Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The Temptation of a Martyr: Blessed Alexander Crow

Wikipedia has this brief entry for today's martyr:

Alexander Crow (died 1586/7) was born in Yorkshire around 1550. He took up an early trade as a shoemaker, but in his twenties he travelled to Rheims, France, and trained as a priest at Duoay (sic) College, being ordained in 1584.

He returned to the north of England to continue his mission, until he was arrested in South Duffield whilst baptising a baby. Taken to York, he was hanged, drawn and quartered on 30 November 1586 or 1587. Sources conflict as to the year of his death, whether it was 1586 or a year later, 'being about the year (sic) of thirty five,'

One of the Eighty-five martyrs of England and Wales, he was beatified by Pope John Paul II on 22 November 1987.

In his Memoirs of the Missionary Priests, however, Bishop Richard Challoner includes the story of the great temptations Blessed Alexander Crow suffered the night before he died. He was in a cell with another Catholic prisoner who later reported on the vigil Father Crow kept. He wanted to stay awake and pray, preparing himself for the horrors of being hanged, drawn, and quartered. In the midst of his prayers, however, he was tempted by the devil, who told him he would never be a martyr and never enjoy heaven, but be kept in prison forever and go to hell. The "ugly monster" told him to kill himself rather than endure such lingering punishment. Father Crow kept fighting him off, but the "horrid figure" kept harassing him. Suddenly a vision of St. John the Evangelist and the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to Father Crow, casting the demon away and telling him, "Begone from hence, thou cursed creature! Thou hast no part in this servant of Christ, who will shed his blood tomorrow for his Lord, and will enter into his joy." Crow received great spiritual consolation and rejoiced that he would indeed be a martyr the next day.

On the scaffold, however, the devil returned and knocked Father Crow off the ladder even before the noose was placed around his neck; the crowd gathered for the execution thought he was trying to kill himself. He told them that he was not, mounted the ladder again and after "exhorting them to the Catholic faith" and "passing through the usual course of the ordinary butchery, he gloriously finished his career, and went to enjoy his God forever."

Bishop Challoner's entry also includes the detail that when Blessed Alexander Crow was arrested, he was on his way to baptize the baby of "one Cecily Garnet" and I wonder if she was any relation to Father Henry Garnet or St. Thomas Garnet. I also wonder who baptized her baby and what the baby's name was. And note that the confusion about the year of his death was related to his age; the manuscript annals said he was 35 when he was executed, so he would have been born in 1552.

Blessed Alexander Crow, pray for us!

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Martyrs on November 29 in 1588 and 1596

Blessed Edward BurdenAfter studying at Oxford University’s Trinity College, Edward Burden, of County Durham, England, journeyed to the continent to prepare for the Catholic priesthood. He was ordained at Douai, France in 1584 and set out for England two years later. But after spending the following two years serving Catholics in Yorkshire, Father Burden was arrested by the Protestant Elizabethan authorities. While awaiting his fate in a York prison, he saw a fellow Catholic priest incarcerated with him, (Blessed) Robert Dalby, led away to be put on trial. Envious of the latter’s prospects of imminent martyrdom, Father Burden complained, “Shall I always lie here like a beast while my brother hastens to his reward? Truly, I am unworthy of such glory as to suffer for Christ.” But it was not long before Father Burden was himself tried and condemned to death for his priesthood. On November 29, 1588, he was executed by drawing and quartering at York.

Note: Father (Blessed) Robert Dalby was held in York Castle and not executed until after Blessed Edward Burden, on March 16, 1589, with Blessed John Amias. Note that like Blessed John Henry Newman in the 19th century, Father Burden was a Trinity man!

On the same date in York, eight years later, three laymen were hung, drawn and quartered, found guilty of the treason of attempting to convert another English subject to Catholicism: Blesseds George Errington, William Gibson, and William Knight (another layman, Blessed Henry Abbot had been condemned under the same charge, but his execution was delayed until March the following year). They were victims of entrapment, according to Bishop Challoner:

A certain Protestant minister, for some misdemeanour put into York Castle, to reinstate himself in the favour of his superiors, insinuated himself into the good opinion of the Catholic prisoners, by pretending a deep sense of repentance, and a great desire of embracing the Catholic truth . . . So they directed him, after he was enlarged [released], to Mr. Henry Abbot, a zealous convert who lived in Holden in the same country, to procure a priest to reconcile him . . . Mr. Abbot carried him to Carlton to the house of Esquire Stapleton, but did not succeed in finding a priest. Soon after, the traitor having got enough to put them all in danger of the law, accused them to the magistrates . . . They confessed that they had explained to him the Catholic Faith, and upon this they were all found guilty and sentenced to die.

Blessed George Errington could also have been found guilty of the felony of aiding a Catholic priest (so might the others if they knew where to find a priest) because we know he was with St. John Boste at one time, who had suffered martyrdom in 1594. I presume they were in prison because of recusancy and not paying their fines.

The three who suffered on November 29, 1596 were all beatified by Pope John Paul II as among the Eighty-five martyrs of England and Wales. Abbot was beatified in 1929 by Pope Pius XI. Father Burden was also included among the Eighty-Five Martyrs of England and Wales.

The Diocese of Hexham and Newcastle honors these four martyrs among their "Martyrs of the North" and celebrates their martyrdoms on July 24. This is the prayer for that feast:

God, all-powerful Father,

The blessed martyrs of our diocese
Remained faithful in the face of danger and death.

Strengthen our faith
And take away our weakness.
Let the prayers and example of the martyrs
Help us share in the passion and resurrection of Christ
And bring us to eternal joy in your saints.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

"A Morbid, Fantasising England"

The Daily Mail has a great photographic story on the murals that John Shakespeare, William Shakespeare's father, had to paint over in the Chapel of the Guild of the Holy Cross in Stratford-upon-Avon in 1563. The paintings depict, according to the Stratford Town Trust, "the legend of St George and the Dragon, the Martyrdom of St Thomas Beckett and the Dance of Death."(Note that there are various problems with the text of the story. Henry VIII was dead by 1563; one of the restorers does not know the meaning of "iconoclastic", etc--but the pictures of the "Dance of Death", the first mural to be restored are great.)

In The Guardian, Jonathan Jones comments on what he sees as a morbid fascination with death and the devil in medieval England:

The paintings restored in the Guild Chapel reveal the powerful dream-world that was visible to ordinary townspeople 500 years ago. Devils and death loomed up on painted walls. Whether they were painted simply, as in Stratford, or done with the genius of a Bosch, these were collective fantasies of spectacular power.

The project that has saved Stratford’s murals deserves to be imitated wherever there are traces of medieval art still surviving in Britain. It does not matter if these images are fine art. They are something more important: a reminder of what it is to be human in a world shadowed by death and the devil.

He must fantasizing today if he does not think the world is not shadowed by death--we all will die--and the devil--there is evil in the world today--and that neither should be acknowledged or feared. But he forgets that those medieval people also had Faith in their Redeemer, Hope for salvation, and Love for God and neighbor. Only one of the three murals has been restored. St. George and the Dragon would have reminded them that God conquers the Devil and St. Thomas a Becket would have reminded them that they had great intercessors in Heaven. Jones has overemphasized one aspect of medieval piety.

The Guild of the Holy Cross (their seal is pictured above) was essential to Stratford, according to this site:

Established in the 13th century, it became the heart of Stratford's commercial, civic, social and religious life. The Guild helped its members to network, strike business deals, and even (so it was claimed) get into heaven faster.

