Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Dawson's Six Ages

Last Saturday, my husband and I attended a class on Dawson and Church History at the Spiritual Life Center here in Wichita. The presenter, Jackie Arnold, had written her master's thesis on this organizing principle of Catholic Church history. She had her reading suggestions for Church history, but I introduced her and the class to John Vidmar's one-volume book The Catholic Church Through the Ages: A History, soon to be published in a second edition by Paulist Press:

The Catholic Church through the Ages, now in its second edition, is a one-volume survey of the history of the Catholic Church from its beginning until (and including) the pontificate of Pope Francis. The book explains the Church's progress by using Christopher Dawson's division of the Church's history into six distinct "ages," or 350-400 year periods of time, each cycle beginning with great enthusiasm and advancement and ending in decline and loss. Writing with the experience of thirty years of teaching, the author has fashioned an ideal text that combines substance with readability.

Undergraduates, graduates, and interested lay people have given the author an idea of what topics should be emphasized. As a result, he has emphasized such areas monasticism, the Crusades, medieval theology, the Inquisition, Reformation, French Revolution, the nineteenth century, and the Church in the United States. And he has added material on the Oxford Movement, John Henry Newman s contributions to the Oxford Movement and to the Catholic intellectual tradition, and the Catholic literary revival that took place in several countries in the early twentieth century, as well as on the last three popes.

As a supplement to each chapter, the author has included an updated the recommended readings and bibliography, as well as the audio-visual materials.

The Six Ages of the Church are:

The Apostolic Age (1-ca. 300)
The Patristic Age (ca. 300-650)
The Carolingian Age (650-1000)
The High Middle Ages (1000-1500)
The Age of Baroque (1550-1789)
The Modern Age (1789-Present)

We discussed in class whether or not we are about to enter into a seventh age of the Church with a new cycle of revival to address our late 20th century/early 21st century crisis.

The same speaker will make another presentation on Saturday, October 11 from 9 am. to 12 noon:

Catholic Authors of the 20th Century
If you love books and Catholicism, this course is for you!

This class is geared toward literature-loving persons who appreciate a good novel while also seeking out Catholic themes. During this morning course, Ms. Arnold will introduce a number of “great” (by her own estimation) 20th century authors: J.R.R. Tolkien, Graham Greene, Evelyn Waugh, Sigrid Undsett, Flannery O’Conner, Walker Percy, and Michael O’Brien. A brief biography of each author will be given along with a look at the ideas and synopses of their major works.

The focus of the class will be to show the moral, liturgical, spiritual, and doctrinal themes that each author focuses on, as well as trying to weave them into a larger picture of addressing the issues surrounding the 20th century from a specifically Catholic viewpoint. Time permitting we will have some “book discussion” groups, perhaps after reading a short story.  

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

William Oddie on Father Ian Ker's "Newman on Vatican II"

In The Catholic Herald William Oddie discusses Father Ian Ker's new book Newman and Vatican II:

Newman was not a systematic theologian; he himself insisted that he was, rather, a controversialist. In this he seems instinctively to have identified himself with the fathers of the early Church who, as he pointed out, “rather than writing formal doctrinal treatises… write controversy”. Newman wrote voluminously in response to particular occasions. Sometimes, this meant writing a book (The Idea of a University, the Apologia Pro Vita Sua) or a sermon or a series of lectures (Certain Difficulties Felt by Anglicans in Catholic Teaching); most, often perhaps, a letter, of which there are at least 20,000 extant.

Sometimes Newman’s controversial instinct, normally expressed gently, produced polemic of wonderful wit and acid brilliance, as with his defence, in the Apologia, of his own integrity and that of his Church against the contemptuous attacks of Charles Kingsley. Kingsley was generally seen at the time as having been quite crushed by Newman’s response, and in the second and subsequent editions of the Apologia Newman, magnanimous in victory, consigned his most swingeingly cutting opening chapters to an appendix. Normally, he is more gentle in his argumentation; but he responds unfailingly to the issues in which he finds himself engaged or which are brought before him: much of his thought is contained in his correspondence, on which Dr Ian Ker has drawn heavily in this new book, his brilliant, indispensable and pithily entitled (sic) Newman on Vatican II.

