Friday, May 31, 2013

The Dialogues of the Carmelites at the Met Opera

I mentioned yesterday that The Catholic Answer Magazine's cover illustration for my article on the Carmelites of Compiegne was a scene from Poulenc's opera The Dialogues of the Carmelites. The opera was recently revived at the Metropolitan Opera in NYC for three performances, in the John Dexter staging that dates from 1977 (the year I graduated from high school!).

The Wall Street Journal ran this Associated Press review:

One of the most harrowing final scenes in all of opera is the ending of Poulenc's "Dialogues of the Carmelites," when the nuns condemned by the French Revolution walk one by one to the scaffold, singing a gradually thinning chorus punctuated by the slashing sounds of a guillotine.

So emotionally drained was the audience at Saturday afternoon's performance at the Metropolitan Opera that silence lingered in the house for several moments after the curtain fell. Only then did tumultuous applause erupt for the terrific performance that had just taken place. . . .

Dexter's staging looks barely touched by time and remains a marvel of simplicity, starting with the opening image of 13 nuns lying prostrate with arms outstretched on a raised wooden platform shaped like a cross. It reportedly cost less than $100,000 at the time — mere pocket change compared with many lavish and less effective productions that have come and gone from the Met stage since.

And Terry Teachout commented further on the Dexter staging in another article:

The Metropolitan Operarecently presented a three-performance run of "Dialogues of the Carmelites," Francis Poulenc's 1957 opera about a group of nuns who were guillotined in the French Revolution. It was a revival of John Dexter's 1977 production, not a new staging, but I didn't hear anyone complaining. Mr. Dexter's "Dialogues" is universally regarded by connoisseurs as one of the Met's greatest theatrical achievements. It's also, so far as I know, the only stage production by Mr. Dexter, who died in 1990, that continues to be performed. Since he was a much-admired director who was responsible, among other things, for the original Broadway productions of "Equus" and "M. Butterfly," that makes "Dialogues" important by definition.

In a way, "Dialogues" is a kind of operatic time capsule. Long an international byword for artistic conservatism, the Met was notoriously slow to embrace contemporary stagecraft. Not so the modern-minded Mr. Dexter, who had become the company's director of productions in 1974 and was endeavoring to update its creaky style. The stark, monumental-looking set for "Dialogues," which was designed by David Reppa, was a slap in the face to old-fashioned operagoers who preferred big, fancy sets with imitation trees. Today it looks classic, in much the same way that such masterpieces of midcentury modernism as, say, Mies van der Rohe's Seagram Building or Frank Lloyd Wright's Guggenheim long ago ceased to look "modern," at least in the informal sense that most people have in mind when they use the word. They aren't shocking anymore—they're just beautiful.

The Metropolitan Opera provides a program .pdf with a synopsis, analysis and performance history, including notes about its fascinating creative provenance with a libretto by the composer, based on a screen play by Georges Bernanos, based a on a novella by Gertrude von le Fort. More on the opera here.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

A Revolutionary Recital in Salzburg, 1986

Something completely off topic:

As David Shengold in Opera News reviews this new release of an old recital notes, it seems strange, even to me after years of listening to recitals by Frederica von Stade (and even attending a few) that this program of French chansons, Strauss and Mahler, and some American composers was unusual in Salzburg during the 1986 season:

Frederica von Stade's protean approach to music has opened doors (and set standards) for Susanne Mentzer, Susan Graham, Joyce DiDonato and other lyric mezzos who have followed. On August 18, 1986, after more than a dozen years of stardom — largely in Mozart and Rossini, but with triumphs to her name in Monteverdi, Berlioz, Massenet and Richard Strauss in Europe and North America — she gave a solo recital at Salzburg's prestigious if acoustically demanding Grosses Festspielhaus. Orfeo now releases the happy results in its welcome series of live Salzburg Liederabenden.

Von Stade collaborated with longtime accompanist Martin Katz on a program whose diversity apparently raised eyebrows among the more tradition-bound Festival patrons. Yet the applause is generous. From our perspective today, the program doesn't seem all that revolutionary — Lieder eines Fahrenden Gesellen, groups of Fauré and Strauss, American songs by Copland, Ives and Pasatieri, three Brettl-Lieder, plus a quartet of sunny Canteloube songs, quite delightfully done, and encores by Poulenc and Offenbach. But a quarter-century ago, many recital audiences largely expected Schubert, Schumann and Brahms. Von Stade is in very good estate here, demonstrating a fine balance between the strengths of her youthful and mature vocal personae. Katz is an alert and supportive partner, his sound steady if sometimes a mite foursquare.

Von Stade kept many of these songs in her recital repertoire for years--we heard her Strauss, Faure, Canteloube, and more Poulenc at Johnson County Community College in Kansas City, Kansas years ago.

Composers/Works: (No texts or translations)

G. Fauré: Les roses d'Ispahan
G. Fauré: Mandoline
G. Fauré: Au cimetière
G. Fauré: La Rose
R. Strauss: Rote Rosen
R. Strauss: Die erwachte Rose
R. Strauss: Begegnung
G. Mahler: Wenn mein Schatz Hochzeit macht (aus: Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen)
G. Mahler: Ging heut' morgen übers Feld (aus: Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen)
G. Mahler: Ich hab' ein glühend Messer (aus: Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen)
G. Mahler: Die zwei blauen Augen (aus: Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen)
A. Copland: Why do they shut me out of Heaven?
Ch. Ives: Serenity (A unison chant, 1919)
Ch. Ives: Memories (Very Pleasant, Rather Sad)
Th. Pasatieri: Vocal Modesty
M.-J. Canteloube: Auprès de ma blonde (Ronde d'Ile de France)
M.-J. Canteloube: Où irai-je me plaindre? (Chant de Haut-Dauphiné)
M.-J. Canteloube: Au près de la Rose (Ronde d'Albret et Gascogne)
M.-J. Canteloube: D'où venez-vous, fillette? (Chant de Provence)
A. Schönberg: Galathea (aus: Brettl-Lieder)
A. Schönberg: Gigerlette (aus: Brettl-Lieder)
A. Schönberg: Arie aus dem Spiegel von Arkadien (aus: Brettl-Lieder)
F. Poulenc: Fêtes galantes
J. Offenbach: Ah! quel dîner je viens de faire (Schwipslied - aus: La Perichole)

One of my favorites in the collection is Faure's Mandoline set to verse by Verlaine:

Les donneurs de sérénades
Et les belles écouteuses
Échangent des propos fades
Sous les ramures chanteuses.

C'est Tircis et c'est Aminte,
Et c'est l'éternel Clitandre,
Et c'est Damis qui pour mainte
Cruelle maint [fait] vers tendre.

Leurs courtes vestes de soie,
Leurs longues robes à queues,
Leur élégance, leur joie
Et leurs molles ombres bleues,

Tourbillonent dans l'extase
D'une lune rose et grise,
Et la mandoline jase
Parmi les frissons de brise.

If you want to hear Frederica von Stade's voice ten years earlier in a live recital, there is a CD of one in Edinburgh with Martin Isepp as accompanist. Mahler, Ives, Poulenc, and Offenbach are on the program there too:

--Cachez beaux yeux ; L'amour de moy ; Le célèbre menuet / Arne Dorumsgaard
--Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen: Wenn mein Schatz Hochzeit macht ; Ging heut' morgens übers Feld ; Ich hab' ein glühend Messer ; Die zwei blauen Augen / Gustav Mahler
--Ann Street ; Two little flowers ; The side show ; Memories ; Tom sails away / Charles E. Ives
--A sa guitare ; Chansons villageoises: Les gars qui vont à la fête ; Banalités: Hôtel ; Le portrait ; Deux poèmes: Fêtes galantes / Francis Poulenc
--Folksong arrangements: O Waly, Waly ; Come you not from Newcastle; Oliver Cromwell / Benjamin Britten
--La perichole: Ah, quel diner! / Jacques Offenbach
--Jenny Rebecca / Carol Hall

Many of von Stade's CBS Masterworks LPs have been reissued on CD by Archiv Music, including her first CBS Song Recital, but they have not released her Live! Recital with arie antiche by Vivaldi, Durante, Scarlatti, Marcello, and Rossini--plus a repeat of the Copland song on this new disc, Virgil Thomson's "Prayer to St. Catherine" and two songs composed by Richard Hundley. Her performance of "Come Ready to See Me" by Richard Hundley is wonderfully evocative.

