Thursday, 28 February 2013

With the Saints in Lent (16): Saint John Cassian, 28 February

Saint John Cassian ... a saint of both east and west, he has had a strong influence on many from Saint Benedict to Archbishop Rowan Williams

Patrick Comerford

Saint John Cassian, who is remembered in the calendars of the Orthodox Church and the Episcopal Church on 29 February, is regarded as a saint in both the Eastern and the Western Church, and has had a deep influence on the work of the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams.

Because his feastday falls on 29 February, and this day occurs only once every four years, the Orthodox and Episcopal Church calendars transfer his feast to 28 February in the other three years.

Saint John Cassian was born ca 360 in the Danube Delta in what is now Dobrogea, Romania, of noble parents, and was well educated in secular things. But, thirsting for perfection, he left all behind and travelled with his friend Germanus to the Holy Land, where he became a monk in Bethlehem.

After becoming established in the monastic life for several years, Saint John felt a desire for greater perfection, and sought out the Fathers of the Egyptian Desert.

He spent seven years in the Egyptian Desert, learning from such Fathers as Moses, Serapion, Theonas, Isaac and Paphnutius. Through long struggles in his cell, Saint John developed from personal experience a divinely-inspired doctrine of spiritual combat. Many say that it was he who first listed the eight basic passions: gluttony, fornication, avarice, anger, sadness, acedia, vain-glory and pride.

In time, struggles in the Church of Alexandria made life so difficult for the Egyptian monks that Saint John – still accompanied by his friend Germanus – sought refuge in Constantinople, where they came under the care and protection of the Patriarch, Saint John Chrysostom.

In Constantinople, Saint John Cassian was ordained a deacon and became a member of the Patriarch’s staff. But when Saint John Chrysostom was exiled in 404, Saint John Cassian once again fled, this time to Rome, where he came under the protection of Pope Innocent I.

This proved to be providential for the Western Church, for Saint John brought the treasures of Desert spirituality to the monasteries of the West.

He founded the monastery of Saint Victor in Marseilles. Then, at the request of his bishop, he wrote the Cenobitic Institutes, in which he adapted the austere practices of the Egyptian Fathers to the conditions of life in Gaul.

He went on to write his famous Conferences, which became the main channel by which the wisdom of the Desert East was passed to the monastics of the West.

Saint John died in Marseilles in 435, and has been venerated by the monks of the West as their Father and one of their wisest teachers. His relics are are kept in an underground chapel in the Monastery of Saint Victor in Marseilles, while his head and right hand are kept in the main church.

Like his contemporaries Saint Augustine of Hippo and Saint John Chrysostom, he was never formally canonised. Pope Urban V referred to him as sanctus (a saint) and he was included in the Gallican Martyrology.

Saint John’s writings were soon attacked by extreme Augustinians and, as Augustinianism came to dominate thinking in the Western Church, his writings fell out of favour in the West. Nevertheless, the spiritual traditions of Saint John Cassian had an immeasurable effect on Western Europe. Many western spiritual writers, from Saint Benedict to Saint Ignatius of Loyola, owe their basic ideas to him.

In particular, his Institutes had a direct influence on organisation of monasteries described in the Rule of Saint Benedict. Saint Benedict also recommended that ordered selections of the Conferences be read to the monks under his Rule.

The monastic institutions Saint John Cassian inspired kept learning and culture alive during the Early Middle Ages, and were often the only institutions that cared for the sick and poor. His works are excerpted in the Philokalia, the Eastern Orthodox compendium on mystical Christian prayer. The Synaxarion calls him “Our Father Cassian, chosen by God to bring the illumination of Eastern monasticism to the West.”

The Roman Catholic Church also ranks him as a saint, with a feast day on 23 July, but his commemoration seems to be limited to the Diocese of Marseilles and some monastic orders.

Saint John Cassian in his own words:

I shall speak first about control of the stomach, the opposite to gluttony, and about how to fast and what and how much to eat. I shall say nothing on my own account, but only what I have received from the Holy Fathers. They have not given us only a single rule for fasting or a single standard and measure for eating, because not everyone has the same strength; age, illness or delicacy of body create differences. But they have given us all a single goal: to avoid over-eating and the filling of our bellies... A clear rule for self-control handed down by the Fathers is this: stop eating while still hungry and do not continue until you are satisfied.

Tomorrow (1 March): Saint David.

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

With the Saints in Lent (15): George Herbert, 27 February

“George Herbert 1593-1633) at Bemerton” (William Dyce, 1860)

Patrick Comerford


George Herbert (1593-1633) a Welsh-born English poet, orator and Anglican priest, is celebrated in the Calendar of Common Worship in the Church of England and in the Calendar of the Episcopal Church today [27 February]. The poet Henry Vaughan described him as “a most glorious saint and seer,” while the Puritan Richard Baxter was moved to say: “Herbert speaks to God like one that really believeth a God, and whose business in the world is most with God. Heart-work and heaven-work make up his books.”

George Herbert was a skilled priest, poet and teacher, and an accomplished musician, who in his poems brings together poetry, music and architecture. His spirituality is the Anglican Via Media or Middle Way par excellence. His poetry is constantly evident of the intimacy of his dealings with God and his assurance that, alone in a vast universe, he is held safe by the Crucified Christ.

Herbert stands alongside John Jewel, Richard Hooker and Lancelot Andrewes for his profound influence on the Caroline Divines, including John Cosin and Jeremy Taylor, and he is ranked with John Donne as one of the great metaphysical poets.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge wrote of Herbert’s diction that “Nothing can be more pure, manly, or unaffected.” The poet laureate WH Auden wrote of him: “His poetry is the counterpart of Jeremy Taylor’s prose: together they are the finest expressions of Anglican piety at its best.”

George Herbert’s life

The Dean’s Yard at Westminster Abbey ... as Dean, Lancelot Andrewes, took a particular interest in the school and was one of George Herbert’s teachers (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

George Herbert was born on 3 April 1593 in Montgomery Castle, Wales, the seventh of 10 children in an eminent, intellectual artistic and wealthy Welsh landed family. His mother Magdalene (nee Newport) was a patron and friend of many poets, including John Donne, who dedicated his Holy Sonnets to her. His older brother, Edward Herbert, later Lord Herbert of Cherbury, was an important poet and philosopher, often referred to as “the father of English deism.”

Herbert’s father, Richard Herbert, Lord Herbert of Cherbury, died in 1596, when George was three, leaving a widow and 10 children. The family moved first to Oxford in 1599 and then to London in 1601, and George Herbert was tutored at home before entering Westminster School in 1604 at the age of 10.

At Westminster School, he was tutored by Lancelot Andrewes, then the Dean of Westminster Abbey. As early as 1604, he penned Musae Responsoriae, later published in 1620, a collection of lightly satirical verses directed at the Presbyterian controversialist Andrew Melville.

In 1606, Herbert’s widowed mother, Magdalene, married Sir John Danvers, who was then only 20 but proved to be a benign and generous stepfather.

Trinity Lane, Cambridge, in the snow, with the walls of Trinity College on the right ... George Herbert was a student at Trinity College, Cambridge (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

In 1609, Herbert was admitted to Trinity College, Cambridge, where he excelled in languages and music, and there he first considered becoming a priest. There too he began to write devotional poetry and his first two sonnets, sent to his mother in 1610, maintained that the love of God is a worthier subject for verse than the love of a woman. His first verses, published, in 1612, were two memorial poems in Latin on the death of the heir apparent, Prince Henry.

Herbert graduated with the degree BA (Bachelor of Arts) in 1613. He became a minor Fellow of Trinity College in 1614 before proceeding MA (Master of Arts) in 1616. He was elected a major fellow of Trinity in 1618, and was appointed Praelector or Reader in Rhetoric at Cambridge.

In 1619, he was elected the Public Orator of Cambridge University. In this post, Herbert represented Cambridge at public occasions, writing and addressing formal official speeches in Latin to king and court and to visiting dignitaries and ambassadors. He described the post as “the finest place in the university,” and he continued to hold that post until 1628.

He spent some time away from Cambridge when he was MP for Montgomery in King James I’s last parliament in 1623-1624. A fellow MP was Nicholas Ferrar, who was a contemporary at Cambridge as an undergraduate at Clare Hall. However, a potentially promising parliamentary career was short and Herbert was ordained deacon in 1625 or 1626. By this time, John Donne was a close family friend.

Trinity College Cambridge … George Herbert was elected a major fellow in 1618 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

In 1626, while still a deacon, Herbert was appointed Prebendary of Leighton or a canon in Lincoln Cathedral and became Rector of Leighton Bromswold, a small village in Huntingdonshire. Herbert was not even present at his installation as a prebendary, and it appears he never resided in Leighton Bromswold, appointing two vicars to take charge of the parish. However, with the help of Nicholas Ferrar, he raised funds to refurbish the church, which had not been in use for 20 years. Ever since then, Saint Mary’s Church has two pulpits dating from 1626, attributed to Herbert’s emphasis that a parson should both pray and preach.

Herbert’s mother died in 1627, and John Donne preached at her funeral in Chelsea. Herbert resigned as university orator in 1627, and later he moved to Wiltshire. On 5 March 1629, he married Jane Danvers, a cousin of his step-father.

He became Rector of Fugglestone with Bemerton on 26 April 1630, and nine months later, on 19 September, he was ordained priest in Salisbury Cathedral. He spent the rest of his life as a rector of the little parish of Fugglestone St Peter with Bemerton St Andrew, a Wiltshire rural parish near Salisbury and about 75 miles south-west of London.

