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might fatten on the substance of the unfortunate. Tremble, for fear that the day of reason will arrive!*
An abbey is a religious community governed by an abbot or an abbess.
This word abbot,—abbas in Latin and Greek, abba in Chaldee and Syriac, came from the Hebrew ab, meaning father. The Jewish doctors took this title through pride; therefore Jesus said to his disciples,† "Call no one your father upon the earth, for one is your fa
ther who is in heaven."
Although St. Jerome was much enraged against the monks of his time, who, in spite of our Lord's command, gave or received the title of abbot, the sixth council of Paris || decided, that if abbots are spiritual fathers and beget spiritual sons for the Lord, it is with reason that they are called abbots.
According to this decree, if any one deserved this appellation, it belonged most assuredly to St. Benedict, who, in the year 529, founded on Mount Cassino in the kingdom of Naples, that society so eminent for wisdom and discretion, and so grave in their speech and in their style. These are the terms used by Pope St. Gregory, who does not fail to mention the singular privilege which it pleased God to grant to this holy founder that all Benedictines who die on Mount Cassino are saved. It is not, then, surprising that these monks reckon sixteen thousand canonized saints of their order. The Benedictine sisters even assert, that they are warned of their approaching dissolution by some nocturnal noise, which they call the knocks of St. Benedict.
It may well be supposed that this holy abbot did not
* Messieurs les abbés despised this and every other warningyet the day of reason arrived.-TRANSLATOR.
+ Matthew, chap. xxiii, verse 9.
Book 2, on the Epistle to the Galatians.
§ Dialogues, Book 2, chap. 8.
forget himself when begging the salvation of his disciples. Accordingly, on the 21st of March, 543, the eve of Passion-Sunday, which was the day of his death, two monks, one of them in the monastery, the other at a distance from it, had the same vision. They saw a long road covered with carpets and lighted by an infinite number of torches, extending eastward from the monastery to heaven. A venerable personage appeared, and asked them for whom this road was made. They said, they did not know. It is that, rejoined he, by which Benedict, the well-beloved of God, has ascended into heaven.
An order in which salvation was so well secured, soon extended itself into other states, whose sovereigns allowed themselves to be persuaded* that, to be sure of a place in Paradise, it was only necessary to make themselves a friend in it, and that by donations to the churches they might atone for the most crying injustices and the most enormous crimes.
Confining ourselves to France, we read in the Exploits of King Dagobert (Gestes du Roi Dagobert) the founder of the abbey of St. Denis near Paris, that this prince, after his death, was condemned by the judgment of God, and that a hermit named John, who dwelt on the coast of Italy, saw his soul chained in a boat and beaten by devils, who were taking him towards Sicily to throw him into the fiery mouth of Etna; but that, all at once, St. Denis appeared on a luminous globe, preceded by thunder and lightning, and, having put the evil spirits to flight and rescued the poor soul from the clutches of the most cruel, bore it to heaven in triumph.
Charles Martel, on the contrary, was damned, body and soul, for having rewarded his captains by giving them abbeys. These, though laymen, bore the title of abbot, as married women have since borne that of abbess, and had convents of females. A holy bishop of Lyons, named Eucher, being at prayer, had the follow
* Mezerai, vol. 1, page 225.
ing vision he thought that he was led by an angel into hell, where he saw Charles Martel, who, the angel informed him, had been condemned to everlasting flames by the saints whose churches he had despoiled. St. Eucher wrote an account of this revelation to Boniface, bishop of Mayence, and to Fulrad, grand-chaplain to Pepin-le-bref, praying them to open the tomb of Charles Martel and see if his body were there. The tomb was opened; the interior of it bore marks of fire, but nothing was found in it except a great serpent which issued forth with a cloud of offensive smoke.
Boniface was so kind as to write to Pepin-le-bref and to Carloman all these particulars relative to the damnation of their father; and when, in 858, Louis of Germany seized some ecclesiastical property, the bishops of the assembly of Créci reminded him, in a letter, of all the particulars of this terrible story, adding that they had them from aged men, on whose word they could rely, and who had been eye-witnesses of the whole.
