Saturday, January 31, 2015

Kansas Has Three Local American Chesterton Societies!


While attending the Eighth Day Institute Symposium I was very happy to see Father Robert McElwee and his wife Ginger. Father McElwee is a retired Catholic priest of the Diocese of Wichita--he had been an Episcopalian minister but as a convert to Catholicism was able to become a (married) priest under Pope St. John Paul II's Pastoral Provision. The Pastoral Provision was kind of an antecedent to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI's Anglican Ordinariate.

I gave Father McElwee a review copy of my book--he later told me that he would read it during Lent (my husband said that's a perfect penance; I love my husband, but . ..). We hope to collaborate some time in the near future when Father can broadcast some "local" programming (right now he's just carrying EWTN's schedule).

Father McElwee has started a Catholic radio station in Southeast Kansas, KOOJ, which stands for Kause of Our Joy, and he and his wife host the local American Chesterton Society group in their home, according to this article:

For the past year and a half, Fr. McElwee, retired priest, and his wife, Ginger, have hosted a Chesterton discussion group on the second Sunday of the month in the living room at their home, 4084 Mt. Carmel Road, Frontenac.

“I’ll do a traditional Latin Mass at 4 p.m. for those who wish to attend it, then around 5 p.m. we have our Chesterton discussion group with food and some adult beverages,” Fr. McElwee said.

“We do designate a book, a chapter of a book, a poem or essay for discussion,” added Michael Ehling, an avid member of the group who assists the priest with it.


They are going to read The Flying Inn at their February and March meetings. Our Greater Wichita group is reading The Well and the Shallows, as I've mentioned--but I'm not sure what the Northeast Kansas group is reading (they meet in Eudora, Kansas). Perhaps we'll all meet up together at the Catholic Culture Conference in Wichita this April, at which Dale Ahlquist will speak!

Friday, January 30, 2015

Prayer for Mary Ward's Beatification

O heavenly Father, Almighty God, I offer up to Thee this day all the holy Masses said throughout the whole Catholic world, to obtain the grace that the Servant of God, Mary Ward, may be publicly acknowledged worthy of Beatification. O Jesus, deign soon to glorify Thy humble servant. Amen.

Venerable Mary Ward, foundress and recusant Catholic, died on January 30, 1645, near York during the English Civil War. Her congregation posts this information about the cycle of paintings that depict her life and journeys:

There are fifty paintings, each 142 x 105 cm, known as the ‘Painted Life of Mary Ward’ that show her spiritual journey. They are displayed in the ‘Mary Ward Hall’ in Augsburg in Germany. Very little information has come down to us as to the origins of the paintings. It is most probable that they were painted by various artists somewhere between Flanders and the Tyrol in the second half of the seventeenth century. There is written evidence that places them in Munich between 1680 and 1717, but how they came to Augsburg is unknown.

The initiative to commission the paintings must have come from Mary Ward’s first companions as the paintings tell the story of her life in considerable detail. Writing her life would have been risky as Mary Ward’s Institute had been condemned by the Church. Commissioning a series of paintings that told the story diminished the risk of ecclesiastical censure – though not entirely. At various times the local bishop ordered their removal from the walls of the Augsburg Convent. During the Second World War the paintings were removed and hidden, and therefore survived the destruction of the Augsburg convent.

The earlier paintings are better artistically than the later ones, and tell the story of Mary Ward’s early life, her vocation and the founding of her institute. Many of the later ones are artistically not remarkable but they contain a series of deep spiritual experiences that are not known from the written sources.

The inscriptions on the paintings are written in German and were most likely added at the end of the seventeenth century after the completion of the pictures.


Then Cardinal Ratzinger referred to one of these paintings in his homily for a Mass celebrating the 400th anniversary of Mary Ward's birth on January 23:

On the page of the booklet for this Mass we see a very lovely picture of the first stage of Mary Ward’s life. The little child has left her bed and taken the first steps towards the open space of life. From her mouth has come her first word, the name of Jesus. One gets the impression that little Mary is following the sound of that word, walking along the trail of that name. Her first steps coincided with her first word. The name Jesus became the path of her life. In fact the many journeys in the life of Mary Ward were made always in the ambit of that name, all her life was a response to the call expressed in the name of Jesus.

King St. Charles the Martyr


The Society of King Charles the Martyr (SKCM) has an elegant website including the announcement of the services in remembrance of Charles I's beheading--which they describe as a martyrdom for the Church of England--held every year at the Banqueting House, Whitehall. The description of the day of this execution begins:

On the morning of 30th January, 1649 Charles awoke early and told his attendant Thomas Herbert, “this is my second marriage day… for before night I hope to be espoused to my blessed Jesus.” The winter weather was so severe that the Thames had frozen over. The King was concerned that the cold would make him shiver giving the appearance of shaking with fear, so he asked as he was dressed to be provided with an extra shirt for warmth (one of these shirts is kept at Windsor Castle and the other at the Museum of London).
William Juxon, Bishop of London, arrived to read Morning Prayer with the King and to administer the Sacrament. The Bishop read the lesson for the day, which was the account of the Passion of Christ. Charles thought that this passage had been especially chosen by the Bishop but was told that it was the proscribed lesson in the Prayer Book for that day. The King found this very reassuring.
At ten o’clock Colonel Hacker told the King that it was time to leave for Whitehall. Charles, Juxon and Herbert were escorted on foot from S.James’s Palace. Two companies of infantry guarded the route. The party was led through the inside of several buildings to avoid the gathering crowds. They passed over the upper floor of the Holbein Gate from where Charles would have seen the scaffold below and then into the Banqueting House.

The website also includes this poem/hymn by John Keble in honor of the king:

First published in 1827 as part of The Christian Year: Thoughts in verse for The Sundays and Holydays Throughout the Year.

“This is thankworthy, if a man for conscience towards God endure grief, suffering wrongfully.” I S.Peter ii. 19

Praise to our Pardoning God! though silent now
The thunders of the deep prophetic sky,
Though in our sight no powers of darkness bow
Before th’ Apostles’ glorious company;

The Martyrs’ noble army is still ours,
far in the North our fallen days have seen
How in her woe the tenderest spirit, towers
For Jesus’ sake in agony serene.

Praise to our God! not cottage hearths alone,
And shades imperious to the proud world’s glare,
Such witness yield: a monarch from his throne
Springs to his Cross and finds his glory there.

Yes: wheresoe’er one trace of thee is found,
As in the sacred land, the shadows fall:
With beating hearts we roam the haunted ground,
Lone battle-field, or crumbling prison hall.

And there are aching solitary breasts,
Whose widow’d walk with thought of thee is cheer’d,
Our own, our royal Saint: thy memory rests
On many a prayer, the more for thee endear’d.

True son of our dear Mother, early taught
With her to worship and for her to die,
Nurs’d in her aisles to more than kingly thought,
Oft in her solemn hours we dream thee nigh.

For thou didst love to trace her daily lore,
And where we look for comfort or for calm,
Over the self-same lines to bend, and pour
Thy heart with hers in some victorious psalm.

