Sunday, November 18, 2018

St. Thomas More's Poor Souls on the Son Rise Morning Show

Annie Mitchell asked me to talk about St. Thomas More and the Poor Souls in Purgatory tomorrow (Monday, November 19) on the Son Rise Morning Show. I'll be on at the end of their 7:00 a.m. Eastern time hour, at about 7:50 (6:50 a.m. Central time). Listen live on the Sacred Heart Radio website.

St. Thomas More is honored as a saint because he was martyred for the Faith in 1535, but he had been working to defending the Catholic faith and Church teaching for several years before he was imprisoned in 1534. He wrote dialogues, point-by-point refutations of certain publications, and other works of apologetics against errors about the Catholic faith.

The most creative of these works, in my opinion, is his 1529 work on purgatory, The Supplication of Souls.

I wrote about More's efforts to defend the Church's teaching on Purgatory and the practice of praying for the Poor Souls in Purgatory for the National Catholic Register, and that's why Annie wanted to discuss this with me tomorrow:

As the Protestant Reformation was developing on the Continent and coming to England through books and certain followers of Lutheran ideas, Thomas More saw the danger in the attacks on Purgatory. In his book “The Supplication of Souls” More was answering a pamphlet, “A Supplication for the Beggars” by Simon Fish.

Fish charged that Masses and prayers for the dead diverted alms from the poor and he urged Henry VIII to destroy the priesthood, force priests to get married and get jobs, and thus eradicate Masses for the dead, for which priests received stipends.

More knew how dangerous this suggestion was: not only would prayer for the dead, the great bond between the living and the dead, be destroyed, but also the ministerial priesthood, and the Sacrifice of the Mass. The whole economy of salvation and the communion of saints were at stake, so he answered Fish’s pamphlet as creatively and persuasively as he could. More hoped, through his apologetics, to preserve Hope in Heavenly happiness in England before it could be destroyed by false teaching.


While the commercial world is already celebrating Christmas, we Catholics are still praying for the Poor Souls in Purgatory during the month of November, dedicated to their memory and their purification.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Two Deaths and One Burial


Queen Mary I, England's first and only Catholic Queen Regnant, and the last Catholic Archbishop of Canterbury, Reginald Cardinal Pole, both died on November 17, 1558.

Also on that date Hugh Aston, the composer and chorister, was buried in St. Margaret's Church, Leicester. According to HOASM, Aston or Ashton or Assheton is

the most important of the less famous composers represented in the Forrest-Heyther and Peterhouse partbooks. He graduated Bachelor of Music at Oxford in 1510. It was fitting therefore that the choirmaster's post at Cardinal College, Oxford which Taverner was persuaded to take was first offered to him. Aston may have been in London and associated with the royal court from 1510 to 1525.Aston was master of the choristers at St Mary Newarke College, Leicester in 1525, and remained there until the College was dissolved in 1548. Drew a pension in Newarke granted in 1544 until Nov. 17, 1558. He was not the eponymous Archdeacon of York (d. 1522) or Canon of St. Stephen's, Westminster (d. 1523).

He has 'A Hornepype' for keyboard in a MS in the British Museum; he may also have composed My lady Careys dompe and The short mesure off my lady Wynkfyld's rownde.

Much of Aston's music is in fact very vigorous and forceful, sometimes rather in the manner of Taverner, but with a fondness for tiny florid touches which sometimes produce rather rough unessential dissonances. Some of the imitative writing for full choir in the Mass Videte manus meas (cantus firmus an antiphon from Vespers of Easter Tuesday) is similar in its energetic quality to parts of Taverner's Gloria tibi Trinitas, especially at 'rex coelestis' or 'descendit de coelis'; but in general there is a far more mechanical handling of less interesting shapes.

The best of Aston is probably to be found in the antiphons Gaude virgo mater Christi and Ave Maria divae matris Annae. The melodic style here occasionally points ahead quite strikingly to that of later composers in the new boldness of outline of some important melodic phrases; in particular one notes in several places a new kind of melodic expansion in which an important interval is enlarged when imitated to help create a sense of growth and climax.


