Tag Archives: Scotland




Margaret, of the English royal family, was born in Hungary. She exercised the greatest piety throughout her childhood and went to England with her father, who had been summoned to his royal home by her uncle, the holy King Edward.

Later she married Malcolm III of Scotland at the urging of his mother. Because of her holiness and works of mercy, she was a blessing to the whole kingdom for thirty years. She practised great austerity of life and had a burning love of neighbour, especially of the needy. She exhausted her treasury more than once feeding them.

After bearing bitter suffering and a prolonged illness with great patience, she died on the sixteenth of the Calends of November. At the moment of death, her pale, worn face flushed with unusual beauty. Clement X chose her as patroness of Scotland, and she is honoured with great devotion everywhere on earth.

– From: An Approved English Translation of the Breviarium Romanum, Burns & Oates, London, 1964


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“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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“They refused to sit idly by while their faith and the faith of their fathers was being torn up by the roots”

He purchased Birchley Hall, Lancashire, in the first year of the reign of Queen Elizabeth I (1558)

“Birchley Hall and its chapel are fortunate in having for their historian the late Dean Powell, for many years priest at Birchley. A large portion of the following account is taken from a folio volume, now kept in the priest’s house, while much of it is derived from two articles in the St. Helen’s Lantern of February, 1889, for which the good Dean supplied the information.

Passing over the earlier history of the Manor of Birchley, and the derivation of the name, we get to the solid ground of fact in 1558 – the first year of the reign of Queen Elizabeth – when Christopher Anderton, the founder of the Andertons of Lostock, purchased Birchley estate from one Roger Wetherelt. This Christopher Anderton was a successful lawyer, and appears to have acquired the property for ‘an old song.’

Birchley Hall, Lancashire, ca. 1923

Birchley Hall, Lancashire, ca. 1923

Everything was disorganised at that time

Everything was disorganised at that time, and land was about the worst investment a man could make, unless he meant to be a lay ‘Vicar of Bray.’ The Sovereigns of those ‘merrie days’ simply played shuttlecock with Catholic estates. However, Christopher, thanks to his legal acumen, and, it must be added, to his ‘dangerous temporisings,’ died in 1593, a man of many acres. He was succeeded by his son, James, also a lawyer, and also a dangerous temporiser, and it was he who built Birchley Hall. He died without children in 1618, leaving the extensive family possessions to his younger brother, Christopher. This gentleman lived to enjoy them only one year, and having several children, he left Birchley as a separate estate to his third son, Roger, who thus founded the Andertons of Birchley.

He set up the first Catholic printing press in England since the Reformation

Regarding the chapel, it is not quite clear whether James or Christopher built it, or who served it till 1645, but it is certain that it was erected about 1618, and it is probable that some member of the family did duty in it in the interval. There was scarcely a family of note in those days but numbered a priest among its members; the high-spirited gentry refused to sit idly by, while their faith and the faith of their fathers was being torn up by the roots. Certainly the Roger just referred to, unlike his uncle and grandfather, was a staunch recusant, and not satisfied with merely acting on the defensive, he carried out an aggressive warfare through the medium of a printing press which he set up in the Hall – the first Catholic press in England since the Reformation. Roger was a very learned man, and he wrote some of the works himself, but there is much confusion as to the authorship of many of the books. Those written under the name ‘John Brereley’ are now thought to have been the work of Lawrence Anderton, nephew of Roger. On this point Mr. Gillow says: ‘Among the Blundell of Crosby MSS. is a list of works ascribed to Roger Anderton by his own son Christopher in 1647, but other hands are known to have written many of these works; and it is therefore pretty clear that Roger Anderton again set up the press at Birchley, and that most of the works in the list were only printed by him.’ The list is given here, as it shows the style of literature of our Catholic forefathers. This, be it remembered, is the list sent in 1647 to William Blundell by Rev. Henry Heaton, being a copy of one sent to the latter by Christopher Anderton.

1. The Christian Manna.

2. White Dyed Black. (This work is ascribed by Oliver to Thomas Worthington, D.D.)

3. Keepe your Text.

4. The Pseudo-Scripturist. (By Fr. Silvester Norris, D.D., S.J., 1623.)

5. One God; One Faith. (By Fr. Lawrence Anderton, S.J., alias John Brereley, under the initials W. B. 1625. He was about this time in Lancashire, and probably resided with Roger Anderton.)

6. The Legacy. (The Bishop of London His Legacy or Certain Motives of D. King, late Bishop of London, for his change of Religion and dying in the Catholic and Roman Church. 1622. Written by Musket, a priest, says Gee, who is very wrath about it.)

7. The Converted Jew. (Published in 1630 in the name of Fr. John Clare, S.J., though it was not written by him. Dr. Oliver remarks that the ‘printer’s office possessed no Greek type, and there could have been no efficient reader or corrector of the press.’ If this were printed by Roger Anderton, the date, 1650, clearly proves that the press was again set up after the seizure.)

8. Rawleigh, His Ghost; (or a feigned apparition of Sir Walter Rawleigh. Translated by A. B. 1631.)

9. Campion Translated. (This was probably the English translation of Campion’s Decem Rationes, of which an edition was published in London in 1606.)

10. The Non-Entitie of Protestancy.

11. Puritanisme the Mother; Sinn the Daughter.

12. An Apologie of English Armenianisme.

13. An Antidote against Purgatorie.

14. Maria Triumphans, Being a Discourse wherein the B. Virgin Mary, Mother of God, is defended and vindicated from all such Dishonours and Indignities with which the Precisions of these our days are accustomed unjustly to charge Her.

15. Adelphomachia, or Ye Warrs of Protestancy.

16. Bellarmin of Eternal Felicitie. (Translated.)

17. Bellarmin of the Lamentation of ye Dove, translated. (This may be the translation made by William Anthony Batt, O.S.B.: The Mourning of the Dove; or of the great Benefit and Good of Teares. III Books. Written in Latin by the most illustrious Card. Bellarmine of the Society of Jesus, and translated into English by A. B., Anthony Batt, O.S.B. 1641.)

18. Bellarmin of ye Words of Our Lord.

19. Clavis Homerica.

20. Miscellanea.

21. Luther’s Alcoran.

22. The English Nunne; (being a treatise, wherein the Author endeavoureth to draw young and unmarried Catholike gentlewomen to imbrace a votary, and religious life. Written by N. N. 1642.)

23. The Catholicke Younger Brother.

24. A Panegyricke, or Laudative Discourse.

25. Bellarmine’s Controversies (the whole of which were translated into English by Roger Anderton, and sent by him to Rev. Henry Heaton at St Omer, in two large tomes, but were never printed.

A great service not only to the Catholics of Lancashire, but to those of all England

Probably all the other works in the foregoing list were printed at the Anderton Press. Roger Anderton by his printing press thus rendered a great service not only to the Catholics of Lancashire, but to those of all England, and we cannot too highly praise the sportsmanlike pluck which Roger showed in daring such risks as he did in setting up the press at a time of most bitter persecution, and in again restarting it after it had been destroyed by order of the Council.

At a time of most bitter persecution

He had six sons and four daughters: four of his sons became priests and three of his daughters nuns; one of his sons turned soldier and fell in 1645 while defending Greenhalgh Castle, near Garstang, for Lord Derby against the Parliamentarians – a fact which goes to prove how true Catholics were at this time, as indeed they have ever been, to the Throne. The elder daughter, Elizabeth, married John Cansfield, of Cansfield and Robert Hall, North Lancashire, an ancient Catholic family now represented by Lord Gerard of Bryn. The Cansfields, says Mr. Gillow, appear in the Recusant Roll from the very first, until the family became extinct, and the immense sums they paid in penalties for the recusancy of both their sons and daughters is something astonishing. Mary, the daughter of John and Elizabeth Cansfield, taking to him as her dower the Birchley estate. Thus did Birchley become the property of the Gerards , after which it became of only secondary importance, and was assigned as a residence to the dowagers of the family. It was bought in 1898 by Mr. John Middlehurst, largely through the efforts of Dean Powell, who thus had the great satisfaction of saving it from falling into non-Catholic hands.

I was always a Catholic and wish to embrace the ecclesiastical state of life

Of the priests who served the Birchley Mission, Roger Anderton came in 1645. He had been educated at St Omer’s College, in the North of France, and at the English College, Rome, where he was entered under the name ‘Edward Poole’ – Poole being the surname of a family connection. In Foley’s Records of the English Province, S.J., is the following passage about the youth. In answer to the usual questions put to students on entering the English College, he says: ‘My name is Roger Anderton. I am 18 years of age, and was born in the County of Lancaster. My parents are Catholics, wealthy and of high family. I have six brothers and four sisters. Nearly all my relations are Catholics. I made my rudimentary studies at home and at St Omer’s College. I was always a Catholic, and wish to embrace the ecclesiastical state of life.’ The examination is endorsed ‘Edward Poole.’

