Friday, August 31, 2012

St. Edmund Campion in St. John's Chapel, Tower of London

File:St John's Chapel, Tower of London.jpgFresh from his latest torture session, bereft of books or any sources but his memory and his wit, the Jesuit priest Edmund Campion debated, with other seminary priests, a group of Protestant divines on August 31, 1581. They all had a copy of his book, "Rationes Decem" and they could ask him questions, while he could only answer questions, not ask them. This was the first of four debates and was held in the Chapel of St. John in the Tower of London (image to the left from wikipedia commons).  Campion had offered the challenge to hold such debates, but perhaps had not reckoned with the fairness of the situation.

James V. Holleran recounts the story of these debates, records and reports of them in his 1999 book, A Jesuit Challenge: Edmund Campion's Debates at the Tower of London in 1581, published by Fordham University Press. As Holleran notes, Campion's "Brag" to the Queen's Council called for these debates and his "Ten Reasons" gave the debates their starting point. A brief summary of the Ten Reasons:

1. Protestants reject the parts of Scripture that don't support their doctrine.
2. Protestants distort the parts of Scripture to support their doctrine.
3. Protestants have a weak notion of the Church.
4. Protestants should accept Catholic teaching on the Mass, the Communion of Saints, and the authority of the Pope as Vicar of Christ in His Church.
5. The Fathers of the Church don't support Protestant views of the Church, the Eucharist, the Communion of Saints, and the authority of the Pope as Vicar of Christ in His Church.
6. Protestants ignore the authority of the Fathers of the Church, even of the Apostolic Fathers, since they can't find support for their doctrine in their lives and works.
7. Anticipating Blessed John Henry Newman: "To be deep in [Church] history is to cease to be a Protestant": Church History does not support Protestant doctrine of the Church, the Sacraments, the Priesthood, etc.
8. Some bad Protestant mottos (like "good works are mortal sins")
9. General weakness of Protestant arguments (as against clerical celibacy because marriage is a good thing),
10. Catholicism is the True Christian religion, the Church founded by Jesus Christ on St. Peter and the Apostles (the Pope and the Bishops as their successors): for 1500 years, everyone agreed this was true.

The plan of the debates was to go through these Reasons with the Protestants asking Campion to defend his position. The debates did not go through all the Reasons because Campion did too well defending his position and the organizers did not want to allow Campion the opportunity the argument from history. Once he had the opportunity to remind the audience at the debates of England's Catholic history: monasticism, the close relationship with the Papacy, the saints of England, the Blessed Virgin Mary, Marian devotion (Our Lady of Walsingham), St. Augustine of Canterbury sent from the Pope to Canterbury, the beauty of the churches before desecration and destruction--as Campion would say after he and the other priests had been condemned to death, "In condemning us you condemn all your own ancestors--all the ancient priests, bishops and kings--all that was once the glory of England, the island of Saints, and the most devoted child of the See of Peter. For what have we taught, however you may qualify it with the odious name of treason, that they did not uniformly teach? To be condemned with these lights--not of England only, but of the world--by their degenerate descendants, is both gladness and glory to us." Te Deum Laudamus!

Here are some more resources on St. Edmund Campion from the Jesuit Institute, including the text of his "Brag" and a link to the Ten Reasons and this prayer:

throughout the ages you inspire heroic men and women
to preach your gospel
and proclaim the truth of your love.
We pray that the example of St Edmund Campion
may encourage us to stand up for what it right;
to hold to what is true;
and to love even those who persecute us,
for Christ's sake. Amen.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

On the "Son Rise Morning Show": August 30

There are really two events to remember today. One is the execution of six Catholics--one laywoman, four laymen and one priest--in London as part of the English government's reaction to the attempted invasion of England by the Spanish Armada. The other is the memorial of three female English Catholic martyrs, who were canonized among the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales in 1970, but have this special day all to themselves on the liturgical calendar of the Dioceses of England and Wales.

On this memorial of Saints Margaret Clitherow (or Clitheroe), Anne Line and Margaret Ward, I'll be on the Son Rise Morning Show this morning at 7:45 a.m. Eastern/6:45 a.m. Central/too early to think about Pacific--listen live here. St. Margaret Clitherow is the only Catholic martyr executed by being pressed to death, and like St. Margaret Ward, St. Anne Line risked--and lost--her life because she sheltered and protected Catholic priests in Elizabethan England.

They share the date of St. Margaret Ward's execution on August 30, 1588--she was part of a second group of martyrs after the failure of the Spanish Armada. She is a virgin martyr: she helped Father William Watson escape from Bridewell Prison. She visited him often enough that the jailer finally allowed her to enter without searching her, so she was able to smuggle in a rope. Father Watson injured himself unfortunately while escaping and was unable to retrieve the rope. Margaret found John Roche to help the injured priest once out of prison and both she and John were arrested; John because he had exchanged clothing with the priest and Margaret because the jailer figured out that she was the last person to visit Father Watson before he escaped. She was held in chains, hung up her hands and scourged as the authorities attempted to force her to tell them where Father Watson went after escaping Bridewell prison. She refused, even though she acknowledged that she helped him. Offered a pardon for attending Church of England services, she again refused. The torture inflicted upon her left her partially paralysed and she had to be carried to Tyburn for hanging.

Also martyred that day were Blessed John Roche (who had assisted Margaret Ward in the escape of Father William Watson), three other laymen who had assisted priests, Blesseds Richard Lloyd, Richard Martin, and Edward Shelley, and one priest, Blessed Richard Leigh. The regime was certainly sending a message about laity who assisted Catholic priests.

Blessed Richard Leigh from the Catholic Encyclopedia with some details about the other laymen: English martyr, born in Cambridgeshire about 1561; died at Tyburn, 30 August, 1588. Ordained priest at Rome in February, 1586-7, he came on the mission the same year, was arrested in London, and banished. Returning he was committed to the Tower in June 1588, and was condemned at the Old Bailey for being a priest. With him suffered four laymen and a lady . . . Edward Shelley of Warminghurst, Sussex, and East Smithfield, London (son of Edward Shelley, of Warminghurst, a Master of the Household of the sovereign, and the settlor in "Shelley's case", and Joan, daughter of Paul Eden, of Penshurst, Kent), aged 50 or 60, who was already in the Clink for his religion in April, 1584 was condemned for keeping a book called "My Lord Leicester's Commonwealth" and for having assisted the [Blessed] William Dean [who had been executed on August 28, 1588]. He was apparently uncle by marriage to Benjamin Norton, afterwards one of the seven vicars of Dr. Richard Smith. Richard Martin, of Shropshire, was condemned for being in the company of the Ven. Robert Morton and paying sixpence for his supper. Richard Lloyd, better known as Flower (alias Fludd, alias Graye), a native of the Diocese of Bangor (Wales), aged about 21, younger brother of Father Owen Lloyd was condemned for entertaining a priest named William Horner, alias Forrest. John Roche (alias Neele), an Irish serving-man, and Margaret Ward, gentlewoman of Cheshire, were condemned for having assisted a priest named William Watson to escape from Bridewell.

