Saturday, March 25, 2017

A Lady Mass by Nicholas Ludford for Henry and Katherine

The Vynes is a Tudor era house maintained by the National Trust. It's in Hampshire near Basingstoke and Henry VIII visited it, since it was the home of William Sandys, 1st Baron Sandys, one of his favorite courtiers.

The National Trust has organized an aural experience which recreates a sixteenth century celebration of Holy Mass:

An audio illusion that brings to life the sounds of a Tudor Lady Mass has been unveiled at The Vyne, where Henry VIII would have heard it almost 500 years ago. This unique National Trust soundscape immerses listeners in the prayers, chants, even movements of choristers and clergy.

You’ll hear the subtle change in volume of the priest’s voice as he turns from the altar, the clink of the thurible chain as incense is blessed, even the faint rustle of clothing. These details have been captured to enhance the sense of reality in The Vyne’s 16th-century chapel.

This is the first time a ‘soundscape’ of the Lady Mass – in honour of the Blessed Virgin Mary - has been created as Henry VIII would have known it. It features 16th-century composer Nicholas Ludford’s elaborate polyphonic music for boys’ voices.

Nicholas Ludford was a favorite composer of Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon, according to this website:

The Lady Masses are the sole contents of Royal Appendix MSS. 45-48, four very neat and accurately copied partbooks which have the arms of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon stamped on their leather covers. Since a manuscript devoted to a single composer's works is exceptional, one wonders if Ludford himself produced them as a gift to the royal couple. The presence of Catherine's arms as well as Henry's gives as the outside dates for the manuscript's production 1509, the year of the royal marriage, and 1533, the year of the divorce; but the latest probable date would be several years before 1533, because the two royal establishments were separate from 1531, and the divorce had been in Henry's mind since the late 1520s.

The Lady Masses constitute the only sizeable body of three-part church music surviving from sixteenth-century England. The scoring for treble, mean and countertenor, without use of the bass register, and the frequent presentation of cantus firmi in the lowest voice are traits as apparently old-fashioned as the choice of three parts itself, but the style and cadence practice of the Lady Masses are very much of the early sixteenth century; in particular imitation is often present, and there are occasional brief sequences. Much of Ludford's writing in the Lady Masses has a notable grace and fluency, with a fondness for movement in parallel thirds which is slightly more pronounced in his work than in that of other composers.

And Gramophone reviewed this recording of one of Ludford's Lady Masses:

Nicholas Ludford is one of the most intriguing of early Tudor composers, a healthy proportion of whose surviving work has made it to the discography. Somewhat surprisingly, though, none of his set of seven Lady Masses has so far been committed to disc as far as I know. This new recording fills a gap in the catalogue, then – indeed, it does rather more than that, for these three-voice works are subtly different in style from Ludford’s festal Masses, the polyphony less florid, though just as beguiling. Ludford set only alternative verses of the Mass sections, leaving the others to be sung in plainchant, but Ensemble Scandicus go one better here, setting some of these plainchant verses polyphonically in an improvised style known as ‘faburden’, at times stretching to three added voices. This practice, though well documented, is seldom attempted in modern-day recordings, so their initiative is particularly welcome, opening as it does a window on to a literally unsung aspect of early Renaissance polyphony.

Good Friday on March 25


One thing I did not explain in my post for March 25 in the National Catholic Register blog roll was the tradition that the Annunciation of Our Lord and Good Friday occurred on the same date, March 25. A Clerk of Oxford explained the tradition last year:

This year Good Friday falls on Lady Day, the feast of the Annunciation. This is a rare occurrence and a special one, because it means that for once the day falls on its 'true' date: in patristic and medieval tradition, March 25 was considered to be the historical date of the Crucifixion. It happens only a handful of times in a century, and won't occur again until 2157.

These days the church deals with such occasions by transferring the feast of the Annunciation to another day, but traditionally the conjunction of the two dates was considered to be both deliberate and profoundly meaningful. The date of the feast of the Annunciation was chosen to match the supposed historical date of the Crucifixion, as deduced from the Gospels, in order to underline the idea that Christ came into the world on the same day that he left it: his life formed a perfect circle. March 25 was both the first and the last day of his earthly life, the beginning and the completion of his work on earth. The idea goes back at least to the third century, and Augustine explained it in this way:
He is believed to have been conceived on the 25th of March, upon which day also he suffered; so the womb of the Virgin, in which he was conceived, where no one of mortals was begotten, corresponds to the new grave in which he was buried, wherein was never man laid, neither before him nor since.
This day was not only a conjunction of man-made calendars but also a meeting-place of solar, lunar, and natural cycles: both events were understood to have happened in the spring, when life returns to the earth, and at the vernal equinox, once the days begin to grow longer than the nights and light triumphs over the power of darkness. . . . 

As John Donne wrote when Good Friday did occur on March 25 in 1608, it brings the great theological mysteries of the Incarnation and the Passion together:

The abridgement of Christ’s story, which makes one
(As in plain maps, the furthest west is east)
Of the
Angels’ Ave and Consummatum est.

That's why the feast of St. Dismas is on March 25; his feast is on the date he entered into eternal life in Heaven, the traditional date of the Crucifixion. 

Image Credit: Saint John the Baptist, Annunciation, Crucifixion, and Saint Catherine of Alexandria, Francesc Comes, circa 1400, provenance unknown.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Preparing for March 25


As a public service to all Catholics interested in liturgical, sanctoral, historical, and literary events, the National Catholic Register will publish a blog post today about the significance of tomorrow, Saturday, March 25, and how to properly celebrate such a tremendous day. The post will appear here sometime during the day. I asked them to post it a day early to give readers some time to prepare!

What's so special about Saturday, March 25? We are celebrating, and should reflect on, these events:

I.   The Solemnity of the Annunciation of Our Lord

II.  The feasts of St. Dismas, the Good Thief, and of St. Margaret Clitherow, English martyr

III. The landing of the Ark and the Dove in Maryland, establishing an English colony that promoted religious tolerance and freedom

IV. Tolkien Reading Day

V.  The birth of Flannery O'Connor

My post offers background on each event and some suggestions for appropriate celebration: attending Mass, praying for religious freedom, reading The Lord of the Rings aloud, etc.

Regarding V., our Eighth Day Institute Sisters of Sophia met on Tuesday evening and enjoyed a great presentation on the life and work of Flannery O'Connor. In April, our heroine will be St. Mary Magdalen, my confirmation patron saint. 

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Variations on the Stations

So I was doing some research for a blog post for the National Catholic Register on the Stations of the Cross and how they've developed. The 14 Stations most of us see in our parish churches were fostered by the Franciscans in Spain during the 17th century. As the Catholic Encyclopedia notes, various popes helped with the spread of these Stations and devotion to the Way of the Cross:

Realizing that few persons, comparatively, were able to gain these by means of a personal pilgrimage to the Holy Land, Innocent XI, in 1686, granted to the Franciscans, in answer to their petition, the right to erect the Stations in all their churches, and declared that all the indulgences that had ever been given for devoutly visiting the actual scenes of Christ's Passion, could thenceforth be gained by Franciscans and all others affiliated to their order if they made the Way of the Cross in their own churches in the accustomed manner. Innocent XII confirmed the privilege in 1694 and Benedict XIII in 1726 extended it to all the faithful. In 1731 Clement XII still further extended it by permitting the indulgenced Stations to all churches, provided that they were erected by a Franciscan father with the sanction of the ordinary. At the same time he definitely fixed the number of Stations at fourteen. Benedict XIV in 1742 exhorted all priests to enrich their churches with so great a treasure, and there are few churches now without the Stations. In 1857 the bishops of England received faculties from the Holy See to erect Stations themselves, with the indulgences attached, wherever there were no Franciscans available, and in 1862 this last restriction was removed and the bishops were empowered to erect the Stations themselves, either personally or by delegate, anywhere within their jurisdiction.

