Richard Meux Benson
|Richard Meux Benson|
|Honored in||Anglican Church of Canada, Episcopal Church (United States)|
|Feast||15 January, 16 January|
Richard Meux Benson (1824–1915) was a priest in the Church of England and founder of the Society of St. John the Evangelist, the first religious order of monks in the Anglican Communion since the Reformation. He is commemorated in the Calendar of Saints of the Anglican Church of Canada on 15 January and of the Episcopal Church (USA) on 16 January.
Born into a wealthy family of London in 1824, Benson was taught at home by a private tutor and entered Christ Church, Oxford. After his degree and ordination and a curacy at Surbiton, in 1850 he became vicar of Cowley, Oxford. He was considered High Church. In 1858 Benson conducted a retreat for priests using material taken in part from the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola. In 1859, having erected a new parish church dedicated to St. John the Evangelist, Benson planned a mission to India but abandoned the plan at the request of his bishop.
At the time there were convents of Anglican women in England and, in 1865, two priests joined Benson in Cowley to begin community life under the name of the Mission Priests of St. John the Evangelist with Benson as the superior.
Society of StJohn the Evangelist
The form of religious life instituted by Benson was not purely contemplative—its members engaged in active external ministry—but they recited the Divine Office together daily in choir and Benson emphasised contemplation. The brothers were to have an hour's meditation daily if possible and he gave the community a summer retreat of four weeks, later reduced to a fortnight. He prescribed other retreat days and silence days. As a religious founder, he concentrated on essentials, among which he advised life-vows, taken with precautions as to maturity; regular confession; choir office, prayer and meditation; and priestly ministry. He fully recognised the authority of his bishop over the priests of the community, who were clergy of the diocese, but not as extending to their private life together.
During the creation of the society, Benson had maintained his duties as a parish priest. In 1886 he resigned this ministry to devote all his attention to the society and its mission.
In 1890 Benson stepped aside for another to be elected superior. He spent one year in India and eight years at the American house in Boston.
The last sixteen years of Benson's life were lived at home again. He celebrated the Eucharist as long as he could stand at the altar and was then wheeled in a chair to receive communion every morning. He died on 14 January 1915.
- Benedictus Dominus
- The Final Passover, Vol. 1, 1893.
- The Final Passover, Vol. 2, Part 1, 1895.
- The Final Passover, Vol. 2, Part 2, 1895.
- The Final Passover, Vol. 3., Part 1, 1893.
- The Final Passover, Vol. 3., Part 2, 1893.
- Letters of Richard Meux Benson, 1916.
- The Magnificat, 1889.
- The Manual of Intercessory Prayer
- The War-Songs of the Prince of Peace, Vol. 1, 1901
- The War-Songs of the Prince of Peace, Vol. 2, 1901
- The Divine Rule of Prayer, 1916
- Smith, Martin L. (ed.) (1980) Benson of Cowley, Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-213112-5
- Woodgate, M.V. (1953) Father Benson: founder of the Cowley Fathers, London : Geoffery Bles, 183 p.
- Richard Meux Benson Project Canterbury
- "Richard Meux Benson SSJE, priest, religious founder 14th January 1915". Calendar for Commemoration. Church of England / Diocese of Oxford. Archived from the original on 4 January 2008.
- Oxfordshire Blue Plaques Scheme: page on Richard Meux Benson