Saint Charles of Mount Argus

(1821 - 1893)

Feastday: January 5

Also known as: Pater Karel van Sint Andries; Father Charles of Mount Argus; Carolus a Sancto Andrea

In a Limburg half-timbered farm on the edge of the village center of Munstergeleen, lies the birth room and the Chapel of Father Karel. The canonized Father Karel, who was actually called Johannes Andreas Houben, grew up in the Limburg village, but spent much of his life in Ireland and England.

On the Geleenbeek in Munstergeleen (South Limburg) were two mills, a grain and an oil mill. There is already mention of a mill in Munstergeleen in 1287, when the abbey of Godsdal bought a mill to which ban rights were attached. The owners were the Welters brothers. A miller's family that lived on the grain mill was the Houben family. Joannes Andreas Houben was born in this grain mill on December 11, 1821. His parents were Peter Houben and Elisabeth Luijten. A total of eleven children saw the birth light in the upstairs room of the small house. This room is now furnished as a small chapel. Karel was the fourth child in this family and was baptized on his birthday. An ordinary miller's son who grows up in a strict Catholic environment. He has an early interest in the religious and spiritual. As a youth he was an altar boy and member of various religious societies.

He was shy and calm outside the house, but in the family he was cheerful and full of life. He followed his studies in neighboring Sittard, where he was taught private Latin. But studying is not easy for him. The busy large family, the noise of the mill and its users provide too much distraction; yet he perseveres. His wish was to become a priest, but fate decided otherwise. He was conscripted into the infantry regiment in Bergen op Zoom. He was the model of the regiment. Yet this was not the right place for him. After three months his father bought it out. While in service he had met a boy who told him about the Passionists in Belgium. This order was founded in Italy and their goal was to convert England. After further studying, especially French and Latin, he entered the said order in Ere (Belgium) at the age of 23 on November 5, 1845. As a Limburg farm boy, Johannes Andreas ended up in French-speaking Belgium with Italian Fathers.

On December 21, 1850, he was ordained a priest by the Bishop of Tournai. At his entry he received the name: "Karel van Sint Andries". Two years later his superiors sent him to St. Wilfrid in England. In 1853 he was transferred to Aston Hall, where he worked for the poor Irish immigrants. As Father Charles, he left for Ireland in 1857 to his great joy and settled in Mount Argus, an estate near Dublin. The Passionists had a great foundation in Dublin. Their location grew from an old stall into a large monastery. There, Father Charles soon became known for his gift of healing the sick in a miraculous way. He is called the man with the blessed or rather healing hands. His faith, words of encouragement, simplicity, and support are reasons for many people to make a pilgrimage or to pray to him. Both during his lifetime and afterwards, in the small chapel in Munstergeleen or in the imposing church in Dublin. Soon hundreds of sick and suffering people came to him daily to receive his blessing.

He was called "the Saint of Mount Argus" (Father Charles of Mount Argus) and numerous miracles were attributed to him. He would have straightened crooked bones, among other things. People realized that he was a holy priest, who was never in need of help and advice. He was always ready to help his fellow men. The monastery became a true pilgrimage site and all classes of society sought refuge with this soul doctor. Even with non-believers he knew how to place trust in God through his special blessing. His superiors, who did not want Mount Argus to be overrun with pilgrims, sent Charles back to England in 1866. News of his return to Dublin in 1874 spread quickly. His presence again led to an influx of sick and needy people. Father Karel sat in the confessional box almost every day to reconcile countless people with God. This flow of people has continued throughout his life and beyond. Characteristic is that he himself gave a deeply religious and simple interpretation to his life in prayer and work.

