Chronicles of the Irish Martyrs 3: Dissolution of Monasteries

The members of the Parliament had just finished writing up the laws to renounce the Pope or suffer death. Next on the schedule was the suppression and confiscation of major monasteries in Ireland. Why? Well, the reasons they reported were that “in the monasteries the praise of God and the welfare of men are next to nothing regarded, the regulars (religious) and nuns dwelling therein being so addicted to their own superstitious ceremonies, to the pernicious worship of idols, and to the pestiferous doctrines of the Romish Pontiff... and for their better reformation all the religious men and women are to be removed from the religious houses, and caused to return to some honest way of living.”

The Act for the Suppression of Monasteries stated that:

His Majesty shall have for himself and his heirs forever the monasteries of Bective, S. Peter’s besides Trim, Duiske, Homlpatrick, Baltinglass, Grane, Taghmolin, Dunbrodie, Tintern, Ballybogane, and the Abbey of Hogges, and Fernes, and the sites of every such religious house, with their lands, tenements, services, etc.

The King’s Highness shall have to his own use all such ornaments, jewels, goods, chattels, and debts which belong in any way to the chief governors of the said monasteries.

And as if in mockery the Act goes on to say:

His Highness, of his most excellent charity, is pleased to provide for every chief head of every religious house during their lives such yearly pension as shall be reasonable, wherein his Highness shall have most tender respect to such said chief governors. His Majesty will provide that the convents of such religious houses shall have their capacity if they will, to live honestly or virtuously abroad, or shall be committed to such great monasteries of this land wherein good religion is observed as shall be limited by his Highness or his Councilors, there to live religiously during their lives

We should remember that this “most excellent charity” to provide a pension and the “tender respect” that the King has for the superiors of these convents, allowing them to live abroad, or live in other convents… is only under the circumstances that they take the oath to renounce the Catholic Church and accept the King as head of the Church… And the “monasteries where good religion is observed as shall be limited by his Highness” are those monasteries where the members have taken that oath, who have submitted to the King, who have received his approval, who have accepted his criteria, his agenda, his lies… Who have renounced the Truth, who have renounced Christ and His Church for a comfortable non-confrontational life.

Do we also make pacts with the world? Do we submit ourselves to its criteria, its lies, just so we can be comfortable and not suffer too much? Are we cowardly in defending the Truth because it’s uncomfortable? Do we accept mediocrity or outright lies to avoid any type of confrontation?

A few years later, another Act was passed to seize all the remaining monasteries that were not seized in the first Act.

Those in charge of enforcing these laws set out on their hunt. “At Waterford we kept sessions, where were put to execution four felons (transgressors of these new laws), accompanied with another thief, a friar, whom we commended to be hanged in his habit, and so to remain upon the gallows for a mirror to all his brethren to live truly.”

A native Irish writer during the reign of Charles I wrote:

“They broke into the monasteries, they sold the roof and bells; so that there was not a monastery from Aran of the Saints to the Iccian Sea that was not broken and scattered, except only a few in Ireland which escaped the notice and attention of the English. They further burned in like manner the celebrated image of Mary which was at Ath Truim, which used to perform wonders and miracles, and at which were healed the blind, the deaf, the lame, and sufferers from all diseases, and the staff of Jesus, which was in Dublin, performing miracles from the days of St. Patrick down to that time, and which was in the hand of Christ when He was among men. They also made archbishops and bishops for themselves; and although great was the persecution of the Roman Emperors against the Church, it is not probable that so great a persecution as this ever came upon the world; so that it is impossible to tell or narrate its description unless it should be told by one who saw it.”

 -By Sr. Kelai Reno, SHM