Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Silence of St. Nicholas Owen

St. Nicholas Owen, SJ, the Jesuit lay brother and carpenter extraordinaire, died under torture on March 22, 1606. The Jesuits in Britain website notes this about him:

Many of the martyrs of England died very public deaths on the scaffold of Tyburn, but Nicholas died as he had lived; in secret. We have no memorable saying of his to meditate on – his priest holes, which are his wordless prayers, are all that remain. Nicholas in his agonised, furtive death had finished with all concealment and disguises and was welcomed by Campion and all the martyrs into a fellowship where there is no use for human language.

We do, however, have the record of what he said under torture in 1606:

He confesses that he has known and sometimes attended Henry Garnett, the Provincial of the Jesuits for around four years.

He confesses that he was at the house of Thomas Throgmorton called Coughton at the beginning of November last year, when the Lady Digby was there and by the watch that was in town they knew that Robert Catesby, Thomas Percy, and the rest of the gun powder plotters were up in arms.

That on All Saints Day last year, Garnett said Mass at Coughton House, and that at that Mass there were around half a dozen people.

That Henry Garnett was at Henlipp, the house of Thomas Abington some six weeks before he was apprehended and Hall the Jesuit was there about three days before the house of Mr Abington was searched.

That while he was staying with Garnett, he made his fire and served him and that both he and Garnett hid in a secret room below the dining room.

As the Jesuit website notes:

There was no new information in these confessions and the authorities lost patience. The tortures became more violent and on the next day, despite a plate they had fitted around Nicholas to prevent the torture further damaging his pre-existing injuries, Nicholas died, quite literally broken apart by the torture.

The authorities were now in an awkward position. Not only had they been torturing illegally an already injured man, but they had murdered him before extracting a confession. A cover up was swiftly arranged with an inquest returning a verdict of suicide.

The cover up was as bad as the crime.

There is no portrait of St. Nicolas Owen, but on this other page at the Jesuits in Britain website there is a depiction of him, the other Jesuit brother captured, tortured, and martyred, Blessed Ralph Ashley, and Father Henry Garnet, who was also captured tortured and martyred along with Blessed Edward Oldcorne, but has never been beatified or canonized because of concern about his involvement with the Gunpowder Plot. All four of them were arrested at Hindlip Hall on January 23, 1606. They were all hiding in the priest holes St. Nicholas Owen had created, but were without food and water and had to surrender--the pursuivants had not found the hiding places Owen had built!

St. Nicholas Owen, pray for us!

Image credit: the original Hindlip Hall.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Blesseds Pilchard, Pike, and Flathers at Dorchester and York

Both of these priestly martyrs had been arrested and banished, but returned to England and suffered martyrdom when arrested again, one during the reign of Elizabeth I and the other during the reign of James I.

The Catholic Encyclopedia describes the life and death of Blessed Thomas Pilchard or Pilcher, incuding among the 85 Martyrs of England and Wales beatified by Blessed John Paul II in 1987:

He was born at Battle, Sussex, 1557; died at Dorchester, 21 March 1586-7. He became a Fellow of Balliol College, Oxford, in 1576, and took the degree of M.A., in 1579, resigning his fellowship the following year. He arrived at Reims 20 November, 1581, and was ordained priest at Laon, March, 1583, and was sent on the mission. He was arrested soon after, and banished; but returned almost immediately. He was again arrested early in March, 1586-7, and imprisoned in Dorchester Gaol, and in the fortnight between committal to prison and condemnation converted thirty persons. He was so cruelly drawn upon the hurdle that he was fainting when he came to the place of execution. When the rope was cut, being still alive he stood erect under the scaffold. The executioner, a cook, carried out the sentence so clumsily that the victim, turning to the sheriff, exclaimed "Is this then your justice, Mr. Sheriff?" According to another account "the priest raised himself and putting out his hands cast forward his own bowels, crying 'Miserere mei'". Father William Warford, a contemporary of Blessed Thomas Pilchard, says: "There was not a priest in the whole West of England, who, to my knowledge, was his equal in virtue."

He is honored at the Dorset Martyrs Memorial on Gallows Hill, Dorchester, which includes Blessed William Pyke or Pike, a layman reconciled to the Catholic Church by Blessed Thomas Pilchard. Some sources give his date of execution at December 22, 1591 but others say that the date is uncertain and so he is remembered with his confessor. He was also hanged, drawn, and quartered because he had converted to Catholicism, which was an act of treason. He also answered the Bloody Question incorrectly according to authorities, denying Elizabeth I's ecclesiastical authority. He was a joiner, or carpenter, and was resolute.

