Tuesday, June 28, 2016

The Collected Prose of T.S. Eliot


Edward Short sent me the link to his latest for The Catholic World Report:

It has been more than 50 years since T.S. Eliot died in 1965, and looking back over that period we can see that the decadence he predicted would overtake the West if it chose to abandon its Christian culture has duly arrived. The only thing about our decadence that might have surprised Eliot is the celerity with which it has come—and its thoroughgoingness. If we look at our social, political, cultural, and religious order, we can see how a kind of metastasizing decadence prevails in all of them. By “decadence” I mean what the Oxford English Dictionary means: “The process of falling away or declining (from a prior state of excellence, vitality, prosperity, etc.); decay; impaired or deteriorated condition.” Robert Louis Stevenson once said, “The obscurest epoch is today,” but no amount of obscurity can conceal the fact that if the Christian civilization that Eliot knew was in decline, the one that we know is radically worse. In this essay I shall look at the first four volumes of The Complete Prose of T.S. Eliot to show how Eliot anatomizes this decadence by returning again and again not only to the question of what constitutes Christian civilization but of how best to understand, protect, and revitalize it.

Re: this project from the Johns Hopkins University Press:

The Complete Prose of T. S. Eliot: The Critical Edition gathers for the first time in one place the collected, uncollected, and unpublished prose of one of the most prolific writers of the twentieth century. The result of a multi-year collaboration among Eliot's Estate, Faber and Faber Ltd., Johns Hopkins University Press, the Beck Digital Center of Emory University, and the Institute of English Studies, University of London, this eight-volume critical edition dramatically expands access to material that has been restricted or inaccessible in private and institutional collections for almost fifty years.

The fully searchable, integrative edition includes all of Eliot's collected essays, reviews, lectures, commentaries from The Criterion, and letters to editors, including more than 700 uncollected and 150 unpublished pieces from 1905 to 1965. Other highlights include essays from his student years at Smith Academy and Harvard and his graduate work at Harvard and Oxford, including his doctoral dissertation; unsigned, unidentified essays published in the
New Statesman and the Monist; essays and reviews published in the Egoist, Athenaeum, TLS, Dial, Art and Letters; his Clark and Turnbull lectures on metaphysical poetry, Norton Lectures, Page-Barbour Lectures, Boutwood Lectures; unpublished essays, lectures, addresses from various archives; and transcripts of broadcasts, speeches, endorsements, and memorial tributes.

Each item has been textually edited, annotated, and cross-referenced by an international group of leading Eliot scholars, led by Ronald Schuchard, a renowned scholar of Eliot and Modernism. The volumes will be released in sequence and published on Project MUSE, with an archival print edition to be published once all eight volumes have been released.

Ronald Schuchard, the Goodrich C. White Professor of English, Emeritus, at Emory University, is the author of award-winning Eliot's Dark Angel (1999) and The Last Minstrels: Yeats and the Revival of the Bardic Arts (2008). The editor of Eliot's Clark and Turnbull lectures, The Varieties of Metaphysical Poetry (1993), he is co-editor with John Kelly of The Collected Letters of W. B. Yeats, Volume 3 (1994), Volume 4 (2005), winner of the MLA's Cohen Award for a Distinguished Edition of Letters, and Volume 5 (forthcoming). A former Guggenheim fellow and founder-director of the T. S. Eliot International Summer School (2009-2013), he is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Short concludes his essay:

Together, the pieces in this great edition point to the one book that sums up all of Eliot’s work in poetry and prose, Notes Towards the Definition of Culture (1948), in which he wrote how, “The dominant force in creating a common culture between peoples each of which has its distinct culture, is religion,” though he was quick to assure his readers that he was “not setting out to convert anybody”: he was “simply stating a fact.” In one passage from that prescient volume, he refers to culture as the “incarnation” of a people’s religion, which, in itself, measures how much culture we have lost in losing our religion. In another passage, the Aristotelian critic in Eliot gives full expression to his understanding of the fragility of a culture that will only be replaced at incalculable cost.
It is in Christianity that our arts have developed; it is in Christianity that the laws of Europe have—until recently—been rooted. It is against a background of Christianity that all our thought has significance. An individual European may not believe that the Christian Faith is true, and yet what he says, and makes, and does, will all spring out of his heritage of Christian culture and depend upon that culture for its meaning. Only a Christian culture could have produced a Voltaire or a Nietzsche. I do not believe that the culture of Europe could survive the complete disappearance of the Christian Faith. And I am convinced of that, not merely because I am a Christian myself, but as a student of social biology. If Christianity goes, the whole of our culture goes. Then you must start painfully again, and you cannot put on a new culture ready made. You must wait for the grass to grow to feed the sheep to give the wool out of which your new coat will be made. You must pass through many centuries of barbarism. We should not live to see the new culture, nor would our great-great-great-grandchildren: and if we did, not one of us would be happy in it.
This may be a project mainly for Eliot scholars, but it is an incredible achievement, demonstrating the power of the digital medium. The first four volumes are on-line now, but when the project is complete, there will be real books published!

Monday, June 27, 2016

With Heart and Voice: Prayers by St. Edmund and Blessed Newman

On Sunday mornings, we like to listen to With Heart and Voice on WXXI:

With Heart and Voice offers a wide spectrum of western sacred music. Exploring the ever-growing treasury of works for life's spiritual side, its seasons and celebrations, With Heart and Voice presents choral and organ music of many faiths, of many cultures, nationalities, and over a thousand years of celebration. Hosted by Peter DuBois, the program celebrates the seasons of the liturgical year and focuses on the richness and beauty of sacred music. With Heart and Voice began as a local Sunday morning program on WXXI-FM Classical 91.5 in 1975, and has been broadcast nationally since 1989.

Yesterday morning, the host included an anthem composed by Jonathan Dove based on prayers by St. Edmund of Abingdon, which was included on a recording from Wells Cathedral:

Into thy hands was commissioned by Salisbury Cathedral to celebrate the 750th anniversary of the canonization of St Edmund of Abingdon (1175–1240), who was Canon Treasurer of Salisbury before becoming Archbishop of Canterbury. Dove was asked for an anthem which set words of St Edmund (he actually set two prayers) which would be sung in Pontigny Abbey in France where St Edmund is buried. Of the work Dove has written: ‘Knowing that it was a very resonant building, I imagined that the echo would be part of the piece, and set the first prayer spaciously, allowing for the sound of each phrase to reverberate. The second prayer talks of pilgrimage and eternity, and the music reflects this in a calm processional which does not reach an ending, but simply, in trust, surrenders itself.’

The two prayers:

Into Thy hands, O Lord, and into the hands of Thy holy angels, I commit and entrust this day my soul, my relations, my benefactors, my friends and my enemies, and all Thy people. Keep us, O Lord, through the day, by the merits and intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and all the saints, from all vicious and unruly desires, from all sins and temptations of the devil, and from sudden and unprovided death and the pains of hell. Illuminate my heart with the grace of Thy Holy Spirit; grant that I may ever be obedient to Thy commandments; suffer me not to be separated from Thee, O Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with God the Father and the Holy Spirit for ever and ever. Amen.

Lord Jesus Christ, mercifully grant to me that the rest of my pilgrimage may be directed according to thy will, that the rest of my life may be completed in thee and my soul may deserve to enjoy thee who art eternal life forever. Amen.

We also heard a setting of Blessed John Henry Newman's great prayer for the evening, which is also included on a recording, this time from the Choir of Trinity College, Cambridge:

St Thomas Church, Fifth Avenue, sustains a fine choir of boys and men, and it was for these forces and their conductor John Scott that Briggs wrote O Lord, support us in 2005. Commissioned by the then Assistant Organist Jeremy Bruns for his wife Kathy, this setting of an exquisite evening collect from the Book of Common Prayer is a tender wash of unashamed loveliness.

It's cited as an anonymous work, but it's Newman's Prayer:

May He support us all the day long, till the shades lengthen and the evening comes, and the busy world is hushed, and the fever of life is over, and our work is done. Then in His mercy may He give us a safe lodging, and a holy rest and peace at the last. Amen.

