"A Remaining Christmas" by Hillaire Belloc

     The world is changing very fast, and neither exactly for the better or the worse, but for division. Our civilization is splitting more and more into two camps, and what was common to the whole of it is becoming restricted to the Christian, and soon will be restricted to the Catholic half.
     That is why I have called this article ‘A Remaining Christmas’. People ask themselves how much remains of this observance and of the feast and its customs. Now a concrete instance is more vivid and, in its own way, of more value than a general appreciation. So I will set down here exactly what Christmas still is in a certain house in England, how it is observed, and all the domestic rites accompanying it in their detail and warmth.
     This house stands low down upon clay near a little river. It is quite cut off from the towns; no one has built near it. Every cottage for a mile and more is old, with here and there a modern addition. The church of the parish (which was lost of course three and a half
centuries ago, under Elizabeth) is as old as the Crusades. It is of the twelfth century. The house of which I speak is in its oldest parts of the fourteenth century at least, and perhaps earlier, but there are modern additions. One wing of it was built seventy years ago at the south end of the house, another at the north end, twenty years ago. Yet the tradition is so strong that you would not tell from the outside, and hardly from the inside, which part is old and which part is new. For, indeed, the old part itself grew up gradually, and the eleven gables of the house show up against the sky as though they were of one age, though in truth they are of every age down along all these 500 years and more.

     The central upper room of the house is the chapel where Mass is said, and there one sees, uncovered by any wall of plaster or brick, the original structure of the house, which is of vast oaken beams, the main supports and transverses pieces half a yard across, morticed strongly into each other centuries, and smoothed roughly with the adze. They are black with the
years. The roof soars up like a high‐pitched tent, and is supported by a whole fan of lesser curved oaken beams. There is but one window behind the altar. Indeed, the whole house is
thus in its structure of the local and native oak, and the brick walls of it are only curtains built in between the wooden framework of that most ancient habitation.

     Beneath the chapel is the dining room, where there is a very large open hearth which can take huge logs and which is as old as anything in the place. Here wood only is burnt, and that wood oak.

     Down this room there runs a very long oaken table as dark with age almost as the beams above it, and this table has a history. It came out of one of the Oxford colleges when the
Puritans looted them 300 years ago. It never got back to its original home. It passed from one family to another until at last it was purchased (in his youth and upon his marriage) by the
man who now owns this house. Those who know about such things give its date as the beginning of the seventeenth century. It was made, then, while Shakespeare was still living, and while the faith of England still hung in the balance; for one cannot say that England was certain to lose her Catholicism finally till the first quarter of that century was passed. This table, roughly carved at the side, has been polished with wax since first it began to bear food for men, and now the surface shines like a slightly, very slightly, undulating sea in a calm. At night the brass candlesticks (for this house is lit with candles, as the proper light for men’s eyes) are reflected in it as in still brown water; so are the vessels of glass and of silver and of pewter, and the flagons of wine. No cloth is ever spread to hide this venerable splendour, nor, let us hope, ever will be.

     At one end of the house, where the largest of its many outer doors (there are several such) swings massively upon huge forged iron hinges, there is a hall, not very wide; its length is as
great as the width of the house and its height very great for its width. Like the chapel, its roof soars up, steep and dark, so that from its floor (which is made of very great and heavy slabs
of the local stone) one looks up to the roof‐tree itself. This hall has another great wide hearth in it for the burning of oak, and there is an oaken staircase, very wide and of an easy slope,
with an oaken balustrade and leading up to an open gallery above, whence you look down upon the piece. Above this gallery is a statue of Our Lady, carved in wood, uncoloured, and
holding the Holy Child, and beneath her many shelves of books. This room is panelled, as are so many of the rooms of the house, but it has older panels than any of the others, and the great door of it opens on to the high road.

     Now the way Christmas is kept in this house is this: On Christmas Eve a great quantity of holly and of laurel is brought in from the garden and from the farm (for this house has a farm of 100 acres attached to it and an oak wood of ten acres). This greenery is put up all over the house in every room just before it becomes dark on that day. Then there is brought into the hall a young pine tree, about twice the height of a man, to serve for a Christmas tree, and on this innumerable little candles are fixed, and presents for all the household and the guests and the children of the village.

     It is at about five o’clock that these last come into the house, and at that hour in England, at that date, it has long been quite dark; so they come into a house all illuminated with the Christmas tree shining like a cluster of many stars seen through a glass.

     The first thing done after the entry of these people from the village and their children (the children are in number about fifty—for this remote place keeps a good level through the
generations and does not shrink or grow, but remains itself) is a common meal, where all eat and drink their fill in the offices. Then the children come in to the Christmas tree. They are each given a silver piece one by one, and one by one, their presents. After that they dance in the hall and sing songs, which have been handed down to them for I do not know how long. These songs are game‐songs, and are sung to keep time with the various parts in each game, and the men and things and animals which you hear mentioned in these songs are all of that
countryside. Indeed, the tradition of Christmas here is what it should be everywhere, knit into the very stuff of the place; so that I fancy the little children, when they think of Bethlehem, see it in their minds as though it were in the winter depth of England, which is as it should be.

     These games and songs continue for as long as they will, and then they file out past the great fire in the hearth to a small piece adjoining where a crib has been set up with images of
Our Lady and St Joseph and the Holy Child, the Shepherds, and what I will call, by your leave, the Holy Animals. And here, again, tradition is so strong in this house that these figures are never new‐bought, but are as old as the oldest of the children of the family, now with children of their own. On this account, the donkey has lost one of its plaster ears, and the old ox which used to be all brown is now piebald, and of the shepherds, one actually has no head. But all that is lacking is imagined. There hangs from the roof of the crib over the Holy Child a tinsel star grown rather obscure after all these years, and much too large for the place. Before this crib the children (some of them Catholic and some Protestant, for the village is mixed) sing their carols; the one they know best is the one which begins: ‘The First Good Joy that Mary had, it was the joy of One’. There are a half a dozen or so of these carols which the children here sing; and mixed with their voices is the voice of the miller (for this house has great windmill attached to it). The miller is famous in these parts for his singing, having a very deep and loud voice which is his pride. When these carols are over, all disperse, except those who are living in the house, but the older ones are not allowed to go without more good drink for their viaticum, a sustenance for Christian men.

     Then the people of the house, when they have dined, and their guests, with the priest who is to say Mass for them, sit up till near midnight. There is brought in a very large log of oak
(you must be getting tired of oak by this time! But everything here is oaken, for the house is of the Weald). This log of oak is the Christmas or Yule log and the rule is that it must be too
heavy for one man to lift; so two men come, bringing it in from outside, the master of the house and his servant. They cast it down upon the fire in the great hearth of the dining‐room,
and the superstition is that, if it burns all night and is found still smouldering in the morning, the home will be prosperous for the coming year.  
With that they all go up to the chapel and there the three night Masses are said, one after the other, and those of the household take their Communion.

