Friday, September 30, 2011

"Anna Bolena", Donizetti's Version of History

The Metropolitan Opera is presenting Anna Netrebko as Donizetti's Anna Bolena. Heidi Waleson reviews the production and performance for the Wall Street Journal:

In this fictionalized Tudor tale, librettist Felice Romani kept the focus on the personal rather than the political: Henry VIII of England wants to get rid of his second wife, Anne Boleyn, so that he can marry her lady-in-waiting, Jane Seymour. He brings Lord Richard Percy, Anne's first love, back from exile so that he can find an excuse to accuse her of adultery. With the unwitting aid of Smeaton, a court musician, and Lord Rochefort, Anne's brother, the trap is easily sprung.

Read the rest of the review here. Ms. Netrebko's performance is not well-received.

An interesting feature of this opera is the pants role--Mark Smeaton, "Smeton" is sung by a contralto. Anna is a bel canto, mad-scene soprano and Jane Seymour is a mezzo. Henry VIII is a bass and Percy is the tenor.

In the 1970's Beverly Sills sang all three Donizetti queens (the title roles in Maria Stuarda and Anna Bolena, and Elizabeth I in Roberto Devereux) at the New York City Opera. You can hear Sills and Shirley Verrett singing the Anna and Giovanna duet, "Sul suo capo aggravi un Dio" here--or can see the diva of the day with helpful German subtitles. Jane warns Anne that Henry wants to replace her with a new wife, and Anne doesn't take the news well--and the tension increases when she finds out Jane is her rival--"fuggi, fuggi" she keeps telling Jane. But Jane can't leave: she has more to sing! It's opera and it's complicated. Jane says at one point, "I love Henry and I am ashamed." Anne replies, "The King alone is guilty." At least it ends with a high C.

According to this website, there is one complete recording, with Elena Souliotis as Anna; Marilyn Horne as Giovanna, and Janet Baker at Smeton with Placido Domingo as Percy! What a cast!

The Nuns at Tyburn Convent

According to the Catholic Truth Society, the Convent at Tyburn near Marble Arch in London, is experiencing a great growth in vocations. CTS offers a DVD of documentary titled "Gloria Dei":

The Tyburn Nuns have national prominence in England because of the situation of their convent in London’s West End, close to the site of the 'Tyburn Tree' gallows upon which 105 Roman Catholics were martyred during the Protestant Reformation.

Since the establishment of their convent in 1903 the order has spread around the world and now has religious houses as far afield as Australia, Latin America and Italy. They are rather special because they are among the few women’s religious orders which are growing at a time when most are in decline.

Their DVD is a beautifully-made 90-minute documentary film that takes the viewer on a tour of the order’s nine convents. It begins at the order’s mother house near Marble Arch and moves on to newer houses on the Atlantic shores of Cork Harbour, the Irish Republic, and in Largs, Scotland. It also offers a window into the life of the Benedictine nuns in monasteries situated in such locations as Pacific fishing villages in Latin America, aloft Andean peaks, amid the Blue Mountains of New South Wales and the rural beauty of New Zealand as well as the frenetic bustle of cosmopolitan Rome.

It shows nuns entering the convents as novices as well as making their final professions and how the monasteries both benefit and are supported by the communities in which they are found.

Most importantly, the DVD gives the viewer a vivid and authentic insight into the spirituality of the mothers, based on work, prayer and devotion to the Eucharist. The love and joy that they show in their work for Christ will prove an inspiration to the viewer.

More on the DVD here and here, from the CTS blog--and here is the Tyburn Convent website. Finally, here's a review from Simon Caldwell in The Catholic Herald:

Yesterday, the Tyburn Nuns released the DVD Tyburn Convent Gloria Deo, a 90-minute film by Michael Luke Davies, a former West End fashion and beauty photographer, which offers a unique and fascinating window into life in their order’s nine monasteries.

Read the rest here.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

A Future Vicar Apostolic for Great Britain

Richard Challoner was born on September 29, 1691 in Lewes, Sussex (former site of Lewes Abbey) of Protestant (Presbyterian) parents. When his father died, his mother became a servant in a Catholic household and both she and Richard became Catholics--he was baptized when he was thirteen years old. He lived with another Catholic family in Northamptonshire, where the lady of the house was one of Blessed William Howard's daughters, Lady Anastasia Holman. The chaplain of the household, Father John Gother, also influenced young Challoner. He went to the English College at Douai in 1705, where he stayed for 25 years as student and professor and was ordained in 1716.

In 1730 he returned to England as a missionary priest: there he lived and worked in London, disguised as a layman. Challoner wrote several books: Think Well On It, a devotional; Memoirs of Missionary Priests and other Catholicks of both Sexes who suffered Death or Imprisonment in England on account of their Religion, from the year 1577 till the end of the reign of Charles II (2 vols. 1741), the main source for information about the Catholic martyrs of the recusant era; The Garden of the Soul, another devitional; and the revision of the Douai/Rheims translation of the Holy Bible into English!

In 1758 he was named the Vicar Apostolic of the London District. The Vicars Apostolic were ordained Bishops who supervised priests throughout England, in lieu of the usual diocesan structure. Challoner had been the Coadjutor Bishop for Benjamin Petre and succeeded him.

In 1778, Parliament passed The Catholic Relief Act and two years later, Lord George Gordon, head of the Protestant Association, instigated the Gordon Riots, resulting in days of anti-Catholic violence. Bishop Challoner never recovered from the shock and fear of hiding from the mobs searching for him. He was almost 90 years old and died on January 12, 1781. Bishop Richard Challoner, Vicar Apostolic, was a faithful and true leader of Catholics in the eighteenth century. I will be on the Son Rise Morning Show today at 7:45 a.m. Eastern/6:45 a.m. Central, etc, to discuss the life and legacy of this great Catholic bishop.

Another Papal Bull Irritates Another English Queen

"Am I the Queen of England or am I not?" So said Queen Victoria when news of the Restoration of the English Catholic hierarchy was announced in 1850. Pope Pius IX issued the Papal Bull "Universalis Ecclesiae" on September 29th that year. The first Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster, Nicholas Wiseman issued a pastoral letter to English Catholics, "Out of the Flaminian Gate," on October 7, 1850. His tone of exultation offended the Queen and her government, especially in its praise of the Pope:

And in nothing will it be fairer or brighter than in this, that the glow of more fervent love will be upon it. Whatever our sincere attachment and unflinching devotion to the Holy see till now, there is a new ingredient cast into these feelings; a warmer gratitude, a tenderer affection, a profounder admiration, a boundless and endless sense of obligation, for so new, so great, so sublime a gift, will be added to past sentiments of loyalty and fidelity to the supreme see of Peter. Our venerable Pontiff has shown himself a true shepherd, a true father; and we cannot but express our gratitude to him in our most fervent language, in the language of prayer. For when we raise our voices, as is meet, in loud and fervent thanksgiving to the Almighty, for the precious gifts bestowed upon our portion of Christ’s vineyard, we will also implore every choice blessing on him who has been so signally the divine instrument in procuring it. We will pray that his rule over the Church may be prolonged to many years, for its welfare; that health and strength may be preserved to him for the discharge of his arduous duties; that light and grace may be granted to him proportioned to the sublimity of his office; and that consolations, temporal and spiritual, may be poured out upon him abundantly, in compensation for past sorrows and past ingratitude. And of these consolations may one of the most sweet to his paternal heart be the propagation of holy religion in our country, the advancement of his spiritual children there in true piety and devotion, and our ever-increasing affection and attachment to the see of St. Peter.

As Cardinal Wiseman progressed on the Continent toward the British Isles he heard about the anger expressed in the British papers. Queen Victoria expressed herself in the strongest terms and the Cardinal responded by publishing a pamphlet and giving lectures that indicated the Catholic Church had no intention of opposing Her Majesty's Government in any way.