It was the common practice of the time for priests to pass under two or more names

It was the common practice of the time for priests to pass under two or more names. Roger above adopted the name ‘Poole’; two of his brothers assumed the name Shelley, and another that of Stanford, the latter being their mother’s maiden name. Roger was ordained priest in 1645, and in the September of that year he came to take charge of the Mission of Birchley, forming thus the first link in an unbroken chain of priests that have since laboured in this Mission.

Supplying imprisoned priests with food

He was created Archdeacon of Lancashire – a dignity which no longer exists – and was the first Secretary of ‘The Lancashire Infirm Secular Clergy Fund,’ which in those days was devoted to supplying imprisoned priests with food. He died, full of years, in 1695, leaving a sum of £200 for the maintenance of a secular priest to officiate at Birchley on two Sundays every month; a bequest which his niece, Same Mary Gerard, subsequently, in 1723, enjoined her executors to respect, in a long document, copy of which is in the folio volume before-mentioned.

Clad in a white sheet, a certain man of the Congregation confessed his crime

After the death of Roger Anderton, Rev. Richard Jameson settled here for a time, but his brother, Thomas Jameson, alias Seddon, was the real parish priest, and attended to the Mission from 1698 to 1717. Then Rev. Thomas Young, alias Brooks, figured here for a few months. In 1719, Rev. Thomas Lancaster appeared on the scene; he served Garswood and Orrell, as well as Birchley. He in turn was succeeded by Rev. Emerick Grimbaldstone, a yeoman’s son – and could any name bear a more yeomanlike ring? He was born at Standish, near Wigan.

The next priest was Rev. Henry Dennett – the hero of the canonical penance incident as follows: The discipline of the Catholic Church in past ages required that those who had shocked the public conscience – particularly by sins against the Sixth Commandment – should publicly expiate the scandal. It happened in the year 1801 that a certain man of the Congregation created a great scandal by a gross act of immorality; and one Sunday, clad in a white sheet, he was made to kneel at the altar-rails, confess his crime, and receive the reproofs of his pastor. This, claimed Dean Powell, was the last canonical penance of which there is any record in England, though I may mention that in the Highlands of Scotland such penances were not uncommon at a later period than 1800.

Fr Penswick was the last survivor of the old Douai priests

Father Sennett died in 1803, and was followed by the man who left the deepest mark on the Birchley Mission – the Rev. John Penswick, son of the then agent for the Gerard estates. He was a great favourite with the Lord Gerard of the time, and died in retirement at Garswood in 1864, at the venerable age of eighty-six. He was the last survivor of the old Douai priests, and lies in the churchyard at Birchley, all his predecessors having been buried at Windleshaw. It was he who built the present church in 1828. There is a very fine portrait of him in the sacristy at Birchley. Rev. Patrick Fairhurst succeeded; then came Rev. John Hardman, who built the schools in 1860; Rev. Thomas Walton; Rev. Joseph Wrennall, who built the chancel of the church and the presbytery; Rev. Austin Powell, who was priest from 1872 till 1910; and Rev. Joseph Rigby, at present in charge of the Mission.

No government informers ‘polluted’ this particular neighbourhood

In connection with some of the earlier history of Birchley, Dean Powell remarks: ‘It will not be out of place to consider here some of the disabilities under which Catholics suffered in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Passing over the more bloody persecution of Queen Elizabeth’s days, by the laws still in operation in 1778, a priest convicted of saying Mass was liable to imprisonment for life; a Catholic who received his education abroad forfeited his estates, which could be claimed by the next Protestant heir; a son who became Protestant could take possession of his Catholic father’s property; no Catholic could acquire any legal right to property by purchase; and if we enquire how it was that none of the priests at Birchley in early times fell into the hands of the law, the answer, of course, is that no informers ‘polluted’ this neighbourhood.

It was not until the Relief Act of 1791 that priests were allowed to wear black clothing

Living at the Hall, or at all events in the same block, the priests appeared in the public eye to be merely country squires. They farmed, until not many years ago, a large part of the estate; they were not then, as now, addressed as ‘Father’; indeed, there was nothing in their dress to denote that they were priests – for it was not until the Relief Act of 1791 that they were allowed by law to wear black clothing. And what is here said of Birchley is true of all the Catholic districts of Lancashire. The Catholic people were so numerous, and so devoted to their priests, that these could live amongst them in safety even though the laws condemned them to the aforesaid penalties.

Reporting Catholics as a source of extra income

By degrees also the Protestant magistrates came to have a great respect for the priests, of which numerous examples might be quoted. For instance, in 1778, the Rev. Thomas Weldon, who is buried at Windleshaw Abbey, was arrested and taken before Mr. Hughes, J.P., of Sherdley Hall, on the charge of exercising faculties as a priest. Some informer, in the hopes of obtaining the reward of £100 awarded by the Act of William III, had set the law in motion, but Mr. Hughes declined to hear the case, saying that Mr. Weldon was a quiet, amiable neighbour.’

Elizabethan style

And now to return to the Hall, the centre of so much Catholic activity. Of the many historic sites in Lancashire interesting to Catholics, not one that I have visited is in such perfect preservation as Birchley. The house is in the Elizabethan style, with large mullioned windows, and although these had been replaced by modern window-frames, in many cases the present tenant has restored them to their old style with most pleasing effect. The rooms are large, all the ceilings being supported by fine oak beams, and a portion of the old staircase remains, though the greater portion of it has been removed elsewhere. The furniture throughout is of date similar to that of the Hall itself, and the whole is in the most perfect order, thanks to the care of the present family, to whom the Catholic associations of the Hall give it a title to their veneration and respect, which is most charming to witness.

Keeping guard on the roof against the sudden arrival of priest-catchers

The chapel portion is the left wing as you approach the Hall. The old priest’s house was on the ground floor, and was, until the building of the schools, occupied by the teachers. The chapel is reached by a flight of stone steps on the outside, and is of very considerable size, considering the period at which it was built. It measures 30 feet long, width 22 feet, and height 18 feet. The old altar and altar-rails still remain, whilst round the walls are quaint Stations of the Cross. We can well realise that ‘when finished it created great excitement amongst the honest country folk, who thought that their chapel could now vie in splendour with any in the land’ – and where, indeed, in Lancashire did such a chapel exist in 1618, and if not in Catholic Lancashire, then where else within these islands?

A trap-door and a hollow wall with a secret panel in it

On the epistle side of the little sanctuary is the vestry, and here in the floor is a trap-door some 2 feet square. A hollow wall with a secret panel in it used to stand over this trap-door, which gives access to the room below, whence the pursued priest could either remain in concealment till the danger was past, or make his way through another secret door into the Hall. In the room adjoining the chapel is an opening, now built up, which led on to the roof. This would no doubt be used by watchers, for it was the custom of that time to keep guard against the sudden arrival of priest-catchers, more particularly while Mass was being celebrated.

A ‘mobile’ altar 

Some years ago a chalice of pewter and vestments were found in the priest’s hiding place mentioned above; these are now preserved in the Presbytery. Here, too, are three or four altar-stones of early date, thin and small, so that they could easily be carried from place to place, as was necessary when the priests had no fixed chapels wherein to say holy Mass. Another chalice, small, but very handsome, bears the inscription, ‘Ex dono Annae Blounte, uxoris Jacobi Anderton… 85,’ which Dean Powell considered to be 1685. James Anderton died December 16, 1673; he had married Anne, daughter of Sir William Blount, Bart., of Todington. The chalice is beaten silver, gilt, and hashas all the appearance of being earlier in date than the gift date noted above.

Perpetual Masses are celebrated annually for Sir William Gerard, fifth Baronet, who died in 1721, and for Dame Mary Gerard, his widow; for Sir William Gerard, son and successor of the above, who died in 1732; also for James Anderton, second husband of Dame Mary Gerard. I cannot better conclude this sketch of one of the most interesting Missions of Lancashire than in the words of Dean Powell, written many years ago. ‘It is fitting,’ wrote the good Dean, ‘that the following priests and Benefactors of the Birchley Mission should long be remembered and their anniversaries duly celebrated:

‘March 6. – Sir Robert Gerard, ninth Baronet, who died in 1784. He increased the annual interest of the monies left by Mr. Roger Anderton from £12 to £20.

March 15. – Robert, first Lord Gerard, died in 1887. He gave £300 and the land for the school…

April 8. – Rev. Emerik Grimbaldstone. He long served Birchley and died in 1786…

August 2. – Sir William Gerard, eleventh Baronet, who died in 1826. He gave the Church land and £1,000 towards the building…”

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






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“This John, about the sixth year (1564) of her Majesty’s reign (Queen Elizabeth I) that now is, for professing the Apostolic Catholic Roman Faith was imprisoned first at Chester, then sent to the Marshalsea, then to York Castle, then to the Blockhouses in Hull, then to the Gate house in Westminster, then to Broughton in Oxfordshire, then twice to Ely in Cambridgeshire. And so now at 73 years old and blind, he is bound to appear, and to keep within five miles of Towneley, his house, and who has since the statute of 23 Elizabeth (1581) paid unto the Exchequer £20 a month for not going to the Protestant church and doth still; and there is paid already above £5,000.”


