ST. ALBAN'S, HOLBORN
KEGAN PAUL, TRENCH, TRÜBNER, & CO. LTD.
Chapter I. 1825-1845. Birth and Parentage.--Early associations.--Family characteristics.--A student at Edinburgh University--Religious thought in Scotland--Matriculation at Wadham College, Oxford
Chapter II. Oxford in 1845--Religious opinions--Friends and associates--Their testimony--Political views--Charles Marriott--Extract from University Sermon
Chapter III. Ordination--First curacy at Westbury--Early ministerial work--Removal to Wantage--Letters from Bishop Denison--Wantage in 1852--Letters from Dr. Liddon and the Dean of Lincoln--Work at the hamlet of Charlton--Reminiscences of the villagers--Thought of mission work abroad--Call to St. George's-in-the-East.
Chapter IV. 1858-1862. St. George's-in-the-East--Characteristics of the work--Personal recollections of the Rev. T. I. Ball--Daily life in the Clergy House--Riot at St. George's-in-the-East--Correspondence with the Bishop of London--Letter from Keble--Offer of the Vicarage of St. Saviour's, Leeds--End of mission work in the East.
Chapter V. 1862-1863. St. Alban's, Holborn--Position of the parish--Character of the population--Circumstances of Mr. Mackonochie's appointment--The Greville Street Mission--Beginnings of parochial work--Consecration of the church--Founder's letter to the parishioners.
Chapter VI. Personal characteristics--Fellow-workers--Life in the Clergy House--Family affections--Character of the services and congregations at St. Alban's--Mission held by Father Lowder in 1863--The devotion of the Three Hours first started at St. Alban's--Mr. Mackonochie's attitude toward those who differed from him--His care for individuals
Chapter VII. 1862-1867. Growth of spiritual work at St. Alban's--Influence of the church and clergy--Doctrinal teaching--First prosecution---Direction--Sermons.
Chapter VIII. Work outside the parish of St. Alban's--Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament--Society of the Holy Cross--Letters from abroad--Chaplaincy of St. Saviour's Priory, Haggerston--Letter from Bishop Tait--Position of affairs at the time of the first prosecution
Chapter IX. Martin versus Mackonochie. Position of religious parties in 1863--The Church Association--Action taken by Lord Shaftesbury--The Ritual Commission--Fresh prosecution at St. Alban's--Judgment given by Court of Arches, March 25, 1868--Its results--Mr. Mackonochie before the Privy Council--First suspension, 1870--Protests--Fresh suit instituted, 1875--Further Protests--Mr. Tooth's case--Public Worship Regulation Act--A new jurisdiction--Three years' suspension, 1878--Appeal to Lords dismissed--Resignation of St. Alban's--Sequestration of St. Peter's, London Docks--The Royal Supremacy
Chapter X. 1867-1869. Alexander H. Mackonochie under prosection--Testimony of friends and of the public--Indifference to public opinion--Sympathy from without--Unity within--Letters from Drs. Pusey and Liddon--Views on secession and disestablishment
Chapter XI. Sequence of legal proceedings--Inhibition by the Bishop of Ripon--Speech at the Liverpool Church Congress--Visit to the Cove, Aberdeen--Mission preaching--First mission at St. Alban's, 1869--Estblishment of Clewer Sisters in the parish--Letter from the Mother Superior--Ideal of co-operation--Various parochial agencies--Chaplain to Lord Eliot.
Chapter XII. 1875-1882. Desire for peace--Powers of endurance, mental and physical--Renewed prosecution--Joint letter from Dr. Pusey and Dr. Liddon--Mr. Mackonochie's reply--Behaviour under sentence of suspension and deprivation in 1879--Visit to America--Signs of progress--lawful liberty.
Chapter XIII. 1875-1882 (continued). Religious aspect of Mr. Mackonochie's work--Spiritual letters--Dealings with the young--Thoughts upon death
Chapter XIV. 1882. St. Alban's parish in 1882--Renewed prosecution--Correspondence with Archbishop Tait--Mr. Mackonochie's motives--His resignation--Letters from Dean Church and the Bishop of London--Meeting of parishioners--Farewell sermon at St. Alban's
Chapter XV. 1883-1887. St. Peter's, London Docks--Fresh prosecution--Advice of friends--Resignation of St. Peter's--Failure in health--Visits to Ballachulish--Life at Wantage--Final sacrifices
Chapter XVI. 1887. Last official acts--Visit to St. Paul's Cathedral--Taking leave of Wantage--Visit to Ballachulish--His death, December 15, 1887.
