Monday, January 23, 2017

Linton Hall's Benedictine Tradition: The Shocking Truth

On the web, Linton Hall School describes itself as "a Catholic school in Benedictine Tradition." So what really is this "Benedictine Tradition?" I doubt that most people really know; and I think it likely that most will be shocked to learn the truth.

"Benedictine" refers to Benedict of Nursia (480-547) who founded a dozen monasteries near Rome. He was proclaimed a saint in 1220 and the Order of St. Benedict was named after him.

Just what were Benedict's beliefs, precepts and values? They are found in the Rule of St. Benedict, which he wrote to govern behavior in the monasteries he founded. Although the original was destroyed by fire in 896, various (handwritten) copies remain, the most reliable the one kept in St. Gallen, Switzerland.

Benedict saw obedience as a master virtue, and advocated the annihilation of self will. That's right, human beings who are given free will by God should instead obey a "superior" (Benedict, for example.) Alumni of Linton Hall Military School should not be surprised at this.

To justify his Rule, Benedict selectively quotes the Bible. This reminds meme of a quote in Shakespeare's "The Merchant of Venice"-- "The Devil can cite Scripture for his purpose."

In Chapter 2 of his Rule, Benedict states "the proud, the disobedient and the hard-hearted should be punished with whips, even at the first signs of sin." To justify this, he cites "The fool is not corrected by words" (Proverbs 29:19) and "strike your son with rod and you shall deliver his soul from death" (Proverbs 23:14.) Needless to say, he does not explain what makes Benedict, or any abbot for that matter, qualified to whip others.

Chapter 4 contains a long list of "instruments of good works," or rules, the first seven of which rephrase seven of the ten Commandments. Not content to quote God's words, Benedict must have thought he could do a better job restating them. Some of the gems written by Benedict include #11, "chastise the body," #12, "not love pleasure," #59, "despise one's own will" (presumably this does not apply to Benedict, since he believes his will should be followed by the monks, for #59 states "obey the abbot's commands in all things.)

In Chapter 5 he repeats this, stating "obey any command of a superior as if it were a command of God." This ties in with my blog post of February 17, 2011, "Blind Obedience at Linton Hall." I should point out that in the officer commission I received at Linton Hall Military School, lower-ranking cadets were required to follow only lawful commands. This limit on authority came up as well in conjuction with both the Nuremberg trials and the My Lai Massacre trial.

Benedict further states that "God will not be pleased by the monk who obeys grudgingly" (as you can see, Benedict has appointed himself as God's spokesman) and attempts to justify this statement by quoting 2 Corinthians 9:7 which states that "God loves a cheerful giver" and which clearly refers to something entirely different than Benedict's position. In fact, 2 Corinthians 9:7 states, in its entirety, "Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver."

Chapters 24, 25 and 26 advocate shunning as punishment, and the same shunning to anyone who should speak or meet with someone who is the subject of shunning.

If shunning is not enough, Chapter 28 advocates punishment by whipping, and Chapter 30 advocates enforced fasting or flogging of youths.

Chapter 33 speaks of the "vice of private ownership" and states that no one should give, receive or keep anything, not even a book, tablet or pen, and that "all things are to be common to every one," using as justification for his position the fact that the Apostles shared things. Quite a stretch between voluntary sharing and involuntary abolition of private property, it seems. He adds that "monks have neither free will nor free body." Can you get more autocratic than that? And can you get farther away from 2 Corinthians 9:7 cited above, which refers to voluntary giving and goes against both compulsion and against Benedict's contention that monks have no free will.

Benedict wasn't much of a fan of personal hygiene. In Chapter 36 he states that "The sick should be permitted baths as often as necessary but the healthy and especially all young are to bathe rarely." Well, I do suppose that bathing rarely does make a vow of chastity easy to follow!

Though according to Benedict "monks have neither free will nor free body" (in Chaper 33, quoted above) Benedict says that "if one makes a mistake in chanting a psalm ... he must immediately humble himself publicly ... children should be whipped for these mistakes." (Chapter 45.)

Chapter 54 forbids the giving or sending of letters or parcels even to or from one's parents without the abbott's permission, and if any parcels are received the abbott may give them to whomever he decides. Linton Hall Military School alumni will certainly recall the censorship of outgoing (and, less frequently) incoming letters, even between cadets and their parents.