Queen Victoria's Prime Minister, Lord John Russell, introduced a bill in Parliament which passed making it illegal for the new Catholic Bishops to be physically present in their new dioceses--a law which was never enforced by the next government under Gladstone. There were still flare ups of anti-Catholic rioting and violence, but the Cardinal Archibishop had toned down his rather triumphalistic rhetoric and settled down to the restoration of simple things, like schools, chapels, seminaries, and churches. Because of the Ecclesiastical Titles Act of 1851, the hierarchy did not restore the pre-Reformation sees.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Another Great Anthology from OUP

After highlighting the forthcoming Firmly I Believe and Truly, a new anthology of works by Catholic authors in England from the 15th to the 20th centuries, I thought of this very helpful volume edited by Robert S. Miola. It is also available from Oxford University Press:

Early Modern Catholicism makes available in modern spelling and punctuation substantial Catholic contributions to literature, history, political thought, devotion, and theology in the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. Rather than perpetuate the usual stereotypes and misinformation, it provides a fresh look at Catholic writing long suppressed, marginalized, and ignored. The anthology gives back voices to those silenced by prejudice, exile, persecution, or martyrdom while attention to actual texts challenges conventional beliefs about the period.

The anthology is divided into eight sections entitled Controversies, Lives and Deaths, Poetry, Instructions and Devotions, Drama, Histories, Fiction, and Documents, and includes sixteen black and white illustrations from a variety of Early Modern sources. Amongst the selections are texts which illuminate the role of women in recusant community and in the Church; the rich traditions of prayer and mysticism; the theology and politics of martyrdom; the emergence of the Catholic Baroque in literature and art; and the polemical battles fought within the Church and against its enemies. Early Modern Catholicism also provides a context that redefines the established canons of Early Modern England, including such figures as Edmund Spenser, John Donne, John Milton, William Shakespeare, and Ben Jonson.

Find more of the Table of Contents here--here's just a sample:


Desiderius Erasmus: On the New Testament, 1516
Desiderius Erasmus: On Free Will, 1524
Thomas More: A Dialogue Concerning Heresies, 1530
Edmund Plowden: A Treatise on Mary, Queen of Scots, 1566
Nicholas Sander: A Treatise of the Images of Christ and of his Saints, 1567
Edmund Campion: A Letter to the Privy Council, 1580
Edmund Campion: The Tower Debates, 1581
Alban Langdale: Reasons why Catholics may go to Church, 1580
William Allen: A True, Sincere, and Modest Defence of English Catholics, 1584
William Allen: A Declaration of the Sentence and Deposition of Elizabeth, 1588
Henry Garnet: Of Indulgence or Pardons, 1592-6
Henry Garnet: A Treatise of Equivocation, c.1598
Juan de Mariana: On the King and the Education of the King, 1599
Robert Bellarmine: On the Authority of the Pope against William Basday, 1610
Jane Owen: An Antidote against Purgatory, 1634

Lives and Deaths
Augustine of Hippo (354-430)
Teresa of Ávila (1515-82)
Thomas More (1477-1535)
Edmund Campion (1540-81)
Margaret Clitherow (1556?-86)
William Weston (1550-1615)
Alexander Rawlins (1555?-95) and Henry Walpole (1558-95)
Toby Matthew (1577-1655)
Mary Ward (1585-1645)

Miola's Introduction, and you can read part of it with the Look Inside! feature, is excellent. Highly recommended.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Society of Jesus and the English Reformation

On September 27, 1540 Pope Paul III approved the formation of the Society of Jesus. Founded by St. Ignatius of Loyola, the Society would have a great impact on post-Reformation England.  Eamon Duffy commented on the controversial decision of Reginald Cardinal Pole not to have the Jesuit order assist with the re-establishment of Catholicism in England during the reign of Mary I in his book Fires of Faith. As I mentioned in my review of Duffy's study of that reign, Pole had a different campaign planned. Many of the English martyrs mentioned on this blog were Jesuits, including most famously St. Edmund Campion and St. Robert Southworth. Forty years after the order's formation, the Jesuit mission to England began.

As the U.K. site for the Society of Jesus states:

The history of the Elizabethan Jesuits is the stuff of legends and hagiography: clandestine meetings, priest-holes, raids, escapes from the Tower of London, imprisonment, torture, and martyrdom.

There were also conflicts between the Jesuits and the secular priests over the strategy for perpetuating Catholicism in England. Some Catholics, the Appellants, wanted to demonstrate loyalty to the Queen and to England, while Father Robert Parsons, who came to England with Edmund Campion and then returned to the Continent, urged steps like the excommunication of Elizabeth I and the Spanish Armada. Jesuit colleges in France, Spain, and Italy trained young men for the mission in England.

The Jesuits in England were also involved in some manner in the plots to place Mary, Queen of Scots on the throne of England and the Gunpowder Plot; then they were suspected in the so-called Popish Plot and supported the Jacobite rebellions after the Glorious Revolution--and therefore many of them suffered execution and/or martyrdom. Titus Oates really aimed his "Popish Plot" perjury at the Jesuits, claiming a group of them met to plan the assasination of King Charles II and that all of the Jesuits in England were in on it one way or another. On the other hand, Lord Baltimore asked the Jesuits to assist in the founding of Maryland in the New World.

One excellent resource for the stories of the English Jesuits martyred during the Recusant era (Elizabeth I through Charles II) and particularly during the Popish Plot crisis is Jesuit Saints and Blesseds by Joseph Tylenda, SJ.

The French Revolution drove the English Jesuits from the Continent to Stonyhurst in England in 1794, even though the Pope had suppressed the order in 1773. As the same website comments:

In 1762 because of the Society's suppression in France, the English college in St Omer, then inside France, was transferred to Bruges. Despite the storm clouds the English Province was strong: in 1768 there were approximately 300 Jesuits, 26 of whom worked in Maryland and 136 in England.

The Society's situation in England after Pope Clement XIV's brief of 1773, Dominus ac Redemptor - suppressing the Society of Jesus - was anomalous. The Society did not exist officially in England so it could not be suppressed by the secular government. Ironically relations between secular clergy and Jesuits were extremely friendly at the time. Ex-Jesuits were able to remain united under a type of superior associated with the college then in Bruges (eventually moving to Liège and finally in 1794 to Stonyhurst) and to retain ownership of the province's not inconsiderable assets.

In 1801 the Jesuits were restored and in 1803 the English Province was restored. Finally, Catholic Emancipation in 1829 and the Restoration of the Hierarchy in 1850 led to the foundation of many Jesuit colleges--including Campion Hall in Oxford--and parishes throughout England.

Famed English Jesuits of the modern era include: Gerard Manley Hopkins, convert and poet; Frederick Copleston, the historian of philosophy; John Hungerford Pollen and Philip Caraman, historians and biographers who focused on the English recusant era of Jesuit martyrdoms; and Clifford Howell, who wrote on doctrine and worship. A more infamous Jesuit was George Tyrrell, the Modernist theologian.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Popular History and Its Dangers

I have been mulling over this review essay by Felipe Fernandez-Arnesto from the Wall Street Journal a couple of weeks ago. The author of the essay is a fine historian and academic and he is actually rather gentle in his dismantling of four amateur historians' books about Columbus and the Age of Exploration. But he wrote some things I've been wondering about:

History is the people's discipline—the only academic subject that demands no special professional training. Some of my favorite history books are by lawyers, journalists, scientists and nuns. To write well about history you do not need a Ph.D., just a few rare but accessible qualities: insatiable curiosity, critical intellect, disciplined imagination, indefatigability in the pursuit of truth and a slightly weird vocation for trying to get to know dead people by studying the sources they have left us. To write well about anything, of course, you also have to follow the advice that every writing course gives: Write about what you know. . . .

I have studied and continue to study the history of the English Reformation, so I am writing about what I know. I think that I do have the qualities Fernandez-Arnesto mentions: curiosity, critical thinking skills, imagination, pursuit of truth, and weirdness. So I didn't think I was too much in trouble there. But later in the article, after he has pointed out many of the four authors' errors, he focused on some of the causes of their trouble: deficiencies in using primary sources and particularly, the lack of  linguistic ability.

