Sunday, January 22, 2017

To Give Glory to God: Beautiful Catholic Churches


Patti Armstrong writes for The National Catholic Register about beautiful churches built in North and South Dakota built in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries by German immigrants:

Many of the Catholic churches in North Dakota and South Dakota bespeak the legacy of Catholic German immigrants who worked hard and worshipped even harder.

Four of them in particular are notable because they tower above small prairie towns, too large for their shrinking communities, but too magnificent not to maintain.

The early settlers in the Dakota Territory erected beautiful churches similar to the ones they had left behind in Europe. They wanted places of worship to glorify God and to last for generations.

In the Diocese of Bismarck, North Dakota, are: St. Mary’s in Richardton, Sts. Peter and Paul in Strasburg and St. Mary’s in Hague. Their total populations are 548; 392; and 67 respectively, according to the 2014 census poll. Hoven, South Dakota, home to St. Anthony of Padua, has 407 residents.

The churches are relics of the pre-Vatican II era, where people worshipped alongside a multitude of angels and saints captured in stained-glass windows, statues and paintings. Although they still function as active parishes, the churches have also become tourist destinations. Motorists detour off highways, and busloads of pilgrims come to see this Old World beauty surviving in the New World.

Their operation and maintenance costs are not practical, but the Catholic Church is about faith, beauty, courage and sacrifice.


The comment about keeping churches open even when the costs are prohibitive reminded me of some churches in Kansas that are kept open, often by the laity, even though they aren't active parishes now. Last February I visited St. Martin of Tours in Piqua, Kansas (pictured above) and many years ago my parents and I took a tour of the German/Volga German churches around Hays, Kansas. The Cathedral of the Plains, St. Fidelis Catholic Church, in Victoria is still a parish church, but Holy Cross in Pfeifer is maintained by a charitable foundation and the church is open every day for visitors. St. Joseph Church in Liebenthal is still an active parish of the Diocese of Dodge City, as is St. Anthony's in Schoenchen, although on a limited basis.

The church of St. Francis (not of Assisi, but St. Francis de Hieronymo, a Jesuit saint) in St. Paul, Kansas is still an active parish in the Diocese of Wichita; the pastor is from Burma. It is a beautiful church and a tremendous part of the history of Catholics in Kansas. This site describes all that it had been when the Jesuits and then Passionists had organized first a mission and then a monastery and retreat house. 

These churches were built by poor people, struggling to make their homesteads prosper, who wanted to see the same beauty in the New Country as they'd known in the Old when they went to Mass or to Confession, or a new baby's baptism, or a wedding--or a funeral. They wanted to give glory to God.Some of the artwork and decoration they scrimped and saved for was costly at the time but it is priceless today. These churches are monuments and memories of the German (or Irish or Italian or Polish) immigrants' faith and devotion. It may be inevitable that the population in the parishes declines to the point that they have to be moved or consolidated and certain churches closed, but it's wonderful when the laity help to maintain the closed churches, even though they may be empty (no Blessed Sacrament reserved in the Tabernacle). 

Saturday, January 21, 2017

The Anglo-Irish Confessor of King Louis XVI

Today, January 21, is the 224th anniversary of the execution of Louis Capet--as the National Convention called him--King Louis XVI. (In contrast, Charles I had not been deposed when he was executed after the English Civil War in 1649.)