In Bemerton, he preached and wrote poetry and helped to rebuild the church, drawing on his own funds. He was known too for unfailing care for his parishioners, bringing the sacraments to them when they were ill, and providing food and clothing for needy parishioners.

In those three years, he came to be known as “Holy Mr Herbert” around the countryside. His practical manual offering practical pastoral advice to country clergy, A Priest to the Temple (or The Country Parson) (1652), exhibits the devotion he showed to his parishioners. He tells them, for example, that “things of ordinary use,” such as ploughs, leaven, or dances, could be made to “serve for lights even of Heavenly Truths.”

On his deathbed, he sent the manuscript of The Temple to Nicholas Ferrar, who had founded the semi-monastic Anglican religious community at Little Gidding – a name best known today through the poem Little Gidding by TS Eliot. In his letter, Herbert said of his writings: “They are a picture of spiritual conflicts between God and my soul before I could subject my will to Jesus, my Master.” He asked Ferrar to publish the poems if he thought they might “turn to the advantage of any dejected poor soul,” but otherwise he should burn them.

Suffering from poor health, Herbert died of tuberculosis on 1 March 1633 at the age of 40, less than three years after being ordained priest. An inscription found in the Rectory at Bemerton after his death reads:

To My Successor:

If thou chance for to find
A new House to thy mind,
And built without thy cost;
Be good to the Poor
As God gives thee store,
And then my Labour’s not lost.

Another version reads:

If thou dost find
An house built to thy mind,
Without thy cost;
Serve thou the more
God and the poor;
My labour is not lost.

His first biographer, Izaak Walton, described Herbert on his deathbed as “composing such hymns and anthems as he and the angels now sing in heaven.”

The Temple was edited by Nicholas Ferrar and was published in Cambridge later that year as The Temple: Sacred poems and private ejaculations. It met with such popular acclaim that it had been reprinted 20 times by 1680, and went through eight editions by 1690.

Lent by George Herbert

‘That ev’ry man may revel at his door’ (George Herbert, ‘Lent’) … the Classical Gate in the Jesus Lane wall of Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Staying in Sidney Sussex College each year since 2008 has brought the privilege of being within strolling distance of most if not all of the major churches, chapels and colleges in Cambridge.

The Classical Gate in Sidney Sussex College was originally erected in Hall Court to replace the first main gate. During James Wyattville’s alterations in 1832, the gate was moved to the north-east corner of the gardens, where it remains an eye-catching feature. But the gate must be closed permanently, for I have never seen it open into Jesus Lane, which forms the northern boundary of the grounds of Sidney Sussex.

On the same side as the Classical Gate is All Saints’ Church. The ‘Saintly Cambridge Anglicans’ window, installed in the church in 1923 by Kempe & Co, has three panels of stained-glass designed by John Lisle honouring three Cambridge saints: the priest poet George Herbert (1593-1633); Bishop Brooke Foss Westcott (1825-1901); and the missionary Henry Martyn (1781-1812). Herbert and Westcott were fellows of Trinity College Cambridge, while Martyn was a Fellow of Saint John’s College, which explains why the coat-of-arms of each college is also depicted in the window.

Below the panel depicting George Herbert is an image of Saint Andrew’s Church, Bemerton, and the words: “Here George Herbert ministered and beneath the Altar of Bemerton Church was buried A.D. 1632.” Of course, Herbert never ministered in All Saints’ Church, and he died in 1633, not in 1632. But as I pass by the Classical Gate in at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, I am reminded of George Herbert’s words in his poem ‘Lent’: ‘That ev’ry man may revel at his door …’


Welcome dear feast of Lent: who loves not thee,
He loves not Temperance, or Authority,
But is compos’d of passion.
The Scriptures bid us fast; the Church says, now:
Give to thy Mother, what thou wouldst allow
To ev’ry Corporation.

The humble soul compos’d of love and fear
Begins at home, and lays the burden there,
When doctrines disagree,
He says, in things which use hath justly got,
I am a scandal to the Church, and not
The Church is so to me.

True Christians should be glad of an occasion
To use their temperance, seeking no evasion,
When good is seasonable;
Unless Authority, which should increase
The obligation in us, make it less,
And Power itself disable.

Besides the cleanness of sweet abstinence,
Quick thoughts and motions at a small expense,
A face not fearing light:
Whereas in fulness there are sluttish fumes,
Sour exhalations, and dishonest rheums,
Revenging the delight.

Then those same pendant profits, which the spring
And Easter intimate, enlarge the thing,
And goodness of the deed.
Neither ought other men’s abuse of Lent
Spoil the good use; lest by that argument
We forfeit all our Creed.

It’s true, we cannot reach Christ’s forti’eth day;
Yet to go part of that religious way,
Is better than to rest:
We cannot reach our Saviour’s purity;
Yet we are bid, ‘Be holy ev’n as he,’
In both let’s do our best.

Who goeth in the way which Christ hath gone,
Is much more sure to meet with him, than one
That travelleth by-ways:
Perhaps my God, though he be far before,
May turn and take me by the hand, and more:
May strengthen my decays.

Yet Lord instruct us to improve our fast
By starving sin and taking such repast,
As may our faults control:
That ev’ry man may revel at his door,
Not in his parlour; banqueting the poor,
And among those his soul.


Our God and King, you called your servant George Herbert from the pursuit of worldly honors to be a pastor of souls, a poet, and a priest in your temple: Give us grace, we pray, joyfully to perform the tasks you give us to do, knowing that nothing is menial or common that is done for your sake; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


Exodus 28: 29–30; Philippians 4: 4–9; Psalm 23; Matthew 5: 1–10.

Tomorrow (28 February): Saint John Cassian.

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

With the Saints in Lent (14), Saint Simeon the Myrrh-Streaming, 26 February

Saint Simeon the Myrrh-Streaming ... the ruler who abdicated to become a simple monk

Patrick Comerford

Saint Simeon the Myrrh-Bearer who is commemorated today [26 February] in many calendars in the Orthodox Church, is an interesting example of a mediaeval ruler who resigned his throne and became a humble monk on Mount Athos.

As Stefan Nemanja (ca 1113-1199), he was the Grand Prince of Serbia (Rascia) from 1166 to 1196. He is remembered for his contributions to Serbian culture and history, as the founder of Serbia’s national church, and as founder of the powerful Serbian state that evolved into the Serbian Empire.

He was the father of Stefan Nemanjić, the first King of Serbia, and of Saint Sava, the first Archbishop of the Serbian Orthodox Church.

In 1196, he abdicated in favour of his son Stefan, and went to Mount Athos, where he became a monk and took the name of Simeon. Together with his son Saint Sava, Saint Simeon built Hilandar Monastery from 1198-1199. The monastery later became the cradle of the Serbian Orthodox Church. After his death, he was canonised by the Serbian Orthodox Church as Saint Simeon the Myrrh-Streaming after many reports of miracles following his death.

Stefan Nemanja was born ca 1113 in Ribnica, Zeta, near present-day Podgorica, the capital of Montenegro.

When he became an adult, Nemanja became Prince of Ibar, Toplica, Rasina and Reke after receiving the česti (parts of the state) from the Byzantine Emperor, Manuel I Komnenos. But in 1163, the Emperor installed Nemanja’s older brother Tihomir as Grand Župan of Rascia. Stefan had expected to succeed to the throne and was disappointed. But he ruled his territory independently and built monasteries until he was captured by his brothers and held in a cave. According to a popular myth, Saint George freed him from the cave.

Between 1166 and 1168, Prince Stefan rebelled against his older brother, deposed him and exiled him with his brothers, assumed the title of Grand Župan of All Serbia, and took the first name Stefan. He would attributed his rise to power to Saint George. He married a Serbian noblewoman, Ana, with they had three sons: Vukan, Stefan and Rastko.

But the Emperor Manuel soon imprisoned him and took him captive to Constantinople as a personal slave. When he was freed he was recognised as the rightful Grand Župans of the Rascian lands.

In the decade that followed, he strengthened Eastern Orthodox Christianity in his lands. and dealt strongly with the Bogomils, declaring them heretics, punishing them, burning their books, confiscating their lands, burning some at the stake, and exiling others.

Following the death of Emperor Manuel in 1180, Stefan Nemanja no longer considered he owed any allegiance to the Byzantines. He formed an alliance with King Bela III of Hungary and invaded Byzantine territory, pushing the Greeks out of the Valley of Morava, advancing as far as Sofia, and raiding Belgrade, Braničevo, Ravno, Niš and Sofia itself.

But the Hungarians soon withdrew from the war, leaving Nemanja’s forces isolated across western Bulgaria. In 1185, the Byzantines launched a counter-attack on Serbia, but the offensive was called-off but a Bulgarian uprising broke out.

During the Third Crusade, the Holy Roman Emperor, Friedrich, arrived on 27 July 1189 in Niš with 100,000 Crusaders, and was the guest of Stefan Nemanja. Although he was now in his early 70s, Stefan Nemanja followed the Crusaders with his army to the border at the Gate of Trajan. However, the alliance with the Crusaders collapsed when Friedrich signed a peace with the Byzantines on 14 February 1190 in Adrianopolis.

Stefan Nemanja introduced Orthodox Christianity in Zeta, bringing an end to the dominant Latin culture and language and the Catholic religion as the masses were forcibly converted to Eastern Orthodoxy.

