Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Fortnight for Freedom: Blessed Philip Powell, OSB

Blessed Philip Powell (sometimes spelled Philip Powel) (2 February 1594–30 June 1646) was a lawyer who became a Benedictine monk and priest, serving as a missionary in England during the period of recusancy. He was martyred at Tyburn. Powell is usually said to have been born in Tralon, Brecknockshire, Wales. From his youth he was a student of law, taught principally by David Baker, (who would later become a Benedictine himself, taking the name Augustine Baker). At the age of sixteen he went to study at one of the Inns of Court, London, and afterwards practiced civil law.

So he must have conformed and taken the Allegiance Oath required by James I after 1606, if he was studying and practicing civil law in London--thus he must have experienced some kind of reversion or conversion, discerned a vocation, left England, and studied for the priesthood. Perhaps like David Baker's family, Powell's parents were Church Papists, avoiding the fines by attending Church of England services, but also attending Catholic Mass whenever they could.

Three or four years later he received the Benedictine habit, becoming part of the community of St. Gregory at Douai (now at Downside Abbey, near Bath). The Benedictine monastery in Douai was named for Pope St. Gregory the Great; founded in 1605, its first prior was St. John Roberts, OSB, martyred at Tyburn on December 10, 1610. The biographies I've found do not state that he attended the English College at the University of Douai (pictured left), but that was the usual process. 

In 1618 Powell was ordained a priest and in 1622 left Douai to go on mission in England. In around 1624 he became chaplain to the Poyntz family at Leighland, Somerset. According to this British History site, the Poyntz family maintained a close relationship with the Benedictine order:

About 1624 Philip Powell or Morgan, later martyred at Tyburn, became chaplain to the Poyntz family at Leigh Barton. Powell left Leigh c. 1642, and was followed by a succession of priests, usually Benedictines, who regarded Leighland as the centre of a mission in West Somerset. In 1627 Giles Poyntz built a chapel and an annexe for the priest behind his house. Giles was one of a group of 8 recusants reported in 1642, and 12 were presented in 1664. Prudence Poyntz (d. 1691), Giles's second wife, leaving Leigh to her kinsman Robert Rowe, apparently required that Rowe should either maintain a chaplain in the house or pay him for an agreed number of masses. Should the family fail to keep a chaplain they were to pay £300 to the Benedictine province. There were resident chaplains at Leigh until 1767, but thereafter the chapel was used only occasionally. A priest celebrated monthly for five 'reputed papists' in 1776, and a priest from Dunster was evidently visiting Leigh later in the century. A French émigré priest may have used the chapel c. 1808.

When the English Civil War broke out he retired to Yarnscombe and Parkham in Devon. He then served for six months as chaplain to the Catholic soldiers in General Goring's army in Cornwall, and, when that force was disbanded, took ship for South Wales. The vessel was captured on 22 February 1646, and Powell was recognized and denounced as a priest.

On 11 May he was sent to London and confined in St. Catherine's Gaol, Southwark, where his treatment brought on a severe attack of pleurisy. His trial, which had been fixed for 30 May, did not take place till 9 June, at Westminster Hall. He was found guilty of being a priest and was hanged, drawn, and quartered at Tyburn. It is recorded that that when informed of his death sentence, Powell exclaimed "Oh what am I that God thus honours me and will have me to die for his sake?" and called for a glass of sack (or sherry).  The martyr's crucifix, which had formerly belonged to Feckenham, last Abbot of Westminster, is preserved at Downside, with some of his hair and a cloth stained with his blood.

He was beatified by Pope Pius XI in 1929. He is one of the six Gregorian martyrs: Blessed George Gervase (1608) ; Saint John Roberts (1610); Blessed Maurus Scott (1612); Saint Ambrose Barlow (1641); Blessed Philip Powell (1646), and Blessed Thomas Pickering (1679) honored at Downside Abbey, established after the French Revolution led to the suppression of the monastery at Douai.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

The Casting of Dorian Gray


Turner Classic Movies showed the 1945 MGM version of The Picture of Dorian Gray Saturday night. The crisp black and white film gives way to technicolor for the sight of the famous portrait and Dorian Gray's Mayfair house is gorgeously filled with works of art and culture. Hurd Hatfield plays Dorian and according to the TCM article, his casting as the evil Dorian Gray was thought so perfect that it hurt him for other roles. He did play Pontius Pilate in King of Kings, but did not have the career success expected from such a good beginning, although some critics said he was too impassive and restrained.

MGM added a subplot: a romance between Peter Lawford and Donna Reed. After I watched the movie, I wondered if Peter Lawford should have played Dorian Gray instead of Hurd Hatfield. His physical beauty equaled Hatfield's and he would have added some joie de vivre to the role. Lawford as Gray would have been more emotional and moved by the pleasures he sought. It would have been unexpected casting and could have even affected the audience more to see such a handsome and wholesome looking young man turn to such evil hedonism. Hatfield seemed so different from the start, such a pristine and perfect Adonis, as Lord Henry Wotton called him. As Lord Henry, George Sanders is perfect from the beginning of the picture, reading Les Fleurs de Mal in his carriage and proclaiming Wilde's "mal mots" with world-weary languor and humor.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

The Fortnight for Freedom: St. John Southworth

The Archdiocese of Westminster celebrates its martyr saint today, St. John Southworth, executed for the crime of being a priest in 1654. He had been arrested and protected by Queen Henrietta Maria and suffered imprisonment and exile. Returning to London, he assisted St. Henry Morse, SJ, during an attack of the plague. Finally, he was arrested and executed during Oliver Cromwell's Protectorate:

He pleaded guilty to exercising the priesthood and was sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered. At his execution at Tyburn, London, he suffered the full pains of his sentence and was hanged, drawn and quartered. He was allowed to speak before his sentence was carried out. Among his last words:

“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."

The Venetian Secretary reported on his execution: he was hung, and was not dead when the executioner "cut out his heart and entrails and threw them into a fire kindled for the purpose, the body being quartered . . . Such is the inhuman cruelty used towards the English Catholic religious."

The Spanish ambassador returned his corpse to Douai for burial. His corpse was sewn together and parboiled, to preserve it. Following the French Revolution, his body was buried in an unmarked grave for its protection. The grave was discovered in 1927 and his remains were returned to England. They are now kept in Westminster Cathedral in London. He was beatified in 1929. In 1970, he was canonized by Pope Paul VI as one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales. The Cathedral honors him with a guild.

St. John Southworth, pray for us!

Friday, June 26, 2015

Meeting Arthur and Honor: The Lisle Letters

Arthur Plantagenet was a bastard son of Edward IV, acknowledged and raised at his father's Court. He was Elizabeth of York's half-brother and thus related to Henry VIII who appointed him as the King's Deputy at Calais, England's last holding in France after all the battles and claims of the Hundred Year's War. We have no verified image of Arthur Plantagenet, but reports indicate that he resembled his father (portrait at right), said to be one of the handsomest men of his time.

He married twice: first to Elizabeth Grey (who had been married first to Edmund Dudley, one of Henry VII's counselors beheaded at the orders of Henry VIII after he succeeded to the throne) and then to Honor Grenville, the widow of Sir John Bassett. Arthur had children with Elizabeth; Honor had children with John; Arthur and Honor did not have any children together. Arthur received the title of Viscount Lisle through his first wife, whose father was Edward Grey.

Arthur was close to Henry VIII, serving as Privy Councilor, Vice-Admiral of England, and attending The Field of the Cloth of Gold. As Deputy of Calais he represented his majesty's interests and served his nephew. Of course, he had money problems since payment did not come with that service, and so he was always looking for ways to develop more income.

We know this because of "the Lisle Letters", the correspondence of the Lisle family, which were seized when Arthur was arrested on suspicion of treason. This correspondence, with exchanges both official and personal, is still on file in the Public Records Office. Arthur and Honor wrote to each other, to John Husee, their agent, to Thomas Cromwell, to their children, to other friends at Court, etc. The letters contain details about their efforts to arrange the education of their children, their gifts to friends and family, information about the conflicts between France and the Holy Roman Empire, etc, etc.

