Saturday, November 17, 2018

Two Deaths and One Burial


Queen Mary I, England's first and only Catholic Queen Regnant, and the last Catholic Archbishop of Canterbury, Reginald Cardinal Pole, both died on November 17, 1558.

Also on that date Hugh Aston, the composer and chorister, was buried in St. Margaret's Church, Leicester. According to HOASM, Aston or Ashton or Assheton is

the most important of the less famous composers represented in the Forrest-Heyther and Peterhouse partbooks. He graduated Bachelor of Music at Oxford in 1510. It was fitting therefore that the choirmaster's post at Cardinal College, Oxford which Taverner was persuaded to take was first offered to him. Aston may have been in London and associated with the royal court from 1510 to 1525.Aston was master of the choristers at St Mary Newarke College, Leicester in 1525, and remained there until the College was dissolved in 1548. Drew a pension in Newarke granted in 1544 until Nov. 17, 1558. He was not the eponymous Archdeacon of York (d. 1522) or Canon of St. Stephen's, Westminster (d. 1523).

He has 'A Hornepype' for keyboard in a MS in the British Museum; he may also have composed My lady Careys dompe and The short mesure off my lady Wynkfyld's rownde.

Much of Aston's music is in fact very vigorous and forceful, sometimes rather in the manner of Taverner, but with a fondness for tiny florid touches which sometimes produce rather rough unessential dissonances. Some of the imitative writing for full choir in the Mass Videte manus meas (cantus firmus an antiphon from Vespers of Easter Tuesday) is similar in its energetic quality to parts of Taverner's Gloria tibi Trinitas, especially at 'rex coelestis' or 'descendit de coelis'; but in general there is a far more mechanical handling of less interesting shapes.

The best of Aston is probably to be found in the antiphons Gaude virgo mater Christi and Ave Maria divae matris Annae. The melodic style here occasionally points ahead quite strikingly to that of later composers in the new boldness of outline of some important melodic phrases; in particular one notes in several places a new kind of melodic expansion in which an important interval is enlarged when imitated to help create a sense of growth and climax.


The Blue Heron vocal ensemble has recorded three of Aston's Marian Antiphons on their first of five CDs devoted to the music of the Peterhouse Partbook. Stile Antico also included Gaude Virgo Mater Christi on their Music for Compline CD.

Friday, November 16, 2018

The Duke Who Was a Butler, A Late Jacobite, RIP

Or, if you prefer, the Butler who was a Duke: James FitzJames Butler, 2nd Duke of Ormonde, an Irish Protestant statesman, at first served King James II, then switched sides to William and Mary, switching back again after Anne died and George I of Hanover succeeded during the '15. According to the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica he was born in Dublin on April 29, 1665 and educated in France and then at Christ Church, Oxford. Then:

He obtained command of a cavalry regiment in Ireland in 1684, and having received an appointment at court on the accession of James II., he served against the duke of Monmouth. Having succeeded his grandfather as duke of Ormonde in 1688, he joined William of Orange, by whom he was made colonel of a regiment of horse-guards, which he commanded at the battle of the Boyne. In 1691 he served on the continent under William, and after the accession of Anne he was placed in command of the land forces co-operating with Sir George Rooke in Spain. Having been made a privy councillor, Ormonde succeeded Rochester as viceroy of Ireland in 1703, a post which he held till 1707. On the dismissal of the duke of Marlborough in 1711, Ormonde was appointed captain general in his place, and allowed himself to be made the tool of the Tory ministry, whose policy was to carry on the war in the Netherlands while giving secret orders to Ormonde to take no active part in supporting their allies under Prince Eugene. Ormonde's position as captain-general made him a personage of much importance in the crisis brought about by the death of Queen Anne. Though he had supported the revolution of 1688, he was traditionally a Tory, and Lord Bolingbroke was his political leader. During the last years of Queen Anne he almost certainly had Jacobite leanings, and corresponded with the duke of Berwick. He joined Bolingbroke and Oxford, however, in signing the proclamation of King George I., by whom he was nevertheless deprived of the captain-generalship. In June 1715 he was impeached, and fled to France, where he for some time resided with Bolingbroke, and in 1716 his immense estates were confiscated to the crown by act of parliament, though by a subsequent act his brother, Charles Butler, earl of Arran, was enabled to repurchase them. After taking part in the Jacobite invasion in 1715, Ormonde settled in Spain, where he was in favour at court and enjoyed a pension from the crown. Towards the end of his life he resided much at Avignon, where he was seen in 1733 by Lady Mary Wortley Montagu. Ormonde died on the 16th of November 1745, and was buried in Westminster Abbey.

With little of his grandfather's ability, and inferior to him in elevation of character, Ormonde was nevertheless one of the great figures of his time. Handsome, dignified, magnanimous and open-handed, and free from the meanness, treachery and venality of many of his leading contemporaries, he enjoyed a popularity which, with greater stability of purpose, might have enabled him to exercise commanding influence over events.

According to the Westminster Abbey website, James Butler was interred in the family

vault on 22nd May 1746. His first wife was Lady Anne Hyde, daughter of Lawrence, 1st Earl of Rochester. Two young children by her were buried in the vault (Elisabeth and Mary). His second wife was Mary Somerset, daughter of Henry, Duke of Beaufort. She is said never to have seen her husband during his exile and she was buried on 25th November 1733. Their son Thomas was buried 1689, daughter Henrietta in 1701 and Elizabeth(who died unmarried) in 1750.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

The Ides of November, 1539

The last Abbots of Reading and Glastonbury suffered martyrdom on November 15, 1539. Hugh Cook Faringdon and Richard Whiting had both sworn fealty to Henry VIII as Supreme Head and Governor of the Church of England, but had resisted the required surrender of their monasteries.

The Reading Museum has a painting of Abbot Faringdon's execution:

Faringdon was accused of denying the king’s title to be head of the Church in England and was found guilty of treason. He was sentenced to death by being drawn, hanged, disembowelled and beheaded.

The Abbot was dragged on a hurdle by a horse around the streets of Reading. The painting shows him tied to the hurdle beside the gallows by the west front of the Abbey church in the Forbury. At Faringdon’s feet stand two priests, John Eynon, priest of St Giles, and John Rugg, who were also executed. The Mayor of Reading, Thomas Mirth, is robed in a black gown; next to him are the two burgesses of Parliament, Thomas Vachell and John Raymond, with a sergeant at law representing the State.

This is one of ten paintings illustrating important events in the history of Reading Abbey. They were commissioned from 1909 onwards by Dr Jamieson Boyd Hurry, a local doctor with a particular interest in Reading Abbey.

More about Reading Abbey and its Royal connections:

Reading Abbey was founded by King Henry I in 1121 after his son and heir died in the White Ship. He intended it to be his own burial place and memorial. It was one of the principal religious foundations in the country, well endowed by the founder and his successors. The first monks who arrived on 18 June 1121 were Benedictines from the Cluniac order and came from Cluny in France and Lewes in Sussex. The first abbot, Abbot Hugh of Amiens, was appointed in 1123.