     Next morning they sleep late, and the great Christmas dinner is at midday. It is a turkey; and plum pudding, with holly in it and everything conventional, and therefore satisfactory, is done. Crackers are pulled, the brandy is lit and poured over the pudding till the holly crackles in the flame and the curtains are drawn a moment that the flames may be seen. This Christmas feast, so great that it may be said almost to fill the day, they may reprove who will; but for my part I applaud.

     Now, you must not think that Christmas being over, the season and its glories are at an end, for in this house there is kept up the full custom of the Twelve Days, so that ‘Twelfth
Day’, the Epiphany, still has, to its inhabitants, its full and ancient meaning as it had when Shakespeare wrote. The green is kept in its place in every room, and not a leaf of it must be
moved until Epiphany morning, but on the other hand not a leaf of it must remain in the house, nor the Christmas tree either, by Epiphany evening. It is all taken out and burnt in a special little coppice reserved for these good trees which have done their Christmas duty; and now, after so many years, you might almost call it a little forest, for each tree has lived, bearing witness to the holy vitality of unbroken ritual and inherited things.

     In the midst of this season between Christmas and Twelfth Day comes the ceremony of the New Year, and this is how it is observed: On New Years’ Eve, at about a quarter to twelve o’clock at night, the master of the house and all that are with him go about from room to room opening every door and window, however cold the weather be, for thus, they say, the old year and its burdens can go out and leave everything new for hope and for the youth of the coming time. This also is a superstition, and of the best. Those who observe it trust that it is as old as Europe, and with roots stretching back into forgotten times.

     While this is going on the bells in the church hard by are ringing out the old year, and when all the windows and doors have thus been opened and left wide, all those in the house go
outside, listening for the cessation of the chimes, which comes just before the turn of the year. There is an odd silence of a few minutes, and watches are consulted to make certain of the
time (for this house detests wireless and has not even a telephone), and the way they know the moment of midnight is by the boom of a gun, which is fired at a town far off, but can
always be heard.

     At that sound the bells of the church clash out suddenly in new chords, the master of the house goes back into it with a piece of stone or earth from outside, all doors are shut, and the
household, all of them, rich and poor, drink a glass of wine together to salute the New Year.

     This, which I have just described, is not in a novel or in a play. It is real, and goes on as the ordinary habit of living men and women. I fear that set down thus in our terribly changing
time it must sound very strange and, perhaps in places, grotesque, but to those who practise it, it is not only sacred, but normal, having in the whole of the complicated affair a
sacramental quality and an effect of benediction: not to be despised.

     Indeed, modern men, who lack such things, lack sustenance, and our fathers who founded all those ritual observances were very wise. Man has a body as well as a soul, and the whole of man, soul and body, is nourished sanely by a multiplicity of observed traditional things. Moreover, there is this great quality in the unchanging practice of Holy Seasons, that it makes explicable, tolerable, and normal what is otherwise a shocking and intolerable and even in the fullest sense, abnormal thing. I mean, the mortality of immortal men.

     Not only death (which shakes and rends all that is human in us, creating a monstrous separation and threatening the soul with isolation which destroys), not only death, but that
accompaniment of mortality which is a perpetual series of lesser deaths and is called change, are challenged, chained, and put in their place by unaltered and successive acts of seasonable
regard for loss and dereliction and mutability. The threats of despair, remorse, necessary expiation, weariness almost beyond bearing, dull repetition of things apparently fruitless, unnecessary and without meaning, estrangement, the misunderstanding of mind by mind, forgetfulness which is a false alarm, grief, and repentance, which are true ones, but of a sad company, young men perished in battle before their parents had lost vigour in age, the perils of sickness in the body and even in the mind, anxiety, honour harassed, all the bitterness of
living—become part of a large business which may lead to Beatitude. For they are all connected in the memory with holy day after holy day, year by year, binding the generations
together; carrying on even in this world, as it were, the life of the dead and giving corporate
  substance, permanence and stability, without the symbol of which (at least) the vast
increasing burden of life might at last conquer us and be no longer borne.

     This house where such good things are done year by year has suffered all the things that every age has suffered. It has known the sudden separation of wife and husband, the sudden fall of young men under arms who will never more come home, the scattering of the living and their precarious return, the increase and the loss of fortune, all those terrors and all those lessenings and haltings and failures of hope which make up the life of man. But its Christmas binds it to its own past and promises its future; making the house an undying thing of which those subject to mortality within it are members, sharing in its continuous survival.

     It is not wonderful that of such a house verse should be written. Many verses have been so written commemorating and praising this house. The last verse written of it I may quote by
way of ending:

‘Stand thou for ever among human Houses,
House of the Resurrection, House of Birth;
House of the rooted hearts and long carouses,
Stand, and be famous over all the Earth.


Saint Tisquantum, Save The Calvinists One More Time!

   The holiday of Thanksgiving began, as we all know, when the Pilgrims at their colony of Plymouth were saved from a death-by-starvation. They were saved by the heroic virtue of a native man whom they called "Squanto".  I motion that this man, whose real name is Tisquantum, be put up for canonization!

   Here is Tisquantum's hagiography:
Born providentially on the feast of The Circumcision of Our Lord, in 1592, Tisquantum was still a young man when he was brutally abducted and sold into slavery by English speculators.  These shrewd laissez-faireans took him to Spain, where miraculously he was rescued, bought out of bondage, by Catholic priests.

Tisquantum must have been deeply moved by the Spanish priests-- either his prudence or his affections, or both, illuminated by grace-- because he asked for baptism into their faith. He was baptised into the Catholic Church in anno Domini 1614.

Tisquantum longed to return to his home and his Patuxet people. His fidelity to them held strong through long years of journeying. He eventually took work on an English trading ship in order to return home across the ocean.

When he returned home he found that his family, his village, and many of his people were dead. His home had been destroyed by a plague-- smallpox-- brought by the English who had already handed him so much suffering. Tisquantum must have known what it meant to hate.

To forgive his abductors, those who had wronged him personally, must have been hard enough. However, we can speculate that his baptism must have greatly aided in the strengthening of his heart and his ability to make peace.
To forgive wrongs done to one's self is far easier than to forgive the evils and hurts done to those we love. To have fought his hate so well, and to have overcome his wrath at his enemies, only to arrive home at long last and to find his mother, father, brothers, sisters, and perhaps wife and children, friends, neighbors all dead from the filth visited upon them by the same enemies must have brought Tisquantum near to despair.

