Friday, 23 January 2009

William Cobbett (1763-1835) - man of integrity.

A very good day to all in the Pro Papa League.

Fountains Abbey, N. Yorkshire, - 'the Chapel of
Nine Altars and Huby's Tower'.
32 Cistercian monks in November 1539, when 'acquired' by King Henry VIII.

“Now, my friends, a fair and honest inquiry will teach us that this (“Reformation”) was an alteration greatly for the worse; that the “Reformation,” as it is called, was engendered in lust, brought forth in hypocrisy and perfidy, and cherished and fed by plunder, devastation, and by rivers of innocent English and Irish blood; and that as to its more remote consequences, they are, some of them, now before us, in that misery, that beggary, that nakedness, that hunger, that everlasting wrangling and spite, which now stare us in the face, and stun our ears at every turn, and which the “Reformation” has given us, in exchange for the ease, and happiness, and harmony, and Christian charity, enjoyed so abundantly and for so many ages by our Catholic forefathers" William Cobbett (1824-7)

Bury St Edmunds Abbey, Suffolk, - 'the great gate'.

45 Benedictine monks in November, 1539, when 'acquired' by King Henry VIII.

At present I am reading an absorbing and highly informative book, ‘A History of the Protestant Reformation in England and Ireland’ written in 1824-7 by William Cobbett, and covering from the reign of HenryVIII (1509-1547) to George III(1760-1820). I expect that some readers are familiar with this book, which has been re- published by TAN publishers, but for those who aren’t and for those who wish to learn more of these tragic and terrible events, I strongly recommend it.
This account is quite different from the standard popular history books dealing with the Reformation in England, for it is written, as it were, from the heart, and whilst emotive in sentiment and language, is nevertheless, I think objective in its insistence on truth - for justice sake rather than popular acclaim. The author dismisses the 'popular' Establishment version of events, which so often presents falsehoods as facts; monarchs, nobles, and churchmen supporting the ‘new’ religion, as righteous and honourable;
and anybody or anything Catholic, as worthless, traitorous and contemptible.

Norwich Cathedral Priory, Norfolk, - 'the cloisters'.

31 Benedictine monks in 1538/9 when 'acquired' by King Henry VIII.

This book was written from a self-confessed, deep sense of outrage and injustice at the lies and deceits levelled at, and perpetrated against, the Catholic Church and its followers; the same Church that for hundreds of years prior to the Reformation, had been the one Christian Church of England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland, uniting all people, from royalty to peasantry, in the Catholic faith, with the King as temporal and the Pope as spiritual Head, with laws and tradition guiding and ordering daily life in a spirit of Christian charity, for the common good. What is particularly special about this book is that the author was a Protestant, well travelled and knowledgeable of the ways of the world, and fully acquainted with hardship, poverty, and the demands of duty in his capacity as a regimental soldier of some 8 years service.

About the monasteries, the author states - “The piety, the austerities, and particularly the works of kindness and of charity performed by those living there, made them objects of great veneration; and the rich made them in time, the channels of their benevolence to the poor. Kings, queens, princes, princesses, nobles, and gentlemen founded monasteries; that is to say, erected the buildings and endowed them with estates for their maintenance. In time the monasteries became the owners of great landed estates, and they had a tenantry of prodigious extent especially in England where the monastic orders were always held in great esteem, in consequence of Christianity having been introduced into the kingdom by a community of monks.”

The author examines the circumstances leading up to the severance of the English church from Rome, with Henry VIII, angry at the Pope’s refusal to grant him a divorce, setting himself up as both spiritual and temporal head of the Church in England, thus incurring his excommunication.