The presence of the Abbey had a considerable effect on the development of Reading and its influence can still be seen on the street pattern today. Reading's current Abbey Quarter includes the whole of the Abbey precinct.


Monks John Thorne and Roger James also suffered with Abbot Whiting on Glastonbury Tor. Glastonbury was one of the richest abbeys in the kingdom, and one of the best run and most observant of the Rule of St. Benedict: it was a ripe target for Henry VIII, Thomas Cromwell, and the Court of Augmentations. Reading Abbey was a Benedictine house established during the reign of King Henry I and dedicated to Our Lady and St. John the Evangelist. It was initially part of the Cluniac branch of the Benedictine order. Cromwell had to trump up some charges against the elderly abbot at Glastonbury, because his Visitor first reported that everything was managed very well there; the monks were observant of the Benedictine Rule. Cromwell told Richard Layton to look further: hisjob was not to find excellence but detect failure as the the excuse for suppression.

More about the martyrs at Glastonbury here and about those at Reading. Perhaps their martyrdoms expiated their guilt for denying the authority of Christ's Vicar on earth: These six martyrs of the Dissolution of the Monasteries on November 15, 1539 (three each at Reading and Glastonbury) represent in some ways the remorse of the abbots and abbey leadership, who had accepted Henry VIII's oaths that proclaimed his authority over the Church of England as Supreme Head and Governor. Somehow they did not realize or imagine what he could and would do with that power and authority.

Pope Leo XIII beatified these six monastic martyrs in 1895.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Richard Topcliffe, Pursuivant and Torturer

Richard Topcliffe was born on November 14, 1531. He was the eldest son of Robert Topcliffe of Somerby, Lincolnshire, and his wife, Margaret, who was the the daughter of Thomas Burgh, 1st Baron Burgh of Gainsborough, former chamberlain of the household to queen Anne Boleyn. His parents died when he was 12 years old and he became the ward of Sir Anthony Neville who had married his aunt Anne, Margaret's sister.

Richard Topcliffe, was, of course, Queen Elizabeth's servant, with the duties of finding and torturing priests. The History of Parliament website provides some detail of his career, with definite hints of unpopularity:

The time and manner of Topcliffe’s entry into public service are alike uncertain. The earliest reference to him as ‘her Majesty’s servant’ dates only from March 1573; but his own claim, made in June 1601, to have done 44 years’ service places its beginning much earlier, and indeed hints at a possible entry into Elizabeth’s retinue before her accession. . . .

Before the third and final session of this Parliament, in 1581, Topcliffe had begun his career as an interrogator of suspects. It is likely that he was drawn into this business both through his continuing interest in the northern rebels and by his attachment to the Earl of Shrewsbury, the custodian of Mary Stuart. It was at Shrewsbury’s instance that in 1578 Topcliffe helped to investigate the activities of some of the ex-rebels, and it was to the Earl that he reported on these and other matters. But it may well have been the anti-Catholic legislation of the parliamentary session of 1581 which determined that Catholic-hunting should become Topcliffe’s life-work. Although we know next to nothing of his part in that session (he was on one minor legal committee, 20 Feb.) his mounting activity in investigation from early in 1582 seems to reflect an accession of zeal as well as an expansion of opportunity. By the time the next Parliament met in the autumn of 1584 Topcliffe could be ranked with the notorious Richard Young as an acknowledged master of this ugly craft. . . .

The next 15 years of Topcliffe’s life were to make his name synonymous with the worst rigours of the Elizabethan struggle against Catholicism. It is clear that in much of what he did Topcliffe was acting under orders—whether under a commission such as that of March 1593 against Jesuits or under one of the numerous Council warrants to him to use torture—and that those who gave him these orders must share the odium of their consequences. Moreover, his superiors made only spasmodic efforts to restrain him. His brutal treatment of Southwell in 1592 cost him a spell in prison; in 1595, following the disclosure of Thomas Fitzherbert’s attempt to bribe him into doing two of the Fitzherberts to death, Topcliffe was again committed for a few weeks for maligning Privy Councillors; and early in 1596 he had to answer to the Council for his arbitrary behaviour towards prisoners in the Gatehouse. But every check was followed by a fresh outburst of activity, and only in his last few years did the moderating of official policy, and the failing of his own vigour, bring it to an end.

The gravamen of the indictment of Topcliffe is that he displayed an unmistakable and nauseating relish in the performance of his duties. On this the verdict of contemporaries is amply borne out by the evidence of his many letters and by the marginalia preserved in one of his books. It was, and is, easy to believe any evil of such a man; and to reflect that some of the worst accusations—among them that he reserved his most hideous tortures for infliction in his own house—rest upon fragile evidence is not to excuse him. Nor is there much profit in speculating on the influences which went to his making, although his early loss of both parents, the impact of rebellion upon his infant awareness, and perhaps some marital misfortunes might enter into the reckoning. . . .

Topcliffe’s domestic life was not without its difficulties. His marriage was clouded at least for a time by his alleged failure to pay his wife adequate maintenance. In his later years the criminal escapades of his eldest son, Charles, gave him much anxiety, and in January 1602 Sir Robert Cecil chided him for not having this wayward son ‘cleansed’. He also had the humiliation of seeing his nephew Edmund Topcliffe fall under suspicion on his return in May 1600 from a voyage abroad, during which he had assumed another name because of the ill-repute of his own.

Topcliffe had a house in Westminster from at least the end of 1571, when we know that it was burgled, clothes worth over £50 being stolen from the owner, besides other goods probably belonging to Topcliffe’s servants: the articles stolen from Topcliffe suggest that he maintained a good wardrobe. It was in this house, or an adjacent successor, that he was accused of torturing prisoners: but its nearness to the Gatehouse prison may have led to confusion between them.


Portrait of Elizabeth I around 1595 by Marcus Gheeraerts.

Among those we know Topcliffe tortured are St. Robert Southwell, St. Eustace White, and Blessed Thomas Pormort. He was present at the executions of St. Edmund Gennings, St. Polydore Plasden, and St. Swithun Wells on December 10, 1591. St. Swithun Wells hoped that Topcliffe would repent and convert: "I pray God make you a Paul of a Saul, of a bloody persecutor one of the Catholic Church's children." 

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Religion and The Great War


Also in keeping with the theme of the Centennial of the Armistice of World War I, Philip Jenkins' book, The Great and Holy War: How World War I Became a Religious Crusade discusses the role of religion on both sides of the conflict:

The Great and Holy War offers the first look at how religion created and prolonged the First World War. At the one-hundredth anniversary of the outbreak of the war, historian Philip Jenkins reveals the powerful religious dimensions of this modern-day crusade, a period that marked a traumatic crisis for Western civilization, with effects that echoed throughout the rest of the twentieth century.

