Friday, September 30, 2016

"This book will challenge everything you think you know about history."

Dominic Selwood is an author and columnist, who has collected a series of columns offering different views of historical events into a book: Spies, Sadists and Sorcerers: The History You Weren't Taught in School (available on Kindle for $.99!).

Nancy Bilyeau interviews him on her blog, highlighting his revisionist view of the English Reformation, which certainly coincides with mine (and hers, too, I think).

Selwood's website provides generous excerpts from the book, including this "unintended Reformation" moment, discussing Walpurgisnacht and the saint it should be honoring:

It is pure coincidence that Walburga was canonized on May Day, thus giving her name to the festivities of the night before. But it is also strangely fitting, as popular belief in the healing properties of saints’ relics (and oils) is inseparable from our historical attachment to magic. 

And here is where something fascinating happens. As the Reformation swept away faith in popular and largely benign Christian miracles, it instead offered belief in a much darker magic —one that would quickly lead to the horror of the witch-craze and fantastical legends like the sabbaths on the Brocken. 

It is deeply ironic that the Protestant reformers, in abolishing what they saw as harmful superstitious claptrap, replaced it with terrifying magical fears that would end with the brutal and pointless murder of tens of thousands of innocent women. 

Before the Reformation there had, of course, been some scattered witch trials. But the same reforming theologians who lambasted what they saw as the crude and irrational magical beliefs underpinning the cult of saints and relics rapidly convinced themselves that hundreds of towns and villages were sheltering the foulest witches and demons, whose unnatural rites jeopardized the health and salvation of Christendom. They saw them flying on diabolical beasts, covering vast distances in the blink of an eye. They found on them folds of skin used for suckling demons in the form of familiars. They accused them of sexually molesting decent folk, invading their beds as lustful incubi and succubi. They were convinced they possessed infernal powers to see the past, the present (at great distance), and the future. But above all, they feared the witches were working ceaselessly to destroy their new, rational churches. 

As the reformers set about ridding the world of these devilish handmaidens, the great burnings began, peaking in the late 1500s and early 1600s, before petering out in the early 1700s. In that time, somewhere between 40,000 and 100,000 people (predominantly, but not exclusively, women) were torched alive on suspicion of practising magic.

Looks like a fascinating, if episodic, review of events in history seen from different angles.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Frances Chesterton @ Aleteia

Head over to Aleteia.org to see my guest blog post on Frances Chesterton, G.K.'s wife. I used the adage "Behind every great man is a great woman" to demonstrate instead how Frances was sometimes beside her husband, sometimes ahead of him and sometimes behind him:

If Frances Chesterton had been behind her husband, we would never have seen her. Gilbert Keith Chesterton was a giant of a man in stature and personality. Instead, Frances stood beside him and even sometimes in front of him and thus we seen both her and her influence on him, especially through the efforts of Nancy Carpentier Brown in her 2015 biography, The Woman Who Was Chesterton. . . .

Frances and G.K. Chesterton met in 1896 at a literary debating society. His immediate admiration and growing love for Frances meant that she led him to greater faith in Jesus Christ and attendance at Church of England services. In 1911 Chesterton dedicated his epic poem The Ballad of the White Horse to her: “Therefore I bring these rhymes to you/Who brought the cross to me.” He would return the favor 26 years later when he became a Catholic in 1922 and led her to join him four years later.

They were engaged in 1898 and married on June 28, 1901. Frances stood beside Chesterton in his professional work but also led him to a healthier lifestyle as they moved away from London and the pubs to live in the country. They wanted to have a house full of children—hoping for “seven beautiful children”—but bore the crosses of infertility and ill health.

Please read the rest there! IF you like it, please share it and comment on it so the team at Aleteia might ask me to write for them again! Thank you.

Newman and the Angels


For the Feast of the Archangels Saints Michael, Raphael, and Gabriel, an excerpt from Blessed John Henry Newman's Parochial and Plain Sermon, "The Invisible World":

Angels also are inhabitants of the world invisible, and concerning them much more is told us than concerning the souls of the faithful departed, because the latter "rest from their labours;" but the Angels are actively employed among us in the Church. They are said to be "ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation." [Heb. i. 14.] No Christian is so humble but he has Angels to attend on him, if he lives by faith and love. Though they are so great, so glorious, so pure, so wonderful, that the very sight of them (if we were allowed to see them) would strike us to the earth, as it did the prophet Daniel, holy and righteous as he was; yet they are our "fellow-servants" and our fellow-workers, and they carefully watch over and defend even the humblest of us, if we be Christ's. That they form a part of our unseen world, appears from the vision seen by the patriarch Jacob. We are told that when he fled from his brother Esau, "he lighted upon a certain place, and tarried there all night, because the sun had set; and he took of the stones of that place, and put them for his pillows, and lay down in that place to sleep." [Gen. xxviii. 11.] How little did he think that there was any thing very wonderful in this spot! It looked like any other spot. It was a lone, uncomfortable place: there was no house there: night was coming on; and he had to sleep upon the bare rock. Yet how different was the truth! He saw but the world that is seen; he saw not the world that is not seen; yet the world that is not seen was there. It was there, though it did not at once make known its presence, but needed to be supernaturally displayed to him. He saw it in his sleep. "He dreamed, and behold, a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached up to heaven; and behold, the Angels of God ascending and descending on it. And behold, the Lord stood above it." This was the other world. Now, let this be observed. Persons commonly speak as if the other world did not exist now, but would after death. No: it exists now, though we see it not. It is among us and around us. Jacob was shown this in his dream. Angels were all about him, though he knew it not. And what Jacob saw in his sleep, that Elisha's servant saw as if with his eyes; and the shepherds, at the time of the Nativity, not only saw, but heard. They heard the voices of those blessed spirits who praise God day and night, and whom we, in our lower state of being, are allowed to copy and assist.

We are then in a world of spirits, as well as in a world of sense, and we hold communion with it, and take part in it, though we are not conscious of doing so. If this seems strange to any one, let him reflect that we are undeniably taking part in a third world, which we do indeed see, but about which we do not know more than about the Angelic hosts,—the world of brute animals. Can any thing be more marvellous or startling, unless we were used to it, than that we should have a race of beings about us whom we do but see, and as little know their state, or can describe their interests, or their destiny, as we can tell of the inhabitants of the sun and moon? It is indeed a very overpowering thought, when we get to fix our minds on it, that we familiarly use, I may say hold intercourse with creatures who are as much strangers to us, as mysterious, as if they were the fabulous, unearthly beings, more powerful than man, yet his slaves, which Eastern superstitions have invented. We have more real knowledge about the Angels than about the brutes. They have apparently passions, habits, and a certain accountableness, but all is mystery about them. We do not know whether they can sin or not, whether they are under punishment, whether they are to live after this life. We inflict very great sufferings on a portion of them, and they in turn, every now and then, seem to retaliate upon us, as if by a wonderful law. We depend on them in various important ways; we use their labour, we eat their flesh. This however relates to such of them as come near us: cast your thoughts abroad on the whole number of them, large and small, in vast forests, or in the water, or in the air; and then say whether the presence of some countless multitudes, so various in their natures, so strange and wild in their shapes, living on the earth without ascertainable object, is not as mysterious as any thing which Scripture says about the Angels? Is it not plain to our senses that there is a world inferior to us in the scale of beings, with which we are connected without understanding what it is? and is it difficult to faith to admit the word of Scripture concerning our connexion with a world superior to us?

Newman writes often about angels in his sermons, his meditations, and his poetry. The choirs of angels sing "Praise to the Holiest in the Height" in his The Dream of Gerontius--here as set by Edward Elgar.

Happy Michaelmas Day!

