Saturday, December 31, 2016

The Former Bishop of Carlisle Dies

Owen Oglethorpe, who had served Cambridge University as an academic and administrator, and who had celebrated Elizabeth I's Coronation--the only bishop who would--died on December 31, 1559. During the reigns of Henry VIII and Edward VI he had demonstrated, according to the Dictionary of National Biography, an ability to go along with religious changes: "His conduct shows him to have being a man of no strength of character, with little love for the series of religious changes through which the clergy were being hustled, but reluctantly accepting them rather than forego the dignity and emoluments of office."

But after Mary I died, Bishop Oglethorpe at last showed some resolution. Because Reginald Pole, the Cardinal Archbishop of Canterbury had died the same day as Mary I, another bishop was needed to perform the ceremony:

He showed some firmness when called upon to say mass before the queen in the first days of her reign. Elizabeth forbade him to elevate the Host, which, according to a Roman authority, he insisted on doing (Strype, Annals, vol. i. pt. i. p. 73). The coronation soon followed. In the vacancy of the see of Canterbury, it naturally fell to the Archbishop of York to perform the ceremony; but Heath, alarmed by ominous presages of a change in religion, refused to officiate. Tunstall of Durham was too old, and perhaps shared in Heath's objection. It devolved, therefore, on Oglethorpe, as his suffragan, to take his metropolitan's place, and on 16 Jan. 1559, the other diocesan bishops attending, with the exception of Bonner, who, however, lent him his robes for the function, he placed the crown on the head of Elizabeth, but it is asserted that he never forgave himself for an act the momentous consequences of which he hardly foresaw, and remorse for his unfaithfulness to the church is said to have hastened his end. The same month he attended Elizabeth's first parliament, when he expressed his dissent from the bills for restoring the first-fruits and tenths to the crown, and the royal supremacy, the iniquitous forced exchange of bishops' lands for impropriate tithes, and other measures (Strype, Annals, vol. i. pt. i. pp. 82-7). He was also present at the opening of the disputation on religion at Westminster in March 1559, and was one of those who were fined for declining to enter on the dispute when they saw which way things were tending. The fine imposed on him amounted to 250l., and he had to give recognisances for good behaviour (ib. pp. 129, 137-9). On 15 May, together with Archbishop Heath and the other bishops who adhered to the old faith, he was summoned before the queen, and, on their unanimous refusal to take the oath of supremacy, they were all deprived (ib. pp. 206, 210). He only survived his deprivation a few months. He died suddenly of apoplexy on the last day of that year.

He was buried in St. Dunstan-of-the-West on Fleet Street.

Friday, December 30, 2016

In the Ending of the Year

John Mason Neale included this translation of the medieval hymn (Anonymous; Germany; 12th century), In hoc anni circulo in his 1853 Carols for Christmas-tide:

In the ending of the year
Life and light to man appear;
And the Holy Babe is here,
De Virgine;
And the Holy Babe is here,
De Virgine Mariâ.

What in ancient days was slain
This day calls to life again;
God is coming, God shall reign,
De Virgine;
God is coming, God shall reign,
De Virgine Mariâ.

From the desert grew the corn,
Sprang the lily from the thorn,
When the Infant King was born
De Virgine;
When the Infant King was born
De Virgine Mariâ.

On the straw He lays His head,
Hath a manger for His bed,
Thirsts and hungers and is fed
De Virgine;
Thirsts and hungers and is fed
De Virgine Mariâ.

Angel hosts His praises sing,
Three Wise men their off'rings bring,
Ox and ass adore the King,
Cum Virgine;
Ox and ass adore the King,
Cum Virgine Mariâ.

Wherefore let us all to-day
Banish sorrow far away,
Singing and exulting aye,
Cum Virgine;
Singing and exulting aye,
Cum Virgine Mariâ.

Image: Wikipedia Commons: Medieval miniature painting of the Nativity by the Master of Vyšší Brod, c. 1350

If you follow this blog, you know how much I appreciate the works of John Mason Neale. In my last blog post for the year at The National Catholic Register, I pay tribute to his contribution of Christmas carols and hymns, and sacred songs throughout the year.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

St. Thomas of Canterbury and St. John Stone

Over at the National Catholic Register, please find my post on St. Thomas of Canterbury today, on his feast. I also tell the story of St. John Stone, a martyr during another Henry's reign:

St. Thomas of Canterbury’s memorial is on December 29 within the Octave of Christmas, and his story may be familiar to many Catholics because we’ve read Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales or T.S. Eliot’s Murder in the Cathedral in school or have seen the movie Becket with Richard Burton and Peter O’Toole. There is another Canterbury martyr we should remember during this Christmastide, however, that most have probably never heard of: St. John Stone.

After describing the questioning, arrest, and execution of St. John Stone, I return to the subject of St. Thomas of Canterbury's great shrine and what Henry VIII did to it:

Therefore, in April of 1538 Henry VIII set about eradicating the legacy of St. Thomas of Canterbury in England. His shrine at the Cathedral and images of him throughout the land were to be destroyed. According to Henry, St. Thomas of Canterbury was neither a saint nor a martyr and his feasts (December 29, the date of his martyrdom and July 7, the date his relics were placed in the shrine at Canterbury in 1220) were to be removed from the liturgical calendar.

This attack on a saint proclaimed by the Church was the final blow for Pope Paul III, who issued a decree of excommunication against Henry on December 17, 1538. With these actions against St. Thomas of Canterbury, and against other saints’ shrines, including the Marian shrines throughout England, it was clear that, as far as Henry VIII was concerned, the Church had reached the point of no return.

The hanging, drawing, and quartering of St. John Stone on December 27, 1539, a year after Henry VIII’s excommunication, demonstrated that sadly, Pope Paul III was right. Friar John Stone was canonized among the 40 Martyrs of England and Wales in 1970 by Pope Paul VI.

St. Thomas of Canterbury is celebrated on the liturgical calendar of the Church of the England, honored as a martyr, on either July 7 or December 29, and people still go on pilgrimage (or as tourists) to Canterbury. What would Henry VIII think about that?

Since the first of September I've had the great opportunity to write these blog posts for the National Catholic Register. It's been a good platform for telling the story of the English Reformation and other historical or liturgical themes that are important to me. I particularly enjoy highlighting the Extraordinary Form of the Latin Rite through these posts. Looking forward to many more posts in 2017! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! 

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Party Like Its Christmas Until February?!?

In the UK Catholic Herald magazine, Melanie McDonagh promotes celebrating/observing the Christmas season until Candlemas (February 2), bringing the season to the biblical 40 days:

One of the downsides of starting Christmas so soon is that it finishes too soon. Obviously, if the season starts commercially just after Halloween, and the Christmas lights go on at the beginning of November, and the party season gets going in early December, you’re over the celebrations by St Stephen’s, or Boxing Day, with one last hurrah on New Year’s Eve. As an uncle of mine used to say dolefully, after tea on Christmas Day: “That’s Christmas over for another year.” Wrong, obviously. Christmas goes on for Twelve Days, Christmas Eve to Epiphany, a feast we do not keep by putting the bald Christmas trees out.