The war was fought by the world's leading Christian nations, who presented the conflict as a holy war. Thanks to the emergence of modern media, a steady stream of patriotic and militaristic rhetoric was given to an unprecedented audience, using language that spoke of holy war and crusade, of apocalypse and Armageddon. But this rhetoric was not mere state propaganda. Jenkins reveals how the widespread belief in angels and apparitions, visions and the supernatural was a driving force throughout the war and shaped all three of the major religions—Christianity, Judaism and Islam—paving the way for modern views of religion and violence. The disappointed hopes and moral compromises that followed the war also shaped the political climate of the rest of the century, giving rise to such phenomena as Nazism, totalitarianism, and communism.

Connecting numerous remarkable incidents and characters—from Karl Barth to Carl Jung, the Christmas Truce to the Armenian Genocide—Jenkins creates a powerful and persuasive narrative that brings together global politics, history, and spiritual crisis as never before and shows how religion informed and motivated circumstances on all sides of the war.

This review in Catholic World Report emphasizes that The Great War changed religion by discrediting it when used to promote war and violence:

What might be most jarring for American readers, steeped in the Jeffersonian ethos of separation between church and state, was how readily American churches adopted this crusading rhetoric. It was not a militarist or politician who declared that he “would have driven my bayonet into the throat or the eye or stomach of the Huns without the slightest hesitation,” but a Methodist minister. Jenkins traces how these close associations discredited religion. This led to gradual secularization and two wildly different trends. In Germany and Soviet Russia, the religious aspirations and rhetoric became affixed to the new “secular messiahs” of these two regimes in the post-war period. The collapse of the old church-state model, however, laid the groundwork for Christian Democrats and Catholic politicians to chart a future along a non-national path of European identity.

It wasn’t just Christianity but all of the Abrahamic religions that were changed by the war. The religious center of Christianity began to shift towards Asia and Africa. In fact, Africa may become the largest Christian continent in the world by 2030. As much as the Christian map expanded it also contracted during governmental persecution of Armenian and Russian Orthodox religious enclaves. The war was a double-edged sword for Judaism. Zionism became practicable with the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and acquired the enthusiastic support of American evangelicals who, even today, see the state of Israel as fulfilling God’s providential plan.

Armistice Celebrations, 1918

History Today posts this article about how the British celebrated on November 11, 1918, including in church services--and how church bells announced the victory and the peace:

In many different places, church bells were used to announce the news, although it wasn’t always possible to gather bell-ringers together before noon. At Malew on the Isle of Man, a variety of parishioners all lent a hand so that the bells were rung from 11am to 8pm. By noon, most towns and cities in Britain (The Daily Express referred to ‘Armisticities’) were a noisy mix of cheering, singing, bells and music. Crowds were huge and still growing, even though people had been advised to avoid large gatherings during the flu pandemic. And the situation was similar around the world. In Australia, where it was nighttime, the centres of Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide were a mass of happy people.

In Kirkwall, the town crier proclaimed a half holiday at noon. Elsewhere, employers and mayors did the same. Schoolchildren, too, were given the afternoon off, and flooded out of school to join the crowds, singing and yelling and waving flags. The boys of Eton College were released at noon, and went down to the beflagged High Street with flags attached to their top hats. And in Shrewsbury, while church bells rang and a regimental band played, schoolboys formed a manic band of their own, bashing away at drums and vigorously blowing bugles. . . .

At the innumerable church services, the emphasis was on triumph and thanksgiving, rather than remembrance of the dead. God was on the side of Britain and her allies, and gave them victory. At a ceremony at St Matthew’s Church, High Brooms in Kent, the communion table was draped with a large union flag. Even the service at St Margaret’s Church, Westminster, the ‘parish church’ of parliament, was a happy affair. Following a brief but crowded parliamentary session where the terms of the armistice were read out and acclaimed with much cheering, the speaker adjourned the House of Commons at 3.17pm, and led the members to St Margaret’s. The Lords also attended the service, and the archbishop of Canterbury presided. Psalm 100 opened the simple service: “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands.” From outside came the sound of cheering and music.

While the service was taking place, King George V, Queen Mary and their daughter Princess Mary were journeying out into that cheering crowd (and the pouring rain). The fact that they were in an open carriage, with barely any police protection, showed that the king was not going to meet the fate of either the tsar or the kaiser. The royals shook many hands, and the patriotic crowd cheered them all along their journey.

The author of the article, Guy Cuthbertson, wrote a book about the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month: Peace at Last: A Portrait of Armistice Day, 11 November 1918.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Starting "Thursday" on Friday

Our local American Chesterton Society will start The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare on Friday at Eighth Day Books (beginning at 6:30 p.m.). We will also be celebrating the seventh anniversary of our group! Refreshments will be served!!

Dale Ahlquist introduces this nightmare at the AMC website:

At first glance, The Man Who Was Thursday is a detective story filled with poetry and politics. But it is mystery that grows more mysterious, until it is nothing less than the mystery of creation itself.This is Chesterton’s most famous novel. Never out of print since it was first published in 1908, critics immediately hailed it as “amazingly clever,” “a remarkable acrobatic performance,” and “a scurrying, door-slamming farce that ends like a chapter in the Apocalypse.” One reviewer described how he had read it in one sitting and put it down, “completely dazed.” Thirty years later, Orson Welles called it “shamelessly beautiful prose” and made a radio dramatization of it with his Mercury Radio Theater of the Air. (Unfortunately, he upstaged himself two weeks later with a production of H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds.)

Gabriel Syme is a poet and a police detective. Lucien Gregory is poet and a bomb-throwing anarchist. At the beginning of the novel, Syme infiltrates a secret meeting of anarchists and gets himself elected as “Thursday,” one of the seven members of the High Council of Anarchists. If you think it is paradoxical that there should be a governing body of those dedicated to destroying governing body, a hierarchy for blowing up hierarchies, you might be right. You might also note that the main reason Syme becomes a detective in the first place is because he is a rebel against rebellion. The policeman who recruits him explains that there is a difference between the real anarchists and the innocent ones who merely think rules are bad and should be broken. The real anarchists are something far worse than that. “They mean death. When they say that mankind shall be free at last, they mean that mankind shall commit suicide. When they talk of a paradise without right or wrong, they mean the grave. They have but two objects, to destroy humanity and then themselves.” This is a prophetic description of the philosophy of the “real anarchists” who really would bring us the Culture of Death.

Our goal is to discuss the first half of the book this Friday--then we will celebrate Christmas in December--and finish the book in January 2019! I read it years ago and look forward our meeting this Friday.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Bishop John Carroll (SJ) Appointed


As the History Channel website reminds us:

On this day in 1789, Pope Pius VI appoints John Carroll bishop of Baltimore, making him the first Catholic bishop in the United States.

Carroll was born in Upper Marlboro, Maryland, in 1735. His mother came from a wealthy family and had been educated in France. At age 13, Carroll sailed for France in order to complete his own education at St. Omer’s College in French Flanders. At age 18, he joined the Society of Jesus, and after a further 14 years of study in Liege, he received ordination as a priest at age 34. Pope Clement XIV’s decision in 1773 to dissolve the Jesuit order, however, ended Carroll’s European career.

