Monday, June 30, 2014

A Novel of Talk and Ideology: "The Leaves are Falling"

This is the fourth book by Lucy Beckett I've read, all published by Ignatius Press (she has also written about Wagnerian opera and Wallace Stevens). Her Light of Christ: Writings in the Western Tradition is a tremendous overview of Western literature; I read it through and still refer to it as a reference. It's a really great accomplishment from a teacher and lover of literature. The Time Before You Die is her novel set in England from the Dissolution of the Monasteries to the death of Mary I and Reginald Cardinal Pole, the last Catholic Archbishop of Canterbury, and effectively delineates the religious changes through that era. A Postcard from the Volcano is in some ways the prequel to this novel, and although it is also often made up of conversation, Beckett creates relationships and personal conflicts throughout the novel. As the stories of the seven friends develop, they face the coming danger of the Nazi regime and of the Soviet system, setting up the conflict of World War II. It was also an effective exploration, this time of the period between World War I and World War II, with discussions of philosophy, music and the arts, politics and ideology.

Beckett continues her exploration of the two great destructive ideologies of the twentieth century in this novel, but less successfully in my opinion. While I know and grant that she is writing in a certain genre, a novel of ideas, I wanted more depth from at least one of her main characters. As I read the book I kept waiting for something to happen. Beckett delivers her ideas through long conversations and indirection. The centerpiece of the novel is the Massacre at Katyn, in which almost 22,000 Polish prisoners of war were executed by the Soviets, who blamed the Nazis. In the first part, the surviving son of a Jewish (though not religiously Jewish) family from Vilnius, which was in Poland when he lived there, is a refugee in England, working on a farm. He tells the landowner, his sponsor, that the Soviets killed the Polish officers, including his father, and of course, is not believed. Josef Halpern, son of Jacob Halpern, lives in England, marries and has a child. In the framing device of the novel, he asks the narrator to tell his story. He then asks the narrator to tell his father's story, as she imagines Jacob Halpern's last days as a prisoner of war before his execution at Katyn. The novel closes with the novelist's last visit to Joseph in a nursing home and his reported death.

Although religion and God are often mentioned in the conversations, neither of the main characters practices any faith or worships God in prayer or ritual. Josef and Jacob are cultural Jews, knowing their history and its traditions, but not incorporating them in their lives. Thus the discussions about the evils of Nazism, or Communism, or Zionism never transcend the philosophical or theoretical, because they are not answered by lives of faith and action. Josef's family life, for example, is described, not depicted or dramatized, in four pages, with the anodyne comment that he and his wife were "as happy as most married people are who care for each other and have a little more than enough money to live on"! There is little passion or life in the characters and that's where the novel fails, at least in the section about Josef. I think it is because his confrontations with evil are always reported from the past as memories, not as something we see happening to him.

In part two, as Josef's father struggles for survival in the Soviet prisoner of war camp, there is some greater love and passion, particularly when a rabbi comforts a Christian prisoner on his deathbed. It was the one moment of the novel that moved me, as the rabbi recites the Lord's Prayer and helps the dying man reconcile with God by the confession of his sins. That act of faith, witnessed by Jacob, experienced by the Catholic Radek Dobrowski, and mediated by the Rabbi Baruch Steinberg, is the one great transcendent moment of love and faith in the novel. Jacob, perhaps moved by this example, is then able to comfort the young Catholic Pole with him before their executions at Katyn, "They can kill us. They can't hurt us."

The Leaves are Falling needed more such moments to exalt the true dignity and freedom of the human person beyond discussions of political systems. I think historical fiction needs to be more than a vehicle for the expression of ideas or verisimilitude of historical setting, with details about shortages and rationing in post war Britain, or the endlessly cited example of Vilna or Vilnius being first in Poland and then in Lithuania. For all the human tragedy depicted in The Leaves are Falling, I was not involved in the life of Josef Halpern because he was not fleshed out as a person beyond being a character and vehicle for discussion of the past or even of the errors of the present. Jacob Halpern emerges more fully as a person, growing in awareness, coming closer to something great. He becomes the hero of his story; his son does not.

Disclosure: I received a .pdf review copy from Ignatius Press in exchange for my honest opinion and review of The Leaves are Falling.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

In Search of St. John Southworth

That's the title of a DVD issued in 2011 about the Catholic martyr of the Diocese of Westminster, who is being celebrated today (since yesterday was the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus) at Westminster Cathedral. When you think about it, many people have searched for St. John Southworth--the authorities in England during the reign of Charles I and the Protectorate and those who found his body in the 1920's in France when Douai College was finally destroyed. His last words are famous:

“My faith and obedience to my superiors is all the treason charged against me; nay, I die for Christ’s law, which no human law, by whomsoever made, ought to withstand or contradict… To follow His holy doctrine and imitate His holy death, I willingly suffer at present; this gallows I look on as His Cross, which I gladly take to follow my Dear Saviour…I plead not for myself…but for you poor persecuted Catholics whom I leave behind me.

"My faith is my crime, the performance of my duty the occasion of my condemnation. I confess I am a great sinner; against God I have offended, but am innocent of any sin against man, I mean the Commonwealth, and the present Government."

Westminster Cathedral honors their diocesan martyr saint by having his remains in the Chapel of St. George and the English Martyrs and by launching a new organization in his name:

The Guild of St John Southworth will be launched between Autumn 2014 and Spring 2015. The aim of the Guild will be to build on the very valuable and important work carried out by the volunteers on the Information Desk and the current Cathedral tour guides and to welcome people to Westminster Cathedral and offer them information and guiding if they wish.

On the Cathedral facebook page, there are photographs showing preparation for several big celebrations: St. John Southworth's feast, an ordination, the Feast of St. Peter and St. Paul and the anniversary of the Cathedral's dedication. It's awe-inspiring to think that the ordinands will be in the presence of the relic of a priest-martyr in London!

Friday, June 27, 2014

Book Review: The Oxford Movement Beyond Oxford


Table of Contents
Notes on contributors
Abbreviations

Introduction; Stewart J. Brown and Peter Nockles

Prelude
1. The Oxford Movement in an Oxford college: Oriel as the cradle of Tractarianism; Peter Nockles

Part I. Beyond England: The Oxford Movement in Britain, the Empire and the United States:
2. Isaac Williams and Welsh Tractarian theology; John Boneham
3. Scotland and the Oxford Movement; Stewart J. Brown
4. The Oxford Movement and the British Empire: Newman, Manning and the 1841 Jerusalem Bishopric; Rowan Strong
5. The Australian Bishops and the Oxford Movement; Austin Cooper
6. Anglo-Catholicism in Australia, c.1860–1960; David Hilliard
7. The Oxford Movement and the United States; Peter Nockles

Part II. The Oxford Movement and Continental Europe:
8. Europe and the Oxford Movement; Geoffrey Rowell
9. Pusey, Tholuck and the reception of the Oxford Movement in Germany; Albrecht Geck
10. The Oxford Movement: reception and perception in Catholic circles in nineteenth-century Belgium; Jan De Maeyer and Karel Strobbe
11. 'Separated brethren': French Catholics and the Oxford Movement; Jeremy Morris
12. The Oxford Movement, Jerusalem and the Eastern question; Mark Chapman
13. Ignaz von Döllinger and the Anglicans; Angela Berlis
14. Anglicans, Old Catholics and Reformed Catholics in late nineteenth-century Europe; Nigel Yates

Index.

Books like this so often present articles of uneven quality or even interest to the reader. After reading Romantic Catholics, for example, I was very interested in reading about French Catholics and the Oxford Movement; in that chapter (11), I learned that the same leaders of the Lamennais movements in France were anticipating a large scale conversion of Anglicans to Catholicism so that the Catholic Church would gain influence in England after the 1829 Emancipation (the same was true of Belgium).

The quality of most of these essays is very high and the authors pay attention to all the leaders of the Oxford Movement, not just John Henry Newman. And although they don't always make this distinction clear, they are often discussing the period after the Tracts ceased publication with the famous/infamous #90 and the Oxford Movement continued as a liturgical reform movement. That's the emphasis in Wales, Scotland, and Australia: the architecture, High Church liturgies, Altars, candles, incense, and other liturgical adaptations of the Book of Common Prayer, with a high view of the Real Presence in the Blessed Sacrament, liturgical music and even processions and Benediction.