To some extent, scholars may have encouraged these amateurs' imprudence by publishing English translations of many of the sources. Translated sources attract errors just as translated scriptures foment heresies, and when the inexperienced attempt their own translations, the results can be even worse. Mr. Bergreen, Mr. Cliff, Mr. Hunter and Ms. Delaney do not have the linguistic skills to master the literature on their own. They all seem to be illiterate in Latin and imperfectly assured in handling the sources in Romance languages. In Mr. Hunter's case the deficiency is fatal, as his grounds for linking Cabot and Columbus rest largely on a glaring mistranslation, which warps a difficult but perfectly intelligible and well-known document, in which a Spanish ambassador in England compared the two explorers. Mr. Hunter mistakes a neuter pronoun for a masculine one, making the ambassador call Cabot the man "from the Indies," whereas the text really refers to "the business of the Indies." . . .

Now my Latin is rusty, except for liturgical Latin which has been revived by our attendance at Masses in the Extraordinary Form almost every Sunday. Once when I was in graduate school, a great professor taught a class on Dostoevsky. We read all his great works and some of his diary and short stories. He almost did not teach the course because he could not read the originals in Russian! He could read the French translations, however, and told me that all that would be required for doctorate level study of Dostoevsky would be French and German--one could get by and be able to keep up on the scholarship with those two languages. By now, my facility with French is weaker, although I can understand it when I read it--but I cannot translate it--and I have never studied German. So I would fail the author's test and could find myself in trouble.

I could multiply the dispiriting litany of errors, but it is more interesting to try to understand what drives these writers to parade their inadequacies in the marketplace. It is tempting to blame postmodernism, which has blurred the difference between drivel and truth; or the popularity of television-history, where no standards of veracity or scholarship apply; or the temptations aroused by vulgar sensationalists, who have made fortunes by proclaiming the peripeties of the Holy Grail and "proving" that the medieval Chinese discovered Rhode Island. I suspect, however, that the very virtues of my discipline are responsible for the vices of the writers who abuse it. Because history is the people's discipline, books about it are relatively salable—invitingly so, to indolent cupidity. History's accessibility to non-specialists makes it seem dangerously, delusively easy.

Academic historians tend to welcome recruits from other ranks, like owls nurturing cuckoos, and applaud the intrusions of neophytes with a glee that physicians, say, would never show for faith-healers or snake-oil salesmen. I am afraid it is time for historians to wipe the smiles from our jaws and start biting back. If escape from the poverty of your own imagination is your reason for exploiting the stories history offers, or if you are taking refuge from another discipline in the belief that history is easy, without bothering to do the basic work, you will deserve to fail.

I certainly don't think that history is easy--I think it is hard to write about the past because I have to balance the details of the facts with their relevance and interpretation. And all the while, I try to make it interesting and let the story shine through so it's not boring. At the same, I don't want to sensationalize or over-interpret. "Indolent cupidity"--if I desired wealth from writing, I certainly have failed.

"Parade their inadequacies": that phrase is scary to any writer who chooses to publish on a blog, in a magazine, or a book on the shelf (and in the e-reader device). It takes a mixture of chutzpah and humility to write and publish. Fortunately for me, I found myself standing on the shoulders of giants like Eamon Duffy, Blessed John Henry Newman, Father John Lingard and even Alister McGrath, who helped me confirm my interpretation of the English Reformation. When I read his book on the Protestant Reformation, Christianity's Dangerous Idea, I was exceptionally pleased to see that he confirmed my views about Henry VIII's political reformation, the legislative compromise of the Elizabethan religiouis settlement, and even some of my thoughts on the continuing Stuart and Puritan manipulation of religion in the established church. I don't think that I have written drivel.

Brandy as a puppy

Professor Fernandez-Arnesto is particularly correct about the television history which irritates me so much that my little dog Brandy gets scared when I react to a show on the historical Jesus or the Crusades, or anything on Church History. The way the programs are structured to avoid getting to the truth, or even, once the truth has been revealed, casting doubt upon the truth--it upsets me so! Brandy thinks I'm mad at her, so I quickly change the channel, calm down, and tell her she's a good dog. She is really, when she isn't stealing socks.

Please let me know what you think about reading or writing popular history, dear readers.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Lancelot Andrewes, September 25, 1626--His Cathedrals and His Influences

The great Anglican divine, Lancelot Andrewes, Bishop of Chicheser, Ely and finally Winchester, overseer of the Authorized Translation of the Holy Bible (the King James version) died on September 25, 1626.

James I liked Andrewes' sermon style and he became Lord High Almoner, in charge of charity. Andrewes also preached the commemorative sermon after the discovery of the Gunpowder Plot, argued with Robert Bellarmine over the Divine Right of Kings, and tried to assist James I in convincing the Scots to give up the Kirk for the Church of England.

He is commonly thought of as an Anglo-Catholic, and his theology of the Eucharist was quite high for he believed in the Real Presence--although he did not quite accept transubstantiation as an explanation. Andrewes celebrated Holy Communion with candles, incense, and beautiful altar furnishings (in private). His Private Devotions were translated from the Greek by Blessed John Henry Newman and from the Latin by John Mason Neale in this edition. This article describes Newman's interest in the Caroline divines of the 17th century. Remember also that T.S. Eliot admired Archbishop Andrewes.

Ely Cathedral, one of the cathedrals he would have known, is a Norman style cathedral. Before the English Reformation, it would have been the site of many pilgrimages to the shrine of St. Etheldreda. According to the cathedral web site today:

She was the daughter of Anna, king of East Anglia, and was born, probably, at Exning, near Newmarket in Suffolk. At an early age she was married (c.652) to Tondberht, ealdorman of the South Gyrwas, but she remained a virgin. On his death, c.655, she retired to the Isle of Ely, her dowry. In 660, for political reasons, she was married to Egfrith, the young king of Northumbria who was then only 15 years old, and several years younger than her. He agreed that she should remain a virgin, as in her previous marriage, but 12 years later he wished their marital relationship to be normal. Etheldreda, advised and aided by Wilfred, bishop of Northumbria, refused. Egfrith offered bribes in vain. Etheldreda left him and became a nun at Coldingham under her aunt Ebbe (672) and founded a double monastery at Ely in 673. (from FARMER, David: The Oxford Dictionary of Saints, 3rd ed. OUP, 1992.) . . .

For centuries, Etheldreda's shrine was the focus for vast numbers of medieval pilgrims.

It was destroyed in 1541, but a slate in the Cathedral marks the spot where it stood, and the 23 June and 17 October are still kept as major festivals in the Cathedral. Some relics are alleged to be in St Etheldreda's Church, Ely Place, London (where the bishops of Ely formerly had their London residence). Her hand, which was discovered in a recusant hiding place near Arundel in 1811, is claimed by St Etheldreda's Roman Catholic church at Ely. . . .
Work on the present Cathedral began in the 11th century under the leadership of Abbot Simeon, and the monastic church became a cathedral in 1109 with the Diocese of Ely being carved out of the Diocese of Lincoln. The monastery at Ely was dissolved by Henry VIII in 1539. Ely suffered less than many other monasteries, but even so, statues were destroyed together with carvings and stained glass. St Etheldreda's Shrine was destroyed.

The Cathedral was refounded with a Chapter of eight canons in 1541 as was the Kings School. Robert Steward, the last Prior of the monastery, became the first Dean.

I like that choice of words: "is claimed by"! That the former Prior became the first Dean was a pretty common event in the "transition" from the dissolution of the monasteries to the establishment of new cathedral chapters.

Another of Andrewes' cathedrals was Chichester: St. Richard of Chichester was the main draw before the Reformation:

Richard of Wych, bishop of Chichester from 1245 - 1253, was canonized in 1262 when plans were made to move his body from its first burial place in the Nave to the Retroquire. The ceremony of translation took place on 16 June 1276, in the presence of King Edward I. From that day until the shrine was destroyed in 1538, the Shrine of St Richard attracted pilgrims from all over England and beyond. In 1930 an alter (sic) was restored to the site of the shrine.

Finally, Winchester, which I have noted before in the Sunday Shrine Series.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

September 24 and the Feasts of Mary in England

Until the year 2000 when the Vatican approved the new calendar for the Dioceses of England and Wales, today was the Feast of Our Lady of Ransom. A guild was founded in 1887 with "three special intentions:
~~the conversion of England and Wales in general, and of individuals in particular;
~~the rescue of apostates and those in danger of apostasy;
~~the forgotten dead, who, owing to the Reformation, or to being isolated converts, or other causes, are without special Masses and prayers."