St. Bernard, first abbot of Clairvaux, in 1115, had likewise had it revealed to him that all who received the monastic habit from his hand should be saved. Nevertheless, Pope Urban II., having, in a bull dated 1092, given to the abbey of Mount Cassino the title of chief of all monasteries, because from that spot the venerable religion of the monastic order had flowed from the bosom of Benedict as from a celestial spring, the emperor Lothario confirmed this prerogative by a charter of the year 1137, which gave to the monastery of Mount Cassino the pre-eminence in power and glory over all the monasteries which were or might be founded throughout the world, and called upon all the abbots and monks in Christendom to honour and reverence it.
Paschal II. in a bull of the year 1113, addressed to the abbot of Mount Cassino, expresses himself thus :--"We decree that you, as likewise all your successors, shall, as being superior to all abbots, be allowed to sit in every assembly of bishops or princes; and that in all judgments you shall give your opinion before any
* Mezerai, vol. 1, page 352.
other of your order." The abbot of Cluni having also dared to call himself the abbot of abbots, the Pope's chancellor decided, in a council held at Rome in 1116, that this distinction belonged to the abbot of Mount Cassino; he of Cluni contented himself with the title of cardinal abbot, which he afterwards obtained from Calixtus II. and which the abbot of The Trinity of Vendôme and some others have since assumed.
Pope John XX. in 1326, granted to the abbot of Mount Cassino the title of Bishop, and he continued to discharge the episcopal functions until 1367; but Urban V. having then thought proper to deprive him of that dignity, he now simply entitles himself Patriarch of the holy religion, Abbot of the holy monastery of Mount Cassino, Chancellor and Grand Chaplain of the Holy Roman Empire, Abbot of Abbots, Chief of the Benedictine Hierarchy, Chancellor Collateral of the Kingdom of Sicily, Count and Governor of the Campagna and of the maritime province, Prince of Peace.
He lives, with a part of his officers, at San-Germano, a little town at the foot of Mount Cassino, in a spacious house, where all passengers, from the Pope down to the meanest beggar, are received, lodged, fed, and treated according to their rank. The abbot each day visits all his guests, who sometimes amount to three hundred. In 1538, St. Ignatius shared his hospitality, but he was lodged in a house on Mount Cassino, six hundred paces west of the abbey. There he composed his celebrated Institute; whence a Dominican, in a work entitled The Turtle-dove of the Soul, says, "Ignatius dwelt for twelve months on this mountain of contemplation, and like another Moses, framed those second tables of religious law which are inferior in nothing to the first."
Truly, this founder of the Jesuits was not received by the Benedictines with that complaisance which St. Benedict, on his arrival at Mount Cassino, had found in St. Martin the hermit, who gave up to him the place in his possession, and retired to Mount Marsica, near Carniola. On the contrary, the Benedictine Ambrose Cajeta, in a voluminous work written for the purpose,
has endeavoured to trace the origin of the Jesuits to the order of St. Benedict.
The laxity of manners which has always prevailed in the world, even among the clergy, induced St. Basil, so early as the fourth century, to adopt the idea of assembling in one community the solitaries who had fled into desarts to follow the law: but, as will be elsewhere seen, even the regulars have not always been regular. As for the secular clergy, let us see what St. Cyprian* says of them, even from the third century— "Many bishops, instead of exhorting and setting an example to others, neglected the affairs of God, busied themselves with temporal concerns, quitted their pulpits, abandoned their flocks, and travelled in other provinces in order to attend fairs and enrich themselves by traffic; they succoured not their brethren who were dying of hunger; they sought only to amass heaps of money, to gain possession of lands by unjust artifices, and to make immense profits by usury.'
Charlemagne, in a digest of what he intended to propose to the parliament of 811, thus expresses himself:"We wish to know the duties of ecclesiastics, in order that we may not ask of them what they are not permitted to give, and that they may not demand of us what we ought not to grant. We beg of them to explain to us clearly what they call quitting the world, and by what those who quit it may be distinguished from those who remain in it;—if it is only by their not bearing arms and not being married in public;—if that man has quitted the world who continues to add to his possessions by means of every sort, preaching Paradise and threatening with damnation; employing the name of God or of some saint to persuade the simple to strip themselves of their property, thus entailing want upon their lawful heirs, who therefore think themselves justified in committing theft and pillage;-if to quit the world is, to carry the passion of covetousness to such a length as to bribe false witnesses in order to obtain what belongs to ano
* De Lapsis.