Muriel St. Clare Byrne edited the Lisle Letters in six volumes for the University of Chicago Press (published in 1981) and then her friend Bridget Boland edited a selection in an abridgment published by the same press in 1983. Muriel St. Clare Byrne was a friend of Dorothy L. Sayers and studied at Somerville College. Bridget Boland wrote the screenplays for Anne of the Thousand Days, The Prisoner (the 1955 movie about a cardinal on trial in a Communist country), This England, and the original Gaslight (not the Charles Boyer/Ingrid Bergman MGM version). She also wrote a novel, The Wild Geese, about religion in Ireland during the penal years.

What interested me in reading the abridgment of the letters (in a used Penguin edition) was, of course, the religious issues as Henry VIII and Thomas Cromwell set out to remake religion in England with the Church of England as a state church led by the monarch as Supreme Head and Governor. People had to be careful when writing about the momentous events of those days: the executions of the Carthusian monks, Bishop John Fisher, Sir Thomas More, Anne Boleyn, etc. The Dissolution of the Monasteries provoked only Arthur's efforts to reap some of the spoils and the Pilgrimage of Grace comes and goes. 

Then there are the Sacramentalist preachers who begin to teach in Calais about Holy Communion and the Real Presence (denying the Real Presence, which was not what Henry VIII believed), connections to Reginald Pole, another Plantagenet cousin, Honor Lisle's Catholic devotions--the letters and St. Clare Byrne's notes demonstrate what a briar patch religion and politics were in Henry VIII's reign. Arthur Plantagenet got caught up in the conflict between Thomas Cromwell and Thomas Norfolk over control of Henry VIII's last years on the throne. He survived Cromwell but died on March 3, 1542 after being held in the Tower of London for almost two years. Henry had decided to release his uncle but Arthur had a heart attack--"this King's Mercy was as fatal as his Judgements", one chronicler opined.

One of Honor's sons, St. Clare Byrne notes in the Epilogue, James Bassett, married St. Thomas More's granddaughter Mary, Margaret and William Roper's scholarly daughter:

Bassett’s marriage to Mary Roper drew him into the circle of friends and kinsmen of Sir Thomas More. Like most of her relations she was a learned lady, ‘very well experted in the Latin and Greek tongues’, who had translated Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History, as well as other works of the early Fathers. Rastell’s edition of More’s English works, published in 1557, included her translation of her grandfather’s Treatise on the Passion. Bassett himself, despite the vicissitudes of his early education, was a fluent linguist, and a contemporary considered him endowed with ‘all spiritual and bodily gifts’, so they were probably well-matched.

Bassett was a servant of Stephen Gardiner, the Bishop of Winchester, and survived Edward VI's reign to thrive during Mary I's reign with Court appointments and property. Sadly, according to his parliamentary biography:

The marriage was short-lived, however. Bassett was only just over 30 when he made his will on 6 Sept. 1558. He bequeathed his ‘dear and well-beloved wife’ jewels, half his goods, his house in Chelsea and a life interest in his lands. He left small gifts to three of his sisters, lamenting that his ‘ability’ was ‘now but small’, and that if his debts had not been so great he would ‘better have remembered them’. To his unborn child (Charles) he left the lease of his house near the Savoy. Except for £20 to the Black Friars [sic] of Smithfield and provision for his servants, he ordered the residue of his goods, together with the wardship of his nephew and all his leases in Devon, to be sold to pay his debts. He appointed his father-in-law, William Rastell and Ralph Cholmley as his executors, and his nephew James Courtenay (his fellow-knight in November 1554) and the dean of St. Paul’s as overseers. Bassett died on 21 Nov. 1558 and was buried five days later at Blackfriars, Smithfield, hardly living to see the new reign which could have brought for him only renewed exile or imprisonment, as it did for his two sons.

His sons were Philip and Charles (the latter born posthumously). Charles was associated with St. Edmund Campion and Father Robert Persons and suffered imprisonment for it before going to Rome to study at the English College. He died in Rheims in 1583. His older brother Philip followed his maternal grandfather's career path as a lawyer but was expelled from Lincoln's Inn and spent the fortune left by his father on recusancy fines.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The Fortnight for Freedom: St. John the Baptist

Today is the Solemnity of the Nativity 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 blesseds are remembered on the dates of the deaths (or perhaps the "translation" of their remains or some other important date--not usually their birth date). 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 birthday--because he was cleansed from Original Sin, baptized 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 (immediately after Epiphany); 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.

Another mark of devotion to St. John the Baptist in England was the presence of the Knights Hospitaller of St. John in England, suppressed by Henry VIII. He had Sir Thomas Dingley and Sir Adrian Fortescue executed under Attainder in July of 1539 and seized the order's property in England:

The Order’s lands throughout Western Europe were managed by communities of its members called Commanderies, which were gathered into provinces called Grand Priories. In Britain the estates were administered from a Commandery at Clerkenwell, London, from about 1140. This became a Priory in 1185, with responsibility for other Commanderies that had been set up in Scotland and Wales as well as throughout England. Ireland became a separate Priory.

In the 1140s the Priory in Clerkenwell was set up as the English headquarters of the Order. When King Henry VIII split from the Catholic Church and established a new Anglican Church, the Order in England was dissolved and all its lands and wealth were seized by the Crown. The Order was briefly restored by Henry’s Catholic daughter, Queen Mary, who granted it a Royal Charter. However, on the accession of her Protestant sister, Queen Elizabeth I, the Order in England was dissolved for good.

One may, today, however visit the Museum of the Order of St. John in London today.

In an ultimate example of the State dictating to the Church its worship and practice, 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, intitled: 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, intitled: 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.

And further be it enacted by the queen's highness, with the assent of the Lords (sic) and Commons in this present Parliament assembled, and by authority of the same, that all and singular ministers in any cathedral or parish church, or other place within this realm of England, Wales, and the marches of the same, or other the queen's dominions, shall from and after the feast of the Nativity of St. John Baptist next coming be bounden to say and use the Matins, Evensong, celebration of the Lord's Supper and administration of each of the sacraments, and all their common and open prayer, in such order and form as is mentioned in the said book, so authorized by Parliament in the said fifth and sixth years of the reign of King Edward VI, with one alteration or addition of certain lessons to be used on every Sunday in the year, and the form of the Litany altered and corrected, and two sentences only added in the delivery of the sacrament to the communicants, and none other or otherwise.

The Act of Uniformity also set out the penalties for those who refused to use The Book of Common Prayer and for those who refused to attend Church of England services. It made the celebration of the Catholic Mass, which Elizabeth I's father Henry VIII had attended up to three times a day, illegal. This is an obvious overreach--in our terms today--by the secular state over the Church in matters of worship and doctrine, and a clear violation of the freedoms of the Church guaranteed by the Magna Carta. Only one bishop, an elderly prelate, accepted the Elizabethan Acts of religious settlement--that's quite a turnaround from all the bishops save one (St. John Fisher) accepting Henry's Supremacy, etc. 

The illustration is Murillo's painting of St. John the Baptist as a child. 

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The Fortnight for Freedom: St. Thomas Garnet, SJ

St. Thomas Garnet, SJ was an alumnus of the seminary in Valladolid, Spain:

ST. Thomas GARNET SJ son of Richard Garnet, Confessor of the Faith, and nephew of Father Henry Garnet SJ martyr, was born in London in 1574.

Garnet's father Richard Garnet was at Balliol College at Oxford when restrictions were being placed on any students who seemed to be leaning toward Catholicism. That generation of the Garnet family produced at least four religious vocations: Henry Garnet became a Jesuit and three girls, Margaret, Eleanor, and Anne braved exile to become nuns of the Augustinian convent in Louvain.