I was rather surprised that the chapter on the Oxford Movement in the United States did not mention St. Stephen's Church in Providence, Rhode Island. I visited it and have read about it--it was the very model of an Anglo-Catholic parish. I remember seeing pamphlets about the Rosary and the Stations of the Cross; daily mass was being celebrated in a side chapel when I visited once and the minister faced the altar during the canon.

Part II is a little less even in quality as the connections between German theologians and the Oxford Movement don't seem that strong. The ecumenical efforts between the Church of England and the Old Catholics were indeed facilitated by the spirit of the Oxford Movement.

As the editors note, there is no discussion of any influence of the Oxford Movement in Ireland and of course other parts of Europe are also ignored.

The prelude is one of the best essays as Nockles describes what made Oriel College the perfect breeding ground for the Oxford Movement--its classic High and Dry Anglicanism and conservative history, emphasis on Aristotelian realism, but most of all its program of tutors and its common room. The influence of tutor upon student, and tutor upon tutor, meant that friendships, combined with common interests and goals for the Church of England, built up a strong community that unfortunately was divided by the reaction to Tract 90 and the separation of friends into Catholics following Newman and Anglicans remaining with Pusey.

For a reader who knows the main history and personages of the Oxford Movement in Oxford this book is an excellent introduction to the story of its influence in the British Empire, the United States, and the European Continent.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Should I Give Philippa Gregory Another Chance?



I read The Other Boleyn Girl and The Queen's Fool and found them repetitious in structure and plot devices; I refused to read The Constant Princess because she made Katherine of Aragon into a liar. Now Philippa Gregory has written a historical fiction novel that is out in the UK now (see the top cover) and will be issued later this year in the USA (see the bottom cover) in "The Cousins' War Series"--and it's about the Countess of Salisbury, Blessed Margaret Pole:

This is the story of deposed royal Margaret Pole, and her unique view of King Henry VIII’s stratospheric rise to power in Tudor England.

Margaret Pole spends her young life struggling to free her brother, arrested as a child, from the Tower of London. The Tower – symbol of the Tudor usurpation of her family’s throne – haunts Margaret’s dreams until the day that her brother is executed on the orders of Henry VII.

Regarded as yet another threat to the volatile King Henry VII’s claim to the throne, Margaret is buried in marriage to a steady and kind Tudor supporter—Sir Richard Pole, governor of Wales. But Margaret’s quiet, hidden life is changed forever by the arrival of Arthur, the young Prince of Wales, and his beautiful bride, Katherine of Aragon, as Margaret soon becomes a trusted advisor and friend to the honeymooning couple.

Margaret’s destiny, as an heiress to the Plantagenets, is not for a life in the shadows. Tragedy throws her into poverty and rebellion against the new royal family, luck restores her to her place at court where she becomes the chief lady-in-waiting to Queen Katherine and watches the dominance of the Spanish queen over her husband, and her fall. As the young king becomes increasingly paranoid of rivals he turns his fearful attention to Margaret and her royal family.

Amid the rapid deterioration of the Tudor court, Margaret must choose whether her allegiance is to the increasingly tyrannical king, Henry VIII, or to her beloved queen and princess. Caught between the old world and the new, Margaret has to find her own way and hide her knowledge of an old curse on all the Tudors, which is slowly coming true . . .

The author's note about her research makes me wonder, especially when I read the words with my added emphasis (in bold):

This is a novel which changed its nature, content and significance from when I started research until publication. Right up until the last stage of copy editing I was revising and adding material and characters to this dark story. I started it, thinking that it would be a relatively simple telling of the tragic story of Margaret Pole - daughter of George, Duke of Clarence and Isabel Neville. George was the brother of Edward IV, probably drowned in a vat of Malmsey wine for treason against Edward and Queen Elizabeth. As the book progressed I discovered that Margaret was a central figure in the Tudor court, and probably actively involved in the endless conspiracies against the Henry VIII and his advisors. This hidden rebellion reached its peak in the uprising of the North called the Pilgrimage of Grace. The pilgrims won their aims of defending the Roman Catholic traditions and the return of the traditional advisors, but Henry reneged on his promises and sent his troops for a terrible persecution to men who held a royal pardon. Margaret, and her entire family, came under suspicion too and this novel moved far from the template of a persecuted heroine and became the story of a merciless murder of a family. Margaret's betrayer, and her defenders all come under the gaze of a king who was increasingly frightened and, I believe delusional. It's been a chilling and powerful book to write and the image of Henry VIII, composer of 'Greensleeves' beloved of primary school history, will never be the same again for me. He was a serial killer and this book traces his steps towards psychosis.

I don't think there is much evidence that Margaret Pole was "actively involved in the endless conspiracies against Henry VIII and his advisors". Her arrest and subsequent attainder and execution were mostly driven by Henry's anger with her son Reginald's "Pro ecclesiasticæ unitatis defensione", and the only "evidence" presented against her was a white silk tunic with the Five Wounds of Jesus embroidered on the back. Although devotion to the Five Wounds was a constant in England at that time, Cromwell and Henry used the presence of such an embroidered tunic as an indication of Margaret Pole's support of the Pilgrimage of Grace. Otherwise, we know that Henry did target the entire Pole family--Margaret Pole's grandson Henry (1st Baron Montagu Henry Pole's son) was held in the Tower of London until his death (possibly by starvation), Reginald was condemned in absentia (Parliament had to pass a law removing the penalty of death for his return to England in 1554 as Papal Legate).

These hints about Gregory's historical view of Margaret Pole and her family make me a little leery of her fictional presentation of this great lady's story--perhaps our local public library will have a copy when it's released and I can check it out.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

WWI in the WSJ


Margaret MacMillan, author of The War That Ended Peace: The Road to 1914, writes about World War I in The Wall Street Journal:

What is harder to pin down and assess are the war's long-term consequences—political, social and moral. The conflict changed all the countries that took part in it. Governments assumed greater control over society and have never entirely relinquished it. Old regimes collapsed, to be replaced by new political orders. In Russia, czarist autocracy was succeeded by a communist one, with huge consequences for the rest of the century.

The scale and destructiveness of the war also raised issues—many of which we still grapple with today—and spread new political ideas. President Wilson talked about national self-determination and making the world safe for democracy. He wanted a League of Nations as the basis for international cooperation. From Russia, Lenin and his Bolsheviks offered a stark alternative: a world without borders or classes. The competing visions helped fuel the Cold War, which ended just 25 years ago.

Before 1914, Russia was a backward autocracy but was changing fast. Its growth rate was as high as any of the Asian tigers in the 1960s and 1970s; it was Europe's major exporter of food grains and, as it industrialized, was importing machinery on a massive scale. Russia also was developing the institutions of civil society, including the rule of law and representative government. Without the war, it might have evolved into a modern democratic state; instead, it got the sudden collapse of the old order and a coup d'état by the Bolsheviks. Soviet communism exacted a dreadful toll on the Russian people and indeed the world—and its remnants are still painfully visible in the corrupt, authoritarian regime of Vladimir Putin.

The war also destroyed other options for Europe's political development. The old multinational empires had their faults, to be sure, but they enabled the diverse peoples within their boundaries to live in relative harmony. Both Austria-Hungary and the Ottomans were trying to work out ways of encompassing the demands of different groups for greater autonomy. Might they have succeeded if the war had not exhausted them to the point of collapse? We will never know, but since then, the world has suffered the violence and horrors of ethnic nationalism.

The armistice of 1918 ended one gigantic conflict, but it left the door open for a whole host of smaller ones—the "wars of the pygmies," as Winston Churchill once described them. Competing national groups tried to establish their own independence and to push their borders out at the expense of their neighbors. Poles fought Russians, Lithuanians and Czechs, while Romania invaded Hungary. And within their borders, Europeans fought each other. Thirty-seven thousand Finns (out of some 3 million) died in a civil war in the first months of 1918, while in Russia, as many as a million soldiers and many more civilians may have died by the time the Bolsheviks finally defeated their many opponents.

