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WHAT HAPPENED TO LYTHAM, LANCASHIRE, AFTER THE GOVERNMENT’S DISSOLUTION OF THE CATHOLIC MONASTERIES?

Lytham

“At the dissolution of the monasteries, the former Benedictine Cell of Lytham, which had been a dependency of Durham Abbey, was granted to Sir Thomas Holcroft, a noted ‘trafficker’ in confiscated monastic possessions. He sold the property to Sir Cuthbert Clifton, and thus Lytham became the principal residence of the Cliftons, a family which had held large estates in Lancashire as early as 1258. Sir Cuthbert Clifton was a staunch Catholic, for at the dissolution of the monasteries he gave a home in his own house to Thomas Prymbett for the rest of his life, inasmuch as Prymbett had been the officiating priest of the Clifton Chantry at the parish church of Kirkham.

The exact spot occupied by the Benedictine monastery is now unknown

The exact spot occupied by the Benedictine cell is unknown, but it is thought to have been on or near the site of the present Hall at Lytham; for in the walls of some of the offices attached to it, remains of the ancient monastic edifice have been incorporated. Sir Cuthbert Clifton built the first Hall in 1625 on his first possessing the estate, and a large room was constructed within it, most probably for a chapel. This remained unaltered when the Hall was rebuilt by Thomas Clifton in 1764. So far the Catholic Annual and I quite agree with the account; but when it goes on to say, ‘It was used for Mass up to the year 1800. It is now in existence and is used as a lumber room,’ these two sentences seem to me to apply only to the chapel wing, which was built in 1764, as the date cut in stone bears witness. Nothing more likely than that Thomas Clifton in 1764, when he was building the new Hall, would construct a special chapel and a priest’s room, and place these at the back of the Hall for secrecy, since emancipation had not then been granted. But the ‘large room’ constructed in 1625, and remaining unaltered in 1764, is the ‘picture-gallery’ so called. There would be little object in placing so large a room on the second floor of the house, unless it were that its size might accommodate the tenantry and neighbouring Catholics, and its retired position ensure the desired amount of secrecy.

Lytham Hall, "The Large Room", ca. 1923

Lytham Hall, “The Large Room”, ca. 1923

‘The man at the top of the house’

The above is confirmed by the practice, common in times of persecution, of speaking of the priest or chaplain at these Catholic houses as ‘the man at the top of the house.’ Our illustration shows ‘the large room,’ and here from 1625 to 1764 holy Mass was offered by the numerous priests who, in succession, served the Catholics of Lytham. The old oak floor, well worn by generations of faithful Catholic worshippers, comes out well in the photograph. In passing, it may be mentioned that similar ‘large rooms’ are found in many of the old Catholic houses; for example, at Speke Hall and at Astley Hall, near Chorley, both of which were built at the time when their owners were staunch Catholics.

The site where the Hall now stands has been uses as a chapel of persecution times from 1554 to 1800

In any case, the site where the Hall now stands has been used for Catholic services, as a Benedictine cell from 1199 till the Reformation, and as a chapel of persecution times from 1554 to 1800. It certainly has associations venerable to the Catholics of to-day. From 1800 to 1839 Mass was said in a tythe-barn fitted up as a chapel, the priest living in a house close by. In 1839 the present church, dedicated to St Peter, was solemnly opened by Bishop Briggs, and thus the days of the Hall chapel, with its services in concealment and secrecy, passed away, and the Catholics of Lytham rapidly increased in numbers and importance in the town.

Father Anderton was apprehended and exiled by the Government agencies, but he managed to return

MrMr. Gillow (Cat. Rec. Soc., Vol. XVI) gives a complete list of the priests who served the Mission of Lytham, of which the following is an abbreviation. The first was Rev. Lawrence Anderton, S.J., alias Scroop, alias Hart, who wrote many learned works under the pseudonym ‘John Brereley, Priest.’ He had studied at the University of Cambridge, where he gained the title of ‘Silver-mouthed Anderton.’ He published several controversial works, which were printed at the secret printing press at his cousin’s house at Lostock Hall, and later at Birchley Hall. At some period Father Anderton was apprehended and exiled, but he seems soon to have returned to the Mission, and it is probable that he became chaplain to Sir Cuthbert Clifton, when this latter removed from West by to Lytham till his death in 1643, aged sixty-seven. In 1629 we have the mention of ‘Anderton and Smith, two priests at Sir Cuthbert Clifton’s’ (Cat. Rec. Soc. Miss., III, 108).

Father William Shackleton, alias Stanton, alias Bannister, S.J., succeeded Father Anderton at Lytham Hall, where he is found baptising many of the Cliftons. He died there in 1655, aged seventy-one.

He received a letter which apparently had been intercepted

Father Augustus Heneage, alias Newby, S.J., came to Lytham in 1653, two years before Father Shackleton’s death. He was brother-in-law to Sir Thomas Clifton, whose wife Bridget was Father Heneage’s sister. From a letter of the Earl of Derby to the Duke of Albemarle dated from Lathom House, March 10, 1664, it appears that Father Heneage, like his predecessor, was an active controversialist. The Earl enclosed a letter, dated February 21, 1664, which apparently had been intercepted, from Augustus Heneage, ‘a supposed priest, living in Sir Thomas Clifton’s house, to Mr. Edward Keynes, S.J., who lived with Sir Cecil Trafford.’ Father Heneage had had ‘verbal skirmishes with his old friends, the Nigri (Anglican ministers), who showed ignorance and knavery,’ and asked Father Keynes to send him John Lewgar’s Erastus Senior, published in 1662. This book, says Mr. Gillow, whose account we are following, referred to the question of the validity of Anglican ordinations, and made so great an impression upon the Anglican clergy, who thereby became sensible to the defects of the ordination forms of the episcopacy and priesthood hitherto in use, that immediately after its publication in the year 1662 it was made obligatory by a decree of Convocation to use more explicit forms. In consequence both Father Heneage and Father Keynes had to fly from their respective stations. The former went to London, where he died a victim to the plague, January 18, 1669, aged fifty-two.