The usual list of 14 stations, or stops along the Way of the Cross, combine scriptural and traditional events:

1. Christ condemned to death;
2. the cross is laid upon him;
3. His first fall;
4. He meets His Blessed Mother;
5. Simon of Cyrene is made to bear the cross;
6. Christ's face is wiped by Veronica;
7. His second fall;
8. He meets the women of Jerusalem;
9. His third fall;
10. He is stripped of His garments;
11. His crucifixion;
12. His death on the cross;
13. His body is taken down from the cross; and
14. laid in the tomb


Although that is not the usual wording for some of the stations. There has been a desire for more scriptural stations, without the  traditional events--Stations which can be connected with definite events in the Gospel accounts. Pope St. John Paul II used a different set of stations in 1991 and then Pope Benedict XVI approved them for public use:

1. Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane
2. Jesus is betrayed by Judas and arrested
3. Jesus is condemned by the Sanhedrin
4. Jesus is denied by Peter
5. Jesus is judged by Pilate
6. Jesus is scourged and crowned with thorns
7. Jesus takes up his cross
8. Jesus is helped by Simon of Cyrene to carry his cross
9. Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem
10. Jesus is crucified
11. Jesus promises his kingdom to the repentant thief
12. Jesus entrusts Mary and John to each other
13. Jesus dies on the cross
14. Jesus is laid in the tomb

Reading that list, I realized that I had seen Stations of the Cross like that before--in Paris, in the church of St. Roch in the First Arrondisement! I had taken pictures of two of them, the second and the third stations:


The second Station shows Judas embracing Jesus and preparing to betray Him with a kiss while the Apostles are startled on the right and the guards are carrying weapons and torches on the left.


The third Station shows Jesus before Caiaphas. I have not been able to find out, and wasn't able to in 2006 when I first visited Saint Roch, why this church had a different set of Stations. They are not exactly the same as the Scriptural Way of the Cross presented by John Paul II, but they are different than the traditional 14 Stations!

St. Roch is a huge Baroque style church filled with art; you may see more examples here.

If anyone knows more about these stations, and why they are different, please let me know by leaving a comment below. The parish does have Stations of the Cross on Good Friday, so the devotional for those prayers may exist somewhere but I have not found it!

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Silence of St. Nicholas Owen


St. Nicholas Owen, SJ, the Jesuit lay brother and carpenter extraordinaire, died under torture on March 22, 1606. The Jesuits in Britain website notes this about him:

Many of the martyrs of England died very public deaths on the scaffold of Tyburn, but Nicholas died as he had lived; in secret. We have no memorable saying of his to meditate on – his priest holes, which are his wordless prayers, are all that remain. Nicholas in his agonised, furtive death had finished with all concealment and disguises and was welcomed by Campion and all the martyrs into a fellowship where there is no use for human language.

We do, however, have the record of what he said under torture in 1606:

He confesses that he has known and sometimes attended Henry Garnett, the Provincial of the Jesuits for around four years.

He confesses that he was at the house of Thomas Throgmorton called Coughton at the beginning of November last year, when the Lady Digby was there and by the watch that was in town they knew that Robert Catesby, Thomas Percy, and the rest of the gun powder plotters were up in arms.

That on All Saints Day last year, Garnett said Mass at Coughton House, and that at that Mass there were around half a dozen people.

That Henry Garnett was at Henlipp, the house of Thomas Abington some six weeks before he was apprehended and Hall the Jesuit was there about three days before the house of Mr Abington was searched.

That while he was staying with Garnett, he made his fire and served him and that both he and Garnett hid in a secret room below the dining room.


As the Jesuit website notes:

There was no new information in these confessions and the authorities lost patience. The tortures became more violent and on the next day, despite a plate they had fitted around Nicholas to prevent the torture further damaging his pre-existing injuries, Nicholas died, quite literally broken apart by the torture.

The authorities were now in an awkward position. Not only had they been torturing illegally an already injured man, but they had murdered him before extracting a confession. A cover up was swiftly arranged with an inquest returning a verdict of suicide.


The cover up was as bad as the crime.

There is no portrait of St. Nicolas Owen, but on this other page at the Jesuits in Britain website there is a depiction of him, the other Jesuit brother captured, tortured, and martyred, Blessed Ralph Ashley, and Father Henry Garnet, who was also captured tortured and martyred along with Blessed Edward Oldcorne, but has never been beatified or canonized because of concern about his involvement with the Gunpowder Plot. All four of them were arrested at Hindlip Hall on January 23, 1606. They were all hiding in the priest holes St. Nicholas Owen had created, but were without food and water and had to surrender--the pursuivants had not found the hiding places Owen had built!

St. Nicholas Owen, pray for us!

Image credit: the original Hindlip Hall.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Blesseds Pilchard, Pike, and Flathers at Dorchester and York


Both of these priestly martyrs had been arrested and banished, but returned to England and suffered martyrdom when arrested again, one during the reign of Elizabeth I and the other during the reign of James I.

The Catholic Encyclopedia describes the life and death of Blessed Thomas Pilchard or Pilcher, incuding among the 85 Martyrs of England and Wales beatified by Blessed John Paul II in 1987:

He was born at Battle, Sussex, 1557; died at Dorchester, 21 March 1586-7. He became a Fellow of Balliol College, Oxford, in 1576, and took the degree of M.A., in 1579, resigning his fellowship the following year. He arrived at Reims 20 November, 1581, and was ordained priest at Laon, March, 1583, and was sent on the mission. He was arrested soon after, and banished; but returned almost immediately. He was again arrested early in March, 1586-7, and imprisoned in Dorchester Gaol, and in the fortnight between committal to prison and condemnation converted thirty persons. He was so cruelly drawn upon the hurdle that he was fainting when he came to the place of execution. When the rope was cut, being still alive he stood erect under the scaffold. The executioner, a cook, carried out the sentence so clumsily that the victim, turning to the sheriff, exclaimed "Is this then your justice, Mr. Sheriff?" According to another account "the priest raised himself and putting out his hands cast forward his own bowels, crying 'Miserere mei'". Father William Warford, a contemporary of Blessed Thomas Pilchard, says: "There was not a priest in the whole West of England, who, to my knowledge, was his equal in virtue."

He is honored at the Dorset Martyrs Memorial on Gallows Hill, Dorchester, which includes Blessed William Pyke or Pike, a layman reconciled to the Catholic Church by Blessed Thomas Pilchard. Some sources give his date of execution at December 22, 1591 but others say that the date is uncertain and so he is remembered with his confessor. He was also hanged, drawn, and quartered because he had converted to Catholicism, which was an act of treason. He also answered the Bloody Question incorrectly according to authorities, denying Elizabeth I's ecclesiastical authority. He was a joiner, or carpenter, and was resolute.

