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Sunday, September 18, 2016

Is Robin Hood Catholic? The Secret Catholic History of the Prince of Thieves

Is Robin Hood Catholic? The Secret Catholic History of the Prince of Thieves

Avellina Balestri

Note: Not an endorsement


The legends of Robin Hood and his Merry Men exert a near universal appeal, and have done so for generations. From ballads to books to films, the daring rebel spirit of the Prince of Thieves who became a champion for the common people under an oppressive regime continues to inspire us to stand up for justice in our daily lives.



But for Catholics, he should have an additional significance, for he can claim him as one of our own, in an England worlds away which was still within the fold of a united Christendom that acknowledged the spiritual supremacy of the Pope as Vicar of Christ and Keeper of the Keys.
From the earliest inception of the legends in the Middle Ages, Robin Hood was always portrayed as being a pious Catholic, in spite of the fact that he was not above robbing and making fun of pompous and unscrupulous clergymen. This was in response to the temporal corruption that had infected the Church hierarchy.
However, he also is shown as risking capture in order to attend mass in Nottingham and refusing to be disturbed while in prayer, even when danger was imminent. Famously, he recruited Friar Tuck, a rough-around-the-edges but true-hearted priest, to be the outlaw band’s chaplain.
Another important element of the early ballads was Robin’s affectionate devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, who was originally said to be the only woman in his life. There is even a nursery rhyme that depicts Robin praying the rosary in the greenwood:

Robin Hood, Robin Hood,
Is in the mickle wood!
Little John, Little John,
He to town is gone.
Robin Hood, Robin Hood,
Telling his beads,
All in the greenwood
Among the green weeds.
Little John, Little John,
If he comes no more,
Robin Hood, Robin Hood,
We shall fret full soar!

Like King Arthur, who also had strong Catholic connotations associated with his legend, the cult of Robin Hood came under fire during the Protestant Revolt in England, and recusant Catholics were branded by the derogatory term “Robin Hoods” by the government.
It was only the people’s refusal to let the old legends die that kept the stories of both King Arthur and Robin Hood alive, although with modifications. In place of the prominent role played by the Virgin Mary in Robin’s life, Maid Marian became his lady love. However, judging by the name and her purity of heart, the allegorical connections are not hard to surmise.
In spite of everything, Robin Hood continued to symbolize the fighting spirit of a small island in the entirety of his legacy. He fought with his longbow, the symbol of British pride and resistance, and prayed with his Rosary Beads, the symbol of the faith of the people and the refusal to let it die.
Indeed, it was the sacrifice of the Catholic “Robin Hood” Recusants that kept the spark of Catholicism from being completely smothered by the turbulent winds of the times.
To this day, there are Catholic men and women from the Northern England who can trace back their lineage back in an unbroken line of faithful Catholics. It is their story that best exemplifies the true spirit of Robin Hood.