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THE SPIRITUAL EVOLUTION OF MAN

“This is the will of God, your sanctification” (1Thess. 4:3)

In the years preceding the great world wars, a cardinal tenet with many writers, statesmen, publicists and other leaders of public opinion was the upward trend of civilisation and the essentially progressive nature of the human race. To dispute the proposition would have exposed anyone so daring to the charge of abysmal ignorance, or still worse, of standing in the light of day a confessed advocate of obscurantism and reaction. The mighty events through which we have passed since then have administered a rude shock to these overconfident assertions.

Events which administered a rude shock to overconfident assertions regarding human progress

A host of publications, proceeding from very different sources, have appeared since, in which the statement is directly traversed that the march of mankind through time is one of continuous ascent, an uninterrupted passage from the stage of savagery to higher and higher levels of culture, until we perhaps reach the conditions contemplated by Nietzsche in his “Superman”. These more modern writers have come to the conclusion, based on fairly obvious generalisations from history, that human progress is an achievement which can and does suffer checks and may at times be overwhelmed and actually obliterated.

A continuous ascent?

It is a stream that has its backwaters and the course of which may, at some point, be altogether diverted or even reversed. The annals of mankind are one long record of the rise and fall of empires and dynasties, of civilisation flourishing for a time, then being submerged and succeeded, perhaps after lengthy periods of intervening chaos and anarchy, by others of a totally different character. And we have no valid reason for presuming that our European society of to-day may not share in its turn the fate of these ancient empires. It has been shaken to its foundations in the welter of wars more horrifying and destructive than any the world has yet witnessed. The present order of things then, may be uprooted, just as the Barbarian tide once laid waste and washed away in its waters the mighty fabric of the Roman Empire, with all its power, its worldwide dominions, and far-flung civilisation.

The idea of human progress has, until now, been identified with the development of material resources of the Universe

The divergence of views just outlined arises from the fact that, until now, the idea of human progress has been to a great extent identified with the development of the material resources of the Universe. If by progress we mean the printing-press, the steam engines, motor cars, aeroplanes, the application of electricity, the wireless, the industrial system, the perfecting of the instruments of war, then without a doubt we live in a progressive age, and such progress is likely to endure, and even make further strides in the future. It is inconceivable that mankind should go back on the achievements of our modern era. What has been discovered has been discovered once and for all time, and in these respects each generation is destined to build on the shoulders of the preceding one.

What, actually, is human “progress”?

But can this material advance be really considered as indicating a true progress in man himself, whether we take him individually or socially?

Is he, for instance, happier, more contented now than he was, say, in the middle ages? Has he learned to perfect his moral nature, to live up to his idea of duty with greater consistency? Does he curb and restrain his animal passions the more efficaciously for having conquered the forces of nature? Is he less a slave to anger, hatred, jealousy, covetousness, list, intemperance, than were his forefathers of ruder days?

And in the social sphere a modern writer has asked very pertinently, “Are kingdoms and nations welded together in closer unity? Have statesmen notably improved in the methods of governing a people, or have they added anything of consequence to the political concepts elaborated by Plato and Aristotelean?

In the domain of the of the mind and the arts, does man at this day use his reasoning powers to better effect than the philosophers of old? Does his statuary surpass that of the ancient Greeks, or his painting that of the Renaissance? Does his architecture stand on a level with that of the Egyptian Pharaohs or the Cathedral builders, or do his poets and writers outstrip in genius, in versatility, in elegance of style, the classical authors of the great period in the history of literature?

Evolution on these lines would imply a true advance of man as man; but in point of fact his intellectual stature, like his bodily, appears in the main to be stationary; the Piltdown skull is even that of man to-day.”

A few considerations

Such in brief are some of the considerations which have led many to revise and recast former teachings concerning a continuous upward tendency of civilised mankind. The ordeal of war has shattered many illusions and forced us to realise that mechanical inventions and scientific discoveries have little to do with the control of elemental instincts, or the general bettering of our race as a whole.

Shattered illusions

True culture, it has taught us, does not consist merely in book knowledge but much more in the harmonious training and shaping and developing our intellectual and especially our moral faculties. Now, this moral uplifting of the soul cannot be conceived apart from the right ordering of its essential relations to the First Cause of our being, namely God. But on the other hand our recognition of God, our interior and exterior worship of Him, our submission to His behests, our love of Him as our chief good, constitute an attitude of mind which is termed religion, and which becomes sanctity when it is carried to a certain degree of excellence. Sanctity then is the culminating point towards which the soul must tend, if it is to make any true spiritual advance. And it is a point at which all Catholics, with all the supernatural aids at their disposal, are bound to aim. As St Paul put it to the Thessalonian converts, “This is the will of God, your sanctification.” And it is a goal that has been reached by that great army of saints who have gone before us and whom the Church has raised to her altars. In them we feel man has progressed further and more truly than by reason of any of the discoveries of science, for the saints are the salt of the earth, the flower and the glory of our race, of whom indeed, as is said in the epistle to the Hebrews (2:38), “the world is not worthy”. Their spirit we can imbibe and cherish even though we never reach to their achievements.

Is God more feared, better served, more filially loved?

In a certain large sense, we may allow that there has been an evolutionary progress in the religious world as well as in the material. The paganism of antiquity has yielded to a nobler and more spiritual conception of the Godhead. Christianity itself may be considered as being evolved from Judaism. The saints again, though always in a very small minority, have been increasing in number with the growth of the population and the spread of the Gospel. Thus we are gradually being lifted into clearer spiritual regions where we view things from a higher standpoint and can better appreciate what are the true values.

We ask ourselves what can be the thoughts of those blessed spirits, as they look down upon this poor earth, scarred and disfigured as it is by sin and the consequences of sin, on this earth where once they lived and fought and suffered? How paltry and insignificant it must all appear to their eyes; how trivial and unimportant most of our plans, endeavours, discoveries, our politics, our domestic dissentions, our international rivalries; how short-lived our joys and our sorrows, how vain our solicitudes, how deceptive the baubles upon we set our hearts.

In their sight human progress resolves itself into the question: Is religion striking deeper roots? Is God more feared, better served, more filially loved? All else is of this earth, an iridescent bubble that bursts in a moment and leaves but vacuity behind. Holiness alone is abiding. Not only does it raise and ennoble a man here below, but it accompanies him to that land beyond the stars where progress is unknown, for the ideal has been reached and the possession thereof is eternal.

The redemptive work of Christ goes on

These terrible wars with their aftermath of worldwide suffering have brought home to us most convincingly that the answer to the question we have put above is an emphatic negative. The world, in getting rid or rather striving to get rid of God and religion, has by an inevitable nemesis brought upon itself all its present horrors, miseries, and sufferings. It is of such a godless world that St John warned us when he said,

Love not the world nor the things that are in the world… for all that is in the world is the concupiscence of the flesh, the concupiscence of the eyes and the pride of life (1John 2:15-16).

Men in neglecting and forgetting God have lived for time and not for eternity, and time has betrayed them even to their temporal and, it may be, alas, in some cases, to their eternal ruin.

But the redemptive work of Christ goes on; and we Catholics, even though of the laity, are all His apostles, working in our own individual sphere of life, and are bound to take part in bringing others to the light of Faith and to their eventual salvation. We can unite our prayers, our labours and our sufferings, be they great or small, with those of the Crucified Lord. These will be of efficacy and value only in the degree in which we sanctify ourselves and become, as did the saints, wholly devoted to the great cause of Christ to which, as members of His Mystical Body, we are pledged.

True progress in practice

We should be spiritually insensitive, indeed, if this time of unspeakable sorrow and calamity has not impressed upon us ever more deeply the glaring truth that the next world is the only one worth living and striving for, that Christ is the only sure leader, worthy of our whole love and allegiance, and that our one supreme ambition must be to fulfil God’s will. Again to quote St Paul – “This is the will of God, your sanctification.”

