Tuesday 7 April 2020

A leading figure in the work of England's return to Our Lady as her Dowry - Fr Ignatius Spencer

Did you know that Father Ignatius Spencer of Saint Paul was born as Hon. George Spencer, a son of the 2nd Earl Spencer and was a very important figure in Our Lady's plan for England, her Dowry?

 Father Ignatius converted from Anglicanism to the Roman Catholic Church and entered the Passionist Order in 1847. He was given his habit by the Italian priest and missionary to England Blessed Dominic Barberi who had a special calling from Our Lord for England and who received Saint John Henry Newman into the Catholic Church. Ignatius and Dominic were very good friends and Ignatius spent his life working for the conversion of England to the Catholic faith. He is an ancestor of Diana, Princess of Wales, and her two sons, Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, and Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, and he played a vital role in Our Lady's plan for England, her Dowry.

 During a visit to France in 1838, Father Ignatius proposed a Crusade of Prayer for the Conversion of England to Hyacinthe-Louis de QuĂ©len, the Archbishop of Paris. Many of George's influential friends joined this campaign, and news of it spread throughout Britain and the Empire. In May 1839, he was appointed spiritual director to the seminarians at Oscott College and in the same month preached at St. Chad's, Manchester on 'The Great Importance of a Reunion Between the Catholics and the Protestants of England and the Method of Effecting It'. 

In January 1840, Fr Ignatius visited John Henry Newman at Oriel College, Oxford to ask Newman to join him in prayer for "unity in truth". Newman sent Spencer away and refused even to see him, but later apologised for this in his Apologia; 

 "This feeling led me into the excess of being very rude to that zealous and most charitable man, Mr. Spencer, when he came to Oxford in January, 1840, to get Anglicans to set about praying for Unity. I myself then, or soon after, drew up such prayers; it was one of the first thoughts which came upon me after my shock, but I was too much annoyed with the political action of the members of the Roman Church in England to wish to have anything to do with them personally. So glad in my heart was I to see him when he came to my rooms, whither Mr. Palmer of Magdalen brought him, that I could have laughed for joy; I think I did; but I was very rude to him, I would not meet him at dinner, and that, (though I did not say so,) because I considered him " in loco apostatx " from the Anglican Church, and I hereby beg his pardon for it." 

 Ignatius threw himself into Passionist life and after making his religious profession in 1848 began preaching sermons throughout Britain and Ireland, always calling for prayers for the conversion of England. After his death he was buried alongside Dominic Barberi and Elizabeth Prout in St. Anne's, Sutton, St. Helens on 4 October and now rests in the shrine church there. 

When his body was exhumed in 1973 it was noted that Father Ignatius suffered from horrific arthritis, but that his tongue had not suffered any decay since the day of his death. In March 2007, the Church announced that the first stage of Father Ignatius' cause for beatification had been completed and that all the necessary documents had been forwarded to Rome. 

 At 2016, the Servant of God Ignatius Spencer was standing for the second of the "four steps of the path to canonization as a saint in the Catholic Church", that are in the following sequence: Servant of God, Venerable, Blessed and Saint. The firsts step is competence of the local diocese, and the next two steps require the recognition by the Vatican's authorities of two different miracles, attributed to his intercession.  

For a fascinating history of this important Shrine church in England, visit:  

 Mary's Dowry productions is currently producing a film about Blessed Dominic of the Mother of God.