Father Charles, the Saint of Mount Argus
Charles of Mount Argus was born as Joannes Andreas Houben (1821-1893) in Munstergeleen, a small town in the Province of Limburg.
He was a Dutch priest of the Congregation of the Passionists in Ere, near Tournai (Belgium). After having made his vows in 1846, he received the religious name Charles of St. Andrew. He was ordained a priest in 1850.
Soon after Father Charles was sent to serve in England and in 1557 the Congregation transferred him to Ireland, to the monastery of Mount Argus in Dublin. Charles was never a good preacher but his reputation for healings was great and popular devotion grew. People came in large numbers to the monastery to receive his blessing. Miraculous healings were attributed to him. During his lifetime people called him called him already the Saint of Mount Argus.
In 1866 he was sent back to England and there he gained the same reputation as in Ireland. He returned to Ireland in 1874, where he remained until his death on January 5, 1893. Father Charles funeral was attended by people from all over Ireland, a proof of the devotion that people had already granted him during his lifetime. Even after his death the cult continued through pilgrimages to his tomb and to his birthplace in Munstergeleen. A memorial chapel, founded by the Passionists in Charles birthplace, attracted just more pilgrims.
After the canonization of Father Charles in 2007 the number of visitors to Munstergeleen has received a strong boost. They come primarily from Limburg but also from the rest of the Netherlands. January 5 is the official feast day of Father Charles.
© photos: Bea and Dick Hoeks-De Laat, 2007