For some time he was page to the Count of Arundel, until, in the year 1594, at the age of sixteen, he entered the college at St. Omer in the Low Countries.

Two years after, he was ordered to the college of St. Alban at VALLADOLID, where he studied for four years. In the same city he was ordained a priest, and from there returned to England.

In 1604 he was admitted to the Society of Jesus by his uncle (the local superior of the Jesuits), but upon attempting to leave England to begin his novitiate at Louvain
[in 1605], he was stopped and incarcerated in the Gatehouse jail at Westminster, and later in the Tower of London. He was banished in the year 1606. 

[Note that authorities wanted him to give information about his uncle's involvement in the Gunpowder Plot.]

Shortly afterwards, he returned surreptitiously to England, where he was betrayed for being a priest. He was interrogated before the Protestant bishop of London on the 17th of November 1607, but refused to answer his questions, neither was he disposed to make the new oath of loyalty, because its contents were against the Catholic Faith. Having been intensively interrogated already for the bishop by Sir Thomas Wade, the superintendent of the keep and a very cruel torturer of priests, Father Garnet was moved to the Old Bailey prison.

Shortly afterwards, he was processed and condemned for his priesthood. While in jail, some Catholics provided him with means of escaping, but he refused, choosing rather to obey an interior voice that said to him "noli fugere".

He was stripped, hung, drawn and quartered at Tyburn (London) on the 23rd of June 1608.On the 25th of October 1970, he was solemnly canonised by Pope Paul VI.


On the scaffold he announced that he was the happiest man alive that day. His steadfastness in facing death impressed the crowds, so he was dead before quartering and beheading. St. Thomas Garnet's missionary career during James I's reign shows the relative leniency of that king.

Because James wanted to preserve peace with Spain and France, Catholic countries he did not consistently target priests--and certainly not laity--for execution throughout his reign. Of course not every priest arrested during the reign of Elizabeth I was executed since some were held in Wisbech prison. Even after the terror of the Gunpowder Plot, Father Thomas Garnet, since nothing connected him then with any of the plotters, was (after torture) released into exile. 

Monday, June 22, 2015

The Fortnight for Freedom: Saints John Fisher and Thomas More


As I mentioned yesterday, I'll be on the Son Rise Morning Show this morning after the 7:45 a.m. Eastern time/6:45 a.m. Central time news break. Matt Swaim and I will discuss Saints John Fisher and Thomas More on their shared feast, which is the anniversary of Bishop Fisher's execution.

The author Michael Davies described the day of Fisher's beheading--he was awakened early and told the time of his execution; he asked to be allowed to sleep longer--and he was too weak to walk from his cell through the Tower to Tower Hill:

When he came out of the Tower, a summer morning's mist hung over the river, wreathing the buildings in a golden haze. Two of the Lieutenant's men carried him in a chair to the gate, and there they set him down, while waiting for the Sheriffs. The cardinal stood up and leaning his shoulder against a wall for support, opened the little New Testament he carried in his hand. "O Lord," he said, so that all could hear him, "this is the last time I shall ever open this book. Let some comforting place now chance to me whereby I, Thy poor servant, may glorify Thee in my last hour"----and looking down at the page, he read:

"Now this is etemal life: that they may know Thee, the one true God, and Jesus Christ Whom Thou has sent I have glorified Thee on earth: I have finished the work which Thou gavest me to do"(John, 17:3-4).

Whereupon he shut the book, saying: "Here is even learning enough for me to my life's end." His lips were moving in prayer, as they carried him to Tower Hill. And when they reached the scaffold, the rough men of his escort offered to help him up the ladder. But he smiled at them: "Nay, masters, now let me alone, ye shall see me go up to my death well enough myself; without help." And forthwith he began to climb, almost nimbly. As he reached the top the sun appeared from behind the clouds, and its light shone upon his face. He was heard to murmur some words from Psalm 33: Accedite ad eum, etilluminamim, et facies vestræ non confundentur. The masked headsman knelt----as the custom was----to ask his pardon. And again the cardinal's manliness dictated every word of his answer: "I forgive thee with all my heart, and I trust on Our Lord Thou shalt see me die even lustily." Then they stripped him of his gown and furred tippet, and he stood in his doublet and hose before the crowd which had gathered to see his death. A gasp of pity went up at the sight of his "long, lean, slender body, nothing in manner but skin and bones . . . the flesh clean wasted away; and a very image of death, and as one might say, death in a man's shape and using a man's voice." He was offered a final chance to save his life by acknowledging the royal supremacy, but the Saint turned to the crowd, and from the front of the scaffold, he spoke these words:

"Christian people, I am come hither to die for the faith of Christ's Catholic Church, and I thank God hitherto my courage hath served me well thereto, so that yet hitherto I have not feared death; wherefore I desire you help me and assist me with your prayers, that at the very point and instant of my death's stroke, and in the very moment of my death, I then faint not in any point of the Catholic Faith for fear; and I pray God save the king and the realm, and hold His holy hand over it, and send the king a good counsel."

The power and resonance of his voice, the courage of his spirit triumphing over the obvious weakness of his body, amazed them all, and a murmur of admiration was still rustling the crowd when they saw him go down on his knees and begin to pray. They stood in awed silence while he said the Te Deum in praise of God, and the Psalm In Thee O Lord have I put my trust, the humble request for strength beyond his own. Then he signed to the executioner to bind his eyes. For a moment more he prayed, hands and heart raised to Heaven. Then he lay down and put his wasted neck upon the low block. The executioner, who had been standing back, took one quick step forward, raised his ax and with a single blow cut off his head. So copious a stream of blood poured from the neck that those present wondered how it could have come from so thin and wasted a frame. There was certainly Divine irony in the fact that 22 June, the date of the execution, was the Feast of St. Alban, the first Martyr for the Faith in Britain. If the king had realized this he would certainly have arranged for the execution of Cardinal Fisher to take place on another day.


I wrote about the "Importance of St. Thomas More Today" for The National Catholic Register. You may find the article linked here.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

The Fortnight for Freedom Begins: St. John Rigby

The annual Fortnight for Freedom, sponsored by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to promote religious liberty, begins today and ends on July 4, our Independence Day.

FYI: tomorrow, Monday, June 22, I'll be on the Son Rise Morning Show to discuss the Fortnight and Saints John Fisher and Thomas More, whose shared feast is always an important part of the Fortnight.

Today, however, we should honor an English Catholic martyr who died because England did not respect religious freedom in the sixteenth/seventeenth centuries (who did? until Lord Baltimore founded Maryland), and one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales, the layman St. John Rigby:

Rigby was born circa 1570 at Harrock Hall, Eccleston, near Chorley, Lancashire, the fifth or sixth son of Nicholas Rigby, by his wife Mary (née Breres). In 1600 Rigby was working for Sir Edmund Huddleston, whose daughter Mrs. Fortescue was summoned to the Old Bailey for recusancy. Because she was ill, Rigby appeared for her, was compelled to confess his Catholicism, and sent to Newgate. The next day, the feast day of St Valentine, he signed a confession saying that since he had been reconciled to the Roman Catholic faith by Saint John Jones, a Franciscan priest, he had not attended Anglican services. He was sent back to Newgate and later transferred to the White Lion. Twice he was given the chance to recant, but twice refused. His sentence was carried out. He gave the executioner who helped him up to the cart a piece of gold, saying, "Take this in token that I freely forgive thee and others that have been accessory to my death." Rigby was executed by hanging at St Thomas Waterings on June 21, 1600.

Saint John Jones, the priest who had reconciled Rigby, had died at the same place Rigby had died, St Thomas Waterings, two years earlier, on July 12, 1598.


St John Rigby Roman Catholic Sixth Form College in Orrell, Metropolitan Borough of Wigan, Greater Manchester is named after St. John Rigby. One of its buildings, Harrock House, is named after Rigby's birthplace.

