Thomas Messingham (c.1575-1638?) and the seventeenth-century Church
O'Connor, Thomas (2000) Thomas Messingham (c.1575-1638?) and the seventeenth-century Church. Riocht Na Midhe, 11 . pp. 88-105.
The early seventeenth century was a formative period in Irish history. With the extension of Stuart power following the defeat, and later, the flight of the Earls, the country entered into a new phase of political, social and religious change. The extension of English law, the policy of plantation, the state's harassement of Catholics and the increasing centralisation of political authority served to isolate the Catholic community from the sources of power and patronage. While most Irish Catholics accepted James 1 as their lawful king, they insisted that their political loyalty to him could be reconciled with their religious loyalty to the Pope. The King and his government, however, would prove immune to their reasoning. Nor was this the only problem facing Irish Catholics. Prolonged war had shattered the church's structures and Reformation had taken away its material sustenance. In the relatively peaceful 1610s and 1620s a new generation of Catholic bishops and clergy set about reorganising the shattered, impoverised church according to the guidlines of the Council of Trent. Central to their concerns was the establishment of a comprehensive and coherent pastoral network, centred on parishes and involving the proper celebration of the sacraments, basic religious education and the moral improvement of the faithful. The education of a clergy, imbued with the spirit of Trent yet sensitive to the political situation in Ireland, was an obvious priority. To this end, grammer schools were set up to feed a network of Irish continental seminaries which had been established in Catholic Europe since the 1590s, mostly in the great university cities. The continental seminaries were part of a vast and complex network of contacts which linked Ireland to its continental neighbours and had already opened up the country to a host of new influences. The men who ran these colleges played an important role in the shaping of early seventeenth- century Ireland. Among them was one who hailed from the diocese of Meath. He was called Thomas Messingham.
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