It is in sanctifying ourselves that we shall find our true consolation and joy which nothing in this world, however trying and difficult, will take from us.

– From: Lift Up Your Hearts, Christopher J. Wilmot, The Catholic Book Club, London, 1949

 

 
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Posted by on February 20, 2016 in Words of Wisdom

 

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MY AUNT IS NEARING THE END OF HER LIFE, BUT STILL CONSCIOUS – WOULD IT FRIGHTEN HER TO CALL THE PRIEST FOR THE LAST RITES?

Question: My aunt is nearing the end of her life but is still conscious and enjoying the company of her family. Unfortunately, some of her relatives think that it would frighten her to call the priest for the last rites, though she has been a devout Catholic all her life.

Answer by Fr Tim: The inaccurate term ‘last rites’ causes unnecessary worries. Priests regularly visit people in hospital to give Holy Communion and to minister the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick. When a person begins to approach the end of life through illness, the time has come to receive the sacrament of anointing.

The Church insists that it is not necessary to leave this to the last minute because the sick person may receive great consolation and strength from the sacrament as their death approaches, even if this is gradually over a period of time. As a devout Catholic, your aunt would certainly want to receive the sacraments of anointing and would greatly benefit from the opportunity to receive the sacraments of penance and Holy Communion while she is still conscious and before she has to spend more of the time under sedation or powerful pain-relieving drugs.

Relatives who have little or no faith often mistakenly think that a sick person will be frightened by the attendance of a priest. It is often their own fear that is in play, since the priest reminds them of the eternal truths which they have tried to ignore, and prefer not to talk about.

The visit of a priest can help to create a greater honesty in communication as death approaches, so that there is not a conspiracy of silence in which your dying aunt cannot speak of her own mortality because of the frailty of her relatives in discussing such things. The visit of a priest can gently help her relatives to overcome such a barrier.

The prayers of the sacrament of anointing are entirely suitable for the time when death is approaching, but not immediately imminent. When death is near, the Apostolic Blessing, with the plenary indulgence and the Commendation of the Dying, are among the most beautiful prayers in the treasury of the Church.”

– This article by Fr Tim Finigan was published in the Catholic Herald newspaper, issue November 28 2014. For subscriptions please visit http://www.catholicherald.co.uk (external link)

 

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OUTLAWED FOR BEING A CATHOLIC CHRISTIAN: ACCOUNTS OF BRINDLE & HOGHTON TOWER, LANCASHIRE, ENGLAND

From then he was declared an outlaw

“Whether we consider the castellated tower – one of the finest in the kingdom, or the pride of the de Houghtons – or the heroic sacrifice which the head of the family made in leaving it and his country for religion’s sake, or, again, the constancy of the country people which has persevered to this day, despite the forcible Protestantism of the hero’s grandson, on each of these accounts Hoghton and Brindle are unequalled in interest even in Catholic Lancashire.

‘At Houghton Hygh, which is a bower

Of sports and lordly pleasure,

I wept and left that lofty tower

Which was my chiefest treasure.

To save my soule and lose ye reste

Yt was my trew pretence;

Lyke frightened bird, I left my neste

To keep my conscience.’

Mr. Gillow says on the death of his father, August 5, 1558, Thomas Hoghton succeeded to the family estates. At this period William Allen, afterwards Cardinal, visited Lancashire, and was a guest at Hoghton Tower. In common with the gentry and people of Lancashire, Hoghton repudiated the new religion which was being forced upon the country.

Every type of pressure was devised by the government to force Catholic Christians to renounce the Faith

Every kind of pressure was devised by the Council to drive the people into attendance at the Protestant service. Fines and imprisonment were inflicted in rapid succession, and Catholics were outlawed and deprived of all protection. Under these circumstances, feeling that he could not remain in the country and keep his conscience, Hoghton took the advice of his friend Vivian Haydock, and in 1569 he hired a vessel and sailed from his mansion of The Lea, on the Rible, to the coast of France, and thence proceeded to Antwerp. From this he was declared an outlaw, and possession was taken of his estates.

The state took possession of his estates

On March 17, 1576, his half-brother Richard obtained a licence from Queen Elizabeth to visit the exile in Antwerp, with intent to persuade him to submit to the royal pleasure. Hoghton was anxious to return, but could not make terms with the Court to retain his religion; he therefore remained in exile until his death, which occurred at Liege, June 2, 1580, aged sixty-three. He was buried under the high altar of the English College, Douai, which he had helped to found. He charged his executors to remove his body to the place where his ancestors lay in the parish church of Preston, of which the Hoghtons were patrons, when God should have mercy on his country, and restore to it the Catholic Faith and service.

‘Hys lyfe a mirrour was to all,

Hys death wythout offence;

Confessor, then, lett us him call,

O blessed conscience.’

His son and namesake, Thomas Hoghton, went with his father into exile, and was not recognised on the escheat in 1580. He was placed with Dr. Allen at Douai College, whence he left to visit his father in Brabant in 1577. He probably returned, for he matriculated in the University of Douai, was ordained priest, and proceeded to the English Mission. He had no sooner arrived in Lancashire than he was seized and thrown into Salford Gaol, where great numbers of recusants were confined.

The great band of confessors of the Faith who perished in prison unrecorded

There his name appears in the list of priests returned to the Council by Edmund Trafford and Robert Worsley in 1582. He was one of those who ‘do still contynue in their obstinate opynions; neyther do wee see anye likelyhoode of conformytie in any of them.’ His name continues in the lists of recusants imprisoned at Salford until January, 1584, after which it is lost sight of, and in all probability he went to swell the great band of confessors of the Faith who perished in prison unrecorded.

The half-brother of the exile, and curiously his namesake, Thomas Hoghton, was slain in a feud with the Baron of Newton in 1589, and his eldest son, being a minor, was given in ward to Sir Gilbert Gerard, the Master of the Rolls, to be brought up a Protestant. This system of gaining over Catholic families to the new religion was constantly practised, as in the case of Sir Roger Bradshaigh and others who were cruelly robbed of the Faith. All the rest of the family were true to the old religion, and the Hoghtons would still have been Catholics but for this unjust proceeding. Thus wrote Mr. Gillow in 1887, but recently the heir to the Hoghton estates has become a Catholic, and having married a Catholic lady, their children are being educated in the Faith for which the de Hoghton of 1580 was so staunch a confessor.

It is of interest to remember that it was at Hoghton Tower in 1617 that King James, in the present banqueting hall, solemnly knighted the Sirloin of Beef, an incident which the writers of the Victorian History of Lancashire, despite their very full account of Hoghton, have thought fit to omit. Possibly the facts are none too decorous, but the incident tells us much of the manners of the royal guest and his court.

Venerable Edmund Arrowsmith

To turn now to matters more ecclesiastical, the earlier directories of the Archdiocese of Liverpool (e.g., 1915) give the date of the Brindle Mission thus: 16 – , 1786. The latter is the date of the present church, cut in stone above the doorway of the chapel, and very pretentious the date looks. The former figures, 16 -, need some completion. Fortunately, there are plenty of records from which to compile our story.

