Wednesday, April 1, 2015

No April Fool Here: Blessed John Bretton, Recusant Martyr

According to this tremendous account of his life and death, the layman Blessed John Bretton was executed on April 1, 1598 after years of recusancy "For words spoken out of Catholic Zeal" "because he was reconciled to the Roman Catholic Church," he "urged others to embrace the same religion" and he "denied the spiritual primacy of the Queen." His wife, Frances, survived him and continued their recusancy. 

Just some highlights: 

John Bretton was executed at York on 1st April 1598 because of his faith, the culmination of many, many years of courage and steadfastness in the face of persecution, by both John Bretton and Frances, his wife. . . .

The earliest reference to the Recusancy of John and Frances Bretton occurs in Archbishop Sandys’ List of Yorkshire Recusants returned to the Privy Council in 1577, wherein they are stated to have “no Habilities (Wealth)” “and yet are the most obstinate and perverse”. This list was sent five years after the Earl of Huntingdon had begun his intense investigation and persecution of Catholics in Yorkshire, four years before the passing of the Act 23 Eliz. c1 which made “reconciliation” to the Catholic Church a capital crime. For many years, because of the persecution he was suffering through his Recusancy, John Bretton was forced to flee and hide. Altogether he seems to have been a fugitive from 1577 to 1593, when the Act 35 Eliz. c2 forced all recusants to return home and stay within five miles thereof on pain of the loss of all property. . . .

That the Brettons were regarded as amongst the more notorious recusants is shown by the fact that on 12th February, 1589, within a year of their first conviction, the Exchequer issued a Commission for the assessment and seizure to the use of the Queen of two thirds of their lands and all their goods and chattels in accordance with the Statute of 1586. The Memoranda Roll recording this Commission and the subsequent enquiries gives the text of the patent, signed for the Queen by Burghley, and the names of the Yorkshire Gentry thereby empowered. They included “John, Lord Darcye: Sir Thomas Fairfax: Sir Richard Malliverer: Sir George Savell, and eleven others” In fact only six people, Richard Wortley, William Wentworth, Thomas Wentworth, Robert Bradford, Henry Farrer and Michael Kaie did the work and had produced before them on 8th April 1589, not only details of John Bretton’s property, but also that of forty five other recusants whose names were included in the schedule, including Maud (Matilda) Wentworth, widow, who was Frances’ aunt by marriage and lived over the way at Bretton Hall, and Dorothy Wentworth, the wife of Maud’s son, Matthew, also living there. . . .


Read more here about how Frances struggled without her husband's constancy and loyalty to the Faith:

One might be forgiven for hoping that, having had so much suffering in her life, culminating in her husband’s execution Frances Bretton would now be left in peace - but this was not to be. Within a month the Escheator was on her track. His very presence was proof that the family fortunes were in great jeopardy. In the midst of her grief, therefore she had to remind herself that it now devolved on her alone, as legal owner, to safeguard the livelihood of her children. To whom could she turn for advice ?

Her own kinsfolk, the Wentworths, one of the most powerful families in Yorkshire, doubtless watched events with interest, if not with sympathy. But, with one exception, (Michael of Woolley), all her male relatives appear to have been, at best, "Church Papists". One or two were strong and active supporters of the new religion. Tenacious of this world’s goods they must, as a whole, have been highly impatient with her rigid adherence to Catholic principle. Even her aunt, Maud Wentworth of Bretton Hall, after maintaining her recusancy for many years had, in her old age, publically
(sic) conformed three years previously and thus preserved her property intact for her son, Matthew. 

Although Frances herself finally submitted to the Archbishop of York and was pardoned of her previous recusancy for the sake of her own son, Luke, and his inheritance, she was was soon numberered among the recusants again, and died in the Catholic faith. Blessed John Bretton and Frances also had two other sons, Richard and Matthew, who became Catholic priests!