Friday, June 24, 2016

King George V and the Accession Oath

Before 1910, but even after the 1829 Emancipation of Catholics, English monarchs still had to take an extraordinarily insulting anti-Catholic oath before Parliament upon their accession to the throne:

I, A. B., by the grace of God King (or Queen) of England, Scotland and Ireland, Defender of the Faith, do solemnly and sincerely in the presence of God, profess, testify, and declare, that I do believe that in the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper there is not any Transubstantiation of the elements of bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ at or after the consecration thereof by any person whatsoever: and that the invocation or adoration of the Virgin Mary or any other Saint, and the Sacrifice of the Mass, as they are now used in the Church of Rome, are superstitious and idolatrous. And I do solemnly in the presence of God profess, testify, and declare that I do make this declaration, and every part thereof, in the plain and ordinary sense of the words read unto me, as they are commonly understood by English Protestants, without any such dispensation from any person or authority or person whatsoever, or without thinking that I am or can be acquitted before God or man, or absolved of this declaration or any part thereof, although the Pope, or any other person or persons, or power whatsoever, should dispense with or annul the same or declare that it was null and void from the beginning"

King Edward VII, George's father, had not wanted to take that oath upon his accession--either before Parliament or at his coronation, but it required an Act of Parliament. As this site notes:

George V in 1910 objected to the wording in the Accession Declaration used since Queen Anne’s reign, which denied the existence of transubstantiation in the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. He was also offended by references to invocations to the Virgin Mary and the sacrifice of the Mass as being superstitious and idolatrous. Despite some strong opposition the King succeeded in having all the above deleted and replaced by a more straightforward Declaration: ‘I (name) do solemnly and sincerely in the presence of God profess, testify and declare that I am a faithful Protestant, and that I will, according to the true intent of the enactments which secure the Protestant succession to the Throne of the Realm, uphold and maintain the said enactments to the best of my powers according to the law.’ Each monarch since then, including our current Queen has used that Declaration.

George was following his father's lead; Edward VII once reminded a courtier: “You don’t understand me. I am the King of all the people.” George V was crowned on June 22, 1911. 

Rome and the Counter-Reformation in England

This book is on my wish list for later--I have at least four upcoming projects (three presentations and one article) before I can even think of reading it--but I know that Father Philip Hughes is an excellent historian and will teach something I need to know about this era that fascinates me so. From the publisher:

One can find many of Fr. Hughes works on the Reformation reprinted. Still, one that is lacking his is great study of the Reformation in England. He admits at the outset that the conclusion is already known by the reader before he picks up the book, that the counter-reformation failed in England. What the reader may not know is why.

To that purpose, Fr. Hughes begins his study with the accession of Queen Mary and the appointment of Cardinal Reginald Pole to England as Cardinal Legate. Then he begins the study of how they refashioned the Church to be so strong that the episcopacy universally resisted Elizabeth. He also explores the condition of the average cleric, layman and other things from official documents and primary source texts.

In the next phase, he examines in detail the rise of Protestantism again under Elizabeth, and the projects of St. Pius V and Gregory XIII to help Englishmen depose Elizabeth. The importance of this study is that in the English Protestant historical tradition, Pius V and Gregory, along with the Jesuits and others, are accused of plotting the murder and assassination of Elizabeth. Fr. Hughes, by examining official papers, shows why this was not true, albeit also offering criticism of the official policy in these years. What he shows is that Rome never really had an accurate story on what was going on in England, and as a result committed many blunders in the period when the counter-reformation might have succeeded.

Following the scene to the eventual failure, Fr. Hughes also answers the pivotal questions: Were the English martyrs really traitors to the crown, as official history maintains? Were Cardinal Allen, the founder of Douay College, or Fr. Persons of the Jesuits, active tools of Spanish policy in England? Or did they rather believe the Spaniards would help the Catholic cause? Did St. Pius V try to assassinate Elizabeth?