He was taken to the Tower of London to be tried for his life on a trumped-up charge

Father John Stevenson, S.J., came to Lytham Hall in 1676, and remained there till his death in 1692, when he was succeeded by Father Thomas Blundell, S.J., third son of William Blundell, of Crosby. Two years later Sir Thomas Clifton was arrested at Wrea Green, July 17, 1694, taken to the Tower of London, and brought back to Manchester to be tried for his life on a trumped-up charge of high treason, with Sir William Gerard of Bryn, and a number of other Lancashire gentlemen. He was acquitted, but the strain had been too great, and he died on November 13. It is probable that he died before he could return to Lytham. Anyhow, his body was carried to Kirkham for internment with his ancestors in the parish church.

Lytham Hall, ca. 1923

Lytham Hall, ca. 1923

‘O death, where is thy victory?’

But before starting on its last journey, ‘a funeral sermon upon Sir Thomas Clifton,’ under the text ‘O death, where is thy victory?’ was preached by Rev. Richard Jameson. Father Blundell remained at Lytham Hall till his death ‘in Mr. Clifton’s house on Wednesday, 27th May, 1702. His body was carried to Crosby and buried in ye Harkirke on ye 29th. He was a learned man, aged 55’ (Crosby Records, p. 81). These were wonderful times, when the Catholic lord of the manor died in prison, or at any rate died as the result of imprisonment, as did Sir Thomas Clifton, whilst his chaplain only eight years later was carried in funeral procession the long distance from Lytham to Crosby. But then the good priest wished to be buried in consecrated ground, and certainly no more beautiful spot could be found than the little Catholic cemetery of Harkirke, which had cost his forefathers so dear. [Footnote: ‘Blundell of Crosby was fined £2,000, equal to £20,000 of the present money [around 1923], for burying Papists and other excommunicated persons in Harkirke.]

The feeling against Catholics was so great, and the bigotry so violent, that the door of the chapel had to be locked before Father Mansell began Mass

Father Ralph Hornyhold, alias Glover, S.J., was priest at Lytham from 1702 till 1722; Father Christopher Burton, S.J., 1722 to 1728; Father John Gosling, alias Bennett, S.J., 1728 to 1741. Early in 1729 the Vicar-Apostolic of the Northern District, Bishop Thomas Williams, O.P., made his visitation at Lytham, and confirmed in the Hall chapel 247 persons belonging to the Lytham and West by congregations. Father Berington, alias Harper, S.J., was at Lytham only two years when he died, and was interred in Lytham parish church, the registers of which contain the entry, ‘John Harper (R.C.) from ye Hall, 18 Aug. 1743.’

Father John Talbot, alias Mansell, came to Lytham in September, 1743, and his salary from the Cliftons seems to have been increased to £13; no mean figure, be it noted, for 100 years after this the allowance from Propaganda to the priests in the Highlands of Scotland was only £12. After the rising of 1745 in favour of Prince Charles Edward Stuart, the feeling against Catholics was so great, and the bigotry so violent, that the door of the chapel at Lytham Hall had to be locked before Father Mansell began Mass. In a report to his superiors in 1750, he returned the number of communicants in his congregation at 230. In January, 1753, he began the existing baptismal register. In 1767 the Protestant Bishop of Chester had a report drawn up of all Catholics in his diocese, and ‘John Mansell, alias Talbot, Jesuit priest,’ appears as chaplain to Thomas Clifton, Esq., the congregation being estimated at 384. In 1774 Bishop Walton confirmed 148 persons in the Hall chapel, and ten years later Bishop Mathew Gibson confirmed eighty-six persons…

In 1791 Father Mansell, enfeebled by age, retired from Lytham, where he had been priests in charge for nearly fifty years. He died at Walton-le-dale, near Preston, in 1799, aged ninety. Meanwhile the Society of Jesus had been suppressed in 1773, and as the ‘gentlemen of the ex-Society,’ as they were called, gradually became reduced in numbers, they withdrew from the Lytham Mission, to which a Benedictine in the person of the Rev. William Blacow, O.S.B., was appointed, who remained till 1793.

A tythe-barn was fitted up as a chapel

Dom Richard Pope, O.S.B., was here ten years – 1793 to 1803. It was during his incumbency that the chapel in the Hall was closed, and a tythe-barn just outside the park was fitted up as a chapel. The Mission was then handed over to the Bishop of the Northern Vicariate, who appointef Rev. Thomas Dawson. Owing to ill-health, he had numerous assistants, Rev. John Lawson being definitely appointed as his curate in 1820. Both these priests left in 1829 for Croston Hall, and later they together started the Mission at Mawdesley.

Of Mr. Pope the story is told that he used to ride a very poor-looking old pony, and riding one day in the neighbourhood of Chorley he was overtaken by several young gentlemen also riding – one of them being the late Mr. Townley Parker – who had recently been made magistrates (J.P.). They began to chaff him about his pony, and advised him to get a donkey instead. He very quietly said, ‘I would, but, unfortunately, they are very bad to get, as they have all been made J.P.s.’

In 1839, the present church was opened

Rev. Joseph Walmesley came to Lytham in 1829, and remained till his death in 1873, when he was buried at The Willows, Kirkham. In 1839 he opened the present church, dedicated to St Peter, and fitted up the new church with benches and other furniture from the old tythe-barn chapel. After being Rector of the Mission for over forty-four years, Mr. Walmesley died in harness, August 16, 1873, aged seventy-one, respected by all the inhabitants of Lytham, and held in affectionate memory by many people to this day.

Rev. Roger Taylor was priest at Lytham from 1874 to 1885. In 1874 he enlarged the schools and built an infant school. In 1875-76 he erected new sacristies and constructed the side chapels, and in the following year he added a new high altar, Lady altar, and altar of St. Joseph. He was succeeded by his brother, Canon James Taylor, who built the spacious new rectory, and in 1892 opened the cemetery and mortuary chapel. Canon O’Reilly, the present rector, succeeded, and has recently entirely renovated the church building…

Colonel Talbot Clifton, who had been reconciled to the Church in 1878 built the handsome tower at the cost of £1,000; he likewise re-leased the rectory for ninety-nine years and the church for 999 years on a nominal chief rent. His funeral was one of the most impressive events in the history of Lytham, the priest having most thoughtfully sent a mortuary card to each and every Catholic house in the parish, feeling sure – as he said – that they would be glad to possess a moment of one who had endeared himself to all. As the local paper expressed it: ‘The fact of the family having been members of the Catholic Church accounts for the non-appearance of the name of Clifton on the roll of Sheriffs from the time of the Reformation. Their long and steadfast adherence to the ancient Faith was no doubt one of the principal means of so large a portion of The Fylde remaining attached to the Catholic Church.'”