This Eyewitness to History post describes the event. The monarch was attended the night before and the day of his execution by an Anglo-Irish priest, the Abbe Henry Essex Edgeworth, who heard the king's last Confession, celebrated Mass for him, and supported him throughout the ordeal--he is the eyewitness cited in the link above. According to 1878's A Compendium of Irish Biography found on this site, he was a:

cousin of Richard Lovell Edgeworth, was born at Edgeworthstown in 1745. His father, Essex Edgeworth, "who took the name of "de Firmont" from a neighbouring hill (Fairy Mount), became a Catholic and emigrated to France when Henry was but six years of age. The lad was educated for the priesthood at the Sorbonne, and after ordination became distinguished among the Parisian clergy for his talents and piety. In 1789 he was appointed confessor to Madame Elizabeth, and was justly esteemed the friend and adviser of the royal family. When Louis XVI. was condemned to the guillotine, he sent for the Abbe Edgeworth, then in concealment at Choisy, who immediately repaired to his master. The Abbe attended the unfortunate King to the scaffold, 21st January 1793, and has left a minute account of the execution. He makes no mention of the exclamation usually attributed to him as the knife fell — "Son of St. Louis, ascend to heaven!" After encountering many dangers, he escaped to England in 1796, where he is stated to have declined a pension offered him by Pitt. He afterwards joined Louis XVIII. at Blankenburg, and accompanied him to Mittau. He was from time to time intrusted with several important missions for the Bourbons. He fell a victim to a virulent fever, caught in his ministrations amongst French prisoners of war at Mittau, and died 22nd May 1807, aged about 62. In his last moments he was attended by the Princess, daughter of Louis XVI.; the exiled French royal family went into mourning, and Louis XVIII. composed his epitaph.

Note that Elena Maria Vidal includes the scene of Madame Royale visiting the Abbe on his deathbed in her novel about the Princess Marie-Therese, Louis and Marie Antoinette's only child to survive the French Revolution, and her incredible life. The author provided this excerpt on her blog in 2010:

The town of Mitau was bright with snow in the sunshine of a May morning, and cold winds whipped around the little palace which His Imperial Majesty the Tsar of All the Russias had generously loaned to the impoverished, exiled Bourbons. In a small, sparsely furnished room of the palace, an aged priest lay dying. In a chair beside his bed sat a young woman, not quite thirty, in a maroon, high-waisted wool dress, with a white linen apron. Under a close fitting white cap, her amber-colored hair, in a grecian knot, framed a strong, solemn face with piercing blue-gray eyes. Dipping a cloth into a basin of water, she sponged the forehead of the sick man, whose chest shuddered and heaved. At first glance, no one would guess that she was Madame Royale, daughter of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette, their Mousseline la s√©rieuse, now the Duchesse d’Angoul√™me. With closer examination, no one with her dignified, albeit rather stiff bearing could be anything but a princess. She radiated a cold majesty to those who did not know her, but in her eyes burned the fires of deep emotions; her frigid manner was from sadness, not apathy or scorn.

The Catholic Encyclopedia notes that the Edgeworth family moved to Ireland during the reign of Elizabeth I and the Abbe's father became a Catholic during the reign of King George II. Edgeworth was offered an Irish diocese after his ordination but noted that England was a distant second language to him since he was raised in France from childhood. When Le Clerc, the Archbishop of Paris, fled in 1792, he appointed Edgeworth as the Vicar General of the diocese, and the Holy See never recognized Jean-Baptiste-Joseph Gobel, who had taken the oath of the Civil Constitution of the Clergy (who ended up on the guillotine just like Louis XVI--on April 13, 1794).

Friday, January 20, 2017

Abbot Richard Beere and Two Martyrs


Richard Beere or Bere, the penultimate abbot of Glastonbury Abbey, died on January 20, 1524. According to the Dictionary of National Biography, he