THIS Memoir has been undertaken at the request of many persons, relatives and others, who desired to have in print some record of a man to whom they felt themselves deeply indebted. To 'praise famous men and our fathers that begat us,' is an instinct natural to our piety. Whether or no Mr. Mackonochie may justly be considered a 'famous man,' there is no doubt that a large number of persons at the present time regard him with grateful affection as a spiritual father, one from whom much has descended to them. Apart from the individual help, direction, or stimulus that any may have derived from him, the school to which he and they belong owes much of the fruit that now is being reaped to his laborious sowing. Our present peace has been to some extent won for us by the conflicts which he endured. If controversy has put on milder manners, some of the credit may not unfairly be assigned to one who habitually refused to meet railing with railing, who blessed when men cursed, to one whose whole career has been a conspicuous witness to the futility of violence, and the folly of all attempts to lay ideas with a sword.
Beyond the natural wish to perpetuate the remembrance of a benefactor, there exists the, also natural, wish to learn in such detail as may be available, how and by what methods one who had lived to such good effect managed a business confessedly so difficult. In part and in degree many of the trials which befel him, befal others, especially among the clergy. There are points on the way to the common 'goal and prize of our high calling,' at which all the innumerable paths of individual experience touch and overlap. At these points at least he will have something to teach us. [These glimpses into the inner regions of a great soul do one good. Contact of this kind strengthens, restores, refreshes. Courage returns as we gaze; when we see what has been, we doubt no more that it can be again. At the sight of a man we too say to ourselves, Let us also be men.--Amiel's Journal (English Translation), p. 32.] In spite of discouraging criticism, biographies continue to attract innumerable readers, who find in them information concerning the things which, after all, are best worth knowing, and most serviceable. They are studies in the conduct of life, and offer us in the field of spiritual economics all the help of a carefully planned and successfully executed series of experiments.
We are told that the demand for ecclesiastical biography has been more than copiously supplied. In point of numbers this may be fairly granted, and yet among the innumerable 'lives' it is noteworthy that not all types of character and activity find equal representation. We have the biographies of prelates, preachers, scholars, founders of works of mercy, missionaries and the like. Even the clerical humourist and the clerical sportsman have found their annalists, who have preserved these curious personalities, like strange flies in amber, for the wonder of a later time. But there are memoirs of another sort which are by no means so abundant in current ecclesiastical literature, and which appeal perhaps to a more restricted circle of readers. I mean, the life-story of the men who, to some extent at least, have realised in their own person those revived ideals of the priesthood, its supernatural character, mission and endowments, which are filling the hearts and firing the zeal of so many of the new generation of our clergy. Ideals of any sort are dangerous visitants to vain and shallow minds. In the thin soil of a poor nature they bear ugly fruit in arrogance, or insolent pretentiousness. It is not to be denied that instances of this 'bringing forth of wild grapes' are not unknown amongst us. But it is far otherwise in the case of those loftier, nobler souls, which, thank God, are also to be found in our ranks. Upon them the dignity of the sacerdotal character, the glory of a divine trust for the good of human life, weighs with the oppression of an almost unbearable responsibility. They find in it a ground, not for self-exaltation or self-assertion, but rather for the deepest self-humiliation. They are filled with concern how they may make good its requirements. A sense of shortcoming haunts them. The vision of what should be prevents all satisfaction in that which is. Hence the feature common to the saintliest amongst the clergy, everywhere and in all times, of a merciless self-effacement and self-sacrifice, and, by natural consequence, an especial devotion to the Cross of Christ. 'I am crucified with Christ.' 'They that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. 'God forbid that I should glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, whereby the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.' [Gal. ii. 20; v. 24; vi. 14.] Of Lacordaire, Henri Perreyve wrote: 'He regarded the priesthood as an absolute and perpetual sacrifice. Jesus Christ nailed to the cross, dying for the salvation of men, was for him the divine ideal of the priest, as it was also the constant, dominant, almost exclusive object of his piety, the daily bread of his soul, the spiritual nourishment which he was wont to offer to all who sought his help.' [Lettres à des jeunes gens, Préface, p. 32.]