I agree with her boilerplate bio's comments about her recitals:

A respected recitalist, Miss von Stade combines her expressive vocalism and keen musicianship with a gift for communication engaging audiences throughout the world. Here too, her repertoire encompasses an expansive range, from the Italian "Arie antiche" to the songs of contemporary composers such as Dominick Argento, who compose specifically for her, from the classical style of Mozart and Haydn to the music of Broadway's greatest songs.

I hope that Archiv Music do release the Live! disc simply because it has some unique repertoire! (And while they're at it, her recording of Raymond Leppard's version of Claudio Monteverdi's Il Ritorno d'Ulisse in Patria with Richard Stilwell cries out for re-release, too).

Preview of July/August "The Catholic Answer Magazine"

There's my story about the Blessed Carmelite Martyrs of Compiegne on the cover of the July/August issue--illustrated with a scene from Poulenc's Dialogues of the Carmelites!

Watch this space for more information!

Just a little sample from the beginning of the article:

A visitor in Paris today might arrive at the Place de la Nation, a hub of transportation and commerce on the right bank of the Seine River and never know about the Revolutionary deeds of blood committed there.

Restaurants, taxis and buses ring around the Place de la Nation and its statue depicting Marianne, the symbol of the Republic, while locals walk their dogs in the park. But here, in the last hot summer of the French Revolution’s Reign of Terror, on July 17, 1794, fourteen nuns, three lay sisters and two servants of the Carmelite house of Compiègne died for their Catholic Faith.

What brought them to such a bloody end beneath the blade of the guillotine the day after the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel? The answer might be surprising if we presume the ideals of liberty, fraternity and equality truly summarize the spirit of the French Revolution. After the fall of the traditional, absolute monarchy and the rise of the National Assembly with a constitutional monarchy in 1789, the state attacked the Catholic Church, confiscating churches and closing convents. . . .

That introduction is based upon my pilgrimage to the site of the Carmelites' execution and to their place of burial at Cimitiere de Picpus (in November of 2010).

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Symbol of Religious Liberty Rebuilt in Maryland

The National Catholic Register has this story about the rebuilding of a Catholic chapel in historic St. Mary's City, Maryland:

When and where did religious freedom begin in what is now the United States?
The answer is 1634, and the place is St. Mary’s City, Maryland.
Founded by Catholic proprietor Cecil Calvert, Lord Baltimore, Maryland offered — from the start — liberty of conscience and the free exercise of religion to all. The colony offered a new concept: no established religion funded by the government.
One of the most powerful symbols of this policy was expressed in the construction of the first major Catholic church in English America during the 1660s. Preceded by two earlier wooden chapels built by Jesuit Father Andrew White, who is often called the "Apostle of Maryland," the brick chapel was the first brick structure in the colony. At the time, no freestanding Catholic church could be built anywhere else in the English-speaking world. The Catholic, Quaker and Presbyterian faiths, and many others, took root and flourished in early Maryland. However, following a rebellion in 1689 against Lord Baltimore and the imposition of the royal government, Maryland’s revolutionary policy of religious freedom ended.
Read the rest here. Here's more information about St. Mary's City and its exhibits--please note that the rebuilt chapel is, as Dr. Miller's article in the National Catholic Register notes, an exhibit (not a site of worship):
The chapel is a museum exhibit of Historic St. Mary’s City, but it is also a place for visitors to learn about and contemplate this deep history and pray in a sacred and peaceful setting surrounded by the mortal remains of hundreds of Catholics who first planted the seeds of faith and religious liberty on these shores.
The chapel at St. Mary’s is a powerful symbol of the religious freedom and respect for conscience that Lord Baltimore and other Catholics introduced to these shores for the first time in 1634. It is a key place to explore the beginning of these fundamental human rights and the Church in America.

Nancy Bilyeau on Anne of Cleves, the Real Survivor

Author of The Crown and The Chalice, Nancy Bilyeau presents seven surprising facts about Henry VIII's fourth wife, Anne of Cleves, including this one:

Hans Holbein painted her accurately. The question of Anne’s appearance continues to baffle modern minds. In portraits she looks attractive, certainly prettier than Jane Seymour.  A French ambassador who saw her in Cleves said she was “of middling beauty and of very assured and resolute countenance.”

It is still unclear how hard Thomas Cromwell pushed for this marriage, but certainly he was not stupid enough to trick his volatile king into wedding someone hideous. The famous Hans Holbein was told to paint truthful portraits of Anne and her sister Amelia. After looking at them, Henry VIII chose Anne. Later the king blamed people for overpraising her beauty but he did not blame or punish Holbein. The portrait captures her true appearance. While we don't find her repulsive, Henry did.

And even though Thomas Cromwell had arranged this marriage with the Duchy of Cleves for a diplomatic alliance with one of the Protestant powers on the Continent:

Anne was born a Catholic and died a Catholic. Her mother, Princess Maria of Julich-Berg, had traditional religious values and brought up her daughters as Catholics, no matter what Martin Luther said. Their brother, Duke William, was an avowed Protestant, and the family seems to have moved in that direction when he succeeded to his father’s title.

Anne was accommodating when it came to religion. She did not hesitate to follow the lead of her husband Henry VIII, who was head of the Church of England. But in 1553, when her step-daughter Mary took the throne, she asked that Anne become a Catholic. Anne agreed. When she was dying, she requested that she have “the suffrages of the holy church according to the Catholic faith.”

Read the rest here.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Also from Cambridge University Press: A New Book on the Counter-Reformation

While searching for Andy Wood's forthcoming book, The Memory of the People on the Cambridge University Press website, I found this intriguing study, The Sensuous in the Counter-Reformation Church (Cambridge University Press; Not yet published - available from July 2013), edited by: Marcia B. Hall and Tracy E. Cooper, both of Temple University, Philadelphia:

This book examines the promotion of the sensuous as part of religious experience in the Roman Catholic Church of the early modern period. During the Counter-Reformation, every aspect of religious and devotional practice was reviewed, including the role of art and architecture, and the invocation of the five senses to incite devotion became a hotly contested topic. The Protestants condemned the material cult of veneration of relics and images, rejecting the importance of emotion and the senses and instead promoting the power of reason in receiving the Word of God. After much debate, the Church concluded that the senses are necessary to appreciate the sublime, and that they derive from the Holy Spirit. As part of its attempt to win back the faithful, the Church embraced the sensuous and promoted the use of images, relics, liturgy, processions, music, and theater as important parts of religious experience.

Table of Contents:

1. Introduction; Marcia B. Hall
2. The sensuous: recent research; Tracy E. Cooper
3. Trent, sacred images, and Catholics' senses of the sensuous; John W. O'Malley
4. The world made flesh: spiritual subjects and carnal depictions in Renaissance art; Bette Talvacchia
5. How words control images: the rhetoric of decorum in Counter-Reformation Italy; Robert Gaston
6. Custodia degli occhi: discipline and desire in post-Tridentine Italian art; Maria Loh
7. Raffaelle Borghini and the corpus of Florentine art in an age of reform; Stuart Lingo
8. Censure and censorship in Rome ca.1600: visitation of Clement VIII and the visual arts; Opher Mansour
9. Painting virtuously: the Counter-Reform and the reform of artists' education in Rome between guild and academy; Peter Lukehart
10. Carlo Borromeo and the dangers of lay women in church; Richard Scofield
11. 'To be in heaven': Saint Filippo Neri between aesthetic emotion and mystical ecstasy; Costanza Barbieri
12. Rebuilding faith through art: Christoph Schwarz's altarpiece for the new Jesuit school in Munich Jeffrey Chipps Smith
13. 'Until shadows disperse': Augustine's twilight; Meredith Gill
14. A machine for souls: allegory before and after Trent; Amy Powell.