Venerable Edmund Arrowsmith

Venerable Edmund Arrowsmith

The chief jewel in the crown of the Brindle Mission is the holy martyr Edmund Arrowsmith, who attended to the Catholics in the district for some years, and the story of whose arrest is so graphically given in Dom Bede Camm’s Forgotten Shrines. Father Arrowsmith came to the English Mission in 1613, the year after his ordination, and resided for the most part with relatives of his family at Denham Hall. Mr. Gillow in his Notes on Brindle (Cat. Rec. Soc., vol. 23) mentions that about 1622 Father Arrowsmith was apprehended and brought before Dr. Bridgeman, Bishop of Chester, with whom he had a controversy before being committed to Lancaster Castle. Thence he was released about the time of the negotiations for a marriage between Prince Charles (later Charles II) and a Spanish Princess. Shortly afterwards he joined the Society of Jesus, as he had long desired, making his novitiate on the mission, but spent two or three months in Essex before his profession under the name of Rigby in 1624. From that date he continued to serve the Mission at Brindle and the neighbourhood till his apprehension in 1628. He was arraigned at Lancaster, condemned to death for being a priest, and martyred August 28, 1628, aged forty-three. The martyr’s right hand was secured by the Gerards of Bryn, and to this day is held in great veneration, at Ashton-in-Makerfield.

A spring of very clear water

According to Mr. Gillow, the usual residence of the priest about this time was at St. Helen’s Well, where also was the principal place where Mass was said in the district. The house and well are thus described by Kuerdon, writing about 1675: ‘Over against Swansey House, a little towards the hill, standeth an ancient fabric, once the Manor House of Brindle, where hath been a chappel belonging to the same, and a little above it a spring of very clear water, rushing straight upward into the midst of a fayr fountain, walled square about in stone and flagged in the bottom, very transparent to be seen and a strong stream issuing out of the same. This fountain is called St Ellen’s Well, to which place the vulgar neighbouring people of the Red Letter (Catholics) do much resort with pretended devotion on each year, upon St Ellin’s day (Aug. 18).’

From the Forfeited Estates Papers in the Public Record Office

Mr. Henry Taylor, in his Ancient Crosses and Wells in Lancashire, gives some diagrams of the Well along with his interesting account, in which he says: ‘I could not find the chapel, but some of the stairs in the dilapidated house close by may have formed a portion of such an edifice.’ This was the residence of the Gerards of the Well, and so continued till the early part of the eighteenth century, of whom William married in 1619; Oliver Gerard of the Well was buried in 1664; the will of James Gerard of St Ellen’s Well was proved at Chester in 1665, and that of Alice Gerard of the Well in 1679; besides many later entries in the Brindle parish registers.

This Alice Gerard may justly be considered the foundress of the present Brindle Mission. Previous to her death in 1679, probably about 1677, she gave the site, and built upon it a new chapel and house in Gregson Lane, known as Newhouse. Among the Forfeited Estate Papers in the Public Record Office are several depositions made before the Commissioners in reference to this chapel. ‘George Hinton, of Brindle, Co. Lancaster, swore this 18th July, 1718, saith he hath known Newhouse ever since it was built by Alice Gerard, viz. about forty years ago, that one Green lived there about ten years and died about thirteen years ago, and this deponent did frequently hear the said Green say Mass there, after whose death Mr. Hutchison, a Roman priest, succeeded him, and now usually resides there; That there are about twelve acres of ground belonging to the said house.’ Forty years from 1718, the date of the above deposition, would take us to 1678, which may thus be safely inserted in future Catholic directories as the date of the Brindle Mission.

Similar evidence to that of George Hinton was given by William Hinton, William Turner, Thomas Oram, who mention Mr. Green, Mr. Hutchison, and Mr. Huddlestone as successive priests, and the date at Newhouse of its beginning as forty years previously. Samuel Peploe again, in his account of estates granted to superstitious purposes in and about Preston, Co. Lancs., reported: “Newhouse and grounds belonging to it in Brindle is mostly let in parcels. One Hutchison, a Popish priest, has lived on it some time, who succeeded Mr. Green, a priest, who died there.’

From the above we gather that Mr. Green came to Brindle in 1695. He died in 1704, and was buried at the parish church of Brindle. Mr. Hutchison succeeded, and died at Brindle August 24, 1717. Mr. Huddlestone had charge of the Mission till 1721, when he was succeeded by Dom William Placid Naylor, the most distinguished of the monks in charge of Brindle, who during the last three years he was there was President-General of the English Congregation. His earlier years at Brindle were full of activity. He first acquired a cottage and 3 1/2 acres of land from a family of the name of Coope, and in 1726, with the aid of various benefactions, he obtained possession of Stanfield House with the grounds on which it stood. Mr. George Hull, in his historical sketch of Brindle, mentions that before he built the chapel Father Naylor, like his predecessors, did duty at several Mission stations. One of these was Jack Green, which in 1860 belonged to a Mr. Livesay. When the old house there was pulled down, Father Smith (Brindle, 1829-1874) brought the old chalice and the vestments from the garret to his own house. Another station was at Woodhouse, going towards Clayton Green; another was at Slack, where the Fazackerleys lived; another at Thorpe Green. At these stations the priest celebrated the rites of the Church, and on one Sunday he announced where he would officiate the next; for he could not take them in rotation, because then Catholics had to go to Mass by stealth, and it was dangerous to allow it to be known where services would be held.

It was dangerous to allow it to be known where Mass would take place

Mass was also said at a house, one end of which now faces the entrance to Gregson Lane Mill. This old house has strong claims – even at the risk of a slight digression – to a passing notice here. It is believed to have been erected about 1580, and is a fine example of the comfortable yeoman’s dwelling of that period; an interesting feature of the building being a small room in which the ironwork round the fireplace is hammered into a representation of the wheat and vine, emblematic of the bread and wine used in the Mass. It is said that at the beginning of the eighteenth century this house was the residence of the Gregsons of Gregson Lane, one of whom placed his initials, ‘G. G.,’ with a cross and the date, ‘1700,’ on the lintel of the porch, thus giving later generations the erroneous impression that the building was erected in that year. From it were taken, about 1880, some ancient vestments, which are now in the museum at Stonyhurst College. Near this house, about twenty years ago, was dug up a very ancient font, possibly of the ninth century; and in the garden of a cottage close by stands a beautiful old wayside cross. Local tradition asserts that at this same old house the Venerable Edmund Arrowsmith, the Jesuit martyr, said his last Mass. There are other interesting traditions of his presence in this neighbourhood.

Brindle Presbytery and former chapel, ca. 1923

Brindle Presbytery and former chapel, ca. 1923

He had laboured long in his Mission

Mr. Hull continues his historical sketch: ‘The former priest’s house at Brindle and part of the chapel, Brindle, erected for and by Father Naylor, are still standing. They adjoin the present priest’s house, a portion of which, in its turn, formed part of the second chapel, the present church being really the third building erected for divine worship on this spot.’ As priests could not then hold property, the buildings erected by Father Naylor were conveyed to him in the name of Mr. Woodcock, a Protestant friend, who lived at Walton, and whose successors lived at Bury, where Father Smith saw them, when he arranged for the transfer of the property. Father Naylor, on account of his position as President-General, appears to have been absent from Brindle, on business connected with the Order, from time to time; for it is on record, in the register of the Mission, that he left Brindle for ‘the last time’ on July 16, 1769. He then retired to his Monastery of St. Lawrence at Dieulouard, in Lorraine, and when he got there he told his brethren – to quote Father Smith’s account – ‘that he had laboured long in his Mission and had come to lay his bones in his old monastery. He lived there two years before he went to his rest.’

He had, indeed, laboured hard on the Mission, and most of the time filled important posts in the English Congregation. He was Definitor of the Province in 1733, Definitor of the Regimen 1737, Provincial of York 1741-1766, in which year he became President-General. It was he who built up the Brindle Mission, so that it became the parent of several others in the neighbourhood, and the Catholics of the district owe much to his remarkable foresight and ability.