He made an important friend in Benjamin Franklin, demonstrating to that Enlightened Patriot that Roman Catholics (Papists) could be good people, after all:

Three years after Carroll’s return to Maryland, the need to make allies of French Catholics in Canada created an opportunity for him to join a Congressional delegation dispatched to negotiate with the Canadians. Benjamin Franklin served on the same delegation, and although the mission failed, Franklin proved an excellent ally to Carroll. In 1784, Franklin recommended to the papal nuncio in Paris that Carroll assume the position of Superior of Missions in the United States of North America, which removed American Catholics from the authority of the British Catholic hierarchy. In this role, as bishop and ultimately as the first archbishop in the United States (1808), Carroll oversaw the creation of leading Catholic institutions in the new nation, including the nation’s first Catholic university (Georgetown University, founded in 1789) and cathedral (Baltimore Basilica, built in 1806).

On Election Day 2018, it's appropriate to pray Bishop John Carroll's prayer for our country:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Carroll died in Baltimore on December 3, 1815. The Ignatian Spirituality website of Loyola Press has this note about some of his last words:

When he was near death, Archbishop Carroll said, “Of those things that give me most consolation at the present moment, one is that I have always been attached to the practice of devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary; that I have established it among the people under my care, and placed my diocese under her protection.”

Image credit: Statue of Carroll at Georgetown University.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Newman and Converts Today


The Provost of the Birmingham Oratory, Father Julian Large, has written in his November Letter about how converts to Catholicism sometimes feel underappreciated and reminded them that Blessed John Henry Newman had to work through those feelings too:

Latecomers to the Faith who are made to feel that their convert status makes them second class citizens in the eyes of some of those who make a profession out of religious commentary can take comfort in the knowledge that Blessed John Henry experienced all of this before them. The sincerity of Newman’s conversion is beyond question to anyone of good faith. As an Anglican he had increased in his sympathy for doctrines such as Transubstantiation and the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin, having considered them individually in the light of their antiquity and of their compatibility with Holy Scripture. When he made his profession of Faith in front of Father Dominic Barberi, however, he was declaring that from now on he would embrace these truths, and every other Catholic doctrine, on the grounds that they were taught by Christ’s Church. He was assenting to his firm belief that the Catholic Church was founded by Our Lord as the pillar and the foundation of saving truth, with divinely invested authority to teach on faith and morals. He brought himself to his knees before an authority which he firmly believed to be at the service of Truth, but he also fell to his knees in the knowledge that in the Church on earth that divinely invested authority is always liable to be abused by fallen men who are prone to sin, and whose intellects are often too dim to appreciate the truths they have been commissioned to teach. But he accepted this. He accepted it because he was willing to suffer for and with the Church, because he loved Her as the Mystical Body of Christ on earth, and He believed Her to be true. Newman is an example to all of us of patience and genuine piety. Suffering with and for the Church is one of the ways we show our love for Christ, and one of the signs that our faith is alive.

For those of us who are converts to the Faith, Newman shows us how to be good converts. We must be docile, and obedient to lawful authority. But we should also be dogged in our pursuit of all truth, and we must be willing to suffer for our insistence on it. The religious submission of mind and will which we owe to the teaching authority of the Church never obliges us to submit ourselves to humbug, bluster and spin, but only to Catholic Truth in its soul-saving fullness.

Newman's correspondence with prospective and neophyte converts would fill "six to seven hundred pages" according to the late Father Stanley Jaki.  Fr. Peter Willi wrote an article for the International Centre of Newman Friends on "Newman as a Convert and Counsellor of Converts" in which he describes some of the advice Newman offered those thinking about becoming Catholic:

Newman often talks about this absolutely necessary condition. “Be convinced in your reason that the Catholic Church is a teacher sent to you from God, and it is enough. I do not wish you to join her, till you are. If you are half convinced, pray for a full conviction, and wait till you have it. It is better indeed to come quickly, but better slowly than carelessly….”[40]

Nobody should join the Roman Catholic Church while unable to accept the fullness of her doctrine. Whoever has not reached the personal certainty that the Roman Catholic Church contains the fulness of truth, should remain in his own ecclesial communion. This applied to Newman’s highly appreciated and saintly friend John Keble.[41] Although on the threshold of the Roman Catholic Church, he died with a good conscience, even though, objectively, it was erroneous. Throughout his life he had sincerely and honestly searched for the truth and had lived according to his insight. He accepted practically all of the Catholic doctrines, but never recognized the necessity of unity with the Bishop of Rome, the successor of Saint Peter. Therefore his conscience obliged him to remain in the Anglican Communion.

The beauty of the liturgy of the Roman Catholic Church and the fact that someone is drawn to it, are not, for example, reasons sufficient to justify the step of conversion. It is, however, possible for someone to hear the call to become a Roman Catholic, and to gain the certainty that the Roman Church is the true Church, while participating in her liturgy.

On the way to conversion the would-be convert accumulates one argument after another in favour of entering the Catholic Church and accepting her doctrine. It may also happen that, without any initiative on his/her part, the Holy Spirit awakens motives and insights in the future convert which point to conversion. The reasons are cumulative and mutually supportive, urging the free will towards conversion. The will is urged to act not only by reason, but also by conscience. According to Newman, religious processes and decisions necessarily include the action of reason and in no way should they exclude it. On the other hand, such processes and decisions should not be limited to reason alone.

My experience here in the United States has been that converts are sought and welcomed. The Diocese of Wichita has a strong RCIA program (of course it varies from parish to parish) and highlights the celebrations of the Rite of Election each Lent and publishes the list of those becoming Catholic in the diocesan newspaper after the Easter Vigil too--by parish! Some of my best friends are converts. With the attention given to converts by the Coming Home Network and all the conversion stories that are published (for example), perhaps it's different here in the USA.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

"Little Women" and the Holy Rosary

Earlier this year I submitted an essay for a collection of essays commemorating the 150th anniversary of the publication of Little Women (part one of what we know as Little Women which also includes Good Wives) by Louisa May Alcott.

The publisher, Pink Umbrella Books asked me to contributed some material for a blog post on their website:

What is your favorite scene from Little Women?

The opening scene is always fresh, no matter how many times I read it. Alcott sets the scene so beautifully and delineates the sisters’ characters so masterfully. While the narrator finally breaks in to explain the background to the story and does intrude to describe what Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy look like, she lets their dialogue tell the story of who they are.

Who are some of your other “imaginary heroes” from literature?