The Catholic Encyclopedia records another brutal execution on March 21, in 1607, of Blessed Matthew Flathers in York:

An English priest and martyr; b. probably c. 1580 at Weston, Yorkshire, England; d. at York, 21 March, 1607. He was educated at Douai, and ordained at Arras, 25 March, 1606. Three months later he was sent to English mission, but was discovered almost immediately by the emissaries of the Government, who, after the Gunpowder Plot, had redoubled their vigilance in hunting down the priests of the proscribed religion. He was brought to trial, under the statute of 27 Elizabeth, on the charge of receiving orders abroad, and condemned to death. By an act of unusual clemency, this sentence was commuted to banishment for life; but after a brief exile, the undaunted priest returned to England in order to fulfil his mission, and, after ministering for a short time to his oppressed coreligionists in Yorkshire was again apprehended. Brought to trial at York on the charge of being ordained abroad and exercising priestly functions in England, Flathers was offered his life on condition that he take the recently enacted Oath of Allegiance. On his refusal, he was condemned to death and taken to the common place of execution outside Micklegate Bar, York. The usual punishment of hanging, drawing, and quartering seems to have been carried out in a peculiarly brutal manner, and eyewitnesses relate how the tragic spectacle excited the commiseration of the crowds of Protestant spectators.

He was also included among the 85 Martyrs of England and Wales beatified in 1987. Our Lady and All Saints Catholic Church in Otley honors him as a local martyr.

Remember that hanging, drawing and quartering was live vivisection: a fumbling, inept executioner could prolong the suffering. It was a mercy if the hangman allowed the victim to die while hanging, or at least be unconscious.

Image credit: © Copyright Becky Williamson and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence. Martyrs' Memorial, Gallows Hill, Dorchester, taken 2 years ago
This memorial was erected in 1986 to commemorate all Dorset men and women who were martyred for their faith, particularly during the religious troubles of the 16th and 17th centuries. 

The artist who created the sculptures was Elizabeth Frink.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Pope Clement XI, RIP

Pope Clement XI, born Giovanni Francesco Albani on the 23rd of July in 1639, died on the 19th of March in 1721. His papacy began on the 23rd of November in 1700. I think we would call him a "good pope": he tried to foster peace, avoid corruption, and contribute to the beauty of Rome, particularly the Basilica of St. John Lateran. To him is attributed the Universal Prayer, a favorite devotion of Pope St. John XIII:

My God, I believe in You; strengthen my faith. All my hopes are in You; secure them. I love You; teach me to love you daily more and more. I am sorry that I have offended You; increase my sorrow.

I adore you as the Author of my first beginning. I aspire after you as my last end. I give you thanks as my constant Benefactor, I call upon you as my sovereign Protector.

My God, be pleased to conduct me by your wisdom; to restrain me by the thought of Your justice; to comfort me by Your mercy; to defend me by Your power.

To You I desire to consecrate all my thoughts, words, deeds, and suffering, that henceforth I may think of you, speak of you, refer all my actions to You greater glory, and suffer willingly whatever You shall appoint.

Lord, I desire that in all things Your Will be done, because it is Your Will, and I desire that all things be done in the manner that You will them.

Grant that I may always esteem whatsoever is pleasing to You, despise what You abhor, avoid what You forbid, and do what you command.

I beg You to enlighten my understanding, to inflame my will, to purify my body, and to sanctify my soul.

My God, give me strength to atone for my sins, to overcome my temptations, to subdue my passions, and to acquire the virtues proper to my state of life.

Fill my heart with tender affection for Your goodness, hatred of my faults, love of my neighbor, and contempt of the world. May Your grace help me to be obedient to my superiors, kind and courteous to my inferiors, faithful to my friends, and charitable to my enemies.

Assist me to overcome sensuality by self-sacrifice, avarice by almsdeeds, anger by meekness, and carelessness by devotion. My God, make me prudent in my undertakings, courageous in danger, patient in trials, and humble in success.

Grant that I may be ever attentive at my prayers, temperate at my meals, diligent in my work, and faithful in my good resolutions.