Many of the judges and magistrates were heartily ashamed 

Not content with labouring hard himself, Father Naylor appears to have done much to induce others to take up the then arduous and perilous work of the priesthood, for there are records of at least three members of his congregation who left Brindle to be educated at the houses belonging to the English Congregation which were then maintained on the Continent. These were the Rev. John Anselm Bolton, who was professed at St Lawrence’s, Dieulouard, in 1751; the Rev. William Dunstan Garstang, professed at St Edmund’s, Paris, in 1753; and the Rev. Ambrose Waring, professed at Dieulouard in 1761. The name of the first of these three – Father Bolton – is connected with what was most probably the last of the trials for high treason to which Catholic priests were liable until the end of the eighteenth century. During the time he was chaplain and incumbent at Gilling Castle, Yorkshire (1764-1793), he was, through the ill-will of a discharged bailiff, accused and tried for his priesthood; or, in other words, simply for having taught the Catholic Catechism to his parishioners. Many of the judges, magistrates, and other authorities of that date were heartily ashamed of the atrocious penal laws which they were called to administer. This seems to have been especially their feeling in the case of Father Bolton, and the learned counsel who appeared for him took full advantage of it.

He procured a catechism, took out its pages, and substituted pages of blank paper. When the proper time came he asked the discharged bailiff who had betrayed Father Bolton if this book, which he held up, was anything like the book from which he had seen Mr. Bolton teach Popery. The ex-bailiff boldly declared that it was ‘the very same book.’ ‘Was he sure?’ ‘Quite sure.’ ‘On his oath?’ ‘Yes.’ Counsel passed the book over to the Judicial Bench, and from there it went to the jury. It was, of course, found to contain not a word of Popery; and the priest was, to the credit of the Court, acquitted. This Father Bolton afterwards had charge of a mission at Ampleforth, in Yorkshire, and from his house, which still stands, grew the noble pile now known as St Lawrence’s Abbey. He died on December 22, 1805, and a fine portrait of him is to be seen at Ampleforth, which has been reproduced by Dom C. Almond in his History of Ampleford Abbey, where he most generously acknowledges the share the good monk from Brindle had in establishing what was to be the successor of his own Alma Mater at Dieulouard.

A succession of remarkable men

Father Naylor’s successor at Brindle was Rev. Joseph Lawrence Hadley, who was there from 1767 to 1802, having acted for two years as Father Naylor’s assistant. Father Hadley built the present spacious and substantial church, which bears the date, as already mentioned, over its main entrance. After serving Brindle for nearly thirty-six years, Father Hadley retired to Liverpool, where he died. He was, in common with other Catholics of that date, interred in the burial-ground of St James Protestant Church, at the top of Parliament Street. At this time the congregation numbered about 600, whilst in 1784 Bishop Mathew B. Gibson confirmed 168 persons at Brindle. About this time the children of the district received such education as could then be afforded them at several small schools. One of them, known as ‘Old Betty Slater’s,’ was at the Straits; another, kept by one ‘Dicky’ Wilson, was at Coupe Green, which is said to have taken its name from the local family already mentioned. On the erection of the present church, the former chapel is believed to have been used as a school.

Immediately after Father Hadley’s retirement in 1802, the Mission was placed under the care of Rev. James Alexius Pope, and of him his successor, Father Smith, said that ‘he believed no mission ever had a more deserving or a better priest than Mr. Pope was.’ But the same words might have been used with equal propriety of Father Smith himself, the truth being that during the long period of 153 years the Brindle Mission was blessed with a succession of remarkable men, the four of them sharing between them the century and a half. Father Smith’s great desire was, if he knew a boy who was promising for the Church, to get him to college and ultimately admitted to Holy Orders. In this he was singularly successful. Among those whom he was instrumental in getting thus trained were Rev. J. C. Proctor, O.S.B.; V. R. Canon Carter, afterwards of Bolton; Rev. M. G. Brierley, O.S.B.; V. R. Canon Baron, afterwards of Corby, Lincolnshire; Rev. Will. Baron; V. R. Canon Walmesley; Rev. William Crook; Rev. Edmund Crook; Rev. Henry Ryley; Rev. James Thompson; Rev. Thos. Parkinson; Rev. J. A. Worden, O.S.B. There was one embargo that Father Smith always put upon the priests who owed their training to his efforts, and that was that in the Holy Sacrifice they should never forget the congregation of Brindle. The good Father died at his post on January 29, 1874, and was interred in the graveyard adjoining the church. In the early days of his incumbency a former Brindle boy, who had risen to a position of affluence by his industry and integrity, built the schools which have now done duty for three generations, and on which the following inscription may still be read: ‘Erected by Mr. Joseph Knight, of Chelsea, for the benefit of the Brindle congregation, and as a token of respect for his native place, A. D. 1831.’

…in times of prosperity as in times of suffering and persecution

The Brindle Mission is the ‘mother’ of Brownedge, Walton, Clayton Green, and Leyland. ‘It is,’ says Mr. Hewitson, in his Country Churches and Chapels, to which we would refer the reader for further ‘racy’ details, ‘an elevated pastoral district, with a peaceable, widely-spread population, and has some of the most puzzling roads in the Western hemisphere. We have managed a few roads in our time, but in all our wanderings we have met with none more mixed up or perplexing then those in the arcadian region of Brindle. It is indeed an old-world spot, the chapel snugly hid away in a deep dell and not seen until one is within fifty yards of it. But it was placed there in times of persecution; and all the surroundings have the same air of peaceful retirement so greatly favoured by our Catholic forefathers.’ But the days of retirement are past, and we may justly hope that Brindle and Hoghton will remember their former glories and be an example to Catholic Lancashire in times of prosperity, even as they were in times of suffering and persecution.”

– Dom F. O. Blundell, O.S.B., Old Catholic Lancashire, Burns Oates & Washbourne Ltd., London 1925

 

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UNSUNG HEROES OF LIVERPOOL – EXCERPTS OF A CATHOLIC PRIEST’S DIARY

“To understand the early post-Reformation history of Catholics in Liverpool two points must be clearly borne in mind: the first, that the town up to the year 1700 was of very small size, with only about 5,000 inhabitants (Vict. Hist., p. 23); the second, that it was a centre of civil and legal activity for South-west Lancashire. This latter fact made the practice of the Catholic religion impossible within its boundaries, for if in remote country districts the gentry and people alike had the greatest difficulty in evading the fines for non-attendance at the Protestant place of worship, it would be quite impossible for them to evade such fines in a town full of civil and legal functionaries.

Fines for non-attendance at the place of worship dictated by the government

Again, the constant search for priests, which made the priests’ hiding-places so common in the farm-houses and country mansions of Lancashire – this priest-hunting process evidently made it impossible for the Catholic clergy to remain in a town where every person was known and every detail of the law carried out by subservient officials. The above remarks apply, not only to Liverpool, but to all the towns of Lancashire; so that, while many country districts can prove their succession of priests – and, in some sort, of chapels also – none of the towns can show an earlier chapel than does Liverpool, where Mass was certainly said somewhere as early as 1701.

Catholic priests were hunted down and forced to live undercover

But if we take a map of that period and consider Liverpool as a town of 5,000 inhabitants, and its area to be confined within half a mile of the present pier-head, we shall find that a goodly lot of villages surround the town, and that in many of these villages there were priests’ residences and facilities for hearing Mass and receiving the sacraments. Thus, counting from north to south, we find Little Crosby, Ince Blundell, Lydiate, Netherton (or Sefton Hall), Gillmoss (or Croxteth), Portico, Woolton (or Speke). When we consider the heroic sacrifices which our Catholic forefathers were willing to make for the practice of their religion, we may justly assume that the few Catholic families whom necessity forced to reside in Liverpool would find means to attend one or other of these chapels. In the present volume, four of the above-mentioned chapels are dealt with; the others will follow in succeeding volumes.

Map of Liverpool, 1765, showing 1.: Parish Church of Our Lady and St Nicholas, 2. and inset: The Romish Chapel

Map of Liverpool, 1765, showing 1.: Parish Church of Our Lady and St Nicholas, 2. and inset: The Romish Chapel

"This plan of Liverpool, Surrvey'd in June 1765 is Most Humbly Inscribed..."

