Monday, August 8, 2011

The Feast of St. Dominic: The Dominicans in England

Today is the feast of St. Dominic, who along with St. Francis of Assisi was the great mendicant founder of the Medieval era. On the day after he died, August 6, 1221, the Order of Preachers established a chapter in Oxford. The Dominicans are present there today at Blackfriars.

As the Blackfriar website notes:

The daily life of prayer, study, and preaching ended abruptly in 1538 at the Reformation, which saw the dissolution by Henry VIII of all religious houses in his kingdom. Many friars fled abroad. The Priory gradually fell into ruins, and today only two archways remain on the site.

We should remember that Queen Catherine of Aragon's marriage "trial" took place at Blackfriars in London--and within the decade the Blackfriars were gone. In exile, Henry Clitherow, St. Margaret Cliterow's son became a Dominican, and Philip Cardinal Howard established a refuge in Antwerp, according to this site. The order would not be re-established in England until 1854.

This website explains what the Dominicans focused on between 1221 and 1538:

The English Dominicans, from the end of the 14th and through the beginning of the 15th centuries were most zealous in refuting the errors of Wycliff, so that their works had theological controversy as their special object. There remain few evidences of other writings, although we know the names of a few celebrated religious, such as William Richford (+1501). Very likely, several works of this period remain to be discovered in the libraries of England and the continent. Henry VIII's schism and the gradual disruption of the Church in England came at this time. A little composition in the form of a hymn, written for the "pilgrimages of grace!'' which were held unsuccessfully in 1535, against the King and his fatal policy, is preserved, still unedited, in the British Museum. It was written by John Pickering, Prior of the convent of York, who was executed at Tyburn in London in 1536. In Scotland, attention should be drawn to a remarkable work of reform accomplished by John Adamson, appointed Provincial by Cajetan in 1511; it was a real renewal of religious life and study (cf. H.M. Laurent, Leon X et la province dominicaine d'Ecosse, AFP, vol. 13, 1943, pp. 149-161).

During the reign of Mary Tudor (1543-1558), the Dominican Order was restored under the direction of William Perrin (+1558) whose work on the Blessed Sacrament of the altar, against the attacks of the Protestants, is known. In 1565, Thomas Heskins (+ ca. 1566) defended the dogma of the real presence against the famous Thomas Jewell: The Parliament of Chryste, Antwerp, 1566 (cf. A.C. Southern, Elizabethan Recusant Prose, London, 1950, pp. 48, 109-112).

The centuries of persecution (1559-1829)
The Order managed to survive in England although necessarily pursuing in secret its apostolic work; from time to time it published anonymous works. Others exist only in manuscript, such as the Controversies of Antoninus Thompson (+1760) (at the priory of Hawkesyard). The English Dominicans found places of asylum in the Netherlands, particularly in Louvain, and in France, where some were able to work and publish their writings. Their spiritual contribution is extremely rare. Quétif-Echard attributed the anonymous An Introduction to the catholick Faith by an english Dominican (London?, 1709) to Edward Ambrose Burgis (+1747), author of works of theology and history, but it really belongs to Thomas Worthington (+1754), author of a work on the rosary, now lost. John Clarkson (+1763), a theologian given shelter at Louvain like the two preceding, produced his Introduction to the celebrated Devotion of the most Holy Rosary (London, 1737).

St. Dominic, pray for us.

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