Catholic Encyclopedia (1913)/Johann Baptist Franzelin

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Catholic Encyclopedia (1913), Volume 6
Johann Baptist Franzelin

by John Francis Xavier Murphy


Cardinal and theologian; b. at Aldein, in the Tyrol, 15 April, 1816; d. at Rome, 11 Dec., 1886. Despite their poverty, his parents sent him at an early age to the neighboring Franciscan college at Bozano. In 1834 he entered the Society of Jesus at Graz, and after some years spent in higher studies and teaching in Austrian Poland began in 1845 his course of theology in the Roman college of the Society, where he acted as an assistant in Hebrew, in which he was especially proficient. Driven from Rome by the revolution of 1848, he went successively to England, Belgium, and France, where he was ordained in 1849. In 1850 he returned to the Roman college as assistant professor of dogma, and lecturer on Arabic, Syriac, and Chaldean. In 1853 he became prefect of studies in the German college, and in 1857 professor of dogmatic theology in the Roman college, where he remained for nineteen years, winning for himself by his lectures and publications a foremost place among the theologians of that time. During this period he acted as Consultor to several Roman Congregations, and aided in the preliminaries of the Vatican Council, in which he afterwards served as papal theologian. In 1876, despite his sincere and strenuous protests, he was raised to the cardinalate by Pius IX. This dignity made almost no change in his scrupulously simple and laborious life. He continued his use of poor garments; occupied but two bare rooms in the Jesuit novitiate of Sant' Andrea; rose every morning at four and spent the time till seven in devotional exercises, always hearing Mass after saying his own; fasted every Saturday, and toward the end of his days, Friday also, besides using other forms of corporal penance.

Though of delicate heath, Franzelin had always been a constant and most laborious worker, never allowing himself any long recreation during his long years of poor health, severe toils, and painful scruples, save the short recreation after dinner and supper. As a cardinal, his sole departure from strict adherence to the Jesuit rule was to omit this daily recreation. Moreover, though constantly engaged as prefect of the Congregation of Indulgences and Relics, and consultor of several other congregations, he steadily refused the aid of a secretary. His entire income as cardinal he distributed among the poor, the foreign missions, and converts whose property had been seized by the Italian government. As a theologian, Franzelin takes high rank. From the first his works were recognized as a mine of rich material for the preacher; and for years he was accustomed to receive numerous letters from priests in all parts of the world, spontaneously acknowledging the great aid in preaching they had derived from his books. Of his works, which have gone through numerous editions, the treatise "De Divina Traditione et Scriptura" (Rome, 1870) is considered classical. The others are "De SS. Eucharistiæ Sacramento et Sacrificio" (1868); "De Sacramentis in Genere" (1868); "De Deo Trino" (1869); "De Deo Uno" (1870); "De Verbo Incarnato" (1870); some smaller treatises, and the posthumous "De Ecclesia Christi".

Bonavenia, Raccolta di Memorie intorno alla vita dell' Em. Cardinale Giovanni Battista Franzelin (Rome, 1887); Walsh, John Baptist Franzelin, A Sketch and a Study (Dublin 1895); Commentarius de Vita Eminentissimi Auctoris in Franzelin's posthumous work, de Ecclesia Christi (Rome, 1887); Hurter, Nomenclator.

John F. X. Murphy.