“This plan of Liverpool, Surrvey’d in June 1765 is Most Humbly Inscribed…”

The heroic sacrifices Catholics were willing to make for the practice of their faith

To the writer of these pages it is a source of boundless gratitude that the first priest to visit Liverpool in post-Reformation times was provided, not by the Molyneux of Sefton, great Catholics as they at the time were, nor by the Irelands of Lydiate, but by the Blundells of Crosby, who had, indeed, been more closely associated for one hundred years with Catholic life in the district, and had in consequence suffered more heavily. Perhaps a kind Providence thus rewarded them.

Government informants and the succession

Besides the residences for priests just enumerated – all of which have their representative chapel to-day – there were others, which at different periods helped to keep alive the Faith in the district. Fazakerley Hall, the seat of the family of that name, was, says Mr. Gillow, a venerable mansion taken down in 1823. It contained an ancient chapel, and in 1716 Richard Hitchmouth, the apostate priest, declared that he himself had officiated there for some time, and informed the commissioners for forfeited estates that it possessed a large silver chalice and paten. From other information during the Commission it appears that Hitchmouth was succeeded in the Mission by Mr. Thos. Wogrill. There was an endowment for the priest at Fazakerley Hall arising from a mortgage on an estate of 60 acres in the possession of Will. Tarleton at Orrell. In 1750 Fr. Henry Tatlock, S.J., is described as serving two places, of which Fazakerley was one, and here he died in 1771. Fr. Thos. Brewer served these places from 1774 to 1780, but after this it would seem that Fazakerley Hall changed hands, and the Mission was discontinued.

The name appears, generation after generation, in the recusant rolls through all the centuries of persecution of Catholic Christians

Earlier notices of Fazakerley are when Father Thos. Eccleston (born 1643, ordained 1677) came to the Lancashire Mission and went to Fazakerley Hall. In 1694 he was rural dean of the West Derby Hundred, and gave £50 to the common fund. Rev. Thos. Fazakerley, born 1611, was ordained at the English College, Rome, in 1635. He came on to the Mission in Lancashire, and, dying in 1664, was buried at Harkirke, Little Crosby. ‘The family of Fazakerley,’ to quote Mr. Follow again, ‘was very ancient, and remained staunch in its adherence to the Faith. The name appears, generation after generation, in the recusant rolls through all the centuries of persecution… The mansion, besides its domestic chapel, was full of priests’ hiding-places.

The mansion was full of priests’ hiding-places

Regarding the history within the actual boundaries of old Liverpool, we are fortunate in having a most interesting account from the pen of Rev. T. E. Gibson, published in the Liverpool Catholic Almanac for 1887 and 1888.* [1]

Father Gibson devotes some pages to the history of St. Nicholas Church at the landing stage, and gives the original charters of the Catholic Bishops in 1361 and 1459, showing how by this latter, those who made offerings to the chapel of St. Mary of the Key (Quay) were granted an indulgence of forty days. ‘This shows,’ he says, ‘how ancient in our city was the custom of decorating the image of our Blessed Lady with flowers and lights, and silently appeals to us to emulate the piety of our forefathers.’ Indeed, I would like to quote more, but feel myself bound to adhere to the rule not to treat of pre-Reformation matters in these volumes, for fear of running to too great length. It should be noted, however, that the old church is marked on all the plans of the city up to 1821 as “Our Lady and St. Nicholas,” whilst the notice-board outside the church still proclaims it as ‘The Parish Church of Our Lady and St. Nicholas.’

They were denied burial by the government because of their Catholic faith

Of the Catholics within the city during the years 1600-1700 we obtain only occasional glimpses, for no priest was stationed in the town. In the catalogue of burials at Harkirke are the following: ’31 Aug. 1613, John Synett, an Irishman, borne in Wexforde, master of a barke, was excommunicated by the B(ishop) of Chester for being a Catholicke recusant, and so dying at his house in Liverpoole was denyed to bee buried at Liverpoole Churche or Chappell and therefore was brought and buried in this sayd buriall place of ye Harkirke in ye afternoone of the last day of August 1613.’ And again: ’20 May 1615, Anne ye wyffe of George Webster of Liverpoole (tenant to Mr. Crosse) dyed a Catholicke, and being denyed buriall at ye Chappell of Liverpoole by ye Curate there, by ye Maior, and by Mr. More, was buried in ye Harkirke.’ The Crosse family did not change their religious profession at once, for in 1628 John Crosse of Liverpool, as a convicted recusant, paid double to the subsidy (Vict. Hist.).

Government officials did not tire of harrassing people for them to renounce their Catholic faith

The recusant roll of 1641 contains only five names, four being those of women. In 1669 four papist recusants were presented at the Bishop of Chester’s visitation, namely: Beres, gent., Mary, wife of George Brettargh, William Fazakerley and his wife; but in 1683 there were thirty-five persons, including Richard Lathom, presented for being absent from [governmental Anglican] church, and in the following year there were thirty-nine. The revival of presentations was no doubt due to the Protestant and Whig agitation of the time. James II endeavoured to mitigate the effects of it: in 1686, being ‘informed that Richard Lathom, of Liverpool, chirurgeon, and Judith his wife, who keep also a boarding school for the education of youth at Liverpool, had been presented for their exercising the said several vocations without license, by reason of their religion (being Roman Catholics) and being assured of their loyalty, he authorised them to continue, remitted penalties incurred, and forbade further interference’ (Vict. Hist., p. 50).

Some of the lists are here inserted, containing names still prominent amongst the Catholics of Liverpool.

CONVICTED RECUSANTS, 1641

[original list; original entries incl. spelling & punctuation: ]

Walton.

Roberte ffazakerley, gent. et ux. IIs Vlll d.

Ellen ffazakerley, sp(inste)r XVI d.

Margaret ffazakerley, sp(inste)r XVI d.

Lawrence Bryers, et ux IIs VIII d.

Will Chorley, gent et ux II VIII d.

Eme Chorley, sp(inste)r XVI

Nicholas ffazakerley, gent et ux II VIII d.

Henry Stananoght, et ux II VIII d.

Will Topping, et ux II VIII d.

Joane Tyror, vid(ua) XVI d.

Thos. Longhorne, et ux. II VIII d.

Dorothy Barker, sp(inste)r XVI d.

Ann Briage, vid(ua) XVI d.

John ffisher, et ux II VIII d.

 

West Derbie.

Elizabeth Mollinex, vid XVI d.

Katherin Mollinex, XVI d.

Thomas Welsh & ffrancis, ux. ejus II VIII d.

Margeria ux Hugh Barner, XVI d.

Arthur Tyrer et Margret, ux. ejus II VIII d.

Thomas fflecher, XVI d.

Ann ux. Robt. Dorwin, XVI d.

Thomas Mollinex, XVI d.

George Woods et Susan, ux ejus II VIII d.

Robt. Mercer & Ellin, ux ejus. II VIII d.

John Sergent, et ux. II VIII d.

John Stockley et Marie, ux ejus II VIII

Andrew Mercer, XVI

Alice Rigbie, XVI

Will Moore et Margery, ux ejus II VIII

John Edgerton et Ellinor, ux ejus II VIII

John Lathom Lathom, (sic) et ux II VIII

Ellin Standish, vid XVI d.

George Standish, et ux VIII d.

James Pemberton, XVI

Valentine Richardson, et ux II VIII d.

Thomas Bolton, XVI

Margret ux. Edw. Henshaw, XVI d.

Ellin ux. John Miller, XVI

Mary Leyland, XVI d.

 

Liverpoole.

Ursula ux. John Banckes, XVI

Jane ux. Henry Haskeene, XVI

Alice Harison, sp(inste)r XVI

Elizabeth Parkinson, XVI

Arthur Muckowen, XVI

 

These were lesser gentry, the landowners coming under another rate.

