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“Silent, while years engrave the brow;
Silent—the best are silent now." The Carthusians were right, at least, to hold their peace. He sees in their isolation not the fatal flaw, but the crowning excellence, of their system. It is with them, he would perhaps say, as with the stars— “self-poised they live, nor pine with noting. All the fever of some different soul.” But surely the more availing plea is that they were never conscious traitors to their kind, but rather, in the mysterious oneness of our race and the strange fashion of its development, it was for us they tried that dark and dreadful path of silence that we, whose courage would perhaps have failed, might know, by proof of their experience, that not so is reached the land of our desire.
Who shall say that these men bore in vain all the agonies of self-repression, and the maddening consciousness of powers unemployed ; or that without them St. Vincent de Paul would have been able to write to his sisterhood in after days, “ Let your monasteries be the homes of the sick, your cell a hired chamber, your chapel the parish church, your cloister the streets of the town and the wards of the hospitals, your rule obedience, your grating the fear of God, your veil a strict and holy modesty”?
Elijah see the ravens in his “eremus”? Yet it was for this rule, in all its stern integrity, that the inmates of our London Charterhouse were ready to die. It is instructive to see how their extirpation by Cromwell and his master strikes a very modern historian.
“In the general relaxation of the religious life the charity and devotion of the brethren of the Charterhouse had won the reverence even of those who condemned monasticism. After a stubborn resistance, they had acknowledged the Royal Supremacy, and taken the oath of submission prescribed by the Act. But by an infamous construction of the statute, which made the denial of the Supremacy treason, the refusal of satisfactory answers to official questions as to a conscièntious belief in it was held to be equivalent to open denial. The aim of the new measure was well known, and the brethren prepared to die. In the agony of waiting, enthusiasm brought its imaginative consolations : “When the Host was lifted up there came, as it were, a whisper of air which breathed upon our faces as we knelt; and there came a sweet, soft sound of music. They had not long, however, to wait. Their refusal to answer was the signal for their doom. Seven swung from the gallows ; the rest were flung into Newgate, chained to posts, in a noisome dungeon, where, (tied and not able to stir,' they were left to perish of gaol-fever and starvation. In a fortnight five were dead, and the rest at the point of death,
almost dispatched,' Cromwell's envoy wrote to him, “by the hand of God, of which, considering their behaviour, I am not sorry.'"1
So perished, without a thought of yielding, the champions of English Carthusianism.
i Green's English People.
ST. AGATHA'S AND EGGLESTON
FROM a town of singular beauty, gathered round the walls of a rock-hewn fortress that frowns above a swift and shallow stream, we wander pleasantly through a mile or two of wood and meadow to the ruins of a House of Premonstratensian Canons. So much have St. Agatha's and Eggleston in common that our description thus far may stand as well for one as for the other. Yet the foundations are in reality quite unlike enough to be instructive comments on each other, and even a hasty and careless observer will find in them more of contrast than of sameness.
Before entering into details it will be well to attach some meaning to the words we have already used. Briefly, very briefly, what are Premonstratensian Canons? There is a rule enunciated by a synod of about the year 1083 that no abbot or monk shall recall any one from the profession of canon to
that of monk as long as such canon can find a church of his own order. And Pope Urban II-mandavit et universaliter interdixit—made a general prohibitory order against the conversion of a canon, unless under certain circumstances," into a monk.
Then were not St. Agatha's and Eggleston monasteries, and inhabited by monks ? Certainly not.
There is, indeed, evidence that in quite early times the houses of canons were sometimes spoken of as “monasteria”; but it was to them also that the monks applied the strong language quoted in an earlier chapter—"clericorum stabula”—the stalls of the secular clergy. Here, however, it must be observed that, as among monks, so among canons, there were manifold varieties, some of which—as, notably, the Premonstratensians—approached very nearly to the monastic ideal. The origin and development of the system seem to have been pretty much as follows. Small and active groups of missionaries lived together in monastic simplicity, but without rule or vow. Such centres of spiritual energy naturally became bishoprics, and then the customs hardened into something like a rule, and the “canonici”—distinguished thus, perhaps, from isolated parish priests—fell more and more into the position of appendages of the see;
1 Nisi publice lapsus fuerit.