The war had brutalized European society, which had grown accustomed during the largely peaceful 19th century to think that peace was the normal state of affairs. After 1918, Europeans were increasingly willing to resort to other sorts of force, from political assassinations to street violence, and to seek radical solutions to their problems. The seeds of the political movements on the extremes of both the right and the left—of fascism and communism—were sown in the years before 1914, but it took World War I to fertilize them.


Read the rest here. The WSJ also has stories about women on the home front, the poets of WWI, how WWI led to the Great Depression, the end of the British Empire, and warfare--plus some book reviews.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Nativity of St. John the Baptist and Elizabeth I's 1559 Act of Uniformity


Today is the Solemnity of the Birth of St. John the Baptist. Only two other birthdays are celebrated on the Church Calendar: The Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the The Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Otherwise, saints and blessed are remembered on the dates of the deaths (or perhaps the "translation" of their remains or some other important date--not usually their birthdate). The saint's day of earthly death is the beginning of their eternal life in Heaven. This site offers the reason for honoring St. John the Baptist on his birhday--because he was cleansed from Original Sin, baptised as it were, when Mary visited her cousin Elizabeth and he leapt in his mother's womb when the unborn Jesus in Mary's womb came near him. St. Augustine pointed to this understanding of St. John the Baptist's holy birth.

(St. John the Baptist has another feast, that of his Beheading, on August 29, and a friend of mine pointed out that the Orthodox churches honor St. John the Baptist even more often: September 23 —Conception of St. John the Forerunner; January 7 — The Synaxis of St. John the Forerunner; February 24 — First and Second Finding of the Head of St. John the Forerunner; May 25 — Third Finding of the Head of St. John the Forerunner; June 24 — Nativity of St. John the Forerunner, and August 29 — The Beheading of St. John the Forerunner!)

Devotion to St. John the Baptist is ancient in the Church and his Nativity was celebrated with a vigil and with bonfires on the feast. This site points out a pilgrimage site in Norfolk before the English Reformation demonstrating devotion to the saint as a martyr, as it had a replica of the head of St. John the Baptist. The image was destroyed at some point during the Reformation, of course.

The provisions of Elizabeth I's Act of Uniformity of 1559 all took effect on this feast:

Where at the death of our late sovereign lord King Edward VI there remained one uniform order of common service and prayer, and of the administration of sacraments, rites, and ceremonies in the Church of England, which was set forth in one book, intituled: The Book of Common Prayer, and Administration of Sacraments, and other rites and ceremonies in the Church of England; authorized by Act of Parliament holden in the fifth and sixth years of our said late sovereign lord King Edward VI, intituled: An Act for the uniformity of common prayer, and administration of the sacraments; the which was repealed and taken away by Act of Parliament in the  first year of the reign of our late sovereign lady Queen Mary, to the great decay of the due honour of God, and discomfort to the professors of the truth of Christ's religion:

Be it therefore enacted by the authority of this present Parliament, that the said statute of repeal, and everything therein contained, only concerning the said book, and the service, administration of sacraments, rites, and ceremonies contained or appointed in or by the said book, shall be void and of none effect, from and after the feast of the Nativity of St. John Baptist next coming; and that the said book, with the order of service, and of the administration of sacraments, rites, and ceremonies, with the alterations and additions therein added and appointed by this statute, shall stand and be, from and after the said feast of the Nativity of St. John Baptist, in full force and effect, according to the tenor and effect of this statute; anything in the aforesaid statute of repeal to the contrary notwithstanding.

St. John the Baptist, the Forerunner, Prophet and Martyr, pray for us!

In Wichita, Kansas tonight, at Blessed Sacrament Church, Mass in the Extraordinary Form of the Latin Liturgy of the Roman Rite will be celebrated at 19:00 hours! (7:00 p.m.)

Image credit: (public domain) Birth of St John the Baptist by Artemisia Gentileschi c. 1635

Monday, June 23, 2014

Saints Fisher and More on the Son Rise Morning Show


Since yesterday (June 22) was the usual date of the feast of St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More and the Fortnight for Freedom began on Saturday (June 21), I'll be on the Son Rise Morning Show to discuss these two great martyrs--a little after 7:45 a.m. Eastern Time.

You may listen on your local EWTN Radio affiliate--or on line here.

Book Review: A Journey Through Tudor England

While my husband and I visited Columbus, Ohio last week we went to The Book Loft of German Village where I purchased Suzannah Lipscomb's A Journey Through Tudor England even though Hilary Mantel endorsed it (I'm only kind of kidding). From the publisher, Pegasus Books:

For the armchair traveler or for those looking to take a trip back to the colorful time of Henry VIII and Thomas Moore (sic), A Journey Through Tudor England takes you to the palaces,castles, theatres and abbeys to uncover the stories behind this famed era. Suzannah Lipscomb visits over fifty Tudor places, from the famous palace at Hampton Court, where dangerous court intrigue was rife, to less well-known houses such as Anne Boleyn’s childhood home at Hever Castle, or Tutbury Castle, where Mary Queen of Scots was imprisoned. In the corridors of power and the courtyards of country houses, we meet the passionate but tragic Katheryn Parr, Henry VIII’s last wife; Lady Jane Grey, the nine-day queen; and come to understand how Sir Walter Raleigh planned his trip to the New World. Through the places that defined them, this lively and engaging book reveals the rich history of the Tudors and paints a vivid and captivating picture of what it would have been like to live in Tudor England.

Lipscomb selects her locations very carefully: the site or building has to have a crucial Tudor connection--to an event or a person important to the era--and there has to be something to see that will help the Tudor traveller, armchair or not, understand both the significance of the location and of the person or event. She selects 50 locations and restricts herself to England proper (not even going to Wales). Although she provides an appendix of "Opening Times and How to Get There" I think the book serves as background to certain sites rather than a guidebook--it lacks a map. Also, except for sketches at the beginning of each chapter of the building or ruin (formerly Catholic sites like abbeys and shrines) there are few illustrations and none of the portraits mentioned in certain chapters are reproduced in the book--but the reader can search for them online, I suppose. Here's a sample of the contents of the book.

The author has her bona fides: as Kirkus Review notes: Lipscomb (Early Modern History/Univ. of East Anglia; 1536: The Year that Changed Henry VIII, 2009) combines her credentials as historian/TV presenter/author to give us a thorough history/guided tour of the Tudors. She also has her theories and biases, and because she is presenting history in this rather unsystematic way, there are lapses in detail. Starting with the latter, she mentions that neither Henry VIII or Mary attended Katherine of Aragon's funeral at Peterborough Cathedral--but does not clarify that Mary wanted to attend and Henry forbade her. That's an important detail. Lipscomb also sides with those who select 1501 rather than 1507 for Anne Boleyn's year of birth which I think makes little sense if Henry wanted a younger woman to bear him a healthy son and heir. Why would he marry a 32 year old woman? See Gareth Russell's blog on this issue.

Although Lipscomb mentions only "Protestant martyrs" in her introduction (p. 2), she actually dedicates much more ink to the Catholic martyrs during Henry VIII's and Elizabeth I's reigns: the Carthusians of the Charterhouse, St. Thomas More, St. John Fisher, St. Edmund Campion, St. Robert Southwell, and St. Henry Walpole. While she explores a Catholic safe house (Harvington Hall) and thus discusses Catholic dissent from the established Church of England, she does not present an example of Puritan dissent from Elizabeth I's incomplete reformation of that via media. Henry VIII and Elizabeth I receive the lion's share of attention, although Lipscomb's treatments of Henry VII and Mary I are balanced and fair--Edward VI is a little slighted. Of Henry's six wives of course Anne Boleyn dominates--but Lipscomb offers a convincingly sympathetic analysis of Anne of Cleves.