In fact, I’d say myself that we shouldn’t give up on Christmas until Candlemas, February 2. That was the way the Church’s calendar intended it: the Christmas season extended right through the second most dispiriting month of the year, right into the most depressing one. January without Christmas can be a downbeat month, but if we think of it as a modified extension of the Christmas season, it has an altogether different character.

There couldn’t be a worse time for the New Year, New You thing of giving up starchy carbs; this is exactly the time we should be eating them, having our friends round. It’s still the time for filling your house with candles and greenery, and entertaining. Candlemas Eve, not Epiphany, used to be the time when people took down their sprays of greenery, holly and ivy. As Robert Herrick put it in his poem for the Eve: “Down with the Rosemary and Bayes, down with the Mistletoe; Instead of Holly now up-raise the greener Box, for show…” And so on, with all the green stuff of Christmas being replaced with their springtime equivalents, to celebrate Whitsun or Easter.

The article is illustrated with a picture of Christmas trees being thrown away. Of course, if you've had a "live" tree up since Thanksgiving, you might need to dispose of it (we recycle ours) well before February 2! But she's right that we need to keep Christmas going. I find the calendar of the Extraordinary Form of the Latin Rite to help, because instead of jumping right into a short portion of Ordinary Time after the Feast of the Baptism of Our Lord, it continues with the Season after Epiphany. Just seeing that term Epiphany for each Sunday between January 6 and February 2 reminds me that we are still celebrating Christmas, at least liturgically.

But for now we are celebrating the Nativity of Jesus in the Octave of the Christmas Feast. Happy Feast of St. John, the beloved disciple! Happy second day of Christmas, 2016-2017! Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 25, 2016

St. Thomas More for Christmas

My husband surprised me with a wonderful Christmas gift: a portrait of St. Thomas More by Pieter Paul Rubens (after the famous portrait by Hans Holbein). When Crisis Magazine published my article on St. Thomas More in June this year, they used a detail of this portrait:

He gave me hints to find the hidden present--he had kept me away from the door when it was delivered earlier in the week--and then we hung it in our living room beside our secretary:

Pieter Paul Rubens' version of Holbein's portrait--which is itself a great work of character and introspection--depicts More as a little more vulnerable. More is not wearing his Collar of Esses with the Tudor Rose nor is he set against such a rich background as in Holbein's original. According to the Museo del Prado:

This is a free copy [meaning that Rubens copied it freely with his own interpretation] of Hans Holbein´s portrait of the Thomas More, the English humanist and statesman. He wears a cape with a fur collar and a magistrate's cap. In his hands, he holds a paper alluding to his condition as an intellectual. Holbein was a favorite of Rubens, who copied his works on numerous occasions, especially at the beginning of his career. The present portrait was made in the sixteen twenties and reflects his great interest in the northern esthetic, as well as his approach to the world of humanist philosophy. It is first listed in 1746 in Isabel Farnesio´s collection at the La Granja Palace.

Dame Alice More wrote to Henry VIII during the Christmas of 1534, begging Henry to be merciful to her husband, herself, and Thomas's son John. Since Thomas More had been attainted a traitor, all his assets were forfeit to the Crown; Alice was afraid that she and John would be left without resources. Alice also asked Henry to have mercy on her husband because he was ill ("great continual sickness of body and heaviness of heart"). She asked Henry to release her Thomas More to her care and declared herself to be Henry's beadswoman, praying for him constantly.

For Christmas Day: The Seven Joys of Mary

My sister gave me a copy of The Seven Joys of Mary by Romanus Cessario, OP, published by Magnificat as one of my birthday presents. I noticed that the King's College Cambridge 2016 Nine Lessons and Carols included a carol about Mary's Seven Joys, with a different list:

The first good joy that Mary had,
It was the joy of one;
To see the blessed Jesus Christ
When he was first her son:
When he was first her son, good man,
And blessed may he be,
Both Father, Son, and Holy Ghost
To all eternity.

The next good joy that Mary had,
It was the joy of two;
To see her own son, Jesus Christ,
To make the lame to go:
To make the lame to go, good man:
And blessed may he be,
Both Father, Son, and Holy Ghost
To all eternity.

The next good joy that Mary had,
It was the joy of three;
To see her own son, Jesus Christ,
To make the blind to see:
To make the blind to see, good man:
And blessed may he be,
Both Father, Son, and Holy Ghost
To all eternity.

The next good joy that Mary had,
It was the joy of four;
To see her own son, Jesus Christ,
To read the Bible o’er:
To read the Bible o’er, good man:
And blessed may he be,
Both Father, Son, and Holy Ghost
To all eternity.

The next good joy that Mary had,
It was the joy of five;
To see her own son, Jesus Christ,
To bring the dead alive:
To bring the dead alive, good man:
And blessed may he be,
Both Father, Son, and Holy Ghost
To all eternity.

The next good joy that Mary had,
It was the joy of six;
To see her own son, Jesus Christ,
Upon the crucifix:
Upon the crucifix, good man:
And blessed may he be,
Both Father, Son, and Holy Ghost
To all eternity.

The next good joy that Mary had,
It was the joy of seven;
To see her own son, Jesus Christ,
To wear the crown of heaven:
To wear the crown of heaven, good man:
And blessed may he be,
Both Father, Son, and Holy Ghost
To all eternity.

The traditional list of the Seven Joys of the Blessed Virgin Mary is:

The Annunciation.
The Nativity of Jesus.
The Adoration of the Magi.
The Resurrection of Christ.
The Ascension of Christ to Heaven.
The Pentecost or Descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles and Mary.
The Coronation of the Virgin in Heaven.

The Franciscans pray the Crown Rosary, meditating on a slightly different list of joys:

The Annunciation
The Visitation
The Nativity of Jesus
The Adoration of the Magi
The Finding of Jesus in the Temple
The Resurrection of Jesus
The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Rejoice and be glad: Have a Mary, Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 24, 2016

"Mumpsimus" and "Sumpsimus": Henry VIII on Christmas Eve, 1545

Henry VIII made his last speech to Parliament on December 24, 1545. He was concerned about religious discord in his empire and the effect it was having on the people. Edward Hall (author of Hall's Chronicle) wrote down the speech as he heard it:

Now, since I find such kindness on your part towards me, I cannot choose but to love and favor you, affirming that no prince in the world more favors his subjects than I do you, and no subjects or commons more love and obey their sovereign lord than I see you do me, for whose defense my treasure shall not be hidden, nor if necessity requires it will my person be not risked. But although I with you and you with me are in this perfect love and concord, this friendly amity cannot continue unless both you, my lords temporal, and you, my lords spiritual, and you, my loving subjects, study and take pains to amend one thing which is surely amiss and far out of order, which I most heartily require you to do, which is that charity and concord is not amongst you, but discord and dissension bears rule in every place. St Paul wrote to the Corinthians, in the 12th chapter: ‘Charity is gentle, Charity is not envious, Charity is not proud,’ and so on in that chapter. Behold then what love and charity is amongst you when one calls another heretic and anabaptist and he calls him back papist, hypocrite, and pharisee. Are these tokens of charity amongst you? No, no, I assure you that this lack of charity amongst yourselves will be the hindrance and assuaging of the fervent love between us, as I said before, unless this is healed and clearly made whole. I must judge the fault and occasion of this discord to be partly the negligence of you, the fathers and preachers of the spirituality. For if I know a man who lives in adultery I must judge him to be a lecherous and carnal person; if I see a man boast and brag about himself I cannot but deem him a proud man. I see and hear daily that you of the clergy preach against each other without charity or discretion. Some are too stiff in their old ‘Mumpsimus’, others are are too busy and curious in their new ‘Sumpsimus’. Thus almost all men are in variety and discord, and few or none truly and sincerely preach the word of God as they ought to do. Shall I now judge you to be charitable persons who do this? No, no, I cannot do so. Alas, how can the poor souls live in concord when you preachers sow amongst them in your sermons debate and discord? They look to you for light and you bring them darkness. Amend these crimes, I exhort you, and set forth God’s word truly, both by true preaching and giving a good example, or else, I, whom God has appointed his vicar and high minister here, will see these divisions extinct, and these enormities corrected, according to my true duty, or else I am an unprofitable servant and an untrue officer’. . . 

