Adventures & Misadventures of a Jolly Beggar
by Fr. Pius Devine, C.P.
We offer the following article in an attempt to expand our Passionist awareness beyond the boundaries of the North American Provinces into the worldwide Passionists’ brotherhood and sisterhood. Fr. Pius Devine, C.P., (b. January 6, 1838; p. September 29, 1859; o. October 17, 1861; d. April 28, 1912) was a distinguished member of the Irish Province of St. Patrick (present Irish-Scottish Province). He was sent by his Provincial “on the quest” for monies to help pay for the construction of the Province’s Motherhouse on Mount Argus, Dublin. With a certain amount of apprehension, but with a deep trust in God and a merry heart, he set out for South America in 1872. His account, composed in the spare moments he could snatch from his daily travels, is uneven and in obvious need of editing to render it a completely coherent narrative. Yet upon reflection, it was decided to leave it just as it flowed from his pen with its unique sense of urgency, hardship, weakness, patience and deep faith. We owe this account to Fr. Frederick Richards, C.P., Archivist of the Argentine Province, who has been a staunch friend. Thank you, Fred, for all you have done for me and may God richly reward you. And so 123 years after the event, we offer to you Fr. Pius Devine’s “Adventures & Misadventures of a Jolly Beggar.”
Morgan P. Hanlon, C.P., Provincial Archivist
“In the Provincial Chapter of 1872 on the 20th of June, it was decided that Fr. Pius and Fr. Laurence should go to America and elsewhere if they thought proper to collect by lecturing, begging and every other legitimate means funds to pay off our debtors in Dublin and if possible to build the church of our College there. The feeling of thus being exiled, although it was my own proposition, worked queerly upon me. Human respect, the parting with friends, the possibility of never returning, the thankless nature of the work, the mortification to be endured all came upon me with tremendous force; but the aim and object of my intentions seemed to balance all and make me put on a cheerful countenance.”
Sailed from Queenstown by JAVA on 7th July. Arrived in New York 17th July. On 6th January 36 years of age. Left New York 13th January by ETNA bound for Jamaica. Tuesday, 20th January, arrived in Kingston, Jamaica; there decided to try Pacific Coast and get out q.p. Transferred luggage to TASMANIA from ETNA and sailed for Panama. Originally had planned to go by Trinidad—Rio—Buenos Aires. Runs out of money—has only US$95 and ticket is US$100 owed besides fares and extras. So he thinks of Guayaquil, fare costs only US$60 on VALDIVIA. Arrives Guayaquil (Ecuador) on 3rd February. On Tuesday, 19th February, by OROYA for Callao en route for Lima, Peru. Arrives Callao on 23rd and by train to Lima on same day. On 11th March takes ATACAMA for Valparaiso. On 21st March at 4 o’clock arrived. At 5 o’clock leaves for Santiago.
In Santiago (Chile) went to see Intendente, one Vicuna Mackenna, cousin of a Mr. Higgins, consul in Guayaquil. In spite of recommendations “No money—no leave to beg.” Goes to see Archbishop—all O.K. in five minutes. Got $50 from the wife of the President.
On 7th April starts by trains to Valparaiso—9th April Valparaiso to San Felipe by train. 13th April by rail to Los Andes, “a nice village snugly nestled and choked with vines at the foot of the Andes.”
Called on parish priest, a Spaniard “overflowing with friendship and hospitality.” A fellow in San Felipe asked for US$60 for mules and guide to cross Andes. “No go! as had also to put by own saddle.” Another guy asked US$30 but “cura” fought him down to US$25. “Mends his own breeches!”—a story. Frenchman provided foodstuffs.
On Tuesday, 14th April 1874, at 2:30 p.m. “I was on the mule’s back in a jiffy—my habit tucked up and my mantle flowing, like a young dragoon’s on to the beast’s tail.” At 7:30 got to Lloras (Tears) after five hours in saddle—put up for night. Guide: Zenon Fernandez (“I called him Fernando.”) “I slept about two hours in fits and starts.”