was installed in 1493, the election of Thomas Wasyn having been quashed by the Bishop of Bath and Wells. He was a great builder. Leland tells us that he built the greater part of King Edgar's chapel at the east end of his abbey church, that he 'arched on both sides the east end that began to cast out,' and made the vault of the steeple in the transept 'and under 2 arches like S. Andres Crosse els it had fallen.' By the east end of the church Leland evidently meant the east end of the nave and aisles, and not of the chancel. Bere also built a new set of chambers, in which he entertained Henry VII on his march into the west during the rebellion of Perkin Warbeck in the autumn of 1497. Hence these rooms were called the king's lodgings. He also added new lodgings for secular priests to the various buildings of the abbey. Almshouses for ten old women built by Abbot Bere still stand at Glastonbury, and a stone in the chapel exhibits his initials, surmounted by his cognisance, a cross between two beer-jugs. His initials and cognisance may also be seen on St. Benedict's church in Glastonbury, and his initials, surmounted by a mitre, on the Lepers' Hospital at Monkton, near Taunton; for both these buildings were repaired by him. The R. B. on the tower of St. Mary's at Taunton has long been taken to witness to Bere's work. These letters, however, more probably represent the name of a more famous architect, Sir Reginald Bray [q. v.] Among his various works Bere built the manor-house at Sharpham, before his time only a poor lodge, where Fielding was born. In 1503 the king sent Bere, with two other ambassadors, to Rome to congratulate Pius III on his elevation to the papacy. Their mission was in vain; for the pope died a few weeks after his election. On his return from Italy the abbot built chapels of Our Lady of Loretto and of the Holy Sepulchre in his church. In this year also he 'supplicated' the congregation of the university of Oxford for a degree in divinity, but with what success does not appear. In 1508 he was engaged in a controversy with Warham, archbishop of Canterbury, concerning the genuineness of the pretended relics of St. Dunstan at Glastonbury. Finding that the worshippers at the splendid shrine of the saint picked off its ornaments, the abbot had caused it to be raised out of reach. The monks of Canterbury, jealous of the crowds of pilgrims who flocked to Glastonbury, saw in this change in the position of the shrine an attempt to increase popular veneration. By order of the archbishop a search for the relics was made at Canterbury on 20 April, and Warham wrote to Abbot Bere telling him of the coffin and the bones which had been found, and bidding him attend on the feast of St. Thomas of Canterbury, and show cause why the Glastonbury monks should claim to have the genuine relics. Bere replied, upholding the claim of his convent, and asserting that if the Canterbury monks had such relics they belonged of right to Glastonbury. In this letter he describes the veneration displayed towards St. Dunstan by the Somerset folk. The archbishop replied in peremptory terms. In a few years the dispute was settled by the general pillage of the religious houses. Before that time, on 20 Jan. 1524, Abbot Bere died. A letter addressed to him ('R. Bero Glasconiensi Abbati') by Erasmus, 4 Sept. 1524, shows that he was a scholar of considerable eminence. Writing to him about his edition of S. Jerome, Erasmus expresses his entire concurrence in the abbot's opinion of his work. He speaks of his love of learning, and of the liberality he has shown to scholars, naming especially his own friend, Zacharias Frisius. This letter is of importance, both as representing Bere's attitude towards the new learning in England, and as throwing a special light on the life of his famous abbey in these its last days. Bere was buried under a plain slab of marble in the south aisle of the body of his church, near by the chapel of the Holy Sepulchre which he built.

Cardinal Wolsey appointed Richard Whiting to succeed Richard Beere and Whiting was the last abbot of Glastonbury, hanged, drawn and quartered on November 15, 1539 on Glastonbury Tor above the Abbey. While he had accepted Henry VIII's supremacy, Whiting was accused of treason when the Dissolution of the Monasteries proceeded to the larger, richer houses. As British History Online puts it: "So he was condemned, on evidence which was never made public, on a charge of treason in that he and two monks in charge of the treasury at Glastonbury had feloniously concealed from the king some of the treasures of the abbey."

Richard Bere, Beere's nephew, son of his brother Robert, had become a Carthusian monk and he died in Newgate Prison, starved to death because he would not accept Henry VIII's supremacy, on August 29, 1537.