The Catholic Encyclopedia records another brutal execution on March 21, in 1607, of Blessed Matthew Flathers in York:

An English priest and martyr; b. probably c. 1580 at Weston, Yorkshire, England; d. at York, 21 March, 1607. He was educated at Douai, and ordained at Arras, 25 March, 1606. Three months later he was sent to English mission, but was discovered almost immediately by the emissaries of the Government, who, after the Gunpowder Plot, had redoubled their vigilance in hunting down the priests of the proscribed religion. He was brought to trial, under the statute of 27 Elizabeth, on the charge of receiving orders abroad, and condemned to death. By an act of unusual clemency, this sentence was commuted to banishment for life; but after a brief exile, the undaunted priest returned to England in order to fulfil his mission, and, after ministering for a short time to his oppressed coreligionists in Yorkshire was again apprehended. Brought to trial at York on the charge of being ordained abroad and exercising priestly functions in England, Flathers was offered his life on condition that he take the recently enacted Oath of Allegiance. On his refusal, he was condemned to death and taken to the common place of execution outside Micklegate Bar, York. The usual punishment of hanging, drawing, and quartering seems to have been carried out in a peculiarly brutal manner, and eyewitnesses relate how the tragic spectacle excited the commiseration of the crowds of Protestant spectators.

He was also included among the 85 Martyrs of England and Wales beatified in 1987. Our Lady and All Saints Catholic Church in Otley honors him as a local martyr.

Remember that hanging, drawing and quartering was live vivisection: a fumbling, inept executioner could prolong the suffering. It was a mercy if the hangman allowed the victim to die while hanging, or at least be unconscious.

Image credit: © Copyright Becky Williamson and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence. Martyrs' Memorial, Gallows Hill, Dorchester, taken 2 years ago
This memorial was erected in 1986 to commemorate all Dorset men and women who were martyred for their faith, particularly during the religious troubles of the 16th and 17th centuries. 

The artist who created the sculptures was Elizabeth Frink.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Pope Clement XI, RIP

Pope Clement XI, born Giovanni Francesco Albani on the 23rd of July in 1639, died on the 19th of March in 1721. His papacy began on the 23rd of November in 1700. I think we would call him a "good pope": he tried to foster peace, avoid corruption, and contribute to the beauty of Rome, particularly the Basilica of St. John Lateran. To him is attributed the Universal Prayer, a favorite devotion of Pope St. John XIII:

My God, I believe in You; strengthen my faith. All my hopes are in You; secure them. I love You; teach me to love you daily more and more. I am sorry that I have offended You; increase my sorrow.

I adore you as the Author of my first beginning. I aspire after you as my last end. I give you thanks as my constant Benefactor, I call upon you as my sovereign Protector.

My God, be pleased to conduct me by your wisdom; to restrain me by the thought of Your justice; to comfort me by Your mercy; to defend me by Your power.

To You I desire to consecrate all my thoughts, words, deeds, and suffering, that henceforth I may think of you, speak of you, refer all my actions to You greater glory, and suffer willingly whatever You shall appoint.

Lord, I desire that in all things Your Will be done, because it is Your Will, and I desire that all things be done in the manner that You will them.

Grant that I may always esteem whatsoever is pleasing to You, despise what You abhor, avoid what You forbid, and do what you command.

I beg You to enlighten my understanding, to inflame my will, to purify my body, and to sanctify my soul.

My God, give me strength to atone for my sins, to overcome my temptations, to subdue my passions, and to acquire the virtues proper to my state of life.

Fill my heart with tender affection for Your goodness, hatred of my faults, love of my neighbor, and contempt of the world. May Your grace help me to be obedient to my superiors, kind and courteous to my inferiors, faithful to my friends, and charitable to my enemies.

Assist me to overcome sensuality by self-sacrifice, avarice by almsdeeds, anger by meekness, and carelessness by devotion. My God, make me prudent in my undertakings, courageous in danger, patient in trials, and humble in success.

Grant that I may be ever attentive at my prayers, temperate at my meals, diligent in my work, and faithful in my good resolutions.

Let my conscience be ever upright and pure, my behavior modest, my conversation kind, and my actions edifying.

Assist me that I may continually strive to overcome the evil inclinations of my nature, to cooperate with Your grace, to keep Your commandments, and to work out my salvation.

My God, make me realize the nothingness of this world, the greatness of heaven, the shortness of time, and the length of eternity.

Grant that I may prepare for death; that I may fear Your judgment; that I may escape hell and in the end obtain heaven. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

His connection to the English Reformation and its aftermath comes in that he canonized Pope Pius V, author of the Bull that excommunicated Elizabeth I and, as the Catholic Encyclopedia sums up his life:

He gave a generous hospitality to the exiled son of James II of England, James Edward Stuart, and helped him to obtain the hand of Clementina, John Sobieski's accomplished granddaughter, mother of Charles Edward.

Clement's pastoral vigilance was felt in every corner of the earth. He organized the Church in the Philippine Islands and sent missionaries to every distant spot. He erected Lisbon into a patriarchate, 7 December, 1716. He enriched the Vatican Library with the manuscript treasures gathered at the expense of the pope by Joseph Simeon Assemani in his researches throughout Egypt and Syria. In the unfortunate controversy between the Dominican and the Jesuit missionaries in China concerning the permissibility of certain rites and customs, Clement decided in favour of the former. When the Jansenists provoked a new collision with the Church under the leadership of Quesnel, Pope Clement issued his two memorable Constitutions, "Vineam Domini", 16 July, 1705, and "Unigenitus", 10 September, 1713 (see UNIGENITUS; VINEAM DOMINI; JANSENISM). Clement XI made the feast of the Conception of the B.V.M. a Holy Day of obligation, and canonized Pius V, Andrew of Avellino, Felix of Cantalice, and Catherine of Bologna.

This great and saintly pontiff died appropriately on the feast of St. Joseph, for whom he entertained a particular devotion, and in whose honour he composed the special Office found in the Breviary. His remains rest in St. Peter's. His official acts, letters, and Briefs, also his homilies, were collected and published by his nephew, Cardinal Annibale Albani (2 vols., Rome, 1722-24).

Re: Jansenism. I just finished reading Eamon Duffy's Reformation Divided--a review in an international journal will be forthcoming--and one of the chapters in that collection of essays is an exploration of how Jansenism contributed to the ongoing conflict among the missionary priests between the seculars and the orders (especially Jesuit and Benedictine) on how best to serve Catholics in England during the recusant era and the eighteenth century.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Three Things for Friday

Happy St. Patrick's Day! The real St. Patrick, bishop and evangelist, was not focused on green beer, corned beef and cabbage, parades, and just being Irish. He was focused on Jesus Christ:

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through a belief in the Threeness,
Through confession of the Oneness
Of the Creator of creation.

I arise today
Through the strength of Christ's birth and His baptism,
Through the strength of His crucifixion and His burial,
Through the strength of His resurrection and His ascension,
Through the strength of His descent for the judgment of doom. . . .