On January 5, 1893, seventeen minutes to six in the morning, the Limburger died at the age of 71 after a long illness in the Irish monastery. A priest, two students and his nurse were present at his death. After he died, he was put on the monastic habit, as dictated by the Passionist rule. He was placed on planks, his forehead sprinkled with ashes, resting on a stone. Between his hands, on his chest, he was given the crucifix, which had always accompanied him throughout his life. A large crowd of people from the area came to the monastery church that evening to "see him again" and to say goodbye. The shrine in which he was buried is located in Mount Argus. At his funeral in the church of Mount Argus, 12,000 to 15,000 people came to pay his last respects. Karel Houben was beatified on October 16, 1988 by Pope John Paul II. His feast day falls on January 5. Besides his Irish shrine, Father Karel is also worshiped in the chapel near his birthplace (Karelhoeve) in Munstergeleen. His blessing was: The Almighty and gracious Lord bless and keep all of you, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The crowd has stayed; many who ask for his support visit his grave or birthplace. In Dublin he is venerated at the Church of Mount Argus; in Munstergeleen in the Karelhoeve. You can visit his birth house and chapel. You can take a pilgrimage there, for example, from Spaubeek station, through the old hillside forests along the Geleenbeek, via the village of Schweijkhuisen to an old water mill, picturesquely situated on the Geleenbeek near the village of Munstergeleen. This is the birthplace of Father Karel Houben. Several thousand pilgrims visit the birthplace every year. The number of pilgrims from all over the Netherlands is still increasing. Father Van der Heijden has been in charge of the chapel and the veneration of Father Karel for more than 30 years. This chapel is located in an old barn at his former home and has an interior where the devotion can be experienced in an almost "romantic-old-fashioned" way.

On October 16, 1988, Father Charles of St. Andries was beatified by Pope John Paul II. His image hung in front of St. Peter's and again a large crowd was present! Karel Houben's beatification came nearly a century after his death. This Beatification was based on a miracle. It concerns the miraculous cure in 1952 of Octavia Spaetgens-Verheggen; a woman from Valkenburg (originally from Sittard). She was cured of a terminal colon cancer. Instead of 3 weeks, she lived another 22 years. She died in 1974 at the age of 92. Canonization required a new miracle. That miracle takes shape on Saturday March 29, 1999 and concerns Dolf Dormans from Munstergeleen. You can read more about this on this page.

The founder of this Order of the Passionists was Saint Paul of the Cross. Paul was born Francesco Paolo Danei in 1694 in Ovada in Liguria, Italy. After spending time in the trade with his father, Paul decided to put his life in the service of Christ. He gave up all his possessions and began a life of asceticism, penance and charity. Paul received a vision from Mary, who ordered him to establish an order that would put the suffering Christ at the center. In 1721 he wrote the Rule of the Passionists, a mystical masterpiece, during a retreat. In 1741, Pope Benedict XIV approved the statutes of the Congregation of the Passion (Passionists). Thirty years later, Paul founded the female branch of the Congregation: the Passionists. Paul died in Rome on October 18, 1775. Pope Pius IX canonized him in 1867. His body is venerated in the Roman basilica SS. Giovanni e Paolo.

Father Karel regularly spoke words of blessing:

"The Lord Almighty and Merciful bless and keep all of you, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit"

O God, who has bestowed upon Blessed Father Charles the grace by his blessing to help and heal so many mental and physical sick and afflicted, now that we come to You with so much confidence in his intercession, grant us the favor that we are through to ask for mediation from you. Remember Your good and faithful Servant Father Karel: his prayers, his penance, his love for you and his suffering fellows, and through his merits, in conjunction with the merits of Jesus' Holy Wounds and Mary's Sorrows, grant us the special intention, which we recommend you so urgently.

Our Father - Hail Mary - Glory be to the Father.

Blessed Father Karel pray for us and bless us.


By Marlous Flier (edition of Dagblad De Limburger - December 31, 2003):

The Vatican in Rome is investigating the possible Canonization of Father Karel from Munstergeleen.

On October 16, 1988, Karel Houben was Beatified by Pope John-Paul II.
This Beatification was based on the miracle that a Valkenburg woman in 1952 was miraculously cured of colon cancer.
The canonization process, which could possibly take another two years, was started after Father Karel Houben performed an alleged miracle in 1999 by completely curing a deathly ill fellow villager who was dying.

Further information sent to me by Guus Queisen, whose grandfather was married to Luijten, a niece of Father Karel:
(Guus Queisen was also in Rome during the beatification and in Dublin at the tomb of Father Charles).

