This society was founded by two young seminarists of Saint-Sulpice who had emigrated to Belgium during the French Revolution, Francois-Eleonor de Tournély and Prince Charles de Broglie, a son of the marshal. Their object was to form a society similar in all respects to the order founded by St. Ignatius Loyola. Their first residence was the old country house of the Louvain Jesuits, into which the community under Tournély entered 8 May, 1794, numbering four members. These four were the two founders and two young officers of the army of Condé, Xavier de Tournély, brother of the superior, and Pierre-Charles Le Blanc. The victory of the French forces at Fleurus (26 June, 1794) obliged them to leave Belgium just as they were joined by a recruit who was destined to play a part of great importance, Joseph Varin de Solmon, who had also been in the army of Condé. The fugitives lived for some time at Leutershofen near Augsburg. In the church of the Benedictines at Augsburg, on 15 Oct., 1794, they consecrated themselves by a special vow to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Most Holy Heart of Mary, to continue the work they had begun, to offer themselves to the sovereign pontiff and to obey him as St. Ignatius and his companions had done. When it had to leave Augsburg, the Society of the Sacred Heart numbered sixteen subjects. It wandered about for some time in Southern Germany and several of its members, Father Varin among them, were ordained priests. At length, on Easter Tuesday, 1797, it settled in the village of Hagenbrunn, three leagues from Vienna. There the founder, not more than thirty years of age, died of smallpox, 9 July, 1797, and Father Varin, but twenty-eight years of age, was chosen his successor.
The new superior submitted the statutes of the society for the endorsement of the exiled French bishops in Germany and the approbation of Pius VI, then detained at Florence. The number of postulants having greatly increased, a novitiate was opened at Prague under the protection of the Archduchess Maria Anna, and Hagenbrunn was converted into a boarding-school. This was at the close of the year 1798. Nicholas Paccanari, a native of Valsugnana, near Trent, had at one time been a sergeant in the garrison of S. Angelo, had then become a merchant and, having met with financial disaster, was reduced to earn his livmg as a sort of guide or cicerone. Though entirely without education, he possessed a remarkable natural gift of eloquence.
At about this period Paccanari was attached to the Oratory of the Caravita, a pious association at Rome umder the direction of Father Gravita, who had been a Jesuit. Here Paccanari conceived a desire to re-constitute the Society of Jesus. He won over to his project those priests who were his associates at the Caravita: Joseph della Vedova, a doctor of the Sapienza; Halnat, of the Diocese of Rennes , formerly a missionary in Madagascar ; Epinette, of the Diocese of Le Mans. He drew up a rule of life for them and shut himself up at Loreto in a retreat which lasted eleven months. Returning to Rome in May, 1797, he obtained for his project the approval of Cardinal della Somaglia, the pope's vicar, and on 15 August, in the Chapel of the Caravita, the founder and his three companions made the three vows of religion and the vow of obedience to the sovereign pontiff. They adopted the habit of the original Jesuits and settled themselves at Spoleto. In August, 1798, Paccanari, having been received by Pius VI who was then at Sienna, obtained from the pope several privileges and a Rescript in which the society was designated "The Company of the Faith of Jesus". The pope charged him with the care of the Propaganda students who had been expelled from their seminary.
Paccanari made three journeys to Rome to collect these young men; the third time he and his companions were arrested by the French military authorities and lodged in the Castle of S. Angelo. They remained there four months, were then expelled from the Roman Republic and retired to Parma, where many of the former Jesuits had established themselves under the protection of the duke. Father Halnat, having learned of the existence of the Sacred Heart Fathers, suggested to Paccanari the idea of one foundation for the two institutes devoted to the same object. Negotiations were opened, but were interrupted by the imprisonment of Paccanari, and were resumed in 1799. The founder of the Fathers of the Faith, after a visit to Pius VI who heartily encouraged his project, repaired to Vienna. The society numbered about a score of members, only three of them priests. It had at first been well received by the Jesuits of Parma and of Venice, but its leader's lukewarmness towards the idea of union with the Jesuits of Russia rendered it suspect to those religious.
