Friday, October 30, 2015

Controversial Causes: Byles, Chesterton, and Sheen

Father Matthew Pittam writes about some of the more controversial causes of saints in The Catholic Herald. Of Father Thomas Byles, who gave up his place on a lifeboat to another, he comments:

Now more than a century on, the present parish priest of St Helen’s, Fr Graham Smith has been asked by the Bishop of Brentwood s to promote the opening of the Cause for Fr Byles’s beatification. Fr Smith says he considers his predecessor to be “an extraordinary man who gave his life for others”. He now hopes that people in need will invoke Fr Byles and if a miracle occurs the case can go forward to the next stage.

The possibility of Fr Byles Cause being opened has attracted criticism as some feel that his story is merely caught up in the permanent dramatic interest in the unsinkable ship. Despite this, Fr Byles is someone who largely inspires. Parallels have been drawn with St Maximilian Kolbe, the martyr of Auschwitz, who also sacrificed his life to save another.

Of Archbishop Sheen, he notices that the controversy is not about Sheen himself but about the rivalry between two Catholic dioceses:

The Congregation for the Causes of Saints scrutinised the evidence of Fulton Sheen’s holiness and then passed their findings on to the Pope. This led to him being identified as someone who lived a life of “heroic virtue” resulting in him being given the title Venerable.

The next stage was the verification of miracles linked to situations where people had invoked Fulton Sheen. Several miracles were identified and the primary case was submitted to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints to be examined. The conclusion was that a natural cause could not be determined to explain the miracle.

Up to this point things were progressing well. The next requirement in the process was for the bodily remains of Fulton Sheen to be examined. This is when the unseemly arguments over the body of the great archbishop developed. Bishop Daniel Jenky of Peoria had requested to have the body exhumed and transferred to his Illinois diocese but this was refused by Cardinal Dolan of New York. The Diocese of Peoria has always claimed that it had been assured that this request would be granted and strong words were issued from both sides at the time.

Following discussion between the New York archdiocese and Rome it was decided that the Sheen Cause would now be placed in the archives of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. This effectively means that the Cause is suspended indefinitely.
And the comments about Chesterton:

Many people, influenced by his writings, have been led into full communion with the Catholic Church and this has created strong support for his Cause. His works range from the well-known Father Brown stories to hagiographies of famous saints. His best known Christian writing, Orthodoxy, is one of the most influential of the 20th century.

Some supporters of Chesterton worry that opening the cause will reduce the power and accessibility of the important message that he still communicates. For instance, would the Father Brown stories remain as popular if they were by St Gilbert Keith Chesterton? It could certainly create a barrier to a more secular readership.

As Pope Francis’s interest indicates, Chesterton has a global following. The largest Chesterton Society exists in the United States of America but there are groups in Poland, Mexico and Italy. It will certainly be interesting to see what happens following the submission of the report by Canon Udris. There are reports of miracles but these have yet to be verified.

For several months, our local chapter of the American Chesterton Society has been reading through The Well and the Shallows, a 1935 collection of essays Chesterton wrote for Catholic periodicals. Next month we will discuss "Mary and the Convert", and the concluding paragraph might contradict Father Pittam's comment that Chesterton "was also not devout in the conventional sense":

It may still be noted that the unconverted world, Puritan or Pagan, but perhaps especially when it is Puritan, has a very strange notion of the collective unity of Catholic things or thoughts. Its exponents, even when not in any rabid sense enemies, give the most curious lists of things which they think make up the Catholic life; an odd assortment of objects, such as candles, rosaries, incense (they are always intensely impressed with the enormous importance and necessity of incense), vestments, pointed windows, and then all sorts of essentials or unessentials thrown in in any sort of order; fasts, relics, penances or the Pope. But even in their bewilderment, they do bear witness to a need which is not so nonsensical as their attempts to fulfil it; the need of somehow summing up "all that sort of thing," which does really describe Catholicism and nothing else except Catholicism. It should of course be described from within, by the definition and development of its theological first principles; but that is not the sort of need I am talking about. I mean that men need an image, single, coloured and clear in outline, an image to be called up instantly in the imagination, when what is Catholic is to be distinguished from what claims to be Christian or even what in one sense is Christian. Now I can scarcely remember a time when the image of Our Lady did not stand up in my mind quite definitely, at the mention or the thought of all these things. I was quite distant from these things, and then doubtful about these things; and then disputing with the world for them, and with myself against them; for that is the condition before conversion. But whether the figure was distant, or was dark and mysterious, or was a scandal to my contemporaries, or was a challenge to myself--I never doubted that this figure was the figure of the Faith; that she embodied, as a complete human being still only human, all that this Thing had to say to humanity. The instant I remembered the Catholic Church, I remembered her; when I tried to forget the Catholic Church, I tried to forget her; when I finally saw what was nobler than my fate, the freest and the hardest of all my acts of freedom, it was in front of a gilded and very gaudy little image of her in the port of Brindisi, that I promised the thing that I would do, if I returned to my own land.

Read the rest of the article in The Catholic Herald here, as Father Pittam discusses other causes (Dorothy Day and Antoni Gaudi).

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Eagerly Awaiting: "Adventures in the Book Pages"

My review copy is in the mail, coming from across the pond and through US Customs, but Francis Phillips of The Catholic Herald has already read it and reviews Adventures in the Book Pages: Essays and Reviews here, with some insights from Edward Short on the art of reviewing books:

Short is also a Catholic, whose insights and assessments are informed by his faith. As a book reviewer myself, who often asks herself, “What is the point of reviewing?”, I asked Short what he thinks the task of a Catholic reviewer is. He tells me he is tempted to answer “one is not a Catholic reviewer but only a reviewer who happens to be Catholic” but then adds, “Yet there is a sense in which my faith does give me a special charge whenever I review books. I am on my mettle not only to write sensibly and fairly but also charitably. I also try to look at my subjects, as far as I can, sub specie aeternitatis. Lastly, I am always careful not to bore the reader.”

Reviewing, he thinks, is a “lowly enterprise, but it is precisely its lowliness that ensures its usefulness. Good reviewing – and I would argue, proper Catholic reviewing especially – demands good reading; also humility and self-effacement.”

Does being a Catholic reviewer leave one open to the charge of bias? Short reminds me that “all writing is biased. Certainly a Catholic bias is better than a nihilist or liberal bias, both of which tend to underestimate good books and overestimate those that are meretricious or highly regarded by the wrong people for the wrong reasons.” He believes that proper Catholic bias “gives one depth and balance, as well as sympathy and zest. And it puts one beyond the pale of fashion. The good Catholic reviewer should always be ready to be a sign of contradiction; a just and generous guide to the good work of others – but always a defender of the good, the beautiful and the true, even when it exposes him to obloquy.” He adds with conviction, “We must denounce the idiocies of the age.”

Can reviewing be a creative activity in its own right? Short reminds me that many of the personalities he covers in his book, such as Chesterton, Auden, Eliot, Greene and Waugh, wrote reviews expressly to fuel their own creative work. He thinks Graham Greene was an excellent critic, as was Waugh. He is grateful for the books he gets sent as they give him the opportunity “to learn about a subject or author that could very well serve as good creative grist to my own work.” As an example, he mentions Jane Ridley’s biographies of Edwin Lutyens and Edward VII which have been “an education not only in biography but history and narrative and that often elusive, subtle thing, style.”

Short also tells me that as his work on Newman is rooted in his 19th century English context, he tends to review books by or about figures of that period, such as Henry Mayhew, Ruskin, AWN Pugin, Gladstone, Thackeray and Hopkins. His favourite authors in his book “tend to be those from whom I learn the most, such as the historian Michael Burleigh.” He adds that “I have also learnt a fair amount from Fr Ian Ker, whose critical biographies of Newman and Chesterton are full of good things.”

Edward Short recently reviewed The Oxford Movement: Europe and the Wider World 1830-1930, edited by Stewart J. Brown and Peter B. Nockles and published by Cambridge University Press for The Catholic World Report, so he is probably preparing volume two of his adventures. 

The Hound of Heaven

At the Eighth Day Books 27th Anniversary Sale, I was able to purchase a beautiful little volume of Francis Thompson's poem, The Hound of Heaven. My husband took these photographs/scans:

The title is stamped in gold letters on the spine, stacked:


with the cover's border pattern below. The back cover is like the center of the front cover without any decoration.