Peter Marshall traces the history of the phrase Henry VIII uses: "Some are too stiff in their old ‘Mumpsimus’, others are are too busy and curious in their new ‘Sumpsimus’." and finds that Desiderius Erasmus was the source. In 1516, Erasmus referred in a letter to an anecdote about "a certain priest" who refused to change the words he prayed when he offered Mass, even though he was told there was a misprint. Where his Missal read "mumpsimus" it should have read "sumpsimus". Erasmus was reacting against those who rejected his corrections of the Vulgate text of the Holy Bible, his Novum Instrumentum. Reformers in England particularly liked the metaphor, using it to attack not just "a certain priest" but all Catholic priests as ignorant and lazy--even though Bishop John Fisher, with the aid of Henry VIII's grandmother Margaret Beaufort--had been working to educate priests better. 

But when Henry VIII added to the intrepration of the  metaphor, as Marshall calls it, was the attack against those who insist on their "sumpsimus" as being "too busy and curious". Nevertheless, Marshall concludes: "As informed contemporaries would have recognised, the king’s bon mot was not quite so even-handed as it would first appear: sumpsimus is, at worst, pedantry, while mumpsimus is just plain wrong." 

What was included in Henry VIII's "mumpsimus"? Certainly not the belief in the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist. Some forms of "sumpsimus" rejected that, but Henry VIII always defended it. Probably not "the priesthood of all believers"--Henry VIII knew that the Sacrifice of the Mass required a sacramental priesthood, ordained and anointed just as he thought he was as king. Probably not some of crucial Lutheran theories of salvation and authority: sola scriptura, sola fidei, sola gratia. Certainly the spiritual and ecclesiastical authority and supremacy of the Holy Roman Pontiff. Henry VIII clearly rejected that part of the old "mumpsimus"! 

As Peter Marshall concludes, Henry VIII's last parliamentary speech and its bon mot illustrate the problem:  "It would perhaps be difficult to find a more perfect encapsulation of the idiosyncratic religious outlook of Henry VIII and of the complexities and ambiguities of the reforming processes he initiated; processes which, in 1545,he was trying, and failing, to bring under control."

How about this for a summation: "Happy Christmas and try to read my mind on what I believe!"

Illustration credit. This portrait from 1545 depicts Henry VIII, his heir Prince Edward, and Edward's late mother, Jane Seymour. Henry VIII was married to Katherine Parr at the time.

Another "A Christmas Carroll"

REioyce, reioyce, this day is come
Saluation vnto Christendome:
All that will heare their blest Redeemers voyce,
Let them all with mirth reioyce, reioyce.
The Sauiour of the world is borne,
To ransome vs that were forlorne:
He left the Heauens, and came to vs on earth,
And from a blessed Virgins wombe had birth.
Here a mighty mystery well was wrought,
whose depth no man can gather;
A Mayden-mother pure, a Sonne forth brought,
and no man was the father:
God aboue, with peace and loue,
The sinfull world possessed
With heauenly treasure, past all measure,
Who is euer blessed.
He this day to Grace a feast,
sent his Sonne to be a Guest:
Let vs then, like thankfull men
giue entertainment to him:
And let vs still with heart and will,
our best of seruice doe him:
Himselfe for vs he hath giuen,
to draw vs from earth to heauen.
Therefore for all his paine,
let's giue him our selues againe.
TO wipe away our sinnes great summes,
Gods Sonne and heire in person comes;
He left his glorious and Immortall throne,
and vnderneath his Fathers curse did groane:
Downe from the heauens to the earth he came,
to honour vs he tooke our shame;
He suffer'd death that we might liue thereby,
and through his merits reigne eternally.
Seeing he hath with his precious blood
wash'd cleare our foule offences,
How can we render any thing
that may be recompences,
Since we may not any way
giue any thing worth taking;
Or all that can be done by man,
no satisfaction making:
Let vs doe as Dauid sayes,
giue him honour, laud and praise.
Let Christmas day put vs in minde,
that Christ was borne this day:
Let's entertaine him here, that we
may entertaine him aye.
That we all with one heart and desire,
amidst the Celestiall Quire
All honour and praise may sing,
to Christ our heauenly King.
John Taylor the Water Poet, wrote this along with The Complaint of Christmas, a pamphlet about the Puritan ban on Christmas (Father Christmas visits England and decides to try again another year). More about him from

John Taylor, the Thames waterman, also resorted to publication by subscription, and, in his case, his whimsical personality, added to the amusement afforded by the rough wit and boisterous humour of his effusions, secured a large number of patrons. Before starting on one of his eccentric journeys, he would circulate a quantity of prospectuses or “Taylor’s bills,” as he called them, with the object of securing subscribers for the account of his travels to be afterwards published. In this way, he obtained more than sixteen hundred subscribers to The Pennyles Pilgrimage (1618), a record of his journey on foot into Scotland. On the strength of this list, he had 4500 copies printed, but nearly half the subscribers refused to pay, and he castigated the defaulters in an amusing brochure entitled A Kicksey Winsey, or, A Lerry Come-Twang, which he issued in the following year. He also worked off copies of his publications by “presenting” them to various people, not forgetting to call on the morrow for “sweet remuneration.” But, notwithstanding king James’s dictum, as reported by Ben Jonson, that he did not “see ever any verses in England equal to the Sculler’s,” Taylor cannot be accounted as anything more than a voluminous scribbler, possessed of irrepressible assurance and facile wit of a coarse vein. He had, however, the saving grace of acute observation of men and manners, and this has given his productions a certain value for the student of social history. The term “literary bargee” befits him much better than his own self-styled title “the water-poet”; and his unrelenting satirical persecution of Thomas Coryate shows him in an unamiable light. In 1630, he gathered into one folio volume, which he called All the Workes of John Taylor the Water-poet, sixty-three of his pieces in prose and verse; but, before his death, in 1653, the number of his publications had exceeded one hundred and fifty.