The origins of the feast and its connection to St. Raymond of Penyafort and the Mercedarian Order:

The Blessed Virgin appeared in 1218 in separate visions to St. Peter Nolasco, St. Raymond of Penafort and James, king of Aragon, asking them to found a religious order dedicated to freeing Christian captives from the barbarous Saracens or Moors, who at the time held a great part of Spain. On August 10, 1218, King James established the royal, military and religious Order of our Lady of Ransom (first known as the Order of St. Eulalia, now known as the Mercedarian Order), with the members granted the privilege of wearing his own arms on their breast. Most of the members were knights, and while the clerics recited the divine office in the commanderies, they guarded the coasts and delivered prisoners. This pious work spread everywhere and produced heroes of charity who collected alms for the ransom of Christians, and often gave themselves up in exchange for Christian prisoners. This feast, kept only by the Order, was extended to the whole Church by Innocent XII in the 17th century.

More here from the same site.

Since the year 2000, September 24 is the Feast of Our Lady of Walsingham, and this year is the 950th anniversary of the shrine. Today in Walsingham there are two shrines--one Catholic, one Anglican. Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII's vice regent in these spiritual matters, had the first (Catholic) shrine destroyed along with other shrines to the Mother of God throughout England. The statues were brought to the Chelsea area of the London and destroyed in a bonfire. Walsingham calls itself "England's Nazareth" and promotes both the Catholic and the Anglican shrines on its tourism website. A quick perusal of the websites for both shrines demonstrates that they have been hosting many events throughout 2011, culminating in today's feast!

This is also a good day to check on news from the first Anglican Ordinariate named after Our Lady of Walsingham--here and here.

O alone of all women, Mother and Virgin, Mother most happy, Virgin most pure, now we sinful as we are, come to see thee who are all pure, we salute thee, we honour thee as how we may with our humble offerings; may thy Son grant us, that imitating thy most holy manners, we also, by the grace of the Holy Ghost may deserve spiritually to conceive the Lord Jesus in our inmost soul, and once conceived never to lose him. Amen.

All Holy and ever-living God, in giving us Jesus Christ to be our Saviour and Brother, You gave us Mary, His Mother, to be our Mother also; grant us, we pray you, to live lives worthy of so great a Brother and so dear a Mother, that we may come at last to you the Father of us all, Who lives and reigns for ever. Amen.

Our Lady of Walsingham, Pray for us.

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Catholic Martyrs at the Shrine of the English Martyrs at Harvington Hall, Worcestershire

From The Catholic Herald, this story about a Mass honoring Catholic martyrs at Harvington Hall in Worcestershire:

Archbishop Bernard Longley of Birmingham was the principal celebrant and preacher at Mass during the annual pilgrimage to the Shrine of the English Martyrs at Harvington Hall, Worcestershire, on Sunday September 4, writes Peter Jennings.

The Elizabethan manor house was built by Humphrey Pakington (1555-1631), a courtier from the household of the Lord Chancellor Ellesmere, who managed to practise his Catholic faith in secret during a time of great persecution.

Harvington Hall has the finest surviving series of priest holes anywhere in the country and during Elizabethan times offered shelter to many recusant priests. . . .

The four martyrs especially venerated at Harvington, who worked at various times in the area are: St John Wall, who was hung, drawn and quartered at Red Hill, Worcester on August 2 1679 and canonised in 1970; St Nicholas Owen, who died under torture in the Tower on March 2 1606, and was canonised in 1970; Blessed Edward Oldcorne, who was executed at Red Hill, Worcester on April 7 1606 and beatified in 1929; and Blessed Arthur Bell, who was executed at Tyburn on December 11 1643 and beatified in 1987.

More about Harvington Hall and more about the priest holes here and here.

While searching the web for more information about the shrine, I found this site, which features a new shrine to the English Martyrs at Holy Cross Priory in Leicester. Scroll down and read the last words of the martyrs:

John Wall: It is an easy thing to run the blind way of liberty, but God deliver us from all broad, sweet ways.

Ralph Sherwin: I make no doubt of my future happiness, through Jesus Christ, in whose death, passion, and blood I only trust.

Charles Mahoney: Now Almighty God is pleased I should suffer this martyrdom. His Holy Name be praised since I die for my religion.

John Kemble: I die only for professing the old Roman Catholic religion, which first made this kingdom Christian.

George Haydock: I pray God that my blood may increase the Catholic faith in England.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Coming Soon from Oxford University Press!

Firmly I Believe and Truly: The Spiritual Tradition of Catholic England -- Edited by John Saward, John Morrill and Michael Tomko!

It is "An Anthology of Writings from 1483 to 1999"

From the Oxford University Press website:

Firmly I Believe and Truly celebrates the depth and breadth of the spiritual, literary, and intellectual heritage of the Post-Reformation English Roman Catholic tradition in an anthology of writings that span a five hundred year period between William Caxton and Cardinal Hume. Intended as a rich resource for all with an interest in Roman Catholicism, the writings have been carefully selected and edited by a team of scholars with historical, theological, and literary expertise. Each author is introduced to provide context for the included extracts and the chronological arrangement of the anthology makes the volume easy to use whilst creating a fascinating overview of the modern era in English Catholic thought. The extracts comprise a wide variety writing genres; sermons, prayers, poetry, diaries, novels, theology, apologetics, works of controversy, devotional literature, biographies, drama, and essays. Includes writings by:

John Colet, John Fisher, Thomas More, Robert Southwell, Philip Howard, Anne Askew, Edmund Campion, John Gother, John Dryden, Mary Barker, Alexander Pope, Richard Challoner, Alban Butler, John Milner, Elizabeth Inchbald, Nicholas Wiseman, Margaret Mary Hallahan, A. W. N. Pugin, John Henry Newman, Henry Edward Manning, Frederick William Faber, Bertrand Wilberforce, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Vincent McNabb, Hilaire Belloc, Maurice Baring, G. K. Chesterton, R. A. Knox, J. R. R. Tolkien, Caryll Houselander, Evelyn Waugh, Graham Greene, John Bradburne, Cardinal Hume.

Find the complete Table of Contents here. It's a who's who of Catholic England, that's for sure!

The book's features, per OUP:

~~Brings together a diverse array of writers from the last five hundred years to celebrate the English Roman Catholic tradition

~~Includes authors who maintain a high profile today and reintroduces key figures whose writings have recently been neglected
~~Provides authoritative introductions to each author
~~Chronologically ordered with a clear three part structure to aid navigation
~~Thoughtfully illustrated with images relevant to each part of the anthology

The only sting: the price--$65.00! OUP says it is available in October; Amazon in mid-November. Looks wonderful!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A Trifecta of Anniversaries on September 21

The battle of Prestonpans was fought--and quickly decided--on September 21, 1745: the forces of Bonnie Prince Charlie carried the day in short order while London prepared for invasion.

Philip Thomas Howard was born on September 21, 1629--the third son in that generation of England's premier Catholic family. He went to Cremona, Italy and became a Dominican, founding a priory in Flanders with a college for English youth and a convent in Vilvoorde (where William Tyndale was executed during the reign of Henry VIII). He was Grand Almoner to Queen Catherine of Braganza during the reign of King Charles II. Cardinal Philip Howard died on June 17, 1694 in Rome and is buried in St. Maria Sopra Minerva--where he had served as Cardinal Priest from 1679. He also served as Camerlengo the Sacred College of Cardinals from 1689 to 1691.

Sir Walter Scott died on September 21, 1832. Blessed John Henry Newman prayed for him, having admired his poetry and prose. As Blessed Newman said (although Scott was by conviction anti-Catholic) his works had made the Middle Ages romantic and not quite so "Dark"! This paper describes Newman's admiration for Scott.