Towneley Hall, ca. 1923

Towneley Hall, ca. 1923



“Even previous to the so-called Reformation, Towneley Hall and its family had considerable influence in Lancashire, for in 1454 Richard, Bishop of Lichfield, granted licence to John Towneley for an Oratory and Mass at Towneley during the Bishop’s good pleasure. One of the first chaplains was Rev. Richard Parker: whilst in 1481 the Abbot of Whalley asked Richard Towneley to appoint Rev. John Green as chaplain in the place of Richard Parker, lately deceased.

Ye Chronicles of Blackburnshire

In 1590, Towneley Hall figures on Lord Burghley’s map as a marked house, indicated by the cross on it, as a sign that the Towneley family, for its fidelity to the Catholic Faith, was to be wiped out by fines and imprisonments.

For remaining faithful Catholics, the family was to be wiped out by the government with fines and imprisonments

These severe measures continued for fully two centuries, yet at the end of that period the family emerged into a state of opulence never dreamed of by the Townley of 1450, whilst their defence of the Catholic Faith was recognised as the chief cause, under God, that the old Faith was still preserved, and was able, between the years 1800 and 1900, to blossom forth with such wonderful vigour. We are fortunate in having for all this period the history of the late Rev. R. Smith, to whom the present writer readily acknowledges his indebtedness. This [article] on Townley is almost entirely condensed from Ye Chronicles of Blackburnshire.

Each stone of the Chapel was marked

The chapel, which the aforesaid priests served, was originally on the second floor. Until the year 1700, the front of Towneley Hall consisted of this chapel and library. Charles Towneley removed the chapel and sacristy to their present position. Each stone was marked, and everything removed with religious care and reverence and rebuilt on the present site. On the beautifully worked door of the confessional to the right of the altar, there is the date 1601, and the initials of John Towneley, of Richard, his son, and of the Confessor. The public entrance to the chapel was from the back up some steps, and though the door is now walled up, the mark of the stairway outside can still be seen.

In this chapel hundreds of our Catholic forefathers, under varied conditions and great fears, have heard Mass and received the sacraments

Regarding the chapel itself, which one cannot visit with feelings of deep affection and devotion, it measured 33 feet in length and 18 feet in width. About one-third of the length formed the chancel and the rest was the have. It is 12 feet high with a flat ceiling, composed of elaborately moulded oak beams and joists; but the chancel portion is double this height, thus affording room for a good altar and fine reredos, over which was a window. The entrance door to the chapel was handsomely carved, and to the north-east side of the chapel was the entrance to the small priests’ room, or vestry. In this chapel hundreds of our Catholic forefathers, under varied conditions and great fears, have heard Mass and received the sacraments; for long years in penal times it was the centre of Catholic life in the North of England. It served Catholics for many miles round, till, in 1817, Burnley Wood Chapel was built, and after that it continued as the family chapel till about 1895.

These holes were the only sources of light and air to the imprisoned priest in the hiding-place

In the Hall there are now two hiding-places: the larger and better-known one is situated at the south end of the central hall. The entrance to it is through what is really the ceiling of this secret chamber, the floor of which is composed of daub, a mixture of clay and rushes. This material would no doubt be selected in order to prevent any sounds being heard from the hiding-place: it measures 18 feet by 15 feet and 6 feet high, which is very large for a hiding ‘hole’, as they used to be called. In the walls are four holes, about 9 inches square, almost right through the masonery. My guide suggested that these had been made by inquisitive visitors, who were probing for further secret chambers; but I pointed out to him, that so far from this being the case, these holes were as old as the main walls themselves. Each hole is built of square stones until within a few inches of the outside, when the opening has evidently been closed up from outside. These holes were the only sources of light and air to the imprisoned priest, and thus they played a most important part in the designing and building of the room. But when the chapel was moved to its present site and a new priests’ hiding place was made, these holes were closed up from the outside. The second hiding-place was only discovered a fortnight before my visit in August, 1923. It measures 6 feet by 5 feet and is 4 to 6 feet high, being situated immediately above the sacristy and alongside the present chapel.

A fascinating discovery – preventions in case of a government raid (removing all traces of Holy Masses)

A very quaint paper was recently published in the Burnley Express, August 1, 1923. It had been sent to the Mayor of Burnley by Lord Abingdon, whose first wife was Caroline, daughter of Charles Towneley. It is here given in the original spelling.


In the library over against the closet door the middle panell slides back, and the same over against the window. On the floor over against the door, the base slides up and takes out; in the floor is a hole, in which an iron hook is to be put, and will open to a large place by lifting up the whole floor.

At the back side of the library door, the side wainscote may be taken out, and lets you into a place, where some boards may be taken up, which will let you into a large place, which held all the library books: at the chapel door taking up one board, which is not nailed fast, will let you into such another.

In the chapel the altar table draws out, and also the upper steps, which will let you into a large place, in which may be laid all the guilding, which is only put on with pegs, and takes to pieces: care must be taken not to knock the gilding in taken down or putting up.

Over the cannopy of the altar in the library lies a door for the tabernacle balls for the top of the pillars, instead of the flower pots, and also capitals and bottoms instead of the gilding, so that the place may be made use of though the gilding be taken down.

At the steps going from the stone stairs to the garret a step may be taken out, where there is a large place all over the green parlour. In the second room in the gallery the wainscote opens in the middle of the chimney upon hinges, where there is a hole in the wall not very big.

In the third room in the gallery is the close stool closet, the pannel towards the garden has a latch within, which is opened with an iron pin at a hole in the door, which lifts up the latch, which may be made faster by those within: it has a seat and will hold two persons.

No servants should be trusted with this, but upon some occasion some trusty servant may be made use off for some of the places to be used, but not made acquainted with them all.

Copied from a paper found in 1793 in my father’s pocket book and wrote by my great I grandmother, Ursula Towneley; she was D (daughter) of Fermor of Tusmore in Oxfordshire.                            C.T.


The Chapel at Towneley Hall, ca. 1923

The Chapel at Towneley Hall, ca. 1923


Before 1700 or after?

Her marriage took place in 1685 and her husband died in 1711, so that it is difficult to determine whether the note refers to the house before the alterations of 1700, or after. Then, again, extensive alterations have taken place since the Hall became the property of the Burnley Corporation. For, to make the two long galleries for which the upper storeys of the fine old castle-like building are now famous throughout the country, dividing walls had to be taken down and other changes made, whilst at different times there have been numerous alterations carried out elsewhere.

The Catholic prisoners had to bear the cost of their own food and lodging during imprisonment, and that at extortionate rates

Of the different members of the family who suffered for the Catholic Faith, the first in the long list is John Towneley, of whom a contemporary account says: ‘This John, about the sixth year (1564) of her Majesty’s reign (Queen Elizabeth) that now is, for professing the Apostolic Catholic Roman Faith was imprisoned first at Chester, then sent to the Marshalsea, then to York Castle, then to the Blockhouses in Hull, then to the Gate house in Westminster, then to Broughton in Oxfordshire, then twice to Ely in Cambridgeshire. And so now at 73 years old and blind, he is bound to appear, and to keep within five miles of Towneley, his house, and who has since the statute of 23 Elizabeth (1581) paid unto the Exchequer £20 a month for not going to the Protestant church and doth still; and there is paid already above £5,000.’ This fine, says Father Smith, was only one of the many which he had to pay; the Catholic prisoners, moreover, had to bear the cost of their own food and lodging during imprisonment, and that at extortionate rates.

Binding them in London, away from their family, friends and acquaintances

In 1584 the Privy Council states that Dean Nowell – one of Elizabeth’s commissioners – had requested that John Towneley, committed at Manchester for not conforming in matters of religion, and now fallen into certain diseases, might be suffered to repair to London to consult with the best physicians. The Council directed Mr. Towneley to be sent up in the company of some trusty person, so that he may not be suffered to go out of the way to any house than the ordinary inns. At the same time the Council decided that ‘both Sir John Southworth and Mr. Towneley having paid their fines according to the law, cannot be longer imprisoned, for that would be a double punishment for one offence.’ The Council thought them at liberty more dangerous in Lancashire, where they greatly allied and friended, than in London, and therefore it was better to bind them to remain in the Metropolis.

More sequestrations 

Another notable member of the family, from the Catholic point of view, was Richard Towneley, who was born at York in 1628. He became famous as an astronomer and mathematician. He sold the Nocton estates to repair the heavy fines and losses entailed upon his estates by the sequestrations of the Commonwealth. Of his children, Thomas became a secular priest, and served for some forty years on the Lancashire Mission – namely, from 1693 to 1733. Five more of his children embraced religious life on the Continent. John became a monk and Richard a Carthusian at Nieuport; Margaret and Cicely became nuns at the English Augustinian Convent, Paris; of these, Margaret was born at Towneley in 1664, and took the veil in 1683, became Subprioress in 1714, and died in 1731. Cicely was born at Towneley in 1676, took the veil in 1695, and died in 1728. Frances, their sister, married, but, being left a widow, she, too, entered the same convent as a boarder in 1719, whilst her daughter Elizabeth became a nun at Cambrai in 1712.