Both men and women could become Guild members by paying a small fee. Joining was a good idea if you wanted to meet influential people and widen your network of contacts. Most members were prosperous local tradesmen, craftsmen and their families. But local clergy, gentry and even nobility joined too. Some members came from other towns like Coventry, London and Bristol.

The Guild provided 'social services' in medieval Stratford. It helped its members when they were ill, and supported their families if they died. It also gave 'alms' (charity) to poor and vulnerable local people, building a range of almshouses (sheltered accommodation) next to the Guildhall in about 1500.

It also looked after local infrastructure like bridges, and founded the first school in Stratford. In 1295 it appointed a schoolmaster called Richard as 'rector scholarum' to teach members' sons Latin, music and the principles of Christian faith. 

The Guild survived the reign of Henry VIII but not that of Edward VI (and there might not have been time for its restoration under Mary I). The lay members of the Guild had wealth and power, the site comments, and "this wealth and power was its undoing". What was its undoing was prayer for the dead as Edward VI's Protectors destroyed the last vestiges of remembering the Poor Souls in Purgatory in England. 

Saturday, November 26, 2016

"Silence" and Apostasy

The trailer for Martin Scorsese's film adaptation of Shusaku Endo's Silence is available here. Silence tells the story of Jesuit missionaries in Japan facing, with the Catholics whom St. Francis Xavier and other Jesuits have brought to conversion, torture and martyrdom when Japanese authorities ban Christianity--and expel the Jesuits with an edict in 1587. Remember that Elizabeth I's government passed the "Act against Jesuits, Seminary priests and other such like disobedient persons" (27 Eliz. c. 2) in 1585!

On February 5, 1597, Jesuit Paul Miki and 25 others were crucified in Nagasaki. They are remembered on the Church's calendar on February 6 (since St. Agatha's feast day was already on February 5). The story told in Endo's Silence occurs in the next century, starting about 1639, when Fathers Rodrigues and Garrpe go to Japan to find out what has happened to Father Ferreira, who may have apostatized.

The Jesuits, the other missionary priests, and the Catholic laity in England faced the "Bloody Question", the Oath of Supremacy, Topcliffe's tortures, and many other dangers. The Catholics in Japan faced the temptation of stomping on the image of Jesus or the Blessed Virgin Mary (a fumie) as an act of denying Jesus. Father Rodrigues undergoes the trial of the fumie while the laity are being tortured--he can save them if he denies Jesus. 

I'm sure that Scorsese's film will fully depict the brutality of the tortures suffered by the Catholics, as the trailer hints. I read Endo's novel years ago and I definitely found it troubling and reading Scorsese's foreword to the latest Picador edition, I think I would find his interpretation of the movie just as troubling. To say that we need "the figure of Judas" just as much as "the figure of Christ" so that Christianity may live and "adapt itself to other cultures and historical moments" is ridiculous. Jesus is not a "figure"; He is Our Savior and Redeemer. The Church lives because He lives. Scorsese seems to treat Faith like concept not a Theological virtue and Christianity like a system not the Body of Christ.

The Scottish composer James Macmillan wrote his Symphony No. 3 as a meditation on Endo's Silence.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Hakluyt's 400th

The Hakluyt Society has been celebrating the 400th anniversary of Richard Hakluyt's death (November 23, 1616) including lectures and a church service:

At 10.30 a.m. on Sunday 27 November, there will be a commemorative service in All Saints Church, Wetheringsett, Suffolk, IP14 5PP, Hakluyt’s parish, which will be led by the Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich, with the dedication of a stone plaque in memory of Richard Hakluyt. This will be followed by a buffet lunch in the Village Hall with a programme of music and readings. There will be an opportunity for small groups of Hakluyt Society members to visit the surviving part of Hakluyt’s former rectory.

History Today offers this appraisal of Hakluyt's influence:

Among the major commemorations taking place this year is the 400th anniversary of the death of Richard Hakluyt (1552–1616), England’s greatest promoter of overseas expansion. Hakluyt has always been an elusive and shadowy figure: there is no known surviving portrait of him. Likewise, there are no written accounts of his physical appearance. Like his contemporary, the poet John Donne, Hakluyt was successful in his profession, securing important clerical positions. On his death he was a priest at Westminster Cathedral, a position he took up in 1602 and, from 1590, rector of Wetheringsett and Brockford. He was, as Peter Mancall neatly sums up in his biography, Hakluyt’s Promise: An Elizabethan’s Obsession for an English America (2007), ‘famous enough to be buried in Poet’s Corner in Westminster Abbey, but not famous enough to merit a plaque telling of his bones being buried there’.

Hakluyt’s monument remains his work, capped by his editing of
The Principal Navigations, Voyages, Traffiques and Discoveries of the English Nation, which first appeared in one large volume in 1589 and then in an expanded, updated edition in three volumes between 1598 and 1600. These publications created a rationale and plan for English commercial activity (hence the focus on ‘Traffiques’) in places such as Muscovy, Persia and the Levant, along with maritime exploration in search of a North-east or North-west Passage to China and colonial expansion in the New World, emulating and counteracting the achievements of Catholic rivals, notably Spain. The works of Hakluyt’s fellow quadricentennials, Shakespeare, Cervantes and even Ben Jonson (if we count the appearance of his first folio of 1616) may have transformed the literary landscape forever, but Hakluyt changed the geopolitical landscape through his tireless advocacy of English exploits in a world of increasingly global competition.

Please read the rest there.

Illustration credit from Wikipedia Commons: English writer Richard Hakluyt (c. 1552 or 1553 – 23 November 1616) pictured in a stained glass window in the West Window of the South Transept of Bristol Cathedral.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Thanksgiving and Giving Thanks

Thinking of and thankful for the memories of my family home and Thanksgivings past. It has been seven years since the last Thanksgiving with my father. Tomorrow is my parents' wedding anniversary. It may be a trite saying, but we must always be thankful for all we have because we never know when we will lose it.

It is something to have wept as we have wept, 
It is something to have done as we have done, 
It is something to have watched when all men slept, 
And seen the stars which never see the sun.

It is something to have smelt the mystic rose, 
Although it break and leave the thorny rods, 
It is something to have hungered once as those 
Must hunger who have ate the bread of gods.

To have seen you and your unforgotten face, 
Brave as a blast of trumpets for the fray, 
Pure as white lilies in a watery space, 
It were something, though you went from me today.

To have known the things that from the weak are furled, 
Perilous ancient passions, strange and high; 
It is something to be wiser than the world, 
It is something to be older than the sky.

In a time of sceptic moths and cynic rusts, 
And fattened lives that of their sweetness tire 
In a world of flying loves and fading lusts, 
It is something to be sure of a desire.

Lo, blessed are our ears for they have heard; 
Yea, blessed are our eyes for they have seen: 
Let the thunder break on man and beast and bird 
And the lightning. It is something to have been.

~G.K. Chesterton ("The Great Minimum")

A Martyr in Chains? Dean Thomas Raynald or Reynolds

Because he refused to take the Oath of Supremacy, Thomas Raynold or Reynolds died in prison on November 24, 1559. A brief biography, which does not describe either his courageous refusal or what he must have suffered in the Marshalsea prison:

THOMAS REYNOLDS, D.D. (Oxon.) 1536: He was Dean of Exeter (1555), Warden of Merton College, Oxford (1545) and Rector of Holsworthy, Devon. He was deprived of all these preferments, and was committed to the Marshalsea September 4, 1559, where he died November 24 following. He had been Rector of Pinhoe, Devon, 1530-7, as Mr Gillow records. He had also been Rector of Lapworth, Warwickshire, 1540-1556. At Queen Mary's death he was bishop-nominate of Hereford.

