Monastic Ireland.

Letter from Stephen of Lexington to the Abbot of Furness (Letter 15)

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 15

To the Abbot of Furness, greetings.

If we endure labours and sorrows and indeed dangers every day without interruption for you and for all others who have been allotted daughter-houses in Ireland, you would think, we undoubtedly believe, that we deserve your complete sympathy and that you would show greater care and diligence concerning the house entrusted to you; for in your interest and for our own peace of mind, we deliver ourselves every day into the hands of our mortal enemies for your glory, labouring and spreading the seed of the Lord, but you have entered into our labours and freely reap and receive what we sow. For this reason, we hoped you would see that we were well supplied with provisions and in numbers of persons for the assistance for your house, as was enjoined on you by the General Chapter and as you promised us in your letter, and also that you would apply yourself, in respect of your devotion for one another which is still just beginning, to develop this into greater reverence and finally into love by the performance of good works.
Therefore, as we have deferred to you so far in all things which concern the present matter in so far as we can in accordance with the Lord, and are still prepared to defer to you, we bring ourselves with all the insistence we are capable of to request, to admonish, and advise Your Paternity, for the sake of God and in respect of the Order, keeping in mind the responsibility enjoined upon you by the General Chapter and agreed to by us, to make adequate provision for your aforesaid daughter-house both in temporalities and in spiritualties in accordance with what is enjoined upon you, as stated in those binding letters. For while we are of the view that you come before the rest in this regard, still the lord abbot of Margam comes before you all, and many others should follow his example, for even when his house was sorely harassed by enemies in his region, he not only exposed all his own concerns out of regard for the present matter but also gave himself up to danger by coming with us into Ireland, and he ordered his adopted daughter-house in accordance with our judgement and provided abundantly for it in people and in other ways. Therefore, as you hold a position in no way inferior to his, we beseech you humbly and devoutly in the Lord Jesus, advising and warning and, if necessary, enjoining upon you by the authority of the General Chapter, that being at least stimulated by his example, you engage yourself to supply in future an abundance of those things for the advancement of your daughter-house for which up till now you have provided almost nothing, so that God will deservedly reward you and the General Chapter will bestow very abundant thanksgiving on you, and we will not have good cause to complain about you.
You should not be surprised that we did not apply ourselves to expel the Irish, as some considered we would do, because this would be completely against your interests and that of the Order. For it is necessary that we eradicate them little by little and by stages lest perchance the beasts of the field increase in number against us; by beasts of the field I mean these bestial men who, having increased in number in the open in the fields and mountains, would drive away and destroy everything without distinction in revenge for their people. But we have passed on that which we cannot include in the brevity of a letter to the bearer of this letter, Brother A., monk of Fountains, to report to you in person; give complete trust to him in everything, as if to us.


Recall to mind that this is already the fourth time we have written to you about this. Therefore, we beg you, if you wish to retain your aforesaid daughter-house in your possession, send quickly one of your monks to us, a humble, calm, kindly, wise and discreet man, whom we can make abbot in the aforesaid house, and who knows how to conform to the customs of so fierce a people and to seek the support of Lord Richard de Burgh, Justiciar of Ireland. For we will not prescribe anything else for the aforesaid house until we have received your reply. Therefore, if it pleases you, do not delay in letting us have your reply in order that we can know what to write to the General Chapter in this instance. Know also that, together with a number of abbots and reliable and discreet men, we went to the house of Holy Cross and having made a careful investigation we found that the house has thirty ploughlands and a valuation of some forty and even more; whence, acting on their advice and with the authority of the General Chapter, we decided that it should continue as a monastery and we have appointed an abbot there.

Stephen of Lexington, Letters from Ireland 1228 - 1229, translated and with an introduction by Barry W. O'Dwyer (Cistercian Publications Inc., Kalamazoo, Michigan) pp. 34 - 36
These extracts are reproduced with the kind permission of Liturgical Press:

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