In 1190, the new Byzantine Emperor, Isaac II Angelos, prepared a massive attack on Nemanja. This force, led by the Emperor, attacked in 1191, and a defeated Stefan Nemanja was forced to retreat to the mountains. When a final peace was negotiated, Stefan Nemanja had to give up a large part of his conquests and recognise the Byzantine Emperor’s supreme rule.

To signify the final peace, Stefan Nemanja’s son Stefan married the Byzantine Princess Eudokia Angelina and received the title of Sebastokrator.

In 1192, his son Rastko fled from his Monastery in Ston to Mount Athos, where he took monastic vows and accepted the name Sava.

On 25 March 1196, Stefan Nemanja abdicated in favour of his second son, Stefan, giving him all his earthly possessions. He then took monastic vows with his wife Ana in the Church of Saint Peter and Paul in Ras. He took the monastic name Simeon, and his wife took the name Anastasia. Simeon subsequently retired to Studenica Monastery, which he had founded, and Anastasia retired to the Monastery of the Mother of Christ in Kuršumlija.

The Monastery of Vatopedi on Mount Athos ... Saint Simeon joined his son Saint Sava on Mount Athos in 1197 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

After many pleas from his son Sava, Simeon finally left Studenica for Mount Athos, where joined his son in 1197 in the Monastery of Vatopedi. In 1199, father and son rebuilt the Monastery of Hilandar on Mount Athos which had been given to the Serbian people by the Byzantine Emperor.

Saint Simeon died in front of his son Sava on 13 February (OS, 26 February NS 1199), in front of the icon of the Virgin Hodegetria. He was in his 86th year and was buried in the grounds of Hilandar. His last words were to ask Sava to take his remains to Serbia, “when God permits it, after a certain period of time.”

This how is Saint Sava described his father’s final hours:

All of us, looking and crying bitterly, saw on this blessed old man an inexpressibly heavenly providence and godly concern. For even here he asked from God and God gave him everything in his state; until this hour he did not want to be deprived of a single spiritual matter, and God granted him everything.

Verily, my dear brothers and fathers, that was a wonder to behold, that one before whom all foreigners and states feared and before whom they trembled looked like one of the strangers himself: poor, wrapped up in a cassock, lying on a rug on the earth with a stone below his head, bowing to everyone, causing pity and asking for forgiveness and blessing.

The night having come, they all took leave of him and blessed him and went to their cells to perform their duties and to rest a while. I and one priest (whom I kept with me) stayed with him all that night.

When midnight arrived, the blessed old man became quiet; he did not speak to me further.

When morning came and the church singing was resumed, the blessed old man’s face became immediately illuminated; and raising his hands to the sky, he said, ‘Praise ye the Lord. Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in the firmament of his power.’

I asked him then, ‘Father, whom did you see?’

Having looked at me, he said then, ‘Praise him for his mighty acts; praise him according to his excellent greatness.’ When he had said that, his holy spirit left his body; and he fell asleep in God. I then fell on his face, weeping bitterly for a long time; and having stood up, I thanked God that I saw the last days of this very noble man.

According to tradition, holy oil or myrrh seeped from his tomb. His body is still said to give off “a sweet smell, like violets.”

Saint Simeon the Myrrh-Streaming is commemorated on 26 February each year by the Serbian Orthodox Church in the monastery he founded at Studenica

The Serbian Orthodox Church canonised him in 1200, and declared his feast-day on 26 February [Old Style 13 February].

In 1206, his son Sava brought his body to Rascia, and over his dead body his other two sons who were engaged in a blood-letting feud made their peace.

Saint Simeon was reburied in 1207 in the Studenica Monastery, which he had founded personally. Once again, it was said, holy oil seeped from his new grave. His son Sava, who became the first Serbian Archbishop, wrote the Liturgy of Saint Simeon in his honour.

Tomorrow (27 February): George Herbert, priest and poet.

Monday, 25 February 2013

IOCS finds new a new home in Cambridge

The new home for the Institute for Orthodox Christian Studies at 25-27 High Street Chesterton, Cambridge

Patrick Comerford

The Institute for Orthodox Christian Studies has found a permanent home at 25-27 High Street Chesterton, Cambridge, CB4 1ND.

The agreement was concluded on 7 February 2013, and the IOCS is moving work-stations and library from the present, rented premises in Wesley House on Jesus Lane to the new house, which has been named Palamas House.

The IOCS Library has been closed for about a fortnight, and the Principal and Administrator, Professor David Frost, has apologised for the disruption to working-arrangements.

He has said to a letter to facultrty, students and friends: “When we are fully settled we expect to celebrate by a service of thanksgiving and a formal procession to take possession. We are aiming for a date in April and will issue general invitations to all our friends. We are especially grateful to those whose generosity has made possible the acquisition of a building that is in every way ideal for our present and future purposes.”

Meanwhile, the IOCS is finalising details for its 14th International Summer School in Cambridge later this year. The summer school returns to Sidney Sussex College this year, and runs from 14 to 19 July.

This year’s theme is “Angels: Heavenly and Fallen,” and the speakers will include Metropolitan Kallistos Ware, the Revd Professor Andrew Louth, Dr Sebastian Brock, Aidan Hart, Father Ian Graham, Professor David Frost and Dr Marcus Plasted.

Enrolment is possible on the IOCS website at: (with secure payments through WorldPay)

or you can send a cheque together with your enrolment form or you may pay by credit card by ringing +44 (0) 1223 741037.

Further details are available from:

The Institute for Orthodox Christian Studies,
Wesley House,
Jesus Lane,
Cambridge CB5 8BJ,
United Kingdom

(Telephone: +44 (0) 1223 741037, email:

Sidney Sussex College in the snow this time last year ... the IOCS summer school in Cambridge returns to Sidney Sussex College this year (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2012)

With the Saints in Lent (13): John Roberts, priest, 25 February

The Revd Dr John Roberts ... self-sacrificing mission priest in Colorado and Wyoming

Patrick Comerford

The Revd Dr John Roberts (1853-1949), who is commemorated in the Calendar of the Episcopal Church (TEC) today [25 February] was a priest from Wales and a mission worker among the Shoshone and Arapahoe people in Wyoming, where he worked tirelessly from his arrival in 1883 until his death in 1949.

John Roberts was born at Llewerllyd Farm, Dyserth, Flintshire (now in Denbighshire) on 31 March 1853, the son of Robert Roberts and Elinor (nee Roberts). He was educated at Rhuthun Grammar School and then went to Saint David’s College, Lampeter, which was then affiliated to Oxford University. He graduated with BA in 1876, and in 1878 he was ordained deacon in Lichfield Cathedral by George Augustus Selwyn, Bishop of Lichfield.

Lichfield Cathedral ... John Roberts was ordained deacon here in 1878 before going to the Bahamas (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2012)

For a short time, John was a curate in Dawley Magna, Shropshire, but he left for the Bahamas in 1878, and was ordained to the priesthood there by Bishop Francis Cramer Roberts that year. He served in the Bahamas for two years as chaplain of Saint Matthew’s Cathedral, Nassau, and working in leper colonies.

On a visit to New York in 1880, he contacted Bishop John Spalding, the missionary bishop of Wyoming and Colorado, asking for work among Native Americans.

Bishop Spalding sent John Roberts to serve in Colorado initially. In February 1883, he hitched a ride from Colorado to Wyoming on a jury-rigged mail wagon, in a blizzard. There he began working among the Shoshone and Arapahoe Indians in the area that is now the Wind River Reservation.

He learned the languages of both tribes and made extensive notes on vocabulary that proved invaluable to later generations of scholars.

John Roberts shared his work with Laura Brown, a wealthy woman he had met while serving in the Bahamas. They married on the day of her arrival in Wyoming, Christmas Day 1884. Together they had six children, five of whom survived the harsh conditions, all of whom learned the native languages as well as English.

In 1887, after building trusting relationships with the people, the Shoshone chief granted land to John on which to build a mission school for girls to complement the nearby government school for boys. In addition to the mission school, he was responsible for starting congregations in almost a dozen locations.

Unlike other missionaries who sought to change the culture and lifestyle of Native peoples as a sign of their conversion to the Christian faith, John Roberts believed it was important to preserve the language, customs, and culture of the people. Roberts sought to honour and respect the ancient ways of the Native peoples while at the same time proclaiming the Gospel among them, inviting them to faith, establishing congregations, and serving their needs in the name of Christ.

John Roberts often said the object of his work among the Indians was to make them self-supporting. With this in mind, he established two schools, the Indian Boarding School at Fort Washakie and the Shoshone Indian Mission Boarding School.

He cultivated friendships with tribal leaders, including Chief Black Coal and Chief Washakie, whom he later baptised. He earned the trust of the tribal leadership and was often involved in their negotiations with the agents of the federal government.

The Indians rewarded Roberts for his fairness in dealing with them by giving him the name “Elder Brother.”

He also ministered to the non-natives of the state, establishing Episcopal churches in towns across Wyoming. He retired from active missionary work in 1921 but continued to live on the reservation.

John Roberts was given several honours for his pioneering work and his untiring efforts in teaching. In 1932, he was awarded a Doctorate of Laws in Wyoming and a Doctorate of Divinty at Evanston, Illinois. In 1933, in honour of both John and Laura Roberts, the flag of Wyoming was presented to the great choir of the National Cathedral in Washington.