Richard Towneley, the father, along with Edward Tildesley, took a prominent part in the Rising of 1715. They were imprisoned, and would have lost their lives, but so great was the horror created by the barbarous way in which the other condemned prisoners had been executed, that the jury accepted the plea of Towneley and Tildesley – that what they did had, in a manner, been forced upon them – and acquitted them.

How greatly the fines for recusancy and loyalty had reduced the fortunes of this once great family may be judged from the following letter of Richard Towneley, dated February 12, 1716, to Mr. Richard Starkie, at his Chambers in Furnival’s Inn, London:


Yours received, and I must beg you will not fail going as soon as you receive this to the Commissioners and acquaint them that Thomas Hilton came this day along with an Attorney and two Bailiffs and took forcible possession. I desire they will give me orders per the first, what I shall do, for they threaten to sell the small goods I have procured for my poor children and throw them out of doors within a few days. Dear Sir, I beg you will not fail me in this by the very first, and you will ever oblige,

Your Humble Servant


Unless they renounce their faith, they inherit nothing, because their late father was Catholic till the end

That the measures of repression after the Rising fell especially heavy on the Catholics is shown from the following letter from the Sheriff of Lincoln. Mrs. Towneley was a daughter of Lord Widdrington.

‘May it please your Honours, in obedience to your Honours’ precept I made enquiry… after the Widdringtons to receive their goods at Blankney House, and all has been sold except these few… the only item is a large table in the hall, supposed to be an heirloom. The family of the late Lord Widdrington are to receive nothing out of his immense estates, because their father was a Catholic, unless every child shall be educated in the Protestant religion, and orders were given to one of the principal Secretaries of State that he might proceed to sell their estates.’

These were sold in 1729, and realised the enormous sum for those days of £96,525.

How closely the Towneley were associated with the Royal Stuart family is seen from the prominent part two members took in the Rising of 1745. Sir John Towneley, a great and learned scholar, was tutor to ‘Bonnie Prince Charlie,’ and took part in the campaign of 1745-46. After the Battle of Culloden he escaped to France, and long kept up his friendship with the Prince and his brother, the Cardinal Duke of York. Sir John died in London in 1782, aged eighty-five.

They were publicly butchered by the common hangman in London

Francis Towneley became Commander of the Manchester Regiment. He was the bravest and most faithful to his Prince of even those devoted followers, and defeated Carlisle till forced to capitulate. Contrary to the written promise of William, Duke of Cumberland, Towneley and other Lancashire gentlemen were tried and found guilty of treason. They were publicly butchered by the common hangman in London, and the horrible injustice of their death heaped additional unpopularity on George II. Towneley’s fate became the theme of the following popular ballad – William being, of course, the Duke of Cumberland.

Towneley’s Ghost

The bloody axe his body fair

Into four partes cut,

And every part and eke his head

Upon a pole was put.


When the sun in shades of night was lost

And all were fast asleep,

In glided Towneley’s murdered ghost,

And stood at William’s feet.


‘Infernal wretch, away,’ he cried,

‘And view the mangled shade,

Who in thy perjured faith relied

And basely was betrayed.


Embraced in bliss, embraced in ease,

Tho’ now thou seem’st to lie,

My injured shade shall gall thy ease

And make thee beg to die.


Think on the hellish acts you’ve done,

The thousands you’ve betrayed;

Nero himself would blush to own

The slaughter thou hast made.


No infants’ shrieks nor parents’ tears

Could stop thy bloody hand;

Not even ravished virgins’ tears

Appease thy dire command.


But oh, what pangs are set apart

In hell, thou’lt shortly see;

When even all the damned will start,

To view a friend like thee.’


With speed, affrighted William rose

All trembling, wan, and pale

And to his cruel sire he goes

And tells the dreadful tale.


‘Cheer up, my son, my darling son,’

The bold ursurper said;

‘Never repent of what you’ve done

Nor be at all dismayed.


If we on Stuart’s throne can dwell,

And reign securely here,

Thy uncle Satan’s King in Hell,

And he’ll protect us there.’


Charles Towneley – He never neglected his duties as a faithful Catholic

Charles Towneley, nephew of the above [Francis Towneley], was born in 1737, and succeeded to the estates at the age of five. At ten years of age he was sent to the English College, Douai, and thence to Paris. Later he resided much in Rome, and made a magnificent collection of statuary, which he playfully called his ‘dead family.’

He acquired a European reputation, yet he never neglected his religious duties as a faithful Catholic, nor his obligations to his friends at Burnley. He regularly spent some months of every year at Towneley Hall, embellishing its grounds, and forwarding the interests of its people. Dignified, amiable, cheerful and accomplished, untiring in his care of his tenantry and the poor of his estates, a splendid cultivator of the beautiful, the figure of Charles Towneley appeals to the imagination as that of an ideal Englishman of the eighteenth century. (Father Smith, p. 182.)

After his death in 1805, the British Museum acquired his collection, which now forms one of the very greatest treasures of our National treasure house. ‘In a general way, Lancashire is thought of chiefly as a county which has made important contributions to machinery and manufactures. It is pleasant to remember that for the enjoyment of such works of art as the Capitoline Venus, and other beautiful and noble sculptures, which compose the Towneley gallery, the thanks of the nation are due to the taste, energy, enterprise and liberalities of a Lancashire Worthy, Charles Towneley.’ (Lancs. Worthies, II Series, p. 200.)

Great is Truth, and it will prevail

Peregrine Towneley, born in 1772, succeeded in 1813, gave the land for the Burnley Wood chapel, and himself contributed £1,000 towards the building. In 1831 he was made High Sheriff of Lancashire, an office held by his ancestor John Towneley in 1532. Stirring times had indeed filled those past three centuries, but the family had been true to the motto ‘Tenez me Vraye’ (‘Hold the Truth’) and certainly few better examples could be found in the renewed prosperity of the family in the nineteenth century of another: ‘Magna eat Veritas et praevalebit’ (‘Great is Truth, and it will prevail’).

What do we know of the priests of Towneley and Burnley?

Of the priests who successively attended the Catholics of Towneley and Burnley, Robert Woodruff entered the English College, Rheims, in May, 1577; he was ordained in Rome, 1582, and sent to England along with John Nutter and Samuel Conyers. In 1586 ‘It appeareth that Robert Woodruff, a seminary priest, was received at the house of Janet Woodruff, of Bank Top, in the parish of Burnley, this half year, by common report.’ In 1590 he was arrested again at Crosby Hall, and imprisoned along with his host, Mr. Richard Blundell, who died in prison the following year. In 1603, after thirteen years’ imprisonment, Father Woodruff was reprieved and sent into exile, as reported in the Douai College Register, and after that he is lost sight of.

Father William Richmond, after his escape from York Castle, lived with the Towneleys at Towneley Hall, where he probably died in the first quarter of the seventeenth century.yer. Gillow says that he searched in vain for Father Richmond’s burial notice at St Peter’s, Burnley, and he thinks that Burnley, and especially Towneley, were too closely watched for this priest to be able to stay here long without being recaptured, so nothing more is known of him (p. 131).

Some of the district’s martyrs’ biographies

But constancy to the Old Faith was not confined to the squire and his family: the yeomanry and peasantry of the district were just as staunch. No less than three martyrs are most closely connected with the district.

Hang, drawn and quartered at Tyburn, London

Of these, the first in order was John Nutter, born at Reedley Hallows, Burnley, who entered the English College, Rheims, in 1579, and was ordained in 1582. He came to England intending to land at Scarborough, but the ship foundering upon the coast of Norfolk, Mr. Nutter was put on shore at Dunwich. He was at once arrested and sent to the Marshalsea, in London, and the following year, 1584, he was tried and condemned with four other priests. After lying in irons five days in the Tower, he was drawn, together with the same four confessors, to Tyburn, and there hanged, cut down alive, bowelled and quartered.

He was prisoner in the Tower of London as early as 1583, and was tortured

The second martyr was Robert, brother of the above, who was ordained priest in 1581, and in the following year came on the English Mission. He was a prisoner in the Tower as early as 1583, where he was twice tortured with the ‘scavenger’s daughter’. He was banished in 1585, but returned, and was again imprisoned. Escaping with Venerable Edward Thwing, he was rearrested in Lancashire and executed at Lancaster, July 26, 1600, solely on account of his priesthood. (Challoner.)

He openly acknowledged that he was a priest, and as such was sentenced to death

The third martyr was Thomas Whitaker, born in 1611 at Burnley, where his father was schoolmaster. At the age of twenty-three he went to the English College, Valladolid in Spain, the Towneleys paying the expenses of his journey. He was ordained in 1638, and at once came on the English Mission. He exercised his priestly functions with great zeal for five years, until he was seized and committed to Lancaster Castle. Thence he escaped, only, however, to be captured again in 1643, when he was again imprisoned in Lancaster. After three years of most holy life in prison he was brought to trial, when he openly acknowledged that he was a priest, and as such was sentenced to death. He suffered at Lancaster, August 7, 1646, in the thirty-third year of his age and the eighth of his mission. Further details of his life may be read in Bishop Challoner’s Memoirs of Missionary Priests.

