Feast of Ambrose Phillipps de Lisle (March 5)   1 comment

Above:  Mount Saint Bernard Abbey

Image in the Public Domain

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AMBROSE CHARLES MARCH PHILLIPPS (DE LISLE) (MARCH 17, 1809-MARCH 5, 1878)

English Roman Catholic Convert, and Founder of Mount Saint Bernard Abbey

Spiritual Writer and Translator of Spiritual Writings

Ambrose Phillipps de Lisle comes to this, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via other saints I have added and whose lives intersected with his.  Our saint’s contacts included here include George Spencer/Venerable Ignatius Spencer (1799-1864), St. John Henry Newman (1801-1890) [canonized in October 2019], Blessed Dominic Barberi (1792-1849), and Frederick William Faber (1814-1863).  Our saint was a central, crucial figure.

Our saint, Ambrose Charles March Phillipps prior to 1862, came from landed English gentry and an Anglican family.  He, born in Leicestershire on March 17, 1809, was a son of Charles March-Phillipps (1779-1862), a Whig/Radical/Liberal and a Member of Parliament (1818-1820 and 1831-1837).  The family was pre-Oxford Movement High Anglican.  Our saint, educated at South Croxton then at Maisemore School (near Gloucester) met his first Roman Catholic priest, a French emigré, at Maisemore.  When Ambrose was in Paris, France, in 1823, he experienced his first Roman Catholic Mass.

The lure of Roman Catholicism proved irresistible to young Ambrose.  Back in England, he, still Anglican, persuaded his rector to place a cross on the altar.  This proved to be controversial, and Herbert Marsh, the Bishop of Petersborough (1819-1839), objected to the placement of the cross; he overruled the rector’s decision. Before the end of 1823 Ambrose converted to Roman Catholicism.  This decision prompted his expulsion from Maisemore School.

Charles March-Phillipps handled his son’s religious conversion better than many others did.  The father arranged for Ambrose to continue formal education close to home.  In 1826, when Ambrose matriculated at Trinity College, Cambridge, he became one of two Roman Catholic students there.  Our saint left in 1828, due to a burst blood vessel in one lung.  He could not have received a degree prior to Catholic Emancipation (1829) anyway.  The following year, Ambrose met George Spencer/Venerable Ignatius Spencer (1799-1864), then an Anglican priest.  Ambrose married Laura Mary Clifford.  His father’s wedding present was an estate.  The couple’s long-term residence was Grace Dieu Manor, built in 1833-1834.  They had sixteen children, eleven of whom outlived our saint.

Ambrose established three goals for himself:

  1. To restore monasticism to England,
  2. To restore Gregorian Chant to England, and
  3. To reunite The Church of England with the Roman Catholic Church.

He fulfilled the first goal in 1835.  Ambrose founded Mount Saint Bernard Abbey, near Coalville, Leicestershire.  It, a Trappist monastery, was the first monastery founded in England since the English Reformation.

The Association of Universal Prayer for the Conversion of England was another project.  Ambrose and Spencer founded it in 1838.  These two men plus Laura Phillipps (Ambrose’s wife) and two of the Phillipps children toured Europe in 1844 and spread word of the Association.

Ambrose established contact with St. John Henry Newman (1801-1890) when the future Cardinal was still an Anglican.  Ambrose helped to facilitate Newman’s conversion to Roman Catholicism, too.

In 1850 Ambrose had reason to rejoice.  Pope Pius IX restored the Church hierarchy in England.

Nevertheless, our saint’s ecumenism prompted Papal disapproval.  He helped to found the Association for the Promotion of the Unity of Christendom on September 8, 1857.  The founders were Anglicans, Roman Catholics, and Eastern Orthodox; they prayed for Christian unity.  An encyclical from 1864 prompted our saint to withdraw from this Association.

Ambrose wrote and translated spiritual works.  One of the works our saint translated was Blessed Dominic Barberi‘s Lamentations of England.

Our saint, 68 years old, died in Leicestershire on March 5, 1878.

This, my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, has a catholic quality.  Therefore, I, an Episcopalian with no intention of converting to Roman Catholicism, honor Ambrose Phillipps de Lisle without reservation.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 15, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR., CIVIL RIGHTS LEADER AND MARTYR, 1968

THE FEAST OF ABBY KELLEY FOSTER AND HER HUSBAND, STEPHEN SYMONDS FOSTER, U.S. QUAKER ABOLITIONISTS AND FEMINISTS

THE FEAST OF BERTHA PAULSSEN, GERMAN-AMERICAN SEMINARY PROFESSOR, PSYCHOLOGIST, AND SOCIOLOGIST

THE FEAST OF GENE M. TUCKER, UNITED METHODIST MINISTER AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF JOHN COSIN, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF DURHAM

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Almighty God, we praise you for the men and women you

have sent to call the Church to its tasks and renew its life

[such as your servant Ambrose Phillipps de Lisle].

Raise up in our own day teachers and prophets inspired by your Spirit,

whose voices will give strength to your Church and proclaim the reality of your kingdom;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Jeremiah 1:4-10

Psalm 46

1 Corinthians 3:11-23

Mark 10:35-45

–Adapted from the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 37

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One response to “Feast of Ambrose Phillipps de Lisle (March 5)

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  1. Pingback: Feast of Elizabeth Prout and Venerable Ignatius Spencer (January 10) | SUNDRY THOUGHTS

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