Sunday, March 1, 2015

Happy 202nd Birthday to A.W.N. Pugin

Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin was born on March 1, 1812 in London. His parents were emigres from the French Revolution and his father, Augustin Pugin was an architect. He set his son to drawing Gothic buildings. His interest in Gothic architecture led him to study the Catholic faith and A.W. N. Pugin joined the Catholic Church in 1835.

On the Continent, Eugene Viollet-le-Duc's career is roughly coterminous with Pugin's and both contributed to the revival of Gothic architecture. Viollet-le-Duc was more interested in restoration of Gothic cathedrals, churches, and castles throughout France. Pugin was convinced that Gothic was THE style for Christian buildings. He wanted not only to design churches and cathedrals in the Gothic style but to furnish them and decorate them throughout--designing every aspect of the building. Unfortunately, his patrons did not always have the money necessary to complete all that work.

When the Catholic hierarchy was restored in 1850 after emancipation in 1829, of course, Catholics had to build a new infrastructure: churches, cathedrals, convents, monasteries, schools, and seminaries--there was a lot of work to do! In collaboration with John Talbot, the sixteenth Earl of Shrewsbury, Pugin designed and built 14 chapels, schools, etc between 1836 and 1848 in Staffordshire. He also worked in Ireland, especially in County Wexford in the late 1830s and throughout the 1840s. He travelled on the Continent, visiting France and the Netherlands, but did not go to Rome until 1847--where the Renaissance and Baroque architecture of the churches disappointed him. (I think there is only one truly Gothic church in Rome, Santa Maria Sopra Minerva.)

He was only 40 years old when he died. He suffered from mental illness and tremendous stress--and perhaps syphilis, according to his major modern biographer, Rosemary Hill. His sons Edward Welby and Peter Paul continued his work in their partnership, Pugin and Pugin. E.W. Pugin also died at the age of 40, in 1875 and Peter Paul finished several of his works in progress and maintained the family style.

Gracewing publishes several books by and about Augustus Welby Northmore Putin, including THE TRUE PRINCIPLES OF Pointed or Christian Architecture and AN APOLOGY FOR The Revival of Christian Architecture. The bicentennial of his birthday was celebrated in 2012--find more background on that celebration here.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Now that's ICONIC!


I have seen this icon of the 21 Coptic martyrs on many websites, so I assumed the writer of it (that's the term for the artist) wanted it seen widely. This interview on NRO confirms my assumption

KATHRYN JEAN LOPEZ: What was your purpose and intention when you painted an icon of the Egyptian Copts martyred last week by the Islamic State? 

TONY REZK: My ultimate purpose was to honor them and the sacrifice that they made. Tertullian, a Christian apologist from the third century, before he joined a non-Orthodox Christian sect, said, “The blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church.” We believe that their martyrdom will help the Church grow stronger. My other purpose was to take out my frustrations on something, as I find that the process of making any kind of art is a relaxing experience.   

LOPEZ: You offer the icon for anyone’s use. Would you or the Coptic Church ever make it available for purchase? Perhaps to raise funds for Copts in Egypt or other persecuted Christians? 

REZK: It is actually in the hands of the Coptic Church in Egypt now. His Grace Bishop Macarius has the high-resolution picture and was given permission to do what he wanted with it. His Grace is the bishop of the El Minya province in Upper Egypt where most of the martyrs were from. I’m still trying to figure out a way to get it out there for all to use.

At the same time I have seen this beautiful icon, representing the martyrs as icons of Jesus, I have read the term "iconic" applied to everything from Wellington boots to Frank Sinatra. Iconic has been called one of the most overused words in many publications, but people just keep on (over)using it. This website discusses the problem and offers some solutions:

Originally, iconic meant “characteristic of an icon” — an image or representation, often of a saint or other sacred personage. The adjective, perhaps aided by marketers and publicists, evolved into an all-purpose term for making people or things seem more important or desirable.

These days, iconic is used to describe just about anything, even commonplace objects. (Prell is an “iconic shampoo,” according to news reports earlier this year.) As the examples above demonstrate, the word has become a tool for exaggeration and is now a cliche. In fact, iconic is often nominated for annual lists of “words that should be banned.”