Some of the titles of the essays reminded me of Sir Kenneth Clark's assessment of Catholic Counter-Reformation efforts, especially in art and architecture, as they asserted Catholic teaching and thought about the Blessed Virgin Mary, the saints, the Sacraments, and other controversies--"the Church gave imaginative expression to deep-seated human impulses. And it had another great strength which one may say was part of Mediterranean civilisation--or at any rate a legacy from the pagan Renaissance: it was not afraid of the human body. . . . [Speaking of Titian, Rubens, and  Bernini] In their work the conflict between flesh and spirit is gloriously resolved." (pages 178 to 182, Chapter 7, Grandeur and Obedience, Civilisation: A Personal View).

Clark uses Peter Paul Ruben's painting, "Sinners Saved by Penitence", as an example--and this site features the illustrated script of the episode--noting, "And in Rubens's picture of that extremely un-Protestant subject "Sinners saved by Penitence", he has achieved in the repentant Magdalene, and even in the figure of Christ himself, a noble sensuality, perfectly at one with an unquestioning faith." (page 182). Father John O'Malley's essay and Bette Talvacchia's particularly seem to address Clark's analysis.

Because of my interest in the Counter-Reformation, I might have to queue this book up on my wish list!

Monday, May 27, 2013

St. Augustine of Canterbury

In honor of St. Augustine of Canterbury today. My husband and I visited the Cathedral in Canterbury several years ago. Here are some pics from that visit.

Also, here's a link to an interesting site on sacred (Anglican) destinations in England. St. Augustine's in Ramsgate, designed and built by Augustus Pugin, is Catholic England's national shrine. More about it here and some pictures of the very recent Ordinariate pilgrimage to Ramsgate.

Also At the Bodleian: J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis in the Summer Exhibit

In addition to the Gerard Manley Hopkins' manuscript new, J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis are featured in a Bodleian exhibit on "Magical Books: from the Middle Ages to Middle-earth":

The Bodleian’s summer exhibition, Magical Books: from the Middle Ages to Middle-earth, opens to the public on Thursday, 23 May and will feature the work of five celebrated authors of children’s fantasy literature: C.S. LEWIS, J.R.R. TOLKIEN, SUSAN COOPER, ALAN GARNER and PHILIP PULLMAN.

From Bodleian’s unique holdings of these authors’ papers, the Magical Books exhibition will include a selection of Tolkien’s original artwork for The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings; C.S. Lewis’s ‘Lefay notebook’ and his map of Narnia, and manuscripts of novels and poems by Alan Garner, Philip Pullman and Susan Cooper, many of which will be exhibited here for the first time.

On public display for the first time will be the manuscript of ‘The Fall of Arthur’, a previously unknown work by Tolkien. The poem was one of several projects left uncompleted at the time of the author’s death. It is published for the first time on 23 May 2013, the day the exhibition opens to the public.

The exhibition also celebrates the authors’ links with Oxford and with the historic Bodleian Library in particular. All five authors were Oxford-educated and are considered members of the group of writers informally known as the ‘Oxford School’.

Susan Cooper is known for her The Dark Rising sequence of books; Alan Garner for children's books that retell traditional British folk tales; Philip Pullman for the controversial His Dark Materials trilogy.

There is a book about the exhibition and a series of lectures.

Note: picture taken by Stephanie A. Mann

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Notre Dame de Paris Desecrated (Twice) in May, 2013

I was so stunned and sad to hear about the two demonstrations and desecrations of Notre Dame de Paris--a Cathedral I have visited, photographed, attended Mass in, prayed in, and been so impressed with for so many years. I remember the first time I crossed Pont au Double from the Left Bank, saw the towers and flying buttresses and wept for joy.

To hear that a man killed himself near the Altar and then that a half-naked woman pretended to commit suicide [WARNING: story includes photograph] to mock him the next day made me weep for sorrow.

Cathedrale Notre Dame de Paris is a tourist site, I know, but it is also an active sanctuary of worship, with Mass celebrated many times a day, the Sacrament of Confession offered to penitents (and an opportunity for counseling for non-Catholics), and the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament behind the choir (with a sign proclaiming it is only for prayer)--Notre Dame de Paris is NOT the place for political protests. My husband and I have attended Sunday Mass there several times, at least twice on Trinity Sunday, thrilling at the history, enjoying the beatiful Gregorian chant (we usually attended Lauds and the Gregorian Mass), and wondering at the patience of the ushers, who had to shoo the tourists from the nave during Mass!

As Canon Lawyer Ed Peters on his blog, In the Light of the Law, reminds us:

Suicide—whatever mental/emotional problems induce some to commit it and which might even mitigate its culpability—is objectively a gravely evil action (CCC 2280-2283) and may never be licitly chosen. When committed in a sacred place such as a church or shrine, suicide effects the “violation” of that space and divine worship (as opposed to personal prayers) may not be offered there until the place is rehabilitated in accord with canon and liturgical law (1983 CIC 1211, olim 1917 CIC 1172; see also 1983 CIC 1376).

When Dominique Venner killed himself with a shotgun blast to the head inside Paris’ Notre Dame Cathedral (indeed, it seems, within the sanctuary itself) he desecrated that great church. If it turns out that Venner killed himself in protest over France’s new “gay marriage” law, then, besides condemning the classical scandal his deed produced, one may further observe that all he really accomplished was to make opponents of “gay marriage” look like kooks, and to deprive, for a time, the faithful of France of a particularly powerful place of worship from which to ask God’s help in preserving the natural and holy institution of marriage in their nation.

Only the Evil One would take pleasure in that.

Our Lady, pray for us!

In reparation for these horrors of the week after Pentecost, here are some words by Blessed John Henry Newman on the Solemnity of the Holy Trinity:

On this day, then, we should forget ourselves, and fix our thoughts upon God. Yet men are not willing to forget themselves; they do not like to become, as it were, nothing, and to have no work but faith. They like argument and proof better; they like to be convinced of a truth to their own satisfaction before they receive it, when, perhaps, such satisfaction is impossible. This happens in the sacred subject before us. The solemn mystery of the Trinity in Unity is contained in Scripture. We all know this; there is no doubt about it. Yet, though it be in Scripture, it does not follow that every one of us should be a fit judge whether and where it is in Scripture. It may be contained there fully, and yet we may be unable to see it fully, for various reasons. Now this is the great mistake which some persons fall into; they think, because the doctrine is maintained as being in Scripture by those who maintain it as true, that therefore they have a right to say that they will not believe it till it is proved to them from Scripture. It is nothing to them that the great multitude of good and holy men in all ages have held it. {329} They act like Thomas, who would not believe his brother Apostles that our Lord was risen, till he had as much proof as they, and who said, "Except I see and touch for myself, I will not believe." . . .

Let us, then, learn from this Festival to walk by faith; that is, not to ask jealously and coldly for strict arguments, but to follow generously what has fair evidence for it, even though it might have fuller or more systematic evidence. It is in this way that we all believe that there is a God. A subtle infidel might soon perplex any one of us. Of course he might. Our very state and warfare is one of faith. Let us aim at, let us reach after and (as it were) catch at the things of the next world. There is a voice within us, which assures us that there is something higher than earth. We cannot analyze, define, contemplate what it is that thus whispers to us. It has no shape or material form. There is that in our hearts which prompts us to religion, and which condemns and chastises sin. And {340} this yearning of our nature is met and sustained, it finds an object to rest upon, when it hears of the existence of an All-powerful, All-gracious Creator. It incites us to a noble faith in what we cannot see.