April 15th: We were off at 7:00. That night at Juncal (wrote parody on To Ladies’ Eyes.) Next house 25 miles away—traveled till 2 o’clock “When starved and tired and half dead, I dropped rather than alighted from the back of my mule at Juncal. Here stayed all night as Cordillera has to be crossed at early morn to avoid the winds which sweep over them in the daytime and afternoon.”
April 16th: “On Thursday, April 16th, I made the most wonderful and terrible journey in my life. A clumsy path and no animal but a mule or a goat intent upon suicide would attempt it.” Began crossing at 4 o’clock in the morning. Lake 7,000 feet above sea level. “Began to ascend the height at half past seven and climbed on till the earth itself seemed to vanish from beneath us… We reached at length to the top which was about 30 feet square and no more. Here we stood 12,400 feet above the level of the sea.” Then started to descend. When we got into the level, encamped, stream side, breakfast… No house for 50 miles except a shed at a place called Puente del Inca.
April 17th, Friday: Through desert finds what thirst is… “I here know what thirst was in earnest. I’d have given all the wine and the mule besides for a glass of water.” Three hours we came to an oasis called Uspallata at half past four and then put up for the night.
April 18th, Saturday: “I find upon enquiry that there are 30 leagues, or about 80 English miles, between me and Mendoza; and I must get there tomorrow in time to say Mass. Two thirds of the way is a desert and the other third a mountain gorge.”
Set off at 6:00. Reached deserted mine about 10:00. Breakfast. Half past one descended another height and had now left the last cordillera. At 4:00 we reached the last halting place, exactly 40 miles from Mendoza. Dined, rested and I said my office and then at 6:00, half an hour after sunset, started to travel all night and get into Mendoza in the morning… About 10 o’clock “made the best of a bad bargain”… Got off my mule. Fernando made me a bed. Slept a couple of hours. It was after twelve when I awoke “and now on Sunday morning, April 19th, I reached San Francisco Church as tired and cold and hungry and thirsty and as near death by complete exhaustion as ever I was in my life. I had been 22 hours in the saddle—a day and a night with hardly any rest. I said Mass immediately and had to catch the altar in order to genuflect. I got a cup of coffee after Mass, went to bed and arose a little refreshed about 12 o’clock noon. Thus have I come to an end of the five most laborious and adventurous days I ever passed in my life.”
Destroyed 12 years ago by earthquake—20,000 buried. On Monday, 27th April, 10 o’clock, but started at twelve. Rested that night—no mention of place. Some stop of mensajeria. Up at 2:00 of 28th. Off at 3:30. At 10:00 came to a post, had breakfast. At 1:00 another post “introduced as Archbishop of U.S.A.” On 30th arrived in Rio Cuarto. Train in Rio Cuarto for Rosario (probably 1st May). Arrived Rosario, Saturday, 2nd May at 9 p.m. Rosario, 3rd May said Mass at 12:00 steamboat for Buenos Aires. Arrived TALITA on 4th a.m. Then—hour and a half in train for Buenos Aires.
4th May 1874: Put up at San Francisco. On 5th, St. Pius and octave of St. Paul of the Cross said mass of St. Paul. Heard of a Canon Dillon (feared might be another Vicuna Mackenna). Looks for him. Runs into a Protestant Seminary “they were all a parcel of heretics.” Saw Cathedral and Bishop’s house. Went in mechanically and “in three minutes was thrown into the presence of His Grace the Archbishop.” Was told I had all the faculties at once in the diocese. Got Canon Dillon’s address. Found him “he was a real fine fellow, educated in All Hallows, who worked his way by sheer talent and integrity to the head of the clergy in the diocese. He behaved like a true Irishman.”