If something truly merits an accolade, consider such synonyms as celebrated, distinctive, famous, inimitable, legendary, original, peerless, and singular.

These true icons of Jesus have already been honored as saints and martyrs in the Coptic Church and their feast day is February 15. Coptic Martyrs, pray for us! As windows to Jesus, show us the way this Lent!

Friday, February 27, 2015

Filcock, and Barkworth, and Line: Three Martyrs at Tyburn

St. Anne Line was hung and then Blessed Mark Barkworth, OSB and Blessed Roger Filcock were hung, drawn, and quartered at Tyburn on February 27, 1601.

Anne Heigham Line was a convert to Catholicism; she and her brother William Heigham were disinherited and disowned by their Calvinist father. In 1586 she married Roger Line, another disinherited convert. Not long after Anne and Roger married, he and William were arrested for attending Mass and were exiled from England. Roger lived in Flanders and died in 1594.

Father John Gerard SJ, author of the famous book Autobiography of an Elizabethan Priest, asked Anne to manage two different safe houses for Jesuits, even though she was ill, but because she was destitute, otherwise surviving on teaching and sewing.

She was arrested on the Feast of the Presentation, February 2, 1601, when Father Francis Page was celebrating Mass; he escaped with her help. She was tried on February 26, carried to court in a chair, where she admitted joyfully that she had helped Father Page escape and only regretted that she had not been able to help even more priests escape!

She was hung at Tyburn in London on February 27 and repeated her statement from court before her execution: "I am sentenced to die for harboring a Catholic priest, and so far I am from repenting for having so done, that I wish, with all my soul, that where I have entertained one, I could have entertained a thousand." Two priests, Father Roger Filcock and Father Mark Barkworth, paid tribute to her before their own executions, drawn, hung, and quartered. Father Filcock kissed her dead hand and the hem of her dress as she still hung from the gibbet and proclaimed, “You have gotten the start of us, sister, but we will follow you as quickly as we may.”

St. Anne Line was among the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales canonized by Pope Paul VI in 1970. She, St. Margaret Clitherow and St. Margaret Ward share a separate Feast on August 30 (the date of St. Margaret Ward's martyrdom in 1588) in the dioceses of England.

Blessed Mark Barkworth OSB was born about 1572 at Searby in Lincolnshire. He studied for a time at Oxford, though no record remains of his stay there. He was received into the Catholic Church at Douai in 1593, by Father George, a Flemish Jesuit and entered the College there with a view to the priesthood. He matriculated at Douai University on 5 October 1594.

On account of an outbreak of the plague, in 1596 Barkworth was sent to Rome and thence to Valladolid in Spain, where he entered the English College on 28 December 1596. On his way to Spain he is said to have had a vision of St Benedict, who told him he would die a martyr, in the Benedictine habit. While at Valladolid he make firmer contact with to the Benedictine Order. The "Catholic Encyclopedia" notes that there are accounts that his interest in the Benedictines resulted in suffering at the hands of the College superiors, but the Encyclopedia expresses scepticism, suggesting anti-Jesuit bias.

Barkworth was ordained priest at the English College some time before July 1599, when he set out for the English Mission together with Father Thomas Garnet. On his way he stayed at the Benedictine Monastery of Hyrache in Navarre, where his wish to join the order was granted by his being made an Oblate with the privilege of making profession at the hour of death.

After having escaped from the hands of the Huguenots of La Rochelle, he was arrested on reaching England and thrown into Newgate, where he was imprisoned for six months, and was then transferred to Bridewell. There he wrote an appeal to Robert Cecil, signed "George Barkworth". At his examinations he was reported to behave with fearlessness and frank gaiety. Having been condemned with a formal jury verdict, he was thrown into "Limbo", the horrible underground dungeon at Newgate, where he is said to have remained "very cheerful" till his death.

Barkworth sang, on the way to Tyburn, the Paschal Anthem: "Hæc dies quam, fecit Dominus exultemus et lætemur in ea", and Father Filcock joined him in the chant:

Hæc dies quam fecit Dominus; [This is the day which the Lord has made:]
exsultemus, et lætemur in ea. [let us be glad and rejoice in it.]