The number of those confirmed shows that many of the old Catholics still survived

In 1661 Rev. Peter Gifford came to be Chaplain to the Towneleys. In 1675 he was Secretary of the famous Lancashire Infirm Clergy Fund, and in 1682 was elected Vicar-General of the North. He died, aged sixty-six, in 1689, at Towneley Hall, where he had probably found moderate security under the protection of the family. During his stay at Towneley, Bishop Leyburne held a great confirmation there. King James II. had come to the throne in 1685, and had heartily welcomed the Bishop, lodging him in Whitehall, and granting him a pension of £1,000 a year. There would be much rejoicing at Towneley when the good Bishop came, and the number of those confirmed – 203 – shows that many of the old Catholics still survived. Burnley at that time was only a small town.

Pre-reformation vestments, perhaps originally from Whalley Abbey

Father Thomas Anderson, born in 1675, of the Euxton family, was the next priest. He was ordained in 1702, and in 1705 came to Towneley Hall and lived with the family. His record of baptisms, marriages, and stipends of Masses still exists. After the Stuart Rising of 1715 he was convicted as a recusant at the Lancaster Sessions, when he was described as ‘one Anderton, a reputed Popish priest at Towneley.’ That year he received from Mrs. Ursula Towneley £10 for the half-year, his annual salary being £20. Father Anderton’s notebook was sold at the last dispersion of the Towneley Hall library, and became the property of the Burnley Literary and Scientific Society, while at a still more recent date (1922) the Burnley Corporation secured the very valuable pre-Reformation vestments, which are now on exhibition at their old home, Towneley Hall. It is said that these beautiful vestments originally belonged to Whalley Abbey.

Father Anderton spent the whole of his missionary career at Towneley. He was greatly respected by his patrons, and esteemed by the numerous Catholics who formed his congregation. He was a member of the Old Chapter, and in July, 1732, was elected Archdeacon of Lancashire. He closed his days peacefully at Towneley, July 13, 1741, aged sixty-six.

He was succeeded by Rev. George Kendal, who also succeeded him as Archdeacon of Lancashire. At this time Towneley was the centre and headquarters of the secular clergy, the archdeacons, and later the vicars capos topic, residing there. In 1744 Dr. Kendal resigned the Mission of Burnley and Towneley to take charge of that at Fernyhalgh.

Rev. John Harrison, born at Cottam in 1714, was priest there in 1746, when his house and chapel were burnt down by the fanatical mob from Preston. Father Harrison removed to Towneley and served that Mission for thirty-one years, until he was no longer able (1746-1777). He then went to live with his brother in Preston, and died there in 1780. At this period (1773) Bishop Petre reported to Propaganda that there were sixty-nine residences for priests in Lancashire, and that the Catholics numbered 14,000. The following year Bishop Walton confirmed at Burnley, but the numbers – only thirty-nine – seem to show that the Catholics had been dwindling under the bitter persecution of those times. In 1784 Bishop Mathew Gibson confirmed twenty-five at Burnley.

Dear to God and the poor

Rev. Thomas Caton was priest from 1785 to 1811. He gathered together the various registers which begin in 1705, and which he himself continued till 1809. He was succeeded by Rev. Louis Merlin, whose epitaph may be seen in St Peter’s churchyard, Burnley, as follows: ‘There rests here, dear to God and the poor, Rev. Lewis Merlin, who, an exile from his home in France, first in Scotland, then in England, gave himself to works of piety and charity; at length, broken down by his arduous labours, he died at Towneley December 12, 1819, in his fifty-fifth year.’

Father Charles Lupton came to Burnley in 1819, and died at Towneley five years later. Previous to his death, Father – later Canon – Hodgson came to relieve him, and remained twenty-five years. In 1824 the Easter communicants numbered 116, and in 1825 150. In 1829 Burnley Wood Chapel was enlarged, and in 1849 it was replaced by St. Mary’s, which was opened amidst great rejoicings, Cardinal Wiseman being the preacher of the day.

The opening of St Mary’s Catholic church after centuries of suffering

But bigotry was still very rife in Burnley; the town was flooded with a most sacrilegious poster, and the walls of the town were plastered with ‘no popery’ placards; the exterior carvings round the church were greatly damaged, and the statue of Our Lady, within a niche of the church, was often shot at, but was never hit. St Mary’s Bazaar Book of 1902 truly says: ‘It is a far cry now to the time when, in 1817, the first Catholic church was built in Burnley Wood. Up to that time the chapel in Towneley Hall had been from time immemorial the only place of worship for miles round. It seems difficult to realise that, when the little Burnley Wood chapel was built, it was the only one for Burnley, Todmorden, Bacup, Colne, Barrow Ford, Nelson, Brierfield, Lowerhouse, and Padiham. Now all these places have churches of their own, whilst in Burnley itself we have four churches where our grand old Catholic Faith is practised.’

Witness of the piety and sufferings of past generations

Towneley Hall, in consequence of mining and other industrial operations, became quite unsuited for a private residence, and was sold to the Corporation of Burnley in 1902. In the following year it was opened as an art gallery and museum, so that may of our readers will be able to see round it, and to visit the chapel and priests’ hiding places, witnesses of the piety and sufferings of past generations which have borne such fruit in our own happier times.”

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








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Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini was born into a farming family in Lombardy, Italy, in 1850. She was attracted to a missionary life from an early age and founded the Institute of the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in Codogno in 1880. Her original missionary dream was to go to China but historical circumstances prevented this. Pope Leo XIII directed her to the United States, where millions of Italians were arriving in search of work and with the hope of a better life.

Over the next 30 years she established 67 foundations in Europe, the United States and Central and South America. This included schools, hospitals, orphanages and social centres. She established a school in Honor Oak, South London. She died in Chicago, USA, on December 22nd 1917. She was canonised in 1946 and declared Universal Patroness of Immigrants by Pope Pius XII in 1950. Today she is known as Mother Cabrini, Patron Saint of Migrants. Her feast is 13th November. In 2009 the National Shrine to St Frances Xavier Cabrini was opened in St George’s Cathedral, Southwark.

We are planning a book on the work of Mother Cabrini and her sisters in England and Scotland. If you have memories of the sisters or would like further information please contact:

Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus
Forest Hill Road, Honor Oak,
London SE23 3LE
Tel: +44 208 699 2735
email: ”
– From a leaflet by the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus


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Where high the heavenly temple stands,
The house of God not made with hands,
A great High Priest our nature wears,
The guardian of mankind appears.

He who for men their surety stood,
And poured on earth his precious blood,
Pursues in heaven his mighty plan,
The Saviour and the Friend of man.

3. Though now ascended up on high,
He bends on earth a brother’s eye;
Partaker of the human name,
He knows the frailty of our frame.

In every pang that rends the heart,
The Man of Sorrows had a part;
He sympathises with our grief,
And to the sufferer sends relief.

With boldness, therefore, at the throne,
Let us make all our sorrows known;
And ask the aids of heavenly power
To help us in the evil hour.
– M. Bruce, 1746-67,
Scottish Paraphrases, 1781


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“The Kingdom of God which Jesus founded on earth is fundamentally a spiritual kingdom, a kingdom of the spirit. When Jesus acknowledged before Pilate that He was a king, He also said that His kingdom was not of this world. The objective of His kingdom was not worldly wealth or power but rather the salvation of men, the forgiveness of sin and the reunion of men with God both in time and eternity.


But though His kingdom was primarily a kingdom of the spirit, the men who would compose it were not pure spirits. Men are spirits in bodies. As spirits men become conscious of the world and of themselves through the vital, sensitive activities of their bodies. Though it was theoretically possible for God to speak the message of salvation directly to the spirit of each individual man, He did not choose to do so. Instead He chose to speak to a few and commission them to transmit the message to the rest of men. In so doing God chose to respect and work with man as he is, a unit composed of body and spirit. It is through the human body and its senses, through human language, whether spoken, written or by gesture or sign, that men communicate with each other. God chose to use this normal means of human communication to transmit His message to all men.


Similarly God could, if He had so chosen, give His grace to men, the grace which carries with it forgiveness of sin and a share in His kingdom in a purely spiritual way, operating secretly and invisibly in the interior of men’s souls. But God chose to act in accordance with the nature of man. He chose to enable men to know His invisible gifts to their souls by external visible signs, the Mass and the sacraments.