Chapter 69 advocates punishment for those who seek to defend or protect another. In other words, the virtue of compassion is a punishable offense.

In chapter 63, Benedict states that the "abbot, however, since he takes the place of Christ, shall be called Abbot or My Lord."

I believe that Benedict was quite unlike Jesus Christ (Jesus offered mercy and forgiveness) and Benedict was autocratic, self-righteous and arrogant, and does not deserve to be called a saint.

P.S.: This would have made for an interesting book report for Religion class when I attended Linton Hall, don't you think?

Benedict of Nursia, The Rule of Saint Benedict, translated by Anthony C. Meisel and M. L. del Mastro. New York: Image Books / Doubleday, 1975.

Read more in my book, "Linton Hall Military School Memories," over 200 pages, 7x10 inches, only $5.69 at
Copyright 2017 by "Linton Hall Cadet."
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Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Bill Farquhar on Linton Hall History

Bill Farquhar, who was sports coach as well as gym and geography instructor at Linton Hall for several decades, was also somewhat of a history buff. In 1992, he delivered a speech on Linton Hall history. Among the interesting facts he shared:

* Route 619, part of which is also known as Linton Hall Road, was an Indian/Native American trail during the pre-Colonial period. There was also a Native American campground in the portion of the Linton Hall property where Broad Run curves, and arrowheads have been found there.

* There were slaves on John Linton's land, prior to its being donated to the Benedictines for the site of today's Linton Hall School. At least eight slaves are buried there, each grave marked with a large rock. Unfortunately, around 1941-1942, the gardener, who did not know why the rocks were there, and because they made lawn mowing difficult, dug them up and buried them deeper. As a consequence, the location of those grave sites is now unknown.

* During the 1920s, farmers working on the Linton Hall Military School land found cannonballs and old shells from the Civil War. A few of these were put on display in the old convent, and when the new convent was built, Bill Farquhar was given a few. A few years after receiving them, Bill wondered whether some of them might still be live, so he contacted the Sheriff, Ralph Shumake, who called Fort Belvoir. Some soldiers came from Ft. Belvoir and put the shells in a box -- very gently, because they were, in fact, live. They brought back the parts from the exploded shells about a month later.

* During the 1930s, there were very few paved roads in the area. Linton Hall Road was still a dirt road, which became extremely muddy when it rained. This all changed when, in 1938, John Joseph Becker, a lawyer from Norfolk, sent his three sons to Linton Hall Military School. According to Bill, Mr. Becker used his influence with Virginia Highway Commissioner Henry G. Shirley (after whom the Shirley Highway was named) to have the road paved from Chapel Springs to Linton Hall. It was not until around 1952-1953 that the rest of Linton Hall, all the way to Gainesville, was paved.

William Francis Farquhar, "Bill," was born on September 30, 1915 in Washington D.C., and was a Linton Hall Military School alumnus. He began teaching and coaching at Linton Hall in 1940. He served in the U.S. Army during World War II. He was coach and gym teacher, more recently with the title of Athletic Director, for the rest of his life. Bill passed away on January 4, 2011 at the age of 95. His wife, Virginia, predeceased him. Both are buried in the Linton Hall cemetery. The Linton Hall school gym was renamed the William Farquhar Sports Center in his honor.

Special thanks to the alumnus who made me aware of the existence of Bill's speech and to the Prince William County Historical Commission for having audiotaped it.

Read more in my book, "Linton Hall Military School Memories," over 200 pages, 7x10 inches, only $5.69 (or less) at

Copyright 2016 by "Linton Hall Cadet."
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Friday, September 16, 2016

Why Didn't Linton Hall Help Poor Children Learn a Trade?

That was, after all, the condition under which the Benedictine Order was given 1,736 acres of land by Sister Mary Baptista, V.H.M.. (Note 1)

In 1893, Sister Mary Baptista gave the land subject to the condition that it be used for
"an industrial and training school for poor and friendless white boys and youths, ... [and] a school for training and education of poor and friendless white girls in habits of industry and virtue and in learning useful occupations suitable to their condition of life" (Note 2)

In this context, the term "friendless" means children who have no parents or other relatives taking care of them -- orphaned or neglected, in today's language. "Industrial," "training" and "useful occupations suitable to their condition of life," means that they were to be taught a trade, rather than an academic curriculum. The limitation to whites became unenforceable as a result of court cases and civil rights legislation.