Thinking of Sir Walter Scott reminds me of James Hope-Scott, Tractarian and Catholic convert, who married Scott's granddaughter and took up residence at Abbotsford, adding the "-Scott" to his name.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Anthony Babington and His Eponymous Plot

Anthony Babington was executed at St. Gile's Field on September 20, 1586, along with a Jesuit priest, John Ballard and several other conspirators--Chidiock Tichborne, Thomas Salisbury, Henry Donn among them. As traitors, of course, they were hung, drawn and quartered, but their executions and sufferings were so extreme--especially considering their relative youth--that the onlookers began to have sympathy for them. Queen Elizabeth ordered that the rest of the traitors to be executed were to be hung until dead (then cut up per the standard operating procedure).

Babington involved the imprisoned Mary, Queen of Scots in his plot to assassinate Elizabeth and bring Mary to the throne of England and this led to her execution within months. Beyond the plot's murderous intent, the disturbing aspect of this conspiracy is that Elizabeth's spymaster, Sir Francis Walsingham, knew about the plot because he had a double agent in place who also served as an agent provocateur. There is an element of entrapment--especially regarding Mary's replies to correspondence--in Walsingham's handling of the matter.

Young Chidiock Tichborne wrote an elegy while in the Tower which gained some fame with its haunting contrasts (note that all but one of the words is but one syllable):

Tichborne’s Elegy
Written with His Own Hand in the Tower Before His Execution

My prime of youth is but a frost of cares,
My feast of joy is but a dish of pain,
My crop of corn is but a field of tares,
And all my good is but vain hope of gain;
The day is past, and yet I saw no sun,
And now I live, and now my life is done.

My tale was heard and yet it was not told,
My fruit is fallen and yet my leaves are green,
My youth is spent and yet I am not old,
I saw the world and yet I was not seen;
My thread is cut and yet it is not spun,
And now I live, and now my life is done.

I sought my death and found it in my womb,
I looked for life and saw it was a shade,
I trod the earth and knew it was my tomb,
And now I die, and now I was but made;
My glass is full, and now my glass is run,
And now I live, and now my life is done.

Monday, September 19, 2011

St. Thomas More: Free Speech and Conscience

Andrew Haines in First Things writes about St. Thomas More as "The King's Good Speaker":

The great English statesman, Sir Thomas More, is often and justly revered as the patron of conscience rights. Despite a lifetime of faithful and diligent service to King Henry VIII, More’s silent opposition to the Act of Supremacy led to his eventual and famous execution at Tower Hill on 6 July, 1535. Unknown to many who celebrate More’s fateful silence, however, is the same man’s ardent defense of free speech—a defense that first came to the fore, quite appropriately, during More’s tenure as Speaker of the House of Commons, some twelve years before his death.

Read the rest here.

My publisher, Scepter, has this book available in translation: Thomas More: A Lonely Voice Against the Power of the State by Peter Berglar:

This book explores the conscience and motivation of one of the most admired persons in history: St. Thomas More. Most people know that Thomas More wrote a book called Utopia about a perfect society and got his head chopped off by King Henry VIII. But there was much more to the man. More not only occupied England’s most powerful position under the king as Lord Chancellor, but was also a devoted family man, a Renaissance figure of renown throughout Europe, and the author of works of apologetics as well as poetry, fiction and plays. Even while awaiting execution in the Tower of London, his multi-volume “Tower writings” poured out, evidence of his deep faith and life of prayer.

In Gulliver’s Travels, Protestant author Jonathan Swift named More among the six greatest defenders of liberty of all time, “to which all the ages of the world cannot add a seventh.” Erasmus praised him as one “born, created for friendship.” After his death, a popular tune sang the praises of his “gentle heart”:

When More some time had Chancellor been,
No more suits did remain;
The like will never more be seen
Till More be there again.

Peter Berglar, who has written ten biographies including one of St. Peter, and one of the earliest studies of Opus Dei and its founder, St. Josemaría Escrivá, deals in this new translation of the original German with the ultimate question: for what is life not worth living? When must it be purchased at a price that could devalue and perhaps destroy it? “It has been repeated in every generation. There will never be a lack of idols and dictators who demand this sacrifice.”

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Blessed John Henry Newman a Year Later

The Catholic Church in England is remembering the beatification of John Henry Newman last year by Pope Benedict XVI with a Mass of Thanksgiving at Westminster Cathedral today.

In Christ Church Cathedral at Christ Church in Oxford, a new setting of Blessed John Henry Newman's The Dream of Gerontius was presented yesterday (H/T to Once I Was a Clever Boy). Robert Hardy, who is a great actor and student of medieval warfare (English use of longbow his speciality) portrayed Gerontius (a speaking part). Neil Nisbet played the Guardian Angel and the chorus Vox Humana sang the parts of the angels, demons, and the solos (the Priest and the Angel of the Agony, etc). More description here. This is the second performance of the work.

The composer is Julien Chilcott-Monk, author of John Henry Newman: The Path to Sainthood, which is:

". . . based on Newman's great poem, The Dream of Gerontius. Through its seven movements, it traces Newman's path through life-his lasting influence in the Church of England, his building of the church at Littlemore, his conversion, his vision and his founding of an English Oratory, the writing of the Dream, and the course of his beatification. Throughout, Newman's own words and advice on sanctity will be featured offering a timeless guide to holy living today."

On the Oriel College website, there is an instruction to pilgrims to contact the chaplain if they want to visit Newman sites. I wonder if the college has seen an increase in visitors? And Christ Church, with its Oxford Movement connections, including a memorial to E.B. Pusey, one of Newman's colleagues, would certainly be part of a Newmanian Oxford pilgrimage.

Catholic Writers Guild: Blogging Historical Fiction

My friend Elena Maria Vidal posted these great recommendations on blogging at the Catholic Writers Guild Blog: Catholic Writers Guild: Blogging Historical Fiction:

My historical fiction blog is called Tea at Trianon. I post daily on matters of faith, culture and history, with an emphasis on the French Revolution. The blog has about 65,000 hits a month, with roughly 20,000 unique visitors a month. It has led me to meet fascinating people from around the world, authors and scholars, many of whom contribute to the blog with their own writings and commentary. . . .

She gives ten (10) great tips for blogging. Elena Maria Vidal is the author of the historical novels Trianon, Madame Royale, and The Night's Dark Shade, which I blurbed and reviewed. Please visit Elena at her Tea at Trianon blog. She often kindly links to my posts and we share many of the same historical interests.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Constitution Day, Daniel Carroll, Thomas Fitzsimmons, and "Bleeding Kansas"

Today is Constitution Day in the U.S.A., although it was really "celebrated" on September 16. Here is a link to the official website, which includes profiles of Daniel Carroll and Thomas Fitzsimmons, the two Catholic signers of the Constitution. Carroll was the cousin of Charles Carroll of Carrolltown and brother of John Carroll, Jesuit priest (until the Society of Jesus was suppressed by the pope) and first Catholic bishop in the U.S.A. More about the Carroll family here:

Charles Carroll of Carrollton (1737-1832) was the most illustrious and best-known of the Carrolls. He was the only signer whose property — Carrollton — was mentioned in the Declaration of Independence. Carrollton was the 10,000-acre estate in Frederick County, Maryland, that Charles Carroll's father had given him on his return to America from his education in Europe.

At the time he signed the Declaration, it was against the law for a Catholic to hold public office or to vote. Although Maryland was founded by and for Catholics in 1634, in 1649 and, later, in 1689 after the Glorious Revolution placed severe restrictions on Catholics in England, the laws were changed in Maryland, and Catholicism was repressed. . . .

Daniel Carroll of Rock Creek (1730-1796) was a member of the Continental Congress (1781-1783), and a signer of the Articles of Confederation. He was a delegate to the Constitutional Convention and one of only two Catholic signers of the United States Constitution. (The other Catholic signer was Thomas Fitzsimons of Pennsylvania.) At the Constitutional Convention, Daniel Carroll played an essential role in formulating the limitation of the powers of the federal government. He was the author of the presumption — enshrined in the Constitution — that powers not specifically delegated to the federal government were reserved to the states or to the people.

Daniel Carroll later became a member of the first United States Congress (1789-1791). He was also a member of the first Senate of Maryland, where he served up to the time of his death. He was appointed by Washington as one of the first three commissioners of the new federal city that is now known as the District of Columbia. In today's terminology, he would have been considered the mayor of Washington, D.C.

