Friday, April 27, 2012


The Rev. George Herbert is a great Anglican Saint. I say is rather than was because the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is the God of the living, not of the dead. The saints of God are alive with the Lord and see Him face to face. 

George Herbert was born in 1593 and died in 1633. Although he only lived to the age of forty, he was a holy priest and a faithful shepherd of his small country parish. His example impacted the clergy of his day, and he has served as an example for Anglican clergy for centuries. Writing of Herbert, his famous biographer Izaak Walton said, "Thus he lived and thus he died like a Saint, unspotted of the World, full of Alms' deeds, full of Humility, and all the examples of a virtuous life." Another saintly contemporary of Herbert, Nicholas Ferrar, said that Herbert's "faithful discharge [of his ministry] was such, as may make him a just companion to the primitive Saints, and a pattern or more for the age he lived in." The life of St. George Herbert is commemorated on February 27th (Lesser Feasts and Fasts, c. 1963, p. 85).

The New Reformation in Anglicanism will not be advanced and completed by sound theological reasoning and teaching alone. Like all movements of spiritual renewal it will be advanced through a renewed commitment to personal holiness. What the Church needs most right now are holy priests. If there is one book that I could recommend to the Anglican clergy, seminarians and men discerning a priestly vocation today it would be George Herbert's, A Priest To The Temple, Or, The Country Parson His Character And Rule Of Holy Life. Prayerfully read this book. It will change your life and ministry. But don't just read it once and put it back on the shelf. Keep it on your desk or night stand and read it often. Just as Benedictine monks often read The Rule of St. Benedict, so should Anglican parish priests read Herbert's ...Rule of Holy Life. Read it, meditate upon it, reflect on it and learn from it, and then put what you learn into practice in your parish ministry. 

Paulist Press, in its series, The Classics of Western Spirituality, has published a wonderful edition of Herbert's book, bound together with The Temple. Sacred Poems And Private Ejaculations, by Herbert. This second book is filled with spiritually uplifting poetry that would be a blessing to everyone, clergy and laity alike. One of my favorite poems is titled simply, The British Church.


I joy, dear Mother, when I view
Thy perfect lineaments, and hue
Both sweat and bright.

Beauty in thee takes up her place,
And dates her letters from thy face (1)
When she doth write.

A fine aspect in fit array,
Neither too mean, nor yet too gay,
Shows who is best.

Outlandish looks may not compare: 
For all they either painted are,
Or else undrest.

She on the hills (2), which wantonly
Allureth all in hope to be
By her preferr'd,

Hath kiss'd so long her painted shrines,
That ev'n her face by kissing shines,
For her reward.

She in the valley (3) is so shy
Of dressing, that her hair doth lie
About her ears:

While she avoids her neighbor's pride,
She wholly goes on th' other side,
And nothing wears.

But dearest Mother (4), what those miss
The mean (5) thy praise and glory is,
And long may be.

Blessed be God, whose love it was
To double-moat (6) thee with his grace,
And none but thee.

(1) The Anglican Church in George Herbert's time 
dated the first day of the year as March 25th, the 
Feast of the Annunciation, commonly called
Lady Day.
(2) "She on the hills." The Roman Catholic Church.
(3) "She in the Valley." Genevan Protestantism.
(4) "But dearest Mother." The Anglican Church.
(5) ""The mean." The Anglican via media.
(6) "double-moat." The Anglican Church is protected
against both Roman ostentation and Genevan bareness.