Thursday, April 29, 2010

From Douai to Chelsea

When English Catholic men went into exile to study for the priesthood during Elizabeth I’s reign, the first seminary set up for them on the continent was Douai, established in 1568 by William Allen, formerly of Oriel College at the University of Oxford. At that time, Douai was part of Flanders; now it is in France. The Catholic Archdiocese of Westminster in England recounts Allen’s biography and his efforts to establish the Venerable English College in Rome as well as the translation of the Holy Scriptures into English (which King James I’s translators would borrow from for the Authorized Version in England)—the Douai-Rheims translation.

Cardinal Allen, as he was honored in 1587, also had rather controversial roles in the excommunication of Elizabeth I in 1570 and the organization of the Spanish Armada in 1588. Pope St. Pius V’s bull Regnans in Exclesis not only excommunicated Elizabeth but also released English Catholics from their obligations to be loyal to her as Queen of England. The result of this bull, coming too late for the Northern Rebellions of 1569-1570, led to greater persecution of Catholics in England. Hoping for the successful invasion of England by the Spanish, Allen was to become the Archbishop of Canterbury and Chancellor. The majority of Catholics in England were loyal to their country during this invasion, but several priests and at least one layman, Philip Howard, suffered execution in its aftermath. When the Armada failed, he became Librarian of the Vatican and worked to found the English College in Spain. He died in Rome on October 16, 1594.

The English College in Douai was suppressed during the French Revolution in 1793, and the seminarians moved to England, where sympathy for the sufferings of French Catholic priests and nuns contributed to the notion of toleration for Catholics in England. The seminary founded in Douai is now in Chelsea where St. Thomas More established his Great House. The Archdiocese includes on their liturgical calendar the October 29 Memorial of the Blessed Martyrs of Douai College, beatified in 1929 by Pope Pius XI.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Venerable English College in Rome

Since I mentioned the Venerable English College in Rome in my post on La Vulnerata in Spain, I thought I’d highlight the painting in the chapel in Rome today. Like the wounded statue of Mary at Valladolid, the painting in the chapel of the Venerable English College resonated with the seminarians and priests there beyond their devotional response to it.

The painting, which dates from 1580, depicts Jesus with His Father supporting Him and the Holy Spirit above Him and His Blood dripping on a map of England. Two English martyrs, St. Thomas a Becket and St. Edmund stand on either side—with the Flaminian Gate through which exiles returning to England would go in the background. The motto in Latin, translated in English, “I have come to bring fire to the earth,” obviously inspired those preparing for the mission in England.

As news of another graduate of the College executed in England for his priesthood and his faith reached Rome, the students and priests there would gather in the chapel before this image to sing Te Deum Laudamus. The College website includes a list of the martyrs.

The Venerable English College has an exhibit currently open (until the end of July) that depicts the history of the College. The exhibit takes its name, Non Angli sed Angeli, from Pope St. Gregory the Great’s exclamation that led him to send St. Augustine of Canterbury to England.

Monday, April 26, 2010

La Vulnerata in Valladolid

Last week there was a story about Pope Benedict XVI blessing the damaged head of the statue that survived the atomic bomb at Nagasaki. The body of the wooden statue was destroyed in Urakami Cathedral, but the head was found in the ruins.

It reminded me of the damaged statue of Our Lady in the English College at Valladolid, Spain, called Our Lady Vulnerata. English pirates under Essex and Raleigh who captured the Spanish town of Cadiz in the aftermath of the Spanish Armada desecrated this statue, chopping off the arms and the body of the infant Jesus on her lap. The face of the statue was also cut and damaged. The Countess of Santa Gadea donated the statue to the students at the English College, who promised to pray in reparation for the actions of their fellow Englishmen.

The first chapter of Catholic Culture in Early Modern England, a collection of essays from the University of Notre Dame Press edited by Ronald Corthell, Francis E. Dolan, Christopher Highley, and Arthur E. Marotti, is titled “Recusant Catholic Spaces in Early Modern England.” The author, Peter Davidson, examines the Vulnerata and the chapel in the Venerable English College in Rome in the context of the exile and danger English Catholics endured during the Elizabethan era. He comments that the focus on this image of Mary in the chapel at Valladolid is significant, as England had popularly been known as “Mary’s Dowry” and yet men from England had violently desecrated her statue. The English Catholics in exile had this image, and the paintings depicting the events of its damage, before them as a reminder of how their country had changed, how they suffered in exile, and how they might suffer if and when they returned home where their faith was proscribed and their vocation illegal.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Hilaire Belloc, The Path to Rome, and the English Reformation

I belong to a reading group named the Ignatius J. Reilly society (after the protagonist in John Kennedy Toole’s novel). We usually just use the initials IJR. Our dear departed founder organized it as a potluck dinner event; he was the great cook among us and that part of IJR passed with Jim. We still bring snacks and beverages. This weekend we will discuss Hilaire Belloc’s The Path to Rome. Several years ago we discussed his book, The Servile State.

Hilaire Belloc was born and raised a Catholic and was a friend of G.K.Chesterton. (Our group has read several of Chesterton’s works including Orthodoxy [twice] and The Napoleon of Notting Hill). Belloc’s most famous statement is probably that “Europe is the Faith and the Faith is Europe”.

In The Path to Rome Belloc describes his walking pilgrimage from southeastern France to Rome; when he gets to Rome, the book ends. It is not that the destination does not matter; it’s just that the book is about the journey. As he progresses along the Rhone, across the Alps and into Italy, Belloc drinks wine, meets innkeepers, soldiers, and farmers along the way, draws pictures and maps, composes and sings songs, drinks wine, breaks the vows of his journey (he misses Mass the first day, rides on a train because his money is running out, and has to replace his boots), braves dangerous river and mountain crossings, and drinks wine, but he makes it to Rome on the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul as he vowed. As the book ends, he is relaxing in cafĂ©, waiting for the next Mass—drinking . . . brandy.