John Carroll (1735-1815), Daniel Carroll's younger brother, was educated in Europe, joined the Jesuit order, and was ordained a priest. He founded a private school for boys and named it after the town where it was located, Georgetown, a port on the Potomac River that later became part of Washington, D.C. He went on to be elected — by all the Catholic priests in America — to become America's first Catholic bishop. He later became archbishop of Baltimore. In any procession of American bishops, the archbishop of Baltimore always goes last in recognition of its role as America's oldest diocese. In 1789, John Carroll founded the college in Georgetown that later became known as Georgetown University.

I mentioned the Carroll family attending the Catholic college in St. Omers founded by Father Robert Parsons in Supremacy and Survival: How Catholics Endured the English Reformation.

Finally, I want to report on a fascinating lecture I attended this week at Friends University here in Wichita. Friends U. is a Quaker university--they have a chorus called "The Singing Quakers". Anyway, the Garvey Institute of Law at Friends co-sponsored a Constitution Day Program Tuesday evening on "How much did Kansas Really Bleed? Kansas, the Constitution, and the Civil War in History and Today" with support from the Kansas Humanities Council. The speaker was Dr. Brian Craig Miller, Assistant Professor of History at Emporia State University. His talk was excellent, including opportunities for the audience to answer questions and discuss issues. One of our other universities and my alma mater will present a Constitution Day NEXT week. More details here.

Happy Constitution Day!

Oh, and the answer to the question "How much did Kansas Really Bleed?"--for all the exagerration of the newspapers back east at the time: not so much. Fifty-six (56) were killed during the Bleeding Kansas period from 1854 to 1861 (yes, 2011 is Kansas's sesquescentennial year!). During the Civil War, 20,097 Kansas men signed up for the Union Army--more than 8,000 were killed. Kansas always exceeded the quota for enlistment during the Civil War by two or three times.

St. Robert Bellarmine and the English Reformation

Today's saint has connections to England and the aftermath of the English Reformation. First, his book addressing Protestant teaching and doctrine, The Controversies, based on lectures he gave at the Roman College, proved so effective that Queen Elizabeth I banned its publication and distribution in England.

Robert Bellarmine conducted disputations with James I of England and one of the king's favorite Anglican bishops, Lancelot Andrewes. Bellarmine did not support James I's doctrine of the Divine Right of Kings, arguing that the true source of political power was indeed from God, but that the power of the king or magistrate depended on the consent of the people and that, indeed, the people may withdraw their consent and change the form of government. This scholar even argues that Bellarmine's disputations with King James I provided Thomas Jefferson with some of the terminology of the Declaration of Independence.

For example:

Equality of man

Declaration of Independence: “All men are created equal; they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights.”

Bellarmine: “All men are equal, not in wisdom or grace, but in the essence and nature of mankind” (“De Laicis,” c.7) “There is no reason why among equals one should rule rather than another” (ibid.). “Let rulers remember that they preside over men who are of the same nature as they themselves.” (“De Officus Princ.” c. 22). “Political right is immediately from God and necessarily inherent in the nature of man” (“De Laicis,” c. 6, note 1).

The source of power

Declaration of Independence: “Governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

Bellarmine: “It depends upon the consent of the multitude to constitute over itself a king, consul, or other magistrate. This power is, indeed, from God, but vested in a particular ruler by the counsel and election of men” (“De Laicis, c. 6, notes 4 and 5). “The people themselves immediately and directly hold the political power” (“De Clericis,” c. 7).

The late great Fr. Hardon provides this overview of Bellarmine's life and works. He died on September 17, 1621 and was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church on the same date in 1931. The Art of Dying Well is certainly one of those works that contributed to his being named a Doctor of the Church.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Just a Year Ago Today . . .

. . . Pope Benedict landed in Scotland to begin his state visit to Great Britain, which included the beatification of John Henry Newman. The official website has updated information for the anniversary. One big change is that the bishops of England and Wales have proclaimed Fridays during the year days of Abstinence, starting today:

Friday is set aside as a special day of penitence, as it is the day of the suffering and death of the Lord. The Bishops of England and Wales believe it is important that all the faithful again be united in a common, identifiable act of Friday penance because they recognise that the virtue of penitence is best acquired as part of a common resolve and common witness. The Bishops have decided to re-establish the practice that this penance should be fulfilled simply by abstaining from meat and by uniting this to prayer. Those who cannot or choose not to eat meat as part of their normal diet should abstain from some other food of which they regularly partake. This comes into effect from Friday 16 September 2011 - the first day of the anniversary of the visit of the Holy Father.


The Visit of Pope Benedict XVI evoked for many people the spiritual reality of life and rekindled hope and faith: hope in the goodness that is within people and in our society, and faith in God. Even if it is not easily articulated, a spiritual yearning is to be found within most people. This yearning is found also among Catholics who have lost touch with their faith or whose faith was never deeply rooted in a personal relationship with Christ. Wishing to respond to this yearning but perhaps lacking in confidence in talking about their own spiritual life, many Catholics are asking how they can witness to their faith; what can they do to help introduce their faith in Christ to others in simple and straightforward ways?

The Bishops of England and Wales recognise that simple acts of witness, accompanied by sincere prayer, can be a powerful call to faith. Traditional Catholic devotions such as making the sign of the cross with care and reverence, praying the Angelus, saying a prayer before and after our meals, to name only a few, are straightforward actions which both dedicate certain moments in our daily lives to Almighty God and demonstrate our love and trust in His goodness and providence. If these devotions have been lost or even forgotten, particularly in our homes and schools, we have much to gain from learning and living them again.

The Bishops have looked again at the role of devotions and the practice of penance, both of which can help to weave the Catholic faith into the fabric of everyday life. Our regular worship at Holy Mass on Sunday, the day of the Lord’s resurrection, is the most powerful outward sign and witness of our faith in Jesus Christ to our family, friends and neighbours. Sunday must always remain at the heart of our lives as Catholics.

The Bishops also wish to remind us that every Friday is set aside as a special day of penitence, as it is the day of the suffering and death of the Lord. They believe it is important that all the faithful again be united in a common, identifiable act of Friday penance because they recognise that the virtue of penitence is best acquired as part of a common resolve and common witness.

The law of the Church requires Catholics on Fridays to abstain from meat, or some other form of food, or to observe some other form of penance laid down by the Bishops’ Conference. The Bishops have decided to re-establish the practice that this penance should be fulfilled simply by abstaining from meat and by uniting this to prayer. Those who cannot or choose not to eat meat as part of their normal diet should abstain from some other food of which they regularly partake.

Pope Benedict has been thinking about the visit too, as he welcomed the new British Ambassador to the Holy See:

The Holy See and the United Kingdom have enjoyed excellent relations in the thirty years that have passed since full diplomatic relations were established. The close bond between us was further strengthened last year during my Visit to your country, a unique occasion in the course of the shared history of the Holy See and the countries which today compose the United Kingdom. I would therefore like to begin my remarks by reiterating my gratitude to the British people for the warm welcome which I received during my stay. Her Majesty and His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh received me most graciously and I was pleased to meet the leaders of the three main political parties and to discuss with them matters of common concern. As you know, a particular motive for my Visit was the Beatification of John Henry Cardinal Newman, a great Englishman whom I have admired for many years and whose raising to the altars was a personal wish fulfilled. I remain convinced of the relevance of Newman’s insights regarding society, as the United Kingdom, Europe and the West in general today face challenges that he identified with remarkable prophetic clarity. It is my hope that a fresh awareness of his writings will bear new fruit among those searching for solutions to the political, economic and social questions of our age. . .

Read more here.

