Dominus Noster Jesus Christus Vos Absolvat


If you travel to Gettysburg you will see a statue to a Catholic priest, and here is why this statue was erected.  One of the crack units in the Union Army during the Civil War was the Irish Brigade.  On July 2, 1863, the 530 men of the Irish Brigade, survivors of the 2500 who originally enlisted to fight under the Stars and Stripes and the green shamrock banner of the brigade, were about to be sent into the Wheat Field.  Brigade Chaplain Father William Corby addressed the troops.

Father Corby stood on a boulder in front of the brigade.  He decided, due to the certainty that many of the men of the brigade would soon die, to give a mass absolution, an application of the sacrament unknown in America. Father Corby sternly reminded the soldiers of their duties, warning that the Church would deny Christian burial to any who wavered in their duty. The members of the Brigade were instructed to confess their sins to a priest in the usual manner at their earliest opportunity. Then the entire brigade knelt, Catholics and Protestants alike.  Father Corby raised his right arm and recited the ancient words of forgiveness: “Dominus noster Jesus Christus vos absolvat”.   With their sins forgiven, the Irish Brigade plunged into battle and were met with withering fire from the Confederate soldiers. At the end of the day, 198 of the men whom Father Corby had blessed had been killed or wounded. The men of the brigade loved their priest who, at Gettysburg and many another battlefield, tended the wounded under fire and gave the last rites to the dying.  After the war they began a campaign to have Father Corby awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroism at Gettysburg.  It was never awarded.  However, I suspect that Father Corby was much more pleased by a gift from the men of the brigade than he ever could have been by any medal:  a chalice to hold the sacred blood.

Published in: on January 6, 2010 at 6:50 am  Comments (8)  
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  1. A question for those who run the blog:

    Where did you find these words of absolution? I am curious because they do not match the words of absolution used in the Catholic Church, at least since the time of the Council of Trent.

    Thought you would be interested.


  2. From this account:

    • Yep. My mistake. After some further investigation, I found that the longer form of Absolution begins with those words! Thanks for you kind reply.

  3. You are quite welcome Ben and I thank you for your comment. I try to make my posts as accurate as possible, but I always appreciate the help of commenters whenever they spot anything that doesn’t look quite right to them.

  4. Irish Brigade flags prominently displayed the Golden Harp. Shamrocks were rather secondary decoration on the flags. Otherwise a great story.

  5. Is this Fr. Corby the same as the inspiration for the statue often called “Fair Catch Corby” at the formerly Catholic college in South Bend Indiana?

  6. The one and the same TeaPot!

  7. […] famous among them was of course Father William Corby, who marched and fought with the Irish Brigade and who gave them mass absolution on the second day at Gettysburg before they charged into battle.  The book relates the adventures of Father Corby, but also relates the stories of other Notre […]

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