What remarkable steadfastness and love! In this Holy Week, the holiest time of the Christian year, it is indeed marvelous to meditate on men and women so willing to live their lives and give their lives for their Savior and His Church! John Bretton was beatified among the 85 Martyrs of England and Wales in 1987.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Miracle of Miracles in Holy Week

I love being Catholic every Passiontide and Holy Week. Our Church has a series of rituals and special hymns to accompany us on the journey from Passion Sunday through Palm Sunday and the Triduum to Easter Sunday:

~Veiling the statues
~Receiving and blessing palms
~Processing with palms
~Washing the feet of 12 men
~Stripping the Altars
~Processing with the Eucharist
~Reposing the Eucharist
~Adoration at the Altar of Repose
~The empty, silent church on Good Friday, without His Presence
~The open Tabernacle doors
~Reading the Passion
~Venerating the Cross
~Lighting the Easter Fire
~Marking and Lighting the Easter Candle
~The Exsultet
~The bells ringing when the Gloria is sung at the Easter Vigil
~The Elect receiving the Sacraments of Initiation
~Candidates receiving Confirmation and First Holy Communion
~The renewal of Baptismal promises

These are the Roman Rite rituals that I'm familiar with; I know that many of these rituals are observed in other Christian communities, but they are fundamentally Catholic rituals, and they remind me how blessed I am to be a Catholic.

Robert Royal writes in a different way about the blessings--the miracle--of being Catholic in his reflection on the greatest miracle of all, that in spite of all that Catholics and outsiders do to Jesus's Church, it endures:

Ezra Pound once felt the need to observe: “Any institution that could survive the picturesqueness of the Borgias has a certain native resiliency.” But it’s not only the Borgias. The number of things that we clearly see the Church has survived is quite impressive, indeed unprecedented compared with any other human institution: The death of Jesus. The betrayal of all the apostles (not just Judas). The martyrdom of all the apostles (except for John). Early heresies (so many they would require a separate list). Persecution and martyrdom by the Roman Empire. Acceptance by the Roman Empire. Collapse of the Roman Empire. Barbarian invasions. Saracen invasions (Old St. Peter’s itself sacked in 846). Conflicts with medieval (Christian) kings and emperors. Medieval heresies (Albigenses, Franciscan Spirituals, etc.). The Fall of Byzantium. Renaissance corruption. The Reformation (Rome sacked again in 1527 by the Lutheran troops of Catholic Holy Roman Emperor Charles V). The wars of religion. Late assaults by the Turks. Baroque corruptions. Pascal’s Jesuits. Kings claiming divine rights. Revolutions claiming absolute power. Napoleon. Freemasonry. Liberalism. Socialism. Nazism. Communism. Darwinism. Limp modern liturgies. Priestly sexual abuse. “Women religious” who believe in the Goddess or the cosmic process or whatever, and are proud of it.

This is just a partial list, which would at a minimum also need to recognize the constant presence of bad bishops and priests, and an ever-fickle laity. Under such circumstances – and given the tendency of all things to decay over time, it’s a miracle – perhaps, in a way, the greatest miracle of Christianity, that the Catholic Thing has survived, as Aquinas suggested. If we believe that Jesus is the God who created the universe, his rising from the dead was mere child’s play. Keeping together billions of fallen human beings, whom God has taken the risk of endowing with the freedom to choose their own ways, in a real historical Communion via the fragile earthen vessel we call the Church, may very well require even more divine powers. 

Also, every Holy Week when I experience these rituals, I think how horrible it would be to lose these outward representations--some are sacramentals and some are Sacraments--of the great Paschal Mystery. The Catholic people of England lost these rituals, and many others in the Sarum Use, in the sixteenth century. They were taken away in the name of preventing superstition but these rituals were not superstitious; the Church had developed these rituals to remind people of all that Jesus had done for His people, the Church. 

The rituals of Holy Week were taken away because the reformers did not trust the unity between Jesus and His Church; the reformers were complicating the matter in a way that St. Joan of Arc had warned against: "About Jesus Christ and the Church, I simply know they are just one thing and we shouldn't complicate the matter." Because the English reformers complicated the matter, the Catholic people of England ended up with palmless Palm Sundays, candleless Candlemases and ashless Ash Wednesdays not to mention Shrovetide without Confession and Communion without the Real Presence. So within a couple of generations, they weren't the Catholic people of England anymore and yet a few endured, suffered, survived and revived three centuries later--which is another miracle indeed.

