CUMBRIA AND BORDERS

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Cumbria Christianity

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John Leyburne

1615 - 1702

John Leyburne, bishop and pastor. John was from that area above Kendal, of halls and farms from Selside to Skelsmergh, which has always had deep Roman Catholic connections. Some perhaps, certainly the eight martyrs from the area about Dodding Green, could have more obvious claims to sanctity, but quiet, realistic wisdom has its place also.
Macauley described him as a man of 'some learning and a rich vein of  natural humour . . ..the most cautious, dexterous and taciturn of men'. He was a bishop, aged 70 years, called for by James II, and he needed all these qualities to save his co-religionists from that Monarch's rashness.
Certainly Leyburne put right aside any temptation to be a court prelate in a Catholic re-establishment. He turned rather to pastoral work. In 1687 he set out on a great tour of his scattered flock, especially bringing the sacrament of Confirmation. In a springless coach, little batter than a cart, he toured most of England, the England before the transport
revolution. In Cumbria he confirmed 22 at Greystoke, 127 at Corby and 426 at Brampton. Children and adults walked for days to meet him, sleeping out in the fields beside the chapels. He confirmed about 30,000 on that tour. This was a turning point in the Roman Catholic story in England.
The direct successors of Leyburne and his flock make up the Roman Catholic community today. He Showed the way ahead; realistic, humble, assiduous pastoral work. Plotters and dreamers of his own church opposed him, but it was Leyburne who went into the Tower for a spell in the time of reaction of  1688. So he came in some way close to the martyrs of former years from his family and native lands.