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A SHORT HISTORY OF PLEASINGTON PRIORY AND OLD HALL, BLACKBURN

The martyred priest’s grave has recently been discovered

“Three miles west of Blackburn is Pleasington Old Hall. There is a tradition that at one time it was monastic property; later it became the home of the de Plesyngton family, whose history can be traced through the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. At the end of the fourteenth century the manorial estate passed with the marriage of an heiress into the de Aynsworth family. These Ainsworths held it for about four hundred years, the last direct male representative of the family dying in 1779. His estates, being heavily mortgaged, had been publicly sold by auction two years before, and were bought by Mr. Richard Butler, of Preston, a cadet of the ancient family of Butler of Rawcliffe. Mr. Butler built the New Hall, and laid out the extensive gardens and park. Regarding the de Plesyngton family, it gave a martyr to the Church in the person of Father William Plessington, for many years chaplain to Mr. Massey, of Puddington. He was tried for his priesthood at Chester, and executed July 19, 1679. His grave has recently been discovered at Burton in Wirral.

Pleasington Old Hall, ca. 1923

Pleasington Old Hall, ca. 1923

A font for holy water and a secret chamber

The Old Hall, of which an illustration is given, is still perfect, despite a few more recent improvements. There are many quaint recesses in the walls, one being for holy water, according to tradition; whilst recently a hidden chamber was unexpectedly discovered, pointing to the priests of old having been hidden there. What may be stored in the attics under the roof cannot at the moment be discovered; for the present tenant, who takes great pride in the old house, tried more than once to make his way into the topmost floor, but the boarding would not carry his weight and the ceiling of the room below gave way under his feet. There is, however, the constant tradition that Mass was said here, and at some future date interesting discoveries may be made. The old doorway is very remarkable; it is divided into five panels, the first and last reading: R. H. 1587, Richard Ainsworth; the second, T. H., for Thomas Hoghton and his crest – a bull’s head couped; the third, three battle axes for Robert Ainsworth; the fourth, J. S., for John South worth and his crest – a bull’s head erased. The Ainsworths, Hoghtons, and Southworths were the chief landowners in Pleasington at that date.

Pleasington Priory

Mr. John Francis Butler, son of the aforesaid Richard, built the present church as an act of thanksgiving for his recovery from and accident, whereby he was nearly killed on the spot where the church now stands. The building was begun in 1816 and completed in 1819, at a cost of £20,000, though a competent authority states that it would cost three times that sum nowadays. The church is a large and lofty fabric in the early decorated style of Gothic architecture, and comprises nave with clerestory, side isles, and octagonal chancel apse. It is built of hand-dressed stone, and ornamental with countless statues and designs. The total length is 119 feet, and the width 60 feet. In the interior, the aisles are divided from the have by arcades of pointed arches, the nave from the chancel by a bold pointed arch.

Father Edward Kenyon was the first resident priest, and justly was he proud of his new church. At that date there was nothing to compare it with in Lancashire, or indeed in any part of England; even to-day, after a hundred years, the writer knows no church which has so pleasing an effect. This is largely due to the improvements carried out in 1913, when stained glass was put in the chancel windows, the gift of the late Monsignor Canon Burke, as a memorial to his parents. The coloured windows areare justly described as ‘a splendid example of the designer’s art.’ The subjects are Blessed Thomas More, Blessed John Fisher, Blessed John Forest, O.S.F., the Crucifixion in the centre, then Blessed Richard Whiting, Abbot O.S.B., Blessed Thomas Hoghton, Carthusian, Blessed Edmund Campion, S.J., and below these three windows to each scene, The Annunciation, The Nativity, The Baptism of Our Lord.

The succession of priests has been as follows: Rev. Edward Kenyon (1816-1828), when he retired to Woolston – he died there in 1837; Rev. P. Orrell (1828-1834); T. Holden (1834-1839); H. Sharples, later Bishop (1840-1845); Rev. John Pedduzzi, Rural Dean (1846-1878); H. Mulvaney (1882-1890); J. Lawless (1890-1915); Rev. Anthony van der Beek (1915).