I have also told the stories of St. Anne Line and St. Margaret Clitherow on this blog on the dates of their executions, here and here, respectively. May these three brave Catholic women martyrs--and all the brave men who suffered this day in 1588-- inspire us!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

St. John the Baptist and St. John Fisher


From the Catholic Encyclopedia: "When the question of Henry's divorce from Queen Catherine arose, Fisher became the Queen's chief supporter and most trusted counsellor. In this capacity he appeared on the Queen's behalf in the legates' court, where he startled his hearers by the directness of his language and most of all by declaring that, like St. John the Baptist, he was ready to die on behalf of the indissolubility of marriage. This statement was reported to Henry VIII, who was so enraged by it that he himself composed a long Latin address to the legates in answer to the bishop's speech. Fisher's copy of this still exists, with his manuscript annotations in the margin which show how little he feared the royal anger."

According to Taylor Marshall, that was not St. John Fisher's first comparison of himself to St. John the Baptist, whose martyrdom we celebrate today:

As early as 1530 Saint John Fisher began to preach that he was willing to die like Saint John the Baptist in defense of the sacrament of matrimony. You'll remember that John the Baptist received martyrdom for protesting King Herod Antipas' adulterous marriage to Herodias.

Henry VIII was the new Herod
Ann Boleyn was the new Herodias
John Fisher was the new John the Baptist

When John Fisher was convicted of "treason" he was, of course, sentenced to death. Henry, as Head of the Church" had already defrocked John Fisher and deposed him of his bishopric. Pope Paul III responded by naming John Fisher as a cardinal of the Catholic church. This infuriated Henry VIII who said that the Bishop of Rome did not need to send the cardinal's hat to Fisher - Henry would instead send the Fisher's decapitated head to Rome!

(Which is a little like St. John the Baptist's head being delivered to Salome, as Caravaggio depicted above.)

Book Review: The Late Medieval English Church

Subtitle: Vitality and Vulnerability Before the Break with Rome, by G.W. Bernard.

Before I make my comments on this important study, here's a brief review from David Hamid, the Anglican bishop for the EU community:

G W Bernard, The Late Medieval English Church: Vitality and Vulnerability Before the Break with Rome, Yale (Hardcover; Kindle edition also available)

In his biography of Richard III, Paul Murray Kendall describes the late medieval English church as ‘rather like a fat whale stranded in a lagoon abounding in its food – not uncomfortable enough and too well fed, too inert, to try to move in any direction at all. Though pricked by the Lollards and stung by hostile criticism from the laity into holding tight to its privileges, the church was not sufficiently challenged to attempt or even imagine reform.’ This negative view of the late medieval English church is one that was widely accepted until recent times. It has been seen to be a key explanation for the English Reformation: that it occurred and took a Protestant direction because of popular discontent with the corruption and complacency of the Catholic Church of England in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries. This account of the causes of the Reformation has been challenged in recent years by a number of historians, notably by Professor Eamon Duffy in his book The Stripping of the Altars. It is challenged again by G W Bernard, the Professor of Early Modern History at the University of Southampton, in this new book. In his view the English church of the late Middle Ages was a church marked by vibrant faith and great energy. He explores the structure of the church, the nature of royal control over it, the role of the bishops and other clergy, the intense devotion and deep-rooted practices of the laity, the existence of anti-clerical sentiment, and the prevalence of heresy. He argues that the Reformation was not inevitable, nor was it caused by the fact the church was corrupt, superstitious or outdated. The late medieval church had its vulnerabilities, but paradoxically these were often a sign of its great vitality. This is a book that needs to be read by anyone who is interested in the history of the English Church and the background to the English Reformation. The question it raises, like the work of Eamon Duffy before it, is why, if the pre-Reformation church was so vibrant, did the English Reformation take place?

And here are the author's own comments about his interpretation of Henry VIII and the English Reformation, from his page on the University of Southampton website:

My study is in two parts. The first is a consideration of the condition of the church on the eve of the Reformation. In common with many scholars in the last two decades, I came to question the tenaciously held orthodoxy view of the late medieval church as riddled with abuses and thus an easy and inevitable and justified target of reformers. My own developing interest in parish church architecture - especially the rebuilding of churches in the perpendicular style - reinforced my conviction that there was an extraordinary vitality in the life of a late medieval church very much cherished by an overwhelming majority of laypeople. And yet such an approach seemed somehow insufficient, a deficiency crystallised for me by Eamon Duffy's Stripping of the Altars (1992), doubtless against the writer's intentions. The central problem is that it makes the subsequent reformation inexplicable: how could so vital and so popular a church be overturned?

The answer, it has increasingly seemed to me, is that the late medieval church was characterised not just by vitality but by vulnerability, and that perception has guided my researches on such themes as the bishops, the clergy, confraternities and chantries. My published paper on pilgrimage shows how I am exploring this counterpoint between vitality and vulnerability. More broadly the vitality of practices such as pilgrimage must be measured against the level of theological knowledge of those who took part in them. How much did lay religious activity reflect mere social conformity, how far deep conviction and genuine understanding? How mechanical and superstitious was late medieval lay piety, and how far did that leave the church highly vulnerable to criticism from an Erasmian or protestant approach? One of my principal claims is that the church was in many respects a 'monarchical church', a theme I have explored for the century after the break with Rome in a paper in History. By that I mean that the interests and ambitions of monarchs tended to be predominant, and also that monarchs saw themselves, and were seen by their subjects, as the guardians of the spiritual well-being of the church within the realm. In many ways such close association with the monarchy was a source of strength for the church, but in other respects - for example the involvement of leading churchmen in secular government - it left the church ill prepared to resist the hostility of Henry VIII.

You can see both from the Anglican bishop's review and Bernard's own remarks that Eamon Duffy's work seems to haunt this book--and indeed Peter Marshall makes that point in his review of this book in the Literary Review:

The Late Medieval English Church does not quite bill itself as an extended commentary on Eamon Duffy's work, but that is the clear subtext. The book is notable for its focused attention to areas of late medieval religious life that Duffy chose not to consider in detail: the role played by bishops, the state of the religious orders, the significance of Lollardy. . . . But Bernard's superbly researched and coherently argued study is far from being either a hatchet job on Duffy or an atavistic reversion to Protestant instincts about pre-Reformation Catholicism. We could reasonably characterise (sic; Literary Review is published in Edinburgh!) its overall thesis as 'yes, but . . . '.

Sometimes that "yes, but . . ." thesis bothers me as Bernard goes back and forth with questions about how we in the 21st century should judge how well the laity, nuns, monks, priests and bishops lived up to the ideals and standards of the Catholic Church in the late medieval era. Bernard tells us what contemporary critics of the Church in England tell us now about how some abuses were regarded, and then points out how seldom the abuses occurred--a priest behaving badly stood out and created such alarm and outcry because relatively few priests behaved badly, considering the population of the time. Yes, some of the bishops were not present in their dioceses, but they were serving the King, they made arrangements for vicars to cover their duties, and when they did go home, they regretted their absences and repaired any damage as soon as possible. Yes, some of the monks and nuns left their cloister, but they were landlords too and needed to oversee their tenants, distribute charity, or in the case of an Abbot, attend Parliament in the House of Lords. These abuses don't answer Bishop Hamid's question at all--they don't automatically mean that the English people would reject the Catholic Church once Henry VIII broke away from the Pope and Cromwell and Cranmer started introducing reforms to the liturgy and closing the monasteries, convents, and friaries.