Let my conscience be ever upright and pure, my behavior modest, my conversation kind, and my actions edifying.

Assist me that I may continually strive to overcome the evil inclinations of my nature, to cooperate with Your grace, to keep Your commandments, and to work out my salvation.

My God, make me realize the nothingness of this world, the greatness of heaven, the shortness of time, and the length of eternity.

Grant that I may prepare for death; that I may fear Your judgment; that I may escape hell and in the end obtain heaven. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

His connection to the English Reformation and its aftermath comes in that he canonized Pope Pius V, author of the Bull that excommunicated Elizabeth I and, as the Catholic Encyclopedia sums up his life:

He gave a generous hospitality to the exiled son of James II of England, James Edward Stuart, and helped him to obtain the hand of Clementina, John Sobieski's accomplished granddaughter, mother of Charles Edward.

Clement's pastoral vigilance was felt in every corner of the earth. He organized the Church in the Philippine Islands and sent missionaries to every distant spot. He erected Lisbon into a patriarchate, 7 December, 1716. He enriched the Vatican Library with the manuscript treasures gathered at the expense of the pope by Joseph Simeon Assemani in his researches throughout Egypt and Syria. In the unfortunate controversy between the Dominican and the Jesuit missionaries in China concerning the permissibility of certain rites and customs, Clement decided in favour of the former. When the Jansenists provoked a new collision with the Church under the leadership of Quesnel, Pope Clement issued his two memorable Constitutions, "Vineam Domini", 16 July, 1705, and "Unigenitus", 10 September, 1713 (see UNIGENITUS; VINEAM DOMINI; JANSENISM). Clement XI made the feast of the Conception of the B.V.M. a Holy Day of obligation, and canonized Pius V, Andrew of Avellino, Felix of Cantalice, and Catherine of Bologna.

This great and saintly pontiff died appropriately on the feast of St. Joseph, for whom he entertained a particular devotion, and in whose honour he composed the special Office found in the Breviary. His remains rest in St. Peter's. His official acts, letters, and Briefs, also his homilies, were collected and published by his nephew, Cardinal Annibale Albani (2 vols., Rome, 1722-24).

Re: Jansenism. I just finished reading Eamon Duffy's Reformation Divided--a review in an international journal will be forthcoming--and one of the chapters in that collection of essays is an exploration of how Jansenism contributed to the ongoing conflict among the missionary priests between the seculars and the orders (especially Jesuit and Benedictine) on how best to serve Catholics in England during the recusant era and the eighteenth century.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Three Things for Friday

Happy St. Patrick's Day! The real St. Patrick, bishop and evangelist, was not focused on green beer, corned beef and cabbage, parades, and just being Irish. He was focused on Jesus Christ:

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through a belief in the Threeness,
Through confession of the Oneness
Of the Creator of creation.

I arise today
Through the strength of Christ's birth and His baptism,
Through the strength of His crucifixion and His burial,
Through the strength of His resurrection and His ascension,
Through the strength of His descent for the judgment of doom. . . .

Christ with me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me,
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right,
Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down,
Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

When Blessed John Henry Newman paid tribute in The Idea of the University to how much Catholics in England and Ireland owed to the care of the various popes--since it was Pope Pius IX who was encouraging the foundation of a Catholic University of Ireland--he highlighted St. Patrick's achievement:

I cannot forget how it was from Rome that the glorious St. Patrick was sent to Ireland, and did a work so great that he could not have a successor in it, the sanctity and learning and zeal and charity which followed on his death being but the result of the one impulse which he gave. I cannot forget how, in no long time, under the fostering breath of the Vicar of Christ, a country of heathen superstitions became the very wonder and asylum of all people,—the wonder by reason of its knowledge, sacred and profane, and the asylum of religion, literature and science, when chased away from the continent by the barbarian invaders. I recollect its hospitality, freely accorded to the pilgrim; its volumes munificently presented to the foreign student; and the prayers, the blessings, the holy rites, the solemn chants, which sanctified the while both giver and receiver.

St, Patrick, pray for us!

Also, I wanted to let you know that my review of God's Traitors: Terror and Faith in Elizabethan England (by Jessie Childs) was published in the March/April 2017 issue of the Saint Austin Review. The cover is a beautiful painting of the Crucifixion by Philippe de Champaigne, the 17th century French artist and portraitist.