This was an entertaining book offering a different angle on familiar Tudor history. I think a reader would need to know more about Tudor history, however, to have the proper line of sight for this angle.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

CORPUS CHRISTI, Sts. John Fisher & Thomas More, and the Fortnight for Freedom


Today is the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ in most dioceses of the United States of America, the feast having been moved from the Thursday after Trinity Sunday to the following Sunday. On the sanctoral calendar, it is the feast of Sts. John Fisher and Thomas More, two of the greatest and best known of the Catholic martyrs of the English Reformation. It is also the memorial of St. Alban, the first English martyr. Quite a combination of events--but wait, there's more!

In the United States we are observing another Fortnight For [Religious] Freedom from June 21 to July 4, our Independence Day. In the last two years, Fisher and More have really been emblems of the struggle for religious freedom in the U.S. as the Catholic Bishops, many Catholic and non-Catholic organizations have worked against HHS contraceptive, abortafacients, and sterilization mandates. This year the focus is "on the freedom to serve the poor and vulnerable in accord with human dignity and the Church's teaching."

So how to put it all together? The Solemnity of Corpus Christi, obviously, is the most important event today--all three martyrs would say so themselves. To focus on the two English Reformation martyrs, referenced so prominently during the Fortnight for Freedom in 2012 and 2013: St. John Fisher, clearly as a priest, bishop, and cardinal of the Catholic Church, was ordained to celebrate the Sacraments, especially the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. The feast of Corpus Christi, with its special office written by St. Thomas Aquinas, the procession with the Blessed Sacrament, and the English people's great love and devotion to the Real Presence was part of his life. He wrote apologetic works defending the priesthood, the Mass, and the Real Presence against the teachings of Martin Luther and Oecolampidus.

St. Thomas More spent the last years of his life, from the time he resigned as Chancellor of England and retired to his study at Chelsea, meditating on the Holy Eucharist and on the Passion and Death of Jesus. He also wrote to defend the Catholic doctrine of the Real Presence against the Protestant reformers attacks while he was Chancellor.

Indeed, the man who sent the holy bishop and his former friend to their deaths also defended the Real Presence. Henry VIII, even though he separated himself and his country from the universal Catholic Church, continued to defend the Church's teaching about the Holy Eucharist. Even as he sentenced Sts. John Fisher and St. Thomas More to death, commuting their sentences from being hung, drawn, and quartered to being beheaded, he had those who denied the Real Presence sentenced to being burned alive at the stake. What the holy martyrs knew, however, was that without the unity of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church the reality of the Holy Eucharist cannot hold. While Henry VIII held on to Christ's teaching about the Eucharist as His body and blood, necessary for communion with Him in His Church, Henry's Anglican Church would soon deny it (during the reign of Edward VI in Archbishop Cranmer's Book of Common Prayer).

Reflecting on the focus of the Fortnight for Freedom, "on the freedom to serve the poor and vulnerable in accord with human dignity and the Church's teaching", these two martyrs also demonstrated their dedication to service and charity. St. John Fisher was also renowned for his personal poverty and simple life combined with his great efforts to help the poor of his diocese--materially and spiritually. The great project of his life was to improve the education of priests and the quality of their preaching, so that the Church could serve the flock of Christ more effectively and completely.

As a layman, husband, and father, St. Thomas More took no vows of poverty--although he had considered a vocation as a Carthusian in the Charterhouse on London--but he fulfilled the usual obligation of a layman to give alms and help the poor. Since the great work of his public life was the administration of justice, More was renowned for his fairness, incorruptibility, and impartiality in dispensing justice and following the law to those rich or poor.

There is much to meditate on today about this great feast and these great martyrs. I'll be on the Son Rise Morning Show tomorrow morning to talk about St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More (after the  7:45 a.m. Eastern news update). The date of their shared feast, June 22, is the commemoration of St. John Fisher's martyrdom. Henry VIII had no good choice of a date on which to execute this great holy man: the symbolism of the martyrdom of St. John the Baptist, to whom the bishop of Rochester had compared himself in his defense of the sacrament of Holy Matrimony, loomed in the days after his trial and condemnation (June 24)--and the vigil of that feast, June 23 was just as bad, as was the Octave after--so Henry's choice was June 22, the feast of the first English martyr, St. Alban.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Edward VII and the Catholic Church

 
My frequent correspondent Edward Short, whose books about Newman and abortion I have reviewed on my blog and elsewhere, reviewed The Heir Apparent: A Life of Edward VII, the Playboy Prince for The Weekly Standard. In it, he comments:

One corollary of Bertie’s continental savoir-faire was his marked distaste for many of his compatriots’ prejudices, especially their anti-Semitism and anti-Catholicism. At the same time, he was adamant about respecting the different traditions of his subjects: When his first sea lord, Admiral Fisher, marveled at his concern for the health of the socialist firebrand Keir Hardie, Bertie responded, “You don’t understand me. I am the King of all the people.”

Edward VII, according to some other sources, had several Catholic and Jewish friends, and demonstrated both some interest in Catholicism and some good common sense about Anglican-Catholic relations. He attended a Requiem Mass for the King of Portugal, Carlos I, after his assassination in 1908, at the Portuguese Embassy Chapel. The Archbishop of Westminster, Francis Bourne, seated the King and Queen Alexandra rather prominently in the chapel and the Protestant Alliance said that Edward VII had violated his coronation oath to the Defender of the (Protestant) Faith.

Both The Telegraph and The Catholic Herald published stories in the lead up to Pope Benedict XVI's state visit to Scotland and England about Edward VII even being received into the Catholic Church of his deathbed, like Charles II. From The Telegraph:

Edward was known for his Catholic sympathies. He had tried to change the Coronation service to keep out anti-Catholic remarks. As Prince of Wales, he had visited Pope Pius IX three times. When guests at Marlborough House were unwell, Fr Forster would bring the Sacrament to them, and the Prince would meet him at the door, conducting him upstairs with lighted tapers to the sick-room.

More detail from The Catholic Herald:

What about King Edward VII? We certainly know that he had strong Catholic sympathies. He expressed his detestation of the Protestant declaration in the coronation service, involving an oath against Transubstantiation. He was a champion of Catholic equality and attended many Masses, where it is reported that “he would stand in the sanctuary following every detail, missal in hand, with attention, veneration, and respect”. Moreover, he had no particular friends among the Anglican bishops, but was a close friend of the famous Catholic preacher Fr Bernard Vaughan SJ; also, of Henry Duke of Norfolk, and of such as the Abbot of Tepl and the Marquess de Soverall.

As Prince of Wales he visited Pope Pius IX three times and later became the first English king since the Plantagenets to cross the threshold of the papal palace in Rome to visit Leo XIII. He gave money for the upkeep of at least one Catholic church and the last big religious function he attended was the Blessed Sacrament procession at Lourdes, where he entered the grotto and apparently prayed at La Roque church. . . .

Well, Paul Cambon, the French ambassador at the time of the King’s death, was summoned by Queen Alexandra to pay a final friendly visit to the King as he lay dying, and noticed a Catholic priest leaving his bedside. According to Gerard Noel, the former editor of The Catholic Herald, Cambon noted in his memoirs that he knew the priest by sight, but not by name.

There is evidence that the priest may have been Fr Forster himself. A member of the same family, Dr Lavinia Braun-Davenport, has stated that in her family tradition she was “brought up with the knowledge that my grandmother’s great uncle, Fr Cyril Forster, had converted the King of England to Catholicism on his deathbed”. The king was Edward VII. The suggestion is that Fr Forster was taken by Sir Ernest Cassel, a close friend of the King and a Catholic convert himself (from Judaism), to see the sovereign as he lay dying. It is claimed that Edward there accepted the Catholic faith. There seems to be no doubt that Fr Forster was one of the King’s visitors on his last day. Dr Braun-Davenport’s grandmother left a note saying that Edward’s conversion was “a ‘family secret’ – the Old Rake’s Repentance”!

Interesting and intriguing . . .

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Report on the Mass in London with the Portuguese Ambassador


A month ago, I posted on this special event, Mass at Our Lady of the Assumption and St. Gregory, the Ordinariate parish in that part of London to honor the Portuguese Ambassador to the Court of St. James. The Ordinariate has now reported on the event here:

Several pews were filled with Portuguese children and adults dressed in colourful regional costumes; the music featured works by Portuguese as well as English composers and some of the prayers were in Portuguese.