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

"England's Forgotten Muslim History"

Jerry Brotton, a professor of Renaissance studies at Queen Mary University of London, has written a book that gets the usual UK/USA treatment as to title and cover. In the UK his book is titled This Orient Isle: Elizabethan England and the Islamic World. In the USA, it's The Sultan and the Queen: The Untold Story of Elizabeth and Islam. The U.K. book description:

In 1570, when it became clear she would never be gathered into the Catholic fold, Elizabeth I was excommunicated by the Pope. On the principle that 'my enemy's enemy is my friend', this marked the beginning of an extraordinary English alignment with the Muslim powers who were fighting Catholic Spain in the Mediterranean, and of cultural, economic and political exchanges with the Islamic world of a depth not again experienced until the modern age. England signed treaties with the Ottoman Porte, received ambassadors from the kings of Morocco and shipped munitions to Marrakesh. By the late 1580s hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Elizabethan merchants, diplomats, sailors, artisans and privateers were plying their trade from Morocco to Persia.

These included the resourceful mercer Anthony Jenkinson who met both Süleyman the Magnificent and the Persian Shah Tahmasp in the 1560s, William Harborne, the Norfolk merchant who became the first English ambassador to the Ottoman court in 1582 and the adventurer Sir Anthony Sherley, who spent much of 1600 at the court of Shah Abbas the Great. The previous year, remarkably, Elizabeth sent the Lancastrian blacksmith Thomas Dallam to the Ottoman capital to play his clockwork organ in front of Sultan Mehmed. The awareness of Islam which these Englishmen brought home found its way into many of the great cultural productions of the day, including most famously Marlowe's Tamburlaine, and Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus and The Merchant of Venice. The year after Dallam's expedition the Moroccan ambassador, Abd al-Wahid bin Mohammed al-Annuri, spent six months in London with his entourage. Shakespeare wrote Othello six months later.

This Orient Isle shows that England's relations with the Muslim world were far more extensive, and often more amicable, than we have appreciated, and that their influence was felt across the political, commercial and domestic landscape of Elizabethan England. It is a startlingly unfamiliar picture of part of our national and international history.

Writing for The New York Times before the book comes out in the USA, Brotton summarizes his argument:

In the 1580s she signed commercial agreements with the Ottomans that would last over 300 years, granting her merchants free commercial access to Ottoman lands. She made a similar alliance with Morocco, with the tacit promise of military support against Spain.

As money poured in, Elizabeth began writing letters to her Muslim counterparts, extolling the benefits of reciprocal trade. She wrote as a supplicant, calling Murad “the most mighty ruler of the kingdom of Turkey, sole and above all, and most sovereign monarch of the East Empire.” She also played on their mutual hostility to Catholicism, describing herself as “the most invincible and most mighty defender of the Christian faith against all kind of idolatries.” Like Muslims, Protestants rejected the worship of icons, and celebrated the unmediated word of God, while Catholics favored priestly intercession. She deftly exploited the Catholic conflation of Protestants and Muslims as two sides of the same heretical coin.

The ploy worked. Thousands of English traders crossed many of today’s no-go regions, like Aleppo in Syria, and Mosul in Iraq. They were far safer than they would have been on an equivalent journey through Catholic Europe, where they risked falling into the hands of the Inquisition.

The Ottoman authorities saw their ability to absorb people of all faiths as a sign of power, not weakness, and observed the Protestant-Catholic conflicts of the time with detached bemusement. Some Englishmen even converted to Islam. A few, like Samson Rowlie, a Norfolk merchant who became Hassan Aga, chief treasurer to Algiers, were forced. Others did so of their own volition, perhaps seeing Islam as a better bet than the precarious new Protestant faith. . . .

Elizabeth’s Islamic policy held off a Catholic invasion, transformed English taste and established a new model for joint stock investment that would eventually finance the Virginia Company, which founded the first permanent North American colony.
Read the rest there.

Writing for The Catholic Herald, however, Francois Soyer, associate professor in Late Medieval and Early Modern History at the University of Southampton, sees some problems with Brotton's thesis:

England’s ties with the Muslim Ottoman Empire did indeed make an impact on military events but in a very different way. They must be studied within the wider background of diplomatic and military developments elsewhere in Europe, the Mediterranean and even the Middle East. . . .

For Philip II of Spain, the heretical Protestants in Northern Europe came to dominate all other issues: the Calvinist rebels in the Netherlands, their English allies, and the Protestants in France posed a danger to the Catholic Church and Philip’s own authority.

Similarly, the primary threat for the Sunni Ottoman Sultan became the Shiite Safavid dynasty in Persia (modern-day Iran). As Shiites, the Safavids challenged the theological legitimacy of the Sultan in the Islamic world and threatened the Ottoman heartlands in Anatolia. The Ottomans initiated a conflict against the Safavids in 1578 (until 1590) and the rivalry between both Muslim dynasties continued into the seventeenth century. Both the superpowers of the age had effectively decided that the enemies within their faith represented a great threat than the infidel.

It is therefore hard to see how the ties Elizabeth forged with the Ottoman played any role in “holding off a Catholic invasion”. Indeed, in this respect her strategy could be seen as having been a singular failure. When the Armada sailed against England in 1588, it comprised a number of ships that were redeployed from Mediterranean squadrons due to the absence of an Ottoman threat. The galleass La Girona, which sank off Country Antrim with tremendous loss of life in October 1588, was just one of these redeployed galleys and galleasses that were more suited to naval warfare in the Mediterranean than the North Atlantic.

The Ottoman Sultan and his officials may well have welcomed English envoys and trade links and made pleasing diplomatic noises. But they offered no real military help. Diplomatic relations in early modern Europe and the Mediterranean were often moulded by a brutal realpolitik in which expediency trumped religious loyalties: my enemy’s enemy was my friend, whether or not he was an infidel. Elizabeth wasn’t the first European monarch to seek a Muslim ally (the French Kings had previously sought Ottoman help against the Habsburgs); she wasn’t the last, either (even Philip III of Spain would later seek to cultivate relations with the Safavids to counter any Ottoman threat).


Read the rest there.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Blogging about Blogging: The Quebec Act @ NCReg

So this is a meta blog post, posting about another blog post at the National Catholic Register: a follow-up with background to explain why Fanny Allen's mother and stepfather were so worried about her going to Catholic Canada:

This fear of Catholics and of Canadian Catholics in particular had deep colonial roots in the French and Indian War (part of the Seven Years’ War fought between France and England in several colonial territories) and the 1774 Quebec Act. Great Britain, with help from their British colonists in North America, won the war in 1763 and had obtained the French territory of Quebec in Canada. The colonists were pleased with the defeat of Catholic France.

Eleven years later, Parliament passed the Quebec Act, integrating the former French colony into British Canada. American colonists were not pleased with many of the decisions reached by Parliament. Although the issue of religious liberty among Protestants was tremendously important in the revolutionary period, as Thomas S. Kidd recounts in
God of Liberty: A Religious History of the American Revolution (Basic Books, 2012), American Protestants did not think that Catholics should be free to practice their faith.

The Quebec Act allowed Catholics in Canada, unlike Catholics in England or other British colonies, not only to practice their faith freely, but to serve in government offices without taking an oath that denied their faith. Catholics in England, Scotland and Ireland could not serve in political office because they would have had to deny the Real Presence in the Eucharist (which the government called Transubstantiation), the invocation of saints, and the authority of the pope. Catholics in Canada could simply swear loyalty to King George III.


In the background for all the British American colonists, even those in Pennsylvania, like Benjamin Franklin (picture in the fur hat that he procured in Canada and that became such a fashion statement in Paris), the specter of James II--and the more remote horrors of the Gunpowder Plot, the Spanish Armada and even the fires of Smithfield--dominated their view of Catholics and the Papacy. Franklin, with his career in Pennsylvania, should have known a little about William Penn's support of James II's efforts to bring religious toleration to England. His speaking and campaigning for the Act of Toleration got Penn in trouble: he was imprisoned and accused of being a Papist!

