Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Sixteenth Century Identities: Mind the Gap!

As historians study the past, finding documents, locating contemporary reports, etc., I think one of the interesting aspects of these efforts is identifying a person. Think of the identity issues for Shakespeare--the lost years, the different signatures, the different spellings of his last name, the different portraits. Another example: we don't really know what Anne Boleyn looked like; we have contemporary descriptions but no authenticated portrait. The same is true of Catherine Howard, the other wife Henry VIII had beheaded: we have never found a portrait of her. Who knows, we may some day: but until then we don't have a clear vision of what she looked like. And then there is the issue of alias: many of the missionary priests coming to England under the threat of arrest and trial for treason used alias to disguise their identity. There are definite gaps and the careful historian observes their mysteries carefully. We have to "Mind the Gap"!

On his Recusants and renegades blog, Martin Robb is trying to identify a certain person and confirm that he was Catholic priest in Tudor England, with all its religious change and confusion:

In my last post I noted that Thomas Lucke’s will of 1551, with its explicitly Catholic preamble, suggests that Thomas retained his attachment to England’s traditional faith, despite the fact that when he made his will he was serving as a priest in the reformed Church of England, two years after the Catholic mass had been banned by Edward VI. In addition to this evidence of Thomas’ religious sympathies, his will is also a useful source of information about his relatives and contemporaries, including as it does a substantial number of bequests. I’ve been following up some of these names, in an attempt to understand the milieu in which Thomas Lucke, and my other sixteenth-century ancestors, lived.

In his will, Thomas Lucke makes a number of bequests to his niece Alice, my 12 x great grandmother. One of them reads as follows:

I wyll of that monye that ys in Gregorye Martynes hands of Mayghfelde xlv to the povertie there to be dystrybuted by my executor. And the Resydue of the monye in his hands, I wyll halfe to Alice Lucke: the other halffe I wyll equally betwene Thomasyn Lucke and Elizabeth Lucke, by the hands of my executor to theme to be delyvred.
So, Robb has been in search of Gregory Martin and has been frustrated:

However, there is one other reference to a Gregory Martin in the records, and it’s an intriguing one. In 1529 Robert Sawyer of Mayfield made his will. The opening paragraph is in Latin and it culminates in a list of witnesses, which includes the name ‘Gregorio Marten’. The word that follows this name is difficult to read, but it could be ‘clico’, which might be an abbreviation for ‘clerico’. Indeed, the transcript by the Sussex Record Society translates the word as ‘clerk’: in other words, priest.

Is this the same person who would appear in the wills of John and Thomas Lucke some twenty years later, and was he really a priest? Unfortunately, I’ve found no trace of a Gregory Martin in the clergy records, but they only begin in 1540. Could he have been a member of a religious order, rather than a secular priest? Then again, if the person mentioned in those later wills was a priest, why was he not described as such, given that Thomas Lucke doesn’t hesitate to append the word ‘clerke’ to the name of Richard Cressweller, one of the witnesses to his will? Had Gregory Martin ceased to serve as a priest by 1551, or is this a different person altogether?


And then he wonders if there's a connection between his Gregory Martin and the Father Gregory Martin who worked on the Douai-Rheims translation of the Holy Bible into English! Read the rest there; it's a fascinating exploration of identity in the sixteenth century:

On the other hand, if we could prove a connection, it might be further proof of the Catholic sympathies of my Lucke ancestors, especially if Gregory Martin of Mayfield was actually a (former?) priest. However, even if he turns out to have been born elsewhere in Sussex, and even if he was from Mayfield, we have no evidence to connect him with the Gregory Martin of Mayfield mentioned in the wills of John and Thomas Lucke. The fact that they shared a name, and an unusual one at that, suggests some kind of connection – but what?

Mind the gap!

Illustration credit: CC license from Wikipedia commons.

Monday, May 23, 2016

St. Philip Neri, Savonarola, and Renaissance Polyphony


Girolamo Savonarola was executed in the main square of Florence on May 23, 1498--it was a brutal execution that came after the Dominican friar had been tortured. He and his companions were stripped of their habits and hung by the neck above fires lit to burn their bodies. Their ashes were scattered in the Arno.

Savonarola was a hero to St. Philip Neri, as he had studied at the convent of San Marco (St. Mark's). Blessed John Henry Newman wrote about his patron's admiration of the Florentine friar in the two sermons he preached at the Oratory in Birmingham in 1848.

First, describing Savonarola:

A true son of St. Dominic, in energy, in severity of life, in contempt of merely secular learning, a forerunner of the Dominican St. Pius [V] in boldness, in resoluteness, in zeal for the honour of the House of God, and for the restoration of holy discipline, Savonarola felt "his spirit stirred up within him," like another Paul, when he came to that beautiful home of genius and philosophy; for he found Florence, like another Athens, "wholly given to idolatry." He groaned within him, and was troubled, and refused consolation, when he beheld a Christian court and people priding itself on its material greatness, its intellectual gifts, and its social refinement, while it abandoned itself to luxury, to feast and song and revel, to fine shows and splendid apparel, to an impure poetry, to a depraved and sensual character of art, to heathen speculations, and to forbidden, superstitious practices. His vehement spirit could not be restrained, and got the better of him, and—unlike the Apostle, whose prudence, gentleness, love of his kind, and human accomplishments are nowhere more happily shown than in his speech to the Athenians —he burst forth into a whirlwind of indignation and invective against all that he found in Florence, and condemned the whole established system, and all who took part of it, high and low, prince or prelate, ecclesiastic or layman, with a pitiless rigour,—which for the moment certainly did a great deal more than St. Paul was able to do at the Areopagus; for St. Paul made only one or two converts there, and departed, whereas Savonarola had great immediate success, frightened and abashed the offenders, rallied round him the better disposed, and elicited and developed whatever there was of piety, whether in the multitude or in the upper class.