And well did she thy loyal love repay:
When all foresook, her Angel still was nigh,
Chain’d and bereft, and on thy funeral way,
Straight to the Cross she turn’d thy dying eye.

And yearly now, before the Martyrs’ King,
For thee she offers her maternal tears,
Calls us, like thee, to His dear feet to cling,
And bury in His wounds our earthly fears.

And Angels hear, and there is mirth in Heaven,
Fit prelude of the joy, when spirits won
Like thee to patient Faith, shall rise forgiven,
And at thy Saviour’s knees thy bright example own.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

A Tea at Trianon Review: Elizabeth of York

Elena Maria Vidal reviews Alison Weir's biography of Elizabeth of York, Henry VII's queen. To quote:

I found the biography to be inspiring on a spiritual level as well. From earliest child hood, Elizabeth was carefully taught and trained in the practice of her Catholic Faith, being taken to Mass every day and learning to pray the Divine Office. As a little girl she was instilled with a great devotion to Mary which she nourished throughout her life by private devotions and by frequenting the many Marian shrines throughout the kingdom. Elizabeth saw being a queen as participating in the Queenship of the Mother of God. Her accounts show that she was constantly giving gifts to people of every estate, especially those who petitioned her. On the other hand, she was a recipient of gifts from the people, who would send her fruits and preserves (she appeared to have a fondness for cherries), game, wine, cloth, crafts, works of art, books, and anything else that they thought she could use. It seems Elizabeth made herself accessible to the people; she seriously considered their petitions and took the role of intercessor on the behalf of the multitudes. As a young woman she was referred to in a ballad as "Lady Bessy" which shows a certain fond familiarity. (p.145) Many tolerated Henry only because of Elizabeth, and loved her children because they were hers. She was Queen of Hearts, and it is claimed that the playing card is based upon Elizabeth of York.

After the sudden death of her eldest son Prince Arthur, Elizabeth's health began to fail. In spite of her poor health and her last pregnancy, Elizabeth spent the final months of her life traveling around England, praying at various shrines, as well as visiting her Plantagenet sisters and cousins. Weir thinks it might have been because she had finally had a falling out with Henry. (p. 389) It might also be supposed that she was unsettled by the recent confession of James Tyrell, under torture, that he had murdered her brothers at Richard III's command. (p.389) Even though an astrologer had prophesied that she would live to be ninety, it could be that she had a premonition of her own imminent passing. Elizabeth died on her 37th birthday, February 11, 1503, from complications due to childbirth. Her baby Katherine followed her in death. Henry VII had a complete collapse and became a near recluse, so in a way her surviving children, Henry, Margaret and Mary, lost both parents. The future Henry VIII never recovered from losing his beloved mother. Upon the hearing of the death of Elizabeth, Queen Isabel of Castile, who had corresponded with her, wrote to the the Spanish ambassador in England that he was to offer consolation to King Henry, who was "suffering the loss of the Queen his wife, who is in glory." (p.417)

The most tragic and bitter theme that occurs repeatedly throughout the book are in the descriptions of the beautiful shrines and chapels so loved by Elizabeth and endowed by either herself or her husband. Within the next fifty years they were to be destroyed by her son Henry VIII. One can almost be relieved that Elizabeth did not live to be ninety so she did not have to see the destruction of the symbols of her Faith, a Faith which carried her through a tumultuous era and which she valued more than life itself.

Read the rest there. Based on Vidal's strong recommendation, I purchased the book.

The Fossilized Church of England

From Father Dwight Longenecker, with my comments:

Since the Oxford Movement in the nineteenth century members of the Church of England have tried to claim that the Church of England was “Catholic”. As a sideline it is interesting to note that for about 350 years before the Oxford Movement the Church of England was quite clear that it was NOT Catholic. They were a Protestant church. They resisted all signs of papacy, Catholic worship or Catholic theology. There were riots if a priest wore a surplice–much less Eucharistic vestments. If a priest put candles on the alter (sic) he could be ousted for being papistical.

Then in the mid nineteenth century John Henry Newman and his chums started to read the church fathers and lurched toward Rome. Newman–who was the brainiest among them followed the logic and became Catholic. Many others remained in the Anglican Church and pretended to be Catholic. Note that during the Ritualist movement that followed the Oxford movement, the response was the same: "There were riots if a priest wore a surplice–much less Eucharistic vestments. If a priest put candles on the alter (sic) he could be ousted for being papistical." Remember Arthur Tooth's arrest and Bishop Edward King's troubles.

When I say they pretended to be Catholic, they did a damned good job of it. They promoted Catholic spirituality. They were expert liturgists. They revived the ancient choral tradition. They built beautiful churches. Or maintained the beautiful Romanesque and Gothic churches and cathedrals built by Catholics before the Reformation that had survived different periods of iconoclasm. They started religious orders, did missionary work, started seminaries and for a hundred years really did seem to be bringing the Church of England around to being Catholic once again.

This passage reminded me of one of the articles we discussed at our Chesterton reading group meeting last Friday, "My Six Conversions: The Religion of Fossils" in The Well and the Shallows. Chesterton writes about six times he could have become Catholic--except that he already had. This first time was when he realized that the Protestant churches were fossils:

The whole point of a fossil is that it is the form of an animal or organism, from which all its own animal or organic substance has entirely disappeared; but which has kept its shape, because it has been filled up by some totally different substance by some process of distillation or secretion, so that we might almost say, as in the medieval metaphysics, that its substance has vanished and only its accidents remain. And that is perhaps the very nearest figure of speech we can find for the truth about the New Religions, which were started only three or four hundred years ago. They are Fossils.

It is easy to see the sense in which they are now dying. But in a much deeper sense, they have long been dead. The extraordinary thing about them was that they really died almost as soon as they were born. And this was due to a fact not always emphasised, but which always strikes me as the most outstanding fact of the mysterious business; the incredible clumsiness of the Reformers. The real Protestant theologians were such very bad theologians. They had an amazing opportunity; the old Church had been swept out of their way, along with many things that were really unpopular, and some things that were deservedly unpopular. One would suppose it was easy enough to set up something that would at least look a little more popular. When they tried to do it, they made every mistake that they could make. They waged an insane war against everything in the old faith that is most normal and sympathetic to human nature; such as prayers for the dead or the gracious image of a Mother of Men. [This reminded me of Sir Kenneth Clark's comments about the Reformation in
Civilisation.] They hardened and fixed themselves upon fads which anybody could see would pass like fashions. Luther lashed himself into a sort of general fury, which obviously could not last; Calvin was logical, but used his logic for a scheme which humanity manifestly would not long find endurable. Perhaps the most successful were those who really had no ideas to offer at all; like the founders of the Anglican Church. They at least did not exasperate human nature; but even they showed the same blindness, in binding themselves instantly to the Divine Right of Kings, which was almost immediately to break down.