Monday, September 26, 2016

Handing Down Family Relics: Thomas More's Descendants


In her National Catholic Register article about the exhibition on St. Thomas More at the Saint John Paul II National Shrine in Washington, DC, Charlotte Hays notes the source of several of the relics on display:

Several objects in the exhibit were given to the Jesuit college in the 18th century by Jesuit Father Thomas More, the last male descendant of St. Thomas More (More had four children, three daughters and a son). These include an enameled gold crucifix that has three pearls hanging from it and likely contained a relic, now lost, of an earlier saint. Because of the size of the crucifix, it likely sat on More’s desk rather than worn around the neck and likely was on his desk in the Tower of London. A homey gift from Father More was the saint’s reversible nightcap, made with golden thread and gilded spangles. Family history attributed the cap to More’s beloved daughter Meg.

The Center for Thomas More Studies has this resource for the family tree (though not in the form of a family tree) for the More family, based upon a book from Gracewing. According to this site:

Fr Thomas More—the last descendant in the direct male line of St.Thomas More, Lord Chancellor of England—died on 20 May 1795 in Bath. He had been the Jesuit provincial superior at the time of the suppression of the Society in 1773.

Thomas More was the eldest of the five children of Thomas and Catherine (née Giffard) of Barnborough or Bamburg Hall in the West Riding of Yorkshire. Born on 19 September 1722, he was followed by Christopher, Bridget, Catherine and Mary. Both sons became Jesuits. Bridget married twice—Peter Metcalfe and Robert Dalton and had descendants; she died in 1797. Catherine died unmarried in 1786. Mary became Sister Mary Augustine of the Austin Canonesses at Bruges and died in 1807. Their home, Barnborough Hall, had been in the family since John, the only son of St. Thomas, had acquired it by his marriage to Anne Cresacre and it remained so until the nineteenth century.

In one of  the appendices to a book written after More's beatification by Father Thomas Edward Bridgett, you may read about all the relics of St. Thomas More that Father Thomas More, SJ gave to Stonyhurst College, including their family history and provenance.

I really think I may have to plan a visit to Washington, DC to see this exhibit, visit the National Shrine, etc. 

Sunday, September 25, 2016

The Copley-Maryland Connection

Thomas Copley, former favorite of Elizabeth I, died in exile on September 25, 1584. He was in exile because he had returned to his family's Catholic faith and it was not safe for him to stay in England. His sons and daughter found different ways to deal with their inherited recusancy. According to the Dictionary of National Biography:

of Gatton, Surrey, and Roughay, Sussex, and of the Maze, Southwark, who was knighted (perhaps by the king of France), and created a baron by Philip II of Spain, and who is frequently referred to by contemporaries as Lord Copley, was one of the chief Roman catholic exiles in the reign of Elizabeth. Camden styles him ‘e primariis inter profugos Anglos.’ He was the eldest son of Sir Roger Copley by his wife Elizabeth, daughter of Sir William Shelley of Michelgrove, a judge of the common pleas [q. v.], and was one of the coheirs of Thomas, last lord Hoo and Hastings, whose title he claimed and sometimes assumed. Lord Hoo's daughter Jane married his great-grandfather, Sir Roger Copley. Another daughter married Sir Geoffrey Boleyn, and was the great-grandmother of Anne Boleyn. The lords of the manor of Gatton then, as for nearly three centuries afterwards, returned the members of parliament for the borough, and in 1554 Copley, when only twenty years of age, was returned ‘by the election of Dame Elizabeth Copley’ (his mother) as M.P. for Gatton. He sat for the same place in the later parliaments of 1556, 1557, 1559, and 1563, and distinguished himself in 1558 by his opposition to the government of Philip and Mary (Commons' Journals). He was then a zealous protestant, and was much in favour with his kinswoman Queen Elizabeth at the commencement of her reign. In 1560 she was godmother to his eldest son Henry. According to Father Parsons (Relation of a Trial between the Bishop of Evreux and the Lord Plessis Mornay, 1604) the falsehoods he found in Jewel's ‘Apology’ (1562) led to his conversion to the church of Rome. After suffering (as he intimates in one of his letters) some years' imprisonment as a popish recusant, he left England without license in or about 1570, and spent the rest of his life in France, Spain, and the Low Countries, in constant correspondence with Cecil and others of Elizabeth's ministers, and sometimes with the queen herself, desiring pardon and permission to return to England and to enjoy his estates; but acting as the leader of the English fugitives, and generally in the service of the king of Spain, from whom he had a pension, and by whom he was created baron of Gatton and grand master of the Maze (or Maes) (Camden). He also received letters of marque against the Dutch. His title of baron and these letters form two of the subjects of the correspondence that passed between himself and the queen's ministers (Cal. State Papers, Dom. Ser.) Much of his correspondence is to be found in the ‘State Papers,’ and in the Cottonian, Lansdowne, and Harleian MSS. He died in Flanders in 1584, and in the last codicil to his will styles himself ‘Sir Thomas Copley, knight, Lord Copley of Gatton in the county of Surrey’ (Probate Office). By his wife Catherine, daughter and coheiress of Sir John Luttrell of Dunster, Somerset, he had four sons and four daughters. His eldest son Henry, Queen Elizabeth's godson, died young; William succeeded at Gatton. The third son was Anthony.

According to the History of Parliament for Gatton, William was also a recusant, so his prospects were few:

The manor of Gatton was in the possession of the Copley family by the early sixteenth century. In 1547 the Members were elected by Sir Roger Copley as ‘burgess and sole inhabitant of the borough’.9 However Sir Roger’s son Thomas†, his widow, and his son William, were Catholics, and spent much of the reign of Elizabeth in exile. In their absence, parliamentary patronage was exercised by Lord Burghley (Sir William Cecil†) and Lord Howard of Effingham (Charles Howard†), subsequently 1st earl of Nottingham, the latter being lord lieutenant of Surrey and part owner of Reigate manor.10

William Copley returned from exile and took possession of his lands shortly after the accession of James I, but his prospects of exerting electoral influence were compromised by his continued recusancy.11 Both the Members elected in 1604, Sir Thomas Gresham and Sir Nicholas Saunders, were Surrey gentlemen. Saunders may have had the support of Nottingham, with whom he had served on the Cadiz expedition of 1596. He may also have enjoyed the backing of Copley, for although he conformed to the Church of England he had strong Catholic connections.

One of William's sons became a Jesuit and worked with Lord Baltimore on the mission of Maryland. His real name was Thomas, but his alias was Philip Fisher, according to the Catholic Encyclopedia:

b. in Madrid, 1595-6; d. in Maryland, U. S., 1652. He was the eldest son of William Copley of Gatton, England, of a Catholic family of distinction who suffered exile in the reign of Elizabeth. He arrived in Maryland in 1637, and, being a man of great executive ability, took over the care of the mission, "a charge which at that time required rather business men than missionaries". In 1645, Father Fisher was wantonly seized and carried in chains to England, with Father Andrew White, the founder of the English mission in America. After enduring many hardships he was released, when he boldly returned to Maryland (Feb., 1648), where, after an absence of three years, he found his flock in a more flourishing state than those who had opposed and plundered them. That he made an effort to enter the missionary field of Virginia, appears from a letter written 1 March, 1648, to the Jesuit General Caraffa in Rome, in which he says: "A road has lately been opened through the forest to Virginia; this will make it but a two days' journey, and both places can now be united in one mission. After Easter I shall wait upon the Governor of Virginia upon business of great importance." Unfortunately there is no further record bearing on the projected visit. Neill, in his "Terra Mariae" (p. 70), and Smith in his "Religion under the Barons of Baltimore" (p. VII), strangely confound this Father Thomas Copley of Maryland with an apostate John Copley, who was never a Jesuit. Father Fisher is mentioned with honourable distinction in the missionary annals of Maryland, and, according to Hughes, was "the most distinguished man among the fourteen Jesuits who had worked in Maryland".

