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Cardinal and Prince- Bishop of Ermland ; born of German parents at Cracow, 5 May, 1504; died at Capranica, near Rome, S August, 1579. He spent his early youth at Cracow and Wilna; and at the age of fifteen, when he was already well versed in German, Polish, and Latin, entered the University of Cracow, from which he graduated as Bachelor of Arts in 1520. The pious and talented youth found a patron in Peter Tomicki, Bishop of Cracow and Vice-Chancellor of Poland, who employed him as private secretary and entrusted to him the education of his nephews. A few years later the bishop furnished him with the means to continue his studies at the then famous Universities of Padua and Bologna where, besides perfecting himself in the humanities, he pursued the studies of theology and jurisprudence. Among his professors at Padua was the famous humanist, Lazaro Buonamico; Reginald Pole was one of his fellow-students. At Bologna he pursued the humanities under Romulo Amasio, and jurisprudence under Hugo Buoncompagni, the future Gregory XIII. Among his follow-students here were the future Cardinals Otto Truchsess von Waldburg and Cristoforo Madruzzo. After graduating as doctor of canon and civil law at the University of Bologna on 8 June, 1534, he returned to Cracow and became secretary in the royal chancery. On the death of Bishop Tomicki (1535) he continued as secretary under the new vice-chancellor, Bishop Choinski of Plock.
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About this time begins his intimate friendship with the great neo-Latin poet Dantiscus, then Bishop of Culm. After the death of Bishop Choinski in 1538, Hosius was appointed royal secretary. In this position he had the entire confidence of King Sigismund, who bestowed various ecclesiastical benefices upon him as reward for his faithful services. He already held a provostship at Wielun, and another at Vislica. To these the king added a canonry at Frauenburg in 1538, at Cracow in 1540, and at Sandomir in 1542. In 1543 Hosius was ordained priest and in addition to the above-mentioned benefices, received the parishes of Golombie and Radlow in 1546. King Sigismund died in 1548, but before his death he had instructed his son and successor, Sigismund II, to nominate Hosius for the next vacant episcopal see. When, therefore, in 1549, Bishop Giese of Culm was transferred to the See of Ermland, the young king nominated Hosius for the See of Culm. Hosius had not sought after this dignity and accepted it only with reluctance. The papal approbation arrived in September, 1549; but before taking possession of his see, Hosius was sent by Sigismund on an important mission to the courts of King Ferdinand I at Prague, and Emperor Charles V at Brussels and Ghent. The mission resulted in an offensive and defensive alliance between Poland and these two monarchies. Upon his return to Poland he received episcopal consecration at Cracow on 23 March, 1550, and immediately took possession of his see. On 25 July, 1550, Pope Julius III appointed him "Inquisitor hæreticæ pravitatis" for the neighbouring Diocese of Pomesania, which was rapidly turning Protestant. The enticing doctrines of Protestantism were also making alarming headway in the Diocese of Culm , and it was with great difficulty that Hosius succeeded in stemming their progress. His first pastoral letters show his deep concern for the preservation of the Catholic Faith among his flock; and his religious colloquies with some of the reformers at Thorn give testimony of his untiring zeal for the conversion of those who had already left the true fold. But the field of his activities was soon to be changed. The king nominated him for the more important Diocese of Ermland in January, 1551, whereupon the cathedral chapter of Ermland postulated him on 2 March, 1551, and Julius III transferred him to that see on 27 April, 1551. Upon receiving the papal Bulls he left Löbau, where he had resided while Bishop of Culm, and took possession of the Diocese of Ermland on 21 July.
