The Nineteenth Century was a British monthly literary magazine founded in 1877 by James Knowles. It is regarded by historians as ‘one of the most important and distinguished monthlies of serious thought in the last quarter of the nineteenth century’.
The original text of Fr Cody’s piece can be found here.
From The Nineteenth Century
No. XCII – October 1884
Daily Life in a Modern Monastery
By the Rev Father Cody O.S.B.
IT is the 13th of February, 1884, the hour between half-past twelve and one P.M. Two lines of black-robed Benedictine monks are seated at tables on either side of a room about sixty feet long and twenty-four wide, high, with panelled ceiling, and plain-coloured walls relieved by two or three large portraits of ancient abbots or priors. A wooden wainscot, perhaps eight feet high, reminding one in its design of the Hall of Magdalen College, Oxford, runs all round this room, and on two sides, the east and north, nearly reaches the deep sloping sills of more than a dozen double-lighted windows filled with heraldic glass, in whose brilliant maze of colours the adept may read the blazoned arms of many a noble family, the founders and benefactors of the establishment. There, over the head of the prior, who sits alone at a small table on a raised dais against the east wall, are the ancient devices and noble insignia of a Norfolk, a Bute, and a Ripon. There are the Highland red deer supporting the baronial shield of Lovat, and next to it the ‘Lumen in Coelo’ of Leo XIII., side by side with the lions rampant of Mastai-Ferretti. Further down, on the north side, you may decipher the unmistakable Scottish arms of Buccleugh, Herries, and. Gordon, but they are mixed up with the English Denbighs, Staffords, and Howards, and a host of others which perhaps it would require more than a diligent study of Burke to comprehend.
It is the refectory, and the monks are at dinner. That figure with a white-and-blue check apron over his monastic habit, moving noiselessly about with jugs and dishes in his hands, is the cellarer-not that it is the cellarer’s special duty to wait at table, but this week it happens to be his turn: it was the sub-prior’s the week before; and if you are curious to know what the fare is which he is placing before each on the clothless tables, it is salmon, caught by the novices the day previously in the magnificent loch at whose head the abbey stand,. The monks are not vegetarians, but there is no meat today.
The meal proceeds in silence, for no conversation is ever allowed in the refectory; but in a stone pulpit projecting from the wall on the south side sits one of the brethren reading. He has finished the daily chapter of the sacred Scriptures, and taken up a copy of the Nineteenth Century. It is the number for January, 1884, and he proceeds to continue an interesting article commenced a day or two ago. It is headed ‘Daily Life in a Medieval Monastery,’ and seems – so said the librarian, who suggested its being read in public-to be the work of a man who knows more about the subject than the generality of English writers. They have listened with much interest to the very fair account of the arrangement of a monastery, and the general course of its daily routine. There has been some good humoured smiling at the pardonable blunders the author has occasionally made in his estimation of the duties and motives of action of monastic officers, and some nearer approach to laughter at such things as the writer’s ‘confession’ that ‘the greatest of all delights to the thirteenth-century monks was eating and drinking,’ or his equally naive statement that ‘ there was one element of interest which added great zest to conventual life, in the quarrels that were sure to arise.’
But suddenly a row of faces is turned up to the reader, eyes open a little wider than usual, and a curious smile appears on the lip; of their owners as the following words fall upon their ears: ‘ If desolation were to come upon our homes, where could we hide the stricken head and broken heart? To that question – a morbid question if you will – I have never found an answer. The answer was possible once, but it ·was in an age which has passed away.’ The monks look at each other, but they must not speak. The reader goes on very deliberately; a beautifully poetic outburst follows the last statement, and then comes this: ‘Let the dead bury their dead.’ Meanwhile the successors of the thirteenth-century monasteries are rising up around us, each after their kind; Pall Mall swarms with them, hardly less splendid than their progenitors, certainly not less luxurious. Our modern monks look out at the windows of the Carlton and the Athenaeum, with no suspicion that they are at all like the monks of old. Nor are they.’