Bernard discusses the "monarchical" nature of the Catholic hierarchy, serving the Tudor monarch and basically obeying his demands on church matters--although the bishops sometimes balked. But as Peter Marshall notes in that Literary Review article, French and Spanish rulers had as much control and there was no state led Reformation in either country. Bernard is fair and effective in his analysis of the vitality and vulnerability of the Catholic Church in England before the Henry VIII's Break from Rome/the English Reformation, but he doesn't solve the mystery yet of how the English people accepted religious change at the hands of its monarch with compliance, even though that compliance was not easy, immediate, or complete. Although Bernard fills in gaps that Duffy might have left (he did not claim to be comprehensive in The Stripping of the Altars), we still have a historical mystery, it seems.

I think the real solution is in human nature, not historical causes and effects.It's just easier to go along with the legitimate secular authority that has the means here and now to force you to do what it says to do: drop the pinch of incense in Rome; whitewash the Last Judgement in London; buy the HHS mandated insurance in Wichita. Father George Rutler wrote an article called "Post-Comfortable Christianity and the Election of 2012"--I'm not citing it for political/election year reasons--and he points out "The surrender will not come by a sudden loss of faith in Transubstantiation or doubts about Papal Infallibility. It will happen smoothly and quietly, as the raptures of the Netherworld always hum victims into somnolence, by the cost factor of buying out of government health insurance." And he continues,

As the bishops, by the acknowledgement of many of their own number, failed to articulate the cogency of doctrines on contraception and other moral issues, so will they now, despite the best intentions, not be able to stem the radical attrition among native Catholics whose eyes are on mammon, and among recent immigrants whose privileges are guaranteed only if they vote for opponents of the Church. The general election of 2012 may rally the fraction of conscientious Catholics among the sixty million or so sympathetic Catholics. If their influence is not decisive, and the present course of federal legislation accelerates, encouraged by a self-destructive appetite for welfare statism on the part of ecclesiastical bureaucrats, the majority of Catholics with tenuous commitments to the Faith will evaporate, as did the lapsed baptized in North Africa during the oppression of the emperor Diocletian.

Most of us (in the sixteenth or the twenty-first century) are just too dependent on our comforts and like to get along. Martyrs are the exceptions that test that rule and shock us because they will risk their lives.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Armada Reaction: Six Gibbets

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

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

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

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

Blessed James Claxton:

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

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

Blessed Thomas Felton, whose father, John Felton was executed for posting the Papal Bull excommunicating Elizabeth I after the Northern Rebellion (I talked about father and son martyrs on the Son Rise Morning Show earlier this month.)

Blessed Thomas Holford, formerly a Protestant schoolmaster:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blessed William Gunter or Guntei, from Wales:

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

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

Monday, August 27, 2012

Another Popish Plot Priest Victim; Last Welsh Martyr

Last year, I offered this post on St. Davis Lewis, another Popist Plot victim and the last Catholic Martyr from Wales. This site is dedicated to the life and death of St. David Lewis, and presents a great post about the annual pilgrimage in honour of the martyr and also hosts a facebook page in his honour. A previous post on that blog described his execution thus:

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

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

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

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

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

Blessed Roger Cadwallador

English martyr, b. at Stretton Sugwas, near Hereford, in 1568; executed at Leominster (pronounced Lemster), 27 Aug., 1610. He was ordained subdeacon at Reims, 21 Sept., 1591, and deacon the following February, and in Aug., 1592, was sent to the English College at Valladolid, where he was ordained priest. Returning to England in 1594, he laboured in Herefordshire with good success especially among the poor for about sixteen years. Search was made for him in June, 1605, but it was not till Easter, 1610, that he was arrested at the house of Mrs. Winefride Scroope, widow, within eight miles of Hereford. He was then brought before the Bishop, Dr. Robert Bennet, who committed him to Hereford gaol where he was loaded with irons night and day.

Challoner notes that Dr. Bennet tripped himself up: after asking Father Cadwallador if he was a Catholic priest (and Cadwallador admitted that he was) the bishop proclaimed that Jesus Christ was the only priest of the New Testament (because Cadwallador had stated Dr. Bennet was not a true bishop)--so the martyr said, well then, I cannot be held guilty of being a priest then, can I, since there are no priests!?

On being transferred to Leominster gaol he was obliged to walk all the way in shackles, though a boy was permitted to go by his side and bear up by a string the weight of some iron links which were wired to the shackles. On his arrival, he was treated with the greatest inhumanity by his gaoler--kept in chains and even constrained in his movements. He was taken again to the bishop for some religious arguments, but he was very ill, suffering with a fever. He was condemned, merely for being a priest, some months before he suffered. A very full account of his sufferings in prison and of his martyrdom is given by Challoner. He hung very long, suffering great pain, owing to the unskilfulness of the hangman, and was eventually cut down and butchered alive.

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

Pits praises his great knowledge of Greek, from which he translated Theodoret's "Philotheus, or the lives of the Father of the Syrian deserts"; but it does not appear when or where this translation was published.

He was beatified by Pope John Paul II, on the 22nd of November 1987. In 2010, the Herefordshire Catholic community celebrated the 400th anniversary of his martyrdom.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Blessed Dominic Barberi, Passionist

Blessed Dominic Barberi is honored on August 26 and featured on the National Calendar in England--although this year his optional memorial yields to the 23rd Sunday of the Year. He is probably best known for having received John Henry Newman into the Catholic Church on October 9, 1845 but there are other aspects to his life that should be recalled.

The first is that he was born in Italy during Napoleonic rule, meaning that he grew up in milieu of anti-clericalism and irreligion. His large peasant family placed him with an uncle and he was a shepherd. Young Dominic became attracted to the Passionist Order and joined them as a novice in 1814, after restrictions against religious orders were removed.

Secondly, although in England his English language skills were never that strong (which probably gave some the impression he was not that bright), he was a tremendous theologian and scholar for the Passionist order. He was entrusted with greater and greater responsibility.

Thirdly, he received this special call to serve the people of England and received converts. I believe he heard that call because John Henry Newman needed him. As Newman was living in Littlemore after the suppression of the Oxford Movement he was as he said on his deathbed as an Anglican--but he was not yet ready to recover and become a Catholic. The example of Father Barbari, enduring ridicule for his poor English, being stoned in the streets and yet persevering to bring Christ to the people--even leading the first Corpus Christi procession in England since the Reformation--impressed Newman. As he had written, "If they [Catholic religious] want to convert England let them go barefooted into our manufacturing towns-let them preach to the people like St. Francis Xavier-let them be pelted and trampled on-and I will admit that they can do what we cannot…What a day it will be when God will make arise among their Communion saintly men such as Bernard and the Borromeo’s…The English will never be favorably inclined to a party of conspirators and instigators; only faith and sanctity are irresistible.”