According to Chesterton, the founders of Church of England, as a whole, did not make some of the same mistakes the 16th century reformers did: they maintained order and ritual, beauty and devotion--but these are accidents, according to Chesterton's metaphysical analogy. As Father Longenecker notes, the Anglo-Catholics in the Church of England from the 19th century until today have tried to build upon those accidents to claim that their Church was Catholic, somehow a branch of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church founded by Jesus Christ, and that reunion was somehow possible between the Church of England and the Catholic Church or between the Church of England and the Orthodox Church. With the ordination of female priests and now a female bishop, however, even the accidents are gone--the fossil that remains never really was what they thought it was. Fortunately, for those who seek the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church, the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham is there to welcome them home.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The Bodleian Library's Founder Dies

Sir Thomas Bodley died on January 28, 1613. His greatest accomplishment was the restoration of the University of Oxford's library, which had been purged during the reign of Edward VI of all its "papist" volumes, according to the library's website:

Duke Humfrey’s library survived in its original form for just over sixty years; in 1550 it was denuded of its books after a visitation by Richard Cox, Dean of the newly-founded Christ Church. He was acting under legislation passed by King Edward VI designed to purge the English church of all traces of Roman Catholicism, including ‘superstitious books and images’. In the words of the historian Anthony Wood, ‘some of those books so taken out by the Reformers were burnt, some sold away for Robin Hood’s pennyworths, either to Booksellers, or to Glovers to press their gloves, or Taylors to make measures, or to Bookbinders to cover books bound by them, and some also kept by the Reformers for their own use’.

Oxford University was not a wealthy institution and did not have the resources to build up a collection of new printed books to replace those dispersed. In 1556, therefore, the desks were sold, and the room was taken over by the Faculty of Medicine.

The library was rescued by Sir Thomas Bodley (1545–1613), a Fellow of Merton College who had travelled extensively in Europe and had between 1585 and 1596 carried out several diplomatic missions for Queen Elizabeth I. He married a rich widow whose husband had made a fortune from trading in pilchards and, in his retirement from public life, decided, in his own words, to ‘set up my staff at the library door in Oxon; being thoroughly persuaded, that in my solitude, and surcease from the Commonwealth affairs, I could not busy myself to better purpose, than by reducing that place (which then in every part lay ruined and waste) to the public use of students’.


His money was accepted in 1598, and the old library was refurnished to house a new collection of some 2,500 books, some of them given by Bodley himself, some by other donors. A librarian, Thomas James, was appointed, and the library finally opened on 8 November 1602. The first printed catalogue followed in 1605; a new edition of 1620 ran to 675 pages.

In 1610 Bodley entered into an agreement with the Stationers’ Company of London under which a copy of every book published in England and registered at Stationers’ Hall would be deposited in the new library. Although at first the agreement was honoured more in the breach than in the observance, it nevertheless pointed to the future of the library as a comprehensive and ever-expanding collection, different in both size and purpose from the libraries of the colleges. More immediately it imposed an extra strain on space within the building, which was already housing many more books than originally foreseen; new gifts of books made the lack of space ever more acute. So in 1610–12 Bodley planned and financed the first extension to the medieval building, known as Arts End.


The website also includes a link to an illustrated brochure of the library's history and Bodley's crucial role in funding and planning its renewal. One of the library's latest acquisitions is the travelling library of Prince Charles, later King Charles I:

This latest addition to the Bodleian Libraries collection is like a 17th century version of a Kindle. Two red leather cases, designed in the 1970s by Sangorski and Sutcliffe to look like two large books, open up to reveal 59 small volumes covering just about everything that a wealthy educated gentleman would want to read on his travels.

Charles I's travelling library arrived at the Bodleian last week and was acquired through a bequest. The collection of tiny books have gold-tooled bindings and some are believed to have been signed by the Prince himself. Titles include classical texts by the poet Ovid and the philosopher Cicero as well as bibles and religious books such as De Imitatione Christi by Thomas A Kempis.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Chesterton is EVERYWHERE!!

There I was, eating lunch and reading a book review in The Wall Street Journal, when I looked up the page and saw:

"Christendom has had a series of revolutions and in each one of them Christianity has died. Christianity has died many times and risen again." -- G.K. Chesterton

But The WSJ editors did not complete this quotation from The Everlasting Man:

". . . for it had a God who knew the way out of the grave.”

"Christendom has had a series of revolutions and in each one of them Christianity has died. Christianity has died many times and risen again; for it had a God who knew the way out of the grave.” 

This quotation is from Part 2, Chapter Six, "The Five Deaths of the Faith". The context:

IT is not the purpose of this book to trace the subsequent history of Christianity, especially the later history of Christianity; which involves controversies of which I hope to write more fully elsewhere. It is devoted only to the suggestion that Christianity, appearing amid heathen humanity, had all the character of a unique thing and even of a supernatural thing. It was not like any of the other things; and the more we study it the less it looks like any of them. But there is a certain rather peculiar character which marked it henceforward even down to the present moment, with a note on which this book may well conclude.

I have said that Asia and the ancient world had an air of being too old to die. Christendom has had the very opposite fate. Christendom has had a series of revolutions and in each one of them Christianity has died. Christianity has died many times and risen again; for it had a god who knew the way out of the grave. But the first extraordinary fact which marks this history is this: that Europe has been turned upside down over and over again; and that at the end of each of these revolutions the same religion has again been found on top. The Faith is always converting the age, not as an old religion but as a new religion. This truth is hidden from many by a convention that is too little noticed. Curiously enough, it is a convention of the sort which those who ignore it claim especially to detect and denounce. They are always telling us that priests and ceremonies are not religion and that religious organisation can be a hollow sham; but they hardly realise how true it is. It is so true that three or four times at least in the history of Christendom the whole soul seemed to have gone out of Christianity; and almost every man in his heart expected its end. This fact is only masked in medieval and other times by that very official religion which such critics pride themselves on seeing through. Christianity remained the official religion of a Renaissance prince or the official religion of an eighteenthcentury bishop, just as an ancient mythology remained the official religion of Julius Caesar or the Arian creed long remained the official religion of Julian the Apostate. But there was a difference between the cases of Julius and of Julian; because the Church had begun its strange career. There was no reason why men like Julius should not worship gods like Jupiter forever in public and laugh at them forever in private. But when Julian treated Christianity as dead, he found it had come to life again. He also found, incidentally, that there was not the faintest sign of Jupiter ever coming to life again. This case of Julian and the episode of Arianism is but the first of a series of examples that can only be roughly indicated here. Arianism, as has been said, had every human appearance of being the natural way in which that particular superstition of Constantine might be expected to peter out. All the ordinary stages had been passed through; the creed had become a respectable thing, had become a ritual thing, had then been modified into a rational thing; and the rationalists were ready to dissipate the last remains of it, just as they do to-day. When Christianity rose again suddenly and threw them, it was almost as unexpected as Christ rising from the dead. But there are many other examples of the same thing, even about the same time. The rush of missionaries from Ireland, for instance, has all the air of an unexpected onslaught of young men on an old world, and even on a Church that showed signs of growing old. Some of them were martyred on the coast of Cornwall; and the chief authority on Cornish antiquities told me that he did not believe for a moment that they were martyred by heathens but (as he expressed it with some humour) `by rather slack Christians.'

