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Nuggets of Gold: The Lamenting Laity
A wise professor of mine once said to me "Every piece of historical evidence is a nugget of pure gold". "Wow" I thought, what a precious commodity. Could every piece of evidence hold such importance that it can be easily comparable to one of the most precious metals on earth? The answer is that it is easily comparable and exceedingly important. Evidence of a historical nature is in a sense more precious than any nugget of gold. A nugget of gold is good for a limited number of things: currency, the enhancement of beauty, and any extraneous circumstances linked with those two base uses. In a sense, evidence is like gold whereas every bit of it is precious, and should be treasured and handled with care. Historical evidence is something from which countless information can be drawn. It can be used over and over again to open doors and solve puzzles that develop as new information is discovered elsewhere. Evidence gives a more comprehensive and less biased view to the historians' perspective. Just as gold has been known to bring pleasure and pain to humankind, historical evidence can bring insight just as well as confusion. If it does bring confusion, the historian must remember that every piece of evidence is as precious as a nugget of gold and the good new is - it will always fit into the complex puzzle of history somewhere.
The two sources that will be discussed in this paper in terms of evidence are "Concerning the Pope" by John Wyclif, (Andrea p. 394-5) a condensed version of a larger work "Concerning the Pope's Power" that discusses the corruption of the papacy and the opinion that the pope is easier likened to the antichrist than to God's messenger on earth. The second source is The Book of Margery Kempe translated and edited by Lynn Staley. This work traces one woman's quest for spirituality and supposedly her unending need to serve God as best as she can. As evidence, many conclusions can be drawn from these documents to help understand many aspects of the late middle ages, but I think that the most important point they demonstrate is the presence of much religious zeal in the time of papal opposition. The unorganized Catholic Church did not cause all the laity to fret over religious insecurity, rather individuals rose to the occasion of reform. These documents are examples of how the movement of lay piety became increasingly intolerant of ecclesiastical wealth. Most importantly these documents reveal the need of the laity to return to the basic teachings of Jesus Christ. I intend to demonstrate how each document represents differently the rejection of worldly wealth and express the need for reform in a time of dissent and great change.
John Wyclif is the author of "Concerning the Pope". He was an Oxford scholar and a priest whose ideas of reform stemmed from his intolerance of sinful ecclesiastics who in his opinion did not deserve to hold office. He was of the belief that "lay rulers could rightfully deprive sinful clerics of their ecclesiastical holdings" (Andrea p. 395). Wyclif became immensely unpopular with Pope Gregory XI and in 1377 he ordered his arrest and examination. Wyclif was never condemned due to conveniently having enough friends in high places, he continued to write and preach of reform, and died of natural causes in 1384. Wycliff was particularly enraged by the corruption of the office of the pope and the further insult to the Catholic religion known as the Great Schism. His work "Concerning the Pope" is a good example of the importance Wyclif attached to the rejection of worldly wealth in hopes to live life in the imitation of Christ and his distaste for the corruption of the papal office. In this document he expresses the need for reform by lamenting about the pope and makes many bold statements that could potentially get him in some serious trouble. He makes contrast after contrast depicting the way of Christ as opposed to the way of the Pope:
"Christ was busy preaching the Gospel, and not for worldly prestige or for profit; people say that the pope allows this, but he would gladly make laws to which he gives more prestige and sanction than Christ's law". (Andrea p. 396)
The intent of this document is simple. Wyclif was enraged by the corruption of the papacy and wrote this not only for the benefit of other educated laity who wished for reform, but for the clergy itself. Wyclif does not seem afraid of any consequences that might result from the writing of this document - he says what he feels. He wants the clergy to know that they are corrupt. It is evident that he originally intended this document for ecclesiastics, perhap
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Terminology referenced in this research paper
Names talked about in this essay
Margery Kempe, a traveling beggar, Wycliff, Kempe, the pope, Pope Gregory XI, Pisan Pope, Andrea p., Lynn Staley, Jesus Christ, Andrea, Urban, C. Warren,
Organizations referenced in this term paper
Nuggets, Catholic Church, Cardinals, Council of Pisa,
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England, Rome, Avignon, New York, Oxford, Europe,
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Houghton Mifflin, McGraw Hill,
Keywords referenced in this report
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