Tisquantum was forced to see his home, where surely he had memories of boisterous lively Patuxet children singing, of hunting with his father and brothers, of walking with his wife, now emptied. Emptied to be filled by English colonists.

However, in 1621 when Tisquantum found the English colonists bereft, dying, filthy, and sick, he befriended them. He took them under his wing. He softened his heart to them in their folly, their stupid, prudenceless folly, and rescued them. He taught them how to build a sustainable village, to work the land.

Did the Calvinists think to thank their Catholic friend? Did the heralds of the Industrial Revolution record any sense of irony that their salvation came at the hands of a native agrarian Roman Catholic of a foreign race? It is to their credit that the Calvinists thought to thank God, and instituted a holiday in this memory, but perhaps American history would have been better had they also thanked the blessedness of Tisquantum. Had they emulated his faith and his way of life.

Tisquantum died alone, betrayed by his own people and by the Calvinists, murdered by one side and ignored by the other, while acting as an interpreter for peace talks.

We should pray, perhaps, to our brother Tisquantum, that God will help the Catholic Church today to again teach Calvinists how to live sustainably and to live at peace; the former only possible by loving one's home, one's land, and the latter only possible by heroic charity, love, and forgiveness. Even in the face of rape, murder, pillage, and horror.

When the Calvinist beast is unleashed again in this generation, may we meet it with such fortitude, peace, and charity as did Tisquantum.


"The Restoration of Christian Culture" by John Senior

If you have been slothful in getting around to reading John Senior's books, you can take the lazy way out and click here: John Senior, Ch 2 to listen to an excerpt of his book read, in dignified and melliflous voice, by our celebrity guest reader.

The Restoration of Christian Culture is one of the best books I have ever read. The first chapter, about devotion to our parish church and love for our Blessed Mother, and the chapter on the Benedictine charism, could make one weep.

In this chapter Dr. Senior is honest, but if you can come to share in this examination of conscience, the rest of his book will lift your heart. He does not lay heavy burdens without helping to lighten them.

I hope this chapter motivates you to read this book, rather than discourages you!  This excerpt, actually, is not representative of the book. Not sure why I chose this one; it's quite depressing. The rest of the book is beautiful. Sursum corda.


Friendship School: To Have Harmony You Must First Know The Key (it's B sharp, by the way)

     Joseph Pieper has a good book called, Leisure: The Basis of Culture. I am not going to try to explain his beautiful, well-written, simply laid out work because I started out doing so on this post and realized I was needlessly multiplying entities. For now I just want to say a little about one of the parts of his book; the origin of leisure and work in our language and understanding.

     The ancient Greek word for leisure is schole, which word and idea the Romans made schola. Now most moderns are too reductionistic in their take on this idea, saying that the ancient philosophers thought leisure was merely the freedom from necessity, and that the best life was one of toga wearing wine tastings and pompous academic debating.

     Schole was indeed a matter of freedom from necessity, but it was a conversion born of reflection. It was not freedom from work, but freedom from the necessity that characterizes brutes. Animals are predetermined  without awareness. They follow nature merely. Men are capable of entering freely into their nature, and being not predetermined, but determined, so to speak. They are able to be determined. That determination starts with reflection-- turning again in thinking, in this case looking at my nature and becoming aware-- and bears fruit in conversion-- turning with my nature and joining it.

     The schole, leisure, is opposed to modernity in this. The schole is the place of discipline, which comes from the Indo-European word dek, meaning acceptance.  The schole is the home for training in acceptance of your self, your nature, that which is given to you, where you through training love the things entrusted to. Learning to know what and who you are, you can learn the way to respond to it, the way of being what you and who you are best. Schole is not obsessed with 'choice', but dedicated to learning love. And this learning takes discipline.

    Moderns vainly wish for infinite fundamental choices, as though men could be worms or rocks or unicorns or angels or gods. There are many practical choices, but only two fundamental choices: a man can be a man, himself, or he can be nothing, an innovation.

    The choice is to freely join in your nature, and "garden up the best thing in you", as Aristotle says, or to be at war with yourself and attempt all options, anything, which is indistinguishable from  nothing. Man can freely enter into himself and pursue it, and find stasis, a dynamic living peace, or he can become static-- white noise, all things, chaos, which is nothing.

    Man must recreate, not create, because recreation is to love the thing recreated, made anew. Creation is to focus on that which isn't. Man isn't capable of it, and in longing for the ability, devotes his life to nothing. Man must love what exists and renew it. He must love his self and let himself be renewed. After the initial moment of wonder, when he realizes that these are given, he loves the giver, and cherishes, husbands, preserves that given.

    Real change in this world is always death and decay. Living things do not change, they renew. There is nothing new under the sun, but things can be renewed, become themselves again.

    So reflection, perhaps sparked by a sudden gratuitous wonder, can convert a man, lead him to turn along with his nature, not against it. He is no longer natural by mere necessity, but freely. Being himself becomes his work, too, not just the work of nature. He begins to be supernatural, which is not against nature, but redeeming it, renewing, raising it up to become what it is, but cannot be without this act.

     The livelihood of the man of leisure and the brute might be for both agriculture or computer programming. However, the man of leisure is trained in freedom and is spiritual, and can thus redeem, raise up his work, to order it towards his spirit.

    Mere work, the necessities of nature, are transformed by the free undertaking of them by men. Man transforms what was brute work into a spiritual work.  What was before the drudgery of his cubicle can be redeemed by his spiritual office.

Is that all there is to it? A eureka moment and boom, it's all good? Sadly, no.  

     Leisure isn't simply a gnostic 'freeing' of labor, making work 'spirited'. Just as the labor of necessity requires training, discipline, and apprenticeship, so does leisure.  Natural work obviously always has it's matter at hand, e.g. the wood of the carpenter, or the program of the engineer. Likewise, supernatural work, spiritual work always has its matter at hand, but in leisure the man is the wood, he is the program. He is recreated. Is this a passive matter? No, just as man becomes free by entering back into his nature, and cooperating in it, so must he cooperate in his own recreation. He is not the creator of himself, but he enters into it, trains in it, disciplines in it, apprentices for it.

     In the work of the schole, the discipline of leisure, a man is trained in the redemption of work. The training makes him capable of this, but the capability is itself leisure, just one of its fruits. Leisure is born when man reflects, converts and learns to love. Leisure pursues love as man's discipline. To redeem his work, a man must allow himself to be redeemed, to be raised up. To restore, for things--wood, programs, soil, words, etc.-- to be restored by him, he must be restored-by, recreated-by, redeemed-by, raised-by.

