Monday, 4 December 2017

10 Priests Who Changed the World


St Jerome
C 347 – 30 September 420

Believer or not, no one can deny the influence of the Bible on the Western world. St Jerome is credited as writing the first complete translation of the Bible into the vernacular tongue of his day (Latin). This was to be the first time that the average man could read the Bible unhindered by a need for an education in Greek or Hebrew. At the time, of course, the majority of people in the civilized West were part of the Roman Empire and consequently spoke Latin. The Latin used by St Jerome was that of the common man, not that of officialdom. The influence of his translation is also so great that it remains the only official Bible of the Roman Catholic Church – with no other translation or version being considered its equal. St Jerome was certainly a patient man (unless you criticized his work) as he spend forty full years working on his translation from ancient copies of the Old Testament and Greek and Latin manuscripts of the New Testament that no longer exist today.

St Paul
C 5 – C 67

Of all the apostles, St Paul can perhaps be given the greatest credit for the Christianization of the West. It was his victory in a dispute with St Peter over whether or not to require gentile converts to submit to ancient Jewish practices that made the Christian life more appealing to the citizens of the Roman Empire and beyond. Were it not for his declaring that circumcision (amongst other practices) were not necessary for conversion, the Church would unlikely have spread with the rapidity that it did in its infancy. Furthermore, St Paul’s writing on the behavior of married couples and the structure of the family remain influential for many people today (though not as much as it did up to the 1960s).


Father Gregor Mendel
July 20, 1822 – January 6, 1884

Father Mendel’s work in the area of genetics has already had an immense impact on the world – but it is probably true to say that it has not yet been fully realized. With the potential for genetically altered animals (including humans) in the future, it might be one day said that Mendel was the father of the super-human. So significant was his contribution to genetics, Mendel is, of course, recognized as the father of said science. Although the significance of Mendel’s work was not recognized until the turn of the 20th century, the independent rediscovery of these laws formed the foundation of the modern science of genetics.

Pope Urban II
1042 – 29 July 1099

Blessed Pope Urban II launched the first crusade which aimed to take control of the Holy Land from the Seljuk Turks. This was to be the first of seven significant crusades which influenced medieval history. The effect of these crusades can still be felt today in the ongoing unrest in the Middle East. In addition to this, Urban also reformed the leadership of the Catholic Church by setting it up in mimicry of a royal court; this structure remains to this day and continues to affect the daily lives of many Catholics as well as the Church’s place in international politics. His impact on the world was considered significant enough to put him on the road to sainthood and so he was declared “blessed” in 1881 by Pope Leo XIII.
St Albertus Magnus
1193/1206 – November 15, 1280

St Albert the Great was so influential in philosophy and science in the Middle Ages that he has been named one of only 33 “Doctors” of the Church. He was the first man to comment on virtually every extant work of Aristotle opening up the Greek philosophers to scrutiny. Without his commentaries and his influence on his pupils, modern philosophy would be a very different monster today and one might even say that the enlightenment may never have happened (as it was, in part, a rebellion against the medieval philosophies of the likes of St Albert). Through logic and observation, St Albert wrote in-depth works on such varied subjects as logic, theology, botany, geography, astronomy, astrology, mineralogy, chemistry, zoology, physiology, phrenology and more. He is, perhaps, the greatest thinker and most influential scholar of the middle ages.


Pope Gregory XIII
7 January 1502 – 10 April 1585

Everyone one of you reading this list (well almost everyone) is influenced every day by Pope Gregory XIII. It is his calendar that we have used since he issued his papal bull “Inter gravissimas” of 24 February 1582, stating that the day after Thursday, 4 October 1582 would be not Friday, 5 October, but Friday, 15 October 1582. The reason for his reform of the calendar was that the Julian calendar (in use since Roman times) had years which were too long; it shows the year as being 365 days, 6 hours in length – 11 minutes more than in reality. There was resistance to the change as some people worried that it would result in a loss of seven days of pay but ultimately it became the standard calendar of Europe and much of the world. In addition to this big change, Pope Gregory XIII also influenced the development of the arts and sciences through papal grants and support.

Nicolaus Copernicus
19 February 1473 – 24 May 1543

There is some doubt as to whether Copernicus eventually became a priest as we only have evidence that he took minor orders (the first stages of the priesthood) but his fame, and the possibility that he was ultimately ordained – make him a worthwhile addition here. Copernicus was the first to propound the idea that the Earth was not the center of the Universe but that rather it (along with other celestial bodies) revolved around the Sun. This theory held fast until the 1920s when it was first shown that the Sun was also not the center of the Universe. Copernicus sparked off the Copernican revolution which “refers to the paradigm shift away from the Ptolemaic model of the heavens, which postulated the Earth at the center of the galaxy, towards the heliocentric model with the Sun at the center of our Solar System. It was one of the starting points of the Scientific Revolution of the 16th century.”

