Friday, August 28, 2015

August Martyrs: Reaction to the Spanish Armada

August 28, 1588 was busy day for executioners throughout London, as several new gibbets had been constructed. With the defeat or failure of the Spanish Armada, government officials sought to make quite an example.

According to most accounts of the Spanish Armada I've read, Catholics in England were opposed to a foreign invasion and helped with defense of their homeland with as much enthusiasm as any Anglicans. Catholics in exile, especially Cardinal William Allen and Father Robert Persons or Parsons had encouraged the effort, but not Catholics at home. Sir Thomas Arundell, First Baron of Wardour for example was known as a fervent Catholic and was even imprisoned for his faith in 1580. He gave 100 pounds to the government to assist in the defense of England against the Armada.

Nevertheless, here are those who suffered on August 28 in London at Tyburn, Mile End, Lincoln's Inn Field, Islesworth, Clerkenwell, and near the Theatre:

Blessed Hugh More or Moor, educated at Oxford (see below, under Blessed Robert Morton)

Blessed James Claxton:

James Claxton, of Yorkshire, England, journeyed to the continent to study for the priesthood, receiving his seminary education at the English College of Reims, France. Following his ordination, Father Claxton returned to England in 1582 to begin serving the country’s Catholic population persecuted by the Protestant regime of Queen Elizabeth I. Within three years of his return, he was arrested and imprisoned. In 1585, he was banished from England for being a priest. But determined not to abandon the English faithful, Father Claxton secretly re-entered the country. He was soon discovered by the Elizabethan authorities, who after capturing him put him on trial. Father Claxton was sentenced to death for being a priest and for defying the banishment order. Father Claxton suffered execution by drawing and quartering together with the young Minim friar (Blessed) Thomas Felton on August 28, 1588.

Blessed Robert Morton:

English priest and martyr, b. at Bawtry, Yorks, about 1548; executed in Lincoln's Inn Fields, London, Wednesday, 28 August, 1588 (the catalogue probably compiled by Fr. John Gerard, S.J., and printed by Fr. Pollen, S.J., in "Cath. Rec. Soc. Publ.", V, 288-293, gives the date of the deaths of the Venerabiles Morton, Moor, Holford, Claxton, and Felton as 30 August, but this seems to be an error). He was the son of Robert Morton, and nephew of Dr. Nicholas Morton, was ordained deacon at Rome and priest at Reims in 1587, and condemned at Newgate 26 August merely for being a priest contrary to 27 Eliz., c. 2. At the same time and place suffered Hugh Moor, a layman, aged 25, of Grantham, Lincolnshire, and Gray's Inn, London, for having been reconciled to the Church by Fr. Thomas Stephenson, S.J. On the same day suffered (1) at Mile End, William Dean, a priest; and Henry Webley, a layman, born in the city of Gloucester; (2) near the Theatre, William Gunter, a priest, born at Raglan, Monmouthshire, educated at Reims; (3) at Clerkenwell, Thomas Holford, a priest, born at Aston, in Acton, Cheshire, educated at Reims, who was hanged only; and (4) between Brentford and Hounslow, Middlesex, James Claxton or Clarkson, a priest, born in Yorkshire and educated at Reims; and Thomas Felton, born at Bermondsey Abbey in 1567, son of B. John Felton, tonsured 1583 and about to be professed a Minim, who had suffered terrible tortures in prison. According to one account there also suffered on the same day at Holywell, London, one Richard Williams, a Welsh priest of Queen Mary's reign. Another, however, puts his death in 1592 or 1593. Fr. Pollen thinks his name occurs in this year in mistake for that of John Harrison, alias Symonds, a letter carrier, who was it seems executed at Tyburn, 5 October, 1588.

Blessed Thomas Felton, whose father, John Felton was executed for posting the Papal Bull excommunicating Elizabeth I after the Northern Rebellion.

Blessed Thomas Holford, formerly a Protestant schoolmaster:

Blessed Thomas Holford spent five fraught years working on the English Mission, in what were among the most dangerous of years, before he was finally caught after celebrating Mass at the home of St Swithin Wells in Holborn, London, and was hanged with five priests and eight lay Catholics on 28th August 1588 at nearby Clerkenwell.

Blessed Thomas was born in Acton, near Nantwich, into an affluent and well-known Cheshire family, most of whom lived in the vicinity of Holford Hall, near Lower Peover, Altrincham.

He was received into the Catholic faith by Father Richard Davis, a priest from Hereford, while serving as a resident tutor to the children of Sir James Scudamore of Holm Lacey, and on 15th August 1582 to train as a priest in Rheims. He was ordained the following April and arrived in London in the summer, narrowly escaping from a house raided by pursuivants.


He was captured when he returned to Nantwich two years later, however. Uncompromising replies under questioning by the Anglican Bishop of Chester led to him being returned to London for trial but escaped his escorts when they were wrestling with hangovers from the previous night.

The bishop left a description of Blessed Thomas as a “tall, black (haired), fat, strong man, the crown of his head bald, his beard marquessated (shaven except for a moustache)”.

The priest was almost caught a third time in 1586 when Sir Francis Walsingham raided London Catholic houses in the wake of the failed Babington plot to kill Queen Elizabeth I and replace her with Mary, Queen of Scots, narrowly making his escape from the home of Sir Richard Bellamy.