Dom David Knowles suggests that Thomas Reynolds could have been the brother of St. Richard Reynolds, the "Angel of Syon", one of the protomartyrs of the English Reformation (May 4, 1535). During the reign of Henry VIII, he must have accepted the Oaths required, but he could not accept the oaths required by Elizabeth I's new religious settlement. Did he adopt The Book of Common Prayer during Edward VI's reign?

He is not listed among the dilati (delayed for more information) or the praetermissi (passed over the first time), or as one of the martyrs in chains of those whose causes were introduced in the late nineteenth century after the Restoration of the Hierarchy in England and as research continued in the early twentieth century. The issue, of course, is whether or not he died in prison as a result of odium fidei (hatred of the faith)--or were there other issues contributing to his imprisonment and death?

This just demonstrates how careful the Catholic Church is when we proclaim saints, whether confessors or martyrs. Although his death was obscure, the date was noted. May he rest in the peace of Christ.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Tallis is dead, and Music dies

Thomas Tallis died on November 23, 1585 (Julian Calendar). William Byrd wrote this elegy for his colleague:

Ye sacred Muses, race of Jove, whom 
Music's lore delighteth,
Come down from crystal heav'ns above
to earth where sorrow dwelleth,
In mourning weeds, with tears in eyes:
Tallis is dead, and Music dies.

As Naxos notes, the religious changes of the Tudor dynasty influenced Tallis's career and composition styles:

The career of the English composer Thomas Tallis spans the troubled period of the reign of Henry VIII, with the sequestration of monastic property, the Protestant regime of his successor, the re-establishment of Catholicism under Queen Mary, and the subsequent changes under Queen Elizabeth. These political and religious upheavals had an obvious effect on music and musicians. Tallis began his career as organist at the Benedictine Priory at Dover, followed by similar service at Waltham Abbey until the dissolution of the monasteries in 1540. He was then organist at Canterbury Cathedral and in 1543 became a Gentleman of the Chapel Royal, a position he retained until his death. Like Byrd, his pupil, he seems to have remained loyal to the old religion while nevertheless continuing to enjoy royal favour.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

For St. Cecilia's Day

There is a Benedictine Abbey of nuns on the Isle of Wight named for St. Cecilia; the abbey is part of the Solesme community of Dom Prosper Gueranger, who revived Benedictine monasticism in France after the French Revolution. He wrote a life of St. Cecilia which is available from Loreto Publications:

In the nineteenth century there was a concerted effort on the part of liberal revisionists to undermine the Church’s history by challenging the veracity of the Acts of the Martyrs. Some miraculous events associated with the lives of very popular saints, whose names were canonized in the Roman Missal, were treated with ridicule by scholars more concerned with documents than the living evidence of common tradition. 

It was righteous indignation that moved Abbot Dom Guéranger to defend the cause of Saint Cecilia, whose holy celebrity had spanned fifteen centuries. The abbot’s strategy was to validate the traditional accounts of all the martyrs’ lives by exonerating just one. He achieved this in the holy virgin Cecilia’s case by presenting in book form every morsel of factual evidence available, especially that which modern archeological excavations offered. As a result of his labor, there arose a refreshing new devotion to the young martyr, and – at least for a time — the cynical scoffs of the proud were silenced. This particular biography was written in response to the request of his co-reformer and friend, the Benedictine Abbess Cécile Bruyère.

Prospér Louis Pascal Guéranger was born in France, in 1805, at Sablé-sur-Sarthe. In the Napoleonic era, 1827, during the continued anti-clerical aftermath of the French Revolution, he was ordained a parish priest. As a young curé he authored several works on church-state relations. In 1836, having purchased an abandoned priory that was for sale in Solesmes, he and five other parish priests took solemn vows as Benedictines, with the intention of restoring the monastic life in France according to the ancient rule of Saint Benedict. Until his death there in 1875, Abbot Dom Guéranger devoted himself to restoring the cenobitical life as originally cultured thirteen centuries earlier by the father of western monasticism. He did much by his writings and prayers to keep the church in France loyal to the person of the Sovereign Pontiff and away from the dangers of both Gallicanism and Jansenism.

You may also find an online version here.

I see the Benedictines of St. Cecilia's Abbey listed often as translators of various Latin hymns in the monthly Magnificat liturgical prayer book/magazine. For example, for the feast of St. Elizabeth of Hungary last week (November 17) they have translated "Fortem virili pectore" by Silvio Cardinal Antoniano (1540-1603).

Monday, November 21, 2016

England and the Blessed Virgin Mary

Today is the memorial of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, in both the Catholic and the Orthodox Churches (it's called The Entry of the Most Holy Theotokos into the Temple in the Orthodox Churches). In fact, the Eastern Orthodox celebrated the feast before the Western Church, based upon the Protoevangelium of James. More about the feast here.

On such a great day, it seemed appropriate to draw your attention to this commentary in The Catholic Herald, "How England Took Flesh":

Walsingham was ranked with Rome, Jerusalem and Santiago de Compostela in medieval times, and was the only pilgrimage shrine entirely devoted to the Mother of God. Richard II – in an act commemorated in the stunning Wilton Diptych, a treasure of the National Gallery – dedicated England to Our Lady as her “dos” or gift or donation or “dowry”. There is also papal approval or confirmation of this title. Pope Leo XIII asked the English bishops in 1893 to consecrate their country to Mary, the Mother of God, recalling the “singular title” the land enjoyed of being “Mary’s Dowry”.For many, though, such talk belongs in the past: it is redolent of a “Faith of our Fathers” vision of England, incorporating a lament for a lost medieval unity, a dash of Chesterton and his “rolling English road”, and a kind of Marian devotion which many find rather flowery and excessive. . . .

Marian devotion is not something excessive or affected: it is part of the essence of our faith. And England’s destiny seems to be especially closely connected with Our Lady. Christ we know cared for his mother so deeply, remembering her in his agony to ensure she was cared for by St John. He can hardly have put a whole country specifically into her care as her own possession – for a “dowry” is that part of a man’s estate inalienably set aside for her use alone – without a very clear purpose. No other nation on earth claims this. What is it for?

To understand why England’s status as the Dowry of Mary is so important, we must go back to the beginnings of the nation. Legally speaking, there was no England until the 10th century. There was Offa of Mercia with his coin Rex Anglorum in the 8th century. There were the “English folk”. But we have to wait for the 10th century for “Engle-land”, or the land of the “Angles”, to have official, documentary recognition.

But all histories proclaim there was an England before this: an ecclesial England, a spiritual entity and reality. Schoolchildren still learn of the Synod of Whitby of 665/6, which ensured that the Roman rather than the Celtic method of church administration prevailed.

Please read the rest there.

Illustration: Limbourg Brothers, Miniature from Les Très Riches Heures du duc de Berry, c. 1415 (Public Domain).

Hopkins Praises Purcell

Henry Purcell died on November 21, 1695. Naxos, which has a CD of The Best of Purcell, sums 
up his achievement here:

Henry Purcell was one of the greatest English composers, flourishing in the period that followed the restoration of the monarchy after the Puritan Commonwealth period. He spent much of his short life in the service of the Chapel Royal as a composer, organist and singer. With considerable gifts as a composer, he wrote extensively for the stage (particularly in a hybrid musico-dramatic form of the time), for the church, and for popular entertainment. He was a master of English word-setting and of contemporary compositional techniques for instruments and voices. He died in 1695, a year after composing funeral music for Queen Mary.