After eighteen years' service at Mackonochie's side, I can find no better words than these with which to express his mind and method, so far as I have been able to learn them from his lips, or observe them in his practice. Without exaggeration, I may say that I cannot recall any particulars in all these years which suggested self-indulgence. Most of us have our hobbies, our side interests, to which, alas! more time or money is given than we can always justify. If he shared such frailties with us, I never discovered them, or observed that he had any real absorbing interests outside his interest in human souls. For them he broke with society, refused self-gratifications of all sorts, lived the 'separate' life of celibacy, and gave away all his money, allowing himself only the simplest dress and food. Not that he looked coldly upon the enjoyments of other people. Severe to himself, no one was less censorious, more indulgent to others, never sparing himself if by any means he could add to the innocent happiness and amusement of man, woman, or child.
It was from the Cross of Christ that he drew the inspiration and the power of this life of sacrifice. An artist friend begged one day to be allowed to do some work in colour for him. 'Paint me for my private room,' Mackonochie said, 'a large figure of Jesus crucified, and paint it, as far as may be, in simple faithfulness to fact. Let the figure be just as He was, bruised, wounded, furrowed by the scourge.' At the foot of this austere crucifix, marred, pallid, and blood-stained, he made his daily meditations and said his prayers and offices; and here, too, he matured his preparation for his very frequent preachings. No theme was so common in his preaching as the Passion. The subject, difficult to many, was easy to him. He moved amongst its mysteries as one who trod dear and familiar ground, familiar and yet inexhaustibly new, inexhaustibly fresh, and finding in it many applications to life, much that interpreted life.
Closely allied to this devotion to the Cross was his devotion to the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar. The words of the Imitation, which he often quoted, seemed to have burned themselves into his heart and mind. 'When the priest celebrates, he honours God, he rejoices the angels, he edifies the Church, he helps the living, he obtains rest for the dead, and makes himself partaker of all good things.' In the last sixteen years of his life nothing but simple necessity, such as remoteness from an altar or extreme sickness, was ever allowed to hinder him from offering the Holy Sacrifice every day, and he would spend much time always in preparation and thanksgiving. At the altar his manner left no doubt about his vivid sense of the reality of the divine Presence; his movements were full of gravity, measured and precise; his air recollected and exceedingly serious. Every device and industry that he anywhere heard report of as likely to increase in others a faith in and love for this Most Holy Sacrament, he would enquire about and, if possible, employ. This is the secret of the strange fact that one to whom the world of art and music was absolutely closed--music, form, and colour were unknown languages to him--yet fought so passionately for their employment in the services of the Altar. He counted it worth much suffering if he could secure for English people liberty to use every means which might strengthen or give expression to their faith in the Real Presence of Jesus, God and Man, hidden beneath the Sacramental veils. In speaking of the absence of delight in beautiful objects, it is interesting to note that at the last, when all spiritual responsibility had been completely removed, the sense of natural beauty welled up like a flood to fill the vacant place, and he became keenly appreciative of scenery, especially of the wilder Highland scenery. This explains in part those long wanderings among the hills which ended so tragically.