Fusion with the French community at Hagenbrunn therefore offered the only opportunity for its development. Conferences were inaugurated at Hagenbrunn, 9 April, 1799, and lasted nine days, Father Sineo della Torre, one of the Sacred Heart Fathers, acting as interpreter between Father Varin and Paccanari, who knew neither French nor Latin. The encouragement given by Pius VI was accepted by the Fathers of the Sacred Heart as a command, and their already numerous congregation allowed itself to be absorbed by Paccanari's little society. On 18 April, Paccanari, still only a tonsured cleric, was received as superior-general, and the name Fathers of the Sacred Heart was changed to that of Fathers of the Faith. The general, deeming the manner of life of the Hagenbrunn Fathers too austere and too confined, shortened their hours of prayer, increased the time devoted to studies and recreation, and launched his subjects on the external life and the work of preaching. Having been introduced by Father Varin to the Archduchess Maria Anna, Paccanari gained an extraordinary ascendancy over that princess, through whose good offices he received minor orders, the subdiaconate, and the diaconate from the hands of the nuncio at Vienna.
At the request of his new subjects, who were already beginning to be uneasy about his tendencies, he gave out (11 Aug., 1799) a somewhat vague statement of his intentions in regard to the original Jesuits. At last he left Germany, but only after distributing his men among the different countries of Western Europe. A college was opened at Dillingen, a foundation which lasted five or six years was made at Amsterdam, and Fathers Rozaven and de Broglie with some scholastics set out for England, where in March, 1800, they opened a boarding-school at Kensington. Paccanari himself, returning to Italy, established a novitiate at Cremona, then at Este.
He scattered many of his religious among the hospitals — at that time overcrowded with wounded soldiers—in Italy and Germany. In the midst of his labors he was ordained priest at Padua, and soon after this he received from the new pope, Pius VII, permission to have a house at Rome. The Archduchess Maria Anna bought from the Theatines the Church of St. Sylvester, with its convent and gardens, at Monte-Cavallo; and in 1801 the pope in person came to install the Fathers there. In the month of August, 1802, the first congregation was held; with some temporary modifications, the old constitution of the Society of Jesus was adopted. In 1803 and 1804 Paccanari summoned to the College of St. Sylvester the young religious of the society, and the courses in philosophy and theology, as well as the solemn theses, of this house of studies shed great lustre upon the nascent order. At that time there were 110 religious at St. Sylvester . In the beginning of 1804, again under the archduchess's patronage, the Salviati Palace, near St. Peter's, was opened as a boarding-school for young nobles, the institution being named, after its benefactress, the "Collegio Mariano".
Throughout Italy, but particularly at Spoleto, the Paccanarists gave missions with great success. In Nov., 1805, the Council of the Republic of Le Valais offered Paccanari the College of Sion, which was accepted. To Father Varin France had been assigned as the field of his apostolate; he returned thither in the spring of 1800 and began by preaching to the sick in the hospitals of Bicêtre and la Salpêtrière. It was at this time that, with Blessed Sophie Barat, he established the Society of the Ladies of the Sacred Heart (21 Nov., 1800). The Fathers of the Faith rapidly increased in number; in 1801 they were able to open at Lyons a boarding-school, which was transferred in the following year to the old Jesuit college at Belley. Lamartine was educated there. Another school was established in 1802 at Amiens, and then another at Roanne in 1804. These foundations aroused the suspicions both of Fouché, the minister of police, and of Napoleon ; but Portalis and, still more, Cardinal Fesch quieted them for a time. Missions were preached with brilliant success; at the first mission, at Tours, the extraordinary power which Father Enfantin exercised over the crowds was unexpectedly revealed; at the second, at Amiens, more than six hundred marriages were rehabilitated.