Of course the great abbey church that Abbot Beere did so much to build up was eventually pulled down. During the reign of Mary I, a few Benedictines wanted to restart the community, according to British History Online:

On 21 November 1556 (fn. 177) four survivors of the monastery who had found a refuge at Westminster petitioned the queen for a restoration of the abbey of Glastonbury. They asked for no endowment and offered to pay rent for the lands they needed if only they might have a grant of the site and buildings. Queen Mary was certainly in favour of the project—it would be a great honour to the memory of Joseph of Arimathea who lay there—but similar applications from the monks of other monasteries created a delay and the queen died before any real step could be taken. The monks' names were John Phagan, John Nott, William Adelwold and William Kentwyne. (fn. 178) Of these all but Nott had signed the Act of Supremacy.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity: Time for an Apology?

During the Week or really the Octave of Prayer for Christian Unity (January 18 to 25) The Church of England is evidently going to apologize on behalf of past generations for the excesses of the English Reformation.The apology will include regrets for iconoclasm, the dissolution of the monasteries, the Catholic martyrs, etc. This statement of repentance comes as Christians commemorate the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. This comment struck me as starting off in the wrong direction:

“As the Church of England prepares to celebrate the Reformation, it should also repent of the violence and brutality it sometimes committed in God’s name,” commented Rev. Andrew Atherstone, a member of the Anglican synod.

Atherstone said that aspects of the Reformation are “deeply embedded in our national psyche,” and was
[sic] the historical context for the attempted invasion of the Spanish Armada and the Gunpowder Plot, when Catholic would-be revolutionary Guy Fawkes attempted to blow up Parliament.

That seems like a strange thing to do in the midst of preparing for a statement of reconciliation--if you're apologizing or repenting for things your side has done in the past why bring up things the other side has done in the past? 

The U.K Daily Mail story quotes Anne Widdecombe, a former Anglican and former Conservative Member of Parliament: "These gestures are pointless. The Archbishop has not put anyone to death, as far as I know," she said. "Modern Christians are not responsible for what happened in the Reformation. You might as well expect the Italians to apologise for Pontius Pilate."

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is a project of the World Council of Churches which developed this year's theme:

It was in the context of the Reformation Anniversary that the Council of Churches in Germany took up the work of creating the resources for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2017. It quickly became clear that the materials for this Week of Prayer for Christian Unity would need to have two accents: on the one hand, there should be a celebration of God’s love and grace, the “justification of humanity through grace alone”, reflecting the main concern of the churches marked by Martin Luther’s Reformation. On the other hand, the materials should also recognize the pain of the subsequent deep divisions which afflicted the Church, openly name the guilt, and offer an opportunity to take steps toward reconciliation.

Ultimately it was Pope Francis’ 2013 Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (“The Joy of the Gospel”) which provided the theme for this year, when it used the quote: “The Love of Christ Compels Us” (Paragraph 9). With this scripture (2 Cor 5:14), taken in the context of the entire fifth chapter of the second letter to the Corinthians, the German committee formulated the theme for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2017.


It will be interesting to see the statement of the Archbishop of Canterbury, God bless him. He is obviously trying to respond to the second part of the theme: to "name the guilt, and offer an opportunity to take steps toward reconciliation."

Edward VI's Georgian Coronation


On Tuesday, Turner Classic Movies aired a series of Errol Flynn movies including Captain Blood, The Adventures of Robin Hood, The Sea Hawk, and The Prince and the Pauper. Based upon Mark Twain's historical comedy novel, the story in the latter movie takes place after Henry VIII's death when his son Edward trades places with a poor boy named Tom Canty. Evil Edward Seymour, the Earl of Hertford, played by Claude Rains, takes advantage of the confusion to use the fake Prince as his pawn while Miles Hendon, Errol Flynn, protects the real king. The boys are played by brothers, Billy and Bobby Mauch, who seem several years older than the historical Edward's nine years at the time of his coronation.

Warner Brothers intended The Prince and the Pauper to be released in time for the coronation of Edward VIII, but because Edward wanted to marry Wallis Simpson, he abdicated and the coronation--now of his younger brother George--and the release of the film were delayed until May of 1937.

