Blessed Nicholas Ferrar

Drawn to religious life and devotion to family, Nicholas established an extended Rule of Life at Little Gidding just outside London in 1626.

Born in a time of significant travel amongst countries in Europe as well as the push into the New World of America, Nicholas also participated in travel that helped to shape his inward devotion to God and the precious flow of spiritual life. Upon being ordained a Deacon by Bishop William Laud in 1626, Nicholas collected his dear mother and extended family and established a family homestead at Little Gidding to which he was the spiritual shepherd.

The family work at Little Gidding thrived with Nicholas leading them in the prayers of the hours and, what could be heresy to some but served as a beautiful passion for the family, cutting up of printed Bibles into separate verses so that a continuous narrative of the Gospel story was created. 

While living at Little Gidding and serving the surrounding communities in hospital and educational needs, Nicholas developed deep and faithful friendships with many clergy and community leaders. One of these dear friends was George Herbert, and it was Nicholas who actually published Herbert’s exquisite book of poetry The Temple in 1634.

However, the devoted religious life at Little Gidding was not without outside contention. Staunch Puritan leadership denounced the family homestead and work as “Romish…with reverences to an altar and the keeping of monastic hours, etc.” Upon the death of Nicholas, a vigilant Puritan group raided the property and destroyed essentially all of his writings as well as the tiny chapel. The family, hearing of the Puritan aggression on the way, fled and were not harmed by the time the group trespassed the property. However, they slowly returned to their beloved space and resumed their prior devotion to God and to their community.

“Just to place Nicholas Ferrár and his Little Gidding in historical perspective, realize that during his lifetime, George Herbert was ordained priest; the King James Version of the Bible was published; Lancelot Andrewes was Bishop of Winchester; John Donne, Dean of St. Paul’s; Willian Laud, Archbishop of Canterbury; Jeremy Taylor, Chaplain to King Charles; and John Cosin, chaplain to the Bishop of Durham — some of the greatest names in all Anglican history with the lifetime of one gentle and holy man.

*Stars in a Dark World: Stories of the Saints and Holy Days of the Liturgy, Fr. John-Julian, OJN.

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