Father Barberi said,  "What a spectacle it was for me to see Newman at my feet! All that I have suffered since I left Italy has been well compensated by this event. I hope the effects of such a conversion may be great."

The International Centre of Newman Friends offers this detail of that momentous event on October 8 and 9, 1845:

"The original historians, who were also closer to the facts, delighted in presenting the events of that night in a dramatic fashion, something which Dominic never would have done, being always very simple and loath to talk about himself. Alfonso Capecelatro, for example, who was an Oratorian and a future Cardinal, wrote about the event ten years after the death of Dominic: “Dalgarins invited a certain Fr. Dominic of the Mother of God, a Provincial of the Passionists, to go to Aston Hall in Littlemore, telling him that he was being called to a work in the service of God: and unwittingly, he agreed. He was always conscious that every delay could possibly result in some great harm to the office to which he called. However because of a terrible storm he set out in a covered coach. He endured five hours of driving rain and, as it so pleased God, completely exhausted he arrived at Littlemore at night. Without delay he entered in the solitary dwelling of those fervent men who were famous throughout England, and with great humility Newman fell at his feet, telling him that he would not move from there until he was blessed and received into the Church of Jesus Christ.”

Beyond this great event, Father Dominic worked very hard while in England, establishing churches, preaching and teaching. He suffered a heart attack and died in Reading on August 27, 1849. He is buried in St. Anne's church, St. Helens, Merseyside, alongside Father Ignatius Spencer, an Anglican convert and Passionist, and Elizabeth Prout, another Anglican convert and the foundress of the Institute of the Holy Family. You can watch this interesting interview of Blessed Dominic, portrayed by Kevin O'Brien on EWTN's The Journey Home.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

The English Reformation Today, Episode Four

In this episode, I'll take up where we left off last week, with the Pilgrimage of Grace and the Dissolution of the Monasteries. I'll highlight the martyrs of the Dissolution and discuss one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales canonized by Pope Paul VI in 1970, St. John Stone. I'll wrap up our discussion of Henry VIII with some notes on the confusion of his "reformation" and his legacy, with comments from Winston Churchill and from W.G. Hoskins.

Then, I'll move on to the reign of Edward VI and the coming of a true, Reformed/Calvinist religious reformation to England, mostly through the efforts of Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury and his The Book of Common Prayer and the Forty-Two/Thirty-Nine Articles. Furthermore, I'll describe the influence of Continental Reformers and the popular reaction to these new, more radical changes: rebellion. I'll examine Edward VI and his position as a young king trying to control his older half-sister Mary (conflict over her devotion to Mass) and the attempt to prevent a Catholic Queen from succeeding him (the story of Lady Jane Grey).

I'll also highlight the change of mind of at least two of the bishops who had sworn the Oath to Henry but during his son's reign, protested against the changes taking place: Stephen Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester and Edward Bonner, Bishop of London--they ended up in the Tower of London. Stephen Gardiner had even assisted Henry VIII in arguing for the annulment of his first marriage. Gardiner and Bonner had gone along with the will of their monarch so far, but when the government destroyed the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and forbade its celebration, they had to protest.

I welcome all listeners of Radio Maria US to my blog, whether you're listening on one of their radio stations or on line or through one of their apps. Next week on The English Reformation Today we'll discuss the restoration of Catholicism with the reign of Mary I, the first Queen Regnant of England and her legacy. I invite you to call in with questions and comments toll-free at 866-333-MARY(6279). Just a reminder, too, that podcasts of previous episodes of The English Reformation Today are available on the Radio Maria US website.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Newman and the Ordinariate

You might recall that Pope Benedict XVI called on the bishops of England and Wales to be generous in implementing the Personal Ordinariate for groups of former Anglicans on the last day of his visit in 2010. He also highlighted the newly beatified John Henry Newman as a model for understanding Faith in the context of the modern/postmodern/posthuman world: ("It was especially moving to celebrate with them, here in Birmingham, the beatification of a great son of England, Cardinal John Henry Newman. With his vast legacy of scholarly and spiritual writings, I am certain that he still has much to teach us about Christian living and witness amid the challenges of today’s world, challenges which he foresaw with such remarkable clarity.")

The author of new biography of Blessed John Henry Newman echoes Pope Benedict, according to CNA:

San Diego, Calif., Aug 14, 2012 / 04:10 am (CNA).- A biographer of Blessed John Henry Newman says the noted 19th-century Catholic convert can offer guidance to Anglicans in the midst of their denomination's current moral and doctrinal crisis.

Cardinal Newman “saw the importance of knowing one's faith, and the truths revealed by God through the Church – and the importance of living according to those truths, not according to opinions,” said Father Juan Velez, author of “Passion For Truth: The Life of Blessed John Henry Newman” (St. Benedict Press, $18.75).

While stressing the call to holiness for both laity and clergy, Newman also came to recognize the gift of the teaching authority held by the bishops in union with the Pope.

This visible apostolic authority contrasts sharply with the modern Anglican practice of “putting the beliefs of the Church up for a vote,” the biographer observed.

“Passion For Truth” is the first major biography of Bl. Newman to be published since his beatification in 2010. Its author discussed the late cardinal's life and thought in an Aug. 10 interview, two days after the biography became available as an e-book.

“A big part of the biography is the first part of Newman's life, his process of conversion,” explained Fr. Velez. During this time, “he had the question before him: 'What is the true Church? What is the fold of Christ?'”

Fr. Velez hopes that “Passion for Truth” will help Anglicans and other non-Catholics understand Newman's journey, while also deepening Catholic readers' faith.

Newman's life and writings, he noted, are “a source of continued help to those who are thinking about their Catholic faith – or thinking about becoming Catholics.”

The Victorian-era cardinal is a favorite of Pope Benedict XVI, who beatified him and has praised his contributions on topics like conscience and doctrinal development. Fr. Velez thinks it is “very likely” Bl. Newman eventually “will be canonized, and then made a Doctor of the Church.”

UPDATE: The National Catholic Register includes a review of Father Velez's book online:

Why a new biography of Blessed Cardinal John Henry Newman? Perhaps because, as two disparate thinkers, William Golding (Lord of the Flies) and C.S. Lewis, believe, saints are the most interesting and unique kinds of people to read about. Tyrants, as Lewis wrote, are all boringly the same.

Another reason, for Father Juan Vélez, an Opus Dei priest, physician and Newman scholar, is “to highlight Newman’s constant search for religious truth and lasting happiness … to show the spiritual and intellectual path that led Newman from evangelical Protestantism through Anglicanism to Roman Catholicism.” The main source for his work is Newman’s correspondence, from which he quotes extensively. . . .

Father Vélez’s book describes Newman’s life and search thoroughly and with just enough historical and religious background to make it understandable for the lay reader. An added bonus is the selection of maps, prints and photographs of settings pertinent to Newman’s life.

Father Vélez’s presentation is at times plodding and rather obvious; Brother Zeno’s John Henry Newman: His Inner Life (1979) is much better written, and I’m surprised it’s not in the bibliography.