Saint Joseph Institute was opened in 1894 and closed in 1922, as detailed in my previous blog post. Although a school for boys, it "was never a first-rate educational institution, and it was never really an industrial school at all." (Note 3)

Nor was the condition that poor children attend the schools met, at least not as a general practice. There was strong resistance to covering the costs of poor children by St. Joseph, which requested payment by the Diocese of Richmond for such children. (Note 4)

In 1894, the Benedictine Sisters opened Saint Edith, an academy for girls. In 1897 they opened Saint Anne, an industrial school for girls. (Note 5)

The girls' schools founded by the Benedictine Sisters were not built on the 1,736 acres of land from Sister Mary Baptista's bequest, but on the nearby 92.5 acre Kincheloe farm, which had been originally owned by the Linton Family and sold off, and which was then purchased by the Benedictine Sisters. As this land was not part of the Linton gift, the sisters were not bound by the conditions placed on the Linton bequest. (Note 6) However, it could be argued that, in spirit, the condition of building a girls' industrial school had been met. But the girls' schools in Bristow were closed when Linton Hall Military School was opened in 1922.

It is not known whether or not St. Anne requested diocesan support for girls' expenses, but in 1922, with Saint Joseph Institute continuing to insist that it would only accept orphans if the diocese paid their fees, Bishop O'Connell became concerned that the trust agreement was being violated, and the Benedictines risked losing the property. (Note 7) This matter came to a head with a court case in the Prince William County (Virginia) Circuit Court in February 1923. Although the Diocese of Richmond argued that because there was no industrial school, and the instruction was educational rather than industrial, and the monks declined to take "friendless" boys free of charge, the terms of the trust had been violated. St. Joseph Institute, on the other hand, argued that because no protest had been lodged within twenty years, it was too late to enforce the trust's provisions. The court ruled in favor of St, Joseph's position, and title to the land passed to the Benedictines free and clear, with Sister Mary Baptista's conditions no longer in place. Four years later, in 1927, the Belmont Abbey gave the 1,736 acres of land, together with buildings thereon (except for the library and its contents) and livestock to the Benedictine Sisters.

As a result, Sister Mary Baptista Linton's gift became property of the Benedictine Sisters, even though no industrial school for boys and youths was ever built, and the girls' industrial school, Saint Anne, was in existence from 1897 to 1922 -- a period of only twenty-five years. (Note 7) Most of this land was later sold off to developers by the Benedictine Sisters, and the extensive land on which Linton Hall Military School alumni went camping and hiking is no longer owned by Linton Hall School.

I do not know how the proceeds of the land sale were used, or whether they were used in line with Sister Mary Baptista's wishes. I believe that although there was no legal obligation to do so, a moral obligation existed.

1. Johnston, Helen, The Fruit of His Works. Bristow, Va.: Linton Hall Press, 1954, pp. 37-40. There was a Sister Helen whom I met while a cadet at Linton Hall Military School, but I never knew her last name, so I don't know whether she was the author.
2. Baumstein, Dom Paschal, O.S.B., My Lord of Belmont: A Biography of Leo Haid. Belmont, N.C.: Herald House, 1985, p. 138, quoting Archives of the Abbey of Maryhelp, Deed from Phillips to Trustees, January, 1893. Baumstein's meticulously researched book, although dealing primarily with Belmont Abbey and Abbot Haid, devotes one chapter to the Linton legacy.
3. Baumstein, op. cit., p.151.
4. Ibid, pp.160-161.
5. Ibid, p.149.
6. Johnston, op. cit., pp. 51-52.
7. Baumstein, op. cit., pp. 172-173.
8. Ibid, pp. 174-175.

Copyright 2016 by "Linton Hall Cadet."
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Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Linton Hall's Precursor, St. Joseph Institute, in 1922 Had Flies, Bedbugs, Lice, a Typhoid Fever Outbreak ... Plus a Fake Priest Having "Relations" With a Sixteen-Year-Old Girl

A scathing report by Joseph Tobin, O.S.B. written on August 4, 1922, described extremely filthy conditions at Saint Joseph Institute, the boys' boarding school run by Benedictine priests and brothers in Bristow, Virginia.