Of course anything good can be abused; even replacing rituals with a non-ritual can be abused and even reading the Bible could be abused superstitiously. Our Christian faith is an incarnational religion that unites the human and Divine in the great mystery and miracle of Jesus and His Church, His Bride for whom He lived and died and rose and lives always. The Catholic Church, messy and sinful as we certainly are with people like me among us, displays that mystery most miraculously every Passiontide, Holy Week, and Triduum.

Both pictures provided and copyright by Mark U. Mann (c) 2013-2015; used by permission. (Holy Week afternoon at Blessed Sacrament; Easter Sunday at St. Anthony of Padua.)

Monday, March 30, 2015

Music for Holy Week from the Chapel of King's College, Cambridge

We venerate the wood of thy Cross, O thou who lovest mankind, for upon it thou, the life of all, was nailed. 

O Saviour, thou hast opened Paradise to the thief who turned to thee in faith, and thou hast counted him worthy of blessedness when he confessed to thee crying, 'O Lord remember me!' 

Accept us like him, as we cry: ‘We all have sinned, in thy merciful kindness despise us not.’ 

Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross; Orthodox. 

King's College, Cambridge is releasing a series of videos made inside the College Chapel featuring the stained glass windows depicting scenes of the Passion:

The films will feature Philharmonia Voices in a specially recorded performance of Grier’s Sword in the Soul, a seven-movement Passiontide sequence for choir, organ and virtuoso cello solo.

Interwoven with the footage of the Grier performance, and using it as a driving narrative force, the films explore the Passion story as portrayed in the famous stained glass windows.

The films focus on the majestic sequence of windows at the East end of the Chapel, which depict a dramatic succession of scenes including Christ before Pilate, Christ carrying the cross, his nailing to the cross, the crucifixion on Golgotha, and finally the deposition from the cross.

By exploring the windows in high resolution, the films will show the extraordinary detail of the stained glass in a way that is almost impossible for anyone viewing the windows from the floor of the Chapel.

The seven films last between two and five minutes, each one exploring a different aspect or episode of the Holy Week narrative. They will be released one by one on the King’s College website during the course of Holy Week in 2015, starting on Palm Sunday, 29 March, and culminating on Holy Saturday, 4 April.


The text of Sword in the Soul is here. More about the composition:

Grier’s Sword in the Soul was originally written in 1991 for a BBC Radio 4 broadcast, but it has not yet been commercially recorded. The imagery of the work’s sung texts, drawn from sources as diverse as the Orthodox liturgy and a 14th -century lyric poem, is particularly striking, making its 7- movement structure particularly well-suited to this visual treatment as a succession of contrasting video tableaux. As a BBC Radio 4 commission for Passiontide broadcast, Sword in the Soul was deliberately written by Grier in his most accessible and ravishing style, and this project will build on the work’s original aims by again ‘broadcasting’ it to a wide audience in Passiontide via the online release of the videos over Holy Week. 

This project is part of the 500th anniversary celebrations at the Chapel.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Jesus and Donkeys


We know that Jesus rode on a donkey for His triumphant entry into Jerusalem from the Gospels  to fulfill the prophecy of Zechariah: “Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” Giotto includes the entry in his frescoes of the life of Christ in the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua. (Look at the little smile on the donkey's face.)

There is also a tradition that Mary, carrying Jesus in her womb, rode on a donkey from Nazareth to Bethlehem--it is usually accepted that she would have ridden on a donkey on the way to Egypt after the murder of the Innocent baby boys by Herod. The Holy Family was not rich, so a donkey to carry the pregnant Mary and to carry Mary and the child Jesus is a reasonable assumption, but it's certainly not in scripture. Giotto pictures the donkey carrying Mary and Jesus to Egypt in same life cycle:



There is a lovely picture book titled The Donkey's Dream, which depicts the donkey carrying Mary to Bethlehem dreaming of what he is carrying: a city, a ship, a fountain, a rose, then a “lady full of heaven”, all images of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

So the humble work animal, the ass, might have carried Jesus to His birth in Bethlehem's stable, into Egypt (and perhaps back?) and certainly to His Passion, Death, and Resurrection in Jerusalem.