At Tyburn he told the people: "I am come here to die, being a Catholic, a priest, and a religious man, belonging to the Order of St Benedict; it was by this same order that England was converted."

He was said to be "a man of stature tall and well proportioned showing strength, the hair of his head brown, his beard yellow, somewhat heavy eyed". He was of a cheerful disposition. He suffered in the Benedictine habit, under which he wore a hair-shirt. It was noticed that his knees were, like St. James', hardened by constant kneeling, and an apprentice in the crowd picking up his legs, after the quartering, called out: "Which of you Gospellers can show such a knee?" Contrary to usual practice, the quarters of the priests were not exposed but buried near the scaffold. They were later retrieved by Catholics. 

Barkworth was beatified by Pope Pius XI on 15 December 1929.

Blessed Roger Filcock (1570-1601) was arrested in England while he was fulfilling a probationary period prior to entering the Jesuits. He had studied at the English College in Rheims, France and then in Valladolid, Spain, but when he asked to join the Society he was encouraged to apply again after ministering for awhile in England.

His journey into England was difficult enough. The ship he was traveling on from Bilbao, Spain to Calais, France, was becalmed just outside the port and fell pray to a Dutch ship blockading the harbor. Filcock was captured, but managed to escape and land surreptitiously on the shore in Kent in 1598. Soon after he began his ministry, he contacted Father Henry Garnet, the Jesuit superior, asking to become a Jesuit. He was accepted into the Society in 1600, but then was betrayed by someone he had studied with in Spain. He was arrested and committed to Newgate Prison in London. His trial did not last long, despite the fact that there was no evidence against him and that the names in the indictment were not names he had used. Together with Father Mark Barkworth, a Benedictine, he was tied to a hurdle and dragged through the streets to Tyburn. Barkworth was first to be hung, disembowelled and quartered. Filcock had to watch his companion suffer, knowing that he would immediately follow. 


Pope John Paul II beatified him, on the 22nd of November 1987, one among the 85 Martyrs of England and Wales.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

William of Ockham and Henry VIII

The influence of William Tyndale's The Obedience of a Christian Man on Henry VIII's decision to claim England was an Empire and he ruled as supreme in materials spiritual and secular is well known, but an article The Guardian highlights another book Henry and his supporters used to make that claim, by William of Ockham or Occam:

A book which helped changed the course of English history, part of the evidence Henry VIII and his lawyers gathered in the 1530s to help win an annulment from Catherine of Aragon and ultimately to break with Rome, has turned up on the shelves of the magnificent library at Lanhydrock, a National Trust mansion in Cornwall.

The book, a summary of the theories of the medieval philosopher and theologian William of Ockham, has been newly identified by a US scholar and expert on the history of Henry’s library. The book was damaged but escaped destruction in a disastrous fire at the house in 1881, and crucially the fly-leaf survived. It still carries the number 282, written in black ink in the top right-hand corner, which Prof James Carley identified as corresponding with an inventory taken in 1542 of the most important of Henry’s books, five years before the king’s death.


William of Ockham's works bolstered Henry's view that the monarch in his own country, not the Pope in Rome, should have control of ecclesiastical matters. Ockham was a Franciscan friar looking to the protection of The Holy Roman Emperor, Louis IV of Bavaria against Pope John XXII, who wanted to change the rule of St. Francis:

Henry’s agents were gathering evidence that could support the move, which may be how the collection of the views of the 14th century priest and philosopher, published in 1495, came to the royal library. Ockham wrote in Latin of the limits of the power of the pope, and the independence of the authority of monarchs. Several pages in the book have key passages marked by secretaries for Henry’s attention, including one crucial section with a heading which translates as: “When it is permitted to withdraw from obedience to the pope”.

In 1532 Henry would begin exactly that process of withdrawal from Rome. In 1533, despite its refusal to annul his first marriage, he married the almost certainly pregnant Anne Boleyn. Pope Clement VII declared that Catherine was still the rightful queen of England, and Henry responded with the Act of Supremacy, establishing himself as the head of the Church of England. The breach with Rome was complete.


I wonder if William of Ockham would have been pleased with this result, since it soon meant the eradication of the Franciscan order, and every other religious order, in England. 