‘No, indeed!’ thinks each one as he looks at the bare deal table before him, and the shaven faces and rough habits at each side; ‘no wonder they have no such suspicion. But what does it all mean?’ To this question no answer can be given just now, for the brethren have scarcely recovered their equilibrium when the article and the meal together seem to have come to an end. The prior gives a signal by a tap upon the table; the reader rises and sings’ Tu autem, Domine, miserere nobis,’ to which all answer ‘Deo gratias,’ and standing before the tables join in the thanksgiving. Presently the precentor intones the psalm ‘ Miserere mei, Deus,’ and all taking it up in alternate choirs, proceed two and two down the refectory, and through the east and south cloisters to the church. A roguish-looking raven who makes his habitat on the smooth turf-plot that fills up the cloister-garth, and who spends his many leisure moments in diving after invisible worms, or hiding stray valuables in the holes, always shows a very lively appreciation of this after-dinner procession. I am afraid there is more of the carnal man about it than anything else, for though at first he stands well out in the centre, so as to command a view of each window that the procession passes, and hangs his bead in a most devout and reverent manner, as if in rapt attention, yet when the brethren return he is generally found waiting anxiously at the door, where bis particular friend brings him a daily allowance saved from the remains of the meal.
In the church the office of ‘None’ is said. It lasts something over ten minutes, and then the community find their way to the library, where they may, and must, meet together round the fire for a half-hour’s pleasant chat and ‘recreation.’ Their tongues are loosed now, .and Dr. Jessopp will be discussed for a certainty.
‘What does he mean by saying that the Pall Mall club-houses are the successors of the thirteenth-century monasteries? ‘ asks one, almost before the ‘Benedicite’ is out of the sub-prior’s mouth: for even recreation cannot be commenced without a blessing from the prior.
‘Oh! he has been reading the preface to Maitland’s Dark Ages,’ says one; ‘ I should almost fancy that Maitland’s book inspired the whole article; at all events, Dr. Jessopp has a good deal of his tone and style.’
‘And a good deal of his painstaking love of the subject, too,’ adds another; ‘I wonder if he ever saw a modern monastery? Perhaps he has seen them abroad, but thinks there are none in England,’ suggests the ‘reader,’ who has just come in, after finishing his own dinner.
‘ He seems a little at sea as to the real purpose of monastic life, at all events,’ quietly remarks a third: this is the novice-master, who evidently thinks himself an authority on such a subject; ‘but an out eider would have little chance of knowing much about that; he would just see the outside and nothing more.’
‘Who is he?’ asks the prior. ‘Do you happen to know, brother Martin?’
‘No, father. I have some recollection of a gentleman of that name taking a living in Norfolk, near where I used to be curate, but that’s all. My rector and he were acquaintances, I think.’
The Rev. Dr. Jessopp will kindly pardon the free use made of his name. The above conversation, which is not altogether imaginary, has been given with the twofold purpose of showing the present writer’s general feeling with regard to the article in question, and of illustrating a not unimportant portion of the ‘daily life of a modem monastery.’
Without giving further details of this colloquy, it may suffice to add that a suggestion was made to the effect that some one should prevent the undisputed pretension of Pall Mall to the succession of monastic life, by putting forward the claim of the monasteries which still exist either in other countries or our own; and it was thought that the simplest way of doing so would be to describe the actual daily life of one of these monasteries in our own land. The present paper is the result.
To continue. We found the community at dinner, at what might seem to many a rather early hour; but when it is known that a monk’s day begins at half-past four A.M., and that breakfast is a very light and hasty matter, taken without formality somewhere between eight and nine, no one will be surprised to hear that English stomachs are ready for their principal meal at half-past twelve.
Let us go through a day. At five minutes to five precisely, for punctuality is a great matter, the big bell begins tolling for Matins. This is the modem equivalent of what used to be called the midnight office. In the thirteenth century the hour was two A,M.; now it is five ; in some monasteries on the Continent it is four. But in those days they went to bed at sun-clown or soon after six, whilst we moderns think nine o’clock early. When the tower clock has ceased striking five, all rise, at a signal given by the superior, from the places where they have been kneeling and waiting in the chancel. and the Matin service begins. On ordinary days it lasts an hour and a quarter, and bas not much about it of ceremony or ritual that could catch the eye of an onlooker. But on festivals it is an almost gay scene, and must begin earlier on account of its greater protraction. On such occasions a large number are arrayed in alb and cope; the organ accompanies the chant, and sometimes the voices of boy, mingle with the heavier tones of the monks. These little choristers are selected from the abbey school, of which more anon.