The seer Malle in H.F.M. Prescott's great chronicle of the Dissolution of the Monasteries and the Pilgrimage of Grace The Man on a Donkey sees Jesus come riding on a donkey over the bridge to Grinton. Her only message is "There was a great wind of light blowing, and sore pain." That echoes Mary's message to King Alfred the Great in Chesterton's epic poem The Ballad of the White Horse:

"I tell you naught for your comfort, 
 Yea, naught for your desire, 
 Save that the sky grows darker yet 
 And the sea rises higher. 

 "Night shall be thrice night over you, 
 And heaven an iron cope. 
 Do you have joy without a cause, 
 Yea, faith without a hope?"

Mentioning Chesterton brings me to his great poem on the donkey who carried Jesus into Jerusalem. Like the donkey dreaming in the children's book I linked above, Chesterton's donkey knows something great has happened:

When fishes flew and forests walked
And figs grew upon thorn,
Some moment when the moon was blood
Then surely I was born.

With monstrous head and sickening cry
And ears like errant wings,
The devil’s walking parody
On all four-footed things.

The tattered outlaw of the earth,
Of ancient crooked will;
Starve, scourge, deride me: I am dumb,
I keep my secret still.

Fools! For I also had my hour
One far fierce hour and sweet:
There was a shout about my ears,
And palms before my feet.


Hosanna to the Son of David! The King of Glory comes!

Saturday, March 28, 2015

The First Saturday in May: St. Thomas More

This is a bargain, folks, if I do say so myself: I'll be making a presentation at the Spiritual Life Center here in Wichita on Saturday, May 2 on St. Thomas More. From the Spiritual Life Center website:

The Real Saint Thomas More
A discussion and objection to the portrayal of St. Thomas More in the currently running miniseries on PBS "Wolf Hall"
Stephanie Mann

The 1966 movie
A Man for All Seasons has been the most popular and familiar depiction of St. Thomas More. Based on Robert Bolt’s play, the movie presents More as a family man, a man of conscience, faith, good humor, wit, and of course bravery. Hilary Mantel’s novel Wolf Hall and the BBC miniseries based on it, now airing on PBS on Masterpiece Theatre, give a very different view of St. Thomas More.

Mann will present this morning program at the Spiritual Life Center on Saturday, May 2 from 9:30 to 11:00 a.m. She will discuss the life and martyrdom of St. Thomas More and review some of the controversies of his era, including state prosecution of religious heresy and the issues of loyalties to secular and religious authority.

“One of the headlines in England when the miniseries first aired asked ‘Sir Thomas More: Saint or Sinner?’ and the answer is yes,” said Mann, “so we’ll reexamine what it means to be proclaimed a saint in the Catholic Church. It certainly does not mean that a saint never committed a sin.”

St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More were canonized as martyrs in 1935 by Pope Pius XI and Pope St. John Paul II named St. Thomas More the Patron of Statesmen and Politicians in 2000. More is also the patron saint of lawyers, large families, and adoption.


The cost for attending this presentation? Time, of course, and transportation--but the Spiritual Life Center's fee is only $10.00!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Sir Thomas Elyot's Connections with Thomas More

Sir Thomas Elyot, born around 1490, son of Sir Richard Elyot, died March 26, 1546. According to The Cambridge History of English and American Literature, Volume III Renascence and Reformation:

Elyot had no university training. He was educated at home and, at a comparatively early age, had acquired a good knowledge of Latin, Greek and Italian. He says that, before he was twenty, he had read Galen and other medical writings with a “worshipful physician,” conjectured to have been Linacre.

His earliest work, The Boke of the Governour, the best known of his writings, made him famous and probably proved his introduction to the career as a diplomatic agent in which he spent the greater part of his life. It is a lengthy and exhaustive treatise on the education which those who are destined to govern ought to receive. It begins with a discussion of the various kinds of commonwealths, and sets forth the advantages of monarchy, aristocracy and democracy. The author decides that monarchy is the best form of government; but it demands the appointment of subordinate rulers over the various parts of the kingdom who are to be the eyes, ears, hands and legs of the supreme ruler. They ought to be taken from the “estate called worshipful,” provided they have sufficient virtue and knowledge, but they must be carefully educated. It is the more necessary to insist upon this as education is not valued as it ought to be. Pride looks upon learning as a “notable reproach to a great gentleman,” and lords are apt to ask the price of tutors as they demand the qualification of cooks. . . . 

