Thursday, March 16, 2023
Today on the Christian History Almanac podcast, we tell the story of the mysterious and miraculous (?) priest and prince Alexander of Hohenlohe.
It is the the 16th of March 2023 Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org, I’m Dan van Voorhis.
One of my favorite historical documents I often use for this show is the delightfully curious “Chambers Book of Days”- it, like this very Almanac, sought to give, in Almanac form an account of stories and characters in an “on this day” format. It was compiled in the 19th century by the Scotsman Robert Chambers- a friend of Sir Walter Scott and resident of St. Andrews, Scotland (the Encyclopedia Britannica of 1911 suggests that the labor connected with this work “hastened his death”- oh my!). Well- today’s very curious story comes from Chambers's Book of Days. He wrote:
On the 16th of March 1823, Prince [Alexander] Hohenlohe [of Waldenburg and Schillingsfurst] wrote a letter which, connected with subsequent events, produced a great sensation among that class of religious persons who believe that the power of working miracles still exists.
That’s right- before the televangelists, we still had celebrity clerics who caused a stir with their claims to be able to heal. Hohenlohe is amongst the first to ply his trade using modern means of communication. Such was the story of this letter, sent on this day in 1823.
Prince Hohenlohe was an Austrian nobleman who, by the age of 11, decided against following his family tradition of military service for service in the church. By 1815 he was ordained as a Catholic priest and practiced exorcisms and prayer healings. By 1821 he is said to have cured over 100 people, and his popularity was such that he could not see all who wanted his prayers. So- he set up “distant healing,” whereby he would instruct people to pray at certain days and times whereby he would join them. This is what he wrote in this letter, dated this day in 1823. He told a nun, Miss O’Connor of New Hall in Chelmsford, to pray on the 3rd of May at 8 am to partake of the Lord’s Supper and pray for healing (she had swelling in her hand and arm). After doing so, she was immediately relieved of her malady, and much was made of the fact that her doctor attested to it, a protestant nonetheless.
He would do something similar for a French nun whose ankle was poorly twisted and misinformed. He instructed her bishop to pray for healing on the 25th of July (the feast of St. James), and he stated that she was healed upon raising the wafer in consecration for her.
German authorities were wary of Hohenlohe and told him that his miraculous acts needed to be done publicly- resisting such oversight, he moved to Austria.
His fame began to spread, and Chambers notes an interesting advertisement wherein an English woman offered money to be paid to anyone who could give her information as to where the Prince and priest had gone.
Another miraculous event occurred from a “distance healing” wherein an Irish nun claimed to have been healed from her nervous disorder. The Archbishop of Dublin relayed the story to an eminent physician who politely explained possible psychosomatic factors that might lead to the woman being “cured.”
And one final story about this prince and healing priest is from “Mrs. Mattingly's miracle: the prince, the widow, and the cure that shocked Washington City.” This book by Nancy Lusignan Schultz tells the story of Ann Mattingly- the sister of the city’s mayor. She is said to have been cured of cancer by Hohenlohe, but this didn’t sit well with the town’s predominantly Protestant population. Schultz tells the story of rising anti-Catholic sentiments in the Capitol and how Hohenlohe, the charismatic healer, and Mattingly helped stoke this.
The story of Prince Alexander, a miracle-working priest, reminds us of the possibility of miraculous healing, the possibility that some people are charlatans, and the possibility that sometimes stories are curious combinations of both is a story older than our modern televangelists. We remember the curious letter he sent- as told by Robert Chambers- on this the 16th of March in 1823.
The last word for today comes from the daily lectionary from Ephesians 4:
29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 16th of March 2023, brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org.
The show is produced by a man who, for a small fee, can be contacted at miracles.gillespie…wait, no. Just gillespie.coffee and gillespie.media. He is Christopher Gillespie.
The show is written and read by a man hoping his own almanac won’t “hasten his death” I’m Dan van Voorhis.
You can catch us here every day- and remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness, and the redemption of all things are true…. Everything is going to be ok.
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