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March for Life 2012

Evil triumphs when good men do nothing - Edmund Burke

Monday, February 16, 2009

St. Gilbert of Sempringham - 16th February 2009

Gilbert was born in1083 in Sempringham, England, into a wealthy family, but he followed a path quite different from that expected of him as the son of a Norman knight. Sent to France for his higher education, he decided to pursue seminary studies.

After studying in France, he returned home and established a local school, to which he was to return as household secretary to the Bishop of Lincoln, who ordained him priest. When Gilbert's father died he was thus both parish priest and squire of the family domain. Gilbert formed a small village community of seven women, who lived in a local house under his spiritual direction and under an adaptation of the Rule of St. Benedict. This was to develop into an Order, with both lay sisters and lay brothers, and several other houses were to, follow, principally in Lincolnshire and Yorkshire. In all there were 13 Gilbertine houses, four for canons, who followed the Rule of St. Augustine, and nine double monasteries, of both men and women.

Over the years a special custom grew up in the houses of the order called "the plate of the Lord Jesus." The best portions of the dinner were put on a special plate and shared with the poor, reflecting Gilbert's lifelong concern for less fortunate people.

The Order was out of, favour for some time because Gilbert was in sympathy with Thomas Becket. In his later years, too, there was a revolt led by the law brothers who complained of being over-worked and under-fed. Nevertheless, the Gilbertines were amply supported by Rome; Gilbert himself died in 1189, aged 105 and was canonised as early as 1202. All the Gilbertine houses were destroyed at the Reformation and never re- constituted, thus bringing to an end a branch of monasticism which happily harmonised the male and female religious vocations with social concern (leper-hospitals, orphanages were founded by the Gilbertines).

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