The Death of James II and VII

On September 16, 1701, the deposed King of England, Ireland and Scotland died in exile. Reading his list of titles, demonstrating the ups and downs of his life, I wonder if he read Boethius:

~~From 14 October 1633 to 6 February 1685: Prince James
~~From 27 January 1644 to 6 February 1685: The Duke of York
~~From 10 May 1659 to 6 February 1685: The Earl of Ulster
~~From 31 December 1660 to 6 February 1685: The Duke of Albany
~~Before 1 January 1665 to 6 February 1685: His Royal Highness
~~From 6 February 1685 to 11 December 1688: His Majesty The King
~~From 11 December 1688 to 16 September 1701: His Majesty King James II, but to the Jacobites in exile and in England, Scotland, and Ireland: His Majesty The King

In March 1701, John Drummond, the Duke of Melfort, sent a letter that ended up in England, where his avowal that King Louis XIV would restore King James II to the throne created an international and diplomatic panic. When James found out about it at St. Germain-en-Laye, he suffered a massive stroke on March 4 in the midst of a Lenten prayer service. He and Queen Mary Beatrice went to take the waters at Bourbon for a month, but when they returned he was really no better. (He managed to exile Lord Melfort!) James suffered another stroke in July and another massive stroke on September 2--the end was clearly near.

King Louis XIV promised James on September 13 that he would recognize "the Prince of Wales", James Francis Edward as the rightful King of England upon the former's death. When James II died on September 16, 1701 French heralds indeed proclaimed his son "King James III of England and Ireland; King James VIII of Scotland". King Philip V of Spain, Louis' grandson, and Pope Clement XI also recognized the young king.

Queen Mary Beatrice mourned her husband for a long time and found consolation in religious devotions and stays at the convent in Chaillot.

As I have noted before, I think that James II suffered horrible betrayals--his daughters, the Churchills, and other leaders of Parliament. He seems to have repented of his past sins of the flesh and infidelity to his two wives while in exile. He suffered the humiliation of exile and defeat and yet he worked to have his son prepared as well as possible for the duties of rule in England. May he rest in peace.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Our Lady of Sorrows in Medieval English Chant

Since yesterday was the Feast of the Triumph or Exaltation of the Cross, today is the memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows. Seems like the perfect day to listen to Anonymous 4's recording The Lily and The Lamb:

This program consists of medieval English chant, polyphony and poetry from the thirteenth through early fifteenth centuries and is built around three thirteenth century British versions of the sequence describing Mary’s experiences at the foot of the cross. The first setting, Stabat iuxta Christi crucem, a monophonic Latin work from the Irish Dublin Troper, tells the story simply and movingly, in the voice of a narrator, The second, Stond wel, moder, under roode, is based on the original Latin work, but is much longer and more elaborate. The English text of this work is written as a dialogue between Mary and her dying son. The third work, Jesu Cristes milde moder, also in English, is the most elaborate of the three settings. Melodically unrelated to the others, this version is polyphonic, set for two hypnotically intertwining voices. Its story is told in the voice of a narrator, and, like many of the works on this program, it is quite graphic in its depiction of the scene at Calvary.

Titus Oates' Birthday!

To me, there are two great villains of the English Reformation and its aftermath: Richard Topcliffe (boo, hiss) and Titus Oates (boo, hiss). [Sir Richard Rich is the close third.]

Titus Oates was born on September 15, 1649 and it sounds like he began his career of opportunism, double-dealing and perjury as a young man:

Titus Oates was born in Oakham. His father, Samuel, was the director of Marsham in Norfolk before becoming an Anabaptist during the Puritan Revolution [aka the English Civil War] and rejoining the Church of England at the Restoration [of Charles II]. Titus was educated at Merchant Taylors' School, Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, and St. John's College, Cambridge. Known as a less than astute student, he was ejected from both colleges. A few months later, he became an Anglican priest [how?] and Vicar of the parish of Bobbing in Kent. During this time Oates was charged with perjury having accused a schoolmaster in Hastings of sodomy. Oates was put in jail, but escaped and fled to London. In 1677 he got himself appointed as a chaplain of the ship Adventurer in the English navy. He was soon accused of buggery (i.e., sodomy, which was a capital offence in England at the time) and spared only because of his clergyman's status.

After the navy he joined the household of the Catholic Duke of Norfolk as an Anglican chaplain [I presume to Anglican servants]. On Ash Wednesday, 1677 he was received into the Catholic Church. At the same time Titus agreed to co-author a series of anti-Catholic pamphlets with Israel Tonge, whom he had met through his father Samuel, who had once more reverted to the Baptist doctrine. [How committed to the Church can you be if you immediately start working on anti-Catholic propaganda?]

Then he went off to the Continent and later returned to England to start the rumor mill of the "Popish Plot":

Oates was involved with the Jesuit houses of St. Omer (in France) and the Royal English College at Valladolid, Spain (like many diocesan seminaries of the day, this was a Jesuit-run institution) [founded by Father Robert Parsons, SJ]. Oates was admitted to the course in Valladolid by the support of Richard Strange, despite a lack of basic competence in Latin. He later claimed, falsely, that he had become a Catholic doctor of Divinity. Thomas Whitbread took a much firmer line with Oates than Strange had, and in June 1678 expelled him from St. Omer.

When he returned to London, he rekindled his friendship with Israel Tonge. Oates explained that he had pretended to become a Catholic to learn about the secrets of the Jesuits and that, before leaving, he had heard about a planned Jesuit meeting in London.

I think he can very well be compared to Sir Richard Rich--switching sides or even seeming to favor both sides at once. From the narratives I've read while working on my second book [working title: Their Faith Was Their Crime: The English Catholic Martyrs, 1535 to 1681] it seems that when one person finally found him out--Thomas Whitbread, SJ--Oates had to have revenge. As he concocted the Popish Plot, he must have begun to believe what he said was true. He certainly did not waiver from his story even when it began to fall apart around him. When I've posted about the priest-martyrs like Blesseds John Kemble and David Lewis, I have wondered about the farce of the questioning they endured. Oates and Bedloe or their other fellow liars asking elderly John Kemble about plots that never existed, meetings that never occurred, contacts that were never made. All the priests could do was tell the truth; all that Oates could do was make up more lies.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Rood and the Triumph of the Cross

Today is the Feast of the Triumph of the Cross, so a quick post on the Rood Screen and some background is appropriate, via The New Liturgical Movement blog, here and here. More beautiful images like the one above are included in those posts.

This site includes detail about Rood Screens in Norfolk Churches, with this detail about their purpose before the English Reformation and their fate after it began:

The purpose of the screen was to divide the chancel, with its altar, from the nave, which was often used for secular purposes. It was an invariable part of the furnishing of every church until the Reformation, usually placed directly beneath the chancel arch, though sometimes brought forward slightly so that it could stretch right across the nave and aisles. The screen was generally surmounted by a loft, upon which stood the Rood, a giant figure of Christ crucified. The Reformation saw the destruction of virtually every Rood and the great majority of lofts, though the screens themselves were often spared as they were a useful feature in the ordering of the church. Most figure sculpture and painting depicted thereon, however, was generally defaced.

The two principal areas where screens remain are East Anglia and the South-West, though the two types differ radically. East Anglia in the Middle Ages was the richer of the two areas, and the churches are therefore bigger and loftier. So in Norfolk and Suffolk the typical screen rises much higher than in the south-west, has tall, narrow openings and very slender posts between the bays, and a general air of lightness and elegance.

Once you've thought of the Rood Screen and the Rood, the next association is The Dream of the Rood.

Listen! The choicest of visions I wish to tell,
which came as a dream in middle-night,
after voice-bearers lay at rest.
It seemed that I saw a most wondrous tree
born aloft, wound round by light,
brightest of beams. All was that beacon
sprinkled with gold. Gems stood
fair at earth's corners; there likewise five
shone on the shoulder-span. All there beheld the Angel of God,
fair through predestiny. Indeed, that was no wicked one's gallows,
but holy souls beheld it there,
men over earth, and all this great creation.
Wondrous that victory-beam--and I stained with sins,
with wounds of disgrace. I saw glory's tree
honored with trappings, shining with joys,
decked with gold; gems had
wrapped that forest tree worthily round.

A.W.N. Pugin, RIP

Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin died on September 14, 1852. He was born in London on March 1, 1812. 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.)

In view of all the churches and buildings he designed and completed, it's remarkable that 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.

