2 March 2017

The Asperges and Martyrdom

In August, 1549, the parish priest of the church of S Thomas the Martyr, Exeter, Fr Robert Welsh, was hauled to the top of his own church tower, vested as for Mass, and hanged from a gallows at the top, 'havinge a holye water bucket, a sprinkle ... and such other lyke popyshe trashe hangued aboute him'. The holy water bucket related to one of the most 'up front' features of his weekly ministry ... what we now call (even when in Eastertide the formula changes) "the Asperges".

The procession at the beginning of every Sunday's Parish Mass had just been abolished by Dr Cranmer. Very probably, the absence of the Asperges at the start of Sunday Mass on Whit Sunday 1549 (the day the First English Prayer Book was ordered to be used) represented the first moment at which the people of England realised, with a fury that mounted as that Mass continued, that they were being robbed of the communal rituals which cemented not only their religious but their secular life: if, indeed, one may distinguish the two. The Asperges was not just a preliminary to Mass or (as it is described in the modern rite) an optional way of doing (that postConciliar innovation) 'The Rite of penitence'; it was an elaborate procession which went around the church to sprinkle the altars (themselves expressions of the intricately interwoven common life of the medieval Christian with his system of guilds and chantries) and the members of the congregation. It perhaps went outside and sprinkled the graves of the departed, symbolically bringing into one unity the departed as well as the living. The water was taken into households and sprinkled to put the evil spirits to flight. Eamon Duffy writes of the 'emphasis on the location, and maintenance of blessing, healing and peace within the community'. The congregation, that is to say, was not an atomised association of individuals who chanced to be in one place but an organic, living whole.

Fr Welsh, as even his protestant chronicler acknowledges, 'verie patientlie toke his dethe, he hadd benne a good member in his commonwelthe had not the weedes overgrowne the good corne and his foule vices overcomed his vertewes'.

His 'foule vices', of course, were his brave resistance to the tyranny which was bent on depriving the people of England of their Faith, and, in doing so, of their whole social cohesion. Neither their worship nor their 'commonwelthe' ever recovered from that most ungodly, most unspiritual Pentecost of 1549.


Victor said...

Sancte Roberte, ora pro nobis!

Albrecht von Brandenburg said...

It would be better if the secular clergy dropped the title of "Father", which should properly be reserved for clerics in major orders in religious orders.

One of the problems of the post-reformation church was "creeping monasticism", the tendency to try and turn the entire church into a giant religious order, to the great prejudice of the secular clergy.

El Codo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
philipjohnson said...

Albrecht.We are a giant religious order-The Most Holy Mystical Body Of Christ,The Catholic Church!

Albrecht von Brandenburg said...


No, there is an adamantine distinction between the religious life amd the secular one - hence the distinction between the clergy of the religious orders and diocesan clerics. If I remember rightly, Cardinal Mercier denied it, but he was wrong.

William Tighe said...

In all of his posts, "Albrecht von Brandenburg" comes across as a non-Catholic or as a "dissident Catholic" (in the sense that Lutherans can be considered "dissident Catholics," or like to consider themselves as such). I have wondered why he would adopt for himself the moniker of the Archbishop-Elector of Mainz, indignation at whose using the sale of indulgence to fund the "fees" attendant upon hiss elevation to that dignity was what drove Luther to post his 95 Theses:


but then I thought of that Albrecht's half first cousin of the same name, the Grand Master of the Teutonic Order, who embraced Lutheranism in 1525, recognized the Polish king as his overlord as "Duke of Prussia," married, and forced Lutheranism on his duchy (the first German prince to do so; he did it with the enthusiastic cooperation of the two bishops whose see cities were situated in the new duchy):


who is altogether more plausible as the inspiring spirit of our "Albrecht von Brandenburg."

(Footnote: Philip, Landgrave of Hesse, the man whose later bigamy Dr. Luther so strongly supported [in 1539-40] was the first German prince publicly to embrace Luther's views, in 1524, but he did not begin to enforce them on his territory until 1526.)

Albrecht von Brandenburg said...

No indeed professor,

I am a catholic, and a traditionalist at that (one is either catholic or not, there's no such thing as a dissident catholic - anyone who denies infallible teaching on faith or morals pertinaciously is outside the church). I merely "dissent" from certain dangerous tendencies in the preconciliar church that many of my fellow traditionalists see as healthy - then they wonder why the disaster of Vatican II occurred. If you want to see what I mean, for example, have a look at the recent article on Rorate Caeli by Dr John Lamont. I looked in vain at trad blogs etc for a reaction to it. Many of them probably don't think it addresses a problem. Oh well ...

As for my moniker, I'm sure you know that he was an enemy of possibly the worst priest since Judas, Martin Luther. I could just as easily have chosen Johan Meier von Eck, but then again, he advocated allowing usury, or perhaps Charles Borromeo, but he was a nepotist, wasn't he, and he also carried out a "wreckovation" of his cathedral, in the spirit of counter-reformation liturgics, didn't he??

I can assure you, there is no-one more anti-modernist than I. Be not deceived by my nom de plume/guerre.

Albrecht von Brandenburg said...

I am intrigued as to how my views on the diocesan clergy come across as dissident and I wonder how performing the good work of donating money as opposed to performing other forms of good work resulting in the remission of temporal punishment = buying and selling of spiritual goods/simony. After all Lutheran ministers, in consideration of providing spiritual services are provided with food, lodgings, a car, a stipend, etc., aren't they? From a lawyer's point of view, that looks prima facie like a contractual relationship. So why the finger-pointing at indulgences but not heretcal ministers?? And if one is going to condemn donation-based indulgences, why not condemn mass stipends??

My attitude is that many prods are guilty of taking pharisaic scandal (as well as maybe being a bit dim).

William Tighe said...

I regret that I have, seeingly, so comprehensively misunderstood the stance of "Albrecht von Brandenburg."

Albrecht von Brandenburg said...


No worries. Besides, given my views in favour of married priests (and bishops) anonymity affords me some protection in the trad milieu. I can't really afford to have my cover blown.

Albrecht von Brandenburg said...

P.S. Professor,

I know you are not a protestant, so my remarks in my last sentence of my ultimate substantial post do certainly not apply to you.