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age, in their widowhood have embraced the order of Carmelites. I have often considered," he continues, many great monasteries even of the Carthusians established for solitude in the midst of great cities, and I have found there, amidst all this turmoil of the raging world around them, solitude and peace Now peace is divine, and therefore a religion which, by means of its institutions, without compromising any principle of wisdom or virtue, conduces to peace, both external and interior, both in the political, social order, and in the spiritual, internal region of human hearts, cannot but be true.
THE ROAD OF RETREAT (pursued).
NOTHER avenue, through which the truth of Catholicity is visible from the road of retreat, is constituted by the character of intellectual and moral greatness which the monastic life has been found to involve. That life in general implied retreat, but not exclusion from mankind, greater security from vice, but not by retiring from the exercise of virtue; and accordingly that state is found to yield men who, as a living writer says, " are strong to live as well as strong to think;" who have always the resource to live; who exemplify his observation that character is higher than intellect; for whom calamity, drudgery, and want are instructors in eloquence and wisdom; whose thought is fed by experience, as satin is formed out of the mulberry-leaf; who know what labour of all kinds is; whose very vocabulary is gained by their life of action. Your mediæval monk did not want to be always tied to the same question, as if there were no other in the world. As Hazlitt says of himself, he liked a mind more catholic.
"He loved to talk with mariners
He thought it well to hear what other people had to say on a number of subjects. He was not always respiring the same
* Consid. sur la Vieillesse, &c. 324.
atmosphere, "shut up in mysteries, his mind wrapped like his mantle;" but necessarily in fulfilling some of his especial duties he often varied the scene, and got relief and fresh air out of doors. Catholicism under the hood forms men in whom, as an old poet says, "the humours and elements are peaceably met, without emulation of precedency; who are neither too fantastically melancholy, too slowly phlegmatic, too lightly sanguine, nor too rashly choleric, but in all composed and ordered. Their discourse is like their behaviour, uncommon, but not unpleasing; they are prodigal of neither; they strive rather to be that which men call judicious, than to be thought so; and they are so truly learned that they affect not to show it. They will think and speak their thought both freely, but as distant from depraving another man's merit as proclaiming their own." It produces men who have a most ingenuous and sweet spirit, a sharp and seasoned wit, a straight judgment, and a strong mind. Fortune can never break them or make them less. It is a competency to them that they can be virtuous. They neither covet nor fear; they have too much reason to do either, and that commends all things to them. What other state of life has produced men more remarkable for intelligence and practical goodness combined? Let it be observed, too, that without the grossest injustice one cannot exclude from this number those who are chiefly known to our age as having been canonized, and held up on sacred dypticks examples of sanctity and of martyrdom; for what strength of character do such acts denote! Sanctity is greatness. "A great man," says the author of Coningsby, "is one who affects the mind of his generation, whether he be a monk in his cloister, or a monarch on the field or in his cabinet." Now Trithemius reckons 55,000 canonized saints of the order of St. Benedict alone, while others affirm that there are more than 200,000 saints of the order. "When a boy," says Antonio de Escobar, "I saw the solemnity of exposing, at the monastery of Cardenia, the bodies of its 200 martyrs in one day." Down to the year 1490, there had been created from the Benedictin order, as Trithemius says, 18 popes, 200 cardinals, 1600 archbishops, and 4000 bishops Francesco Monsignori painted in the church of the monks of Monte Oliveto, at Verona, figures of all those brethren of the order of St. Benedict who have been exalted to the pontificate, along with figures of emperors, kings, dukes, and other princes who made themselves monks of that order. Vasari remarks the extraordinary grandeur of their countenances, and he says that the artist copied them from living members. Now these pontiffs are men who seldom forgot the discipline which had formed them to greatness. They always remembered the monastic obliga
* Ant. de Escob. in Evang. Comment. tom. vii. 10.
tions, as in the recent instance of Gregory XVI. He was remonstrated with for allowing his sickness to be published, by seeking too soon the rites of the Church. "But, holy father," said his valet, they will say that you are very ill." "And so I am very ill," replied the pope. "But the whole city will be alarmed." "What of that? I wish to die as a monk, and not as Sovereign." In the Roman catalogue, 2500 martyrs from the order of St. Augustin are commemorated. In England that one family gave to the Church 120 martyrs. Of the English Franciscans alone, or bred amongst them, there have been one pope, two or more cardinals, two patriarchs, and many apostolic legates. One English bishop and two or three abbots resigned their mitres, four or five English lords their coronets, to become Franciscans. Two lords chief justices of England entered the order. Ninety English friars belonging to it were remarkable for their holiness. One hundred and fifty were put to death for religion. It gave forty-four archbishops and bishops, 140 doctors, 190 celebrated scholastic professors, five chancellors of Oxford or Cambridge, one lord lieutenant of Ireland, and 114 eminent authors *. But let us reflect for a moment on what great men, in the common acceptation of the word, the monasteries produced. "This year, 1248," says Mathew Paris, "died two brethren of the order of Minors, who had not, as is believed, superiors or even equals among their contemporaries in theology and other sciences, namely, Friar Roger Bacon and Friar Richard of Fishakele, who had both professed many years, and who had both preached gloriously to the people the word of God." Come down to later times and witness that John Feckenam, abbot of Westminster, in the time of Philip and Mary. Yepes speaks of his piety, his charity, his strict observance, his mild affability to high and low, his sweet humanity to all men, his vast learning, his admirable eloquence, his incredible zeal for the Catholic religion, his noble sermons in resisting the change under Elizabeth, his intrepid speech in parliament on the duty of retaining the ancient religion of the fathers and of rejecting novelties, his constancy in prison, in the Marshalsea, in the castle of Wisbeach, in which last gaol he lay twenty-six years, employing his time in assisting his fellow-martyrs at their death, and in composing books to defend religion, though all that remains of his writing is his funeral sermon for Queen Mary, in which, with a prophetic spirit, he took for his text the words, "Laudavi magis mortuos quam viventes +."