When considering the events occurring immediately after Henry VIII broke with Rome, with regard to the monasteries, the author states that - “In England there was on average, more than twenty such monastic establishments in every county. Here was a prize for an unjust and

Glastonbury Abbey, Somerset,- 'the Abbot's kitchen'. c 45 Benedictine monks in 1539, when 'acquired' by King Henry VIII. At the same time, the last Abbot, Richard Whyting and two of his monks, were executed on the summit of Glastonbury Tor, for alleged 'treason'.

cruel, tyrant gentry to share amongst them! Here was enough indeed, to make robbers on a grand scale, cry out against ‘monkish ignorance and superstition’! No wonder that the bowels of Cranmer, Knox, and all the rest, yearned so piteously as they did, when they cast their pious eyes on all the farms and manors, and on all the silver and gold ornaments, belonging to these communities! We shall see with what alacrity they ousted, plundered, and pulled down: we shall see them robbing, under the basest pretences, even the altars of the country parish churches, down to the very smallest of those churches, and down to the value of five shillings.” .

“Consider just briefly, the fate of the monasteries, of which there were at that time a total of 645, besides 90 colleges, 110 hospitals, and 2374 chantries and free chapels

All, without exception, were seized by the King, who then granted them to those ‘loyal’ servants who aided and abetted him in his work of plunder. It must be remembered that these

Rochester Cathedral Priory, Kent.- viewed from the south-west.

c 20 Benedictine monks in March 1540, when 'acquired' by King Henry VIII.

The Archbishop of Rochester, John Fisher (later Saint), was executed on Tower Hill, London, in 1535, for refusing to recognise the King as head of the Church in England.

institutions comprised a great mass of landed property, which property was not by any means used for the sole benefit of monks, friars, and nuns, for the far greater part of its rents flowed immediately back amongst the people at large, benefiting the whole community”. With the dissolution of the monasteries came real poverty for the ordinary people, with unemployment, hunger, disease, homelessness, lack of education, and the prohibition of their faith ; inevitably leading to the widespread destruction of social and family ties, and increased crime. For to whom could these people now turn in their distress? The King’s 'friends' had a vested interest in maintaining their royal ‘friendship’, for it was through this that they could attain privilege and position, and hitherto undreamed of wealth. Surely, few if any, had any real concern for those previously dependant on the monasteries, and for whom the dissolution had meant the loss of so much that was good and secure in their lives? To those who falsely accused the monasteries of being havens for vice, greed, and idle living, Cobbett has this to say, “The monastic institutions flourished in England for 900 years; they were beloved by the people; they were destroyed by violence, by the plunderer’s grasp, and the murderer’s knife. Was there ever anything vicious in itself, or evil in its effects, held in veneration by a whole people for so long a time?”

This is quite a long book, some 400 or so pages, and it is quite impossible to recount here anything more than a few facts. To me it represents a reliable account of spiritual and temporal disaster of huge and everlasting magnitude, with much scholarly reference to primary source material. It recognises the Reformation as sowing the seed of the American and the French Revolution, when worldly powers united with satanic powers to destroy Christ's Church and all that it represents. We know with absolute certainty, that this same 'Catholic Church' will never be vanquished, for Christ Himself promised that He would always be with His Church, even to the end of the world.

In conclusion, and with thanks to ‘Pro Papa USA’ , I would like to refer you to the following site - and in particular the two most recent posts ‘Understanding Pope Benedict’. You will see extracts from the address of the Holy Father to representatives of the world of culture at ‘College des Bernadins, Paris’ on 12th September, when he talked at considerable length of the huge cultural debt that Western civilisation owes to the mediaeval monastic institutions, particularly in the fields of education, economics, the sciences and the arts; originally intended, designed and orientated towards a greater knowledge of, and a closer union with God. Recommended!

'Thoughts from St Alphonsus' - by Rev C McNeiry C.SS.R

'It is certain that God wills the salvation of all men, but He will not save us by force. He has placed before each of us - life and death; whichsoever we choose will be given us' (February 13th)

'Our Lady of Victory, guide and protect us all, especially our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVIth'

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

The Desert Fathers and Other Tails ...........