Kirsten Lavransdatter in the trilogy by Sigrid Undset (The Bridal Wreath, The Wife, and The Cross): a very different coming-of age-story set in medieval Norway about a girl who marries the wrong man and must deal with the consequences;

Kate Alard in Sheila Kaye-Smith’s Superstition Corner, a historical novel set in the historical period I write about, the English Reformation under the Tudors;

Cordelia in Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh, the one member of the Flyte family who understands everyone and yet loves them, in spite of (or because of) their faults;

Jean Valjean in Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables: he is willing to sacrifice everything for justice and truth; he is always working to fulfill the faith that Bishop Myriel had in him.

Jo has both a writing space and a “scribbling suit” in the book. What does your writing space look like? What’s your favorite scribbling suit?

My scribbling suit is often my pajamas since I start writing or researching in the morning. I like to think about what to write while I’m walking the dogs (two walks for dogs with very different paces), write out a few notes on paper about what I want to write about, material to use, and the goal of the piece—then I compose at the laptop.

The title of my essay is "Growing Up Catholic with Little Women: The Mystery of the Rosary". Here's a sample:

Like many other readers of Little Women, I nearly memorized the book when I was growing up. The memory of one passage has stayed with me through the years. It stunned me when I was growing up—growing up Catholic, attending Catholic schools, meditating on the mysteries of the Rosary, venerating the saints, going to Mass—living in a Catholic milieu (as I do today). . . .

Then I describe and excerpt the scene in which Amy discovers a set of Rosary beads--informed by Esther, Aunt March's Catholic French maid on its purpose and use--in her aunt's jewelry box.

This passage awakened my sense of Catholic identity.

Where the March girls read John Bunyan’s
Pilgrim’s Progress, I read Thomas a Kempis’ Imitation of Christ; where the March family helped the poor Germans in their home town, I saved nickels for the Missions to help poor starving children in Africa. I knew of course that there are many differences between Protestants and Catholics in doctrine and practice. My father, who became a Catholic when I was in high school, was raised in a Protestant family, so I had aunts and uncles who attended either the Church of God or the Methodist church. Some of them were more anti-Catholic—that is, convinced we were going to Hell—than others, but familial bonds of love were essential and we all got along very well.

Nevertheless, Amy March—and Aunt March evidently since it was in her “Indian cabinet, full of queer drawers, little pigeonholes, and secret places”— thinking that a Rosary was a necklace shocked me. And why did Aunt March even have a Rosary? Did she buy it on a trip to Europe? Perhaps her husband bought it for her because it was beautiful and they had never thought of it as a religious object, a sacramental as Esther knew it was. . . .


Alcott's Imaginary Heroes: The Little Women Legacy is readily available from the publisher, on Amazon.com, and at Eighth Day Books (featured on my blog post at Pink Umbrella Books)! Other essays reflect on grief and mourning, each of sisters (Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy) and their mother, Marmee. 

Friday, November 2, 2018

A Lay Martyr's Last Words: "Jesu, Jesu, esto mihi Jesus".

"Jesu, Jesu, esto mihi Jesus": Jesus, Jesus, be to me a Savior.

John Bodey or Body (as Challoner names him) was executed on All Souls Day, November 2, 1583 for being a Catholic and not accepting Elizabeth I's Royal Supremacy over the Christian Church in England. As the Catholic Encyclopedia tells his story:

Martyr, b. at Wells, Somerset: 1549; d. at Andover, Wilts., 2 November, 1583. He studied at Winchester and New College, Oxford, of which he became a Fellow in 1568. In June, 1576, he was deprived, with seven other Fellows, by the Visitor, Horne, Protestant Bishop of Winchester. Next year he went to Douay College to study civil law, returned to England in February, 1578, and probably married. Arrested in 1580, he was kept in iron shackles in Winchester gaol, and was condemned in April, 1583, together with John Slade, a schoolmaster, for maintaining the old religion and denying the Royal Supremacy. There was apparently a feeling that this sentence was unjust and illegal, and they were actually tried and condemned again at Andover, 19 August, 1583, on the same indictment. Bodey had a controversy with Humphreys, Dean of Winchester, on the Nicene Council, and the martyr's notes from Eusebius still exist. After his second trial, he wrote from prison to Dr. Humphrey Ely, "We consider that iron for this cause borne on earth shall surmount gold and, precious stones in Heaven. That is our mark, that is our desire. In the mean season we are threatened daily, and do look still when the hurdle shall be brought to the door. I beseech you, for God's sake, that we want not the good prayers of you all for our strength, our joy, and our perseverance unto the end. . . . From our school of patience the 16th September, 1583."

At his martyrdom, Bodey kissed the halter, saying, "O blessed chain, the sweetest chain and richest that ever came about any man's neck", and when told he died for treason, exclaimed, "You may make the hearing of a blessed Mass treason, or the saying of an Ave Maria treason . . . but I have committed no treason, although, indeed, I suffer the punishment due to treason". He exhorted the people to obey Queen Elizabeth and died saying, "Jesu, Jesu, esto mihi Jesus". His mother made a great feast upon the occasion of her son's happy death, to which she invited her neighbours, rejoicing at his death as his marriage by which his soul was happily and eternally espoused to the Lamb.


Dr. Humphrey Ely was a professor at Douai in civil and canon law. According to the Dictionary of National Biography, he was ordained a priest in 1582 after almost suffering Bodey's fate as a layman in 1580; he was traveling with Blessed Thomas Cottam:


brother of William Ely [q. v.], president of St. John's College, Oxford, was a native of Herefordshire. After studying for some time at Brasenose College, Oxford, he was elected a scholar of St. John's College in 1566, but on account of his attachment to the catholic faith he left the university without a degree, and proceeding to the English college at Douay was there made a licentiate in the canon and civil laws. He appears to have been subsequently created LL.D. In July 1577 he and other students of law formed a community in the town of Douay, and resided together in a hired house (Douay Diaries, p. 125). This establishment was soon broken up by the troubles attributed to the machinations of the queen of England's emissaries, who had probably excited the passions of the Calvinist faction. Ely was hooted as a traitor in the streets of Douay, and the members of his community and of the English college were subjected to frequent domiciliary visits which satisfied the municipal authorities but not the populace. In consequence Dr. (afterwards Cardinal) Allen found it necessary to remove the college from Douay to Rheims in 1578. After studying divinity at Rheims Ely accompanied Allen to Rome in August 1579, when the dissensions had occurred in the English college there, but he returned with him to Rheims in the following spring. During his stay in Rome Allen employed him in revising several controversial books (Knox, Letters and Memorials of Cardinal Allen, hist. introd. p. lii seq.; Douay Diaries, pp. 130, 136).
In June 1580 he paid a visit to England, disguised as a merchant, travelling under the name of Havard or Howard. There sailed in the same vessel with him three priests, Edward Rishton, Thomas Cottam [q. v.], and John Hart. On their landing at Dover the searchers arrested Cottam and Hart, and the mayor, supposing that Ely was a military man, requested him to convey Cottam to London, and hand him over to Lord Cobham, governor of the Cinque ports. When they were out of the town, Ely allowed his prisoner to go at large, but Cottam, entertaining scruples about the danger which his friend might incur, insisted upon delivering himself up, and was afterwards executed. Ely was committed to prison, but soon obtained his release, probably on account of his not being a priest (Foley, Records, ii. 150 seq.). On 23 April 1581 he arrived at Rheims, out of Spain, and in the following month visited Paris, in company with Allen. He was ordained subdeacon at Laon on 8 March 1581–2, deacon at Châlons-sur-Marne on the 31st of the same month, and priest on 14 April 1582. On 22 July 1586 he left Rheims for Pont-à-Mousson, where he had been appointed by the Duke of Lorraine to the professorship of the canon and civil laws, and he occupied that chair till his death on 15 March 1603–4. He was buried in the church of the nuns of the order of St. Clare.
Dodd says Ely ‘was a person of great candour and remarkable hospitality; and as he had a substance, he parted with it chearfully; especially to his countrymen, who never failed of a hearty welcome, as their necessities obliged them to make use of his house. He was also of a charitable and reconciling temper; and took no small pains to make up the differences that happened among the missioners upon account of the archpriest's jurisdiction.’