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

 

 

 

 

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“PLEASE SPARE US ‘BUNNY RABBIT RELIGION'”

“There was an Irish priest I used to know who joked about ‘bunny rabbit religion’. By this he meant: heigh-ho, let’s all jump up and down and pretend we are happy little bunny rabbits!

I fear the Church of England is in danger of moving towards such bunny rabbit religion by abolishing words about ‘sin’ and ‘the Devil’ from the baptismal ceremony.

True, the baptismal ceremony according to the old ‘Book of Common Prayer’ was pretty fierce, and the language of faith rituals has to keep abreast of the times to some degree. But to use a perhaps inappropriate metaphor, is it always necessary to throw out the baby with the bathwater?

IS IT ALWAYS NECESSARY TO THROW OUT THE BABY WITH THE BATHWATER?

The clergy group from Liverpool who came up with the recommendation that godparents should no longer be asked to ‘repent of their sins’ and ‘reject the Devil’ stated that they wanted to make the service easier to understand.

But I’m not sure if rites and rituals are always about being ‘easy to understand’. It’s all about participating in a ceremony whose significance makes an indelible mark on the participant.

When my late sister became an American citizen what really made her feel ‘changed’ in some way was the sombre ceremony that was involved. It wasn’t about understanding every jot and tittle of the American constitution – it was about participating in something meaningful.

That’s what baptism should be. And while Christianity can be too gloomy about sin – ‘Call to mind your sins…’ Oh, not again! – nevertheless we should contemplate the dark side of our natures. We only have to look around at the frightful and tragic occurrences in our everyday news reports to know that the dark side exists. To imagine otherwise is to live in denial. Or to pretend we are all just happy little bunny rabbits.”
– This excerpt from a column by Mary Kenny was published in “The Catholic Herald” issue January 10 2014. For subscriptions please visit http://www.catholicherald.co.uk (external link)

 
 

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IN MATTERS OF FAITH AND MORALS THE POPE IS INFALLIBLE. – GOT A PROBLEM WITH THAT?

THE DOCTRINE OF THE INFALLIBILITY OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH

“…Infallibility is the only guarantee we have that the Christian religion is true. Actually, if I, at this moment, did not believe in an Infallible Teacher appointed by God, then nothing on earth would induce me to believe in the Christian religion. If, as outside the Catholic Church, Christian doctrines are a matter of private judgement, and therefore the Christian religion a mere matter of human opinion, then there is no obligation upon any living soul to believe in it. Why should I stake my immortal soul on human opinion? For that is all you have if you refuse the Infallible Church.

WHY SHOULD I STAKE MY IMMORTAL SOUL UPON HUMAN OPINION? FOR THAT IS ALL YOU HAVE IF YOU REFUSE THE INFALLIBLE CHURCH.

In itself her claim may be reduced to this: the Catholic Church, when she defines a doctrine of Faith or morals, when she tells us what to believe and what to do; in a word, what the Christian religion is – then, and then only, she is prevented by God from making a mistake, from teaching untruth. The Church is God’s mouthpiece – His voice. Could God’s voice speak untruth?

Protestantism, claiming the Holy Ghost and presenting a jumble of contradictions, declares, in effect, that God does speak untruth. And only blinded reason prevents its adherents from seeing and admitting that unpalatable fact. Sanity alone should compel every thinking man to halt before the Catholic Church’s very claim.

‘CATHOLICS CANNOT THINK FOR THEMSELVES.’

It is commonly assumed that submission to an Infallible authority in religion involves slavery, that Catholics cannot think for themselves, that their reason is stifled, that they commit intellectual suicide. ‘No educated man could accept the medieval dogmas of the Catholic Church.’ Examined in the light of horse sense and human reason, that shibboleth of the modernist leaders is revealed in all its naked stupidity, as an irrational and unscientific piece of snobbery for gulling the masses and blinding them to the claims of the Catholic Church. In intent, since the dogmas are the same today, it means: ‘No educated man could submit to what the Catholic Church claims to be infallibly true’: or, more simply, ‘No educated man could submit to Infallibility in the matter of religion.’ For acceptance involves submission to the one Church that claims it.

IS REASON STIFLED; IS IT INTELLECTUAL SLAVERY – TO SUBMIT TO THE INFALLIBLE TRUTH OF THE LAW OF GRAVITY; DO MEN JUMP OFF CLIFFS ON THE CHANCE OF GOING UP INSTEAD OF DOWN?

The obvious reply is: ‘In the name of all that is sane – why not?’ When in every other department of life he is submitting to infallible truth already? Is slavery involved; is reason stifled; is it intellectual suicide – to submit to the infallible truth of the law of gravity; do men jump off cliffs on the chance of going up instead of down? To submit, as every scientist does, to the fixed data of science, believing them to be infallibly true; could he be a scientist at all, if he refused. To submit? To submit, as every educated man does, by eating, to the infallible truth that the human body needs food? To submit, even if he was not there and never saw it, to the infallible truth of [World War I]? To submit, as every mathematician does, to the multiplication table? To the axioms of Euclid?

To submit, as every honest businessman does, to the infallible principles of business honesty? As all businessmen do to the infallible requirements for running a business at all? Were a businessman to conduct his business as the modernists conduct their religion, he would close down as the modernists have closed down Christianity for themselves and their adherents.

Examples could be multiplied to show that in every department of life every rational being is already submitting to infallible truth. Is it rational or irrational to proclaim that no educated man could submit in the hundredth case, that of religion, when he submits in the other ninety-nine?

THE RATIONALITY LIES WITH THOSE WHO SUBMIT IN THE HUNDREDTH AND MOST VITAL CASE OF ALL.

