the attending medical staff had decided not to resuscitate him. The family were advised to prepare themselves for an unpleasant death, within a very short time. With Mr. Dorman’s intestines totally destroyed, the surgeon calmly and quietly explained how he had reached the boundaries of what he could do. Medical Science had nothing farther to offer. The last sacraments of the Church were administered. The family said their goodbyes. Blessed Charles was invoked to guide him through these difficult hours.

But somebody up there had other plans. On a visit a couple of days later, Mr. Dorman’s family doctor was looking at him and saying to him: “Father Charles has performed his miracle, now it’s up to the medical staff here”. His health continued to improve with every passing day. The surgeon said: “It is beyond me that you are sitting here, opposite me, and still alive!” The medical team decided to perform farther surgery and reserved a fall day in the operating room on October 27th. When they went in, however, they found that all they had to do was connect the small intestines and close a little hole. Everything else was already healed in a natural way.


The Graan,
Co. Fermanagh,
BT74 5PB

N. Ireland.

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The Community

  • Fr Charles Cross Superior
  • Fr Arthur Mc Cann Vicar
  • Fr Victor Donnelly
  • Br Brendan Gallagher
  • Fr Brian D'Arcy
  • Fr Anthony O’Leary