Tuesday, February 21, 2017

St. Robert Southwell, SJ, Pray for Us!

His story, from the Jesuits in Britain website:

One of the forty English martyr saints, Robert Southwell is widely known for his poetry. Born around 1561 at Horsham St Faith and brought up in a family of Norfolk gentry, he boarded at the English College at Douai but studied at the associated French Jesuit College of Anchin. When applying for entrance into the Society in Rome, he was only admitted after having written a heartfelt appeal against a first refusal.  He eventually joined in 1580. After ordination in 1584 he served as prefect of studies in the English College in Rome.  Two years later he was sent at his own request on a mission to England, where he secretly went from one Catholic family to another.  Notably, in 1589 he became domestic chaplain to Lady Ann Dacre, whose husband, Philip Howard, was then imprisoned and would remain so until his death in October 1595. Southwell himself was arrested after six years of missionary work and was held in prison for more than three years, suffering severe deprivation.  Finally, he was executed at Tyburn on 21 February 1595. With 39 others, including Philip Howard, he was canonized by Pope Paul VI in 1970. His feast is 1st December. 

Upon the Image of Death

Before my face the picture hangs
That daily should put me in mind
Of those cold names and bitter pangs
That shortly I am like to find;
But yet, alas, full little I
Do think hereon that I must die.

I often look upon a face
Most ugly, grisly, bare, and thin;
I often view the hollow place
Where eyes and nose had sometimes been;
I see the bones across that lie,
Yet little think that I must die.

I read the label underneath,
That telleth me whereto I must;
I see the sentence eke that saith
Remember, man, that thou art dust!
But yet, alas, but seldom I
Do think indeed that I must die.

Continually at my bed's head
A hearse doth hang, which doth me tell
That I ere morning may be dead,
Though now I feel myself full well ;
But yet, alas, for all this, I
Have little mind that I must die.

The gown which I do use to wear,
The knife wherewith I cut my meat,
And eke that old and ancient chair
Which is my only usual seat,-
All these do tell me I must die,
And yet my life amend not I.

My ancestors are turned to clay,
And many of my mates are gone;
My youngers daily drop away,
And can I think to 'scape alone?
No, no, I know that I must die,
And yet my life amend not I.

Not Solomon for all his wit,
Nor Samson, though he were so strong,
No king nor person ever yet
Could 'scape but death laid him along;
Wherefore I know that I must die,
And yet my life amend not I.

Though all the East did quake to hear
Of Alexander's dreadful name,
And all the West did likewise fear
To hear of Julius Caesar's fame,
Yet both by death in dust now lie;
Who then can 'scape but he must die?

If none can 'scape death's dreadful dart,
If rich and poor his beck obey,
If strong, if wise, if all do smart,
Then I to 'scape shall have no way.
Oh, grant me grace, O God, that I
My life may mend, sith I must die.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Misery and Mercy

I am not a music critic so I cannot judge the performances on this CD according to a professional jargon; my response is emotional and/or devotional. The 80-plus minutes of this music, all dealing with psalms or prayers of misery and mercy, is spread over two CDS. You can hear samples here, here, here, and here. Scattered Ashes: Josquin's Miserere and the Savonarolan Legacy compiles great Renaissance polyphonic renditions of Psalm 50 and 30 with Fra Savonarola's meditations on those prayers for mercy, written while he was in prison before his public execution for heresy.

The BBC Music Magazine liked the CD set very much in June, 2016:

Despite his condemnation of earthly pleasures, the iconoclastic Dominican friar Savonarola inspired a surprising legacy of musical outpourings. Among these 'scattered ashes' are the Latin motets recorded here, based on the psalm meditations he wrote whilst imprisoned awaiting execution. After his death, Renaissance composers across Europe, of the stature of Byrd, Gombert, Josquin, and Lassus, carved musical monuments from his words - ironically, in the polyphonic idiom against which the friar had railed because it charmed the senses and obscured the words. Savonarola's texts are deeply penitential in quality, yet the music on these two discs ranges from austere to luxuriant, urgent to serene. Magnificat's director Philip Cave shape's poised, subtly expressive and finely balanced readings from the vocal ensemble he founded a quarter of a century ago. His measured tempos reflect the predominantly contemplative tone of these works, and the sable hues and unwavering timbres of his singers are aptly evocative of Savonarolan sobriety. Fleeting visions of light illuminate the pervasive melancholy, notably in the radiant performance of Palestrina's Tribularer, si nescirem. Here, and throughout the programme, are constant allusions to Josquin's hauntingly introspective motet Miserere mei, Deus, echoes of which turn and return like obsessive memories. By offsetting single voices with the richer sound of the full ensemble, Cave throws sections of this statuesque motet into high relief- and to vivid effect.

If nothing else, this CD set introduced me to Josquin des Prez's Miserere which is so different from the Allegri Miserere with all its secret cache. With its haunting repetition of the prayer "Miserere mei, Deus" throughout the text of the psalm, it is quite effective. I enjoyed the variety of polyphonic styles on the first disc most of all, but the entire set is perfect listening for Lent. The liner notes are excellent, providing an overview of European court history and highlighting William Byrd's version of one of Savonarola's prayers, Infelix ego in the context of Recusant England. Beautiful!

Sunday, February 19, 2017

PPS: Endurance for Sexagesima Sunday

From Blessed John Henry Newman:

That trouble and sorrow are in some especial sense the lot of the Christian, is plain from such passages of Scripture as the following:—For instance, St. Paul and St. Barnabas remind the disciples "that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God." Again, St. Paul says, "If so be that we suffer with Him, that we may be also glorified together." Again, "If we suffer, we shall also reign with Him." Again, "Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus, shall suffer persecution." Again, St. Peter, "If when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God; for even hereunto were ye called." And our Saviour declares, that those who have given up the relations of this world "for His sake and the Gospel's" shall receive "an hundred-fold" now, "with persecutions." And St. Paul speaks in his own case of his "perils," by sea and land, from friend and foe, without and within him, of the body and of the soul. Yet he adds, "I will glory of the things which concern mine infirmities." [Acts xiv. 22. Rom. viii. 17. 2 Tim. ii. 12; iii. 12. 1 Pet. ii. 20. Matt. xix. 29. Mark x. 30. 2 Cor. xi. 30.]

To passages, however, like these, it is natural to object that they do not apply to the present time; that they apply to a time of persecution, which is past and over; and that men enter the kingdom now, without the afflictions which it once involved. What we see, it may be said, is a disproof of so sad and severe a doctrine. In this age, and in this country, the Church surely is in peace; rights are secured to it, and privileges added. Christians now, to say the very least, have liberty of person and property; they live without disquietude, and they die happily. Nay, they have much more than mere toleration, they have possession of the whole country; there are none but Christians in it; and if they suffer persecution, it must be (as it were) self-inflicted from the hands of each other. Christianity is the law of the land; its ministry is a profession, its offices are honours, its name a recommendation. So far from Christians being in trial because they are Christians, those who are not Christians, infidels and profligates, it is they who are under persecution. Under disabilities indeed these are, and justly; but it would be as true to say that Christians are justly in trouble, as to say that they are in trouble at all. What confessorship is there in a man's putting himself in the front of the Christian fight, when that front is a benefice or a dignity? Rulers of the Church were aforetime marks for the persecutor; now they are but forced into temporal rank and power. Aforetime, the cross was in the inventory of holy treasures, handed down from Bishop to Bishop; but now what self-denial is there in the Apostolate, what bitterness in Christ's cup, what marks of the Lord Jesus in the touch of His Hand, what searching keenness in His sacred Breath? Of old time, indeed, as the Spirit forthwith drave Him into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil, so they, also, who received the Almighty Comforter, in any of His high gifts, were at once among the wild beasts of Ephesus, or amid the surges of the sea; but there are no such visible proofs now of the triumphs of God's grace, humbling the individual, while using him for heavenly purposes.

