Breeks v. Woolfrey

Court of Arches, 19 November 1838

Spes Mea Christus
Pray for the soul of J. Woolfrey
It is a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead.
(2 Mac. xii. 46.)

The articles purport to state the law, and the facts to which the law is to be applied. The first article, with reference to the inscriptions, alleges that, by the twenty-second article of the Church of England agreed upon in 1562, it is declared that “the Romish doctrine concerning purgatory, pardons, and other things therein mentioned, is a fond thing, vainly invented, and grounded upon no warranty of Scripture, but rather repugnant to the word of God.” That all persons erecting, or causing to be erected, in the churchyard of any parish any tomb- or head-stone, containing any inscription contrary to the doctrine and discipline of the Church of England and to the articles of the said Church, the person so doing ought not only to be peremptorily monished immediately to remove the same, but also be duly corrected and punished; and this proposition has not been denied by the other side. The second article sets forth the facts that, notwithstanding the premises, Mrs. Woolfrey did erect a tomb- or head-stone with the inscriptions before mentioned, which it alleges to be contrary to the doctrine and discipline of the Church of England, and to the articles, canons, and constitutions thereof, and particularly to the said twenty-second article, that due notice has been given to her to remove the same, but that she refuses so to do.


The authorities seem to go no further than this—to show that the Church discouraged prayers for the dead, but did not prohibit them; and that the XXII. Article is not violated by the use of such prayers.


I am, then, of opinion, on the whole of the case, that the offence imputed by the articles has not been sustained; that no authority or canon has been pointed out by which the practice of praying for the dead has been expressly prohibited; and I am accordingly of opinion that, if the articles were proved, the facts would not subject the party to ecclesiastical censure, as far as regards the illegality of the inscription on the tombstone. That part of the articles must, therefore, be rejected.

(Sir Herbert Jenner-Fust, Dean of Arches)

“Little They’ll Reck”


“Pulveris tua maniplia ad manes spargere.”

Beautiful feet, with maidenly tread,
Offerings bring to the gallant dead,
Footsteps light press the sacred sod
Of heroes untimely ascended to God.
Bring spring flowers! in fragrant perfume,
And offer sweet prayers for a merciful doom.

Beautiful hands! ye deck the graves,
Above the dust of the Southern braves,
Here was extinguished their manly fire,
Who scorned to flinch from the foeman’s ire.
Bring spring flowers! the laurel and rose,
And deck ye the graves where your friends repose.

Beautiful eyes! the tears ye shed
Are brighter than diamonds to those who bled;
Spurned is the cause they fell to save,
But “little they’ll reck,”—if ye honor the brave.
Bring spring flowers! with tears and praise.
And chant o’er their tombs, your grateful lays.

Beautiful lips! ye trembled now,
Memory wakens the sleeping one’s vow;
Mute are the lips and faded the forms,
That never knelt, save to God and your charms.
Bring spring flowers! all dewy with morn,
And think how they loved ye, whose graves ye adorn.

Beautiful hearts! of matron and maid,
Faithful were ye, when Apostles betrayed!
Here are your loved and cherished ones laid.
Peace to their ashes, the flowers ye strew
Are monuments worthy the faithful and true.
Bring spring flowers! perfume their sod,
With annual incense to glory and God.

— Col. A. W. Slayback, C. S. A., Steamer Stonewall, Missouri River, 9 May 1865.

For the Dead

Domine Iesu Christe, Rex gloriae, libera animas omnium fidelium defunctorum de poenis inferni et de profundo lacu; libera eas de ore leonis, ne absorbeat eas tartarus, ne cadant in obscurum; sed signifer sanctus Michael repraesentet eas in lucem sanctam, quam olim Abrahae promisisti et semini eius. Amen.

Très Riches Heures: Folio 113 Verso

Folio 113 verso of the Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry; the Purified Souls in Purgatory.

43: And when he had made a gathering throughout the company to the sum of two thousand drachms of silver, he sent it to Jerusalem to offer a sin offering, doing therein very well and honestly, in that he was mindful of the resurrection:
44: For if he had not hoped that they that were slain should have risen again, it had been superfluous and vain to pray for the dead.
45: And also in that he perceived that there was great favour laid up for those that died godly, it was an holy and good thought. Whereupon he made a reconciliation for the dead, that they might be delivered from sin.

— II Maccabees 12:43-45.