    By Whom? Not by the schole, but in the schole.  The schole works together, and their work is contemplation, gazing with each other at That Which they love, and Who gazes, too, in wonder with them (Matt. 8:10)

    This discipline is the schole. In the schole, the work of leisure is done. Reflection leads to conversion, and conversion is preserved, renewed, in contemplation. Contemplation is a richly explanatory word, containing the ideas 'gazing with', and also that of the 'temple', 'stretching out time', and 'preserving the sacred, the sanctuary.'  I can't and needn't break this all down because Pieper has written his book! But in examining that contemplation is at the heart of leisure, we see that the schole is the home for the man and the thing he has come to love in his conversion, where he is more himself because he is with that which he loves and which recreates him. Moderns think this sounds easy, like a lazy-boy chair and an NFL game, but it is discipline, with co-workers. There are others in the schole who train you, challenge you, with whom you must harmonize. There are those with whom you have come to gaze-with. Indispensably, obviously, above all there is that which you gaze upon, which works upon you, for whom you are the matter at hand, Who is recreating you in this spiritual work with which you cooperate.

    Moderns talk plenty about harmony, humane-ity, and peace. But where do they actually learn how to do it!? It's always pretty concepts. Harmony when no one knows the key? Humane-ness while any particular human life is always negotiable? Peace where there is no place to rest, not even a church or a heaven in which to rest the mind and will. To have harmony,  you must actually have it someplace. To be humane, you must know what human life is, and when you find it, kicking inside you, you must revere it. To have peace, there must be a piece of land, a home, where the given is accepted, not despaired of. Where you can be your self, and garden up the best thing, not warring against nature, knowing nothing for certain, but at peace because there are the things for certain: nature and her supernature. Where you can rest from the wars over epistemology that start so innocuously but lead inexorably to the wars over property-- what is proper, what is harmony-- and the wars against humanity, against particular human lives.

    Leisure is the study of and the work of harmony, which is done above the work of necessity, of natural work. You could say that in labor, a man stays alive, and that the work of leisure makes that living a human life. The schole is the study of and the work of discipline in harmony. If modernity were not antithetical to the possibility of schole, we would not see so much of the economic war that characterizes modern life. Modernity denies that there is any common ground upon which a schole can work, thus reducing human work to brute necessity and competition.

    The German word for leisure, logically, is musse, from the Greek word Muse. Music is fundamental training in harmony. To renew the world of toil, begin with musical work. Music is the spiritual discipline that trains men to recreate their work, and which recreates men. It is actual harmony, unlike the chant of demagogues (there is an essential difference between monotone and recto tono).

    If only today there were sanctuaries where we in habit came together to sing, where we sang a common work, a given, handed on to us so that we could all enter in together, and in doing so, learn harmony.  If only there were sanctuaries where we joined in our chores together, where our alarm clocks reminded us not just of the necessary toil but also to turn again and again our gaze to the ever present one we love, and the things we do as love of Him. There we could apprentice in leisure, learn the discipline of freedom. If only there were sanctuaries where we could apply this freedom, love what we are given, and be at peace. There we could work in concert, not at odds, there we could really save lives, and there we could begin to have peace, because the only real peace is hospitality.

    If moderns want harmony, humane-ness, and peace, then they must cease their war on the home and the church and our traditional communities. They need to stop preaching concepts, and go to work, and not the 'go to work' of the demagogue and community organizer, but the only real practical work of freedom; discipline and the sanctuary, fidelity and the home.

    We must stop being at war with nature in our endless pursuit of novelty and creation, and learn to love our nature as a gift. Love of nature is the only way to peace, and the work of the supernatural is the discipline through which we learn to love the natural.

See God suddenly. Love Him. Accept His creation, including yourself. Join in His work, and in doing so, collaborate in your salvation, in fear and trembling, joining in the patience, the suffering redemptive toil of Christ. In patience possess your soul. Preserve your home, save the lives in it, by making it a sanctuary for God.




Can UnBaptised Babies Go To Heaven?

     When considering the development of doctrine, especially in the last half-century, a popular case has been that of the possibility of the salvation of un-baptised babies. The consensus of the Church, as far as I can tell from my reading-- from Saint Augustine to Pope Pius XII-- has been that those Just who die without baptism cannot go to Heaven, but rather may spend eternity in Limbo. Limbo is natural beatitude, which Father Garigou-Lagrange, famous Thomist, defines thus:

"Natural beatitude consists in that knowledge and love of God which we can attain by our natural faculties. If man had been created in a state purely natural, by his fidelity to duty he would have merited this beatitude, namely, first, a natural knowledge of God's perfections reflected in His creatures, a knowledge without any mixture of error; secondly, a rational love of God, the Creator, love composed of reverent submission, fidelity, recognition, the love, not indeed of a son, but of a good servant in relation to the best of masters."

 I have a wholly amateurish grasp of St. Thomas, but it is my understanding that his synopsis-- affirmed by long-standing consensus by Christians-- is that babies who die without baptism, and therefore are still in Original Sin, are not damned, but rather spend eternity in the above state of natural beatitude. They experience God's presence as Creator, and suffer no material wants.

     This consensus is based on the truth that Heaven is the Blessed Vision of God; it consists of seeing God in Himself.  This sight of God is supernatural beatitude, not merely natural, which is to say that man was created destined for this sight, but not in himself capable of it. All the more, because of the fall of Original Sin, man is not in himself capable of this sight.

     The vision of God as He is, face to face, requires Christ's Paschal Mystery.  To see God, Man must be raised back up and higher, by Christ's grace. To see God requires fidelity to this Grace, cooperative faith. The ordinary means of this life of grace is baptism and the subsequent sacraments. Those who have fidelity, have faith, are baptised, or desire baptism, as with catechumens. The unbaptised do not go to Heaven because they do not have faith, and supernatural life. 

    Unbaptised babies do not have actual sin, so they do not merit damnation, but merit natural beatitude, or eternal life in Limbo.

     This is my understanding of the traditional consensus on the matter, but I welcome any corrections.

     In the last few decades, this common consensus-- that unbaptised babies do not go to Heaven-- has been mitigated greatly. Pope John Paul II taught that, while the Ordinary means of salvation is baptism, God is not bound by His sacraments to not use extraordinary means, according to His Mercy, to save. The Roman Curia published The Hope of Salvation for Infants Who Die Without Baptism, which articulates Pope John Paul's reasoning on the matter, a reasoning, it appears, that is accepted also by Pope Benedict XVI.