Mark Greengrass' new study of the Reformation era is the latest volume in the Penguin History of Europe series:

Christendom Destroyed describes Europe at a time of overwhelming crisis. At the beginning of the period most of Europe is united under the spiritual leadership of the Pope, by the end of it Europe is burned out, devastated and permanently split by religious dissent - the structure that had provided the framework under which the continent had organized itself for centuries was finished.This extraordinary book is as much about the fate of ordinary people as about the rulers who had to navigate through an exceptionally treacherous time, with all Europeans having to deal with violent, sometimes overwhelming novelty, whether social, spiritual, geographical or political.

Monday, January 26, 2015

TODAY on the Son Rise Morning Show


As I mentioned yesterday, I'll be on the Son Rise Morning Show this morning after the 7:45 a.m. Eastern/6:45 a.m. Central news break to discuss the latest news on the re-burial of Richard III. Listen live here.

As I promised, here are a couple of previous posts:

On the announcement of the plans for Vincent Cardinal Nichols' participation in the ceremonies for Richard III's re-internment in Leicester Cathedral.

William Oddie's thoughts on the announcement of the plans for Vincent Cardinal Nichols' participation in the ceremonies for Richard III's re-internment in Leicester Cathedral--he thinks the Archbishop of Westminster should have required a Catholic burial service for a Catholic king, not an Anglican, ecumenical service with Catholic Mass and prayers held elsewhere:

The point is that he was the last of the Plantagenets and therefore a Catholic King, almost the last (only his usurper remained nominally faithful before the great apostasy): so he ought to be being reinterred in a Catholic cathedral. What is there about that proposition which is even slightly controversial? It may not have been politically doable for our bishops to insist on it: but it is quite clear that the way in which the whole thing is to unfold, with the tacit agreement of the Bishops’ conference, has to be seen as a defeat for the English Catholic Church: it is, in microcosm, a narrative demonstration of our current position within English culture. And I am writing this because someone needs to say that the gruesome ecumenical subservience this indicates ought now to be challenged and repudiated by all English Catholics.

As I noted yesterday, one question is: Should his re-burial be according to his faith and time or England's current religious environment? I think the former.

A Sad Anniversary: The Desecration of Oliver Cromwell's Tomb

From The Wall Street Journal (subscription required) comes this review of Lord Charles Spencer's latest book:

On Jan. 26, 1661, in Westminster Abbey, the tomb of Oliver Cromwell was broken open and his corrupted corpse was removed. Four days later, it was ritually hanged and beheaded at Tyburn before thousands of jeering onlookers. Cromwell’s severed head, encased in an iron cage, was then skewered on a pike and erected before the House of Lords. There it remained for a quarter century—an emblem of the wages of treason.

Nearly three years earlier, Cromwell had been interred with stately pomp. During the English Civil War he had commanded the victorious armies of Parliament against King Charles I. He had engineered the king’s public trial for treason and then his execution in 1649, eventually ruling all of Britain as Lord Protector. But this revolution did not survive his death, and in 1660 the monarchy was restored by the king’s eldest son, Charles II. Oliver Cromwell, once lionized by John Milton himself as “our chief of men,” was now the hated ringleader of the regicides.


There has been a great deal written about Charles I; somewhat less about the men who executed him. These regicides are the subject of Charles Spencer’s “Killers of the King.” The ninth earl Spencer, brother of the late Diana, Princess of Wales, knows a thing or two about monarchy. The sympathies of his book incline against the institution. Perhaps familiarity does breed contempt.

Killers of the King: The Men Who Dared to Execute Charles I is published by Bloomsbury. It's one thing to charge the living with a crime, another thing entirely to desecrate the dead! Of course, the royalists thought of the king's body as a sacred thing that had been violated, so they responded in kind when they had the power. The reviewer, Jeffrey Collins, professor of history at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, offers some corrections and context to Lord Spencer's views:

But this narrative of suffering valor is overdrawn. Mr. Spencer portrays Charles II as a “man of vengeance,” goaded on by royalists “baying for blood.” In truth, prudence and insecurity moved the king to moderate his reprisals. As “Killers of the King” itself demonstrates, the regicides’ worst enemies were their old parliamentary allies. Those who had fought Charles I but had avoided his trial were eager to isolate the regicides and sacrifice them as “scapegoats for half the kingdom.” Many of the regicides were captured by former allies who turned in their captives to prove their own conveniently rediscovered royalism.

This cycle of betrayal was ugly but predictable. The regicides had not represented the popular will. They had purged Parliament of their enemies and summarily dissolved the House of Lords; they were the architects of a military coup. Like most revolutionaries, they postured as a vanguard and sacrificed constitutional order to their own sense of heavenly justice. Charles Spencer captures the sincerity and the conviction of the regicides, but he cannot vindicate the justice of their actions. The regicides killed the king, but they could not kill the monarchy. Our capacity, centuries later, to be fascinated by their story is a measure of their failure.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Tomorrow on the Son Rise Morning Show


Just so you know ahead of time, I'll be on the Son Rise Morning Show tomorrow (Monday) in my usual end of the EWTN show time slot (after the 7:45 a.m. Eastern/6:45 a.m. Central news headline break with Annie Mitchell) to discuss the petition for Richard III's reburial to be with a Catholic Mass! The Catholic Herald posted this on-line story:

Three thousand people have signed a petition calling for Richard III to be given a Catholic burial.

The petition, addressed to Cardinal Vincent Nichols, the Archbishop of Westminster, is being organised by the historians whose efforts led to the king’s remains being found under a car park in Leicester.

Under present plans Richard III, who died in the Battle of Bosworth in 1485, before the Reformation, will be buried at the Anglican cathedral in Leicester on March 26.

But Philippa Langley, leader of the Looking for Richard project, said the burial should take into account Richard III’s Catholic faith.

She said: “It seems this former king and head of state is to be treated as a scientific specimen right up to and including the point at which he is laid in his coffin.”

Dr John Ashdown-Hill, a historian who worked to identify the bones, has also called for a Catholic burial, saying: “There is a lot of evidence that Richard III had a very serious personal faith. If Richard III had not have died, maybe the Anglican church would never have existed.”

You may listen live on your local affiliate of course, but here's on-line link to the EWTN radio network. I'll post a digest of past posts on the topic tomorrow morning.

What do you think? Should Richard III be re-buried with a Catholic Mass and/or interment-site prayers or with an ecumenical service as planned (with the Revd Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury and senior clergy from both dioceses, and other Christian denominations alongside representatives of the World Faiths)? Should his re-burial be according to his times or ours?

Tract 90's Anniversary

The last of the Tracts of the Times came out on January 25, 1841 and received a very cold reaction that had nothing to do with the winter weather. The full title of Tract 90 is "Remarks on certain Passages of the Thirty-nine Articles."