Other reports of his execution include this exchange:

On his way to execution, the hurdle was stopped by a Captain Whitlock, who wished him to conform and asked him if he were married, to which the martyr replied, "I am a bachelor; and more than that I am a maid", and the captain thereupon desired his prayers.

Rigby's conversion to Catholicism was a felony in Elizabethan England (so much for Elizabeth I's claim not to want to see into men's souls!), as was attendance at the Catholic Mass--he would have just been fined and/or imprisoned for not attending Anglican services.

I will be highlighting the several English martyrs, canonized and beatified--and one Irish martyred saint--throughout the Fortnight. Here is an overview of them, published on The Christian Review.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Five Jesuit Victims of the Popish Plot

The Jesuits in Britain website gives some background to the Popish Plot, specifically how intra-Catholic conflict contributed to the anti-Jesuit, anti-Catholic conspiracy dreamed up by Titus Oates:

There were two separate forces behind the Popish Plot (known to some Catholics as the Presbyterian Plot). One was political. For many years the old Cromwellian Lord Shaftesbury and the puritan (Whig) faction had been stoking the fires of religious hatred against Catholics and France, in a long game to end absolute monarchy and once again to depose a king. Charles II openly favoured religious toleration of Catholics. This meant a significant minority in parliament always voted with the king. The Whigs therefore wanted to eliminate the Catholics in parliament. The Plot was constructed against the Catholics at court – the Queen, the Duke and Duchess of York, and their clergy, many of whom were Jesuits. The ultimate target, the King, exerted his energy to defend his Queen and his brother. He could not defend all the accused despite the clearly absurd nature of the accusations.

Non Jesuit Catholics were seeking an oath of allegiance to the King which could be accepted by Rome and allow them constitutional rights. Jesuits always blocked this, being unable to compromise their obedience to the pope. In this way they made an enemy of Dr. Sergeant, a secular Catholic priest – the secondary force which caught so many Jesuits in the plot. Early in the onset of hysteria Dr. Sergeant made false denunciations of Jesuits to the Privy Council which lent credence to the plotters. . . .


More on Father John Sergeant here, who seems to have been a contentious figure. This page on the Jesuits in Britain website includes his portrait.

On June 20, 1679, Fathers John Gavan, William Harcourt, Anthony Turner, Thomas Whitbread, and John Fenwick all suffered execution at Tyburn, but not without added drama:

Some of the first to be arrested were the Jesuits who had spurned Oates at St. Omer – William Ireland and Bl Thomas Whitbread who was English provincial. Fr Whitbread was tried in June 1679 alongside fellow Jesuits John Fenwick, John Gavan, William Harcourt and Anthony Turner. Fr Gavan, who was the spokesman, presented an eloquent defence. A brave group of Jesuit novices travelled from St. Omer to give evidence that Oates had been at St Omer's on crucial dates when he claimed to be in London witnessing Jesuit plotting. But the judges argued that as Catholic witnesses could receive a papal dispensation to lie on oath, they were not credible.

The five were hanged at Tyburn where the crowd stood in silence for an hour while each made a speech maintaining his innocence. On the scaffold they were offered the King’s pardon on condition they admit their guilt, but all refused.

Pope Pius XI beatified these five martyrs in 1929; St. Giles-in-the-Fields would be well-worth a visit on a pilgrimage to London, as they, and six other Popish Plot martyrs, are buried there. Perhaps they should be exhumed, however, and reburied at Stonyhurst, where they could receive more appropriate honors and devotion?

Friday, June 19, 2015

Blessed Thomas Woodhouse, English Jesuit Protomartyr

According to this website for the Jesuit Curia in Rome:

Thomas Woodhouse (1535-1573) was the first Jesuit to die in the conflict between pope and English crown, although he was only admitted to the Society just before his arrest. He was probably ordained a priest during the final year of the reign of Mary Tudor, the Catholic queen. He could not accept Elizabeth I who instituted religious reforms, including a non-Catholic prayer book after she became queen in 1558; even less could he abide the 1559 decree declaring her supreme in religious matters. So Woodhouse resigned his parish position in Lincolnshire in 1560 and became tutor to the children of a wealthy family in Wales. However, he resigned that post as well over religious differences. He continued to celebrate Mass when he could and was arrested on May 14, 1561, while at Mass. He was imprisoned in London's Fleet Prison for 12 years, but was able to develop an apostolate to other prisoners because of his warder's tolerance.

At some point in 1572 he wrote the Jesuit provincial in Paris because the English mission was not yet established, and asked to become a member of the Society. He was accepted, but in his enthusiasm wrote a letter to the queen's treasurer asking him to persuade to accept the pope's authority. Instead of doing what the priest asked, the treasurer, William Cecil, ordered him brought to trial on June 16, 1573 where he was found guilty of treason for speaking unfavorably of the queen. Three days later he was taken to Tyburn to be hanged, drawn and quartered.

He was among the 54 martyrs beatified by Pope Leo XIII in 1886 as a secular priest because his application to the Jesuits and their acceptance of him was not known at the time. Bede Camm wrote about him in Lives of the English Martyrs (1914). He must have perplexed and exasperated the Elizabethan officials:

He was repeatedly examined both publicly and privately. Once when he had denied the Queen's title before the Recorder of London and other commissioners, some one said, " If you saw her Majesty, you would not say so, for her Majesty is great." "But the majesty of God is greater," he answered. 

At length in April, 1573, he was arraigned at the Guildhall. He denied the authority of the judges, saying " they were not his judges, nor for his judges would he ever take them, being heretics and pre tending authority from her that could not give it them." He also protested against the competency of secular judges to try priests and spiritual causes, as the earlier Relation tells us, and was treated with the greatest indignity and contumely and held for a fool. He was found guilty of high treason and sentenced accordingly, but two months elapsed before his execution.

Before as after his condemnation he ever kept up the same bright, sweet demeanour, the same intrepidity, the same eager desire to suffer for his Master. When first a smith came to rivet irons on him he rewarded him with two shillings. When the same man afterwards came, on some occasion, to take them off, he stood waiting, cap in hand, after his work, hoping for a present, and at last said, "Sir, this day seven-night when I burdened you with irons, you rewarded me with two shillings: now that I have taken them away, for your more ease, I trust your worship will reward me much better." "No," said the martyr, "then I gave thee wages for laying irons on me, because I was sure to have my wages for bearing them; now, thou must have patience if thou lose thy wages, since thou hast with taking away mine irons taken also away those wages I have for carrying them. But come when you will to load me with irons, and if I have money thou shalt not go home with an empty purse." 

When some one told him he was to be removed to the Tower to be racked, "No," said he, "I cannot believe that; but notwithstanding bring me true news here that it is so and thou shalt have a crown of gold for thy pains." From this answer it may be gathered that he had light from God about what was to happen to him: and so, again, the next day a servant brought him word it was reported through all London he should be put to death the next week, "No," he answered, "I shall not die these two months and more." And so it happened. 

 After his sentence he was not taken back to his old prison, but was committed to Newgate. On his way to the prison he was much ill-treated, "being tugged and lugged hither and thither, weak and sore laden with irons; insomuch as going up the stairs at Newgate, he fell down divers times on the stairs; and to one that seemed by his words to pity him, he answered with a smiling countenance that these troubles were sweet to him."Some one in the crowd gave him a blow on the face. "Would God," he said turning to him, "I might suffer ten times as much that thou might go free for the blow thou hast given me. I forgive thee and pray to God to forgive thee even as I would be forgiven." 

At Newgate he was put into the place consecrated by the martyrdom of the Blessed Carthusian Fathers who had been starved to death five-and- thirty years before. The author of the "Relation of 1574" says it was the part of the prison appropriated to robbers, and a most dismal place. But after a time he was removed to another chamber, where a number of ministers were allowed access to him and disputed with him. Some of them he confuted, surprising those present by his learning; but when the Dean of St. Paul's came he severely rebuked him, and ended with the words, "Begone, Satan." 