However, Passion for Truth, as Father Vélez intended, covers ground that Brother Zeno’s book did not and does it with the same passion as Newman had in his own search. It is a solid biography for someone who has never read about Newman before.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Duke of Northumberland's Speech before Execution

For his leadership of the attempt to have his daughter-in-law, Jane Grey Dudley, reign as Queen of England and Ireland, John Dudley, the Duke of Northumberland was executed on August 22, 1553. He spoke before his beheading and expressed great remorse:

Good people, all you that be here present to see me die. Though my death be odious and horrible to the flesh, yet I pray you judge the best in god's works, for he doth all for the best. And as for me, I am a wretched sinner, & have deserved to die, and most justly am condemned to die by a law. And yet this act Wherefore I die, was not altogether of me (as it is thought) but I was procured and induced thereunto by others. I was I say induced thereunto by others, howbeit, God forbid that I should name any man unto you, I will name no man unto you, & therefore I beseech you look not for it.
I for my part forgive all men, and pray God also to forgive them. And if I have offended any of you here, I pray you and all the World to forgive me: and most chiefly I desire forgiveness of the Queen's highness, whom I have most grievously offended. Amen said the people. And I pray you all to witness with me, that I depart in perfect love and charity with all the world, &  that you will assist me with your prayers at the hour of death.  

And one thing more good people I have to say unto you, which I am chiefly moved to do for discharge of my conscience; that is to warn you and exhort you to beware of these seditious preachers, and teachers of new doctrine, which pretend to preach God's word, but in very deed they preach their own fancies, who were never able to explicate themselves, they know not today what they would have tomorrow, there is no stay in their teaching; doctrine, they open the book, but they cannot shut it again. Take heed how you enter into strange opinions or new doctrine, which hath done no small hurt in this realm, and hath justly procured the ire and wrath of god upon us, as well may appear who so list to call to remembrance the manyfold plagues that this realm hath been touched with all since we dissevered ourselves from the catholic church of Christ, and from the doctrine which hath been received by the holy apostles, martyrs, and all saints, and used through all realms christened since Christ. 

And I verily believe, that all the plagues that have chanced to this realm of late years since afore the death of king Henry the eight, hath justly fallen upon us, for that we have deuvded ourself from the rest of Christendom whereof we be but as a spark in comparison: Have we not had war, famine, pestilence, the death of our king, rebellion, sedition among ourselves, conspiracies? Have we not had sundry erroneous opinions sprung up among us in this realm, since we have forsaken the unity of the catholic Church? and what other plagues be there that we have not felt?

Mary I's government made good use of this speech as propaganda to support her efforts to restore Catholicism, according to Eamon Duffy in Fires of Faith, printing and reprinting pamphlets. John Dudley, the Duke of Northumberland was beheaded on August 22, 1553--and Thomas Percy, the Earl of Northumberland was executed on the same date in 1572, as I've pointed out before.

Podcasts of The English Reformation Today

Podcasts of the first three episodes of my Radio Maria US show are now available and here is a link to the Program page:

“The English Reformation Today” tells the story of the English Reformation and its aftermath, focusing on how it affected Catholics in England after their Church was driven underground and their Faith and its practice outlawed. The series also highlights the on-going significance of the English Reformation today in many ways: issues of religious freedom; ecumenical issues between the Catholic Church and the Church of England, etc.

Episode One: August 4, 2012:  The English Reformation Today: Why is it relevant?

Relevance of the English Reformation for religious freedom issues in the United States (and around the world) today, including the HHS Mandate; context for the Personal Ordinariate established by Pope Benedict XVI for groups of Anglicans wishing to become Catholics; background for the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment. Distinction of the English Reformation from the Protestant Reformation on the Continent in the 16th century.

Episode Two: August 11, 2012: Before the Reformation:

Brief notes on changing interpretations of the English Reformation in historical studies. Description of the Catholic Church in England before the Reformation/Break from Rome: based on landmark study by Eamon Duffy, note the vitality and integration of Catholicism with everyday life in England: introduce some main characters of the story: Thomas More, Thomas Wolsey, John Fisher, Henry VIII.

Episode Three: August 18, 2012: Henry VIII and the Break from Rome:

Tell the story of why Henry VIII broke away from the Holy Father in Rome and established the Church of England with himself as the Supreme Head and Governor; describe the first martyrs (the Carthusians, Thomas More, John Fisher, etc); the Dissolution of the Monasteries; the death of Henry VIII and his legacy.

This Saturday, August 25, we will pick up where we left off last week with the Pilgrimage of Grace and the Dissolution of the Monasteries. Then I'll describe the legacy of Henry VIII and the coming of a true Protestant--Calvinist--Reformation in England during the reign of his son, Edward VI.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Meeting in Prison: Blesseds Lacy and Kirkman

Blessed William Lacy or Lacey, born and raised in Yorkshire, had been married twice and widowed twice before he went to Rome, studied for the priesthood and was ordained in 1581. As a layman, Lacy had suffered imprisonment for his Catholicism in Yorkshire, paid many fines for not attending Anglican services, and had lost his official post as coroner. After his ordination, he traveled to England with Jesuit Fathers Jasper Heywood (John Donne's uncle) and William Holt. Upon his return home he was arrested in York on July 22, 1582 while present at a Mass celebrated by Thomas Bell with another martyr-to-be, Blessed William Hart and suffered greatly in prison. He was loaded with heavy irons, confined in an underground dungeon, and subjected to numerous examinations before arraignment on August 11--it's not clear what he he was found guilty of, since the Elizabethan statute that made the presence of a priest in England an act of treason. He refused to accept Elizabeth as Supreme Governor of the Church and had some items blessed by Pope Gregory XIII, so that was enough to find him guilty of some treason.

He and Blessed Richard Kirkman met in prison. Kirkman was born at Addingham, in the West Riding. He went to Douai in 1577 to study for the priesthood and was ordained at the English College in Reims on Holy Saturday in 1579. He returned to England in August of that year with St. Alexander Briant and was arrested a year later on August 8, after his lay host and protector, Robert Dykmore of Lincolnshire was arrested. Before execution, he was moved to an underground dungeon. His last words were from Psalm 120: 'Woe to me that I dwell in Meshech, that I live among the tents of Kedar! Too long have I lived among those who hate peace.'

Neither priest had much opportunity to serve the Catholics in northern England, altough Blessed William Lacy may have had a year. Blessed William Lacy is honored on December 1 every year at the Venerable English College in Rome. The students gather in the chapel to sing Te Deum Laudamus before Alberti's Martyrs' Picture. Blessed Richard Kirkman is remembered as one of the Martyrs of Douai at Allen Hall in Chelsea, London.

These two martyrs were hung and quartered on August 22, in the year 1582, in York. The Lord President of the North was Henry Hastings, Earl of Huntington, appointed by Elizabeth I in 1572 (his mother was Catherine Pole, Blessed Margaret Pole's granddaughter!)--he was a devout Puritan and hated anything Catholic (rather awkward family circumstances, when his wife was a Pole!), and although his religion irritated Elizabeth, she found him very useful in the North of England during the crises of Mary, Queen of Scots' imprisonment and the Spanish Armada. He was also most diligent in the apprehension of Catholic recusants and Catholic priests.