It was the truth of his cause, the earnestness of his convictions, the singleness of his aims, the impartiality of his censures, the intrepidity of his menaces, which constituted the secret of his success. Yet a less worthy motive lent its aid; men crowded round a pulpit, from which others were attacked as well as themselves. The humbler offender was pleased to be told that crime was a leveller of ranks, and to find that he thus was a gainer in the common demoralization. The laity bore to be denounced, when the clergy were not spared; and the rich and noble suffered a declamation which did not stop short of the sacred Chair of St. Peter. . . .

A very wonderful man, you will allow, my Brethren, was this Savonarola. I shall say nothing more of him, except what was the issue of his reforms. For years, as I have said, he had his own way; at length, his innocence, sincerity, and zeal were the ruin of his humility. He presumed; he exalted himself against a power which none can assail without misfortune. He put himself in opposition to the Holy See, and, as some say, disobeyed its injunctions. Reform is not wrought out by disobedience; this was not the way to be the Apostle either of Florence or of Rome. Then trouble came upon him, a great reaction ensued; his enemies got the upper hand; he went into extravagances himself; the people deserted him; he was put to death, strangled, hung on a gibbet, and then burned in the very square where he had set fire to the costly furniture of vanity and sin. 

And then of St. Philip Neri's connection to Savonarola:

Philip was born in Florence within twenty years after [Savonarola]. The memory of the heroic friar was then still fresh in the minds of men, who would be talking familiarly of him to the younger generation,—of the scenes which their own eyes had witnessed, and of the deeds of penance which they had done at his bidding. Especially vivid would the recollections of him be in the convent of St. Mark; for there was his cell, there the garden where he walked up and down in meditation, and refused to notice the great prince of the day; there would be his crucifix, his habit, his discipline, his books, and whatever had once been his. Now, it so happened, St. Philip was a child of this very convent; here he received his first religious instruction, and in after times  he used to say, "Whatever there was of good in me, when I was young, I owed it to the Fathers of St. Mark's, in Florence." For Savonarola he retained a singular affection all through his life; he kept his picture in his room, and about the year 1560, when the question came before Popes Paul IV. and Pius IV., of the condemnation of Savonarola's teaching, he interceded fervently and successfully in his behalf before the Blessed Sacrament, exposed on the occasion in the Dominican church at Rome.


There's a new CD from Magnificat (directed by Philip Cave) of music inspired by Savonarola: Scattered Ashes: Josquin's Miserere and the Savonarolan LegacyYou can listen/watch a sample of this recording hereAccording to Linn Records:

Magnificat's 25th anniversary recording, Scattered Ashes, features contrasting and parallel works of great passion inspired by the meditations of the infamous Dominican friar Girolamo Savonarola.

The liner notes for the CD are here, including details about how Savonarola wrote a meditation on Psalm 50/51 and began one on Psalm 30/31 and how different composers wrote settings of those psalms or the friar's meditations. Among the works including on the recording is William Byrd's Infelix Ego and the author of the liner notes, Patrick Macey, invokes the specter of persecution of Catholics in Elizabethan England and how "Byrd's setting of Savonarola's meditation must have given voice to their sense of persecution, as well as their hope in the Lord's mercy." Note that Patrick Macey wrote an Oxford monograph of Savonarola's musical influence published in 1998 but out of print now, with the evocative title Bonfire Songs:


An underground tradition of sacred songs--Italian laude--thrived in Italy during the sixteenth century. The texts of many were written by the condemned heretic Fra Girolamo Savonarola, who was burned at the stake in Florence in 1498. This study explores the religious and social functions of these laudeduring Savonarola's time in Florence. It also reconstructs music for laude written to venerate the friar after his death. Savonarola's meditations on Psalms 30 and 50 were also set to music as motets by some of the leading composers of the 16th century, in a style of "high art" music remarkably distinct from the more popular tone of the lauda. These complex motets were often the result of networks of patronage at courts in Ferrara, France, and England. The book includes a CD with a generous selection of performances of the music discussed.