Gerard Manley Hopkins, SJ praised Purcell in verse:

The poet wishes well to the divine genius of Purcell and praises him that, whereas other musicians have given utterance to the moods of man’s mind, he has, beyond that, uttered in notes the very make and species of man as created both in him and in all men generally. 

HAVE, fair fallen, O fair, fair have fallen, so dear 
To me, so arch-especial a spirit as heaves in Henry Purcell, 
An age is now since passed, since parted; with the reversal 
Of the outward sentence low lays him, listed to a heresy, here. 

Not mood in him nor meaning, proud fire or sacred fear, 
Or love or pity or all that sweet notes not his might nursle: 
It is the forgèd feature finds me; it is the rehearsal 
Of own, of abrupt self there so thrusts on, so throngs the ear. 

Let him Oh! with his air of angels then lift me, lay me! only I’ll 
Have an eye to the sakes of him, quaint moonmarks, to his pelted plumage under 
Wings: so some great stormfowl, whenever he has walked his while 

The thunder-purple seabeach plumèd purple-of-thunder, 
If a wuthering of his palmy snow-pinions scatter a colossal smile 
Off him, but meaning motion fans fresh our wits with wonder.

Hear a sample of Purcell's Music for Queen Mary's Funeral here.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Not English, But Russian, Polyphony

As the liner notes to this new recording of Maximilian Steinberg's Passion Week informed me, the composer was the pupil and son-in-law of Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov, who had a great deal of influence on Russian Orthodox sacred choral music in his time:

The achievements of the ‘new Russian choral school’ in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries have been widely recognised in the musical world. In the course of this veritable renaissance of new compositions and arrangements for unaccompanied choral voices, a pleiad of composers, spearheaded by Pyotr Tchaikovsky, and followed by Alexander Kastalsky, Pavel Chesnokov, Alexander Gretchaninov, Viktor Kalinnikov, Alexander Nikolsky, and Sergey Rachmaninov, to name just a few, explored the sonorous and expressive capabilities of the choral instrument to an unprecedented degree. They sought out new ways of evoking the splendour of the ‘Kingdom of God on earth,’ joining the spiritual depth of ancient Christian liturgical texts and chants with transcendently  beautiful choral polyphony.

Generally speaking, this school is associated with the city of Moscow, and in particular with the Moscow Synodal School of Church Singing and Moscow Synodal Choir. Indeed, many of the composers—Kastalsky, Kalinnikov, Nikolsky, and Chesnokov—were affiliated with the Synodal School, and important premieres such as Rachmaninov’s All-Night Vigil and Gretchaninov’s Passion Week, took place in Moscow. Less known is the role played in this movement by composers whose primary sphere of activity was in St Petersburg, regarded as a more Western-looking bastion of modernity and the avant-garde.

Nonetheless, St Petersburg was not altogether unaffected by the general movement in the liturgical arts towards the recovery of a more traditional, nationally Russian and Eastern Orthodox style. In the realm of church architecture, this was reflected by the construction of such edifices as the Dormition Cathedral, the Church of the Saviour on the Blood, and the Naval Cathedral of St Nicholas in Kronstadt, all completed in the early twentieth century. In the realm of Russian Orthodox sacred choral music, the most important figure was Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov (1844–1908), and a number of composers who were in one way or another connected with him: Anatol Liadov (1855–1914), Sergey Liapunov (1859–1924), Nikolay Tcherepnin (1873–1945), and Alexander Chesnokov (1880–1941), whose contributions to sacred choral music have yet to be thoroughly explored. Even less known is the remarkable work featured on the present recording—
Passion Week, composed by Rimsky-Korsakov’s favourite student and son-in-law, Maximilian Steinberg (1883–1946).

Rimsky-Korsakov’s involvement with the choral church music of the Russian Orthodox Church dates from his tenure at the Imperial Court Chapel from 1883 to 1894, as assistant to Mily Balakirev. While there, he was involved with producing polyphonic arrangements of traditional unison chants, and also wrote a number of compositions in a deliberately simple yet original style, in accordance with the emerging national character of Russian church music. Although after leaving the Chapel, Rimsky-Korsakov wrote no more choral music for the church, he evidently transmitted his exploration of early chants, as well as some degree of familiarity with the sources of ecclesiastical melodies, to his students. Some fifteen years after his death, this knowledge manifested itself most wondrously in Maximilian Steinberg’s
Passion Week.

This sacred polyphony has not been without controversy, however, as this website demonstrates:

the use of Western-style polyphony in church has been opposed in recent centuries by several saints (including St. Seraphim of Sarov; [14]St. Philaret Drozdov, Metropolitan of Moscow; [15] St. Ignatius Brianchaninov; [16] St. Barsanuphius, Elder of Optina; [17] and the New Martyr St. Andronik Archbishop of Perm) as well as by the Holy Synod of Constantinople, [18] the Holy Synod of the Church of Greece, [19] and by many venerable hierarchs (such as Patriarch Germogen of Russia [20] in the seventeenth century, Metropolitan Evgeny of Kiev [21] in the eighteenth century, and Archbishop Averky of Syracuse and Holy Trinity Monastery [Jordanville] in the twentieth century). Nevertheless, other saints (primarily some of the New Martyrs of twentieth-century Russia) and other hierarchs used and loved Western-style polyphonic ecclesiastical music because they appreciated its beauty. Their acceptance is perfectly understandable, since musical preferences are not dogmatic issues but are dependent upon cultural circumstances and personal taste. Besides, if, according to St. John of the Ladder, lovers of God are moved to spiritual joy, to divine love, and to tears even by worldly songs, [22] incomparably more so will they be inspired by hymns, even if their melodies are of a worldly character or bear some of the aforementioned shortcomings.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

RIP Henry Vaux, Poet and Priest Smuggler

Henry Vaux, the eldest son of William Vaux, third Baron Vaux of Harrowden, died on November 19, 1587. He was about 28 years old. He had renounced the family title in favor of his half-brother George (William remarried after the death of his first wife) because he had decided to devote his life to protecting the Jesuit missionary priests like St. Edmund Campion, St. Robert Southwell, John Gerard, Henry Garnet, Robert Persons, etc. His sisters Eleanor and Anne were also involved in these projects, which were of course fraught with danger because it was illegal in England to attend the Mass, to deny the governorship of the monarch over the Church, and to assist any Catholic priest, since he was a traitor. Jessie Childs told the story of the Henry's career in her study of  the Vaux family in God's Traitors: Terror & Faith in Elizabethan England, which I've recently reviewed for a publication (more info to be announced).

Henry Vaux was tutored by Edmund Campion starting in 1568, who found Henry and his sister Eleanor to be excellent scholars with great aptitude, when Campion was still at Oxford University. He was particularly impressed with Henry, as this letter demonstrates:

From the day your Father first asked me to see you and to superintend your education I have become amazingly attached to you. For I marvelled and was almost perplexed when I saw a boy who had not yet completed his ninth year, scion of a notable family, of such pleasant demeanour and refinement; who wrote and spoke Latin so well; who was equally good at prose and verse, accurate and quick at figures, devoted to the study of letters, diligent in application, able to sketch out and arrange his whole course of study. If circumstances had permitted it I should have desired nothing better than to give my enthusiastic help to that celebrated man, your Father, and to you, a boy of such great promise. But since some unknown fate, yours and mine, has deprived you of me and me of you, your Father (by whom I am dearly loved, and whom I particularly revere) has easily persuaded me that my voice and advice should come to you. . . . (Translated by Father Godfrey Anstruther)

Vaux grew up at Grace Dieu, Leicester under the care of his maternal grandmother from 1571 to 1581. His cousins, the poet John Beaumont and playwright Francis Beaumont, were also raised there. 

