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SAINTS AND SINNERS;
IN CHURCH AND ABOUT IT.
STYLE AT HOME.
THE primitive people eminent for rank and piety
who thought that nastiness was a mark of sanctity, set a fashion which very few would follow. The hirsute St. Angus, perspiring and unwashed, worked for years in his barn, till scattered grain took root and grew on his hairy carcase. As holy men as he shook their heads as they passed him, and gave him a wide berth. St. Etheldreda, all royal as she was, never knew water outwardly after she took the veil. “Never mind,” said St. Romnald," she keeps her heart clean, and that is washing enough.” Other people did not see it: St. Patrick himself thought cleanliness next to godliness; but he had some practices about style which must have puzzled and amused some of his contemporaries.
In dealing, however, with details of the style maintained by holy men in former days, regard must be had to the real meaning of words and things. Thus
one is surprised to hear of St. Patrick having a coachman ; yet all readers of hagiography know that Foilge killed the saint's “coachman,” and that the devil has walked about in Foilge’s body ever since. . It is less known, perhaps, that St. Patrick's coachman was rather his horse—that is, the back of any one of his disciples who was strong and meritorious enough to carry him. Patrick loved to go a rattling pace in this fashion, and was not a merciful man to his beast.
Sure,” said the saint, on slipping off the back of one of his disciples, who panted so as to be unable to speak,
sure you have often carried me before without being out of breath. I never saw the like of you. What ails you, man ?” But the poor fellow had no breath to spend in words—hardly enough to keep life in him ; and Patrick was very near being as guilty as Foilge, whose body is the tabernacle of Satan.
For princely style, here and elsewhere, perhaps none exceeded the Benedictines. They were consequently popular, but they had not always possessed the public favour. When the regular Benedictines were established, A.D. 1022, in the monastery of St. Peter, in the city of Gloucester, the townsfolk welcomed them but roughly. Seven of the missionaries were killed in a brawl. The wise authorities did not hang the leader of the assassins, who was a wealthy noble, named Le Rue. They merely charged his estate with the maintenance of seven monks in the monastery! This step caused him to experience a longer-felt regret for his crime than if he had been hoisted at once to the gallows. Monastic Elegancies.
The Benedictines subsequently flourished Gloucester till A.D. 1412, when their last abbot, Froucester, died. The earlier brothers seem to have been as ignorant as the people among whom they dwelt. In course of time improvement ensued. Great changes were effected. The monastery was more than once rebuilt, and each time with increase of splendour. It was enriched by gifts, and was rendered magnificent by bequests. It had grand old fellows for abbots; men who were scholars and gentlemen. They were little princes in their own domains ; gorgeous in costume when occasion offered ; and not more particular as to table and cellar than was proper in the persons of well-endowed monastics who royally entertained monarchs, and gave cheerful entertainments, in a private sort of way, to the delighted brethren, my Lord Abbot in the chair! The Norman abbots particularly were wonderful adepts in combining great dignity with great powers for business and enjoyment. Nothing more charming can well be imagined than the quiet, prosperous, not useless nor godless, but thoroughly decent and agreeable lives of brethren like these Benedictines. The Gloucester fraternity formed a “club” just suited to the times; and the members resided during life in the best regulated of hotels, with nothing to pay save a little easy obedience to superiors. Among these superiors John of Wygmore holds a distinguished place. He was handsome, well-spoken, affable, liberal, greatly beloved, and hospitable. “He very often invited several of the brethren at a time to his own room, for recreation, and treated them with a variety of fare in eating and drinking.” “Retribuat Deus animæ ejus !” (“ May God pay it back to his soul !) exclaims his chronicler; and he clinches the pious wish with an emphatic “ Amen !”
In those old days an abbot was a princely person, especially reverenced and scrupulously obeyed. When he passed by, all inferior brethren rose and saluted their chief. At night it was no less a person than his own chaplain who carried the lantern before him. No one could walk by his side except to mass, and no man ever dared sit by the side of a lord abbot without invitation, except a Sovereign prince; and he who was invited to sit near him first bowed lowly, and then took his seat with the air of a man who thought the honour far beyond his merits. Whoever presented any object to the abbot, or received from him anything, always kissed his hand. In short, no king had more courteous allegiance paid him than a lord abbot in a great monastery. If an archbishop now were to order his chaplain to carry a lantern before him, the good man would be amazed, but an abbot's chaplain would have kissed his lord's hand and have ushered him with pride as being, or rather as bearing, a light upon his path.
The economy or house-regulation of an abbot was as stately as that of a bishop. Whatever self-denial there may have been in the cells, there was abounding