And, my latest for the National Catholic Register blog roll is on the use of Latin in Latin Rite English Masses during Lent!

Thursday, March 16, 2017

The Merton College Choir at St. Peter's

From Vatican Radio, describing the Anglican Choral Evensong celebrated on Monday, March 13 in Rome:

An ecumenical milestone was marked in the Vatican on Monday as a traditional Anglican Choral Evensong was celebrated for the first time in St Peter’s Basilica.

Cardinal Angelo Comastri, Archpriest of the Basilica, gave permission for the historic event during meetings with Archbishop David Moxon, Director of the Anglican Centre in Rome.

The renowned choir of Merton College, Oxford came to sing music written at the time of the Reformation, as well as contemporary compositions and well-loved Anglican hymns. . . .

Specifically, the choir sang works by William Byrd and used an historical Book of Common Prayer service:

Music by the great English composer William Byrd filled the basilica, as well as some more contemporary works, while the words of the liturgy and readings were those of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer.

The Anglican News website points out that this musical exchange began with Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI:

Merton College Choir followed in the footsteps of Westminster Abbey choir, which has sung previously in Rome with the choir of the Sistine Chapel – a collaboration that has grown out of closer ties between the two traditions, in particular following Pope Benedict XV1’s (sic) visit to London in September 2010.

The date was selected to be closest to the date of Pope St. Gregory the Great's original feast day of March 12, the date of his death in 604. Because that date so often falls in Lent, his feast was moved to September 3, the date of his episcopal consecration in 590. After Evensong, there was a procession to the tomb of St. Gregory. Of course, St. Gregory sent St. Augustine of Canterbury to Kent in 597.

Pope St. Gregory the Great, pray for us! St. Augustine of Canterbury, pray for us!

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

From The Reformation to the Present Day

AN Wilson reviews Roy Hattersley's The Catholics: The Church and its People in Britain and Ireland, from the Reformation to the Present Day for The Catholic Herald:

So, Hattersley starts with two advantages. One is his own personal involvement with the subject. The second is the fact that this is a history with a beginning and an end. The Church he is describing, and the story which begins with the heroism of the recusants in Tudor times and takes in the romance of Jacobitism and the coming of the 19th century, has really come to an end. Of course, the Church itself has not come to an end – there is still a pope, there are still sacraments and saints. But Catholics really are – more or less – like everyone else. One senses Hattersley’s wistful sadness at this.

He devotes far more time to English recusant and penal times than he does to the 19th century or the modern Church. The story starts with the sacrifice of the martyrs. A gentle intelligence, Hattersley prefers the self-deprecating scholar Fisher to the “celebrity” More, but sees how absolutely key their martyrdom was in inspiring the Catholics to remain true to their faith. His account of the arrest and execution of Campion is haunting. He does not echo the late Auberon Waugh, who called annually upon the pope to canonise Guy Fawkes; but then Hattersley is a distinguished parliamentarian. The martyrdom of Oliver Plunkett in 1681 is told in a way that makes you ashamed to be English.

The dukes of Norfolk do not get much of a look-in to Hattersley’s story. But the 18th century is explored with a pleasing combination of sensitivity and gusto: Bishop Challoner, “the Forty-five” and the Gordon Riots. Was this English Catholicism’s Golden Age?

To put it another way, was the 19th century, seemingly a season of the famous Second Spring, actually sowing the seeds of modern British Catholics’ problems? Wiseman is affectionately evoked here, but did he do the Catholics any favours by setting up an elaborate system of dioceses and (quite often rather cruddy) cathedrals?

Please read the rest there. From the publisher:

The story of Catholicism in Britain from the Reformation to the present day, from a master of popular history - 'a first-class storyteller' The Times

Throughout the three hundred years that followed the Act of Supremacy – which, by making Henry VIII head of the Church, confirmed in law the breach with Rome – English Catholics were prosecuted, persecuted and penalised for the public expression of their faith. Even after the passing of the emancipation acts Catholics were still the victims of institutionalised discrimination.

The first book to tell the story of the Catholics in Britain in a single volume,
The Catholics includes much previously unpublished information. It focuses on the lives, and sometimes deaths, of individual Catholics – martyrs and apostates, priests and laymen, converts and recusants. It tells the story of the men and women who faced the dangers and difficulties of being what their enemies still call ‘Papists’. It describes the laws which circumscribed their lives, the political tensions which influenced their position within an essentially Anglican nation and the changes in dogma and liturgy by which Rome increasingly alienated their Protestant neighbours – and sometime even tested the loyalty of faithful Catholics.