Christ with me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me,
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right,
Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down,
Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

When Blessed John Henry Newman paid tribute in The Idea of the University to how much Catholics in England and Ireland owed to the care of the various popes--since it was Pope Pius IX who was encouraging the foundation of a Catholic University of Ireland--he highlighted St. Patrick's achievement:

I cannot forget how it was from Rome that the glorious St. Patrick was sent to Ireland, and did a work so great that he could not have a successor in it, the sanctity and learning and zeal and charity which followed on his death being but the result of the one impulse which he gave. I cannot forget how, in no long time, under the fostering breath of the Vicar of Christ, a country of heathen superstitions became the very wonder and asylum of all people,—the wonder by reason of its knowledge, sacred and profane, and the asylum of religion, literature and science, when chased away from the continent by the barbarian invaders. I recollect its hospitality, freely accorded to the pilgrim; its volumes munificently presented to the foreign student; and the prayers, the blessings, the holy rites, the solemn chants, which sanctified the while both giver and receiver.

St, Patrick, pray for us!


Also, I wanted to let you know that my review of God's Traitors: Terror and Faith in Elizabethan England (by Jessie Childs) was published in the March/April 2017 issue of the Saint Austin Review. The cover is a beautiful painting of the Crucifixion by Philippe de Champaigne, the 17th century French artist and portraitist.

And, my latest for the National Catholic Register blog roll is on the use of Latin in Latin Rite English Masses during Lent!

Thursday, March 16, 2017

The Merton College Choir at St. Peter's

From Vatican Radio, describing the Anglican Choral Evensong celebrated on Monday, March 13 in Rome:

An ecumenical milestone was marked in the Vatican on Monday as a traditional Anglican Choral Evensong was celebrated for the first time in St Peter’s Basilica.

Cardinal Angelo Comastri, Archpriest of the Basilica, gave permission for the historic event during meetings with Archbishop David Moxon, Director of the Anglican Centre in Rome.

The renowned choir of Merton College, Oxford came to sing music written at the time of the Reformation, as well as contemporary compositions and well-loved Anglican hymns. . . .

Specifically, the choir sang works by William Byrd and used an historical Book of Common Prayer service:

Music by the great English composer William Byrd filled the basilica, as well as some more contemporary works, while the words of the liturgy and readings were those of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer.

The Anglican News website points out that this musical exchange began with Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI:

Merton College Choir followed in the footsteps of Westminster Abbey choir, which has sung previously in Rome with the choir of the Sistine Chapel – a collaboration that has grown out of closer ties between the two traditions, in particular following Pope Benedict XV1’s (sic) visit to London in September 2010.

The date was selected to be closest to the date of Pope St. Gregory the Great's original feast day of March 12, the date of his death in 604. Because that date so often falls in Lent, his feast was moved to September 3, the date of his episcopal consecration in 590. After Evensong, there was a procession to the tomb of St. Gregory. Of course, St. Gregory sent St. Augustine of Canterbury to Kent in 597.

Pope St. Gregory the Great, pray for us! St. Augustine of Canterbury, pray for us!

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

From The Reformation to the Present Day


AN Wilson reviews Roy Hattersley's The Catholics: The Church and its People in Britain and Ireland, from the Reformation to the Present Day for The Catholic Herald:

So, Hattersley starts with two advantages. One is his own personal involvement with the subject. The second is the fact that this is a history with a beginning and an end. The Church he is describing, and the story which begins with the heroism of the recusants in Tudor times and takes in the romance of Jacobitism and the coming of the 19th century, has really come to an end. Of course, the Church itself has not come to an end – there is still a pope, there are still sacraments and saints. But Catholics really are – more or less – like everyone else. One senses Hattersley’s wistful sadness at this.

He devotes far more time to English recusant and penal times than he does to the 19th century or the modern Church. The story starts with the sacrifice of the martyrs. A gentle intelligence, Hattersley prefers the self-deprecating scholar Fisher to the “celebrity” More, but sees how absolutely key their martyrdom was in inspiring the Catholics to remain true to their faith. His account of the arrest and execution of Campion is haunting. He does not echo the late Auberon Waugh, who called annually upon the pope to canonise Guy Fawkes; but then Hattersley is a distinguished parliamentarian. The martyrdom of Oliver Plunkett in 1681 is told in a way that makes you ashamed to be English.

The dukes of Norfolk do not get much of a look-in to Hattersley’s story. But the 18th century is explored with a pleasing combination of sensitivity and gusto: Bishop Challoner, “the Forty-five” and the Gordon Riots. Was this English Catholicism’s Golden Age?

To put it another way, was the 19th century, seemingly a season of the famous Second Spring, actually sowing the seeds of modern British Catholics’ problems? Wiseman is affectionately evoked here, but did he do the Catholics any favours by setting up an elaborate system of dioceses and (quite often rather cruddy) cathedrals?


Please read the rest there. From the publisher:

The story of Catholicism in Britain from the Reformation to the present day, from a master of popular history - 'a first-class storyteller' The Times

Throughout the three hundred years that followed the Act of Supremacy – which, by making Henry VIII head of the Church, confirmed in law the breach with Rome – English Catholics were prosecuted, persecuted and penalised for the public expression of their faith. Even after the passing of the emancipation acts Catholics were still the victims of institutionalised discrimination.

The first book to tell the story of the Catholics in Britain in a single volume,
The Catholics includes much previously unpublished information. It focuses on the lives, and sometimes deaths, of individual Catholics – martyrs and apostates, priests and laymen, converts and recusants. It tells the story of the men and women who faced the dangers and difficulties of being what their enemies still call ‘Papists’. It describes the laws which circumscribed their lives, the political tensions which influenced their position within an essentially Anglican nation and the changes in dogma and liturgy by which Rome increasingly alienated their Protestant neighbours – and sometime even tested the loyalty of faithful Catholics.

The survival of Catholicism in Britain is the triumph of more than simple faith. It is the victory of moral and spiritual unbending certainty. Catholicism survives because it does not compromise. It is a characteristic that excites admiration in even a hardened atheist.


I browsed the Kindle sample was not as impressed as Wilson by Hattersley's "bona fides"--his personal connections to the Church are weak and confused. He does seem to admire the Church rather in spite of himself and the harshness and rigidity he sees in the Church. Hattersley seems to accept that lack of compromise and the "spiritual unbending certainty" as the source of strength for the Catholic martyrs of England and the Church through the centuries. Since he is an atheist--"a hardened atheist" he recognizes the strength he values in himself as the source of the Church's survival. It also means that he cannot be accused of special pleading. If I received a review copy of this book I'd be interested in reading it as a Catholic looking from the outside in, when I am usually looking at Church history from the inside in. The perspective is intriguing.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Music and History: 1554-1555


From Gallicantus and Gabriel Crouch comes another historically themed CD of music at the Court during Queen Mary I's phantom pregnancy of 1554-1555:

Long-awaited news of a Tudor royal birth winged its way to London on 30 April 1555. A male heir had been born: a pledge of dynastic fertility after decades of royal stillbirths, miscarriages and marital misadventures. This was surely a sign of God’s pleasure with Mary I (1516-1558) and a vindication of her mission to restore Catholic religion, reverse the doctrinal experiments of the previous two decades, and return England to its historic place in Europe. The bells of London accordingly rang out while Te Deum laudamus, the traditional hymn of thanksgiving, was sung by the city’s choirs.

The festivities came to an abrupt end on 1 May. Yesterday’s news had been a mere rumour: there was to be no royal birth, not yet at least. ‘It turned out otherwise to the pleasure of God’, wrote the merchant-tailor Henry Machyn, assuring himself that the birth would happen ‘whenever it pleases God’. At thirty-nine years old Queen Mary was superannuated by sixteenth-century obstetric standards, but her pregnancy was generally deemed credible and she had not yet come to term by 1 May. The summer months drew on, but still no news. Long after the original due date, Mary eventually gave up hope, withdrawing from Hampton Court to Oatlands Palace in the first days of August.

