A well-known Benedictine mystic and an ascetic writer, born at Abergavenny, England, 9 December, 1575; died of the plague in London, 9 August, 1641. His father was William Baker, steward to Lord Abergavenny, his mother, a daughter of Lewis ap John ( alias Wallis), Vicar of Abergavenny. He was educated at Christ's Hospital and at Broadgate's Hall, now Pembroke College Oxford, afterwards becoming a member of Clifford's Inn, and later of the Middle Temple. At Oxford he lost his faith in the existence of God, but after some years, being in extreme peril of death, he escaped by what appeared to him a miracle. Following up the light thus given him, he was led to the threshold of the Catholic Church, and was received into its fold. In 1605 he joined the Benedictine Order at Padua, but ill-health obliged him to postpone his religious profession, and he returned home to find his father on the point of death. Having reconciled him to the Church and assisted him in his last moments, Father Baker hastened to settle his own worldly affairs and to return to the cloister. He was professed by the Italian Fathers in England as a member of the Cassinese Congregation, but subsequently aggregated to the English Congregation. At the desire of his superiors he now devoted his time and the ample means which he had inherited, to investigating and refuting the recently started error that the ancient Benedictine congregation in England was dependent on that of Cluny, founded in 910. He was immensely helped in his studies and researches for this purpose by the Cottonian Library which contained so many of the spoils of the old Benedictine monasteries in England, and which its generous founder placed entirely at his disposal. In collaboration with Father Jones and Father Clement Reyner he embodied the fruit of these researches in the volume entitled "Apostolatus Benedictorum in Anglia". At Sir Robert Cotton's Father Baker came in contact with the antiquary, William Camden, and with other learned men of his day. In 1624 he was sent to the newly established convent of Benedictine nuns at Cambrai, not as chaplain, but to aid in forming the spiritual character of the religious. Here he remained for about nine years, during which time he wrote many of his ascetical treatises, an abstract of which is contained in the valuable work "Sancta Sophia" compiled by Father Serenus Cressy. In 1633 he removed to Douai, where he wrote his long treatise on the English mission, but he was nearly worn out with his austerities before the order came for him to proceed to the battle-field. During his short sojourn in London, Father Baker was forced frequently to change his abode in order to avoid the pursuivants who were on his track. It was not, however, as a martyr that he was to end his days, but as a victim of the plague to which he succumbed in the sixty-sixth year of his age. Of upwards of thirty treatises chiefly on spiritual matters written by Father Baker, many are to be found in manuscript at Downside, Ampleforth, Stanbrook, and other Benedictine monasteries in England. An adequate biography of this master of the ascetic life is still a desideratum.
The Catholic Encyclopedia is the most comprehensive resource on Catholic teaching, history, and information ever gathered in all of human history. This easy-to-search online version was originally printed between 1907 and 1912 in fifteen hard copy volumes.
Designed to present its readers with the full body of Catholic teaching, the Encyclopedia contains not only precise statements of what the Church has defined, but also an impartial record of different views of acknowledged authority on all disputed questions, national, political or factional. In the determination of the truth the most recent and acknowledged scientific methods are employed, and the results of the latest research in theology, philosophy, history, apologetics, archaeology, and other sciences are given careful consideration.
No one who is interested in human history, past and present, can ignore the Catholic Church, either as an institution which has been the central figure in the civilized world for nearly two thousand years, decisively affecting its destinies, religious, literary, scientific, social and political, or as an existing power whose influence and activity extend to every part of the globe. In the past century the Church has grown both extensively and intensively among English-speaking peoples. Their living interests demand that they should have the means of informing themselves about this vast institution, which, whether they are Catholics or not, affects their fortunes and their destiny.
Copyright © Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company New York, NY. Volume 1: 1907; Volume 2: 1907; Volume 3: 1908; Volume 4: 1908; Volume 5: 1909; Volume 6: 1909; Volume 7: 1910; Volume 8: 1910; Volume 9: 1910; Volume 10: 1911; Volume 11: - 1911; Volume 12: - 1911; Volume 13: - 1912; Volume 14: 1912; Volume 15: 1912
Catholic Online Catholic Encyclopedia Digital version Compiled and Copyright © Catholic Online