His behavior at his execution was also brave and resolute:

He was drawn in the usual way to the place of execution. Hearing him pray in Latin, some of the crowd wanted him to pray in English so that all might join with him. He answered that with the Catholics he would willingly, but as for the others he would neither pray with them nor have them pray with him or for him; though he would willingly pray for them. The Sheriff was impatient at what he called his obstinacy, and cried out, "Away with him, executioner, strip him of his garments, put the rope about his neck and do it quickly." Then he called to the martyr to ask pardon of God, the Queen, and the country, but Blessed Thomas answered, "Nay, I on the part of God, demand of you and of the Queen, that ye ask pardon of God and of holy Mother Church, because contrary to the truth ye have resisted Christ the Lord, and the Pope, His Vicar upon earth." These bold words drew shouts from the ever-fickle crowd of " Hang him, hang him, this man is worse than Storey." [Blessed John Storey] 

He was cut down alive, so that "he went between two from the gallows to the fire, near which he was spoiled, and came perfectly to himself before the hangman began to bowel him ; inasmuch as some have said he spoke when the hangman had his hand in his body seeking for his heart to pull it out."

480 Years Ago; Three More Carthusian Priors Martyred


On June 19, 1535, the second group of Carthusians were executed: Blesses Humphrey Middlemore, William Exmew and Sebastian Newdigate. Arrested on May 25, they had been imprisoned in Marshalea for about a fortnight before their trial at Westminster on June 11. The three were taken before the Privy Council before their trial, refused again to swear Henry's oaths and were condemned to death. While in prison, they were chained at the neck and hand and foot against pillars, unable to move.

Thus Sebastian Newdigate reportedly received Henry VIII (in disguise), who offered him riches and preferment if he would swear the oaths. Newdigate had been a member of Henry's Privy Chamber and had sworn the Oath of Succession, acknowledging Henry's marriage to Anne Boleyn and their heirs--but he could not accept Henry's supremacy over the Church in England. Henry visited him while he was the in the Tower of London after being brought before the Privy Council. Newdigate refused Henry's offers and was brought to trial with the two other priors.

Thomas Bedyll, one of Henry's chaplains and another member of his Privy Chamber had harassed the Carthusians after the execution of their first leaders on May 4, pressing them to take the Oath of Supremacy. He reported them to Thomas Cromwell, noting their obstinacy.

The outcome of the trial on June 11 was certain, of course, and they were found guilty of treason and sentenced to being hung, drawn and quartered at Tyburn. Reports indicate that they went to their deaths as to a feast, with eagerness and joy!

These three Carthusians were beatified by Pope Leo XIII on December 9, 1886, along with Thomas More, John Fisher, the other Carthusians and several others, totaling 54. According to the decree, translated in The Tablet on January 15, 1887, those beatified were:

Those who suffered death under King Henry VIII: John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester, Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church; Thomas More, Chancellor of England; Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury, mother of Cardinal Pole; Richard Reynolds, of the Order of St. Bridget; Haile, Priest; eighteen Carthusians, namely, John Houghton, Augustine Webster, Robert Laurence, William Exmew, Humphrey Middlemore, Sebastian Newdigate, John Rochester, James Walworth, William Greenwood, John Davy, Robert Salt, Walter Pierson, Thomas Green, Thomas Scryven, Thomas Redyng, Thomas Johnson, Richard Bere, and William Horne; John Forest, Priest of the Order of St. Francis; John Stone, of the Order of St. Augustine; four Secular Priests: Thomas Abel, Edward Powell, Richard Fetherston, John Larke; and German Gardiner, a layman.

Those who suffered under Elizabeth: Priests, Cuthbert Mayne, John Nelson, Everard Hanse, Randolph Sherwin, John Payne, Thomas Ford, John Shert, Robert Johnson, William Fylby, Luke Kirby, Laurence Richardson, William Lacy, Richard Kirkman, James Hudson, or Tompson, William Hart, Richard Thirkeld, Thomas Woodhouse, and Plumtree. Also three Priests of the Society of Jesus: Edmund Campion, Alexander Briant, and Thomas Cottam. Lastly, John Storey, Doctor of Law; John Felton, and Thomas Sherwood, laymen.

The decree was issued on December 29, 1886 to coincide with the Feast of St. Thomas a Becket, "whose faith and constancy these Blessed Martyrs so strenuously imitated".

Thursday, June 18, 2015

All Kinds of Saints

Author and essayist Joseph Bottum (formerly of First Things) writes about sanctity for Aleteia, particularly the sanctity of today's saint, Gregory Barbarigo, whose feast was removed from the Roman Calendar in 1969:

Work is not exactly made holy when done with awareness of Christ. It’s the worker, rather, who aims toward sanctification by working with God. The dignity of work is actually the dignity of the worker, who is both laboring and being with God.

All this was prompted in my mind by St. Gregory Barbarigo, whose feast day is June 18—today: a day perhaps for thinking about work. A powerful seventeenth-century cardinal from Venice, St. Gregory might be, in a sense, the most likely kind of saint: From the Renaissance to the early twentieth century, the Vatican’s official canonizations ran to a large number of Italian churchmen.

Of course, in another sense, he was an unlikely saint—a nobleman in the days of unchecked nobility. An advisor to Pope Alexander VII in the days of unapologetic Vatican nepotism. A political mover and shaker in the days when too many senior positions in the Church were considered the permanent fiefdoms of the noble Italian families, as they played the local form of Game of Thrones in their Italian principalities. Even today, it’s hard for a senior churchman to find the time, the energy, and the grace for personal sanctity in the endless press of the business at hand. But in the days of St. Gregory Barbarigo, the temptations—the lures of temporal power offered by the Church—were far greater and harder to resist.


To think about St. Gregory is to realize that you know this man—or, at least, you’ve read a profile of people of his kind in a business magazine or a Sunday newspaper supplement. He’s that senior bureaucrat the government needs regardless of the party of the president. He’s that CFO making a major corporation succeed. He’s your college president, your governor’s friend, your church’s major donor. Polished, important, organized, multi-talented, standing behind the scenes, he gives off an air that’s hard to describe, except perhaps with the word competent. A proficient man, an efficient man. A fixer.

Read the rest there. St. Gregory may have been removed from the Roman Calendar, but he is being celebrated today in Maryville, Missouri at the parish dedicated to him and there are Catholic schools and parishes dedicated to him in Houma, Louisiana and Garnerville, New York. St. Gregory's story reminds me of St. Francis Borgia, an unlikely saint from most unlikely circumstances--a Borgia saint.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

480 Years Ago Today: The Trial of St. John Fisher

On June 17, 1535, John Fisher, former Bishop of Rochester (Henry VIII had stripped him of his title) left the Tower of London to be tried in Westminster Hall. The charge against him was that:

He falsely, maliciously, and traitorously wished, willed, and desired, and by craft imagined, invented, practised, and attempted to deprive the king of the dignity, title, and name of his royal estate, that is of his title and name of supreme head of the church of England, in the Tower, on 7th day of May last, when, contrary to his allegiance, he said and pronounced, in the presence of different true subjects, falsely, maliciously, and traitorously, these words: "The king our sovereign lord is not supreme head on earth of the church of England."

Rich, the Solicitor-General, was the main witness for the prosecution. He admitted to having played the part of an agent provocateur when he had visited the bishop in the Tower with the confidential message from the king, and he gave Fisher's denial of the Royal Supremacy in evidence against him despite the solemn promise given to him in the name of the king that this would not happen. The cardinal protested indignantly at Rich's treacherous conduct[.]


Of course, there was no real, just trial: the purpose of the gathering in Westminster Hall was to sentence to death the man Henry VIII had previously regarded as the holiest bishop in England. Although he argued that when he spoke to Richard Rich there was no malice or falsehood, Thomas Audley as Chancellor told him that any speaking against the King's position as Supreme Head of the Church of England was treason.