The third son Anthony, was a poet. According to the University of Manchester Press, which publishes his magnum opus in its Manchester Spencer series:

Anthony Copley's A Fig for Fortune was the first major poetic response to Edmund Spenser's The Faerie Queene. Written by a Catholic Englishman with an uneasy relationship to the English regime, A Fig for Fortune offers a deeply contestatory, richly imagined answer to sixteenth-century England's greatest poem. Through its sophisticated response to Spenser, A Fig for Fortune challenges a contemporary literary culture in which Protestant habits of thought and representation were gaining dominance. This book comprises the poem's first scholarly edition. It offers a carefully annotated edition of the 2000-line poem, an overview of English Catholic history in the sixteenth century, a full biography of Anthony Copley, an assessment of his engagement with Spenser's Faerie Queene, and information on the book's early print history. Extensive support for student readers makes it possible to teach Copley's poem alongside The Faerie Queene for the first time.

There was a fourth son, John, born in Louvain, who became a Catholic priest but then left the Church, became an Anglican and a Church of England minister. One daughter, Margaret, married John Gage of Barstow Manor in Surrey, but they had no "issue". British History Online refers to her as being "of the noted recusant family."

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Our Lady of Walsingham, First Shrine to the Mother of God


This recent Catholic News Agency (CNA) story comments upon the continuing popularity of the shrine of Our Lady of Walshingham, which is a Memorial today in the dioceses of England, noting that it was the first pilgrimage shrine to Mary, the Mother of God in Christendom, with its origins in 1061:

“From that time, through till the reformation, in 1538, Walsingham was one of the great shrines of Christendom,” and the only shrine dedicated to Our Lady, Msgr. Armitage said.

It is a great source of pride that Walsingham is the site of the oldest Marian shrine in the world, he said.

“Indeed, if you go to Nazareth, and you stand in front of the Holy House in Nazareth, if you look up, you’ll see all the different images of the Shrines to Our Lady around the world. And the first one that is displayed there is the shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham.”

Although the shrine itself was destroyed in 1538, a small nearby chapel where pilgrims en route to Walsingham would stop remained. “It’s where the pilgrims would come and before they entered the shrine ground, they would go to confession and then they would take their shoes off, and leave them at the slipper chapel – hence its name – and would walk barefoot into the shrine in the village.”

This tradition continues to this day, the rector added. “Once (the pilgrims) have finished their devotion at the slipper chapel shrine, they then walk along what’s called the Holy Mile into the village.”

After the shrine was rebuilt in the 20th century, the site began to see a resurgence of pilgrims which continues to this day.

“Walsingham is a great crossroads of Catholics in England,” Msgr. Armitage said, and many consider it to be the “spiritual heart” of the country.

CNA also provides this prayer to Our Lady of Walsingham:

O Mary, recall the solemn moment when Jesus, your divine son, dying on the cross, confided us to your maternal care. You are our mother, we desire ever to remain your devout children. let us therefore feel the effects of your powerful intercession with Jesus Christ. make your name again glorious in the shrine once renowned throughout England by your visits, favours, and many miracles.

Pray, O holy mother of God, for the conversion of England, restoration of the sick, consolation for the afflicted, repentance of sinners, peace to the departed.

O blessed Mary, mother of God, our Lady of Walsingham, intercede for us. Amen.

Friday, September 23, 2016

The Lost Songs of St. Kilda


This kind of story and endeavor resonates with me. Although the Catholic faith and culture in England didn't come down to one man giving that knowledge to another, there was a remnant left to sustain it and help revive it when the time came. The new CD, The Lost Songs of St. Kilda represents an even more tenuous remnant: one man remembering the old songs of a forsaken home and teaching them to another; that other man in old age remembering the old songs of that forsaken home and playing them; and a third man, recording the songs for the rest of us to hear and glimpse the life that is gone. As BBC Scotland News tells the story:

It all began when Trevor Morrison sat down at the piano in Edinburgh's Silverlea Care Home 10 years ago and began to play.

The magic did not go unnoticed.

The tunes were simple, naive even, but memorable and with an extraordinary emotional depth.

As a 10-year-old child on the west coast island of Bute during World War Two, Trevor had been taught piano by a former resident of St Kilda.

His teacher had left the remote archipelago in the outer Hebrides when they were evacuated in 1930.

Somehow, a lifetime later and in failing health, Trevor managed to remember the tunes his teacher had shown him.

Stuart McKenzie, who had been volunteering in the care home, offered to record them.

"He played the most astonishing tunes. They were so different. Complicated, but simple," Mr McKenzie says.

"I went home, got my computer, downloaded a bit of software and went along to a local electrical store and paid £3 for a microphone we could put down the back of the piano for him. And away he went."


Decca has combined the recordings of Morrison made by McKenzie with orchestrations of the melodies and works inspired by the music. This website has samples of the music and a timeline of the history of St. Kilda, which is not really named for any saint as far as anyone can tell.

The album won't be released in the United States until early October. It is a remarkable survival of aspects of a lost culture.

For Members Only


You have to be a member of The Tudor Society to access the material and every issue Tudor Life on-line, although there is a small sample the public may see, and a monthly issue option. In the October issue, editor Gareth Russell kindly featured my explanation of the name and main symbol of The Pilgrimage of Grace on the cover! More information about The Tudor Society here. One of the aspects I like about Tudor Life is that it is multidisciplinary, offering articles beyond historical narration and biography, including information about music, diet, clothing, etc--all those other aspects of life during the Tudor era.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

How to Make An Author's Day


When I woke up Tuesday morning and checked my email, I found this message:
Dear Ms. Mann,

I got up early this morning to finish reading your fine book Supremacy and Survival. My wife and I found this book recently in the gift shop at the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Alabama (the shrine established by EWTN's Mother Angelica.) While we were there I bought 5 different books. I read The Autobiography of a Hunted Priest by John Gerard, S.J. first and followed that up with your book. I am Catholic, 63 years old and really never knew anything at all about the persecution/martyrdom of many Catholics in old England. When I was a kid my father used to talk about St. Edmund Campion , but it never really sank in. I never heard any of this despite 12 years in Catholic schools. I don't think any of my 5 sons learned of any of this either, despite 12 years of Catholic school education.

I want to thank you for an excellent text covering the English Reformation and its aftermath. Yours and Father Gerard's book really were fascinating eye-openers and I hope to do more reading in these areas. Both these books were very hard to put down---real page-turners you might say. I plan to spend time going over your blog articles. I hope you write other books on these subjects in the future. You write succinctly and with great clarity. It makes me feel greater pride in being a Catholic. Spreading this information could lead to more religious vocations, I think.

God bless you and your efforts. Sincerely, Martin P. Harpen, M.D., Suffolk, VA
Dr. Harpen gave me permission to post his email (I added the italics).

What a way to start the day!

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

The Tichborne Traitors

Chidiock Tichborne was a Babington Plot conspirator against Elizabeth I (seen in the Pelican Portrait by Nicholas Hilliard, which symbolizes her love for her country--the pelican mother would pierce its own breast and feed her young with her blood) and he was brutally executed on September 20, 1586 at St. Giles Field, along with other conspirators. The night before he wrote his own elegy and sent it to his wife Agnes:

My prime of youth is but a frost of cares,
My feast of joy is but a dish of pain,
My crop of corn is but a field of tares,
And all my good is but vain hope of gain;
The day is past, and yet I saw no sun,
And now I live, and now my life is done.

My tale was heard and yet it was not told,
My fruit is fallen and yet my leaves are green,
My youth is spent and yet I am not old,
I saw the world and yet I was not seen;
My thread is cut and yet it is not spun,
And now I live, and now my life is done.

I sought my death and found it in my womb,
I looked for life and saw it was a shade,
I trod the earth and knew it was my tomb,
And now I die, and now I was but made;
My glass is full, and now my glass is run,
And now I live, and now my life is done.