A Kemble Cup; A Kemble Pipe: A Catholic Martyr in Monmouthshire

As The Catholic Herald noted two years ago:

John Kemble (1599-1679) was a much-loved Catholic priest martyred during the madness of the “Popish Plot”.

In normal times, despite harsh anti-Catholic laws, the extent of persecution depended upon the sympathies of local landowners and JPs. Around Hereford and Monmouth, for example, where the Catholic Earls (from 1642 Marquesses) of Worcester held sway at Raglan Castle, the old religion was for long periods practised with impunity. From 1622 there was even a Jesuit College at Cwm, near Welsh Newton. At nearby Dingestow 20-odd worshippers at the parish church would see some 60 Catholics trooping past on their way to Mass.

In 1678 the farrago of lies concocted by Titus Oates, that there was a Jesuit conspiracy to murder the King, gave disgruntled Protestants and ambitious chancers their opportunity. A Monmouthshire rogue called William Bedloe laid false information against the leading Catholics of the area.

One of those who suffered in the prevailing hysteria was John Kemble. Born into a Catholic family at St Weonards, some five miles north of Welsh Newton, he had studied for the priesthood at the English College in Douai.

Ordained in 1625, he returned to Monmouthshire and served more than 50 years as an itinerant priest, winning admirers even among Protestants. Based at Pembridge Castle, which his brother had leased in 1630, he had seemed immune from prosecution.

Moreover in 1651 his nephew Richard Kemble saved Charles II’s life at the battle of Worcester. The King, however, was not a man to remember past services when his own preservation was at stake.

As the anti-Catholic furore boiled over in 1678 John Kemble rejected all warnings, declaring that he could do no better than to die for Christ. . . .

Because he responded with the news of his impending execution with the requests to finish his pipe and enjoy a last drink, the terms a "Kemble Pipe" and a "Kemble Cup" became part of popular culture. He even had to encourage this hangman to do his job!

There is an annual pilgrimage to the site of his grave in an Anglican churchyard, held this year on August 19:

The Annual Pilgrimage to the grave of St John Kemble at Welsh Newton will take place on Sunday 19th August 2012. His Grace Archbishop George Stack will be in attendance. The programme is as follows:

10 a m: MONMOUTH
The walk begins from St Mary’s Church, Monmouth. Pilgrims are advised to bring a packed lunch.

Rosary, Readings and prayers at the grave of St John Kemble in the churchyard of St Mary the Virgin, Welsh Newton, Herefordshire.

4:15 p m: MONMOUTH
Benediction at St Mary's Church, Monmouth. Following Benediction, tea will be served in the garden.

Here is a Kyrie from a Mass in his honor. St. John Kemble, pray for us!

A Popish Plot Franciscan Martyr: St. John Wall

The Francisan Province of Great Britain celebrates all their martyrs on July 12 (the date of St. John Jones' martyrdom), but St. John Wall was martyred on August 22, 1679--at the center of the "Popish Plot" even though he was not a Jesuit, Oates' main targets:
John Wall was born in 1620, probably at Chingle Hall, near Preston in Lancashire. As a young man he entered the English College in Douai where he was taught by the famous Dr. Kellison. In 1641 he transferred to the English College in Rome, where he was ordained a priest in 1645. After a brief spell as a missionary in England he returned to Douai and asked to enter the Franciscan College of St. Bonaventure which John Gennings had erected there in his restoration of the Franciscan Province of England. In January 1651 he was accepted into the Order and took the name Joachim of St. Anne. Five friars from that friary had already been martyred.

John Joachim, although only 6 months professed was appointed Guardian of the college and later Master of Novices. In 1656 he assumed the false name Francis Webb and re-entered England as a missionary in Worcestershire. He remained there for 22 years ministering to the Catholics of the area. In 1678 he went to London to meet the Jesuit Claude de la Colombière, and the two spoke together of their desire for martyrdom. The context of this meeting was the renewed persecution that was unleashed in the wake of the murderous lies of Titus Oates and his invented Catholic plot against King Charles II.

Returning from this encounter, John was staying with a friend in Rushock Court. There he was mistaken for one of the so-called plotters, Francis Johnson, and arrested. When he refused to swear to the religious supremacy of the King, he was imprisoned for five months of dreadful suffering. At the end of this time, on 25th April 1679, he was condemned to death for high treason, since he was a priest who had been ordained abroad and returned to exercise his ministry in contravention to the Elizabethan anti-Catholic laws. He argued in vain that Charles II's amnesty of 1660 should have covered him, as indeed it should. Instead he was sent to London to be interrogated by Oates, Bedloe, Dugdale and Pranse. He was found innocent of the accusation of complicity in the “Papist Plot” but because of his priestly ordination and ministry, his death sentence was nevertheless confirmed and he was sent back to Worcester, where he was hanged on 22nd August 1679.

His fellow friar William Leveson, whose own brother Francis Leveson would himself be martyred at the age of 34 in 1680, looked after John Wall in his last days in prison. He recounted the condemnation and death of the martyr in a letter. John Wall's body was buried in the cemetery of the church of St. Oswald in Worcester, and his head returned to Douai, where it was venerated as a holy relic.

Along with John Jones and 38 other English martyrs John Wall was beatified by Pius XI on 15th December 1929 and canonised by Paul VI on 25th October 1970.

According to this website, St. John Wall used Harvington Hall as a base of operations.The Hall, parts of which are open to the public (owned by the Archdiocese of Birmingham), is well known for the "priest hides" built there by Saint Nicholas Owen, Jesuit lay brother and martyr.

Martyr of the Northern Rebellion: Blessed Thomas Percy

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

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

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

About his widow, Wikipedia reports:

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

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

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

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

As to Mary Percy's Benedictine convent:  Known as the Monastery of the Glorious Assumption. Founded by Lady Mary Percy in 1597/8; it was the first of the new foundations specifically for English women. The convent quickly attracted members, but a bitter dispute over the choice of confessor that continued many years affected recruitment. Once a resolution was reached the convent began to flourish again remaining in Brussels until forced to withdraw by the effects of the revolutionary wars in 1794. They arrived in Winchester in 1794 and remained there until they transferred to East Bergholt, Suffolk. (Per this site, studying the English religious orders in exile.)

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Book Review: Cosmas or the Love of God

This novel--which is really almost a novel of suspense--is set in a French Trappist Monastery. The narrator tells the story of a young man who believes he has a vocation to the order but cannot commit to the stability of the monastic life. The story begins with the narrator telling a visitor about Cosmas's death and burial in the monastery graveyard, even though he was not really a member of the community. The narration and pacing of the novel really hold the reader in suspense--what happened to Cosmas? How did he die? Did he have a vocation?