Let us exercise a similar faith, as regards the Mysteries of Revelation also. Here is the true use of Scripture in leading us to the truth. If we read it humbly and inquire teachably, we shall find; we shall have a deep impression on our minds that the doctrines of the Creed are there, though we may not be able to put our hands upon particular texts, and say how much of it is contained here and how much there. But, on the other hand, if we read in order to prove those doctrines, in a critical, argumentative way, then all traces of them will disappear from Scripture as if they were not there. They will fade away insensibly like hues at sunset, and we shall be left in darkness. We shall come to the conclusion that they are not in Scripture, and shall, perhaps, boldly call them unscriptural. Religious convictions cannot be forced; nor is Divine truth ours to summon at will. If we determine that we will find it out, we shall find nothing. Faith and humility are the only spells which conjure up the image of heavenly things into the letter of inspiration; and faith and humility consist, not in going about to prove, but in the outset confiding on the testimony of others. Thus afterwards on looking back, we shall find we have proved what we did not set out to prove. We cannot control our reasoning powers, nor exert them at our will or at any moment. It is so with other faculties of the mind also. Who can command his {341} memory? The more you try to recall what you have forgotten, the less is your chance of success. Leave thinking about it, and perhaps memory returns. And in like manner, the more you set yourself to argue and prove, in order to discover truth, the less likely you are to reason correctly and to infer profitably. You will be caught by sophisms, and think them splendid discoveries. Be sure, the highest reason is not to reason on system, or by rules of argument, but in a natural way; not with formal intent to draw out proofs, but trusting to God's blessing that you may gain a right impression from what you read. If your reasoning powers are weak, using argumentative forms will not make them stronger. They will enable you to dispute acutely and to hit objections, but not to discover truth. There is nothing creative, nothing progressive in exhibitions of argument. The utmost they do is to enable us to state well what we have already discovered by the tranquil exercise of our reason. Faith and obedience are the main things; believe and do, and pray to God for light, and you will reason well without knowing it.

Let us not then seek for signs and wonders; for clear, or strong, or compact, or original arguments; but let us believe; evidence will come after faith as its reward, better than before it as its groundwork. Faith soars aloft; it listens for the notes of heaven, the faint voices or echoes which scarcely reach the earth, and it thinks them worth all the louder sounds of cities or of schools of men. It is foolishness in the eyes of the world; but it is a foolishness of God wiser than the {342} world's wisdom. Let us embrace the sacred Mystery of the Trinity in Unity, which, as the Creed tells us, is the ground of the Catholic religion. Let us think it enough, let us think it far too great a privilege, for sinners such as we are, for a fallen people in a degenerate age, to inherit the faith once delivered to the Saints; let us accept it thankfully; let us guard it watchfully; let us transmit it faithfully to those who come after us.

Note: both pictures taken by Mark Mann.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Alec Ryrie on Current English Reformation Studies

Alec Ryrie writes in History Today about the current state of English Reformation Studies:

A generation ago, to study the English Reformation was to participate in a cheerful form of trench warfare. Long-held Whiggish positions were being spectacularly bombarded by Christopher Haigh’s wonderful rhetoric and systematically undermined by Eamon Duffy’s devastating arguments; but they weren’t abandoned without a fight. The whole subject was being reduced to whether there was one English Reformation or several, when it (or they) started and finished and whether anyone actually wanted it. If, indeed, it happened at all.

So, for those of us who grew up in the midst of this battle, it is a little disconcerting to realise that peace has broken out. We are becoming used to a new historical landscape, in which (whisper it) we pretty much agree on the broad outline of events. . . .

He previews some new and upcoming releases, and one of them that looks most interesting is from Cambridge University Press: The Memory of the People: Custom and Popular Sense of the Past in Early Modern England by Andy Wood. According to Cambridge University Press:

Did ordinary people in early modern England have any coherent sense of the past? Andy Wood's pioneering new book charts how popular memory generated a kind of usable past that legitimated claims to rights, space and resources. He explores the genesis of customary law in the medieval period; the politics of popular memory; local identities and traditions; gender and custom; literacy, orality and memory; landscape, space and memory; and the legacy of this cultural world for later generations. Drawing from a wealth of sources ranging from legal proceedings and parochial writings to proverbs and estate papers , he shows how custom formed a body of ideas built up generation after generation from localized patterns of cooperation and conflict. This is a unique account of the intimate connection between landscape, place and identity and of how the poorer and middling sort felt about the world around them.

Ryrie mentions that Wood will pay "proper attention to the earth-shaking importance of the Dissolution of the Monasteries" and then continues/concludes:

All this touchy-feely stuff has left some holes, though. The most glaring is Henry VIII’s reign. It is a vital part of the story and little work is being done on it now. Peter Marshall, Ethan Shagan and I have written on the period, but then moved elsewhere. There are some works in the pipeline. Aude de Mézerac-Zanetti is preparing a groundbreaking book on the way Henry VIII used liturgy as propaganda. Diarmaid MacCulloch is writing a long-needed biography of Thomas Cromwell, made newly sexy by Hilary Mantel. . . .

The other gap is international. We now all recognise that the English Reformation was part of the European Reformation and some terrific research – Rory McEntegart’s England and the League of Schmalkalden (Royal Historical Society, 2002), David Gehring’s forthcoming Anglo-German Relations and the Protestant Cause (Pickering and Chatto, 2013) and Collinson and Polly Ha’s edited collection The Reception of Continental Reformation in Britain (OUP, 2010) – has set it in that context. But most historians of England still don’t ‘do’ foreign languages, much less foreign archives. So we need more – but don’t hold your breath.

One thing is now clear. Whether long or short, singular or plural, domestic or international, the Reformation does now seem inescapably religious. All of these scholars take religious belief seriously (not, of course, uncritically). Best of all, they don’t read their scholarship off from their own religious views. Lake’s atheism, Marshall’s Catholicism or my own Protestantism are not instantly obvious from what we write. Just possibly we will stop fighting over the English Reformation for long enough to be able to understand it.

So Thomas Cromwell is "newly sexy"?

Friday, May 24, 2013

Hopkins' "Binsey Poplars" Manuscript

From Once I Was a Clever Boy, I see that the Bodleian Library has acquired the manuscript of Gerard Manley Hopkins' poem, "Binsey Poplars". As the Bodleian Library website explains:

The Bodleian Libraries have acquired at auction a late autograph draft manuscript of the celebrated Gerard Manley Hopkins poem 'Binsey Poplars'. The last known major Hopkins manuscript to have been in private hands, ‘Binsey Poplars’ is the most significant Hopkins item to have come to the market in over forty years.
The acquisition was made possible by strong financial support from a number of individuals and funding bodies, including the Friends of the Bodleian, the Friends of the National Libraries and the V&A Purchase Grant Fund.
An Oxford alumnus, Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-89) is regarded as one the Victorian era's greatest poets. Very few of his poems appeared during his lifetime, and he owes his posthumous reputation to his friend poet Robert Bridges, who edited a volume of his Poems that first appeared thirty years after his death in 1918. His revolutionary ‘difficult’ style, characterized by new rhythmic effects, influenced the work of Modernist and later writers.
'Binsey Poplars' was written in response to the felling of trees running alongside the Thames in Binsey, a village on the west side of the city of Oxford. Hopkins had been an undergraduate at Balliol College, Oxford, and was a curate at St Aloysius Church in the city at the time he wrote the poem. The trees were replanted after the poem was first published in 1918 (the poem seems to anticipate the ravages of the Great War), and there was an outcry when they were felled again in 2004. The poem formed part of the successful campaign to replant the trees. The poem has a very particular local meaning but speaks to a much broader audience in its plaintive evocation of spiritual desolation through the destruction of nature.