There are two title pages: one from Burn, Oates & Washbourne Ltd. (Publishers to the Holy See) and the other from George G. Harrap & Co.Ltd. I like the address for Burns, et al: Orchard Street and Paternoster Row!

This volume was given as an Easter present I presume, for the inscription on the page after the King's Treasury stamp reads:

To Sister M. Delphine
with all good 
wishes for the
great feast

Anne wanted to tell Sister M. Delphine how much she enjoyed this poem, for she wrote at the bottom of the last page of the introduction:

I am very keen on Francis Thompson.
Have just taken "The Hound of Heaven" with
my higher [?] class.

So perhaps Anne was former student of Sister M. Delphine, now working as a teacher?

Anyway, this is a timely purchase, for EWTN is going to broadcast a special on Francis Thompson's poem tomorrow evening:

G.K. Chesterton describes “The Hound of Heaven” as “the greatest religious poem of modern times and one of the greatest of all times.” Now hear the incredible story behind the poem that has captured the hearts of minds of people around the world for more than 100 years.

“I fled Him, down the nights and down the days; I fled Him, down the arches of the years;”

This lively 30-minute documentary, filmed on location in England, airs 3 a.m. ET and 6:30 p.m. ET, Wednesday, Oct. 28 on EWTN. Hear the intriguing back story on the origins of the famous poem from many of the world’s leading experts, including Dr. Devin Brown and Joseph Pearce, host of EWTN’s “The Quest for Shakespeare” and author of “Bilbo's Journey: Discovering the Hidden Meaning in The Hobbit.”

“I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways of my own mind;”

We learn from the documentary that, in February 1887, Wilfred Maynell, editor of the literary magazine “Merrie England,” received a strange package. In it was a small collection of poems written on tattered paper and covered with dirt and grime. There was no return address.

“And in the midst of tears I hid from Him, and under running laughter.”

Fortunately, Wilfred and his wife Alice recognized the literary worth of the poems and began to publish them. They hoped to meet the author one day and learn more about his life. What they found astonished them.

“Up vistaed hopes I sped; And shot, precipitated, Adown Titanic glooms of chasmed fears, From those strong Feet that followed, followed after.”

Find out more about this great poet’s life and work when EWTN airs this fascinating documentary about the author of a poem that J.R.R. Tolkien described as “one of the most profound expressions of mature spiritual experience” and one that influenced his own work!

From the sublime to the ridiculous: when I searched for Francis Thompson and this poem, I found him listed among the "suspects" on a Jack the Ripper website!

The full EWTN schedule is here, so you may see the broadcast times in Canada, the UK, Ireland, etc.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Hollywood History: Richard the Lionheart

On Wednesday last week, Turner Classic Movies showed a series of Medieval swashbucklers (plus of a couple of outliers (set during the reigns of Charles II of England and of Philip II of Spain)--among them three featuring Richard the Lionheart: The Adventures of Robin Hood, Ivanhoe, and King Richard and the Crusaders.

The first two pose a Hollywood historical problem: did Richard the Lionheart come home and confront his usurping brother John with the help of Robin Hood and his merry men or did he arrive during a tournament duel between Ivanhoe and De Bois-Guilbert? What both movie's Richard the Lionheart have in common is that he wants to create unity in England between Norman and Anglo-Saxon, restoring order and justice after removing his brother John and his followers.

As the BBC notes, however, Richard I had little interest in ruling over England and certainly forgave John for any attempts to usurp power while he was held for ransom:

As king, Richard's chief ambition was to join the Third Crusade, prompted by Saladin's capture of Jerusalem in 1187. To finance this, he sold sheriffdoms and other offices and in 1190 he departed for the Holy Land. In May, he reached Cyprus where he married Berengaria, daughter of the king of Navarre. Richard arrived in the Holy Land in June 1191 and Acre fell the following month. In September, his victory at Arsuf gave the crusaders possession of Joppa. Although he came close, Jerusalem, the crusade's main objective, eluded him. Moreover, fierce quarrels among the French, German and English contingents provided further troubles. After a year's stalemate, Richard made a truce with Saladin and started his journey home.

Bad weather drove him ashore near Venice and he was imprisoned by Duke Leopold of Austria before being handed over to the German emperor Henry VI, who ransomed him for the huge sum of 150,000 marks. The raising of the ransom was a remarkable achievement. In February 1194, Richard was released. He returned at once to England and was crowned for a second time, fearing that the ransom payment had compromised his independence. Yet a month later he went to Normandy, never to return. His last five years were spent in intermittent warfare against Philip II. While besieging the castle of Châlus in central France he was fatally wounded and died on 6 April 1199. He was succeeded by his younger brother John, who had spent the years of Richard's absence scheming against him.

The BBC also posts a discussion of whether Robin Hood and Richard I ever met.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Forty-five Years Ago Today: The 40 Martyrs of England and Wales

From Blessed Pope Paul VI's homily on Sunday, October 25, 1970 (the English portions):

We extend Our greeting first of all to Our venerable brother Cardinal John Carmel Heenan, Archbishop of Westminster, who is present here today. Together with him We greet Our brother bishops of England and Wales and of all the other countries, those who have come here for this great ceremony. We extend Our greeting also to the English priests, religious, students and faithful. We are filled with joy and happiness to have them near us today; for us they represent all English Catholics scattered throughout the world. Thanks to them we are celebrating Christ’s glory made manifest in the holy Martyrs, whom We have just canonized, with such keen and brotherly feelings that We are able to experience in a very special spiritual way the mystery of the oneness and love of the Church. We offer you our greetings, brothers, sons and daughters; We thank you and We bless you.

While We are particularly pleased to note the presence of the official representative of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Reverend Doctor Harry Smythe, We also extend Our respectful and affectionate greeting to all the members of the Anglican Church who have likewise come to take part in this ceremony. We indeed feel very close to them. We would like them to read in Our heart the humility, the gratitude and the hope with which We welcome them. We wish also to greet the authorities and those personages who have come here to represent Great Britain, and together with them all the other representatives of other countries and other religions. With all Our heart We welcome them, as we celebrate the freedom and the fortitude of men who had, at the same time, spiritual faith and loyal respect for the sovereignty of civil society. . . .

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

Perhaps We shall have to go on, waiting and watching in prayer, in order to deserve that blessed day. But already We are strengthened in this hope by the heavenly friendship of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales who are canonized today. Amen.

Although Pope Paul's hopes for reunion have not been fulfilled--and because of Anglican decisions to ordain women priests and bishops will never be fulfilled--think of the progress of the past 45 years: the work of ARCIC to find the common ground of some doctrines; Pope St. John Paul II's tremendous pastoral visit in 1982, celebrating the of Seven Sacraments in England, Scotland, and Wales; Pope Benedict XVI's official visit in 2010; the establishment and ongoing efforts of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham under the spiritual patronage of Blessed John Henry Newman, translating that "legitimate prestige and the worthy patrimony of piety and usage proper to the Anglican Church" that Blessed Pope Paul spoke of in 1970!

The 40 Martyrs of England and Wales canonized 45 years ago today are: Alban Roe, Alexander Bryant, Ambrose Barlow, Anne Line, Augustine Webster, Cuthbert Mayne , David Lewis, Edmund Arrowsmith, Edmund Campion, Edmund Gennings, Henry Morse, Henry Walpole , John Almond, John Boste, John Houghton, John Jones, John Kemble, John Lloyd, John Payne, John Plessington, John Rigby, John Roberts, John Stone, John Southworth, John Wall, Luke Kirby, Margaret Clitherow, Margaret Ward, Nicholas Owen, Philip Evans, Philip Howard, Polydore Plasden, Ralph Sherwin, Richard Gwyn, Richard Reynolds, Robert Lawrence, Robert Southwell, Swithun Wells, and Thomas Garnet.

All the holy martyrs of England and Wales, canonized and blessed, pray for us!

Friday, October 23, 2015

The 45th Anniversary of the 40 Martyrs

This morning on the Son Rise Morning Show (at about 6;45 a.m. Central/7:45 a.m. Eastern) Matt Swaim and I will discuss the original feast of the 40 Martyrs of England and Wales, canonized by Blessed Pope Paul VI in 1970--which is still celebrated in the dioceses of Wales as the Feast of the Six Welsh Martyrs and Their Companions (the other 34!).