Remember that the Italian Laude were also incorporated into St. Philip Neri's Oratorian meditations, as just cited in the oratorio by Alessandro Scarlatti that I just reviewed.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Blessed John Forest, Observant Friar and Martyr


Blessed John Forest was executed by being burned to death, suspended over the flames from a gibbet in chains on May 22, 1538 because he opposed Henry VIII's marriage to Anne Boleyn, the annulment of Henry's marriage to Catherine of Aragon, and Henry's claim to supremacy and religious and ecclesiastical matters in England, which was heresy to Henry VIII. He was one of the Observant Franciscans. According to the Franciscans in the Province of Great Britain website: 

John was born into the noble Forest family, probably in Oxford, in 1471. At seventeen years of age he joined the Observant Friars Minor in Greenwich. He completed his studies at Oxford at the age of 26 and was ordained priest in Greenwich. Cardinal Wolsey gave him the task of preaching in St. Paul's Cross Church and Queen Catherine of Aragon chose him as her chaplain and then confessor. (The Greenwich friary was attached to the Royal Palace of Greenwich). In this role he opposed the divorce that King Henry VIII wanted to obtain from the Queen. In 1532, Guardian of the Greenwich friary, he spoke to the friars of the plans the King had to suppress the Order in England and denounced from the pulpit at St. Paul's Cross Henry's plans for a divorce. In 1533 he was imprisoned in Newgate prison and condemned to death. In 1534 Henry did indeed suppress the Observant friars and ordered them dispersed to other friaries. John was released from prison and by 1538 was in confinement in a Conventual Franciscan friary, his death sentence having been neither commuted nor carried out. From this confinement he could correspond with the Queen and he also wrote a tract against Henry entitled: De auctoritate Ecclesiae et Pontificis maximi (On the Authority of the Church and the Supreme Pontiff), defending the papal primacy in the Church. He was denounced to the King for this tract and also for refusing to swear the oath of loyalty demanded by Cromwell. When he refused to admit that his resistance to the King was an error John was burned over a slow fire on 22nd May 1538 in Smithfield Market. He died praying for his enemies.

Dom Bede Camm wrote an extended narrative of Blessed John Forest's stand against Henry VIII, his correspondence with Queen Katherine of Aragon, Latimer's long sermon before Forest was burned alive, and the martyr's last words: "Domine, miserere mei".

The Catholic Encyclopedia has this further detail about his execution and information about his beatification:

The statue of "Darvell Gatheren" which had been brought from the church of Llanderfel in Wales, was thrown on the pile of firewood; and thus, according to popular belief, was fulfilled an old prophecy, that this holy image would set a forest on fire. The holy man's martyrdom lasted two hours, at the end of which the executioners threw him, together with the gibbet on which he hung, into the fire. Father Forest, together with fifty-three other English martyrs, was declared Blessed by Pope Leo XIII, on 9 December, 1886, and his feast is kept by the Friars Minor on 22 May.

Image credit: Wikipedia commons, under license. It depicts his statue in St. Etheldreda's, Ely Place in London.

Blessed John Forest, pray for us.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Scarlatti and Ottoboni's Saint in the Making

The liner notes--which came as a CD-rom disc included in the jewel box--of San Filippo Neri recorded by soloists and the Alessandro Stradella Consort, describe the genesis of the oratorio form in the prayer meetings at the Oratory:

The death of St. Philip Neri in 1595 occurred during a period of stylistic change in music, when polyphony was giving way to accompanied monody. In the wake of this transformation a musical genre developed which was destined to become the sacred equivalent of opera. It is generally accepted that it originated in the so-called ‘exercises’ or prayer meetings promoted by St. Philip Neri in ‘oratories’, connected to various churches in which the faithful gathered with the purpose of transforming their leisure hours into an edifying pastime. This new genre was encouraged by the popularity of two collections of Laudi spirituali composed and published in Rome by Giovanni Animuccia. These and other simple and devotional pieces imbued with the spirit of the Counter-Reformation were sung at the beginning and the end of the spiritual exercises. It seems that the poet Francesco Balducci of Palermo, who was closely associated with the Roman oratories of Santa Maria della Vallicella and San Marcello, must be credited with having unified, some decades after the death of St. Philip, the texts of the two Laude that framed the sermon. This confirmed the new quasioperatic form, which soon adopted the name ‘oratorio’ from the sites where the devotional meetings were held.

Although the title of this oratorio reflects the canonization of St. Philip Neri on March 12, 1622 by Pope Gregory XV along with St. Ignatius of Loyola, St. Francis Xavier, St. Teresa of Avila, and St. Isidore the Farmer, Pietro Cardinal Ottobini's libretto depicts Philip wrestling with sanctity in dialogue with the three theological virtues Faith, Hope, and Charity:

While other authors claimed to have produced ‘a summary of the said St Philìp’s life’ (Padua, 1729), Cardinal Ottoboni hardly bothered with biographical facts. His libretto is divided into the established two parts, each consisting of a series of dialogues between St. Philip and the three Theological Virtues. They evoke his youth in Florence and two later important episodes in the saint’s life and death. His initial doubts and hesitations are overcome by the fervour of the reassuring exhortations of the three Virtues: from Rome, where he had settled, Philip wished to follow the example of St Francis Saverio in carrying the Word of Christ to ‘the Indian shores’; but Faith and Charity conclude Part I of the oratorio by revealing ‘God’s high command’: the aspiring missionary must stay in Rome, and the sweat of his brow must bathe the ground reddened with the blood of the martyrs.


My husband and I have listened to this oratorio twice, but I have not strictly followed along with the libretto/sung text yet, which of course I had to print out from the CD-rom. As the Gramophone review I posted before notes, the saint's final aria, as he dies with fading breath, is touching and beautiful, even in the English translation and certainly in the performance:

Recitative: Come, oh come, my God
Take my spirit, guide it in peace.
I leave you, dear companions of my travails.
Live in peace; my own heart I leave to you
in loving remembrance.
May the ardour never end
that descended from my breast to yours,
and with ardent prayers
never cease to pray to the sovereign shepherd,
elected to guide his flock,
that the divine hand
will bring a happy future.

