Judge, Father Charles
1909, January 28
Date of Birth: 1846, February 2
March 11, 1909
Fathers and Very Dear in Our Lord:
Canada, America, and France for a long time have cooperated in staffing the minor seminary of St. Charles. Fathers Viger, Judge, and Chapuis were there a few months ago, the oldest representatives of each of their countries. It was on November 11th, you may recall, that the first was called to God; and at the end of January the other two went to rejoin him, two days apart, and – so to speak – hand in hand. With them nearly an entire generation of the house’s forefathers vanished: they were men very different in origin and character, but one in the simplicity of their faith and in their complete devotion to the work, for which, let us hope, their spirits will long look after.
Father Charles Joseph Judge, of whom it behooves me today to speak to you, was born in Baltimore on February 2, 1846, of a family so Christian that five of its children consecrated themselves to God: a Jesuit, a Sulpician, two Good Shepherd nuns, and a Sister of Charity. Our confrere once wrote a fine book on his brother, a holy missionary who will be counted among the pioneers of Alaska. But it is a very good and beautiful soul, too, that is depicted in his own life, a strong and generous soul, always faithful to its idea; moreover, a spirit aflame, in love with Christian perfection as well as American patriotism, in which a light touch of tension and fussiness finish off the basic features.
Charles Judge made his early studies in the Baltimore public schools with such success as to enable him to secure while still very young a job in the office of The Sun; he was only twenty years old, and it was at the end of the Civil War that he made up his mind to study for the priesthood. The time he had spent in the world had served only to sharpen his virtue and had not stained the delicacy of his soul. He put himself under the guidance of a fine priest (who was to die as Bishop of Chicago) and faithfully consulted him on all questions of conscience. When the question of theatre-going came up, his director told him that he could discretely indulge in it as a legitimate recreation, and the young man dreamed of finding in it a help to growth. But when he tried it, he quickly found it not to his taste; and, declaring that he got from the theatre only worldly thoughts, he there and then gave it up.
It was, then, with a very strong and solid virtue that he came to St. Charles when it opened in 1865 to begin the whole course of classical studies. The life of young Costello, who died in the odor of sanctity, had just been published, and soon it was heard that just as readily the life of Charles Judge might be written: his success in studies was indeed rapid and was soon, like the perfection of his conduct, to bring him to the first rank.
It bothered him not to see this perfection pursued equally by everyone: a nice thought, perhaps rooted in a certain inexperience with life, but one which he never lost and which, since in him it was intertwined with a lot of humility and charity, was more a plus than a minus in his life.
In 1871 Father Judge went from St. Charles to St. Mary’s in Baltimore; but as soon as he finished Philosophy, Father Dubreuil sent him to Paris as an aspirant to St. Sulpice to begin his Theology. There as elsewhere he was a man of integral perfection and of the interior life. He was sometimes compared – with innocent malice – to the old Puritans whom he made others think of by reason of his bearing, a bit rigid and austere; he was noted for his mortification which his hands, covered with chilblains, bore witness to, and also for his chats with the invisible world, chats betrayed (unless he was careful) by the movement of his lips and by his stare.
In 1875 he entered the Solitude. There he received ordination to the priesthood at Christmas time and sunk himself deeper than ever in the doctrine of Father Olier; for the rest of his life he remained one of Father Olier’s most fervent disciples. There was nothing in Father Olier’s teachings to shake his democratic convictions; but the vehemence with which he expressed these convictions was nearly a scandal to the venerable Father Ardaine in certain discussions about them.
At the reopening of school in 1876, Father Judge, thirty years of age, returned to St. Charles as a director; he was to remain there for the rest of his Sulpician career. Following local practice and the needs of the time, he taught in turn and in different classes Latin, Greek, English, French, Mathematics, Plain Chant. Moreover, he was for long Priest-Sacristan and Master of Ceremonies. As teacher in the minor seminary, he had knowledge and educational talent rather than disciplinary skill; the application of discipline was for him an exercise of patience, and by it he must have gained great merit. His mathematical knowledge – going back to his early education – was far enough advanced to put him always on examining boards. But he did not lack the advantage of literary expertise. His biography of his Jesuit brother had a real success and was read with as much interest as edification in a great number of communities.
What for us always remains as the best memory of our pious confrere was the holiness of his life. In the isolation of St. Charles – which he hardly ever liked to leave – and in the humdrum round of his daily duties, he gave, by his zeal, unwavering in its perfection, a glimpse of virtue deeply edifying to his confreres. Little peculiarities over which one might smile must not allow us to forget his truly admirable heroism. All his life at St. Charles, by the testimony of a confrere who followed it from one end to the other, was truly “above average in piety, purity and charity.”