Laura died in 1941, and John died in 1949 at the age of 97. His letters and papers were collected by their daughter Eleanor and placed in the Western History Archives at Wyoming University.

John Roberts lived into his call as a priest of the high mountains, the forgotten people, the dry and desolate places – in Lent, these images are appropriate parallels with the time Christ spent in the wilderness, fasting, praying, and be as transparent as he could to the will of the Father. John Roberts went to the wilderness to seek and serve Christ in all people.

The Collect:

Creator God, we thank you for bringing your missionary John Roberts from his native land to live and teach your Gospel in a spirit of respect and amity among the Shoshone and Arapahoe peoples in their own language; and we pray that we also may share the Good News of your Christ with all we meet as friends brought together by your Holy Spirit; for you are one God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, living and true, to the ages of ages. Amen.


Deuteronomy 31: 30–32:4, 6b-12a; Psalm 90: 13-17; Acts 3: 18-25; John 7: 37-41a.

Tomorrow (26 February): Saint Simeon the Myrrh-Streaming.

Sunday, 24 February 2013

With the Saints in Lent (12), Saint Matthias, 24 February, and the Second Sunday in Lent

Saint Matthias – a stained glass window (1567) in Milan Cathedral

Patrick Comerford

This is the Second Sunday in Lent, and the Year C readings in the Revised Common Lectionary for today [24 February 2013] are: Genesis 15: 1-12, 17-18; Psalm 27; Philippians 3: 17 - 4: 1; Luke 13: 31-35 or Luke 9: 28-36.

We are just four weeks from Palm Sunday [24 March 2013] and in the Gospel reading this morning we hear about Christ’s plan to set out for Jerusalem, knowing that on his arrival he faces certain death.

The feast of Saint Matthias was first placed in the Calendar of the Western Church in the 11th century, usually falling on 24 February but on 25 February in leap years. The Book of Common Prayer liturgy celebrates Saint Matthias on 24 February.

After Vatican II, the Roman Catholic Church moved his feastday to 14 May to avoid celebrating him in Lent, and to give the opportunity to remember him on a day nearer to Ascensiontide.

In the Calendar of the Church of Ireland in The Book of Common Prayer (2004) and in Common Worship of the Church of England, he is now celebrated on 14 May, although Common Worship allows him to be celebrated on 24 February, and this date is also kept in the calendars of the Episcopal Church and in many parts of the Lutheran Church.

The Eastern Orthodox Church celebrates his feast on 9 August.

The Acts of the Apostles tells us that Saint Matthias was chosen by the remaining 11 apostles to take the place Judas Iscariot following Judas had betrayed Christ and died by suicide.

The calling of Saint Matthias as an apostle is unusual for he was not called personally by Christ, for his calling takes place after the Ascension and before the Day of Pentecost. Indeed, there is no earlier mention of Saint Matthias among the disciples in the Gospels.

According to Acts 1, in the days after the Ascension, the assembled disciples, who numbered about 120, nominated two men to replace Judas, Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias. Then they prayed: “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which one of these two you have chosen to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.” They then cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias; and so he was added to the eleven apostles (Acts 1: 23-26).

There is no further information of Matthias in the New Testament. Clement of Alexandria says some identified him with Zacchaeus; the Clementine Recognitions identify him with with Paul’s companion Barnabas or with the Disciple Nathaniel in the Gospel according to Saint John. .

Other traditions say he first preached the Gospel in Judaea, then in Aethiopia or Colchis in present-day Georgia, where he was stoned to death in Colchis.

Yet another tradition says he preached the Gospel to “barbarians and meat-eaters in the interior of Ethiopia,” died in Sebastopolis and was buried near the Temple of the Sun. Another story says he was stoned in Jerusalem, and then beheaded, although Hippolytus of Rome says, Matthias died of old age in Jerusalem.

Consider how Saint Matthias is unnamed before his call, and there is no further mention of him in the New Testament. He is the forgotten apostle. Having made an unexpected entrance on the stage, he walks off the scene once again, and we hear nothing further about him, we have no more information about him.

Sometimes, even his name and his identity are confused. Sometimes he is confused with Matthew. But he is also confused with Bartholomew, one of the original Twelve, because in the Syriac version of Eusebius, he is named throughout the text not as Matthias but as “Tolmai,” and the name Bartholomew means Son of Tolmai, who was one of the original Twelve.

Although Matthias was not among the original Twelve, Clement of Alexandria says the apostles were not chosen for some outstanding character, and certainly not on their own merits. After all, Judas was chosen as one of the Twelve, and even among the others Peter denied Christ at the Crucifixion, while Thomas at first denied the Resurrection.

The apostles were chosen by Christ for his own reasons, and not for their merits. If Matthias had not been worthy of being called, how then could he have joined the Twelve at a later stage?

Ordained ministry is never about my worthiness, my merits. I have earned no right to be called to ordained ministry, to share in the priesthood of the Church. It is Christ alone who calls us. Matthias was elected not because he was worthy but because he would become worthy. Christ chooses each of us in the same way.

I am not worthy to be even a poor substitute, even a second best substitute for Judas, who had his own unique place in God’s salvific plan as it unfolded.

What do others think of you?

Does it matter?

It matters little whether I am someone’s first choice or second choice, whether I am praised or thanked for my work, whether anyone will remember my achievements, whether anyone remembers me after I die, can spell my name, or find my grave. All that matters is God’s plan, and whether I follow his call faithfully.

Saint Matthias is a living reminder of God’s grace to and for us. He was “grafted in” to the company of the Apostles, not through his own merits, but by God’s grace. We have been grafted into the company of the Children of God, not through our own merits, but by God’s grace.

Collect, Readings and Post-Communion Prayer (Lent 2):


Almighty God,
you show to those who are in error the light of your truth
that they may return to the way of righteousness:
Grant to all those who are admitted
into the fellowship of Christ’s religion,
that they may reject those things
that are contrary to their profession,
and follow all such things
as are agreeable to the same;
through our Lord Jesus Christ.


Genesis 15: 1-12, 17-18; Psalm 27; Philippians 3: 17 - 4: 1; Luke 13: 31-35 or Luke 9: 28-36.

Post Communion Prayer:

Creator of heaven and earth,
we thank you for these holy mysteries
given us by our Lord Jesus Christ,
by which we receive your grace
and are assured of your love,
which is through him now and for ever.

Collect, Readings and Post-Communion Prayer (Saint Matthias):

Collect :

Almighty God,
who in the place of the traitor Judas
chose your faithful servant Matthias
to be of the number of the Twelve:
Preserve your Church from false apostles
and, by the ministry of faithful pastors and teachers
, keep us steadfast in your truth;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.


Isaiah 22: 15-25; Psalm 15; Acts 1: 15-26; John 15: 9-17.

Post Communion Prayer:

Lord God,
the source of truth and love,
Keep us faithful to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship
united in prayer and the breaking of bread,
and one in joy and simplicity of heart,
in Jesus Christ our Lord.

Tomorrow (25 February): John Roberts, Priest

Saturday, 23 February 2013

Go raibh míle maith agat to three quarters of a million readers

Over three quarters of a million readers ... but who and where? (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

About seven months ago, I wrote that I have never been very fluent in the Irish language, but how two sayings show there is a profuse and generous spirit in the language.

One is the traditional way of saying thank you: Go raibh míle maith agat. It translates not simply as “Thank You,” but “May you have a thousand good things.”

Another is the phrase for welcoming someone, whether stranger or friend: “Céad míle fáilte.” It means not just welcome, but “One hundred thousand welcomes.”

At the time [14 July 2012], This blog has passed a milestone with over half a million visitors.

Late this evening [23 February 2013] this blog passed yet another milestone with over three quarters of a million visitors. Once again, three quarters of a half million welcomes to each and every one of you, and 750,000 thank yous to each of you for visiting this blog, using its resources and making yourself at home.

I have been on blogger since 10 November 2007. But there were only 13 postings that year. By 2008, it was 183, 272 in 2009, 322 in 2010, 449 in 2011, and 498 last year.

Some of my postings have been reposted on other blogs and sites in Skerries, Lichfield and Greece, I have been invited to guest write for other blogs, and I have found myself part of new communities finding new ways of communicating, including and especially those who share my condition of living with sarcoidosis.

At an early stage, I resisted having a counter. I wanted to make my sermons, lecture notes and notes for Bible studies and tutorial groups accessible to students, and to give a wider circulation to the monthly columns I write in the Church Review (Dublin and Glendalough) and the Diocesan Magazine (Cashel and Ossory). But I also wanted to give a longer shelf life to occasional papers in journals such as the Journal of the Wexford Historical Society, Search, Koinonia and the Cambridge Review of International Affairs and occasional features in publications and newspapers, including The Irish Times, the Church of Ireland Gazette, Skerries News and the Athens News.

As sarcoidosis took a cruel grip on my lungs and my breathing, I started to write too about my health and my beach walks, including beach walks in Skerries, country walks, my thoughts on architecture, especially the work of Pugin, return visits to Wexford and Lichfield, and also found myself writing about travel in Ireland and England, and to a variety of countries, especially Greece and Turkey. There were accounts too of my regular participation in summer schools with the Institute for Orthodox Studies at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge.

I have never been terribly concerned about how many people have read any of these postings. If one student missed a lecture and found it here, or one person did not understand what I was trying to say in a sermon and came back here to read it, then it was worth posting.