‘Prime’ is chanted at half-past seven; the Conventual Mass – that is, the public mass of the day is sung at nine o’clock, and at this the whole school assists. On festivals this is the great celebration of the day, and is more or less solemn in proportion to the greatness of the feast: a sermon often accompanies it. The next time that the community are called to the church is for the office of ‘None,’ already mentioned; and after this, at half-past four, comes the evening office, or Vespers. This, like the mass, is sung with organ accompaniment, and these two, with Matins, make up the more solemn of the daily services, at which all are more stringently bound to be present. The office of’ Compline,’ the closing prayer of the day, recited at half-past eight, makes the sixth and last time that the monks assemble in the church. They spend at least three hours and a half every day in this choral duty on festivals much more; it is one of the principal employments of monastic life.
This order of the day never varies, with the single exception. that on Sundays and very great festivals the High Mass takes place at ten o’clock, for the convenience of those ‘outsiders’ who frequent the abbey church, and who might think ‘nine’ rather early.
The remainder of the day is filled up in divers ways, in the discharge of the various occupations which each has assigned to him. From the end of Compline till the end of Prime of the following morning is a time of the strictest silence and recollection; not a word must be spoken for anything short of the gravest necessity, and no work or business is done. It is the time for the nightly rest, and for meditation and private prayer. But when Prime is finished the active work of the day begins. Foremost among this is the work of teaching: for the monks of these days still maintain their ancient tradition of education, and the school is an almost integral part of a monastic establishment.
If you walk up to the north end of the east cloister you will find a wooden-framed screen filled with coloured or ground glass, blocking your way, and filling the whole space up to the centre of the vaulted oof. If you open the slip latch on this inside, you pass through into the north cloister, and as you close the door behind you, you will see that without the pass-key there is no means of opening it. There is a similar screen and fastened door at the end of the west cloister. The north cloister communicates with the ‘college,’ as it is called, a long wing of buildings extending along the whole north side of the quadrangle, and fitted up for the accommodation of the students of the abbey school. The school need not be further described beyond saying that it is here several of the monks spend many hours of the working day in the dispensing of Latin, Greek, mathematics, the modern languages, and those other multitudinous subjects which nowadays are thought necessary for the formation of the boyish mind between the ages of twelve and twenty.
Walking westwards down the north cloister, you turn into the west cloister, which communicates with the ‘guest-house,’ another large block, containing reception-rooms, parlours, and sleeping-rooms for guests and visitors, and also another division of the abbey school. Passing through the ‘ enclosure screen,’ you enter the south cloister, and find yourself again in the silence of the ‘monastery ‘ proper; and here, shut in from the world, the monk leads bis real family life, in quiet and steady labour. The cloisters are no longer the living and working rooms of a monastic community. For many centuries the ‘ dormitories,’ as they are still called-and there are three of them, one above another, taking up the whole of the three upper stories over the cloisters-have been divided into’ cells,’ separate rooms of about twelve feet square. Here, amid bare walls and carpetless floors, each monk has his, straw-bed, table, and armless chair, his kneeling-stool for prayer, together with a few little necessaries, and here be passes many hours when not called to any public or other duty. Here he studies, or reads, or prays: for a monk must never be idle, and must be ready at any moment to give an account of what he does with his time. Few, indeed, have a chance of idling, for all have tasks assigned, and most have a post of some sort which entails some kind of responsibility. The cellarer, who is the ‘materfamilias,’ must see that the kitchen and refectory are supplied, and clothes and other necessaries provided ; the ‘oeconomus ‘ must not allow dust or dirt to accumulate, or the building to get out of repair; the procurator has his accounts to keep; the librarian has his books to dust and label and bind, catalogues to make and keep, and strays to look after when they have been too long missing from the shelves; the sacristan has the church in charge and the daily labour of preparing altars and vestments for the priests, to say nothing of the decorations for festivals; the master of ceremonies has all the work of an earl-marshal, in the days when that office was not a sinecure. He has not merely to ‘get up’ the great functions, when the abbot celebrates, or a profession or ordination takes place, but also to keep eye on the everyday routine in church and refectory and cloister, to see that all conform to the external regulations of rule and ritual. Then there is the precentor, who has the care of the choral music-no slight charge in a monastery; he must not only drill and instruct the choristers and novices, but once or twice a week he meets all the community to practise and correct the singing of the various antiphons and psalms. He, too, is generally organist, or at all events, has an organ in charge, not to mention the other musical instruments destined for school use, on which he has probably to undergo that most horrible of tortures to a musical ear, the giving of music lessons to idle and unmusical boys.