Elyot’s reputation among his contemporaries rested on more than his Boke of the Governour. He wrote The Castel of Helth, full of prescriptions and remedies largely selected from Galen and other medical authorities of antiquity. His two tracts: A swete and devoute sermon of Holy Saynt Ciprian, of Mortalitie of Man and The Rules of a Christian lyfe made by Picus, erle of Mirandula, both translated into Englyshe, provided food for the soul. His translations from Latin and Greek into English, made at a time when all were anxious to share in classical learning, and only a few possessed a knowledge of the classical languages sufficient to enable them to share its benefits, were very popular and were reprinted over and over again. To this class belong: The Doctrine of Princes, made by the noble oratour Isocrates, and translated out of Greke in to Englishe; The Bankette of Science (a collection of sayings translated from the Fathers); The Education or Bringinge up of Children, translated out of Plutarche; The Image of Governance, compiled of the actes and sentences notable of the moste noble Emperour Alexander Severus, late translated out of Greke into Englyshe and others of a like kind. Henry VIII himself encouraged Elyot in the compilation on his Latin-English lexicon: The Dictionary of Syr T. Eliot, knyght, with its later title, Bibliotheca Eliotae. This dictionary and his translations continued to be appreciated in a wonderful manner for two generations at least. If Erasmus popularised the classical renascence for scholars, Elyot rendered it accessible to the mass of the people who had no acquaintance with the languages of antiquity.


Elyot was also a friend of Sir Thomas More, a friendship with did not help him at Court during the 1530's. He acknowledged that friendship but protested his loyalty to Henry VIII was greater. When he traveled on diplomatic missions to persuade Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor to be more positive about Henry VIII's annulment of his marriage to Katherine of Aragon, he was accused of being lukewarm in his efforts. Although Elyot was involved in the suppression of the monasteries, but he did not benefit or receive any spoils. Like More, he was a proponent of education for women and he married one of Thomas More's students, Margaret Barrow. In 1540 he wrote The Defence of Good Women, espousing the view that an educated wife would be an excellent companion for her husband. Queen Zenobia of Palmyra in that book may represent Queen Katherine of Aragon, who was certainly well-educated and concerned for the education of the Princess Mary.

According to this review of Greg Walker's 2005 bookWriting Under Tyranny: English Literature and the Henrician Reformation, Elyot was indeed frustrated by his lack of success in Henry's Court:

The five chapters in section two describe and discuss the works of Sir Thomas Elyot within the context of the King's 'Great Matter', and the repeated frustrations of Elyot's desire for public office. Elyot's literary career apparently tracked his political one as he moved from the early optimism of his prescriptive work, The Book Named the Governor (1530–31), to the later reworking of classical Roman history in The Image of Governance (1540–41), which is read here, alongside Uwe Baumann's arguments from 1998–9 (for example), as a satire on contemporary life. Elyot's preface to this later book only paid lip-service to 'a measured defence of the Henrician via media' (p. 160), as Professor Walker, following George Bernard, describes Henry's 'chosen' religious policy of these years.

Elyot's fruitless search for a job at the centre of government, in particular a place on the privy council, and his real or imagined sense of grievance against Thomas Cranmer who succeeded where Elyot failed, is a familiar story. Its poignancy and its impact on his writing have also been discussed by Elyot's several biographers and by Professor Walker, briefly, in another book, but the detail and the clarity of its exposition here are to be welcomed. This section has a good narrative structure, and gives Elyot's story a satisfying emotional, as well as intellectual, coherence.


Elyot was on another diplomatic mission to the Court of the Holy Roman Emperor when Thomas More was tried, condemned and executed. He heard of his friend's death from Charles V, and was much distressed. Elyot did not profit at all from his work for Henry VIII because as a diplomat he bore the expenses of travel and hospitality. He had an estate in Carlton, Cambridgeshire and was buried in St. Peter's Church there.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

March 25: An Extraordinary Day

On March 25, 1586, St. Margaret Clitherow was pressed to death in the Toll Booth on the Ouse Bridge in the city of York--it was Good Friday that year. More about the Pearl of York here. She is one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales.

