On the cusp of the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther posting his 95 Theses, books and articles about the Protestant Reformation have of course been plentiful. One subset of these books are the biographical collections, represented by the examples above.
Ignatius Press has published a new edition of Hilaire Belloc's Characters of the Reformation, with prose portraits of mostly English characters of the Reformation, starting with Henry VIII, but including a few French personages, like Cardinal Richelieu. Belloc believes that the English Reformation was not only distinct from the Protestant Reformation but that the defection of the Church in England--Henry VIII's breaking away from Catholic unity--was decisive in the destruction of Christendom. From his introduction:
The early enthusiasm for change was anarchic and dispersed. It had no form. It was of a violence which was bound to burn itself out, especially as it was resisted by all the organized central authorities of Christendom: the Kings and the Emperor. All that descended directly from the ancient foundation of our culture, the Romanized, civilized core of Europe, held out — save for one province: Britain. England was captured for the Revolutionary side, not by any desire on the part of her people, but by a succession of incidents which marked each of them a step more difficult to retrace. First, on a matter in no way connected with the Faith, the King of England, the most complete autocrat of his day, happened to quarrel with the Pope. The divorce of Henry VIII from his wife Catherine of Aragon, due to his infatuation with Anne Boleyn, began the business. It was conducted by a man of far greater ability than Henry, one Thomas Cromwell, an adventurer of high talent and no scruples (the great-uncle of Oliver and founder of the vast Cromwell fortune of which Oliver was a cadet). This Thomas Cromwell advised and carried out the confiscation of the monastic lands in England; a huge loot which was to be followed by further robbery of clerical endowments of every kind, including schools and colleges as well as the wealth of Sees and Parishes and Chapters. The new fortunes arising from this flood of confiscation determined the issue. . . .
Belloc certainly takes a "Long Reformation" approach, because he ends his collection of characters with Blaise Pascal, William of Orange, and Louis XIV.
OSV has published Joseph Pearce's Heroes of the Catholic Reformation: Saints Who Renewed the Church, which I previewed and endorsed with a blurb:
The Protestant Reformation began five hundred years ago, accompanied by an age of turmoil and secularism we can recognize even in our own time. Rather than shrinking from the crisis, the Catholic Church responded with even deeper, and more genuine, reform. We can do the same today.
This Catholic Reformation was accomplished by many defenders of the Faith whom we now know as saints. Their holiness, courageous deeds, and sacrifices during this renewal of the Catholic Faith demonstrate the true heroism of saintly action and provide models for defending the faith in the modern world.
Diverse as they are inspiring, these heroes and saints stood up to slay “the dragons of sin” while championing Church teaching. Their sacrifices left the Church — and the world — forever changed.
Bishop John Fisher, Sir Thomas More, and priests Edmund Campion and Robert Southwell refused to submit to England’s secular tyranny and chose martyrdom instead. — Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Jesuits, and Charles Borromeo, the reforming Archbishop of Milan, spearheaded the Catholic Reformation.
Pope Pius V brought a spirit of asceticism to the papacy and ardor to the work of reform.
Teresa of Ávila and John of the Cross, despite enduring terrible suffering, surrendered themselves completely to Christ’s great mission of reform within the Church.
The Heroes of the Catholic Reformation is a scholarly and cultured celebration of the saints who responded to the fierce oppositions of their time with courage and an authentic and lasting Catholic Reformation. Author Joseph Pearce invites us look to these heroes for inspiration as we seek to live the fullness of Faith in our fallen world.
Pearce--who is coming to Wichita in October AND November for presentations--takes the view that the Reformation as a whole is divided into three parts: the Protestant "Reformation"; the English "Reformation", and the Catholic Reformation. Only the latter is a true reformation; the others are rebellions and divisions: the latter worked to restore the Apostolic Teaching and Tradition as Jesus commanded; the others resulted in religious chaos.
The one book I have not read or seen is Phillip Campbell's Heroes and Heretics of the Reformation from TAN:
It was a tumultuous time, filled with heroes, heretics, and some who were a little bit of both. It was a time of destruction and rebuilding. Some sincerely sought reform while others sought merely to profit by it, and some—perhaps too few—used the events of the time to become saints.
In these pages meet as you’ve never met before:
• Martin Luther: the tortured Augustinian monk whose act at Wittenberg called forth the storm
• Thomas Müntzer: the radical who, inspired by the new way of thinking and his own apocalyptic views, sought to use the sword to usher in the reign of God; he would feel the sting of Luther’s words and the bite of the executioner’s blade.
• The queens: Mary and Elizabeth Tudor, who were at different times bastardized and delegitimized by their father Henry VIII, but who each reigned during this period of upheaval. One is known to history by a derogatory epithet, while the other, “bloodier” still, has an epoch named in her honor.
• The popes: Paul III and Pius V, each of whom sought to save what could be saved of Christendom, one through the calling of the Council of Trent, which codified an authentic Catholic Reform, and the other through the calling of a new crusade to fend off the ever-threatening Turks.
• St. Peter Canisius: who lived a life of sanctity as he tried to reconcile those who had drifted away back to the Church.
Through the lives of those above and others, dramatically unfolded in Campbell’s stirring narrative, learn how the heroes and heretics of the tumultuous sixteenth century shook the world, for better or for worse.
I'm sure that Protestant publishers have produced some of the same kind of collections and I'll try to find some for a future post.