This is what objectors may say; and, in corroboration, they may tell us to look at the feelings of the world towards the Church and its sacred offices, and to judge for ourselves whether they have not the common sense of mankind with them. For is not the ministry of the Church what is called an easy profession? Do we not see it undertaken by those who love quiet, or who are unfit for business; by those who are less keen, less active-minded, less venturous than others? Does it not lead rather to a land of Canaan, as of old time, than to the narrow rugged way and the thorny couch of the Gospel? Has it not fair pastures, and pleasant resting-places, and calm refreshing streams, and milk and honey flowing, according to the promise of the Old Covenant, rather than that baptism and that draught which is the glory of the New? Facts then, it will be said, refute such notions of the suffering character of the Christian Church. It suffered at first,—suffering was the price of its triumphing; and since that, it has ceased to suffer. It is as truly in peace now, as it was truly in suffering then;—one might as well deny that it did suffer, as that it is in peace; and to apply texts which speak of what it was then to what it is now, is unreal, offends some hearers, and excites ridicule in others. This is what may be said.

Yet is it so indeed? Let us look into the Bible again. Are we to go by faith or by sight?—for surely, whatever conclusions follow from what we see, these cannot undo what is written. What is written remains; and if sight is against it, we must suppose that there is some way of solving the difficulty, though we may not see how; and we will try, as well as we can, to solve it in the case before us.

Please read the rest here.

Today's Gospel is the parable of the sower and the seed. Here's John Keble's poem for Sexagesima Sunday from The Christian Year:

FOE of mankind! too bold thy race:
Thou runn’st at such a reckless pace,
Thine own dire work thou surely wilt confound:
'Twas but one little drop of sin
We saw this morning enter in,
And lo! at eventide the world is drown’d.

See here the fruit of wandering eyes,
Of worldly longings to be wise,
Of Passion dwelling on forbidden sweets:
Ye lawless glances, freely rove;
Ruin below and wrath above
Are all that now the wildering fancy meets.

Lord, when in some deep garden glade,
Of Thee and of myself afraid,
From thoughts like these among the bowers I hide,
Nearest and loudest then of all
I seem to hear the Judge’s call:
"Where art thou, fallen man? come forth, and be thou tried."

Trembling before Thee as I stand,
Where’er I gaze on either hand
The sentence is gone forth, the ground is curs’d:
Yet mingled with the penal shower
Some drops of balm in every bower
Steal down like April dews, that softest fall and first.

If filial and maternal love
Memorial of our guilt must prove,
If sinful babes in sorrow must be born,
Yet, to assuage her sharpest throes,
The faithful mother surely knows,
This was the way Thou cam’st to save the world forlorn.

If blessed wedlock may not bless
Without some tinge of bitterness
To dash her cup of joy, since Eden lost,
Chaining to earth with strong desire
Hearts that would highest else aspire,
And o’er the tenderer sex usurping ever most;

Yet by the light of Christian lore
'Tis blind Idolatry no more,
But a sweet help and pattern of true love,
Shewing how best the soul may cling
To her immortal Spouse and King,
How He should rule, and she with full desire approve.

If niggard Earth her treasures hide,
To all but labouring hands denied,
Lavish of thorns and worthless weeds alone,
The doom is half in mercy given
To train us in our way to Heaven,
And shew our lagging souls how glory must be won.

If on the sinner’s outward frame
God hath impress’d his mark of blame,
And even our bodies shrink at touch of light,
Yet mercy hath not left us bare:
The very weeds we daily wear
Are to Faith’s eye a pledge of God’s forgiving might.

And oh! if yet one arrow more,
The sharpest of th’ Almighty’s store,
Tremble upon the string‹a sinner’s death‹
Art Thou not by to soothe and save,
To lay us gently in the grave,
To close the weary eye and hush the parting breath?

Therefore in sight of man bereft
The happy garden still was left,
The fiery sword that guarded shew’d it too;
Turning all ways, the world to teach,
That though as yet beyond our reach,
Still in its place the tree of life and glory grew.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Choosing By Its Cover (A Book Review)

I admit that I selected this book because of its cover, featuring a well-selected detail from the mosaics in Ravenna's baptistry. I think the paperback is out of print from Sophia Institute Press but Amazon.com still has the Kindle edition available:

From that eternal moment when He created time, through each prayer, confession, and consecration in the Church today, the Lord of the Universe has been working toward one principal goal: the salvation of our souls.

Indeed, so great is the dignity of mankind, and so relentless is God’s love for us, that everything He makes and does leads us into eternal communion with Him.

In
The Mystery and Destiny of the Church, Dominican Sister Rosena Marie explores the reality of God’s loving intervention in creation, and illuminates His millennia-long plan for redeeming it: the plan that we have come to call “Salvation History.” Beginning with mankind’s appearance as the “crowning glory of creation” and subsequent estrangement from the Creator through the Fall, she shows how God has tirelessly prepared the way back to our original destiny. 

By calling Noah, Abraham, Moses — all the patriarchs and their kin — into a covenantal relationship with Him, God begins to re-claim his people, and to make Himself their God once more. He gives them a Law to teach them, Manna to feed them, blood to protect them; He gives them sacrifices to expiate their sins, judges and kings to govern their nations, and prophets to chastise and call them to repentance. Directing a silent tableau of the whole mystery of salvation, He leads His people through exile, slavery, wandering, and finally, deliverance.

Then at the appointed time, He enters creation Himself, recapitulating and completing the work of previous ages, and ushering in the new Age of the Church. In that Church, the promise made to the Jews is extended to all humanity — where slain lambs once saved Israel, the Lamb once slain now saves all mankind.

Sister Rosena Marie takes the Church’s founding and structure, its sacraments and its teachings, and the evangelistic mission it carries out unto this day, and explains the part they play in God’s plan for our salvation.

That part is the Mystery of the Church.

Its Destiny is our own destiny: death, judgment, the passing of all things, and life eternal with Christ. Let these pages draw you deeper into that mystery, and guide you more surely towards that destiny.


I thought it was interesting that Sister Rosena used a "seven day" pattern to trace Salvation History--not an Eighth Day pattern with the Eighth Day being the last day of that history. As Eighth Day Books has long quoted Jean Danielou's The Bible and the Liturgy:

The number eight was, for ancient Christianity, the symbol of the Resurrection, for it was on the day after the Sabbath, and so the eighth day, that Christ rose from the tomb. Furthermore, the seven days of the week are the image of the time of this world, and the eighth day of life everlasting. Sunday is the liturgical commemoration of the eighth day, at the same time a memorial of the Resurrection and a prophecy of the world to come. . . . 

She divides the "week" of Salvation History 1) from Adam to Noah; 2) from Noah to Abraham; 3) from Abraham to David; 4) from David to Babylon; 5) from Babylon to Christ; 6) from Christ to the end of the time; 7) from the end of time to all eternity. She covers Old Testament and New Testament history, although she does not present an extended analysis of Jesus's life and teachings. She defends the hierarchical structure of the Church and provides an excellent overview of the Sacraments, concentrating on the Holy Eucharist. Sister Rosena offers her opinions on how to reconcile the story of Creation in Genesis with scientific theories of human evolution, and also cites Church teaching, especially Pope Pius XII's Humani Generis. In the last section of the book, she provides an excellent explanation of time and eternity. The book does not have an Imprimatur or Nihil Obstat, which surprised me. Nevertheless, I found it to be a well-written--that is, concise, precise, and thoughtful--and fascinating book.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Another Victim of Titus Oates' Perjury

Today is the feast of St. Claude de la Colombiere, SJ who died on February 15, 1682. In a way, he is a victim of the Popish Plot, according to this biography published on the Jesuits in Britain website:

Claude found himself sent to England, to London where, seventy years after the Gunpowder Plot, there was still hostility to Catholics. Claude was sent to be Chaplain to the Duke and Duchess of York, both Catholics. The Duke was the younger brother and heir-presumptive of the reigning King Charles II; the Duchess, Mary of Modena, was a devout Catholic. As King James II & VIIth, he would become the last Catholic monarch of England, Scotland and Ireland until deposed in the “Glorious Revolution” of 1688. Charles II had granted the couple special permission to maintain a chapel in St. James’s Palace. English Jesuits were still, in those days, in considerable disarray and English Catholic priests would not have been permitted to occupy such a prominent posting. Fr Claude was given a modest apartment in the Palace and moved in on October 13th, 1676.