Pleasington Priory, ca. 1923

Pleasington Priory, ca. 1923

At Pleasington are several pieces of very handsome altar silver – namely, a monstrance, thurible, and incense boat – all hall-marked. They bear the de Hoghton crest, and on each is inscribed the words, ‘Ora pro Guglielmo Hoghton.’ The hall marks are interesting: the date letter a capital X 1817; the crown for Sheffield, inverted to differentiate the earlier marks; the lion passant and R. G. on a scroll for Robert Gainsford. He entered his mark in 1808.

The candlesticks on the high altar are very fine. They are of solid brass, as heavy as one man can lift and bear in front the crest of the Cliftons of Lytham, but how they came to Pleasington is nowhere recorded. A note by Father Lawless records: ‘There is the body of St Publianus, Martyr, under the altar; the seals are perfect, but there is no certificate. It was given at Rome, according to the inscription on the case, to John Butler, Esq., the builder of the church.’

…just in time to save herself from several bullet shots which were fired through the window

Regarding the silver ornaments mentioned above, these seem to have had some narrow escapes, for the indefatigable Father Robert Smith came across the following piece of information: ‘In the early days the Priory was often broken into. Many valuable articles were stolen, and it became necessary to remove all church plate daily to the presbytery – a little plain, square-built house across the road – where the vestments had also to be kept. It is narrated that on one occasion, when the priest was away, an attempt was made to enter the presbytery. It was a moonlight night, and the housekeeper, who kept in her bedroom a garden fork for purposes of self-defence, discovered that a man was endeavouring to unfasten the bedroom window. By pushing the handle (!) of the fork through the window she succeeded in knocking the man down, and then, fearing the consequences, she stepped aside, just in time to save herself from several bullet shots which were fired through the window. The man, however, who had fallen to the ground, must have broken his leg, for the housekeeper saw him being carried away by two other men.’ A later incumbent has wisely let his adjoining schoolhouse to the local constable, so that with the ‘Police Station’ in large letters next door he is fairly safe from similar depredations.

From the date of the opening of the church a cemetery has been attached to it, where are buried successive generations of Catholics from a wide distance round. It has indeed become a most favourite place of burial, and recently fresh land has been added to the older portion. Certainly, the natural picturesqueness of the neighbourhood and the charm of the beautiful church make Pleasington Priory a most attractive spot; little wonder, then, that there is an almost continuous stream of visitors to cemetery and church alike, whilst the building of new houses in the neighbourhood gives hope that the church – for long too large for its resident congregation – may soon be as well filled as it deserves.”

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

 

 

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THE SACRED VESSELS USED DURING HOLY MASS EXPLAINED

“SACRED VESSELS AND ACCESSORIES

• For the celebration of Holy Mass the priest needs two Sacred Vessels – the PATEN and the CHALICE. The Paten is a small plate of gold or gilded silver, on which is placed the HOST. The Chalice, also made of precious metal, contains the WINE. The Host is made of pure wheat flour and is baked between two irons. The Wine is unadulterated juice of the grape naturally fermented. In preparation for Mass the priest places on the cup of the Chalice a small linen cloth. It is used to wipe the Chalice before the Wine is put into it, and wipe it again after Communion. This cloth is called the PURIFICATOR.

• Over the Purificator the priest places the Paten, on the top of which he puts the PALL – a small square of stiff linen which prevents dust or other impurities from falling into the Chalice during Mass.

• Completely covering the Chalice is the CHALICE VEIL. It is a square of silk, fashioned of the same material and having the same colour as the vestments the priest wears. On the Veil is placed the BURSE in which is carried the CORPORAL. The Corporal is a Linen Cloth, approximately a foot square, that serves as a small tablecloth on which the Sacred Vessels rest during the Mass.

• The CIBORIUM is a vessel made of precious metal. It is usually larger than the Chalice and is covered with a lid. In it are kept the Sacred Hosts reserved for Holy Communion.

• For Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament the MONSTRANCE is used. It is made of precious metal and is designed to hold the Blessed Sacrament in public view for adoration and to be raised in blessing the Faithful. It contains the LUNETTE, a crescent-shaped device of gold or silver used for holding the Host in an upright position.”
– Brepols, 1952

 

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“IF WE WOULD BE EXPOSED TO A RADIOACTIVE ELEMENT IT WOULD AFFECT US; HOW MUCH MORE DOES THE INFINITELY POWERFUL LORD CHANGE US WHEN WE SIT IN FRONT OF THE BLESSED SACRAMENT!”