The Blue Heron vocal ensemble has recorded three of Aston's Marian Antiphons on their first of five CDs devoted to the music of the Peterhouse Partbook. Stile Antico also included Gaude Virgo Mater Christi on their Music for Compline CD.

Friday, November 16, 2018

The Duke Who Was a Butler, A Late Jacobite, RIP

Or, if you prefer, the Butler who was a Duke: James FitzJames Butler, 2nd Duke of Ormonde, an Irish Protestant statesman, at first served King James II, then switched sides to William and Mary, switching back again after Anne died and George I of Hanover succeeded during the '15. According to the 1911 Encyclop√¶dia Britannica he was born in Dublin on April 29, 1665 and educated in France and then at Christ Church, Oxford. Then:

He obtained command of a cavalry regiment in Ireland in 1684, and having received an appointment at court on the accession of James II., he served against the duke of Monmouth. Having succeeded his grandfather as duke of Ormonde in 1688, he joined William of Orange, by whom he was made colonel of a regiment of horse-guards, which he commanded at the battle of the Boyne. In 1691 he served on the continent under William, and after the accession of Anne he was placed in command of the land forces co-operating with Sir George Rooke in Spain. Having been made a privy councillor, Ormonde succeeded Rochester as viceroy of Ireland in 1703, a post which he held till 1707. On the dismissal of the duke of Marlborough in 1711, Ormonde was appointed captain general in his place, and allowed himself to be made the tool of the Tory ministry, whose policy was to carry on the war in the Netherlands while giving secret orders to Ormonde to take no active part in supporting their allies under Prince Eugene. Ormonde's position as captain-general made him a personage of much importance in the crisis brought about by the death of Queen Anne. Though he had supported the revolution of 1688, he was traditionally a Tory, and Lord Bolingbroke was his political leader. During the last years of Queen Anne he almost certainly had Jacobite leanings, and corresponded with the duke of Berwick. He joined Bolingbroke and Oxford, however, in signing the proclamation of King George I., by whom he was nevertheless deprived of the captain-generalship. In June 1715 he was impeached, and fled to France, where he for some time resided with Bolingbroke, and in 1716 his immense estates were confiscated to the crown by act of parliament, though by a subsequent act his brother, Charles Butler, earl of Arran, was enabled to repurchase them. After taking part in the Jacobite invasion in 1715, Ormonde settled in Spain, where he was in favour at court and enjoyed a pension from the crown. Towards the end of his life he resided much at Avignon, where he was seen in 1733 by Lady Mary Wortley Montagu. Ormonde died on the 16th of November 1745, and was buried in Westminster Abbey.

With little of his grandfather's ability, and inferior to him in elevation of character, Ormonde was nevertheless one of the great figures of his time. Handsome, dignified, magnanimous and open-handed, and free from the meanness, treachery and venality of many of his leading contemporaries, he enjoyed a popularity which, with greater stability of purpose, might have enabled him to exercise commanding influence over events.

According to the Westminster Abbey website, James Butler was interred in the family

vault on 22nd May 1746. His first wife was Lady Anne Hyde, daughter of Lawrence, 1st Earl of Rochester. Two young children by her were buried in the vault (Elisabeth and Mary). His second wife was Mary Somerset, daughter of Henry, Duke of Beaufort. She is said never to have seen her husband during his exile and she was buried on 25th November 1733. Their son Thomas was buried 1689, daughter Henrietta in 1701 and Elizabeth(who died unmarried) in 1750.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

The Ides of November, 1539

The last Abbots of Reading and Glastonbury suffered martyrdom on November 15, 1539. Hugh Cook Faringdon and Richard Whiting had both sworn fealty to Henry VIII as Supreme Head and Governor of the Church of England, but had resisted the required surrender of their monasteries.