Blessed Thomas, who used the alias “Acton”, stayed away from London for a while after that episode but he returned in 1588 to buy clothes. He was spotted by pursuivants after the Mass in Holborn and trailed to the tailors and arrested.


Blessed William Dean, a former Protestant minister, he had been arrested and exiled and returned to England:

Born in Yorkshire, England, date uncertain, martyred 28 August, 1588. He studied at Reims and was ordained priest at Soissons, 21 December, 1581, together with the martyrs George Haydock and Robert Nutter. Their ordination coincided with the time that the news of Campion's martyrdom reached the college. Dean said his first Mass 9 January and left for England 25 January, 1581. He is called by Champney "a man distinguished by the soundness of his morals and learning". He was banished with a number of other priests in 1585, put ashore on the coast of Normandy, and threatened with death if he dared to go back to England. Nevertheless he quickly returned to his labours there and was again arrested, tried, and condemned for his priesthood, 22 August, 1588. The failure of the Spanish Armada, in spite of the loyalty manifested by English Catholics at that crisis, brought about a fierce persecution and some twenty-seven martyrs suffered that year. Six new gibbets were erected in London, it is said at Leicester's instigation, and Dean, who had been condemned with five other priests and four laymen, was the first to suffer on the gallows erected at Mile End. With him suffered a layman, the Blessed Henry Webley, for relieving and assisting him. At the martyrdom Dean tried to speak to the people, "but his mouth was stopped by some that were in the cart, in such a violent manner that they were like to have prevented the hangman of his wages".

Blessed William Gunter or Guntei, from Wales:

William Gunter, of Raglan, Wales, journeyed to Reims, France, to study for the priesthood. Following his ordination in March of 1587, he returned to Britain in July of the same year. He was soon arrested and imprisoned by the Elizabethan authorities. When questioned as to whether he had persuaded anyone to return to the Catholic faith, Father Gunter openly declared that he had, adding that he would do so again if he could. This "confession" was considered sufficient evidence for condemning him, and he was sentenced to death without a jury trial. When on August 28, 1588, Father Gunter was led out to be executed, he learned upon arriving at the gallows that Queen Elizabeth I had commuted his sentence from death by drawing and quartering to death by hanging. In response to this news, he observed, "It is fit it should be so; for I am not worthy to suffer so much as my brethren."

Blessed Henry Webley, a layman who had assisted Father William Dean (see above)

These martyrs are part of a group called the Martyrs of London of 1588. On August 30, the government repeated the process with another group of martyrs, including St. Margaret Ward. And then again in early October there would be more. All had been found guilty under the statutes that made the presence of a Catholic priest in England an act of treason and the assistance of a Catholic priest a felony. They were beatified either by Pope Leo XIII in 1896 or by Pope Pius XI in 1929.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

August Martyrs: Blessed Roger Cadwallador

Gracewing has published another book about a martyr from the recusant era in England:

Roger Cadwallador was born at Stretton Sugwas near Hereford in 1568 and martyred in Leominster (Llanllieni) on 27 August 1610. He was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1987. Cadwallador's story is an intensely dramatic one. A gentleman farmer's son, born into a family of devoted Catholics who 'kept their consciences in secret', he grew up in the Marches which he left to study abroad. First, he went to Rheims (where the English College from Douai was temporarily based) and then to the English College at Valladolid, where in 1593 he was ordained priest. In October of that year he returned to minister to his countrymen in England and Wales. For sixteen years Cadwallador worked as a bilingual Catholic priest, mainly in his native Herefordshire but also in the neighbouring counties of Monmouthshire and Worcestershire. He was known as a pious, prudent and zealous missioner, noted especially for his work among the poor. His education had developed his gifts for philosophy, theology and languages: a Greek scholar, he translated into English, from the original Greek, the fifth-century Historia Ecclesiastica of Theodoret, Bishop of Cyrus. This was published posthumously on the Continent in 1612. In Theodoret's account he found the beliefs and practices of the early church to be 'that, which we Catholikes hold' as against the claims of Church of England apologists. On Easter Sunday 1610, while saying Mass in the home of a Catholic widow, he was arrested on the orders of the Protestant bishop of Hereford. Condemned for being a priest, Cadwallador was drawn on a hurdle through the streets of Leominster, then stripped, hung, drawn and quartered. His head was displayed in the town centre and his quarters on the four main roads-one at the Bargates where St Ethelbert's Church now stands. Fully aware of the dangers which awaited young Catholic priests who returned to England to reclaim 'the souls of his dearest countrymen', Blessed Roger Cadwallador was spared none of the 'miseries' predicted for him, yet his attractive and cheerful character shines through it all. This is an inspirational and heroic story of a young man who gave his life for the priesthood. Lynne Surtees was born in Scarborough, Yorkshire, and though educated at the Convent school, began life as an Anglican. Married to a Church of England clergyman, she has four children (and four grandchildren). Now retired from nursing, she lives in Hereford, and, received into 'all the riches of the Catholic faith', is a parishioner of St Francis Xavier and an Oblate of Belmont Abbey.

Today is the 405th anniversary of his martyrdom, which Bishop Challoner described vividly:

The knot of the noose ended up under his chin--and the undersheriff started to get impatient with the time it was taking to execute Father Cadwallador because of the hangman's incompetence. The crowds at these executions knew how they were to be carried out and some even tried to "help" the priest die on the gibbet. They did not cheer when one of the sheriff's men raised the severed head of the martyr because they had witnessed the cruel incompetence of the execution and the Catholic priest's fortitude. Before he died he asked any Catholics in the crowd to pray the Pater Noster with him, secretly for their safety if they must.