Fr Claude found it difficult from the beginning. That first London winter seems to have been severe. Perhaps imprudently, he would not hear of any extra heating in his sparse apartment. He admits to finding London cuisine inedible. Physical hardship was not the worst of his unhappiness. The morals of the Restoration era (broadly 1660 – 1710) were lax and louche, as the contemporary literary evidence shows. Claude was distressed by what he saw but he refused to harangue; instead, he returned again and again, in his preaching, to the Eucharistic love of Christ’s heart. Another biographer notes that “he breathed good will” and that there was “nothing of Savonarola about de la Colombiere”. Fr Claude’s spiritual diary of that time records an increasing devotion to St Francis de Sales; in Claude’s preaching we find a similar emphasis on the tenderness of God’s mercy, and an amazement at the contrast between God’s unlimited love and the boundless ingratitude that people show in return. This would surely have recalled, for Claude, those spiritual conversations and discernments in the Pray-le-Monial days.

Trouble lay ahead. Seventeenth-century London was an ambiguous place and not safe for Catholics, especially Jesuits. An entirely fictitious conspiracy, dreamt up by one Titus Oates, gripped both the English and Scottish kingdoms between 1678 and 1681. Catholics, it alleged, were plotting against the life of Charles II. The Jesuits in England were to carry out the “Popish Plot” (there had been a popular, hysterical assumption that the Great Fire of London in 1666 had been ignited by the Jesuits). Oates claimed to have attended a meeting, in a pub on The Strand, which discussed the Jesuits’ tactics. Caught up in this wave of frenzy, Claude was denounced by someone whom he thought he could trust. Imprisoned in November 1678 in an unheated filthy dungeon, he suffered a rapid deterioration in his health. Claude was charged with traitorous speech against the King and parliament. He was deported back to France and, seriously ill, slowly made his way back to Paray. There, his health broken and after one final meeting with St Margaret Mary, he died, 41 years old, on February 15th 1682.

Pope St. John Paul II canonized St. Claude in 1992.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

For St. Valentine's Day: Transforming Love


Happy St. Valentine's Day!

The Enchanted Cottage is a romantic fantasy movie produced by Harriet Parsons for RKO, released in 1945. It stars Robert Young, Dorothy McGuire, Herbert Marshall, and Mildred Natwick, with brief and devastating appearances by Spring Byington.

Herbert Marshall, as the blind composer John Hillgrove, and Mildred Natwick, as the widowed proprietor of the Enchanted Cottage, Abigail Minnett, know the secret of the transforming power of love. He can't see it but he can sense it; she can't see it but knows it's true--only the outside world, including Spring Byington as Violet Price, can't appreciate what love has done for Oliver and Laura.

Oliver Bradford (Robert Young) has been disfigured and disabled by injuries sustained in World War II. He has broken off his engagement and fled his family for the "honeymoon cottage" in New England. Laura Pennington (Dorothy McGuire) is plain, awkward, and lonely and comes to work for Mrs. Minnett. Oliver and Laura begin to love each other, marry, and take up their residence in the honeymoon cottage. When they see each other, he is handsome and whole and she is beautiful and sophisticated. Hillgrove writes a tone poem to celebrate their love and how it has transformed them. He has helped Oliver gain perspective about his wartime injuries by describing his own experience, since he was blinded by wounds suffered in World War I.

The saddest moment comes when Oliver's mother, Violet, and her husband (his step father) visit and the couple's faith in their transformation is shaken by her lack of perception. Hillgrove tries to prepare her, but she is too insensitive. She is a warning to the audience: this is a fragile fantasy and Mrs. Minnett has to put the fantasy back together for them. She admits that she can see no change in their appearance but has felt the enchantment of their love. Mrs. Minnett tells them they can be confident in their love and their transformation, declaring that she knows that if her husband (who died in World War I) returned to life, he would find her beautiful. 

So Oliver and Laura decide that they can go listen to the tone poem John Hillgrove has composed for them, even though "there'll be people there".

You can listen to the Lux Radio broadcast; unfortunately, neither Herbert Marshall nor Mildred Natwick are in the cast, but Young and McGuire are. The radio broadcast reminds us of the World War II setting, as the narrator discusses the men returning from war and needing help and time to heal, and after the broadcast, the need for fat and grease! Housewives can turn in their drippings and receive ration tickets for meat! 

Monday, February 13, 2017

Shakespeare's Political Stage

The Wall Street Journal posts a review of Peter Lake's new book about Shakespeare's history plays (subscription required). A couple of quotes, good and bad:

The beautiful poetry and powerful drama of Shakespeare’s plays are what first enchant us, but we should not neglect their intellectual substance, especially their political themes. With “How Shakespeare Put Politics on the Stage,” Peter Lake takes up the history plays in particular, offering subtle and insightful readings and showing us that politics was indeed a central concern of Shakespeare’s. He also shows the ways in which Shakespeare used his plays to respond to the continuing changes in the Elizabethan political scene.

A professor of history at Vanderbilt University, Mr. Lake focuses on kings, queens and princes rather than on peasants, workers, apprentices, vagabonds, fugitives and the other “marginalized” groups that are the darlings of the so-called New Historicists, who have dominated Shakespeare criticism for decades. After so many studies by amateur historians in literature departments, it is a relief to see a trained historian at work on Shakespeare. . . .


The reviewer, Paul A. Cantor, notes that Shakespeare is reflecting on Elizabethan politics, not just the history of Plantagenet England. For example:

In Mr. Lake’s attempts to relate the plays to Elizabethan politics, he often convincingly demonstrates that Shakespeare was reacting to particular incidents or to the developing controversies of his day. His analysis of the Puritan elements to be found in the character of Falstaff is genuinely eye-opening. He shows that Falstaff appropriates “distinctively puritan modes of discourse for his own corrupt purposes.” Trying to get Prince Hal to join him in a highway robbery, Falstaff sounds just like a Puritan preacher as he enlists the help of a friend to persuade the heir apparent: “God give thee the spirit of persuasion and him the ears of profiting, that what thou speakest may move and what he hears may be believed.”

More generally, Falstaff’s efforts to invert the values of the conventional political world—to have “thieves” renamed “men of good government”—call to mind precisely the tendencies Shakespeare’s contemporaries criticized in the Puritans. Mr. Lake writes: “A central strand in contemporary anti-puritan polemic held that the puritan platform for further reformation in church and state would, if implemented, in fact, turn the world upside down,” much as Falstaff wants to do. Here Mr. Lake is able to draw upon solid historical evidence. But be forewarned: If you don’t already know what a Lollard was or who John Wycliffe was, you’re going to have a hard time following the argument.


That last sentence gives you the hint of the problem with the book, according to Cantor: The author doth presume too much, methinks (or rather, hethinks):

At 650 densely packed pages, “How Shakespeare Put Politics on the Stage” can be a daunting read. It is extremely repetitious and could have been reduced by about a third of its length without much loss of content. Mr. Lake writes a clear, jargon-free prose, but his style is not exactly graceful, and he plunges readers into all sorts of historical controversies without offering sufficient background or instruction, neglecting to explain, for example, the fine points of Christian theological disputes or the complexities of the Lancaster, York and Tudor dynasties. And as with all studies of Shakespeare’s histories, Mr. Lake’s could have used a genealogical chart or two, to help a novice reader tell all the Richards, Henrys, Edwards and Marys apart. Nevertheless, anyone interested in Shakespeare should make the effort to read this book. Even someone intimately familiar with the plays will discover much that is new, from details of historical background to interpretations of specific passages.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

PPS: Present Blessings for Septuagesima Sunday

For Septuagesima Sunday from Blessed John Henry Newman:

Gloom is no Christian temper; that repentance is not real, which has not love in it; that self-chastisement is not acceptable, which is not sweetened by faith and cheerfulness. We must live in sunshine, even when we sorrow; we must live in God's presence, we must not shut ourselves up in our own hearts, even when we are reckoning up our past sins.