There would be no apotheosis in 1555, but it had been tantalizingly imminent. This disc explores the musical traces of an extraordinary year of hopes raised and dashed. The music performed here resonates with the circumstances of the mid-1550s, even if some of the items were composed outside Mary’s own reign; some pieces stemmed from the royal ceremonies in which Mary participated as queen; and some of the music sung here can be directly tied to the specific events of 1554-5, including a newly-reconstructed Litany which was performed during Mary’s assumed pregnancy. The viewpoint shifts from the streets of London and its suburbs, through the ceremonial grandeur of the royal palaces and their chapels, to the intimacy of the queen’s birthing chamber.

You may listen to samples here and read the entire booklet here. Several of the compositions are by John Sheppard, and Hyperion offers this biography:

John Sheppard (c1515–1558) is thought to have been a chorister at St Paul’s Cathedral in or around 1530, although information supporting this theory has proved difficult to come by. By Michaelmas 1543 he is known to have been Informator Choristarum (director of music) at Magdalen College Oxford, where he is reputed to have blotted his copybook through various misdeeds. On further investigation, this mistaken allegation has arisen from a misreading of the college’s records: it was Richard Sheppar (and not Sheppard) who was the culprit. Sheppard later appears in the records of the Chapel Royal (from 1547).

Sadly, much of Sheppard’s music has been lost. His compositions survive in partbooks at Christ Church Oxford, and testify to the elaborate style of church music from the reign of Mary Tudor (1553–1558). . . .
 

He is best known today for his Media Vita ("In the midst of life"), an appropriate antiphon for Lent.

Monday, March 13, 2017

A Hymn for Lent from Herebert


Eleanor Parker--the medievalist and blogger, not the actress--writes for The Catholic Herald about William Herebert of Oxford and his hymn translations:

Herebert’s name is not well known today, but his poems, beautiful and distinctive in their own right, also represent an important milestone for English Catholicism: he was one of the first people to turn the Latin hymns of the Church into English poetry.

We don’t have many details about Herebert’s life, but he was probably born in Herefordshire around 1270. He was educated at the universities of Paris and Oxford, where his contemporaries included Duns Scotus and William of Ockham, and in 1317 he became master of the Franciscan house in Oxford.

He was evidently a learned man, and his poems show that he gave careful thought to the difficult question of how best to express complex religious ideas in his own language.

Herebert’s poems survive in a manuscript book written in his own hand, noted down along with his Latin sermons and other texts useful for the medieval preacher. There are 23 short poems, arranged roughly according to the cycle of the liturgical year. Some are original compositions, but most are translations or reworkings of Latin or French texts, freely adapted into English. They include the first English verse translations of some well-known hymns, such as Veni Creator Spiritus and the Palm Sunday hymn All glory, laud and honour.


You could go to her blog, A Clerk of Oxford, and see several posts about William Herebert, including this one about a Lenten hymn:

This is a Middle English translation of the Lent hymn 'Audi, benigne Conditor', by the Franciscan friar William Herebert (c.1270-1333):

Lustne, mylde Wrouhte, oure bones wyth wepinge
In þys holy uastinge, vourti dawes lestynge.
Holy secher of monnes þouht, þou wost oure brotelnesse;
To hem þat beth yturnd to þe graunte vorȝyfnesse.
Meche, vorsoht, we habbeht agult; vorȝyf hem þat knoulecheth.
To worshype of þyn oune nome, to sunvol mon be leche.
Graunte ous pyne wyþouteuorth þe body wyth vastinge,
Þat oure gost wyþynneuorth veste vrom sunnynge.
Graunte ous, Holy Trinite, þat in Godhede art on,
Þat þe ȝyft of leyntes vast notfol boe to mon. Amen.

That is:

Hear, merciful Creator, our prayers with weeping
In this holy fasting, forty days lasting.
Holy searcher of man’s thought, thou knowest our brittleness; [frailty]
To them who are turned towards thee, grant forgiveness.
Much, truly, we have sinned; forgive them that acknowledge it.
For the honour of thine own name, be physician to sinful man.
Grant us so to mortify the body outwardly with fasting
That our souls inwardly may fast from sinning.
Grant us, Holy Trinity, who in Godhead art one,
That the gift of Lent’s fast may be beneficial to man. Amen.


Please read the rest there. She posts about her Catholic Herald article here, and promises more poems and hymns from William Herebert!

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Lenten Posts: Saints and the Rosary


I haven't kept you up to date on my posts at the National Catholic Register (unless you've been clicking on the Other Publications tab and finding them yourself). Last Monday (March 6), they posted my reflection on the liturgical calendar, especially how the saints's feast days are effected during Lent:

Except for St. Joseph’s, all of the feasts of the saints during the 40 days of Lent are demoted to Commemorations—even St. Patrick’s (outside of Ireland, where it is a Holyday of Obligation). St. Joseph is so special that his feast is a Solemnity, and since March 19 is the Third Sunday of Lent in 2017, his feast has been moved to Monday, March 20. Otherwise, the penitential season of Lent takes precedence over the feasts of the saints. We often refer to a saint’s “feast” day even though the Church has a hierarchy to honor the saints, Our Lady, and especially Our Lord, in different ways. We might be tempted to think that it doesn’t matter, but the Church has reasons for these distinctions. . . .

Violet and White

The USCCB issues a liturgical calendar each year with notes about the adjustments made because of the date of Easter or just how dates fall on the Gregorian calendar vis-à-vis the Liturgical and Sanctoral calendars. When you look at the months of March and April this year until Palm Sunday, the liturgical color designated is Violet nearly every day, except for White on March 20 and March 25 (and the option of Rose on the Fourth Sunday of Lent). Looking at the calendar page in the March issue of Magnificat, you see the words Lenten Weekday predominating with the commemoration of the saints relegated to italics in the righthand column. During Mass for those Lenten Weekdays when there is a saint to be commemorated only the Collect for the saint will be used and the prayers and readings will be for the season.

Please read the rest there--and share if you like!

Just in time for the Second Sunday of Lent with the Transfiguration of Christ as the Gospel, the Register has published my post on praying the Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary during Lent:

When Pope St. John Paul II introduced the Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary in 2002, there’s no indication that he saw them as Lenten devotions. He proposed them in an Apostolic Letter on Oct. 10 that year “to bring out fully the Christological depth of the Rosary” by including “the mysteries of Christ's public ministry between his Baptism and his Passion”. In the almost 15 years since their introduction, the Luminous Mysteries have been included in most Rosary devotionals and meditation aids.

Some have resisted the option to use these mysteries for various reasons, some of which Pope John Paul anticipated in his letter: Mary, the Mother of God, is absent in all but one of the mysteries (the second); the addition of five more mysteries breaks the linkage between the 150 Aves and the 150 Psalms, and one of the mysteries is termed hard to meditate upon (the third). The five Luminous Mysteries are: 1) The Baptism of Jesus; 2) The Marriage Feast of Cana; 3) The Proclamation of the Kingdom; 4) The Transfiguration; 5) The Institution of the Eucharist. Pope St. John Paul II provided some guidance for meditation on each of these mysteries in his Apostolic Letter, noting that “we contemplate important aspects of the person of Christ as the definitive revelation of God” because “each of these mysteries is a revelation of the Kingdom now present in the very person of Jesus”.

