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Reverend Charles Plowden

Father Charles Plowden, born on October 28, 1743, in Lyndhurst, Hampshire, England, was a prominent Jesuit priest, scholar, and educator during the 18th and early 19th centuries, as well as a profilic writer, and a key protagonist in polemics related to the Catholic Relief Bill in the early-19th century. His life was marked by a deep commitment to education, religious scholarship, and the Jesuit order.

Early Life and Education: Charles Plowden was raised in a devout Catholic family, and his early education was strongly influenced by his religious upbringing. He demonstrated exceptional academic prowess from a young age, was educated at St. Omer's, leading to his admission to the English College at Douai, a renowned Catholic institution. Following a long family tradition, entered the Society of Jesus in 1759. In 1770 he was ordained as a priest in Rome.

Jesuit Vocation and Mission: In 1762, Plowden joined the Society of Jesus, commonly known as the Jesuits, a Catholic religious order renowned for its commitment to education and missionary work, and in 1770 he was ordained as a priest in Rome. Plowden's dedication to the Jesuit mission saw him studying theology and philosophy in France and Belgium, where he developed a strong foundation for his future intellectual pursuits.

Educational Contributions: Father Plowden's contributions to education were significant. He played a crucial role in the establishment and development of Stonyhurst College in Lancashire, England, one of the oldest Jesuit educational institutions in the United Kingdom. Plowden's emphasis on a well-rounded education, combining academic excellence with moral and spiritual development, shaped the ethos of Stonyhurst.

Religious Scholarship: Father Charles Plowden was a prolific writer and scholar. His works spanned various theological and historical topics, showcasing his deep understanding of Catholic doctrine and his commitment to defending the faith. His notable publications include "Remarks on the History of England," where he provided a Catholic perspective on English history, and "The Jesuits' Memorial for the intended reformation of England," a document addressing religious issues in England during his time.

Suppression of the Jesuits and Exile: In 1773, the Jesuit order faced suppression by Pope Clement XIV. Plowden, along with many other Jesuits, endured the challenges brought about by the suppression. He continued his scholarly and pastoral activities in exile, contributing to the preservation of the Jesuit tradition and intellectual heritage during this tumultuous period.

Later Life and Legacy: Father Charles Plowden spent his later years in Belgium, where he continued to engage in scholarly pursuits and pastoral work. During this time, he wrote an account of the college's destruction. After his release, he stayed at the Academy of Li├Ęge, before returning to England, whereupon he became a chaplain at Lulworth Castle, allowing him to give the sermon at the consecration of Bishop Carroll (1790). The Society of Jesus was eventually restored, and in 1817, he was declared Provincial, while also being the Rector of Stonyhurst College until 1819. Late in his life he was summoned to Rome for the election of the General of the Society of Jesus. He died on March 20, 1821, leaving behind a legacy of educational excellence and intellectual contributions to Catholic scholarship. He was erroneously buried with full military honours.

References:

  1. Foley, H. (1877). Records of the English Province of the Society of Jesus. London: Burns and Oates.
  2. Stonyhurst College. (n.d.). History. Retrieved from https://www.stonyhurst.ac.uk/about/history
  3. Plowden, C. (1780). Remarks on the History of England. London: G. Robinson.
  4. Plowden, C. (1813). The Jesuits' Memorial for the intended reformation of England. London: J. Booker.

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