The Reading Museum has a painting of Abbot Faringdon's execution:

Faringdon was accused of denying the king’s title to be head of the Church in England and was found guilty of treason. He was sentenced to death by being drawn, hanged, disembowelled and beheaded.

The Abbot was dragged on a hurdle by a horse around the streets of Reading. The painting shows him tied to the hurdle beside the gallows by the west front of the Abbey church in the Forbury. At Faringdon’s feet stand two priests, John Eynon, priest of St Giles, and John Rugg, who were also executed. The Mayor of Reading, Thomas Mirth, is robed in a black gown; next to him are the two burgesses of Parliament, Thomas Vachell and John Raymond, with a sergeant at law representing the State.

This is one of ten paintings illustrating important events in the history of Reading Abbey. They were commissioned from 1909 onwards by Dr Jamieson Boyd Hurry, a local doctor with a particular interest in Reading Abbey.

More about Reading Abbey and its Royal connections:

Reading Abbey was founded by King Henry I in 1121 after his son and heir died in the White Ship. He intended it to be his own burial place and memorial. It was one of the principal religious foundations in the country, well endowed by the founder and his successors. The first monks who arrived on 18 June 1121 were Benedictines from the Cluniac order and came from Cluny in France and Lewes in Sussex. The first abbot, Abbot Hugh of Amiens, was appointed in 1123.

The presence of the Abbey had a considerable effect on the development of Reading and its influence can still be seen on the street pattern today. Reading's current Abbey Quarter includes the whole of the Abbey precinct.


Monks John Thorne and Roger James also suffered with Abbot Whiting on Glastonbury Tor. Glastonbury was one of the richest abbeys in the kingdom, and one of the best run and most observant of the Rule of St. Benedict: it was a ripe target for Henry VIII, Thomas Cromwell, and the Court of Augmentations. Reading Abbey was a Benedictine house established during the reign of King Henry I and dedicated to Our Lady and St. John the Evangelist. It was initially part of the Cluniac branch of the Benedictine order. Cromwell had to trump up some charges against the elderly abbot at Glastonbury, because his Visitor first reported that everything was managed very well there; the monks were observant of the Benedictine Rule. Cromwell told Richard Layton to look further: hisjob was not to find excellence but detect failure as the the excuse for suppression.

More about the martyrs at Glastonbury here and about those at Reading. Perhaps their martyrdoms expiated their guilt for denying the authority of Christ's Vicar on earth: These six martyrs of the Dissolution of the Monasteries on November 15, 1539 (three each at Reading and Glastonbury) represent in some ways the remorse of the abbots and abbey leadership, who had accepted Henry VIII's oaths that proclaimed his authority over the Church of England as Supreme Head and Governor. Somehow they did not realize or imagine what he could and would do with that power and authority.

Pope Leo XIII beatified these six monastic martyrs in 1895.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Richard Topcliffe, Pursuivant and Torturer

Richard Topcliffe was born on November 14, 1531. He was the eldest son of Robert Topcliffe of Somerby, Lincolnshire, and his wife, Margaret, who was the the daughter of Thomas Burgh, 1st Baron Burgh of Gainsborough, former chamberlain of the household to queen Anne Boleyn. His parents died when he was 12 years old and he became the ward of Sir Anthony Neville who had married his aunt Anne, Margaret's sister.

Richard Topcliffe, was, of course, Queen Elizabeth's servant, with the duties of finding and torturing priests. The History of Parliament website provides some detail of his career, with definite hints of unpopularity:

The time and manner of Topcliffe’s entry into public service are alike uncertain. The earliest reference to him as ‘her Majesty’s servant’ dates only from March 1573; but his own claim, made in June 1601, to have done 44 years’ service places its beginning much earlier, and indeed hints at a possible entry into Elizabeth’s retinue before her accession. . . .

