Tag Archives: revolution

8 August: the Revolt of the friars, Saint Dominic.

Fortified Gateway to Lincoln Cathedral.

Chesterton is discussing the impact of the friars mendicant upon the Church in Western Europe. A shock to the system that we can hardly comprehend when Franciscans and Dominicans are part of the establishment. We need to feel a measure of disconcert, a sense of our own lack of balance, before we can learn to get to our feet and move on. And who is afraid of Christ’s message today? Maybe we are, first of all.

It is highly pertinent to recall the modern revolutionists would now call the revolt of the French Jacobins insufficient, just as they would call the revolt of the Friars insufficient. They would say that neither went far enough; but many, in their own day, thought they went very much too far. In the case of the Friars, the higher orders of the State, and to some extent even of the Church, were profoundly shocked at such a loosening of wild popular preachers among the people. It is not at all easy for us to feel that distant events were thus disconcerting and even disreputable.

Revolutions turn into institutions; revolts that renew the youth of old societies in their turn grow old; and the past, which was full of new things, of splits and innovations and insurrections, seems to us a single texture of tradition. But if we wish for one fact that will make vivid this shock of change and challenge, and show how raw and ragged, how almost rowdy in its reckless novelty, how much of the gutter and how remote from refined life, this experiment of the Friars did really seem to many in its own day, there is here a very relevant fact to reveal it. It shows how much a settled and already ancient Christendom did feel it as something like the end of an age; and how the very roads of the earth seem to shake under the feet of the new and nameless army; the march of the Beggars. A mystic nursery rhyme suggests the atmosphere of such a crisis: “Hark, hark, the dogs do bark; the Beggars are coming to town.”

Roman City Gate, Lincoln.

There were many towns that almost fortified themselves against them and many watchdogs of property and rank did really bark, and bark loudly, when those Beggars went by; but louder was the singing of the Beggars who sang their Canticle to the Sun, and louder the baying of the Hounds of Heaven; the Domini canes of the medieval pun; the Dogs of God.

From Saint Thomas Aquinas by G. K. Chesterton; via Kindle.

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1 April, Maundy Thursday: Slavery and the Eucharist: two 18th Century abolitionists.

Slave ship from a Methodist history book

In the years leading to the French Revolution of 1789 there were abolitionists striving to find a way to free the slaves in France’s American and Caribbean colonies and terminate the slave trade. Two such were Jacques Pierre Brissot and the Swiss pastor Benjamin Sigismond Frossard.

Before all that the two men met in Lyon, where Frossard was a pastor and member of academic societies. Brissot was edified by Frossard’s preaching, and at the Lord’s Supper was struck by the realisation that ‘it was indeed the meal and the sign of equality’.

Frossard himself referred to the liturgy as a bridge between slave and master where all people came to profess that they are equal.

Brissot was guillotined in 1793, as the revolution turned in upon itself, and Frossard returned to Switzerland. Although the National Assembly in Paris abolished slavery, Napoleon reinstated the practice, which had never gone away because the Assembly was unable to enforce its decrees across the Atlantic.

My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons. For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment; and ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool: are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts?

James 2:1-4

The source for this post is FROSSARD AND THE ABOLITION OF SLAVERY: A MORAL DILEMMA by Barbara Saunderson.

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