Nor is this all. Besides the extern school there is also a somewhat busy intellectual life going on among the monastic community itself. There are the novices, with unlimited capacity for instruction, and to them the Psalms must be explained and commented on, the Rule must be taught and expounded, and the principles and obligations of monastic and religious life thoroughly enlarged upon down to the most minute details. Theology, too, must be taught, and therefore philosophy, and therefore science, for a monk is generally ordained priest, and a priest must be able to hold his own on all such subjects, especially nowadays. Nor are history and archaeology forgotten; and probably one or two will be found to represent the genus ‘bookworm,’ as well as some who will know how to turn their special tastes to the benefit of others by writing and publishing.
Monastic labour does not end here. For health’s sake, and for variety’s sake, as well as for the dignity of manual labour itself, and to keep the monk in memory of his vocation to penance and selfdenial, the hand must work as well as the head. In the ‘monastery’ proper no servants are allowed; each monk from first to last must be his own servant, even to the making of his bed, sweeping of his cell, and cleaning of his shoes. Besides this, cloisters must be swept, and staircases and dormitories, and there are many things to be done outside, in the garden and other parts of the enclosure, whether it be weeding walks, or digging, or planting trees and flowers. All this is attended to by the monks, who generally have special portions of such work allotted to them, and certain houri! of the day assigned to ‘manual labour.’
So the days slip by, in calm and happy activity-no, not a ‘fugue,’ for there is no lagging of one part behind the other, or hurry or clash or wild movement, but a gentle harmony on a very simple theme, with a solemn accompaniment of tolling bells and processions and hymns of praise, varied with the bright smile and the cheerful laugh and the merry joke of a recreation hour, or the weekly ramble in true family style, father and sons, all together, along the glens or up the bills, or in the sweet greenwood ; and beneath all, the deep firm bass of prayer and self-denial and the uncompromising war against the devil, and the flesh, and the world.
This is monastic life in the nineteenth century, and it is remarkably like what it was in the thirteenth. There are many differences, indeed, but they are the differences of the age, and not the monastic life that exists in it, and if a monk of the thirteenth century could come upon the earth again he would recognise his brethren. A reasonless clinging to mere forms, and a wooden persistence in prop ping up what is dead and rotten, is something so completely foreign to the spirit of the Benedictine Rule, that where such things exist decay must be inevitable. ‘ It is the spirit that vivifies,’ and while I so anxiously maintain that the spirit of the thirteenth century still lives in the monasteries of the nineteenth, I am equally concerned to state, and to prove, if may be, that that spirit has never come nigh either the Carlton or the Athenaeum.
When will people learn that a monastery is not, and never was, intended as a refuge for disappointed men? The ‘stricken head and the broken heart’ may perchance occasionally ‘hide ‘ itself in the cloister, but it is very doubtful if one in a thousand such. persevere in monastic life. The reason is not far to seek. The monastic life is essentially a life of self-sacrifice. Before a man is allowed to take upon himself the yoke of the monastic vows, he must satisfy not only himself, but others also, that he has the power and strength of char acter necessary to give up, first his own will and fancy and pet notions of whatever kind, and secondly self-indulgence, love of ease and com fort, and in general all such attachments as smack of womanish soft ness or childish want of self-control. He must be able to endure monotony, silence, and solitude-strong trials to the strongest natures: and finally he must prove by his conduct that he can stand correction, bear to hear the truth told him about himself, and practise childlike obedience to a man who is perhaps half his age, and his inferior in status and education.
Such a trial would certainly prove too much for one whose only qualification was a broken heart, or a disappointed ambition, or the morbid dread of ‘a lonely and childless old age.’ Such men, how ever much we pity them-and a monk would be the first to pour out his heart to comfort and console them-are not themselves fit candidates for monastic profession. By the very nature of the case, they are weak characters, they lack the hero-and self-sacrifice must be in in some degree heroic. In fact, as a matter of practice, what is first looked for in a candidate for the monastic life is a bright and cheerful disposition, with a large fund of inner joy, sufficient to support him during the trying time while habit is growing into second nature; and experience has often proved that the converted scapegrace has more chance of perseverance than the extremely proper but melancholy man, simply because the former has a brighter, and therefore a healthier and stronger character.