The narrator is the novice master and he describes in detail Cosmas's struggles in the community: Cosmas is very enthusiastic about the Divine Office and totally dedicated to the Rule of St. Benedict. But he is frustrated and outraged by the human weaknesses of the monks and even more by the novice master's advice to him to be more accepting and understanding of human frailty. Cosmas wants to commit to the monastery only if he can leave the community periodically when he finds it difficult to accept some behavior of his fellow monks' behavior. He leaves the monastery the last time because he thinks the other monks are mechanical in their celebration of the Divine Office; that while they are chanting they show no emotion or transcendence. The novice master reminds him that he cannot use feelings to judge the effects of Grace.

Cosmas or the Love of God reminded me of Rumer Godden's In This House of Brede, with its testing not just of religious vocation but of love and self-giving. The author of Cosmas was Pierre de Calan (1911-1993) a Paris banker (president of the French division of Barclays Bank). The novel was published in French in 1977; I read the Peter Hebblethwaite translation in the Loyola Classics edition.

I was reading the book in the context of preparing for my discussion of the dissolution of the monasteries during Henry VIII's reign last Saturday. In his book, The Tudors: The Complete Story of England's Most Notorious Dynasty, G.J. Meyer provides an excellent overview of their development in the centuries before their destruction. He notes that "British conventional wisdom" about the monasteries in the sixteenth century was that they were corrupt and needed destruction. Meyer argues, however, that the monastic movement falls and rises, grows stagnant and revives constantly. A ridiculously simplified example: The Benedictines become unbalanced toward elaborate ritual with the Cluniac movement, so St. Bernard of Clairvaux and others develop the Cistercian reform; the Trappists (as in Cosmas or the Love of God) take the reform a step further--revising and perfecting the way of life to more faithfully follow The Rule--and Meyer points out, I believe correctly, that all these efforts of reform took place inside the Order, not from without. So, yes, the monasteries in England were on a downward slide in some ways but they were also on an upward arc in others. Some orders had still not recovered in numbers from the Black Death.

To me, the clincher of an argument against this "British conventional wisdom" is that Henry VIII's first targets in destroying the monastic (and mendicant or religious) foundation in England were in fact the rising stars and the best of the monastic and mendicant orders: The Carthusians, the Bridgettines, and the Observant Franciscans.

I was trying to remember or find other novels set in monasteries (not mysteries or thrillers) and came up with another: Sylvia Townsend Warner's The Corner that Held Them. If you think of any others, let me know--does Walter Scott's The Monastery count?

Monday, August 20, 2012

St. Bernard and the Cistercians in England

From Tea at Trianon comes this link to an article arguing for the long-term beneficial effects of the monasteries in England even after their dissolution:

The Monks Left Fundamental Values in Society

Having looked at statistics covering 40 counties in England, the researchers concluded that regions with many Cistercian monasteries experienced a higher population growth in the period 1377-1801.

What’s even more striking is that the influence that monasteries had on population density was the same before and after 1600.

The fact that all monasteries were closed down during the Reformation in the year 1500 [not really: the dissolution occurred in the late 1530's, from about 1535 to 1540] also shows that the monasteries had an influence on society several centuries after being closed down.

So it appears that it wasn’t only the monks’ excellent abilities to e.g. use watermills that have been passed on to posterity. Rather, it was something more inherent and fundamental.

“We are cementing that the monks passed on their cultural values by showing – based on the European Values Study – that European regions with several Cistercian monasteries still to this day value diligence and moderation more than other regions,” says Bentzen.

“Our study of monks shows that societies that had a culture where diligence and moderation were highly valued had an advantage when the Industrial Revolution started. All else being equal, countries with high levels of work ethic will, historically speaking, achieve greater prosperity.”

Last year on the Feast of St. Bernard of Clairvaux, I posted this history of the Cisterican monastic life in England. St. Bernard of Clairvaux, pray for us!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Blessed Christopher Robinson, the Carlisle Martyr

Blessed Christopher Robinson was executed at Carlisle on August 19, 1598. The model above reflects the circumstances of his martyrdom, as the rope on which he was to be hung kept breaking! According to this website:

Christopher Robinson is on all the ancient lists of those martyred during the Reformation, but his life is still little known. Nevertheless, his memory has never been effaced in Cumberland, of which he is the only Catholic martyr. His death evidently made a deep impression especially in his native Carlisle.

Christopher Robinson was probably born at Woodside, near Carlisle, between 1565 and 1570. He was admitted as a student with six others on 17 August 1590 at Douai as a student. This college had been founded on 29 September 1568 by William Allen, a former Oxford Professor and later Cardinal. The first four priests were sent to England in 1574, and in the next ten years just over a hundred left the College ordained for the English Mission. From 1568 to 1594 the College was re-settled beside the university of Rheims and it was during this period that Christopher Robinson was a student of the College.

He was at once entered for theological studies and was given the tonsure and first Minor Orders on 18 August 1590. Such was the urgent need for priests that the College had been granted a general dispensation to shorten the usual six-year course of preparation for the priesthood. Christopher Robinson was given the remaining Minor Orders, together with the subdiaconate and diaconate, on the last three days of March 1591. On 24 February he was ordained to the priesthood by Cardinal Philip Sega in his private chapel at Rheims. He departed for England on 1 September 1592.

Cumberland and probably part of Westmorland was to be his field of labour. In a list of 1596 he is described by name as ‘dwelling for the most part at Woodside nigh Carlisle in Cumberland’. The only house known with certainty to have been visited and used by him was Johnby Hall, the home of the Musgrave family, about six miles from Penrith, near Greystoke Castle.

He would surely have known John Boste, a native of Dufton, near Appleby, who was the most hunted priest in the northern counties. He was eventually captured near Brancepeth, County Durham, on 13 September 1593. Christopher Robinson heard of his capture and, feeling sure no one would recognise him, rode over to attend his trial. Afterwards he wrote a detailed account of the trial and death of John Boste. This is a unique, first hand evidence of a martyrdom, hardly paralleled elsewhere.

He himself was arrested three and a half years later on 4 March 1597. A letter by Fr. Henry Garnett SJ dated 7 April 1597 states:

‘One Robinson, a seminary priest, was lately in a purchased gaol-delivery hanged at Carlisle. The rope broke twice and the third time he rebuked the sheriff for cruelty saying that, although he meant no way to yield but was glad of the combat, yet flesh and blood were weak, and therefore he showed little humanity to torment a man for so long. And when they took order to put two ropes, then, said he, by this means I shall be longer a-dying, but it is no matter, I am willing to suffer all.’

Although the indictment upon which Christopher Robinson suffered is no longer to be found, there is abundant evidence that the cause of his death was his priesthood.

There is also much evidence that his memory as a martyr has been persistently held in honour in Carlisle, where Christopher Robinson’s name is not only remembered but also invoked as a true martyr.

He was declared Blessed by Pope John Paul II in 1987. Lancaster Cathedral celebrates his martyrdom on the Feast of the Lancaster Martyrs, August 7.

Not for the Faint of Heart: Blessed Hugh Green

Hugh Green was born in 1584 of Protestant parents; he took his degree at Cambridge in 1605, but then converted to Catholicism and went to Douai to study for the priesthood in 1610. He tried his vocation as a Capuchin, but left that order and was ordained in 1612.