Aria: My Jesus, I hear your voice,
calling me, bidding me to come.
As fainting and tired
I feel my life ebbing,
in your breast that was wounded on the cross,
receive my soul.

After that last gasp of beauty, the martial conclusion as Charity hopes for peace in the midst of the War of the Spanish Succession as Pope Clement XI negotiates peace is almost jarring:

With war the angry earth will resound
from far and wide.
Clement seated on his throne
in his white garment
shall show the way to peace.

That proved to be wishful thinking, however, as the Catholic Encyclopedia entry for Pope Clement XI demonstrates:

In his efforts to establish peace among the powers of Europe and to uphold the rights of the Church, he met with scant success; for the eighteenth century was eminently the age of selfishness and infidelity. One of his first public acts was to protest against the assumption (1701) by the Elector of Brandenburg of the title of King of Prussia. The pope's action, though often derided and misinterpreted, was natural enough, not only because the bestowal of royal titles had always been regarded as the privilege of the Holy See, but also because Prussia belonged by ancient right to the ecclesiastico-military institute known as the Teutonic Order. In the troubles excited by the rivalry of France and the Empire for the Spanish succession, Pope Clement resolved to maintain a neutral attitude; but this was found to be impossible. When, therefore, the Bourbon was crowned in Madrid as Philip V, amid the universal acclamations of the Spaniards, the pope acquiesced and acknowledged the validity of his title. This embittered the morose Emperor Leopold, and the relations between Austria and the Holy See became so strained that the pope did not conceal his satisfaction when the French and Bavarian troops began that march on Vienna which ended so disastrously on the field of Blenheim. Marlborough's victory, followed by Prince Eugene's successful campaign in Piedmont, placed Italy at the mercy of the Austrians. Leopold died in 1705 and was succeeded by his oldest son Joseph, a worthy precursor of Joseph II. A contest immediately began on the question known as Jus primarum precum, involving the right of the crown to appoint to vacant benefices. The victorious Austrians, now masters of Northern Italy, invaded the Papal States, took possession of Piacenza and Parma, annexed Comacchio and besieged Ferrara. Clement at first offered a spirited resistance, but,abandoned by all, could not hope for success, and when a strong detachment of Protestant troops under the command of the Prince of Hesse-Cassel reached Bologna, fearing a repetition of the fearful scenes of 1527, he finally gave way (15 Jan., 1709), acknowledged the Archduke Charles as King of Spain "without detriment to the rights of another", and promised him the investiture of Naples. Though the Bourbon monarchs had done nothing to aid the pope in his unequal struggle, both Louis and Philip became very indignant and retaliated by every means in their power. . . . In the negotiations preceding the Peace of Utrecht (1713) the rights of the pope were studiously neglected; his nuncio was not accorded a hearing; his dominions were parcelled out to suit the convenience of either party.

Pope Clement XI, however, was a reforming pope and lived simply and without corruption. He was elected pontiff just couple of months after his ordination in November of 1700:

The enthusiasm with which his elevation was greeted throughout the world is the best evidence of his worth. Even Protestants received the intelligence with joy and the city of Nuremberg struck a medal in his honour. The sincere Catholic reformers greeted his accession as the death-knell of nepotism; for, though he had many relatives, it was known that he had instigated and written the severe condemnation of that abuse issued by his predecessor. As pontiff, he did not belie his principles. He bestowed the offices of his court upon the most worthy subjects and ordered his brother to keep at a distance and refrain from adopting any new title or interfering in matters of state. In the government of the States of the Church, Clement was a capable administrator. He provided diligently for the needs of his subjects, was extremely charitable to the poor, bettered the condition of the prisons, and secured food for the populace in time of scarcity. He won the good will of artists by prohibiting the exportation of ancient masterpieces, and of scientists by commissioning Bianchini to lay down on the pavement of Sta Maria degli Angioli the meridian of Rome, known as the Clementina.

His capacity for work was prodigious. He slept but little and ate so sparingly that a few pence per day sufficed for his table. Every day he confessed and celebrated Mass. He entered minutely into the details of every measure which came before him, and with his own hand prepared the numerous allocutions, Briefs, and constitutions afterwards collected and published. He also found time to preach his beautiful homilies and was frequently to be seen in the confessional. Though his powerful frame more than once sank under the weight of his labours and cares, he continued to keep rigorously the fasts of the Church, and generally allowed himself but the shortest possible respite from his labours.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Heroes and Sages and Their Consciences

Two years ago this October, I presented on Blessed John Henry Newman: Conversion and Conscience at the Spiritual Life Center. During the presentation on conscience I discussed Newman's depiction of the false idea of conscience he described in his Letter to the Duke of Norfolk in response to Gladstone's pamphlet warning against the divisive effects of Papal infallibility in England:

When men advocate the rights of conscience, they in no sense mean the rights of the Creator, nor the duty to Him, in thought and deed, of the creature; but the right of thinking, speaking, writing, and acting, according to their judgment or their humour, without any thought of God at all. They do not even pretend to go by any moral rule, but they demand, what they think is an Englishman's prerogative, for each to be his own master in all things, and to profess what he pleases, asking no one's leave, and accounting priest or preacher, speaker or writer, unutterably impertinent, who dares to say a word against his going to perdition, if he like it, in his own way. Conscience has rights because it has duties; but in this age, with a large portion of the public, it is the very right and freedom of conscience to dispense with conscience, to ignore a Lawgiver and Judge, to be independent of unseen obligations. It becomes a licence to take up any or no religion, to take up this or that and let it go again, to go to church, to go to chapel, to boast of being above all religions and to be an impartial critic of each of them. Conscience is a stern monitor, but in this century it has been superseded by a counterfeit, which the eighteen centuries prior to it never heard of, and could not have mistaken for it, if they had. It is the right of self-will.

In my post-Easter mystagogical reading, In The Redeeming Christ by F.X.Durrwell, that author presents a higher standard of personal judgement in his chapter on Christian Obedience. He compares and contrasts The Greek Ideal of perfection and human excellence to the Old Testament and then New Testament ideals. I was struck by his characterization of Greek moral ideals according to a humanist standard:

Pagan man saw perfection as belonging to the order of reason; he expected to find it in the fullest human development of his own faculties. This humanism found its purest expression in the Greek world. This Greek ideal lay not in holiness in the biblical sense--consecration, union with God's will--but in the autonomous development of all that is noblest in man. This search for perfection achieved its goal most characteristically in the hero and in the sage. The hero's heroism consisted in an affirmation of himself whereby he was superior to all adversity, a lofty kind of egoism. The wisdom of the sage lay in grasping the great principles of human life and living in conformity with them. In both cases the result was complete freedom: each obeyed only himself, his own will to be great, the truths learnt from his own reason. Even when the Greek was obliged to carry his heroism as far as death, it remained always a heroism of fidelity to himself.

It may be a higher standard, but it's the same autonomy that Newman described as a false image of conscience and the standard it responds to: the individual decides what is excellent, good, and true--for him. It is still "the right of self-will". By that standard, what's excellent, good, and true for me might not be excellent, good, and true for you. We can establish no objective standards to respond to and measure ourselves by. If this rule applies to all areas of human endeavor, we can soon have no science, no arts, no literature, no history that we can share--we can hardly discuss the standards by which we judge the success of a scientific experiment, a painting, a novel, or a narrative, because of individual subjectivity. Judgment of excellence and perfection becomes a matter of taste, and de gustibus non disputandum est (of taste, there is no disputation or discussion). This is that "dictatorship of relativism" that Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger spoke of to the College of Cardinals in 2005 before his election as Pope Benedict XVI:

We are building a dictatorship of relativism that does not recognize anything as definitive and whose ultimate goal consists solely of one's own ego and desires.

We, however, have a different goal: the Son of God, the true man. He is the measure of true humanism. An "adult" faith is not a faith that follows the trends of fashion and the latest novelty; a mature adult faith is deeply rooted in friendship with Christ. It is this friendship that opens us up to all that is good and gives us a criterion by which to distinguish the true from the false, and deceipt from truth.

We must develop this adult faith; we must guide the flock of Christ to this faith. And it is this faith - only faith - that creates unity and is fulfilled in love.

On this theme, St Paul offers us as a fundamental formula for Christian existence some beautiful words, in contrast to the continual vicissitudes of those who, like children, are tossed about by the waves: make truth in love. Truth and love coincide in Christ. To the extent that we draw close to Christ, in our own lives too, truth and love are blended. Love without truth would be blind; truth without love would be like "a clanging cymbal" (I Cor 13: 1).

Here the standard--and Father Durrwell would certainly agree--is not myself but Jesus Christ, my Redeemer and Lord, His love and true humanism.

More on In The Redeeming Christ soon. And FYI: I will be speaking on Blessed John Henry Newman this summer at the Spiritual Life Center in the Docentium Series on August 18. My topic is "John Henry Newman on Faith, Family and Friends".

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Something New About Mr. Blue!

I read Myles Connolly's Mr. Blue when I was in high school, and revisited it for this blog in the past several years, here and here. Now there's a new annotated edition, published by Cluny Classics. America Magazine interviewed Stephen Mirarchi, Assistant Professor of English at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas, who annotated the book:

Loyola Press, under its Loyola Classics imprint, reprinted Mr. Blue in 2005. What inspired you to produce a scholarly edition of this often reproduced work?

I taught Mr. Blue for the first time in my “Christianity and Literature” class in the fall of 2014 and greatly enjoyed it. I taught it alongside G. K. Chesterton’s biography of St. Francis and noticed quite a bit of overlap, as if Connolly had consciously been drawing on Chesterton. That led me to start researching Mr. Blue and Connolly further, the idea being that I’d submit an article on the subject to an academic journal. The Loyola Classics edition went out of print in 2015. Later that year Cluny Media, through a mutual friend, approached me with the idea of reprinting classic Catholic books. Given the research I’d accumulated at that point, I proposed an annotated edition of Mr. Blue, and we started looking into it.

Myles Connolly’s book was once a standard text in many high school and college literature classes. What’s the message of this book and what makes it worth reading today?