John Bodey and John Slade (executed on October 30, 1583) were included in the beatifications of 1929. They are included in the list of the Martyrs of Douai, which was celebrated on October 29 in the Archdiocese of Westminster. The Douai Seminary recently celebrated its 450th anniversary!

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Halloween and Grave Thoughts


On Tuesday, October 10, 2017, I started this reflection:

By the end of the first week in October the graveyards were popping up in lawns in our neighborhood—complete with “humerous” rhyming epitaphs and skeletons escaping the sod, while ghosts waved from the trees and jack-o-lanterns smiled on the porches—25 days before Halloween.

That's as far as I got.

That afternoon, my sister visited our mother in the nursing home and reported to my brother and me later that Mother was still very anxious and uncomfortable. She had some outpatient surgery a few weeks before with some anesthetic and although the surgery had been successful, she had not been doing well.

The next morning (Wednesday), the nursing home called me and said they were transporting Mother to the emergency room. By Friday evening, she was back at the nursing home and under hospice care. My brother, sister, niece, and I visited her several times, especially when called by the hospice nurse on Sunday and Monday. At the same time my husband was ill and I had to take him to the emergency room for admission to the hospital, so I wasn’t with her when she died on Monday, October 16.

Planning her funeral, cleaning out her room at the nursing home, and getting my husband home from the hospital took all my attention for the next couple of weeks, so I never returned to this theme.

By the end of the first week of October this year the faux graveyards were displayed in front yards, grocery stores were selling Halloween candy and statues of skeletal cats and dogs—death seems to be all around us.

As the co-owner of two very lively dogs (terriers) I really don't like statues of skeletal dogs, especially the ones depicting a dog with a ball in his mouth!

I know that every year there is a debate in the Catholic media about whether Catholics should celebrate Halloween. I think it’s clear that Catholics should not celebrate Halloween the way the secular world wants us to celebrate it—all month long—or with an occult or spiritualistic view.

We should not separate Halloween from its true purpose as the vigil of All Saints Day, the month of November, and prayer for all the Poor Souls in Purgatory, but, as usual, that can be difficult when these Holy Days have been so corrupted by commerce.

The front yards full of graveyards are meant to create a creepy and eerie atmosphere with appropriate lighting and sound effects especially on Halloween night when the trick or treaters come around.

But the image of the skeletons half in and half out of their graves has a Christian significance the creators may not recognize. We do think often of the dead and we often think of them overcoming death in some way. Christians believe that those who die in grace do overcome death.

In the Catholic Church, we dedicate a month to remembering the dead and praying for them. As we remember the dead, we think of what they have faced--and what we will face: the Four Last Things.

From All Hallows Eve, through All Saints Day, and then on All Souls Day, the Catholic Church is focused on the Four Last Things on these three days.

October 31, All Hallows Eve, is the vigil of All Saints Day and the reminder of Death, the first Four Last Thing. The ghosts and ghouls and phantoms of Halloween also remind us of Hell, which we fear, or should fear, even more than we fear Death.

November 1, All Hallows or All Saints, honors all the saints, known and unknown, those beatified and canonized and those who haven't been vetted and honored explicitly by the Church. That day is focused on Heaven.

November 2, All Souls Day, is focused on Judgment AND Heaven. Souls who have faced God's Judgment and are in need of purification prepare for Heaven in Purgatory. They have achieved salvation, but are not perfect or completely ready for Heaven. We pray for them and hope that others will pray for us when we are dead.

Prayer for the dead was a crucial issue in the religious debate before the English Reformation. As Eamon Duffy and other historians of the religious practices of the late Middle Ages in England have shown, it was an integral part of English life. They prayed for their dead and hoped their families would pray for them after they died. St. Thomas More saw this connection between the living and the dead under attack and responded in its defense, hoping that Henry VIII would defend and protect this Catholic practice as he had the Seven Sacraments.

In the The Supplication of Souls, St. Thomas More answered Simon Fish's Supplication of Beggars, in which Fish told Henry VIII that he was not in control of his country which is filled with poor beggars because of the priests whose demand for alms to pray and say Masses for the dead--a classic zero-sum view of salvation economy. According to Fish, if people are giving alms for prayers they aren't giving alms for the poor. More writes his answer representing the Poor Souls in Purgatory, who beg for prayers and penance from the living as they suffer for the effects of their sins on earth after death. 

Neither More nor Fish can prove their statistical points (I have not read Fish's Supplication)--Fish thinks that there have been more poor in England since people started praying for the dead while More contends that "the poor you will always have with you" and that the poor on earth as well as the poor in purgatory benefit from the alms given to the Church as well as to the poor, arguing that the economy, both temporal and spiritual, is more complex and interconnected than Fish thinks.

More notes that Fish is using subterfuge, attacking the doctrine of Purgatory and prayer for the dead as a way to attack the entire sacramental system. He cites Fish's complaint about Henry VIII's one error--The Defense of the Seven Sacraments--and Fish's hatred of the priesthood as the real reasons for this attack on the Poor Souls in Purgatory. 

Fish wants all the priests in England to be tied to carts, dragged through the streets, beaten, forced to marry, and get jobs. More asks, on behalf of the Poor Souls, how is this to be enforced, even if Henry would issue such commands. Are women to be forced to marry former priests? What jobs will they do? How will Fish prevent this sudden influx of unemployed priests from increasing the number of the poor? Has Fish really figured out the financial situation? What about all the poor the clergy and the Church assist everyday? What about the people the clergy employ--the builders, carpenters, laborers, etc? Where will they find employment?

Fish promises that the lame, the leprous, and the deaf, dumb, and blind will be healed, that Henry VIII's power and authority will be strengthened, and that the true gospel will at last be preached. Aha! say the Poor Souls: the supplicant for beggars must be as great as God in Genesis for he speaks and it IS. 