Pope Paul VI canonized the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales on October 25, 1970; 45 years ago this Sunday--although their Feast is celebrated in the dioceses of England on May 4 (since the year 2000) it's appropriate to remember that his action in 1970 was not without controversy.

This document archived at EWTN describes some of the difficulty:

Some months before the Consistory the General Postulation, as well as the Vice-Postulation, had charged specialized agencies with following the whole national and provincial press of England and Wales, together with the European and American press, and sending it constantly everything that was published in connection with the Cause. At the same time it redoubled its efforts to obtain the widest and most accurate information not only on the attitude of English and Welsh Catholics, but above all on that of the Anglicans, with many of whose best qualified representatives there had long existed relations marked by sincere and brotherly frankness and a genuine spirit of mutual understanding and collaboration. The Hierarchy of England and Wales, in its turn, and in the first place Card. Godfrey's successor, His Eminence Card. Heenan, Vice-President of the Secretariat for the Union of Christians, made a point of establishing and maintaining exchanges of views with the competent authorities of the various Christian denominations in their country.

On the basis of this huge mass of material, it was established beyond al] shadow of doubt that at least 85 per cent of what had been printed in England and Wales, both on the Catholic and the non-Catholic side, far from being unfavourable to the Cause, was clearly in favour of it or at least showed great understanding for the opportuneness of the canonization. This applies to publications such as "Church Times", or the "Church of England Newspaper." and the most widely read English national papers such as "The Times", "The Guardian", "The Economist", "The Spectator" "The Daily Telegraph", "The Sunday Times" and many others.

On the other hand some foreign publications—including some well-known papers of protest—raised difficulties. It was at once clear, however, that these were based on insufficient knowledge of the complicated historical situation in which the Martyrs sacrificed their lives, and, to an even greater degree, of the present ecumenical situation in England. The latter calls for at least a minimum of concrete knowledge and cannot easily be understood by those who do not take the trouble to study it thoroughly Of course, everything possible has been done, by means of press conferences and other opportune methods, to eliminate this type of misunderstanding, generally most successfully.

A serious, serene and objective study of the whole situation led to the conclusion, therefore, that besides the numerous reasons clearly in favour of the canonization of the 40 blessed Martyrs, there were no real ecumenical objections to it, on the contrary the canonization offered considerable advantages also from the genuinely ecumenical point of view.

It was precisely these ideas that His Holiness Paul VI expressed and explained in a masterly fashion in the address he delivered on the occasion of the Consistory on May 18th, 1970, in which he announced his intention to proceed with the solemn canonization of the 40 blessed Martyrs of England and Wales on October 25th, 1970. In this address the Holy Father, besides pointing out, with serene frankness and great charity, the ecumenical value of this Cause, also laid particular stress on the fact that we need the example of these Martyrs particularly today not only because the Christian religion is still exposed to violent persecution in various parts of the world, but also because at a time when the theories of materialism and naturalism are constantly gaining ground and threatening to destroy the spiritual heritage of our civilization, the forty Martyrs—men and women from all walks of life—who did not hesitate to sacrifice their lives in obedience to the dictates of conscience and the divine will, stand out as noble witnesses to human dignity and freedom.

This declaration of the Sovereign Pontiff was received with practically unanimous approval, which showed how right the decision had been to proceed with the canonization. His address was given a great deal of attention and certainly contributed effectively to dispelling any doubts that may still have existed in certain quarters.

The six Welsh Martyrs celebrated on October 25 in the dioceses of Wales are Philip Evans, SJ and John Lloyd, John Jones, OFM, David Lewis, SJ, John Roberts, OSB, and the teacher Richard Gwyn.

Sorry for the short notice--we just set this interview up yesterday afternoon!

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Archbishop Aquila on More and Fisher

At last someone else--Archbishop Samuel Aquila of Denver--gets the role of St. John Fisher in the conflict over Henry VIII's marriage right. In his article, "Did Thomas More and John Fisher Die for Nothing?" he identifies Bishop Fisher of Rochester as the only bishop who clearly asserted the indissolubility of Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon's marriage :

The idea that Catholics should be allowed to remarry and receive communion did not begin with the letter signed by Cardinal Kasper and other members of the German episcopate in 1993. Another country’s episcopate – England’s – pioneered this experiment in Christian doctrine nearly 500 years ago. At stake then was not just whether any Catholic could remarry, but whether the king could, since his wife had not borne him a son.

As with those who advocate for communion for the civilly remarried, the English bishops were uncomfortable with embracing divorce and remarriage outright. Instead, they chose to bend the law to the individual circumstances of the case with which they were confronted, and King Henry VIII was granted an “annulment” — on a fraudulent basis and without the sanction of Rome.

If “heroism is not for the average Christian,” as the German Cardinal Walter Kasper has put it, it certainly wasn’t for the King of England. Instead, issues of personal happiness and the well-being of a country made a strong utilitarian argument for Henry’s divorce. And the King could hardly be bothered to skip communion as the result of an irregular marriage.

England’s Cardinal Wolsey and all the country’s bishops, with the exception of Bishop John Fisher of Rochester, supported the king’s attempt to undo his first – and legitimate – marriage. Like Fisher, Thomas More a layman and the king’s chancellor, also withheld his support. Both were martyred – and later canonized.

In publicly advocating that the king’s marriage was indissoluble, Fisher argued that “this marriage of the king and queen can be dissolved by no power, human or Divine.” For this principle, he said, he was willing to give his life. He continued by noting that John the Baptist saw no way to “die more gloriously than in the cause of marriage,” despite the fact that marriage then “was not so holy at that time as it has now become by the shedding of Christ’s Blood.”

Like Thomas More and John the Baptist, Fisher was beheaded, and like them, he is called “saint.”

Of course, by the time this issue got to Convocation and Parliament, Cardinal Wolsey was dead--William Warham, the Archbishop of Canterbury, was the leader of the Church and the bishops at that crucial stage. 

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Tonight at the Sisters of Sophia Meeting

The topic tonight is Christina Rossetti. More info here and here!

A Better Resurrection:

I have no wit, no words, no tears;
My heart within me like a stone
Is numb'd too much for hopes or fears;
Look right, look left, I dwell alone;
I lift mine eyes, but dimm'd with grief
No everlasting hills I see;
My life is in the falling leaf:
O Jesus, quicken me.

My life is like a faded leaf,
My harvest dwindled to a husk:
Truly my life is void and brief
And tedious in the barren dusk;
My life is like a frozen thing,
No bud nor greenness can I see:
Yet rise it shall—the sap of Spring;
O Jesus, rise in me.

My life is like a broken bowl,
A broken bowl that cannot hold
One drop of water for my soul
Or cordial in the searching cold;
Cast in the fire the perish'd thing;
Melt and remould it, till it be
A royal cup for Him, my King:
O Jesus, drink of me.

Aylesford Resurrected

From The New Liturgical Movement: this film documentation of the restoration of Aylesford Priory, home of St. Simon Stock:

It is a recording of a Mass celebrated according to the Use of the Old Observance Carmelites, essentially the Use which St Theresa herself would have known. The Discalced Reform of the Order which she and St John of the Cross founded adopted the liturgical Use of Rome (as represented by the Missal and Breviary of St Pius V), but only after St Theresa’s death, and by some reports, very much against her intentions.

This recording was made at Aylesford Priory in England, where St Simon Stock was elected head of the Carmelite Order in 1245. Suppressed at the Reformation, the property was bought back by the Old Observance branch of the Order in 1949, and the house re-established. The video begins with some account of the works for the rebuilding of the compound, still ongoing at the time it was made; the Mass itself begins at the 4:00 mark.

The Mass which is celebrated here, filmed on a Sunday in September according to the narration, is a Votive Mass of the Resurrection, a custom which originated in the Use of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem during the Crusades, when that church was occupied by canons of the Latin Rite. The early Carmelites adopted that Use as their own, and maintained this custom; where the main Mass on a Sunday was normally said after Terce, the Votive Mass of the Resurrection was celebrated right after Prime, the hour of the Resurrection itself. The text of the Mass is the same as that of Easter Sunday; however, the words “hodierna die - on this day” are omitted from the Collect, and the Sequence is not sung.