August Martyrs: The Last Welsh Martyr, St. David Lewis

This blog is dedicated to the life and death of St. David Lewis, and presents a great post about the annual pilgrimage in honour of the martyr and also hosts a facebook page in his honour. A previous post on that blog described his execution thus:

On 27th August 1679, the Abergavenny born Jesuit, Fr David Lewis, was taken from Usk Gaol and conveyed to the site of his execution. The previous November he had been arrested as he prepared to say Mass at Llantarnam. In March 1679, at Monmouth Assizes, Fr Lewis had been condemned to be hanged drawn and quartered. His crime? He was a Catholic priest! In those dark times of suspicion and fear, the harsh Penal Laws against Catholics deemed it High Treason to be a Catholic priest, to celebrate Mass, and to carry out the duties of a priest. Having been found guilty of being a priest and saying Mass, Fr Lewis received the usual sentence handed out to traitors.

On that calamitous August day, Fr Lewis was tied to a hurdle, with his head at ground level, and dragged along the river path to a place known as the Island or the Coniger. The actual site is believed to be within the grounds of what is now Porth-y-Carne House, opposite the Catholic Church of St Francis Xavier and St David Lewis. Such was the love and respect of the people for )Fr Lewis, known affectionately as "Tad y Tlodion", "Father of the Poor", that the executioner ran away and no one could be found to carry out the execution. Eventually, a miscreant was bribed to do the evil deed. 

Usually, the condemned man would be hanged, cut down alive, his body ripped open and his entrails torn out and burnt before his eyes. His body would then be quartered and sent to be displayed in various prominent positions as a warning to others who might have the temerity to cling to the Old Faith. Fr Lewis was spared some of this agony because a Protestant man in the crowd held his hand and refused to allow him to be cut down until he was dead. When the priest was dead, he was cut down, drawn, and his body dismembered but not quartered. . . .

The martyred Fr David Lewis was permitted a decent burial. He was reverently carried in procession to the Priory Church of St Mary, Usk, and interred in the Churchyard. 

The notes about the reluctance of the executioner, the mercy shown by hanging Father (Saint) Lewis until dead, the decent burial--these all attest to the fact that these Welsh priests--like Father (Saint) John Kemble, (who had suffered earlier in August of 1679) had been able to conduct their sacramental and charitable duties among their people until the Popish Plot inspired a traitor to earn a little money by turning them in. St. John Kemble and St. David Lewis were well known in their communities. St. David Lewis, pray for us. St. John Kemble, pray for us.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

What Catholics Lost Because of the English Reformation

I think that Devin Rose expresses these thoughts very well, after attending an Anglican Use Mass:

The Order of the Mass for the Anglican Ordinariate is what the English Mass should be: traditional, yet in the vernacular; accessible, yet reverent.

We’ve been to the Extraordinary Form (Latin) multiple times, and of course to the normal Ordinary Form (English) thousands of times, and the Ordinariate Mass captures the best of each Form in its own unique style.

What We Lost As English Catholics

In studying for many years the history of the Protestant Reformation, I have slowly realized the devastating loss that we as English-speaking Catholics have suffered due to King Henry VIII and the Anglican Protestant usurpation of Catholic England.

I know that sounds extreme, but it is the candid truth.

We should have had five hundred years of English Catholic music, culture, and life, but instead Catholics were hunted down and killed and the Church went underground there for a long time.

So Pope Emeritus Benedict showed great wisdom and brilliance in establishing the Anglican Ordinariate. He realized what we had lost, and he saw a way to retrieve some part of it, all while building a bridge to Anglicans (including Episcopalians) who have grown appalled at the fall of the Anglican Communion into unsalvagable heterodoxy.

He established the Ordinariate to include a reverent Mass, in English, of the Roman Rite, that also includes aspects of authentic Anglican patrimony. The result is a breath of fresh air: the accessibility of our English language with the reverence and tradition of the Extraordinary Form.

The only comment I would make is that Catholics in nineteenth century England, most of them converts from the Church of England, did work hard to revive the Catholic spirit of English literature through good translations of Latin hymns and prayers, and good original poems and hymn lyrics. I'm thinking of Blessed John Henry Newman, Father Frederick Faber, Father Edward Caswall--three Oratorians, and I'm sure there were others. Like Father Frederick Oakeley, who started out with Newman's community but then followed Cardinal Wiseman to Westminster. T.E. Muir describes this period in his book from AshgateRoman Catholic Church Music in England, 1791–1914: A Handmaid of the Liturgy? Perhaps here in the USA we did not receive the benefits of this revival, partially because of--as I have read and written about before--the Irish influence here. 

Read the rest there.

