Saint of the Day – 7 June – Saint Robert Newminster O.Cist. (c 1100–1159) Priest, Abbot, apostle of the poor, miracle-worker. He was one of the Monks who founded Fountains Abbey in North Yorkshire, England, Newminster and 3 others. Born in c 1100 at Gargrave, Craven district, Yorkshire County, England and died on 7 June 1159 at Newminster England of natural causes. Saint Robert of Newminster is remembered as a generous, compassionate and capable man devoted to God. A man of great simplicity, he was reported to be strong and active and committed to fasting. His acts and miracles continue to inspire people to help others and to honoUr , love and obey God.
Robert was born in what is now the district of Craven, near Skipton in North Yorkshire, probably in the village of Gargrave. He studied at the University of Paris, where he composed a commentary – since lost – on the Psalms. He became a parish priest, returning to serve Gargrave.
Aftrer a time he became a Benedictine joining the Monks of Saint Mary’s Abbey in York. A group of Monks, including Robert, established a Monastery in a valley near Skeldale, on land given them by Archbishop Thurstan in 1132. The first two years were difficult and the Monks struggled in extreme poverty. Initially they lived in a makeshift structure on the banks of the River Skell. Despite the hardships, the Monks were known for their holiness, austerity and dedication to the strict Benedictine way of life. Their fame brought a new novice, St Hugh, Dean of York, who relinquished all his wealth to the community who built more suitable facilities.
Because of the many natural springs in the area, the Monastery was called Fountains’ Abbey. Fountains Abbey became affiliated with the Cistercian reform which had been introduced by St Bernard of Clairvaux and became a Cistercian Abbey. (I lived very near Fountains’ Abbey for 10 years. It is still a pilgrimage site, although in ruins, destroyed and pillaged by the excesses of the Henry VIII and Elizabeth I. I have attended Holy Mass in the Crypt, a place still of palpable holiness and great beauty. Of course, many of the so-called pilgrims are really just tourists now and there is a very fine restaurant too, which attracts those unconcerned with or even unaware of, the holy history of the amazing Abbey.)
Robert was described as a devout, prayerful, and gentle man. He is known for being merciful in his judgement of others and a warm and considerate companion. He was zealous regarding his own vows of poverty. About 1138 he headed a group of Monks sent out from Fountains’ to establish Newminster Abbey near the Castle of Ralph de Merlay and his wife, Juliana, , west of Morpeth in Northumberland. Abbot Robert was said to be blessed with the gift of prophecy and miracles. During his Abbacy three colonies of Monks were sent to found new Monasteries at Pipewell in Northamptonshire (1143), Roche in South Yorkshire (1147), and Sawley in Lancashire (1148).
Capgrave’s life tells that an accusation of misconduct was brought against him by his own Monks. . He went to defend himself before St Bernard of Clairvaux in 1147–1148. Bernard did not doubt Robert’s innocence as he had received a heavenly sign of his virtuous conduct
Robert ruled and directed the Monks at Newminster for 21 years. The small Monastery of only 17 Monks, was one of the first to be dissolved in 1535 by Henry VIII and the site has been privately owned since.
Robert was a close spiritual friend of the Hermit St Godric of Finchale. On the night Robert died, Godric s saw a vision of Robert’s soul, like a ball of fire, being lifted by Angels on a pathway of light ,toward the gates of Heaven. As they approached, Godric heard a voice saying, “Enter now my friends.”
When Robert died in 1159 he was buried in Newminster,but after its dissolution his remains were entombed in the local Church of Newminister, where many miracles were reported and which still remain a place of veneration and pilgraimage.