     For my part, I dispute what is, admittedly, the centuries-old common understanding of the Church on this matter. I believe we can do so with piety, and by appealing to tradition.

     My first reason for suggesting that infants who die without benefit of baptism can go to Heaven is that the Church appears to have the power to make it so.

     It is the always accepted tradition that catechumens who die before baptism can go to Heaven. Catechumens have the gift of faith, and are oriented to baptism. The Spirit is already moving towards manifestation. And we all know that grace is the prime sine qua non of conversion. A person does not first desire grace, and then receive it, rather his desire is itself the product of grace. Grace makes a person capable of the freedom of repentance and conversion. Only in grace does a person begin to be capable of freedom. All this might be used as an argument against the possibility of Heaven for the unbaptised. However it cannot because we have this tradition, in the case of catechumens, of the unbaptised going to Heaven. It would seem that the fruits of baptism are already present to an extent in the catechumen. Why can this not be the case with infants?

    Obviously in the case of adult catechumens, the person has a seemingly more active assent and intent, than with infants. A consideration of the relationship of grace to personal action, as only begun above, shows us that even in adults it is not that they first have intent and assent, and then grace. No ones assent or intent begins before grace. So it seems to me that the difference between an adult and an infant are more tenuous, in the arena of grace, than we might first think.

    Why can't infants be catechumens? Clearly a baby can be baptised, with the Church, in her parents and godparents particularly, giving vicarious assent and intention. It seems to me that the Church also has the power to enroll infants in the catechumenate, vicariously orienting them towards baptism. This orientation towards baptism is clear with Christian parents, who already vicariously intend baptism. The desire and hope for the sacrament is there. It is tradition, in the weave of Church life, that the Body can act vicariously on behalf of her members. What hinders the very mighty Church from orienting the unborn and the infant towards baptism, giving them her hope for and desire of baptism? 

     The Liturgy, which should be our first resource for the spirit and doctrine of the Church (not always Greek natural philosophy), shows us that the Church does 'save' the 'unbaptised'! In the ritual of baptism for infants, the introduction boldly unites the catechumenate of adults with that of infants: 

"It must be kept in mind that the formulary for baptism of a child is simply an abridgment of that for an adult. In olden times baptism of adults was not administered in one continuous ceremony but in stages spread out over a period of time, and not all of these took place within the sacred edifice." 

In the Rituale, the rite for baptism of an adult is lengthy, with the catechumen undergoing several rites of exorcism and profession of faith over the course of months, and as the Rituale says, not in the church building necessarily. This can be done in the home, as well.

     Even in the more pithy liturgy for infant baptism, The Church shows that she is 'saving' an 'unbaptised' infant.  She asks the infant, for whom the godparent is vicariously speaking, what he is seeking. The infant responds, through the godparent: "Faith."  The Church replies, "What does faith offer you?" The infant confesses: "Eternal Life."

     The infant, it would seem to me, is a catechumen little different from an adult catechumen. During the rite, but before Baptism, the baby is called "chosen", "the servant of God," and the priest performs the laying-on of hands, claiming the baby for the Church.

     Even before this pre-baptismal catechumenal rite, the old Rituale has a blessing for a pregnant mother in which both mother and child are blessed. Is this not a catechumenal rite for the unborn, unbaptised baby?

     Examining the liturgy of the Church is sufficient, I think, to show that a baby who dies before baptism can be saved-- that the Church has the power to do it. At the very least, this should show that to question the customary understanding of the subject is not against tradition.

     We have every reason to pray to Our Blessed Mother, conceived without sin in the womb of St. Anne, and to Saint John the Baptist, who was extraordinarily "baptised" and "confirmed" by the Holy Spirit in the womb of St. Elizabeth, that they will take special care of the catechumens in the womb. 

     Saint John; Please be the special godfather of all our babies in the womb, and with the Mother of God, bring them to Heaven, the fruit of the faith that the Church holds for them as Vicar, she with the power to bind and to loosen. Amen

Recommended Reading:


To Become Deep In History Is To Become Catholic: My Family Were Welsh Catholic Farmers And My Great Great Grandfather Was A Crusader With Richard The Lionheart

     "To become deep in history is to become Catholic." This is not just true of studying wider history, but is very true of studying our family history, and even, in a psychological sense, our own personal history.
     The following is an excerpt from the history book written by my brother, Michael Mincher. I asked to post an excerpt from the section about the origin of the Mincher family.  It's important to know that everything and everyone is historic. This makes me realize how at home we are in the Catholic Church.
     I also just really like reading about how my people lived, which was in so many ways the same. And the ways in which it is different, I would like to remedy, essentially.
     It's also easier, for me, to understand realities like, "the People of God," if I think about my people, and in terms of having, "my people." For some reason I can feel the proximity to our Catholic heritage when I read what the Minchers were doing when, for example, St. Thomas Becket was at odds with King Henry II.
     The first excerpt is about the people in the valley of the Severn River. The second excerpt tells how these people begat the Minchers.


"Whatever else may come to pass,
 I do not think that on the Day of Direst Judgement
 any race other than the Welsh,
or any other language,
will give answer to the Supreme Judge of all
 for this small corner of the earth."

-- An Unnamed Welshman, quoted by Gerald of Wales

     The Severn River valley stretches from the southern reaches of Cumbria to the northern borders of the Cornwall peninsula, where the river empties into the bay separating South Wales from Cornwall, Bath, and Somerset. It lies on the western edge of the Midland Plains, which stretch eastward to London and Kent; the rolling hills of the valley mark the beginning of the craggy and mountainous peaks charateristic of Wales, into which the Welsh found themselves increasingly pressed. The natives of the valley were descendants of families who had hardly left the region, except perhaps to go on trading voyages or fight in wars, for centuries. Britain today is known for its pastoral countryside, spotted with woods and wide-open pastures. In the sixth century, however, much of the land that was not bog was covered in deep, primeval forests. The people lived in small villages, pasturing cattle and sheep in the glens and open field, and tending half-wild pigs in the woods. No one lived alone on a distant farm away from a town; the hermits of legend, and the more isolated monasteries, were the exception. Though the villages were usually never more than a few miles from another, people did not travel often- unless mustering for war (or fleeing from it), there was never a need, and a few miles then was a considerable, and dangerous, distance. For the most part, people where born, lived, and died in the same place.
Mary's Festival of Candles
     Life was not easy for the poorer folk, who farmed much the same as their ancesters did centuries before. Work was not constant, though, especially during the colder months. Communal festivities were common, not only because they were one of the few means of leisure. Christian holidays such as Christmas, Gwyl Fair y Canhwyllau (Mary’s Festival of the Candles), and St. David’s Day, as well as local occasions (marriages and such), were celebrated with a noson lawen, a party with music similar to the Irish ceili. Most of the surviving music of the time, unfortunately, is limited to hymns and the Gregorian chant of the monastic choirs, since few others could write. The traditional music of the people was (and still is) similar to the other Celtic peoples of Ireland and Scotland. The most important instrument was the fiddle; the Welsh triple harp, bagpipes, whistles, and other instruments often accompanied a sung poem or dance, called penillion. 