Greetings to fellow mariners and supporters of the Pro Papa League.
I feel the need for more 'light' refreshment from the lives of the Desert Fathers, translated from the Latin by Helen Waddell, and published by Constable of London in 1936, as ''The Desert Fathers'. I use the word 'light' reservedly, not in the sense of flippant or superficial but rather in the sense of spiritual light-heartedness born of hope and trust in God, the sense that permeates all these wonderful stories.

n.b. These two stories were originally translated from the Greek by an unknown translator.
'One of the Fathers fell ill, and for many days could touch no food. But one of his disciples urged him, saying, "If you will let me, my father, I shall make you a little cake." And the old man nodded, and he made it. Now beside him was a little pot of honey, and another similar pot with linseed oil, and it was stinking and good for nothing, unless perchance for a lamp; and the brother by mistake, put some of it in the cake, thinking that he was putting in honey. The old man tasted it, and said nothing, but ate in silence: but when it was given him a third time, he said: " I cannot eat my son." But the young man coaxing him said, " Look, Father, they are good cakes and I am eating some myself." Then when he had tasted it, and knew what he had done, he fell on his face saying, " Woe is me Father, for I have killed thee: thou hast laid this sin upon me, because thou didst say no word." And the old man said, " Vex not thyself, my son, because of it: for if God had willed that I should eat a good cake, thou wouldst have put in the honey, and not this that thou didst put in." '

'Once when the Abbot Macarius was climbing up the mountain in Nitria, he bade his disciple go a little way before him. And as he went on ahead, he met a priest of the idols, hurrying swiftly, and carrying a great log. And the disciple shouted at him, "Whither so fast, devil?" At which the irate priest beat him so soundly that he left him half dead: and again hurried on his way. A little further on, he met the blessed Macarius, who said to him, " May it be well with thee, O toiler, may it be well!" The priest, in surprise, said, "What good dost thou see in me that thou shouldst wish me well?" To which the old man made answer, "Because I see thee toiling and hasting, thou knowest not why." And the priest said, "And I, moved by thy salutation, knew thee for a great servant of God: now some other miserable monk, I know not who, met me and threw insults at me, but I gave him back blows for words." Then seizing the feet of the blessed Macarius, he cried to him, "Unless thou makest me a monk, I shall not let thee go." So taking the road together they came to the place where the stricken brother lay, whom they both lifted up, and as he could not walk, they carried him in their arms to the church. But when the brethren saw the priest in company with the blessed Macarius, they were dumbfounded: and in wonderment they made him a monk, and because of him many pagans were made Christian. And the abbot Macarius would say, "That a proud and ill speech would turn good men to evil, but a good and humble speech would turn evil men to better." '

SAINT BRENDAN AND THE SEA MONSTERS - taken from the life of St Brendan of Clonfert (St Brendan the Navigator, 484 to 577) and the legendary search by him and his companions, on the high seas, for the 'Isle of the Blessed'. He is patron saint of sailors and travellers.

Translated from the original Latin by Helen Waddell, and published in 1934 by Constable, London, as 'Beasts and Saints'. The woodcuts are by Robert Gibbings.

'And when the feast of the blessed Paul the Apostle, who was slain under Nero, was come, they were eager to celebrate his high day with devotion and glory. But while the Abbot was chanting the office, his voice sweet and ringing, the brethren said, "Sing lower Master; or we shall be shipwrecked. For the water is so clear that we can see to the bottom, and we see innumerable fishes great and fierce, such as never were discovered to human eye before, and if thou dost anger them with thy chanting, we shall perish." Then the Abbot upbraided them for fools and laughed a great laugh. "What," said he, "has driven out your faith? Fear naught but the Lord our God, and love Him in fear. Many perils have tried you, but the Lord brought you safely out of them all. There is no danger here. What are ye afraid of? And turning again, Brendan celebrated Mass more solemnly than before. And thereupon the monsters of the deep began to rise on all sides, and making merry for joy of the Feast, followed after the ship. Yet when the office of the day was ended, they straightway turned back and went their way.'
'Thoughts from St Alphonsus' by Rev C MacNeiry C.SS.R
'When Mary sees a sinner at her feet, imploring her mercy, she does not consider the crimes with which he is loaded, but the intention with which he comes; and if this is good, even should he have committed all possible sins, this loving Mother embraces him' (February 8th)
Our Lady, help of Christians, guide and protect our Holy Father.
St Paul, pray for our Church, and especially for our Holy Father.