Today is also the Solemnity of the Annunciation of Our Lord, which was once a Holyday of Obligation (and should be again, I think). Only nine months until Christmas! John Mason Neale translated a hymn by Venantius Fortunatus, Quem terra, pontus, aethera thus:

The God whom earth, and sea, and sky,
Adore, and laud, and magnify,
Who o’er their threefold fabric reigns,
The virgin’s spotless womb contains.

The God whose will by moon and sun
And all things in due course is done,
Is borne upon a maiden’s breast,
By fullest heavenly grace possessed.

How blest the mother, in whose shrine
The great Artificer Divine,
Whose hand contains the earth and sky,
Vouchsafed, as in His ark, to lie!

Blest, in the message Gabriel brought;
Blest, by the work the Spirit wrought:
From whom the Great Desire of earth
Took human flesh and human birth.

All honor, laud, and glory be,
O Jesu, virgin-born, to Thee!
All glory, as is ever meet,
To Father and to Paraclete.

Here is a performance of the original Latin hymn in a composition by William Byrd.

Today is also Maryland Day, commemorating March 25, 1634 when the Ark and Dove (pictured left on a three cent stamp) landed in what is now St. Mary's County, Maryland. George Calvert, Lord Baltimore, a revert to the Catholic faith, founded a colony where Catholics could practice their faith as Protestants. More about Maryland Day here.

Finally, this is Tolkien Reading Day, celebrated every March 25 since 2003 by the Tolkien Society--March 25 is the date of the destruction of the Ring, and thus the Fall of Sauron. This Dominican blog unpacks more of the symbolism and significance of this day:

In a seemingly insignificant detail in one of the appendices of his masterpiece, The Lord of the Rings, J. R. R. Tolkien notes that the destruction of the One Ring and the defeat of Sauron took place on March 25. What might have led Tolkien to date the destruction of the ring with such precision? Being a devout Catholic, Tolkien most likely was subtly weaving into his work an ancient Christian tradition regarding the Solemnity of the Annunciation, the feast the Church celebrates today.

According to this tradition, the date of the Annunciation coincided with a number of significant events in salvation history. March 25 was not only the day on which Christ was conceived in Our Lady’s womb; it was also the day of the creation of the world, the day Adam and Eve fell, the day Abraham (nearly) sacrificed his son Isaac, the day the Israelites were set free from Egypt, and the day of the crucifixion. . . .

While Tolkien probably set the destruction of the ring on March 25th more for its association with the crucifixion than with the Annunciation, the two are intimately linked – the incarnation is ordered to the crucifixion (and, with it, the resurrection).

Tolkien’s use of this tradition illustrates an important aspect of the incarnation and the cross. While the destruction of the ring meant the defeat of Sauron, this did not put to an end all of Middle Earth’s troubles. The members of the fellowship still had work to do. Similarly, though the incarnation and the cross spell the defeat of Satan, we, too, have work to do. And like Frodo, our success will come not through earthly power, but by humility. For it was by the humility that characterized Mary, the New Eve, that she untied the knot of the first Eve, and it was by His humility that Christ overcame death (Phil 2:5-11). May she who is full of grace obtain for us the graces we need to participate in Christ’s humility and to obey Him in whatever tasks He gives us. 

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Saints and Sinners: Richard III

From Vincent Cardinal Nichols's homily at the Mass for Richard III, celebrated at Holy Cross Church, the Catholic parish church and Dominican priory on Monday, March 23:

This evening we fulfil a profound and essential Christian duty: that of praying for the dead, for the repose of their eternal souls. Here we pray for King Richard III, ‘King of England and France and Lord of Ireland’ to use a title he ascribed to himself. This is a remarkable moment.

The prayer we offer for him this evening is the best prayer there is: the offering of the Holy Mass, the prayer of Jesus himself, made complete in the oblation of his body and blood on the altar of the cross, present here for us on this altar. This is the summit of all prayer, for it is made in and through the one person, the eternal Word, through whom all created beings have life. It is a prayer that arises from the very core of creation, the cry of the Word returning to the Father and carrying within it the totality of that creation, marred and broken in its history, yet still longing for the completion for which it has been created. It is, therefore, such an important Catholic tradition to seek the celebration of Mass for the repose of the souls of those who have died, especially for each of our loved ones whose passing we mourn. Let us not forget or neglect this great gift. . . .