This is a miraculous cure for Dolf Dormans, who according to the doctors only had a few hours to live:
While the surgeons had given up on him, the last rites had been administered and he fell into a coma, he turned successfully to Father Charles. Now 3 1/2 years later he is digging in the garden and still has a seat on the city council of Sittard-Geleen. Every day dozens of people from all over the world kneel
in the barn converted into a chapel. Hundreds of candles are proof of this.

Dolf Dormans explains:

It is an incredible, but true story. The surgeons of the Sittardse Maasland hospital had reported Dolf Dormans (75) from Munstergeleen.
It is April 1999 when Dolf Dormans has been complaining of stomach pain for several days. However, the doctor cannot find anything. To be on the safe side, he sends Dolf Dormans to the hospital to have some X-rays taken. "I was not home yet when he called that I had to turn around immediately. X-rays were taken again. However, the doctors could not determine anything yet. My daughter suggested that it might be the appendix. After the surgeon operated on me, it turned out that she was right. The cecum had burst at least a day earlier. The acids had by now affected the intestines to such an extent that the small intestine in particular had become very porous. A daily flushing of the intestines for a week had no effect.

The condition became increasingly critical. "This had also spread like wildfire through the village. When the bell of the Pancratius Church rang at 9:00 am, as a sign that a parishioner had died, most of them first thought of me, "Dormans heard afterwards." On Sunday, the day one of my grandchildren celebrated Holy Communion , the surgeon told me there was nothing more they could do medically for me. It was a fast ending. I was given up and had only a few hours to live. I was going to fall into a coma and not wake up from this, I was told. "The family was called in haste." I said goodbye to everyone individually and arranged my funeral and designated the place where I wanted to be buried in the cemetery ", Dormans now looks back. After the priest had administered the last sacrament, Dolf Dormans fell into a coma. Family members saw that the body clearly showed symptoms of a dying person. The predicted three hours passed. In the end it became 24. Dolf did not blow, however, took his last breath but awoke. ”The surgeons stood at my bedside in disbelief. They spoke of a medical miracle. I told them that during my coma I completely surrendered myself to Father Karel and asked him to provide a nice place in heaven, but that I would prefer to stay with my wife and children. Before every operation I have always prayed to Father Karel. In my view, the hands of the surgeons are, after all, the working hands of Father Karel. "After this wonderful
'return' of Dormans, he stayed in the hospital for a few more months. The surgeons decided to leave the wound open, which had never been closed during all rinses, and to let it heal naturally. The wound also healed well. The pieces of this miraculous healing have been sent to the Vatican. If the Vatican recognizes this healing as an official miracle, the Pope will appoint Father Karel's son of a farmer from Munster as Saint. Beatification requires one recognized miracle and the title Saint requires two recognized miracles.

The miraculously healed Dolf Dormans from Munstergeleen paid an almost daily visit to the chapel in the shed of the birthplace of Father Karel.

'Miracle' of Saint Father Karel Houben passed away:

Dolf Dormans, the man from Munstergeleen whose miraculous healing eventually led to the canonization of Father Karel Houben, also from Munstergeleen, passed away on Sunday 16 July at the age of 90.

copyrights M&O Guus Queisen Sittard vof.

By Marlous Flier (edition of Dagblad De Limburger - January 3, 2004):

Munstergeleen will receive a high visitor from Rome on Monday in connection with the possible canonization of Father Karel.
The Roman delegation consists of the General Postulator of the General Council of the Passionist Congregation and the Secretary General Superior of the worldwide Congregation. According to Father H. Broers in Munstergeleen, both want to see with their own eyes how great the devotion for Father Karel is in the village. The church representatives will therefore attend a special high mass in the parish church on Monday on the occasion of the 111th anniversary of the death of Father Karel. Broers emphasizes that the two have no decision-making power in the Vatican. "The Pope is ultimately the one who decides."
The reason for the possible canonization is the alleged miraculous healing of councilor Dolf Dormans from Munstergeleen.