I wish that Pope Benedict XVI would have been able to live out the normal course of his pontificate instead of having to cut it short because he could not fulfill his obligations. His program of renewing the liturgy, saving it from banality and reviving the sense of reverence and mystery was developing in the Extraordinary Form, the Ordinary Form (new English translation, the "Benedictine" Altar arrangement, return to the use of the Propers of the Mass instead of hymns and songs), and the Anglican Use. What might have been: what might still be.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Blog Tour: A History of the English Monarchy


From the poster above, you can see that I'm stop number two on this blog tour for Gareth Russell's A History of the English Monarchy: From Boadicea to Elizabeth I. Please note that if you want to participate in the book giveaway, leave a comment below: I'll select the lucky winner and arrange to have the book sent to him or her. I interviewed Gareth who is: "an historian and writer from Belfast, Northern Ireland. He studied Modern History at the University of Oxford and completed a postgraduate in medieval history at Queen’s University, Belfast. He is the author of two novels and three non-fiction books, including his most recent book, A History of the English Monarchy: From Boadicea to Elizabeth I. He is currently writing a biography of Queen Catherine Howard."

Q. What was/is the role of organized religion (Christianity) in the development of the English Monarchy?

A. It’s hard to understate its role, I think. You can of course make the perfectly valid point that monarchy pre-dated Christianity and I start the book by looking at pagan monarchies and their impact on Britain, but I think the medieval English monarchy’s character was fundamentally shaped by its Christian ethos. Its role in inspiring Alfred the Great in his wars against the Vikings was enormous. In the Middle Ages, religion influenced some of the monarchy’s worst actions – particularly Edward I’s treatment of the Jewish community – but it also ameliorated many potential atrocities and created a king’s mentality and the mentality of those who advised or followed him. It encouraged chivalry, how the monarchy patronized the arts and how it dispensed charity, often on a grand scale. Today, I think the Christian influence on Britain is in many ways underestimated and the secularization theory might have been over-stated to a degree, perhaps because the religious debate here is not often expressed in the same open and vocal way as it can be in US politics. The current Queen is devoutly religious and I think the Christian ethos in the monarchy continues to encourage and shape ideas of duty and service, as well as destiny.

Q. Who has a baby (male) and who does not is so essential to the history of the monarchy, as Henry VIII’s reign shows. Which other births—or non-births—are most important in this history?

A. I suppose the obvious example is of course to wonder what would have happened if Katherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn or Mary I had given birth to sons or, in Mary’s case even a daughter, who outlived them. Another non-birth that really mattered was the lack of child from Henry I’s marriage to Adeliza of Louvain, which I deal with in a chapter called “Beauclerc”, and its consequences – a civil war after 1135 – in the chapter “When Christ and His saint slept”. One birth that happened and stands out in my mind in terms of his ancestry and his future career was James VI’s birth in 1566 to Mary, Queen of Scots and Lord Darnley. He had the ancestry of the Scottish and English royal houses, which enabled him to unite the thrones in 1603 and lay the foundations of Great Britain.

Q. Who is your favorite queen consort, and why?

A. It’s a tough question and the reason why is because there are consorts I love researching and writing about – writing this book I came away with a real sense of admiration for queens I had never given a huge amount of thought to before, like Adeliza of Louvain in the twelfth century and Margaret of Anjou in the fifteenth. Though in both cases, and particularly in Margaret’s, they made some horrendous errors of judgement.In terms of personality, I have a creeping fondness for Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, who falls well outside the parameters of this book. I don’t think she was as “fluffy” as the royal PR machine suggested and I think Hitler’s backhanded compliment that she was “the most dangerous woman in Europe” captures something of her grit, patriotism and charisma, all wrapped up in inimitable and obfuscating Edwardian charm. So in a tough horse race, I’d say the late Queen Mother is someone I admire, am intrigued by and would love to one day write more about.

Q. Other than the development of the Magna Carta, what other significant events effected changes in the balance of power between the monarch and aristocracy?

A. I think in the long-term the Reformation really shifted things and not in the monarchy’s favour. I hope you can see a little in the book’s final chapter why Elizabeth I was so hostile towards fundamentalist Protestantism and her distress when some of those close to her, even the Earl of Leicester, began to sympathise with the Puritan movement. Elizabeth was clever enough to realise that more radical Protestantism was shifting concepts of sovereignty and she had only to look at the damage Presbyterianism had inflicted on Mary, Queen of Scots to appreciate the threat in England.

Q. How important was Marian devotion in the history of the English monarchy until Elizabeth I? Why was England known as Our Lady’s Dowry?

A. It was a huge part of English culture. There’s a lovely little anecdote that I enjoy that marigold flowers got their name from being nicknamed “Mary’s Gold”. Henry V, one of England’s most successful warrior-kings, consecrated the kingdom to Mary’s patronage, which helped foster a patriotic notion that England was a gift to the Virgin. Devotion to her proved far more difficult to eradicate during the Reformation – obedience to the papacy was perhaps one of the things that collapsed quickest in England, at least by 1540 though it later revived in the recusant community, but Mary and prayers for the dead proved a lot harder to dislodge. Well into the seventeenth century, there were Protestant writers who wanted to encourage devotion to Mary in the “new religion” and of course that did happen in the Victorian era, with the emergence of the Oxford or High Anglican Movement. I visited Lincoln Cathedral recently, which is a Protestant church, but in the gift shop the ladies behind the till and the parishioners referred to the Virgin Mary as “Our Lady”.
Q. The Empress (putative Queen) Maud may have been one of the most intriguing figures of the early history of the monarchy. What would have changed if she had successfully reigned as Queen?

A. I don’t know if much would have changed in the long-term, given that her successor would have been the same as King Stephen’s – her son, Henry II. English intervention in Ireland took place after Maud’s death, so again it’s hard to know if that would have changed or maybe delayed even longer if she had continued to reign until 1167, pushing Henry II’s reign back by thirteen years. It may have soothed the fears about a female sovereign, which could then have had a knock-on effect on Henry VIII’s frantic quest for a son after 1509.