“On Pentecost Sunday, 24th May, preached at the High Mass in San Roque. In the evening at 6:30, I preached the first sermon of a week’s mission to the Irish in this city. The opening was very well attended.” Afterwards at Archbishop’s attended levee, introduced to Sarmiento (president). Passed pleasant hour. 25th May feast, Te Deum, fireworks. Called at Irish convent and a lot of Ballymahon girls cried for joy at seeing me and gave donation. “On Sunday, 31st May, Trinity, concluded mission. The first ever given in Buenos Aires and people said they never saw so many men in the Church before as were at my concluding discourse. One 2nd June sent 120 pounds to Dublin, chiefly Irish contributions.”
The Camp: Lujan – La Choza
Went to Lujan—Irish Chaplain there, Fr. O’Reilly. Chapel three leagues away. Got to Brown’s in time for dinner. “The camp is like an Irish bog, but no heather and does not move. His lap-wing (tero-tero). Mr. Brown is a Barony of Forth man (Wexford). He possesses a league and a quarter square foot of land and flocks and herds innumerable. He is the richest estanciero in these parts. He has a very nice place and has brought up a fine family. His plan; give little mission, 3 or 4 days at each central point and collect alms when I find the people assembled. It is impossible to visit all, as every home is about nine miles apart. On Thursday, 4th June, Corpus Christi preached at La Choza and started mission. 5th & 6th brought bigger crowds, on Sunday quite a congregation. All on horseback from 10, 20, & 30 miles. In this way I got $8,000 – 320 gold dollars (64 pounds). Heard confessions six hours one day. Archbishop given me most ample faculties.
Arrived 4 o’clock Monday, 8th. Two Irish priests in Mercedes. Fr. Lynch (Chaplain) and Fr. Macnamara (has a College). Also found Irish Sisters of Mercy here. No notification. Poor gathering on 10th. Invited French and Italians and Spaniards. Heard confessions in four languages. Wound up on Sunday 14th. Made up 50 pounds in half an hour or so. On Monday 15th self and Fr. Lynch set out for…
Forty miles off. Got to Mr. Morroghs for breakfast, to a Mr. Ledwith for dinner and night’s rest, left next morning for town. Carey’s (or Carney’s) for breakfast, and he tacked horses and rode them to town (Chivilcoy). Got there 5 o’clock Tuesday, 16th. Began mission here on Wednesday, 17th. Lodged at Mr. Hearn (married to a daughter of Brown from La Choza). Wound up on 18th to get to Buenos Aires for a meeting of Irish priests (for a month’s mind). Set out by train on 19th and got there about 1 o’clock and met them all and we had a talk.
Fortin de Areco
I left Buenos Aires on Saturday morning with Large Michael Leahy for the Fortin… We went off on Sunday 21st June to Maguire’s and I officiated in a chapel there. My usual days work now is in this wise. I rise at 7:00. Travel 12 miles or so across camp or plain, to a church in the wilderness where I arrive about nine. Just then people begin to appear on horseback at the horizon and by 10 o’clock I have 10 or 15 person (who have come 12 or 20 miles) for confession. I hear on till 11:30 or 12:00 and then say Mass and preach. After that the priest announces my collecting mission, and I take what I get in the sacristy. I breakfast about one, and they get another sermon about 2:00 or 3:00 and get home before dark. From 4:00 to dinner time I take a fowling piece and shoot partridge, plover, owls, hawks, sparrows, and all sorts of things, even badgers and foxes have I shot. We dine then and have music afterwards. Sometimes an estanciero’s daughter plays. The Irish are all fond of music. I have my flute with me. We have songs and music until about ten, when I got to rest and am up next day for about the same routine. Fasting and praying and traveling in this way is very severe on health. On Monday I finished at Merger’s and we came back to the Fortune.. Wednesday found me in Dowling’s Ranchos. We had some rifle shooting here, and I was best shot until a young man named Mullin came on the third day and got inside me a range of 700 yards. I went next to a Mr. Allen’s place. It is called Killallen and there is a church there. I arrived at Mr. Carey’s (or Casey’s) on Saturday 27th. He is married to another of Brown’s daughters. There I met little Tessie again, who plays nearly all Irish airs and several polkas on a concertina as big as herself, and she is only seven years of age. I call her the fairy. I officiated at James Kenny’s and had a fine crowd and wound up there on Monday and then off to his mother’s, Mrs. Kenny. She is a great old general. Here we had pistol shooting with a revolver. I broke two bottles at 20 yards and nearly killed an old woman by a ball that glazed off from the stick on which the bottle was plugged. On Tuesday I said Mass, etc., at Veinticinco and myself and Fr. Leahy started off about two for…