. . . this evening we pray that the merciful judgement of our loving God is extended to him in every degree, for we know that it is only the gift of God’s mercy that protects us from the demands of God’s justice.

I am much relieved that this evening we are not required to come to any such judgement ourselves. Indeed the judgement of our fellow human being is only of passing consequence for we know how fickle that judgement can be. This we see most clearly as reflection continues on the dramatic years of the House of Tudor in both fiction and historical research: saints are recast as sinners and sinners can become saints. But that is not our business. . . .


This evening we pray that this promise of the Lord is indeed fulfilled. We offer this holy Mass that even while his remains are lying in the Cathedral nearby, his soul is united with God in the glory of heaven there to await the final resurrection of all things in Christ.

This was the hope he held in his heart. This is the hope we hold for ourselves and our loved ones too. We share this one hope and the faith and love which accompany it. In this grace we pray for this dead King and we pray that the kingship in Christ, given to us all, may truly guide our lives and make us builders of that eternal Kingdom here in our world today.


I appreciate the Cardinal's glancing reference to Wolf Hall and how Thomas More the saint has been "recast" as a sinner--especially when remembering that More wrote about Richard III as a tyrant!

This site has all the details of the re-burial of Richard III in the Anglican cathedral in Leicester, including the text of the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster's homily at Compline Sunday night. You may see the beautiful chasuble the Cardinal wore at Mass yesterday here.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Yet Another Charles Carroll

The Carroll family of Maryland is recognized because Charles Carroll of Carrollton was the only Catholic and the last surviving signer of the Declaration of Independence. His family used descriptions to distinguish between the different generations of Charles Carrolls: Charles Carroll the Settler, Charles Carroll of Annapolis, Charles Carroll of Carrollton, and Charles Carroll of Homewood.

The Charles Carroll born today, March 22, in 1723 called himself Charles Carroll, Barrister. He was a distant Anglican cousin of the great Maryland Carrolls. His father--you guessed it--Charles Carroll, a surgeon had left Ireland in 1715 and renounced Catholicism to become an Anglican. As the website for Mount Clare Museum House notes:

At that time Maryland was a Protestant colony and Roman Catholics were not allowed to hold public office or have public worship services. Dr. Carroll wanted to be able to own land and participate in political activities. He settled in Annapolis where he practiced medicine and engaged in land speculation. In 1722, Dr. Carroll married Dorothy Blake of Talbot County on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. On Sunday, March 22, 1723, their first son, Charles, was born. Dr. and Mrs. Carroll had two other children, John Henry and Mary Clare.

Dr. Charles Carroll was also ambitious for his son:

Dr. Carroll wished Charles be educated abroad, so at the age of 10, Charles, with his father, left Annapolis for England. The voyage was difficult, forcing them ashore in Portugal. Because the trip was so traumatic for young "Charlie", Dr. Carroll left him with the Reverend Edward Jones at English House in West Lisbon, Portugal, where he stayed until he was 16. He then went to England to attend Eton and later entered the University of Cambridge. After 12 years of study abroad, Charles returned to Annapolis in 1746. He enjoyed the sophisticated social life of Annapolis, at the same time applying himself to learning the management of the farms and mills on the Patapsco. Dr. Carroll felt Charles should have further education in order to advance in the world, so at the age of 28, Charles set sail for England where he studied law at the Inns of Court and resided in the Middle Temple in London.

Charles, now a Barrister-at-Law, returned home three months before his father's death in 1755, well prepared to assume the duties commensurate with his large inheritance. At the age of 32 he was one of the wealthiest members of the Maryland aristocracy. He was elected to fill his father's seat as the Delegate from Anne Arundel County to the Lower House of the Assembly. As there were four Carrolls of the same name living in Annapolis at that time, Charles designated himself in 1766 as "Charles Carroll, Barrister".
(my emphasis)

Charles Carroll, Barrister died 60 years and one day old on March 23, 1783. As Ronald Hoffman, author of Princes of Ireland, Planters of Maryland: A Carroll Saga, 1500-1782, notes, Charles Carroll, Barrister's father's choice to convert was one that the other Charles Carrolls, from the Settler, through of Annapolis, to of Carrollton and of Homewood, refused to make, even though the Settler had come to Maryland in 1688 hoping to take advantage of the religious tolerance of Catholic Maryland. Bad timing, since the Glorious Revolution of 1688 wiped out that tolerance and religious freedom. Fortunately, Maryland officials never really enforced the penal laws against Catholics in Maryland with any regularity. Charles Carroll of Carrollton studied for many years on the Continent and in England in an effort to prepare him for life in Anglican Maryland, as Hoffman notes in this paper for the American Antiquarian Society.