Frater Tobin, an undercover investigator sent by Abbot Leo Haid, O.S.B., of Belmont Abbey, N.C., described a deplorable lack of hygiene, with bedbugs, lice, and a refectory "infested with flies." His report also stated that a water inspector had forbidden use of well water for drinking,, and that the outhouse had not been cleaned in two years. A doctor and nurse inspected the premises and threatened to condemn the whole institute. (Note 1)

The lack of hygiene had resulted in an outbreak of typhoid fever, with five boys who had stayed over the summer ending up bedridden, and at least two of them, the Barnes brothers, critically ill. Their mother was not informed of her sons' illness for eight days, and when she arrived she found her sons with

"temperature[s] running at that time 105 [degrees] ... just covered with flies, lice and bedbugs ..."

Mrs. Barnes had her sons transferred to a Washington, D.C. hospital. It is not known whether they recovered. (Note 2)

Frater Tobin's report also confirmed concerns raised by both Mr. Barnes an by Mrs. Keane, a nurse hired to take care of the ill boys, that Denis Smith, who passed himself off as a priest, but who was not, had been taking "liberties" with the 16-year-old daughter of a woman working as a cook at the Institute. (Note 3)

The following month, Father Ignatius Remke, O.S.B., arrived at Bristow and confirmed that the reports "about the dirt, filth, etc. of this place" were "all true," and that although there were two wells, the water was unaccptable for human consumption. (Note 4)

A year later, Father Remke discovered that a broken sewer line had been discharging human waste under the priory for up to three years. (Note 5)

In order to restore hygiene and improve living conditions, enrollment at St. Joseph, which had previously been 77 boarding students and 11 day students, was drastically reduced to between 25 and 30. (Note 6) At that point, Saint Joseph Institute was "allowed to die of attrition." The Benedictine sisters, who had been running two schools for girls in Bristow, Saint Edith Academy and Saint Anne, closed these two girls' schools, continued their activities teaching girls in Richmond, and opened Linton Hall Military School for boys in Bristow, Virginia. In 1927 the 1,736 acres of land donated by the Lintons were given to the Benedictine sisters.

1. Baumstein, Dom Paschal, O.S.B., My Lord of Belmont: An Autobiography of Leo Haid. Belmont, N.C., Herald House, 1985, pages 166-167.
An extensively documented book. Although the book deals primarily with the Benedictine's activities at Belmont Abbey, N.C., there is a chapter which covers the Linton land bequest, and the Benedictines' activities in Bristow until the founding of Linton Hall Military School.
2. Baumstein, op.cit., pp.164-165, quoting a letter from Mrs. A.J. Barnes to Abbot Haid, dated August 3, 1922.
3. Baumstein, p. 166.
4. Baumstein, p. 172, quoting a letter from Fr. Remke to Abbot Haid, dated September 11, 1922.
5. Baumstein, p. 172, quoting a letter from Fr. Remke to Abbot Haid, dated Sptember 26, 1923.
6. Baumstein, p. 172, quoting a letter from Fr. Remke to Abbot Haid, dated January 22, 1924.

Copyright 2016 by "Linton Hall Cadet."
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Thursday, July 7, 2016

Linton Hall alumni included Nicaraguan president's sons

During the 1962-1963 school year, Luis Somoza, age 12, and his brother Alvaro, age 11, attended Linton Hall Military School. (I do not know whether they attended Linton Hall other years.) They were the sons of Luis Antonio Somoza Debayle, who was president of Nicaragua from September 29, 1956, through May 1, 1963. He died in 1967 (at age 44) of a massive heart attack. The boys' mother, however, lived until 2014.

The boys' grandfather was Anastasio Somoza, born 1896, and president from 1937 to 1947 and again from 1951 to 1956, when he was assassinated.

The boys' uncle (brother of their father,) Anastasio Somoza Debayle was president from 1967 to 1972 and from 1974 to 1979. He was deposed by the Sandinistas after a long civil war in July 1979. He fled to Paraguay, where he was assassinated in September 1980.

The Somoza family rule over approximately four decades has been described as a hereditary dictatorship.

Sources: Pittsburgh Press, June 28, 1963, page 2; Wikipedia.