The extent and limits of his powers as a preacher are sufficiently noticed in the Memoir. Something, however, should be said of his exceptional skill as a confessor. Apart from the special grace of Holy Orders, he owed this, I think, largely to his lifelong habit of careful self-observation, and to his knowledge of Holy Scripture. The usual text-books of Moral Theology reposed upon his shelves, but the dust upon them was but seldom disturbed. A few ascetical books were often in his hand, and were found after his death worn and browned by frequent use, and marked, analysed, and annotated by his hand throughout. They were the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, the works of Bellecius, and Drexelius on Conformity to the Divine Will. These books he seems fairly to have absorbed, and they supplied very frequently the plan of his Retreats, Missions, and courses of Sermons, or the framework of single Meditations. As a confessor he was exceedingly popular. All kinds of persons, learned and unlearned, rich and poor, found their way to him, literally in hundreds. Doubtless the intense reality of the man attracted them, his unclouded faith, so calm, masculine, and strong, his quick sympathy, and really heroic patience. ['On veut savoir si l'Evangile n'est qu'une opinion plus ou moins établie, que nous devons défendre modestement contre les opinions d'autrui sans affirmer absolument les choses, sous peine d'orgueil et d'intolérance, ou si cet Evangile cst la vérité même, une, incontestable, inimitable, eternelle, qui doit être maintenue envers et contre tous, avec la fermeté inflexible d'une foi parfaitement sûre d'elle-même.'--A. Monod.] Whilst they knelt by his side they seemed to catch the contagion of his courage. Heart and hope revived, and the horizon brightened. And then they knew that for the time he was wholly and without distraction at their service. If occasion called for it, he would give hours to a single soul and betray no signs of impatience or weariness. This individual dealing was often continued by letter for a long time after the person had left London. There are many who treasure still a long unbroken correspondence, extending over years. It will be, I fear, a disappointment to some people that comparatively few specimens of his apostolat épistolaire, his spiritual letters, find place in this Memoir. This is due to the fact that, as a rule, the letters had to be written in great haste. They served their purpose admirably, but it was an immediate purpose, and for the individual. As a matter of fact he was almost completely insensible to the poetry and charm of words. ['Je définirais la poésie: l'exquise expression d'impressions exquises.--La poésie, c'est la vérité endimanchée.'--Joseph Roux, Pensées.] Plain and direct answers are given to plain questions, with none of those felicities of expression which redeem a correspondence from monotony.
A word should be said about his relations with his assistant curates, and the numerous workers that he gathered about him. There are not many parishes in England where the vicar has succeeded in retaining the services of so many helpers for so long a time as at St. Alban's. Of the four curates actually living in the parish, one has come since Mackonochie left, and of the other three the senior has been here seven-and-twenty years, the next, two-and-twenty, and the third, sixteen years. Of the district visitors, some are still working here who began the work with Mr. Mackonochie when he first came to the parish. The teacher of the Young Men's Bible Class has filled his post for eighteen years; the teacher of the Young Women's Bible Class for as many. The Senior Sacristan has served daily at the altar for twenty years; and one of the choir-men who sang in the cellar chapel before the church was opened, has sung in the choir ever since--and all these workers are voluntary. One reason for this was, it seems to me, the generous trustfulness he showed towards us all, his hearty and unfeigned appreciation of what we did, and his way of dealing with us, not de haut en bas condescendingly, but on the level ground of spiritual comradeship. At first there was a tendency to do everything himself, but within a few years he had set this right, and divided the works according to the varied gifts of the workers. Looking back upon the years past, I feel sure that we must have tried his patience sorely at times. He had come to his maturity when we joined him, and his views of things had taken fixed shape, but some of us were anything rather than mature, and we flung ourselves with almost boyish eagerness headlong into the various enthusiasms of the hour. Startling views, religious, political, social, and scientific, were broached at the dinner-table, which must often have been distasteful enough to his conservative mind, and I still seem to see the look, part amused, part amazed, with which he listened to our suggestions for the general setting right of the universe. A smaller man would have snubbed us. He did not do so--to our gain, I think.
It may be asked how he found time to carry through the innumerable things in the parish and out of the parish which demanded his supervision and his care? Something must be put down to his exceedingly methodical habits, and something also to the fact that he gave himself wholly and unreservedly to the work. He never seemed to forget that he was a priest, or to feel at liberty to dispose of time or strength to any other end than the service of the Gospel.
It must also be acknowledged that he stole time out of the night. Supper over, he hurried away to his room, and, closing his door, with a feeling of intense relief, set himself to make good use of the precious hours of solitude. I know not how late he worked and prayed, but when we fell asleep--and we were not early--his lamp was burning still. I wish it had been possible to give in detail more of his inner life, the vie intime, the man's communings with his own heart, the growth of character and the work of grace. Of all this, which forms so attractive and instructive a feature of foreign biographies, we knew little.