Friday, December 23, 2016

This is Real: The Incarnation

From Blessed John Henry Newman's Parochial and Plain Sermon, "Unreal Words":

What I have been saying comes to this:—be in earnest, and you will speak of religion where, and when, and how you should; aim at things, and your words will be right without aiming. There are ten thousand ways of looking at this world, but only one right way. The man of pleasure has his way, the man of gain his, and the man of intellect his. Poor men and rich men, governors and governed, prosperous and discontented, learned and unlearned, each has his own way of looking at the things which come before him, and each has a wrong way. There is but one right way; it is the way in which God looks at the world. Aim at looking at it in God's way. Aim at seeing things as God sees them. Aim at forming judgments about persons, events, ranks, fortunes, changes, objects, such as God forms. Aim at looking at this life as God looks at it. Aim at looking at the life to come, and the world unseen, as God does. Aim at "seeing the King in his beauty." All things that we see are but shadows to us and delusions, unless we enter into what they really mean.

It is not an easy thing to learn that new language which Christ has brought us. He has interpreted all things for us in a new way; He has brought us a religion which sheds a new light on all that happens. Try to learn this language. Do not get it by rote, or speak it as a thing of course. Try to understand what you say. Time is short, eternity is long; God is great, man is weak; he stands between heaven and hell; Christ is his Saviour; Christ has suffered for him. The Holy Ghost sanctifies him; repentance purifies him, faith justifies, works save. These are solemn truths, which need not be actually spoken, except in the way of creed or of teaching; but which must be laid up in the heart. That a thing is true, is no reason that it should be said, but that it should be done; that it should be acted upon; that it should be made our own inwardly.

Let us avoid talking, of whatever kind; whether mere empty talking, or censorious talking, or idle profession, or descanting upon Gospel doctrines, or the affectation of philosophy, or the pretence of eloquence. Let us guard against frivolity, love of display, love of being talked about, love of singularity, love of seeming original. Let us aim at meaning what we say, and saying what we mean; let us aim at knowing when we understand a truth, and when we do not. When we do not, let us take it on faith, and let us profess to do so. Let us receive the truth in reverence, and pray God to give us a good will, and divine light, and spiritual strength, that it may bear fruit within us.

And from his sermon on "The Incarnation":

Let us then, according to the light given us, praise and bless Him in the Church below, whom Angels in heaven see and adore. Let us bless Him for His surpassing loving-kindness in taking upon Him our infirmities to redeem us, when He dwelt in the inner-most love of the Everlasting Father, in the glory which He had with Him before the world was. He came in lowliness and want; born amid the tumults of a mixed and busy multitude, cast aside into the outhouse of a crowded inn, laid to His first rest among the brute cattle. He grew up, as if the native of a despised city, and was bred to a humble craft. He bore to live in a world that slighted Him, for He lived in it, in order in due time to die for it. He came as the appointed Priest, to offer sacrifice for those who took no part in the act of worship; He came to offer up for sinners that precious blood which was meritorious by virtue of His Divine Anointing. He died, to rise again the third day, the Sun of Righteousness, fully displaying that splendour which had hitherto been concealed by the morning clouds. He rose again, to ascend to the right hand of God, there to plead His sacred wounds in token of our forgiveness, to rule and guide His ransomed people, and from His pierced side to pour forth his choicest blessings upon them. He ascended, thence to descend again in due season to judge the world which He has redeemed.—Great is our Lord, and great is His power, Jesus the Son of God and Son of man. Ten thousand times more dazzling bright than the highest Archangel, is our Lord and Christ. By birth the Only-begotten and Express image of God; and in taking our flesh, not sullied thereby, but raising human nature with Him, as He rose from the lowly manger to the right hand of power,—raising human nature, for Man has redeemed us, Man is set above all creatures, as one with the Creator, Man shall judge man at the last day. So honoured is this earth, that no stranger shall judge us, but He who is our fellow, who will sustain our interests, and has full sympathy in all our imperfections. He who loved us, even to die for us, is graciously appointed to assign the final measurement and price upon His own work. He who best knows by infirmity to take the part of the infirm, He who would fain reap the full fruit of His passion, He will separate the wheat from the chaff, so that not a grain shall fall to the ground. He who has given us to share His own spiritual nature, He from whom we have drawn the life's blood of our souls, He our brother will decide about His brethren. In that His second coming, may He in His grace and loving pity remember us, who is our only hope, our only salvation!

Illustration: James Tissot, "Joseph Seeks a Lodging in Bethlehem"

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The Pilgrimage of Grace and Religion in Northern England

I start reading a non-fiction book at the back: I check for an index, look at the list of works cited or consulted and glance at the notes. At the back of this book, Insurrection: Henry VIII, Thomas Cromwell and The Pilgrimage of Grace, I read the Acknowledgement from the author, Susan Loughlin, and saw something that could strike fear into a reader's heart: this book was based upon her doctoral thesis or dissertation.

Obviously, however, Loughlin either wrote an extremely readable and accessible thesis or rewrote it ably to make it accessible to a non-academic though educated and interested reader. She kindly sent me a copy of her book for my opinion of it and I think it is not only a great study of the Pilgrimage of Grace but also a convincing test of the Christopher Haigh theory of the English Reformation as something which was imposed from above and slowly adopted in the country.

Loughlin argues cogently that the Pilgrimage of Grace was a mostly grassroots protest against the religious changes that were being proclaimed and slowly enforced in 1536 and the dissolution of the smaller monasteries that Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII's Vice Regent in Spiritual matters was coordinating.

As the publisher describes the book:

Autumn 1536. Katherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn are dead. Henry VIII has married Jane Seymour, and still awaits his longed for male heir. Disaffected conservatives in England see an opportunity for a return to Rome and an end to religious experimentation, but Thomas Cromwell has other ideas. The Dissolution of the Monasteries has begun and the publication of the Lutheran influenced Ten Articles of the Anglican Church has followed. The obstinate monarch, enticed by monastic wealth, is determined not to change course. Fear and resentment is unleashed in northern England in the largest spontaneous uprising against a Tudor monarch – the Pilgrimage of Grace – in which 30,000 men take up arms against the king. This book examines the evidence for that opposition and the abundant examples of religiously motivated dissent. It also highlights the rhetoric, reward and retribution used by the Crown to enforce its policy and crush the opposition.

Loughlin also examines the pattern of patronage and bribery the Crown and Cromwell practiced to enforce loyalty to the monarch and acceptance of the religious changes, in addition to the punishment Henry VIII wanted meted out to those he regarded as rebels. It's rather terrifying because this patronage seems to have a corrupting effect on the recipient, who grovels before Cromwell, begging to be useful and begging to be accepted as loyal and true--but he will have to keep proving it, and will receive more honors, and so on, and so on, in a pattern of sycophancy. And of course, the process of sharing and selling the lands and buildings of the larger monasteries, the Court of Augmentations, would create an even closer bond between the recipients and the monarch, so that even those who were devout Catholics and did not agree with Lutheran doctrine or theology would go along with the religious changes, at least apparently. 