Q. You’ve written about the Tudors separately. What difference, if any, did it make to your perspective when you wrote about the Tudor dynasty in the context of a book about the history of English monarchy?

A. What a great question. It didn’t make a difference to my own perspective on them, but it certainly did change how I wrote about them in this particular book. In the sense that I was approaching them as the end of the story, I could discuss their links to their predecessors, which was great – after all, the Tudors did not know they would be seen as the “birth of modernity”. Like all of us, they could only ever look back. So I was able to talk about how Henry VIII used the examples of Emperor Constantine and kings like Henry II and John to justify the Break with Rome and I could rebut the idea that Anne Boleyn was a failed queen because she had too much personality. A brief glance at England’s medieval queens consort shows that fire and character were not things they generally lacked. I was able to set the Tudors more in the context of their inspirations and ancestors.

Q. Do you plan to write the sequel, from James I to Elizabeth II?

A. At the moment, there are no immediate plans to. I’m currently working on a biography of Catherine Howard, Henry VIII’s fifth wife. I tried to make sure that“A History of the English Monarchy” can stand alone as a narrative of the English monarchy and its medieval experience. I think the Stuarts are a topic I’d love to tackle. When you grow up in Northern Ireland, where the legacy of the Glorious Revolution is still so contested, it’s hard not to wonder what the truth behind it was.

More about the book from the publisher, Made Global:

In A History of the English Monarchy, historian Gareth Russell traces the story of the English monarchy and the interactions between popular belief, religious faith and brutal political reality that helped shape the extraordinary journey of one of history’s most important institutions.

From the birth of the nation to the dazzling court of Elizabeth I, A History of the English Monarchy charts the fascinating path of the English monarchy from the uprising of ‘Warrior Queen’ Boadicea in AD60 through each king and queen up to the ‘Golden Age’ of Elizabeth I. Russell offers a fresh take on a fascinating subject as old as the nation itself. Legends, tales and, above all, hard facts tell an incredible story… a history of the English Monarchy.

If you are not the lucky winner and want to read the book, it's available in paperback and digitally here. Remember to make a comment if you want a chance to win--please include your email address in your comment for me to contact you (if you win). Thank you.

Monday, August 24, 2015

OREMUS: Our Lady of Walsingham


Oremus, the monthly magazine of Westminster Cathedral, features a story about the restoration of the cathedral's statue of Our Lady of Walsingham. Her feast is on September 24:

This statue of Our Lady of Walsingham has a particularly beautiful face, which radiates contemplative beauty, sorrow, strength, compassion and solace. Just to kneel before this statue is to experience the peace and fragrance of the Virgin.

The child Jesus sits in majesty and communion with his Mother. A sense of the future silent, suffering, interior martyrdom of the Blessed Virgin Mary pervades, indicative of the fertile soil which enabled Mary to stand with Jesus at Calvary, the moment when Jesus bestowed upon her, for all generations, her motherhood of us all.

Our Lady is the Seat of Wisdom and therefore Our Lady of Walsingham sits upon a throne. She is amidst two pillars which represent the Church as the gate of Heaven. The seven rings on these pillars signify the seven Sacraments and the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. The arched back of the throne represents the rainbow, the sign of the Covenant between God and his people. Our Lady points to Jesus, the Word made Flesh, while the three fold lily symbolises virginity, purity, sovereignty, and is a sign of resplendent beauty – testifying that Our Lady remained a Virgin before, during and after the birth of the Saviour, Jesus Christ. A toadstone, symbolising evil, is beneath her feet – showing that she crushes Satan. And, finally, she wears a Saxon crown, representing her Queenship. For Mary is Queen of Heaven and, as Our Lady of Walsingham, a heavenly Queen of England. Her divine Son, Jesus, extends his arm in a double gesture of blessing and protection of his Mother. Jesus Christ, Saviour and Redeemer, the Word, holds the scriptures and wears a crown representing his Kingship and sovereignty. This statue, so rich in symbolism, speaks to us at many levels, indicative of our English heritage and of the scriptural, historical, theological and mystical roots of our Catholic faith.


If one wished to start a novena to Our Lady of Walsingham, the day to start would be on September 15, the Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows. This site has prayers suitable for such a novena: Mark your calendars now!

When Pope Leo XIII gave permission for a new shrine to be dedicated--the first was destroyed during Henry VIII's reign of course--at Walsingham in 1897, he proclaimed: "When England returns to Walsingham, Our Lady will return to England."

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Church History Apologetics Series: The Catholic Church and Art


Anna Mitchell and I will continue our discussion of Church History and Apologetics on the Son Rise Morning Show tomorrow (Monday, August 24) at 6:45 a.m. Central time; 7:45 a.m. Eastern time--right after the quarter hour news headlines. Listen live online here.

We are a week later than usual because she was on vacation last week. This month's topic is a little different than the others: we are going to look at the Church's positive contribution to culture in art and architecture and how that often turns into an attack.