Chidiock's uncle, Nicholas Tichborne, had also betrayed his monarch because of his obdurate recusancy, as Francis Aidan Gasquet describes in his Hampshire Recusants: A Story of Their Troubles in the Time of Queen Elizabeth (1895):

In the year 1589, Nicholas Tichborne of Hartley Maudit, three miles from Alton, died. He had been in the gaol of Winchester for nine years a prisoner, as he says himself in his petition for relief "for not repairing unto my parish church," or as the Sheriff puts it, "in execution for a great sum of money due unto Her Majesty by reason of his recusancy." We have a glimpse of his sad condition in a letter written by him in 1585. In October of that year, orders were sent down to the officials in the various counties to demand from each recusant gentleman or woman one "light horse" for the queen's service, or £25 in money. George Cotton, apparently, was the only one in this part of the country who was " contented " to furnish the horse. Poor Nicholas Tichborne pleaded "non-ability" to do what was required. "I and such other recusants," he writes, "have reported ourselves, notwithstanding our recusancy, to be as good subjects as any other Her Majesty's subjects, which before God I do acknowledge and profess. And hereupon. Her Majesty having present service for certain light horsemen to be sent into Flanders, Her Majesty's will and pleasure is to require of me to have a light horse in readiness, with all the furniture thereunto belonging, by the 26th day of the month of October, or else £25". "I," he continues, "am a younger brother and son of a younger brother," and had only one little farm, "for the maintenance of myself, my poor wife and eight young children." The "lease whereof with all such goods as I had upon the same was sold by Robert White, Esq., late Sheriff of the said county, and the money for the same was paid into the receipt of Her Majesty's Exchequer, to Her Majesty's use in the Michaelmas term in the 25th year of Her Majesty's reign." . . . Tichborne declares that since he has been in prison and all his little property taken away, his family has lived upon the alms of the charitable. He is sorry he is unable to do anything in the way of finding the horse to show " his loyalty and true obedience to Her Majesty . . . He was left consequently in the Winchester Gaol till he died, as I have said, in 1589. The Bishop of the diocese, Dr. Cooper, refused to allow his body to be buried in any church or cemetery, declaring that his conscience would not permit him to suffer a papist to be buried in any of his churches or cemeteries. By the advice of an old Catholic the body was carried to the summit of a hill about a mile from the city and interred in the old disused cemetery of St. James, now known in Winchester as the Catholic Cemetery.

Nicholas' sons, Thomas and Nicholas were executed like Chidiock, but are considered martyrs--they were not part of a conspiracy, but were a Catholic priest present in England (Father Thomas) and a Catholic layman assisting a Catholic priest (Nicholas). They have both been declared Venerable by the Church but have not been beatified in either of the large groups in the 19th and 20th centuries.

From the Catholic Encyclopedia, Venerable Thomas Tichborne:

Born at Hartley, Hampshire, 1567; martyred at Tyburn, London, 20 April, 1602. He was educated at Rheims (1584-87) and Rome, where he was ordained on Ascension Day, 17 May, 1592. Returning to England on 10 March, 1594, he laboured in his native county, where he escaped apprehension till the early part of 1597. He was sent a prisoner to the Gatehouse in London, but in the autumn of 1598 was helped to escape by his brother, Ven. Nicholas Tichborne, and Ven. Thomas Hackshot, who were both martyred shortly afterwards. Betrayed by Atkinson, an apostate priest, he was re-arrested and on 17 April, 1602, was brought to trial with Ven. Robert Watkinson (a young Yorkshire man who had been educated at Rome and ordained priest at Douai a month before) and Ven. James Duckett, a London bookseller. On 20 April he was executed with Ven. Robert Watkinson and Ven. Francis Page, S.J. The last named was a convert, of a Middlesex family though born in Antwerp. He had been ordained at Douai in 1600 and received into the Society of Jesus while a prisoner in Newgate. Ven. Thomas Tichborne was in the last stages of consumption when he was martyred.

Note that Watkinson, Page and Duckett have been beatified (in 1929 by Pope Pius XI). Why not Thomas Tichborne?


b. at Hartley Mauditt, Hampshire; suffered at Tyburn, London, 24 Aug., 1601. He was a recusant at large in 1592, but by 14 March, 1597, had been imprisoned. On that date he gave evidence against various members of his family. Before 3 Nov., 1598, he had obtained his liberty and had effected the release of his brother, Venerable Thomas Tichborne, a prisoner in the Gatehouse, Westminster, by assaulting his keeper. He is to be distinguished from the Nicholas Tichborne who died in Winchester Gaol in 1587. [His father, as described above]

With him suffered Venerable Thomas Hackshot (b. at Mursley, Buckinghamshire), who was condemned on the same charge, viz. that of effecting the escape of the priest Thomas Tichborne. During his long imprisonment in the Gatehouse he was "afflicted with divers torments, which he endured with great courage and fortitude."

According to the English government at the time, all four of these men were in some way traitors. Nicholas, the father, refused to accept the Elizabethan religious settlement by not going to the Anglican services held each Sunday in his formerly Catholic church. He and his family lost all of their material possessions because of his refusal. He could be considered a martyr in chains. His wife, Mary (Myll) must have been just as loyal to the Catholic faith and his sons also remained true. Note, however, that Nicholas (the younger) must have wavered a bit, because in 1597 he "gave evidence against various members of his family". Nevertheless, he helped his brother, Father Thomas, escape from prison a year or so later. Then they were both recaptured, tried, and sentenced to death.


Chidiock's father, Peter, was also a recusant, who spent time in jail for not paying his fines and refusing to attend Anglican services. Chidiock, however, joined in the conspiracy to kill Elizabeth I and place Mary, the former Queen of Scots, on the throne. Reports are that the executions by hanging, drawing and quartering were so cruelly carried out on September 20, 1586 that Elizabeth I ordered the next round of conspirators to be hung by the neck until dead before beheading and quartering. Chidiock was only 24 years old; his youth and agony evidently moved the spectators.

The Babington Plot finally sealed Mary of Scotland's fate, and she was executed in February of 1587. 

Monday, September 19, 2016

A Catholic View of Catholic Oxford

I have to admit that jealousy, that green-eyed monster, preyed upon me when I read this article on the Catholic World Report website. Aurora C. Griffin, who wrote How I Stayed Catholic at Harvard: 40 Tips for Faithful College Students, is a Rhodes Scholar in Oxford, studying Catholic theology:

From what I was able to see in my two years as a Rhodes Scholar pursuing my Master’s degree in theology, Catholic life and faith is alive and well in Oxford. Not in the Theology Department, mind you, which is still largely enamored with nineteenth-century German heretics. There they love to talk about the Enlightenment and how “problematic” traditional theology is. When my advisor discovered that I had worked on Thomas Aquinas for all of my exam and essay requirements, he smiled disapprovingly and looked at me over his glasses: “Well, somehow you’ve managed to come to Oxford and do Catholic Studies!”

There are still faithful Catholics and students of Aquinas at Blackfriars, the Dominican permanent private hall. It is not, technically, one of the thirty-eight colleges at Oxford. If you ask someone at Blackfriars, he will tell you that it is only because they do not have a large enough endowment to be a college. Depending on the year, they may have a sufficiently impressive pool of athletic talent to man a boat for the major crew races (Summer Eights and Torpids), so few visitors would know the difference. The Middle Common Room, which is the hub of student social life, feels just like the one at my own college (Trinity), except there is a note that essentially states: “Wash your own dishes. Unlike the Jesuits, we don’t have the money to pay a maid to clean them for you.”

What is distinctive about Blackfriars, then, is not its status but its deeply Catholic nature and roots. It is said that Thomas Aquinas himself visited Blackfriars in the thirteenth century. To this day, it is a bustling house of study and prayer with daily Mass, Vespers, and its own in-house lectures on everything from beginning Hebrew to the most obscure liturgical theology. Its biggest asset, however, is the set of Dominican priests and brothers who study and teach there. On Monday nights, they lead an Aquinas group: Mass, Vespers, soup dinner, and theology. The discussions often spill over late into the night at the Lamb & Flag pub across the street, a frequent haunt of Lewis, Tolkein, and the Inklings.