In all this Fr. Hughes uses primary sources, letters, and reason to paint for us the picture of the counter-reformation’s failures. If one wants to know what Catholic action and life were like in England during the Marian Restoration and the Elizabethan imposition of Protestantism, this is the work.

This article at catholicism.org is partially based on Father Hughes's book, detailing stages in the Counter-Reformation in England from the reign of Mary I through Elizabeth I.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

A Little Death: Mary's Confession

A year after the holy Cardinal Bishop of Rochester John Fisher suffered beheading on the block at Tower Hill, the Princess Mary sent a letter to her father that betrayed everything her mother Katherine of Aragon had fought for and the the good bishop had died for:

First I confess and acknowledge the king’s majesty to be my sovereign lord and king, in the imperial crown of this realm of England; and do submit myself to his highness and to each and every law and statute of this realm, as it becomes a true and faithful subject to do; which I shall also obey, keep, observe, advance and maintain according to my bounden duty with all the power, force and qualities with which God had endued me, during my life.

I do recognize, accept, take, repute and acknowledge the king’s highness to be supreme head on earth, under Christ, of the church of England; and do utterly refuse the bishop of Rome’s pretended authority, power and jurisdiction within this realm, formerly usurped, according to the laws and statutes made on that behalf, and by all the king’s true subjects humbly received, admitted, obeyed, kept and observed.

And I do also utterly renounce and forsake all manner of remedy, interest and advantage which I may by any means claim by the bishop of Rome’s laws, processes, jurisdiction or sentence, at this time or in any way hereafter, by any manner of title, colour, means or cause that is, shall or can be devised for that purpose.

I do freely, frankly and for the discharge of my duty towards God, the king’s highness and his laws, without other respect, recognize and acknowledge that the marriage formerly had between his majesty and my mother, the late princess dowager, was by God’s law and man’s law incestuous and unlawful.

From Hunsdon, this Thursday, at eleven of the clock at night.


Your Grace’s most humble and obedient daughter and handmaid, Mary.

Note how late at night she completed this letter.

Thus she accepted the title of bastard for herself, as the subtitle of Anna Whitelock's 2010 biography lists her titles in order: Princess, Bastard, Queen.

She regretted it for the rest of her life.

St. Thomas More, Trusting in God

From one of his letters written in the Tower, St. Thomas More tried to help his daughter help his family understand what he had to do. This is from the Office Readings for the Feast of Sts. John Fisher and Thomas More, June 22, the second reading, Common of Martyrs, For Several Martyrs:

Although I know well, Margaret, that because of my past wickedness I deserve to be abandoned by God, I cannot but trust in his merciful goodness. His grace has strengthened me until now and made me content to lose goods, land, and life as well, rather than to swear against my conscience. God’s grace has given the king a gracious frame of mind toward me, so that as yet he has taken from me nothing but my liberty. In doing this His Majesty has done me such great good with respect to spiritual profit that I trust that among all the great benefits he has heaped so abundantly upon me I count my imprisonment the very greatest. I cannot, therefore, mistrust the grace of God. Either he shall keep the king in that gracious frame of mind to continue to do me no harm, or else, if it be his pleasure that for my other sins I suffer in this case as I shall not deserve, then his grace shall give me the strength to bear it patiently, and perhaps even gladly.

By the merits of his bitter passion joined to mine and far surpassing in merit for me all that I can suffer myself, his bounteous goodness shall release me from the pains of purgatory and shall increase my reward in heaven besides.

I will not mistrust him, Meg, though I shall feel myself weakening and on the verge of being overcome with fear. I shall remember how Saint Peter at a blast of wind began to sink because of his lack of faith, and I shall do as he did: call upon Christ and pray to him for help. And then I trust he shall place his holy hand on me and in the stormy seas hold me up from drowning.

And if he permits me to play Saint Peter further and to fall to the ground and to swear and forswear, may God our Lord in his tender mercy keep me from this, and let me lose if it so happen, and never win thereby! Still, if this should happen, afterward I trust that in his goodness he will look on me with pity as he did upon Saint Peter, and make me stand up again and confess the truth of my conscience afresh and endure here the shame and harm of my own fault.