Compromise Failed: An "Appellant" Martyr

Blessed Robert Drury was born in Buckinghamshire in about 1567. He studied at the English College, Rheims, France in 1588, and the English College, Valladolid, Spain in 1590. Ordained at Valladolid in 1593. Returned to England in 1593 to minister to covert Catholics around London, England. He was one of the signers of the loyal address of 31 January 1603 which acknowledged the queen as lawful sovereign on earth, but maintained their loyalty in religious matters to the Pope. When James I came to the throne, the king required them to sign a new oath which acknowledged his authority over spiritual matters. Robert refused, and was arrested in 1606 for the crime of being a priest. He was offered his freedom if he would sign the oath; he declined. Martyred by being hanged, drawn, and quartered on 26 February 1607 at Tyburn, London England. He is one of the Eighty-five Martyrs of England and Wales beatified by Blessed Pope John Paul II in 1987.

Blessed Robert Drury attempted to appease Queen Elizabeth and her government as one of the Appellants. Two of the 13 who signed the Protestation of Allegiance would be executed during the reign of James I of England: today's martyr and Blessed Roger Cadwallador (in 1610 on August 27). The Appellants opposed the Jesuit methods of leading the Catholic mission to England and attempted to compromise, pleading a divided but honest loyalty--secular loyalty to Elizabeth's authority as the Queen of England; religious loyalty to Papal authority as the successor to St. Peter. The Appellants also opposed the authority and methods of the Archpriest George Blackwell, whom they thought favored the Jesuit approach. The Jesuit approach, articulated by Father Robert Parsons, was uncompromising: total loyalty to the Roman Pontiff and absolute refusal to adopt public acceptance of the Church of England while remaining privately opposed. The Jesuits would not tolerate Church Papists who attended Anglican services to avoid the fines and imprisonments, for example. The Elizabethan regime took advantage of these disagreements to encourage division among Catholics in England.

Even if Elizabeth I had accepted their appeal for relief to her Catholic subjects, the succession of James VI of Scotland ended this attempt--because he would not compromise, either. He demanded that the Appellants accept his authority over both religious and secular matters with the Oath of Allegiance. Members of the Appellant party were divided over whether they could take James I's new oath. Drury and Cadwallador were arrested and refused to take the oath.

According to the Catholic Encyclopedia entry on Blessed (then Venerable) Robert Drury:

The results of the address were disappointing; Elizabeth died within three months of its signature, and James I soon proved that he would not be satisfied with any purely civil allegiance. He thirsted for spiritual authority, and, with the assistance of an apostate Jesuit, a new oath of allegiance was drawn up, which in its subtlety was designed to trouble the conscience of Catholics and divide them on the lawfulness of taking it. It was imposed 5 July, 1606, and about this time Drury was arrested. He was condemned for his priesthood, but was offered his life if he would take the new oath. A letter from Father Persons, S.J., against its lawfulness was found on him. The oath declared that the "damnable doctrine" of the deposing power was "impious and heretical", and it was condemned by Pope Paul V, 22 September, 1606, "as containing many things contrary to the Faith and Salvation". This brief, however, was suppressed by the archpriest, and Drury probably did not know of it. But he felt that his conscience would not permit him to take the oath, and he died a martyr at Tyburn, 26 February, 1606-7. A curious contemporary account of his martyrdom, entitled "A true Report of the Arraignment . . . of a Popish Priest named Robert Drewrie" (London, 1607), which has been reprinted in the "Harleian Miscellany", calls him a Benedictine, and says he wore his monastic habitat the execution. But this "habit" as described proves to be the cassock and cap work by the secular clergy. The writer adds, "There were certain papers shown at Tyburn which had been found about him, of a very dangerous and traitorous nature, and among them also was his Benedictine faculty under seal, expressing what power and authority he had from the pope to make men, women, and children here of his order; what indulgence and pardons he could grant them", etc. He may have been a confrater or oblate of the order.

The University of North Carolina Press offers Catholic Loyalism in Elizabethan England by Arnold Pritchard, pictured above in a print-on-demand paperback edition. Pritchard covers the Archpriest Controversy and the divisions between Catholics at the end of Elizabeth I's reign--and the beginning of James I's. (The original hardcover edition from 1979 is still pretty easily available.)