The purity of his soul made him flee even the shadow of danger. No word of scandal ever crossed his lips.
God’s will, as soon as he ascertained it, became his own, and his spirit of duty did not stop at merely fulfilling obligation, but went right on to fulfilling it in detail. It seemed that his long faithfulness to grace had for him made those principles of conduct second nature, and that the temptation of deviating from them no longer even occurred to him. It is no less true that he felt the weight of certain duties, as he sometimes admitted, and it was not without a great spirit of renouncement that he fulfilled them considering his conscience and his incurable fussiness.
He was beyond comparison in his faithfulness in taking part in the life and recreations of the students, and in his observance of the spirit of our rules. He was indefatigable in the care he took to prepare the young men for the functions of choir and sanctuary. Sacristy duties were another occasion for him to exercise lovingly his zeal and his spirit of religion. Well chosen for the sermon preached at his funeral Mass by a former St. Charles student was the text so often applied to clerics: Domine dilexi decorum domus tuae [Lord, I have loved the beauty of Thy house].
But by an even greater love he was attached to the Word of God and to the most solid practices of the spiritual life. It was clearly these that furnished the food nourishing his virtue, so constant and so generous. He took delight in prayer, in visiting the Blessed Sacrament, in sermons and in retreats. His devotion to the Blessed Virgin was remarkable. His author of choice, with Father Olier, was St. Augustine – which is enough to show the heighth of his piety. His piety was reflected in his character, full of justice, of evangelical simplicity, and of universal charity. It was sufficiently rooted in doctrine to permit him with little preparation to give in an edifying and practical manner the talks and meditation topics customary at St. Charles as in our major seminaries.
Father Judge’s health had long been delicate, and his penchant for intensity added to his fatigue. However, a vacation trip to France a few years ago had been good for him, mentally and physically; and nothing presaged his approaching end when on the evening of Thursday, January 21st, he felt indisposed. He did not think it was significant enough to talk about, and the next day he wanted to get up as usual; but he was obliged to go back to bed without saying Mass, great as was that deprivation for him. It seemed that his illness was only a spell of grippe, nothing to fret about; and for four or five days it ran its course without causing serious worry. On Saturday, the 23rd, Father Judge asked his director, Father Chapuis, to hear his confession; on Monday and Tuesday morning he again received Holy Communion. It was on that last day that his condition worsened all at once, and pneumonia set in. Two doctors in consultation still saw no immediate sign of danger, and the following day did not seem worse. Father Judge, always full of pious thoughts, several times asked Father Chapuis to pray for him because he was afraid of not having patience to put up with a long illness. The next morning about half past six Father Chapuis was at the Sanctus of the Mass when Father Guilbaud came to get him to say it for Father Judge, who had just died. He had passed a good night and towards half past five had taken a drink, when all of a sudden Father McKinney, who was nearby, noticed a weakening and ran to fetch the holy oils. While Father Judge was receiving Extreme Unction, he lost consciousness, and a moment later gave his soul to God; it was Thursday, January 28th.
The funeral was set for Saturday, the 30th, a day not very good for travelling so far as priests were concerned. If they were kept from being very numerous at Father Judge’s funeral service, it was made up for by the presence of two bishops: Bishop Corrigan, Cardinal Gibbons’ Auxiliary and representing him; and Bishop Denis O’Connell, most recently Rector of the University in Washington and newly appointed Auxiliary of San Francisco.
Before accompanying the casket to the little cemetery which lies in the shadow of St. Charles, the community heard an edifying eulogy on the dear departed by one of his old students. He was honored by articles in several papers. From one of them which has come to me, I am able to quote some passages, for they show what an impression the hidden virtues of their quite ascetic directors make on American priests out of the minor seminary: “All are men penetrated with the priestly spirit,” he said there; “burning with a zeal always aflame, which the spirit of the world has never stained nor even touched; living in seclusion, but always ready to give an affectionate welcome to their students coming back from the fray; well read, but more learned with the wisdom of the saints; showing the road, and walking on it themselves; they leave an ineradicable imprint on the heart and the life of those who have passed through their hands.” Father Judge’s humility would be embarrassed by such praises, but he would have been able to divert them to the spirit and traditions of our predecessors whom he had so faithfully striven to imitate in his own life. Let us try, Fathers and dear confreres, in America and in France, to make ourselves still worthy of these early models, in adapting ourselves to the various needs of time and place. It is by Father Olier’s spirit, that of St. Paul and the Gospel, that we are truly Sulpicians.
I renew to you, Fathers and dear confreres, the assurance of all my devotion in Our Lord.
Superior of St. Sulpice