Also present at the Mass were His Most Eminent Highness Fra' Matthew Festing, Prince and Grand Master of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, who is an honorary vice-president of the Friends of the Ordinariate, and His Excellency Fra' Ian Scott of Andross, Grand Prior of the Priory (Order of Malta) of England.

The church of Our Lady of the Assumption and St. Gregory - which was dedicated to the life of the Ordinariate in 2013 - was built in the late eighteenth century on the site of a Catholic chapel which had served the Portuguese Embassy earlier that century, at a time when Catholic churches were not generally permitted in London.

The Mass, for the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, was celebrated by the Rt Revd Monsignor Keith Newton, Ordinary of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, who explained in his sermon that embassies built during those penal times - when Catholics were excluded from public life - provided a refuge for English Catholics at their time of need.The embassies, he said, provided priests and opportunities for Mass, which exceeded the particular needs of the Embassy staff. At one point, there were no fewer than five chaplains serving the Portuguese Embassy.

Mgr Newton went on: "I assume they did this because they shared a common faith, were in communion with their Catholic brothers and sisters and expressed that in a tangible way, which was entirely legal but also providential. That idea of communion with each other across the Catholic Church is at the very heart of what we celebrate today; our belief that we worship God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit".

Read the rest here and view pictures here.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The Venerable Mother Frances Taylor

The Catholic Herald published the news that Mother Frances Taylor, a nineteenth century convert, foundress, and historical novelist, has been declared Venerable:
 
A nurse who tended dying soldiers alongside Florence Nightingale in the Crimean War could become Britain’s next saint after the Pope declared that she lived a life of “heroic virtue”.

Pope Francis has given Frances Taylor the title “Venerable” and authorised the Church to search for the two healing miracles needed to proclaim her a saint.

Frances, the youngest of 10 children of an Anglican vicar from Lincolnshire, was 22 when she volunteered to join the “Lady of the Lamp” in Scutari, Turkey, in 1854 when Britain, along with France and the Ottoman Empire, was at war with Russia.

She converted to Catholicism after she was impressed by the faith of the dying Irish soldiers she was caring for.

She went on to establish a religious order – the Poor Servants of the Mother of God – which under her direction opened refuges for prostitutes and homeless women and children in London before spreading throughout Europe.

As Mother Magdalen Taylor, Frances also founded the Providence Free Hospital in St Helens, Lancashire, and she took over the running of St Joseph’s Asylum in Dublin. She died in her convent in Soho Square in 1900 after falling ill en route to Rome and she is buried at Roehampton, south west London, after establishing 20 institutions in her own lifetime.

Today her
order continues to work particularly with the poor, the elderly and the disabled.

The order has published these prayers for her beatification:

Heavenly Father you gave to Mother Magdalen Taylor a profound insight into the Mystery of the Incarnation and a great love and compassion for the poor and needy. We pray that her life of deep faith and loving service may continue to inspire us and that, one day, she may be beatified to the glory of your name. We ask this through Christ Our Lord. Amen.
 
Heavenly Father, you chose Mother Magdalen Taylor to found the Poor Servants of the Mother of God to serve the poor and needy.
While on earth she never failed to respond to those in distress, so confident of her intercession I pray you to grant me this favour...which I ask in the name of Jesus your son. Amen.

She would be the first Englishwoman beatified or canonized since St. Anne Line, St. Margaret Clitherow, and St. Margaret Ward, great martyrs for the Faith included among the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales in 1970.

Mother Frances Taylor wrote about the age of martyrdom during Elizabeth I's reign in Tyborne.

The Nazarene School at Blessed Sacrament in Wichita


You'll remember that I posted about visiting the Church of the Blessed Sacrament one Friday afternoon after some new/old Stations of the Cross from our renovated Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception were installed.The pastor updated the status of the stations on his blog, giving some history, here.

The originals were painted in the 1840's for the Church of St. Johann Nepomuk in Vienna, Austria and you may find them highlighted in this pamphlet and a complete gallery of them here. The artist was Joseph Führich, a member of the Nazarene School or Movement of painting.

Just filling in some background.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Learning Something New Everyday: The Scottish Episcopal Church

I am reading the third of my early Summer books: The Oxford Movement: Europe and the Wider World, 1830-1930, and was thrilled to find out more about the Scottish Episcopal Church and how it came under the influence of the Oxford Movement. Stewart J. Brown writes in the chapter "Scotland and the Oxford Movement" that the Scottish Episcopalian Church had suffered under the Penal laws in Scotland enforced by the Presbyterian Kirk, the Church of Scotland. The Presbyterians (without bishops) and the Episcopalians (with) both claimed descent from the early Catholic saints of Scotland (St. Ninian, St. Columba, St. Margaret of Scotland, etc), without, of course, ties to the Holy See and the papacy.

James VI of Scotland ("No bishops; no King") favored the Episcopal Church form, the appointment of bishops being under his control, of course. When Charles I and Archbishop Laud famously tried to introduce a Scottish form of the Book of Common Prayer--which resulted in riots and rebellion--it had been with the goal of greater unity between the Presbyterian Kirk and the bishops (the book combined Knox's Book of Common Prayer with the Anglican Book of Common Prayer).

After the Interregnum and with the Restoration, Charles II and then James II supported the re-establishment of the Episcopal Church in Scotland--but when William and Mary usurped the throne of Scotland, the Episcopal bishops refused to swear oaths of loyalty, since James VII was still alive and had not abdicated--thus they were Non-jurors, just like the Non-jurors in England. As Jacobites, the Non-jurors were penalized and thus were oppressed until, after the death of the Young Pretender, Bonnie Prince Charlie in 1788, they could swear loyalty to King George III (Henry Cardinal Stuart not being a viable contender for the throne of Great Britain).

One of the leading proponents of the Oxford Movement in the Scottish Episcopal Church was Cecil, marchioness of Lothian, who contributed to the building of Tractarian style churches, designed for the High Church style liturgical services favored by the Oxford Movement. Like James Hope, later James Hope-Scott, however, the influence of the Oxford Movement led her to Catholicism. As Rowan Strong writes in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography entry for Lady Lothian, she

was born on 17 April 1808 at Ingestre Hall, Staffordshire, the daughter of Charles Chetwynd-Talbot, second Earl Talbot of Hensol (1777–1849), and his wife, Frances Thomasine (1782–1819), daughter of Charles Lambart of Beau Parc, co. Meath, Ireland. She was sixth child and younger daughter in a family of twelve children. Her mother died when she was only eleven; her father proved an attentive parent, encouraging her study of Latin and the Commentaries of Blackstone. He raised in her his own moderate high-churchmanship to respect the sabbath, the Book of Common Prayer, and the established church. She became a woman whose vitality was combined with a natural reserve, striking rather than beautiful, with a strong sense of moral duty. On 12 July 1831 she married John William Robert Kerr, seventh marquess of Lothian (1794–1841), and they made their home in Scotland, at Newbattle Abbey, Midlothian, although she preferred their house at Monteviot in Roxburghshire. They had five sons and two daughters before the marquess died suddenly at his estate at Blickling, Norfolk, on 14 November 1841. Cecil Lothian never married again and began to devote herself to the care of her children, to the very capable management of the estate, and to a new sense of religion.