On the face of it the rationality lies with those who submit in the hundredth and most vital case of all. Is it a sign of education to human opinions in preference to the revealed truths of God, who Himself declares that they were to be taught and accepted, or else refused under pain of eternal damnation? To prefer the negations of modernism to dogmas of the Church that MUST teach infallibly if she teaches Christianity, i.e., the revealed truths of God? Of the Church that MUST be infallible when she teaches the truth, since truth is an infallible thing?

‘COURAGE, BE OF GOOD CHEER, IT IS I.’

When, as far as reason was concerned, I was satisfied as to the unique claim of Rome, upon which all else depended, I decided to present my case for no longer remaining in the Church of England to one or two prominent scholars among its clergy. I did so. As far as I can recollect, the ‘refutations’ given me made no impression whatever. Though easily my superiors in scholarship, I had sufficient knowledge and logic to perceive that the great chain of Scriptural and historical evidence for the Catholic claim remained unbroken by excerpts from St Augustine, St Cyprian, and others, conveniently interpreted according to the will of the reader and not the mind of the author. It is little less than amazing to me now that scholars of repute should endeavour to counter the vast weight of evidence against them with what they themselves must in honesty admit is the less likely interpretation – to fit the rock to the pebble rather than the pebble to the rock.

To my case for leaving a church which was so plainly devoid, in view of its contradictions, of any divine teaching authority, I received no valid answer at all. Every conceivable argumentum ad hominem was presented: sentiment, ‘Roman fever,’ ‘intellectual suicide,’ treachery to the ‘Church of my Baptism,’ ‘corruption of Rome,’ the whole well-worn gamut of ‘objections’ was paraded. I had read them all, though, already, and found them untrue. The great FACTS about the Catholic Church were left standing – unassailable.

And those facts demanded submission.

HOME-COMERS TO THE CATHOLIC CHURCH DON’T REALLY HAVE A MOTIVE BASED ON REASON; RATHER, THEY ARE ‘GOT HOLD OF,’ ‘CAUGHT BY ROMAN PRIESTS.’

I have been asked again and again since I became a Catholic, why I left the Church of England, and often, the implication behind the question, if not actually expressed, has been that my motive for doing so could not have been based on reason. There is a prevalent idea that converts to Rome are in some mysterious manner ‘got hold of,’ or ‘caught by Roman priests.’

I would like to assure any non-Catholic who may happen to read this that converts are not ‘got hold of’ or ‘caught.’ In my own case I had rarely even spoken to a ‘Roman priest,’ before, of my own free will and with my reason already convinced, I went to consult one at the London Oratory. It is true that in doing so I was still full of Protestant suspicion and imagined that he would be extremely gratified to ‘get hold of’ a real live Anglican clergyman; I should make a splendid ‘catch.’

HE RECEIVED ME MOST CALMLY AND SHOWED NO SIGN OF EXCITEMENT.

The priest in question received me most calmly. He showed no sign of excitement; he did not stand on his head or caper about. He did not even appear to regard me as a particularly good ‘catch.’ He answered my questions and invited me to come again, if I cared to, but no more. I left, feeling several sizes smaller.

I learned many things, however, from that interview. It was so entirely different from the interviews with Anglican scholars. For the priest there was no difficult case to bolster up. Not a single question that I put to him presented ‘difficulties’. There were no awkward corners to get round. I believe his candidness about the human side of the Catholic Church almost startled me. Never once was he on his defence. All that I had been groping toward so painfully and laboriously was so obvious to him as to leave me wondering how it could ever not have been obvious to myself.

‘…MUCH MORE THAN STEPPING OUT OF A SMALL BOAT UNTO AN ATLANTC LINER…’

I realised, too, from that interview that ‘going over to Rome’ would be very much more than stepping out of a small boat on to an Atlantic liner. It would be no less than coming into the Kingdom of God on earth – and the Catholic Church was that Kingdom of God.

I was not coming on my own terms, but on hers. I was not conferring a privilege upon her; she was conferring an inestimable privilege upon me. I was not going to make myself a Catholic, the Catholic Church was going to make me one. There would be a formal course of instruction [RCIA; Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults], a real testing of my faith, and finally, a real submission to a living authority – the living authority of God on earth.

I hope I am wrong, but I have sometimes suspected that there are some who have never made their submission to the Catholic Church, and yet who have reached the point at which I stood, after seeing that priest; those whose reason has led them to entrance gates of the Kingdom of God, who have seen inscribed above them that word SUBMISSION in all its naked, uncompromising meaning – and turned away. I wonder if they can ever forget that they once looked into their mother’s eyes – and refused.

Reason may submit; the will may refuse.

It is a matter of dispositions and the grace of God, once conviction of the reason has been attained. Actually, it involves an UNCONDITIONAL surrender of the will to God – no easy task for a Protestant whose whole outlook in the spiritual direction has been determined by likes and dislikes, who has been accustomed to a religion that costs him little and claims the right of private judgement, who has detested being TOLD what to believe and what to do; in a word, who has been habitually indisposed, mentally and spiritually, for anything approaching unconditional submission of the will. I have no intention of hurting feelings, but I am convinced that the supreme difficulty for most Anglicans who would ‘like to go over to Rome,’ but do not, is their (unconscious perhaps) inability even to contemplate submission to the one Church that demands it. When the late Archbishop of Canterbury publicly proclaimed that he and the adherents of the Established Church would NEVER pass under a doorway upon whose lintel was inscribed the word SUBMISSION, he was precisely expressing the Protestant mind. Mercifully he was unaware that submission to the Catholic Church is submission to God.

I claim no credit, in my own case, for submitting; but rather blame for delaying so long – for the moral cowardice that hesitates to lay the onus of the consequences upon Almighty God, to burn one’s boats and take the plunge.

TAKING THE PLUNGE

When, by Divine Grace, I was ready, and had made my decision, there was only one thing to do. I told my vicar, packed my bags, and left the East End. At the London Oratory I placed myself under instruction and, later on, was received.

I would like to mention that my Protestant vicar and a curate who succeeded me in the parish are now also, both of them – priests of the Catholic Church.

‘WELL – AND WHAT HAVE YOU FOUND?’

‘Well – and what have you found?’
I will tell you – and what I was told I should find.