But in order to behold one of these great men standing as it
+ Ant. de Yepes, Chron. Gen. i. 476.
were before us, let us view a portrait by the hand of a contemporary, who represents in a quaint but graphic style Sampson, abbot of St. Edmundsbury. "This year," he says, "1187, on hearing the news of the cross being captive, and the loss of Jerusalem, the abbot began to use under garments of horsehair, and to abstain from flesh meats; nevertheless he desired that meats should be placed before him while at table, for the increase of the alms-dish. Sweet milk, honey, and such like sweet things he ate with greater appetite than other food. He abhorred liars, drunkards, and talkative folks; for virtue ever is consistent with itself and rejects contraries. He also much condemned persons given to murmur at their meat or drink, and particularly monks who were dissatisfied therewith, himself adhering to the uniform course he had practised when a monk: he had likewise this virtue in himself, that he never changed the mess you set before him. Once when I, then a novice, happened to serve in the refectory, it came into my head to ascertain if this were true, and I thought I would place before him a mess which would have displeased any other but him, being served in a very black and broken dish. But when he had looked at it, he was as one that saw it not; some delay taking place, I felt sorry that I had so done, and so snatching away the dish I changed the mess and the dish for a better, and brought it him; but this substitution he took in ill part, and was angry with me for it. An eloquent man was he, both in French and Latin, but intent more on the substance and method of what was to be said than on the style of words. He could read English manuscript very critically, and was wont to preach to the people in English, as well as in the dialect of Norfolk, where he was born and bred; wherefore he caused a pulpit to be set up in the church for the ease of the hearers, and for the ornament of the church. The abbot also seemed to prefer an active life to one of contemplation, and rather commended good officials than good monks; and very seldom approved of any one on account of his literary acquirements, unless he also possessed sufficient knowledge of secular matters; and whenever he chanced to hear that any prelate had resigned his pastoral care and become an anchorite, he did not praise him for it. He never applauded men of too complying a disposition, saying, ' He who endeavours to please all, ought to please none.' My son,' he used to say, 'it is long since I became acquainted with flatterers, and therefore I cannot but hear them. There are many things to be passed over and taken no notice of, if the peace of the convent is to be preserved. I will hear what they have to say, but they shall not deceive me if I can help it, as they did my predecessor, who trusted so unadvisedly to their counsel, that for a long time before his death he had nothing for the or
dinary arrival of guests. Every week, indeed, did he audit the expenses of the house, not by deputy, but in his own person, which thing his predecessor had never been wont to do. For the first seven years he had not but four courses in his house, afterwards only three, except presents and game from his parks, or fishes from his ponds. And if at any time be retained any one in his house at the request of any great man, or any particular friend, or messengers, or minstrels, or any person of that description, by taking the opportunity of going beyond sea, or travelling afar off, he prudently disencumbered himself of such hangers-on. But the monks with whom the abbot had been most intimate, and liked best before he became abbot, he seldom promoted to offices merely for old acquaintance sake, unless they were fit persons; wherefore certain of us who had been favourable to his election as abbot said, that he cared less for those who had liked him before he became abbot than was proper, and particularly that those were most favoured by him who both openly and in secret scandalized him, nay, had even publicly called him, in the hearing of many, a passionate, unsocial man, a proud fellow, and Norfolk barrator. But on the other hand, as after he had taken upon himself the abbacy he exhibited no indiscreet partiality for his old friends, so he refrained from showing any thing like hatred or dislike to many others; according to their deserts, returning frequently good for evil, and doing good to them that persecuted him. He had this way also, which I have never observed in any other man, to wit, that he affectionately regarded many to whom he seldom or never showed the appearance of strong regard; saying, according to the common proverb, Ubi amor ibi oculus.' And another thing I wondered at in him was, that he knowingly suffered loss in his temporal matters from his own servants, and confessed that he winked at them: but this I believe to have been the reason, that he might watch a convenient opportunity, when the thing could be advisedly remedied, or that he might avoid a greater loss by taking no outward notice of it. He loved his relations indifferently, but not less tenderly than others, because he had or assumed not to have any relative within the third degree. But I have heard him state, that he had relations who were noble and gentle, whom he never would in anywise recognize as relations; for, as he said, they would be more a burden than an honour to him, if they should happen to find out their relationship; but he always acknowledged those as kinsmen who had treated him as such when he was a poor monk. He invited to him a certain chaplain who had maintained him in the schools of Paris, and bestowed upon him an ecclesiastical benefice sufficient for his maintenance by way of vicarage. He granted to a certain servant of his predecessor's food and clothing all the