IV.—EARLY ADDITIONS AND ALTERATIONS IN THE RULES
So much may be considered the original rules of the Society. Perhaps, however, it might be useful, in order to have all together, to add here such additions and alterations as may be found in the first two minute books, until the rules were drawn up in their present form.
As showing the spirit of deep piety that animated these grand men, these first “Bretheren,” we may here draw attention to the pious reflections and homilies that one so often finds through the ill-written and worse spelt entries on the discoloured pages of those old books.
To those in need at the hour of death the thoughts of the Brethren seem to have turned first. In 1733, this little entry is made:—”Agreed by ye Brethren thatt two Shill: be given to have 2 Masses said for any of ye Society when in danger of Death.”
Under date, May 31st 1739, we find the following addition to the rules. With it is an exhortation to perseverance in good. It runs:
May ye 31 1739. It is further agreed by our company that there must be given out of our stock five shillings every Whitsunday for Masses to be offered for the benefit of our bretheran living and dead and the Masses to be offered some 2 days in the week after Trinity Sunday and to begin the next Whitsunday which will be the tenth of June and likewise it is desired by our company that we may have a sermon given us for the same end about the Nativity of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
To this all do agree in honour of the Trinity.
Then follows the exhortation.
Galations: 6 Chap: Verse ye 6th: And let us not be weary in well doing for in due season we shall Reap if we faint not. Hebrews 10 Chap: Vers: 22 to ye 26th. Let us draw near with a true heart in full assuerance of faith haveing our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water …
On a page marked 1753 there is an entry, so faded as to be almost illegible, which says: “We conclud to begin the year at Easter being the 6 of April 1753.”
Under date 11th September, 1785, we find the following:
Whereas at the first institution of this Society it was ordered that when any of the Brethren dies 3 shillings be given for 3 Masses to be said in honour of the Blessed Trinity for the happy repose of their souls, but considering the great advance in the price of all the necessaries of life since that time, being the space of 54 years, it was thought proper to add something to the said gift. And at a meeting of this Society on the 11th of Sepr 1785 it was agreed by the members present instead of 3 shillings to give 3 half crowns for the foresaid purpose. For as St Paul said in his first Epistle to Timothy Ch. 5. V. 18 Thou shalt not muzel the ox that treadeth out the corn. And the labourer is worthy of his reward.
The old style of entry ends with the century. It is remarkable how almost at once after the beginning of the 19th Century minutes become short and matter-of-fact. Poetry seems to have been shed with the passing of the seventeen hundreds.
Our first entry after 1800 is as follows:—
Sep 7 1806. It is this day unanimously agreed by the members then present, that the quarterly meetings of this Society shall in future be held as follows.—
1st Meetg on the Feast of St Stephen
2nd On the Sunday nearest the Annunciaton
3rd One [sic]the nearest to Sts Peter andPaul
4th On the nearest to St Michall.
The “Catholick Bretheren” were from the beginning a Charitable Society. But it was apparently the Treasurer who distributed the relief to the needy. An interesting innovation was made in 1817, however. We read:
June 29th 1817. The following Resolutions where (sic.) agreed to—That in order to relieve the immediate wants of the Distressee the Revd Gentlemen of this Society shall be appointed Directors and all petitions should be forwarded to them for investigation when they should grant any relief that might be deemed necessary by sending a written paper to the Treasurer with the name of the Petitioner and the sum to be given Also the Member’s name by whom he or she is recommended who shall himself state the sum to be given, if he thinks proper to the Treasurer who will immediately discharge the same. It must be observed that all members have the usual privilege of recommending petitioners at the Quarterly Meetings or any other time when necessity requires by referring them to the consideration of the Directors.
This is the first place in the minutes that we find “the Revd. Gentlemen of this Society” given an official position as such. This system was evidently merely put on trial at the beginning, for our next entry runs: “The afforesaid Resolution confirmed at the meeting held 28th Sept 1817, and further resolved that the monies collected in the Chapels during Lent be added to the Funds of this Society. Carried unanimously.”
This last clause is interesting. It tells of one of the sources of income of the Society. It shows that the Society at this period was no longer “obliged to lie under ye Bushel.” And this source of income remained it would seem for some considerable time. For “At a Meeting on the 31st March 1822 it was resolved that the thanks of this Meeting be given to the Revd. Directors for their kindness in placing the money collected during Lent for the Benefit of this Society to be disposed by their excellent regulations to deserving objects and the members also beg that the Revd. Directors will use the means they think most proper by informing the congregation how this money is distributed.” Again we have the Society indirectly advertised.
It is to be noted, too, that in the new Century, when peace reigned after the storms, we find for the first time mention made of irregularities, which did not exist in the hard days of persecution. So, too, it was in the days of the early Church. How united were the first Christians, when they went in fear of the tortures of the Coliseum! It was after they came out from their hiding places in the Catacombs that heresies and schisms began.
At the Meeting above referred to held on September 28th, 1817, “It was further resolved that in order to enforce a consideration that has been hitherto supposed to exist it is resolved that in future no member shall be considered to have withdrawn himself from this Society unless notice is given in writing to the President or at one of the Society’s Meetings.”
It is on June 26th, 1825, that we read for the first time of the removal of members’ names from the roll of the Society. On that day it was “resolved that no person shall be considered a member of this Society who is six Quarters inclusively in arrears of his payments. And if he or she die before such arrears are paid the member shall not receive the Spiritual Benefits from the Society.”
To complete the list of amendments to the original rules, we add here, without comment, the following extracts from the minutes:—
Dec 26th 1823. Resolved that 10 Masses be said at the Decease of each member.
Resolved that also one Mass shall be said for each member as near his agony as can be judged.
Further resolved that 10 Masses be said annually for the living members.
Further resolved that the rules of the Society be printed also the names of the members and each member to pay for a copy.
Resolved that the Masses for the deceased members be extended to their wives.
June 26th 1825. Resolved that it shall be proposed and decided at each Meeting of this Society what sum shall be distributed to the Catholic Schools at each Quarter.
Resolved that the Secretary be directed to draw up a circular to be printed and sent to the present members and also to be sent to those who may be likely to become members and to be distributed one week before the next meeting. Also to have printed papers to be placed at the Preston Chapel doors and the Chapel doors of the neighbouring congregations Explanatory of the objects of this Society.