I was told that the Catholic Church always placed the Church before Christ – that Christ was kept in the background. I have found, on the contrary, that she places me in a PERSONAL RELATIONSHIP WITH CHRIST that can never be attained outside – that Christ is her very being, by whom and for whom she exists, and to whom to unite her children is her one ceaseless care.

I was told that if I became a Catholic, my mind would be fettered, my reason stifled; I should no longer be able to think for myself. I have found on the contrary that the Catholic Church placed me on a platform of truth from which even a poor mind like mine can rise to fathomless heights. I have found the truth that sets men free.

I was told that in the Catholic Church it was all decay and stagnation. I have found, however, the very life of God Himself pulsing through every vein of His Mystical Body. It was like coming out of a small stuffy room with all the windows closed, and striding up to the top of some great hill with all the winds of heaven roaring round. I have found Life.

‘I HAVE FOUND LIFE.’

Instead of the hard spiritual tyranny of which I was told, I have found a loving Mother who supplies my every human need. Instead of corruption, sanctity unknown outside.

And sinners, too. For the Church of Christ does not break the bruised reed, nor quench the smoking flax. Like her Master she ever seeks and saves that which is lost. She is big enough and loving enough to hold even sinners in the fold; if she did not, she would not be the Church of Christ.

Instead of hatred, I have found compassion for those outside – for the sheep without a shepherd. And I would that I could show them right into the heart of him whom men call the Pope of Rome – the shepherd of the sheep, the Vicar of Christ on earth; for then I would show them no ambitious autocrat striving for worldly power, but a loving father loved by his children as no other man on earth is loved.

And I have found the Kingdom of Heaven on earth. The City of God.

That City that ‘hath no need of the sun, nor of the moon to shine in it; for the glory of God hath enlightened it, and the Lamb is the lamp thereof.’
– This is an excerpt of “Through Hundred Gates” by Fr Owen Francis Dudley. [Title of this post and capital-lettered headings in the text added afterwards.] Published by The Bruce Publishing Company, Milwaukee, WI, USA, 1938

 
 

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WHAT ON EARTH WILL MY PARENTS SAY IF I BECOME A CATHOLIC?

[I DECIDED TO TALK TO A PROTESTANT CAPACITY]… THOSE TALKS BANGED UPON ME AN UNPLEASANT VISTA OF WHAT MIGHT HAPPEN IF I WENT ‘OVER TO ROME’ – THE LOSS OF MY POSITION, MY SALARY, FRIENDS AND ALL; NOT ONLY THE BURNING OF ALL MY BOATS, BUT THE WOUNDING OF MY MOTHER AND FATHER CRUELLY. (FR DUDLEY, RECEIVED INTO THE CATHOLIC CHURCH IN 1915)

ALL THIS, AS A SCHOOLBOY, I DRANK IN. AND I BELIEVED IT.

“My first introduction to the Catholic Church was being spat in the eye by a Roman Catholic boy at school. He was bigger than me; so I let it pass. But I remembered he was a Roman Catholic.

My next was at a magic-lantern entertainment to which I was taken by my mother. In the course of it there appeared on the screen the picture of a very old man in a large hat and a long white soutane. I must have asked my mother who it was, and been informed briefly that it was the ‘Pope of Rome.’ I don’t quite know how, but the impression left in my mind was that there was something fishy about the ‘Pope of Rome.’

THERE WAS SOMETHING FISHY ABOUT THE ‘POPE OF ROME’

At school, I learned in ‘English history’ (which I discovered later was not altogether English and not altogether history) that there was something fishy not only about the Pope of Rome, but about the whole of the Pope’s Church. I gathered that for a thousand years or more the Pope had held all England in his grip, and not only England but all Europe; also that during that period the ‘Roman’, ‘Romish,’ or ‘Roman Catholic’ Church had become more and more corrupt, until finally the original Christianity of Christ had almost disappeared; that idols were worshipped instead of God; that everywhere superstition held sway. No education; no science.

I read of how the ‘Glorious Reformation’ had come; how the light of the Morning Star had burst upon the darkness; how the Pope’s yoke had been flung off, and with it all the trappings and corruptions of Popery; of the triumph of the Reformation in England; of the restoration of the primitive doctrines of Christ and the ‘light of the pure Gospel’; of the progress and prosperity that followed in the reign of ‘good Queen Bess’; of the freeing of men’s minds and the expansion of thought released from the tyranny of Rome.

All this, as an English schoolboy, I drank in. And I believed it.

Next, I did a thing that we all of us have to do; I grew up. And I grew up without questioning the truth of what I had been taught.

‘I COULD ONLY SUPPOSE THAT SOMEHOW HE HAD MANAGED TO KEEP GOOD IN SPITE OF BEING POPE OF ROME’

The time came when I decided to become a Church of England clergyman. For this purpose I entered an Anglican Theological college. And there I must confess I began to get somewhat muddled; for I could not find out what I should have to teach when I became an Anglican clergyman. Even to my youthful mind it became abundantly clear that my various tutors were contradicting each other on vital matters of Christian doctrine. My own fellow students were perpetually arguing on the most fundamental points of religion. I finally emerged from that theological college feeling somewhat like an addled egg, and only dimly realising that the Church of England had given me no theology. I appreciated later that it had no system of theology to give.

It was during that period at college that I first of all went out to Rome, on a holiday. And whilst there I managed to see no less a person than the Pope of Rome himself. It was Pope Pius X – being borne into St Peter’s on the sedia gestatoria. He passed quite close where I was standing, and I could see his face very clearly. It was the face of a saint. I could only suppose that somehow he had managed to keep good in spite of being Pope of Rome. That incident left a deeper impression on my mind than I was aware of at that time.

I kept a diary of all that I saw in Rome, and wrote in it: ‘I can quite imagine a susceptible young man being carried away by all this, and wanting to become a Roman Catholic.’ I myself was safe from the lure of Popery, of course.

‘I FELT LIKE TELLING THEM THEY COULD PRAY UNTIL THEY WERE BLUE IN THE FACE’

As a full-fledged Anglican clergyman, I first of all worked in a country parish. At the end of the year, however, my vicar and I came to the conclusion that it would be wiser to part company; for we were disagreed as to what the Christian religion was.