This is a fascinating exploration of the background and aftermath of the Pilgrimage of Grace--and of course the actual events of the uprising in the North--with the addition of an excellent discussion of the connections between the Pilgrimage of Grace and the Northern Rebellion of 1569. Highly recommended.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Chesterton and Dickens on the Son Rise Morning Show

Annie Mitchell and I will discuss my latest blog post at the National Catholic Register this morning a little after 7:45 Eastern Time/6:45 Central Time on the Son Rise Morning Show: listen live here. The post will be on-line later today:

Gilbert Keith and Frances Chesterton celebrated Christmas with poems and plays. Frances Chesterton wrote a poem every year for their Christmas card; one of her poems, “Here is the Little Door” was set to music by Herbert Howells and has been featured in the Nine Lessons and Carols from King’s College Chapel, Cambridge and elsewhere. Frances also wrote plays for the many godchildren and other children who celebrated with them. Nancy Carpentier Brown has collected these works in “How Far Is It to Bethlehem”.

Chesterton wrote many essays and poems for Christmas too. His reflections have been collected in a book of Advent and Christmas meditations, and there is an out of print collection of poems and essays which is indeed rare and expensive (“The Spirit of Christmas”)—and a newer edition of essays (“A Chesterton Christmas: Essays, Excerpts, and Eggnog”). In “The Everlasting Man”, the chapter titled “The God in the Cave” is Chesterton’s extended meditation on the First Christmas, the Nativity, with discussion of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Angels, the shepherds, and the Wise Men.

Last Friday night, our G.K. Chesterton group celebrated our annual festive meeting of readings from Chesterton on Christmas, Christmas carols and refreshments. It was great fun.

I've already seen part of three or four versions of A Christmas Carol on Turner Classic Movies, including the 1935 version titled Scrooge, with a famous stage interpreter of the role of Ebeneezer Scrooge, Sir Seymour Hicks:

Released in England by Twickenham Studios in 1935, Scrooge was the first feature-length sound adaptation of A Christmas Carol. In retrospect, it has been overshadowed by MGM's 1938 A Christmas Carol. Because of the largely British cast headed by Reginald Owen, viewers often erroneously assume that MGM's version is the original British film adaptation. While the MGM adaptation benefits from glossier production values, Scrooge stars legendary stage actor Seymour Hicks in the title role, which gives it a greater historical importance. . . .

Of all the plays and films he appeared in throughout his illustrious career, Seymour Hicks was best known for playing Ebenezer Scrooge in various interpretations of
A Christmas Carol. In later years, the actor liked to claim that he had played Scrooge in over 2,000 performances. He first took on the role in 1901, when he was 30 years old. In 1913, he starred in Scrooge, a silent film produced by the Zenith Company based on J.C. Buckstone's stage adaptation of A Christmas Carol, which was still running at the Coliseum Theatre in London. When he was selected to appear in the first feature-length sound version at age 64, he had finally aged into the role.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Holy Cards and the English Reformation

I am almost never surprised now that I'll find some connection to the English Reformation almost everywhere I look--for example, this story by Thomas Craughwell in the National Catholic Register about the history of Holy Cards:

The first holy cards were sold during the Middle Ages to pilgrims as keepsakes of their visit to a shrine. The oldest surviving holy card is a black-and-white woodcut image of St. Christopher dating from 1423. These cards were not really cards; they were pictures printed on inexpensive paper. Since they were easily lost, or torn, or destroyed, very few medieval holy cards have survived. But in 2005 one turned up unexpectedly at Holy Cross College in Worcester, Massachusetts, where the art history faculty was mounting an exhibit of artifacts and relics from the period of anti-Catholic persecution in England in the 16th and 17th centuries. Among the treasures on display was a Book of Hours that had belonged to an English family who remained faithful Catholics after Henry VIII broke with Rome. As the curators examined the prayerbook they found, pasted on the last page, a holy card from the early 1500s, hand-colored, from the shrine of the Holy Rood in Bromholm, Norfolk. Only one other Bromholm holy card has survived the iconoclasm of the English Reformation, so this discovery created a sensation among the curators and among art historians and historians of the Church during the age of the Tudors.

Although I could not find anything on-line about this particular holy card found in Worcester, Massachusetts, British History Online has these details about the other example Craughwell mentions:

There is a peculiarly interesting memorial of the subject of the Bromholm pilgrimage in a fourteenth-century 'Hours of Our Lady' in Lambeth Library. (fn. 30) To one of the pages an illuminated leaf has been attached; upon it is painted a heart, containing within it a crucifix having the two transverse beams of the patriarchal shape. Above the heart is written ' Jesus Nazarenus Rex Judeorum,' and on each side one of the two lines forming this couplet:—

This cross yat here peyntyd is
Signe of ye cros of bromholm is.

Beneath the heart in a later hand, the concluding line being partly erased:—

Thys ys the holy cros that yt so sped
Be me ... in my need.

Within the outline of the heart and round the cross is written, in minute and much contracted characters, the following hymn, which is also given in full on an adjacent page:—

Oracio Devota de Cruce,

O crux salve preciosa,
O crux salve gloriosa,
Me per verba curiosa
Te laudare, crux Formosa
Fac presenti carmine
Sicut tu de carne Christi
Sancta sacrata fuisti
Ejus Corpus suscepisti,
Et sudore maduisti,
Lota sacro sanguine
Corpus, sensus, mentem meam,
Necnon vitam salves ream
Ut commissa mea fleam,
Ne signare per te queam
Contra fraudes hostium.
Me defendas de peccato,
Et de facto desperato,
Hoste truso machinato
Reconsignas Dei nato
Tuum presiduum.

V. Adoremus Te Xpe. Quia per crucem, etc.

Oratio. Adesto nobis, Domine Deus noster, et quos sancte crucis letari facis honore ejus quoque perpetuis defende subsidiis. Per Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.

Dominus dedit, Dominus abstulit, sicut Domino placuit ita factum est. Sit nomen Domini benedictum.

Of course, you know what happened to the priory and to the Holy Cross: they were both seized by the agents of Henry VIII. You'll note a familiar name in the report, from the same source:

The so-called visitation of Legh and Leyton, undertaken early in 1536, noted a cross called ' The Holy Cross of Bromholm,' the girdle and milk of the Virgin, and pieces of the crosses of SS. Peter and Andrew. They also alleged that Prior Lakenham and three of his monks had confessed to them their incontinency.

The county Commissioners for Suppression, later in the same year, described Bromholm as a head house of the Cluniac order, of the clear yearly value of £109 0s. 8d. They found four religious persons, all priests and requiring dispensations, adding that ' they bene of very good name and fame.' There were thirty-three other persons having a living there,' namely, four waiting servants, twenty-six labourers and hinds, and three almoners. The house was in good repair, and the bells and lead valued at £200. The movable goods, cattle, and corn were valued at £49, and a hundred acres of wood at £66 13s. 4d. (fn. 31)

On 2 February, 1537, Richard Southwell wrote to Cromwell that he had in his charge the cross of Bromholm, which he would bring up after the suppression was finished, or sooner if Cromwell wished it. On 26 February he wrote again to Cromwell, saying that he had delivered the cross of Bromholm to the late prior of Pentney, the bearer of both letter and relic. (fn. 32)

On 20 February Robert Southwell, solicitor to the Court of Augmentation, had a grant made to him by royal warrant of Bromholm Priory with all its manors, lands, advowsons, and pensions. (fn. 33)

Prior Lakenham obtained a pension of twenty marks. (fn. 34)

Bromholm Priory Ruins image from Wikipedia Commons: Image credit.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Nicholas Harpsfield, RIP

Nicholas Harpsfield died in London on December 18, 1575 after being released from Fleet Prison because he was ill. He had lived through the reigns of four Tudor monarchs, from Henry VIII to Elizabeth I. Closely associated with Roper and More families, he wrote the first biography of St. Thomas More while he was in exile in Louvain during the reign of Edward VI. William Roper had written his recollections of his father-in-law for Harpsfield's use, as E.E. Reynolds, one of the main twentieth century biographers of More, notes in the Everyman's Library edition of the two Lives of Saint Thomas More. Since other More family members  and associates (the Rastells, Clements, and Antonio Bonvisi) were in exile in Louvain, Harpsfield also had access to their memories of More.