As a poet, Vaux was following a family tradition, for his grandfather, Thomas Vaux, the second Baron Vaux had written poetry--and had been the friend of poets Thomas Wyatt and Henry Howard, the Earl Surrey. One of Thomas Vaux's poems, "A Quiet Mind":

When all is done and said,
In the end thus shall you find,
He most of all doth bathe in bliss
That hath a quiet mind:
And, clear from worldly cares,
To deem can be content,
The sweetest time in all his life
In thinking to be spent.

The body subject is
To fickle Fortune's power,
And to a million of mishaps
Is casual every hour;
And death in time doth change
It to a clod of clay;
Whereas the mind, which is divine,
Runs never to decay.

Companion none is like
Unto the mind alone;
For many have been harmed by speech,
Through thinking few or none.
Fear oftentimes restraineth words,
But makes not thought to cease;
And he speaks best, that hath the skill
When for to hold his peace.

Our wealth leaves us at death;
Our kinsmen at the grave;
But virtues of the mind unto
The heavens with us we have.
Wherefore, for virtue's sake,
I can be well content,
The sweetest time in all my life
To deem in thinking spent.

When his former tutor Father Edmund Campion, SJ, returned to England in 1580 with Father Robert Persons, SJ, Henry Vaux began his career as a priest smuggler which continued until his arrest on November 4, 1586 when pursuivants were looking for the Jesuit priests Robert Southwell and Henry Garnet. Imprisoned in Marshalsea, Vaux became desperately ill and was released on "medical leave" in May of 1587. His sisters Anne and Eleanor cared for him until his death.

In 2008 Timothy Christopher Hacksley submitted a thesis for his M.A. at Rhodes University which contains the texts of the Vaux's poems and it may be accessed here.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Queen Mary I and Reginald Pole, RIP

Hopes for the Catholic revival in England ended on November 17, 1558, when Mary I and Reginald Cardinal Pole, the Archbishop of Canterbury both died. The National Catholic Register has posted my comments on how Catholics should respond to the history of her reign--particularly the burning of Protestants and heretics at the stake:

On November 17 in 1558, the first and only Catholic Queen Regnant of England died. She was Mary I, the daughter of King Henry VIII and his first wife, Queen Katherine of Aragon. She is better known as “Bloody Mary” because of the almost 300 men and women burned alive at the stake after being found guilty of heresy during her reign. These men and women included bishops and ministers of the Church of England, many Protestant laity, and some who denied basic Christian doctrines, such as the divinity of Jesus or of the Holy Spirit. Those men and women, particularly celebrated by John Foxe in his “Book of Martyrs”, have haunted Catholicism in England and in the modern world for centuries.

How should Catholics respond to these haunting echoes of the past? Very carefully and precisely.

Please read the rest there.

We must also remember that Reginald Cardinal Pole, the last Catholic Archbishop of Canterbury died the same day. The Catholic Encyclopedia has this comment on his character:

Throughout his life Pole's moral conduct was above reproach, his sincere piety and ascetical habits were the admiration of all. "Seldom", writes Dr. James Gairdner, than whom no one is more competent to pronounce judgment, "has any life been animated by a more single-minded purpose". As compared with the majority of his contemporaries, Pole was conspicuously gentle, both in his opinions and in his language. He had the gift ofinspiring warm friendships and he was most generous and charitable in the administration of his revenues.

Dr. James Gairdner was a British historian specializing in the Tudor era.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Blessed Edward Osbaldeston

Another November martyr, Blessed Edward Osbaldeston; according to the Catholic Encyclopedia, he was born

about 1560; hanged, drawn, and quartered at York, 16 November, 1594. Son of Thomas Osbaldeston, and nephew of Edward Osbaldeston, of Osbaldeston Hall, Blackburn, Lancashire, he went to the English College of Douai, then at Reims, where he was ordained deacon in December, 1583, and priest 21 September, 1585. He was sent on the mission 27 April, 1589, and was apprehended at night through the instrumentality of an apostate priest named Thomas Clark at an inn at Tollerton, Yorkshire, upon St. Jerome's day, 30 September, 1594. He had said his first Mass on the feast day of St. Jerome, and in consequence had a great devotion to the saint. The day following his arrest he was taken to York, where he was tried at the next assizes and attainted of high treason for being a priest. Bishop Challoner prints the greater part of a letter addressed by the martyr to his fellow-prisoners in York Castle, the full text of which is still extant, and which reveals the great humility and serene trust in God with which he anticipated his death.

In that letter cited by Bishop Challoner, Osbaldeston notes that he knew the former priest Thomas Clark when he saw him the night before his arrest. He hoped that Mr. Clark did not recognize him but soon found out that Clark had. Since he was arrested on the feast of St. Jerome, his patron, he rejoiced!

Edward Osbaldeston was among the eighty-five martyrs of England and Wales beatified by Pope John Paul II on 22 November 1987.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Frances Chesterton @ Sisters of Sophia

We'll have a panel discussion of Frances Chesterton tonight at the monthly meeting of the Sisters of Sophia at the Ladder, the headquarters of the Eighth Day Institute. Two of my colleagues and friends, with whom I read Nancy Carpentier Brown's biography of G.K. Chesterton's wife, and I will pose questions to each other and discuss with the attendees. Dinner will be served. More info here:

If you aren't familiar with the Sisters of Sophia, we walk with women of wisdom as we learn from their lives. We meet every third Tuesday of the month. Our gathering of ladies is both challenging and refreshing, as is the camaraderie along the way!

6:15 Doors Open
6:30 Food and Fellowship
7:30 Eighth Day Convocation and Lecture* (sic) on Frances Chesterton by Jeri Holladay, Stephanie Mann & Laurie Robinson
8:15 Q&A and Closing Prayer

Please come to break bread with us, learn with us, or both! We will end promptly at 8:30, but women are welcome to chat long after that!

*We're not really going to offer a lecture at all!

Speaking of the Eighth Day Institute, its January 2017 Symposium theme has been announced:

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, Allan Carlson, Bishop James Massa, and others lead us in a wonderful dialogue of love and truth on January 12-14, 2017.

I'm looking forward to seeing Bishop James Massa of the Brooklyn Diocese. He was the chaplain at Newman University when I worked with at the Gerber Institute for Catholic Studies during the twentieth century!

Monday, November 14, 2016

February 2017 in Fort Scott, Kansas

The Prairie Troubadour has announced the theme and speakers for the February 2017 symposium: "The Restoration of the Imagination" with Anthony Esolen, Dale Ahlquist, Christopher Check, Alan Hicks, Lisa Bergman.

The issue for the 2nd Annual symposium is "In an age aglow with screens, the battle for the imagination, particularly of our youth, is a battle we are almost universally losing. Why does it matter and what is at stake?"

I'm sure that Professor Esolen, who was here in Wichita earlier this year for the annual Catholic Culture Conference, will refer to his book on children and imagination published by ISI Books:

Play dates, soccer practice, day care, political correctness, drudgery without facts, television, video games, constant supervision, endless distractions: these and other insidious trends in child rearing and education are now the hallmarks of childhood. As author Anthony Esolen demonstrates in this elegantly written, often wickedly funny book, almost everything we are doing to children now constricts their imaginations, usually to serve the ulterior motives of the constrictors.

Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child takes square aim at these accelerating trends, in a bitingly witty style reminiscent of C. S. Lewis, while offering parents—and children—hopeful alternatives. Esolen shows how imagination is snuffed out at practically every turn:
--in the rearing of children almost exclusively indoors
--in the flattening of love to sex education, and sex education to prurience and hygiene
--in the loss of traditional childhood games
--in the refusal to allow children to organize themselves into teams
--in the effacing of the glorious differences between the sexes
--in the dismissal of the power of memory, which creates the worst of all possible worlds in school—drudgery without even the merit of imparting facts
--in the strict separation of the child’s world from the adult’s
--in the denial of the transcendent, which places a low ceiling on the child’s developing spirit and mind

But Esolen doesn’t stop at pointing out the problem; he offers clear solutions as well. With charming stories from his own boyhood and an assist from the master authors and thinkers of the Western tradition,
Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child is a welcome respite from the overwhelming banality of contemporary culture. Interwoven throughout this indispensable guide to child rearing is a rich tapestry of the literature, music, art, and thought that once enriched the lives of American children.

Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child confronts contemporary trends in parenting and schooling by reclaiming lost traditions. This practical, insightful book is essential reading for any parent who cares about the paltry thing that childhood has become, and who wants to give a child something beyond the dull drone of today’s culture.

The dates have not been announced but the proposed schedule and other information is available.

I spoke at this year's conference and recommend the program highly. The new hotel in Fort Scott, a Sleep Inn & Suites, was excellent, the people hosting and attending the symposium were great!

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Sophia Dorothea's Saraband

Sophia Dorothea of Celle died on November 13, 1726--she should have been the first Hanoverian Queen Consort of the United Kingdom, but her husband, George I from 1714 to 1727 and the Elector of Hanover from 1698 to 1727, had divorced her.

He had been unfaithful to Sophia Dorothea, having married her for her money--she brought a dowry of one hundred thousand thaler a year. They did have two children, the future George II of England, and another Sophia Dorothea, who married Frederick William of Prussia, and thus was the mother of Frederick the Great. But then George Louis began to flaunt his mistress and treat his wife badly. She sought solace with her Swedish friend Philip Christoph von Königsmarck, whom she had met in Celle when he was sixteen. It's not clear whether or not they were lovers, but George Louis used the letters they'd exchanged as evidence of Sophia Dorothea's unfaithfulness to him and divorced her. Königsmarck disappeared, and was presumably killed by agents of the Elector--who then imprisoned Sophia in the Castle of Ahlden, where she remained under close guard from 1694 to 1726. Her son George thought his father had treated her badly and that contributed to the animosity between father and son--her daughter put on mourning for her mother at the Court in Prussia and that enraged George I, who died just a month later.

The story of Sophia Dorothea and Christoph von Königsmarck was made into an excellent historical film, Saraband for Dead Lovers. has several scenes from the movie, made in 1948 at Ealing Studios. Joan Greenwood and Stewart Grainger play the dead lovers, while Peter Bull is the brutal husband and Flora Robson the scheming mistress. Francoise Rosay plays the Electress Sophia, who detested her daughter-in-law, in spite of her one hundred thousand thaler a year.

The choice of the title of the movie, which was based on a novel by Helen Simpson, emphasizes the courtly setting of the story. A Saraband, based upon a Mexican/Spanish dance, developed as an intricate dance in the Italian and French courts. Here's one example of the dance and here's another; Bach and other Baroque composers included the Saraband as a movement in their suites. If you like Stanley Kubrick's Barry Lyndon, you might remember the Saraband from Handel featured in that movie's soundtrack.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Chesterton on St. Thomas Aquinas in Art

Chesterton was both an artist and an art critic, among other abilities, and in chapter five of his study of St. Thomas Aquinas he comments on two depictions of St. Thomas Aquinas, in Raphael's huge Disputation on the Holy Eucharist and on painting of the Madonna with Saints by Ghirlandaio:

The pictures of St. Thomas, though many of them were painted long after his death, are all obviously pictures of the same man. He rears himself defiantly, with the Napoleonic head and the dark bulk of body, in Raphael's "Dispute About the Sacrament." A portrait by Ghirlandajo emphasises a point which specially reveals what may be called the neglected Italian quality in the man. It also emphasises points that are very important in the mystic and the philosopher. It is universally attested that Aquinas was what is commonly called an absent-minded man. That type has often been rendered in painting, humorous or serious; but almost always in one of two or three conventional ways. Sometimes the expression of the eyes is merely vacant, as if absent-mindedness did really mean a permanent absence of mind. Sometimes it is rendered more respectfully as a wistful expression, as of one yearning for something afar off, that he cannot see and can only faintly desire. 

Look at the eyes in Ghirlandajo's portrait of St. Thomas; and you will see a sharp difference. While the eyes are indeed completely torn away from the immediate surroundings, so that the pot of flowers above the philosopher's head might fall on it without attracting his attention, they are not in the least wistful, let alone vacant. There is kindled in them a fire of instant inner excitement; they are vivid and very Italian eyes. The man is thinking about something; and something that has reached a crisis; not about nothing or about anything; or, what is almost worse, about everything. There must have been that smouldering vigilance in his eyes, the moment before he smote the table and startled the banquet hall of the King.

We'll be discussing this chapter, "The Real Life of St. Thomas" and the chapter preceding (Chapter IV, "A Meditation on the Manichees") tonight at our monthly American Chesterton Society Wichita Chapter meeting at Eighth Day Books, starting at 6:30 p.m. until about 8:00 p.m. or so. Our growing group will be gathered on the second floor appropriately enough, in the room with all the theology and philosophy books.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

The Maccabbean and Lubeck Martyrs

This past Sunday, the first reading at Mass was from the seventh chapter of the Second Book of Maccabees, telling the story of four of the seven brothers and their mother who were tortured and martyred in the presence of the Seleucid King Antiochus IV Epiphanes:

It happened that seven brothers with their mother were arrested and tortured with whips and scourges by the king, to force them to eat pork in violation of God's law. One of the brothers, speaking for the others, said: “What do you expect to achieve by questioning us? We are ready to die rather than transgress the laws of our ancestors.”

At the point of death he said: “You accursed fiend, you are depriving us of this present life, but the King of the world will raise us up to live again forever. It is for his laws that we are dying.”

After him the third suffered their cruel sport. He put out his tongue at once when told to do so, and bravely held out his hands, as he spoke these noble words: “It was from Heaven that I received these; for the sake of his laws I disdain them; from him I hope to receive them again.” Even the king and his attendants marveled at the young man's courage, because he regarded his sufferings as nothing.

After he had died, they tortured and maltreated the fourth brother in the same way.  When he was near death, he said, “It is my choice to die at the hands of men with the hope God gives of being raised up by him; but for you, there will be no resurrection to life.”

Father Curtis Hecker, the Parochial Vicar at Blessed Sacrament commented in his homily that the martyrs are challenging. The martyrs of the past and the present shame us in a way: he imagined one of us comfortable American Catholics standing before Judgment when the next person in line died a martyr for Jesus. As Father Pinckaers noted in The Spirituality of Martyrdom, even if we don't face the opportunity or occasion of martyrdom, we as Christians have to live the spirituality of martyrdom. We have to live the faith as much as be willing to die for it, each bearing our cross and following Jesus.