Now therefore the external transmission of the divine message of salvation and the sensible means of salvation instituted by God make His kingdom on earth a visible kingdom. The necessity of safeguarding the integrity of His message and the need of preserving the sacramental means of salvation were provided for by Jesus. To His Apostles, under the leadership of Peter, He gave the power to teach His message without error and to bring to men the sacramental means of salvation. Consequently, though His kingdom on earth is primarily a kingdom of the spirit, it is also a visible kingdom; visible in the evident distinction between the Apostles, who possess the authority to teach, to sanctify and rule the members of the kingdom for eternal salvation, and the members, who receive this teaching, partake of the sacraments and follow the apostolic rule to their salvation; visible in the administration of the sacraments which can be seen and heard; visible and audible in the teaching of the Apostles; recognisable in the obedience in spiritual concerns which the members give to the Apostles and their successors, the Pope and the bishops of the Church.


As a visible, organised society, with the most important mission in the world – the salvation of all men – the Church of God has the right to preach its divine message in the world, the right to administer the means of salvation to men and the right to rule the moral and spiritual behaviour of men for their salvation. Now, if all men were perfect, both in knowledge and in moral behaviour, if all men recognised at once the divine character of the Church of Christ, and if all men had at once the good will to recognise the divine authority of the Church to sanctify and rule men for salvation, the Church would experience no difficulty in the world of men. But men are not perfect, neither in knowledge nor in behaviour. It was to be expected therefore that the appearance in the world of a new society claiming the freedom and the right to teach, rule and sanctify men in the name of God would be neither unnoticed nor unhindered in its efforts to exercise this freedom and right. Over the centuries the weakness of men, both within and without the Church, would occasion not only misunderstanding but also conflicts between the Church and human states. Jesus Himself had given His disciples the general principles to follow: ‘Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God, the things that are God’s.’ It is our intention now to trace briefly the working-out of this principle in human history.


The Church, the Kingdom of God, was born in the Roman Empire. In matters of religion the Roman State was eclectic and tolerant. The Romans allowed all subject-peoples to retain and practise their own religions. They asked only that all the subject-peoples (except the Jews) acknowledge the Roman Emperor as a manifestation of the divinity. Since the conquered peoples were generally polytheists, believing in the existence of many gods, and since many of them were accustomed to the idea that kings or emperors were either gods or manifestations of gods, this practice caused no difficulty. On the other hand, it was a powerful symbol of the unity of the empire. The Jews, since they were monotheists, were not asked to worship the emperor. Besides, since they showed no very active inclination to convert the peoples of the empire to monotheism, they were not a threat to the worship of the emperor, nor to the symbol of imperial unity.


But the Kingdom of God founded by Jesus proclaimed itself to the world as a society with a world mission. Its objective was to reunite all men to God the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit in Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As men came to believe in Jesus, as they freely began to worship the Trinity which He preached, they ceased to worship the many gods of the empire. Most significantly they ceased to worship the emperor. And the more numerous the followers of Jesus became, the more evident it became to the imperial authorities that the Christian Church was a threat to the symbol of imperial unity, the symbol which helped to sustain that unity.


Thus it was that the Church attracted the unfavourable notice of the Roman authorities. Viewed with suspicion, as a possible threat to the well-being of the Roman State, it could not escape persecution by the imperial authority. In the first three centuries of its existence therefore the Church was subject to persecution by the civil authority. The profession and practice of Christianity were forbidden by the State. Those who refused to give up their faith in Christ could be deprived of their titles and property, imprisoned, forced to work in mines, tortured and put to death. It was a time when, as Jesus had said, men would think they were doing God a favour by putting the disciples of Christ to death.


The imperial persecution of the Church ceased with the advent of Constantine in the first quarter of the fourth century. Although Constantine himself was baptised a Christian only at the close of his life, he favoured the Church of Christ. But, as a Roman Emperor, he regarded himself as possessed of power over the Church, even in spiritual matters. Unfortunately for the Church in the eastern half of the empire, Constantine established his capital at Byzantium (Constantinople). The tendency of the emperors to exercise control over Church affairs prevented the true ecclesiastical authority from realising its proper freedom in matters of religion. The real dependence of the Eastern bishops on the power of the emperors and the human weakness and ambitions of the bishops made the Eastern Church unduly subservient to the civil power.


On the other hand, the removal of the capital from Rome to Constntinople proved fortunate for the Bishop of Rome, the successor of St Peter, the supreme authority on earth in the Kingdom of God. The fact that the imperial power was centred at Constantinople in the East and at Milan or Ravenna in the West gave the Pope, the Bishop of Rome, a greater measure of freedom from interference by the civil rulers than that enjoyed by the bishops of the East. As a result the supreme authority to teach, rule and sanctify which Jesus had entrusted to Peter and his successors, the Bishops of Rome, not only became more clearly recognised in the Western Church but it also developed in greater freedom. The barbarian invasions of the empire, which began toward the close of the fourth century, also served to increase the freedom and prestige of the Popes. As the imperial organisation of the empire in the West began to break up under the successive waves of invasion, the Popes appeared to be not only the authoritative heralds of the religion of Christ [James 1:27] but also the champions [of fairness to all,] of the law and order which the old empire had realised.


Thus, from the beginning of the fourth century to the end of the eighth century, two different ways of harmonising man’s duties both to God and to Caesar were being developed. In the Eastern empire, while the state became Christian, the bishops became too dependent on the civil power and the emperors gained too great authority over the Church in matters of religion. In the West the true and divinely given power of the Papacy was able to develop more freely according to its inner nature. The acceptance of the authority of the Popes also safeguarded the authority of bishops generally from the tendency of civil authority to encroach upon Church affairs.


The tendency of the emperors to assume control of the Church was given free play during the rise and fall of the Arian heresy. The Arians denied that Jesus was God equally with the Father. Through the efforts of Eusebius, the Bishop of Nicomedia, they gained the favour of Constantine and of his son Constantius II (337-361). In the Church in the East the power of the emperor was used to depose the true bishops and impose Arian bishops in their place. The Pope and the Western bishops generally resisted these imperial attempts to make the Church Arian. With the advent of the Emperor Theodosius the Great (379-395) the imperial patronage of the Arian heresy ceased. But, in the East, it had already become customary for the emperors to interfere at will in the affairs of the Church. The bishops there were also accustomed to such interference.


The influence of the emperor in ecclesiastical affairs was also responsible for the increase in power and prestige of the Bishop of Constantinople. At the time of the Council of Constantinople (381) the bishop of the imperial capital was a simple suffragan bishop of the Archbishop of Heraclea. But at the Council through the influence of the Emperor Theodosius, it was decreed that the Bishop of Constantinople was to hold a primacy of honour over all the bishops of the world except the Bishop of Rome. The Council granted the Bishop of Constantinople only a primacy of honour. It did not give him any added powers. But the granting of this honour was based on the principle that the presence of the emperor (or the imperial power) at Constantinople added prestige to the bishop of the see. In this way there was established between the Church in the East and the state a link that was to prove the downfall of the Eastern Church.


In the West the tendency of the state to lord it over the Church was met with resistance. Ambrose, the Bishop of Milan (where the Western capital of the empire was then located), gave an example to the rest of the Western bishops. When, with the support of Justina, the mother of the Emperor Valentinian II, the Arians asked that one of the Catholic churches of Milan be handed over to them, Ambrose refused, saying that ‘palaces are the concern of the emperor, but Churches belong to the bishop.’ He also pointed out that the ’emperor is within the Church, but not over the Church.’ It is worth noting that St Ambrose in this tilt with the imperial power, appealed constantly to the principle laid down by Jesus Himself: ‘Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.’ In the year 494 Pope Gelasius I, in a letter to the Emperor Anastasius, laid down the principle that the world is ruled by two powers, the sacred power of the Popes and the royal power. The power of the priesthood is more important because the priest must give an account to God even for the kings of men. In the West, then, both in principle and in fact, the Pope and the bishops maintained the independence of the Kingdom of God from the civil power. In matters affecting the conduct of the civil affairs of the state, the Church and its members would obey the laws of the state. But in matters of religion the Church is independent, subject only to God.


This teaching of Pope Gelasius was a clear re-affirmation of the principle laid down by Christ Himself. It helped to guard the Church of the West from the dangers of Caesaropapism. But the bishops of the Eastern Church were already too accustomed to subservience to the civil power. Moreover, the tendency of the peoples of the East to become embroiled in theological and liturgical controversies, coupled with the human ambitions of the bishops of Constantinople, helped to bring about the triumph of Caesaropapism and ultimately a rupture between the Eastern and the Western Church.


The first open signs of this rupture are found in the story of the Photian schism. In 847 Ignatius, a son of the Emperor Michael I, was elected Patriarch of Constantinople. His opposition to Bardas, guardian of the emperor, brought about his deposition as Patriarch. Photius, a layman, was chosen in his place. Pope Nicholas I sent legates to Constantinople to mediate the dispute between the followers of Ignatius and those of Photius. His legates took the dide of Photius, but the Pope himself decided in favour of Ignatius. With the support of the emperor, Photius remained in power. But he had been alienated from the Papacy by the decision of Nicholas I. In his anger he wrote a number of works against the See of Rome. These have provided ever since an arsenal of arguments used by Eastern theologians against the Western Church. Even though, ultimately, Photius died in communion with the Pope at Rome, the seeds of the schism had been sown.