In it, Tractarian John Henry Newman examined the Thirty-Nine Articles of the Church of England and argued that they had more in common with Roman Catholicism than with Protestantism: as he noted in the introduction, "while our Prayer Book is acknowledged on all hands to be of Catholic origin, our articles also, the offspring of an uncatholic age, are, through GOD'S good providence, to say the least, not uncatholic, and may be subscribed by those who aim at being catholic in heart and doctrine." Because of Tract 90, the Oxford Movement was effectively shut down; Newman soon retreated to Littlemore. The Tract was condemned and Newman barely escaped censure--it was a good time to leave town!
 

As he wrote later in the Apologia Pro Vita Sua:

I saw indeed clearly that my place in the Movement was lost; public confidence was at an end; my occupation was gone. It was simply an impossibility that I could say any thing henceforth to good effect, when I had been posted up by the marshal on the buttery-hatch of every College of my University, after the manner of discommoned pastry-cooks, and when in every part of the country and every class of society, through every organ and opportunity of opinion, in newspapers, in periodicals, at meetings, in pulpits, at dinner-tables, in coffee-rooms, in railway carriages, I was denounced as a traitor who had laid his train and was detected in the very act of firing it against the time-honoured Establishment.

Canterbury Press publishes the volume pictured above with many excerpts from the Tracts and from sermons by Newman and other clergy in the Oxford Movement:

What we know today as Anglo-Catholicism, a strong and distinctive strand within Anglicanism that accounts for approximately a third of all Anglicans, began with a small act of political protest in an Oxford pulpit. There in 1833 John Keble preached a sermon that gave voice to widespread and growing fears of increasing state control of the Church and erosion of its status.

At the same time, Roman Catholics were enjoying new freedoms in society and Anglicans who regarded themselves as loyal to the Catholic tradition, despite the interruption of the Reformation, saw this as an opportunity to promote Catholic theology in the Church of England.

Keble's sermon sparked an immediate and active response and the Oxford Movement sprang into life. Publications flowed from its luminaries which included John Henry Newman and Edward Bouverie Pusey.

Ninety influential tracts together with Newman's legendary sermons and work by other writers, including some novels, focused on the themes that today characterise Anglo-Catholicism: a high doctrine of the Church as a divine society, the importance of the sacraments, insistence that Anglican clergy were priests in the Apostolic Succession with sacerdotal power, the quest for personal holiness.


Energised by the vitality of the old, true faith, parish life began to be transformed. Religious life revived for the first time since the Reformation, remarkable social work in slum parishes was accomplished and a distinctive liturgical style emerged.

Firmly I Believe offers a wide selection of the writings of the Tractarians and other supporters of the Oxford Movement, introduced with a useful commentary and explanation. This unique volume is both an ideal starting point for students and scholars and a rich treasury of Anglo-Catholic devotion and theology.

I only wish that it had a more robust index so that one could find, for example, Tract 90 excerpts without scanning each chapter! And I must admit that its title is ironic since it quotes a hymn written by Blessed John Henry Newman from The Dream of Gerontius, years and years after his conversion to Catholicism.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Speaking of Jesuit Conspiracies

Today is the anniversary of the first executions of Jesuits in England's Popish Plot, a vast Jesuit conspiracy to assassinate Charles II and bring the Catholic Duke of York to the throne--except that there was no vast Jesuit conspiracy and Titus Oates made it all up. You'd think this kind of stuff would be in the ash bins of history by now, but Damian Thompson writes in The Catholic Herald about an organization that still propagates these Jesuit conspiracies, including the sinking of the Titanic:

The building of the Titanic at the Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast coincided with a meeting of top bankers at the Jekyll Island Club, Georgia, an exclusive winter retreat for the super-rich. It was here, in November 1910, that representatives of J P Morgan, the Rothschilds and the Rockefellers agreed to set up the US Federal Reserve, America’s central banking system.

This much is a matter of historical record. What isn’t widely known is that these men were acting on behalf of their paymasters, the Jesuits, who “desperately wanted a central bank in America so that they would have a bottomless reservoir from which to draw money for their many wars and other hideous schemes around the world”.


This quotation is taken from a book published by the Pacific Institute of San Diego, California, which bravely exposes Catholic conspiracies, as well as offering “astounding” interpretations of Bible prophecy. (It meets every Saturday morning at the Ramona Community Centre, should you find yourself in the area and want “conclusive proof” of its claims.)

Anyway, the Jesuits knew that the creation of the “Fed” would be opposed by powerful men outside the Rothschild/Morgan/Rockefeller cartel. These opponents “had to be destroyed by a means so preposterous that no one would suspect they were murdered”. So the Society of Jesus, displaying its trademark cunning, ordered the building of an “unsinkable” death ship that would take its plutocrat passengers – who included members of the Guggenheim and Astor families – to a watery grave.


Thompson goes on to discuss how Catholics aren't immune from creating these conspiracy theories and what we ought to do about them. The roots of the these theories about the Jesuits date from the 17th century with the Monita Secreta, a forgery that purported to be instructions for Jesuit control of Europe. Like the Popish Plot, the Monita was the creation of someone kicked out by the Jesuits, taking his revenge.

Read the rest from The Catholic Herald here.

The Popish Plot Begins to Take Its Toll

Blessed William Ireland, SJ (picture) and Blessed John Grove, a Jesuit lay brother, were executed on 24 January 1679, found guilty in Titus Oates' perjured plot: 

William Ireland (1636-1679) worked for 10 years in Flanders, waiting to return to his native England. When he was finally able to do so, he served as procurator (responsible for finances) for only one year before he became the first victim of the infamous Titus Oates plot. Ireland studied at the English College at Saint-Omer, Flanders, and entered the Jesuit novitiate at age 19. After studying theology at Li├Ęge, he was ordained in 1667. For the next decade he taught at his alma mater and was confessor to the Poor Clares at Gravelines. Finally, he was able to return to England in June 1677 and settled in London where he used the alias "Ironmonger" while he cared for the financial affairs of the Jesuit mission. 

Titus Oates was a renegade Anglican minister who hated the Society of Jesus. Along with another minister, Israel Tonge, he invented a story that the English Jesuits planned to assassinate King Charles II, overthrow the government and its established religion and reinstate Catholicism. This fabricated tale raised an angry furor and led to a renewed persecution of Catholics. Among the first to suffer was Father Ireland who was arrested along with Father John Fenwick and their lay assistant, Mr. John Grove. They were imprisoned in the Newgate and burdened with heavy chains that rubbed the flesh on their legs raw. After three months, Ireland and his companions came to trial on Dec. 17, 1678; along with them were Fr. Thomas Whitbread and Thomas Pickering, a Benedictine brother. 