 MY aspens dear, whose airy cages quelled,
  Quelled or quenched in leaves the leaping sun,
  All felled, felled, are all felled;
    Of a fresh and following folded rank
            Not spared, not one        
            That dandled a sandalled
        Shadow that swam or sank
On meadow and river and wind-wandering weed-winding bank.
  O if we but knew what we do
        When we delve or hew—        
    Hack and rack the growing green!
        Since country is so tender
    To touch, her being só slender,
    That, like this sleek and seeing ball
    But a prick will make no eye at all,        
    Where we, even where we mean
            To mend her we end her,
        When we hew or delve:
After-comers cannot guess the beauty been.
  Ten or twelve, only ten or twelve       
    Strokes of havoc únselve
        The sweet especial scene,
    Rural scene, a rural scene,
    Sweet especial rural scene.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

An Appreciation of Elgar and "Englishness"

From The Walsingham Society's blog comes this appreciation of two English artists by James Patrick:

Beneath their defense of beauty lay themes that gave their art its power. There was a reliance upon tradition in a way that presaged Eliot”s “Tradition and the Individual Talent,” which is to say that in the work of each the past lived in the present, transformed by a new moment of creativity. “Both Elgar and Strauss (like Brahms and in contrast to Wagner) acknowledged the weight of history and mirrored some degree of awe for the traditions of composition…. Despite recent efforts to construe Elgar as a modernist innovator, he remained within the framework of ideas, conflicts, forms and vocabulary of the late nineteenth century.”10 [endnotes in the the blog post] Voysey’s houses, the house that loves the ground, with its great sheltering roof, looking always as though it should be thatched, its white cast walls, the reminiscence of Tudor half-timbering, recapitulated in a new, subtly modern key the past of English domestic architecture.

Elgar’s music from the first was understood as expressing something authentic about the modern English character, landscape, and self-image. “Because the gesture, rhetoric and sonority he fashioned have come to locate the unique power, intensity, confidence, and refinement of the English, Elgar’s music has retained its role as an embodiment of Englishness.”11 His critics sometimes deprecated his music as expressions of jingoism, the nonsensical neologism descriptive of the perfervid patriotism that beset the nation in the shadow of the Great War, but the imperial swagger was pride in England and its past more than pride in imperial success.12 Critics have noted that in Elgar’s music at its most assertive what one sometimes hears is a sub-theme reflecting something of Kipling’s “Recessional,” a muted acceptance of an all-too-transitory glory.13 Voysey’s architecture was, obviously, rooted in what he conceived to be the national architecture of Tudor England, informed by a love for Pugin and Ruskin and by what the Ruskinian tradition considered the Gothic principle that buildings grow from the inside.

Few great composers are tied to a national heritage as tightly as was Elgar, whose works sing of a great nation, possessed of a heroic past (Froissart, The Black Knight, 1892), and of a great empire at its zenith, when the domination of the oceans by Great Britain and its government of a quarter of the globe seemed as solid as Everest. When the Pomp and Circumstance March in D Major, “Land of Hope and Glory,” was premiered in London on 22 October 1901 the crowd roared for an encore, and to restore order the conductor, Henry Wood, played it again; it has ever after been a kind of second national anthem.14 The great marches themselves were another sign of Elgar’s ability to use the tradition: “I did not see why the ordinary quick march should not be treated on a large scale, in the way that the waltz, the slow march, and even the polka have been treated by the great composers.”15 Elgar provided the setting for the coronation of George V in 1911 and the British empire Exhibition of 1924, for which he produced the Empire March and the Pageant of England. In that year he was appointed Master of the King’s Musick and in 1931 was created a baronet, Sir Edward of Broadheath. There was pride in the imperial bloom, but the love affair was with everything English. Elgar preferred that the very names of instruments reflect their English past— hautboy rather than oboe—, and Voysey would write, “Instead of studying the five orders of architecture, we had far better study the five orders of Englishmen.”16

I am not familiar with Charles Voysey, but according to wikipedia, he was:

an English architect and furniture and textile designer. Voysey's early work was as a designer of wallpapers, fabrics and furnishings in a simple Arts and Crafts style, but he is renowned as the architect of a number of notable country houses. He was one of the first people to understand and appreciate the significance of industrial design. He has been considered one of the pioneers of Modern Architecture, a notion which he rejected. His English domestic architecture draws heavily on vernacular rather than academic tradition, influenced by the ideas of Herbert Tudor Buckland (1869–1951) and Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin (1812–1852).

There is an organization with a web page devoted to his life and work: The C.F.A. Voysey Society.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

A Supremacy Martyr Burned Alive as a Heretic!

A heretic, that is, against the new orthodoxy that Henry VIII was the Supreme Head and Governor of the Church of England! Blessed John Forest is the only Supremacy Martyr to be executed by being burned alive, sentenced by Archbishop Thomas Cranmer, with the penalty of death carried out by the state.

Blessed John Forest was executed by being burned to death by being suspended over the flames from a gibbet --those are chains under his arms in the stained glass--on May 22, 1538 because he opposed Henry VIII's marriage to Anne Boleyn, the annulment of Henry's marriage to Catherine of Aragon, and Henry's claim to supremacy and religious and ecclesiastical matters in England, which was heresy to Henry VIII. According to the 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia:

Born in 1471, presumably at Oxford, where his surname was then not unknown; suffered 22 May, 1538. At the age of twenty he received the habit of St. Francis at Greenwich, in the church of the Friars Minor of the Regular Observance, called for brevity's sake "Observants". Nine years later we find him at Oxford, studying theology. He is commonly styled "Doctor" though, beyond the steps which he took to qualify as bachelor of divinity, no positive proof of his further progress has been found. Afterwards he became one of Queen Catherine's chaplains, and was appointed her confessor. In 1525 he appears to have been provincial, which seems certain from the fact that he threatened with excommunication the brethren who opposed Cardinal Wolsey's legatine powers. Already in 1531 the Observants had incurred the king's displeasure by their determined opposition to the divorce; and no wonder that Father Forest was soon singled out as an object of wrath In November, 1532, we find the holy man discoursing at Paul's Cross on the decay of the realm and pulling down of churches. At the beginning of February, 1533 an attempt at reconciliation was made between him and Henry: but a couple of months later he left the neighborhood of London, where he was no longer safe. He was probably already in Newgate prison 1534, when Father Peto his famous sermon before the king at Greenwich. In his confinement Father Forest corresponded with the queen and Blessed Thomas Abel and wrote a book or treatise against Henry, which began with the text: "Neither doth any man take the honour to himself, but he that is called by God as Aaron was." On 8 April, 1538, the holy friar was taken to Lambeth, where, before Cranmer, he was required to make an act of abjuration. This, however, he firmly refused to do; and it was then decided that the sentence of death should be carried out. On 22 May following he was taken to Smithfield to be burned. The statue of Saint Derfel which had been brought from the church of Llanderfel in Wales, was thrown on the pile of firewood; and thus, according to popular belief, was fulfilled an old prophecy, that this holy image would set a forest on fire. The holy man's martyrdom lasted two hours, at the end of which the executioners threw him, together with the gibbet on which he hung, into the fire.

The Observant Franciscan Friars of Greenwich were among those who most adamantly defended the marriage of Catherine of Aragon and Henry VIII and protested against Henry's "coup d'eglise". Here is a sermon telling the story not only of John Forest but of the Greenwich Franciscans and here is another survey of these events.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Tudor Humor: Cromwell and Henry VIII Cash in the Monasteries

Encouraging to see that Henry VIII's and Thomas Cromwell's destruction of the abbeys is receiving appropriate judgment in this "Horrible History" (thanks to Amy Welborn, who brought it to my attention!) Henry VIII wants to make lots of money for another war in France--"They've got loads of land that we can steal and sell to our friends!" Hey, did the producers of Horrible Histories read my article in OSV's The Catholic Answer Magazine?