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

A Sequence of Music for Lent, St. Joseph, and the Annunciation


I haven't figured out what music on this CD is for St. Joseph, but listening to Miserere on the vigil of the First Sunday of Lent, I appreciated the mixture of plainhant, Renaissance polyphony, and contemporary liturgical music composed at and performed in Westminster Cathedral. Unlike Harry Christopher's The Sixteen, the Westminster Choir has boys singing the soprano parts, and realizing that this choir sings this music in the context of the Mass and not in a concert hall added to the devotional impact for me. Then when we went to Mass on Sunday the choir sang an English translation of the first chant on the CD, "Attende Domine" and everything just fit. The liner notes describe the chant melody thus:

Plainsong exists to solemnify the text that it adorns. Attende, Domine has its origins in the Mozarabic Rite of the tenth century and is one of the more emotionally complex melodies in the literature. It is classified by Solesmes dogma as a Lydian tune, although it is authentically Ionian. On the one hand the chant drives the physical momentum of litaneic procession, while on the other it colours the plangency of Lenten supplication. The aural hook of this hymn of exhortation comprises two consecutively occurring perfect fourths (heard at the beginning of the second phrase of the refrain). This descending medieval solecism occurs to great effect no fewer than eleven times, and since the nineteenth century this chant has beguiled the willing ears of Anglicans as well as those of Roman Catholics, as witnessed by the melody’s prominent inclusion in the English Hymnal of 1906 under the title ‘A Lent Prose’.

It "beguiled [my] willing ears" too!

A Village and The Man in the Wing Chair

From the U.S. publisher Simon & Schuster:

In this #1 international bestseller, a young woman leaves everything behind to work as a librarian in a remote French village, where she finds her outlook on life and love challenged in every way.

Prudencia Prim is a young woman of intelligence and achievement, with a deep knowledge of literature and several letters after her name. But when she accepts the post of private librarian in the village of San Ireneo de Arnois, she is unprepared for what she encounters there. Her employer, a book-loving intellectual, is dashing yet contrarian, always ready with a critique of her cherished Jane Austen and Louisa May Alcott. The neighbors, too, are capable of charm and eccentricity in equal measure, determined as they are to preserve their singular little community from the modern world outside.

Prudencia hoped for friendship in San Ireneo but she didn't suspect that she might find love—nor that the course of her new life would run quite so rocky or would offer challenge and heartache as well as joy, discovery, and fireside debate. Set against a backdrop of steaming cups of tea, freshly baked cakes, and lovely company,
The Awakening of Miss Prim is a distinctive and delightfully entertaining tale of literature, philosophy, and the search for happiness.

It was cold and snowy on the First Sunday of Lent in Wichita, Kansas. We went to Mass at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception and then stopped for lunch. Once back in the house we were in for the day and I read The Awakening of Miss Prim by Natalia Sanmartin Fenollera. I read it right through the WSU basketball game, two loads of laundry, and letting the dogs out (and in). At least two friends had recommended the book, one lent us his copy, and my husband had already read it.

Although the novel has many delights for any reader, I think that a reader who accepts the worldview of Benedictine monasticism, Thomist philosophy, and Chestertonian paradoxes will fit right in the village of San Ireneo de Arnois and appreciate the awakening that Miss Prudencia Prim needs. While it seems like a love story, The Awakening of Miss Prim is really a conversion story (which would really be the same thing, right?) All of the people living and working in the village of San Ireneo de Arnois have converted, turned away from the modern world of acquisition and pressure to live in a community where leisure and education for children is the center of their activity. Miss Prim discovers that everyone plans their days and their work around the children and their well-being. Each shop is open only about six hours a day during the week and the proprietors, many of them women, manage their businesses to supply the needs of others the village, which is built next door to the Benedictine monastery.

In this interview, the author describes the inspiration for the village:

Many people ask me about the whereabouts of San Ireneo. The village doesn’t exist, it’s an imaginary place, but it’s inspired by the European tradition. Europe was built on small communities near abbeys like the one in the book, with an economy based on craftsmanship, solid families, ancient traditions and a very ordered life, in which each thing was done in its own time. That was the model I drew inspiration from to write the book. And that’s how San Ireneo was born, a place where people’s lives have a human scale and where tradition and culture are understood as treasures. In a world that’s so fast and so noisy, I think that’s what makes many readers ask me whether such a place exists, and wonder where it is.