When we think of the glories of Gothic art and architecture or the great achievements of Renaissance and Baroque churches in all the great capitals of Europe, we must recognize that the Church, through its patronage and with the assistance of contributors rich and poor, built those churches and cathedrals, commissioned those paintings, mosaics, and statues for the honor and glory of God. At the same time that many appreciate the beauty of those works, some wonder about their source and value. As I noted a couple of years ago in an article for Homiletic and Pastoral Review:

The strange flipside of these achievements, however, is that someone might say that the Vatican, and the churches around the world, should sell priceless artwork, using the money to eliminate poverty. That adjective “priceless” points out one of the flaws of that argument: who could afford to pay what it’s worth? But, even if other museums, and private collectors, could pay what that vast treasure of beauty is worth, would it really be enough to take care of all the poor? What happens when that money has been distributed, and the problem of poverty has still not been solved?

As nearly every guidebook comments about each great European capital with a Catholic heritage, the cathedrals and churches are a great free refuge and resource for the weary tourist. They offer shelter from heat and rain, a place to rest, and a feast for the eyes to see great artwork by Titian, Raphael, Caravaggio, Michelangelo, Rubens, Tintoretto, and many others, especially that great and prolific artist, “Anonymous.” What about justice to the benefactors who gave artwork to the Church for the purpose of praising God in beautiful churches? Is it fair to their memory? Once the artwork is in private hands, for example, who will have access to it? The poor? Not likely.


I've encountered this rather twisted view of how the Church should sell this artwork--as if it belongs to the Church in the first place--often. When Pope Francis spoke about a poor Church for the poor, there were several comments (see this one in The Catholic Herald for example) that suggested he should sell off these priceless works. Even The National Catholic Reporter, with an article by John Allen, showed how ridiculous such an idea is:

To begin with, the legendary wealth of the Vatican is to some extent more myth than reality. The Vatican has an annual operating budget of under $300 million, while Harvard University, arguably the Vatican of elite secular opinion, has a budget of $3.7 billion, meaning it's 10 times greater. The Vatican's "patrimony," what other institutions would call an endowment, is around $1 billion. In this case, Harvard's ahead by a robust factor of 30, with an endowment of $30.7 billion.

The Vatican bank controls assets estimated at more than $6 billion, which is nobody's idea of chump change, but most of that isn't the Vatican's money. It belongs to religious orders, dioceses, movements and other Catholic organizations, and is managed by the Institute for the Works of Religion to facilitate moving it around the world.

Of course, these figures don't include the value of masterpieces of Western art housed in the Vatican, such as Michelangelo's "Pietà." The Vatican considers itself custodians of these items, not their owners, and it's a matter of Vatican law that they can never be sold or borrowed against. As a result, they have no practical value and are listed on the Vatican books at a value of 1 euro each.


National Geographic years ago published a special issue on great human artistic achievements: of all the buildings and sites mentioned, it was only in the article about St. Peter's Basilica that the author thought everything should be sold and given to eliminate poverty. Does anyone ever suggest that the National Cathedral in Washington or the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, two Episcopalian churches, should sell all their artwork and give the proceeds to the poor? 

Such a comment always reminds me of the episode of Jesus at Bethany being anointed with costly perfume: in St. John's Gospel, Judas Iscariot protests that the nard should have been sold to feed the poor, in St. Matthew and St. Mark, the disciples make the same comment, but Jesus defends her action: she has done something good for Him and they should not begrudge it.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

August Martyrs: Blessed Thomas Percy

Today's martyr is Blessed Thomas Percy, the seventh Earl of Northumberland, beatified in 1895. Pope Leo XIII made some interesting choices of English martyrs to beatify. For example, Blessed Thomas Percy's father, Sir Thomas Percy, executed for his part in the Pilgrimage of Grace, has not been beatified or canonized, even though "he also is considered a martyr by many". Often, when the proposed martyr was part of a military or other organized rebellion, his cause is "passed over" because the intention and purpose of his action is mixed with secular matters. Pope Leo also beatified Margaret Pole, and she was a victim for her Faith--her sons were caught up in matters that really mixed the sacred and secular. Reginald Pole in exile had angered Henry VIII with his attack against his marital and ecclesiastical actions, while her other sons were implicated in a plot against the monarch. Her execution was the result of Henry VIII's desire to destroy the Pole family. Pope Leo beatified Blessed John Felton and Blessed Thomas Plumtree, also in connection with the Northern Rebellion. Felton may be accused of inciting rebellion, but Father Plumtree was definitely martyred for his priesthood and the Catholic Faith.

There is a stained glass window depicting the martyr at Petworth in the Church of the Sacred Heart.


Earl of Northumberland, martyr, born in 1528; died at York, 22 August, 1572. He was the eldest son of Sir Thomas Percy, brother of the childless Henry Percy, sixth Earl of Northumberland, and Eleanor, daughter of Sir Guiscard Harbottal. When Thomas was eight years old his father was executed at Tyburn (2 June, 1537) for having taken a leading part in the Pilgrimage of Grace, and he also is considered a martyr by many. Thomas and his brother Henry were then removed from their mother's keeping and entrusted to Sir Thomas Tempest. 

In 1549, when Thomas Percy came of age, an Act was passed "for the restitution in blood of Mr. Thomas Percy". Shortly afterwards he was knighted, and, three years later, in Queen Mary's reign, he regained his ancestral honours and lands. Declared governor of Prudhoe Castle he besieged and took Scarborough Castle, which was seized by rebels in 1557. In reward the Earldom of Northumberland together with the Baronies of Percy, Poynings, Lucy, Bryan, and Fitzpane were restored to him. He was installed at Whitehall with great pomp, and soon after was named Warden General of the Marches, in which capacity he fought and defeated the Scots. In 1558 he married Anne Somerset, daughter of the Earl of Worcester, a valiant woman who subsequently suffered much for the Faith. 