And finally, Margaret, I know this well: that without my fault he will not let me be lost. I shall, therefore, with good hope commit myself wholly to him. And if he permits me to perish for my faults, then I shall serve as praise for his justice. But in good faith, Meg, I trust that his tender pity shall keep my poor soul safe and make me commend his mercy.

And, therefore, my own good daughter, do not let your mind be troubled over anything that shall happen to me in this world. Nothing can come but what God wills. And I am very sure that whatever that be, however bad it may seem, it shall indeed be the best.

And the Collect for the feast/memorial:

O God, who in martyrdom
have brought true faith to its highest expression,
graciously grant
that, strengthened through the intercession
of Saints John Fisher and Thomas More,
we may confirm by the witness of our life
the faith we profess with our lips.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

In the USA, today is a memorial; in England, it is a Feast!

How a Holy Man Dies: St. John Fisher

The author Michael Davies described the day of Fisher's beheading--he was awakened early and told the time of his execution; he asked to be allowed to sleep longer--and he was too weak to walk from his cell through the Tower to Tower Hill:

When he came out of the Tower, a summer morning's mist hung over the river, wreathing the buildings in a golden haze. Two of the Lieutenant's men carried him in a chair to the gate, and there they set him down, while waiting for the Sheriffs. The cardinal stood up and leaning his shoulder against a wall for support, opened the little New Testament he carried in his hand. "O Lord," he said, so that all could hear him, "this is the last time I shall ever open this book. Let some comforting place now chance to me whereby I, Thy poor servant, may glorify Thee in my last hour"----and looking down at the page, he read:

"Now this is etemal life: that they may know Thee, the one true God, and Jesus Christ Whom Thou has sent I have glorified Thee on earth: I have finished the work which Thou gavest me to do"(John, 17:3-4).

Whereupon he shut the book, saying: "Here is even learning enough for me to my life's end." His lips were moving in prayer, as they carried him to Tower Hill. And when they reached the scaffold, the rough men of his escort offered to help him up the ladder. But he smiled at them: "Nay, masters, now let me alone, ye shall see me go up to my death well enough myself; without help." And forthwith he began to climb, almost nimbly. As he reached the top the sun appeared from behind the clouds, and its light shone upon his face. He was heard to murmur some words from Psalm 33: Accedite ad eum, etilluminamim, et facies vestræ non confundentur. The masked headsman knelt----as the custom was----to ask his pardon. And again the cardinal's manliness dictated every word of his answer: "I forgive thee with all my heart, and I trust on Our Lord Thou shalt see me die even lustily." Then they stripped him of his gown and furred tippet, and he stood in his doublet and hose before the crowd which had gathered to see his death. A gasp of pity went up at the sight of his "long, lean, slender body, nothing in manner but skin and bones . . . the flesh clean wasted away; and a very image of death, and as one might say, death in a man's shape and using a man's voice." He was offered a final chance to save his life by acknowledging the royal supremacy, but the Saint turned to the crowd, and from the front of the scaffold, he spoke these words:

"Christian people, I am come hither to die for the faith of Christ's Catholic Church, and I thank God hitherto my courage hath served me well thereto, so that yet hitherto I have not feared death; wherefore I desire you help me and assist me with your prayers, that at the very point and instant of my death's stroke, and in the very moment of my death, I then faint not in any point of the Catholic Faith for fear; and I pray God save the king and the realm, and hold His holy hand over it, and send the king a good counsel."

The power and resonance of his voice, the courage of his spirit triumphing over the obvious weakness of his body, amazed them all, and a murmur of admiration was still rustling the crowd when they saw him go down on his knees and begin to pray. They stood in awed silence while he said the Te Deum in praise of God, and the Psalm In Thee O Lord have I put my trust, the humble request for strength beyond his own. Then he signed to the executioner to bind his eyes. For a moment more he prayed, hands and heart raised to Heaven. Then he lay down and put his wasted neck upon the low block. The executioner, who had been standing back, took one quick step forward, raised his ax and with a single blow cut off his head. So copious a stream of blood poured from the neck that those present wondered how it could have come from so thin and wasted a frame. 