Today is the feast of the Blessed Lubeck Martyrs, three Catholic priests martyred during World War II, along with a Lutheran pastor, because they opposed the Nazi regime. According to the website dedicated to them:

On the 10th of November 1943 four clergymen, the Lutheran Pastor Karl Friedrich Stellbrink and the Catholic priests Hermann Lange, Eduard Müller and Johannes Prassek were executed in the Hamburg Prison Holstenglacis. They took a firm stand in public and among the parishioners entrusted to their care against the crimes of the Nazi regime. In witnessing with their lives and by dying they conquered the seperating (sic) devide (sic) of denominations and became shining examples of real ecumenism.

As this website notes, they "were guillotined in a Hamburg prison in November 1943. The Nazi regime found them guilty of 'defeatism, malice, favouring the enemy and listening to enemy broadcasts.'"

Pope Benedict XVI spoke about them when their beatification had been approved:

Many Christians in Germany are turning their full attention to the imminent celebration of the beatifications of various priests martyred under the Nazi regime. The Beatifications of Georg Häfner in Würzburg, as well as of Johannes Prassek, Hermann Lange and of Eduard Müller in Lübeck, will take place in the coming year. The Evangelical Pastor Karl Friedrich Stellbrink will also be commemorated, together with the Chaplains of Lübeck. The attested friendship of four clerics is an impressive testimony of the ecumenism of prayer and suffering which flourished in various places during the dark period of Nazi terror. We can look to these witnesses as luminous indicators for our common ecumenical journey.

In contemplating these martyrs it appears ever more clearly and as an example that on the basis of their Christian conviction some people are prepared to give their life for their faith, for the right to practise what they believe freely, for freedom of speech, for peace and for human dignity. Today, fortunately, we live in a free and democratic society. Yet, at the same time, we note that many of our contemporaries are not strongly attached to religion, as was the case with these witnesses of faith. One might ask whether there are still Christians today who guarantee their faith without compromises. On the contrary, generally many people show an inclination for more permissive religious concepts, also for themselves.

The painting of the mother with her seven dead sons is by Antonio Ciseri, Martyrdom of the Seven Maccabees (1863) (public domain)

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

A Catholic Oxford Martyr

This parish website posts the story of Blessed George Napper (or Napier) as told by Father Robert F. McNamara:

George Napper (or Napier) belonged to a Catholic recusant family of considerable prominence, (and was grand nephew of the English Franciscan cardinal, William Peyto). Born at Holywell Manor in Oxfordshire, he managed to secure entrance in 1565 at Corpus Christi College, Oxford, but was expelled in 1568 as a recusant. In 1580 he was arrested as a recusant and imprisoned for over eight years.

Weary of imprisonment at the end of that time, Napper decided to capitulate, and declared his acceptance of the religious supremacy of the Queen. But after his release from jail, he became increasingly ashamed of having given in. Determined to make generous amends for having rejected the pope, he decided to study for the Catholic priesthood. God had given him a second chance.

Crossing the English Channel to Douay in Flanders, he now sought admission to the English College there. Ordained a Catholic secular priest in 1596, he was sent back to England in 1603 and spent the remaining seven years of his life on the mission in his native Oxfordshire. . . .

Father Napper naturally followed the policy of working in secrecy, but like many another brave priest, he was at one point apprehended by the police as a suspect. They caught up with him outside a village near Oxford early in the morning of July 19, 1610. Those who had stalked him failed in searching him to find two Eucharistic hosts and a small reliquary that he carried concealed on his person. They did find, however, his breviary and set of holy oils. These provided evidence enough to his priesthood to present at the next court session.

Napper’s friends managed to obtain a stay of his execution when he was arraigned, and were working for a total reprieve. But while in prison Father George ministered to a certain condemned criminal, who died declaring himself a Catholic. Now, “reconciling” a fallen-away Catholic was a particularly heinous crime according to the current anti-Roman legislation. The Anglican clergy therefore raised a row with the court, demanding capital action against the prisoner. Under cross-examination, Napper admitted that he had reconciled the man in question. He even said, wittily, that he would be glad to do the same for the judges. Somehow he was again reprieved. But then he refused to take the oath of allegiance that described the pope’s power to depose as “impious, heretical and damnable”. That was too much for the court to take. George Napper was condemned to death.

“Seminary priest” Napper was executed at Oxford on November 9, 1610.

Dom Bede Camm provides the details of Blessed George Napper at his execution, that he prayed for King James I (that he become a great saint in Heaven), that he confessed that he was a Catholic priest and that only for being that did he die, and that he was a great sinner. He prayed the De Profundis, the Miserere Mei, and repeated several times, "In manus tuas, Domine, commendo spiritum meum", and struck his breast three times (perhaps praying the words he had prayed before taking Communion at each Mass he'd ever said: "Domine non sum dignus ut intres sub tectum meum, sed tantum dic verbo et sanabitur anima mea"?)

Blessed George Napper, pray for us!

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

The Conscience of the King: November 8, 1528

The Tudor Society reminds us that on November 8, 1528:

Henry VIII made a public oration to “the nobility, judges and councillors and divers other persons” at Bridewell Palace to explain his troubled conscience regarding the lawfulness of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon. In this speech, the King explained that due to his worry that Mary was not his lawful daughter and that Catherine was not his lawful wife, he had sent for a legate “to know the truth and to settle my conscience.”

The issue of Henry VIII's conscience, like St. Thomas More's, is central to our views of the English Reformation and can even be a crucial element in our evaluation of Henry VIII's character. Was he really so troubled by his conscience regarding his marriage to Katherine of Aragon? Was he just citing his conscience and his concern about the admonitions in Leviticus as an excuse? Why wasn't his concern answered by the contrary admonitions in Deuteronomy and the fact that his father had obtained a dispensation from any possible affinity from the Pope?

Henry Ansgar Kelly's The Matrimonial Trials of Henry VIII was first published by Stanford University Press in 1976 and is now published by Wipf and Stock. He analyses Henry's conscience and notes that we will never really know "Henry's mind". Kelly says that Henry is neither a Machiavellian nor a great Protestant hero (defying the Pope) in this matter, but that the truth is somewhere in between these extremes: Henry was "partly hypocritical and partly conscientious". Kelly says that Henry VIII had to justify himself before God and did believe that his marriage to Katherine was sinful, but also that he "possessed massive powers of rationalization, and was prepared to resort to cant and skulduggery to attain ends that he believed were fundamentally righteous."

Cant means "hypocritical and sanctimonious talk" and skulduggery is "underhanded or unscrupulous behavior; trickery".
I have not read Kelly's book and think it would be low on my reading list, though it does look interesting and well written.

If we compare what a semi-apologist for Henry VIII says and what an enemy of Thomas More says, however, I think you readers would agree that even his enemy would never say that Thomas More, in citing his conscience in the matter of Henry VIII's supremacy, was "partly hypocritical", that he "possessed massive powers of rationalization" or was "prepared to resort to cant and skulduggery" in defense of his unstated position against Henry VIII's Supremacy over the Church in England. The opposite would be true; he could have rationalized away his objections to the monarch, the representative of the State taking over the spiritual authority of the Church; evidently many Englishmen did.

Thomas More made no public statement and maintained silence, merely refusing personally, in the name of conscience, to swear the oaths Henry VIII wanted enforced. Therefore, there was no cant to speak of and no skulduggery at all, since More never did anything tricky or underhanded.

Prayer for Our Nation

At last, Election Day! Voters in the U.S.A. will make our choices on whom to represent us from the local to the federal level. God bless us, everyone! God grant that we make the right decisions.