     Generally, they dined on whatever was readily available, but on important occasions nationally popular foods including lamb, trout, cockles, and leeks were served. They also had a long history of alcohol consumption. Records show that whiskey has been consumed in Wales since the fourth century. Beers came along somewhat later, in the sixth century. Legends tell of a certain Druid named Ceridwen who brewed a beer, Gwin a Bragawd, said to have brought “science, inspiration, and immortality” to its drinkers. Welsh beer was strong and flavorful, often including cloves and other spices.
     Despite this generally peaceful existence, the Severn natives lived with the constant threat of Saxon invasion hanging over their heads, a very real and present danger that could strike at any time, destroying homes and loved ones without warning. Ever since the coming of the Anglo-Saxons, the Celts had managed to maintain control over the Midland Plains and London, despite losing ground elsewhere, and the people of the Severn valley were protected. This all changed in 577, when Cuthwine and Caewlin, kings of the West Saxons, smashed through the Celtic defenses at Dyrham, capturing Cirencester, Bath, and Gloucester. These were all large, strongly garrisoned towns that governed a wealthy and sophisticated region, and the loss for that reason alone was a severe blow to the Romano-British. Perhaps more importantly, three leading nobles of the Britons were slain, and the Celts of Wales were cut off from their kinfolk in Cornwall permanently, except for the occasional passage by boat over the Bay of Severn. London was lost to the Britons forever. Subsequent Celtic uprisings in the London area were brutally crushed and the countryside “pacified”. Welsh armies and nobles were destroyed or expelled to the west bank of the Severn, and the Celtic peoples of the valley fell under the dominion of the Saxons, for a time. In the east, the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Mercia rose to dominate the Midlands, and the Anglian kingdoms of the north merged to become the kingdom of Northumbria.
     Eslewhere, Pope Gregory I codified what became known as Gregorian Chant. St. Augustine of Canterbury, sent to evangelize the Germanic invaders of Britain, converted King Ethelbert of Kent to Christianity, while Irish missonaries traveled to Germany.  Saint David, the patron of Wales, died in 601. The game of chess was developed in Persia, as well as the technique of using windmills for irrigation.

Hwicce's chapel
     The Severn river valley was a hotly contested region in the seventh and eighth centuries. Its inhabitants remained Welsh, but their rulers changed fairly often; sometimes Powys or Gwent pressed forward into the area, only to be driven back by the Mercians or the West Saxons. This led to an interesting situation in the mid seventh century, in which the kingdom of Hwicce arose to fill the vacuum. Its territory continually fluctuated, but consistently included the cities of Gloucester, Cirencester, Bath, and Worcester- the present day West Midlands. In the east and north, there were some Anglo-Saxon settlements, but the primary population remained Welsh, especially in the old Roman cities of the south. However, the ruling family was a mysterious and confusing combination of Celtic and Saxon; they were probably older Brythonic families that intermarried with Saxon princes to create the kingdom. It was a small kingdom, but wealthy, controlling as it did many important urban centers. In the eighth century, Hwicce’s king Osric helped set up a stronger religious presence in the valley by demanding that Hwicce have its own bishop. This led to the establishment of the See of Worchester, and during this time also chapels were built in Stroud, Avening, and Hampton, three ancient settlements within four miles of each other.

     These three towns had been the sites of human settlement since the Iron Age, and evidence of this fact still remains. Stroud was the site of an important hill fort in pre-Roman times, and remained a significant town well into the modern day. Hampton and Avening, about two miles from each other, sit on a plateau overlooking the Severn Estuary, about eight miles to the west, and onwards into the hills of Gwent. In terms of size, they have not changed considerably since the seventh century; in fact they may have decreased slightly. The cottages there today are built of stones scavenged from former abodes over the centuries.
     Whatever name the towns had under Romano-British rule, if any, has been long since forgotten. Hwicce was, strictly speaking, an Anglo-Saxon kingdom, and many of the place-names in the region are Anglo-Saxon in origin. However, there is no evidence that Hwicce was an Anglo-Saxon kingdom in anything but name. The nobility was a mixture of Celtic and Saxon, and this is reflected also in the appearance of Saxon-style tombs for nobles from the time of the kingdom’s founding. The Church in Hwicce was Celtic, distinctive from the parishes formed by missionaries to the Saxons such as Augustine of Canterbury. Hwicce’s common people were also Welsh of the Celtic Church; this is confirmed by Bede’s report of a conference between the visiting St. Augustine and the Welsh bishops in Hwicce.

                                                                         * * *
     That's the end of the first excerpt. The next excerpt begins with the conquest of the region by William The Conqueror. During his reign, William had a census made of his kingdom which was codified in 'The Domesday Book'. In this book is the first reference to the Minchers.

     William and his queen, Matilda, married outside certain bounds that had been declared by the Pope. In 1066, they founded the L’Abbaye aux Dames in Hampton, near Gloucester, as a means of doing penance. The abbey was for ladies of noble birth, and the first abbess was Cecily, the king’s own daughter. At this time Hampton became known as Mynchonhampton, deriving from the Anglo-Saxon word for "nun," mynece.
     The people of the Severn valley had been relatively uninvolved in the Norman Invasion, until after the fact. King Harold had not raised men for his army from the region. They were untouched by the war until the Welsh-Mercian alliance that led several rebellions out of the Forest of Dean nearby and out of Gwent to the Southwest, and all of these rebellions were quelled. Like elsewhere in England, Norman lords replace the long-standing ruling nobles of the Cotswolds and the Severn. Nevertheless, the ancient families remained, holding on to their land through legal wrangling and securing unshakable rights of succession among their sons, ensuring the Normans could find no legal loophole through which to seize their holdings. The Normans found it difficult to remove the Welsh influence within the Cotswolds and never succeeded in stamping out the ancient Celtic spirit of independence and love of country that had lasted there since Roman times. Ultimately, many English and Welsh found Norman rule so unbearable that they simply packed up and left. Tens of thousands, over a period of one-hundred and fifty years or so, moved to the Scottish lowlands, or deep into the mountainous heart of Wales, or to the Byzantine Empire (refugees from Britain made up a noteworthy portion of Crusaders).
William's census, "The Domesday Book"
     The family that came to take the name of Mynchon was small, first described as yeomen and minor landowners in William’s great census of England. Gradually they put out branches into the valleys and villages of the hill-country, gaining land and starting families in Avening, Stroud, Wyck Rissington and elsewhere. They tilled the soil but their primary livelihood was in shepherding, tending to large flocks of sheep that grazed and played on the rolling hills and glens of the Severn valley. Their communities were close-knit, as they still are, meeting around the church, discussing politics, bow-hunting in the Forest of Dean and holding games when they had the time. Some of them became farm managers, overseers and officials that managed the affairs and holdings of higher nobility. For the most part, they lived on their own land in comfortable stone houses that were neither low nor opulent. Given their status and their proximity to a major religious center, it is likely that they were at least partially literate. What they read and what songs they knew and sang with one another is not well known, but some survive. Here is an ancient Welsh song, called “Pais Dinogad”, that would have been known among these people:

Dinogad's shift is speckled, speckled,
It was made from the pelts of martens.
`Wee! Wee!' Whistling.
We call, they call, the eight in chains.
When your father went out to hunt -
A spear on his shoulder, a club in his hand -
He called on his lively dogs,
`Giff! Gaff! Take, take! Fetch, fetch!'
He killed fish from his coracle
Like the lion killing small animals.
When your father went to the mountains
He would bring back a roebuck, a boar, a stag,
A speckled grouse from the mountain,
And a fish from the Derwennydd falls.
At whatever your father aimed his spear -
Be it a boar, a wild cat, or a fox -
None would escape but that had strong wings.

Which is somewhat clumsily rendered in modern English. Another of the few surviving songs and poems of the time is “Suo-Gan”, a lullaby presumed to be from the tenth century, or thereabouts, and has been more deftly translated:

To my lullaby surrender
Warm and tender is my breast
Mother's arms with love caressing
Lay their blessing on your rest
Nothing shall tonight alarm you
None shall harm you, have no fear
Lie contented, calmly slumber
On your mother's breast, my dear

Here tonight I tightly hold you
And enfold you while you sleep
Why, I wonder, are you smiling
Smiling in your slumber deep?
Are the angels on you smiling
And beguiling you with charm
While you also smile, my blossom
In my bosom soft and warm?

Have no fear now, leaves are knocking
Gently knocking at our door
Have no fear now, waves are beating
Gently beating on the shore
Sleep, my darling, none shall harm you
Nor alarm you, never cry
In my bosom sweetly smiling
And beguiling those on high

     As landowners, the political matters of the day weighed heavily on their minds. Much was at stake for them whenever the Welsh and the Normans met in battle; most likely they secretly cheered for the defeat of their French overlords, having familial and cultural ties to their Western cousins and none whatsoever with the Normans. Indeed, in 1136 combined Welsh forces from the various kingdoms forced back the Marcher Lords, humiliating the Normans at the Battle of Crug Mawr at Cardigan Castle. For a long time afterwards was the period known as The Anarchy, when Stephen de Blois and the Empress Matilda both claimed the throne of England, and all were forced to choose a side. Gloucester and its people eventually chose the side of the Empress, who ascended to the throne for a while but was ultimately defeated. Luckily in the confusion of the aftermath it was not certain who had stood for whom, and the Mynchons avoided the purge.

     In 1157 King Henry II of England decided to teach the Welsh a lesson, and invaded the country, but was made to look a fool in several defeats and was nearly slain himself. During this conflict, the southern Welsh of Gwent rose up and attacked the Marchers of the Midlands and, for a time, it seemed they would regain rule of the Severn after a centuries-long hiatus. However, the attack petered out before this was accomplished. These were dangerous times for the Mynchons and their neighbors, as any indication that they favored Welsh victories could put their necks on a chopping-block.
     In 1163 an even greater war between the Welsh and Normans took place. Henry II, this time aggravated by his widening quarrel with Archbishop Thomas Becket, again decided to attack Wales, assembling the largest force ever gathered for that purpose. Owain I of Gwynedd, victor in previous wars, forged a strong alliance of all the Welsh kingdoms and raised an equally strong army. However, he did not engage Henry, but merely let him march his host deep into the Welsh mountains and bog-valleys, until his army was so stretched and dispersed along the winding supply line as to be worthless. Owain then harassed them with raids and skirmishes, while hurricane-force winds and rain pelted the freezing, hungry Normans. Eventually, Henry gave up and withdrew, utterly humiliated and beaten, resolving never to bother with Wales; in fact, he spent most of the remainder of his reign in France.
     During these years, quite apart from being subdued, displaced, executed or exiled by the Normans, which was the fate of many old families, the Mynchons rose to a very respectable and wealthy status, for non-Normans that is, enough so that contemporary historians could be bothered to mention the head of the family.

     The prevailing system of government in the Isles at the time was feudalism. The king, under only the authority of the Pope, expected loyalty and service from his vassals, a hierarchy of nobles and peasantry, and in return he gave them land and protection, in theory. A rough summary of this system can be described thus: the King was head, followed by a number of barons, dukes, and other high nobility, who were served in turn by lesser nobles and minor lords who had seats in smaller cities. These high and middle aristocracies were entirely Norman (or ardently pretended to be Norman), and their primary subjects were knights. The word, “knight” has come to signify many different things, but at the time in the Isles it referred to a minor landowner of some social elevation and wealth who pledged fealty to the regional lord or baron to fight when called upon. Simply put, they were members of the warrior class who were wealthy enough to purchase the high-quality horses, armor, and weapons needed to go to war, where they were typically put in command of contingents of peasant infantry or other soldiers from their own area. By the twelfth century, the concept of “chivalry” and a common code of conduct was already widely applied and required of knights, although perhaps not in the romanticized sense that is thought of today. Unlike higher nobles, knights could afford to be openly non-Norman, and some were, but most were not, except in frontier areas in which older customs still prevailed.
     In the decades prior to the Third Crusade, which was launched in the late twelfth century, the Mynchons of the Cotswolds produced a son that they named Stephen. He was a relation, possibly the son, of Alderedus Mynchon, who currently is listed as the first-recorded bearer of that surname. Alderedus was described as a minor landowner in the pipe rolls (census and property records) of the Cotswolds in 1190; unfortunately little else about the man has been kept for his descendants to learn. Stephen, however, matured to become the head of the family, and earned a place in history apart from his blood-line.