As Bishop of Ermland Hosius devoted all his efforts to the maintenance of the Catholic religion in Poland. His great learning and wide experience, coupled with deep piety, made him the natural leader of the Polish episcopate in its struggle against Protestantism which was making deep inroads into Poland during the rule of the weak and vacillating King Sigismund II. For the first seven years of his episcopate he served the Catholic cause chiefly by his numerous polemical writings in defence of Catholic truth. He had already in his youth given proof of his literary ability by composing various Latin poems; and as early as 1528 he had published, in the original and with a Latin translation, the short treatise of St. Chrysostom in which a parallel is drawn between a king and a monk. In 1535 he had also written a lengthy biography of his deceased patron, Bishop Tomicki. All these writings have been published by Hipler in the first volume of his collection of the letters of Hosius (Cracow, 1879). Shortly after his appointment to the See of Ermland he took part in the provincial Synod of Piotrkow, in June, 1551. On this occasion the assembled bishops entrusted him with the drawing up of a Profession of the Catholic Faith, to which they all subscribed and which they agreed to publish. Afterwards Hosius expanded these articles into an elaborate exposition of Catholic doctrine "Confessio fidei catholicæ christianæ", part of which was published at Cracow in 1553, the remainder at Mains in 1557. The work is one of the best pieces of polemical literature produced during the period of the Reformation. In faultless Latin the author places the whole array of Catholic doctrines in contrast with the opposing doctrines of the reformers, and proves by means of irresistible arguments, drawn from Holy Scripture and patristic literature, that Catholicity is strictly identical with Christianity. The work became so popular that more than thirty editions of it were printed during the lifetime of the author, and translations were made into German, Polish, English, Scotch, French, Italian, Flemish, Moravian, Arabic, and Armenian. About the same time he completed another work of a similar nature. His friend Blessed Peter Canisius wrote its preface and entitled it: "Veræ, christianæ catholicæque doctrinæ solida propugnatio una cum illustri confutatione prolegomenorum, quae primum Jo. Brentius adversus Petrum a Soto theologum scripsit, deinde vero Petrus Paulus Vergerius apud Polonos temere defendenda suscepit" (Cologne, 1558). As its title indicates, it was chiefly a refutation of the Suabian reformer, John Brenz, whose "Confessio Wirtembergica", with a dedication to the King of Poland, had recently been republished at Cracow by the Italian apostate, Bishop Vergerio. About twelve editions of this work were printed. In the same year two other works of Hosius were published at Dillingen, viz. "Dialogus de communione s. eucharistiæ sub utraque specie; de conjugio sacerdotum et de sacro in vulgari lingua celebrando", which was immediately translated into German; and "De expresso verbo Dei", in which he reproves the reformers for their abuse of Holy Scripture . It was re-edited in Louvain, Antwerp, Rome, etc., and translated into German and Polish. A year later he published a work of similar nature, which he entitled: "De oppresso verbo Dei". Besides writing these learned treatises in defence of Catholicity, Hosius left nothing undone to gain the co-operation of the king and the bishops of Poland for concerted action against the tide of Protestantism. The king, however, as well as many of the Polish bishops, remained inactive.
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The fame of Hosius had meanwhile spread throughout Europe, and Paul IV wished to enlist the pious and learned bishop among his advisers during those troublous times of the Church. In May, 1558, he was called to Rome, and at once became one of the most influential members of the Curia. During his absence from Ermland he left the administration of his diocese in the hands of the cathedral chapter. Paul IV died on 18 August, 1559, and his successor, Pius IV, sent Hosius as legate to the imperial court of Vienna, with instructions to make arrangements with Emperor Ferdinand I for the reopening of the Council of Trent, and, if possible, to bring back to the Church the emperor's son, Prince Maximilian of Bohemia, who had become an open adherent of Protestantism. Hosius easily gained the co-operation of the emperor for the council, but the conversion of Maximilian was more difficult. John Sebastian Pfauser, a reformer at the imperial court, had trained the prince in the doctrines of Luther and Melanchthon, and had put him in correspondence with the apostate Vergerio, who had engendered in him a deep hatred for the papacy and everything Catholic. For two months Hosius tried in vain to have a conference with Maximilian. When, finally, in the early part of June (1560) he procured an audience, the prince remained obdurate in his heresy, but the clear reasoning of Hosius made a deep impression upon him. He began to read the writings of Hosius and willingly listened to him until finally the logical reasoning and the edifying example of Hosius won him back to the Church. In recognition of these services Pius IV created Hosius cardinal on 26 February, 1561. The cardinalate had been offered him before but he persistently refused the dignity, and would have refused it again had not the emperor as well as the pope insisted on his accepting it. The pope, moreover, on 10 March, 1561, appointed him one of the five papal legates who were to preside over the Council of Trent, which was to reopen in April. At the council he was a strenuous defender of papal authority, and used his great influence to bring the council to a successful close.