The message of the book is threefold. First, consummation of joy comes in total self-offering to God and neighbor. Second, complete self-giving is a process that usually progresses in stages and in communion with others. Third, everything in creation participates in the glory of God. That threefold message is of utmost worth today, where joy is often figured as sophisticated hedonism, radical individualism, secular do-goodism and the like.

Similarly, Mr. Blue fights off the romanticized notions that saints are made overnight, that there’s a “one size fits all” path to holiness and that salvation is an individual affair. Finally, the book’s celebration of history, architecture, music, locale and plain old human effort is a testament to Connolly’s conviction that every created thing can be a help on the path of Christian ascent.


Read the rest of the interview there!

You can read a sample of this edition at amazon.com and here is the publisher's website.

New U.K. Oratory in Formation

From The Catholic Herald earlier this month;

A new community of the Congregation of the Oratory of St Philip Neri is to be established in Bournemouth.

The community, which will be inaugurated at the Sacred Heart church in September, will be the sixth Oratory to be set up in England.

Bishop Philip Egan of Portsmouth, who invited the Oratorians to Bournemouth, said they would form part of a “major evangelisation drive”.

The centre will be an “Oratory in formation” and will be made up of Fr Dominic Jacob, co-founder of the Oxford Oratory, Fr Peter Edwards and Fr David Hutton.

The first Oratory was established by Blessed John Henry Newman in Birmingham in 1848. The London Oratory followed a year later. In the early 1990s an Oratory was established in Oxford. In 2013 two Oratories “in formation” were set up, one at St Chad’s in Manchester and the other in St Wilfrid’s, York.


And the following week, The Catholic Herald posted this interview, discussing why the number of Oratories in England has doubled in the past few years.Certainly, the beatification of the founder of the English oratory movement, John Henry Newman, has something to do with it. You may also listen to Father Peter Edwards, one of the priests listed above, discuss his vocation as an Oratorian with Vatican Radio. Note that Father Edwards is a convert from Anglicanism.

The EWTN Library contains this article, originally published in Faith & Reason in 1989: "Newman and St. Philip Neri: The Quest for Sanctity" by Jonathan Robinson, C.O. An excerpt:

Dom Placid Murray in his Newman the Oratorian has edited Newman's Chapter addresses and occasional papers on the Oratorian vocation. This book establishes that the idea of the Oratory was central to Newman's life as a Catholic. His introduction, and even more Newman's own papers, show how carefully Newman decided on how he was to live his life as a Catholic priest, and how deep his commitment to the Oratory was. Father Stephen Dessain has said: "It would be hard to exaggerate the importance of the Oratory for Newman. It was his chosen vocation; to found it in England was the first commission he received from the Catholic authorities; it was the framework for the rest of his long life, and, as has so often been the case with founders, through it some of his cruellest trials came."

What was this idea of the Oratory which so influenced Newman? It was not St. Philip's idea to found a new order or congregation in the Church. He wanted groups of secular priests living together without taking vows, priests who would live with no bond but that of charity, but who would live a life comparable to that of the best religious. As the Oratory developed each house lived its own separate existence, and was situated in a town or city with a church of its own. The work of an Oratory is prayer, preaching and the administration of the sacraments. The essential thing about an Oratorian vocation is a call to the life of prayer. This is clear from the Constitutions or Traditions of the Oratory (what would be called the Rule in a religious order); it is clear from St. Philip's own teaching; and it is clear from the lives of all the great Oratorians. So an Oratory is supposed to be just that--a place where people pray. 

The Oratory, as an institution, is a testimony to the centrality of the life of prayer, and thus a witness to the reality of God. Furthermore, a life ordered around this centrality of prayer is an object lesson that the acknowledgement of God is required for the obtaining of that happiness and satisfaction everyone is looking for. 

The House and Church of the Oratory are supposed to be a center of prayer, of preaching, of study, and of learned work. Now, you cannot have a center without stability, without people who are always at the center to provide the appropriate services, and do the required work. Thus the idea of stability and of a life at home are central to Philip's conception.

Read the rest there.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

One of Parker's Finds: The St. Augustine Gospels

I posted yesterday on Matthew Parker, Elizabeth I's first Archbishop of Canterbury and his library. Remember that his purpose in saving these works from the Dissolution of the Monasteries was to find evidence that the Church in England had always been independent of the "Roman" Catholic Church. One of the most wonderful books he saved shows the opposite of course, because The St. Augustine Gospels had been brought to England by that most Roman of Catholic missionaries, St. Augustine of Canterbury, dispatched by Pope St. Gregory the Great.

The Parker Library blog explains how this Italian, illustrated book of the Holy Gospels came to be reunited with another object connected with Pope St. Gregory the Great earlier this year:

On Friday, January 15, 2016, the St Augustine Gospels- a 6th century gospel book that is reputed to have been sent with St Augustine on his mission from Pope Gregory the Great to convert the English people- was brought from Cambridge to Canterbury Cathedral for the day to serve as inspiration to the assembled Primates at an extraordinary meeting of the Anglican leadership. The goal was for the manuscript to serve as a physical reminder of the core principles of the church; based on long tradition, the words of the Gospels themselves, and the faith that unites all believers.