The Aylesford Priory website is titled simply, The Friars. According to the site, they were surprised at the result of their restoration in the 1950's:

When the friars returned to Aylesford in 1949 it was never with the intention that it should become a place of pilgrimage. However, as soon as we arrived home, so the people began to come to pray and to help with the enormous task of rebuilding and restoring the Priory. Today many thousands come on organised pilgrimages or alone, some for a time of retreat or relaxation, some for meetings or conferences. Some simply wander in from the road and are taken into the unique atmosphere of prayer and hospitality which is The Friars.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Church History Apologetics: The Bad Popes

Matt Swaim will appreciate that we are not discussing The Bad Popes, a band in Greenville, SC. Instead we are going to talk about how to answer questions about "The Bad Popes" of Church history, popes who lived scandalously corrupt personal lives, committing nepotism, violating their vows of celibacy, etc. Listen live here after the 6:45 a.m. Central time news break with Annie Mitchell.

As the chaplain at St. Paul's Parish-Newman Center, Father William Carr, reminded us when he taught us Church History, the Pope is infallible in matters of faith and morals; he is not impeccable, unable to err or sin. Popes can and have sinned personally, made errors in judgment, failed in good management, etc. Mike Aquilina expresses it well in his introduction to Good Pope, Bad Pope: Their Lives, Our Lessons:

What do we mean when we say the pope is infallible?

We certainly don't mean that he's always right about everything. The pope is a human being like everyone else. He may be uncommonly good. In the last few centuries, we have had more popes who were uncommonly good than otherwise. But there have been times when the pope was an uncommonly bad man. And even an uncommonly good pope can still trip over the carpet or mispronounce a word. If he falls flat on his face, he doesn't have to pick himself up, brush himself off, and say, "I meant to do that," in order to maintain the truth of papal infallibility.

Papal infallibility is something much more limited and much more comforting. Because Christ promised that the Holy Spirit would protect the Church from error — and because Christ keeps his promises — we know that when the pope, acting in his official capacity as leader of the Church, defines a doctrine that is a matter of faith or morals, he cannot teach error. But the pope can be wrong about astronomy. He can be wrong about biology. He can be wrong about all sorts of things, and — being human — he frequently is.

This distinction is important when somebody points to a notoriously corrupt pope and asks, "How can you say your pope is infallible?" No one has any trouble with the obviously good popes, the ones like St. Leo the Great, who steered the Church through perilous waters and stood up heroically for the faith against long odds. But it's really the bad popes who make the best argument for infallibility.

When we read history, it's clear that God's graces do not depend on our works. He makes his sun rise on the evil popes and on the good and sends rain on the just and on the unjust (see Matthew 5:45). Bring on the worst popes in history! If even they, with all their power, haven't been able to make a dent in Catholic truth, then it really does look as though something more than natural is going on. The Spirit really must be protecting us, because even the legendarily immoral Benedict IX and Alexander VI never managed to teach error in matters of faith and morals.

One of the bad popes Chamberlin put in his 1969 book was Pope Clement VII, the pope who did not grant Henry VIII the decree of nullity he sought re: his marriage to Katherine of Aragon. Clement VII was  not a nepotist, although he had benefited from his cousin Pope Leo X's "enjoyment" of the papacy. He may have been too much of a Medici and picked the wrong sides in the conflicts between France and the Holy Roman Empire, etc., but he was not a morally reprehensible man. He did uphold the validity of Henry and Katherine's marriage.

Some authorities have thought that Pope St. Pius V erred with the Papal Bull Regnans in Excelsis, both in timing and in content, deposing Elizabeth I and encouraging her subjects to rebel against her, depose and replace her; it came too late to aid the Northern Rebellion and provoked Elizabeth and her Government to pass stricter recusant laws and persecute Catholics.

The other bad popes Chamberlin identifies:
  • Pope Stephen VI (896–897), who had his predecessor Pope Formosus exhumed, tried, de-fingered, briefly reburied, and thrown in the Tiber.
  • Pope John XII (955–964), who gave land to a mistress, murdered several people, and was killed by a man who caught him in bed with his wife.
  • Pope Benedict IX (1032–1044, 1045, 1047–1048), who "sold" the Papacy
  • Pope Boniface VIII (1294–1303), who is lampooned in Dante's Divine Comedy
  • Pope Urban VI (1378–1389), who complained that he did not hear enough screaming when Cardinals who had conspired against him were tortured.
  • Pope Alexander VI (1492–1503), a Borgia, who was guilty of nepotism and whose unattended corpse swelled until it could barely fit in a coffin.
  • Pope Leo X (1513–1521), a spendthrift member of the Medici family who once spent 1/7 of his predecessors' reserves on a single ceremony
Next month: the Legend of Pope Joan.

St. Philip Howard, Martyr in Chains

The story of St. Philip Howard exemplifies both conversion and martyrdom, as this site demonstrates:

Queen Elizabeth I became aware of the change in Philip, particularly noting his reconciliation with Anne, so when Anne was reported to her as a recusant she seized the opportunity and had her arrested. Their first child, a daughter, was born while she was in the custody of Sir Thomas Shirley at Wiston in Sussex. Philip had her baptised in the Protestant church. But nevertheless he was very near to his great decision, which eventually he came to at Arundel Castle in 1584. He was reconciled to the Church by the Jesuit Father William Weston.

This was no token conversion. It meant a complete change of life for Philip. He had a priest in his Charterhouse home in London, so that he could have daily Mass. Prayer became a regular part of his life. He continued to attend the Lords and the Court, but avoided attending Church services on various pretexts. The great question now in his mind was; how could he best serve the Catholic cause? He wrote to Cardinal Allen at Douai asking his advice. The letter was intercepted, and the Queen’s Council, using a priest in their pay, sent a bogus reply recommending him to leave England. Although Father Weston and all his friends had been against it, Philip accepted what he thought was Allen’s advice, and secretly took ship for the Continent. But of course his movements were known to the Council, and off the coast he was boarded by a warship and brought back under arrest.

Being held in the Tower of London at Queen Elizabeth's pleasure, Howard was only 28 years old. He would never leave the Tower, not even for a beheading on Tower Green, for he was accused of supporting the Spanish Armada in 1588. Although condemned to death, that execution was never scheduled:

Philip was condemned unanimously and was returned to the Tower. He was never to know whether the sentence would be carried out. He intensified his hours of prayer and fasting, and occupied himself in writing and translating books of piety. For a time he was supported as before by Father Southwell’s letters, until he too was apprehended and sent to the Tower. The two never met, although Philip’s dog did find his way to Southwell’s cell.

By the time Robert Southwell was executed at Tyburn, Philip was dying by degrees, from the privations of his imprisonment. He appealed again to the Queen to allow him to see his wife and son. The Queen replied: if Philip would go but once to their church, not only would she grant his request, but he would be restored to his estates and honours with as much favour as she could show. Philip once more sadly declined the offer. Nothing could show more clearly that, as Robert Southwell had written, “your cause, by whatever name it may be disfigured, by whatever colour deformed in the eyes of men, is religion.”

The last night of his life was spent mainly in prayer; he died on Sunday 19th October 1595 at noon. He was thirty eight. The immediate cause of death was most probably dysentery, though rumours of poison were current at the time. They buried him in his father’s grave in the chapel of St Peter ad Vincula in the Tower. It was nearly thirty years before his widow could get his body removed to her home at West Horsley, and then to Arundel, to be laid in the family vault, the Fitzalan Chapel.

St. Philip Howard is one of the 40 Martyrs of England and Wales, canonized by Pope Paul VI in 1970.

His motto from the wall of his cell in the Tower: “Quanto plus afflictionis pro Christo in saeculo, tanto plus gloriae cum Christo in futuro.”

“The more affliction we endure for Christ in this world, the more glory we shall obtain with Christ in the next.”

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Tomorrow on the Son Rise Morning Show: The Bad Popes

Perhaps you remember the days before when the Barnes & Noble catalog came in the mail with lists of bargain books. One of the remainders they listed--and stocked in their brick and mortar stores--was E.R. Chamberlin's book, The Bad Popes.

Matt Swaim and I will continue our series on Church History Apologetics on the Son Rise Morning Show, held over by Annie Mitchell demand, tomorrow morning at 7:45 a.m. Eastern time/6:45 a.m. Central time.