When Mary I came to the throne, according to this website:

Nicholas Harpsfield returned to London where he worked closely with Gardiner and Cardinal Reginald Pole, the new Archbishop of Canterbury. He was appointed vicar-general of the capital. "Between November 1554 and March 1558, Harpsfield conducted a sweeping visitation of London which tried around four hundred offenders. The targets of the visitation were well chosen, for in addition to some conspicuous disturbers of the peace, many active and zealous protestants were caught in Harpsfield's net." (10) John Foxe described him as one of the most cruel persecutors of Mary's reign. (11)

In addition to identifying suspected heretics and dissenters, Harpsfield was working to restore what had been destroyed, stolen, or hidden in those London churches, finding the Altar furnishings, liturgical books, and other items needed for the celebration of the Mass and the other Catholic Sacraments.

Harpsfield published his Life of More in 1557 and also wrote propaganda for Mary's reign, including a book describing how the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer, had recanted all his former teachings--but of course, Cranmer's final recantation was of that recantation, before he was burned at the stake in Oxford. Harpsfield also wrote a Treatise on the Pretended Divorce, defending Mary I's legitimacy, insisting on the validity of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon's marriage, and attacking those who had supported the "divorce".

At the beginning of Elizabeth I's reign, Harpsfield, as Archdeacon of Canterbury Cathedral, refused to acknowledge the religious settlement by opposing the new Archbishop of Canterbury, Matthew Parker:

Harpsfield led a majority of the members of the Canterbury chapter in their refusal to attend the election of Parker. Harpsfield was stripped of all of his ecclesiastical offices and livings and sent to Fleet Prison. (18) Later that year Parliament passed the Act of Supremacy and the Act of Uniformity. . . .

and Harpsfield refused to swear Oaths assenting to those Acts, so remained in the Fleet for 12 years. He continued to write, attacking John Foxe and his Acts and Monuments, and compiling his Historia Anglicana Ecclesiastica. According to Thomas S. Freeman, writing in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography:

This book is divided into two parts. The first part presents a history of each English diocese, emphasizing the apostolic succession of the bishops, the preservation of true doctrine, and the growth of monasticism. The second part, in contrast to this history of the true church... This is a skilful (sic) synthesis of... historical works of Henry Knighton, Thomas Netter, and Thomas Walsingham, which had depicted Lollardy as a continuation of ancient heresies and as a source of anarchy and rebellion. (21)

According to Reynolds, while Nicholas Harpsfield--and his brother John, the former Archdeacon of London and Dean of Norwich--were held in the Fleet for refusing to swear to the Acts of Supremacy and Uniformity, William Roper continued to support him. John Harpsfield was also released from the Fleet on grounds of illness, in 1574 but died in the custody of the Bishop of Lincoln.

George Herbert and Advent: "My God, no hymn for thee?"

Richard J. Janet, PhD, professor of history, and director of the Thomas More Center for the Study of Catholic Thought and Culture at Rockhurst University, Kansas City, Missouri writes about George Herbert and Advent for Homiletic and Pastoral Review:

Advent, with its focus on beginnings and endings, the coming of Christ at Christmas, and the Second Coming at the end of time, holds the same lesson. Preparing for life is preparing for death, and vice-versa. Do not count the time, count the blessings and the beauty and the love generated during the time. Herbert sensed that. He died in 1633 at the age of 39 years. Shortly before he died, he sent his poems to a friend with instructions to publish them only if he thought they might “turn to the advantage of any dejected poor soul.” Even in death, Herbert looked to the needs of others, and to his own need to share love.

Before he died, however, Herbert celebrated. He noted the turn of the seasons, and the passage of time marked by the liturgical calendar. Nature and prayer came together for him, as reflected in his Christmas poem. The poem begins with Herbert taking a pleasant horseback ride in the country, until he tires and seeks rest in a local inn. There he finds Christ, “wrapt in night’s mantle, stole into a manger.” Herbert longs to brighten his own “dark soul” to provide a home for Christ, and at the end of the poem offers a play on words as he looks for a Sun/Son to illuminate his world. As he does so, he sings and compares his soul to the shepherd and his flock. The country parson in Herbert comes out as he likens his hymn to nature, and praises Christ as the true Sun/Son and candle-holder for the universe.

The shepherds sing: and shall I silent be?
My God, no hymn for thee?
My soul ’s a shepherd too: a flock it feeds
Of thoughts, and words, and deeds.
The pasture is thy word: the streams, thy grace
Enriching all the place.
Shepherd and flock shall sing, and all my powers
Out-sing the day-light hours.
Then we will chide the sun for letting night
Take up his place and right:
We sing one common Lord: wherefore he should
Himself the candle hold.

Please read the rest there.

More about the  Thomas More Center for the Study of Catholic Thought and Culture at Rockhurst University here.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Newman "as a conservative radical or reformer"

Father Ian Ker writes for The Catholic Herald:

I wrote the book Newman on Vatican II for two reasons. First, I hoped to settle once and for all the question that always hangs around Newman: was he a conservative or a liberal theologian? Once Newman has been canonised – which is likely to be soon now that he has been beatified – it is certain that he will be declared a Doctor of the Church, and the question therefore becomes all the more pressing.

The reason why this question comes so regularly to the fore is that it is all too easy to quote Newman selectively and out of context, especially since he expresses himself with such vigorous distinctness and trenchancy.

For example, one can quote his forthright statement in the
Apologia that dogma was the “fundamental principle” of his religion – “I know no other religion”, or his insistence in the speech he made on being made a cardinal that “for 30, 40, 50 years I have resisted to the best of my powers the spirit of liberalism in religion” – and conclude from these two uncompromising statements that Newman was extremely conservative and traditionalist.

On the other hand, one might quote Newman’s famous words, “I shall drink – to the Pope, if you please – still, to Conscience first, and to the Pope afterwards”; or his downright assertion: “Theology is the fundamental and regulating principle of the whole Church system” – and conclude that Newman was a forerunner of the liberal, “spirit of Vatican II” kind of theologian who justifies dissent from Church teachings and advocates a parallel magisterium of the theologians.

The truth is that Newman was neither simply conservative nor liberal. He is best described as a conservative radical or reformer.