These thoughts are suitable on this day, when we first catch a sight, as it were, of the Forty Days of Lent. If God then gives us grace to repent, it is well; if He enables us to chasten heart and body, to Him be praise; and for that very reason, while we do so, we must not cease rejoicing in Him. All through Lent we must rejoice, while we afflict ourselves. Though "many be called, but few chosen;" though all run in the race, but "one receiveth the prize;" though we must "so run that we may obtain;" though we must be "temperate in all things," and "keep under our body and bring it into subjection, lest we be castaways;" yet through God alone we can do this; and while He is with us, we cannot but be joyful; for His absence only is a cause for sorrow. The Three Holy Children are said to have stood up in the midst of the fire, and to have called on all the works of God to rejoice with them; on sun and moon, stars of heaven, nights and days, showers and dew, frost and cold, lightnings and clouds, mountains and hills, green things upon the earth, seas and floods, fowls of the air, beasts and cattle, and children of men,—to praise and bless the Lord, and magnify Him for ever. We have no such trial as theirs; we have no such awful suspense as theirs, when they entered the burning fiery furnace; we attempt for the most part what we know; we begin what we think we can go through. We can neither instance their faith nor equal their rejoicing; yet we can imitate them so far, as to look abroad into this fair world, which God made "very good," while we mourn over the evil which Adam brought into it; to hold communion with what we see there, while we seek Him who is invisible; to admire it, while we abstain from it; to acknowledge God's love, while we deprecate His wrath; to confess that, many as are our sins, His grace is greater. Our sins are more in number than the hairs of our head; yet even the hairs of our head are all numbered by Him. He counts our sins, and, as He counts, so can He forgive; for that reckoning, great though it be, comes to an end; but His mercies fail not, and His Son's merits are infinite.

Let us, then, on this day, dwell upon a thought, which it will be a duty to carry with us through Lent, the thought of the blessings and mercies of which our present life is made up. St. Paul said that he had all, and abounded, and was full; and this, in a day of persecution. Surely, if we have but religious hearts and eyes, we too must confess that our daily and hourly blessings in this life are not less than his. Let us recount some of them.


The Gospel today is the parable of the workers in the vineyard, Matthew, Chapter 20. The same website offers a poem by John Keble, Newman's great Oxford Movement friend:

THERE is a book, who runs may read,
Which heavenly truth imparts,
And all the lore its scholars need,
Pure eyes and Christian hearts.

The works of God above, below,
Within us and around,
Are pages in that book, to shew
How God himself is found.

The glorious sky embracing all
Is like the Maker's love,
Wherewith encompass'd, great and small
In peace and order move.

The Moon above, the Church below,
A wondrous race they run,
But all their radiance, all their glow,
Each borrows of its Sun.

The Saviour lends the light and heat
That crowns his holy hill;
The saints, like stars, around his seat,
Perform their courses still.

The saints above are stars in Heaven-
What are the saints on earth?
Like trees they stand whom God has given,
Our Eden's happy birth.

Faith is their fix¹d unswerving root,
Hope their unfading flower,
Fair deeds of charity their fruit,
The glory of their bower.

The dew of heaven is like thy grace,
It steals in silence down;
But where it lights, the favour'd place
By richest fruits is known.

One Name above all glorious names
With its ten thousand tongues
The everlasting sea proclaims,
Echoing angelic songs.

The raging Fire, the roaring Wind,
Thy boundless power display:
But in the gentler breeze we find
Thy Spirit¹s viewless way.

Two worlds are ours: 'tis only Sin
Forbids us to descry
The mystic heaven and earth within,
Plain as the sea and sky.

Thou, who hast given me eyes to see
And love this sight so fair,
Give me a heart to find out Thee,
And read Thee everywhere.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Newman on Papal Infallibility, Then and Now

Father John Hunwicke, a priest of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham and a famous blogger, writes about Newman's concern before the First Vatican Council about Papal Infallibility for First Things. Father Hunwicke is writing in the context of Pope Francis' pontificate, but I am interested in Newman's ability to find the third way, neither being Ultramontane (relying on the Pope's decrees to an excessive degree) nor Cisalpine (ignoring the Pope):

Perhaps the greatest Anglican intellect of the late twentieth century, Henry Chadwick, described Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman as “a formidable controversialist, as supreme a master of irony and satire as any in our literature.” There can be little doubt that Newman's skills both dazzled his followers and admirers, and infuriated those whose own ecclesial comfort required them to evade his conclusions. In the febrile aftermath of the “Papal Aggression,” the restoration of the English Catholic hierarchy in 1851, Julius Hare, Archdeacon of Chichester, read a Charge to the clergy of his archdeaconry, in which he unloaded his wrath on “Dr. Newman's Circaean talent for metamorphosing historical facts.” 
Newman has employed a large portion of his time and of his ingenuity in the twofold process of transmuting fable into history and history into fable, until he seems to have almost lost the perception that there is any real, abiding distinction between them, and to fancy that they become one or the other at the touch of a sophist’s wand.
In our own day, as controversy swirls around the Bishop of Rome, we have much to learn from one particular touch of Newman’s “wand”—his account of what the pope can and cannot do.

In the Apologia pro Vita Sua of 1864, Newman takes up a criticism leveled against Catholicism—namely, that it is intransigent. Rather than denying this charge, he accepts and strengthens it, then characteristically turns it against the Church’s critics:
It is one of the reproaches urged against the Church of Rome, that it has originated nothing, and has only served as a sort of remora or break in the development of doctrine. And it is an objection which I embrace as a truth; for such I conceive to be the main purpose of its extraordinary gift.
Newman denied that Rome was the site of innovation. He saw that “the Church of Rome possessed no great mind in the whole period of persecution,” nor in the centuries that followed. “For a long while, it has not a single doctor to show: St Leo, its first, is the teacher of one point of doctrine.” Just as Peter was not the dazzling originator of new teaching, his successors have more often served as a brake on innovation than as its impetus.

Before the First Vatican Council in the late nineteenth century, Newman feared that the kind of Ultramontanism William Ward anticipated, with a Papal Decree published everyday, would result. When Newman wrote his response to former Prime Minister Gladstone's attack on Papal Infallibility as a danger to the British government, he argued for the same limitation and balance that Father Hunwicke notes the German bishops cited against Bismarck's Kulturkampf fears, which Pope Pius IX endorsed:

Despite the misgivings of Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman, Vatican I led to a welcome clarification in Catholic thinking about the Roman primacy. Vindicating Newman's root conviction that doctrinal clarification normatively results from the repudiation of error, this clarification arose from an attack made upon the Council and the Church by Chancellor Bismarck. The German episcopate issued a ringing response to Bismarck, asserting that
even as far as concerns ecclesiastical matters, the pope cannot be called an absolute monarch, since indeed he is subject to Divine Law and is bound to those things which Christ set in order (disposuit) for his Church. He cannot change the constitution of the Church which was given to it by its divine Founder. … The constitution of the Church in all essential matters is founded in the divine arrangement (ordinatione) and is therefore immune from every arbitrary human disposition.
Their lordships went on to emphasize that papal infallibility “is restricted to the proper meaning of the supreme papal Magisterium; [which] indeed coincides with the extent of the infallible Magisterium of the Church herself and is bound to the doctrine contained in Holy Scripture and in Tradition and to the definitions already made by the Church's Magisterium.”

The German press appears then to have suggested that the German hierarchy had watered down the conciliar definitions and produced a document that was viewed with disfavor in Rome. Pio Nono himself responded by endorsing the German statement, in a manner too lengthily and exuberantly fulsome to be quoted in full.

Please read the rest there. I'm thinking about Newman and conscience and Newman and Papal Infallibility again now because of some presentations I'll be making in July this year at the Spiritual Life Center. Stayed tuned.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

EWTN's Register Radio


I recorded an interview with Jeanette DeMelo and Matthew Bunson for EWTN's Register Radio yesterday which will air this weekend on EWTN Radio (Saturday at 6:00 p.m. Central and Sunday at 10:00 a.m. Central)--and will also be linked on the National Catholic Register home page.