The visit was in conjunction with the loan of an ivory crozier which is venerated as a relic of Augustine’s mentor, St (formerly Pope) Gregory, from the monastery of San Gregorio al Celio in Rome. These two items were displayed together in the crypt of Canterbury Cathedral during the closing service of the meeting. Following the ceremony, Parker Library staff gave informative talks on the manuscript in the Cathedral library, which were attended by Cathedral staff and visitors. This was an extremely rare opportunity to see the 1,400 year old manuscript out from under glass, as it is typically only available to view in its case in the Parker Library exhibition on one day a month.


Note the parenthetical "(formerly Pope)"--Popes who are also canonized saints in the Catholic Church are referred to as "Pope Saint Insert Name Here": Pope St. Gregory the Great; Pope St. Pius V; Pope St. John Paul II. It's interesting that they are not referred to by their given names: Not Saint Gregorius Anicius; Saint Antonio Ghislieri or Saint Karol Józef Wojtyła. Their name as pope is like their name in religion; religious nuns and priests who are canonized are known by their religious names: St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, not St. Edith Stein; St. Therese of Lisieux, not St. Marie Françoise-Thérèse Martin, etc. You might note that the Church of England includes Pope St. Gregory the Great on their calendar of "saints" on September 3, but he is referred to as "Gregory the Great, Bishop of Rome, Teacher of the Faith".

But back to the St. Augustine Gospels: they have had a special role in two papal visits, most recently in 2010:

The St Augustine Gospels—sometimes known as the Canterbury Gospels—are a sixth-century Gospel book of Italian provenance which may have been brought from Rome by St Augustine in 597 on his first mission to re-evangelize Britain. It is the oldest illustrated Latin Gospel book in existence, and has been in England longer than any other book. As a symbol of religion, history, and literacy it is one of the most evocative books in Christendom and upon it the Archbishops of Canterbury still take their oaths of office. 

During the papal visit of 1982 these Gospels were given the place of honour at the ecumenical celebration in Canterbury Cathedral – enthroned on the chair of St Augustine, the cathedra or teaching seat of the Archbishop of Canterbury, between Archbishop Robert Runcie and Pope John Paul II. Today they are to be venerated by Archbishop Rowan Williams and Pope Benedict XVI following the reading of a passage from the Gospel according to St Mark.

Pardon my historical irony: the Archbishops of Canterbury take their oath of office on a book sent to England by the Pontiff of the Catholic Church, who has been proclaimed a saint of the Catholic Church as Pope St. Gregory the Great? It seems to me that the St. Augustine Gospels suggest the strong connections between the universal Catholic Church and the Catholic Church in England, not the independence that Matthew Parker wanted to prove!

Illustration: Wikipedia Commons, public domain: Folio 125r of the St. Augustine Gospels (Cambridge, Corpus Christi College, MS 286), Scenes from the Passion.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Matthew Parker, RIP--And His Library!

Matthew Parker, Elizabeth I's first Archbishop of Canterbury, and formerly one of Anne Boleyn's chaplains, died on May 17, 1575. In 1574 he gave his library, including a collection of books and manuscripts from the monasteries dissolved from 1536 to 1540, to Corpus Christi College at the University of Cambridge. According to this website:

Matthew Parker (1504-75) was a powerful figure of the English Reformation who was largely responsible for the Church of England as a national institution. Parker's talents were sought by both Henry VIII and Elizabeth I. He served as chaplain to Anne Boleyn and proved himself a capable administrator, becoming Master of Corpus Christi College (1544-53), Vice-Chancellor of Cambridge University, and Archbishop of Canterbury (1559-75). A benefactor to the University of Cambridge, Parker's greatest tangible legacy is his library of manuscripts and early printed books entrusted to Corpus Christi College in 1574. He was an avid book collector, salvaging medieval manuscripts dispersed at the dissolution of the monasteries; he was particularly keen to preserve materials relating to Anglo-Saxon England, motivated by his search for evidence of an ancient English-speaking Church independent of Rome. The extraordinary collection of documents that resulted from his efforts is still housed at Corpus Christi College, and consists of items spanning from the sixth-century
Gospels of St. Augustine to sixteenth-century records relating to the English Reformation.

The Parker Library's holdings of Old English texts account for a substantial proportion of all extant manuscripts in Anglo-Saxon, including the earliest copy of the
Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (c. 890), unique copies of Old English poems and other texts, and King Alfred's translation of Gregory the Great's Pastoral Care. The Parker Library also contains key Anglo-Norman and Middle English texts ranging from the Ancrene Wisse and the Brut Chronicle to one of the finest copies of Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde. Other subjects represented in the collection are theology, music, medieval travelogues and maps, apocalypses, bestiaries, royal ceremonies, historical chronicles and Bibles. The Parker Library holds a magnificent collection of English illuminated manuscripts, such as the Bury and Dover Bibles (c. 1135 and c. 1150) and the Chronica maiora by Matthew Paris (c. 1230-50). Scholars in a variety of disciplines - including historians of art, music, science, literature, politics and religion - find invaluable resources in the Library's collection.

More biographical information here, at his alma mater.