It is a real question. How, indeed, would this controversialist “Father of Vatican II” have responded to the manifold controversies of these post-conciliar times? Everyone, liberal or conservative, attempts to recruit Newman for their own point of view. . . .

As I've heard Father Ian Ker discuss that last point, he ascribes it to selective quotation, leaving out the context of some pithy saying of Newman so that he means the opposite of what he was saying. Anyone writing or speaking about Newman has to be very careful not to manipulate him into saying something he didn't. You must read him deeply and carefully and make sure you have not misstated his ideas.

Dr Ker argues that Newman would have understood the Council in a broadly similar way to that in which Pope Benedict explained it; thus, we can see Newman not merely as the “unseen Father of Vatican II” but also as a guardian of its aftermath. Just as Benedict XVI said, explaining his ideas on “The Hermeneutic of Change in Continuity” (one of Dr Ker’s chapter titles), that the Church “increases in time and develops, yet always remaining the same”, so Newman had said, in his “Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine”, that Christianity “changes in order to remain the same”. . . .

Read the rest here.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Our Lady of Sorrows

La vierge de Douleur by Germain Pilon (1586), from St. Paul-St. Louis in Paris, the Marais. (c) 2012 Stephanie A. Mann.

I have visited St. Paul-St. Louis many times during our visits to this church in the Marais and this sculpture always makes me look twice. From Mary's position I expect to see the dead body of her Son Jesus Christ on her lap as she is seated with right knee raised--as though Pilon sculpted a Pieta and forgot something!

Pilon was a French Renaissance era sculptor and favorite artist of Catherine de Medici--he sculpted the tomb of Henri II and Catherine at St. Denis that included their praying figures above their recumbent dead bodies.

Our Lady of Sorrows, pray for us!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Lift High the Cross--The Triumph of the Cross

For this Feast of the Triumph of Exaltation of the Cross, I refer you to my article published in the September/October 2013 issue of OSV's The Catholic Answer Magazine, available on-line without subscription:

Each September the Church celebrates the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross on Sept. 14, and the memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows follows on Sept. 15.

The pairing of these celebrations, even in their different levels on the liturgical and sanctoral calendars, properly guides us in our levels of devotion and love of our Savior and Our Lady. He is our Divine Redeemer, to be worshiped and adored; she is His first disciple and our example. Both of these celebrations have a long history and are worthy of meditation.

We have been listening to a recording of Spanish Choral religious music, O Crux, by Coro Cervantes, which features the great Velasquez Crucifixion on its cover:

19th century Spanish music? Thorough research of Spanish Romantic music has unearthed some of Spain's most beautiful and sumptuous sacred choral music, with styles ranging from the unapologetic taste for Italian opera to the strictest counterpoint which can be found since the sixteenth century Spanish Golden Age.  This multiplicity of styles is reflected in works by Arriaga, Sor, Ledesma, Monasterio, Barbieri, Eslava, Bretón, Vives, Albéniz, etc. 

The liner notes explain how the Napoleonic invasion of Spain led to the destruction of the religious choral music tradition and how that destruction continued the 1851 concordat which "reduced the size of music chapels, abolished schools for child choristers and banned anyone who was not a clergyman from performing music in chapels"!

One of the tracks is Fernando Sors' O Crux:

O Crux ave, spes unica,
hoc Passionis tempore!
piis adauge gratiam,
reisque dele criminal.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

A Catholic Colony Before Maryland

Jessie Childs writes on the OUPBlog about an idea to found a colony in the New World to provide religious freedom to English Catholics during the reign of Elizabeth I:

Over the summer of 1582 a group of English Catholic gentlemen met to hammer out their plans for a colony in North America — not Roanoke Island, Sir Walter Raleigh’s settlement of 1585, but Norumbega in present-day New England.

The scheme was promoted by two knights of the realm, Sir George Peckham and Sir Thomas Gerard, and it attracted several wealthy backers, including a gentleman from the midlands called Sir William Catesby. In the list of articles drafted in June 1582, Catesby agreed to be an Associate. In return for putting up £100 and ten men for the first voyage (forty for the next), he was promised a seignory of 10,000 acres and election to one of “the chief offices in government”. Special privileges would be extended to “encourage women to go on the voyage” and according to Bernardino de Mendoza, the Spanish ambassador in London, the settlers would “live in those parts with freedom of conscience.”