Before the third and final session of this Parliament, in 1581, Topcliffe had begun his career as an interrogator of suspects. It is likely that he was drawn into this business both through his continuing interest in the northern rebels and by his attachment to the Earl of Shrewsbury, the custodian of Mary Stuart. It was at Shrewsbury’s instance that in 1578 Topcliffe helped to investigate the activities of some of the ex-rebels, and it was to the Earl that he reported on these and other matters. But it may well have been the anti-Catholic legislation of the parliamentary session of 1581 which determined that Catholic-hunting should become Topcliffe’s life-work. Although we know next to nothing of his part in that session (he was on one minor legal committee, 20 Feb.) his mounting activity in investigation from early in 1582 seems to reflect an accession of zeal as well as an expansion of opportunity. By the time the next Parliament met in the autumn of 1584 Topcliffe could be ranked with the notorious Richard Young as an acknowledged master of this ugly craft. . . .

The next 15 years of Topcliffe’s life were to make his name synonymous with the worst rigours of the Elizabethan struggle against Catholicism. It is clear that in much of what he did Topcliffe was acting under orders—whether under a commission such as that of March 1593 against Jesuits or under one of the numerous Council warrants to him to use torture—and that those who gave him these orders must share the odium of their consequences. Moreover, his superiors made only spasmodic efforts to restrain him. His brutal treatment of Southwell in 1592 cost him a spell in prison; in 1595, following the disclosure of Thomas Fitzherbert’s attempt to bribe him into doing two of the Fitzherberts to death, Topcliffe was again committed for a few weeks for maligning Privy Councillors; and early in 1596 he had to answer to the Council for his arbitrary behaviour towards prisoners in the Gatehouse. But every check was followed by a fresh outburst of activity, and only in his last few years did the moderating of official policy, and the failing of his own vigour, bring it to an end.

The gravamen of the indictment of Topcliffe is that he displayed an unmistakable and nauseating relish in the performance of his duties. On this the verdict of contemporaries is amply borne out by the evidence of his many letters and by the marginalia preserved in one of his books. It was, and is, easy to believe any evil of such a man; and to reflect that some of the worst accusations—among them that he reserved his most hideous tortures for infliction in his own house—rest upon fragile evidence is not to excuse him. Nor is there much profit in speculating on the influences which went to his making, although his early loss of both parents, the impact of rebellion upon his infant awareness, and perhaps some marital misfortunes might enter into the reckoning. . . .

Topcliffe’s domestic life was not without its difficulties. His marriage was clouded at least for a time by his alleged failure to pay his wife adequate maintenance. In his later years the criminal escapades of his eldest son, Charles, gave him much anxiety, and in January 1602 Sir Robert Cecil chided him for not having this wayward son ‘cleansed’. He also had the humiliation of seeing his nephew Edmund Topcliffe fall under suspicion on his return in May 1600 from a voyage abroad, during which he had assumed another name because of the ill-repute of his own.

Topcliffe had a house in Westminster from at least the end of 1571, when we know that it was burgled, clothes worth over £50 being stolen from the owner, besides other goods probably belonging to Topcliffe’s servants: the articles stolen from Topcliffe suggest that he maintained a good wardrobe. It was in this house, or an adjacent successor, that he was accused of torturing prisoners: but its nearness to the Gatehouse prison may have led to confusion between them.


Portrait of Elizabeth I around 1595 by Marcus Gheeraerts.

Among those we know Topcliffe tortured are St. Robert Southwell, St. Eustace White, and Blessed Thomas Pormort. He was present at the executions of St. Edmund Gennings, St. Polydore Plasden, and St. Swithun Wells on December 10, 1591. St. Swithun Wells hoped that Topcliffe would repent and convert: "I pray God make you a Paul of a Saul, of a bloody persecutor one of the Catholic Church's children." 

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Religion and The Great War


Also in keeping with the theme of the Centennial of the Armistice of World War I, Philip Jenkins' book, The Great and Holy War: How World War I Became a Religious Crusade discusses the role of religion on both sides of the conflict:

The Great and Holy War offers the first look at how religion created and prolonged the First World War. At the one-hundredth anniversary of the outbreak of the war, historian Philip Jenkins reveals the powerful religious dimensions of this modern-day crusade, a period that marked a traumatic crisis for Western civilization, with effects that echoed throughout the rest of the twentieth century.

