« AnteriorContinua »
CONVENTUAL LIFE-CISTERCIAN RULE.
the monks retired to bed at eight, they had six hours to sleep before the Nocturnal began; and if they again betook themselves to rest, after that service, it was not considered any fault or infringement of the rule; but after matins, they were not permitted to have the same indulgence. At the first stroke of the convent-bell for prayers, they were to suspend all matters of business in which they might happen to be engaged at the moment; and those who copied books, or were employed in any kind of writing-even if they had begun a text letter-were not allowed to finish it. They were to fast every day in Lent, till six o'clock in the evening. During meals, as already mentioned in these pages, the Scriptures were read to them by one of the brethren, who performed this and other offices in weekly rotation. After the Compline, all conversation was prohibited, and they silently retired to rest. The dormitory was a long barrack-like room, not divided into separate cells, where each monk had his own bed furnished with a mat, blanket, coverlet, and a pillow which was not to exceed a foot and a half in length. When any of the fraternity went abroad, they always walked in couples, so that each might be a check upon the other, and incite him to edifying thoughts.*
At a General Chapter of the Cistercian Order, held in the year 1134, it was resolved that the rules of St. Benedict regarding diet, clothing, morals, and divine service, should continue to be strictly observed; and to these were added many new regulations for the suppression of luxury. It was directed that their monasteries, as already observed, should be founded in the most retired and solitary places; that the members of the Order should provide the necessaries of life by the labour of their hands. They were allowed, however, to possess lands, rivers, woods, vineyards, and meadows; with sheep, oxen, horses, and other domestic animals; but no deer nor bears, nor other animals kept merelyt for pleasure. They were forbidden to possess tithes, the advowsons or revenues of churches, dues of ovens or mills, bond-servants, or even rents of lands. The reason for these restrictions was, that they might not live by the labour of others; yet, upon the pretext of enabling the monks to live in greater retirement and abstraction from the world, they were allowed to admit into their community a certain number of lay brothers, called converts, whose office consisted in managing the secular business of the Convent, including the cultivation of their lands, in which they were permitted to employ hired servants. These lay brethren did not take the monastic vow; but in every other respect they were treated exactly like the professed monks.
* Hutchinson, ii. 67.
the end, and were only observed until the temptation + Usus Cistercienses.
to break thein had become sufficiently strong.--See * These rules, however, proved very inessectual in ante, pp. 33, 36.
With regard to the extension of their order, no convent was allowed to send forth a colony, unless the community consisted of at least sixty monks, and held a license, both from the general chapter, and from the archbishop, or bishop. Each monastery, as we have said, was to consist of at least twelve monks and their superiors ; * and before they could be brought to their new residence, the buildings required for their immediate accommodation were to be provided; namely, an oratory, a dormitory, a stranger's cell, and a porter's lodge. The books required for divine service, were also to be got ready. The superior of the new establishment was bound to pay a visit to the parent monastery once a year ;
and the Abbots of all the monasteries of the Cistercian order, were obliged to attend the General Chapter held annually at Cisteaux,t those only excepted, who were excused by sickness or distance. Abbots in Scotland, Ireland, and Sicily, were obliged to be present only every fourth year. In some cases it was even allowed to send delegates. I
rofessions.—No person desirous of becoming a monk was suffered
to enter upon his noviciate under fifteen years of age. The candidate having made his petition to be admitted, was, after four days, brought before the abbot, and a select number of the monks in the Chapter-house, where he threw himself
down with his face to the ground. Being asked by the Abbot what he desired, he replied, "The mercy of God and yours.” Upon this the Abbot made him stand up, and explained to him the strictness of the rules, and the self-denial required in keeping them; after which, he asked him if he was willing to submit to the restraint they imposed. Upon his replying in the affirmative, the Abbot admonished him, and when he concluded with these words,—“May God finish the good work which he hath begun in thee;" all who were present said, Amen! and then the candidate bowed, and retired to the guest-chamber.
A similar ceremony was observed when he was again introduced into the Chapter-house next day, after having read the rules of the Order. On the third day, he was admitted into the cell of the novices, and began the year of his probation; during which he was prepared and instructed for taking the vows, by a person called the Master of the Novices, who was usually one of the oldest and most learned of the monks. At the conclusion of the twelvemonth's probation, when it was supposed he had had a sufficient trial of their discipline and manner of life, he was again formally interrogated ; and if he persisted in his request, he was allowed to make his profession, and become a regular member
FORMS OF ADMISSION-IMMUNITIES.
of the Order. * The following is a copy of the formulary used in English monasteries on such occasions:
“ The first petycion in the Collogium: 'Syr, I besyche yow and alle the Convent for the luffe of God, our Ladye Sanct Marye, Sanct John of Baptiste, and alle the hoyle cowrte of hevyne, that ye wolde resave me to lyve and dye here emongs yow, in the state of a monke, a prebendarye and servant unto alle, to the honour of God, solace to the companye, prouffet to the place, and helth unto my sawle.'
“ The answer unto the examinacyon : 'Syr, I tryste through the helpe of God, and your good prayers, to keep alle these thyngs ye have now heyr rehersede.'
“ The first petycion before the profession : ‘Syr, I have beyn heyr now this twellmonth nere hand, and lovyde be God, me lykes ryght well both the ordour and the companye. Whereupon I besyche yow, and all the companye, for the luffe of God, our Ladye Sanct Marye, Sanct John of Baptiste, and alle the hoyle companye of hevyn, that ye will resave me unto my profession, at my twellmonth day, according to my petycion which I made when I was first resaved heyr emongs yow.'”+
The Cistercians, much to their honour, took considerable pains to cultivate and promote learning. The transcribing of books was one of the principal occupations in all their monasteries. A certain number of the brotherhood were constantly employed in the Scriptorium, in making copies of the most esteemed works, to furnish and augment the common library. None, however, were permitted to write new books, without first obtaining a license to that effect from the General Chapter. In the principal monasteries a chronicle was kept, in which the monks recorded, in Latin, the most remarkable events, both of general and local interest, that occurred within their knowledge. The chronicle of Tinterne Abbey, as partly transcribed in the Monasticon, contains copies of those deeds and charters, by which former rights and privileges were confirmed, and new benefactions added; but it includes no chronicle of passing events, public or private.