On Elizabeth's accession the earl, whose steadfast loyalty to the Catholic Church was known, was kept in the North while the anti-Catholic measures of Elizabeth's first Parliament were passed. Elizabeth continued to show him favour, and in 1563 gave him the Order of the Garter. He had then resigned the wardenship and was living in the South. But the systematic persecution of the Catholics rendered their position most difficult, and in the autumn of 1569 the Catholic gentry in the North, stirred up by rumours of the approaching excommunication of Elizabeth, were planning to liberate Mary, Queen of Scots, and obtain liberty of worship. Earl Thomas with the Earl of Westmoreland wrote to the pope asking for advice, but before their letter reached Rome circumstances hurried them into action against their better judgment. After a brief success the rising failed, and Thomas fled to Scotland, where he was captured and, after three years, sold to the English Government. He was conducted to York and beheaded, refusing to save his life by abandoning his religion. He was beatified by Leo XIII on 13 May, 1895, and his festival was appointed to be observed in the Dioceses of Hexham and Newcastle on 14 November. His daughter Mary founded the Benedictine convent at Brussels from which nearly all the existing houses of Benedictine nuns in England are descended. 

About his widow, Wikipedia reports:

After the [Northern Rebellion] was put down by Baron Hunsdon's troops, Anne and Percy fled to Scotland where they sought refuge with Hector Graham of Harlaw, a Border outlaw. In June 1570, Anne gave birth to her daughter, Mary in Old Aberdeen. When Graham betrayed her husband to James Douglas, 4th Earl of Morton, she and her baby escaped to the Continent, arriving in Bruges on 31 August 1570, where she sought aid from Pope Pius V and King Philip II of Spain to raise money for her husband's ransom; the Pope gave her four thousand crowns and King Philip sent her six thousands marks. It was to no avail. Anne would spend the rest of her life as an exile in Flanders, while in 1572, Earl Morton sold her husband to Queen Elizabeth who had him publicly executed at York for treason.

In Liège while living on a pension provided by King Philip, she wrote and circulated Discours des troubles du Comte du Northumberland. She spent the next decade travelling from place to place in Flanders, maintaining contact with the other English Catholic exiles. In 1573, English agents described Anne as "one of the principal practitioners at Mechlin". In 1576, she was briefly expelled from the territory to placate Queen Elizabeth, but returned shortly afterwards. At one stage she endeavoured to arrange a marriage between Don John of Austria and the captive Mary, Queen of Scots. She left her three oldest daughters behind in England when she escaped after the failed Northern Rebellion. They were raised at Petworth by her late husband's brother, Henry Percy who had succeeded as the 8th Earl of Northumberland. He was married to Katherine Neville, the eldest daughter of her half-sister, Lucy. Her youngest daughter, Mary who had accompanied her to the Continent, became the prioress of the Benedictine convent in Brussels which she had herself founded.

In September 1591, Charles Paget, an exile in Antwerp, informed the Percy's that Anne had died and requested that they send her daughter Joan to Flanders to fetch her belongings. This had been only a ruse designed to enable Anne to see her daughter. In point of fact, Anne died of smallpox five years later on 17 October 1596 at a convent in Namur.

About the Benedictine convent his daughter Mary Percy founded:  Known as the Monastery of the Glorious Assumption. Founded by Lady Mary Percy in 1597/8; it was the first of the new foundations specifically for English women. The convent quickly attracted members, but a bitter dispute over the choice of confessor that continued many years affected recruitment. Once a resolution was reached the convent began to flourish again remaining in Brussels until forced to withdraw by the effects of the revolutionary wars in 1794. They arrived in Winchester in 1794 and remained there until they transferred to East Bergholt, Suffolk. (Per this site, studying the English religious orders in exile.) That study, funded by the Queen Mary University of London and the Arts & Humanities Research Council, also resulted in this book from Ashgate:

In 1598, the first English convent was established in Brussels and was to be followed by a further 21 enclosed convents across Flanders and France with more than 4,000 women entering them over a 200-year period. In theory they were cut off from the outside world; however, in practice the nuns were not isolated and their contacts and networks spread widely, and their communal culture was sophisticated. Not only were the nuns influenced by continental intellectual culture but they in turn contributed to a developing English Catholic identity moulded by their experience in exile. During this time, these nuns and the Mary Ward sisters found outlets for female expression often unavailable to their secular counterparts, until the French Revolution and its associated violence forced the convents back to England. This interdisciplinary collection demonstrates the cultural importance of the English convents in exile from 1600 to 1800 and is the first collection to focus solely on the English convents.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Religion and Secularism in England

One of my favorite authors, Father Aidan Nichols OP, writes about secularism and religion in England for the Imaginative Conservative: he outlines two possible ways to deal with the diversity of religion and secularism (separate "public spaces" and assimilation) and then proposes a third way, which recalls his book The Realm: An Unfashionable Essay on the Conversion of England:

The third response is recovery of the Judaeo-Christian tradition as what is most foundationally form-giving in English society and culture, while allowing that, on grounds of conscience, there are individuals and groups who cannot make that tradition fully their own. Freedom of conscience can and should be balanced against the interests of a particular historic society as a whole. What can be said in favour of this option?