The survival of Catholicism in Britain is the triumph of more than simple faith. It is the victory of moral and spiritual unbending certainty. Catholicism survives because it does not compromise. It is a characteristic that excites admiration in even a hardened atheist.

I browsed the Kindle sample was not as impressed as Wilson by Hattersley's "bona fides"--his personal connections to the Church are weak and confused. He does seem to admire the Church rather in spite of himself and the harshness and rigidity he sees in the Church. Hattersley seems to accept that lack of compromise and the "spiritual unbending certainty" as the source of strength for the Catholic martyrs of England and the Church through the centuries. Since he is an atheist--"a hardened atheist" he recognizes the strength he values in himself as the source of the Church's survival. It also means that he cannot be accused of special pleading. If I received a review copy of this book I'd be interested in reading it as a Catholic looking from the outside in, when I am usually looking at Church history from the inside in. The perspective is intriguing.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Music and History: 1554-1555

From Gallicantus and Gabriel Crouch comes another historically themed CD of music at the Court during Queen Mary I's phantom pregnancy of 1554-1555:

Long-awaited news of a Tudor royal birth winged its way to London on 30 April 1555. A male heir had been born: a pledge of dynastic fertility after decades of royal stillbirths, miscarriages and marital misadventures. This was surely a sign of God’s pleasure with Mary I (1516-1558) and a vindication of her mission to restore Catholic religion, reverse the doctrinal experiments of the previous two decades, and return England to its historic place in Europe. The bells of London accordingly rang out while Te Deum laudamus, the traditional hymn of thanksgiving, was sung by the city’s choirs.

The festivities came to an abrupt end on 1 May. Yesterday’s news had been a mere rumour: there was to be no royal birth, not yet at least. ‘It turned out otherwise to the pleasure of God’, wrote the merchant-tailor Henry Machyn, assuring himself that the birth would happen ‘whenever it pleases God’. At thirty-nine years old Queen Mary was superannuated by sixteenth-century obstetric standards, but her pregnancy was generally deemed credible and she had not yet come to term by 1 May. The summer months drew on, but still no news. Long after the original due date, Mary eventually gave up hope, withdrawing from Hampton Court to Oatlands Palace in the first days of August.

There would be no apotheosis in 1555, but it had been tantalizingly imminent. This disc explores the musical traces of an extraordinary year of hopes raised and dashed. The music performed here resonates with the circumstances of the mid-1550s, even if some of the items were composed outside Mary’s own reign; some pieces stemmed from the royal ceremonies in which Mary participated as queen; and some of the music sung here can be directly tied to the specific events of 1554-5, including a newly-reconstructed Litany which was performed during Mary’s assumed pregnancy. The viewpoint shifts from the streets of London and its suburbs, through the ceremonial grandeur of the royal palaces and their chapels, to the intimacy of the queen’s birthing chamber.

You may listen to samples here and read the entire booklet here. Several of the compositions are by John Sheppard, and Hyperion offers this biography:

John Sheppard (c1515–1558) is thought to have been a chorister at St Paul’s Cathedral in or around 1530, although information supporting this theory has proved difficult to come by. By Michaelmas 1543 he is known to have been Informator Choristarum (director of music) at Magdalen College Oxford, where he is reputed to have blotted his copybook through various misdeeds. On further investigation, this mistaken allegation has arisen from a misreading of the college’s records: it was Richard Sheppar (and not Sheppard) who was the culprit. Sheppard later appears in the records of the Chapel Royal (from 1547).

Sadly, much of Sheppard’s music has been lost. His compositions survive in partbooks at Christ Church Oxford, and testify to the elaborate style of church music from the reign of Mary Tudor (1553–1558). . . .

He is best known today for his Media Vita ("In the midst of life"), an appropriate antiphon for Lent.

Monday, March 13, 2017

A Hymn for Lent from Herebert

Eleanor Parker--the medievalist and blogger, not the actress--writes for The Catholic Herald about William Herebert of Oxford and his hymn translations:

Herebert’s name is not well known today, but his poems, beautiful and distinctive in their own right, also represent an important milestone for English Catholicism: he was one of the first people to turn the Latin hymns of the Church into English poetry.

