Society of the Love of Jesus

Joseph Leycester Lyne – ‘Father Ignatius’ – was ordained an Anglican deacon in the Diocese of Exeter on December 23rd 1860. His conditional progression was based on remaining a deacon for at least three years, and not preaching until he had received priest’s orders. This was meant to curb his enthusiasm somewhat, and perhaps give him time to mellow from his eccentric practices at St. Ninian’s in Glenalmond. There were various options open to Lyne but he went with an unpaid curacy in St. Peter’s, Plymouth, under the Rev. George Rundle Prynne.

Rafe Neville Leycester, the then 16-year-old son of Lyne’s maternal uncle Captain Edmund Leycester, recorded in his diary for Thursday July 26th 1861:

“Leycester Lyne has just come down here for a short time in order to make arrangements for being a curate to Mr Prynne a Puseyite clergyman of Plymouth. Leycester has brought with him a young Scotchman of the name of Buchan, and who is dressed in Highland costume. The latter is rather a nice fellow and we have been to bathe &c several times. They have dined with us several times and the latter was one day sitting on one of our chairs which have horse-hair cushions, when he was obliged to get up and beg to have a softer cushion to sit upon.”

Prynne had been an early supporter of Lydia Sellon and her Sisters of Mercy and, though their relationship was strained by 1861, it would still have seemed a great chance for Lyne to make contacts within the Ritualist movement. As Calder-Marshall says: ‘with the chance of working under Mr. Prynne – and in the same city as Miss Sellon, ‘Mother Lydia’ in Religion, whose patron was the great Dr. Pusey himself. It was a God-sent opportunity and he took it with all the enthusiasm of which he was capable.’

He wasted no time in establishing an all male guild, the ‘Society for the Love of Jesus’, whose members called themselves brothers – and of whom Lyne elected himself Superior. They soon numbered almost 40 brothers. When Lyne presented himself at St Dunstan’s Abbey, then the domain of Mother Lydia and her Sisters of the Most Holy Trinity, it was as Brother Joseph rather than Mr. Lyne. Sellon and, through her, Pusey took a great interest in Lyne and after a few months suggested to him that the Society for the Love of Jesus take over a house in Wyndham Place belonging to Sellon, and so establish their own resident Brotherhood.

So far I’ve been unable to find out much information about the shortlived community from a source beyond Ignatius’ biographies, but Margaret Goodman did touch upon the subject in her ‘Sisterhoods in the Church of England’ first published in November 1862. (This section was also published as an extract of the book in the February 2nd 1863 edition of the Western Daily Mercury.)

In the end, only two of the proposed thirty members of the Society (Brother Thomas and Brother Vincent) were ready to really commit and Lyne sent them on ahead to move into the house. That first night, according to a later account written by the Baroness De Bartouche, the two men were awoken by a ‘supernatural’ light – a lit taper being held by a ghostly hand. Lyne turned up the next day to join his fledgling Order and took it as a sign of divine approval. Before coming down with typhoid fever the following day…

Within weeks Lyne was at death’s door, taken to stay with a Mrs. Pyne in Stoke. He slowly recovered from the typhoid and congestion of the brain but, rather than return to the Brotherhood, his parents took him to Belgium to convalesce. Father Ignatius’ first foray into reviving the English brotherhood was at an end, though it seems the two other monks stayed on for some time.

Presumably this letter in the March 17th 1862 edition of the Western Daily Mercury refers to one of the brothers:

Brother Thomas, according to Goodman, saved up to attend the International Exhibition of 1862 in London and never returned.

Brother Vincent also went to the Exhibition some time later, leaving the house to the care of a boy who eventually tired of the wait and left. On his return, finding himself locked out, Brother Vincent ‘did not go forth to beg, but calmly turned back again to house-painting.’ He was still closely associated with Sellon and the Devonport Sisters, just the same, and had been residing at Ascot Priory. Had his health allowed, he intended to accompany the three sisters who went to Honolulu in September 1964 as part of the Hawaiian Mission. (As reported in John Bull of October 8th 1864 after they had suggested it was the disgraced Brother Augustine looking to leave the country.)