More here. Image source: wikipedia.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Latest Biography of Mary I

Mary Tudor, Renaissance Queen blog does it again: a review of Review of John Edwards' new book: Mary I: England’s Catholic Queen (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2011), 387pp.

In summary:

The book jacket declares the biography to be ‘original and deeply researched’, offering ‘fresh understandings of her religious faith and policies, as well as her historical significance in England and beyond’. It succeeds in this and it is certainly a biography that should be consulted by any Mary/Tudor scholar. Those looking for a biography that merely discusses Mary’s personal history – who wish for another presentation of what Edwards’s brilliantly calls the ‘‘little woman’ approach’ to Mary (p. 105), that dwells on her ‘tragedies’ and purports an image of her as a domesticated queen denying her of any acumen and unable of governing decisively – will be disappointed. But it is his refusal to support such an image that attracts me to this book. It manages to cover a wide range of themes, contains an excellent bibliography and regular footnoting (though I felt at times Edward could have referenced more). The seventeen illustrations, though in black and white, have very detailed labels. The Mary that emerges from this book is a queen convinced that God favoured ‘and done great things for her, by bringing her to both throne and marriage’ (p. 347). It was such ideas that encouraged Mary’s steadfastness and determination, not always wisely pursued but nonetheless apparent and sometimes courageous. But it is not admiration of Mary that Edwards seems to seek. It is the recognition that she was monarch with achievements, long since ‘undermined and attacked’ but nonetheless present and necessary to appraise. He is neither the first nor the last historian to recognise the successes of Mary’s reign and to defend her ability to govern. But he is one of the first to have taken her role as a Habsburg wife very seriously.

One thing I like about the book (judging by its cover) is that the author uses the form "Mary I" instead of "Mary Tudor" or "Bloody Mary" (even in quotes "'Bloody Mary'")!

New Chesterton Biographies in The New Criterion

Last week I saw Father Ian Ker's new biography of Chesterton at Eighth Day Books (the greatest bookstore in the world, that's all, right here in Wichita, Kansas)*. It is a massive tome! Roger Kimball comments on Father Ian Ker's book and William Oddie's book, Chesterton and the Romance of Orthodoxy:

Some of his recent admirers have endeavored to fill the gap. A serious “Collected Works” by Ignatius Press got going in 1986 and, as of this writing, is nearing its fortieth stout volume. Chesterton and the Romance of Orthodoxy, William Oddie’s recent study of Chesterton’s development, and G. K. Chesterton, the new brick-like 750-page biography by Ian Ker, the authoritative biographer of Cardinal Newman, are models of academic diligence. These stately tomes are bulletins in what seems to be a renaissance of interest in (to adopt Oddie’s shorthand) GKC. Both make large claims for their subject. Cardinal Newman was canonized last year; why not Chesterton next? Ker nominates Chesterton as “the successor of the great Victorian ‘sages,’ and particularly Newman,” and suggests that we place him in the pantheon of English literary critics alongside Dr. Johnson, Matthew Arnold, and Ruskin.

I can envision Chesterton in a niche next to Dr. Johnson and Arnold; seeing him next to Newman is more difficult. Worldliness is not necessarily at odds with holiness; I wonder, though, about ruddiness. (Quoth Chesterton: “And Noah he often said to his wife when he sat down to dine/ ‘I don’t care where the water goes if it doesn’t get into the wine.’ ”) Chesterton was assuredly devout. But he fought as many social and political battles as he did literary or religious ones. And in that arena he did not always distinguish himself. One tort that has shadowed him for decades is the charge of anti-Semitism. Auden, in the preface to his anthology of Chesterton’s nonfictional prose, admits that, though he always enjoyed Chesterton’s poetry and fiction, he had avoided his nonfictional prose because of his reputation as an anti-Semite. Ker, in his extensive index, has a longish entry devoted to “Chesterton, anti-Semitism of, alleged.” The adjective is meant to be extenuating. Kerr’s (sic)conclusion is that “he was anti-Jewish just as he was anti-Prussian, but only in the sense that he associated Jews with capitalism and international finance, just as he associated Prussians with barbarism and military aggression.” Ker seems to regard this as an exoneration. I think Auden is right that Chesterton cannot be “completely exonerated.” . . .

Chesterton’s anti-Semitism shouldn’t be overstated. It existed, and was abetted by his brother and by Hilaire Belloc, who seemed to regard government corruption as a largely Jewish concession. But, as John Gross notes in his splendid pages on Chesterton in The Rise and Fall of the Man of Letters, anti-Semitism did not obscure Chesterton’s “fundamental decency.” “He hated oppression; he belonged to the world before totalitarianism.” And it is also worth noting that he was one of the very first in England to attack Hitler and Hitlerism.

*Shameless promotion alert here/full disclosure: Eighth Day Books very kindly reviewed Supremacy and Survival: How Catholics Endured the English Reformation when it came out and has included it in their annual catalog--

We present here a remarkable synthesis. At once a devout Catholic writing primarily but not exclusively for Catholics, a writer of limpid prose, and a skilled chronicler, Stephanie Mann shows how to write accurate and trustworthy history while unabashedly staking a claim about wrongs and rights and final judgment on matters. Her territory is the English Reformation and the subsequent fortunes of Catholics in England up through the twentieth century. It's a cavalcade of momentous persons and periods and movements, never losing its connecting thread of conflict between Church and State, and whether public order ever trumps freedom of faith and conscience. Find in this book vivid accounts of Henry VIII and the wives (three Catherines, two Anne's, and one Jane). There are lucid accounts of the reigns of Mary and her half-sister Elizabeth I, James VI, and Charles I. The English Civil War, the Puritans and Cromwell, and the Restoration are given due attention. But Mann isn't writing mere political history. She is at her best when describing the interfacing cultural and religious climates: the lukewarmness-dangerous to all sides-of the eighteenth century, the Oxford movement and conversion of Newman in the nineteenth, and the influence of literary and intellectual figures such as Chesterton, Benson, and Anscombe in the twentieth. With its extensive glossary of persons and terms, timeline of events, study questions and bibliography, Supremacy and Survival is a marvelous resource for teachers. But it is also a book for common readers, forcing the question to all of what kind of faith creates a willingness-sometimes even joyful willingness-to accept hanging, drawing and quartering and other hideous tortures, for its sake.

Also, I've worked at Eighth Day Books twice! (between full-time jobs)!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Sunday Shrine Series: A National Gallery Exhibition

Thanks to The Catholic Herald on facebook, I noticed this article about an exhibit at London's National Gallery on "Devotion on Display: Italian Altarpieces Before 1500".

Father Anthony Symondson, SJ comments:

"London has become the centre for exhibitions of Catholic art this summer. There are the relics at the British Museum [Treasures of Heaven] and this equally outstanding show at the National Gallery. Both are complementary and are recommended without reserve."

According to the Gallery website:

As part of a programme of summer shows focusing on the National Gallery’s collection, ‘Devotion by Design’ explores the function, the original location, and the development of altarpieces in Italy during the late Middle Ages and the early Renaissance.

Altarpieces in context
These objects furnished altars in churches and were not originally intended to hang in a gallery as we see them today. Instead, they were created for a specific sacred context, forming the focus of devotion for worshippers.

Using the Gallery’s own collection, this exhibition investigates the development of altarpieces, looking at changes in form, style and type. It examines not only the evolution of their physical structure but also their relationship to their frames and to the monumental architecture that surrounded them.

And Father Symondson describes the effect:

"Devotion by Design" progresses by examining different types of altarpieces such as the polyptich (a picture, or relief, made up of several parts) and pala (a large version used only for a single picture). This is followed by a room devoted to how they came into being: commissioning, choices and contracts. In the section devoted to sacred space an attempt is made by way of explanation to reconstruct an altar. Over time many altarpieces have been dismembered and their fragments dispersed and evidence of that is found in a part devoted to dislocations, notable for the work of Fra Filippo Lippi. It concludes with a final room obscurely entitled “a question of definition”. The result is a total immersion in the subject represented by paintings of great beauty.

These two exhibitions do sound like great pilgrimage destinations.

(the illustration above is The Ghent Altarpiece, downloaded from Wikipedia)