She goes on to describe Mass at the Oxford Oratory, events at the Newman Center, Campion Hall, and other Catholic venues. Read the rest there.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

A Portmanteau Post: St. Robert Bellarmine and the Blessed Virgin Mary

Nearly every Saturday on the Roman Calendar of the Catholic Church is dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary as an optional memorial and today is also the optional memorial of St. Robert Bellarmine, whose connection to the English Reformation I have highlighted before. We can observe both by exploring St. Robert's devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary!

Servant of God Father John Hardon, SJ describes St. Robert Bellarmine's devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, including this poem:

Among St. Robert’s extant writing there is a short poem of twenty stanzas which he composed in the nature of a Litany to the Blessed Virgin. The text was first published in Italian some fifty years ago, and to the best of the writer’s knowledge, has never been translated into English. Each verse-line begins with the name “Virgin,” joined to a title and petition to Our Lady, starting with the letter “A” and going down the Italian alphabet to “V.” Thus the first seven verses begin with the invocation: “Vergine adorna … Vergine Bella …Vergine casta … Vergine degna … Vergine eletta … Vergine felice … Vergine gradita …”

A free translation to this tribute to the Virgin Mother reads as follows:
“Virgin adored and clothed with the sun, grant me thine aid.
Virgin most beautiful, mystical rose, take abode in my heart.
Virgin most chaste, all undefiled, grant me true peace.
Virgin deserving of all honor and praise, give me thy love.
Virgin elect and full of all grace, lead me to God.
Virgin most blessed, star of the sea, dispel the storms besetting me.
Virgin most virtuous, holy and sweet, show me the way.
Virgin illustrious, with thy burning light, enlighten thou my mind.
Virgin more precious than jewels or gold, make reparation for me.
Virgin most worthy of all praise, mother, daughter, and immaculate spouse.
Virgin and Mother, make me more pleasing to Jesus thy Son.
Virgin most innocent of any stain or fault, make me more worthy of God.
Virgin enriched with every gift and grace, obtain the remission of my sins.
Virgin most pure, grant me to enjoy the bliss of heavenly love.
Virgin, thou lily among thorns, I pray thee for the grace of a happy death.
Virgin more rare than the rarest dream, bring joy to my heart.
Virgin so great there is none like thee on earth, bring peace to my soul.
Virgin most true, loving Mother too, Virgin Mary.”
Holy Mother of God, pray for us!

St. Robert Bellarmine, pray for us!

Deep in History: The Counter-Reformation in England


Interesting timing: The Coming Home Network has posted this video of Father Charles Connor speaking about "The English Counter-Reformation":

Many are familiar with the Catholic Counter-Reformation that took place on the European continent in response to Martin Luther and other reformers. Less well known is what the Counter-Reformation looked like in England as a response to the schism led by King Henry VIII. Fr. Charles Connor explores the relationship between Catholics and Anglicans in England in the decades following the split between the Church of England and the Church of Rome.

Since I'm reading Father Philip Hughes' great work on Rome and the Counter-Reformation in England, I watched/listened to the video the day it was released (I think I have an audio CD that I purchased several years ago). Of course, Father Connor can't go into the detail that Father Hughes can, but I think it is unfortunate that he concentrated only on the campaign against heresy during Mary I's reign, and skipped the constructive reform that Reginald Cardinal Pole, the last Catholic Archbishop of Canterbury, and his bishops led during Mary I's reign. 

Hughes provides the most unflinching interpretation of the international and papal politics, the personalities of major players and how their personalities influenced their efforts, and the status of belief in England that I have ever read. For example, he comments on how 20 years of the civil administration of religious policy in England had essentially freed the English from all thought of having canon law and the Catholic hierarchy in control again. Canon law and the ecclesiastical courts had previously ruled on many of the most essential events in the laity's life: marriage, family life, etc. The English people were not ready to place themselves under that authority again. Hughes also examines Reginald Pole's personality, his strengths and weaknesses, and how he was not able to face unpleasant realities and also too imperturbable--Pole was too willing to accept the role of martyrdom and incapable of the kind of righteous anger that drives us to effective action and real sacrifice.

I'm still reading Rome and the Counter-Reformation in England and will post a fuller review later. This book is the necessary supplement to Father Connor's brief presentation and also a more realistic (pessimistic?) view of the first Counter-Reformation efforts in England than Eamon Duffy's Fires of Faith: Catholic England under Mary Tudor. That's not really fair, to say that Hughes was a pessimist--after all, the Counter-Reformation in England did fail!

And, after I finish this book, I have another Counter-Reformation book in queue: John Hungerford Pollen's The Counter-Reformation in Scotland. Who knew that there was one? 

John Hungerford Pollen, SJ, was the son of John Hungerford Pollen, convert and associate of Blessed John Henry Newman. (He was the architect of the church Newman had built for the Catholic University of Ireland and a member of the faculty too.) His namesake son researched and published many books on the Catholic martyrs of England and Wales. This monograph is based upon a lecture, expanded for publication. More information on Father Pollen, here, from the Jesuits in Britain. He was vice-postulator for the cause of the martyrs of England and Wales from 1900 to 1923.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Ethan Allen's Daughter, the Catholic Convert


I thought one of the most interesting things about this conversion story was that Fanny Allen's family thought that if she had to be a religiously observant Christian--her late father Ethan Allen was a Deist and her mother and stepfather were not in favor of organized religion either--it would be better if she was an Episcopalian than a Catholic! She was baptized in the Episcopal Church as an adult, to protect her from Catholic influences in French Quebec, and when Fanny had become a Catholic, the family tried to persuade her to join the Episcopal Church instead:

Sister Frances Margaret (Fanny) Allen of the Religious Hospitallers of St. Joseph died on September 10, 1819 in Montreal at the Hotel-Dieu, the hospital and convent founded by Venerable Jerome Le Royer, Venerable Marie de la Ferre, and Jeanne Mance.

She was a Vermonter in Canada, the first woman from New England to become a Catholic religious, and the daughter of deist, rationalist, and American Revolutionary hero, Ethan Allen.

Fanny Allen was born on November 13, 1784. Her father died when she was four years old and her mother, also named Fanny, remarried (to Dr. Jabez Penniman). Neither the Allen nor the Penniman household was particularly religious. In the midst of the great religious revivals in the British colonies and the post-revolutionary period, Ethan Allen had written and self-published
Reason: The Only Oracle of Man (1785). So few copies sold that the printer demanded more money to cover his losses. Fanny laughed through her baptism ceremony when she was an adult. Her mother insisted she be baptized by an Episcopalian minister in 1805 before she went to Catholic Montreal to study French. The minister, Daniel Barber, did not appreciate her mirth. . .

When she came home to Vermont they tried to distract her with parties and asked an Episcopalian friend to persuade her to join his High Church parish. Fanny resisted all these blandishments and wanted to back to Montreal to join a convent.

Read the rest on my blog at the National Catholic Register.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Katherine of Aragon and Our Lady of Caversham


Today is the Feast of the Triumph or the Exaltation of the Cross and tomorrow is the memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows, but in 1538, it was a sad day. The Tudor Society reports the event briefly in its almanac for this week:

The Destruction of the Shrine of Our Lady of Caversham, near Reading, by Dr John London, on the orders of Henry VIII. The shrine had been established in 1106.

On the website of the Catholic Parish of Our Lady and Saint Anne in Caversham, part of the Archdiocese of  Birmingham provides more detail:

Throughout the Middle Ages the fame of Our Lady of Caversham spread throughout the country and pilgrims came not only to pray, but also to present votive offerings to the Shrine, so that by the 15th century the statue was plated in silver. In 1439 Isabella Beauchamp, Countess of Warwick, left 20lbs of gold to be made into a crown for the statue. Kings and Queens of England travelled up river from Windsor to visit the Shrine, the last being Queen Catherine of Aragon who came on July 17th 1532 to pray to Our Blessed Lady while Henry VIII pressured her for a divorce.

