The Renewal of Gilbertine Spirituality














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Ripon Cathedral is based on the Gilbertine church of Our Lady of Sempringham.

The renewal of Gilbertine Spirituality is a project of the Cloister Outreach Affiliate New Foundations (CONF).

Please click here if you wish to visit CONF's website.

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Gilbertine chapter room window reconstructed from Fishergate.






The original Canons and Nuns of the Gilbertine Order were founded c.1100 by St. Gilbert of Sempringham.  They were the only native English religious order, and were rendered extinct by King Henry VIII's Dissolution of the Monasteries.
 
St. Gilbert of Sempringham, born c.1089, was the son of Sir Jocelyn, a knight.  Gilbert was deformed, and shunned by everyone, including the household's male servants.  Gilbert's mother, however, was very attentive to him, and as he developed in stature, he grew in holiness as well.  His deformity made him ineligible for knighthood, so he became a priest.
 
During his seminary studies, Gilbert noticed the lack of religious orders for women.  The established orders of men refused to take responsibility for women's branches.  After ordination, and while acting as spiritual director to several young ladies, Gilbert gathered some of them into a monastery, gave them the Rule of St. Benedict, and the Order of Sempringham was born.
 
Further research has proven, though, that St. Gilbert built seven anchorholds onto the Sempringham church, and gave his anchoritic directees the Benedictine Rule.  Lay women from the area volunteered to assist with the anchoresses' needs.  A wall was built to protect their privacy.
 
Typical of England, "one thing led to another."  The assistants were made into lay sisters, with a year's probation required.  Then canons were formed to minister to the two groups.  They were given the Rule of St. Augustine.  The anchoresses became monastics, and the double monastery was built.
 
Extreme measures were taken to keep the nuns and canons apart.  The order expanded to only several houses in England, and one in Scotland--the reason why the Order of Sempringham did not survive the Dissolution.
 
In 1989, the Coordinator of Cloister Outreach--when inspired to open a particular volume of the Catholic Encyclopedia--discovered the Gilbertines and their story.  She thought the order's extinction a pity, and continued to research them.  A voice spoke in her heart, and feeling God the Father's incredible desire for the Gilbertines to be renewed, she heard in spirit the following words:
 
"In response to a materialistic world, the Gilbertines are to console Me with their austerity.  The original Gilbertine Rite will be used.  The canons and nuns will chant the office in monotone, out of austerity of sound.  The monastery will be a miniature of the original Gilbertine oratory in Sempringham, England.  The original habit will be retained".
 
On August 8, 2009, Cloister Outreach was inspired to petition the Benedictine and Augustinian Orders to recognize Gilbertian spirituality as a viable expression within their own charisms.   The Fraternity of St. Gilbert already exists in Brazil, and one discerner who has worked with us since 2002 is now becoming a Benedictine Oblate.  She will be implementing Gilbertian spirituality into her oblature.
 
The Gilbertines wore a black tunic adapted from the Augustinians, and the white cloak of the Cistercians. 

Interested discerners who are members of an autocephalous church; schismatic; or sedevacantist sects should enter deep discernment before applying for this community.  Reconciliation with Rome is prerequisite.  May the Holy Ghost be your guide.

Click here to be taken to the Gilbertine yahoo discussion group (Sponsored by CONF).

For more information, please click here to email Gemma, CONF Admissions Secretary & Affiliate Founder.






Seal of the Master of Sempringham
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The Great Seal of the Master of Sempringham shows the canons' habit.

Artists' reconstruction of the Seal of the Master of Sempringham.

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Renewal Canons will retain the original habit.








































St. Gilbert of Sempringham, pray for us!