I still resisted having a counter because I want to write to a very different set of priorities than popularity. This is a different style of writing and if I wanted to write for a mass circulation tabloid newspaper then circulation figures might have been interesting. But I feared a counter might change my style of writing. Now that I have got over that, I am very humbled that over half a million people would even consider what I am writing. That is more feedback than I ever got for a newspaper feature or a chapter in a book.

Three quarters of a million readers by this evening.

But where are you from?

And what do you read?

The statistics provided by Blogger show that the top readership figures are in the United States, followed by the United Kingdom, Ireland, France, Germany, Russia and Australia.

Many of you find this blog through Facebook.

But what are you reading?

The most popular reading has been three postings on the Transfiguration, which between them have attracted over 25,000 visitors:

The Transfiguration: finding meaning in icons and Orthodox spirituality (7 April 2010) with over 19,500 visitors;

Looking at the Transfiguration through icons (23 February 2011) with over 4,500 visitors; and

The Transfiguration: finding meaning in icons (9 April 2011), with over 1,300 visitors.

The next single most-read posting is one on the thoughts of Julian of Norwich:

All shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well (5 September 2008), with almost 8,500 visitors.

About 9,000 people have visited two postings on the Raising of Lazarus:

The grave of Lazarus (3 April 2010), over 5,500 visitors.

The Raising of Lazarus, John 11: 1-45 (30 March 2011), over 3,200 visitors.

These were Easter themes one year after another, so I was not surprised that over 1,600 people also visited Waiting at the tomb on Holy Saturday (1) (23 April 2011).

Liturgy, Icons, Orthodox spirituality and Celtic spirituality also proved interesting for thousands of readers.

The most popular lecture on Icons, The Cretan School of Icons and its contribution to Western art (27 June 2009) has had almost 4,000 visitors so far, An introduction to Orthodoxy  (25 November 2009) has had over 2,300 visitors, and a similar lecture, Orthodox Spirituality: an introduction, (15 March 2010) has had over 1,300 visitors.

Two versions of a lecture on Celtic Spirituality have had pver 2,500 visitors: Introducing Celtic Spirituality (7 February 2010), over 1,800 visitors; and Introducing Celtic Spirituality (21 November 2011), with over 700 visitors.

This blog also seems to be providing you with resources for the seasons of the Church Calendar. I was overwhelmed with the number of readers for my postings on poetry and saints in Advent, Lent and Easter in recent years. Indeed, anything I post on TS Eliot attracts a large number of readers. Spirituality for Advent: waiting for Christ in all his majesty (29 November 2010), has had over 2,600 visitors, and Who is Jesus? A Lenten Talk (23 March 2011), a Lenten talk in Skerries two years ago, continues to attract readers and has had over 1,300 visitors.

I am never quite sure of my writing abilities. Perhaps I should take heart from the number of people who have read Developing writing skills (18 September 2010), which has attracted over 2,200 visitors.

I shall keep writing. But please keep on providing feedback and criticism, both negative and positive.

And each time you visit this blog I hope you find “céad míle fáilte, one hundred thousand welcomes” – in fact, 750,000 thanks to you.

Go raibh míle maith agat, may you have a hundred thousand good things.

With the Saints in Lent (11): Saint Polycarp of Smyrna, 23 February

The Martyrdom of Saint Polycarp, depicted in the Church of Saint Polycarp in Izmir (Smyrna), Turkey

Patrick Comerford

Saint Polycarp (Πολύκαρπος), Bishop of Smyrna and Martyr, is commemorated in the Calendar of the Church today [23 February].

Saint Polycarp was Bishop of Smyrna – known today as Izmir – on the west coast of present-day Turkey. The letters to the Seven Churches in Asia in the Book of Revelation include a letter to the church in Smyrna, identifying it as a church undergoing persecution.

Saint Polycarp is said to have known the Apostle John, who wrote the Book of Revelation. It is said that Saint John instructed him in the Christian faith. Tertullian said that Saint Polycarp had been a disciple of Saint John. Saint Jerome wrote that Saint Polycarp was a disciple of Saint John and that Saint John had ordained him Bishop of Smyrna.

Saint Polycarp, in his turn, was known to Saint Irenaeus, who knew him in his youth and who later became Bishop of Lyons in what is now France.

We have various sources for the life Saint Polycarp:

● Saint Irenaeus’s brief memoir of Saint Polycarp;
● a letter to Saint Polycarp from Saint Ignatius of Antioch, written ca 115, when Saint Ignatius was being through Anatolia in chains to Rome to be put to death;
● a letter from Saint Polycarp to the church in Philippi, written at the same time;
● an account of the arrest, trial, conviction, and martyrdom of Saint Polycarp, written after his death by one or more members of his congregation.

Saint Polycarp was denounced to the government, arrested, and tried on the charge of being a Christian.

When the proconsul urged him to save his life by cursing Christ, he replied: “Eighty-six years I have served him, and he never did me any wrong. How can I blaspheme my King who saved me?”

The magistrate was reluctant to kill a gentle old man, but he had no choice. Saint Polycarp was sentenced to be burned. As he waited for the fire to be lighted, he prayed:

Lord God Almighty, Father of your blessed and beloved child Jesus Christ, through whom we have received knowledge of you, God of angels and hosts and all creation, and of the whole race of the upright who live in your presence: I bless you that you have thought me worthy of this day and hour, to be numbered among the martyrs and share in the cup of Christ, for resurrection to eternal life, for soul and body in the incorruptibility of the Holy Spirit. Among them may I be accepted before you today, as a rich and acceptable sacrifice, just as you, the faithful and true God, have prepared and foreshown and brought about. For this reason and for all things I praise you, I bless you, I glorify you, through the eternal heavenly high priest Jesus Christ, your beloved child, through whom be glory to you, with him and the Holy Spirit, now and for the ages to come. Amen.

The fire was then lit and shortly after that a soldier stabbed Polycarp to death on the orders of the magistrate. His friends gave his remains an honourable burial, and wrote an account of his death to other churches.

The date of his death is in dispute. Eusebius dates it to the reign of Marcus Aurelius (ca 166-167). However, a later addition to the Martyrdom of Polycarp dates his death to Saturday, 23 February in the proconsulship of Statius Quadratus, which puts his death at 155 or 156.

With Saint Clement of Rome and Saint Ignatius of Antioch, Saint Polycarp is regarded as one of three chief Apostolic Fathers.

The Agora in Smyrna ... all that remains of the classical and biblical city (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)


O God, the maker of heaven and earth, who gave to your Venerable servant, the holy and gentle Polycarp, boldness to confess Jesus Christ as King and Saviour, and steadfastness to die for his faith: Give us grace, following his example, to share the cup of Christ and rise to eternal life; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.


Psalm 31: 3-4, 6-8, 17, 21; Revelation 2: 8-11; John 15:18-21.

Tomorrow (24 February): Saint Matthias the Apostle, the Second Sunday in Lent.

Friday, 22 February 2013

Church History (full-time) 9.3, Revolution and enlightenment: old certainties challenged

The French Revolution by Delacroix (1830) ... the 18th century is known as the Age of Reason, or the Age of Revival, but was also the Age of Revolution

Patrick Comerford,

Church of Ireland Theological Institute,

Church History Elective (TH 7864)

Friday 22 February 2013, 9 .a.m. to 12 noon:

11 a.m.: 9.3:
Revolution and enlightenment: old certainties challenged

After our first two sessions this morning, it might be easy to see the 18th century, in terms of Church History, as the century of mission and expansion.

However, the Canadian church historian, Gerald Cragg, has described the age we are dealing with in this module as “The Age of Reason.” But we could equally also call this “The Age of Revival” or even the “Age of Revolution.”

It is a constant debate within Church History whether the rise of Methodism and the preaching and impact of the Wesley brothers forestalled a revolution in England?

As we explore this period in the history of the Church (1660-1800), we cannot ignore the social and political impact of Methodism. Nor can we ignore its impact on the Church of Ireland.

At the same time, as we consider the wider political and social context in which the Church of Ireland found itself, we have to realise that there is a clear link connecting Bunker Hill, the Bastille and Boolavogue.

And we also have to take account of the impact of the American Revolution on the Episcopal Church and the future shape of the Anglican Communion; the impact of the French Revolution on French Church, and more generally on the whole Christian Church; and, of course, the impact of the 1798 Rising on the Church in Ireland and the Church of Ireland.


John Wesley ... his Journal records his travels over 250,000 miles, and he visited Ireland 21 times in a 42-year period from 1747 to 1789 Jakob Spenner and the rise of Pietism in Germany in the late 17th century, and Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield and the Great Awakening in America at the beginning of the 18th century are the expressions of two movements – the Pietists and the Great Awakening – that had important influences on the Wesley brothers and the rise of Methodism later in the 18th century.

The sobriquet “Methodist” was originally given in 1729 to a group at Oxford known as the Holy Club and led by John Wesley (1703-1791). Wesley traced the “first rise” of Methodism to those early years, and the second stage to 1736 when the “rudiments of a Methodist society” appeared in Georgia, where the Wesley brothers, John and Charles, were working as Anglican priests and missionaries with the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel (SPG, now Us).

During their voyage to America, and their stay in Georgia, the Wesley brothers were deeply influenced by the Moravians, who in turn had taken on much of the teachings and experiences of the German Pietists. But John Wesley alienated the colonists, and returned to England in 1737.

Then, in 1738, Wesley helped to reframe the rules of an Anglican society that met in Fetter Lane, London.