I then went to a parish in the East End of London, down amongst the costers, hop pickers, and dock labourers. I went down there full of zeal, determined to set the Thames on fire. I very soon discovered, though, that the vast mass of the East-Enders had no interest at all in the religion that I professed. Out of the six thousand or so in the parish not more than one or two hundred ever came near the church. Our hoppers’ socials in the parish hall were well patronised, however. Great nights they were, with a thrilling din of barrel organ, dancing, and singing. I found the Donkey Row hoppers immensely lovable and affectionate. We had wonderful days with them each September in the hopfields of Kent. It was social work. The mass of them we could not even touch with religion.

I grew somewhat ‘extreme’ in this parish under the influence of my vicar, to whom at first I was too ‘Protestant.’ I remember he disliked the hat that I arrived in – a round flat one. The vicarage dog ate the hat, and I bought a more ‘priestly’ one.

For a year or two things went fairly smoothly and I suffered from no qualms about the Anglican religion. How far I sincerely believed that I was a ‘Catholic’ during that period I find it difficult to estimate now. Sufficiently at any rate to argue heatedly with ‘low-church’ and ‘modernist’ clergy in defence of my claim.

And sufficiently to be thoroughly annoyed with a Roman Catholic lady who, wherever we met, told me she was praying for my conversion to the ‘true Church,’ and a Franciscan Friar in the hopfields who told me the same. I felt like telling them they could pray until they were blue in the face. I remember, too, that whenever I met a Roman Catholic priest I experienced a sense of inferiority and a vague feeling of not quite being the real thing, or, at least, of there being an indefinable but marked difference between us.

‘WE WERE BOTH FLATLY CONTRADICTING EACH OTHER’

It was when I could no longer avoid certain unpleasant facts with which I was confronted in my work as an Anglican clergyman, that the first uneasiness came.

I was in the house one day of a certain dock labourer who lived exactly opposite our church but never darkened its doors. I chose the occasion to ask him – why not? His reply flattened me out; it was to the effect that he could see no valid reason for believing what I taught in preference to what the ‘low-church bloke dahn the road’ taught. I could not give a satisfactory answer to his challenge. I don’t suppose he believed in either of us really; but he had placed me in a quandary. We were both Anglican clergymen, and we were both flatly contradicting each other from our respective pulpits.

It set a question simmering in my mind – Why should a n y b o d y believe what I taught? And a further question – What authority had I for what I was teaching?

I began, for the first time with real anxiety, to examine the Anglican Church. And with that examination I found I could no longer blind myself to certain patent facts, which hitherto I had brushed aside. The Established Church was a church of contradictions, of parties, each of which had an equal claim to represent it, and all of which were destructive of its general claim to be a part of the Church of Christ – directly one affirmed in its unity.

As far as authority was concerned, it was possible to believe anything or nothing without ecclesiastical interference. You could be n extreme ‘Anglo-Catholic’ and hold all the doctrines of the Catholic Church except the inconvenient ones like Papal Infallibility; you could be an extreme modernist and deny (whilst retaining Christian terms) all the doctrines of the Christian religion. No bishop said Yes or No imperatively to any party. The bishops were as divided as the parties. For practical purposes, if bishops did interfere, they were ignored, even by their own clergy. If the Holy Ghost, as claimed, was with the Church of England, then, logically, the Holy Ghost was the author of contradictions; for each party claimed His guidance. These facts presented me with a quandary which appeared insurmountable, and which remained insurmountable.

I have often been asked, since my conversion, how, in view of them, Anglican clergy can be sincere in remaining where they are. My reply has been – they are sincere. There is a state of mental blindness in which one is incapable of seeing the plain logic of facts. I only know that it was over a year before I acted on these facts myself. And I honestly believe I was sincere during that period. Only those who have been Protestants can appreciate the thick veil of prejudice, fear, and mistrust of ‘Rome’ which hampers every groping towards the truth.

COULD CHRIST HAVE ALLOWED A HOAX, AN IMPOSTURE OF THAT MAGNITUDE? IN HIS NAME? THE CATHOLIC CHURCH WAS EITHER AN IMPOSTOR OR – OR WHAT?

It was about this time that there fell into my hands a book written by a Catholic priest, who himself had once been an Anglican clergyman, who had been faced by the same difficulties, and who had found the solution of them all in the Catholic Church. ‘But the Catholic Church can’t be the solution,’ I said. And there rose before my mind a vision of all I had been taught about her from my boyhood upwards – her false teaching, her corruptions of the doctrines of Christ. The Catholic Church, though, was the Church of the overwhelming majority of Christians, and always had been. If what I had been taught was true, then, for nearly two thousand years the great mass of Christians had been deluded and deceived by lies. Could Christ have allowed a hoax, an imposture of that magnitude? In His name? The Catholic Church was either an imposture or – Or what?

I KNELT FOR HALF AN HOUR BEFORE THE BLESSED SACRAMENT. I CAME OUT TERRIBLY SHAKEN – SPIRITUALLY SHAKEN

I began to buy Catholic books to study Catholic doctrines. To read history from the Catholic standpoint. The day came when I sat looking into the fire asking myself: ‘Is what the world says of the Catholic Church true? Or what the Catholic Church says of herself? Have I all these years been shaking my fist at a phantom of my own imagining fed on prejudice and ignorance?

I compared her Unity with the complete lack of it outside. Her Authority with the absence of anything approaching real authority in the Church of which I was a member and a minister. The unchangeable moral code she proclaimed with the wavering, shilly-shallying moral expediency that Protestantism allowed. She began to look so very much more like the Church that God would have made, just as the Established Church began to look so very much more like the church that man would have made.

When I was passing Westminster [Catholic] Cathedral one day I went in and knelt for half an hour before the Blessed Sacrament. I came out terribly shaken – spiritually shaken. It is impossible to describe ; but in that short half an hour what, until now, I had contemplated as a problem, had suddenly assumed an aspect of imperativeness. A problem that had to be solved, not played with. For within those four walls there loomed up before my spiritual vision an immensity, a vast reality, before everything else had shrunk away. The church, whose clergyman I was, seemed to have slipped away from under my feet.