Catholicism and tradition are in the background throughout the story, but Fenollera does not catechize the reader. Miss Prim receives the catechesis slowly and organically, but the surprise of the novel is that she has to leave the village to understand what she's learn and how to live with it--and at the end she's ready to return and . . . --the author leaves it to us to imagine what Miss Prim does when she goes back to San Ireneo de Arnois to teach school.

I do think she should have named "the Man in the Wing Chair" but then other authors have played games with a main character's identity--Daphne Du Maurier never tells us the second Mrs. DeWinter's first name in Rebecca, and Rose Macaulay famously teases the reader all through The Towers of Trebizond whether the protagonist/narrator is a woman or a man. Perhaps that's not such a flaw, after all.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Henry VI's Great Chapel at King's College, Cambridge

The Choir of the Chapel of King's College Cambridge is celebrating the "completion of the stone fabric of the chapel" in 2015. You may listen to a "A SEQUENCE OF WORDS AND MUSIC" from the chapel, which included the reading of Henry VI's will re: his college and chapel:

In the name of the blessed Trinity, the Father, the Sonne, and the Holy Ghost, oure Lady St Marie mother of Christ, and all the holy companie of heaven: I, Henry by the grace of God King of England, and of France, and lorde of Ireland, after the conquest of England the Sixt, for divers great and notable causes moving me at the making of theise presents, have do my will and mine intent to be written in manner that followeth: 

As touching the dimensions of the church of my said college of our Lady and St. Nicholas at Cambrige, I have devised and apointed that the same church shall containe 288 feete of assise in length, without any yles, and all of the wideness of 40 feete, and the length of the same church from the west end to the altare at the quier doore, shall containe 120 feete, and from the provosts stall unto the greece called Gradus Chori 90 feete, for 36 stalles on either side of the same quire, answering to 70 fellowes and ten priests conducts, which must be de prima forma. And from the said stalles unto the est end of the said church 72 feete of assize: also a reredost bearing the roodelofte departing the quier and the body of the church, containing in length 40 feete, and in breadth 14 feete; the walles of the same church to be in height 90 feete, imbattelled, vawted, and chare roffed, sufficiently butteraced, and every butterace finished with finials; and in the east end of the said church shall be a windowe of nine dayes, and betwixt every butterace a windowe of five dayes, and betwixt every of the same butteraces in the body of the church, on both sides of the same church, a closet with an altare therein, containing in length 20 feete, and in breadth 10 feete, vawted and finished undre the soyle of the yle windows. 

And I will that both my said colleges be edified of the most substantiall and best abiding stuffe of stone, lead, glasse, and yron, that may best be had and provided thereto: and that the church of St. John (Zachary), which must be taken to the enlarging of my said college, be well and sufficiently made againe in the grounde in which the provost and schollars abovesayd now be lodged, or nigh by where it may be thought most convenient, to the intent that Divine service shall now be done therein worshipfully to the honour of God, our Blessed Lady Christes mother, St. John Baptist, and all saints. 

The next reading is about the seventeenth century, thus skipping the Wars of the Roses, the beginning of the Tudor dynasty, the English Reformation and all the changes of religion that followed. There are also poems, anthems, and hymns. The program may be found here and the website for the continuing celebration of the anniversary here. A new book celebrates "Art, Music and Religion in Cambridge" but does not celebrate the Oxford comma!

Monday, February 23, 2015

Wichita Area Chesterton Group Reading "The Well and the Shallows"

We held our second meeting of 2015 at Eighth Day Books last Friday and continued our reading of G.K. Chesterton's The Well and the Shallows. The American Chesterton Society publishes this description of this collection of essays and articles:

A few years after his conversion, G.K. Chesterton began contributing articles to Catholic magazines on both sides of the Atlantic. The bulk of these of essays were reprinted in The Thing: Why I am a Catholic (1929) and this book, The Well and the Shallows (1935), which could almost be called The Thing: Part II or, as he suggests, Why I Would Have Become a Catholic if I Had Not Already Done So.