Read the rest there please.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Newman and Theology in January 2017

Registration for the 2017 Eighth Day Institute Symposium is open:

Earlier this year, Alan Jacobs wrote a piece in the September issue of Harper's Magazine titled "The Watchmen: What Became of the Christian Intellectuals?" Jacobs notes that only half a century ago serious Christian intellectuals held a prominent place on the national stage of America. Back in the 1930s the Hungarian sociologist Karl Mannheim argued that these intellectuals had a "special task to provide an interpretation of the world," to "play the part of watchmen in what otherwise would be a pitch-black night."

So, for our seventh annual Eighth Day Symposium, we ask "Where are the watchmen?" And, "What is the role of theology in the public square?"

We hope you can join us as Frederica Mathewes-Green, Bishop James Massa, Brian Zahnd and others lead us in a wonderful dialogue of love and truth on January 12-14, 2017.

I am one of the "others", as I am going to present on the gap that's left in the Liberal Arts education of a secular university because theology as an academic subject is not included. Blessed John Henry Newman's The Idea of a University and his insistence that theology is necessary for a complete education will be essential to my presentation. You may see the schedule here: my presentation is one of the first Saturday breakout sessions.

Chesterton Christmas Party at EDB

Our Greater Wichita American Chesterton Society group will gather to celebrate a Chestertonian preparation for Christmas tonight on the second floor at Eighth Day Books around 6:30. Potluck refreshments will be available and we will read from the many poems and essays Gilbert and his wife Frances wrote about Christmas.

She wrote poems for their Christmas cards every year and several plays for godchildren, nieces, and nephews to perform during holiday celebrations.

He wrote poems for Christmas, essays for periodicals, the extended meditation on The Nativity in "The God in the Cave" chapter of The Everlasting Man, and of course, his commentaries on Dickens' Christmas stories, including A Christmas Carol.

Watch for another blog post at the National Catholic Register website under my name next week as I describe Chesterton's appreciation of Dickens' A Christmas Carol there.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Golden Years: English Saints by English Greats

Cluny Media sent me a copy of this book for my opinion. As the blurb states:

The English Way, edited by one of the most important Christian humanists and publishers of the twentieth century, Maisie Ward, looks at the lives, ideas, and deaths of the great Roman Catholic Anglo-Saxons. All the men and women in this book served the Church faithfully and with great zeal. Contributors to The English Way include Bede Jarrett and Christopher Dawson, Hilaire Belloc and G. K. Chesterton, as well as E. I. Watkin and Maisie Ward herself.

It's a collection of essays about the great English saints of the medieval and recusant era written by the English greats of the early twentieth century. It includes not just the great Anglo-Saxon saints, but the holy men and women of the post-Reformation era. As with all of these compilations, there is a variety of writing styles and voices, academic and popular.

G.K. Chesterton, for example, writes about Alfred the Great, whom he had portrayed in The Ballad of the White Horse, and St. Thomas More. Other great Catholics profiled include St. Bede the Venerable, Julian Norwich, St. Bonaventure, St. Aelred of Rievaulx, St. Thomas of Canterbury, Julian of Norwich,St. John Fisher, St. Edmund Campion, Richard Crashaw, Venerable Mary Ward, Bishop Richard Challoner, and Blessed John Henry Newman. The writers include Bede Jarrett, C.C. Martindale, E.I. Watkin, Hilaire Belloc, David Knowles, Douglas Woodruff, Gervase Mathew and David Mathew, Maisie Ward, and Martin D'Arcy. The collection was originally published by Sheed & Ward.

The passion the writers felt for their subjects often comes through strongly, as when Christopher Dawson laments that the greatest religious poem in English history, The Vision of Pier Plowman by William Langland, was not available to the public in an affordable and complete edition:

Here is the Catholic Englishman par excellence, at once the most English of Catholic poets and the most Catholic of English poets; a man in whom Catholic faith and national feeling are fused in a single flame. He saw Christ walking in English fields in the dress of an English laborer, and to understand his work is to know English religion in its most autochthonous and yet most Catholic form.

[autochthonous means indigenous; I had to look it up!]

Dawson goes on to tell us that Langland tells us much about the fourteenth century, that "age of profound social and spiritual change", "an age of poets and mystics and saints." He notes that England came into its own as English in that century, and compares and contrasts the two great poets of the era in England, Geoffrey Chaucer and William Langland. Dawson's essay is a masterpiece of literary exposition and historical explanation. He sees Langland as a great prophet and poet, and has inspired me to search out a readable edition.

Cluny Media has done a great service to readers to bring this book back into print. I have some caveats, however, about their edition. I think we need brief biographies of the contributors, who would have been well known--and some still will be of course-when the book was published. Many of the names were familiar to me, but who was Fr. Aelfric Manson, O. P., who writes about St. Boniface? 

In an otherwise sympathetic and helpful introduction, Bradley Birzer commits a strange error, dating the beatification of Saints John Fisher and Thomas More to 1935, "only two years after the appearance of The English Way." Fisher and More were beatified in 1886--they were canonized in 1935! 

There are some formatting errors too--the wrong author is cited on page 50, for example. The heading for the essay on St. Edmund Campion indicates the essay is about St. Thomas More. In a book dedicated to "Studies in English Sanctity" these are minor things of course. The English Way is great book to read through to see the variety of English saints and Catholic heroes and heroines, and also great just to pick up and read about a certain saint. Highly recommended.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Pope Benedict's Advent Novena

I bought this booklet earlier this year from Ave Maria Press: they must have run out of them because it is no longer available on their website. I'm sure there are copies somewhere. I plan to start reading and praying these meditations Friday evening, December 16. The meditations seem perfect for evening prayer because they contain Mary's Magnificat and the O Antiphons.

Combining the format of a novena--nine days of prayer, like the Apostles and the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Upper Room between the Ascension and Pentecost--and the O Antiphons should intensify spiritual preparation for Christmas. Because there are nine days/evenings in the novena and seven Golden evenings of the O Antiphons, there's a glorious overlap between these ancient Christian ways of telling time and telling us that it is time.

There is so much to do in the last week or so before Christmas on the practical level: mail the last Christmas cards; wrap the last presents; making the grocery list for Christmas eve or day dinner; decide which Mass to attend, etc, etc.

Pausing at evening, when we usually think of what we didn't get done today and must do tomorrow, is a good time to think of what we should really think of: Jesus is coming and He is here!

Monday, December 12, 2016

Longfellow's Monk (The Theologian's Tale; The Legend Beautiful)

A facebook friend shared this poem last week:

"Hads't thou stayed, I must have fled!"
That is what the Vision said.

In his chamber all alone,
Kneeling on the floor of stone,
Prayed the Monk in deep contrition
For his sins of indecision,
Prayed for greater self-denial
In temptation and in trial;
It was noonday by the dial,
And the Monk was all alone.
Suddenly, as if it lightened,
An unwonted splendor brightened
All within him and without him
In that narrow cell of stone;
And he saw the Blessed Vision
Of our Lord, with light Elysian
Like a vesture wrapped about him,
Like a garment round him thrown.

Not as crucified and slain,
Not in agonies of pain,
Not with bleeding hands and feet,
Did the Monk his Master see;
But as in the village street,
In the house or harvest-field,
Halt and lame and blind he healed,
When he walked in Galilee.