At the trial Titus Oates testified that he had been present at a meeting of Jesuits in April that year and listened to plans being made to murder the king. He claimed that Ireland, Fenwick and Grove were present at the meeting, while Whitbread and Pickering had been assigned to carry out the murder. According to Oates, Ireland had been seen loitering about the royal residence during August; an attempt would have already been made but Pickering's pistol failed three times to fire. A second witness agreed with most of the testimony. Ireland had witnesses to prove that he was in the Midlands and North Wales at the time he was alleged to have loitered about the royal palace. To contradict him, Oates bribed a maid to say she had seen him in London at that time. On the basis of the false testimony, Ireland, Grove and Pickering were found guilty of high treason and condemned to be hanged, drawn and quartered. The execution was postponed for a month by royal order because Charles II never believed that the Jesuits were involved in a plot against him. Oates produced more unreliable witnesses and the king allowed the executions to take place out of fear for popular anger. 

Ireland and Grove were taken to Tyburn on Jan. 24, 1679. The people of London pelted them with stones and insults as they were dragged to the gallows. They were hanged until dead, and then cut down so their bodies could be drawn and quartered. 

They were beatified in 1929 by Pope Pius XI.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Chesterton Tonight: Beginning to Wade into "The Well and the Shallows"

Our Greater Wichita local group of the American Chesterton Society meets tonight at Eighth Day Books (6:30 p.m.) to begin our discussions of another book of Chesterton's essays included in volume III of Ignatius Press's Collected Works. These essays/articles were gathered into a book called The Well and the Shallows in 1935.

I have a hardcover copy of the book from Sheed & Ward, printed in Great Britain in 1935--this is one of Chesterton's last books.

We will also start discussing promotion of the next big Chesterton event in Wichita--the Catholic Culture Conference at the Spiritual Life Center on April 17 and 18, 2015. More info here:

Join Dale Ahlquist and many Diocesan speakers for this great conference about being Catholic in the world.

The Catholic Culture Conference is an opportunity for faithful Christians to come together for formation and fellowship. The program intends to promote Catholic values in personal and family life, as well as in society at large.

The Conference will consist of multiple sessions, each geared towards some particular component of Catholic life in our modern age. A combination of large group lectures and smaller breakout sessions will give each participant the opportunity to learn more about how Catholicism relates to–and is intended to positively change-our culture.

Our Catholic Faith is not just a notional idea. It is a concrete reality with the power to open the hearts and minds of all peoples. It can make the societies in which we live flourish in the way God intended. This Conference will give participants knowledge and inspiration to go about doing just that.

Our Keynote speaker is one of th emost respected G.K. Chesterton scholars in the world, Mr. Dale Ahlquist. He will give a keynote lecture entitled "The Glorious Side of Social Decline" and a second lecture on "The Trouble with Catholic Social Teaching."


As for tonight: 6:30 p.m. at Eighth Day Books, 2838 East Douglas Avenue (refreshments will be served!!). If you are interested in Chesterton, drop by!

Mantel's More a Mistake

In the TV miniseries adaptation of Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall, Thomas More and Thomas Cromwell face off again, just as they do across the fireplace at the Frick. Now that the words of a book are images on the screen, Mantel's mischaracterization of Thomas More gets another viewing. I have not read Wolf Hall and really don't intend to see the miniseries when it comes to the USA later this year, but commentators are reflecting on how historically accurate Mantel's view of More is. See this article, for example, in The Guardian.

This issue came up in 2012 when a review of Mantel's Bring Up the Bodies mentioned Mantel's presentation of More: "In Mantel’s version, More is no saint, as he almost certainly was not in real life: he’s fussily pious, stiff-­necked and unnaturally fond of torturing heretics." (Note that Thomas More does not appear as a character in Bring Up the Bodies because he was executed in the pages of Wolf Hall.) The Guardian article sums up Mantel's More thusly: "Mantel’s portrait, however, is of a torturer of heretics with a penchant for self-punishment and a misogynist to boot."

If these two summaries of Mantel's More are accurate, her portrait is entirely untrustworthy. I won't repeat the discussion of Thomas More and torture, which has been done over and over again, but it is ridiculous to say that Thomas More was a) fussily pious and stiff-necked, b) with a penchant for self-punishment, and c) a misogynist to boot.

a) One man who hated fussy piety and stiff-necked religiosity was Desiderius Erasmas, and he loved Thomas More:

For I do not think, unless the vehemence of my love leads me astray, that Nature ever formed a mind more present, ready, sharpsighted and subtle, or in a word more absolutely furnished with every kind of faculty than his. Add to this a power of expression equal to his intellect, a singular cheerfulness of character and an abundance of wit, but only of the candid sort; and you miss nothing that should be found in a perfect advocate.

and from his written portrait of Thomas More

He seems born and framed for friendship, and is a most faithful and enduring friend. He is easy of access to all; but if he chances to get familiar with one whose vices admit no correction, he manages to loosen and let go the intimacy rather than to break it off suddenly. When he finds any sincere and according to his heart, he so delights in their society and conversation as to place in it the principal charm of life. He abhors games of tennis, dice, cards, and the like, by which most gentlemen kill time. Though he is rather too negligent of his own interests, no one is more diligent in those of his friends. In a word, if you want a perfect model of friendship, you will find it in no one better than in More. In society he is so polite, so sweet-mannered, that no one is of so melancholy a disposition as not to be cheered by him, and there is no misfortune that he does not alleviate. Since his boyhood he has so delighted in merriment, that it seems to be part of his nature; yet he does not carry it to buffoonery, nor did he ever like biting pleasantries. When a youth he both wrote and acted some small comedies. If a retort is made against himself, even without ground, he likes it from the pleasure he finds in witty repartees. Hence he amused himself with composing epigrams when a young man, and enjoyed Lucian above all writers. Indeed, it was he who pushed me to write the "Praise of Folly," that is to say, he made a camel frisk.

In human affairs there is nothing from which he does not extract enjoyment, even from things that are most serious. If he converses with the learned and judicious, he delights in their talent; if with the ignorant and foolish, he enjoys their stupidity. He is not even offended by professional jesters. With a wonderful dexterity he accommodates himself to every disposition. As a rule, in talking with women, even with his own wife, he is full of jokes and banter.

No one is less led by the opinions of the crowd, yet no one departs less from common sense. One of his great delights is to consider the forms, the habits, and the instincts of different kinds of animals. There is hardly a species of bird that he does not keep in his house, and rare animals such as monkeys, foxes, ferrets, weasels and the like. If he meets with anything foreign, or in any way remarkable, he eagerly buys it, so that his house is full of such things, and at every turn they attract the eye of visitors, and his own pleasure is renewed whenever he sees others pleased.