John Bull, 08 October 1864

The Society itself may have been kept up by the Rev. Prynne. In January 1866 the Western Daily Mercury printed a recent letter from Prynne – as its Superior – to members of the Society, asking them to wear their Society badges if they were attending the funeral of Sophia Worthy, while absent members were to read the burial office. Here is the story as told by the Christian Times of January 26th 1866:

In 1962 Arthur Calder-Marshall wrote in The Enthusiast:

Nine months after his coming to Plymouth, Joseph Leycester Lyne was all set to found his monastic order; or rather all set for his monastic order to be founded. St. Benedict, on whom he modelled himself, would in such a case have moved in for a week or two to familiarize himself with the place before admitting any brothers. Brother Joseph sent his two disciples on ahead.

Alone there in the empty house, one of them woke in the middle of the night and, if the Baroness is to be believed, saw through his open door a bright light shining. He thought place was on fire, but before waking the other brother, he went to the head of the stairs. The whole house seemed ‘full of supernatural light’. No wonder, since one of the altar tapers which had been left unlighted on the altar was now in full blaze at the foot of the stairs, held in a ghostly or angelic hand! The brother woke his fellow, and together they took the taper back to the altar, doused its flame and replaced it in the candelstick.

How right the Baroness was to say that it must have been ‘with countenances of the tinge of cucumber that the terrified Brothers recounted their experience next day’. Dr. Pusey, she wrote, ‘interpreted the manifestation as a Heaven-sent sign of Divine approval, and the lighted taper as an emblem of the illuminating influence which monasticism was to shed upon the Church.’ But he counselled silence, because such a manifestation was ‘too sacred to be described by the touch of public curiosity’.

It would be interesting to know what interpretation Dr. Pusey (or for that matter Brother Joseph himself) put on the fact that, despite this evidence of Divine approval, Brother Joseph on the second day of his residence in the Community, was seized with an acute attack of typhoid fever, followed by ‘congestion of the brain’. If the Divine approval was manifest by the supernatural conjury of lighted tapers, the striking down of Brother Joseph by typhoid fever and ‘congestion of the brain’ at so critical a moment in the rebirth of English monasticism was surely a sign of the Divine disapproval, at least of its timing. Or was it the escape into illness of someone who knew that he had taken on something for which he was not spiritually prepared and which he had left his subordinates to initiate on the first night?

The sequel to this collapse followed a pattern very like that at Glenalmond. As usual there was a mother-in-God at hand – like Mamsie and Mrs. Cameron – this time a Mrs. Pyne. She took him to her home in Stoke. There Brother Joseph grew worse and worse. Doctors and nurses seemed of no avail. He prepared once more for death, and Mrs. Pyne, less tough than Dr. Hannah, called in a priest. Brother Joseph received his ‘Sacramental Absolution and what he believed to be his Viaticum’. He lost all power of coherent speech and hearing. Except for a few lucid moments, all memory was blotted out (which meant, of course, that he forgot his failure). He lived in a ‘delirious nightmare, in the midst of which arose his old horror, the blight of his baby-days, the curse that had wrung his boyhood, his very manhood too, in its cold, cruel hand – the fear of hell.’

He was punishing himself for having overrun his abilities with his ambition. But his anxiety at having failed his trusting patrons was dispelled by Dr. Pusey’s message, ‘Do you think that our Lord would have allowed you to love and serve Him so long, if He had intended to let you perish?’

When Brother Joseph heard this message from his spiritual father, he turned to his mother, who had come to his bedside, and said, ‘I shall not die, but live.’

At the time of Brother Joseph’s collapse his parents had been in France, enjoying, thanks to the Lyne Stephens’ legacy, a ration of long awaited leisure. Francis Lyne was as sorry that his son’s curacy had to be abandoned as he was glad that all that monkish nonsense had fizzled out so fast. When Joseph was recovered the Lynes took him to convalesce in Belgium.

In 1908 Baroness De Bartouch gave this account with Lyne’s approval:

For more like this please click the image below:
Order of st Benedict
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