Monday, May 16, 2016

May 16, 1532: Convocation Submits and More Resigns

On May 16, 1532, the Convocation of Bishops submitted to Henry VIII, accepting his terms for the future of the Church in England:

We your most humble subjects, daily orators and bedes­men of your clergy of England, having our special trust and confidence in your most excellent wisdom, your princely goodness and fervent zeal to the promotion of God's honour and Christian religion, and also in your learning, far exceed­ing, in our judgment, the learning of all other kings and princes that we have read of, and doubting nothing but that the same shall still continue and daily increase in your majesty­-

First, do offer and promise, in verbo sacerdotii, here unto your highness, submitting ourselves most humbly to the same, that we will never from henceforth [enact], put in ure, promulge, or execute, any [new canons or constitutions provincial, or any other new ordinance, provincial or synodal], in our Convocation [or synod] in time coming, which Convocation is, always has been, and must be, assembled only by your highness' commandment of writ, unless your highness by your royal assent shall license us to [assemble our Convocation, and] to make, promulge, and execute [such constitutions and ordinances as shall be made in] the same; and thereto give your royal assent and authority.

Secondly, that whereas divers [of the] constitutions, [ordinances,] and canons, provincial [or synodal,] which have been heretofore enacted, be thought to be not only much prejudicial to your prerogative royal, but also overmuch onerous to your highness' subjects, [your clergy aforesaid is contented, if it may stand so with your highness' pleasure, that ] it be committed to the examination and judgment [of your grace, and] of thirty-two persons, whereof sixteen to be of the upper and nether house of the temporalty, and other sixteen of the clergy, all to be chosen and appointed by your [most noble grace]. So that, finally, whichsoever of the said constitutions, [ordinances, or canons, provincial or synodal,] shall be thought and determined by [your grace and by] the most part of the said thirty-two persons [not to stand with God's laws and the laws of your realm, the same] to be abrogated and [taken away by your grace and the clergy; and such of them as shall be seen by your grace, and by the most part of the said thirty-two persons, to stand with God's laws and the laws of your realm, to stand in full strength and power, your grace's most royal assent and authority] once impetrate and fully given to the same.

On the same day, Sir Thomas More resigned as Chancellor of England, succeeded by Thomas Audley, another layman. While More had never been involved in Henry VIII's efforts to obtain a decree of nullity for his marriage to Katherine of Aragon so he could marry Anne Boleyn, More saw the direction things were going with the Submission of Clergy, as it was evident that Henry was dividing England from the universal Church. He would be called upon to introduce bills in Parliament that would make that separation law, so he resigned all his offices.

According to the Encyclopedia Britannica:

The office dates back to Edward the Confessor (1042–66), who followed the model of the Carolingian court when he appointed a chancellor. Until the 14th century the chancellor was invariably a priest and served as royal chaplain, the king’s secretary in secular matters, and keeper of the royal seal. All of the secretarial work of the royal household was handled by the chancellor and his staff of chaplains; the accounts were kept under the justiciar and treasurer, writs were drawn up and sealed, and the royal correspondence was carried out. This combination of duties, characteristic of the primitive administrative systems of the early Middle Ages, remained with the chancellorship into the early 21st century, although most of the office’s power, exemplified in the administrations of such great chancellors as Thomas Becket (d. 1170) and Thomas Cardinal Wolsey (d. 1530), ceased to exist centuries ago.

Much of the reason that the English chancellor did not develop into the head of government, as did his counterpart in the Holy Roman Empire, lies in the growth of his judicial duties. All petitions addressed to the king passed through the chancellor’s hands, and by the reign of Henry II (1154–89) the chancellor’s time was already largely taken up with judicial work. The office acquired a more definitely judicial character in the reign of Edward III (1327–77), when the chancellor’s court ceased to follow the king. The chancellor’s court was the direct precursor of the Court of Chancery, which was fused into the High Court of Justice in the Judicature Act of 1873. The Chancery Division of the latter is primarily responsible for equitable jurisdiction.

The position of the chancellor as speaker, or prolocutor, of the House of Lords dated from the time of the English Norman kings, when the ministers of the Curia Regis (“King’s Court”) sat ex officio in the commune concilium (“great council”) and Parliament. When the other officials ceased to attend Parliament, the chancellor continued to do so. He attended by virtue of his office, but since the early 18th century he has invariably been a peer. As speaker of the House of Lords, he differed considerably in his powers and duties from the speaker of the House of Commons. Although he put the question (i.e., call for a vote), he had no power to rule upon points of order. Unlike the speaker of the House of Commons, he often took part in debates.


Before Sir Thomas More's tenure as Chancellor, most of the holders of that office had been clerics (Archdeacons, Canons, Deans, Bishops, Archbishops). Like Audley, other laymen served in the office until toward the end of Edward VI's reign when Thomas Goodrich, the Bishop of Ely became Chancellor. He was removed from office when Mary I came to the throne, and then Stephen Gardiner, being freed from the Tower of London, resumed his office as Bishop of Winchester and became Lord Chancellor. When he died in 1555, Nicholas Heath, the Archbishop of York (just as Thomas Wolsey, More's immediate predecessor, had been!) was appointed; when Elizabeth succeeded, she removed him from that office, and a layman, Nicholas Bacon took the post. The office of Lord Chancellor changed drastically when Tony Blair was Prime Minister, losing its judicial responsibilities and transferring from the House of Lords to the Commons. More information about the office now here.