O God, who in martyrdom
have brought true faith to its highest expression,
graciously grant
that, strengthened through the intercession
of Saints John Fisher and Thomas More,
we may confirm by the witness of our life
the faith we profess with our lips.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Kicking Off the Annual Fortnight For Freedom


First of all, I'll be on the Son Rise Morning Show today and tomorrow: today at 7:45 a.m. Eastern during the first Sacred Heart Radio broadcast hour (6:45 a.m. Central) and then tomorrow with a rebroadcast during the EWTN national broadcast hour (from 6 to 7 a.m. Eastern or 5 to 6 a.m. Central). Anna Mitchell and I will discuss St. John Fisher, based upon this article in The National Catholic Register.

Then this evening, I'll be presenting at the The Ladder, the home of EDI's Sisters of Sophia, on Margaret More Roper, St. Thomas More's daughter.

This year, the focus of the Fortnight for Freedom is "Witnesses to Freedom" and the relics of St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher are touring the USA--not coming close to us in Wichita, unfortunately--according to this story in America magazine:

This year the USCCB—along with Jesuit-run Stonyhurst College in the Diocese of Lancashire, England—is coordinating a U.S. tour of relics of Sts. Thomas More and John Fisher to promote respect for religious liberty. Both were executed by King Henry VIII for their Catholic beliefs.

The relics will go to Miami, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Minnesota, Denver, Phoenix, Los Angeles and Washington.

In addition, the USCCB is highlighting the Christian witness of 14 women and men—one each day of the fortnight observance, including:

• Blessed Oscar Romero, the slain archbishop of San Salvador.

• The Little Sisters of the Poor, the order at the forefront of the court fight against the contraceptive mandate.

• The Martyrs of Compiegne, France. The 16 Carmelites were guillotined during the French Revolution for defying the government's suppression of their monastery.

• The Coptic Christians who were killed by Islamic State militants last year.

"Reflecting on the lives of these great men and women can show us how we might serve as witnesses to freedom today," said the USCCB statement on the 2016 Fortnight for Freedom.

Last year, I highlighted the English Reformation saints and blessed who were executed during this period. On June 21, 1600, St. John Rigby, a layman, was hung at St. Thomas Waterings because he admitted that he had converted to Catholicism and had not attended Anglican services since that time. More about him here.

St. John Fisher, pray for us!
St. Thomas More, pray for us!
St. John Rigby, pray for us!

Monday, June 20, 2016

England, the EU, and the English Reformation

I don't have any knowledge to speak of the debate about whether the UK should stay in the EU, but I do find this debate interesting: which is more like the English Reformation: staying or going?

In The Guardian, Giles Fraser says the UK leaving the EU is like the English Reformation:

And this should be entirely unsurprising, given that the Reformation was largely a protest about heteronomous power. “The bishop of Rome hath no jurisdiction in this realm of England” goes the 37th of the 39 articles of religion, still – officially, at least – a summary of the theology of the Church of England, of which the Queen is supreme governor.

The backstory is familiar. In England, Henry VIII opportunistically purloined the pope’s authority under the pretext of localising the power of the church. There was nothing particularly honourable about Henry’s power grab. He just didn’t like being told what to do by some bloke in an Italian city. But freed from Roman authority, the Bible could be translated out of the elitist language of Vatican officialdom and into a vernacular that everyone could understand. And it was from this sense of grassroots empowerment that democracy was revived by the Protestant Levellers.

With every attempt – plots, armadas etc – by the pope to reclaim what he thought of as his, a stubborn commitment to English independence came to be lodged ever more firmly in our intellectual marrow. Nothing equivalent has shaped the intellectual worldview of Catholic countries. . . . 

. . . there are those of us who protest against our laws being crafted by some foreign power, beyond the control of our domestic parliament. Brexit perfectly recycles this defiant spirit of the Reformation.

