John Andrew was born in Munstergeleene, Holland, on 11 December 1829, the fourth of ten children of a well to do family. He grew in wisdom, age and grace. His brother Joseph would say of him: “He only knew two roads: one to the church and the other to school.” At the same time inroads were also being made within him toward the priesthood. He came into contact with the Passionists who had recently arrived in Holland at the initiative of Blessed Dominic Barberi. At the age of 24, on 5 November 1845, he entered the novitiate at Ere in Belgium and at vestition he was given the name Charles.
During his novitiate he was enthusiastic. One of his companions recalls: “I was very edified by his great holiness. He was exemplary, filled with faith and a spirit of piety; exacting, observant of the Rule; simple, amiable and gentle. His piety and joyful spirit earned him everyone’s esteem and affection.” On 21 December 1856 he was ordained to the priesthood. In 1852 he was sent to England where the Passionists had been established for ten years. Charles never returned to Holland or to his loved ones. His mother died within eight years and his father within two.
He spent more than forty years of his life in the British Isles. He was first assigned to Aston Hall, in England. There he ministered to Irish immigrants who had undertaken the difficult work of laboring in the mines. This experience would be helpful in his subsequent assignments in Ireland. He dedicated himself entirely to them, concerning himself with their problems and their health conditions. He comforted them, helped them and healed them while he continued to work for the Congregation and for the Church.
In 1857 he was transferred to Ireland, to Mount Argus in Dublin where the Passionists had recently arrived. The monastery and the church had to be built and Father Charles was providential in these areas. The Irish people, who saw him at their side with great solicitude, responded with generosity. A beautiful monastery and church were constructed and were dedicated to St. Paul of the Cross. Unknowingly, Father Charles was also preparing his own shrine.
Charles was never a great preacher, in particular due to language difficulties. However he spend hours in the confessional, attending to the dying, blessing the sick with the relic of St. Paul of the Cross, together with moving prayers which he himself composed. He was renowned as a miracle worker. Every day almost three hundred people, from all parts of Ireland, England, and Scotland and even from America sought him, attracted by his reputation for holiness. They discovered a compassionate, available and gentle heart. When confronted with hopeless cases, doctors and nurses in Dublin advised their patients to go to Father Charles. And he went to them in their homes and in hospitals, frequently offering unexpected healings and always a serene smile. With great love he prepared the dying for their final journey, kneeling in prayer at their bedside. In order to afford him some rest, his superiors frequently reassigned him from one monastery to another but eventually they returned him to Dublin.
He was an exemplary religious in community, characterized by faith and piety, simplicity and affability, and possessing an angelic disposition. Despite his many duties, he spent long periods of time in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament. At times the sacristan had to rouse him so that he would continue the celebration.
During his final years his suffered greatly due to an infection in his leg as well as other maladies. He endured illness with great patience while at the same time trying to carrying on his apostolate. Every day he continued to go up and down a stairway of 59 steps, even several hundred times, to receive and bless people who came to him.
He died peacefully on 05 January 1893. For five days prior to his burial, he received funerary honours suited for a king, attended by people from all of Ireland. John Paul II declared him Blessed on 16 October 1988, officially declaring the sanctity of Father Charles, who during his lifetime was known as the saint of Mount Argus.
The Feast of Saint Charles of Mount Argus is celebrated on the 5th January.
His remains were laid to rest in the cemetery adjoining the Monastery and Church at Mount Argus and his grave quickly became a place of pilgrimage. In 1949, his remains were moved to a new tomb inside the church and this shrine became a place of prayer. Father Charles was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1988 and on June 3 2007, he was canonised by Pope Benedict XVI.
Prayer to St Charles of Mount Argus
Saint Charles, you encourage us to have faith in God's love for us.
We ask you to intercede for us all, especially those who are sick.
May we know that the loving hand of God reaches out to us with healing and hope for body and spirit.
May we learn to trust in God and place our lives in his hands.