Again, a monastery does not exist for the sake of the world out side. Dr. Jessopp has already told us this, and he adds, ‘lt was supposed to be the home of people whose lives were passed in the worship of God, and in taking care of their own souls, and making themselves fit for a better world than this hereafter.’ If the word ‘is’ were substituted for ‘ was supposed to be ‘ in this quotation, the passage might pass, but the occurrence of this word, and another sentence immediately preceding this-viz. ‘a monastery in theory was a religious house ‘-makes one think that the writer belongs to a large class who consider a monastery to be ‘ a religious house’ in theory only. To meet this point it may be necessary to enlarge upon a subject which has been hitherto kept in the background of the de scription of the daily life in a modern monastery.
A Benedictine at his profession takes three vows, ‘ Stability,’ Conversion of Manners’ (or Life), and ‘Obedience according to the Rule.’ They are so named in the Rule of St. Benedict. In accordance with the first, the monk binds himself to remain in the monastery till death. This is so strictly observed that it is considered a most grievous offence, punishable with the gravest penalties, to go out of the monastic enclosure without express leave of the superior. No matter how short the time and distance, a monk may not leave hi monastery without first asking permission on his knees, and stating where he wishes to go, and for what purpose. On hie return he must again present himself upon hie knees to announce that he has come back within the appointed time.
The second vow has a much wider scope. By it the monk is bound to aim at what Dr. Jessopp calls ‘the higher life,’ and what Catholics call ‘ perfection.’ This latter word has a very definite meaning. In the first place, it includes what are known as the Gospel counsels-namely, those rules over and above the ten commandments which our Lord gave when He said, ‘If thou wilt be perfect, go sell all that thou hast and come follow me ‘; and elsewhere, ‘He that will follow me, let him deny himself and take up hie cross and follow me,’ &c. &c. It includes the obligation of poverty, of chastity, and of obedience; it binds the monk to aim, not merely at the· observance of. the duties obligatory upon all Christians, but also to seek out the higher grades of virtue, and to practise them. By it he is bound to aim at humility, at patience, at self-denial, at meekness, and those other interior as well as exterior virtues which go to make up the perfect man. Now in a monastery this is not left barely to the individual conscience, but, by precept and example, by reproof and correction, by warning and punishment, as well as by encouragement and by help in various ways, the obligation is kept continually before the monk’s eyes and forced upon his attention.
The very rules and detailed regulations of the monastery all tend to this same end. One of these regulations is the daily ‘ conference,’ in which the superior meets hie community every evening, and ad dresses them for half an hour upon some ascetical point, or calls attention to some remissness, or encourages to fresh vigour and fresh fervour in what is already well done. Then there is the weekly chapter of faults, in which the brethren, each in his tum, in presence of all the others assembled, accuses himself of any breaches of the rule he may have committed, and on hie knees receives the reprimand and penance given him by the superior, or listens while other failings are pointed out, of which he was perhaps unconscious, and the means necessary for over coming them. Such things as these must induce a habit of humility, of self-knowledge, of patience and meekness. There are many other practices which conduce to a similar end. If any one comes late to the church, or to the refectory, or to any public assembly of the convent, no matter who he be, abbot or the last novice, he must kneel in a conspicuous place for a short time as an atonement; and if he has no good excuse for such tardiness, he may be kept kneeling during the whole of the proceedings. The same rule is observed if any one makes a mistake in the singing of any part of the Divine office-and this, of course, may happen in presence of a large concourse of people. Similarly, if a monk is reproved by his superior in a serious way, it is his duty to kneel at the superior’s feet, and so listen to the correction. We can hardly imagine one of our Pall Mall monks, who talks of’ bis honour,’ and of being ‘insulted,’ taking a fault-finding in this sort of way; with the monk it is a matter of course.