If, in the paths of the world,
Stones might have wounded thy feet,
Toil or dejection have tried
Thy spirit, of that we saw
Nothing--to us thou wast still
Cheerful, and helpful, and firm!
He was extremely reticent about himself, and trusted little to the insecure privacy of a journal. This is the national temperament. English reserve counts spiritual confidences almost an indelicacy, almost a failure in manliness. It is our pride to exhibit under all conditions an appearance of complete impassiveness. Mackonochie said very little about the things which were most often in his thoughts, and the finely sculptured mask of his face betrayed as little that which lay hid beneath it. He gave us results, but the processes were shut up from us as tightly as the works of a watch.
If I were asked to state in the shortest, simplest way, Mackonochie's most noteworthy achievement, that for which we are most deeply indebted to him, I should point the enquirer, not to the things he did and endured in defence of ecclesiastical right; not to the immense stimulus he has given to the revival of the solemnities of divine worship, nor yet to any of the numerous works inaugurated or developed by him, but simply to himself, to the noble manhood of the man. 'Quid docent nos apostoli sancti?' asks St. Bernard. 'What do the holy apostles teach us?' Not the fisher's art, nor yet the tent-maker's, nor anything of that sort; not, how to study Plato or pursue the subtleties of Aristotle, ever learning and never coming to the knowledge of the truth. 'Docuerunt me vivere,' 'they have taught me how to live.' ['Putas, parva res est scire vivere? Magnum aliquid, imo maximum est.'--S. Bernardi in festo SS. Petri et Pauli sermo.] It is the one lesson of sovereign concern. It is the lesson for which we who knew and loved him thank him most.
It would lengthen considerably a preface already long, if I were to attempt to name and thank all the persons to whose kindly co-operation we are indebted for much of the material of this book. They will let me tender them collectively our hearty thanks. [To the kindness of our churchwarden, Mr. H. Sidney Warr, we are indebted for the use of the negative of the frontispiece. The photograph of the grave at Woking has been very kindly placed at our disposal by Mr. William Ellis, of 25 Clapton Square. E.] One or two names, however, cannot be passed over. His Honour Judge Mackonochie and Mrs. Mackonochie have rendered invaluable help by placing unreservedly at our disposal innumerable letters and documents, and by giving every assistance in their power to enable us to complete the life record of the brother whom they so much love and venerate. The Bishop of Argyll and the Isles has laid us all at St. Alban's under such deep obligations, that his kindness in respect of this book can scarcely add to the gratitude and affection we already feel towards him. To Miss Greenstreet also, one of the oldest and faithfullest of our workers here, we owe much.
One friend, alas! whom we should have named amongst our benefactors, has passed out of earshot of our thanks--Dr. Littledale. His learning and sagacity have for years been always and willingly at our service. The legal Chapter on Martin v. Mackonochie, and the history of the Ecclesiastical Courts in the Appendix, are both from his pen, and stand amongst the latest labours of his laborious and suffering life. May God convert the thanks we owe him and would give him into blessing, and grant him eternal light and rest.
The preparation of this Memoir was, in the first instance, placed in my hands, and the materials were in considerable part collected. The book was also announced in my name; but in undertaking the task, I had not counted with the incessant inevitable interruptions which break up the days of the London clergy, and further, in my inexperience, I had hardly measured the magnitude of a task of this sort. After some ineffectual attempts to make way with the Memoir, I was rescued from my difficulty by the great kindness of the lady whose initials appear on the title-page. With a skill which I do sincerely envy, Mrs. Charles Towle (daughter of Sir Henry Taylor) has accomplished the work. Having followed its progress step by step, I have no hesitation in saying that it is much better done than I could have done it. For the facts narrated I accept the responsibility; they are told with truth and soberness. For the appreciations and criticisms I also vouch; they are, as far as my observation and judgment go, marked by discernment and justice. But the credit of the building of the book belongs wholly to Mrs. Towle, and all friends of Mr. Mackonochie are greatly indebted to her for her labour of love.
E. F. Russell,
35 Brooke Street, Holborn.