Henry’s break with Rome meant the destruction of all religious houses and shrines so, on 14th September 1538, Dr. John London, the government agent, arrived at Caversham and in a single day closed down the Shrine, stripped it bare of all its religious property and ended over five hundred years of religious devotion. The statue was sent up to Thomas Cromwell in London where it was burnt.


It almost seems that Henry VIII ordered the destruction of the shrine himself because Katherine of Aragon had gone there to pray for Our Lady's intercession in the cause of their marriage.

The museum in Reading has a photograph of the foundation stone of the new shrine being placed in October of 1958:

A revival of devotion to Our Lady of Caversham began in 1897 and in 1958 the parish priest, Fr. William O’Malley, decided that a new shrine should be built. A stone chapel was built and a large oak statue of Our Lady and child purchased. The renewed shrine of Our Lady of Caversham was dedicated by Archbishop Francis Grimshaw of Birmingham in 1958.

This photograph was taken for the
Berkshire Chronicle but was not published.

Christopher Haigh and David Loades collaborated on an article about "The Fortunes of the Shrine of St. Mary of Caversham in the  1981 issue of Oxoniensia,  the annual journal of Oxfordshire Architectural and Historical Society (OAHS).

Our Lady of Caversham, pray for us!

Our Lady of Sorrows, pray for us!

Monday, September 12, 2016

Georgetown, the Papacy, and Slaves


The Jesuits of Georgetown University owned slaves and sold them in 1838. In 2016, the university's Working Group on Slavery, Memory and Reconciliation issued a report and the administration is taking steps to demonstrate repentance for the past, as documented here.

In Crisis Magazine, Fr. Cornelius Buckley, S.J., Professor Emeritus (history) at the University of San Francisco, comments on the issue:

Many people are surprised and shocked to learn that the American Jesuits in the nineteenth century were slave owners, and those sentiments are exacerbated when they learn that, literally, the very existence of Georgetown depended on the money that was realized by the 1838 sale of 272 enslaved blacks to plantation owners in Louisiana, and that the archdiocese of Baltimore shared in the proceeds. The feud between Georgetown and Baltimore that had existed since 1818 was at last resolved, thanks to the money from the sale, sealing a bond of friendship between the archbishop and the Society of Jesus.

Slavery as an institution should be condemned. This was precisely the position of Pope Paul III, when in 1537, he outlawed slavery and condemned those who owned or sold slaves. Three years later he approved the rule of Ignatius of Loyola and his companions constituting them as a religious order. Of course, not many paid much attention to the pope’s strong statements against black slavery. It was too advantageous for black chiefs who sold their people and for white traders who purchased them and transported them to the New World. But then in 1639, at the insistence of the Jesuits in Paraguay, where the Spaniards where enslaving the indigenous peoples, Pope Urban VIII issued another bull confirming what Paul had decreed and adding strength to it. Then, less than fifty years later, the Jesuits in Maryland were slave owners. So, in order to put into its proper perspective the historical fact that the 1838 Georgetown Jesuits were owners and sellers of slaves, it is important to see that disobedience to papal teaching was the point of departure from which Georgetown and other Jesuit colleges in the United States plotted their course.

When you recall that the Society of Jesus stressed total obedience to the Pope, this history is particularly unsettling. But then, many who have called and today call themselves Catholic feel free to disobey the Church's teachings on many issues, from slavery to abortion, from usury to Catholic theology faculty upholding Church teaching--as Father Buckley concludes his article, remembering another document that has been ignored:

Pope John Paul II’s apostolic letter Ad Tuendam Fidem in which he asked theology teachers to take an oath of fidelity to the magisterium of the Holy Roman Catholic Church? No one at Georgetown paid attention to it at the time. Paul III, Urban VIII, John Paul II? Does history matter much when it goes against fashionable conceits?

Reading about this episode and its aftermath, I was reminded of one of the bon-mots our GKC group highlighted at our meeting on last Friday evening. In chapter one of his Saint Thomas Aquinas, Chesterton states:

If the world goes too worldly, it can be rebuked by the Church; but if the Church grows too worldly, it cannot be adequately rebuked for worldliness by the world.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Pugin and Absolute Gothic

At the Imaginative Conservative site, James Baresel discusses the connections artists and architects made between the neo-Gothic style and social issues, including economics in the Victorian era. He asks the question, "Should Christians Romanticize the Middle Ages?" and comments on A.W.N. Pugin's absolute commitment to "medievalism":

The leading light of the romantic neo-Gothic architectural movement was Catholic convert Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin. Perhaps no man has even taken medievalism to a greater extreme. His goal was nothing less than a restoration of England not just to Catholicism, but to a medieval English Catholicism as part of a restoration to what he considered to be an overall medieval way of life. Late-thirteenth and early-fourteenth-century Gothic was to him both an apogee of architectural development and a permanent set of canons for particular categories of buildings. Such structures as railway stations that lacked a medieval precedent were to be designed upon the basis of “Gothic principles.” Priests were to be clad in Gothic vestments while celebrating Mass. When Blessed John Henry Newman planned an introduction of the Oratory of Saint Philip Neri into England, Pugin objected on the grounds that the Oratorians had always been Italian with no historical connection to England and were grounded in the spirituality of the Counter-Reformation rather than in any way medieval. Upon visiting Rome, Pugin found himself detesting perhaps the greatest achievements of Catholic art and architecture in history—the Renaissance and the Baroque of the great basilicas—due to their ornate beauty and because he, in all seriousness, considered them to be pagan.

To articulate his vision for English society, Pugin published Contrasts, contrasting scenes from early industrial England with what he believed to be his country’s medieval past. He went far beyond pointing out that life for many in the Middle Ages was in fact more tolerable than life in the early factories. Medieval life was depicted as all but idyllic, his own age as an absolute disaster. Some of the contrasts in the book propagandistically showed a medieval town with rising (Gothic) church spires next to a nineteenth-century town with rising factory chimneys. In other cases, images of Gothic and neo-classical churches were placed next to each other on what must have been the assumption that the reader would inevitably consider the former to be the more beautiful. And, of course, Gothic architecture and its influence on peoples’ minds was alleged to be an essential element of creating a desirable state of society.

Read the rest there.

I am always troubled by how Pugin almost seems to exalt the Gothic above Catholicism itself by insisting that Gothic art and architecture was absolutely essential to worship and prayer. I always appreciate the beauty of a church and I do favor the Gothic style, but I also know that true sacramental worship doesn't depend on the style of architecture. For Pugin to have protested against the Oratory of St. Philip Neri being established in England because it "had always been Italian with no historical connection to England" certainly ignored how international medievalism was. After all, the Gothic style originated in France! Catholicism is indeed universal and should not be identified with only one period or culture.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

WWII and Newman's Centennial


My dear husband bought me this book which had been removed from the Library of the Catholic University of America in Washington, DC and it just arrived this past Wednesday. I'm enjoying the essays, listed in the table of contents below:



Introduction by J.K. Ryan
"Most consoling intelligence from England ..." by E. D. Benard.
Cardinal Newman and America, by Edward Hawks.
Newman letters in the Baltimore Cathedral archives, by J. T. Ellis.
The psychology of a conversion, by D. J. Saunders.
The tone of the centre, by J. J. Reilly.
Maker and thinker, by J. K. Ryan.
"The salvation of the hearer ..." by E. M. Burke.
For the modern reader, by D. M. O'Connell.
Newman and modern educational thought, by J. F. Leddy.
Newman and the liberal arts, by J. E. Wise.
University, actuality or idea? By C. F. Donovan.
Newman and papal infallibility, by J. C. Fenton.
The beauty ever ancient, ever new, by W. P. Burke.
Newman centennial literature: a bibliography (p. [209]-227)
Biographical notes on contributors.