St Thomas Aquinas
1225 – 7 March 1274

St Thomas Aquinas was a simple monk who defied his rich family by joining the Dominican order in the 13th century. The very simple and quiet man was to rise so high in the field of philosophy and theology that his name will never be forgotten. His influence was so immense that he changed the course of philosophical thinking completely – ultimately paving the way for modern philosophers in the Enlightenment period. Aquinas’ philosophy was to affect the natural sciences including medicine – thereby impacting the daily lives of most Europeans. His influence is still felt in the Roman Catholic priesthood as his work on theology (The Summa Theologica) is still the basis for most seminary studies – shaping the thinking of other future priests who would and will influence the world of science. One such priest was to impact modern science in one of the most influential ways in history, Monseigneur Georges Lemaitre.
1994 - 1966

father of the big bang theory, Monseigneur Lemaitre, was the first man to propose the concept of an expanding universe. His studies in the field of astronomy and physics also led him to be the first to derive what we now call “Hubble’s Law” and the Hubble Constant. Lemaitre called his “big bang” theory his “hypothesis of the primeval atom.” There is no need to go into detail regarding this priest’s influence in the world – with a few exceptions, virtually everyone in the scientific field believed or believes in his theory. Lemaitre was also one of the first scientists to adopt the use of computers for cosmological studies and he helped create the fast fourier transform algorithm.

St Ignatius of Loyola
1491 – July 31, 1556

St Ignatius has to take pride of place as the number one entry here because he was the founder of the Jesuits. Since their founder, this order of educator priests have been given credit for “the single most important contributor to experimental physics in the seventeenth century.” They also “contributed to the development of pendulum clocks, pantographs, barometers, reflecting telescopes and microscopes, to scientific fields as various as magnetism, optics and electricity. They observed, in some cases before anyone else, the colored bands on Jupiter’s surface, the Andromeda nebula and Saturn’s rings. They theorized about the circulation of the blood (independently of Harvey), the theoretical possibility of flight, the way the moon effected the tides, and the wave-like nature of light.” In addition, their contribution to the study of earthquakes has seismology labeled the “Jesuit science.” St Ignatius originally founded the order specifically for teaching and missionary work, a mission they continue to uphold today.


This is an interesting article at a time we are asking if THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH has been, is being a source of GOOD or of EVIL.

Jerome's translation of the Bible was a good thing - but look at how many wars and disagreements there have been about the Bible?

Did we not get a very BAD theology - about women and sex from St Paul?

Mendel made great contributions to the science of GENETICS.

Pope Urban damaged the Church by making it ape MONARCHY.

Albertus inspired The Enlightenment?

Pope Gregory gave us a calendar.

Copernicus was a great scientist.

Thomas Aquinas - GOOD? BAD?

Lemaitre - a great scientist - father of the Big Bang?

St Ignatius and his famous/infamous Jesuits helped science.

It seems a mixed bag to me.

What do readers think?


Father Graham (71) is one of the founding members of The Little Brothers of the Oratory in Larne.

Originally from the South of England Graham spent time with Archbishop Lefebvre and the Society of St Pius X and also studied in France. He likes languages and has a degree in French. He read divinity at Oxford and Catholic theology in Frnce.

He resides at the Little Brothers house in Larne where he celebrates daily Mass and takes part in the Divine Office. He has been a priest of The Oratory Society for 14 years.

He is pictured here doing some grocery shopping at the Asda store in Larne on Sunday afternoon.

The Little Brothers of The Oratory



  1. Thanks Pat for those interesting biographical pieces. I look forward to reading into them all in detail as soon as time permits.
    Only thing I had time to notice so far was the statement that the Jerome Bible was the "only"permitted translation. That surprised me as it is *incorrect but it doesn't mean that I won't enjoy the rest of the piece.
    * The Douay version of the Bible is widely read and recommended in Catholic study circles at university level. We still use the 1582 AD translation.

    1. Yes the Douay is always used in Catholic Church as it has the complete books unlike some transactions.. Of later years, the New Jerusalem Bible also came into vogue as well. So thank you for that...

  2. I’m surprised Paul isn’t first on the list – without his theology, both good and bad, it’s doubtful whether Christianity would have ever broken free of its Jewish heritage and all the other priests wouldn’t, therefore, exist.

    1. These suggestions are not necessarily in order of importance of impact. So St Paul is in there....

    2. No-one is suggesting that the blog list is in the actual order of importance of impact.

    3. @ 10:14 and 10:42. The author HAS placed them in order. Otherwise he wouldn't have given 'pride of place as the number one entry' to St Ignatius.

    4. To Paul Creaner.. I can see the "pride of place" sentence that may have made you feel that those people are definitely placed in the definitive order but that's just the individual author of that piece making his best strong pitch for his choice... "Surely my choice deserves to be first.." is the implication.. If you set an open ended task on a website calling for people's best suggestions you will get folk jostling to get into the top three. Sorry.. it is so difficult to try and explain clearly what I mean within the confines of a few lines here but I am confident you'll get what I am saying,

  3. Interesting line up of famous clerics. I'd place these courageous, visionary and wise women as my icons - St. Teresa of Avila, St. Therese of Lisieux, St. Brigid, St. Mother Theresa, Blessed Nano Nagle, Mother Mary McAuley, Mary Aikenhead and Mother Mary Martin. All have inspired in their different ways through health care, social services, education, mysticism, prayer and holiness. Our Irish foundresses of religious orders deserve merit and consideration.