Many and great were the privileges, franchises, and immunities granted to this Order in general, by sundry kings and pontiffs ; and on some particular houses were conferred very special favours. The brothers of the order were exempted from appearing in any court, or at the trial of any cause whatever, if the distance from the monastery exceeded two days' journey. They were exempted from tithes; the ordinary could not call upon, nor punish them for
• Morton, 200.
| Morton's Monastic Annals, quoting Bibl. Cotton. Nero A. D. 131. 1 Nicolson's Engh. Hist. lib. quoted by Morton.
any crime; neither could their houses be visited by any one, except their own abbot. Their benefactors, those who frequented their mills (molendini], as well as their friends and servants, were all exempted from the ban of excommunication.* Boniface XI. made an effort to relieve them still farther, by exempting them from the payment of tithes for their lands, though let out to others ; but this was rejected by King Henry IV., who would not permit the bull for that purpose to be executed. The monks of Tinterne, in common with their brethren of that order, enjoyed all the privileges and immunities here named. They were great proficients in the science of agriculture; and from the skill manifested in the cultivation of the abbey lands, and in those occupied by their tenants, produced the happiest effects on that important branch of rural economy.
The Cloister, which is so often described in poetry as the abode of religious harmony, was nevertheless subject, at times, to all those unruly passions which in the world engender strife amongst brethren, and destroy the quiet of secular life. Every monastery contained within its own walls, those elements of malice and dissension, which it required no common energy on the part of the abbot to regulate and subdue. Perverse men, clothed in the robe of meekness, were a constant source of trial to those patterns of monastic discipline, who laboured to correct and reform them. Persecution within the cloister existed occasionally under two forms: men of eminent sanctity suffered it from degenerate brethren, sometimes, simply on account of their superior justice; and at others, in consequence of their endeavours to reform them. Sometimes when the monastery fell under the dominion of an evil superior, the monks who persevered in sanctity fled from his persecution. I
The character of a good Cistercian monk, contrasted with one of an opposite disposition, is thus drawn :-It happened that the pious Gobert, a monk of Villars, having to undertake a journey for the arrangement of certain affairs, set out accompanied by one of the brothers named Peter. Arriving late in the evening at a town where they were to pass the night, they were fatigued and exhausted with the labour and heat of the day; and Peter, causing a table to be spread, drew from the bag he carried, abundant provisions, and then ordered cups to be served, and many things made ready for their repast. To the pious Gobert, all this seemed to be more than necessary, more than was consistent with perfect moderation, and his conscience silently accused him of yielding too readily to the force of temptation. But after both had supped, he did not venture to give utterance to the compunctious feelings that were then passing in his mind. Next morning, however, as they were again prosecuting their
• West's Furness, 1774.
| Mores Catholici, xi. 77.
STORY OF TWO CISTERCIAN MONKS.
journey through umbrageous lanes, he began meekly and humbly to disclose his thoughts; expressing his fears that the expense of the previous day had exceeded their wants; adding, that the patrimony of Christ ought not to be spent in superfluities, but given to the poor; that beneficed clerks are only dispensers of the Church, not lords of its substance; that when, in the words of St. Ambrose, we assist the poor, we give nothing of our own, but only that which the church appoints us to dispense; and, therefore, that ecclesiastical goods belong not to clerks, but to the poor.*
Saying these and other things that pressed heavily on his mind, Gobert lamented that he should have squandered the money which did not belong to him. But brother Peter did not receive this reproof with a humble mind; on the contrary, he became so angry that he did not answer him a word. they rode on for nearly three hours, Peter all the while preserving a sullen and painful silence, which the holy Gobert observing, he tried to soothe and turn away his displeasure, by addressing him in terms of mild and brotherly affection. At last, seeing that he could make no impression upon him, he said, “My brother, it is time for us to discharge the service of hours to our Creator!” Whereupon, according to the custom of the Cistercians, they dismounted and knelt down to begin the office. In this posture of devotion, while brother Peter was prostrate on the earth, Gobert, with clasped hands turned towards him, and bursting into tears, humbly implored his forgiveness for having, by words of admonition and seeming reproof, moved his resentment. But as this did not appear to soften the monk's obdurate heart, he continued his entreaties, and declared that he would not rise from his knees until he had forgiven him. At last, touched and overcome by so much Christian humility, brother Peter relented ; and, taking Gobert by the hand, with feelings of mingled shame and contrition, raised him up; and having freely forgiven him, † and received his forgiveness, they went on their way rejoicing.
Thus far the chronicle, which the reader will find quoted in the Ages of Faith. “But,” says the learned author, “it was chiefly as reformers of their respective communities, that the holy men of monastic life suffered persecution.” In estimating the fortitude of those who laboured in this vineyard, it is to be observed, that specious arguments were never wanting to excuse the evil for which they sought a remedy. The monks of St. Benedict, according to Orderic Vitalis, who resisted the reform introduced by the Abbot Robert, defended themselves on this ground, urging that the different circumstances of the times required a life different from that of the hermits of Egypt. "God forbid,” said they," that valiant knights, that subtile philosophers, and eloquent doctors,
• Mores Catholici.
See Account of the Schism already given.