My lords, I am here condemned before you of high treason for denial of the King's supremacy over the Church of England, but by what order of justice I leave to God, Who is the searcher both of the king his Majesty's conscience and yours; nevertheless, being found guilty, as it is termed, I am and must be contented with all that God shall send, to whose will I wholly refer and submit myself. And now to tell you plainly my mind, touching this matter of the king's supremacy, I think indeed, and always have thought, and do now lastly affirm, that His Grace cannot justly claim any such supremacy over the Church of God as he now taketh upon him; neither hath (it) been seen or heard of that any temporal prince before his days hath presumed to that dignity; wherefore, if the king will now adventure himself in proceeding in this strange and unwonted case, so no doubt but he shall deeply incur the grievous displeasure of the Almighty, to the great damage of his own soul, and of many others, and to the utter ruin of this realm committed to his charge, wherefore, I pray God his Grace may remember himself in good time, and harken to good counsel for the preservation of himself and his realm and the quietness of all Christendom.

According to this website, the court was moved but not enough to do the right thing:

William Rastell, a lawyer nephew of Sir Thomas More who was present at the Fisher trial, leaves us the following account of the bishop's valedictory statement: "He showed himself excellently and profoundly learned, of great constancy and of a marvellous godly courage, and declared the whole matter so learnedly and therewith so godly, that it made many of those present, and some of their judges also, so inwardly to lament, that their eyes burst out with tears to see such a great famous cleric and virtuous bishop to be condemned to so cruel a death by such impious laws and by such an unlawful and detestable witness (Richard Rich), contrary to all human honesty and fidelity."

From June 17 to June 22, Cardinal Fisher--Pope Paul III had named him a cardinal in the hopes that Henry VIII would show some respect and leniency to a prince of the Church, seriously misjudging Henry--prepared for death. As he had suffered great want and deprivation in the Tower of London, so much so that he was too weak to walk from the Tower to Westminster Hall, Henry commuted his sentence from being hung, drawn and quartered at Tyburn to being beheaded on Tower Hill. Long before his trial, he had begged Cromwell for some clothing and food (on December 22, 1534):

I beseech you to be a good master to me in my necessity. I have neither shirt nor suit, nor yet other clothes, that are necessary for me to wear, but that be ragged and rent shamefully. Notwithstanding I might easily suffer that, if they would keep my body warm. But my diet also, God knoweth how slender it is at many times, and now in mine age my stomach may not away but with a few kinds of meats, which if I want I decay forthwith, and fall into coughs and diseases of my body, and cannot keep myself in health. But as our Lord knoweth, I have nothing left unto me to provide any better, but as my brother of his own purse layeth out to me to his great hindrance.

Wherefore good Master Secretary eftsoons I beseech you to have some pity upon me, and let me have such things as are necessary for me in mine age and especially for my health. And also that it may please you by your high wisdom to move the king's highness to take me unto his gracious favour again, and to restore me unto my liberty out of this cold and painful imprisonment; whereby ye shall find me to be your poor beadman for ever unto Almighty God, who ever have you in his protection and custody.

He had also begged to have a confessor and attend Mass, but to no avail. Henry and Cromwell couldn't even allow Fisher some peace and comfort in his last days:

Chapuys, the imperial ambassador, wrote to Charles V on 30 June 1535: "They gave him (Fisher) as a confessor, a sworn enemy of his, and the staunchest Lutheran in the world as well as the originator of all the devilish acts practiced here; who, however, was so much edified by the bishop's countenance and behavior on the scaffold that he ceases not to say, that one of the best and holiest men in the world has been executed."

Henry VIII would go on to try to destroy all the evidence of Bishop Fisher's good work, even that great work Fisher had done with the support of Henry VIII's own grandmother, Margaret Beaufort, at St. John's College, University of Cambridge. He had preachers denounce Fisher (and More), diplomats denigrate his career, and everything possible done to remove remembrance of this great and holy man. Bishops Gardiner (another blot against his character) and Sampson also attacked Fisher in print after his death. Cromwell blamed the Pope for Fisher's execution, saying that if he had not been named Cardinal, Henry might have . . . what? St. John Fisher had opposed Henry's wishes in the Great Matter from the beginning; he was never going to receive any mercy or even justice.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Mary I at the Meeting of the Minds in 1982

My husband found and scanned this picture of me portraying Mary I of England at the (then) Kansas Newman College Renaissance Faire on a rainy, wet day in the spring of 1982. I was in a version of Steve Allen's Meeting of the Minds. As I recall, Torquemada and William Shakespeare shared the stage with me--there might have been one other historical figure (St. Joan of Arc?), plus the moderator.

The gown wasn't true to the Tudor era and of course I did not dye my hair red but I did have the required fair complexion. I did not wear my glasses so I was as blind as Mary I probably was, being near-sighted. Not being able to see the audience, who were seated on hay bales, lessened my stage fright.

Sadly, the shoes I was wearing were ruined by the soaked ground--nice pale pink flats. While I was portraying a queen regnant, I was not accompanied by any courtiers or ladies of my Court and I certainly did not have any litter, horse, or other conveyance to carry me about the Faire. Most inappropriate; on the other hand, I did not distribute alms to the poor, so I failed in my duties also.

No one was tortured or burned in the presentation of this Meeting of the Minds, I assure you.

At Sea, June 16, 1833: "The Pillar of the Cloud"

LEAD, Kindly Light, amid the encircling gloom          
Lead Thou me on!
The night is dark, and I am far from home—          
Lead Thou me on!
Keep Thou my feet; I do not ask to see
The distant scene—one step enough for me.

I was not ever thus, nor pray'd that Thou          

Shouldst lead me on.
I loved to choose and see my path, but now          
Lead Thou me on!
I loved the garish day, and, spite of fears,
Pride ruled my will: remember not past years.

So long Thy power hath blest me, sure it still          

Will lead me on,
O'er moor and fen, o'er crag and torrent, till          
The night is gone;
And with the morn those angel faces smile
Which I have loved long since, and lost awhile.

John Henry Newman wrote these words as he headed home from his sojourn in Sicily, after enduring a dangerous fever. Fr. Juan R. Velez writes about Newman's poetry in general and specifically about the poetry he wrote during his Mediterranean trip with the Froudes and to Sicily.

Monday, June 15, 2015

David Knowles on the Carthusians in Newgate

On June 15, 1537, the second group of those Carthusians held in Newgate Prison, without charge, or trial, or sentence, or any other mark of justice except for the will of Henry VIII, began to die. Brothers Thomas Scryven and Thomas Redyng died on June 15 and June 16--Dom Richard Bere did not die till August 9, and the priest Thomas Johnson not until September 20, so they must have received some nutrition, according to the King's great mercy.

One survived this starvation ordeal: Brother William Horne. He was finally attainted by Parliament in 1540 and executed at Tyburn on August 4, 1540.

In his book Saints and Scholars, David Knowles eulogizes the Newgate prison group:

The third and most numerous band was denied even the dignity of a formal trial and execution. They had asked to live as hidden servants of Christ; they died, silent witnesses to his words, hidden from the eyes of all . . .

Rarely indeed in the annals of the Church have any confessors of the faith endured trials longer, more varied or more bitter then these unknown monks. They had left the world, as they hoped, for good; but the children of the world, to gain their private ends, had violated their solitude . . . When bishops and theologians faltered or denied they were not ashamed to confess the Son of Man. They died faithful witnesses to the Catholic teaching that Christ had built his Church upon a rock.

The Third Monday of the Month: Historical Apologetics Series


Matt Swaim and I will discuss another topic of Church History this morning on the Son Rise Morning Show, this one in the not so distant past: The case of Pope Pius XII and the Holocaust. We'll be live after the 7:45 a.m. Eastern/6:45 a.m. Central news break and you could listen live here if there's no EWTN affiliate carrying the show in your area.