Once again, the Wesleys were in close contact with the Moravians in London, and within three days of each other in May 1738 the brothers John and Charles had vital Christian experiences – what John described as his heart being “strangely warmed” when a passage was being read from Martin Luther’s Preface to the Epistle to the Romans.

We could see this as the turning point in the Evangelical Revival on this side of the Atlantic. The Wesleys preached throughout Britain and Ireland: John Wesley’s Journal records his travels over 250,000 miles, and he visited Ireland 21 times in a 42-year period from 1747 to 1789.

When John Wesley found the doors of Anglican churches closed to him, he followed the example of George Whitefield, and preached in the open.

The first Methodist Conference met in 1744, and the first Methodist circuits were organised as early as 1746. Methodism gained strong positions throughout Ireland, England and Wales, but notably made slower headway in Scotland.

In America, Methodism owed its beginnings to two Irish emigrants, Robert Strawbridge from Drumsna, who settled in Maryland, and Philip Embury, who settled in New York.

The break with Anglicanism came when John Wesley decided to ordain local preachers for areas in which Methodists could not receive the sacraments. Although Wesley hoped that Methodism could stay within the boundaries of Anglicanism, and he died an Anglican priest, Methodism became a separate organisation and a separate church.

The American Revolution of 1776

Although the American Revolution pre-dated the French revolution by 13 years, many of the American revolutionaries owed a lot to French thinking at the time. This contained a strong element of religious polemic and debate.

The political philosophy of the American revolutionaries had much in common with, in some places, René Descartes (1596-1650), the French philosopher who has been called the “Father of Modern Philosophy,” and, in others, with Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778), who began life in Geneva as a Calvinist, moved to France where he converted to Catholicism, returned to Geneva and reconverted to Calvinism, and then ended his days in France as a Deist.

The American Declaration of Independence appeals to God as the ultimate source of justification for the liberties demanded by the authors, and the appeal to self-evident truth, in order to justify the basis of the Declaration, can be traced to Descartes.

Karl Barth (1886-1968) observed that the Declaration of Independence represented a Calvinism gone to seed, although its principal author, Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) was a Deist at heart and owed much to English and French political theory.

In the Declaration, the American revolutionaries declared:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

The impact on the Episcopal/Anglican Church:

After the American Revolution, many Anglicans fled New England, moving north and settling in Canada. There, Anglicanism has been strongly influenced by a steady flow of clergy and missionaries from the Church of Ireland.

Anglicans who remained in the new United States after the revolution felt isolated from the Church of England, whose bishops were unwilling or unable to provide new bishops to serve the new church.

The first American bishop was not secured for another 18 years, until 1784 – the same year American Methodists broke with Anglicanism as a consequence of John Wesley’s ordinations of a superintendent or bishop for America. That same year saw the consecration of Samuel Seabury (1729-1796) by bishops from the nonjuring Episcopal Church of Scotland.

Although Seabury was elected Bishop of Connecticut in 1783, the bishops of the Church of England found they could not consecrate him because he could not take the Oath of Allegiance. As a consequence, the “high” liturgy of the Episcopalians of Scotland strongly influenced the Episcopal Church in America for generations.

The King’s Chapel was the first Anglican or Episcopalian church in Boston, and the first church in the US to call itself a Unitarian church.

As an aside, we should also note that, although Unitarian teachings in America first arose among the Congregationalists of New England, the first preacher to call himself a “Unitarian” was a post-independence Episcopalian, James Freeman (1759-1835). King’s Chapel, which had been founded in 1686, was the first Anglican or Episcopalian Church in Boston and in New England.

The Rector, the Revd Henry Caner, a Loyalist, had been forced to leave in 1776 when the British troops evacuated Boston. Freeman was chosen as the minister of the King’s Chapel in 1782, and he immediately set about revising The Book of Common Prayer for use in his church.

Bishop Samuel Seabury refused to ordain Freeman, who had been chosen as the minster of the King’s Chapel, and in 1785 Freeman turned the King’s Chapel in Boston into the first Unitarian church in North America. The church continues to use its own unique Anglican-Unitarian hybrid liturgy.

The French Revolution of 1789

Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) and Voltaire (1694-1778) ... two of the key writers and thinkers in the wave of revolutionary thought that led to the French Revolution

Two of the key writers and thinkers in the wave of revolutionary thought that led to the French Revolution were Rousseau and Voltaire.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) was, in turn, a Protestant, a Catholic, and a Deist. Rousseau argued that people, if left to themselves, are noble and good. Instead of the concept of the divine right of kings, he put forward the concept of the Social Contract (1762), which would pave the way for the American Declaration of Independence (1776) and, of course, the French Revolution.

Voltaire, the alias used by Francois-Marie Arouet (1694-1778), believed God was to be adored and served, not to be argued over or made the object of institutional religion. Voltaire attacked the Church with remorseless wit, and saw nothing in it but deceit and corruption. His monumental works was his Philosophical Dictionary, based on his articles for Denis Diderot’s Encyclopaedia, first published secretly in 1759.

The French Revolution was a revolution against the excesses of both church and state. Most of the land was owned by the nobility or the clergy. Although violence was not part of the original plan for social change of either Rousseau or Voltaire, the Bastille was attacked on 14 July 1789, the prisoners were freed, and the building was razed to the ground.

Within a month, a “Declaration on the Rights of Man” was promulgated, at the suggestion of Bishop Talleyrand (1754-1838), and Church lands were taken into public ownership in an attempt to finance the revolutionary changes taking place.

Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord is an interesting figure in the French revolution. A prince by birth, he became Bishop of Autun in 1789. That year he joined the revolution, and became a member of the Constitutional Assembly, taking the oath to the Civil Constitution, and consecrating as bishops priests who were prepared to take that oath as bishops to fill the vacated dioceses.

Talleyrand was excommunicated in 1793, but he continued to be active in politics, becoming Foreign Minister in 1796, taking charge of the Provisional Government in 1814, and serving as the French ambassador to England from 1830 to 1834.

The French Church was reorganised in 1790, and over the next year the number of bishops was reduced from 140 to 83, bishops and priests were to be elected by the people, and the clergy were compelled to swear allegiance to the French constitution rather than the state. Gallicanism had its victory in 1791.

But during the early days of the French revolution, the Jacobins emerged as a key party. They were so named because they first met regularly in the Jacobin convent in Paris. Their leaders included Marat, Danton, and Robespierre, and with an army of peasants they marched on Paris in 1792. Those nobles and clergy who opposed the revolution were executed summarily, and Louis XVI went to the guillotine on 21 January 1793.

The Jacobins also took the affairs of religion into their own hands. On 10 November 1793, a group of deputies marched to Notre Dame Cathedral. There they enthroned a dancer of doubtful morals as “the Goddess of Reason.”

From 1793, France was almost continuously at war with its European neighbours, including England, which had consequences for Ireland, and for the churches in Ireland, too.

The Irish Revolution of 1798:

The Battle of Ballynahinch on 13 June 1798: there is a direct chain linking the events of 1776, 1789 and 1798

I said earlier there was clear connection, linking Bunker Hill, the Bastille and Boolavogue. We should not see the events in Ireland in 1798 in isolation from the events in France nine years earlier, or from events in North America 22 years earlier. Nor should we fail to put the events of 1798 into a context at home, either.

The Rising of 1798 comes as a natural sequence to a number of reforms, and unmet demands for reform throughout Ireland at this time, demands and reforms that had major impact on the Church of Ireland and its members.

In the mid-18th century, the towns and cities of Ireland were governed and controlled by self-appointing and self-perpetuating ruling oligarchies with exclusively Church of Ireland memberships, and the greatest proportion of Irish land was in the hands of Protestants, and more particularly in the hands of members of the Church of Ireland.

By 1745, a vigorous campaign was under way in Dublin to overturn the oligarchic powers of the self-selecting aldermen who ruled the city, which now had a population of 110,000. This campaign was led by two members of the Church of Ireland – Charles Lucas and James Digges La Touche. Lucas was also more open to the rights of Presbyterians, which further alienated him from many of the bishops, clergy, and others in the Church of Ireland.

But the successes of Lucas and La Touche inspired similar reforms in other cities and towns.

The Church of Ireland was also arousing increasing hostility because of the contentious issue of tithes. Tithes were an important factor in agitation in the 1760s associated with the Hearts of Oak (drawing support from Presbyterians, Anglicans and Catholics) in Ulster, and the Whiteboys (mainly Catholics) in Munster. Draconian legislation was introduced in 1776, and in that year 20 Whiteboys were executed, some of them on the orders of magistrates who were also clergy of the Church of Ireland.

That was the year of the American Revolution, and it saw the growth of the Volunteer movement, aimed on the one-hand at controlling the Whiteboys and on the other at replacing the soldiers withdrawn from Ireland to fight in America.

The next wave of agrarian unrest came with the Rightboys in the 1780s. Curiously, by now some of the gentry realised that release from the burden of tithes would quieten their tenants, and also leave them to pay their rents more easily. This challenge provoked a famous response from Richard Woodward, Bishop of Cloyne, who warned in 1786 that if the existing established church were overturned, the state would soon share its fate.

But the Roman Catholic Church was gaining in confidence, and Catholics were gaining in the extension of liberties by a government anxious to secure their loyalty, particularly in the face of threats from revolutionary France. Catholics were admitted to the legal profession in 1792, allowed to take degrees at Trinity College Dublin, in certain circumstances even allowed to bear arms or to become army officers – between 1793 and 1815 about 200,000 Irish recruits, the vast majority of them Roman Catholics, entered the British army and navy. And the franchise was extended to a limited number of Roman Catholics.