‘1684. Extract from proceedings of the Portmoote or Court of Quarter Sessions of the Peace holden for the Towne of Leverpoole, 12th Janr., 1684. Wee present the persons next undernamed for absenting themselves from divine Service. [Loyal Catholic Christians refusing to take part in enforced state church service (Anglican)]

Mr. William ffazakerley & his wife, Humphrey Harrison, John Hoole, James Mercer & his wife, John Tildesley, Edward Arthur & his wife, William Rydinge, William Segar, Mary Cowley, Margaret Bluckington, Alice, wife of Mathew Walker, Marie wife of George Braithwaite, Richard Lathom & his wife, Elizabeth Weaver, Mr. Richard Cleveland, Mr. Daniel Danser, Mr. Francis Tempest, William Gandy & his wife, Lawrence Myers, Ellen Bickesteth, Daniel Dwerrihouse, Henrie Thorpe & his wife, Trustam Jackson & his wife, Jane Canby widdow, William Burke & his wife, Ann fformby widdow, Peter Summers; Thomas Tyrer, smith & his wife; Thomas Lyon, smith; Henrie Knowles, baker & his wife; Richard Mercer, Tanner & his wife’

And the names occur year after year.

My wife went to Mass to Liverpool, to Pater Gelibrand at Mr. Lancasters

This brings our story to the commencement of the new century, when Rev. W. Gillibrand, chaplain to Mr. Nicholas Blundell of Crosby Hall, began to give service regularly in Liverpool. The diary* [2] of the latter records under date December 2, 1707: ‘Pater Gillibrand went hence: I could not prevale with him to hear ye discourse about Leige.’ A month later there is the following entry: ‘My wife went to prayers (Mass) to Liverpool, to Pat(er) Gelibrand at Mr. Lancasters.’ From this and other entries, says Father Gibson, we learn that Father Gillibrand lodged with Mr. Lancaster, who followed the business of a grocer. The Lancasters were a respectable Catholic family of the middle class; another brother was a doctor in good practice at Ormskirk, who is frequently mentioned in the diary; and a third was captain of a trading vessel. Some other extracts from the diary may be of interest:

Aged and infirm priests lodged at a building originally meant to be a school

’15th Aug. 1702. I went to Leverp(ool) with Coz(en) Edmund Butler. We halled ye Mary with a Handkerchaf but she answered not: he went on Bord ye Harington for Dublin.’ It is a long cry to the time when the Dublin Mail Packet could be hailed by passengers, but as the first dock – formed by deepening the old Pool, the site of the present Custom House – was not opened till 1700, the means of embarking for Ireland at that date must have been very primitive.

A similar entry is under date 2 May 1708: ‘Mr. Waring told us his Son was in danger to lose his Passage for Ireland, ye Ship being gone and he was forced to ride after her on Shore and so get on Border if he could.’

The next entry is interesting as showing the number of priests in this neighbourhood at the time: ’18 Aug. 1702. Mr. Mullins came in ye morning to pray and stayed till next day: Mr. Tasburgh and Little Man came hither in ye Afternoone.’ Mr. Mullins was priest at Mossuck Hall, in Bickerstaffe, a secluded spot a few hundred yards behind St Mary’s Chapel, Aughton. Rev. Henry Tasburgh, S.J., lived at the New House, at Ince Blundell, built shortly before with the view of its being used as a school. It never was so used, but became the home of aged and infirm priests of the Society. By ‘Little Man’ is meant his cousin and chaplain, Rev. W. Gillibrand, who throughout his life was a confidential friend and adviser. The following reads strangely to-day: ‘5 March 1705. I saw 3 Beggars whiped out of Leverpool,’ and next day: ‘My wife rid behind me to Leverpool: she saw ye Elephant.’

I count it great gain to do good and receive evil

Father Gillibrand did not remain long in Liverpool. He was gone before 1710, probably to his friends at Chorley. Rev. Francis Mannock, S.J., succeeded him. He lodged with a Mrs. Brownhill, as we learn from the following entry: ‘1712, January 27. My wife and I went to Liverpoole and heard Mr. Mannock preach. Mr. Tute (Tuite) and Mr. Morphew etc. were there. We dined at Mrs. Brownbills with her and Mr. Mannock.’ Father Mannock left Liverpool in 1715, and was serving the Yorkshire district in 1741; he died at York in 1748.

Rev. John Hardesty, S.J., whose real name was Tempest, was living in Liverpool in 1715, when a visit is thus recorded: ‘1715, Sept. 11. My wife and I heard Mr. Hardesty preach. We dined at Mr. Lancaster’s: I drank at the Woolpack with Mr. Lancaster and his brother, the doctor.’ The Woolpack was an inn in Dale Street to which Squire Blundell, when in Liverpool, usually resorted. It seems probable that Father Hardesty rented a house of his own, as his address was: ‘Mr. John Hardesty, at his house in Liverpool,’ and he had another priest living with him later on. The diarist says: ‘1718, June 22. My wife and I went to Liverpoole to hear Pat(er) Doodell hold forth at Mr. Hardesty’s. We dined there with Mr. Tute and his nephew, Mr. Nugent.’

After the death of Rev. John Mostyn, S.J., at Lydiate Hall in 1721, Father Hardesty was instructed to give the congregation there a monthly Mass. The diarist and his wife occasionally go over on a Sunday to hear Father Hardesty ‘hold forth,’ and the latter employed him as her confessor. Brother Foley tells us that he built the first chapel in Liverpool in 1736. Some idea of the privations he endured in the prosecution of his work may be gathered from the following letter, written in reply to some cavils on the subject:

I lived frugally, as not many would have been content to live

‘I wonder how it should come into anyone’s head that what I built at Liverpool was by subscription, and that it is required that an account be given of the money laid out on it, I know therefore, and you may show this declaration to whom you please, that while I lived in the aforesaid town, I received one year with another from the people, about one or two and twenty pounds a year by way of contribution to my maintenance, and that no other subscription was ever made for me, or for the buildings. From friends in other places I had part of the money, but much the greater part was what I spared, living frugally, and as not many would have been content to live. What disaffected people may say and give out I do not matter (sic). I count it great gain to do good and receive evil, nor do I regret my having spent the best years of my life in serving the poor Catholics of Liverpool.

I don’t regret my having spent the best years of my life in serving the poor Catholics of Liverpool

This letter was written in 1750 from Tixall, Staffordshire, where he had gone to be chaplain to Lord Aston. Father Hardesty had an old Jesuit father living with him for several years – Rev. Will. Pennington, whom Mr. Blundell saw distribute, on Palm Sunday, 1727, 256 palms to the congregation. From this we may form some idea of the number of Catholics at that period. Father Pennington was buried next to Mr. Aldred, S.J., in the Harkirke. ‘After a long illness, being a sort of co-adjutor to Mr. Carpenter of Liverpool, he dyed there 8th June 1736.’

Father Gibson continues: ‘As Mr. Blundell makes no mention of Mr. Hardesty in this entry, it is not improbable that he built his chapel some time previous to 1736, when it appears that Mr. Carpenter occupied his place. The last entry in the diary that relates to Mr. Hardesty was made on the occasion of the death of his chaplain, Rev. R. Aldred, S.J.: ‘1728, Feb. 24. Pat. Hardesty prayed for Mr. Aldred in his chapel: there was a large congregation.’