I will continue to occupy this time slight every third Monday of the month as we discuss different historical issues. Please note that Monday, October 19 is also the anniversary of St. Philip Howard's death as a martyr in chains, held in the Tower of London, in 1595, so I will be certain to mention him too.

Listen live here, on Sacred Heart Radio.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

"Intolerance" in the Morning

I caught the end(s) of D.W. Griffith's Intolerance the other morning on Turner Classic Movies. In three of the four interwoven stories Griffith traces, someone needs to get somewhere fast to warn or save someone else. In the Modern Story, the Boy is about to executed for a murder he did not commit and the race is on to convince the governor to pardon him and then to reach the jail in time to stop the execution. In the Babylon Story, the Bacchanal is in full swing (with the Ruth St. Denis dancers performing) when the Mountain Girl arrives to warn Belshazzar that Cyrus is on the way; in the French story, Prosper wants to rescue Brown Eyes from the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre. Spoiler alert: only the Modern Story ends with a successful intervention, just before the hangman's trap is about to be sprung.

Only one story has no rescue attempt: the Judaean story, as Jesus is led off to be crucified. The enemies of love in that story are the Pharisees, whom Griffith juxtaposes with the reformers that almost ruin the lives of The Boy and The Dear One. But the Judaean Story is one story that has the ultimate rescue, and Griffith leaves it out: The Resurrection!

Griffith tells the four stories to illustrate his theme, as the opening title cards describe it: Our play is made up of four separate stories, laid in different periods of history, each with its own set of characters. Each story shoes how hatred and intolerance, through all the ages, have battled against love and charity. Therefore, you will find our play turning from one of the four stories to another, as the common theme unfolds in each.

At the end, as this site details, the Crucifixion is the last image of the Judaean story and then comes Griffith's epilogue, influenced by the Progressive ideals of his age:

The Judean Story finishes with brilliant light streaming from the top of the hillside where the crucifixion has taken place.

In a moralistic, preachy epilogue, director D. W. Griffith ends the film with an idealistic vision of a day: "when cannon and prison bars wrought in the fires of intolerance -" will no longer prevail. Storm clouds move above a modern battlefield scene, where guns are fired, lines of battle between soldiers are enjoined, and flashes of lightning spark. Hand-to-hand fighting between two men is centered in an iris and mortar fire blasts from giant guns. A military tank moves behind the battle lines. Prisoners in striped uniforms in a long corridor shake their fists up toward a prison wall. In the cloudy sky above the modern-day battlefield, white robed, pacifistic, angelic figurines appear, as one of the hand-to-hand combatants holds his rifle in mid-air before bayoneting his fallen opponent. "And perfect love shall bring peace forevermore." All the soldiers on the battlefield look up and drop their rifles.

An open vehicle with passengers waving happily from its sides flies through (superimposed) clouds. "Instead of prison walls -- Bloom flowery fields." Brilliant light descends from above toward the exterior of a prison. The prisoners who are gesturing toward the wall suddenly move through it (again superimposed trick photography) - the prison walls disappear. The exterior of the prison dissolves into an open country scene with a flowering field in the foreground, and mountains in the background. The field is filled with black workers. The soldiers on the battlefield extend their arms to the sky as clouds (with the angelic figurines) descend toward them. In a May Day type celebration, people happily dance on a grassy field, and two children sit on a unused cannon which has sprouted weeds and flowers. Two other children, a little boy and girl, are in the foreground playing happily together - he puts flowers in her hair, she blows him a kiss, and they both hug each other. From the battlefield, the soldiers look up and cheer toward the angelic figurines. A brilliant white cross appears over the scene. There is a final medium-close shot of the woman rocking the cradle.

The woman rocking the cradle is Lillian Gish. 

William M. Drew suggests in D.W. Griffith's Intolerance: Its Genesis and Its Vision, that Social Gospel Christianity and the ideals of the Progressive movement influenced Griffith's views of religion and society. 

Friday, October 16, 2015

The Relics of St. John Plessington?

The Catholic Diocese of Shrewsbury wants to find out if they have the relics/remains of one of the 40 Martyrs of England and Wales, a Popish Plot victim, St. John Plessington, according to this story from CNA:

The English priest St. John Plessington was among dozens martyred because of an anti-Catholic hoax in the seventeenth century. Now a diocese seeks to confirm whether remains long venerated as a martyr’s relics are his.

Bishop Mark Davies of Shrewsbury praised the saint’s “faithfulness to the point of death” and his witness to priestly life and mission in the diocese.

St. John Plessington was canonized in 1970 by Blessed Paul VI as one of the 40 Martyrs of England and Wales.

“As one of England’s 40 martyrs he points to the long continuity of our Catholic faith and our unswerving loyalty to the See of Peter,” the bishop told the Shrewsbury Catholic Voice.

“If funds could be found to identify and authenticate his relics it would allow our connection to his heroic ministry and martyrdom to become visible and tangible in a new way for generations to come.” . . .

Many of the saint’s bodily remains were lost after his execution in Chester, more than 40 miles north of Shrewsbury.

In the late 19th century bones were discovered hidden in a pub next to St Winefride’s Well in Flintshire, a Welsh county which borders on Chester. The location was a headquarters of Jesuit missionaries, though Plessington was not a Jesuit.

These bones were taken to the Jesuit retreat house of St. Beuno’s and venerated as the relics of an anonymous martyr.

Bishop Davies and others hope that DNA testing of the bones can be matched with known relics, to prove they are the remains of St. John Plessington.

I don't think it would be that unusual for the Jesuits to keep relics of a martyr who was not a Jesuit, especially since the Popish Plot was especially focused on finding and executing Jesuits. (Titus Oates had tried to join the Society of Jesus on the Continent, but his unworthiness for entrance into the order was readily detected and he was sent away.) St. John Plessington has been honored in both Neston and Chester, and the search for his remains has been ongoing:

St John was buried in the churchyard of St Nicholas’s, Burton, after Puddington locals would not allow his quarters to be displayed. Attempts to locate and exhume his body, as recent as 1962, have been unsuccessful but vestments associated with him are kept at St Winefride’s in Neston and a small piece of blood-stained linen is treasured as a relic in St Francis’s Church in Chester.

Statues and stained-glass windows were installed in his honour in St Laurence’s, Birkenhead, and St Werburgh’s, Chester. He is commemorated in St John Plessington College, Bebington, Wirral.

If you can contribute to this project, contact information may be found here.

Blog Tour Interview: "The Middle Ages Unlocked"

I interviewed the authors of The Middle Ages Unlocked: A Guide to Life in Medieval England, 1050–1300 (Amberley Publishing, 2015), Gillian Polack and Katrin Kania, as part of their U.S. blog tour. One of the things about the book that intrigued me was the two disciplines of history and archaeology (thus question #4) working together:

1. For many years, under the influence of the Enlightenment philosophers and historians, people thought of the Middle Ages as the “Dark Ages”. Does your history offer a key to unlock this view of the Medieval era?

Since the Renaissance, the Middle Ages has been considered the time in between Classical history and the Renaissance. The Renaissance self-defined as rebirth, and tried to distance itself from the time before, calling them the Dark Ages. These days, the time between the fall of Rome and early modern times tends to be described differently. Our book shows one section of the Middle Ages, the time from 1050 to around 1300, in their variety, and it quickly becomes clear that the Middle Ages were not Dark Ages at all. They were neither all dirty, nor all poor, nor all cold and dark and dreary.

2. With the celebration of the Magna Carta this year, did you highlight the issues of freedom and rights in your history?

Our book was a long-term project. We were delighted that it was released in the year of the Magna Carta anniversary (the UK release was actually on the very day!) but we had not planned for it. Freedom and rights are explained in our history as part of legal systems and religion. The Magna Carta is, of course, mentioned, but we did not focus on the Magna Carta specifically: it was far more of a political event than a fundamental shift in rights. We explain structures and society – our book does not replace political histories, but helps to understand them and to put political events into a wider context.

3. Do you consider this book a resource for research or a book to be read straight through—or both?

Both! We worked hard to make it pleasant to read through, and to find a good, logical structure for the individual chapters that lets them flow into each other. The individual chapters are stand-alone enough to provide information on a specific topic, and the corresponding recommendations for further reading are helpful in getting started on further, deeper research.

4. Please discuss how the disciplines of history and archaeology work together (or against each other) in helping us understand the past.