Here's another funny one: Elizabeth I trying to find a suitor using on-line dating! Horrible Histories has a series of clips on the "Terrible Tudors"!

Monday, May 20, 2013

The Lambeth Library Losses Restored

BBC History Magazine features this story in its April 2013 issue and the BBC News website also covers the news: the Lambeth Palace Library staff noticed quite a few losses from the stacks starting in 1975--and they thought about 60 books had been stolen. As the Lambeth Palace Library website tells the story:

Early in 1975 the Lambeth Palace Librarian noticed a troubling gap on the shelves where some important books had been kept. The books could not be found and a search of the rest of the Library showed that this gap was not unique. On examining the card catalogue it was discovered that the catalogue cards for the missing items had also been removed. This made it difficult to ascertain exactly what was missing but it was thought that around sixty items had been removed from the Library. The police were informed and the bookselling community notified. None of the books was recovered, however, and the trail went cold.

Over thirty-five years later, in February 2011, the newly appointed Librarian, Giles Mandelbrote, was contacted by a solicitor who was dealing with the estate of the culprit, who had recently died. The solicitor had received a letter containing a full confession and giving the location of the books. In a London attic the Librarian and a colleague discovered not 60 books but around 1,400 individual titles. The recovered books included numerous rare and important volumes, many of which were beautifully illustrated. A large proportion of the books had belonged to the libraries of the Elizabethan and Jacobean archbishops John Whitgift, Richard Bancroft and George Abbot and had been part of the Library’s original foundation collection in 1610.

This important group of books has come back to Lambeth Palace Library where it is being catalogued and where our team of conservators are repairing the damage that had been done in trying to remove all traces of the original provenance of the books. They will soon be available for consultation by scholars.

That penultimate sentence indicates that the thief must have hoped to sell the books -- and indeed might have succeeded in selling some of the books he or she stole -- because one of notes in the BBC History Magazine is that "booksellers across Britain and beyond" cooperated in the search for the missing books.

As the BBC History Magazine also notes, the recovery of these books and their eventual return to the catalog may be important for further study of of the reigns of these three Archbishops of Canterbury. John Whitgift was Elizabeth I's last Archbishop of Canterbury and at least they agreed upon their dislike of Puritans in the Church of England. Richard Bancroft succeeded Whitgift during the reign of James I and many of the books stolen had been from his reign. George Abbot was a fierce opponent of Catholics and it was during his tenure that many martyrs died during James I's reign.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Mary, Queen of Scots in Edinburgh this Summer

The National Museum of Scotland will host an exhibition on Mary, Queen of Scots which includes quite a few events and lectures, including one by Lady Antonia Fraser and one by John Guy, both of whom wrote biographies of this fascinating queen:

Mary, Queen of Scots is arguably one of the most enigmatic figures in Scottish history. Her story arouses strong emotions: was she betrayed by those she trusted, condemned to die a Catholic martyr or was she a murdering adulteress with her husband’s blood on her hands?

The exhibition will provide an opportunity to re-visit much that has been written and speculated about Mary, one of the most charismatic monarchs of all time. Taking a fresh, innovative approach, using jewels, textiles, furniture, documents and portraits, Mary’s dramatic story and this fascinating period in Scottish history will be explored in detail.

Drawing together surviving relics intimately connected with Mary Stewart and wider Renaissance material from public and private collections, the exhibition will tell the incredible story of the sovereign and the woman.

I look forward to seeing reviews and commentary on this exhibition, which open June 28.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Pope Leo XIII to the Catholics of England

Thanks to the blog The Guild of Blessed Titus Brandsma comes this selection from an Apostolic Letter from Pope Leo XIII to England (and a link to the entire text on this website).

Pope Leo XIII (photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons--from a film of the Pope offering a blessing) wrote a very important Apostolic Letter on the issue of the validity of Anglican orders, but this letter, less well-known is titled in Latin "Amantissima Voluntatis", is a more pastoral exhortation. As the old Catholic Encyclopedia summarizes Pope Leo XIII's activities re: the British Isles (and indeed, the Empire:

Among the acts of Leo XIII that affected in a particular way the English-speaking world may be mentioned: for England, the elevation of John Henry Newman to the cardinalate (1879), the "Romanos Pontifices" of 1881 concerning the relations of the hierarchy and the regular clergy, the beatification (1886) of fifty English martyrs, the celebration of the thirteenth centenary of St. Gregory the Great, Apostle of England (1891), the Encyclicals "Ad Anglos" of 1895, on the return to Catholic unity, and the "Apostolicæ Curæ" of 1896, on the non-validity of the Anglican orders. He restored the Scotch hierarchy in 1878, and in 1898 addressed to the Scotch a very touching letter. In English India Pope Leo established the hierarchy in 1886, and regulated there long-standing conflicts with the Portugese authorities. In 1903 King Edward VII paid him a visit at the Vatican. The Irish Church experienced his pastoral solicitude on many occasions. His letter to Archbishop McCabe of Dublin (1881), the elevation of the same prelate to the cardinalate in 1882, the calling of the Irish bishops to Rome in 1885, the decree of the Holy Office (13 April, 1888) on the plan of campaign and boycotting, and the subsequent Encyclical of 24 June, 1888, to the Irish hierarchy represent in part his fatherly concern for the Irish people, however diverse the feelings they aroused at the height of the land agitation.

Pope Leo addressed this letter not just to the Catholics of England, but to the English people, and he makes a call for unity clear:

With loving heart, then, we turn to you all in Eng­land to whatever community or institution you may belong, desiring to recall you to this holy unity. We beseech you, as you value your eternal salvation, to offer up humble and continuous prayer to God, the Heavenly Father, the Giver of all Light, who with gentle power impels us to the good and the right, and without ceasing to implore light to know the truth in all its fullness and to embrace the designs of His mercy with single and entire faithfulness, calling upon the glorious name and merits of Jesus Christ, who is “author and finisher of our faith” (Heb. xii. 2), who loved the Church and delivered Himself for it that He might sanctify it and might present it to Himself a glorious Church (Eph. v. 25-27.) Difficulties may be for us to face, but they are not of a nature which should delay our apostolic zeal or stay your energy Ah, no doubt the many changes that have come about, and time itself, have caused the existing divisions to take deeper root. But is that a reason to give up all hope of remedy, reconciliation, and peace? By no means if God is with us. For we must not judge of such great issues from a human standpoint only, but rather must we look to the power and mercy of God. In great and arduous enterprises, provided they are under­taken with an earnest and right intent, God stands by man’s side, and it is precisely in these difficulties that the action of His Providence shines forth with greatest splendour. The time is not far distant when thirteen cen­turies will have been completed since the English race welcomed those apostolic men sent, as we have said, from this very city of Rome, and, casting aside the pagan deities, dedicated the first fruits of its faith to Christ our Lord and God. This encourages our hope. It is, indeed, an event worthy to be remembered with public thanksgiving; would that this occasion might bring to all reflecting minds the memory of the faith then preached to your ancestors, the same which is now preached – Jesus Christ yesterday, today and the same for ever, as the Apostle says (Heb. xiii. 8), who also most opportunely exhorts you; as he does all, to remem­ber those first preachers “who have spoken the word of God” to you, whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation (ib. 7).
He also remonstrates with Catholics in England to be true to their Faith in all the aspects of their lives, public and private:
In such a cause we, first of all, call to our assis­tance as our allies the Catholics of England, whose faith and piety we know by experience. There can be no doubt that, weighing earnestly the value and effects of holy prayer, the virtue of which we have truly declared, they will strive by every means to suc­cour their fellow-countrymen and brethren by invoking in their behalf the Divine clemency. To pray for one’s self is a need, to pray for others is a counsel of brotherly love; and it is plain that it is not prayer dictated by necessity so much as that inspired by fraternal charity which will find most favour in the sight of God. The first Christians undoubtedly adopted this practice. Especially in all that pertains to the Rift of faith the early ages set us a striking example. Thus it was the custom to pray to God with ardour that relations, friends, rulers, and fellow-citizens might be blessed by a mind obedient to the Christian faith (S. Aug. de dona per­sev. xxiii. 63).
And in regard to this there is another matter which gives us anxiety. We have heard that in England there are some who, being Catholics in name, do not show themselves so in practice; and that in your great towns there are vast numbers of people who know not the elements of the Christian faith, who never pray to God, and live in ignorance of His justice and of His mercy. We must pray to God, and pray yet more earnestly in this sad condition of things, since He alone can effect a remedy. May He show the measures proper to be taken; may He sustain the courage and strength of those who labour at this arduous task: may He deign to send labourers into His harvest.
Whilst we so earnestly press upon our children the duty of prayer, we desire at the same time to warn them that they should not suffer themselves to be wanting in anything that pertains to the grace and the fruit of prayer, and that they should have ever before th.eir minds the precept of the Apostle Paul to the Corinthians: “Be without offence to the Jews and the Gentiles, and to the Church of God” (I Cor. x. 32). For besides those interior dispositions of soul neces­sary for rightly offering prayer to God, it is also needful that they should be accompanied by actions and words befitting the Christian profession – first of all, and chiefly, the exemplary observance of uprightness and justice, of pitifulness for the poor, of penance, of peace and concord in your own houses, of respect for the law – these are what will give force and efficacy to your prayers. Mercy favours the petition of those who in all justice study and carry out the precepts of Christ, according to His promise: “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you shall ask whatever you will and it shall be done unto you” (St. John xi. 7). And therefore do we exhort you that, uniting your prayer with ours, your great desire may be that God will grant you to welcome your fellow citizens and brethren in the bond of perfect charity. Moreover, it is profitable to implore the help of the Saints of God, the efficacy of whose prayers, especially in such a cause as this, is shown in that pregnant remark of St. Augustine as to St. Stephen: “If holy Stephen had not prayed, the Church to-day would have had no Paul.”