We don’t have many details about Herebert’s life, but he was probably born in Herefordshire around 1270. He was educated at the universities of Paris and Oxford, where his contemporaries included Duns Scotus and William of Ockham, and in 1317 he became master of the Franciscan house in Oxford.

He was evidently a learned man, and his poems show that he gave careful thought to the difficult question of how best to express complex religious ideas in his own language.

Herebert’s poems survive in a manuscript book written in his own hand, noted down along with his Latin sermons and other texts useful for the medieval preacher. There are 23 short poems, arranged roughly according to the cycle of the liturgical year. Some are original compositions, but most are translations or reworkings of Latin or French texts, freely adapted into English. They include the first English verse translations of some well-known hymns, such as Veni Creator Spiritus and the Palm Sunday hymn All glory, laud and honour.

You could go to her blog, A Clerk of Oxford, and see several posts about William Herebert, including this one about a Lenten hymn:

This is a Middle English translation of the Lent hymn 'Audi, benigne Conditor', by the Franciscan friar William Herebert (c.1270-1333):

Lustne, mylde Wrouhte, oure bones wyth wepinge
In þys holy uastinge, vourti dawes lestynge.
Holy secher of monnes þouht, þou wost oure brotelnesse;
To hem þat beth yturnd to þe graunte vorȝyfnesse.
Meche, vorsoht, we habbeht agult; vorȝyf hem þat knoulecheth.
To worshype of þyn oune nome, to sunvol mon be leche.
Graunte ous pyne wyþouteuorth þe body wyth vastinge,
Þat oure gost wyþynneuorth veste vrom sunnynge.
Graunte ous, Holy Trinite, þat in Godhede art on,
Þat þe ȝyft of leyntes vast notfol boe to mon. Amen.

That is:

Hear, merciful Creator, our prayers with weeping
In this holy fasting, forty days lasting.
Holy searcher of man’s thought, thou knowest our brittleness; [frailty]
To them who are turned towards thee, grant forgiveness.
Much, truly, we have sinned; forgive them that acknowledge it.
For the honour of thine own name, be physician to sinful man.
Grant us so to mortify the body outwardly with fasting
That our souls inwardly may fast from sinning.
Grant us, Holy Trinity, who in Godhead art one,
That the gift of Lent’s fast may be beneficial to man. Amen.

Please read the rest there. She posts about her Catholic Herald article here, and promises more poems and hymns from William Herebert!

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Lenten Posts: Saints and the Rosary

I haven't kept you up to date on my posts at the National Catholic Register (unless you've been clicking on the Other Publications tab and finding them yourself). Last Monday (March 6), they posted my reflection on the liturgical calendar, especially how the saints's feast days are effected during Lent:

Except for St. Joseph’s, all of the feasts of the saints during the 40 days of Lent are demoted to Commemorations—even St. Patrick’s (outside of Ireland, where it is a Holyday of Obligation). St. Joseph is so special that his feast is a Solemnity, and since March 19 is the Third Sunday of Lent in 2017, his feast has been moved to Monday, March 20. Otherwise, the penitential season of Lent takes precedence over the feasts of the saints. We often refer to a saint’s “feast” day even though the Church has a hierarchy to honor the saints, Our Lady, and especially Our Lord, in different ways. We might be tempted to think that it doesn’t matter, but the Church has reasons for these distinctions. . . .

Violet and White

The USCCB issues a liturgical calendar each year with notes about the adjustments made because of the date of Easter or just how dates fall on the Gregorian calendar vis-à-vis the Liturgical and Sanctoral calendars. When you look at the months of March and April this year until Palm Sunday, the liturgical color designated is Violet nearly every day, except for White on March 20 and March 25 (and the option of Rose on the Fourth Sunday of Lent). Looking at the calendar page in the March issue of Magnificat, you see the words Lenten Weekday predominating with the commemoration of the saints relegated to italics in the righthand column. During Mass for those Lenten Weekdays when there is a saint to be commemorated only the Collect for the saint will be used and the prayers and readings will be for the season.

Please read the rest there--and share if you like!