Fraser sees the English Reformation as a political, not religious act: Henry VIII declaring England an Empire and himself its Caesar-Pope. Since Henry VIII's break from Papal authority and establishment of a new church is so complicated, I can see his point. 

But on this site from the University of Oxford, Diarmaid MacCulloch says the opposite is true: the UK staying in the EU is like the English Reformation:

Oh dear, Giles, how wrong can you be, about both the English Reformation and the wider movement across Europe? After its first explosion in northern Germany in 1517, the European Reformation was a completely international movement, transcending and breaking down local boundaries. The lesser Reformations of England and Scotland – distinct from each other, remember, Giles – were just part of this greater whole.

There was no idea of little Englandism in such Protestant reformers as the main author of England’s Book of Common Prayer, Thomas Cranmer, who is absent from Giles’s argument. Cranmer, the first Protestant Archbishop of Canterbury, was aiming for the English Reformation to resemble as closely as possible his favourite movement in Europe, that of a mainland European city called Strasbourg (though German Reformers, and Cranmer, the English Archbishop with a German wife, would have called it Strassburg). . . . 


MacCulloch makes an interesting point about the language of the Reformation, although of course the reformers all wanted the Holy Bible and the order of worship for their various communities to be in the vernacular:

This unity is also seen in the language of the Reformation: Latin, an international language. It is a mistake to think of Latin simply as the language of Roman Catholicism and its liturgy. It was more truly a universal language, a genuinely effective Esperanto, than English is today. You needed to learn it, certainly, but learning Latin was the main point of schools at the time, and once you had it, you truly were a citizen of a single culture. Without Latin, Protestantism simply couldn’t have spread across local boundaries.

How else would such star Protestant refugees in King Edward VI’s England as Strassburg’s Martin Bucer or Poland’s Johannes à Lasco have talked to their English hosts or indeed to each other, if not in Latin? Latin was the secret weapon of Protestant reformers just as much as it was the language of the Pope. Indeed, it helped either side in the great quarrels of the Reformation understand each other properly when they were insulting each other (which they did, a lot).

But I think MacCulloch overstates Protestant unity, which was already breaking apart during Edward VI's reign in matters of doctrine and worship. 

Finally, MacCulloch partially agrees with his friend:

Giles: you might have a slight point in characterising King Henry VIII of England as a Brexiteer. He broke with the Pope in 1533. Through force of personality plus quite a lot of threats and bluster, he bullied his parliament into pretending that his Church’s independence had actually always been there in English history, just hidden from sight by Romish cunning.

But do remember that Henry VIII was emphatically not a Protestant; in fact, he burned some of them for heresy. The Reformation here flourished in spite of him, not because of him. Henry VIII is definitely not my idea of an acceptable leader, either for the Reformation, the Church of England or modern Britain in general.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

From the Birmingham Oratory: Faith of our Fathers

The weekly reflection from Newman's foundation, the Birmingham Oratory, compares and contrasts the challenges Sts. John Fisher and Thomas More faced in the sixteenth century to those Catholics in England face today:

Today in this country, being a faithful Catholic means adhering to a set of beliefs and a way of life which have little meaning in the eyes of most other people. We Catholics believe that Christ Jesus is the Son of God, and there is no other Name that can save us. We believe that there is hell to avoid and heaven to gain. We believe that divine worship, prayer, good works, justice – Gospel justice – are far more necessary than most of the things which the world counts as valuable.

Should we then opt out of the secular world? For the majority of Catholics that is neither possible nor desirable. In a post-Christian country we have a more difficult task. God calls us not to opt out but to opt in. He calls us to engage with an increasingly pagan society, not to condemn it, for it condemns itself, but to convert it to the knowledge and love of Christ. We win others to Christ only by peaceful means; by living that Truth which we preach, and by playing an appropriate part in serving the common good.

St John Fisher and St Thomas More knew how much it mattered to remain Catholic whatever the consequences. Their example helps us to remember that being a good Catholic need not mean sectarianism or party-spirit. But it does mean facing the fact of being different in many ways from much of the rest of modern society. It often means having to swim against the tide, as we make our way to heaven.