Friday, January 10, 2014

The Maid of Kent: Mad or Cursed?

From author Beth von Staats:
Born in obscurity, Elizabeth Barton's life as a celebrated English woman began with what at the time was considered by all Roman Catholics an awe-inspiring trance and God sent miracle. While working as a servant in a Kent household, Barton became seriously ill -- some today might surmise epilepsy, while others might assume delirium or psychosis. Incredibly, she began to speak in rhyming prophecies.

After sharing her vision of a nearby chapel, Elizabeth Barton was taken there and lain before a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary. As astounding as this sounds, the woman remained there in a trance for a week. Upon awakening, Elizabeth Barton began prophesying again, predicting the death of a child living in her household, and as detailed by Archbishop Thomas Cranmer in a letter to Archdeacon Hawkins, "speaking of many high and godly things, telling also wondrously, by the power of the Holy Ghost as it was thought, things done and said in other places, whereas neither she was herself, nor yet heard no report thereof."

Soon afterward, she was questioned by a special commission established by then Archbishop William Warham. They determined her trances, visions and prophecies genuine, and a "star was born". At least a thousand people took to the road, processing to the little chapel, and like Jim Morrison's grave, the Ford Theater, the town of Bethlehem, and the shrine of St. Thomas Beckett, it became a place of pilgrimage.

Elizabeth Barton's illustrious or infamous career, depending on one's point of view, then began in earnest. Admitted to St. Sepulcre's nunnery in Canterbury, she professed her vows, and her trances, prophecies and clairvoyance continued and increased unabated.

Sister Elizabeth’s messages of warning and predictions of the future were reported to the world outside her cloistered community by a group of priests close to the convent, and her fame and celebrity rose to the highest zenith of Tudor society. Legitimized as filled with the Holy Spirit by the likes of Archbishop William Warham and Bishop John Fisher, who both met with the "Holy Maid of Kent", Sister Elizabeth Barton became exceptionally acclaimed throughout the realm, respected for her piety and marveled for her Godly giftedness.

At the height of her celebrity and positive regard, Sister Elizabeth held audience with Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, Sir Thomas More and King Henry VIII -- her popularity rivaling the King himself. With this type of fame and notoriety, why did this remarkable woman become merely a footnote in history? Well, her visions and prophecies took an ominous turn, focusing on the King's desire to annul his marriage to the great Roman Catholic Queen Catalina de Aragón in favor of the Reformist "usurper" Lady Anne Boleyn. (Read more.)

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