Just in time for the Second Sunday of Lent with the Transfiguration of Christ as the Gospel, the Register has published my post on praying the Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary during Lent:

When Pope St. John Paul II introduced the Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary in 2002, there’s no indication that he saw them as Lenten devotions. He proposed them in an Apostolic Letter on Oct. 10 that year “to bring out fully the Christological depth of the Rosary” by including “the mysteries of Christ's public ministry between his Baptism and his Passion”. In the almost 15 years since their introduction, the Luminous Mysteries have been included in most Rosary devotionals and meditation aids.

Some have resisted the option to use these mysteries for various reasons, some of which Pope John Paul anticipated in his letter: Mary, the Mother of God, is absent in all but one of the mysteries (the second); the addition of five more mysteries breaks the linkage between the 150 Aves and the 150 Psalms, and one of the mysteries is termed hard to meditate upon (the third). The five Luminous Mysteries are: 1) The Baptism of Jesus; 2) The Marriage Feast of Cana; 3) The Proclamation of the Kingdom; 4) The Transfiguration; 5) The Institution of the Eucharist. Pope St. John Paul II provided some guidance for meditation on each of these mysteries in his Apostolic Letter, noting that “we contemplate important aspects of the person of Christ as the definitive revelation of God” because “each of these mysteries is a revelation of the Kingdom now present in the very person of Jesus”.

A Luminous Lent

For Lent this year, I decided to alternate between the Luminous Mysteries and the Sorrowful Mysteries, starting on Ash Wednesday with the Sorrowful. Each of the Luminous Mysteries lends itself to a Lenten interpretation.

Please read the rest there--and Happy Transfiguration Sunday! The illustration is Carl Heinrich Bloch's (1834-1890), “The Transfiguration of Christ” from the Register post.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

The Martyr's Beads II: Blessed Thomas Atkinson

Coming the day after St. John Ogilvie's feast, and with another connection to the Rosary, I wanted to highlight Blessed Thomas Atkinson, who was executed on March 11, 1616 in York. He was 70 years old and had been serving in England as a missionary priest since 1588:

Thomas Atkinson, of Yorkshire, England, studied for the priesthood in Reims, France, where he was subsequently ordained in 1588 around the age of forty-two. Returning to England, he traveled about on foot to minister to his fellow Catholics, becoming a special friend of the poor among them. It was only after breaking a leg that the indefatigable priest resorted to traveling by horse instead. His labors in the service of persecuted Catholics became so well known that, to escape arrest by the Protestant authorities, he could only journey safely by night. In the end, he was betrayed by an informer and captured while staying at the home of a Catholic family. Then about seventy, Father Atkinson was led to prison together with the couple that had hosted him, and their children. The “incriminating evidence” found by the government officials in the priest’s possession consisted of Rosary beads and the text of an indulgence. Condemned to death by drawing and quartering, Father Atkinson is said to have faced death “with wonderful patience, courage, and constancy, and signs of great comfort.”

As Nathan Mitchell notes in The Mystery of the Rosary: Marian Devotion and the Reinvention of Catholicism, the Rosary--the beads of the Rosary--had become a marker "of recusant Catholic identity" and the beads "embodied what it meant to be a practicing Catholic in a time of religious strife and persecution." (p.5) Of course, one does not have to have a set of Rosary beans in hand to pray the Rosary and meditate on the life of Jesus and His Mother, one could use one's fingers! Father Atkinson's possession of an indulgence, which might have been--I don't find this detail in the sources I've looked--a papal document, would have been even more condemning for the court. In his book, Champions of the Rosary, Father Donald Calloway mentions that Father Atkinson was encouraging enrollment in the Confraternity of the Rosary and the the indulgence document he possessed gave details of indulgences obtained by praying the Rosary. Sources I've found also do not indicate whether or not Father Atkinson was offered James I's Oath of Allegiance.

Father Atkinson was beatified by Pope Saint John Paul II in 1987 as one of the Eight-five Martyrs of England and Wales. Obviously, as he had served his Catholic flock quietly for almost three decades he was no danger to the state. But he was captured during a period of James I's reign when fear of Catholicism was heightened and the Archbishop of Canterbury, George Abbott, was much in favor of persecuting Catholic priests. I also could not discover what happened to the family arrested with him. They may have been held in prison for some time, but James I did not want to make martyrs of lay people. Except for at the beginning of his reign in the transition from Elizabeth I, laymen or women who aided priests were not executed as often as they were during Elizabeth I's reign. They were fined and imprisoned, but not executed.