The first Catholic bishop in the U.S.A. was the Bishop of Baltimore, John Carroll. Carroll and his brother Daniel, who had been one of two Catholic delegates signing the Constitution in 1789 (and his cousin, Charles Carroll of Carrollton, the only Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence) had studied on the European Continent. They were Catholics in colonial Maryland in a time when the practice of the Catholic faith was proscribed, including Catholic education, and thus attended St. Omers, the Jesuit college founded in Flanders for English men in recusant England. John Carroll prepared for the priesthood, was ordained, and became a Jesuit in Europe.

On November 10, 1791, Bishop Carroll published a Prayer for Government, in which, for Catholics, he included the Church hierarchy from the Pope through the Bishops and the clergy. Then he looks at the secular government--and note that, since the prayer was composed in November, it ends with prayers for the dead:

We pray, Thee O Almighty and Eternal God! Who through Jesus Christ hast revealed Thy glory to all nations, to preserve the works of Thy mercy, that Thy Church, being spread through the whole world, may continue with unchanging faith in the confession of Thy Name.

We pray Thee, who alone art good and holy, to endow with heavenly knowledge, sincere zeal, and sanctity of life, our chief bishop, Pope N., the Vicar of Our Lord Jesus Christ, in the government of his Church; our own bishop, N., all other bishops, prelates, and pastors of the Church; and especially those who are appointed to exercise amongst us the functions of the holy ministry, and conduct Thy people into the ways of salvation.

We pray Thee O God of might, wisdom, and justice! Through whom authority is rightly administered, laws are enacted, and judgment decreed, assist with Thy Holy Spirit of counsel and fortitude the President of these United States, that his administration may be conducted in righteousness, and be eminently useful to Thy people over whom he presides; by encouraging due respect for virtue and religion; by a faithful execution of the laws in justice and mercy; and by restraining vice and immorality. Let the light of Thy divine wisdom direct the deliberations of Congress, and shine forth in all the proceedings and laws framed for our rule and government, so that they may tend to the preservation of peace, the promotion of national happiness, the increase of industry, sobriety, and useful knowledge; and may perpetuate to us the blessing of equal liberty.

We pray for his excellency, the governor of this state, for the members of the assembly, for all judges, magistrates, and other officers who are appointed to guard our political welfare, that they may be enabled, by Thy powerful protection, to discharge the duties of their respective stations with honesty and ability.

We recommend likewise, to Thy unbounded mercy, all our brethren and fellow citizens throughout the United States, that they may be blessed in the knowledge and sanctified in the observance of Thy most holy law; that they may be preserved in union, and in that peace which the world cannot give; and after enjoying the blessings of this life, be admitted to those which are eternal.

Finally, we pray to Thee, O Lord of mercy, to remember the souls of Thy servants departed who are gone before us with the sign of faith and repose in the sleep of peace; the souls of our parents, relatives, and friends; of those who, when living, were members of this congregation, and particularly of such as are lately deceased; of all benefactors who, by their donations or legacies to this Church, witnessed their zeal for the decency of divine worship and proved their claim to our grateful and charitable remembrance. To these, O Lord, and to all that rest in Christ, grant, we beseech Thee, a place of refreshment, light, and everlasting peace, through the same Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Savior. Amen.

Note also the insistence on "equal liberty"; Bishop Carroll (later called Archbishop Carroll) was a staunch defender of religious liberty and particularly the freedom of Catholics to practice their faith in the new United States of America. As the website for the Archdiocese of Baltimore describes his efforts:

When a cousin, Charles Henry Wharton, wrote a work to justify his conversion to the Protestant Episcopal Church suggesting that Roman Catholicism was inimical to a free society, Carroll felt compelled to publish in 1785 a 115-page rebuttal, An Address to the Roman Catholics of the United States of America, his most ambitious literary effort. In it he argues that "America may come to exhibit a proof to the world, by general and equal toleration, by giving a free circulation to fair argument, is the most effectual method to bring all denominations of Christians to an unity of faith" (140). . . . In 1785 he fought a bill that would have laid a tax for the support of clergymen in Maryland. To at least two American newspapers he sent essays demanding equal rights for Roman Catholics.

A facsimile of An Address to the Roman Catholics of the United States of America may be found here, although you must be prepared to read each "f" as an "s"!

Just remember that Catholics have had to answer these charges of being members of a Church that's "inimical to a free society" through the centuries. Think of Paul Blanshard in the 1940's and 1950's. Eleanor Roosevelt feared Catholic influence on education, etc, etc. 

And religious liberty must always be defended. Recently, the Chair of the Commission on Civil Rights said that "religious liberty" is just a code for discrimination (“The phrases ‘religious liberty’ and ‘religious freedom’ will stand for nothing except hypocrisy so long as they remain code words for discrimination, intolerance, racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, Christian supremacy, or any form of intolerance,” he [Martin Castro] wrote.) Anyone who believes that might act upon it. Eternal vigilance!

Monday, November 7, 2016

Today, on my "National Catholic Register" Blog

Back to English Reformation subject matter! Today, my National Catholic Register blog features a discussion of the theological virtue Hope, the Poor Souls in Purgatory, and St. Thomas More! In the article I cite The Supplication of Souls:

St. Thomas More wrote his 1529 “The Supplication of Souls” to defend the doctrine of Purgatory and the devotion of prayer for the dead against attacks in pre-Reformation England. Anticipating Pope Benedict XVI—who said that if Purgatory did not exist, we would have to invent it— by five centuries, More comments that Reason, not to mention God’s mercy and justice, demands that Purgatory exist:

“For since God in His righteousness will not leave sin unpunished and in His goodness will not perpetually punish the sin after the person’s repentance, it follows there must be temporal punishment. And now since the person often dies before undergoing such punishment . . . a very child, almost, can see the conclusion: that the punishment remaining due and undone at death is to be endured and sustained afterward.” (p. 135 in Scepter Publishers’ edition, rendered in Modern English by Mary Gottschalk)

The Souls in Purgatory accept that they should undergo this purification in accord with God’s mercy and justice, noting that neither they nor the living should presume on God’s mercy, but submit to His justice. While they suffer in Purgatory, the Souls fear that they will be forgotten if the attacks against prayers and Masses for them influence their families—as we are too really to presume that our beloved dead are in Heaven and neglect to pray for them.

Next up on my personal reading list is More's The Life of Pico, also from Scepter Publishers in an updated translation:

Presented to modern readers in English for the first time in 500 years, The Life of Pico is a biography of one of the Renaissance’s most famous figures: Giovanni Pico de la Mirandola (1463-94). Given More’s demanding personal spiritual life, one would assume that More wishes to praise a famous and virtuous man. But what emerges from this book is quite different. Pico turns out to be an extraordinarily virtuous, talented, and wealthy man, but a man nonetheless, who is missing something essential. And so More calls Pico “a very spectacle” of virtue.

More sees Pico as very much like himself, as the two turn out to have very similar life experiences. Both carry some scars from difficult or missing relationships with their fathers, both are extremely talented and powerful in their time, and both had been steered toward a religious vocation which they did not embrace.

The book is as much a riddle about More as it is an explanation of Pico. More’s great-grandson and biographer, Cresacre More, claims that Thomas More as a young man sought to emulate Pico once he decided that his path in life was marriage and not the cloth. The book’s first half contains the abridged account of Pico’s life. The second half is More’s rhymed verse on the 12 rules of spiritual battle, the 12 weapons of spiritual battle, and the 12 properties of a lover, followed by Pico’s prayer to God. In the last analysis, this biography of Pico becomes an exercise in the discernment of true virtue, in the contradictions and difficulties one encounters in the immersion into the world, and at the same time, in the life of God.