I returned to the East End dazed. That night amongst the hoppers I felt like a stranger moving about.

MY WHOLE BEING REVOLTED AGAINST THE PROSPECT

I went about for weeks in a state of uncertainty, undecided in my conscience as to whether I was morally bound to face things out or not – wretched under the suspicion that what ‘Rome’ said might be true – that I was no priest: that my ‘Mass’ was no Mass at all; that I was genuflecting before – ?; that my ‘absolutions’ were worthless. The more I prayed about it, the more unreal my ministry appeared.

I decided to consult a certain very ‘extreme’ clergyman, whom I believed sincere beyond question (as he was), and a man of deep spiritual piety. I had three or four talks with him in all, the general result of which was to leave me more confused intellectually than ever, but spiritually more at peace; though it took me months before I realised that this peace was a false one, and that I had shelved the matter not from its intellectual difficulties, but for worldly reasons. For those talks had banged upon me an unpleasant vista of what might happen if I went ‘over to Rome’ – the loss of my position, my salary, friends and all; not only the burning of all my boats, but the wounding of my mother and father cruelly. Even more, ‘Rome’ might not accept me for her priesthood; in any case it would be starting all over again, possibly from baptism. If she did not want me for a priest, I should have to…

My whole being revolted against the prospect. It was impossible – such a demand. I had been carried away by emotions. It was a snare of Satan. I should be a traitor to the Church of my baptism. God had placed me here in the Church of England. He was blessing my work as its minister. He had given me endless graces.

I buried myself in that work again, and for a time succeeded in forgetting, or at least stifling, the fears that had been my torment – until the haphazard remark of a photographer (registering my features), an agnostic I believe, opened my eyes to my inability to defend the Established Church’s position; it was to the effect that if Christianity were true, obviously the Roman Catholic Church, with her authority was right.

AN AGNOSTIC WITH NO AX TO GRIND TOLD ME, ‘IF I WERE RELIGIOUS, I’D BE A ROMAN CATHOLIC.’

It was the testimony of a man who had no ax to grind. A Jewish dentist made the same remark in effect to me shortly afterwards. The man-in-the-street testifies the same with his: ‘If I were religious, I’d be a Roman Catholic.’

Whether it was the photographer or not, my fears were released once more from their repression, abruptly and acutely, and this time I resolved that it should be a fight to the finish, either way – that no worldly or material consideration should interfere. The clergyman whom I had consulted had already made one thing clear in my mind – that the issue between Rome and Canterbury, the crux of the whole problem, was the claim of Rome to be the Infallible teaching authority appointed by God, and the denial by Canterbury of that claim. The whole question boiled down to the question of Infallibility, and on that everything else hung.

WHY SHOULD I STAKE MY IMMORTAL SOUL UPON HUMAN OPINION?

I entered upon an intensive study of the point. I read the history of the doctrine, the Fathers and the Councils of the Church, and what they had to say; examined its rationality. At the end of some months I came to the conclusion – that, as far as Holy Scripture, history, and reason were concerned, the Catholic Church could prove her claim to be God’s Infallible Teacher up to the hilt.

It is difficult after all these years to recapture the exact mode of its appeal to my reason; but it was the appeal that the doctrine of the Infallibility of the Church inevitably presents to any man who is prepared to lay aside bias, prejudice, and preconceptions. I will try to state it in the fewest words possible.

Infallibility is the only guarantee we have that the Christian religion is true. Actually, if I, at the moment, did not believe in an Infallible Teacher appointed by God, then nothing on earth would induce me to believe in the Christian religion. If, as outside the Catholic Church, Christian doctrines are a matter of private judgment, and therefore the Christian religion a mere matter of human opinion, then there is no obligation upon any living soul to believe in it. Why should I stake my immortal soul upon human opinion? For that is all you have if you refuse the Infallible Church.”
– This is part I of “Practical Failure of Anglicanism” by Fr Owen Francis Dudley from “Through Hundred Gates”, The Bruce Publishing Company. Milwaukee, WI, USA: 1938, pp. 308; reprinted in “Christ to the World” (International Review of Documentation and Apostolic Experiences), N 6 Nov-Dec 2009 Vol. 54; email: md2249@mclink.it

 
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Posted by on September 26, 2013 in Prayers for Ordinary Time

 

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A SHORT HISTORY OF OUR LADY OF WILLESDEN (SHRINE)

“It was one particularly black moment in a generally black period…”

(For the present day CHURCH OF ENGLAND’S Society devoted to Mother Mary (protestant) please visit http://www.societyofmary.net (external link). This article is from Crusader magazine, courtesy of AVE, The magazine of the Anglican Society of Mary.)

“In 1538 there was a great bonfire in Chelsea. Many statues were burned. For the perpetrators, agents of the new religious regime under Henry VIII, this was a bonfire of the of the vanities, if ever there was one. To those whose devotion to the subject of many of the statues – the Blessed Virgin Mary – had been intense and heartfelt, it was a bonfire of profanity, profoundly distressing. But Thomas Cromwell’s 1538 Injunctions were uncompromising…

Three of the images on that bonfire had been dragged from their revered places in the great Marian shrines of Walsingham, Ipswich and Willesden. It was one particularly black moment in a generally black period. It was also a moment of cruel geographic irony. Only three years earlier that notable resident of Chelsea, St Thomas More, had been executed, the same More whose devotion to Our Lady took him regularly to the shrine of Willesden. Indeed, he made his last pilgrimage there (a journey through not entirely safe woodland in April 1534, only weeks before his arrest.)

The Shrine of our Lady of Willesden had in its heyday in the high days of late medieval pilgrimage piety. Although Willesden was a wild place to approach and travel through, it had the double advantage of being both a Black Madonna shrine and much more accessible to Londoners than Walsingham. It also had a holy well, as far as we can tell. Willesden (the ‘Will’ bit of the name is probably etymologically the same as ‘well’) was awash with springs, and the water at the shrine was thought to have healing properties.