The government was worried that continuing clerical training in France would provide a new generation of revolutionary priests – those who were trained in France at the time of the French Revolution included Father John Murphy of Boolavogue. And so, in 1795, the same year as the formation of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland, Maynooth was founded with government funding as the Royal College of Saint Patrick.

Despite the popular image of a rising led by Presbyterians in the north-east in 1798 and by Catholic priests like John Murphy in the south-east, many of the leading members of the United Irishmen and their sympathisers were prominent members of the Church of Ireland, often finding inspiration for their revolutionary ideals in their religious beliefs and maintaining close links with church life.

Among the founding members of the United Irishmen in 1791 were Thomas Russell, Theobald Wolfe Tone and Simon Butler, all active and pious members of the Church of Ireland. After the society was proscribed, Russell, Tone and others climbed Cave Hill outside Belfast in June 1795, and solemnly swore not to desist in their efforts until Ireland had asserted its independence.

Prominent among the United Irishmen in 1798 was Lord Edward FitzGerald (1763-1798), whose uncles and cousins included a Bishop of Cork, an Archdeacon of Ross, and a Rector of the famous Shandon church in Cork. The brothers Henry Sheares (1755-1798) and John Sheares (1766-1798), were the most noticeable of United Irishmen among the parishioners of Saint Michan’s, Dublin – both were hanged publicly on 14 July 1798.

Other leading United Irishmen with intimate church links included Wolfe Tone, who married the granddaughter of a clergyman; Beauchamp Bagenal Harvey, commander of the Wexford rebel forces, who was the grandson of two and the nephew of a third clergyman in the Diocese of Ferns; and Cornelius Grogan, a conscientious patron of the Parish of Ardamine and churchwarden of Rathaspeck, both in Co Wexford. As Grogan went to his death on Wexford Bridge, accompanied by the Rector of Wexford, Archdeacon John Elgee, it is said (by the local historian, Nicky Furlong) that “the sailors of the Royal Navy who hanged him were amazed when … they heard him recite Protestant prayers.”

In the north-east, it is often forgotten that the hero and heroine of the Battle of Ballynahinch, Henry Monroe and Betsy Gray (if she ever existed as real historical character), were both members of the Church of Ireland.

Many of these laymen and women had been fired in their revolutionary zeal by their religious convictions, shaped and moulded in the Church of Ireland. Among those religious United Irishmen was Thomas Russell (1757-1803). Known in song and folklore as “the Man from God-knows-where,” Russell combined his revolutionary politics with a strong visionary brand of millenarianism and pious sacramentalism, and his knowledge of the Bible was so exact that he could argue with professional theologians on interpretations from both Hebrew and Greek.

By 1791, he had formed his lasting attachment to radical Christianity. Influenced by the recently published works of the Jesuit Pierre Francois Xavier de Charlevoix, Russell considered the comparatively beneficial system of government instituted by the Jesuits in Paraguay as “beyond compare the best, the happiest, that ever has been instituted.” On the other hand, he contended, tyranny had endeavoured to support itself “by perverting Christianity from its purposes and debasing its purity.”

Russell was arrested before the 1798 Rising began, and his writings in Newgate Prison, Dublin, exhibit a deep self-examination coupled with a strong personal faith:

O Lord God … it is not from thy justice
Before which I stand condemned
That I expect salvation,
But from thy mercy that I expect pardon and forgiveness,
My Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

When the 20 key surviving leaders of the Rising were deported to Scotland in 1799, ten (half) of them were members of the Church of Ireland, Russell among them. When he was eventually executed in 1803, it was after he had spent his last hours translating from his Greek New Testament verses from the Book of Revelation that summarised his politically beatific and visionary millenarianism: “And I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away” (Revelation 21: 1).

Russell was buried in the grounds of Downpatrick Cathedral. Henry Monroe, who shared so many of his ideals and who was executed three years earlier, is buried in a quiet corner of the churchyard at Lisburn Cathedral.

Biographical notes on some key figures:

1, John Wesley (1703-1791)

John Wesley preaching at his father’s grave

John Wesley was an Anglican priest and theologian who was an early leader in the Methodist movement. Methodism had three rises:

• At Oxford University with the founding of the so-called “Holy Club.”

• While Wesley was a parish priest in Savanah, Georgia.

• After Wesley’s return to England.

The movement took form from its third rise in the early 1740s with Wesley, along with others, itinerant field preaching and the subsequent founding of religious societies for the formation of believers. This was the first widely successful evangelical movement in Britain. Wesley’s Methodist Connection included societies throughout these islands before spreading to other parts of the English-speaking world and beyond.

Methodists, under Wesley’s direction, became leaders in many social justice issues of the day including prison reform and abolitionism movements.

Wesley’s strength as a theologian lay in his ability to combine seemingly opposing theological stances. His greatest theological achievement was his promotion of what he termed “Christian perfection,” or holiness of heart and life. Wesley insisted that in this life, the Christian could come to a state where the love of God, or perfect love, reigned supreme in one’s heart.

His theology, especially his understanding of perfection, was firmly grounded in his sacramental theology. He continually insisted on the general use of the means of grace (prayer, Scripture, meditation, Holy Communion, &c), as the means by which God transformed the believer. Throughout his life, Wesley remained within the Church of England and insisted that his movement was well within the bounds of Anglicanism.

Wesley was born in Epworth Rectory, 37 km north-west of Lincoln, the fifteenth child of the Revd Samuel Wesley, a Church of England priest, and his wife Susanna Annesley. At the age of five, John was rescued from the burning rectory. This escape made a deep impression on his mind; and he regarded himself as providentially set apart, as a “brand plucked from the burning.”

He was ordained a deacon in 1725, was elected a fellow of Lincoln College Oxford the following year, and received his MA in 1727. He was his father’s curate for two years, and then returned to Oxford to fulfil his functions as a fellow.

Leading Wesley scholars point to 1725 as the date of Wesley’s conversion. In the year of his ordination he read and began to seek the religious truths which underlay the great revival of the 18th century. He said the reading of Christian Perfection and Serious Call by the mystic and Nonjuror William Law (1686-1761) gave him a more sublime view of the law of God; and he resolved to keep it, inwardly and outwardly, as sacredly as possible.

The year of his return to Oxford, 1729, marks the beginning of the rise of Methodism. The famous “Holy Club” was formed by John Wesley’s younger brother, Charles Wesley, and some fellow students, derisively called “Methodists” because of their methodical habits.

John Wesley left in 1735 for Savannah, Georgia. In the midst of a devastating storm on the way to Georgia, he was deeply impressed by a group of Moravians who remained calm by singing hymns. In Georgia, he built up a positive relationship with the Moravians. Some of the charges brought against him in Georgia were on account of his unusual liturgical “experiments.” A Journal entry in 1735 reports that he spent three hours “revising” The Book of Common Prayer. This indicates that Wesley’s intense reading of the Church Fathers and writers from the Eastern Orthodox Church influenced his approaches and baffled those who knew him.

But in Georgia, he had an unhappy love affair, which culminated in John's refusal to serve communion to his prospective wife and her husband. Her husband charged John with slander for disgracing his wife's honour. He returned to England in 1738, depressed and beaten.

It was at this point that he turned once again to the Moravians. After his Aldersgate experience of 24 May 1738, at a Moravian meeting in Aldersgate Street, London, when he heard a reading of Luther’s Preface to the Epistle to the Romans, he penned the now famous lines: “I felt my heart strangely warmed.” This revolutionised the character and method of his ministry.

Soon Wesley found most of the parish churches were closed to him, and he preached his first open-air sermon near Bristol in April 1739. Later that year, he formed his first Methodist Society. Similar societies were soon formed in Bristol and Kingswood, and wherever Wesley and his friends made converts.

Wesley and the Methodists were attacked in sermons and in print and at times attacked by mobs.

As early as 1739, he approved of lay preaching and pastoral work, and his first chapel was built that year in Bristol.

As his societies multiplied, and the elements of an ecclesiastical system were gradually adopted, the breach between Wesley and the Church of England widened. But the Wesley brothers refused to leave the Church of England, believing the Anglican Church to be “with all her blemishes … nearer the Scriptural plan than any other in Europe.”

In 1746, he read Lord King on the Primitive Church, and was convinced by this that apostolic succession was a fiction, that in fact that he was “a scriptural episcopos as much as any man in England.” Some years later, Stillingfleet’s Irenicon led him to renounce the opinion that neither Christ nor his apostles prescribed any form of Church government, and to declare ordination valid when performed by a presbyter/priest. It was not until about 40 years later that he ordained by the laying on of hands, and even then only for those who would work outside England.

The Bishop of London continued to refuse to ordain a minister for the American Methodists who were without the sacraments, and so in 1784 Wesley ordained preachers for Scotland and America, with power to administer the sacraments. Although Thomas Coke was already a priest in the Church of England, Wesley consecrated him, by the laying on of hands, to be superintendent in America. He also ordained Richard Whatcoat and Thomas Vasey as priests.

Wesley intended that Coke, and Asbury (who was subsequently consecrated in America by Coke) should ordain others in the newly founded Methodist Episcopal Church. This alarmed his brother Charles Wesley, who begged him to stop before he had “quite broken down the bridge,” and not “leave an indelible blot on our memory.” Wesley replied that he had not separated from the Church, nor did he intend to, but he must and would save as many souls as he could while alive, “without being careful about what may possibly be when I die.”

