PRINCE OF DEMOCRACY: James Cardinal Gibbons by

PRINCE OF DEMOCRACY: James Cardinal Gibbons

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When James Cardinal Gibbons died in 1921 William Howard Taft remarked, ""He did not belong to the Catholic Church alone but to the country at large"". His latest biography reveals him as ""the most influential and widely loved prelate that America has ever produced."" His life span covered the nation's and the Church's adolescence before the Civil War to its maturity following World War I. As the ""bridge"" between Rome and America, when communication was difficult and almost impossible, the American Bishops looked to Cardinal Gibbons as the unofficial spokesman for the Church in the United States while Rome turned to him for his sure grasp of the American mind. Regarding all men as his brothers he lived his life in accord with the admonition of St. Francis de Sales, ""All things through love, nothing through force"". His patriotism was a driving force, and he firmly believed that no man could be faithful to God without being faithful to his country. He won the confidence of four popes, half a dozen presidents and the hearts of his countrymen. Born in Baltimore in 1834, he spent most of his boyhood in Ireland returning to enter St. Charles Seminary near Baltimore to study for the priesthood. Ordained in 1861, he became secretary to the influential Martin J. Spalding, Archbishop of Baltimore, four years later. His rise in the hierarchy of the Church was rapid -- Bishop of North Carolina, a delegate to the Vatican Council of 1869, Bishop of Richmond and finally for 44 years Archbishop of Baltimore, then the most important See in the United States. Pope Leo XIII made him a Cardinal in 1887. Throughout these turbulent years, when violent controversies ranged within the Church and out, Cardinal Gibbons was a symbol of strength. His book Faith Of Our Fathers is easily one of the most popular works of apologetics ever written in English, and has resulted in numerous conversions. He was an ardent champion of the laboring man, a tireless educator, a brilliant speaker, a fine administrator but always a simple man -- unaffected, wise and gentle. This interesting, easily read biography is marred occasionally by a stilted style, but the Cardinal's life -- and the history of the it encompasses -- is so engrossing that the book should have wide recognition. Its appearance should lead many readers to the definitive work by Msgr. John Tracy Ellis the two volume Life Of James Cardinal Gibbons (Bruce, 1952).

Pub Date: May 18th, 1962
Publisher: Doubleday