I pass on to other matters. A monk is not allowed even to possess money, much less to use it for himself; even the necessaries he is allowed the use of are limited and prescribed, and he must ask permission for every fresh thing he needs, no matter how slight or trivial. This is to secure his poverty. To keep him from mixing up with the world which he has forsaken and renounced, he is not only bound to the enclosure in which he lives, but every precaution is taken to prevent him from having too much communication with what is outside. Letters never pass under sea], but are opened, and may be retained; correspondence at all is only allowed when it is likely to do good; newspapers are almost excluded. It was not in the ordinary course of things that the Nineteenth Century found its way into a monastic refectory: such & book would have been sent by a friend because it contained the article here in question. So, again, visitors are not encouraged, though, when received, in accordance with the most venerable tradition of the monastic Order, they are treated with all possible kindness and reverence. But monks may only see them at certain times, and in certain places, and they are not admitted beyond the closed doors before spoken of as leading into the private parts of the monastery. The object of all these regulations is to ensure detachment from all that the monk renounces by the vows of his profession; nor should it be supposed that these rules are endured as burdens, or enforced like punishments upon unwilling minds. A novice has a long time to count the cost before he binds himself to their observance, and when he takes the step he does it freely and gladly, and obeys the rule with a cheerfulness inspired not by reason only, but even by the ease of long-continued custom.
The vow of obedience to the rule speaks of itself: indeed it has in reality been already alluded to. It is sufficient to add that while it binds a monk to perfect obedience in all that is not sinful, its term; give him at the same time a right of appeal in the unlikely eventuality of his being forced beyond bis strength and intention.
If a monastic life means all this, and it did so as well in the thirteenth century as it does now, a monastery is something more than a religious house in theory. It is so in fact also: and, to come to the point, there is something in it over and above the mere banding together to lead a life in common for the sake of the common good. It must be upon some such theory as this alone that any one could see a resemblance between a medieval monastery and a modem club. Surely, upon such a ground, a co-operative association, or a trades’ union, or a conspiracy, or a secret society, might with equal or greater justice be looked upon as a ‘successor to the thirteenth-century monastery.’ Why, above all things, that very acme of selfishness, and luxurious egoism, the club-house!
I am probably less acquainted with the interior life of a club than is Dr. Jessopp with that of a monastery; but, putting together all that one has heard, I may not be far wrong in supposing that the very essence of club life consists in freedom from all interference with private convenience. A man prefers his club to his home, on the ground that in the latter he is subject to various little restrictions from which he is free in the former. At home he must lunch or dine at a certain fixed hour, and perhaps off certain things for which he has no great partiality ; he must make himself entertaining to wards people who call, be interested in those whom he does not know, or does not care to know, or, still worse, of whom he knows too much ; he must submit to be annoyed with many little matters, to listen to complaints, to be occasionally found fault with, or now and then to be worsted in a one-sided encounter. At his club, he may do pretty much as he likes, eat and drink when he wills and what be fancies, be sulky or cheerful, talk or be silent, when he pleases, with out reproof and without qualm of conscience. Club life in short is an emancipation from domestic rule, and more or less also from the formal etiquette of society in general. Now if there is anything that is essential to monastic life it is precisely this, that it is a family and domestic life, and subject to an almost endless code of petty rules and regulations. From morning till night there is scarcely a single act left to the monk’s own discretion, at all events not to his own inclination. His very hours of rising and retiring to rest are rigidly fixed, his day is minutely parcelled out, and even in the discharge of his duties he is subject to a minute ceremonial which directs whether he is to sit or stand, where he is to walk and how, whether he shall cover his head or not, what he shall do with his hands or his eyes or his feet-a perfect slavery, if it were not a free self-subjection.
But a club has some purpose in its association: it is to formulate and give expression to certain views, tastes, or methods, political, literary, mercantile, or otherwise. Precisely so: its only laudable excuse for existing is that it, presumably, has a work to do for the benefit of the world. And for this reason it is still more unlike a monastery, which exists for the individual good of its members, and only does good to the outside world as if by accident. True it is the monasteries did a great work in the world; it is also true they do a work still. They uphold to men the spectacle of an ideal Christian life carried into practice. They are centres of benevolence, of refinement, even of civilisation-for is not all civilisation based upon selfrestraint? and self-restraint needs teaching in these days, as much as, or sometimes more than, in days gone by. But the raison d’être of a monastery is that men may lead a monastic life; and if monasteries continue to spring up, it is because the demand still exists, as it has continued to exist ever since the euphemistically-termed Reformation, and as it always must exist as long as the Gospel precepts are preached and believed in.