The war was fought by the world's leading Christian nations, who presented the conflict as a holy war. Thanks to the emergence of modern media, a steady stream of patriotic and militaristic rhetoric was given to an unprecedented audience, using language that spoke of holy war and crusade, of apocalypse and Armageddon. But this rhetoric was not mere state propaganda. Jenkins reveals how the widespread belief in angels and apparitions, visions and the supernatural was a driving force throughout the war and shaped all three of the major religions—Christianity, Judaism and Islam—paving the way for modern views of religion and violence. The disappointed hopes and moral compromises that followed the war also shaped the political climate of the rest of the century, giving rise to such phenomena as Nazism, totalitarianism, and communism.

Connecting numerous remarkable incidents and characters—from Karl Barth to Carl Jung, the Christmas Truce to the Armenian Genocide—Jenkins creates a powerful and persuasive narrative that brings together global politics, history, and spiritual crisis as never before and shows how religion informed and motivated circumstances on all sides of the war.

This review in Catholic World Report emphasizes that The Great War changed religion by discrediting it when used to promote war and violence:

What might be most jarring for American readers, steeped in the Jeffersonian ethos of separation between church and state, was how readily American churches adopted this crusading rhetoric. It was not a militarist or politician who declared that he “would have driven my bayonet into the throat or the eye or stomach of the Huns without the slightest hesitation,” but a Methodist minister. Jenkins traces how these close associations discredited religion. This led to gradual secularization and two wildly different trends. In Germany and Soviet Russia, the religious aspirations and rhetoric became affixed to the new “secular messiahs” of these two regimes in the post-war period. The collapse of the old church-state model, however, laid the groundwork for Christian Democrats and Catholic politicians to chart a future along a non-national path of European identity.

It wasn’t just Christianity but all of the Abrahamic religions that were changed by the war. The religious center of Christianity began to shift towards Asia and Africa. In fact, Africa may become the largest Christian continent in the world by 2030. As much as the Christian map expanded it also contracted during governmental persecution of Armenian and Russian Orthodox religious enclaves. The war was a double-edged sword for Judaism. Zionism became practicable with the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and acquired the enthusiastic support of American evangelicals who, even today, see the state of Israel as fulfilling God’s providential plan.

Armistice Celebrations, 1918

History Today posts this article about how the British celebrated on November 11, 1918, including in church services--and how church bells announced the victory and the peace:

In many different places, church bells were used to announce the news, although it wasn’t always possible to gather bell-ringers together before noon. At Malew on the Isle of Man, a variety of parishioners all lent a hand so that the bells were rung from 11am to 8pm. By noon, most towns and cities in Britain (The Daily Express referred to ‘Armisticities’) were a noisy mix of cheering, singing, bells and music. Crowds were huge and still growing, even though people had been advised to avoid large gatherings during the flu pandemic. And the situation was similar around the world. In Australia, where it was nighttime, the centres of Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide were a mass of happy people.

In Kirkwall, the town crier proclaimed a half holiday at noon. Elsewhere, employers and mayors did the same. Schoolchildren, too, were given the afternoon off, and flooded out of school to join the crowds, singing and yelling and waving flags. The boys of Eton College were released at noon, and went down to the beflagged High Street with flags attached to their top hats. And in Shrewsbury, while church bells rang and a regimental band played, schoolboys formed a manic band of their own, bashing away at drums and vigorously blowing bugles. . . .