We discussed my latest blog post for the Register: "Septuagesima, Shrovetide, and Pancakes":

The Super Bowl is over and the next great commercial social event is St. Valentine’s Day, but Easter candy is already sharing shelf space with Valentine’s candy in our stories. We are in a transitional time in our liturgical year too. Last Christmas seems a long time ago.

Before the reform of the liturgical calendar in late 1960’s, there was a name for this transitional time: Septuagesima. For three Sundays, the Church adopted a pre-Lenten period and in parishes where the Extraordinary Form is celebrated today, those Sundays are observed. The priest wears violet vestments, the Gloria is omitted, and the Tract replaces the Alleluia before the Gospel. The loss of the Alleluia, as the liturgical scholar Dom Gueranger explains, reminds us of our situation: “During the rest of the year [the Church] loves to hear us chant the song of heaven, the sweet Alleluia; but now, she bids us close our lips to this word of joy, because we are in Babylon . . . We are sinners, and have but too often held fellowship with the world of God's enemies; let us become purified by repentance . . .”


I like the image the Register chose for the post: Pieter Aertsen's "The Pancake Bakery" which depicts a family preparing Shrovetide pancakes for sale. According to the Rijkmuseum:

Although Pieter Aertsen (1508-1575), known as ‘Lange Pier’, came from Amsterdam, he lived in Antwerp for many years. After he returned in 1556, various Amsterdam churches, his principal patrons, commissioned Aertsen to make large altarpieces. Soon, however, he abandoned religious art and started to paint scenes from peasant life. He was known above all for his paintings of market scenes and kitchen tableaux, which contained an abundance of fruit, fish, poultry, cheese, bread and much besides. His younger cousin and pupil Joachim Bueckelaer also painted in the same genre and developed it further.

The Wikipedia article on this artist, however, provides greater context to his career:

Later in life, he also painted more conventional treatments of religious subjects, now mostly lost as during the iconoclasm of the beeldenstorm several paintings that had been commissioned for Catholic churches were destroyed. Several of his best works, including altarpieces in various churches in Amsterdam, were also destroyed during the days surrounding the event known as the Alteratie, or "Changeover", when Amsterdam formally reverted to Protestantism from Catholicism on 26 May 1578 at the start of the Eighty Years' War. One surviving religious work is the Crucifixion in the Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp.

Aertsen was a member of Antwerp's equivalent of the Accademia di San Luca. In the official books of the Academy he is known as "Langhe Peter, schilder" (Tall Peter, painter). His sons Pieter, Aert, and Dirk became acclaimed painters, and other notable pupils trained in his workshop included Stradanus and Aertsen's nephew, Joachim Beuckelaer, who continued to develop Aertsen's formula.

Aersten's exact formula of still life and genre figures in the foreground, with small scenes from history painting in the background only persisted for the next generation (or two, as Joachim Wtewael painted some similar works), but history paintings with very prominent and profuse still life elements in the foreground were produced by Rubens and his generation, and in the 17th century both Flemish Baroque painting and Dutch Golden Age painting developed important genres of independent still life subjects, which were just occasionally produced in Aertsen's day.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

The Execution of Mary, Queen of Scots

From the Eyewitness to History website, this report of the beheading of Mary Stuart, the deposed Queen of Scotland on February 8, 1587, 430 years ago today:

The Queen entered the room full of grace and majesty, just as if she were coming to a ball. There was no change on her features as she entered.

Drawing up before the scaffold, she summoned her major-domo and said to him:

'Please help me mount this. This is the last request I shall make of you.'

Then she repeated to him all that she had said to him in her room about what he should tell her son. Standing on the scaffold, she asked for her almoner, (chaplain) begging the officers present to allow him to come. But this was refused point-blank. The Count of Kent told her that he pitied her greatly to see her thus the victim of the superstition of past ages, advising her to carry the cross of Christ in her heart rather than in her hand. To this she replied that it would be difficult to hold a thing so lovely in her hand and not feel it thrill the heart, and that what became every Christian in the hour of death was to bear with him the true Symbol of Redemption." . . .

The executioner fell to his knees before her and implored her forgiveness. The Queen told him that she willingly forgave him and all who were responsible for her death, as freely as she hoped her sins would be forgiven by God. Turning to the woman to whom she, had given her handkerchief, she asked for it.

She wore a golden crucifix, made out of the wood of the true cross, with a picture of Our Lord on it. She was about to give this to one of her women, but the executioner forbade it, even though Her Majesty had promised that the woman would give him thrice its value in money.

After kissing her women once more, she bade them go, with her blessing, as she made the sign of the cross over them. One of them was unable to keep from crying, so that the Queen had to impose silence upon her by saying she had promised that nothing of the kind would interfere with the business in hand. They were to stand back quietly, pray to God for her soul, and bear truthful testimony that she had died in the bosom of the Holy Catholic religion.

One of the women then tied the handkerchief over her eyes. The Queen quickly, and with great courage, knelt dawn, showing no signs of faltering. So great was her bravery that all present were moved, and there were few among them that could refrain from tears. In their hearts they condemned themselves far the injustice that was being done.

The executioner, or rather the minister of Satan, strove to kill not only her body but also her soul, and kept interrupting her prayers. The Queen repeated in Latin the Psalm beginning "In te, Damine, speravi; nan canfundar in aeternum." When she was through she laid her head on the block, and as she repeated the prayer, the executioner struck her a great blow upon the neck, which was not, however, entirely severed. Then he struck twice more, since it was obvious that he wished to make the victim's martyrdom all the more severe. It was not so much the suffering, but the cause, that made the martyr.

The executioner then picked up the severed head and, showing it to those present, cried out: 'God save Queen Elizabeth! May all the enemies of the true Evangel thus perish!'

Saying this, he stripped off the dead Queen's head-dress, in order to show her hair, which was now white, and which she had been afraid to show to everyone when she was still alive, or to have properly dressed, as she did when her hair was fair and light.

It was not old age that had turned it white, for she was only thirty-five when this took place, and scarcely forty when she met her death, but the troubles, misfortunes, and sorrows which she had suffered, especially in her prison."

Notice all the focus on the crucifix. A French noble, Pierre de Bourdeille, seigneur de Brantome, left us this account, so he emphasizes the Catholic queen's devotion to Jesus through the crucifix, noting her ability to provide an explanation of her use of images. Bourdeille was not an unbiased observer, but we know that when other Catholics were executed in the recusant era, their devotions and prayers were mocked and Protestant ministers tried to persuade them to abjure their faith.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

The Bonfire of the Vanities


Today is the 520th anniversary of the Bonfire of the Vanities, led by Fra Girolamo Savonarola in Florence, Italy. As the History Channel summarizes the event:

On this day in 1497, the Bonfire of the Vanities took place in Florence, Italy, as supporters of the Dominican priest Girolamo Savonarola burned thousands of objects deemed to be associated with vanity, temptation, and sin. Artworks, books, cosmetics, dresses, mirrors, musical instruments and much more were burned. It was seen as a religious act, as a cleansing of the soul and a rejection of worldly pleasures. His bonfire took place on the day of the Mardi Gras festivities—traditionally a series of carnival celebrations beginning on the Epiphany and ending on the day preceding Ash Wednesday.

Although the 7 February Bonfire of the Vanities was the most notorious of these fanatical fires—involving thousands of objects all going up in smoke in front of the Florentine public—it was not the only one. Rather, these sorts of burnings had been a regular accompaniment to the Franciscan missionary San Bernardino di Siena’s outdoor sermons in the first half of the 15th century, only on a smaller scale.