More takes each point of Fish's argument and counters it, several times revealing More's experience of legislation and his knowledge of the courts and the law to expose Fish's errors. There is none of the personal invective so often highlighted in discussions of More's apologetic or polemic works. More does employ exaggeration, mockery of Fish's ignorance, irony, and sarcasm. He offers scriptural examples and arguments from the Fathers, appealing to the authority of the Church through the centuries against these new views of Christian doctrine from Luther and Tyndale.

He ends the Supplication with pleas from the Poor Souls for prayers. They also advise the living on how to prepare for death by recounting their own regrets. They warn against preparing more for the funeral arrangements and less for death and judgment. They regret that they relied so much on comforts and luxuries in this life and did not do penance for their sins to expiate the temporal punishments that remained even after they repented and confessed their sins. They beg for our prayers and promise theirs for us once they are in heaven.

The Poor Souls regret that they forgot to pray for so many of their loved ones when they were living:

Know well, dear friends, that among the many great and grievous pains that one suffers here—of which God send you the grace to suffer either none or few—the uneasiness of one’s conscience in the consideration of one’s uncharitable forgetfulness is not the least of them all.

Therefore, dear friends, let our folly teach you wisdom. Send here your prayer, send here your alms before you. . . .

We wish to God we ourselves had done as we now counsel you to do.


More's Poor Souls beg all on earth to remember them:

And in all your almsgiving, somewhat remember us. Our wives there, remember your husbands here. Our children there, remember your parents here. Our parents there, remember your children here. Our husbands there, remember your wives here. 

On their part, the Poor Souls promise to greet the living someday in heaven:

So may God keep you out of here, or not long here, and bring you shortly to that bliss to which, for the love of Our Lord, you help bring us. And we will set hand to help you join us there. 

Image at the top: Hans Memling, The Last Judgement.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

The Gypsy Priest and the English Civil War

I just finished reading Elizabeth Goudge's The White Witch, a historical novel set during the English Civil War. The publisher, Hendrickson, comments on the author:

Elizabeth Goudge was a British novelist (1900–1984) born into the home of an Anglican priest and theologian. She wrote children’s books as well as novels—her Green Dolphin Street was made into an Academy-Award winning film. In style and themes she parallels English writers such as the creator of the Miss Read series as well mirroring the spiritual depth found in George MacDonald’s Victorian novels. She won the Carnegie Award in 1947 for The Little White Horse, which is J. K. Rowling’s favorite children’s book.

In this book she tells the story of a family in Oxfordshire and how the English Civil War affects their lives. Starting with the Haslewood family and the group of gypsies who sometimes live near Squire Robert Hasleswood's lands, Goudge gathers a cast of fictional and historical characters to deal with issues of life and death, good versus evil, and religious conflict.

Goudge's Anglican background is clear as she depicts Robert Haslewood's Puritan conversion as a disaster for the family, the community, and especially the local Church of England minister, when Robert accidentally--although in a self-righteous rage--burns the little hovel Parson Hawthyn occupies. Robert is a sad figure: each time he comes home he wants to win his children, Jenny and Will, over to him, yet each time he does something that creates more distance between them. He wants their little dog, Maria (named for Henrietta Maria, King Charles I's wife in happier days) destroyed just because she irritates him and then he violently destroys the celebration of Christmas and burns down the Parson's home because it's all too Popish for his newly inspired Puritanism.

Goudge creates triangles of relationships: Robert loved Froniga, the White Witch of the title, but married Margaret. Poor Margaret has the ultra-capable Froniga living next door and helping and healing everyone in the village. 

In addition to the admiration of Robert, Froniga has the gypsy tinker Yoben, who has a secret: Goudge drops some hints (he prays in Latin from a book; he defends the Blessed Virgin Mary; he has been "cut off from the sacraments of religion"). Through Yoben, she becomes acquainted with the Royalist spy cum itinerant portrait painter, Francis Leyland, aka John Loggin.

In addition to admiring and visiting Froniga, Yoben cares for Madona, an elderly gypsy woman who has three gypsy children to care for (Cinderella, Dinki, and Meriful).

Since there is a White Witch, there must also be a Black Witch, the evil and malevolent Mother Skipton. These two pagan spiritual influences are well-matched by Parson Hawthyn, who frees Skipton from her darkness and reminds Froniga of the source of her lightness. He offers the example of love in the service of Jesus Christ and His Church that no one else in the novel even approaches.

Beyond this Oxfordshire idyll, Goudge depicts the events of the English Civil War, including King Charles, his sons and his daughter Elizabeth, Prince Rupert, Jeremy Taylor, Oliver Cromwell, John Hampden, and others. She recounts the battle of Edgehill, the exile Royal Court at Oxford, and other battles. King Charles I, who touches Will Haslewood's scrofula and cures him, is mysterious and almost mystical; Oliver Cromwell, whose adamantine righteousness converts Robert Haslewood to extreme enthusiasm, is easily fooled: a Royalist soldier enters his headquarters and charms him out of the Royal Standard, returning it to King Charles.  

Goudge's descriptions of nature and animals are delicate and sure: she explains the human motivations of her characters very sympathetically. The plotting and the pace pick up appreciably after the first few chapters, while Goudge is introducing her characters. I'm glad that Hendrickson is publishing her works in quality paperback editions; I was insulted by the publisher's politically correct comments on Goudge's unfortunate depictions of the Romani people. I thought she depicted them as free people who loved nature. Hendrickson's suggestion that they could have censored her novel was despicable.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

John of Salisbury, RIP and St. Thomas a Becket


John of Salisbury, English bishop and associate of St. Thomas a Becket and Nicholas Breakspear (the only Briton to be elected pope, as Adrian IV), died on October 25, 1180--as the Bishop of Chartres. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, he witnessed the martyrdom of St. Thomas a Becket:

Born about 1115; died 1180; a distinguished philosopher, historian, churchman, and scholar. Born near Salisbury, he went at an early age to Paris, where he studied arts and philosophy (1136-38) under Peter Abelard, Alberic of Reims, and Robert of Melun; then under William of Conches, Richard l'Evêque, and Theoderic of Chartres at the famous school at this latter town (1138-40); finally again at Paris, completing his studies in theology under Gilbert de La Porrée, Robert Pullus, and Simon of Poissy (1141-45). This solid education, under such brilliant masters, he perfected by some private teaching, perhaps with his lifelong friend Peter, Abbot of Moutier La Celle, near Troyes, with whom he was living in 1148. At the Council of Reims in this year, he was introduced to Theobald, Archbishop of Canterbury, by St. Bernard. After spending a few years at the papal Court at Rome, whither he went from Reims with Pope Eugene III, he returned to England and acted as private secretary to Theobald for several years, during which period he was repeatedly sent on delicate and important diplomatic missions to the Holy See, in 1159 he had "ten times crossed the Alps on his road from England" (Metalogicus, iii, prol., p. 113).