The Coronation Scene, which is very detailed and gorgeously filmed in black and white, is a set piece. Although the real Edward and Miles are on their way to Westminster Abbey, the director had no interest in creating any tension--there are no cuts to Edward and Miles coming closer as the anointing and the coronation of the fake Edward is proceeding. They arrive with seconds to spare! 

 A footnote in this book, which describes how Erich Korngold composed his own version of the coronation anthem, "Zadok the Priest", includes the promotional detail that this scene would be similar to the rites in King George VI's coronation so much so that "Those of us who are not fortunate enough to be able to see the actual rites, will witness an accurate picture of what will occur in Westminster Abbey in May."

So instead of trying to achieve authenticity to the historical coronation of Edward VI, the producers opted for authenticity to the contemporary coronation of George VI! 

I also found it amusing that Edward trusted Thomas Howard, the Duke of Norfolk most of all and that he exiled his historical Protector, Somerset (Claude Rains) at the end of the movie. The anniversary of Somerset's execution is coming up--January 22, 1552.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The Final Session of the Council of Trent Opens

The third and final session of the Council of Trent opened on January 18, 1562, convened by Pope Pius IV, a good Medici. This session decided many details about priestly formation: bishops were to ordain only suitable men to holy orders and to supervise their moral life; clergy were to reside in their parishes and to perform regular duties; a seminary was to be established in every diocese; the discipline of clerical celibacy was upheld, etc.

This was the session of the Council attended by the last Catholic Bishop of St. Asaph's, Thomas Goldwell. He had been appointed by Mary I and he gave the last rites to Reginald Cardinal Pole, but had to go into exile at the beginning of Elizabeth I's reign without ever really becoming the ordinary of his diocese in Wales. As the Catholic Encyclopedia explains:

He was the only English bishop at the Council of Trent, where he was treated with marked respect. He was there engaged in the revision of the Breviary and the Missal; and also urged the council to excommunicate Queen Elizabeth. His mere presence at Trent was a cause of such excessive annoyance to Elizabeth that she wrote the following extraordinary farrago of falsehood to her German envoy Mundt: "We think it may be that one Goldwell, a very simple and fond man, having in our late sister's time been named to a small bishopric in Wales called St. Asaph, though never thereto admitted, flying out of the realm upon our sister's death, is gone to Rome as a renegade, and there using the name of a bishop, without order or title, is perhaps gone in the train of some Cardinal to Trent, and so it is likely the speech hath arisen of a bishop of England being there."

Not only did Thomas Goldwell attend the third session of the Council of Trent, but he was active in implementing its reforms:

In 1563 Goldwell was vicar-general to the Archbishop of Milan, St. Charles Borromeo. In 1567 he was made vicar of the cardinal archpriest in the Lateran, and in 1574 the Cardinal Vicar Savelli made him his vicegerent; he thus became, so to speak, the "working" bishop of Rome. . . . One of the last acts of his long and strenuous career was to serve on the Congregation for the Revision of the Roman Martyrology, in 1582. On the death of the Bishop of Lincoln, in 1584, Goldwell became the sole survivor of the ancient English hierarchy. He died the next year [on April 3], and was buried at St. Sylvester's.

He had even tried to accompany St. Edmund Campion, Father Robert Persons, et al on the mission to England in 1580 but became too ill during the journey on the Continent from Rome to the coast. He had to turn back at Reims. 