From my article in Homiletic & Pastoral Review, on which this series is based:

In the modern era, of course, the great historical attack against the Catholic Church comes from the supposed silence and inaction of Pope Pius XII, standing by while Jews were tortured and murdered during the Nazi Holocaust. The supreme irony about this historical canard is that after World War II, Pope Pius XII was hailed by survivors of the Holocaust and the first leaders of Israel, like Golda Meir, as a great “righteous Gentile.” He was lauded for his efforts to protect the Jewish people in Italy (in Rome especially), and throughout the period leading up to and during the war, his consistent call for peace. Yet, because of a play, a work of dramatic fiction presented in the early 1960s, Pope Pius XII posthumously became the target of attack because he supposedly did not denounce the Nazi regime, at least not in the terms that some now wanted him to use then. The title of the play is “The Deputy,” by Rolf Hochhuth. Once it appeared on the stage, the pope’s reputation changed dramatically. He became known as “Hitler’s Pope” (from the title of John Cornwell’s 1999 book).

Here are a few facts to present against the view that the Catholic Church or Pope Pius XII was silent in the face of Nazi atrocities:

~Pope Pius XII spoke out clearly against the entire Nazi campaign of invasion of sovereign lands, like Czechoslovakia and Poland.
~He spoke out against the extermination of Jews directly in his Christmas message of December 1942, and
The New York Times praised him for it.
~Pope Pius XII took many actions to defend Jews:
~~He issued false documents, including baptismal documents, so that Jewish refugees could emigrate;
~~He worked with other governments to obtain visas (but not the United States of America or Great Britain, which would not allow immigration of Jewish refugees);
~~He opened Castel Gandolfo, as well as convents and monasteries throughout Rome and Vatican City, for Jewish Italians to take refuge.

And then there is the deeper issue of the danger that Jews, as well as Catholic and Protestant converts from Judaism, would face if he had directly and pointedly attacked Nazi policies toward their “race.” The International Red Cross knew at the time, just as Pope Pius XII did, that such statements would lead to reprisals. The bishop in Holland learned this by experience. Hitler’s agents warned the Archbishop of Utrecht not to speak out against the deportation of Dutch Jews, and when he did, the Nazis rounded up Catholic converts from Judaism, sending them to the death camps. These included the Carmelite nun, St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (previously known as Edith Stein) who died at Auschwitz.


Finally, since this attack is aimed at the doctrine of Papal Infallibility, it’s important to remember the pope is infallible only when teaching on matters of faith and morals. The Church has never taught that the pope is impeccable, unable to err in practical matters and actions.

Please let me know if you have suggestions of other topics to cover in this series, which started in January this year.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Factions and the Prebendaries Plot

Derek Wilson describes the factions at Court during the last years of Henry VIII in the June 2015 issue of History Today and how they contributed to the Prebendaries Plot, which threatened to bring Thomas Cranmer down:

In the 1530s the reform movement had been led by Thomas Cromwell and Thomas Cranmer: the former giving the forces of change legislative teeth, the latter providing the theological meat for them to chew on. They had seemed unstoppable. Then the fiasco of Henry’s marriage to Anne of Cleves gave the Catholic clique the opportunity for a counter-attack. Cromwell’s fall in July 1540 was sudden and complete. One charge against him was that he was an extremist religious radical and a supporter of known heretics. Over the ensuing months the Catholic group on the council, led by Stephen Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester and Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk, made the most of their advantage. They took every opportunity to block moves by Cranmer and his supporters to press on with the work of reform. There are various schools of thought about how appropriate it is to think of the sick and aged king as being manipulated by ‘court factions’, but there is no doubt that two activist groups were now emerging with radically different visions for the future of the realm.

For his support Cranmer could look to members of Henry’s intimate inner circle, such as the Earl of Hertford, Prince Edward’s grandfather, the royal physician, Sir William Butts, and the head of the privy chamber, Sir Anthony Denny, as well as lesser members of the household carefully placed in position by Cromwell before his fall. To counter this the conservatives tightened their grip on the Privy Council. In order to prevent an ‘over-mighty subject’ ever again holding supreme power, this body re-invented itself. By adopting a new constitution it became a committee whose collective decisions carried ultimate authority under the Crown. Cranmer was a member of this body but was in no position to dominate its proceedings. For 16 months there was a period of calm at the political centre. Gardiner was away most of the time on a diplomatic mission. The court was much taken up with the celebrations of Henry’s fifth marriage, to the vivacious Catherine Howard (Norfolk’s niece), and with preparations for a royal tour of the North (from June to November 1541). This does not mean that the politico-religious conflict was over. As Diarmaid McCulloch explains, the conservatives began ‘nibbling again at the edges of the Cranmer circle’ in December 1540. Pulpit wars continued in various locales and Bishop Bonner began a purge of people suspected of being in breach of the Act of Six Articles, which demanded obedience to major Catholic doctrine.


Read the rest here. I think this would usually be behind a pay wall but History Today has opened up access for now, at least. Wilson, who writes both fiction and non-fiction, has written a mystery novel set against the backdrop of the Prebendaries Plot under the nom-de-plume D.K. Wilson.

I admit that I had to look up the term "own goal" which Wilson uses in reference to the Howard faction: it means that a player scores a goal for the other team by mistake. More on those executed in the Prebendaries Plot here.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

More Bad News about England (and me?)

Father Dwight Longenecker and Joseph Pearce just led a Catholic pilgrimage to England. Father Longenecker writes on his blog:

One of the most impressive things about this pilgrimage to England was the remembrance of a Catholic England that was not only brutally destroyed, but a destruction which, to this day, is covered up by a smokescreen of ignorance, propaganda and lies. Henry VIII is still presented in tourist information boards, cathedral guides and church leaflets as “the charismatic young King who reformed a corrupt church system of the Dark Ages.” His depredations, robbery, iconoclasm and cruelty is totally glossed over. Time and again the pilgrims were astounded to see how Mary Queen of Scots [and] Catherine of Aragon were ignored or sidelined–how Mary Tudor was still presented as “Bloody Mary” and Elizabeth I as “Good Queen Bess”. Happily our guide at the Tower was probably a Catholic and stressed how Elizabeth’s persecution of Catholics was far more severe and long lasting and pervasive than Mary’s persecution of Protestants ever was.

That this misrepresentation still continues with films like the two Elizabeth movies and the recent TV series Wolf Hall is shameful. Revisionist historians like Eamon Duffy, Jack Scarisbrick and Christopher Haigh have done their work and any researcher now has no excuse not to know the true history of the period, but of course that history doesn’t sell. So the blood of the English martyrs is ignored. The true horror of Tyburn Tree, Topcliffe’s torture chambers and 300 years of Catholic persecution in England–the longest and harshest in history–is swept under the carpet. Chief among the culprits, of course, are the Anglicans. They continue to present their laundered view of history–despite knowing full well what happened, and still (to my knowledge) there has been no formal attempt of repentance and sorrow for what happened similar to Pope St John Paul II’s famous Ash Wednesday service of repentance in the year 2000.

Reading this made me sad. I've tried on the popular level with my book, articles, this blog, radio interviews, a 13 week radio show (!), presentations, etc, etc, and so forth, for the past six years to tell this story. Duffy, Scarisbrick, and Haigh all wrote on an academic level to lay the foundation for a more accurate view of the history of the English Reformation, of course, but Father Longenecker is right that history does not sell or at least that historical revisionism doesn't sell. It's so much more easy to accept the common lies, the Black Legend, the party line, either because of prejudice or because it's hard to think about it a different way.