He had provided a refuge for the poor persecuted Catholics of Liverpool after the destruction of their chapel

The next source of information is Mr. Thomas Green, whose mother was Elizabeth Clifton of the Lytham family. His father, Francis Green, had provided a refuge at his house in Dale Street for the poor persecuted Catholics of Liverpool after the destruction of their chapel in 1746. He also gives an account of its demolition, which is in substance as follows: ‘When the Scots had retreated from Derby in 1746 so far to the north as to relieve the people of Liverpool from any danger of a visit from them, the mob assembled to pull down the small Catholic chapel at the S.W. corner of Edmund st. The priests, Fathers Hermenigild Carpenter and Thos. Stanley, met the mob, which behaved with the greatest respect to the priests and without noise or violence opened a passage for Father Carpenter to go up to the altar and take the ciborium out of the Tabernacle and carry it by the same passage out of the chapel. After this the mob tore up the benches and made a bonfire of every thing combustible in the chapel and priests’ house, and pulled the whole of both down. Such was the end of the first Catholic Chapel in Liverpool.

The mob tore up the benches and made a bonfire of everything combustible in the chapel and priests’ house, and pulled the whole of both down

‘Soon after the Battle of Culloden, in 1746, Henry Pippard, Esq., a principal merchant, then married to Miss Blundell, of Crosby (whose name he took on succeeding to the property), treated with the Mayor and Corporation to allow the Catholics to rebuild their chapel. This they peremptorily refused. Mr. Pippard observed that no law could prevent him from building a warehouse, and making what use he pleased of it. It was acknowledged that he might do this, but at his own risk. He then collected subscriptions, and built a warehouse of two stories upon vacant ground purchased from a Catholic family, lying on the south side of the same Edmund Street, the front of which street was covered by buildings and ‘six-yard’ houses, with small back yards opening into the intended chapel-yard. On the east side of this warehouse there were two large folding doors, one above the other, surmounted by a teagle rope, block and hook, capped against the rain as was then usual in Liverpool. The upper storey was to act as the chapel, its upper folding doors being bricked up within and the walls stuccoed: large leaded windows on the east, south and west, admitted light, and these were protected by strong outside shutters to be closed when there was no service. The ascent to the chapel was by a broad staircase on each side within the lower warehouse room, the centre of which was used for lumber, the entrance to the room being secured by strong folding doors.’ The plan of 1765 shows this ‘Romish chapel,’ and from the enlargement this description can be seen to be perfectly accurate. Mr. Blundell’s chapel was actually in use from 1746 till 1845, exactly one hundred years.

The new chapel, which was disguised as a warehouse, was in use for exactly 100 years

‘After September 24, 1764, Mr. and Mrs. Green went to their house in Dale Street; ‘while the new chapel was being built, Mass was said on Sundays and holidays in their garrets, the whole of which, with the tea and lodging-rooms of the two storeys underneath, were filled by their acquaintances of different ranks, and admitted singly and cautiously through different entrances from the two houses immediately adjoining on each side, which belonged to two very respectable and kind neighbours who were Presbyterians.

Clandestine Holy Mass took place in silence, by candlelight, without any ringing of the bell at the Elevation

‘Everything was done in silence, by candlelight, without any ringing of the bell at the Elevation,’ etc. With reference to the foregoing, Mr. Burke (Cat. Hist. of Liv.) justly remarks: ‘From this simple but graphic story we may infer that the anti-Catholic spirit ran high at this period, while ‘the different ranks’ tells us plainly that the Faith was still preserved among the better off as well as the poorer classes.’

In 1758 the chapel was again attacked 

The priests who successively served the ‘new chapel’ were Rev. Hermenegild Carpenter and Rev. Thomas Stanley, Rev. Michael Tichbourne, Rev. John Rigby, 1749-1758, Rev. William Wappeler, Rev. Anthony Carroll. In this year the chapel was again attacked by an infuriated mob, but was reopened in the following year. This chapel was enlarged in 1797 and continued to be used until St. Mary’s, from the design of A. W. Pugin, was built on the same site and consecrated in 1845. [Following the Catholic Emancipation Act etc., a process of restoring to Catholics in Britain and Ireland the human rights which they had been deprived of for several hundred years.] In consequence of the enlargement of Exchange Station it was taken down, but rebuilt stone by stone in Highfield Street, being re-consecrated July 7, 1885.”

Footnotes

*1) The present writer feels an apology is due for some of the more personal statements; he is, however, only quoting the Catholic Almanac, which contains many statements still more laudatory.

*2) The whole diary makes quite interesting reading. Copies are still on sale at the Philomena Co., Bold Street, Liverpool.

– Dom F. O. Blundell, O.S.B, Old Catholic Lancashire Vol. I, Burns Oates & Washbourne Ltd., London, 1925

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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HE WHO HONOURS A PRIEST HONOURS CHRIST

PRIESTS – ANGELS ON EARTH

 

If we understand the divine dignity of priesthood, we shall comprehend more fully the infinite greatness of Mass.

 

St Ignatius, Martyr, says that the priesthood is the most sublime of all created dignities.

 

St Ephrem calls it an infinite dignity.

 

Cassian says that the priest of God is exalted above all earthly sovereignities and above all celestial heights. He is inferior to God alone.

 

Pope Innocent III says that the priest is placed between God and man; inferior to God, but superior to man.

 

St Denis calls the priest a divine man and the priesthood a divine dignity.

 

St Ephrem says that the gift of the sacerdotal dignity surpasses all understanding.

 

Hence, St John Chrysostom says that he who honours a priest honours Christ, and he who insults a priest insults Christ.

 

St Ambrose has called the priestly office a divine profession.

 

St Francis de Sales, after having given orders to a holy ecclesiastic, perceived that in going out he stopped at the door as if to give precedence to another. Being asked by the Saint why he stopped, he replied that God favoured him with the visible presence of his angel guardian, who before he had received the priesthood always remained on his right and preceded him, but now since the moment of ordination walked on his left and refused to go before him. It was in a holy contest with the Angel that he stopped at the door.

 

According to St Thomas, the dignity of the priesthood surpasses that of the angels.

 

St Gregory Nazianzen has said that the angels themselves venerate the priesthood.

All the Angels in Heaven cannot absolve from a single sin. The Angel Guardians procure for the souls committed to their care grace to have recourse to a priest, that he may absolve them.

 

St Francis of Assisi used to say: If I saw an angel and a priest, I would bend my knee first to the priest and then to the angel.

 

St Augustine says that to pardon a sinner is a greater work than to create Heaven and Earth. To pardon a single sin requires all the omnipotence of God.

 

St Alphonsus: The entire Church cannot give God as much honour, or obtain so many graces as a single priest by celebrating a single Mass. Thus, by the celebration of a single Mass, in which he offers Jesus Christ in sacrifice, a priest gives greater honour to the Lord than if all men, by dying for God, offered Him the sacrifice of their lives.

 

St Ignatius: Priests are the glory and the pillars of the Church, the doors and doorkeepers of Heaven.

 

St Alphonsus: were the Redeemer to descend into a Church and sit in a confessional, and a priest to sit in another confessional, Jesus would say over each penitent: “Ego te absolvo.” The priest would likewise say over each of his penitents: “Ego te absolvo”, and the penitents of each would be equally absolved. Thus, the sacerdotal dignity is the most noble of all the dignities in this world.

 

St Ambrose says that it transcends all the dignities of kings, of emperors, and of angels. The dignity of the priest far exceeds that of kings as the value of gold surpasses that of lead.

 

St Cyprian said that all who had the true spirit of God were, when compelled to take the Order of priesthood, seized with fear and trembling.

 

St Epiphanius writes that he found no one willing to be ordained a priest, so fearful were they of so divine a dignity.

 

St Gregory Nazianzen says, in his ‘Life of St Cyprian’ that, when the Saint heard that his bishop intended to ordain him a priest, he, through humility, concealed himself. It is related in the life of St Fulgentius that he too fled away and hid himself.

 

St Ambrose, as he himself attests, resisted for a long time before he consented to be ordained.

 

St Francis of Assisi never consented to be ordained.

