Sunday, March 3, 2013

Sede Vacante and "Marking the Hours"

Browsing ahead in the March issue of the Magnificat prayer magazine, I noticed a meditation by "Pope Benedict XVI" with the brief biographical note: "His Holiness Benedict XVI was elected to the See of Saint Peter in 2005", to which now we would need to add, "and renounced the papacy in 2013, becoming Pope Emeritus on the evening of February 28 that year."

Such editing reminded me of Eamon Duffy's Marking of the Hours: English People and Their Prayers, 1240-1570, published by Yale University Press in 2007 and reissued in paperback in 2011. During the Tudor era, the English people had many causes not only to mark the hours of prayer but to mark their prayer books:

In this richly illustrated book, religious historian Eamon Duffy discusses the Book of Hours, unquestionably the most intimate and most widely used book of the later Middle Ages. He examines surviving copies of the personal prayer books which were used for private, domestic devotions, and in which people commonly left traces of their lives. Manuscript prayers, biographical jottings, affectionate messages, autographs, and pious paste-ins often crowd the margins, flyleaves, and blank spaces of such books. From these sometimes clumsy jottings, viewed by generations of librarians and art historians as blemishes at best, vandalism at worst, Duffy teases out precious clues to the private thoughts and public contexts of their owners, and insights into the times in which they lived and prayed. His analysis has a special relevance for the history of women, since women feature very prominently among the identifiable owners and users of the medieval Book of Hours.  

Books of Hours range from lavish illuminated manuscripts worth a king’s ransom to mass-produced and sparsely illustrated volumes costing a few shillings or pence. Some include customized prayers and pictures requested by the purchaser, and others, handed down from one family member to another, bear the often poignant traces of a family’s history over several generations. Duffy places these volumes in the context of religious and social change, above all the Reformation, discusses their significance to Catholics and Protestants, and describes the controversy they inspired under successive Tudor regimes. He looks closely at several special volumes, including the cherished Book of Hours that Sir Thomas More kept with him in the Tower of London as he awaited execution.

When my husband and I, with a great priest friend, visited the British Library, we saw examples of these prayer books, including that of Lady Jane Grey and other materials--like St. Thomas More's last letter to Henry VIII--in a display on the Tower of London.

It will be indeed strange today at Mass when there is no mention of a Pope in the Canon. I can vaguely remember the sede vacante period between Blessed Pope John Paul II's death and the election of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as Benedict XVI, but I will have to listen closely today.

EWTN posts this prayer for the election of a Pope:

Lord God, You are our Eternal Shepherd and Guide. In Your mercy grant Your Church a shepherd who will walk in Your ways and whose watchful care will bring us Your blessing. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, One God, for ever and ever. Amen. 

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