Saturday, 25 February 2012

The man who could wield a spade as well as his intellect

The Life of Archbishop Ullathorne (part 2)

During his time at Downside, the young Ullathorne added manual labour to his daily routine of prayer and study; this is the Benedictine way - a blend of the ethereal and the earthly.

One of the many things that strikes me upon reading his autobiography is that, in that era, some 180 years ago, it appeared that young people were thrust into senior posts remarkably early.

Of course, WilliamUllathorne was a very obvious candidate for greatness but, straight from his schooling, and still a green deacon, he was sent to Ampleforth (it was a great school then) to hold a senior and responsible post (Prefect of Discipline) and then, shortly afterwards, Professor of Theology.

And, as the young Deacon Ullathorne began his duties he was faced with an issue of graffiti - have things changed so very little in the education system?

This is his account as he began his pastoral role at Ampleforth:

"Soon after this time my Superiors wished to advance me to the Priesthood, before I had completed the course of Theology.
But apprehending there might be difficulties raised by the Bishop about dispensation from time and interstices, a petition was sent to Rome, through Cardinal Weld, the Protector of the English Benedictines.

His Eminence replied that it belonged not to the dignity of a
Cardinal to act as agent as well as protector ; and so, to my individual satisfaction, I escaped from what I thought a premature ordination.

However, I was not destined to continue my studies ; but with the Rev. Mr. Sinnot, a deacon as well as myself, I was sent to assist the new Prior in restoring the Monastery and College of Ampleforth after the great desolation caused by the events above referred to.

Soon after arriving there I was appointed Professor of Theology to a small class ; but by the time I had prepared the first lesson the Prior had changed his mind, put an Irish Franciscan to that office, and appointed me Prefect
of Discipline over the school.

Although those who remained constant to the Order after the great desertion stood firm, yet there was still a flavour remaining of the
spirit in which they had been trained.

The new Prior was from the old house of Lambspring, and an old missioner, and was not accepted with perfect cordiality, still less the two members from Downside.
This spirit communicated itself to the school, which had too intimate relations with one or two Religious.

So no sooner had the new Prefect appeared, than there was chalked up on the walls, " No Hunt, No reform." I let the students have their little triumph for the day. But the next morning, after prayers, I let them know how surprised I was to find a college of boys with the manners of a pothouse. I observed that if one or two of them had chalked the walls in a style insulting to an entire stranger, the rest must have concurred, or they
would have removed the disgrace fastened on the whole school.

" I will not be severe with you," I said, " without necessity : I will give you till the next recreation hour to get the walls cleaned of their disgrace.

If it is not done by then, I will stop all the school work until I find out the
offenders. If I fail I shall conclude that the whole school is involved in the guilt, and shall punish by decimation."

At the next recreation the walls were quite clean.

Soon after, I expelled one of the older students and flogged a younger one, after which we became good friends and understood each other".


  1. The last paragraph is so full of robust Catholicism:

    "Soon after, I expelled one of the older students and flogged a younger one, after which we became good friends and understood each other".

    Clearly the future Archbishop was not one for navel-gazing.

  2. Chris, yes, I love that sentence also. We need more like him today.

  3. While I understand Dc Ullathorne's actions and that he was a young and inexperienced man of his time, we certainly do not need need more of the same treatment of students. I was the recipient of unrelenting treatment of this kind at a catholic school. I managed to rise above it despite the scar it has left in it's wake. Many have not not been able to do so and it is misguided treatment and comment like this that has contributed to the sorry mess that has plagued the clergy of the catholic church to date. Dc Nick

  4. Dc Nick - if your treatment was "unrelenting" I agree with you.
    Young William Ullathorne disciplined older pupils for wrongdoing on occasions and then had the strength of character to shake their hand and, presumably, win their admiration.
    I have seen this at work and it is good. Your experience was not like this and was a bad one.

  5. Flogging [whipping] students makes only one thought: Might makes Right.

  6. Gabriel Austin - that could be said of all (including Divine) punishment.

    1. Not all punishment is Divine. The whipping in schools is not more than an older man beating a younger, who has no recourse. Read a life of Don Bosco to learn how it can be done.

  7. In 12 years of Catholic schooling, in which none of those was I a perfect angel, nor was I a very good student, not once in all that time was I struck by a priest or nun.

  8. Anonymous - how neglected you must feel!