Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Another great convert and a 100 year old prophecy

Monsignor Robert Hugh Benson converted to the faith on 11th September 1903. His was a somewhat spectacular conversion (in the eyes of the media) as his father had held the post of Archbishop of Canterbury and Benson, himself, had been ordained as an Anglican vicar in 1895. In 1904 he received the sacrament of Holy Orders and, by 1911 he was made Monsignor.

He wrote many great books, many of them with a prophetic element. The following is an extract from 'Christ in the Church'. It has certain resonances today but was written in 1911.

"I do not for one instant profess to believe that all the world is about to turn Catholic: I am quite sure that it is not; I even think it probable that we are on the verge of a Great Apostasy; but of one point I am as certain as of my own existence, that, fifty years hence there will be no considerable body in the whole of Western Christendom which will be able for one moment to compete with her; and that a thousand years hence, if the world lasts so long, we shall have once more the same situation that we have now.
On the one side will stand human society ranged against her, in ranks and companies of which hardly two members are agreed upon anything except opposition to her. There will be the New Theologians of that day, as of ours; new schools of thought, changing every instant, new discoveries, new revelations, new presentations and combinations of fragments of old truth. And on the other side will stand the Church of the ages, with the marks of her passion deeper than ever upon her. From one side will go up that all but eternal cry, 'We have found her out at last; she is forsaken of all except a few fanatics at last; she is dead and buried at last'.
And on the other side she will stand, then, as always, wounded indeed to death, yet not dead; betrayed by her new-born Judases, judged by her Herods and her Pilates, scourged by those who pity while they strike, despised and rejected, and yet stronger in her Divine foolishness than all the wisdom of men; hung between Heaven and earth, and yet victorious over both; sealed and guarded in her living tomb, and yet always and forever passing out to new life and new victories.

So, too, then as now, and as at the beginning, there will be secret gardens where she is known and loved, where she will console the penitent as the sun rises on Easter Day; there will be upper rooms where her weeping friends are gathered for fear of the Jews, when, the doors being shut, she will come and stand in the midst and give them Peace; on mountains, and roads, and by the sea, she will walk then, as she has walked always, in the secret splendour of her Resurrection. So once more the wheel will turn; there will be ten thousand Bethlehems where she is born again and again; the kings of earth will bring their glory and honour to lay at her feet, side by side with the shepherds who have no gifts but themselves to offer. Again and again that old and eternal story will be told and re-told as each new civilisation comes into being and passes away - that old drama re-enacted wherever the Love of God confronts the needs of men".

Richard Collins - Linen on the Hedgerow


  1. Wow! Those words are just wonderful.Thanks for this.

  2. I became acquainted with Hugh Benson's writings by way of the Magnificat magazine. His name among a few others were those I came to look for in the index of each new issue I received. My reaction to him then was WOW... And it is comes as no surprise at all that my own reaction and others' reactions to this excerpt is also WOW... First reads sweep me off my feet. A second and even third read is a worthwhile compulsion once I'm back on my feet and my breath is restored.

    Thank you for including it here.

    Just thinking. Another author, also a convert, who has the same effect on me is Fr. Frederick William Faber whose writing is panoramic and sweeping and lyrical and joyous and quite seducing on behalf of the Lord.

  3. Dear Richard
    I had never heard of Mgr Benson before and will now explore his writings. Your post was very enriching and profoundly moving, he was obviously a man gifted with great human instinct and keen to see the victory of Christ in the world through all the ages. His words are applicable now as they were then.

    Thank you for sharing this post.


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