Religious liberty was important for these English Catholics because they didn’t have it at home. The Mass was banned, their priests were outlawed and, since 1571, even the possession of personal devotional items, like rosaries, was considered suspect. In November 1581, Catesby was fined 1,000 marks (£666) and imprisoned in the Fleet for allegedly harboring the Jesuit missionary priest, Edmund Campion, who was executed in December.

William Catesby's son Robert would lead the Gunpowder plotters in 1605:

Seven years later, in the reign of the next monarch James I (James VI of Scotland), William’s son Robert became what we would today call a terrorist. Frustrated, angry and “beside himself with mindless fanaticism,” he contrived to blow up the king and the House of Lords at the state opening of Parliament on 5 November 1605. “The nature of the disease,” he told his recruits, “required so sharp a remedy.” The plot was discovered and anti-popery became ever more entrenched in English culture. Only in 2013 was the constitution weeded of a clause that insisted that royal heirs who married Catholics were excluded from the line of succession.

Every 5 November, we British set off our fireworks and let our children foam with marshmallow, and we enjoy “bonfire night” as a bit of harmless fun, without really thinking about why the plotters sought their “sharp remedy” or, indeed, about the tragedy of the father’s failed American Dream, a dream for religious freedom that was twisted out of all recognition by the son.

Friday, September 12, 2014

An Interesting Assignment for England's Primate

Vincent Cardinal Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, is scheduled to offer the homily at a Compline service at the formerly Catholic church now Anglican Cathedral during the programme of Richard III's reinternment. He will also offer a Requiem Mass at the Holy Cross Priory in Leicester, according to The Catholic Herald:

Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster is to take part in services marking the reinterment of Richard III at Leicester’s Anglican cathedral in March next year.

The cardinal will preach at a service of compline on the day the king’s remains are received into the cathedral and will celebrate a Requiem Mass the next day at a nearby Catholic parish.

Dominican friars will also sing vespers at the cathedral in the run-up to the reinterment and Fr David Rocks OP, parish priest, will preach at a lunchtime Eucharist.

The Dominicans are filling in for the Greyfriars, in whose priory Richard III was originally buried after the Battle of Bosworth Field. That priory, of course, was destroyed after the Dissolution of the Monasteries so that Richard's remains were lost.

If Richard III had won the Battle of Bosworth Field, none of these events scheduled for next March would be taking place. None of the martyrs remembered at Holy Cross Priory would have spoken their last words at Tyburn or on Tower Hill. None of the religious changes of the Tudor dynasty would have occurred. There would be no established Church of England. I doubt very much that Cardinal Nichols will bring all that up.

As Cardinal Nichols notes, 
“The death of King Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485 was a decisive moment in English history. Following his death, Richard III was buried in the Franciscan Friary in Leicester, and his body lay in its grave until it was discovered in 2012. It is now fitting that his remains should be reinterred with dignity and accompanied by the prayers of the Church in Leicester Cathedral, the mediaeval parish church of Leicester. We commend all who have died to the love and mercy of Almighty God, and continue to pray for them, as we shall for Richard III and all who have lost their lives in battle.
The Anglican Cathedral has a separate website for King Richard in Leicester.

The Holy Name of Mary and Vienna

Christopher Check writes about the defeat of the Turks who were besieging Vienna on September 12, 1683:

Before dawn, Sobieski assisted at Mass in the ruined Church of the Camaldolites, offered by Blessed Marco D’Viano. Gathering his force he commended their mission and their souls to the care of the Blessed Virgin.

The descent began.

As the sun rose on the morning of 12 September, the Ottomans saw, according their own account, “a flood of black pitch flowing down the hill, smothering and incinerating everything that lay in its way.”

Taking one ridge at a time, the Christians fought their way down the hill. Little could the commanders do but exhort their forces to press ahead in the confusion. The Saxons on the left of the Holy League line were the first to engage the forward deployed Ottomans, but by ten a.m. the whole Turkish army was arrayed for counterattack. For several hours the battle traded advantage, the Holy League ever closing on the city.