At the innumerable church services, the emphasis was on triumph and thanksgiving, rather than remembrance of the dead. God was on the side of Britain and her allies, and gave them victory. At a ceremony at St Matthew’s Church, High Brooms in Kent, the communion table was draped with a large union flag. Even the service at St Margaret’s Church, Westminster, the ‘parish church’ of parliament, was a happy affair. Following a brief but crowded parliamentary session where the terms of the armistice were read out and acclaimed with much cheering, the speaker adjourned the House of Commons at 3.17pm, and led the members to St Margaret’s. The Lords also attended the service, and the archbishop of Canterbury presided. Psalm 100 opened the simple service: “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands.” From outside came the sound of cheering and music.

While the service was taking place, King George V, Queen Mary and their daughter Princess Mary were journeying out into that cheering crowd (and the pouring rain). The fact that they were in an open carriage, with barely any police protection, showed that the king was not going to meet the fate of either the tsar or the kaiser. The royals shook many hands, and the patriotic crowd cheered them all along their journey.

The author of the article, Guy Cuthbertson, wrote a book about the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month: Peace at Last: A Portrait of Armistice Day, 11 November 1918.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Starting "Thursday" on Friday

Our local American Chesterton Society will start The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare on Friday at Eighth Day Books (beginning at 6:30 p.m.). We will also be celebrating the seventh anniversary of our group! Refreshments will be served!!

Dale Ahlquist introduces this nightmare at the AMC website:

At first glance, The Man Who Was Thursday is a detective story filled with poetry and politics. But it is mystery that grows more mysterious, until it is nothing less than the mystery of creation itself.This is Chesterton’s most famous novel. Never out of print since it was first published in 1908, critics immediately hailed it as “amazingly clever,” “a remarkable acrobatic performance,” and “a scurrying, door-slamming farce that ends like a chapter in the Apocalypse.” One reviewer described how he had read it in one sitting and put it down, “completely dazed.” Thirty years later, Orson Welles called it “shamelessly beautiful prose” and made a radio dramatization of it with his Mercury Radio Theater of the Air. (Unfortunately, he upstaged himself two weeks later with a production of H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds.)

Gabriel Syme is a poet and a police detective. Lucien Gregory is poet and a bomb-throwing anarchist. At the beginning of the novel, Syme infiltrates a secret meeting of anarchists and gets himself elected as “Thursday,” one of the seven members of the High Council of Anarchists. If you think it is paradoxical that there should be a governing body of those dedicated to destroying governing body, a hierarchy for blowing up hierarchies, you might be right. You might also note that the main reason Syme becomes a detective in the first place is because he is a rebel against rebellion. The policeman who recruits him explains that there is a difference between the real anarchists and the innocent ones who merely think rules are bad and should be broken. The real anarchists are something far worse than that. “They mean death. When they say that mankind shall be free at last, they mean that mankind shall commit suicide. When they talk of a paradise without right or wrong, they mean the grave. They have but two objects, to destroy humanity and then themselves.” This is a prophetic description of the philosophy of the “real anarchists” who really would bring us the Culture of Death.

Our goal is to discuss the first half of the book this Friday--then we will celebrate Christmas in December--and finish the book in January 2019! I read it years ago and look forward our meeting this Friday.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Bishop John Carroll (SJ) Appointed


As the History Channel website reminds us:

On this day in 1789, Pope Pius VI appoints John Carroll bishop of Baltimore, making him the first Catholic bishop in the United States.

Carroll was born in Upper Marlboro, Maryland, in 1735. His mother came from a wealthy family and had been educated in France. At age 13, Carroll sailed for France in order to complete his own education at St. Omer’s College in French Flanders. At age 18, he joined the Society of Jesus, and after a further 14 years of study in Liege, he received ordination as a priest at age 34. Pope Clement XIV’s decision in 1773 to dissolve the Jesuit order, however, ended Carroll’s European career.

