Articles, records and resources relating to the history of the Lancashire town of Preston
The First Catholic Charitable Society of Preston – Chapter 3
III.—ORIGINAL RULES OF THE SOCIETY
We have already spoken of the courage and grit of the old Catholics of Lancashire, who so tenaciously clung to the old Faith in face of difficulties, that we can hardly conceive in these peaceful times. We have animadverted, too, on the solidity of their piety. A better idea, a clearer conception of the depth of that piety, of the spirit that animated them, can be got no more surely than by pondering on the original rules of the founders of the First Catholic Charitable Society. Articles of Agreement those staunch old heroes called them. They are written out in the first pages of that first old minute and account book. The pages are soiled and discoloured by time; but the ink with which those rules were written is still clear and bright. Has the spirit of those grand Founders been handed down with the same degree of brightness to their successors of to-day? Here are those rules. Let them bear witness.
“First every person that comes into the Company to pay one shilling all his enterance into the said Company for the benefit of the poor and for the time to come one peney ½ a week so long as he shall remain in the sd Sosiety and the peney ½ a week to be paid every first week of the month into the hands of the President or Prefett of the Company of the Brethren chosen to receive the same for that present year.
“And every year two persons to be elected for President and Prefett by the Sosiety of Brethren and to serve as Governers of the Company and to be elected in their turns as they enter into the sd Sosiety if the Brethren think it proper.
“The Charity to be Distributed as follows to the Church to our poor Catholick Brethren under sickness or persecution and to have prayers said for faithful! souls departed.
“Likewise all the Sosiety to say five paternosters five Ave Maries att least once a month for the good intencion of our Company and that our works may be acceptable to Almighty God and to say five paler nos: five Ave Mar: all those times when we Distribute our Charity four times a year as follows Christmas Easter Whitsontide and Natively of Our Blessed Lady and likewise all the Brethren of the sd Sosiety shall meet when called to give their opinion either to add or diminish anything and to consider where is most nessesety to give our charity as they shall think proper and if any dispute shall arise amongst the Company the majority of voats to carry the cause, the President Prefett to have the casting voatt.
“And if it please God that love and union may be upholder amongst us and that no one shall be rashly admitted into the Sosiety or Company but such as will keep the secrets of the Brethren relateing to the sd Company
“And likewise the President and Prefett to keep a book and take account what is recd and from whom as also what is disburst and to whom and for what use. Also every man that comes into the society of this company shall subscribe to these articles and have his name entered in the book. Also when any of the sd Brethren dyes three shillings shall be given to have three Masses said in honour of the Blessed Trinity for the happy repose of their soule. Also when any of the Brethren of the Sosiety is buried as many of the Sosiety to come to buriall as can and say by the corpes of his deceased Brother five paler nos: five Ave Mar: and the Creed in honor of our blessed Saviour and Redeemer’s five wounds for the happy Rest of their Soule and those thatt cannot come when they hear to say the same prayers for the same end.
“We agree to begin this company all Whitsunday the Sixt of June 1731 and begin to Distribut our Charity att Christmas following or sooner if the Brethren think itt proper.
“And that we may all hope to have that favourable sentence of Our Blessed Saviour as he says in St. Matthew 25 Chapter 34 Verse: Come you Blessed of my Father possess you the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world for I was an hungred and you gave me to eate I was athirst and you gave me to drink I was a stranger and you took me in, naked and you covered me sicke and you visited me: I was in prison and you came to me. Likewise as we may rejoyce with St Paul as he saith in the 2 of Timothe 4 Chap: 7 Verse, I have fought a good fight I have consummate my course I have kept the faith. And Ephesians 3 Chap: 17 Verse where St Paul prayes for his Brethren that Christ do dwel by faith in your hearts rooted and founded in Charity. And Romans 5 Chap: 5 Verse, And hope confoundeth not because the Charity of God is poured forth in our hastes by the Holy Ghost which is given us. And Hebrewes 6 Chap. 10 Verse, for God is not unjust that he should forget your work and love which you have showed in his name which have ministred to the Sainctes and do minister.
” Also we consider that when wn sumonsed to a Publick expense that every man as comes to spend his 2D and no more upon that account and those that doenot come to pay 2D more the next payment for relief of the poore likewise the intended number to be fourty and when any dyes or leaves the Company another to be elected and chosen in Seven days if it can be that the number may be upholder also we conclude to begin the year at the Nativity of our Blessed Lady and every year that to be the Election day of President & Prefett for the year enseuing.
” We whose names are here under subscribed doe faithfully eunite and agree to these articles before mentioned.
1731 June 6.
I hope to God that all of we
In love and charity may agree
In honour of the Blessed Trinity.
“Heb: 13 Ch 14 Verse: for here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come; by him therefore let us offer ye sacrifice of praise to God continually that is ye fruit of our lips giving thanks to his Name: but to do good and to communicate forget not; for with such sacrifices God is well Pleased.”
These were the original rules of the Society. Yet it would seem that there was not enough of spiritual exercises to please the first Brethren. For we find the very next entry, dated 25th March, 1732, as follows:—
To the honour of God and for the good of our Souls. Dr. Brethren we have added to our former duty our Ladys Littany of Loretto once a month & likewise ye Litanies of ye Saints once a quarter & to hear Mass for ye same end once a quarter upon a work day if it can be, yt we may obtain ye favorable saying of our blessed Lord in St John Ch. 16 Ver. 23. Whatsoever you shall ask my Father in my name he will give itt you in St Luke Ch. II Ver. 9 Ask and you shall Receive.
And it would seem probable that those Spiritual Exercises were not allowed to become forgotten or neglected. For on the fly-leaf of the old account book, from which all the above is copied, there is a sort of summary of the duties of piety to which the “Bretheren” bound themselves. It runs thus: “You are Required to say five Pater nosters five Ave Marries once a month & to say ye same about the time we meet and to say our Lady Lettany of Loretto and ye littany of ye Saints once a Quarter and to Hear Mass one (once ?) Quarter if you can for the good Intencion of our Company.” And, to judge from the way that this particular part of this fly-leaf is thumb-marked, it may easily be surmised that this summary was probably read at each meeting, or that it was at least read to each new member, that what seemed the most important part of the “Company’s” duty should be impressed upon the Brethren.