In 1053 the Patriarch Michael Caerularius began an active campaign against the Church of the West. In 1054 he was solemnly excommunicated by the papal legates. This brought about the rupture between the Eastern and the Western Church. At the general councils of Lyons, in 1274, and Florence, in 1438, unsuccessful attempts were made to reunite the churches of the East and the West. But the schism remains to this day. Now and then, in the course of succeeding centuries, some bishops and peoples of the East have been reunited to Rome. But the majority of the Christian Churches of the East are still in schism. Thus Caesaropapism – the attempt of civil authority to dominate in a sphere where it has no real authority – helped to remove many of the followers of Christ from the unity of His sheepfold which He so ardently desired.


In the West the relations between Church and the state followed a different course. At that time when the Eastern Church was coming under the domination of the civil power, the activity of St Ambrose and the statement of Christian principle by Pope Gelasius, aided by the breakdown of the western empire, preserved the Church from the danger of Caesaropapism. The prestige of the Church in western Europe was greatly increased by the fact that the Church, in the persons of the Pope and the bishops, emerged from the chaos of the barbarian invasions as the symbols of law and order and the preservers of the ancient culture. The conversion of the Franks improved the position of the Popes as the leaders of the Church. Pepin, the founder of the Corolingian dynasty, gave Pope Stephen III a donation of lands in Italy for the protection of the Roman See. In the year 800 Charlemagne, by accepting coronation as Emperor of the West at the hands of the Pope, consolidated the position of the Pope. Though Charlemagne himself had tendencies toward Caesaropapism, his great empire broke up after his death and the Western Church was temporarily relieved of this embarrassing situation.


But this relief was productive of its own embarrassments. The Mohammedans had begun a series of sea raids on the coasts of Italy and France. The Danes had begun their raids on Ireland, England and the continent itself. The breakdown of Charlemagne’s empire, with the consequent rivalry between kings and princes, helped to increase the chaos which spread through Europe. In these conditions the Papacy became subject to the intrigues of the nobles of Rome and Italy. In the tenth century, under three German emperors, Otto I, Otto II and Otto III, order was restored and the Papacy rescued from the local intrigues of the Roman nobility. But the Ottos tended to make the Church dependent on the imperial authority. Under Otto I the empire founded by Charlemagne was re-established. But, unfortunately for the Church, the emperors sought to nominate Popes or control their election. In addition it had become customary for emperors, kings and princes to nominate bishops and abbots. In the development of feudal Europe bishops and abbots had often become great landowners and feudal allies of the civil sovereigns. Thus it seemed just to the princes that they should have the disposal of ecclesiastical offices and dignities. But such a system of providing successors for the Apostles was extremely bad for the Church.


A movement of reform began during the reign of Pope Leo IX, who had been named Pope by the emperor in 1049. The aim of the reform movement was to liberate the Church from the dominance of the secular princes. The movement came to a climax in the reign of Pope Gregory VII. Gregory forbade laymen to appoint men to ecclesiastical offices and threatened anyone who did so with excommunication from the Church. The Emperor Henry IV disobeyed the decree. Gregory excommunicated Henry and deposed him. The deposition of Henry from the rule of his kingdom was the first case in which a Pope actually attempted to depose a king. In the actual struggle which ensued, Gregory did not obtain a victory. But his action was a manifestation of his own view on the meaning of the Christian principle ‘Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.’ Gelasius had recognised that there are two divinely instituted powers in the world, the civil authority and the authority of the Church. Gregory showed that in his mind the civil authority was ultimately subject to the power of the Church, since the Church had to render to God an accounting for the actions of princes. At any rate, the action of Gregory set the tone for the policy of the Church in relation to the state for the succeeding centuries. The particular question of laymen appointing and investing ecclesiastical officers – bishops and abbots – was settled at the Concordat of Worms (in 1122) under Pope Calixtus II. By the concordat it was agreed that in future all bishops and abbots should be elected by the proper ecclesiastical authorities. It was thus agreed that the civil authority should not control the Church by its custom of appointing bishops.


In the twelfth century the Emperor Frederick Barbarossa attempted again to subject the Church to the imperial power. His efforts were opposed by Pope Alexander III. It was not until 1177 at the peace of Venice that the struggle ended. Under Pope Innocent III (1198-1216) the Papacy reached the height of its power in both spiritual and temporal affairs.

The struggle was renewed during the reign of Emperor Frederick II. It did not end until Charles of Anjou defeated Conradin, the last of the Hohenstaufen emperors, in 1268.

Philip the Fair of France (1285-1314) quarreled with Pope Boniface VIII. Philip, seeking to increase the royal power in France, levied taxes on the French clergy. Boniface held that the Church could not be taxed without its own consent. Later Philip arrested the Bishop of Pamiers. Boniface threatened to depose him. Then, in the Papal Bull ‘Unam Sanctam’ the Pope reaffirmed the doctrine that the temporal authority ‘should be subjected to the spiritual.’ But Philip dealt a severe blow to the prestige of the Papacy by sending his army into Italy to arrest the Pope. Through the loyalty of the people at Anagni the Pope escaped. But the violent action of the king helped to reduce the awe in which the people had held the Pope.


From this point on the power and prestige of the Popes declined. Pope John XXII was denounced by Louis of Bavaria. Marsilio published a book ‘Defensor pacis’ in which he proposed the theory that everything was subject to the emperor. The Papacy was subject to a general council and councils were subject to the emperor. In 1378 there began the Great Western Schism. Some cardinals, contesting the election of Urban VI, elected Robert of Geneva as Clement VII. In 1409 a so-called general council at Pisa elected a third Pope, Alexander V.

The existence of rival claimants to the Papacy gave impetus to theories that the Church generally, especially as represented by general councils, was superior to the Pope. Practically, the schism was settled at the Council of Constance. Two of the rival Popes resigned their office. The council elected Martin V Pope. While this action of the council provided a practical solution to the schism, the council itself claimed power over the Papacy. This claim was later renewed at the Council of Basel. Thus the Popes, in their efforts to maintain the independence of the Church from the state, now found themselves compelled to resist the theory that a general council is superior to the Pope.


The dissensions within the Church occasioned by the Great Schism enabled the princes of Europe to strengthen their own authority over the Church. In 1438 Charles VII of France promulgated the Pragmatic Sanction whereby all papal nominations of clergy in France were forbidden. The German princes were not slow to imitate this action. Meanwhile there developed the tendency to appeal from Papal decisions to a future general council, as if such a council was superior to the Pope. In this way, through the so-called Concilliar Theory, the supreme authority which Jesus had given to the Papacy in the person of Peter and his successors at Rome was attacked and weakened.


This weakening of papal authority paved the way for the great disaster which befell the Church in the sixteenth century – the Protestant Reformation. Whatever faults of the Church needed correction, whatever the numerous and interwoven causes which led to this so-called Reformation, one thing is clear – the ‘Reformation’ destroyed the religious unity of Europe and separated from the true Church of Jesus many nations. Parts of Germany, Denmark, sweden and Norway, England and Scotland, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and a small but influential group in France, were separated from Christian unity of belief and practice. The princes of these nations, anxious to assert their independence of the Popes and to gain complete domination over religious affairs, aided the so-called reform movement. The reformers, for their part, anxious to establish their own interests against the Popes, accepted the idea that civil princes had authority over the Church in their own domains and could dictate the kind of religion which would be practised there. Thus, in the new Protestant lands the Caesaropapistic tendency finally triumphed.

For centuries the Popes had fought the tendency of princes to rule the Church. But the secession of the reformers from the Church, while it freed them from the exercise of papal authority, subjected them to the sovereignty of the civil power. Unfortunately through conquest and colonisation, the influence of the new religious views spread to the American continent.


The Treaty of Westphalia in 1648 was a recognition of the division of Europe into a Catholic and a Protestant sphere. The concurrent rise of nationalism made matters even more difficult for the Church. In non-Catholic countries Catholics were either persecuted or forced to emigrate. Even in Catholic countries the kings found it expedient to gain control of the Church for their own nationalistic purposes. At this time the theory of the ‘divine right of kings’ came to the fore. Monarchs claimed that their authority came to them directly from God and they could be held to account by God alone. Since royal power was now much more stable than heretofore this claim could be made with greater success. This reinforced the claim of civil rulers to determine the religious views and practices of their subjects. In non-Catholic countries it meant the outlawing of Catholicism, the true Kingdom of God. In Catholic countries it signified the intention of Catholic monarchs to control the Church.


Thus in Switzerland, Holland, the Scandinavian countries and England the property of the Church was confiscated and discriminatory laws were passed against Catholics. It was not until Frederick the Great of Prussia (1740-1786) granted religious toleration to the Catholics of Silesia that the rigour of non-Catholic religious intolerance began to abate. This move toward toleration was not an unmixed blessing. If it had been the result simply of a due regard for the sanctity of individual consciences it might have been truly a step forward in the relations between Church and state. But it was also the result of the new intellectual atmosphere generated by what was called the ‘Enlightenment.’