Monday, January 16, 2017

Pre-Order Now and Read an Excerpt

Bloomsbury has sent out a notice about the imminent release of Eamon Duffy's contribution to the Reformation's 500th anniversary. It's ready for pre-order now and an excerpt is available. I look forward to reading about Duffy's view of how and why St. Thomas More enforced England's heresy laws when he was Chancellor, and the other subjects Duffy will explore. A reminder about the purpose and contents of the book from the publisher:

Published to mark the 500th anniversary of the events of 1517, Reformation Divided explores the impact in England of the cataclysmic transformations of European Christianity in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The religious revolution initiated by Martin Luther is usually referred to as 'The Reformation', a tendentious description implying that the shattering of the medieval religious foundations of Europe was a single process, in which a defective form of Christianity was replaced by one that was unequivocally benign, 'the midwife of the modern world'. The book challenges these assumptions by tracing the ways in which the project of reforming Christendom from within, initiated by Christian 'humanists' like Erasmus and Thomas More, broke apart into conflicting and often murderous energies and ideologies, dividing not only Catholic from Protestant, but creating deep internal rifts within all the churches which emerged from Europe's religious conflicts.

The book is in three parts: In 'Thomas More and Heresy', Duffy examines how and why England's greatest humanist apparently abandoned the tolerant humanism of his youthful masterpiece Utopia, and became the bitterest opponent of the early Protestant movement. 'Counter-Reformation England' explores the ways in which post-Reformation English Catholics accommodated themselves to a complex new identity as persecuted religious dissidents within their own country, but in a European context, active participants in the global renewal of the Catholic Church. The book's final section 'The Godly and the Conversion of England' considers the ideals and difficulties of radical reformers attempting to transform the conventional Protestantism of post-Reformation England into something more ardent and committed. In addressing these subjects, Duffy shines new light on the fratricidal ideological conflicts which lasted for more than a century, and whose legacy continues to shape the modern world.


While I was reading the excerpt on issuu, a platform I'd never heard of before, I noticed that there are other resources available, including entire books! One book, which I read several years ago, is Thomas E. Woods, Jr.'s dissertation-cum-book, The Church Confronts Modernity: Catholic Intellectuals and the Progressive Era:

The book is still available from Columbia University Press and I highly recommend it:

As the twentieth century opened, American intellectuals grew increasingly sympathetic to Pragmatism and empirical methods in the social sciences. The Progressive program as a whole—in the form of Pragmatism, education, modern sociology, and nationalism—seemed to be in agreement on one thing: everything was in flux. The dogma and "absolute truth" of the Church were archaisms, unsuited to modern American citizenship and at odds with the new public philosophy being forged by such intellectuals as John Dewey, William James, and the New Republic magazine. Catholics saw this new public philosophy as at least partly an attack on them.

Focusing on the Catholic intellectual critique of modernity during the period immediately before and after the turn of the twentieth century, this provocative and original book examines how the Catholic Church attempted to retain its identity in an age of pluralism. It shows a Church fundamentally united on major issues—quite unlike the present-day Catholic Church, which has been the site of a low-intensity civil war since the close of the Second Vatican Council in 1965. Defenders of the faith opposed James, Dewey, and other representatives of Pragmatism as it played out in ethics, education, and nationalism. Their goals were to found an economic and political philosophy based on natural law, to appropriate what good they could find in Progressivism to the benefit of the Church, and to make America a Catholic country.

The Church Confronts Modernity explores how the decidedly nonpluralistic institution of Christianity responded to an increasingly pluralistic intellectual environment. In a culture whose chief value was pluralism, they insisted on the uniqueness of the Church and the need for making value judgments based on what they considered a sound philosophy of humanity. In neither capitulating to the new creed nor retreating into a self-righteous isolation, American Catholic intellectuals thus laid the groundwork for a half-century of intellectual vitality.

What a nice surprise and reminder!

Psychoanalytic criticism: Man is Wolf to Man

First Things has made one of its February 2017 subscriber access articles available for free: Patricia Snow discusses the personal background behind Hilary Mantel's Cromwell novels:

Psychoanalytic criticism may have fallen out of favor, but it has not ceased to be useful. Even so bare an outline of Mantel’s life, drawn from her 2003 memoir, Giving Up the Ghost, makes clear the connections between Mantel’s biographical backstory and the goings-on at Henry VIII’s court. In her novels about Cromwell, all of Mantel’s formative issues are in play: the plot-driving engine of marital unhappiness; divorce and the impossibility of divorce; ambiguous sexual situations; the desirability but also the powerlessness of children. Mantel’s early experiences explain not only her richly ambivalent attitude toward her Tudor characters, but also her impressive “negative capability” as their artist—her ability, that is, out of the small circle of her original family, either to play or to cast all the parts.

