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Saturday, 1 March 2014

The More Family Nuns-Nuns in Persecution Part One

Will there be any place for nuns to go in the upcoming persecution?

This is the first in a mini-series of Nuns in Persecution.

I shall do a little series on the recusant nuns. Many daughters and nieces of saints, including the daughter of St. Margaret Clitherow and women from the Garnet family went to France and became nuns. So, too, did descendants of St. Thomas More and women of the Throckmorton family, the Catholic side. Here is the first of a smattering of fascinating information from times of persecution.

Thomas More's adopted daughter, Margaret Clement, became a nun. 

I have written on the More women who became nuns. Helen More, daughter of Cresacre More, one of Thomas More's sons, became a Benedictine nun in France. Her journey through the spiritual life provides us with one of the more interesting tales of a person struggling with the life of perfection. Sadly, all my notes on her are in a suitcase in Guildford, in an attic somewhere, so I cannot make detailed comments.
Here is a snippet from the Catholic Encyclopedia on Sr. Gertrude.

Benedictine nun of the English Congregation; b. at Low Leyton, Essex, England, 25 March, 1606; d. atCambraiFrance, 17 August, 1633. Her father, Cresacre More, was great-grandson of Blessed Thomas More; her mother, Elizabeth Gage, was sister of Sir John Gage, Baronet, of Firle, Sussex, lord chamberlain to Queen Mary. Her mother dying at an early age, Helen's care and education now devolved upon her father. By persuasion of Dom Benet Jones, O.S.B., she joined his projected foundation at Cambrai, and was first among nine postulants admitted to the order, 31 Dec., 1623, but vacillation of mind so disquieted her novitiate, that only with the greatest hesitation she pronounced her vows on 1 January, 1625; nor was she even then quite free from scruples and temptations, until she had availed herself of Dom Augustine Baker's prudent guidance. A year or two later, having now become Dame Gertrude, learning from him the use of affective prayer, a complete change was wrought in her; rapidly advancing in the interior life, she became a source of edification to the infant community, and, in 1629, when a choice of abbess must be made, her name, conjointly with that of Catharine Gascoigne, was sent to Rome for a dispensation on point of age. Catharine was eventually chosen, but Gertrude was always honoured as chief foundress. Supporting her abbess by lifelong devotion, promoting peace and good observance, she was universally beloved. None suffered more nor with edifying fortitude than Dame Gertrude, under a heavy trial to which the community was subjected through interference of the vicar, Dom F. Hull, with Father Baker's teachings. Later, doubts arising as to her mode of prayer, formal inquiry was made, resulting in approval at the General Chapter in 1633, during the sessions of which, however, Gertrude was attacked by small-pox and died a peaceful death.Some papers found after her death and arranged by Father Baker, were afterwards published in two separate works: one entitled "The Holy Practices of a Divine Lover, or the Sainctly Ideot's Devotions" (Paris, 1657); the other, "Confessiones Amantis", or "Spirtual Exercises", or "Ideot's Devotions", to which was prefixed her "Apology", for herself and for her spiritual guide (Paris, 1658), both recently republished.

I have already written about St. Thomas More's granddaughter and great granddaughter on this blog. See links. I have read the biography of one, which is no longer in print, Dame Gertrude More by  Dame  Frideswide Sandeman. Sister Gertrude was influenced by the spiritual writings and guidance of Father  Baker. Also, I have seen some of the books mentioned in the article above.

Also, I am reading the archives of such monasteries found here: 

See also:  She is the chief foundress of Stanbrook Abbey.

Two other "Mores" were abbesses in that monastery. 

One may also see this site for the entire list of St. Thomas More's descendants.

Cresacre had two daughters who became nuns. 

1. Helen: Born 1606. Became a Benedictine Nun at the Monastery of Our Lady of Consolation at Cambrai,  Flanders. Known in religion as Dame Gertrude More. Died at Cambrai on 17th
 August 1633. 

3. Bridget: Born 1609. Became a Benedictine Nun at the Monastery of Our Lady of Consolation, Cambrai. Known in religion as Dame Bridget More. Elected Prioress at the new foundation of the Order at Paris –  Monastery of Our Lady of Good Hope. Died there on 12th October 1692. 
Elizabeth More died 15th

Another nun who was a descendant of St. Thomas More died as the result of imprisonment. She was the daughter of Thomas More V.

5. Mary: Born 1638. Became a Nun in the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Committed to York Prison in  1678 for refusing to take the Oath of Allegiance and Supremacy. Released in 1685. Died at one of the  Institute‟s houses in Bavaria. Date not known.

More nuns in the More Family follow. This one was the daughter of Basil More.

8. Anne: Born at Gobions, and birth entered in the Register of St. Mary‟s Church on 5th
 December 1662 
 Became a Nun with the Canonesses Regular of the Lateran, at St. Monica‟s, Louvain. Took the name Sister  Theodora. Died on 6th June 1699. 

Yet another is the daughter of Thomas More VIII. After the death of his last child, the line of St. Thomas More ended in the early 19th century.

4. Mary: Born at York on 1st April 1732. Known in the family as "Mally‟. Joined the Augustinian Canonesses  Regular of the Lateran at Bruges, becoming „Dame Mary Augustina.‟ Elected Prioress. 
 The community fled to England (to Hengrave Hall, Suffolk) in 1794 when they were expelled from France  at the beginning of the French Revolution. The Nuns returned to Bruges in 1802. Dame Mary died there  on 23 March 1807, and was buried in the Convent Chapel.

Information on Stanbrook Abbey today may be found here.