And he prays for England as Mary's Dowry, invoking the first the great saints of England and then imploring the Blessed Virgin Mary:

O Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God and our most gentle Queen and Mother, look down in mercy upon England “thy Dowry” and upon us all who greatly hope and trust in thee. By thee it was that Jesus, our Saviour and our hope, was given unto the world; and He has given thee to us that we might hope still more. Plead for us thy children, whom thou didst receive and accept at the foot of the Cross, O sorrowful Mother. Intercede for our separated brethren, that with us in the one true fold they may be united to the Supreme Shep­herd, the Vicar of thy Son. Pray for us all, dear Mother, that by faith fruitful in good works we may all deserve to see and praise God, together with thee, in our heavenly home. Amen.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Being There: November 5, 1622

This is so cool: a digital and aural re-enactment of John Donne's 1622 Gunpowder Plot sermon, preached from St. Paul's Cross in Old St. Paul's Churchyard!
The Virtual Paul’s Cross Project helps us to explore public preaching in early modern London, enabling us to experience a Paul’s Cross sermon as a performance, as an event unfolding in real time in the context of an interactive and collaborative occasion. This Project uses architectural modeling software and acoustic simulation software to give us access experientially to a particular event from the past – the Paul’s Cross sermon John Donne delivered on Tuesday, November 5th, 1622.

These digital tools, customarily used by architects and designers to anticipate the visual and acoustic properties of spaces that are not yet constructed, are here used to recreate the visual and acoustic properties of spaces that have not existed for hundreds of years.

The site includes a recording of a speaker recreating what the producers of this site think would have been the style of delivery required of such an event: clarity and volume:

The sound of Donne’s voice is of course lost to us. The greatest challenge of the Virtual Paul’s Cross Project has been to decide how to represent that style, in the absence of hard evidence as to how Donne sounded. Nevertheless, as in other aspects of this project, the fact that we do not have a live recording of Donne preaching does not mean that we know nothing about how Donne sounded when he preached.
There is the matter of audibility and clarity of expression, especially important when preaching in an outdoor space where members of one’s congregation could stand up to 150 feet from the Paul’s Cross Preaching Station. When Ben Crystal took on the task of recording Donne’s Gunpowder Day sermon for 1622, he was told that audibility and clarity of expression were major concerns of the Project. As a result, he spoke loudly, strongly, and with a very deliberate pace.

People who hear Ben’s recording of Donne’s sermon for the first time say that the pace seems slow, even ponderous, a response, I am told by Ben Markham and Matt Azevedo, our acoustic engineers, that is a result of our being accustomed to the artificial naturalness of amplified speech. In fact, Ben’s pace and volume are perfect for the site, working with he reverberations provided by the surrounding buildings to extend the theoretical range of audibility from about 90 feet to over 140 feet.

When you listen to this recreation, you hear all the ambient noise of the congregation and the outdoor setting--dogs barking in the near distance, birds's calls overhead, etc. You can even hear the sermon from two different locations!

Finally, the site includes a fascinating biography of John Donne, Dean of Old St. Paul's:

In the fall of 1622, John Donne, at the age of 49, had been Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral for just over a year. He owed his position at St Paul’s to James I. The King had promised Donne that if he would agree to ordination to the priesthood in the Church of England, the King would guarantee Donne a significant position in the Church.

When Donne was ordained, in 1615, the King secured Donne a Doctor of Divinity degree from Cambridge University and named Donne a Royal Chaplain, amid rumors that he intended to have Donne appointed Dean of Canterbury Cathedral. This did not happen, however, and Donne went on to other jobs in the Church of England, most especially serving as Reader in Divinity at Lincoln’s Inn from 1616 until his appointment, at the King’s request, as Dean of St Paul’s in 1621.

By 1622, Donne had become an experienced preacher of the one- and two-hour sermons expected of clergy in the seventeenth century. Because of Donne’s close connections with James I, it was appropriate that Donne be called on by the King to preach sermons in defense of or apologizing for the King’s policies in religious affairs and, therefore, indirectly, political affairs as well.

Donne preached two sermons at Paul’s Cross in the fall of 1622 at James’ request, the second of which is the one at the center of the Virtual Paul’s Cross Project.

The site has great detail, about the weather that day, the virtual reconstruction of Old St. Paul's, based on the records available, and many other aspects of that day: November 5, 1622.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Martyrs and Ecumenism in 1970 and 2013

When Pope Paul VI canonized the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales in 1970, there were some who thought the action came at an inopportune time--ecumenical efforts between the Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion had been advancing since the Second Vatican Council and this was a bad reminder of existing and previous divisions. In the introduction to my book, Supremacy and Survival: How Catholics Endured the English Reformation, I quote Pope Paul VI's response to this criticism. He hoped that, through their intercession, the divisions between the Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion would be healed. This site quotes his comments from the homily Pope Paul offered on October 25, 1970 on this issue more completely:

May the blood of these Martyrs be able to heal the great wound inflicted upon God’s Church by reason of the separation of the Anglican Church from the Catholic Church. Is it not one--these Martyrs say to us--the Church founded by Christ? Is not this their witness? Their devotion to their nation gives us the assurance that on the day when--God willing--the unity of the faith and of Christian life is restored, no offence will be inflicted on the honour and sovereignty of a great country such as England. There will be no seeking to lessen the legitimate prestige and the worthy patrimony of piety and usage proper to the Anglican Church when the Roman Catholic Church--this humble “Servant of the Servants of God”-- is able to embrace her ever beloved Sister in the one authentic communion of the family of Christ: a communion of origin and of faith, a communion of priesthood and of rule, a communion of the Saints in the freedom and love of the Spirit of Jesus.