For example, she herself is Mary, the king’s awkwardly placed oldest daughter who is banished from his presence together with a rejected, painfully dignified spouse (Katherine of Aragon). She is also Elizabeth, another unwanted but ultimately triumphant (if sterile) daughter who, at a stroke, lost a parent (Anne Boleyn) as a child. Mantel’s mother, of course, is Henry, the books’ capricious, death-dealing sovereign, and Jack is Anne Boleyn, the sallow Protestant parvenu. But Mantel’s mother is also Boleyn: small and catlike in her movements, unscrupulous and shape-shifting. Cross-referencing Mantel’s memoir with the novels, the reader encounters the same clusters of descriptors again and again, shared out among Mantel’s mother, Jack, and Anne Boleyn, or among Cromwell, Mantel herself as a child, and Cromwell’s small daughter, Anne. Sometimes a phrase or sentiment from the memoir is lifted virtually unchanged into the novels, as when Mantel’s mother and Jack, like Henry and Anne, are described as “[the] couple who had endured, to be together, so much adverse public opinion.”

In the novels, Mantel is reimagining the small-scale squalor of her parents’ domestic arrangements on a large scale, as consequential history. The exercise may have been exhilarating, or cathartic, as when history requires that she banish Queen Katherine and her daughter, Mary, not to a yellowing bedroom down a dimly lit hall, but to far-flung palaces. But any temptation on Mantel’s part to use the novels to romanticize or exorcise her own past is balanced in the writing by an equally strong authorial impulse to expose it.

For example, there is Mantel’s puzzling choice of a title:
Wolf Hall. Scarcely mentioned in the novel that bears its name, Wolf Hall is the family seat of Jane Seymour, the eventual third wife of the king. Halfway through Wolf Hall, in a brief digression, the reader learns that old Sir John Seymour slept with his son’s wife for two years, during which time she gave birth to two boys. Laughing when the scandal of the boys’ dubious parentage becomes known, Anne Boleyn says to Henry, “They could tell Boccaccio a tale, those sinners at Wolf Hall.” Inexplicable as a title choice apart from a familiarity with Mantel’s history, Wolf Hall is the world for Mantel personally. Or as Cromwell puts it to himself elsewhere: homo homini lupus, man is wolf to man.

Read the rest there

At the end of the article, Snow points out that The Mirror and the Light, Mantel's third novel about Thomas Cromwell, is taking longer to write (the first two books were published in 2009 and 2012). Snow suggests that killing off her father figure must be hard for Mantel. I wonder if Mantel will respond to Snow's comments: this cuts close to the quick and perhaps the article demonstrates why "Psychoanalytic criticism may have fallen out of favor". Man is wolf to man.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Another Poetic Martyr

Francis Philips writes in The Catholic Herald:

What a good idea it was for the Christmas issue of the Catholic Herald to include a free DVD about the English martyrs, produced by St Anthony Communications and narrated by Fr Marcus Holden and Fr Nicholas Schofield. I watched it the other night and was reminded again of the sacrifices that some brave men and women were prepared to undergo for the love of their faith. . . .

The DVD she refers to is Faith of Our Fathers: In Search of the English Martyrs, which I reviewed in 2014. She writes about the English Martyrs of the English Reformation and the Recusant era and mentions one not highlighted in the documentary:

One of my own favourites, not mentioned in the film which is why I now bring him to readers’ attention, is Blessed Thomas Belson, 1563-1589. Belson, one of the four Oxford martyrs, came from a prosperous landowning family near Long Crendon, Buckinghamshire. (I happen to live near the parish church.) He studied at Oxford and then renounced his possessions in order to dedicate himself to the humble but vital task of assisting priests in their travels between England and the Continent. He was hanged aged 26 on July 5 1589.