By late afternoon, Sobieski’s army had reached the plain, and he was now positioned to exploit his greatest asset, the famed Winged Hussars. Drawing up these courageous cavalrymen, their feathered plumes streaming off their backs, he led them himself, lances couched in a full-tilt charge at the center of the Ottoman line. Shouting “Jezus Maria ratuj!” they charged and reformed, charged and reformed, charged and reformed. The Polish horsemen followed their intrepid king deeper and deeper into the army of Islam, smashing what remained of their resistance, setting the followers of Muhammad to flight, relieving the siege, and carrying the day.

“We came, we saw, God conquered.” Sobieski wrote to Innocent XI.

Pope Blessed Innocent XI instituted the today's feast of the Holy Name of Mary to commemorate that victory. After the Second Vatican Council the feast was suppressed, but Pope St. John Paul II restored it to the universal Roman Calendar in 2002. Check wonders if the pope was inspired by the the 9-11, 2001 attacks in New York and Washington, DC (and Shanksville, PA before the plane reached its target).

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Portrait of St. Thomas More's Meg, in Miniature

In The Wall Street Journal, Barrymore Laurence Scherer (I love that name!) writes about an exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on miniatures, and comments on Hans Holbein's portraits of William and Margaret Roper:

Two of the show's finest miniatures are also its earliest ones: a pair by Hans Holbein the Younger (1497/98–1543) depicting the wealthy lawyer and parliamentarian William Roper and his wife, Margaret. Holbein, celebrated for his Tudor court portraits in oils, had studied this diminutive art with England's first miniaturist, Lucas Horenbout, and during the last decade of his life produced a series of circular miniatures that set a standard for his successors.

As in Holbein's full-size portraits, these two are persuasively lifelike in their sobriety, with details that add to our understanding of each sitter's character. There is no sense that Holbein attempted to idealize Roper's heavy-lidded eyes and protruding lower lip or Margaret's long nose and gaunt features. Both portraits are inscribed with the respective sitter's age in Latin—Roper looks his 42 years, but Margaret looks rather elderly for 30 until you realize that this eldest daughter of Sir Thomas More had seen her father made Lord Chancellor of England by Henry VIII only to be persecuted and finally executed when he opposed Henry's schism with the Roman Catholic Church and repudiation of papal supremacy.

Not to mention rescuing her father's head from Tower Bridge!

Unlike most of the bust-length portraits in this show, these two include the sitters' hands. Roper clasps the edges of his fur-lined cloak with both hands, showing off his large ring while suggesting that he is about to address a jury. Margaret, wearing a magnificently embroidered English hood, holds a finely bound book with gold clasps. Her left thumb marks her place, pointedly suggesting actual reading. This is a significant gesture because—unusual for the period—More gave all his daughters the same Classical education that he gave his son. Margaret herself was noted for her learning.

She even corrected Erasmus.

Coming Next Month from Mayapple Books

“With this marvelous immigrant saga, Elena Maria Vidal reminds us why our forebears left the Old World for the New: for Faith, family, and freedom! Through three generations of an Irish clan in Canada, she invites us into their home for struggle and triumph, celebrations of joy and sorrow, music, feasting, and dancing. The Paradise Tree makes ‘the past and present mingle and become one’ for the reader’s great delight.” ~Stephanie A. Mann, author of Supremacy and Survival: How Catholics Endured the English Reformation

Elena Maria Vidal's latest historical fiction novel is about her family, her Irish ancestors who fled English persecution in Ireland and came to Canada to settle and prosper, practicing their Catholic faith and raising their families. She asked me to blurb her book and I enjoyed reading the early proof so much. The final designed cover is above, with its glorious green and the excellent symbolism of the tree and the arbor on the cover with the picture of her great-great-great grandparents, Daniel and Brigit O'Connor.

I'll be participating in her blog tour with an interview on October 11. If you enjoy family sagas, this is an excellent book for your reading enjoyment. More to come next month . . .

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

England=ISIS; Irish Catholics=Middle Eastern Christians?