Many great cultural works were incinerated in Girolamo Savonarola’s day of destruction, including copies of books thought to be immoral, including works by Boccaccio, as well as manuscripts of secular songs. Many antique sculptures and paintings were burned, including pieces by successful artists such as Fra Bartolomeo and Lorenzo di Credi. It is even thought that several masterpieces by the great Sandro Botticelli—most famous for painting the Birth of Venus—were willingly burned by the artist, who was a follower of Savonarola’s. According to Giorgio Vasari’s The Lives of the Artists (the first ever book of art history), “Botticelli was so ardent a partisan that he was thereby induced to desert his painting, and, having no income to live on, fell into very great distress!”

The Bonfire of the Vanities was orchestrated by the charismatic, passionate Savonarola, who was known for his apocalyptic sermons. After the ruling Medici dynasty was overthrown in 1494, he was effectively the political—as well as spiritual—leader of the city of Florence, and his great bonfire was the high point of his career. However, his popularity fell away at an astounding rate afterwards, and the following year he was excommunicated and executed.


There is a new recording from the ORA project, combining Renaissance polyphony with a modern commissioned work in honor of Savonarola:

Following the stunning success of their best-selling debut, Suzi Digby’s crack vocal ensemble ORA presents their new album: ‘Refuge from the Flames’. Dedicated to the legacy of Girolamo Savonarola, 15th century Dominican and religious reformer, this new CD further showcases ORA's commitment to bringing together Renaissance choral masterpieces and commissioned reflections from contemporary composers. ORA bring a wealth of experience that gilds these pieces, both new and old, into the lustrous works of art they truly are.

“We begin and end this second ORA album with two contrasting settings of the Miserere mei (Psalm 50, Vulgate). Over the centuries this text has inspired reflections by many Christian writers, none more influential than those by Girolamo Savonarola, and we have devoted much of this album to his extraordinary legacy. Central to the recording is Savonarola’s meditation on the psalm, 'Infelix Ego', written shortly before his execution. We present it here in William Byrd’s justly famous setting, and in a newly commissioned masterpiece by the Latvian composer Eriks Ešenvalds.”
Suzi Digby OBE [artistic director & conductor]

1 Allegri: Miserere [edited by Ben Byram Wigfield]
2 Animuccia/Savonarola: Iesù, sommo conforto
3 Anon/Savonarola: Alma, che sì gentile
4 Anon/Savonarola: Che fai qui, core?
5 Bettini: Ecce quam bonum
6 Verdelot: Letamini in Domino
7 Byrd: Infelix ego
8 Eriks Ešenvalds (b.1977): Infelix ego *world premiere recording commissioned by ORA*
9 Richafort: O quam dulcis
10 Le Jeune: Tristitia obsedit me, magno
11 Anonymous: Ecce quomodo moritur
12 Clemens non Papa: Tristitia obsedit me, amici
13 James MacMillan (b.1959): Miserere

There was a CD set dedicated to Savonarola last year too, from Magnificat, centered around the Miserere by Josquin de Pres, but with the same works by William Byrd, Le Jeune, and Non Papa.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Charles II's Deathbed Conversion

Apologizing that it was taking him so long, Charles II died on February 6, 1685. He had suffered a fit of apoplexy on February 2 (O.S.) and had asked his brother James the Duke of York to take care of his mistresses (no word about his wife?) and certainly "let not poor Nelly starve."

Before he died Charles' brother and his wife Catherine of Braganza arranged to have the priest Father John Huddleston who had saved him in England after the defeat at Worcester come into the Royal Sickroom. The Bishop of Bath, Thomas Ken (future nonjuror) and all the other Anglicans left the room. The line attributed to James was that the priest who had saved his body was there to help save his soul--and Charles II was received into the Catholic Church and received Holy Communion as Viaticum.

Then when the Bishop and other clergy and nobility came back into the room, Charles did not receive Anglican communion. When he was buried at Westminster Abbey on February 14, his funeral ceremonies were rather restrained, possibly by the knowledge that he had "Poped" before he died.

Charles had ruled alone after dissolving Parliament in 1681, the conflict with Parliament, caused at partially (as it had been for his father) by religious matters. After the furor of the Popish Plot he had restored his brother to the position of High Admiral in violation of Parliament's Test Act and he had begun again to rely on France for funds. He might have been heading for another Civil War, but what some have called his love of ease, his laziness, might have pulled him back so he would avoid exile once again. He was not so dedicated to Catholic faith as James, and would have been more politic, just as waiting until at the point of death to convert he delayed his promised conversion.

Father John Huddleston was a Benedictine monk; he was born in Lancashire into a Catholic family and studied at St. Omer's and at the English College in Rome, being ordained in Rome at St. John Lateran in 1637 and returned to England in 1639. The Catholic Encyclopedia explains how he saved the future Charles II:

In 1651 he was residing at Moseley, Staffordshire, as chaplain to the Whitgreave family. After the defeat at Worcester on 3 September, 1651, Charles II was conducted by Colonel Gyfford to Whiteladies, where he was sheltered by the Penderell family, and it was while seeking for some safer hiding place for the king that John Penderell happened to meet Father Huddleston. Accordingly Charles was disguised as a peasant and removed to Moseley during the night of Sunday, 7 September. To guard against surprise Huddleston was constantly in attendance on the king; his three pupils were stationed as sentinels at upper windows and Thomas Whitgreave patrolled the garden. On Tuesday, 9 September, Cromwell's soldiers came to search the house. The king and Huddleston were hurriedly shut away in the priest's hiding place, and the troops, after first seizing Whitgreave as a fugitive cavalier from Worcester, were eventually convinced that he had not left the house for some weeks and were persuaded to depart without searching the mansion. That night the king left for Bentley, after promising to befriend Huddleston when restored to his throne.

While Charles was in exile, Huddleston became a Benedictine. Once Charles II restored the monarchy, Father Huddleston served first the Dowager Queen Henrietta Maria and then Queen Catherine of Braganza. Charles II helped all those who had helped him, protecting them for example, during the Popish Plot crisis: 

During the disturbances produced by Titus Oates's pretended revelations the House of Lords, by a vote on 7 December, 1678, ordered that Huddleston, Thomas Whitgreave, the brothers Penderell, and others instrumental in the preservation of his Majesty's person after the battle of Worcester, should for their said service live as freely as any of the king's Protestant subjects, without being liable to the penalties of any of the laws relating to Popish recusants.

Father Huddleston's "mind failed" before he died and Louis de Duras, 2nd Earl of Feversham, one of the French nobles of the Duke of York's household/James II's court--who had been present when Father Huddleston received Charles II into the Church--took care of him. Father Huddleston was buried in St. Mary-Le-Strand on September 13, 1698.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

"Orange Peel"/"No Peel" Robert Peel Born

Robert Peel, twice Prime Minister of England, was born on February 5, 1788. He held many political offices during the reigns of George IV, William IV and Victoria, including that of Chief Secretary for Ireland. He had received the nickname "Orange Peel" because he was so staunchly anti-Catholic and because he was a redhead.

After opposing any concessions to Irish or English Catholics throughout his career, Sir Robert Peel, a Tory, supported the Duke of Wellington--who was also reluctant--Arthur Wellesley, the Prime Minister, in obtaining the votes to pass the Catholic Emancipation Act in 1829. As this website explains:

Support for the Anglican Church was the life-blood of Toryism. The Tories believed that there could be no yielding over the central rights of the Established Church. This therefore implied opposition to Catholic Emancipation on principle because it would destroy the constitutional supremacy of the Anglican Church. Canning supported Catholic Emancipation and wanted it to be passed before the repeal of the Test and Corporation Acts was granted. The Cabinet was divided on this however, so it was left as an open question and a settlement was deliberately postponed until the crisis of 1828-29.

Peel's Protestant convictions led to his refusal to join Canning's government in 1827 and Wellington refused to serve for the same reason, although he had been moving towards Catholic Emancipation since 1825 and personally had decided for it by the 1826 Irish General Election which demonstrated the electoral strength of the Irish Catholics. Wellington considered Catholic Emancipation to be a political, not a religious question. By 1828 he felt that resistance was impractical and dangerous because of the result of the County Clare election. . . .

