6. Letters from Stephen of Lexington to the King and Queen of Thomond (Letters 92 and 93)
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
To the noble King of Thomond [Donnchad Cairbrech O Briain – translator’s note], and his illustrious queen, greeting.
We protest as strongly as we can to God and to you as special friends of the Order the injustices and the shame inflicted to the great God, the holy Church and the Order through Brother T., monk of Maigue, your nephew, but a degenerate, and some other four monk-associates of his in the house of Maigue. We have excommunicated all of them with the authority of God and the Order, and we denounce the excommunicates to you on account of their manifest conspiracies and detestable schisms. In addition, we ask you as friends of the Order, for the love of God and the salvation of your souls, to take the aforesaid Monk T. captive wherever he can be found as a schismatic…[the following two or three words following in the manuscript are illegible – translator’s note] and a rebel even to the royal mandate which we have on behalf of the Order in Ireland, and when captured subject him to imprisonment and bind him with chains until he is freed by the General Chapter, doing this much that you may receive esteem, thanks, praise and honour before God and men and the whole Order, and you may deserve on this account to be a participant in all the prayers offered within our Order.
Again the same.
The abbots of Maigue and Owney and Brother Vincent, Cistercian monk, have come to us and have supplicated humbly, devoutly and with every prayerful insistence on behalf of you and your noble wife the queen that we receive into Maigue freely and without censure of religion the monks and lay-brothers of that monastery who rebelled in an astounding and unheard-of manner against God and the Order and the holy Church, making a fortress of the church in defiance of all the decrees and canons of the whole Church and the institutes of our Order. Since such a terrible and serious act has reached the hearing of all the inhabitants of Ireland and has even, as we understand, already caused concern to the king of England, and since in addition the news of it has already been spread abroad throughout the kingdom of England and of France, we point out to Your Nobility that we ought not and would not grant the petition of yourself or of the before-mentioned persons acting on your behalf who have come to us, because, since the honour of a king loves equity, if we were to implement your petitions against the law of equity, we would be the cause of great insult and shame to your Excellency and, what is worse, to the divine majesty, and we would incur the grave disfavour of the whole Order and the General Chapter whom we represent in this regard.
Therefore, we devoutly beseech you and we helpfully trust that if you desire the honour and reformation of the monks of Ireland, you will not permit any disturbance at all to be directed to the house of Maigue, to any member of the house, or to the monastery of Odorney, and you will not allow any harm to befall any other house, knowing for certain that there is no way in which the monks of Ireland can be more harmed than if the aforesaid houses or persons are vexed in anything. Venerable Lord, we beseech you not to be deceived by the monks and lay-brothers sent away from Maigue, whom we have deservedly excommunicated as schismatics and apostates by the authority of God and the whole Order and of the General Chapter; we have heard they are saying that no-one can excommunicate them, but the outcome of the matter proves the contrary. For the honour and safety of you and yours, you should patiently await the arrival of other visitors. But, for your sake and reverence, we kindly grant that they can deal more mercifully with them, providing they see that they honestly admit their crime and humbly confess with sincere repentance, without pride or threats. We point out to you in the truth of Jesus Christ that this is the more secure and helpful counsel for your honour and for their advantage, because not even out of fear for our own death or that of anyone else or for the burning of monasteries, could we in haste change the sentence for so heinous an act. And know without doubt that unless the Abbot of Maigue and his people live in peace, we shall cause the monastery with all its possessions and appurtenances to be acquired by exchange with the lord king or with some other ruler in the coming summer.
Stephen of Lexington, Letters from Ireland 1228 - 1229, translated and with an introduction by Barry W. O'Dwyer (Cistercian Publications Inc., Kalamazoo, Michigan) pp. 192 - 193
These extracts are reproduced with the kind permission of Liturgical Press: www.cistercianpublications.org
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