Thomas More was not fussily pious and stiff-­necked--Erasmus would not have been his friend if he had been and More would have certainly been the target, not in on the joke, of The Praise of Folly.

b) Yes, Thomas More wore a hair shirt, fasted, used the discipline, and otherwise practiced self-denial. These are all common to saints who do rather extraordinary penance--but More kept those matters secret and did not flaunt or advertise them. Thomas Cromwell should not have known about it--there is that famous story about Thomas More's hair shirt peaking up under his outer garments and him stuffing it back out of sight, but otherwise, it was unknown. He gave his hair shirt to this daughter Meg just before his execution, meaning that he wore it in the Tower of London while he was preparing for death, natural or judicial, but did not want it revealed when he was taken for execution. Mantel's Cromwell perverts More's private penitential practices--and for a 21st century public that made the "50 shades" books best sellers, it's just too twisted that it now judges Thomas More as some sort of sado-masochist (torturing both heretics and himself).

c) Thomas More was not a misogynist if that word has its usual meaning. Does a misogynist educate his daughters as well as his son and rejoice in one daughter's academic accomplishments? The relationship between Thomas More and his daughter Meg, depicted in John Guy's A Daughter's Love, puts the lie to Mantel's misogynistic More. More married the eldest Colt sister in spite of being in love with one of the younger--he thought of her feelings above his own. A misogynist does not do that. There is also the story of his father-in-law reminding his daughter Jane, that More could by rights punish her in ways other than teaching her to read and write, again demonstrating that More was unusual for his time in how he treated women. 

Why does Mantel pile on Thomas More so much? Is it because he is Catholic hero and saint? Aren't all of us, past and present, an inconsistent mixture of goodness and sinfulness? No one is perfect, not even Thomas Cromwell, yet Mantel's Cromwell seems to have all the postmodern virtues and Thomas More all the medieval vices (in the modern view). For Mantel to create such a caricature of Thomas More, especially in historical fiction where it has so much reach and influence, is both bad history and bad art.

I'm working on some interviews, presentations, and articles during the US broadcasts of the series on PBS in April/May; it's a good opportunity to explain what the Church means when she canonizes a saint and talk about the history of the English Reformation!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Pope Francis on Benson's "The Lord of the World"


Pope Francis talked about more than rabbits on his flight back from the Philippines. He mentioned Robert Hugh Benson's The Lord of the World in the context of discussing "ideological colonization" when first world countries offer funds to third world countries with strings attached:

There is a book, excuse me but I'll make a commercial, there is a book that maybe is a bit heavy at the beginning because it was written in 1903 in London. It is a book that at that time, the writer had seen this drama of ideological colonization and wrote in that book. It is called "The Lord of the Earth," or "The Lord of the World." One of those. The author is Benson, written in 1903. I advise you to read it. Reading it, you'll understand well what I mean by ideological colonization.

What Pope Francis is referring to is really the claims of secularization to create a perfect society imposed on the world. Pope Francis has referred to Benson's futuristic novel before, as Frances Philips of The Catholic Herald noted in 2014. She then cites Monsignor Robert Barron's analysis on Benson's novel:

Barron writes that it is the story “of the cataclysmic struggle between a radically secularist society and the one credible alternative to it, namely the Catholic Church.” Some people bridle at this claim, yet it is significant that innumerable converts cite it as the single most important reason for their conversion to the Church.

Barron points out that it is impressive that Benson “saw as clearly as he did the dangerous potential of the secularist ideology. By this I mean the view that this world, perfected and rendered convenient by technology, would ultimately satisfy the deepest longings of the human heart.” Benson’s bleak vision shows the “anti-Christ” – a charismatic personage called Julian Felsenburgh – winning all his battles against the Church with deadly efficiency, except for the final confrontation which takes place, not surprisingly, at Megiddo, “sometimes called Armageddon.”

Then Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger also urged his listeners at a speech in 1992 to read The Lord of the World in response to then President George H.W. Bush's talk of a "New World Order", saying that Benson's book depicted "a similar unified civilization and its power to destroy the spirit. The anti-Christ is represented as the great carrier of peace in a similar new world order.".

Father John McCloskey offers an introduction to the book and its author here. Although there are many reprints available, you can also read it online here.

Blessed William Patenson, priest and martyr

According to the Tyburn Convent:

He was a native of Durham and became an alumnus and priest of Douai College during its residence at Rheims, and was sent on the English mission a year after his ordination. He came to London to seek counsel in order to rid himself of the scruples of conscience with which he was troubled. On the third Sunday in Advent, 1591, the house where he was staying was searched by constables and churchwardens and sidesmen of the Protestant Parish Church with the object of finding which of the inmates did not attend the services. Father Patenson was seized and condemned at the first session held after Christmas. The night before his execution he was put into the “condemned hole” with seven malefactors who were to suffer with him on the following day. He converted six of them and helped them to make their peace with God. The persecutors were so enraged at the profession of the Catholic Faith they made on the scaffold, and the constancy with which they accepted an ignominious death in satisfaction for their past crimes, that the Martyr was treated with more than usual barbarity.

Since execution by hanging, drawing, and quartering was already pretty barbarous, that last statement makes me wonder. He was probably fully conscious after they hanged him and the butchery afterwards must have been done as roughly as possible. Father Patenson was martyred on January 22, 1592 and beatified by Pope Pius XI in 1929.

Tyburn Convent updated their website in 2013.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Recusant Martyrs on January 21, 1586 and 1642

Today is the anniversary of the execution of King Louis XVI in 1793--Requiem Masses are being held throughout Paris and France (even in Quebec, Canada!) But in England on this date in 1586 and 1642, four Catholic priests were executed:

~Blessed Edward Stransham, priest and martyr--A native of Oxford, born about 1554, earning his BA from St. John's College in 1575-76. Then he went to Douai in 1577 and Reims in 1578. Because he was ill he returned to England to recuperate; then went back to Reims in 1579; ordained in 1580. In 1581 he returned to England as a missionary priest, but was still suffering from consumption; he left England in 1583, bringing 12 Oxford converts with him to Reims. After a stay in Paris, he returned to England and was arrested while saying Mass in London in 1585 and executed at Tyburn on January 21, 1586. He was beatified by Pope Pius XI in 1929. His companion in martyrdom was:
~Blessed Nicholas Wheeler (or Woodfen), priest and martyr--Born at Leominster in 1550, he studied for the priesthood in Reims, after ordination he returned to England with Edward Stransham, and was executed with him at Tyburn in 1586. He was beatified by Pope St. John Paul II in 1987.

~Saint Alban Roe, OSB, priest and martyr--Born in Suffolk in 1583, after his conversion to Catholicism, he became a Benedictine and was ordained; he was arrested several times during his ministry, and exiled and imprisoned for seventeen years. He was executed at Tyburn in 1642. He is one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales canonized by Blessed Paul VI.
~Blessed Thomas Green (Reynolds), priest and martyr--Born under the name Green, he trained at Rheims, Valladolid and Seville; exiled from England once, he returned and spent fourteen years imprisoned until his execution at Tyburn in 1642 at the age of 80. He was beatified by Pius XI in 1929.

In 1586, Blessed William Freeman witnessed the executions of Stransham and Wheeler. He became a Catholic, went to Reims, was ordained and returned to England as a missionary priest. He was hung, drawn, and quartered for that crime on 13 August 1595 in Warwick, after spending some time in Stratford-on-Avon.

Notice, however, that the time Fathers Stransham and Wheeler spent in England was relatively short. Although Stransham traveled back and forth between England and the Continent because of his health (how poorly he must have fared in prison while waiting trial and execution!), he and Wheeler received no second chances once finally captured--during some periods of Elizabeth I's reign, that was the common practice: capture, torture (if some plot was suspected), trial, execution.

