|RICHARD ROLLE The Book of Margery
Kempe, chapters 17, 58, and 62
Richard of Hampole (1300-1349) also
known as Richard Rolle, was a hermit who lived in Yorkshire, England.
Born to a small farming family, Rolle was a scholarly man who studied
at Oxford University for several years before abandoning his studies
to pursue a spiritual life. He was not a member of a religious order,
but chose instead to wander the countryside in contemplation. Legend
tells that he scandalized his sister by requesting to borrow two
of her dresses. He then proceeding to convert them into the clothes
of a hermit, beginning his life on that path at age 19. After his
death, which may have been caused by plague, many people believed
that miracles occurred at his tomb. There was a strong movement
to canonize Richard of Hampole during the Middle Ages although that
end was never attained.
He is best known for his meditative
text Incendium Amoris or The Fire of Love, a devotional
guidebook widely read during the Middle Ages. The book details the
purgative steps that one must go through in order to attain intimacy
with God. Meditation is essential to this process of removing sin
and selfishness. The four stages in this process are described as
the open door, heat, song, and sweetness. The book is titled Incendium
Amoris because the fire of love burns more and more strongly
in the soul as one approaches God. Rolle described the anticipated
union with God as a feast that appeals to all the senses.
The Pricke of Conscience is
a poem on the Last Days, once associated with Rolle, now attributed
to an anonymous author. In the early 15th century copies of
the poem were known to have been in the possession of important
members of the laity, including Alice Bolton who gave windows to
All Saints North Street, York. A window
on the theme of the poem at All Saints is dated c. 1410
and related in style to the great east
window of York Minster, that depicts the Book of Revelations.
See The Pricke of Conscience (Stimulus Conscientiae), A Northumbrian
Poem by Richard Rolle de Hampole ed. Richard Morris. A. Asher
& Co.: Berlin, 1863. Lines of the poem are here presented
with the scene of each segment of the window.
SOURCES: Allen, Rosamund S.,
ed. Richard Rolle: The English Writings. Paulist Press: Mahwah,
NJ. 1988. See on-line text Fire
of Love from Wheaton College.
Excerpts from Meditations on
the Passion by Richard Rolle: Richard
Rolle: The English Writings, ed. Rosamund S. Allen. Paulist
Press: Mahwah, NJ, 1988, pp. 93, 111.
Sweet Lord Jesus Christ, I thank you
for the agonies which you endured for us, and for the sweet blood
which you shed for us, when you were so painfully beaten and roped
to the pillar so that blood on the pillar can still be seen. I ask
and beg you as my dear lord for that sweet blood, which you bled
so generously for me, to be full deliverance for my soul.
Sweet Jesu, I bestow on you words
of thanksgiving for all the humiliation and excruciating pain which
you endured when they spat in your face, on that sweet mirror and
glory of heaven in bodily form, which angels and saints take delight
in gazing upon. Now, sweet Jesu, allow me the grace to take my greatest
delight in gazing inwardly and meditating on that glorious face;
and, sweet Jesu, restore the image of your face in my soul, which
has been faded by the filth of sin; and [send] me the grace to honor
you in every creature; and let me never be conceited about the appearance
of my own face, nor feel the urge to commit sin because of the appearance
of anyone else’s face.
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