Like Chesterton, Belloc was a prolific writer, including several biographical and historical works among his oeuvre. Unfortunately, as John Vidmar comments in his English Catholic Historians and the English Reformation, Belloc did not do much research—his historical works are often apologetic propaganda. Nevertheless, as Vidmar also comments, much of Belloc’s historical view of the English Reformation has been verified and footnoted by historians after him, from Philip Hughes to Eamon Duffy.

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Official Version

Father Vidmar's book on English Catholic Historians led me to a book listed in his bibliography by Edwin Jones titled The Great Myth: The English Nation. He referenced an earlier edition and the one available now on is marred by a strange Afterword that creates a whole new myth of a new world order. Nevertheless, the central text is a fascinating analysis of how Thomas Cromwell created a new historical mythology to support Henry VIII's break from Rome and power grab to take over the Church in England:

Edwin Jones has written an excellent examination of the Whig mythology of English History first by identifying where it all began (with Thomas Cromwell's new version of English History in explanation of the acts of the "Reformation Parliament" of Henry VIII), then by tracing the legacy of that historical revision and its hold on the ordinary person in England. He analyses the historical method that supported this Whig mythology: relying on previous works without any analysis of primary sources; sustained anti-catholicism and willfull ignorance of the Medieval era; nationalistic and Protestant exceptionalism--all expressed in the works of John Foxe, Gilbert Burnet, Edward Coke, and others. During the Enlightenment era, David Hume maintained everything but the Protestant exceptionalism in his secular philosophical History of England, because he was sceptical about religion. Jones' great hero is Father John Lingard who in the nineteenth century began to apply modern historical methods of finding primary sources and not just relying on what Cromwell, Foxe, Burnet or others said. He used primary sources obtained in England and on the Continent to reveal the true course of events previous historians had ignored. Jones finally examines the last great historians of the Whig tradition (Macaulay and Trevelyan and others) before turning to the revisionist historians writing about the English Reformation (Duffy, Scarisbrick, Haigh, etc). Their works, he notes, have not gone far beyond an academic audience to influence popular thought about the Reformation and other events.

The text even so far is marred by repetition and typographical errors: the same work by R.W. Southern is mentioned half a dozen times with no great advance in argument. Christopher Haigh's name is spelled Haig, etc.

Then the Epilogue and the Afterword are tacked on and Jones ends the book with a rant against the USA, overflowing praise of Tony Blair, and predictions of the great coming world order under the European Union. I learned a great deal from his examination of the Whig theory of English History; I could have done without his now dated examination of the new mythology of a new world order and the greatness of the Eurodollar.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

How English Catholic Historians Wrote About the English Reformation

I recently posted a review on of Father John Vidmar's very specialized book, English Catholic Historians and the English Reformation, 1585-1954. I've also enjoyed corresponding with the author, who is on the Theology faculty at Providence College. Here is my review.

The historiography of the English Reformation has developed tremendously the last 30 years or so. Father Vidmar gives us a glimpse of the Catholic antecedents to the revisionist history of Duffy, Haigh, Bossy, (even myself) and others. Beginning with the clash between the Jesuits and the Appellants during Elizabeth I's reign, he also reveals how Catholics differed in their interpretation of the English Reformation. John Lingard, who wrote during the period leading up to Catholic Emancipation in 1829, was a more disciplined historian, using primary sources and interpreting them carefully, but even he displayed some of the disagreement between different parties in the Church, Cisalpine or Ultramontane. Vidmar also reveals developing Catholic views of crucial issues in English Reformation History: the role of Archbishop Cranmer, Papal authority, and Catholic appreciation of the Middle Ages and monasticism. In the latter, Catholic historians were contradicting the prevailing English prejudice against the "dark ages" as Pugin and others emphasized the cultural accomplishments of that era. He examines the efforts of Hilaire Belloc and even the fiction of Robert Hugh Benson in defending the spiritual authority of the pope. Vidmar's survey of English Catholic historians culminates in the work of Philip Hughes. A fascinating and specialized study.

Contents: Introduction: History and Religion 1. Exiles and Appellants 2. The Quest for Catholic Emancipation 3. John Lingard and the Cause of Catholicism 4. The Jesuits and Mark Tierney 5. The Restoration of the Middle Ages and Monasticism 6. Archbishop Cranmer and the Anglican Liturgy 7. The Church of England and the Papacy Conclusion Notes Bibliography (EXCELLENT) Index

28 or 35? Does it matter how old Anne Boleyn was?

Blogger Gareth Russell posts an excellent discussion on Anne Boleyn's birth date: was she born in 1501 or 1507? In my book I don't chase down details like that, but Anne's age does make a difference in our view of her execution and her influence on the King in religious matters, etc. I agree with Gareth Russell that it makes sense that she was younger, particularly since Henry was marrying her hoping she would bear at least one son, and since two sources with contemporary connections state she was born in 1507 and was less than 29 years old when she died!

I just finished reading Alison Weir's study of Anne's fall (The Lady in the Tower) and Weir remarks on Anne being just ten years younger than Henry. She includes a portrait of Anne as she probably looked at the time of her fall, as Weir subscribes to the earlier birthdate of 1501, so that Anne was around 35 years old when she was executed. Of course, that portrait is not from life since portraits of Anne were destroyed after her fall and execution.

First Post on New Blog

I have been posting blog-like notes on the facebook page I created for Supremacy and Surival: How Catholics Endured the English Reformation, but those only reach fans of that page, so I thought I'd trying blogging for real. I'll update notes on my continuing research and other reading activities. Thanks for stopping by!