Monastic Ireland.

Letter from Stephen of Lexington to the Community of Suir (Letter 61)

Extract from Stephen of Lexington, Letters from Ireland 1228 - 1229 (translated and with an introduction by Barry W. O'Dwyer), Cistercian Publications Inc., Kalamazoo, Michigan, 1982

Letter 61

To the Community of Suir, greetings.

Wounded inwardly by great sorrow of heart and deep regrets, we are not a little dismayed that the foundation which our holy fathers most devoutly planted for the spreading of divine service and salvation of souls has been turned, we saw sorrowfully, into the scorn of seculars, the reproach of clerics, the talk of the world, and the ruin of the Order. Who therefore will give water to our head and a fountain of tears to our eyes that we mourn not only the desiccation but also the sterility of the vine of the saints, which once put forth leaves, bloomed and produced a copious supply of good fruits? In what way has the gold of holy religious life been darkened, to what has changed the colour of illustrious estimation, and why are the stones of the sanctuary scattered through the woodland and glade? Return, we beg you, return, most dearly beloved brothers and sons of God, and learn that true wisdom dwells in the fear of God and in the marriage-bed of holy obedience. Brothers, consider a little more deeply how dangerously foolish is he who does not fear to rebel against the ordinances of the Order, disregarding the fear of God. Whatever has been done among you so far without prudence and without reverence, for all that, as God is our witness, we desire with kindly piety, in a spirit of gentleness, to take care of and provide for you as brothers in so far as we can and ought.
Therefore, learn discipline lest at any time the Lord rage in his anger and you perish utterly from the just way. This we admonish, that we beg, and we firmly entreat you in the Holy Spirit with all the authority of which we are capable to act so obediently, humbly, and reverently to the Order in these matters in future, and so to restrain the wickedness of those lacking in prudence, that the sincerity of your devotion and the labour of humble solicitude may shine through the result. For the house of Mellifont, and all the others who have already had their eyes opened by their misfortune, are there giving all their attention so that in as much as by their insolent obedience they saddened their mother, the Cistercian Order, and the Church of God, so to that extent they are striving to edify and to make joyful by their humble and ready repentance. May the kind and merciful Lord, who alone can, likewise achieve the same result without your community. Therefore, if you are agreeable in Christ to obey the Order in future, which we firmly believe, write in reply to us through the bearer of this letter, sending two of the more senior members of your house so that we can have very careful and full consultation with them concerning the condition of the same. Farewell.

Stephen of Lexington, Letters from Ireland 1228 - 1229, translated and with an introduction by Barry W. O'Dwyer (Cistercian Publications Inc., Kalamazoo, Michigan) pg. 122 - 123
These extracts are reproduced with the kind permission of Liturgical Press:

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