Immediately after the termination of the council, on 4 December, 1563, he returned to Ermland, where Protestantism had made considerable progress during his absence. In union with the papal legate Commendone he brought about the acceptance of the Tridentine decrees at the royal Diet of Parczow on 7 August, 1564. After making a general visitation of his diocese he convened a synod at Heilsberg in August, 1565, where the Tridentine decrees were promulgated and measures taken concerning a better Catholic education of the clergy as well as the laity. During the same year he gave over to the Jesuits the direction of the educational institutions which he had founded at Braunsberg. These institutions, viz, the ecclesiastical seminary, the gymnasium, and the Lyceum Hosianum are still in existence. About this time he also composed two more polemical treatises which were published at Cologne. The first one is entitled: "Judicium et censura de judicio et censura Heidelbergensium Tigurinorumque ministrorum de dogmate contra adorandam Trinitatem in Polonia nuper sparso" (1564). In this work Hosius acknowledges the force of the arguments of the Swiss theologians against the Trinitarians, but informs them that the same arguments may be used against themselves, and that the errors of the Trinitarians have their ultimate foundation in the heresy of Calvin. The second, "De loco et authoritate Romani Pontificis", is an able defence of papal authority. In 1567 he wrote "Palinodiæ Quadrantini" or the recantations of Fabian Quadrantinus, a convert to the Catholic Church who afterwards became a Jesuit. After the death of Pius IV, on 9 December, 1565, some of the cardinals cast their vote for Hosius as his successor, but Pius V was the successful candidate. In December, 1566, the new pope appointed Hosius papal legate a latere for Poland, and in 1569 Sigismund Augustus made him his resident representative at Rome. With the consent of the pope and the king, Hosius appointed his friend Martin Cromer as his coadjutor, and entrusted him with the administration of Ermland, while he himself left for Rome on 20 August, 1569.
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During the ten succeeding years he managed the affairs of Poland in the Roman Curia, and was one of the most influential advisers of the saintly Pope Pius V and his successor, Gregory XIII, in their movement for a Catholic reform; he also took an active part in the papal efforts to restore Catholicity in England, and especially in Sweden. In 1572 Gregory XIII made him a member of the new Congregatio Germanica, and a year later appointed him grand penitentiary. Hosius was one of the greatest men of his time. He did more for the preservation of the Catholic religion in Poland than all the other Polish bishops combined. He was withal, a man of prayer, mortification, and great liberality towards the poor. Both clergy and laity looked upon him as a saint. Blessed Peter Canisius styles him "the most brilliant writer, the most eminent theologian and the best bishop of his times" (Hipler, Hosii Epistolæ, I, 422). Editions of his works were published at Paris (1562), Lyons (1564), Antwerp (1566 and 1571), Venice (1573), and (best edition) Cologne (1584). His German sermons were edited by Hipler: "Die deutschen Predigten und Katechesen der ermländischen Bischöfe Hosius und Cromer" (Cologne, 1885). The publication of his numerous letters has been begun by Hipler and Zakrzewski, vols. I and II (Cracow, 1879 and 1888). The letters in these two volumes cover a period of 33 years (1525-1558). Other letters are found among those of Peter Canisius, edited by Braunsberger (Freiburg, 1897-1905).