In our drive across the camp we were overtaken by a storm. The lightning illumined the darkness brought on by the clouds, and the thunder pealed every five seconds. The water came down as if we were in the tropics. Thanks to a topcoat young Kenny lent me and a good rug, I arrived in Arrecifes with nothing wet except my clerical hat. I was able to get my breakfast on Wednesday, 1st July at 12:30. We went on then to a Mr. Harrington’s, where Fr. Flannery has built the nicest chapel in the camp and I had the best congregation and the best collection I came across yet in his unfinished new Chapel. On Friday, 3rd, I gave a station in Harrington’s house and that evening we set off for…
On our way to this little town we had traveled six leagues when we asked for a guide in Arrecifes. A horse soldier knew the pass over the river and taking his lasso, or rope, came to show us across it. He galloped on before us and when we came to the river he yoked his lasso to the pole of our carriage and we went down one bank, the water came over the wheels in the river and up the next bank most precipatedly. It was near sunset now and we had yet four leagues to go or twelve miles. We made one of them before sundown and then no moon. We lost the sort of road there was and had a prospect of being obliged to sleep out all night in the frost. We took a star to steer by and after a while a cloud came over that star. Just then we found a road and in ten minutes lost it again. We now saw a light and making for that found it was a house, the very house we were looking for. Fr. Leahy shouted out “Ave Maria” and after a long time someone answered “Sin pedado concebida.” All right, we were pointed out another star and steering by that through the wild plain we got to a Mr. William Murphy’s at 7:00. His amiable wife got us dinner in a short time. Early next morning we went to Salto and found but few people. On Sunday, 5th July, there was an immense crowd. Lots had followed me from place to place. On Sunday afternoon we made for the Fortin again and stopped at Hugh Mullins’ for the night. His son is the shooter and a very nice sensible young man. He plays the fiddle and is altogether the most gentlemanly Irishman I met in the camp. Monday (6) morning I went to the Fortin Church and met my last congregation. On that evening we posted to Mercedes where I took the train to Buenos Aires on Tuesday, 7th. I have just now sent him 500 pounds from South America and 300 of that was got in the camp. I go off to visit the Archbishop. He was very kind and gave me all sorts of faculties. On Thursday, 9th, there was some sort of a fiesta or commemoration. It was meant to remember some battle or other of which the people had not notion except that they were to hear and see fireworks and keep themselves idly on the alert for new mischief. On Friday I took my passage for Rio Janeiro and New York. The nuns’ retreat keeps me busy enough and old Mr. Merger says “I wundher, in the world, what them ladies wunt so much praichin sur they have no opportunity of doing much harm anyhow.” On Sunday, 12th, I preached in San Roque to a very fine congregation and on the same day there appeared a valedictory address from me to my Irish friends in one of the papers. On Wednesday, 15th July, I wound up the nuns’ retreat and on the same day start for Rio Janeiro on board The Boyne.
His voyage goes on: Brazil, West Indies (Barbados, La Lucai, Martinique), New York—August 19th after 7 months and 6 days.
Then out west: Cincinnati (Ohio); Indianapolis, St. Louis, Chicago, Milwaukee, San Francisco.
By Pacific: Sandwich Islands, Honolulu, Auckland (New Zealand), Australia (Sydney), 1875 Newcastle (NSW), Gouldburn to Brandies by Ceylon, Bombay, Aden, Red Sea, Egypt, Italy.
SS Giovanni e Paolo (May 9th); Paris (19th); London (22nd); Sutton (3 1st); North Wall (3rd June 1875).