By Geertjan Claessens (edition of Dagblad De Limburger - January 6, 2004):

Distinguished visitors from Rome. Two of the Pope's envoys came to Munstergeleen yesterday to take a closer look at the canonization of Father Karel Houben. They were surprised by the mass devotion. The chance that the canonization will go ahead is considerable. And if not? Don't worry, a new application can be sent immediately. Was it a miracle, the healing of Dolf Dormans? The two envoys who visit Munstergeleen on the anniversary of Father Karel Houben's death do not have to answer that question. The man is nominated for a canonization with evidence of the cure of Dormans, but doctors in Rome are allowed to judge that. The distinguished visitors do want to get an impression of the devotion. So answer the question: 'is' the in 1893 deceased Karel van Sint Andries or Joannes Andreas Houben still alive? That turns out to be the case. Very much indeed. Every year around a hundred thousand people visit the modest chapel in Munstergeleen, which is dedicated to the Passionist who was beatified in 1988. At least, 100,000 candles go up in smoke every year. Not everyone lights a candle, but others light two again, Father Harry Broers knows.

The question of whether Father Charles will become the first saint on Limburg soil now lies in the hands of the higher powers in Rome. As early as 1999, Broers gave the impetus to confer the highest Catholic honor on the Father, who was born in Munstergeleen. The condition for this is that a miracle has been performed. According to Broers, this is the case with the cure of Dormans, who seemed to be doomed in 1999 due to the complications of an appendicitis. An independent college of doctors in Rome must assess whether there is a medical explanation for his cure. If not, it counts as a miracle. But should Rome not acknowledge this miracle, then all hope is far from gone and Broers has more miracles 'on the shelf' ready. "A lot more inexplicable things have happened here. If this miracle is not recognized, we can get more out of the closet.

We still have a new iron in the fire." Broers does not want to say what miracle this is about. For example, it could be the healing of H. Tummers from Groesbeek. His sister still visits the chapel regularly to thank Father Karel and to pray. She remembers: "63 years ago he suffered from double pneumonia. That killed you. They already gave up on him. Then we went to the chapel with all the children from school to pray. On the ninth day came. the cover. He's healed. " She is one of the many visitors to visit the humble prayer house on the anniversary of the death of the man who died in Dublin at the age of 72. Many walk in, sit in silence in the wooden benches or say a prayer. Light a candle or seem lost in their own thoughts. It is not that busy during this morning's mass in the chapel. Little publicity has been given. Broers especially wants to have many people attending high mass on the same evening. Then the parish church is full. "He's still alive", says Broers, who visits the chapel every day. That is another element that Rome pays attention to when it comes to whether Father Charles is canonized.

This massive devotion also contributes to the miracle of Father Charles, says Giovanni Zubiani, the eldest of the envoys from Rome. He is here to get an impression of the interest in the Father. And is impressed. "Faith is often less strong in the Netherlands. But it lives here," he knows.
What makes the most impression? "The fact that so many people come together in such a simple place." He has to judge whether Father Karel is still 'alive' in Munstergeleen. How? "I see how many ordinary people come here and how they come in. The attention with which they pray or light a candle. They thank the Father in a prayer book. That is really very special."

The miracle of Dolf Dormans from Munstergeleen has now been recognized by Rome.

Pope Benedict XVI canonized the Limburgian father Karel Houben, passionist, on Sunday 3 June 2007 in Rome.

On Thursday June 28, 2007, Joachim van der Heijden, better known as Father Pierre, passed away at the Maasland Hospital in Sittard at the age of 78. Father Pierre had made the beatification and canonization of Father Charles his life's work. Father Pierre did a lot to help the Charles Chapel in Munstergeleen develop into the pilgrimage site it is today.


I dedicate this page in honor and memory of a special person: "Rogér Boonmann". He lived in communion with God and had a strong feeling for the Roman Catholic faith and for his fellow man. Rogér was a true devotee of Father Karel.


He was an advocate for the Canonization of Father Karel and during his lifetime tried to send everyone to the chapel of Father Karel in Munstergeleen. Since Rogér's death, many more people now visit the chapel, who did not go here before. What Rogér lived for, namely the canonization of Father Karel, was fulfilled after his death. I am sure that he is now happy with Jesus and Father Karel in Heaven.

Father Karel
Pater Car Houbenstraat 9
6151 ET Munstergeleen
Tel: 0031 46 - 4525242