He made an important friend in Benjamin Franklin, demonstrating to that Enlightened Patriot that Roman Catholics (Papists) could be good people, after all:

Three years after Carroll’s return to Maryland, the need to make allies of French Catholics in Canada created an opportunity for him to join a Congressional delegation dispatched to negotiate with the Canadians. Benjamin Franklin served on the same delegation, and although the mission failed, Franklin proved an excellent ally to Carroll. In 1784, Franklin recommended to the papal nuncio in Paris that Carroll assume the position of Superior of Missions in the United States of North America, which removed American Catholics from the authority of the British Catholic hierarchy. In this role, as bishop and ultimately as the first archbishop in the United States (1808), Carroll oversaw the creation of leading Catholic institutions in the new nation, including the nation’s first Catholic university (Georgetown University, founded in 1789) and cathedral (Baltimore Basilica, built in 1806).

On Election Day 2018, it's appropriate to pray Bishop John Carroll's prayer for our country:

We pray, Thee O Almighty and Eternal God! Who through Jesus Christ hast revealed Thy glory to all nations, to preserve the works of Thy mercy, that Thy Church, being spread through the whole world, may continue with unchanging faith in the confession of Thy Name.

We pray Thee, who alone art good and holy, to endow with heavenly knowledge, sincere zeal, and sanctity of life, our chief bishop, Pope N., the Vicar of Our Lord Jesus Christ, in the government of his Church; our own bishop, N., all other bishops, prelates, and pastors of the Church; and especially those who are appointed to exercise amongst us the functions of the holy ministry, and conduct Thy people into the ways of salvation.

We pray Thee O God of might, wisdom, and justice! Through whom authority is rightly administered, laws are enacted, and judgment decreed, assist with Thy Holy Spirit of counsel and fortitude the President of these United States, that his administration may be conducted in righteousness, and be eminently useful to Thy people over whom he presides; by encouraging due respect for virtue and religion; by a faithful execution of the laws in justice and mercy; and by restraining vice and immorality. Let the light of Thy divine wisdom direct the deliberations of Congress, and shine forth in all the proceedings and laws framed for our rule and government, so that they may tend to the preservation of peace, the promotion of national happiness, the increase of industry, sobriety, and useful knowledge; and may perpetuate to us the blessing of equal liberty.

We pray for his excellency, the governor of this state, for the members of the assembly, for all judges, magistrates, and other officers who are appointed to guard our political welfare, that they may be enabled, by Thy powerful protection, to discharge the duties of their respective stations with honesty and ability.

We recommend likewise, to Thy unbounded mercy, all our brethren and fellow citizens throughout the United States, that they may be blessed in the knowledge and sanctified in the observance of Thy most holy law; that they may be preserved in union, and in that peace which the world cannot give; and after enjoying the blessings of this life, be admitted to those which are eternal.

Finally, we pray to Thee, O Lord of mercy, to remember the souls of Thy servants departed who are gone before us with the sign of faith and repose in the sleep of peace; the souls of our parents, relatives, and friends; of those who, when living, were members of this congregation, and particularly of such as are lately deceased; of all benefactors who, by their donations or legacies to this Church, witnessed their zeal for the decency of divine worship and proved their claim to our grateful and charitable remembrance. To these, O Lord, and to all that rest in Christ, grant, we beseech Thee, a place of refreshment, light, and everlasting peace, through the same Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Savior. Amen.

Carroll died in Baltimore on December 3, 1815. The Ignatian Spirituality website of Loyola Press has this note about some of his last words:

When he was near death, Archbishop Carroll said, “Of those things that give me most consolation at the present moment, one is that I have always been attached to the practice of devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary; that I have established it among the people under my care, and placed my diocese under her protection.”

Image credit: Statue of Carroll at Georgetown University.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Newman and Converts Today


The Provost of the Birmingham Oratory, Father Julian Large, has written in his November Letter about how converts to Catholicism sometimes feel underappreciated and reminded them that Blessed John Henry Newman had to work through those feelings too:

Latecomers to the Faith who are made to feel that their convert status makes them second class citizens in the eyes of some of those who make a profession out of religious commentary can take comfort in the knowledge that Blessed John Henry experienced all of this before them. The sincerity of Newman’s conversion is beyond question to anyone of good faith. As an Anglican he had increased in his sympathy for doctrines such as Transubstantiation and the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin, having considered them individually in the light of their antiquity and of their compatibility with Holy Scripture. When he made his profession of Faith in front of Father Dominic Barberi, however, he was declaring that from now on he would embrace these truths, and every other Catholic doctrine, on the grounds that they were taught by Christ’s Church. He was assenting to his firm belief that the Catholic Church was founded by Our Lord as the pillar and the foundation of saving truth, with divinely invested authority to teach on faith and morals. He brought himself to his knees before an authority which he firmly believed to be at the service of Truth, but he also fell to his knees in the knowledge that in the Church on earth that divinely invested authority is always liable to be abused by fallen men who are prone to sin, and whose intellects are often too dim to appreciate the truths they have been commissioned to teach. But he accepted this. He accepted it because he was willing to suffer for and with the Church, because he loved Her as the Mystical Body of Christ on earth, and He believed Her to be true. Newman is an example to all of us of patience and genuine piety. Suffering with and for the Church is one of the ways we show our love for Christ, and one of the signs that our faith is alive.

For those of us who are converts to the Faith, Newman shows us how to be good converts. We must be docile, and obedient to lawful authority. But we should also be dogged in our pursuit of all truth, and we must be willing to suffer for our insistence on it. The religious submission of mind and will which we owe to the teaching authority of the Church never obliges us to submit ourselves to humbug, bluster and spin, but only to Catholic Truth in its soul-saving fullness.

Newman's correspondence with prospective and neophyte converts would fill "six to seven hundred pages" according to the late Father Stanley Jaki.  Fr. Peter Willi wrote an article for the International Centre of Newman Friends on "Newman as a Convert and Counsellor of Converts" in which he describes some of the advice Newman offered those thinking about becoming Catholic:

Newman often talks about this absolutely necessary condition. “Be convinced in your reason that the Catholic Church is a teacher sent to you from God, and it is enough. I do not wish you to join her, till you are. If you are half convinced, pray for a full conviction, and wait till you have it. It is better indeed to come quickly, but better slowly than carelessly….”[40]

Nobody should join the Roman Catholic Church while unable to accept the fullness of her doctrine. Whoever has not reached the personal certainty that the Roman Catholic Church contains the fulness of truth, should remain in his own ecclesial communion. This applied to Newman’s highly appreciated and saintly friend John Keble.[41] Although on the threshold of the Roman Catholic Church, he died with a good conscience, even though, objectively, it was erroneous. Throughout his life he had sincerely and honestly searched for the truth and had lived according to his insight. He accepted practically all of the Catholic doctrines, but never recognized the necessity of unity with the Bishop of Rome, the successor of Saint Peter. Therefore his conscience obliged him to remain in the Anglican Communion.

The beauty of the liturgy of the Roman Catholic Church and the fact that someone is drawn to it, are not, for example, reasons sufficient to justify the step of conversion. It is, however, possible for someone to hear the call to become a Roman Catholic, and to gain the certainty that the Roman Church is the true Church, while participating in her liturgy.

On the way to conversion the would-be convert accumulates one argument after another in favour of entering the Catholic Church and accepting her doctrine. It may also happen that, without any initiative on his/her part, the Holy Spirit awakens motives and insights in the future convert which point to conversion. The reasons are cumulative and mutually supportive, urging the free will towards conversion. The will is urged to act not only by reason, but also by conscience. According to Newman, religious processes and decisions necessarily include the action of reason and in no way should they exclude it. On the other hand, such processes and decisions should not be limited to reason alone.

My experience here in the United States has been that converts are sought and welcomed. The Diocese of Wichita has a strong RCIA program (of course it varies from parish to parish) and highlights the celebrations of the Rite of Election each Lent and publishes the list of those becoming Catholic in the diocesan newspaper after the Easter Vigil too--by parish! Some of my best friends are converts. With the attention given to converts by the Coming Home Network and all the conversion stories that are published (for example), perhaps it's different here in the USA.