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Baldwin of Ford

Baldwin entered the abbey of Ford, a daughter-house of Waverley, in 1169; in 1173 he was made abbot, and he held the abbacy until 1180 when he was elevated to the see of Worcester. Baldwin was archbishop of Canterbury from 1184-90.

He was a swarthy man, with an honest, venerable face, only moderately tall, of good physique and inclined to be thin rather than corpulent. He was modest and sober, and of great abstinence and self-control, so that very little criticism was ever levelled against him. He was a man of few words, slow to anger, temperate in all his feelings and emotions, ‘swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath’. He had studied human letters from his early youth and had always seen himself as one of our Lord’s servants. By the purity of his personal life he was an inspiration to his people. Of his own free will he resigned the position of archdeacon to which he had been promoted in the canonical hierarchy, and steadfastly scorning the pomps and vanities in this world, with saintly devotion he became a monk in the Cistercian Order. In this way of life he had always been more of a monk than anything else, and within a year he was elected abbot. A few more years passed and he was promoted to bishop and then archbishop. He had been faithful in small things: now he was given far-reaching authority. However, as Cicero said: ‘Nature has produced nothing which is wholly perfect.’ When he was raised to great power he was unable to cast off the gentle and innate kindliness which he had always shown as a private individual. He sustained his people with his staff, instead of castigating them with his stick, acting more like a mother offering her breasts than a father wielding his rod, and he was publicly criticised for his laxness. His kindness of heart made him weak and ineffectual, and the Church lost all sense of discipline. He was clearly a better monk than abbot, a better abbot than bishop and a better bishop than archbishop. When Pope Urban wrote to him, he addressed him as follows: ‘Urban, bishop, servant of the servants of God, sends his greetings to the most fervent monk, the warm abbot, the lukewarm bishop, the negligent archbishop’ (1)