He was crucial to the passage of Catholic Emancipation once it was clear that the "present position of Catholics in England" and Ireland was untenable:

Between 1828 and 1830 Peel, almost single-handed, sustained Wellington's government in Commons' debates, suffering a savage campaign of ridicule and abuse in the press for his betrayal of Protestantism. As Home Secretary in Wellington's government Peel was the most important man in the House of Commons.

In August 1828 after the County Clare election, Peel accepted the necessity for, but not the desirability of Catholic Emancipation. He tendered his resignation but Wellington persuaded him that the legislation would never pass without Peel's support. By January 1829 Peel's high-principled stand was weakening. He told Wellington that he would continue in office 'if my retirement should prove ... 'an insuperable obstacle' to the passing of Catholic Emancipation. Wellington responded:

"I tell you frankly that I do not see the smallest chance of getting the better of these difficulties if you should not continue in office."

Peel agreed to put Catholic Emancipation to the Commons. Only Peel and the Lord Chancellor were fully in Wellington's confidence over Catholic Emancipation. Peel put duty before principle and in February 1829 proposed the Bill to an astounded House of Commons. After all, for the past twenty years, Peel had been the one man who had consistently opposed the measure.

He was fiercely opposed in Oxford, whom he represented in the House of Commons, and lost his seat during an election in 1829. There was even a little verse about it:

Oh Member of Oxford, you shuffle and wheel
You have altered your name from R. Peel to Repeal

In fact, we can see the effects of this election in Oxford today. When visiting Christ Church on the way to the Great Hall, the college website reminds visitors:

Before heading up the stairs be sure to note the markings on the doorway, especially the ‘No Peel’ graffiti. This was not a response to anything served up in the Hall - instead it was a protest at the potential re-election of Robert Peel, Christ Church alumnus and later prime minister, as the MP for the University. In 1829 Peel had announced his support for the emancipation of Catholics within Britain, though he had previously opposed such a move (Catholics at the time were barred from holding public positions). Peel knew that his volte-face conflicted with University policy and resigned his seat, but was promptly nominated to stand for re-election. The anti-Peel party set about making its feelings known in a divided Christ Church, nailing the door of the then treasury with the message ‘No Peel’. Due in part to their efforts, Peel was defeated in Oxford, but he returned to Westminster as MP for a small borough in Wiltshire. To this day, there is no picture of Peel within the Hall, even though he ranks among the most eminent of the college’s alumni.

Note that Mr. John Henry Newman, then a Fellow at Oriel College, was most supportive of opposition to Peel. While he was rather indifferent to the "Catholic cause" he was concerned that Emancipation would weaken the Anglican church, leading to "Indifferentism" in the Church of England. Find a sample of his letters during this period here.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Alcuin of York's Pupil, Rabanus Maurus


Rabanus Maurus died on February 4, 856; he was a German Benedictine and pupil of Alcuin of York. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia:

Abbot of Fulda, Archbishop of Mainz, celebrated theological and pedagogical writer of the ninth century, born at Mainz about 776 (784?); died at Winkel (Vinicellum) near Mainz on 4 February, 856. He took vows at an early age in the Benedictine monastery of Fulda, and was ordained deacon in 801. A year later he went to Tours to study theology and the liberal arts, under Alcuin. He endeared himself to his aged master, and received from him the surname of Maurus in memory of the favourite disciple of St. Benedict. After a year of study he was recalled by his abbot, became teacher and, later, head-master of the monastic school of Fulda. His fame as teacher spread over Europe, and Fulda became the most celebrated seat of learning in the Frankish Empire.

The author of this entry concludes that "Rabanus was probably the most learned man of his age. In Scriptural and patristic knowledge he had no equal, and was thoroughly conversant with canon law and liturgy. His literary activity extended over the entire field of sacred and profane learning as then understood."

Two great hymns are attributed to him: the Veni, Creator Spiritus (to be distinguished from the Sequence for Pentecost, Veni, Sancte Spiritus) and Christe, sanctorum decus Angelorum ("Christ, the Fair Glory of the Holy Angels").

The Oratorian Father Edward Caswall translated the former:

Come, Holy Ghost, Creator blest,
And make our hearts Your place of rest;
Come with Your grace and heav'nly aid
And fill the hearts which You have made.

To You, the Counselor, we cry,
To You, the gift of God Most High;
The fount of life, the fire of love,
The soul's anointing from above.

In You, with graces sevenfold,
We God's almighty hand behold
While You with tongues of fire proclaim
To all the world His holy name.

Your light to ev'ry thought impart,
And shed Your love in ev'ry heart;
The weakness of our mortal state
With deathless might invigorate.

Drive far away our wily foe,
And Your abiding peace bestow;
With You as our protecting guide,
No evil can with us abide.

Teach us to know the Father, Son,
And You, from both, as Three in One
That we Your name may ever bless
And in our lives the truth confess.

Praise we the Father and Son,
And Holy Spirit, with them One,
And may the Son on us bestow
The gifts that from the Spirit flow!

The illustration depicts Alcuin of York in the center, with Rabanus on the left presenting his work to Otgar, the Archbishop of Mainz.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

February 2, 1879: A Cardinal's Hat for Newman?


At the end of January, 1879, Father John Henry Newman had a bad cold and was resting in bed when he received a summons from Bishop Ullathorne to come see him. Because he was so ill he sent another Oratorian, Father Pope, went to see the bishop and returned with the news that Pope Leo XIII wanted to make Newman a Cardinal!

Newman was delighted but concerned. It was a great honor: he felt it would eliminate the suspicion about the sincerity of his becoming Catholic and being loyal to the Church and the pope. He was also concerned that he'd be required to live in Rome; since he wasn't a bishop, that was the custom for "Cardinal Deacons". So he wrote a delicate message in reply and then Bishop Ullathorne wrote another letter--a cover letter--describing more fully what Newman was trying to say: he would be honored to become a Cardinal, but he did not want to leave the Oratory!

The Oratory, Birmingham:
Feb. 2, Feast of the Purification, 1879.
My Right Rev. Father,—I trust that his Holiness, and the most eminent Cardinal Nina will not think me a thoroughly discourteous and unfeeling man, who is not touched by the commendation of superiors, or a sense of gratitude, or the splendour of dignity, when I say to you, my Bishop, who know me so well, that I regard as altogether above me the great honour which the Holy Father proposes with wonderful kindness to confer on one so insignificant, an honour quite transcendent and unparalleled, than which his Holiness has none greater to bestow.

For I am, indeed, old and distrustful of myself; I have lived now thirty years in nidulo meo in my much loved Oratory, sheltered and happy, and would therefore entreat his Holiness not to take me from St. Philip, my Father and Patron.

By the love and reverence with which a long succession of Popes have regarded and trusted St. Philip, I pray and entreat his Holiness in compassion of my diffidence of mind, in consideration of my feeble health, my nearly eighty years, the retired course of my life from my youth, my ignorance of foreign languages, and my lack of experience in business, to let me die where I have so long lived. Since I know now and henceforth that his Holiness thinks kindly of me, what more can I desire?
'Right Rev. Father,
Your most devoted
JOHN H. NEWMAN


Bishop Ullathorne sent Newman's letter to Henry Cardinal Manning with his explanation of Newman's letter the next day:

St. Mary's College, Oscott, Birmingham: Feb. 3, 1879.
My dear Lord Cardinal,—Your kind letter, enclosing that of Cardinal Nina, gave me very great gratification. As I could not with any prudence go to Birmingham, I wrote and asked Dr. Newman if he could come to Oscott. But he was in bed suffering from a severe cold, and much pulled down. I, therefore, took advantage of a clause in Cardinal Nina's letter, and asked him to send a Father in his intimate confidence whom he might consult in a grave matter of importance, to whom I could communicate in secrecy the Holy Father's message. Father Pope was sent, and with him I went into the subject, and sent the documents with a paper in which I had written my own reflections. {441}

Dr. Newman contrived to come himself today, although quite feeble. He is profoundly and tenderly impressed with the goodness of the Holy Father towards him, and he spoke to me with great humility of what he conceived to be his disqualifications, especially at his age, for so great a position, and of his necessity to the Birmingham Oratory, which still requires his care.