Copyright 2016 by "Linton Hall Cadet."
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Thursday, February 18, 2016

Why Linton Hall Had to Change

Linton Hall School has undergone radical changes during the time since I was there. As far as I can tell, most of these changes were in response to external factors, rather than the result of a desire to change from within.

The increasing unpopularity of the Vietnam war was tied to a loss of prestige of the military, and this had an effect on military schools as well, although the decline in number of military schools in the U.S. had begun even before the Vietnam war.

At the same time, single-sex schools were also losing their appeal for reasons which included the lack of opportunity for socialization with the opposite sex, as well as the desire to give girls and women the opportunity to attend schools that had excluded them.

Although I did not care for the military aspect (I would have preferred to spend my time in better ways,) nor the all-boys aspect (I was, after all, at an age when I was experiencing a growing interest in girls) nor being in a boarding school, those aspects of the school were fully and openly disclosed. It is with the corporal punishment and other humiliation by the adults in charge with which I take issue, since not only were these excessive, but they were also concealed from parents through censorship of outgoing mail. I need not enumerate these punishments; a comprehensive list has been compiled by a classmate in his blog post The Ugly: Was this any way to treat kids?

It was in 1989 (coincidentally, the year in which Linton Hall went from being an all-boys military boarding school to a coeductaional non-military day school) that the Virginia legislature passed a law, Virginia Code Section 22.1-279.1 which outlawed corporate punishment in public schools. Although, by definition, the law did not apply to private schools, the tide was turning, and the corporal punishment with which many alumni were all too familiar, seemed to be on shaky legal ground.

Nine years later, in 1998, 22 VAC 40-705-30 provided a definition of abuse and neglect which I believe would encompass many of the punishments which were practiced at Linton Hall during the late 1960s. These would include any physical injuries resulting from corporal punishment (such as beatings with a wooden paddle or leather belt, or being made to chew a bar of soap) as well as the mental abuse of publicly humiliating younger children who had accidentally wet the bed by forcing them to wear their own urine-soaked pajamas tied around their neck all day.

From everything I've heard (obviously, my first-had experience at Linton Hall Military School ended when I graduated) today's Linton Hall School has vastly improved over the decades. I cannot think of any substantial way in which I would suggest it could be improved. It is only unfortunate that it would take changes in the law to bring this about, instead of the Benedictine sisters deciding to do the right thing on their own.

Copyright 2016 by "Linton Hall Cadet."
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This blog is not affiliated with Linton Hall Military School and all opinions are those of the author.
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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Huge new book about Linton Hall Military School just published!

Linton Hall Military School

The newest, biggest book about Linton Hall ever has just been published. And you can buy it at cost!

This book is huge: 7x10 inches, 208 pages, 51 chapters with over 60,000 words of text, plus lots of photos and excerpts from Linton Hall brochures going back as far as 1949!

It's much more than a collection of my blog posts; I've added twelve new chapters including:

>> The time we went into a submarine on a field trip
>> The chicks of Linton Hall
>> Solar eclipse at LHMS -- a once-in-a-lifetime event
>> The smells of Linton Hall
>> More letters to and from Linton Hall -- excerpts of letters I sent and received while I was there

... and lots, lots more!

This book will bring back a flood of memories for Linton Hall Military School alumni: the nitpicking rules covering everything from making your bed to folding your underwear, the nuns’ cruel punishments, the occasional compassion from officers, the fun of camping trips, the officers' rifle club, and the things we managed to get away with in spite of LHMS' rules and lack of privacy.

This is a crazy joy-ride of good and bad memories and emotions for alumni, and an astonishing peek into the past for current students and recent graduates.

Books this big usually cost around $25 at a bookstore; but you can get it for just $5.69 -- which is exactly what it costs in printing costs and Amazon selling fees; I don't make a penny. My goal isn't to make money -- it's to share my memories and thoughts with alumni, and anyone else who's interested.

The price is guaranteed for just one week. After that, who knows?

So get your copy now -- while it's still fresh in your mind.

"Linton Hall Military School Memories" is available exclusively at

A preview including table of contents is on the Amazon site.

P.S.: Now you can read this book for free! The Prince William County, Virginia public library has added "Linton Hall Military School Memories" to its collection. It's in the Dale City branch, but you can probably get it through interlibrary loan if that branch isn't convenient.