     As a young man, perhaps eight or nine, he was sent by the family to the nearby castle of the lord to whom they pledged service; it was probably Sudeley Castle in modern-day Winchcombe. The name of its lord has been lost. While residing there, Stephen studied the finer arts, history, what literature there was to read, and especially theological histories and probably more than one language, certainly medieval Latin at least. Such an education he had in common with all “pages”, young men aspiring to knighthood and entitled to it by birth. He cleaned, carried messages, and generally attended the residents of the castle, and in addition to his formal education he was trained in combat and military arts, an education which continued for many years.  At age fourteen, Stephen followed custom in progressing to the rank of squire, taking on more formal and mature responsibilities, closely attending and serving a particular knight as shield-bearer and loyal companion. At age twenty-one a squire became eligible for knighthood; the age at which Stephen attained knighthood is unknown, but he was certainly a young man when dubbed, probably no older than twenty-one or two, and he inherited all responsibility for the actions and welfare of a large number of tenants, at least one-hundred or so, as well as the maintenance of his family’s holdings and position.

     It was not long after Stephen rose to knighthood that news came to Britain of the recapture of Jerusalem in the Holy Land by the Saracens. This news was a grievous blow to the Christian West, and the Pope put out the call far and wide for a Third Crusade to be launched in Palestine. Perhaps it was even due to this event that Stephen was made a knight. However it occurred, in 1188 Stephen was visited by Baldwin of Exeter, Archbishop of Canterbury, and the scribe Gerald of Wales, who were touring the Welsh country recruiting men for the Crusade. Stephen joined many others from the Cotswolds, mustering his men and pledging his service to the army of King Richard I (Lionhearted), and set out on crowded, small, barely seaworthy vessels for the voyage to the Holy Land. As was the case with many of the knights and nobility of the Crusading armies, his young wife accompanied him.
     The fleet departed in 1190, and it consisted of about eight-thousand soldiers and knights, and sailed on one-hundred ships. The journey was difficult, long, and stormy, as well as indirect. The king chose to stop at Sicily, resolving a royal family issue and fighting a number of skirmishes, and even captured Cyprus as part of another squabble; so it happened that Stephen and his men fought many battles for varied reasons before ever reaching Palestine. Nevertheless they did reach the Holy Land in June of 1191, landing at Acre and joining the siege of that city. They were also joined by the Knights of St. John, and forces from the Kingdom of Jerusalem, the Holy Roman Empire, and the Frankish Kingdom. In July, Acre was captured by the Crusaders, who went on to win other battles but failed to win the ultimate prize, Jerusalem. Richard I departed from Palestine in 1192 with most of his army, although he was soon taken captive and held for ransom by the Holy Roman Empire for one of his many personal intrigues. Many Crusaders remained to guard the Kingdom of Jerusalem; before he departed, King Richard appointed Stephen to the governorship of Acre. The office was held simultaneously by two or three men at a time. The reasons for Richard granting Stephen this honor can only be guessed at, but Stephen remained in Acre for a time as governor, eventually returning to Britain. How long he stayed in Palestine is unknown, as is the date of his death.

     In the Cotswolds at that time, the Mynchons continued to live and prosper in relative peace and security. Perhaps the only remarkable historical event that occurred within their neighborhood was the coming of Eleanor, Fair Maid of Brittany, the cousin of Henry III. She had been under “house arrest” for years due to fear over her claim to the throne, and was reputed to be one the most beautiful women ever witnessed. In the 1230s, she spent her time in Gloucester, living comfortably under the authority of the sheriff and the local nobles. The estates of the Mynchons were close by her home, and they shared some of the responsibility for her. Doubtless the princess’s doings were a common subject of conversation at the dinner table.

     At some point during the 13th century, a significant portion of the Mynchon clan moved away from the region of Gloucester, Minchinhampton, and Stroud further into Wales proper. The exact method, number, and time are unclear and sadly lost to history. The family of Sir Stephen and his descendants are not noted as being among those who remained in the Severn River valley, but rather histories go on to describe other, different branches of the Mynchons who went on to pursue other ventures, either remaining in the Cotswolds or traveling to diverse regions of Britain. Some facts do bear mentioning. In the 13th and 14th centuries, variations of the Mynchon surname began to appear. The variation “Minchin” or “Minchon” were common in the Cotswolds and the Severn regions, and spread as far as England proper. However, variations such as “Mynchir”, “Minchir” and “Mincher” began to appear to the west of the Cotswolds, deeper and deeper into Wales; the name proliferates and moves west, in historical records, as the years progress.

     The most likely explanation for this split is explained by the development of the Welsh Marches, which coincided to a large degree with the movement of the name “Mincher”. Sir Stephen’s branch of the family, being the wealthiest and most prominent of the name, sporting the name of a former Crusader commander and governor of Acre, and being close by to Wales, would have been prime candidates for Henry III’s, and later Edward I’s, colonization of eastern Wales. Both kings, and others after them, desired to “settle” the Welsh frontier by such methods, seating veteran families and nobles to improve the cultural stability of the frontier, and giving them authority over their marches to improve military stability as well—in effect, killing two birds with one stone. History records typical candidates for such settlement as being nobles from Chester, Shrewsbury, Gloucester, and Cirencester, all close by the Welsh border. Further, the fact that Sir Stephen’s line is no longer mentioned at all alongside other contemporary family members in the Cotswolds strongly suggests that neither he nor his descendants stayed there after the early 13th century. Sir Stephen’s motto, that had been instituted along with his own coat of arms, remained in proud traditional use among all branches of the clan at that time, which indicates he had not fallen out of favor or his family become destitute and shunned. Thus it seems reasonable to presume that Sir Stephen’s branch of the clan was sent into Wales as part of the effort to colonize the region.
     It is most likely that, due to the family’s origin, they were sent to Glamorgan in South Wales, Brecon in the Cambrian Mountains, or Elfael southeast of Snowdonia. The people of the Marches interacted frequently, even daily—this was not the pseudo-apartheid of the Saxon past, at least for the lesser nobles. The Norman lords ruled with an iron fist over their stretches of Wales, and remained within “Anglified” safe zones and city centers. But the lesser colonists, the Minchers among them, gradually integrated with the local population. This is unsurprising, given the long-standing blood-ties between the two groups. To call them a meeting of two nations or peoples would be incorrect; rather, it was the intermingling of two distinct but related groups.
     Life in Wales in the High Middle Ages was, as in ages past, one fraught with the worry of war and death. However, much else, concerning peace and happiness, is also known of the period, thanks to historians such as Geraldus Cambrensis (Gerald of Wales).  Gradually, during the following centuries, the Mincher clan simply melted into Wales. No family member is mentioned in prominence again in the historical annals until centuries, and continents, later, in entirely different contexts.