I represented to him, as I had already done through Father Pope, that I felt confident that the one intention of the Holy Father was to confer upon him this signal proof of his confidence, and to give him an exalted position in the Church in token of the great services he had rendered to her cause, and that I felt confident also that his Holiness would not require his leaving the Oratory and taking a new position at his great age. But that if he would leave it to me, I would undertake to explain all to your Eminence, who would make the due explanations to Cardinal Nina.

Dr. Newman has far too humble and delicate a mind to dream of thinking or saying anything which would look like hinting at any kind of terms with the Sovereign Pontiff. He has expressed himself in a Latin letter addressed to me, which I could send to your Eminence, and which you could place in the hands of Cardinal Nina.

I think, however, that I ought to express my own sense of what Dr. Newman's dispositions are, and that it will be expected of me. As I have already said, Dr. Newman is most profoundly touched and moved by this very great mark of consideration on the part of the Sovereign Pontiff, and I am thoroughly confident that nothing stands in the way of his most grateful acceptance except what he tells me greatly distresses him, namely, the having to leave the Oratory at a critical period of its existence, and when it is just beginning to develop in new members, and the impossibility of his beginning a new life at his advanced age.'I cannot, however, but think myself that this is not the Holy Father's intention, and that His Holiness would consider his presence in England of importance, where he has been so much in communication with those who are in search of the Truth.

I have also said to Dr. Newman himself that I am confident that the noble Catholics of England would not leave him without the proper means for maintaining his dignity in a suitable manner.

Although expecting me to make the official communication, Dr. Newman will write to you himself. I remain, my dear Lord Cardinal, your faithful and affectionate servant,

WILLIAM BERNARD, Bp. of Birmingham.

But Cardinal Manning sent on just Newman's letter without his bishop's explanation. Word got out and the story was published in the London papers that Newman had turned down the Cardinal's hat! It took months to straighten it out. You may read all the letters and narrative of the confusion here and here. And then he had his portrait painted by Sir John Everett Millais, one of the great Pre-Raphaelites!

Pope Leo XIII referred to Newman as "my cardinal" and said that "It was not easy, not easy… They said he was too liberal; but I had determined to honour the Church in honouring Newman. I always had veneration for him. I am proud that I was allowed to honour such a man."

Candlemas and St. Anne Line


Please see my blog post for The National Catholic Register in which I first discuss the greatness of the Feast of the Presentation of Our Lord in the Temple and how that is partially obscured by the liturgical calendar using the term "Ordinary Time" for this period between Christmas and Lent.


Then I tell the story of St. Anne Line's arrest on February 2, 1601, just before Father Francis Page, SJ was beginning the celebration of the Feast with the blessing of candles and Mass. He was able to escape capture while she was held in Newgate Prison until her trial and execution later that month.


Now it's time to put away the creches and take down the greenery: the 40 days of Christmas are over and Lent is just a short month away. As Robert Herrick wrote:

DOWN with rosemary and bayes,
  Down with the mistleto,
Instead of holly, now up-raise
  The greener box, for show.
The holly hitherto did sway;        5
  Let box now domineere,
Until the dancing Easter-day,
  Or Easter’s eve appeare.
Then youthful box, which now hath grace
  Your houses to renew,        10
Grown old, surrender must his place
  Unto the crisped yew.
When yew is out, then birch comes in,
  And many flowers beside,
Both of a fresh and fragrant kinne        15
  To honor Whitsontide.
Green rushes then, and sweetest bents,
  With color oken boughs,
Come in for comely ornaments,
  To re-adorn the house.        20
Thus times do shift; each thing his turn does hold;
New things succeed as former things grow old.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Bishop Fox's Corpus Christi in Washington


The Wall Street Journal has a well-illustrated review of an upcoming exhibition of manuscripts and artifacts from the Corpus Christi Library in Oxford set to open at the Folger Library on February 4 (subscription required). The Folger Library website has this announcement:

Founded 500 years ago in 1517, Corpus Christi College, one of the oldest of the 38 self-governing colleges at the modern University of Oxford, is a repository of extraordinary treasures, few of which have ever been seen by the public. To mark its 500th anniversary, a selection of fifty manuscripts and early printed books from its celebrated Library, ranging in date from the 10th to the 17th centuries, is being brought to America for the first time.

Focusing on the first hundred years of the College’s existence, the exhibition introduces its Founder, Richard Fox, powerful Bishop of Winchester and adviser to Henry VII and Henry VIII, and its first President, John Claymond, who laid the foundations of the Library’s great collection. From the start, Corpus—the first Renaissance college at Oxford—was to pursue Humanist ideals of scholarship in three languages: not just Latin, but also Greek and Hebrew, the original languages of the Bible, along with such other subjects as Astronomy, Mathematics, Medicine, and Philosophy.

A series of display-cases present books in each of these languages, including a number that are bilingual and even trilingual. Most notable among them are a group that has been called "the most important collection of Anglo-Jewish manuscripts in the world"; these works of the 12th and 13th centuries include a series of volumes apparently commissioned by Christians from Jews, from which to learn Hebrew and study biblical texts in their original language, as well as the commentaries of Rashi and what is thought to be the oldest surviving Ashkenazi prayer book.

Highlighting Corpus’ role in the development of science and medicine at Oxford, the exhibition finishes with a series of ground-breaking works, from Galileo’s first observation of the moon using a telescope and Sir Isaac Newton’s autograph observations of Halley’s comet to Hooke’s observations of insects using a microscope and Vesalius’ studies of the human body.


Among the items on display will be Bishop Fox's crozier, shown in the photograph above in situ at Corpus Christi. Bishop Fox may have been more statesman than bishop, however, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica:

After receiving ordination into the priesthood Foxe became secretary in Paris to Henry Tudor, Earl of Richmond, an exiled claimant to the throne. On Richmond’s accession as King Henry VII, Foxe was made principal secretary of state and lord privy seal. He later became bishop of Exeter (1487–91), Bath and Wells (1491–94), Durham (1494–1501), and Winchester (1501–28).

Nevertheless, he neglected his ecclesiastical duties to concentrate on diplomacy. He negotiated the treaties and directed the diplomatic maneuvers that minimized the aid given by the Scots, the French, and the Dutch to rival claimants to Henry’s throne. In addition, he helped formulate and execute Henry’s ruthlessly efficient financial policies.

After Henry VII’s death in 1509 Foxe for a time remained in favour with the new ruler, Henry VIII. By 1511 he was, however, losing influence to Thomas Wolsey, who became Henry’s chief minister. Foxe resigned from the government in 1516 and—by then nearly blind—spent the last years of his life administering his diocese. His tomb in Winchester Cathedral, showing him as a wasted cadaver, is one of the most extraordinary of the period.

But The Wall Street Journal article's comments about Fox's intellectual vision for Corpus Christi, tied as it was to understanding the Holy Bible better through language arts, might indicate there was something more to Bishop Fox than politics:

Corpus Christi’s founder, Bishop Richard Fox, was a political fixture in Tudor-era England. (He served as a chief adviser to Henry VII and Henry VIII.) Part of the Renaissance spirit he envisioned for the college included a commitment to reading ancient texts, especially the Bible, in their original languages.

“There was this idea that the college would be a trilingual college, where Greek and Hebrew would be taught alongside Latin,” says the show’s curator, Peter Kidd. English scholars “realized that the only way to get back to the true meaning of the Bible was to find out what it said in Hebrew.”

Accordingly, the collection contains 13 rare Hebrew manuscripts, an extraordinary number for one library. A 12th-century prayer book once owned by a Sephardic Jew who traveled to England contains notes that use Hebrew characters to write Arabic words on the fly-leaves—the only such example from medieval England. A 13th-century book of psalms includes side-by-side Latin and Hebrew versions. The college’s scholars likely would have used these works, which will be part of the tour, to learn Hebrew.

This juxtaposition of judgments reminds me again how complex the past is and how careful we have to be in "labeling" a person (in the past or present).