In The Week Michael Brendan Dougherty writes about the choices Catholics faced in Ireland after "The Glorious Revolution":
When William of Orange defeated his father-in-law, the deposed King James II, along with his Irish Catholic allies at the Boyne in 1690, Parliament was determined that an Irish Catholic uprising never threaten their rule again, and so they passed penal laws, or "papist codes." As author Thomas Keneally put it, these codes were "aimed at keeping the native Irish powerless, poor, and stupid."
The details of these laws should still shock us. All Catholic bishops, and religious clergy (friars, etc), had to leave the country or face death. Any bishops coming from foreign countries were to be killed. All remaining Catholic priests were to sign an oath that was abominable to their conscience, or be killed. Catholic priests caught "perverting" a Protestant (i.e., receiving them into the church, or marrying them to a Catholic) were to be killed. Ordinary Catholics could not have schools, could not teach in schools, and could not be the guardian of a child. They could not travel abroad to attend schools. They could not own a horse worth more than five pounds. They could not accept substantial gifts from Protestants. Catholics could not live within five miles of incorporated towns. (This law applied to 80 percent of the island's population.)
Any decent Catholic church building was confiscated and given to the official "Church of Ireland." Catholics were to be whipped if they refused to work on Catholic holidays or visited holy sites. They could not own weapons. Upon death, Catholics were to split their lands among all their children, unless a child or a child's spouse was a Protestant, in which case the Protestant child was given the entire estate. Catholics were excluded from all professions and from voting. No tradesman was allowed to have more than two Catholic apprentices. There were standing bounties made available to "priest-hunters." The old Catholic Encyclopedia summarizes the papist codes this way: "The law presumed every Catholic to be faithless, disloyal, and untruthful, assumed him to exist only to be punished, and the ingenuity of the Legislature was exhausted in discovering new methods of repression."
Edmund Burke called the Penal Laws "a machine of wise and elaborate contrivance, as well fitted for the oppression, impoverishment and degradation of a people, and the debasement in them of human nature itself, as ever proceeded from the perverted ingenuity of man."
Dougherty notes the Penal Laws' results:
Now, these laws were not always or effectively enforced. Irish Catholics found ways to educate their children at illegal "hedge schools." The Catholic Church continued to send bishops to the isle, and some people found ways of sending their children to Spain, France, or Rome for an education. The penal laws failed to achieve their aim of de-Catholicizing Ireland. The faith survived because it thrives in persecution and because of the support of institutions beyond England's reach. But an older map of the gaeltacht, where the Irish language is still a mother tongue, doubles as a map of places where the difficulty of the terrain and the wildness of native resistance finally restrained the English cupidity for Irish land and estates.
The full results of these English policies would unfold over centuries. A century and a half after the codes were installed, Irish Catholics were concentrated on poorer lands, relied far too heavily on calorie-rich potatoes, and had no margin for failure when it came to the rent system of agriculture. When the famine came in the 19th century, over 1 million Irish died of starvation or disease. Nearly 2 million more emigrated. In some waves, about one in five emigrants died on the journey. Ireland lost one quarter of its population in just over a decade. The prefamine population of Ireland was higher in 1840 than it is even today. As Ireland's men and children were dying, Parliamentarians speculated that the crop failure was "a Visitation of Providence, an expression of divine displeasure," and entertained themselves with cartoons depicting the Irish as simians, while they dined on still-cheap Irish beef and butter.
Statements like that certainly support Tim Pat Coogan's view of England's Role in The Great Hunger:
During a Biblical seven years in the middle of the nineteenth century, Ireland experienced the worst disaster a nation could suffer. Fully a quarter of its citizens either perished from starvation or emigrated, with so many dying en route that it was said, "you can walk dry shod to America on their bodies." In this grand, sweeping narrative, Ireland''s best-known historian, Tim Pat Coogan, gives a fresh and comprehensive account of one of the darkest chapters in world history, arguing that Britain was in large part responsible for the extent of the national tragedy, and in fact engineered the food shortage in one of the earliest cases of ethnic cleansing. So strong was anti-Irish sentiment in the mainland that the English parliament referred to the famine as "God's lesson."

Drawing on recently uncovered sources, and with the sharp eye of a seasoned historian, Coogan delivers fresh insights into the famine's causes, recounts its unspeakable events, and delves into the legacy of the "famine mentality" that followed immigrants across the Atlantic to the shores of the United States and had lasting effects on the population left behind. This is a broad, magisterial history of a tragedy that shook the nineteenth century and still impacts the worldwide Irish diaspora of nearly 80 million people today.