In an attitude imploring,
Hands upon his bosom crossed,
Wondering, worshipping, adoring,
Knelt the Monk in rapture lost.
Lord, he thought, in heaven that reignest,
Who am I, that thus thou deignest
To reveal thyself to me?
Who am I, that from the centre
Of thy glory thou shouldst enter
This poor cell, my guest to be?

Then amid his exaltation,
Loud the convent bell appalling,
From its belfry calling, calling,
Rang through court and corridor
With persistent iteration
He had never heard before.
It was now the appointed hour
When alike in shine or shower,
Winter's cold or summer's heat,
To the convent portals came
All the blind and halt and lame,
All the beggars of the street,
For their daily dole of food
Dealt them by the brotherhood;
And their almoner was he
Who upon his bended knee,
Rapt in silent ecstasy
Of divinest self-surrender,
Saw the Vision and the Splendor.
Deep distress and hesitation
Mingled with his adoration;_
Should he go, or should he stay?
Should he leave the poor to wait
Hungry at the convent gate,
Till the Vision passed away?
Should he slight his radiant guest,
Slight this visitant celestial,
For a crowd of ragged, bestial
Beggars at the convent gate?
Would the Vision there remain?
Would the Vision come again?
Then a voice within his breast
Whispered, audible and clear
As if to the outward ear:
"Do thy duty; that is best;
Leave unto thy Lord the rest!"

Straightway to his feet he started,
And with longing look intent
On the Blessed Vision bent,
Slowly from his cell departed,
Slowly on his errand went.

At the gate the poor were waiting,
Looking through the iron grating,_
With that terror in the eye
That is only seen in those
Who amid their wants and woes
Hear the sound of doors that close,
And of feet that pass them by;
Grown familiar with disfavor,
Grown familiar with the savor
Of the bread by which men die!
But to-day, they knew not why,
Like the gate of Paradise
Seemed the convent gate to rise,
Like a sacrament divine
Seemed to them the bread and wine.
In his heart the Monk was praying,
Thinking of the homeless poor,
What they suffer and endure;
What we see not, what we see;
And the inward voice was saying:
"Whatsoever thing thou doest
To the least of mine and lowest,
That thou doest unto me!"

Unto me! but had the Vision
Come to him in beggar's clothing,
Come a mendicant imploring,
Would he then have knelt adoring,
Or have listened with derision,
And have turned away with loathing.

Thus his conscience put the question,
Full of troublesome suggestion,
As at length, with hurried pace,
Towards his cell he turned his face,
And beheld the convent bright
With a supernatural light,
Like a luminous cloud expanding
Over floor and wall and ceiling.

But he paused with awe-struck feeling
At the threshold of his door,
For the Vision still was standing
As he left it there before,
When the convent bell appalling,
From its belfry calling, calling,
Summoned him to feed the poor.
Through the long hour intervening
It had waited his return,
And he felt his bosom burn,
Comprehending all the meaning,
When the Blessed Vision said,
"Hadst thou stayed, I must have fled!"

I like this description of Longfellow from "Henry Wadsworth Longfellow: A Maine Historical Society Website":

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was a commanding figure in the cultural life of nineteenth-century America. Born in Portland, Maine in 1807, he became a national literary figure by the 1850s, and a world-famous personality by the time of his death in 1882. He was a traveler, a linguist, and a romantic who identified with the great traditions of European literature and thought. At the same time, he was rooted in American life and history, which charged his imagination with untried themes and made him ambitious for success.

This poem is from Longfellow's 1863 Tales of a Wayside Inn, told by the Theologian in this Chaucerian group:

A Theologian, from the school
Of Cambridge on the Charles, was there;
Skilful alike with tongue and pen,
He preached to all men everywhere
The Gospel of the Golden Rule,
The New Commandment given to men,
Thinking the deed, and not the creed,
Would help us in our utmost need.
With reverent feet the earth he trod,
Nor banished nature from his plan,
But studied still with deep research
To build the Universal Church,
Lofty as in the love of God,
And ample as the wants of man.

More about Tales of Wayside Inn here. Note that this collection includes the famous poem about Paul Revere's midnight ride: "Listen, my children, and you shall hear . . ."

Do you know the next line?

Sunday, December 11, 2016

A Survivior of English Iconoclasm: The Blessed Virgin Mary

The Guardian features a story about an English alabaster statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Child Jesus, carved in perhaps 1350 in the Midlands of England:

Somehow the statue escaped the wholesale wrecking of religious artefacts in churches and cathedrals during the Protestant Reformation of the mid-1500s to travel across the Channel. De Beer and his colleagues speculated that it might have been bought by a wealthy foreigner long before the threat of destruction to religious icons that came with the dissolution of the monasteries under Henry VIII. Alternatively it could have been smuggled out later, as the danger to religious works became clear.

Much of its early life was spent in seclusion at a monastery in St-Truiden, Belgium. There it avoided the violence of the French Revolution, when many religious icons were also destroyed.

If the dating is correct, King Edward III was on the throne when this precious statue was created. England was still recovering from the Black Death and still fighting for territories in France in the One Hundred Years War.

You will, of course, have to go to the website to see the pictures of the statue! Thanks to a facebook friend for sharing this story.

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

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Happy Birthday, Rumer Godden

One of my favorite authors, Rumer Godden, was born on December 10, 1907. According to her literary trust website:

Rumer Godden, now a well established Virago Modern Classics author, is considered by many to be one of the foremost English language authors of the 20th century.

Nine of her books have been made into films.

She won The Whitbread Award for Children's Literature in 1972 and was awarded the OBE in 1993.

Her last book, "Cromartie versus The God Shiva Acting through the Government of India" was published by Macmillan in November 1997 and she died in 1998 aged ninety-one.

In 2007 Cambridge University honoured her by holding a Symposium of her work to celebrate her Centenary.

Rumer Godden wrote some 60 works during her life, drawing on her experiences of life in India and Britain.

The influence of India is reflected in "Black Narcissus", "The River", "Kingfisher's Catch Fire", "Breakfast with the Nikolides" and recently republished, "The Lady and the Unicorn". . .

and her interest in the religious life is shown in "In This House of Brede" and "Five for Sorrow Ten for Joy".

My favorite is In This House of Brede, the writing of which brought her to Stanbrook Abbey and the Catholic Church:.

According to her New York Time's obituary:

To do research on ''In This House of Brede,'' Ms. Godden lived for three years near Stanbrook Abbey. Her experience with the nuns there contributed to her decision to convert to Roman Catholicism in 1968. In many of her stories and novels, Ms. Godden would write about the rewards and perils of the contemplative life.

When she went to live near Stanbrook Abbey, she was in touch with both the legacy of the English Reformation and the French Revolution, for the Benedictines at Stanbrook had been exiled nuns from England, having established a convent in Cambrai. The foundress of the Cambrai house was none other than Helen More, the great-great-granddaughter of St. Thomas More. Her name in religion became Dame Gertrude More. The Benedictines at Cambrai were exiled to England just before the Carmelites of Compiegne were condemned to death--the Benedictines came to England wearing the secular clothing of the Carmelites!

It is a marvelous book, demonstrating Godden's interest in the passage of time depicted in fiction (see Take Three Tenses or China Court) and her great sense of drama and conflict in the midst of order and control.