This is a very good question! History and archaeology tend to focus on different aspects and look at things differently even if the research topic is the same. Historians and archaeologists thus have to figure out what the other discipline is looking at, how they pose their questions and what they focus on, which means good communication is absolutely essential for working together successfully. If this does work, blending historical and archaeological work is helpful for getting a bigger, wider picture, and for avoiding misinterpretations due to gaps in our respective sources. For instance, an archaeologist will know more about the materials and techniques used in a workshop, and that knowledge can help the historian to better understand why a workshop was worth a certain amount of money, or why getting a specific resource from abroad could have been important for the craftsperson. Our respective disciplines can work dynamically together, giving important insights and helping us, as modern people, to better understand the Middle Ages.

5. In both your introduction and the foreword by Elizabeth Chadwick, the importance of religion in the Middle Ages is stressed. How can secular readers appreciate the role of religion in Medieval England when they don’t share the worldview that “God is Everywhere”?

Most modern people have a different take on religion to that of a medieval person. Medieval piety was very much a part of daily life. However, that does not mean that somebody needs to be pious, or religious at all, to read and learn about the Middle Ages. Appreciation of how important something is, and how that something works, is fortunately not closely tied to actually believing, using, or having that something. People can learn how a car works, and appreciate how important a car is to our modern society, without having or using one themselves – there is no reason why an atheist should not be able to understand and appreciate how religion permeated medieval society, and how important it was for both government and private life.

6. And to follow up on that question, do you think it is necessary for us to appreciate the role of religion in that era to understand the Middle Ages? If we don't what are the consequences?

Yes, it is absolutely key to take the importance of religion in the Middle Ages into account when we try to understand the era. When its role is underestimated, or when religion is ignored, many things are hard to understand or make no sense to us. On the other hand, it is also very important not to overestimate religion, or to believe that every priest taught their congregation the same things. There was a great deal of variation in religious belief and practice, and churches were not only places for worship, but also social spaces used in many different ways.

7. Aside from primary or contemporary sources, what historians most influenced your overall view of the Middle Ages?

The wonderful thing about working on an overview is that it allowed us to form our own views of the Middle Ages. Of course there are prominent names for research in specific topics, but we have never relied on just one single view or just one single book. Writing an overview also means that many topics are touched from different directions, and it automatically results in a re-evaluation of the current view. Our coming from different academic disciplines added another level to this. So there is no single historian (or archaeologist) that we can name here, and we are happy that this is the case.

8. Are the details about daily life applicable only to England in this era, or would we expect to find similarities with life on the Continent at that time?

Some details are, and some are very different from life on the continent. There is a signifiacnt amount of overlap between English life and life in western France, including the Old French spoken in these areas. It is hard to extrapolate beyond that – not only because we have not researched in detail how similar or how different daily life may have been, but also because this can vary from place to place and from example to example. A spindle stick would look about the same in England, Finland and Germany, but shoes might have looked very different. To really say something about this, however, we need to have enough sources giving us information in sufficient detail, which is not always available. There are several more books’ worth that could be written about similarities and differences between England and France alone!

9. Elizabeth Chadwick highlighted a detail that would add verisimilitude to her next novel set in medieval England. Do you think of this book as a resource for writers? Who else should read this book?

The book was originally intended to help writers understand and use medieval England, so we are happy that writers like Elizabeth find it useful. People who need world-building skills for fantasy or science-fiction novels or other applications such as role-playing might also profit from reading the book, as it shows how many different aspects interconnect and influence each other. The book will also help the general public to get a basic understanding of the era, which will make it easier to find out more on individual aspects, and to put those into context – so basically everyone interested in the Middle Ages might want to read our book!

10. With the cutoff date of 1300 in the subtitle, are you suggesting that life in England was different in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries? Did things start to change?

The fourteenth century was an appalling time. War, plague, famine: it had the lot. Cultural change didn't happen overnight, but it did happen. The period before the fourteenth century set up social structures, legal and political systems that shaped even today’s England, however the amount and nature of the changes that happened in the fourteenth century would have required The Middle Ages Unlocked to be a much longer book if we had included it. Material culture also changed a great deal after the thirteenth century. All these reasons together made it easy for us to decide when to stop with our history.

According to the publisher:

To our modern minds, the Middle Ages seem to mix the well-known and familiar with wildly alien concepts and circumstances. The Middle Ages Unlocked provides an invaluable introduction to this complex and dynamic period in England. Exploring a wide range of topics from law, religion and education to landscape, art and magic, between the eleventh and early fourteenth centuries, the structures, institutions and circumstances that formed the basis for daily life and society are revealed. Drawing on their expertise in history and archaeology, Dr Gillian Polack and Dr Katrin Kania look at the tangible aspects of daily life – ranging from the raw materials used for crafts, clothing and jewellery to housing and food – in order to bring the Middle Ages to life. The Middle Ages Unlocked dispels modern assumptions about this period to uncover the complex tapestry of medieval England and the people who lived there.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

No Schadenfreude Allowed: "C and E" C of E Churches?

With the decline of Anglican church attendance and population shifts, many Anglican churches might have to close except for Christmas, Easter, and other special "hire" dates, according to this story from The Telegraph:

Historic village churches across England could be closed down except on holy days such as Christmas and Easter under radical plans being considered by the Church of England to cope with decline.

A major report on the future of the 16,000 Anglican places of worship in England acknowledges that parts of the centuries-old parish system may soon no longer be “sustainable” as existing congregations age and overall numbers dwindle.

It discloses that one in four rural parishes – or about 2,000 churches – now have fewer than 10 regular worshippers and half would now be unable to muster even 20 on a Sunday.

At the same time parishes collectively spend about £160 million a year on maintaining their buildings, which include almost half of all the grade one listed buildings in the country.

Rural churches have been hit not only by a general decline in religious observation but long-standing population shifts leaving some once-thriving parishes effectively marooned in the midst of fields.

Thus these churches will become "C and E" C of E churches.

Looking at the list of churches maintained or supported by the Churches Conservation Trust, many of these parish churches would have been Catholic before the English Reformation (281 out of 363 were built in the 16th century and earlier). I've just picked one from the 14th century, St. Mary the Virgin in Shrewsbury, Shropshire (see the glorious pictures there):

The spire of St Mary’s is one of the tallest in England and for over 500 years it has dominated the skyline of Shrewsbury's old town. In 1739, showman Robert Cadman attempted to slide from it, head first, using a rope and a grooved breastplate. His engraved obituary stands outside the west door. 

The church is now the only complete Medieval church in Shrewsbury. It dates from Saxon times and has beautiful additions from the 12th-century onwards. Inside, the atmosphere is peaceful with the soaring stone arches giving way to the church's great treasure - its stained glass. 

There are panels in glorious colour including the world-famous 14th-century 'Jesse window’ filled with figures of Old Testament kings and prophets, and scenes from the life of St Bernard - a Medieval cartoon strip that shows him ridding flies from an abbey, riding a mule and curing the sick. 

No other church in the country has a collection to equal it. Most of the glass was brought from elsewhere, much of it from Europe, by two remarkable clergymen, and installed in St Mary’s during the 18th - and 19th-centuries. 

Warmth and richness is also provided by superb Victorian coloured tiles on the floor; and lifting your eyes upwards, you will see the wonderful 15th-century carved oak ceiling of the nave, with a profusion of animals, birds and angels. 

Other details delight you wherever you look: an ancient font, Medieval stone carving on the arcades, interesting monuments...The beauty and variety of this church and its contents, all on a grand scale, blend into an uplifting and memorable whole.

From that description you'll note the beauty that was added to the church long after the Reformation era. Nevertheless, the Catholics of Shrewsbury had endured the changes--the iconoclastic destruction--not only of the fabric of their parish church but of the Catholic Sacraments and rituals over the course of the Reformation (the stripping of the altars). While this church may have been spared the utterly destructive forces of the English Civil War, we know that others were wrecked, but then perhaps restored by High Church Tractarians in the 19th century. Hundreds of parishioners, first Catholic and then Anglican, gave their tithes to their parish to maintain these churches. Former parishioners are buried there, World War I dead are remembered there, etc.