After Cromwell’s depredations, the church went through a long period of neglect, even though it remained, as it does still, a prebendal parish of St Paul’s Cathedral. The incumbent was required to pay an annual fine for ‘superstition’ and ‘idolatry’; in perpetuity! Then in 1902, James Dixon arrived as the new Vicar. In some ways he was another Hope Patten. For one thing he simply stopped paying the ancient fine (and was not taken to the Tower [of London]). He also restored some element of Marian devotion, by installing a rather beautiful, if conventional statue.

This was, in its simple way, the first revival of the shrine… In particular a second and more robust revival of St Mary’s took place. There were pilgrimages and the commissioning of the single most memorable aspect of that revival: a new Black Madonna. It was carved in lime wood by the artist Catharine Stern. It would be fair to say that this image is not wholly uncontroversial. The idiom of the early 1970s is not thought by all to have stood the test of time. Still, she was installed on the Feast of Corpus Christi 1972, and dedicated by the Bishop of Willesden in the pilgrimage later that year.

The statue is now situated in the original location at the east wall of the side chapel, and has become a focus for prayer. This side chapel is a much later addition to the medieval south aisle, and in effect recreates a chantry chapel which was lost in some earlier re-organisation: presumably part of the post-Reformation allergy to such liturgical practice.”
Details are on shrineofmary@yahoo.com (external link).

 

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ANGLICAN SISTERS MOVE TO BE IN COMMUNION WITH CATHOLIC CHURCH

PLEASE PRAY FOR THESE 11 NUNS WHO BECOME PART OF THE CHURCH FAMILY ♥

A group of Anglican nuns from the Community of St Mary the Virgin (CSMV) in Wantage, Oxfordshire, is to be received into the full communion with the Catholic Church in January 2013. Eleven sisters from the historic community will join the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, the structure established by Pope Benedict XVI to enable groups of Anglicans to enter into the full communion of the Catholic Church while retaining elements of their liturgical, spiritual, and pastoral heritage. The group includes the Superior of the community, Mother Winsome CSMV.

The CSMV sisters will be joined by Sr Carolyne Joseph, formerly of the Society of St Margaret in Walsingham, who joined the Ordinariate in January 2011. Together, they will initially be established as a Public Association of the Faithful within the Personal Ordinariate. They will be known as the Sisters of the Blessed Virgin Mary and will continue in their work of prayer and contemplation, while retaining certain of their Anglican traditions and practices. Foremost amongst these is the tradition of English plainchant for which these sisters are well known.

After consultation with Church of England authorities, it has been decided that the sisters will move from their convent in Wantage and, after reception into the Catholic Church, will spend a period of time with an established Catholic community. Following this, the newly established Ordinariate community will seek to find a suitable new home. Mgr Keith Newton, the Ordinary of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, said: “The Community of St Mary the Virgin in Wantage has been at the heart of the Church of England’s religious life since the mid-19th-century.

“The contribution of the community to the life of the Anglican Communion has been significant, not least through the community’s care for those marginalised by society in Britain, and also in India and South Africa. Speaking of the decision of the sisters to enter the Personal Ordinariate, Mgr Newton continued, “Those formed in the tradition of the Oxford Movement cannot help but be moved to respond to Pope Benedict’s generous invitation to Anglicans.

The sisters have always prayed for the unity of Christians with the See of Peter, now this is to become a reality for them by means of the Ordinariate. We are truly grateful for their faith, courage, and resolve.” The community has been in discernment about the way forward since the publication of the Apostolic Constitution “Anglicanorum Coetibus” in 2009. Mother Winsome CSMV said: “We believe that the Holy Father’s offer is a prophetic gesture which brings to a happy conclusion the prayers of generations of Anglicans and Catholics who have sought a way forward for Christian unity. The future of our community is a fulfilment of its origins, and, as part of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, we will continue with many of our customs and traditions whilst also seeking to grow in Christ through our relationship with the wider Church.” One sister, who was ordained in the Church of England and is now to be received as a Catholic, said: “The call to Christian unity must always be the primary motivating factor in the decision of Anglicans to enter the Catholic Church. Anything which impedes that process cannot be of God, and so must be set aside to achieve this aim, which is the will of Christ.”

Those members of the community who will remain in the Church of England have expressed their admiration and respect for those who have taken this decision. In a short statement they said: “Whilst remaining committed to their religious vows in the Church of England, the sisters of the Community of St Mary the Virgin wish the sisters joining the Ordinariate every blessing on their new life in the Catholic Church, and respect the integrity of their sense of call.” The Community of St Mary the Virgin was founded by the Reverend William John Butler and Mother Harriet CSMV as one of the first communities of nuns in the Church of England since the Reformation.
– This article by Fr James Bradley was published by “The Universe”, issue 23rd/30th December 2012

 
 

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WHEN ENGLISH CATHOLIC CHRISTIANS HAD TO ATTEND MASS SECRETLY IN PRIVATE HOUSES FOR FEAR OF THE DEATH PENALTY

AFTER THE REFORMATION: RECORDS AND FASCINATING OLD BUILDINGS BEAR WITNESS TO THE SEVERAL HUNDRED YEARS WHEN CATHOLICS WERE DRIVEN INTO HIDING IN PROTESTANT ENGLAND. (AN EXCERPT FROM AN ARTICLE IN ‘THE UNIVERSE’ 23/30.12, 2012.)

The Old Mass House at Egton, Yorks was built in the 16th century, and consisted of one living room and two bedrooms on the ground floor. Above these was the oratory, measuring 15 feet by 10 feet. Its greatest height is only five and a half feet.

The oratory was originally approached by a step ladder from the living room. There was a trap-door in the ceiling through which people assembled in the living room could see the priest celebrating Mass. On the other side of the oratory was a secret trap-door through which the priest could escape in times of danger.

A communicating door gave access to two other similar cottages, one of which stood on the site of the present Egton Church of England school. When the oratory was discovered, the calice, vestments, a rosary, and other things were found just as Fr Nicholas Postgate left them. Fr Postgate was martyred at York on 7th August 1679. He was arrested at Littlebeck, near Whitby, whilst baptising a child at the house of Matthew Lyth, by Reeves, an exciseman. Reeves never received the £ 20 reward offered for information about priests, and he drowned himself in a small brook, which to this day is known as “Devil’s Dump”.

 
 

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