THE IMPORTANCE OF EUCHARISTIC ADORATION

In the Eucharist, Jesus offers His Body and Blood for spiritual growth, and grace to perform the duties of one’s station in life. Any reading on Divine Mercy must include the Eucharist, as they are one and the same: The Divine Mercy Incarnate is Jesus, and Jesus is in the Eucharist. The Eucharist is one of the seven sacraments in the Church, and “The whole liturgical life of the Church revolves around the Eucharistic sacrifice and the sacraments” (CCC 1113).

“Sacraments are ‘powers that come forth’ from the Body of Christ, which is ever-living and life-giving. They are actions of the Holy Spirit at work in His Body, the Church” (CCC 1116). “The Holy Eucharist completes Christian initiation. Those who have been raised to the dignity of the royal priesthood by Baptism and configured more deeply to Christ by Confirmation participate with the whole community in the Lord’s own sacrifice by means of the Eucharist” (CCC 1322).

“The Eucharist is the source and summit of the Christian life. The other sacraments, and indeed all ecclesiastical ministries and works of the apostolate, are bound up with the Eucharist and are oriented towards it. For in the blessed Eucharist is contained the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely Christ Himself (CCC 1324). Saint Faustina loved the Eucharist and added “of the Most Blessed Sacrament” to her name. She wrote:

“I find myself so weak that were it not for Holy Communion I would fall continually. One thing alone sustains me, and that is Holy Communion. From it I draw my strength; in it is all my comfort. I fear life on days when I do not receive Holy Communion. I fear my own self. Jesus concealed in the Host is everything to me. From the tabernacle I draw strength, power, courage, and light. Here, I seek consolation in time of anguish. I would not know how to give glory to God if I did not have the Eucharist in my heart” (Diary, 1037). I

n the Divine Mercy Image, rays of Blood and Water emanate from the area of Jesus’ pierced Heart, and Saint Faustina saw the same rays radiating from Our Eucharistic Lord in the monstrance. She wrote:

“When I was in church waiting for confession, I saw the same rays issuing from the monstrance and spreading throughout the church. This lasted through the service. After the Benediction, [the rays shone out] to both sides and returned again to the monstrance. Their appearance was bright and transparent like crystal. I asked Jesus that He deign to light the fire of His love in all souls that were cold. Beneath these rays a heart will grow warm even if it were like a block of ice; even if it were hard as a rock, it will crumble into dust” (Diary, 370).

At another time she wrote: “Once, the Image was being exhibited over the altar during the Corpus Christi procession [June 20, 1935 ]. When the priest exposed the Blessed Sacrament, and the choir began to sing, the rays from the Image pierced the Sacred Host and spread out all over the world. Then I heard these words: ‘These rays of mercy will pass through you, just as they have passed through this Host, and they will go out through all the world'” (Diary 441).

Not only are we to receive and adore the Eucharist, we must live the Eucharist. We are to let the rays of mercy from the monstrance pass through us and go out through all the world. We are to be icons of mercy, radiating love and mercy to others. There is no greater way to energise ourselves to this task than by spending time in the Presence of the Source of Love and Mercy, Our Lord in the Most Holy Eucharist. This is seen in the example given by one saintly priest: If we were to sit for an hour a few feet away from a radioactive element, how much would that change and affect us? Now the Lord is infinitely more powerful than this and if we go to Him seeking His grace and mercy, how much more can we hope to be changed?

Yet the Church distinguishes between the inherent, objective power of the Sacraments to confer grace as an action of Christ (ex opere operato) and the person’s subjective disposition to receive that grace (ex opere operantis). Therefore, when at times it seems that our failings are too great and our faith too weak, we need to rely not on our feelings but put our faith into the fact of God’s Presence. In His infinite grace, God gives us that which we do not deserve and in His mercy, does not give us that which we do deserve. God has called us, despite our infidelity and lukewarmness, even more to Himself…

– This is an excerpt from a pamphlet by the Marians of the Immaculate Conception. For more info contact: “The Association of Marian Helpers, Eden Hill, Stockbridge, MA 01263”.

 
 

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