Abandoning the religion of her father and husband, with its emphasis on establishment, Lady Lothian became one of the earliest sponsors and financiers of Tractarianism in Scotland. This took the form of her building and endowing a chapel for the Scottish Episcopal church at Jedburgh, near Monteviot. She supervised its construction carefully, building it in the Gothic style approved of by the Camden Ecclesiological Society and Tractarians. It included a stone altar redolent of the Tractarian doctrine of eucharistic sacrifice. She also insisted on the almost unprecedented use of the Scottish communion office, the nonjuring office of eighteenth-century Episcopalians which was preferred by many Tractarians as being more explicitly Catholic than the Book of Common Prayer. The church's consecration on 15 August 1843 was attended by leading high-churchmen and Tractarians, including Walter Farquhar Hook and John Keble. But Lady Lothian became increasingly uncertain about the catholicity of Anglicanism. Her allegiance was gradually undermined by the successive secessions to Rome of John Henry Newman in 1845; the chaplain at Dalkeith who was her spiritual adviser; and, finally, by Henry Manning in 1851, as a consequence of the Gorham judgment. Instructed by Manning, she became a Roman Catholic in June 1851. Her conversion imperilled her guardianship of her sons, as the other guardians appointed by her husband's will sought to have them removed from her custody lest she attempt to convert them to Rome. (They were not concerned about the religion of her daughters.) In a midnight adventure, she escaped from Newbattle Abbey with her younger children, taking them to Edinburgh where they were received into the Roman Catholic church. Her eldest son, William, the eighth marquess, was away at Oxford at the time, and remained a staunch Episcopalian.

Lady Lothian now became a sponsor of Roman Catholicism in Scotland. She built a Roman Catholic church at Dalkeith, began regular visits to Rome, and undertook extensive charitable work in Edinburgh assisted by her friend Charlotte, duchess of Buccleuch, who would eventually convert in 1860. One of Lady Lothian's daughters, Cecil, became a Sacred Heart nun in the convent in Paris in 1859. Having established a connection with the Jesuits in Farm Street, London, Lady Lothian encouraged their opening a church in Edinburgh, and they eventually took over the church at Dalkeith in 1861. She was active in the Refugee Benevolent Fund in London, established as a consequence of the Franco-Prussian War of 1871, but her relief work in England was never as much her own as the missions in Jedburgh and Dalkeith. Her son Lord Walter Kerr (1839–1927), later admiral of the fleet and senior naval lord, was a companion when his naval life allowed, but his marriage in 1873 brought a new loneliness in her final years. In 1877 Lady Lothian went to Rome for the jubilee of Pius IX and died there on 13 May. Her body was buried at the foot of the altar in the church at Dalkeith.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Movie Review: The Monuments Men (2014)

 
You might have noticed on this blog that I am fascinated by the history of art stolen by the Nazis during World War II from various museums and also the private collectors (often Jewish). The Rape of Europa is the great documentary about Hitler's great plan for a Linz art museum in his name honoring all the great art he desired, the Nazi disgust for certain art they considered degenerate because non-Aryan, efforts to protect and preserve the art in the midst of war, and efforts to return art stolen from individuals to their heirs, etc.
 
So I bought a DVD of The Monuments Men: a mistake. Whatever good intentions George Clooney, director, writer, and producer and his co-writer and co-producer Grant Heslov had, they made a terrible movie, episodic and sentimental, illogical and historically inaccurate.
 
What they did with the character of Claire Simon, based on the real-life Rose Valland, was most disappointing. At first resistant to helping the American museum curator sent to contact her, she then tries to seduce him even as she gives him the detailed notes she made about works stolen from private collections (The Rothschilds, etc). It is the most cynical, cold, calculated attempt of seduction, coming in the context of her mockery of the unfaithfulness of American soldiers to their wives. Matt Damon's character has no trouble rejecting it, although he tries to let her down easy in some trite way.
 
It's too bad that Clooney thought he had to make The Monuments Men into "Ocean's Fourteen"--with buddy movie jokes about mines and tooth decay in the midst of war, death, atrocities, and mayhem. It was horribly disappointing: I'd recommend the documentary and the books about the real "Monument Men" instead. If seeing the movie does lead viewers to those resources, it will have accomplished something good.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

G.K. Chesterton, RIP

Yesterday, Dale Ahlquist paid tribute to Gilbert Keith Chesterton, who died 78 years ago today, June 14:

His death was front page news around the world and was met with an outpouring of spontaneous groans and genuine grief. Thousands of people who had never met Chesterton but who had welcomed him into their homes through his newspaper columns felt as though they had lost a friend. But the next few decades passed and he was forgotten. Then something quite contrary happened. Thousands of people suddenly found a friend in Chesterton. His books and essays surged back into print, and people got to know him all over again, embracing the sense of wonder and joy that lives on in his words.

We have witnessed a revival, and it has, of course, been personally gratifying as Chesterton has proved to be my friend, my hero, my mentor, my Virgil, who led me, not through the Inferno but through the comedy which is indeed divine. It is a great joke that he led this Baptist to the Catholic Church.

I certainly feel that I know him very well as I have explored the mountain of his words. Five thousand essays and counting. In the last few years we have found over four hundred previously uncollected essays. Yet I often think about the impenetrable wall that exists between those of us who have known Chesterton only through his writings and those who actually knew him in person. As we approach eight decades since his death, that latter list continues to dwindle.

Read the rest here.

This blog cites the many writers G.K. Chesterton influenced: from contemporaries like G.B. Shaw and H.G. Wells (with whom he graciously disagreed) to current authors like Dean Koontz and J.K. Rowling. A sample:

 -Agatha Christie was a fan of Chesterton's detective Father Brown:

Father Brown has always been one of my favorite sleuths...He is one of the few figures in detective fiction who can be enjoyed for his own sake, whether you are a detective fan or not. [28]
-Dean Koontz is another Chestertonian. In an interview with Gilbert Magazine, he was asked which was the first Chesterton book he had read, stated:

Orthodoxy, and it had a powerful effect. Then I read The Everlasting Man, which I think was the better of the two. Together they were like a one-two punch. [29]
Shortly afterwards, when asked how Chesterton's precision of writing had influenced his writing, Koontz responded:

The precision of his language, the clarity of his thought, his exuberant nature, and his delight in tweaking the humorless who are humorless because of their dour materialism- all of those things influenced my writing.[29]
Indeed, Chesterton quotes feature as epigraphs in at least four of his novels (Relentless, Breathless, and two volumes of his Frankenstein Series: Lost Souls and The Dead Town). Koontz also dedicated The Dead Town to GKC:

To the memory of Gilbert K. Chesterton, who presented wisdom and hard truths in a most appealing package, changing countless lives with kindness and a smile [30]
-Another person on whom Chesterton's influence came was Alfred Hitchcock. According to Hitchcock biographer, Donald Spoto:

The influence of Chesterton must be assessed as well. Much admired and celebrated by the Catholic clergy, and read by Catholic schoolboys, Chesterton's popular essays "A Defence of Penny Dreadfuls" and "A Defence of Detective stories" (published in his 1901 collection The Defendant) entertained the adolescent Hitchcock, and provided him with ideas for the formation of his own style and vision when he was an apprentice filmmaker. It was Chesterton who defended popular literature, Chesterton who pointed out the archetypal, fairy-tale structure of police stories, and Chesterton who defended exploration of criminal behavior.

'One of the strangest examples of the degree to which ordinary life is undervalued is the example of popular literature, the vast mast of which we contentedly describe as vulgar.' Hitchcock read in 'A Defense of Penny Dreadfuls.' [31]
In fact, the title (though not the plot) of one of Hitchcock's movies (and it's remake), The Man Who Knew Too Much, is derived from a book of mysteries by Chesterton's of that name:

Hitchcock made The Man Who Knew Too Much twice, in England in 1934 and in America in 1956. It was based on a story by Charles Bennett and D.B. Wyndham-Lewis, though the title actually comes from a collection of mysteries by G.K. Chesterton, to which Hitchcock owned the rights and which has nothing to do with the story-line of the films he made. [32]
-Chesterton was "one of [President Theodore] Roosevelt's favorite contemporary writers." [33], and Roosevelt expressed a desire to meet Chesterton during a visit to England. [33a]. Such a desire was fulfilled, and Roosevelt, after meeting Chesterton, had this to say about him.

What a supreme genius Chesterton is! I never met a man who could talk so brilliantly and interestingly. [33b]
-J.K. Rowling, a member (at least at one time- I do not know if she is still or not) of the UK Chesterton Society [34], has "paid homage to" Chesterton. [35]

And here's another post, focused on Chesterton's influence on Christians in his own time and ours.

