We are currently reading Living in the House of God: Monastic Essays by Margaret Malone, SGS.
We finished Dan Jones’s The Wars of the Roses a few weeks back. While an excellent narrative history of fifteenth century England, the book does not lend itself easily to being read at table. It is hard to keep all the players straight when you are only hearing the book read, and not seeing the words on the printed page. You almost have to do homework (e.g. looking up royal genealogies) to keep up with table reading. How many Dukes of Clarence were there? How do you keep all the various Richards and Edwards straight?
Given that King Richard III will be reburied in a few weeks, reading about the wars of the roses was in fact timely. Jones claims that the marriage of Henry Tudor and Elizabeth of York did not end the tensions of Lancaster versus York. In fact, he opens the work with a story of the judicial murder of the last Plantagenet, Margaret Pole, during the reign of Henry VIII in 1541. Margaret Pole, the niece of two Yorkist Kings, was not only a countess in her own right, but is considered a Blessed by the Catholic Church. The dynastic struggles of the fifteenth century are seemingly replaced (and transformed) by the struggles of Protestant versus Catholic in the next century’s English Reformation.
Late last week we finished reading Dan Jones’s The Wars of the Roses, and began reading a series of two talks by Father Jeremy Driscoll, O.S.B., a monk of Mt. Angel Abbey in Oregon, on “Monasticism and the New Evangelization.” These talks were published in the December 2014 issue of the American Benedictine Review.
In Dan Jones’s book on the Wars of the Roses, there is this interesting passage on Benedictines in the fifteenth century:
Katherine de la Pole, abbess of Barking, had every reason to be pleased with the religious house over which she ruled. The elegant, richly furnished buildings of the abbey, set around the large double-fronted church of St. Mary and St. Ethelburga, enclosed one of the wealthiest and most prestigious nunneries in England, home to around thirty ladies in holy orders, served by a large staff of male servants and priests. Wealthy daughters and widows from the titled aristocracy and upper gentry came to Barking to retire from the world as inmates, where they followed the Benedictine Rule in a life of prayer, charity, high-born company and scholarship. Good connections had, over the years, brought Barking money, property, honor and fame: Katherine – who as abbess held the same privileged rank as a male baron – controlled thirteen manors and lands in several different counties, besides the hundreds of acres that surrounded Barking itself. [page 67]
Fascinating, but what is the connection to the Wars of the Roses? In 1437, Barking Abbey became the home of two boys, Edmund and Jasper Tudor. Edmund would later become the father of Henry Tudor, who would reign as Henry VII, bringing the Wars of the Roses to an end.
Even though I would not want to seem obsessed by the Ordo, a previous blog entry may belie that claim. However, by comparing the new Ordo (the American Cassinese Ordo for 2015 takes effect predictably on January 1) with the first one I appeared in by name some interesting demographic comparisons are revealed.
My first appearance was for the Ordo from 1994, the year after I took simple vows. At that time I was listed as monk number 50 for Saint Anselm Abbey. Yes, 50! Overall, we were officially 53 in the community. In the 2015 Ordo, I am number 23 of 29.
For the Congregation as a whole, the aggregate number in 1994 was 1236. In 2015 the number is 743. Strangely the number of brothers, that is non-ordained monks in perpetual or solemn vows, has not declined as quickly: 271 (1994) to 208 (2015).
Posted in Monks
We completed our inspirational table reading during the advent season with the Advent and Christmas writings of Alfred Delp and Dietrich Bonhoeffer: The Prison Meditations of Father Delp and God is in the Manger.
We have begun a new historical book: The Wars of the Roses: The Fall of the Plantagenets and the Rise of the Tudors by Dan Jones. Jones writes in the introduction how the fifteenth century civil war between the rival English royal houses of Lancaster and York is inaptly named “The War of the Roses”; and yet, the book is called “The Wars of the Roses.” Regardless, should be a good read.