When I taught my class on St. Thomas More in May, I referenced George Weigel's comment from First Things on the commonly accepted view of the English Reformation and how the revisionist view still hasn't replaced the Whig version:

And because Britain’s literary high culture is still in thrall to the Whig view of British history, and seems oblivious to the deep transformation that’s taken place in English Reformation studies since Eamon Duffy’s extraordinary book, The Stripping of the Altars, was first published in 1992. There, Duffy demonstrated beyond cavil what Simon Schama alluded to in his Financial Times article on the BBC version of Wolf Hall: that Henry VIII was a proto-totalitarian who, with his Protestant heirs, imposed his version of Christianity on England against the will of the great majority of plain folk, who stubbornly clung to the old faith until the overwhelming power of the state extinguished most of English Catholic life, and “anti-popery” got set in cultural concrete as modern nation-building went forward in Britain—often funded by expropriated Catholic properties.

As I told the little group of friends cum students (including Rex the dog), reading that made me sad. Of course, I've been doing all this on a part-time basis, but I'm disappointed that the project and the message I think so important has been ignored. Thanks to all of you who follow my blog, have read my book, listened to interviews, liked my facebook page, followed me on twitter, etc. Your comments and encouragement are always welcome. 

The Past and the Future of Christianity in England

Damian Thompson uses some demographic trends to predict or project a sad future for Christianity in England:

It’s often said that Britain’s church congregations are shrinking, but that doesn’t come close to expressing the scale of the disaster now facing Christianity in this country. Every ten years the census spells out the situation in detail: between 2001 and 2011 the number of Christians born in Britain fell by 5.3 million — about 10,000 a week. If that rate of decline continues, the mission of St Augustine to the English, together with that of the Irish saints to the Scots, will come to an end in 2067.

That is the year in which the Christians who have inherited the faith of their British ancestors will become statistically invisible. Parish churches everywhere will have been adapted for secular use, demolished or abandoned.

Our cathedral buildings will survive, but they won’t be true cathedrals because they will have no bishops. The Church of England is declining faster than other denominations; if it carries on shrinking at the rate suggested by the latest British Social Attitudes survey, Anglicanism will disappear from Britain in 2033. One day the last native-born Christian will die and that will be that.

Thompson goes on:

But the point stands: Christianity is dying out among the Anglo-Saxon and Celtic inhabitants of Great Britain. The Gospel that Augustine and his 30 monks brought to England when they landed at Ebbsfleet in ad 597 is now being decisively rejected.

Saint Paul tells us that in Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek; the Almighty is not interested in ‘heritage’, the new name for ethnicity. But since Britons with Anglo–Saxon and Celtic ancestors make up 90 per cent of British Christians, that rejection represents a devastating loss of faith.

It has all happened so quickly. Anglicans in particular are abandoning their faith at a rate that (in more ways that one) defies belief. According to the British Social Attitudes surveys, their numbers fell from 40 per cent of the population in 1983 to 29 per cent in 2004 and 17 per cent last year.

He has warnings for the Catholic Church in England too, which cannot rely on immigration to fill its pews. Read the rest of his article here. He concludes:

As a Catholic, I believe that the gates of hell will not prevail against the church founded by Peter. There will always be someone to take the place of ‘the last Christian’. But not necessarily in Britain, where the death rattle has begun.

Not necessarily in the United States of America either. 

To juxtapose the perhaps dark future for Christianity in England to its bright and glowing past, go see these pictures of stained glass from Canterbury Cathedral, the former Catholic church appropriated by Henry VIII and Thomas Cromwell. More on the exhibition at the Cathedral's website.

Our Lady of Walsingham, pray for us!

Friday, June 12, 2015

Heart Speaks to Heart

Since he chose the motto Cor ad cor loquitor when named Cardinal, it would come as no surprise that Blessed John Henry Newman expressed devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. From his Meditations and Devotions:

1. O SACRED Heart of Jesus, I adore Thee in the oneness of the Personality of the Second Person of the Holy Trinity. Whatever belongs to the Person of Jesus, belongs therefore to God, and is to be worshipped with that one and the same worship which we pay to Jesus. He did not take on Him His human nature, as something distinct and separate from Himself, but as simply, absolutely, eternally His, so as to be included by us in the very thought of Him. I worship Thee, O Heart of Jesus, as being Jesus Himself, as being that Eternal Word in human nature which He took wholly and lives in wholly, and therefore in Thee. Thou art the Heart of the Most High made man. In worshipping Thee, I worship my Incarnate God, Emmanuel. I worship Thee, as bearing a part in that Passion which is my life, for Thou didst burst and break, through agony, in the garden of Gethsemani, and Thy precious contents trickled out, through the veins and pores of the skin, upon the earth. And again, Thou hadst been drained all but dry upon the Cross; and then, after death, Thou wast pierced by the lance, and gavest out the small remains of that inestimable treasure, which is our redemption.

2. My God, my Saviour, I adore Thy Sacred Heart, for that heart is the seat and source of all Thy tenderest human affections for us sinners. It is the instrument and organ of Thy love. It did beat for us. It yearned over us. It ached for us, and for our salvation. It was on fire through zeal, that the glory of God might be manifested in and by us. It is the channel through which has come to us all Thy overflowing human affection, all Thy Divine Charity towards us. All Thy incomprehensible compassion for us, as God and Man, as our Creator and our Redeemer and Judge, has come to us, and comes, in one inseparably mingled stream, through that Sacred Heart. O most Sacred symbol and Sacrament of Love, divine and human, in its fulness, Thou didst save me by Thy divine strength, and Thy human affection, and then at length by that wonder-working blood, wherewith Thou didst overflow.

3. O most Sacred, most loving Heart of Jesus, Thou art concealed in the Holy Eucharist, and Thou beatest for us still. Now as then Thou savest, Desiderio desideravi—"With desire I have desired." I worship Thee then with all my best love and awe, with my fervent affection, with my most subdued, most resolved will. O my God, when Thou dost condescend to suffer me to receive Thee, to eat and drink Thee, and Thou for a while takest up Thy abode within me, O make my heart beat with Thy Heart. Purify it of all that is earthly, all that is proud and sensual, all that is hard and cruel, of all perversity, of all disorder, of all deadness. So fill it with Thee, that neither the events of the day nor the circumstances of the time may have power to ruffle it, but that in Thy love and Thy fear it may have peace. Amen.


One of Newman's Oratorians, Father Edward Caswall, also translated two hymns to the Sacred Heart.

The Rosary and Anachronism

I noticed this post on the English Historical Fiction Authors page about the use of beads in prayer and the term "rosary":

The image of a Catholic kneeling in prayer, rosary in hand seems timeless. Having a Dark Ages character rub the beads while murmuring a prayer wouldn't be an anachronism, would it?

Yes and no. Christians, and people of other faiths such as Hindus, Buddhists, and Muslims, have used beads to keep track of the prayers they were repeating. In the fourth century, Egyptian Abbot Paul used 300 pebbles that he would drop. (Would picking up all those little stones count as penance, too?)

By the seventh century, at least some of the faithful used strings of beads.


The author notes that the term "Rosary" was not used in English until 1547. 

Reading this post reminded me of an historical anachronism I found in a novel, Leonardo's Swans, set in Renaissance Italy. A character prays the Rosary and ends the decades with the Fatima prayer:  "O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell, and lead all souls to Heaven, especially those in most need of Your Mercy". That prayer dates from the early twentieth century so a person in that era would not have added it to the recitation of the Rosary.

Another note for thinking about how Catholics have prayed the Rosary through the centuries: the Ave Maria ("Hail Mary") was just the two verses from St. Luke's Gospel, the first chapter (28 and 42) with the addition of the name Mary: Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee (the Angel's greeting) and Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb (her cousin Elizabeth's greeting). The second part--Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death--was a later addition, as was the name Jesus at the end of the second verse.

Anne Winston-Allen wrote Stories of the Rose, published by Penn State University Press, to trace the development and popularity of the Rosary prayer throughout the medieval period. Nathan Mitchell picks up the story of the Rosary and its importance to Catholic identity during the Counter- or Catholic Reformation period in his book The Mystery of the Rosary.