So no rejoicing in the misfortune of others here (that's what Schadenfreude means), although I regret that the break from the universal Catholic Church occurred in the first place. Sometimes I see suggestions that the Church of England should return the churches that once were Catholic to the Catholic Church, but how practical that would be I don't know--is there a Catholic population in the area to attend Mass, maintain the artistic unity of the building, build up the parish life? As the Churches Conservation Trust site notes, some of these churches have "lost" their villages, so probably not. Perhaps it is part of the penance of the English Reformation that the C of E is responsible for these churches with funds raised by lotteries and two pound donations.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

St. John Fisher versus St. Thomas More?

Dr. Samuel Gregg writes in The Catholic World Report, proposing St. Thomas More as an appropriate patron saint for the current Synod on the Family:

And one saint whose life is particularly relevant for the 2015 Synod on the Family is surely Thomas More. Universally recognized as a scholar, statesman and lawyer, we often forget that More was also a son, father, and husband. Moreover, one of the principles for which More gave his life could not be more pertinent for this Synod’s reflections: the indissolubility of marriage in the face of Henry VIII’s determination to live as man and wife with a lady who, in the Church’s judgment, was not his wife.

I certainly agree with Dr. Gregg's comments about More and marriage and family life:

All of More’s biographers, even the hostile, underline his devotion to his family. The workload assumed by More upon entering the king’s service in 1518 would have broken many people. Yet despite his weighty responsibilities, More organized and helped impart an educational program for his children, including his daughters (a radical step for the time), that would put most of us to shame today. Even when More’s obligations required him to be away from his family for long periods, he engaged in constant correspondence with them, listened to their problems, gave advice and encouragement, and, when necessary, gently reprimanded them.

Above all, More worked to shape his family’s faith and moral character. Living the Christian life and pursuing the virtues was not, to More’s mind, beyond the powers of all but a small heroic group. Though recognizing that self-mastery is difficult, More was firmly convinced that it was, with the aid of grace, a potentially that anyone could actualize.

Nevertheless, I think that More's rather muted opposition to Henry's plans to marry Anne Boleyn with or without the decree of nullity he demanded from the pope, is more complex than Gregg seems to assert. We may rightly assume More's opposition, but he never stated it. He was careful to stay out of the King's Great Matter during his time as Chancellor, with Henry's concurrence, but he resigned when Henry took final steps against the papacy in 1532, not against his marriage to Katherine of Aragon. More resigned as Chancellor after Parliament passed the Act in Conditional Restraint of Annates, threatening the pope with the withholding of certain payments if Clement VII did not declare Henry's marriage null and void and after the Submission of the Clergy to Henry VIII as Supreme Head and Governor of the Church ("as far as the law of God allows"). The issues of the marriage and the authority of the pope were intertwined, but More's defense of  this marriage is not so clear as Gregg indicates.

Gregg states that the Oath of Succession contained language affirming the invalidity of Henry's first marriage. It does not, although the Act of Succession certainly did. The text of the oath:

'Ye shall swear to bear faith, truth, and obedience alonely to the king's majesty, and to his heirs of his body of his most dear and entirely beloved lawful wife Queen Anne, begotten and to be begotten, and further to the heirs of our said sovereign lord according to the limitation in the statute made for surety of his succession in the crown of this realm, mentioned and contained, and not to any other within this realm, for foreign authority or potentate: and in case any oath be made, or has been made, by you, to any person or persons, that then ye [are] to repute the same as vain and annihilate; and that, to your cunning, wit, and uttermost of your power, without guile, fraud, or other undue means, you shall observe, keep, maintain, and defend the said Act of Accession, and all the whole effects and contents thereof, and all other Acts and statutes made in confirmation, or for the execution of the same, or of anything therein contained; and this ye shall do against all manner of persons, of what estate, dignity, degree, or condition soever they be, and in no wise do or attempt, nor to your power suffer to be done or attempted, directly or indirectly, any thing or things privily or apartly to the let, hindrance, damage, or derogation thereof, or of any part of the same, by any manner of means, or for any manner of pretence; so help you God, all saints, and the holy Evangelists.'

Finally, at trial under the Treason Act, More's focus was all on the Royal Supremacy over the Church in England, not the marriage of Henry to Anne or the validity of the marriage of Henry to Katherine. 

I dissent from Gregg's overall thesis only because I think that he should have chosen St. John Fisher as the patron saint for the synod for his defense of the Church's teaching on sacramental marriage. Along with the Observant Franciscans of Greenwich and three of Katherine of Aragon's confessors and chaplains, the Bishop of Rochester was the most open opponent of Henry's marital plans. Alone among the bishops of England, he upheld the validity of Katherine's marriage to Henry from the beginning and counselled her, as this article by Thomas McGovern narrates:

Fisher, after careful study of the Fathers and Sacred Scripture replied that he was thoroughly convinced there was no prohibition against such a marriage. From that time until Henry's attempted marriage to Anne Boleyn (January 1533) Fisher used every opportunity to defend Queen Catherine's cause in his preaching and in writing.

By 1525 Catherine was forty years of age; she had presented Henry with one daughter, the future Queen Mary, but with no male heir. There had been several stillbirths and it now seemed unlikely that Henry could expect a son to succeed him. At some stage Henry became aware of the text of Leviticus: "He that marries his brother's wife does an unlawful thing . . . they shall be without children."and thus felt he had grounds to question the validity of his marriage to Catherine, who had previously been married to Arthur, his elder brother. The king claimed that it was his concern for a legitimate male heir that first caused him to take the text seriously, but subsequent events were strongly to suggest that it was his passion for Anne Boleyn, one of Catherine's ladies-in-waiting, which was the determining factor in Henry's newly acquired concern for biblical exegesis.

About September 1527 the king consulted Fisher personally about his "great matter." The bishop of Rochester told him that there wasn't the slightest doubt about the validity of his marriage, and that he was prepared to defend this view against all comers. Seven years later, when he was imprisoned in the Tower of London, in reply to a question about the number of books he had written concerning the king's marriage and divorce, he replied: "I am not certain how many, but I can recall seven or eight that I have written. The matter was so serious both on account of the importance of the persons it concerned, and the express command of the king, that I gave more labour and diligence to seeking out the truth lest I should fail him and others, than I ever gave to any other matter." He fulfilled his responsibilities to his king, yet he never reneged on his support for Catherine; he consistently spoke out in her defense even though he knew well that such a stance was fraught with dangerous consequences. 

His continuing efforts to defend the validity of marriage at the Papal Legatine Court in 1529, even stating that he was willing like St. John the Baptist to die, make St. John Fisher a more cogent choice for patron saint of the Synod being held in Rome.

Further, I think that his position as bishop makes him the better patron saint of a Synod of Bishops. Although he was not able in his own day able to persuade the Convocation of Bishops to stand firm against Henry and Cromwell, perhaps his intercession today will lead the cardinals and bishops to uphold what the Church has taught throughout the centuries, as Fisher stated before Henry VIII at the Legatine Court: "Whom God hath joined together, let no man put asunder." He did manage to unite his brother bishops to limit Henry's supremacy under God's law, but he was ill when Convocation was meeting in 1532 and even though the bishops contacted him, they did not follow his advice.

But since these two saints should not be opposed to one another in any way, rather than proposing that St. John Fisher is the better patron for the Synod, I would say that he and St. Thomas More, as they are joined in memory on the Church's calendar of saints, should also be patrons together!

St. John Fisher's prayer for holy bishops from a 1508 sermon preached during the reign of Henry VII:

Lord, according to Your promise that the Gospel should be preached throughout the whole world, raise up men fit for such work. The Apostles were but soft and yielding clay till they were baked hard by the fire of the Holy Ghost.

So, good Lord, do now in like manner again with Thy Church militant; change and make the soft and slippery earth into hard stones; set in Thy Church strong and mighty pillars that may suffer and endure great labours, watching, poverty, thirst, hunger, cold and heat; which also shall not fear the threatenings of princes, persecution, neither death but always persuade and think with themselves to suffer with a good will, slanders, shame, and all kinds of torments, for the glory and laud of Thy Holy Name. By this manner, good Lord, the truth of Thy Gospel shall be preached throughout all the world.

Therefore, merciful Lord, exercise Thy mercy, show it indeed upon Thy Church. Amen.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Eucharistic Procession in London on October 9

Joanna Bogle writes in The National Catholic Register about the Eucharistic Procession from Westminster to St. George cathedrals in London held in honor of Blessed John Henry Newman. She uses it as a way to assess the changes in response to Catholicism that have taken place since Newman's day--or even a century ago:

It is a sign of the present religious state of Britain that the procession aroused no animosity, and indeed produced only mild gawking and some selfie-taking from passers-by and tourists as it made its way through the London streets.

