Monastic Ireland.

Letter from Stephen of Lexington to the Abbot and Community of Tracton (Letter 42)

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 42

To the Abbot and Community of Tracton, greetings.

We strictly command you by virtue of the obedience which is owing to the Order and the General Chapter to receive kindly that devout man and praiseworthy religious, Brother W., who has lived for quite a long time in the house of Bective, and he is to remain with you in perpetuity as in his own house notwithstanding any prohibition of the father-abbot or anyone else, and having once received him you will kindly deal with him all the days of his life.
In addition, on the above-mentioned authority under penalty of disposition or expulsion, we prohibit you from ever receiving anyone as a monk unless he knows how to confess his faults in French or Latin. We do not intend with this decree to exclude any people, whether English, Scots, Welsh or Irish, but only persons who are unsuitable for and completely unproductive to the Order. For how can anyone love the Order or observe the seriousness of the silence or the discipline of the cloister who does not know how to find any consolation at all in the Scriptures, or to meditate even a little on the law of God either by day or by night?
Further, we strictly decree under the same penalty that the Rule, which ought to be uniformly expounded and observed by everyone, is to be expounded only in French in future so that the disorderly cannot hide themselves when visitors come with the authority of the General Chapter or of our venerable motherhouse at Clairvaux, but all will understand and will be understood by all; this will make it possible for faults to be dealt with properly and ignorant persons beneficially instructed, for otherwise the aforesaid visitors will waste their time building a tower of Babel in the confusion of languages where one seeks in his own language for bread and the other in his own idiom offers him a scorpion in place of bread. No-one could estimate how many evils have arisen from this, and how many disorders remain unpunished under such circumstances. Furthermore, if a monk or lay-brother commits a fault which merits his being sent out or expelled, in no instance will he be transferred to another house in Ireland but to a house of another realm where he may be properly provided for and may learn discipline. For he cannot be disciplined in accordance with his needs in the aforesaid realm when either provisions are completely lacking or where houses are overwhelmed by an abundance of debts.


Stephen of Lexington, Letters from Ireland 1228 - 1229, translated and with an introduction by Barry W. O'Dwyer (Cistercian Publications Inc., Kalamazoo, Michigan) pp. 91 - 92
These extracts are reproduced with the kind permission of Liturgical Press:

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