In England he served the Catholics of Dorchester and was given refuge by Lady Blanche Arundell of Lanherne. The Mad Monarchist offers this profile of Lady Blanche, who certainly did not blanch at danger!:

Lady Blanche Arundell was a monarchist I wish I knew more about, but from what I do know she was my kind of girl. The Lady Blanche was born in 1583, the sixth daughter of Lord Edward Somerset, 4th Earl of Worcester and Lady Elizabeth Hastings a well respected, Catholic and staunchly royalist family. On May 11, 1607 she married Lord Thomas Baron Arundell of Wardour who, went King Charles I of Britain raised the royal standard at Nottingham was quick to cast his lot with his monarch. While her husband was away at the front Lady Blanche Arundell showed her own heroism when Wardour Castle, Wiltshire, came under attack by the forces of Parliament. With only herself, her children, a handful of maid-servants and 25 men she resolved to defend the castle, her home and family against 1,300 Roundhead troops, including artillery, led by Colonel Edward Ludlow and Sir Edward Hungerford. For eight grueling days Lady Blanche defended the castle against the hopeless odds until she was finally forced to capitulate. However, thanks to her staunch defense she was able to negotiate honorable terms for her surrender which were signed on May 8, 1643. Lady Blanche was able to leave the castle with her head held high but she had no money and no place to go. Fortunately Lord Hertford provided her with accommodations at Salisbury. Her husband later returned at the head of royalist column and took back the castle his wife had so heroically defended but sadly he was later wounded in battle and died at Oxford the same year. When Lady Blanche Arundell died at Winchester on October 28, 1649 she was buried alongside her husband at Tisbury. Her brave defense of her hearth and home, her children and family honor, all in the cause of her King warrants Lady Blanche being listed among the pantheon of great English royalists of the Civil War.

Just before the beginning of the Civil War, Charles I passed another law making the presence of Catholic priests in England a crime punishable by death (forced by Parliament). Although Hugh Green intended to leave England under this ban, he was too late.

He was captured near Lyme Regis, imprisoned and then executed on August 19, 1642. In prison his constancy so affected his fellow-captives that two or three women sentenced to die with him sent him word that they would ask his absolution before death. They did so after confessing their sins to the people, and were absolved by the martyr. A providential reward for his zeal immediately followed. A Jesuit Father, despite the danger, rode up in disguise on horseback, and at a given sign absolved the martyr, who made a noble confession of faith before death.

The story of his execution is more appalling than usual: there was no experienced executioner available, so a barber-cum-executioner spent almost half an hour trying to locate his heart after he had been hung. Finally a soldier mercifully ended this torture. When his head was cut off, the Puritans used it as a football! As Archbishop Challoner notes, this was not an event repeated in the annals of the English martyrs. Blessed Hugh Green is honored at the Church of Our Lady, Queen of Martyrs and St. Ignatius, Chideock, as one of the Dorset martyrs. Here is a link to some pictures of the church.

Please note that this is Jane Austen country, and any reader of Persuasion would remember Anne Elliott's fateful visit to Lyme Regis!

In a very strange coincidence, there was an American style football player named Hugh Green, who was born in 1959. He played for both the Miami Dolphins and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

The English Reformation Today: Episode Three

"Henry VIII and the Break from Rome" is our topic today. We will talk briefly about the causes behind Henry VIII's decision to assert ecclesiastical authority in England to get around the Pope not declaring his first marriage null and void so he could marry again and hopefully sire a male heir. Beyond that, however, we will concentrate on the crisis of conscience among Catholics asked to choose the source of spiritual authority: their Monarch or the Vicar of Christ (you know which way I lean!). Therefore we will examine the protomartyrs of the English Reformation: The Carthusians, Observant Franciscans, St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More. Here is an interesting article from the UK's The Catholic Herald, which the columnist/blogger Francis Philips titles "I feel a shiver when I see the parallels between our world and that of St John Fisher":

. . . I read about St John Fisher (who gave his name to the chaplaincy), the magnificent and martyred alumnus of the 16th century. In an article by Dr Richard Rex, I was reminded that Fisher, who refused to renounce the authority of the pope in favour of Henry VIII, accepted execution rather than go against his conscience. “That Fisher would find himself called upon to deny a doctrine that had been taught in England all his life was something he could hardly have imagined in his student days. More surprising still is how few followed him in refusing. The reason was partly fear, but more the spirit of the age…”

Rex continues, drawing a parallel between the challenge faced by Fisher and those facing Christians today: “We shall not be called upon to make that ultimate sacrifice. But look out for the dominant ideology. Today it is just straws in the wind. Rocco Buttiglione disqualified from the European Commission because of his adherence to Catholic teaching on sexual morality. The closure of Catholic adoption agencies in England because of their refusal to place children with same-sex couples. How long will it be before a formal affirmation of so-called ‘liberal’ principles becomes a prerequisite for employment in the public sector?”

This is disquieting but should not be a surprise. . . . 

Read the rest here.

I will also discuss the Dissolution of the Monasteries and the effect of that destruction of religious life in England. I wrote about the Dissolution of the Monasteries for OSV's The Catholic Answer Magazine and you may access that article here, including its discussion of the Pilgrimage of Grace:

In October 1536, an army of commoners and gentry advanced from the north of England under banners marked with the five wounds of Christ.

Led by Robert Aske, a barrister, they were the Pilgrimage of Grace, a popular rising from York making grievances in protest of King Henry VIII, including protesting the dissolution of the monasteries and changes in religious practice since Henry VIII’s Reformation Parliament had proclaimed him “Supreme Head and Governor” of the Church.

There were too many in this group — 30,000 to 40,000 — for Henry’s small mercenary army to handle. Henry’s agent, Thomas Howard, the Duke of Norfolk, pretended to hear their terms to stop the dissolution, get rid of bad advisers such as Thomas Cromwell and restore the freedom of the Church protected in the Magna Carta. Henry promised to call a Parliament in York. In January 1537, another uprising led him to impose martial law and punish the rebels. Aske hung in chains in front of York Castle, dying of exposure, and 215 more rebels, including abbots, monks and parish priests, were executed.

The Pilgrimage of Grace was the greatest domestic threat Henry VIII faced, and the dissolution of the monasteries the most radical aspect of his otherwise rather conservative religious program.

Even after he had usurped the spiritual authority of the pope in England, Henry considered himself a Catholic, treasuring his title as Defender of the Faith and zealousness in protecting the Real Presence in the Eucharist. Henry’s Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer, and his chancellor, Cromwell, might have imbibed Lutheran ideas, but not Henry. . . .

I welcome all listeners of Radio Maria US to my blog, whether you're listening on one of their radio stations or on line or through one of their apps. Next week on The English Reformation Today we'll discuss the Calvinist Reformation ushered in by the minority rule of Henry VIII's young son, King Edward VI. I invite you to call in with questions and comments toll-free at 866-333-MARY(6279).

And here is the crucial question: Are Dr. Richard Rex and Francis Philips correct about the parallels between St. John Fisher's time (and the Carthusians' and St. Thomas More's) and our time, even here in the United States of America? Please let me know what you think, on air or in the comment box.