St. Alban Roe and Blessed Thomas Green, ministering during the Stuart dynasty, however, received different treatment. They were captured, imprisoned, and exiled, sent back to the Continent--then they returned. Their long final imprisonments were spent in relative "freedom". St. Alban Roe was allowed to leave his cell in the Fleet prison, minister to Catholics, and return at night for lock-up. In 1641 he was transferred to close confinement within the strict Newgate prison and was finally tried in 1642 and found guilty of treason under the statute 27 Eliz c.2 for being a priest. [The authorities really didn't know what to do with him and at trial Roe perplexed the judge so much that he suspended his sentence of execution!] Just before his death, Alban asked the sheriff if his life would be spared if he renounced his Catholic religion and became an Anglican. The sheriff swore he would be spared if he did. Alban then said to all: “See, then, what the crime is for which I am to die, and whether my religion be not my only treason... I wish I had a thousand lives; then would I sacrifice them all for so worthy a cause.”

His companion, Blessed Thomas Reynolds (Green) had also been exiled in 1606, during the reign of James I--after the Gunpowder Plot!--but had returned to England to serve Catholics until he was arrested in 1628. He spent fourteen years in prison before his trial and execution. Why the long prison sentences, the relative freedom, the delay in trial and execution? Because Charles I was reigning without Parliament! "When he finally had to recall Parliament and the Long Parliament convened, however, the hangings began again in earnest (20 between 1641 and 1646 including Fr. Alban [and Fr. Reynolds])" Ampleforth Abbey notes.

Think of the cold these men endured those January mornings. After all dangers of their missionary efforts, the discomforts of imprisonment, and the anticipation of the horrendously painful and humiliating death they were about to undergo, they were shivering with cold. The hurdles they were tied to, on their backs, bumped and jostled on frozen ground. St. John Roberts, executed in December of 1610, managed to joke about the cold: when someone said he should be wearing a cap, he asked "are you afraid I'll catch a cold?"; when he arrived at the scaffold he saw the fire (which would actually be used to burn his guts) and said "I see you have prepared a hot breakfast for us!" It's clear that the demeanor and steadiness of these four men moved the crowds to empathy--and at least in one case we know of, conversion. This site notes that Blessed Thomas Reynolds said "I dare look death in the face" when offered a blindfold. And this site has more details about the demeanor of the two priests executed on January 21, 1642:

Reynolds told Roe of his fears of dying. Roe replied with powerfully comforting words.

The two were told to get ready for the trip to the Tyburn Hill gallows on January 21, 1642 (January 31 in the reformed calendar). “Well, how do you find yourself now?” the monk asked his aged companion. “In very good heart,” Reynolds replied. “Blessed be God for it, and glad I am to have for my comrade in death a man of your undaunted courage.”

Having mounted the gallows, Reynolds stated that he forgave his enemies; and he moved the sheriff deeply by praying that he (the sheriff) would merit the “grace to be a glorious saint in heaven.”

Roe, in his turn, greeted the people cheerily. “Well, here’s a jolly company!” he exclaimed with a fine contempt for death. He told bystanders that his religion was the sole cause of his death. If he should reject Catholicism even now, he said, he would be released. His last word of conversation was a joking remark made to one of his prison turnkeys.

The two priests had already absolved each other. Now they recited the psalm “Miserere” alternately. As the traps were sprung and their bodies fell, each called out “Jesus!” 


The stories of the English Catholic martyrs--like all the Church's martyrs from Apostolic times until today--never cease to inspire!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

St. Agnes' Eve Tonight--Keats and Tennyson

From John Keats' narrative poem:

St. Agnes' Eve—Ah, bitter chill it was! 
The owl, for all his feathers, was a-cold; 
The hare limp'd trembling through the frozen grass, 
And silent was the flock in woolly fold: 
Numb were the Beadsman's fingers, while he told 
His rosary, and while his frosted breath, 
Like pious incense from a censer old, 
Seem'd taking flight for heaven, without a death, 
Past the sweet Virgin's picture, while his prayer he saith. 

His prayer he saith, this patient, holy man; 
Then takes his lamp, and riseth from his knees, 
And back returneth, meagre, barefoot, wan, 
Along the chapel aisle by slow degrees: 
The sculptur'd dead, on each side, seem to freeze, 
Emprison'd in black, purgatorial rails: 
Knights, ladies, praying in dumb orat'ries, 
He passeth by; and his weak spirit fails 
To think how they may ache in icy hoods and mails.


Tennyson* also wrote a poem on the eve, the vigil of the feast of St. Agnes, virgin and martyr, as this site describes.

The tradition on the Eve of St. Agnes for a young woman to seek a vision of her future husband is explained here:

St. Agnes, like St. Valentine, St. Catherine of Alexandria, and St. Anthony of Padua, is invoked by single women in search of a husband -- and today is a good day to pray such a prayer. In fact, Medieval folklore says that on St. Agnes Eve, girls are often granted visions of their future husbands. Scottish girls would meet in a crop field at midnight, throw grain onto the soil, and pray: 

Agnes sweet and Agnes fair,
Hither, hither, now repair;
Bonny Agnes, let me see
The lad who is to marry me. 

In some places, it was said that those who fast, keep silence, and conduct certain rituals will have a vision of their future husband. The rituals vary from place to place, but included among them are walking backwards to bed while not looking behind you; pulling out a row of pins, saying a Pater for each one; eating a yolkless boiled egg with salt filling the cavity where the yolk had been, thereby prompting the future husband to bring the girl water in a dream; making a special cake called a "dumb cake," walking backward with it to bed, and eating it; and sprinkling sprigs of thyme and rosemary with holy water, placing them on each side of the bed, and invoking St. Agnes.

*St. Agnes' Eve

by Alfred Tennyson 

Deep on the convent-roof the snows 
Are sparkling to the moon: 
My breath to heaven like vapour goes: 
May my soul follow soon! 
The shadows of the convent-towers 
Slant down the snowy sward, 
Still creeping with the creeping hours 
That lead me to my Lord: 
Make Thou my spirit pure and clear 
As are the frosty skies, 
Or this first snowdrop of the year 
That in my bosom lies. 

As these white robes are soil'd and dark, 
To yonder shining ground; 
As this pale taper's earthly spark, 
To yonder argent round; 
So shows my soul before the Lamb, 
My spirit before Thee; 
So in mine earthly house I am, 
To that I hope to be. 
Break up the heavens, O Lord! and far, 
Thro' all yon starlight keen, 
Draw me, thy bride, a glittering star, 
In raiment white and clean. 

He lifts me to the golden doors; 
The flashes come and go; 
All heaven bursts her starry floors, 
And strows her lights below, 
And deepens on and up! the gates 
Roll back, and far within 
For me the Heavenly Bridegroom waits, 
To make me pure of sin. 
The sabbaths of Eternity, 
One sabbath deep and wide-- 
A light upon the shining sea-- 
The bridegroom with his bride!