  4. @9.23
    Yes indeed.. Your additional recommendations are excellent.. all of them. They are all people who made a lasting impact.

    1. With what? Mother and Baby homes? Sisters of Mercy? charity?

    2. 11.50. Smart comment. Yes, some religious along with state and society approval allowed so much harm to be carried out. Read and research properly. Mostly, Thank God, our religious orders have served us well and with courage and dedication.

  5. How about 10 of the many great women who have been and are inspirational for tomorrow's blog? Let's start with the Irish.

    1. Like mother Teresa...oh please No No No

  6. Yes, not everyone liked what Jerome was up. St. Augustine of Hippo was furious and told Jerome so. Why? Augustine had taken the time to memorise the whole of another translation.

    1. Yes.... I know the Douay translation is now widely regarded as the most complete of all. It bears the Imprimatur.

  7. Welcome Fr. Graham into the limelight of the blog. I hope and pray that he will find peace and joy in his vocation within a vocation.

    1. Yes, Fr Graham should be welcomed.... Not sure I would describe it as "the limelight of the blog" though!
      He looks decidedly more like a rabbit caught in glare of headlights in that picture.

    2. What a wonderfully supportive comment. It’s good to read this type of comment rather than the comments of the doom and gloom merchants who were forecasting disaster and generally running down the LBO idea on previous threads.

      You look well in that photo, Graham.

  8. Thomas Aquinas was a friar not a monk.

    His writings were the basis for most seminary programmes in the past. That is not the case any longer. Scholastic theology, for better or for worse, is a minority interest today.

  9. MourneManMichael5 December 2017 at 11:48

    Another one, albeit non cleric, who had a considerable impact on Christianity was emperor Constantine.
    Might be worth watching Channel Five @ 10pm on Fri 8th next: The Rebirth of Rome. Bettany Hughes examines the consequences of Constantine's conversion to Christianity in 337AD.

  10. Have you seen the headline in Church And State? 'Conservative pastor wants all gays executed by Christmas'.

    1. He's gona be a very busy boy there's quite a few of them lol

  11. Does Fr graham always shop in his soutane?

    1. No,first time in years.

      It was a very cold day and he had no coat or jacket with him.

      Bit refreshing to see a priest dressed as one?

  12. Saw a young fella in a cafe in one a few weeks ago.dont know what faith.
    He stood out like a sore thumb...

    1. Cafes are becoming very busy at this time of with shoppers increasing. You may have to stand out in a queue for a short but the Staff will get you seated asap.

  13. Pat,
    Has there been any media interest in the new order? This is a good news story.

  14. Well done Fr Graham and we have priests in my home town who go around dressed in soutane everywhere and even one who plays football in a clerical shirt with the team shirt over top. It's the same as seeing police officers in their uniform, clericals are a much needed reminder to us all of the religious and the sacred in our world. Bring back the soutane I say!

    I am pleased to see St Thomas Aquinas got a mention as his thinking and writing of course has shaped the seminary courses for years. I was pleased to hear from a friend on the weekend who is studying at the Angelicum that many of their courses have a large emphasis on the Summa as a starting point and basis for many courses.

    I was surprised though to see that St Augustine of Hippo did not get a mention. One of the greatest thinkers The Church has ever had, and a man who's works have influenced the way The Church has interacted with the world ever since.

    I managed to light a candle in St Mary Major for the Brothers of the Oratory and also one for +Pat.

  15. How many saints has Maynooth produced?

    1. You don’t have to have the word saint in front of your name to be one.
      Most saints have lived and died without needing any decoration posthumously
      I do know this because I was married to one.

    2. Probably thousands..

  16. Pat I think this article and especially the comments will interest you

  17. Now why would you and Pat want priests dressed in soutanes to be parading about or playing football.
    It’s likesaying to the public
    ‘’ ohheres me a holy joe amongst you lesser people’’
    You have just went down in my opinionPat.
    Just mix with us out on the street as we are...we will soon know afterchatting to you if you are Christian.

    1. Pat has never dictated to us what we should wear.. as far as I know... So let's offer him the same courtesy in return.

    2. You missing the point.
      The point being ...priests don’t need to dress up as ‘’ holy joes’’
      Yes it is ....dressing up,just like yer man in the yards of red taffeta

  18. In Greece I got so used to priests wearing their robes and their funny looking hats and veils.

    What surprises me is when they take their headgear off and the tops of their heads are bald amidst the long white beards & long hair. LOL!

  19. @17.42
    It is known as "male pattern baldness" and is not seen exclusively in Greek clergy. In fact it is very common.
    (Not sure where the humour comes in to it..)