Saint Gilbert of Sempringham
Born 1085 in Sempringham, England, into a wealthy family, Gilbert was sent to France for his higher education. Following his ordination to the priesthood he served as parish priest at Sempringham. Among the congregation were seven young women who had expressed to him their desire to live in religious life. In response, Gilbert had a house built for them adjacent to the Church. There they lived an austere life, but one which attracted ever more numbers; eventually lay sisters and lay brothers were added to work on the land. The religious order formed eventually became known as the Gilbertines, though Gilbert had hoped the Cistercians or some other existing order would take on the responsibility of establishing a rule of life for the new order. The Gilbertines, the only religious order of English origin founded during the middle Ages, continued to thrive. But the order came to an end when King Henry VIII suppressed all Catholic monasteries. Over the years a special custom grew up in the houses of the order called “the plate of the Lord Jesus.” The best portions of the dinner were put on a special plate and shared with the poor, reflecting Gilbert’s lifelong concern for less fortunate people. Throughout his life, Gilbert lived a simple life, consumed little food, and spent a good portion of many nights in prayer. Despite the rigors of such a life he died on 4 February 1189 in Sempringham aged 100. In 1202 Pope Innocent III canonized him.
REFLECTION FOR THE DAY
The voice of the Lord is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the Lord, over mighty waters…Psalm 29:3
I have long lived near the ocean. Saltwater, crashing waves and changing tides have always brought renewal to my body and soul. Years ago, I trained to be a lifeguard. I understand recklessness and riptides versus respect for the sea’s power. Some of my most meaningful talks with God have been at the beach, where my heart is at home. God has brought poignant lessons of salvation through water. In the opening lines of Genesis, the Spirit of God that brought creation into being moves over the waters. Later in Genesis 6–7 we have Noah’s ark saving God’s chosen family. And who can ever forget how the Lord saved Israel via their exodus through the sea? The psalmist today seemingly harkens back to all of it. The most saving water experience we will likely ever encounter is our own baptism. The same “voice” of the Lord spoke then. And is speaking to us today.