A nation, like a civilization, needs a shared vision of reality, at any rate in fair degree. It is unclear that a great civilization can be formed except on the ground of metaphysical or religious principle. There is no other obvious way in which to secure the foundations of ethics, or to inspire a high artistic culture, or to animate institutions that will be seedbeds of the virtues. In the case of England, whose emergence as a nation coincides with its conversion, this can only be Christianity, with its Judaic background, and more especially, I unfashionably suggest, the “New Israel” of the Catholic Church.

The thousand years of Catholic Christianity that preceded the Reformation settlement are responsible for the origins of the English literary imagination, for the principles of the common law, for the concept of a covenanted people under God that permeates the induction of the sovereign, and for the range of virtues that have been commended, and sometimes practised, in English society and culture. In the context of an international Church, this entailed a measured trans-nationalism.

When the medieval idea of Christendom weakened, the early modern nation-state tried more vigorously to instrumentalize the Church, politicizing the divine rather than—by exposure to a transcendent Good—divinizing the polis. Of course the post-Reformation history of this country cannot be airbrushed out. Consonant with its presence—along with a promise to uphold the Catholic faith—in the coronation of the monarch, it has left its own legacy of moral exemplars and inspirational literary texts, as well as institutions involved in education and pastoral care. Despite the ecclesial differences, which at their worst led to the vilification of the older Church, much of this Anglican development built on foundations already laid. . . .

. . . England remains a Christian state, albeit a decayed example of the genre. I advert for the third time to the coronation ritual, since it is the clearest, though by no means the only, manifestation of the continuing sacrality of the public order. In this connection, the retention by the Church of England of its established status is an essential requirement if the nation as a whole is to retain narrative continuity with its own origins, which are found in the baptismal covenant reflected in the laws of the Anglo-Saxon kings.

The establishment of the Church of England at law is far from rendering superfluous the public role of the English Catholic Church. The capacity of the sacerdotium to influence the regnum was gravely weakened by the mid-16th century break with Rome, for this rendered official English Christianity Erastian, blunting its cutting edge. “No Popery”—anti-Catholicism, whether popular or sophisticated—drew its force from a disturbed conscience—one can sense its discomfort in the ambivalence of Shakespeare’s plays. The recusant community witnessed to something once well-known to the English people: The transnational reality of Christendom in the Catholic Church centered on Peter’s chair, and the consequent capacity of a wider communion to offset narrowness of temper, or distortion of aim. Protestant Nonconformity added its own protest against, not an organic relation between polity and ecclesia, but the effective identification of the two.


Read the rest there.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

August Martyrs: Blesseds Christopher Robinson and Hugh Green

Other than their priesthood and their secret mission to England, these two martyrs from two different centuries have in common not just the method of their martyrdom but the horrendous ineptitude of their executioners:

Blessed Christopher Robinson, martyred on August 19, 1598, had witness the brutal execution of St. John Boste, so he knew what he faced. He was from Woodside, England, and studied for the priesthood at the English College at Reims, France. After being ordained in 1592, he returned to England and served Catholics in the regions of Cumberland and Westmoreland. In 1594 he witnessed Father John Boste's execution in Durham, writing a detailed account. Father Robinson was arrested on March 4, 1597 and confined until his execution, being visited often by Anglican ministers urging him to conform. On the day of his execution, the rope to be used to hang him broke twice, and he protested to the executioner that this delay was cruel, testing his resolve and spirit. Since the ropes broke, he would have fallen to the ground and that increased his suffering. The executioner then used two ropes the third time and then proceeded with the hanging, quartering, and beheading.

According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, those cruelties pale in comparison with what Blessed Hugh Green endured on August 19, 1642 at the hands of an inept executioner:

His parents, who were Protestants, sent him to Peterhouse, Cambridge, where he took his degree in 1605, but was afterwards converted and entered Douai College in 1610. He left again in 1612 to try his vocation among the Capuchins. From want of health or some other cause, he was unable to continue, and became a chaplain at Chideock Castle, Dorsetshire, the home of Lady Arundell of Lanherne. On 8 March, 1641, Charles I, to placate the Puritan Parliament, issued a proclamation banishing all priests from England, and Green resolved to obey this order. Unfortunately the news had been late in reaching him, and when he embarked the month of grace given for departure was just over. He was therefore arrested, tried, and condemned to death in August. In prison his constancy so affected his fellow-captives that two or three women sentenced to die with him sent him word that they would ask his absolution before death. They did so after confessing their sins to the people, and were absolved by the martyr. A providential reward for his zeal immediately followed. A Jesuit Father, despite the danger, rode up in disguise on horseback, and at a given sign absolved the martyr, who made a noble confession of faith before death. As the executioner was quite unskilled, he could not find the martyr's heart, and the butchery with appalling cruelty was prolonged for nearly half an hour. After this the Puritans played football with his head, a barbarity happily not repeated in the history of the English martyrs.

Christopher Robinson was beatified by Pope John Paul II amidst the 85 Martyrs of England and Wales; Hugh Green by Pope Pius XI in 1929. Blessed Hugh Green is honored among the Chideock Martyrs and with the Douai Martyrs; Blessed Christopher Robinson is also numbered among the Douai Martyrs.

Blessed Christopher Robinson, pray for us!
Blessed Hugh Green, pray for us!