As always, he takes on all subjects, writing about anything and everything, but not only are these essays more specifically Catholic than his other works, there is clearly a sense of foreboding. He warns in the introduction that there are not as many jokes as his readers are used to. There is an urgent and somber sense that there are very dark and desperate days ahead, and that among other dangerous developments, the worst war that the world has ever seen is just over the horizon. He saw before anyone else that something terrible was about to happen to the Jews, and he proclaimed that he would die defending the last Jew in Europe. In spite of that, there are still fools who accuse him of hating the Jews.

Chesterton’s prophecies are chilling. But what is perhaps more shocking than his prophecies falling on deaf ears at the time, is that everything he said is still true – and still ignored. We have forgotten completely how bad the world got and how it got that way. Chesterton lays it all out in this book. What do these trends have in common: Birth control, State-enforced education, scientific officialism, academic deconstruction, and Anti-Catholicism? They are standard elements of the culture in present day America. But they were also the exact same trends seen in the rise of Nazi Germany.


The essay concludes with some comments about suffering and self-denial! Perfect for Lent:

There are two particular groups who find this book especially challenging to their ideas: Protestants and Catholics.

Protestantism is a large category and the only common factor it has is anti-Catholicism. Chesterton sympathizes with new religious movements. He knows that these people are seeking God. He remembers Christ’s dictum that he who seeks finds. But he also notes that most Protestants movements have lost their original reasons for existing. They simply take on some new form of anti-Catholicism to justify their position of remaining outside of the Church. Ultimately, Chesterton argues, the Catholic Church is right and everything thing else is wrong, or perhaps more accurately, the Church is complete and everything else is incomplete. The Church defends not only the eternal truths but the all the good things that are under attack in the modern world: the family, the poor, self-government, self-control. Protestants who at first feel that their toes are getting stepped on soon realize that Chesterton’s complete view of things has their own best interests in mind. The Church is the Well. It is deep and truth is at the bottom of it. Everything else is the Shallows.


It is when Chesterton starts talking about Catholic social teaching that many Catholics start suddenly going deaf or looking for something else to read. Chesterton appeals to the Church’s long history of serving the poor and bringing about social justice. He believes that Church teachings would be best fulfilled in the implementation of widespread property ownership, self-sufficiency, and family-centered trades. For those who continue to be puzzled by Distributism, perhaps the best one-chapter explanation of it anywhere can be found in the essay entitled: “Reflections on a Rotten Apple.”

There are people who enjoy Chesterton’s abstract thinking, but get prickly when he goes concrete. It is fine to argue that the Catholic Church is right, and modernism is wrong, but it gets downright uncomfortable when Chesterton starts talking about some of the real practical effects of being Catholic. It may mean making some sacrifices. Giving something up. Suffering, even. But we forget how deep is the well. Not only do we draw truth from it, we also draw strength and refreshment and eternal satisfaction.


Dale Ahlquist, President of the American Chesterton Society, will talk about Distributism and Catholic teaching about social justice at the Catholic Culture Conference scheduled at the Spiritual Life Center here in Wichita on April 17 and 18. More info here.

We are reading The Well and the Shallows in the the Collected Works edition from Ignatius Press, but Eighth Day Books also has the separate volume, pictured above, available.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Report on Cardinal Newman Day Lecture


Since I promoted my presentation at Newman University here on my blog, I thought I should report on it to you. Overall, I was happy with the results (my little jokes worked). The turnout was small, but it was Ash Wednesday evening after all. Good question and answer after. My husband took the picture above before everyone/anyone arrived. We worked on positioning the lapel microphone so I did not have to use the podium mic, which required me speaking directly into it--or my voice dropped. It's so important to get those little things right to reduce distractions. I will submit, after some edits, "Blessed John Henry Newman and Lent: Affliction and Love" for publication in Archaeopteryx, The Newman Journal of Ideas.

My next projects include a presentation on St. Thomas More at the Spiritual Life Center here in Wichita on Saturday, May 2 during the run of Wolf Hall on PBS, an article on the same subject for a major Catholic publication and a couple of radio interviews. I'll keep you updated. I also have some reviews/articles to work on for The Christian Review. Thanks again for your interest and support.

Blessed John Henry Newman, pray for us!