The Reformation, and its child the Revolution, though they hm destroyed many a noble monastic building, have not annihilated the monastic life. The tradition has survived, and still exists. In some countries, notably in the Austrian empire, many monastic foundations dating back as far as the seventh and sixth centuries still flourish in the full enjoyment of large possessions and all the influence and prestige that attached to similar institutions in our own country. Even in England the connection has never been broken. Since the coming of Saint Augustine in the sixth century, Benedictine monks have never been wanting on English soil, and at the present moment, besides the monastery in which I am now writing, there are at least three others within the four seas which claim lineal descent from, and even identity with, that very corporation to which the thirteenth-century monasteries belonged. The medieval monasteries of England, therefore, do not need successors. They still exist. Or if they must have successors, such can surely be found elsewhere than in Pall Mall. During the three centuries which have passed since the spoliation of the English monastic houses, numerous religious corporations have sprung into existence, which, without being exactly monastic in their nature, have inherited the principles of monastic life, have taken up much of the work which the monasteries once fulfilled, and, in the altered circumstances of modem life, have taken that hold upon the popular mind which the monasteries once exclusively enjoyed. These may be truly regarded as’ the successors of the thirteenth-century monasteries.’ They may not exist in Pall Mall ; but in other busy thoroughfares of London and our large towns, as well as in their slums and back streets, will be found the Orat-Orian and the Passionist, the Redemptorist and the Jesuit, the Father of Charity and the :Marist, the Vincentian and the Christian Brother, along with a host of congregations of women, who, under the name of Sisters of Charity or of Mercy, the Little Sisters of the Poor, or Sisters of Notre-Dame, and fifty others, carry on the work of Christian love, by teaching, reclaiming, feeding, clothing, nursing, and caring for the poor and the little ones of Christ. In almost every town, and even in many a country hamlet, will be found these truly worthy successors of the very best days of English monachism, whose selfsacrifice and devotion to the needs and weaknesses of others, not only emulate the deeds of their predecessors, but cry shame upon much of the luxury and heartless self-indulgence which is threatening to at the heart out of English society. When the Pall Mall clubhouse is the only representative of the monastic ideal in this land, God help England I But we have not yet fallen so low, nor are we likely to do so. The national character is too thorough, too energetic, too masculine. Even outside the Catholic Church there is a movement of return to the old externals of ‘ the higher life.’ The vagaries of Llanthony, and some other failures, have been part of the result ; but a growing appreciation of the dignity and necessity of selfsacrifice and voluntary self-denial, has also ensued, and much of the old vulgar contempt and uncultured hatred of the name of monk is dying away.
The Rev. Dr. Jessopp finishes in a minor key. The pathetic passage in which he tells us of the ‘ wail of the minor crying for the theme that has vanished/ has about it a tone as of the sweeping of his own heart-strings. He may take courage from his own words, for it’ will yet reappear.’ Not indeed as’ a mere repetition/ for, as he himself says, such is not the way of’ the harmony, of God,s productions. The ‘dead have long ago ‘buried their dead, and even ceased mourning for them. ‘Meanwhile the true successors of the thirteenth-century monasteries are rising up around us, each after their kind.’ Downside and Hereford and Ampleforth and Fort Augustus, Buckfast and Erdington, Ramsgate and Mount St. Bernard’s, names well known to English Catholics, still carry on the tradition of the Benedictine Rule; while in every district of London and its outskirts, in Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham, Newcastle, Glasgow, and Edinburgh, and in fifty other less known localities, are to be found the Carmelite and the Franciscan, the Dominican and the Augustinian, and the long list of foundations of the more modem orders already alluded to-unlike ‘ the conventuals of St. James’s ‘ in many other things, but also in this, that they have a suspicion that they are something ‘ like the monks of old.’ And so, indeed, they are. They do not ‘ Jack the old faith, nor the old loyalty, nor even that something else which we can less afford to miss-the old enthusiasm.’ If any one doubts it, let him ‘ come and see.’
ELPHEGE G. CODY, O.S.B.
Fort Augustus NB