Meanwhile Paccanari's administration, his taste for display, his festivals, and the premature thrusting of his subjects into publicity displeased the Fathers of the Faith. Besides, Father Rozaven, the provincial of England, who had learned in 1802 certain unsavory details of the general's private life, pursued his inquiries, and, having attained certainty, visited Rome in 1803 to communicate the melancholy facts to Pius VII. During his absence most of his brethren in London wrote to Father Gruber, the Vicar-General of the Society of Jesus in Russia, to obtain admission individually. Father Rozaven on his return to England imitated their example, and in March, 1804, he set out for Russia. Only Father Charles de Broglie remained in London, as a secular priest ; he broke with his former friends, allied himself closely with the anti-concordataire bishops, and persisted in his protestations against the act of Pius VII as late as 1842. Father Varin, apprised of the course of events by Father Rozaven, referred the matter to the cardinal - legate in France, and on 21 June, 1804, broke with Paccanari. His society, having become independent, remained in France on the advice of the legate and of Pius VII himself. It flourished in that country until 1807; missions were given at Grenoble, Poitiers, Niort, Bordeaux, and elsewhere; seminaries were opened at Roulers (Gand), Marvejols (Mende), Bazas ( Bordeaux ), and a college at Argentière (Lyons). This progress alarmed Fouché; Napoleon issued an order for the suppression of the congregation, which was executed in Nov., 1807; the connivance of local authorities enabled it to continue the work of the seminaries, but its missions were stopped. Many of the Fathers entered the parochial ministry.
In August, 1806, Father Sineo della Torre and the Fathers in Switzerland in their turn abandoned Paccanari. In 1810 they were received as a body into the Society of Jesus, though only in foro interno , the official aggregation not taking place until 1814. Also about the year 1806 some of the Fathers of Spoleto, Padua, Lombardy, and Amsterdam seceded. The Society of Jesus having been restored at Naples by Pius VII (31 July, 1804), many Fathers of the Collegio Mariano went there and were admitted as novices.
In July, 1807, Paccanari received positive commands from the pope to retire to Spoleto. A first canonical process was begun during the winter. Relegated to the convent of the Franciscans at Assisi, the general made a confession of his whole life and appeared penitent. At the end of five months he was transferred to the prisons of the Holy Office. A new trial resulted, in August, 1806, in a sentence of ten years' imprisonment. The sentence paid a tribute to the innocence and virtue of the other Fathers of the Faith ; nevertheless it was the annihilation of their soceity. In 1809, when the French army opened the pontifical prisons, Paccanari at first refused to go out, but eventually left and disappeared. It is uncertain whether he withdrew to Switzerland under an assumed name, as some have asserted, or whether, under some regrettable circumstances, he was stabbed by a domestic servant and his body thrown into the Tiber, as another tradition has it. No one knows what his end was.
The Archduchess Maria Anna, who, in spite of the commands of her brother the Emperor Leopold, had at first refused to abandon Paccanari and his work, was obliged to submit, overcome by the miserable life which her brother allowed her to live and the shame of ier condemnation. She retired to Styria to die a holy death. She obtained permission for the last remnants of the Paccanarists to live, though without the religious habit, in the house of St. Sylvester. The Collegio Mariano was sold, and in 1814 most of the Paccanarists entered the Society of Jesus.
As for the French Fathers, the fall of Napoleon enabled them to meet in Paris and deliberate as to what course they should take. Father de Cloriviere, one of the old Jesuits, and Monsignori di Gregorio and della Genga (the latter afterwards Leo XII ), the pope's representatives, advised them to remain in France. Father Varin, however, had already set out for Russia to ask the general to appoint a commissary to re-establish the Society of Jesus in France, when the commission was given to Father Cloriviere himself. Father Varin was received by him into the Society on 19 July, 1814. Nearly all the former Fathers of the Faith followed him; the rest remaining among the secular clergy .
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