I'm also enjoying the historical time-travel it takes to read this book. It was published by the Catholic University of America Press in 1947, collecting essays published in America, The American Ecclesiastical Review, Thought, and The Catholic Historical Review during 1945. The centennial being celebrated was the 100th anniversary of Newman's conversion on October 9, 1845. 

In the introduction by Father John K. Ryan, the context of the times impressed me. England and Europe of course were at war in 1945; therefore, Newman's centennial could not and did not receive the attention it deserved there. It's hard to organize a scholarly conference when you're dealing with German air raids, rationing, military deployment, and the like.  

Father Ryan makes the alarming statement in his introduction that for all his greatness, Newman certainly can't be considered a candidate for sainthood. Perhaps Father Ryan was influenced by the Henri Bremond's The Mystery of Newman? He certainly forgot about Newman's reputation for holiness at the time of his death: Catholic, Anglican, and Protestants in England hailed him as a saint. Bishop Philip Boyce of Raphoe wrote about the changing view of Newman's holiness in an essay titled "Tokens of Holiness in Blessed John Henry Newman":

It is surprising then, that the idea of holiness in Newman’s life began to fade in public perception for over fifty years after his death. This was partly explained by some publications that propagated less than favourable interpretations of his character and his works. His brother Francis who had abandoned the Christian faith published a book about John Henry a year after his death. It was a reaction to the outburst of praise his deceased brother had received and it portrayed him in a very hostile manner, as being duped by organised religion and arrogant in his personal life. In the following year, 1892, another publication by Edwin Abbott, an Anglican, was also critical of Newman. He censured him for sacrificing his reason to the demands of an unfounded and irrational faith. 

Henri Bremond, the French philosopher, published in 1906 a study on Newman that gave rise to the widespread notion that he was a lonely and melancholy man, even a recluse. It was translated into English the following year. Bremond’s study influenced even the widely known and informative Life in two volumes by Wilfrid Ward. Here again, at least in certain chapters the idea of a sad, sensitive and solitary Newman is given to the reader. 

Although there were others who questioned Newman’s sanctity on various points, things began to change in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s.

So Ryan has been proven wrong about Newman's holiness but I can understand the limitations of what he knew in 1945. On the other hand, Father Ryan writes most appreciatively of Newman's great achievement in The Dream of Gerontius in his chapter "Maker and Thinker":

The Dream of Gerontius is unique among Newman's poems and in a way among all poems. It is uniquely ambitious because of all the poems that have been written about death and life after death, none has been quite so daringly explicit as this one in its use of revelation and of metaphysics and in its psychological analysis. . . . In The Dream of Gerontius Newman has been completely successful in his daring and difficult task. . . .

When we received the book on Wednesday, I read one of the essays out loud to my husband, "Most Consoling Intelligence From England . . ." by Father Edmund Darvil Benard. Father Bernad describes the reaction to the news of Newman's conversion among Catholics in the USA in 1845. He notes that 1) There were only 1,071,000 Catholics in the entire country; 2) News from England and the Continent was delayed at least a month, because letters and newspapers traveled by ship--there was no transatlantic cable until 20 years later. As we read the essay we also reminded ourselves that Father Benard could not just search for these reports in Catholic diocesan newspapers on the internet. Perhaps he could view them on microfilm, but he might have been looking at the actual periodicals.

I look forward to reading the rest of the essays, even though--or perhaps--the scholarship is 71 years old and things in Newman studies have certainly changed since then.

Cor ad Cor Loquitor!!

Friday, September 9, 2016

Tonight at Eighth Day Books: Chesterton! Aquinas! Cake!


Our G.K. Chesterton reading group reconvenes tonight at Eighth Day Books to begin our discussion of Chesterton's Saint Thomas Aquinas. We will discuss the Introduction and the first three chapters. Dale Ahlquist offers an overview in his Chesterton 101 series at the American Chesterton Society:

Evelyn Waugh claimed that G.K. Chesterton never actually read the Summa Theologica. He simply ran his fingers over the binding and absorbed its content. It is certainly as good a legend as Dorothy Collins’ account of Chesterton dictating half the book of St. Thomas Aquinas to her, stopping, asking her to get some books (“What books?” “I don’t know”), her returning from London with a stack of books, him paging rapidly through one of them, taking a walk in his garden, entering his study and saying “Shall we do a little Tommy?” The journalist then proceeded to dictate the rest of the book that put all Thomistic scholars to shame. Etienne Gilson praised it as the best book ever written on St. Thomas Aquinas.

Chesterton begins by comparing Aquinas with St. Francis of Assisi. In spite of their obvious contrasts, he says, “they were really doing the same thing. One of them was doing it in the world of the mind, the other was doing it in the world of the worldly… They were doing the same great work; one in the study, the other in the street.” Neither of them brought anything new to Christianity. Rather, they brought Christianity closer to the kingdom of God. In the process, each of them “reaffirmed the Incarnation, by bringing God back to earth.”

St. Thomas was not only intent on upholding the reality of the Incarnation. He also wanted to show what were the implications of the Incarnation. Bringing heaven and earth together means bringing body and soul together. It means Man is to be studied in his whole Manhood. A man is not a man without his body, just as a man is not a man without his soul: “A corpse is not a man; but also a ghost is not a man.” St. Thomas thereby affirms the dogma that Modernism rejects: the Resurrection of the body.

The American Chesterton Society also provides this article by Chesterton, published in The Spectator (1932), in which he sums up Saint Thomas Aquinas's importance:

To understand his importance, we must pit him against the two or three alternative cosmic creeds: he is the whole Christian intellect speaking to Paganism or to Pessimism. He is arguing across the ages with Plato or with Buddha; and he has the best of the argument. His mind was so broad, and its balance so beautiful, that to suggest it would be to discuss a million things. But perhaps the best simplification is this. St. Thomas confronts other creeds of good and evil, without at all denying evil, with a theory of two levels of good. The supernatural order is the supreme good, as for any Eastern mystic; but the natural order is good; as solidly good as it is for any man in the street. That is what”settles the Manichees.” Faith is higher than reason; but reason is higher than anything else, and has supreme rights in its own domain. That is where it anticipates and answers the anti-rational cry of Luther and the rest; as a highly Pagan poet said to me: “The Reformation happened because people hadn’t the brains to understand Aquinas.” The Church is more immortally important than the State; but the State has its rights, for all that. This Christian duality had always been implicit, as in Christ’s distinction between God and Caesar, or the dogmatic distinction between the natures of Christ. But St. Thomas has the glory of having seized this double thread as the clue to a thousand things; and thereby created the only creed in which the saints can be sane. It presents itself chiefly, perhaps, to the modern world as the only creed in which the poets can be sane. For there is nobody now to settle the Manichees; and all culture is infected with a faint unclean sense that Nature and all things behind us and below us are bad; that there is only praise to the highbrow in the height. St. Thomas exalted God without lowering Man; he exalted Man without lowering Nature. Therefore, he made a cosmos of common sense; terra vientium; a land of the living. His philosophy, like his theology, is that of common sense. He does not torture the brain with desperate attempts to explain existence by explaining it away. The first steps of his mind are the first steps of any honest mind; just as the first virtues of his creed could be those of any honest peasant. For he, who combined so many things, combined also intellectual subtlety and spiritual simplicity; and the priest who attended the deathbed of this Titan of intellectual energy, whose brain had torn up the roots of the world and pierced every star and split every straw in the whole universe of thought and even of scepticism, said that in listening to the dying man’s confession, he fancied suddenly that he was listening to the first confession of a child of five.

We meet at 6:30 p.m. and refreshments will be served!! If you are in Wichita, Kansas or its environs, come join the Greater Wichita local branch of the American Chesterton Society, settling the Manichees and rejoicing in the Resurrection!