Brandon Vogt has a Chesterton giveaway, including the book pictured above, on his blog. As I mentioned to a facebook friend--"You could enter, but I should win!"

Book Review: "God's Traitors"

Rather like Adrian Tinniswood with The Verneys: A True Story of Love, War, and Madness in Seventeenth Century England, which focused on that family's reactions to events like the English Civil War and Interregnum,  in God's Traitors: Terror & Faith in Elizabethan England Jessie Childs focuses on the Vaux family of Harrowden Hall (and connected families like the Treshams of Rushton) and how they, remaining true to their Catholic faith, responded to the ever-tightening restrictions on recusant Catholics during Elizabeth I's reign--and how much they knew about the Gunpowder Plot of 1605.

One great feature of the design of this book, which includes two insets of color images, other illustrations, a list of principal characters, and a family tree, is the map of the Midlands of England with the Catholic houses identified in each county: Staffordshire, Worcestershire, Warwickshire, Leicestershire, and Northamptonshire. Seeing the distances (if not the terrain) between the houses, I could imagine the missionary priests moving from house to house, celebrating the Sacraments, keeping ahead of the government pursuivants. I could also imagine the government pursuivants, going from house to house, hoping to catch a priest!

By telling the story of Vaux family, as each generation continues the family's faithfulness to the Catholic Church, Childs retells stories familiar to me, of St. Edmund Campion and Father Robert Persons, St. Robert Southwell, Fathers Henry Garnett and John Gerard, and other priests and martyrs, from a different angle: how the Vaux family had sheltered and assisted the priests.

As Childs describes each Vaux generation's response to recusancy, the tension and the danger mount: fines, arrests, imprisonment, debt, danger, conflict within the extended family, and death. Trying to find a way to practice his faith and yet be an Englishman proved exhausting for William the second Baron Vaux. Recusant Catholics could "either obey their Queen and consign their souls to damnation", as Childs says, "or obey the pope and surrender their bodies to temporal punishment". His son Henry and daughters Anne and Eleanor and daughter-in-law Eliza would be even more courageous, leading the underground network of safety for the missionary priests. The later generations of Vauxes--further and further separated from how the Catholic faith had once been practiced in England--grew more and more desperate as they found their choices so limiting: unable to take part in the leadership of their country, they fled to the Continent as mercenaries, like Ambrose, the black sheep of the family.

The Vauxes are always on the edges of the conspiracies against Elizabeth I (the Ridolfi Plot, the Babington conspiracy, the Throckmorton Plot)--and thus William Vaux spent so much time answering questions, along with his brother-in-law Sir Thomas Tresham, paying fnes, enduring imprisonment and house arrest. But at the end of the book, the Gunpowder Plot attempt to blow up Parliament with King James I, his family, and all the Lords and Commons, sums up the entire struggle. Anne Vaux feared that young men she knew well like Robert Catesby were plotting something horrible and she wanted Father Henry Garnet to tell them not to go forward with their plans. Did Father Garnet do enough? did he ask the right questions? respond forcefully enough to tell Catesby and Digby et al not to pursue whatever plot they had in mind? Those were questions he asked himself while in prison and even during his questioning. Although he did not instigate the plot or encourage the plot--he knew about the Gunpowder Plot and he did not report it to the authorities, citing the seal of the confessional.

In the Epilogue, Childs continues the story of the Vauxes: the sisters Anne and Eleanor and their sister-in-law Eliza continue their good works, focused now on the children to be raised in the Catholic faith. The family endures the long Eighteenth century and then finally enjoys Emancipation and freedom. One of the best details of this after story is that the nine Baron Vaux was Father Gabriel Gilbey, O.S.B. and took his seat in the House of Lords in 1962, 403 years after the last Benedictine served in the House (I presume that could be John Feckenham, the last abbot of Westminster Abbey).

Alice Hogge in God's Secret Agents: Queen Elizabeth's Forbidden Priests and the Hatching of the Gunpowder Plot (2005) described the lives and deaths of the missionary priests who studied abroad and returned to England, branded as traitors for their priesthood, in her build-up to the Gunpowder Plot and its aftermath. It could almost serve as the companion volume to Childs' great story of the Vaux family. By focusing on the noble Vaux family, the lay men and women who struggled to remain true to their Church and to their nation, however, Childs has given us a great story of faithfulness and endurance. I cannot recommend God's Traitors highly enough: it is well-narrated and her analysis is always balanced and insightful.

Please note that I received this review copy from the author, with the only expectation being that I would read it and review it honestly.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Dawson on The French Revolution

Also announced for publication by Catholic University of America Press is a new edition of Christopher Dawson's The Gods of Revolution (January 2015):

In The Gods of Revolution, Christopher Dawson brought to bear, as Glanmor Williams said, "his brilliantly perceptive powers of analysis on the French Revolution. . . . In so doing he reversed the trends of recent historiography which has concentrated primarily on examining the social and economic context of that great upheaval."

Dawson underlines the fact that the Revolution was not animated by democratic ideals but rather reflected an authoritarian liberalism often marked by a fundamental contempt for the populace, described by Voltaire as "the 'canaille' that is not worthy of enlightenment and which deserves its yoke." The old Christian order had stressed a common faith and common service shared by nobles and peasants alike but Rousseau "pleads the cause of the individual against society, the poor against the rich, and the people against the privileged classes." It is Rousseau whom Dawson describes as the spiritual father of the new age in disclosing a new spirit of revolutionary idealism expressed in liberalism, socialism and anarchism. But the old unity was not replaced by a new form. Dawson insists the whole period following the Revolution is "characterized by a continual struggle between conflicting ideologies," and the periods of relative stabilization such as the Napoleonic restoration, Victorian liberalism in England, and capitalist imperialism in the second German empire "have been compromises or temporary truces between two periods of conquest." This leads to his assertion that "the survival of western culture demands unity as well as freedom, and the great problem of our time is how these two essentials are to be reconciled."

This reconciliation will require more than technological efficiency for "a free society requires a higher degree of spiritual unity than a totalitarian one. Hence the spiritual integration of western culture is essential to its temporal survival." It is to Christianity alone that western culture "must look for leadership and help in restoring the moral and spiritual unity of our civilization," for it alone has the influence, "in ethics, in education, in literature, and in social action" sufficiently strong to achieve this end.


I have a copy of an out-of-print edition with an introduction by Arnold Toynbee, who declares that "However often the subject has been dealt with by his predecessors, Dawson's handling throws new light on it." When I read this book several years ago, it completely opened my mind to the truth about the French Revolution--I had just my high school history course to go on and it had been depicted as a great crusade for the common good (aka Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity) with some unfortunate unintended consequences (The Reign of Terror), but Dawson cleared that error up for me. After his book, then Susan Dunn's book Sister Revolutions: French Lightning, American Light continued my education.

Book Review: Persecution without Martyrdom

From the publisher, Gracewing:

Persecution Without Martyrdom: The Catholics of North-East England in the Age of the Vicars Apostolic 1688-1850
by Leo Gooch

978 0 85244 819 9  -  488 pages   -  £20.00 (I received a review copy from the publisher for my honest opinion and review: see below)

Until comparatively recently, historical studies of English Catholicism have lavished attention on the ‘Age of Martyrs’ of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries or on the ‘Second Spring’ of the nineteenth century, while the eighteenth, a century of ‘persecution without martyrdom’ as Edwin Burton described the life and times of Richard Challoner, is largely passed over. That neglect is wholly unwarranted. The creation of the four Vicariates Apostolic in 1688 marks the foundation of the modern Roman Catholic Church in England ND Wales and a series of significant ecclesiastical developments affecting the disposition and operation of the mission followed over the next century and a half: its emergence from ‘seigneurial’ rule, its shift from its rural strongholds into the towns, and its metamorphosis into a centrally-managed organization. In the secular field, this was the age when major political crises relating to Catholicism arose, when Catholics threw off discrimination and oppression and by degrees emerged from recusancy to full citizenship; and when the sociological character of the English Catholics changed completely. Theses were all important enough singly, but cumulatively they amounted to nothing less than a radical transformation of the structure and outlook of the English Catholics. The later achievements of the Church of Cardinals Manning, Wiseman and Newman could not possibly have been won without the perseverance and vigour of the eighteenth-century recusants.