Charles Carroll, Barrister and his Catholic cousins did cooperate in the revolutionary cause--but it's Charles Carroll of Carrollton we remember.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Elena Maria Vidal Interviews Nancy Bilyeau


From the Tea at Trianon blog, this interview with Nancy Bilyeau (above) has these last questions, and if you'll scroll down you'll see why the last one in particular piqued my interest:

5.) Thomas Cromwell, whom many regard as Henry's evil genius in the pillaging of the monasteries, has experienced some good press lately via Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall. Why do you think Henry gave Cromwell such a free hand in despoiling Catholic religious houses and shrines, etc. in England?

NB: There were two reasons. Money and vindictiveness. Henry VIII was emptying his treasury. He spent a great deal of the money that his frugal father, Henry VII, left him on trying to wage war on France and on luxurious living. Cromwell opened up an enormous new source of cash: the land and buildings and valuables owned by the Catholic abbeys, priories and shrines. It was a land grab. Henry VIII would not have to beg Parliament for money or be forced to listen to his nobles if he had his own source of money. And by handing out properties to the “new men,” he bound them closer to him alone.

The vindictiveness comes from the king’s anger over the Pope not granting him the annulment he wanted. He had to wait for years, being frustrated and sometimes outmaneuvered by the opposition: his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, her nephew, the Emperor Charles V, and those loyal to them. By the time Henry VIII married Anne Boleyn and had himself declared head of the Church of England, he was seething. He seemed like he had won a victory, but by pulling away from the great Catholic powers he isolated himself. And then he had to defeat a very serious rebellion, the Pilgrimage of Grace, that broke out in the North of England, among people who feared and hated Cromwell’s religious reforms. Henry VIII blamed the monastic orders for stirring up dissent and also he distrusted them because he thought their loyalty was to their orders and to Rome, rather than to him. He took out his vengeance. His cruelty to some, such as the Observant Franciscans, the Carthusian Martyrs and the abbot of Glastonbury, is stomach turning. You don’t see any of this in Wolf Hall.


6.) Joanna is a devout but spirited heroine and anything but dull. Thank you for challenging the stereotypes that exist about pious people, namely that they are dull, bigoted and cannot think for themselves. Joanna is bursting with life, love and determination and actually reminds me of some nuns that I have known. Where do you think people get such dreary stereotypes of devout people?

NB: I think that some people who don’t know anything about nuns and monks believe they are strange, joyless creatures. They don’t see any happiness in devotion to a spiritual life. I met a sister at a real Dominican Order in the United States who was friendly and upbeat and told jokes. A nice “normal” person. She read my second and third books for accuracy. And in my books I tried to show the spirited intellectual life of the time, particularly in The Crown. Having a meal with Bishop Stephen Gardiner would be many things, I’m sure, but it would not be dull! I received two emails from friars after The Crown was published that said they felt I had captured what it was like to live in a religious community.

7.) For those who are inspired by your novels to explore Tudor England through their own research, what non-fiction books would you recommend?

NB: There are so many wonderful books! Here is a sampling:

The Stripping of the Altars and Saints, Sacrilege and Sedition, by Eamon Duffy

Henry VIII, by Jasper Ridley

Inside the Tudor Court: Henry VIII and His Six Wives Through the Writings of His Spanish Ambassador, by Lauren Mackay

Winter King: Henry VII and the Dawn of Tudor England, by Thomas Penn

Henry VIII: The King and His Court and The Lady in the Tower, by Alison Weir

Elizabeth: The Struggle for the Throne, by David Starkey

The Creation of Anne Boleyn, by Susan Bordo

Supremacy and Survival, by Stephanie Mann

Read the rest there. Nancy also mentions my review on her blog!