Last Sunday, Pope Francis canonized 800 martyrs--meaning that he has bypassed even Blessed Pope John Paul II for the most canonizations--the Martyrs of Otranto, slaughtered by Turkish invaders because they would not convert to Islam. As The Catholic World Report reports:

Although he has only been pope for two months, Pope Francis has now canonized more saints than any pope in history.

This interesting milestone was reached yesterday, when the Holy Father canonized 800 Italian martyrs killed in a 15th-century attack of the town of Otranto by Ottoman invaders. The men were murdered when they refused to reject Christ and convert to Islam. Dr. Donald Prudlo, associate professor of medieval history at Jacksonville State University in Alabama, briefly retold the new saints’story in an interview with Vatican Radio:

Mehmed II was one of the most powerful and successful emperors in Ottoman Turkish history. He had taken the impregnable city of Constantinople in 1453, and had pacified the Balkan regions. By the 1470s Mehmed 'The Conqueror' was preparing a death blow to Europe. His fleet sailed the Mediterranean without challenge. Having taken 'New Rome' he set his sights on 'Old Rome.' In order to test the resolve of Christian Europe he sent an exploratory raiding party in 1480. Its target was the small maritime town of Otranto in far south Italy. During this expedition thousands of people were massacred, in what was really an attempt to instill terror into the inhabitants of the peninsula. After the city fell, its civil and religious leaders were either beheaded or sawn into pieces. Eight hundred men of the town were offered the choice between conversion to Islam or death. Led by the tailor Antonio Primaldi, acting as spokesman for the group, they were beheaded, one by one, on a hill outside town while their families watched.

The significance of their sacrifice was clear. Antonio and his townsmen had, in reality, saved Europe – their bravery gave Christendom time both to regroup, and to realize the gravity of the threat. Mehmed II died the next year, at the age of only 49, frustrating Ottoman plans for expansion.

Relics of the Martyrs of Otranto can be seen in Naples’ Church of Santa Caterina a Formello (pictured above). A more detailed telling of the martyrs’ story can be read here.

During his homily at the Mass of canonization yesterday—the first of his pontificate—Pope Francis asked, “Where did they find the strength to remain faithful?”

Precisely from the faith, which makes us see beyond the limits of our human sight, beyond this earthly life … God will never leave us without strength and serenity. While we venerate the Martyrs of Otranto, let us ask God to sustain the many Christians who, precisely at this time, now, and in many parts of the world, are still suffering violence, that He give them the valor to be faithful and to respond to evil with good.

NBC news, however, like the critics of the 1970s, wonders about the effect of these canonizations on Catholic-Muslim relations:

But the choice to highlight their sacrifice may put a strain on the already fragile relationship between the Catholic Church and Islam.

Ever since his election, Pope Francis has called for greater dialogue between Christianity and other religions, in particular Islam. And so far, he has acted on that promise. He washed the feet of a young Muslim woman jailed in a juvenile prison on Holy Thursday, and reached out to the many “Muslim brothers and sisters” during his first Good Friday procession.

So why risk creating yet another inter-faith row with a celebration which some in the Muslim world may be seen as a provocation?

The answer is that it wasn’t Pope Francis’ choice in the first place. The decision to canonize the hundreds of Otranto martyrs was rubber-stamped by his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, on Feb. 11 - the same day he announced his resignation.

Excursus: The word choice of "rubber-stamped" is unfortunate and inaccurate: Pope Benedict XVI never rubber-stamped anything in his life! The reporter needs to improve her diction--one who rubber-stamps something has no power; operates at the lower levels of a political organization, or like a constitutional monarch, is a figurehead without real influence. The Supreme Pontiff of the Holy See is none of those things. In February of this year, Pope Benedict had convoked the consistory that approved the canonization the already blessed Martyrs of Otranto (beatified by Pope Clement XIV on the 14th of December in 1771). In fact, as the wikipedia article on the martyrs makes clear, Emeritus Pope Benedict was very active in the their progress to canonization:

In view of their possible canonisation, at the request of the archdiocese of Otranto, the process was recently resumed and confirmed in full the previous process. On 6 July 2007, Pope Benedict XVI issued a decree recognising that Primaldo and his fellow townsfolk were killed "out of hatred for their faith". On 20 December 2012 Benedict gave a private audience to cardinal Angelo Amato, S.D.B., prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, in which he authorised the Congregation to promulgate a decree regarding the miracle of the healing of sister Francesca Levote, attributed to the intercession of the Blessed Antonio Primaldo and his Companions.

This ends my excursus on the choice of the word "rubber-stamped"!

And this non-story goes on to blame Pope Benedict XVI for a rough patch in Catholic-Muslims relations because of the Regensburg speech in 2006. I say it's a non-story because of these two paragraphs:

It was a departing act of a pontiff that had become concerned about the mounting discrimination suffered by Christian minorities living in the Middle East in the wake of the Arab spring.

Pope Francis shares his predecessor’s concern. “By venerating the martyrs of Otranto” he said at Sunday’s canonization mass, “We ask God to protect the many Christians who in these times, and in many parts of the world, are still victims of violence”.

So if Pope Francis shares his predecessor's concern, how is there any conflict between Emeritus Pope Benedict and Pope Francis on the matter of canonizing the Martyrs of Otranto?

Beyond this immediate issue, I wonder whether one should expect that people outside the Catholic community should or would accept the Church's martyrs for the Faith. The historical reality and context of the time should be comprehensible to all, but the proclamation of and devotion to martyred saints, in our current divided state (thinking especially of the divisions between the Catholic Church and other Christian communities)--it seems to me a bit much to expect understanding and agremement. Not expecting it, why should one second guess the response to it? What do you think?

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Reform or Revolution in Britain? The Latest by Antonia Fraser

Antonia Fraser, biographer of Mary, Queen of Scots and Marie Antoinette, Cromwell, and Charles II has written a history of the Parliamentary reform movement in 1832:

Antonia Fraser, international and bestselling historian, tackles the two-year revolution that totally changed Britain in her new book, The Perilous Question. Fraser brilliantly evokes the key period of pre-Victorian political and social history - the passing of the 1832 Great Reform Bill.

For our inconclusive times, there is an attractive resonance with 1832, with its 'rotten boroughs' of Old Sarum and the disappearing village of Dunwich, and its lines of great resistance to reform. This book is character-driven - on the one hand, the reforming heroes are the Whig aristocrats Lord Grey, Lord Althorp, Lord John Russell, Lord Brougham and the Irish orator Daniel O'Connell. They included members of the richest and most landed Cabinet in history, yet they were determined to bring liberty, which whittled away their own power, to the country. The all-too-conservative opposition comprised Lord Londonderry, the Duke of Wellington, the intransigent Duchess of Kent and the consort of the Tory King William IV, Queen Adelaide. Finally, there were 'revolutionaries' and reformers, like William Cobbett, the author of Rural Rides.

This is a book that features a most eventful year, much of it violent. Riots in Bristol, Manchester and Nottingham, and wider themes of Irish and 'negro emancipation' underscore the narrative. The time-span of the book is from Wellington's intractable declaration in November 1830 that 'The beginning of reform is the beginning of revolution', to 7th June 1832, the date of the extremely reluctant royal assent by William IV to the Great Reform Bill; under the double threat of the creation of 60 new peers in the House of Lords and the threat of revolution throughout the country. These events led to a complete change in the way Britain was governed, a two-year revolution that Antonia Fraser brings to vivid and dramatic life.

Because this great reform movement begins just a year after the passage of Catholic Emancipation in Parliament, I would be interested in exploring the connections between these reform movements. Some of the same characters are involved in these reforms--Daniel O'Connell, the Duke of Wellington, Robert Peel, etc--and these major steps in reform are related. Yet another book to consider on a reading list! Her main challenge, I am sure, is to make the achievement of relatively moderate advances in voting rights and  reapportioning parliamentary districts a compelling story without making the Tories seem horribly reactionary.