Although he rejoiced that the Methodists in America were free, he advised his English followers to remain in the Church of England, and he himself died within it.

He died peacefully on 2 March 1791, and is buried in a small graveyard behind Wesley’s Chapel in City Road, London. Wesley is listed as Number 50 on the BBC’s list of the 100 Greatest Britons.

2, Samuel Seabury (1729-1796):

A window in Old Saint Paul’s Church, Edinburgh, commemorating the consecration of Samuel Seabury as a bishop

Samuel Seabury was the first American Episcopal bishop, the second Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church in the US, and the first Bishop of Connecticut.

Seabury was born in Ledyard, Groton, Connecticut, in 1729. His father, also Samuel Seabury (1706-1764), was originally a Congregationalist minister in Groton, but was ordained deacon and priest in the Church of England in 1731, in 1731, and was the Rector of New London, Connecticut, from 1732 to 1743, and in Hempstead, Long Island, from 1743 until his death.

Samuel Seabury (the son) graduated from Yale in 1748. He studied theology with his father, and studied medicine in Edinburgh (1752-1753). He was ordained deacon by the Bishop of Lincoln and priest by the Bishop of Carlisle (1753). He was the Rector of Christ Church in New Brunswick, New Jersey (1754-1757), Rector of Jamaica, New York (1757-1766), and of Rector of Saint Peter’s, Westchester (now part of the Bronx) (1766-1775).

He was one of the signers of the White Plains protest in April 1775 against all unlawful congresses and committees, and during the American Revolution was a devoted loyalist. He wrote the Free Thoughts on the Proceedings of the Continental Congress (1774) by A.W. Farmer (i.e. A Westchester Farmer). This was followed by a second Farmer’s Letter, The Congress Canvassed (1774), answered by Alexander Hamilton in A Full Vindication of the Measures of the Congress, from the Calumnies of their Enemies. A third Farmer’s Letter replied to Hamilton’s View of the Controversy between Great Britain and her Colonies, in a broader and abler treatment than in the previous pamphlets. To this third pamphlet Hamilton replied with The Farmer Refuted (1775).

These three Farmer’s Letters – a fourth was advertised but apparently was never published – were forceful presentations of the pro-British claim, written in a plain, hard-headed style. Seabury claimed them in England in 1783 when he was seeking episcopal consecration. At the same time he claimed the authorship of a letter, not signed by a Westchester farmer, which under the title An Alarm to the Legislature of the Province of New York (1775) discussed the power of this, the only legal political body in the colony. Seabury’s clarity of style and general ease of reading would set him apart from his ecclesiastical colleagues throughout his life.

Seabury was arrested in November 1775 by a mob of Whigs, and was kept in prison in Connecticut for six weeks. He was prevented from carrying out his parochial ministry, and after some time in Long Island he took refuge in New York City, where in 1778 he was appointed chaplain to the King’s American Regiment.

On 25 March 1783, a meeting of 10 Episcopal clergy in Woodbury, Connecticut, elected Seabury bishop as their second choice (their first choice declined for health reasons). There were no Anglican bishops in the Americas to consecrate him, so he sailed to London on 7 July.

In England, however, his consecration was rationalised as impossible because, as an American citizen, he could no longer take the oath of allegiance to monarchy.

Seabury then turned to the nonjuring Scottish Episcopal Church, whose bishops at that time refused to recognise the authority of George III. Seabury was consecrated in Aberdeen on 14 November 1784, with the condition that he would study the Scottish Rite for the Holy Communion and work for its adoption rather than the English rite of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer.

To the present day, the ECUSA/TEC liturgy follows to the main features of the Scottish Episcopalian rite in one of its Eucharistic liturgies.

The anniversary of Seabury’s consecration is now a lesser feast day in the calendars of both ECUSA/TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada.

Seabury’s consecration by the Scots caused alarm in the (Whig) British government, raising fears of an entirely Jacobite church in the US. Parliament was persuaded to make provision for the consecration of foreign bishops. Seabury’s tenacity made possible a continued relationship between the American and English churches.

Seabury returned to Connecticut in 1785 and made his home in New London, Connecticut, where he was the Rector of Saint James’ Church. At first, the validity of his consecration was questioned by some, but it was recognised by the General Convention of his church in 1789.

In 1790, Seabury took charge of the Diocese of Rhode Island also. In 1792, he joined Bishop William White and Bishop Samuel Provoost, who had received English consecration in 1787, and James Madison (1749-1812), who had received English consecration in 1790, in the consecration of Thomas John Claggett as Bishop of Maryland in 1792, thus uniting the Scottish and the English successions.

Seabury played a decisive role in the evolution of Anglican liturgy in North America after the Revolution. His Communion Office (New London, 1786), was based on the Scottish Book of Common Prayer rather than the 1662 Book of Common Prayer of the Church of England. Seabury was the probably the only liturgically literate member of the House of Bishops in his day.

Seabury kept strictly his obligation to the Scots to study and quietly advocate their point of view in Eucharistic matters. His defence of the Scottish service – especially its restoration of the epiclesis or invocation of the Holy Spirit, influenced the first Book of Common Prayer adopted by the Episcopal Church in 1789. The Prayer of Consecration in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer of the Church of England ended with the Words of Institution. But the Scottish Rite continued with a Prayer of Oblation based on the ancient classical models of Consecration Prayers found in Roman and Orthodox Christianity.

In addition to the epiclesis, Seabury argued for the restoration of another ancient custom – the weekly celebration of Holy Communion on Sundays. In An Earnest Persuasive to Frequent Communion (New Haven, 1789), he wrote that “when I consider its importance, both on account of the positive command of Christ, and of the many and great benefits we receive from it, I cannot but regret that it does not make a part of every Sunday’s solemnity.”

Seabury was ahead of his time. Two centuries later the custom of a weekly Eucharist was rapidly spreading through many Anglican parishes under the impact of the Liturgical Movement.

Seabury died in New London on 25 February 1796, and he was buried in a small chapel at Saint James’.

3, Theobald Wolfe Tone (1763-1798):

Edward Delaney’s statue in Saint Stephen’s Green, Dublin, of Theobald Wolfe Tone (1763-1798), a leading United Irishman and a member of the Church of Ireland.

Theobald Wolfe Tone was a leading figure in the United Irishmen and is regarded as the father of Irish republicans. He died from a self-inflicted wound after being sentenced to death for his part in the 1798 Rising.

He was born in Dublin in 1763, the son of a coach-maker who was a member of the Church of Ireland. He studied law at Trinity College Dublin and qualified as a barrister from the King’s Inns at the age of 26, and attended the Inns of Court in London. As a student, he eloped with Elizabeth Witherington, daughter of William Witherington, of Dublin, and his wife, Catherine Fanning, and they were married in Saint Ann’s Church, Dawson Street, Dublin. Tone and his wife, whom he renamed Matilda, he had two sons and a daughter. She was only 16 when they married, and she lived on for 50 years after his death.

Tone submitted a scheme for founding a military colony in Hawaii, but the Prime Minister, William Pitt the Younger, took no notice of it. Tone then turned to politics. An able pamphlet attacking the administration of the Marquess of Buckingham in 1790 brought him to the notice of the Whig Club, and in September 1791 he wrote an essay using the pseudonym of “A Northern Whig,” of which 10,000 copies were said to have been sold.

About this time, the principles of the French Revolution were being eagerly embraced in Ireland. At a meeting in Belfast two months before Tone’s essay was published, a resolution was passed calling for the abolition of religious disqualifications, “giving the first sign of political sympathy between the Roman Catholics and the Protestant Whigs.” Tone’s essay and that meeting emphasised the growing breach between Whig patriots like Henry Flood and Henry Grattan, who aimed at Catholic Emancipation and parliamentary reform without breaking the connection with England, and those who sought a separate Irish Republic.

In October 1791, Tone, Thomas Russell (1767-1803) and James Napper Tandy – all three members of the Church of Ireland – and others joined in founding the Society of United Irishmen. In the years that followed, Tone worked closely in his plans for revolution with a Church of England priest, the Revd William Jackson, who came to Ireland to negotiate between the French Committee of Public Safety and the United Irishmen, but Jackson was arrested in April 1794. In May 1795, on the summit of Cave Hill in Belfast, Tone made the famous compact with Russell and Henry Joy McCracken, promising “Never to desist in our efforts until we subvert the authority of England over our country and asserted our independence.”

Tone was arrested on board the Hoche by an English squadron at Rathmullan on Lough Swilly on 12 October 1798. He was sentenced to be hanged on 12 November 1798. Before this sentence was carried out, he suffered a fatal neck wound, self-inflicted according to contemporaries, from which he died a week later at the age of 35 in prison in Dublin. He is buried in the former Church of Ireland churchyard in Bodenstown, Co Kildare.


10.1, Why did the Reformation fail?

10.2, The Boyne and the Penal Laws

10.3, Disestablishment and the Ultramontane triumph

Field-trip: Agreeing date for field trip to Kilkenny.

Canon Patrick Comerford is Lecturer in Anglicanism, Liturgy and Church History, the Church of Ireland Theological Institute and an Adjunct Assistant Professor, Trinity College Dublin. This lecture on 22 February 2013 was part of the Church History Elective (TH 7864) on the MTh course, Year I.