A Luminous Lent


For Lent this year, I decided to alternate between the Luminous Mysteries and the Sorrowful Mysteries, starting on Ash Wednesday with the Sorrowful. Each of the Luminous Mysteries lends itself to a Lenten interpretation.

Please read the rest there--and Happy Transfiguration Sunday! The illustration is Carl Heinrich Bloch's (1834-1890), “The Transfiguration of Christ” from the Register post.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

The Martyr's Beads II: Blessed Thomas Atkinson

Coming the day after St. John Ogilvie's feast, and with another connection to the Rosary, I wanted to highlight Blessed Thomas Atkinson, who was executed on March 11, 1616 in York. He was 70 years old and had been serving in England as a missionary priest since 1588:

Thomas Atkinson, of Yorkshire, England, studied for the priesthood in Reims, France, where he was subsequently ordained in 1588 around the age of forty-two. Returning to England, he traveled about on foot to minister to his fellow Catholics, becoming a special friend of the poor among them. It was only after breaking a leg that the indefatigable priest resorted to traveling by horse instead. His labors in the service of persecuted Catholics became so well known that, to escape arrest by the Protestant authorities, he could only journey safely by night. In the end, he was betrayed by an informer and captured while staying at the home of a Catholic family. Then about seventy, Father Atkinson was led to prison together with the couple that had hosted him, and their children. The “incriminating evidence” found by the government officials in the priest’s possession consisted of Rosary beads and the text of an indulgence. Condemned to death by drawing and quartering, Father Atkinson is said to have faced death “with wonderful patience, courage, and constancy, and signs of great comfort.”

As Nathan Mitchell notes in The Mystery of the Rosary: Marian Devotion and the Reinvention of Catholicism, the Rosary--the beads of the Rosary--had become a marker "of recusant Catholic identity" and the beads "embodied what it meant to be a practicing Catholic in a time of religious strife and persecution." (p.5) Of course, one does not have to have a set of Rosary beans in hand to pray the Rosary and meditate on the life of Jesus and His Mother, one could use one's fingers! Father Atkinson's possession of an indulgence, which might have been--I don't find this detail in the sources I've looked--a papal document, would have been even more condemning for the court. In his book, Champions of the Rosary, Father Donald Calloway mentions that Father Atkinson was encouraging enrollment in the Confraternity of the Rosary and the the indulgence document he possessed gave details of indulgences obtained by praying the Rosary. Sources I've found also do not indicate whether or not Father Atkinson was offered James I's Oath of Allegiance.

Father Atkinson was beatified by Pope Saint John Paul II in 1987 as one of the Eight-five Martyrs of England and Wales. Obviously, as he had served his Catholic flock quietly for almost three decades he was no danger to the state. But he was captured during a period of James I's reign when fear of Catholicism was heightened and the Archbishop of Canterbury, George Abbott, was much in favor of persecuting Catholic priests. I also could not discover what happened to the family arrested with him. They may have been held in prison for some time, but James I did not want to make martyrs of lay people. Except for at the beginning of his reign in the transition from Elizabeth I, laymen or women who aided priests were not executed as often as they were during Elizabeth I's reign. They were fined and imprisoned, but not executed.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Henri Daniel-Rops: A Fight for God

I am reading A Fight for God: 1870-1939 by Henri Daniel-Rops. First he sets out all the dangers to the Catholic Church in that period: atheism, Communism, revolution, secularization, and interference by the State in Church administration (Bismarck's Kulturkampf, etc). Then he examines the personalities and characteristics of the four popes who confronted these problems and others: Pope Leo XIII, Pope Pius X, Pope Benedict XV, and Pope Pius XI. I've read those parts of the book and his history of Pope Leo XIII's reign. I'm reading about Pope Pius X now. This is the penultimate book in his ten volume series on Church History.

Henri Daniel-Rops described his career thus:

Perhaps this is a good time to explain how it happened that while I was an essayist and novelist up to 1939, I then found myself orientated in an entirely new direction, that of religious history. Here again, it was a providential introduction to someone that changed the course of my writing career. In January of 1941, a friend of mine, the historian Octave Aubry, asked me if I would care to write a volume of history for a series he was editing. From the outset I was very interested, but I was uncertain what subject I should choose. This was at the time when the Nazis had forced the Jews to wear the yellow star to distinguish them from the other races. That had made me very angry, especially when I thought of all the Jews who were my friends. And so my answer to Octave Aubry was: "I accept, on condition that I may write a history of Israel." He immediately agreed to my choice of subject.

I must say here that I had long regretted the fact that in our schools we study the Greek and Roman classics but neglect the important if not basic classic of our western civilization, the Bible. At last I was offered the opportunity of making an extensive study of it. And so I wrote
l'Histoire Saints (Sacred History). It was published in Paris on July 1, 1943, just twenty days before the Nazis arrived, when it was immediately confiscated by the Gestapo and the plates destroyed, without doubt because Hitler recognized himself in Nabuchodonosor!

From that time on, this historical series became my constant preoccupation. Begun on January 19, 1941--on my fortieth birthday--this series is still in progress and, God willing, it will continue for at least five more years. If anyone had mentioned to me in the beginning that I would write seven thousand pages, there is no doubt in my mind that I would have hesitated to undertake such a task. But, as I said, it was Providence that prompted me; one is guided thus.

Preoccupation, did I say . . . . After
l'Histoire Sainte came Jesus et Son Temps, the success of which greatly Surprised me: actually in France alone 400,000 copies have been sold mid the work has been translated into fourteen languages.

Having written of Jesus, was it possible not to be moved to write of the work born of the Son of God and which is His visible sign upon earth, the Church? And so
L'Histoire de I'Eglise du Christ came slowly into being. Without being too egotistical, may I say that the response which I have received for this work has been most encouraging for me in the long and arduous writing of the series. I would like at this time to especially acknowledge the kindness of the late Pope Pius XII who often asked me about my writing and who was most generous in counseling me, and also His Holiness Pope John XXIII who likewise conferred a papal honor upon me.

Let me repeat that I am enthused with my work as well as completely immersed in it. In my future there was to be a little book,
Missa Est. Under the title of This is the Mass, thanks to the promotion of my American publisher, Hawthorn Books, and the kindly cooperation of the Most Reverend Bishop Fulton Sheen, it has also been very well received.

And there was to come the founding of my monthly review,
Ecclesia [similar to The Catholic Digest] in 1949 and so now is more than twelve years old. There was to come, too, L 'Encyclopedie du Catholique au XXeme siècle (The Twentieth Century Encyclopedia of Catholicism), "Je sais, Je crois." For me to conceive, to organize and to launch this last work fulfilled one of my highest ambitions.

And so you see the apple tree continues to produce its apples. Of what value are these apples it is not for the tree to say. But how can one do other, dear God, than try to produce good fruit, keeping in mind the fig tree of the Gospels which, when it was found to be barren, was fit only to be cast into the fire?

But I have already spoken too long about myself. Nevertheless this backward glance, which I have been asked to make, has enabled me to take stock of what I have tried to do. And I feel that my work will not have been in vain if the reader, after pouring over so many pages, will find in them just one sentence which will influence him for eternity, one sentence which will move him to forgive and forget all that is worthless in them and so destined to disappear some day one sentence which will send him back to the words of the Evangelist who summed it all up: 'To whom shall we go, Lord? You alone have the words of eternal life."