The cardinal principle of the Protestant Reformation was ‘private judgement.’ The reformers, in seceding from Rome, had repudiated the authority of the Pope and bishops to teach and interpret infallibly the teaching of Christ. Instead they claimed that each individual believer, by reading the Bible, could judge for himself the content of God’s revelation to man. If God’s revelation had been concerned only with natural truths easily accessible to human reason, such a principle might have worked. But, as we have seen, God’s message is concerned chiefly with supernatural mysteries which man could not discover for himself and which he cannot completely understand even after he has learned them from the Church. In history therefore the principle of private judgement broke down. As men began to read the Bible with only their own talents and prejudices to guide them, they began to question more and more the content of the divine message.


It was easier to reject mysteries than to accept them in submission to the wisdom of God. From the rejection of divine mysteries to the rejection of reason itself – a philosophical position known as scepticism – was not a difficult step.


Nor did it take the sceptics long to question even the existence of God Himself. In such an intellectual atmosphere – generated remotely by the ‘Reformation’ with its principle of private judgement, and proximately by the scepticism of the ‘Enlightenment’ – the tolerance of Frederick the Great reflects not so much a tenderness toward the rights of the individual religious conscience as a supercilious attitude toward all forms of religion. Since all religion, as he held, is simply a matter of questionable opinion it matters not what form of religion the subjects of a state may embrace as long as all forms are subject to the power of the absolute monarch.


In Catholic states at this same period the Church also experienced difficulty. In Austria Joseph II, imbued with the same absolutist tendency which motivated Frederick in Prussia, attempted to place the Church completely under the control of the royal power. His rules and regulations for the governance of the Church were so minute – descending even to the details of the appointments of a Church altar – that he became known to his fellow-monarchs as ‘Joseph the Sacristan.’ In France, under Louis XIV, this tendency to gain control of the Church was also manifested. In 1682, under the urging of Louis, there was promulgated a ‘Declaration of the Gallican Clergy.’ It declared that the power of the Pope was restricted to spiritual affairs; that kings and princes were not subject to any ecclesiastical authority in temporal affairs. To protect and strengthen his monarchy Louis felt it necessary to maintain complete control of the Church within France itself.


The combination of growing nationalism, of absolute monarchies and of scepticism made it difficult for the Church, by nature an international organism [Jesus Christ: ‘Go and make disciples of all nations’ etc.], to preserve its proper independence of civil authority. Absolute monarchs (whose minds were often tinged with religious scepticism), intent upon strengthening their own powers and extending the borders of their kingdom, found it expedient to seek to control even the affairs of religion within their own borders. This tendency was a threat to the international, in fact the supra-national, character of the Kingdom of God on earth.


In the nineteenth century the forces of nationalism and scepticism combined to produce an even more hazardous situation for the Church. The French Revolution of 1789 was the first of a series of revolutions against the absolute monarchies in Europe. The first French Republic sought to eliminate papal influence in the French Church by insisting that bishops and priests should be chosen by the people. In addition the properties of the Church were confiscated.


Throughout the century the philosophy of liberalism propagated the idea that faith had nothing to do with politics. In practice this meant that politicians were neither to be hampered by nor guided in their political actions by the principles of either religion or morality. On the other hand, politicians, moved (even, if not fully conscious of the fact) by the idea of the Absolute State, felt it quite proper to interfere in matters of religion. Thus, in Italy, after the unification of Italy under the House of Savoy, monasteries were suppressed and ecclesiastical property was secularised. In Germany in 1872 the ‘Kulturkampf’ sought to impose state control of all religious schools and expelled religious orders. In France at the end of the century similar measures were taken and religious orders were not allowed to teach in the schools and many of them were expelled.


In the twentieth century the Church found herself confronted with the menace of the ‘totalitarian states.’ Communism, nazism and fascism, each sought to control the Church for its own advantage. In Italy fascism accepted the existence of the Church and came to a kind of uneasy peace by the settlement of the Roman Question in 1929. In Germany nazism, even though it made a concordat with the Church, persecuted all forms of religion. In Russia (and in the countries subject to or allied to Russia after the Second World War) communism [was] the overt enemy of all religion. Its avowed object [was] to destroy all religion.


The far-reaching extent of communist domination – [which reached all the way] from China in the East to Poland, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria and Jugoslavia in the West – [had] made it difficult for the Kingdom of God to function or exist in a great part of the world. But the situation of the Church is not hopeless. In Western Europe and the Americas the movement of religious tolerance has grown. England, by the Emancipation Act of 1829, restored Catholics to equal rights with the other citizens of England and the British Isles. In 1850 Prussia also granted equality to Catholics. In Central and South America, while liberalism and communism for a time sought to exterminate the Church, there are signs that a more tolerant policy is being adopted. In the United States and Canada the Church is [nominally] allowed to function freely.


It can be seen that the existence and functioning of the Kingdom of God on earth has not been easy. As a divine supra-national organism it must surpass the particular interests of individual nations, states and empires. As an independent, autonomous organism of the spiritual order it must possess the freedom necessary for the accomplishment of its own goal, the salvation of all men. On the other hand, nations and states possess their own, though lesser, goals, the common welfare of their members in this world. The Church has sought always to employ the principle given it by Jesus – “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s’ – in the solution of the problems of the relation between states and the Church.


While at times it may seem that difficulty arises between the Church and the state because individual churchmen have sought or obtained an excessive influence in temporal affairs, the chief cause of difficulty has always been the tendency of states to control the spiritual world of the Church; to control it either to the advantage of the state or to the extermination of the Church.


The Church, of course, is not surprised to encounter this difficulty. Its divine Master, Jesus Himself, told it it would meet suspicion, hatred and persecution. The servant is not greater than her Master. She represents God, God stooping down from eternity to the world of time, seeking to save men, to invite men to enter freely into the Kingdom of God. But she knows that men must enter freely into God’s kingdom. She knows that the sinful wilfulness of men cannot be changed completely in all men in a day or in centuries. Her task is universal not only in space but in time. In each generation she must repeat the divine invitation to salvation and in each generation she must meet the same wilful, sinful tendencies of the free human will.


So in divine patience, if not always in peace, she seeks to exist and to function among all nations, in all states, applying as circumstances suggest the divine principle regulating her relation to human temporal states: ‘Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.'”
– Martin J. Healy S.T.D., 1959 (Headings in capital letters added afterwards)


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“Folk singer Barbara Dickson has revealed that she loves the Old Mass. The musician, famous for singing ‘I Know Him So Well’, told the BBC:

‘For me, I am a natural Roman Catholic. It’s the continuity from St Paul to me that I like. I love the liturgy, I love the Mass, I love the mystery. I love the transubstantiation, it’s extremely powerful for me. I want to hear traditional church music, because it adds to the spirituality, I don’t really want to be in a community centre. I want to take part in something that is truly profound.’

Miss Dickson, who grew up in Dunfermline in Fife, said: ‘I don’t really have anything to do with the Reformation’ and that she’d always had God in her life. The 66-year-old said no one has time any more to contemplate bigger thoughts.”
– This article by Madeleine Teahan was published in “The Catholic Herald” issue March 28 2014. For subscriptions please visit (external link).


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Almighty and eternal God,
you gave to blessed John
wisdom in defending the Catholic faith
and courage in facing a martyr’s death:
listen to our prayers,
and send us an ever greater harvest
of faith, hope and love.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.


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“Kinnoull Centre for Spirituality
Home of the Redemptorists in Scotland

St Mary’s Kinnoull is set in natural woodland overlooking the historic city of Perth, gateway to the Scottish highlands. It provides an environment for rest and retreat.

• ‘I can do all things in Him who makes me strong’
A few days reflections with Fr Daniel O’Leary
17-21 February 2014

• Spring at Kinnoul
The team at St Mary’s welcome groups or individual private retreats any time of the year. Bring a group for a short stay or retreat day at the monastery.

Preached Retreats are as follows:

• 3-8 March 2014 – Lenten Retreat

• 11-13 April 2014 – Silent Weekend Retreat

• 14-19 April 2014 – Holy Week Retreat
Seven weeks sabbatical rest in Scotland

This prayerful and relaxing course is specifically designed to meet the needs of those who are looking for a course with a clear focus on personal renewal through prayer. One of the course highlights is a pilgrimage to St Columba’s Island of Iona.
The full course is mainly for Priests and Religious, however it is possible to simply come for a week or two of the course that interests you, the teaching weeks are open to anyone who would like to attend.

Full Course Dates:

• 19 May-3 July 2014 and

• 20 October-4 December 2014

• Spirituality of True Self Esteem – Miss Marie Hogg & Fr Jim McManus CSsR
25-29 May 2014 & 26-30 October 2014

• The Healing Ministry – Fr Jim McManus CSsR
1-5 June 2014 & 2-6 November 2014

• Jesus in the Gospels – Fr Robert Hill Ph.D/ Fr Denis McBride CSsR
8-12 June 2014 & 16-21 November 2014.”

For further details please visit (external link).


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