A century ago, such a procession was planned as the culmination of a great Eucharistic Congress held in London but it was banned by the public authorities on the grounds that it would be too controversial and would create public disorder. No such problems seemed to emerge on this day, the memorial of Blessed John Henry Newman’s beatification. While the Church’s moral teachings are much challenged and derided — anyone in public life who openly opposes same-sex “marriages” or dares to suggest that homosexual activity might be wrong is likely to be hounded out of office, or forced to make a public recantation — the Church’s sacraments and life of prayer are virtually unknown to millions.

The militant anti-Catholicism of past years, led by fervent Protestants who believed that Catholicism was a form of paganism or idolatry, has given way to puzzled indifference. Almost the only thing that most British people know about the Catholic Church is its opposition to abortion and to same-sex marriage. So the sight of the Blessed Sacrament being carried through the streets beneath a canopy, attended by a great throng of people, induces not opposition but vague bewilderment — and f
or some immediate clicking of a mobile phone to record the moment and send a picture to a friend.

Before his conversion, Newman wrote a retraction of all his anti-Catholic statements in print.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Another Dominican Master: St. Antonino of Florence

From Dom Bede Jarrett, O.P.'s 1914 monograph, S. Antonino and Medieval Economics:

There is another shrine which the devout lover of S. Antonino finds perhaps more appropriate and more touching — his cell in S. Marco. Here within these walls, how much of that character was built up which has made him revered in Florence, as the most blessed of her Bishops for over a thousand years! We look round with affection and love to think how much it meant, when in those far-off days (which somehow here seem not quite so distant) the vigorous Prior wrought out so many plans for the well-being of his brethren and the city. In it are gathered now his vestments, the death-mask, some manuscripts (which it requires a persistent visitor to get hold of) in his execrable hand- writing, and an old portrait. . . . 

But in this "narrow cell" that S. Antonino had chosen for himself, Fra Angelico has painted a fresco. Its design was no doubt thought out by the friends in counsel; and the Prior must have stood and watched while the artist-friar in prayer worked out with his bright colouring the mystery that both deemed the most appropriate. It represents the descent of Christ to the departed in Limbo. The figure of the Crucified Saviour, who has not yet burst through the portals of the tomb, stands in soft mellow light at the entrance of a rocky cave. In front and to the right stretch the long line of figures whose eyes gaze in rapt ineffable adoration on the face that lit up for them the gloom alike of life and of death. Thronging together, their hands uplifted in wonder, their knees half-bowed in worship, they stand for thousands and tens of thousands out of many nations and centuries and beliefs. Gathered from Earth's wide-stretching garden, they are the first blossoms that Christ shall offer to His Father; and over them all broods a hushed, yet living, silence. They are the spirits of the just made perfect, the first-fruits of the Lamb, the eldest-born of all the Dead. How they had waited in patience shut up within their prison, while through timeless aeons they looked out for the Messias! Tired were they and weary, expectant of release, yet knowing not day nor hour when the fulness of time should come. In silence and in hope was their only and utter strength. So Christ would have them remain until He should come. 

And S. Antonino, looking on this as he worked and laboured and wrote, learnt the lesson of life as taught by his friend Fra Angelico. Here, brimful of meaning, which yet would never tire or make afraid, was a splendid sermon by the most eloquent of Friar Preachers. 

He looked and learned that patience in weariness, patience in waiting, patience in an incomplete state of being is the most precious virtue to have attained, so that ''through patience we might have hope." 

I went to Eighth Day Books last week in search of a used book by Etienne Gilson titled The Church Speaks to the Modern World: The Social Teachings of Pope Leo XIII (Warren is searching for a copy for me) and instead found a lovely little red book about economics! Dom Bede Jarrett, O.P. wrote a little trilogy on economics in the Middle Ages and I plan to read the other two works: Medieval Socialism and Social Theories of the Middle Ages, which will require another trip to Eighth Day Books!

The volume I purchased is volume 3 in the "Catholic Library" published in both England and the U.S.A.. The book came with the insert from the U.S. publisher, B. Herder of St. Louis, MO., in 1914 asking the receiving Editor to provide "as extensive a notice as possible" and to "favor me [the Publisher] with two marked copies of your paper containing notice."

Although the book refers to the saint and Medieval Economics in the title, Jarrett dedicates one chapter out of ten to "His Social Ideals". Jarrett provides a summary of St. Antonino's Summa Moralis on economic themes: Production, Distribution, and Consumption. The saint, who was Archbishop of Florence when Cosimo de Medici was resident in the Dominican convent of San Marco (which contains the great frescoes of Fra Angelico as referenced and illustrated above), writes about the moral aspects of commerce. He begins with the statement that riches are good and poverty is bad; riches are good because they allow a man to care for his family in relative security and comfort, provide for the common good, and give alms to the poor to alleviate their want. No one in a just state should be destitute of food, shelter, and clothing, but everyone must work according to their ability to support themselves and their families. Wealth also provides for the opportunity for prayer and meditation: riches are a means to good things, not an end. While good may be obtained through voluntary poverty (like that practiced by religious), poverty is not a good in and of itself.

St. Antonino did not expect or even suggest the even distribution of wealth, noting that inequality is part of Nature and while he joined in the universal condemnation of usury and was opposed to monopolies or cartels, he acknowledged that businessmen could and should make a profit, even on their invested capital, as it represents their industry and effort, not as money making money on itself. He condemns extravagance or conspicuous consumption: "For it is a sad thing to see, side by side, extravagance and penury, to see horses and mules gaily caparisoned while the poor perish from hunger; or in a plague-stricken city when the sick lie naked, cold, and foodless to find men and women dressed with vain and gaudy ornaments (II. 4, 4, vi. p. 581; II. 4, 5, ii. p. 591)" (p. 76). St. Antonino discusses the principles of just prices, just reward for labour, and just production and distribution of goods.

Jarrett sums up the saint's work on economics:

These ideals of Florence set out in four volumes of S. Antonino's Summa Moralis, put into complete activity in the Greater and Lesser Guilds, and lined in stone along the graceful facade of Or San Michele are commercial, it is true, but clean and religious and noble. They sum up a chivalrous and knightly aspect of mercantile adventure. They spell out the splendid Chronicles of the Romance of Trade.

In the chapter preceding this review of economic theory, Jarrett details the holy archbishop's efforts to provide for the poor through charitable foundations and almsgiving, stating:

Yet was his charity ever true, rooted in faith and glowing with trustfulness in the inherent goodness of redeemed humanity. It was synonymous with justice for it rested on fellowship and its piers were driven deep down into that human nature whereby all we mortals are akin. Charity for him was love and God was love.

St. Antonino of Florence's feast (May 10) is no longer included on the Roman Calendar but EWTN provides this biography of the saint from Rev.Alban Butler.

Dom Bede Jarrett (1881-1934), according to this site, was born as

Cyril Jarrett, who received the name Bede when, at age 17, he entered the Dominican order in England. The Dominicans sent him to study at Oxford and at Louvain, where he received his degree in theology. Ordained in 1904, Fr. Jarrett was stationed at St. Dominic's Priory in London. At 33, he was named Prior there and, just two years later, was elected Provincial — an office he held the rest of his life. While serving as Provincial, Fr. Jarrett wrote numerous scholarly books, as well as a lively, popular biography of St. Dominic.

Fr. Jarrett's demanding schedule of preaching and lecture engagements in England and abroad soon brought him to the attention of Catholics in the pew. He inspired them with his profound grasp of human nature and his eloquent explanations of the wise and loving ways of God. That same eloquence and Catholic understanding permeates the meditations he penned for this book.

In his own life time he held a recognised position as the greatest preacher in Catholic England. The Times of London noted in his obituary that "he has been called the best Roman Catholic preacher in this country, and he was perhaps the most popular English preacher in the United States, his sermons being marked by their intellectual quality, their appositeness to the times and their incisiveness". He is the author of
Classic Catholic Meditations, Life of St. Dominic, The abiding presence of the Holy Ghost in the soul, and Mediaeval Socialism.