More about Daniel-Rops and his popularity in mid-twentieth century Catholic France here. In the USA, his series on Church history was published by Dent Dutton in hardcover and then by Doubleday Image in paperback.

Don't Forget: St. Ogilvie on EWTN Radio!

If you listen to EWTN Radio early in the morning, the Son Rise Morning Show has an hour broadcast from 5:00 to 6:00 a.m. Central time/6:00 to 7:00 a.m. Eastern! The Son Rise Morning Show will include my segment with Anna Mitchell to tell the story of St. John Ogilvie this morning during that hour today! Listen live here.

Here's a prayer for the intercession of St. John Ogilvie, SJ:

God our Father, fountain of all blessing, We thank you for the countless graces that come to us in answer to the prayers of your saints. With great confidence we ask you in the name of your Son and through the prayers of St John Ogilvie to help us in all our needs.

Lord Jesus, you chose your servant St John Ogilvie to be your faithful witness to the spiritual authority of the chief shepherd of your flock. Keep your people always one in mind and heart, In communion with Benedict our Pope, and all the bishops of your Church.

Holy Spirit, you gave St John Ogilvie light to know your truth, wisdom to defend it, and courage to die for it. Through his prayers and example bring our country into the unity and peace of Christ’s kingdom. Amen.


More details about this great Scottish saint and martyr here from yesterday's post!

Thursday, March 9, 2017

The Martyr's Beads: St. John Ogilvie

In honor of St. John Ogilvie, SJ, I'll be on the Son Rise Morning today and tomorrow with Annie Mitchell to discuss the life and death of this great Scottish martyr: this morning at 7:45 a.m. Eastern/6:45 a.m. Central during one of the two local Ohio/Kentucky hours and tomorrow during the national EWTN hour.

The 400th anniversary of St. John Ogilvie's martyrdom was celebrated two years ago in Glasgow. While his mission to Scotland was more difficult than he thought it would be--he left to figure out what to do with his Jesuit superiors and then returned--at the end, through his martyrdom, and his Rosary, he effected a conversion. One of the spectators at his execution was moved first by Ogilvie's dignity in facing a horrible death and then by the seeming coincidence that the martyr's Rosary beads fell on him when he threw them into the crowd.

Baron John ab Eckersdorff described what happened to him on March 10, 1615 in Glasgow, Scotland:

I was on my travels through England and Scotland as it is the custom of our nobility being a mere stripling, and not having the faith. I happened to be in Glasgow the day Father Ogilvie was led forth to the gallows, and it is impossible for me to describe his lofty bearing in meeting death. His farewell to the Catholics was his casting into their midst, from the scaffold, his rosary beads just before he met his fate. That rosary, thrown haphazard, struck me on the breast in such wise that I could have caught it in the palm of my hand; but there was such a rush and crush of the Catholics to get hold of it, that unless I wished to run the risk of being trodden down, I had to cast it from me. Religion was the last thing I was then thinking about: it was not in my mind at all; yet from that moment I had no rest. Those rosary beads had left a wound in my soul; go where I would I had no peace of mind. Conscience was disturbed, and the thought would haunt me: why did the martyr's rosary strike me, and not another? For years I asked myself this question it followed me about everywhere. At last conscience won the day. I became a Catholic; I abandoned Calvinism; and this happy change I attribute to the martyr's beads, and to no other cause those beads which, if I had them now, gold could not tempt me to part with; and if gold could purchase them, I should not spare it.

Pope Paul VI canonized St. John Ogilvie in 1976. The Catholic News Agency recounts his mission to Scotland, his difficulties, and his torture:

John greatly desired to go back to his native country and encourage its return to the Catholic Church. He served for a time as a priest in France, while requesting to be sent back to Scotland. Others within his order made it clear to him that such a mission would be dangerous and unlikely to produce much fruit. In 1613, however, John obtained the assignment he desired.

He soon discovered the truth of the warnings he had received from other Jesuits, about the difficulty of Catholic evangelization in Scotland. Many members of the upper classes were not interested in returning to the Church, though he did carry out pastoral work among a largely poor population of Scots who had kept the faith. After a period in England he returned to France, seeking directions on how to proceed in light of his lack of success.

The French Jesuits ordered John back to Scotland, however, where he resumed his ministry to the underground Church as well as the smaller number of people interested in converting. His arrest came about when one potential “convert” turned out to be an informer, who had John arrested and interrogated.

The first criminal accusation St. John Ogilvie faced was that of celebrating Mass within the King’s realm. Unwilling to incriminate himself, he suffered two months of imprisonment. An iron bar was attached to his feet to prevent him from moving in his cell. Despite this ordeal, he strongly resisted pressure to give evidence against other Scottish Catholics.

Severe torture was then inflicted on John. His hair and fingernails were pulled out, and for a period of nine days he was prevented from sleeping by continual stabbing with sharp stakes. His jailers beat him, flung him to the floor of his cell, and shouted in his ears. Nothing, however, could make him renounce his faith or betray his Catholic countrymen to the authorities.

John’s tormentors were impressed by his fortitude, and by the surprising sense of humor that he showed in the face of the brutal punishments. But they could not spare his life, unless the Jesuit priest gave an acceptable response to a series of questions provided by King James I. John declared his loyalty to the king, but steadfastly rejected James’ claim to supremacy over the Church in religious matters. The priest was eventually convicted on a charge of high treason.

Attempts to ply John with bribery – in exchange for his return to Protestantism, and his betrayal of fellow Catholics – continued even as he was being led to his execution. His own defiant words are recorded: for the Catholic faith, he said, he would "willingly and joyfully pour forth even a hundred lives. Snatch away that one which I have from me, and make no delay about it, but my religion you will never snatch away from me!"

Asked whether he was afraid to die, the priest replied: “I fear death as much as you do your dinner.” 


He had been born into a Calvinist family, but had converted to Catholicism while visiting France, studying for the priesthood, becoming a Jesuit, and being ordained in Paris. 

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Making a Mountain Out of a Molehill: William III, RIP


William III of England died on March 8, 1702 and his sister-in-law Anne succeeded him. This blogger and author, Andrea Zuvich, takes great issue with the commonly accepted idea that he died because of a fall from his horse:

“William III died in a riding accident.” How many times have I heard this? According to the evidence, this was almost certainly not the case. William III had a constant battle with his lungs and it was a problem with his lungs that lead to his death – not merely falling from his horse. . . .

She presents evidence from his autopsy and concludes:

In plain English, he died from pneumonia: his lungs were in a terrible state. He had suffered from chronic asthma throughout his life, and as we know, pneumonia is most likely to occur in those who are elderly, very young, or chronically ill. William was chronically ill. Even in our own time, people die from pneumonia regularly throughout the world.

So, what about the broken bone which has constantly been attributed to his death? . . .

It had been set and was okay:

Nonetheless, the Jacobites (followers of King James II) merrily toasted to the mole as the “gentleman in the black velvet waistcoat,” for pushing William towards the Grim Reaper – something they had attempted but been unable to do.

I feel quite sorry for William. By the time of his death, he had ruled alone as King since his wife Mary’s untimely death in 1694 and he had been the target of several unsuccessful assassination attempts. He knew he was despised because he was a foreigner – a Dutchman on the throne of England. He felt more comfortable around his fellow Dutchmen, but this only served to make him all the more unpopular. . . .