All that remains of this selfless young man is a 16-line Latin poem he wrote, probably after his first imprisonment in the Tower in 1586. Translated by Michael Hodgetts, it concludes with the lines:

Why should I rail on fortune or repine?
Why should I grieve? God’s remedy is mine.
Endure then, as philosophers maintain
A brave man should, adversity and pain.

On the surface these are skilful lines, the evidence of a classical education aligned to conventional piety. Then one remembers they were written in prison, anticipating the probability of a painful public death, and that their author, the son of a wealthy family and assured of a comfortable career in the (Protestant) Tudor world, was only 23 when he penned them.

This website posts the entire poem:

I look about me, sick and faint of soul;
The dwelling of God's glory is my goal.
But, though I look about so constantly,
No answer comes, none turns to rescue me.
Yet, as I wander through the grassy dale,
Or higher, as the mountain crags I scale,
Until alone on lonely peaks I gaze,
I grieve for having left my Saviour's ways.
And when I think how gentle is his touch,
And how his justice could demand so much,
My mind is changed, my labours seem the less,
and I regret my former foolishness.
Why should I rail on fortune or repine?
Why should I grieve? God's remedy is mine.
Endure, then, as philosophers maintain
A brace
(sic) man should, adversity and pain.

Blessed Thomas Belson had studied at Blessed John Henry Newman's college, Oriel (where Newman was a Fellow)! He was beatified by Pope St. John Paul II in 1987.

As soon as the Eighth Day Institute January Symposium is over, I'll watch and review the latest documentary from St. Anthony Communication: To Be A Pilgrim: The Canterbury Way:

An ancient trail of pilgrimage runs through south-east England; a pathway along which so much of English identity converges. It is the way of St Thomas Becket, the martyr who stood up to a King and inspired Christendom. It is a route that drew countless pilgrims in ages past, captured the imagination of Chaucer and is reviving in our own time.

This film follows Fr Marcus Holden and Fr Nicholas Schofield as they journey from London to Canterbury. Along the way they discover the story of St Thomas and some fascinating traditions: the Rood of Boxley, the splendour of Rochester, the 'second Carmel' at Aylesford and many more.

By retracing the steps of the medieval pilgrims, this film draws out the rich Christian heritage of England and reflects on what it means 'To Be A Pilgrim.'


In the meantime, I'm wrapping up my presentation and looking forward to the weekend!!

Friday, January 13, 2017

At 11:30 a.m. Today

I'll be at the seventh annual Eighth Day Institute Symposium making my presentation on "Long Live the Queen: John Henry Newman and the Place of Theology in a Liberal Arts Education". My reflection is live on the EDI website and will be included in the January issue of Synaxis:

Reading Newman’s Idea and his vision of university education now, so many years later, I am struck by how timely his defense of Theology as a field of study with a body of knowledge is for us today. In the mid-nineteenth century he saw that if Theology was not accepted as an academic subject, with content and knowledge to impart, religious doctrine and practice would devolve into mere feeling. Then religious doctrine and morality will be “based, not on argument, but on taste and sentiment” and “nothing [is] objective”; in fact “everything [is] subjective”. Newman saw that if Theology is only a matter of “taste and sentiment” and Christian doctrine “the bane of true knowledge”, theologians will be rejected. Theologians—the watchmen—will face “a feeling, not merely of contempt, but of absolute hatred” if they dare state that what they say is true and based not on opinion or affection, but on knowledge and experience. Newman seems a prophet in that vision, as in many other things.

Here's the schedule in case you want to come! Of course, bad winter weather is forecast for this weekend in Wichita, so caution is advised, especially on Saturday!