This book is a tremendous resource for understanding the status of Catholics in north-east England after the Glorious Revolution and up to the 1850 restoration of the diocesan hierarchy. The range of dates from 1688 to 1850 means that the period covered includes the Jacobite attempts to restore the Catholic Stuarts, the end of the Stuart dynasty and the beginning of the Hanoverians (1714--three hundred years ago!), and the slow restoration of freedom to worship and civil rights  for Catholics, leading up to Emancipation in 1829. The first four chapters offer a compelling narrative of Catholic gentry in the northeast of England surviving the fall of James II, continuing their family's traditions and education, working for their freedom of religion and worship, and responding to the presence of the Vicars Apostolic.The last two chapters provide tremendous detail about the chapels and the chaplains established by the gentry on their estates, breaking off from the narrative of the first four chapters.

In chapter one, Gooch provides statistical surveys of the recusant Catholics throughout the period, noting the ebbs and falls of their population. He demonstrates that while they had to be careful and discrete, they were committed to practicing their faith. He notes that Catholic gentry often played down their wealth--to avoid confiscation and fines by the government--by various financial arrangements, loans, and leases. The gentry provided both the chapels and the chaplains for the celebration of Catholic Mass and the other Sacraments--and Gooch gives much more detail of these arrangements in the last two chapters.

Gooch depicts the education, travel and intellectual avocations of north-east Catholic gentry in chapter two. The Catholic gentry were better educated than their Anglican peers, because they attended the Jesuit colleges on the Continent while Cambridge and Oxford were still serving primarily as educational institutions for  Anglican clergy. Catholic gentlemen traveled extensively on the Continent on long Grand Tours, collecting books and artwork. They usually were accompanied by a chaplain cum chaperone, spending Holy Week in Rome and celebrating the Feast of the Ascension in Venice. 

The Catholic Question--the issue of Catholic freedom to worship and take full part in English political and social life--occupies our interest in chapter three. Could Catholics be trusted? Gooch notes that not many of the north-eastern Catholic gentry had supported the Jacobite cause, and that as the English gentry negotiated with the government, they were often ready to compromise on certain aspects like government approval of episcopal appointments or allowing the government to read official church correspond with the Holy See, just so they could be free of the fines or threat of fines for not attending the Church of England services, exempted as they were from the Toleration Act of 1689.

In chapter four Gooch discusses the Vicars Apostolic (V.A.) of the Northern District, Titular Bishops without geographical dioceses or sees, and how they changed the structures of ecclesiastical power. They had titles like Titular Bishop of Marcopolis, Bolina, Trachis, Abydus, or Samosata. The latter was the title of the V.A. of the Northern District, William Hogarth, who became the Bishop of Hexham in 1850. We have to remember that the gentry were hiring--and firing--the clergy for their private estate chapels. As Gooch will demonstrate in the last two chapters, this practice meant that if the head of the  family conformed to the established Church of England, the chapel could be lost to the Catholics on the estate--or if there was some disagreement between the chaplain and family, he could be fired. The Vicars Apostolic, of course, wanted to establish a more stable infrastructure of "parish" chapels with assigned pastors. Their efforts before Emancipation and between Emancipation and the restoration of the hierarchy are what Gooch argues helped prepare Catholicism in England for the achievements of bishops and archbishops like Hogarth, Briggs (another V.A. in the north who became a diocesan bishop in 1850, of Beverley), Wiseman, Ullathorne, Manning, etc. after them.  I do not think that including Cardinal Newman in the blurb was necessary or appropriate, since he was never a bishop and was named a Cardinal Deacon late in life by Pope Leo XIII as a personal honor rather than as a hierarchical office or position (he continued his work at the Oratory in Birmingham in fact, not moving to Rome as usually required at that time for a Cardinal Deacon).

The last two chapters, while providing the great wealth of detail about different estates, their families, chapels, and chaplains, really should have been placed in an appendix. After stating that the Vicars Apostolic had, as the blurb above notes, worked to create a "centrally-managed organization", two chapters describing the "seigneurial rule" in such detail contradicted--at least structurally--the argument. Throughout the book, Gooch's attention to detail and excellent research, with tremendous notes and sources consulted, is obvious. I also wish the publishers could have included maps or some illustrations--especially the maps, which would have helped an American reader not familiar with the territory. Certainly, this is a great achievement and resource.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

The Heart of Newman: John F. Crosby on Newman's Personalism

From Catholic University of America Press this August:

It has been said that John Henry Newman "stands at the threshold of the new age as a Christian Socrates, the pioneer of a new philosophy of the individual Person and Personal Life." Newman's personalism is found in the way he contrasts the "theological intellect" and the "religious imagination." Newman pleads for the latter when he famously says, in words that John F. Crosby takes as the motto of his book, "I am far from denying the real force of the arguments in proof of a God . . .but these do not warm me or enlighten me; they do not take away the winter of my desolation, or make the buds unfold and the leaves grow within me, and my moral being rejoice."

In The Personalism of John Henry Newman, Crosby shows the reader how Newman finds the life-giving religious knowledge that he seeks. He explores the "heart" in Newman and explains what Newman was saying when he chose as his cardinal's motto, cor ad cor loquitur (heart speaks to heart). He explains what Newman means in saying that religious truth is transmitted not by argument but by "personal influence."

Crosby also examines Newman's personalist account of what it is to think; he explains what it is for a person to think not just by rule but by his "spontaneous living intelligence." Crosby examines the subjectivity of Newman, and shows how the modern "turn to the subject" is enacted in Newman. But these personalist aspects of Newman's mind, which connect him with many streams of contemporary thought, are not the whole of Newman; they stand in relation to something else in Newman, something that Crosby calls Newman's radically theocentric religion.

Newman is a modern thinker, but not the modernist he is sometimes mistaken for. The inexhaustible plenitude of Newman derives from the union of apparent opposites in him: the union of his teaching on the heart with his theocentric teaching, of the subjectivity of experience with the objectivity of revealed truth.

Crosby writes for a broad non-specialist public just as Newman did.

As I have noted before on this blog, it was attending a Newman School of Catholic Thought and learning about John Henry Cardinal Newman when I was in college that gave my life direction and inspired my interest in Newman and in the English Reformation and its aftermath. Professor John F. Crosby was one of the speakers during those early days of 1979. As a preview of this book, you could listen to his lectures on Newman and Personalism, delivered at the University of Steubenville in 2011.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

"The Real Tudors" @ The National Portrait Gallery in London


The title of this exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery in London is intriguing:  The Real Tudors: Kings and Queens Rediscovered. In case you had been looking at portraits of the Fake Tudors. It runs from 12 September 2014  to 1 March 2015 and then travels across the Channel to the Musee du Luxembourg in Paris! Note the search for an authentic portrait of Lady Jane Dudley:

This special display, focusing on the portraiture of the Tudor monarchs, will allow visitors to rediscover these well-known kings and queens through the most complete presentation of their images staged to date.

Works from the Gallery’s Collection will be presented alongside exceptional loans and a prized possession of each monarch, as well as recent research undertaken as part of the Making Art in Tudor Britain project, to help visitors understand how and why such images were made.

The display includes the Gallery’s oldest portrait, that of Henry VII, which will be displayed with a Book of Hours inscribed by the king to his daughter; six portraits of Henry VIII, including a full-length portrait from Petworth House in Sussex, together with his rosary; portraits of Edward VI and a page from his diary in which he reports his father’s death; five portraits of Mary I combined with her Prayer Book loaned from Westminster Cathedral; and several portraits of Elizabeth I displayed alongside her locket ring. The search for a ‘real’ portrait of Lady Jane Grey in the sixteenth century will also be discussed through the display of a commemorative portrait of Jane that dates from the Elizabethan period.

A beautifully illustrated catalogue with over fifty reproduced portraits, and including the findings from recent technical analysis, is available from Gallery Shops and npg.org.uk/shop 
(not yet!)