By 1702, of course, the Jacobites were backing James II's male heir, James Francis Edward Stuart, whom King Louis XIV of France recognized as King James III of England and VIII of Scotland when James II died in 1701.

She concludes with this detail:

In the event, William’s death garnered little attention. He was buried in Westminster Abbey, apparently in the middle of the night, without any great ceremony. His body was placed beside that of his wife in the same vault.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Pope Clement XIII and the Hanoverians

The future Pope Clement XIII, Carlo della Torre di Rezzonico, was born on March 7, 1693 in Venice. He was educated by the Jesuits and supported that order throughout his pontificate, from 1758 to 1769.

His connection to the story of Catholics in England after the English Reformation is that he recognized the Hanoverian monarchs after the death of James III (the Old Pretender, James Francis Edward Stuart) on January 1, 1766. Clement honored King James with a great state funeral on January 8, but would not recognize his son, Bonnie Prince Charlie, Charles Edward Stuart, who failed in the best opportunity the Jacobites had, the '45, as the Stuart claimant to the throne of England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

King George III may have been encouraged to sign the Papists Act of 1778, which included an oath that abjured the Pretender, and the Roman Catholic Relief Act of 1791, but he would not go any further than that. He was concerned that he would be violating his coronation oath to protect the Church of England.

On the other hand, Henry Cardinal Stuart, the Young Pretender's younger brother, was unhappy with the pope's "betrayal" of the Jacobite cause. He seems to have become reconciled however, to this change, and concentrated on fulfilling his duties as Cardinal York. As for the Young Pretender, he even thought about being an Anglican to try to assert his claim to the throne!

Monday, March 6, 2017

"EWTN Live" on Ash Wednesday


Last Wednesday night, I went to Ash Wednesday Mass at 7 p.m. at Blessed Sacrament (Mass in the Extraordinary Form of the Latin Rite) so I was not able to watch that night's episode of EWTN Live (not being able to bilocate!). Through the wonders of Roku, however, I was able to watch it the other night. Father Mitch Picwa, SJ interviewed the interim director of the National Institute of Newman Studies, Kenneth L. Parker, who was in Birmingham, Alabama without his security detail, Samson Parker. The episode is cued up now on the show website.

During the main break, EWTN displayed some suggestions for further reading on Blessed John Henry Newman, and I was thrilled to see that the producers included my book! There's Newman on the cover, gazing thoughtfully at Henry VIII. My book is available in the EWTN Religious Catalogue.

Martyrs and Spirituality

From The Catholic Thing, Fr. Bevil Bramwell, OMI, writes about the martyrs and compares and contrasts them to celebrities:

Martyrs represent more than just names or dates on a calendar. As Saint John Paul II explained – take note – in his encyclical On Faith & Reason, not in a merely devotional context:
The martyrs know that they have found the truth about life in the encounter with Jesus Christ, and nothing and no-one could ever take this certainty from them. Neither suffering nor violent death could ever lead them to abandon the truth that they have discovered in the encounter with Christ. This is why to this day the witness of the martyrs continues to arouse such interest, to draw agreement, to win such a hearing and to invite emulation. This is why their word inspires such confidence: from the moment they speak to us of what we perceive deep down as the truth we have sought for so long, the martyrs provide evidence of a love that has no need of lengthy arguments in order to convince. The martyrs stir in us a profound trust because they give voice to what we already feel and they declare what we would like to have the strength to express.
They are the standard for understanding people – all people – who arise in human history, not just on a gut level, but according to the truth that they express, the truth of Jesus Christ, to which we have committed ourselves by baptism.

Now, we all hunger to see genuine humanity played out in front of us. We see it in the lives of the martyrs. They live out something of the deepest truth of Jesus Christ. So, far from being abstractly pious or merely edifying examples, the martyrs really relate to real people in real time.


Please read the rest there

I did not post any list of best books read in 2016 earlier this year--it's March already!--but if I had done so, Father Servais Pinckaers' book, The Spirituality of Martyrdom . . .  To the Limits of Love would have topped the list. As I said when I read it:

Pinckaers demonstrates that martyrdom is not merely an event: there's a spirituality that is essential to the Christian life, imitating Jesus in His Passion and Death completely. Even if we are not called to martyrdom--that's a line we often hear in modern Western culture--we are called to that imitation of and identification with Christ.

He begins his discussion with the Beatitudes from the Gospels according to St. Matthew and St. Luke. The eighth Beatitude from Matthew: "Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you" and the fourth Beatitude from Luke: "Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man's sake." Then Pinckaers demonstrates how the early Church and subsequent theologians from St. Augustine to St. Thomas Aquinas have applied those Beatitudes to martyrdom. Soul-stirring and amazing!

I'd recommend it for Lenten reading and I might dip back into myself. It is a marvelous and important book!

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Newman and the Light of the World

From Three Minutes with Newman. This meditation made me think immediately of The Light of the World by William Holman-Hunt:

He stands at the door and knocks to any who will open to him. But those who open to him, Newman says, have no occasion for boasting. Just as the Jews did not earn God’s grace, neither have the Gentiles after them; and just as the Jews were rejected in rejecting him, so are the Gentiles at similar risk:
And if God cast off His own people, the Jews, so, much more, will He cast off any other people who cast off Him. Hence the same St. Paul says, “If some of the branches (Rom. xi. 17-21) (that is, the Jews) be broken (off), and thou (that is, a man of some other nation) art ingrafted in them (instead), and art made partaker of the root and of the fatness of the olive tree; boast not … Because of unbelief they were broken off; but thou standest by faith; be not high-minded, but fear. For, if God hath not spared the natural branches, fear lest He spare not thee.”
At this Newman’s meditation takes a personal turn. Immediately he remembers the spiritual heritage of his own country, and moved with pity and regret at her waywardness, writes:
This misery has happened to this country, to our own England; God chose it and blessed it for near a thousand years; it rebelled, lost faith, and He cast it off out of His Church.
As Americans we share his concern for our own country, having also neglected the grace it received at its founding. Newman ends by praying for mercy on his homeland:
“…it was by Thy unmerited grace, we acknowledge it, O Lord, that this country of ours was so many centuries ago brought into the true fold, and gifted with the knowledge of Thy Truth and the grace of Thy Sacraments. Alas! how things have changed since then! The people was small then and of little account; now it stands highest among the nations of the earth. Then it was obscure and poor—now it has amazing wealth and pre-eminent power; but then it was great in Thy sight, and now on the contrary it is little, for it has lost Thee. O my God, what doth it profit, though we gain the whole world and lose our own souls?…O, look not upon our haughtiness and pride; look not upon our contempt of truths invisible; look not upon our impurity; but look upon Thy own merits; look upon the wounds in Thy hands; look upon Thy past mercies towards us; and, in spite of our wilfulness, subdue our hearts to Thee, O Saviour of men, and renew Thy work in the midst of the years, in the amidst of the years re-establish Thou it.
“Subdue our hearts” he prays, because it is in the nature of grace to overwhelm. We need only crack open the door to let our Lord’s love come bounding through. We pray with Newman, subdue our hearts Lord, and the hearts of our neighbors and countrymen, that we would return and abide in you.

More about The Light of the World at Keble College here and at St. Paul's Cathedral here.