 

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“BACKWARD” RELIGION? IT WAS A CATHOLIC PRIEST, FR LEMAITRE, WHO FIRST PROPOSED THE “BIG BANG THEORY” IN 1927, BUT SCIENTISTS LIKE EINSTEIN AND EDDINGTON REFUSED TO BELIEVE HIM

“RELIGION, SCIENCE AND THE [POPULAR] MISCONCEPTIONS

‘For the scientist… the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been there for centuries.’ Robert Jarrow (Astrophysicist)

‘NEVER ALLOW YOURSELVES TO BECOME NARROW’

During his state visit to Britain in September 2010 Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI spoke to a group of religious leaders of different faiths, not only about the need for science but also about the limitations within the scientific world. He said, ‘They cannot satisfy the deepest longings of the human heart, they cannot fully explain to us our origin and our destiny, why and for what purpose we exist, nor indeed can they provide us with an exhaustive answer to the question ‘Why is there something rather than nothing?’ Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI also warned against rejecting religion in favour of purely scientific outlook by further saying, ‘Never allow yourselves to become narrow. The world needs good scientists, but a scientific outlook becomes dangerous and narrow if it ignores the riches or ethical dimensions of life just as religion becomes narrow if it rejects the legitimate contribution of science to our understanding of the world.’

FR LEMAITRE’S THEORY

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI may well have been referring to Stephen Hawking, who writes in his latest book that no divine force is needed to explain why the universe was formed and who also argued in his book The Grand Design that physics, and not a creator, was responsible for the Big Bang.

It was indeed in 1927 that a Belgian Catholic priest Fr George Lemaitre, a Jesuit and a student of astronomy and mathematics both in Cambridge (England) and Harvard, who proposed his theory of an expanding Universe to explain the movement of the galaxies.

FR LEMAITRE ARRANGED A MEETING WITH ALBERT EINSTEIN

His studies at this point were inconclusive and he arranged a meeting with Einstein who, although interested, generally dismissed his theory; he was also suspicious of the religious implications of Fr Lemaitre’s ideas.

AFTER EINSTEIN HAD DISMISSED HIS NEW THEORY, FR LEMAITRE STILL WENT AHEAD TO PRESENT HIS FINDINGS TO THE BRITISH SCIENCE ASSOCIATION

However, in 1931 Lemaitre was invited to London by the British Science Association to discuss cosmology and spirituality. There he described his new solution… the Universe had begun from a tiny and incredibly dense singularity containing all its existing matter.

‘THE PRIMEVAL ATOM’

This he called ‘the primeval atom’ or a ‘Cosmic Egg exploding at the moment of the creation’. It wouldn’t be known as the Big Bang theory until the British physicist, Fred Hoyle, did a radio series in 1949 in which he attempted to debunk it. He failed to change many people’s minds by then, but he did give it a better name. Neither Eddington nor Einstein were persuaded by this idea – as Stephen Hawking, perhaps the world’s most famous living astrophysicist, has said, ‘few people [meaning scientists] took the idea of the beginning of the Universe seriously’.

FR LEMAITRE DIDN’T GIVE UP PROMOTING THE BIG BANG THEORY

But Fr Lemaitre was a passionate and persuasive man, and he was gaining a wider audience as he began to travel the US. He decided to surprise Hubble and Einstein by turning up to meet them both unexpectedly in 1931 and push his idea again. This time he won them over, demonstrating how their work led to his conclusion.

THE BASIS OF MODERN COSMOLOGY WAS ESTABLISHED BY FR LEMAITRE FINALLY CONVINCING EINSTEIN AND HUBBLE OF HIS THEORY

It was a dramatic event – Hawking has said that, ‘The basis of modern cosmology was established at this meeting. Looking back I can recognise this as the foundations for my own work.’

‘THE BIGGEST BLUNDER OF MY LIFE’

Einstein regarded his initial rejection of an expanding Universe as the ‘biggest blunder of my life’. The existence of God, of course, is not settled by the truth of the Big Bang theory, nor should religion rest its case on any scientific theory.

THE UNIVERSE HAD A DISTINCT BEGINNING

But what can be said is that the Big Bang fits surprisingly well with the religious idea that the Universe had a distinct beginning, willed by the Creator. Unsurprisingly, the arguments put forward by the new atheists are never truly investigated [for instance Darwin’s ‘evolution theory’ lacks any credible scientific basis whatsoever]; rather than studying the precepts of Christianity they tend to be hostile to religion in all forms, viewing it as merely a kind of superstition; they are likewise hostile to traditional claims about the nature and source of morality.

TODAY’S PICTURE – BIOETHICS

EMBRYO RESEARCHER: FACED WITH THE CHOICE BETWEEN GOD AND SCIENCE, I DITCHED GOD

In 2004 Dr John Haas, the president of the National Catholic Bioethics Centre in America met with a scientist who had cloned a human embryo. In the course of that meeting, the scientist said he had been raised an evangelical Protestant, but that at a certain point, he had to make a choice between religion and science. Dr Haas’ response was, ‘But you didn’t have to choose,’ and, like the good evangelist that he is, he began to explain. A meeting that was supposed to last for 30 minutes went on for hours.

‘NATURAL SCIENCE ON ITS OWN SIMPLY CANNOT GENERATE THE WISDOM IT NEEDS IN ORDER TO PROGRESS WITHOUT DOING HARM’

Dr Mary Ann Glendon, a Harvard University Law Professor who has served on the Pontifical Council for the Laity spoke of urgent need to renew the intellectual apostolate. Dr Glendon said ‘the importance of that task has been brought home to me very concretely in the course of serving over the past year on the National Bioethics Council. Over the past several months in discussions of cloning, stem-cell research and genetic engineering, I’ve seen not only how necessary it is for theologians and philosophers to keep up with advances in natural science, but also how much the natural sciences need the human sciences – for natural science on its own simply cannot generate the wisdom it needs in order to progress without doing harm’.

THE HEDONISM OF THOSE ATTEMPTING TO PLAY GOD, OR: THE ‘MOVE OVER GOD YOU ARE IN MY SEAT’ ATTITUDE

The truth regarding embryonic stem cell scientific technology seemingly has been lost on those who swear by its profound benefits with regards to its ‘curative potential’ for certain conditions; to date most of the general public will be aware, if not entirely au fait with the fact that this scientific breakthrough has broken down due to a complete lack of positive results; in short, this technology has wasted more government funds than ever due to the hedonism of those who attempt to ‘play God’ and those who believe them capable; for as long as we allow scientists and politicians to adopt the ‘move over God you are in my seat’ attitude we are spiralling deeper into the moral chaos so pervasive today.

EMBRYONIC STEM CELL RESEARCH IS BASED PURELY ON FISCAL GAIN

Any orthodox bioethicist will tell us that stem cells taken from embryos are immature and only capable of producing tumours rather than cures.

PRODUCING TUMOURS RATHER THAN CURES

On the contrary, adult stem cells which are mature and present in all humans from the fully developed foetal stage, the umbilical cord and the placenta, have proven successful in various conditions, particularly in cardiac and ophthalmic medicine. Using adult stem cells from a patient whose trachea was removed due to disease, a medical scientist was able to reproduce a trachea, which was then successfully transplanted into the patient.

The difference between the research into embryonic and adult stem cell research is based purely on fiscal gain and not on ethical scientific procedures or results. Whilst millions of pounds of government funds have been and still are used for embryonic stem cell research, adult stem cell research costs a great deal less because the cells are self-donated by the patient.

God has provided all the answers; the world has provided all the errors! Religion provides the means to seek the truth whilst science provides the means to put it into practice using ethical means.

‘Religion and science are not in opposition but both on a path of truth.'(Pope Benedict).”
– This article was published in “The Crusader” (The Magazine of the Crusade of Mary Immaculate) issue March 2014 [Capital sub-headings added afterwards]. For subscriptions or for membership please visit http://www.thefriary.businesscatalyst.com (external link).

 

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