He was thus brought into intimate relations with princes and popes, especially with Henry II and his chancellor, Thomas à Becket, and with Pope Adrian IV, also an Englishman. In defending the rights of the Church, he incurred the kings displeasure in 1159 - when his forced seclusion enabled him to complete his two principal works the "Policraticus" and the "Metalogicus", both dedicated to Thomas à Becket - and again in 1163, when he was obliged to quit England. The next six years he spent with his friend Peter of La Celle, now Abbot of St. Remigius at Reims. Here he wrote "Historia Pontificalis". Thomas à Becket, who had succeeded Theobald as Archbishop of Canterbury in 1162, was soon obliged to follow John into exile. The latter steadily endeavoured to promote the cause of peace hetween the English king on the one hand and his archbishop and the Holy See on the other. Apparent success crowned those efforts in 1170, when both exiles returned. In a few months (29 Dec.) John witnessed the tragic murder of the saintly archbishop in the cathedral at Canterbury. In 1174 John became treasurer of Exeter cathedral. In 1176 he was appointed Bishop of Chartres. He attended the Third Lateran Council in 1179 and died the next year. He was interred in the monastery of St. Josaphat, near Chartres.


The British Library has an image of the martyrdom of St. Thomas a Becket from John of Salisbury's Life of Becket. More about how John of Salisbury promoted the cause for canonization and veneration of St. Thomas a Becket here. Among the ways he promoted veneration of Becket at Chartres, besides preserving drops of the martyr's blood that had fallen on him, John of Salisbury had a stained glass window panel created that contains events from Becket's life .

Summarizing his life and works, Peter Coffey comments:

John of Salisbury was one of the most cultured scholars of his day. Notwithstanding the engrossing cares of his diplomatic career, his great learning and indefatigable industry enabled him to carry on an extensive and lifelong correspondence on literary, educational, and ecclesiastical topics with the leading scholars of Europe. His collected letters (over 300 in number), no less than his other works, form an invaluable source of the history of thought and activity in the twefth century. His fine taste and superior training made him the most elegant Latin writer of his time. He is equally distinguished as an historian and as a philosopher: he was the first medieval writer to emphasize the importance of historical studies in philosophy and in all other branches of learning. Naturally of an eclectic turn, he displayed in philosophy a remarkably sound and judicious critical spirit. Familiar with all the phases of contemporary scholastic controversies, he was himself among the first to formulate clearly the solution known as "moderate realism" in answer to the fundamental philosophical problem of the value and significance of universal ideas.

The significance of Bishop John of Salisbury's devotion to St. Thomas a Becket meant that even after King Henry VIII had destroyed the martyr's shrine and tomb, there were still relics and devotion to Becket on the Continent. Like the Augustinians in Paris at the Abbey of St. Victor, the relics and stained glass of Chartres continued the veneration of the "holy, blissful martyr" in the Catholic Church.

Photo of Chartres (c) Mark Mann. Not be to used without permission.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Saint Philip Howard and His Dog


From my post last year on the National Catholic Register blog roll:

In a 19th century engraving (above), Sir Philip Howard, the 20th Earl of Arundel, leans against the wall above a fireplace. He has just inscribed the words “Quanto plus afflictionis pro Christo in saeculo, tanto plus gloriae cum Christo in futuro.” (“The more affliction we endure for Christ in this world, the more glory we shall obtain with Christ in the next.”) He is young, handsome, well-dressed: he is in the Tower of London, looking toward the source of sunlight in his cell. On the floor behind him, a dog looks up at him, perhaps awakened by his master’s sigh. Someone who loves dogs—and is devoted to St. Philip Howard for his conversion, his fortitude and his example—sees the bond between owner and pet clearly in this drawing. Howard is often depicted with his dog in statues and stained glass portraits, and the group painting of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales, commissioned when Howard and the others were canonized in 1970. . . .


Howard enjoyed the companionship of his dog and yet I think he must have known how hard it was for an active dog like a greyhound to share his imprisonment. Howard was a young man, in love with his wife, longing to see his son and daughter, used to exercise and activity, hunting, jousting and dancing at Court; yet he surrendered all those hopes and good things to be faithful in his prison cell to Jesus and His Church. Since I enjoy the company of dogs, I’ve written a poem about Howard and his dog:

Faithful old dog, do you recall
            The days of frolic and fun?
When walls were trees,
            Stone floors were earth and
            Low ceilings sky and sun?
When you and my other hounds
            Sighted the deer and coursed?
But captive now, your eyes follow me
            As I pace and pray, and wait
            And wait in this cell for death.
If you so dumb, can be so true,
            And trusted to carry words
To him whom my dearest love doth know—
            If you, so strong can be so meek,
            What else can I do—?
But bear affliction in this world for
            Glory with Christ in the next—but Oh!—
How I long to see you course
            And run as you once did run,
            Chasing the deer and finding him in the glorious sun!

Accounts of Howard’s life don’t tell us what happened to the dog after Howard died, or even what its name was. Perhaps it was returned to Arundel Castle, and lived out its days with Anne.

Saint Philip Howard, pray for us!

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Henry VIII and St. Paul at Ephesus

A long lost tapestry of a series of tapestries commissioned by Henry VIII has been discovered and is on display in London:

The tapestry, which depicts a spectacular bonfire at its centre with Saint Paul directing the burning of irreligious books of magic, was ordered by Henry VIII to assert his religious authority during the destructive phase of the English Reformation. The strongly political work raises timeless issues of power, censorship, the control of ideas and justifications for the destruction of cultural property. The tapestry was designed for the King by Pieter Coecke van Aelst (the preparatory drawing survives in Ghent and a fragment of the full cartoon in New York). It is woven with gold and silver threads and is one of the most sumptuous and important Renaissance tapestries ever to be shown in the UK, from both an artistic and a historical point of view.

Thomas P Campbell, former Director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and an authority on renaissance tapestry, gave a lecture earlier this month:

Dr Campbell has described the rediscovered tapestry as ‘the Holy Grail of Tudor Tapestry’. Before 2007, he had examined all the documents around this lost set for his book Henry VIII and the Art of Majesty: Tapestries at the Tudor Court (2007). Though at the time assumed destroyed- with meticulous detective work using archival records such as the Great Wardrobe Accounts, inventories, other Saint Paul tapestries and original artwork, he had been able to reconstruct and describe the missing set and its measurements.

This tapestry- nearly 20 ft wide- is the only surviving from the remarkable set of nine known as ‘The Life of Saint Paul’, depicting the principal events from the Saint’s life.

Recent research shows that this tapestry had been in England until the late 1960s when it was acquired by a dealer in Barcelona. Currently the tapestry is part of a private collection in Spain, but is in England temporarily to be cleaned and conserved. It will be shown for three weeks only before returning to Spain after Franses’ exhibition.

The tapestry is one of four Henrician tapestries and two important Tudor period textiles that will be exhibited at Franses this Autumn 2018.


Fascinating that Henry VIII would cast himself as St. Paul the Apostle, especially in Acts 19: 18-20:

18 Some believers, too, came forward to admit in detail how they had used spells 19 and a number of them who had practiced magic collected their books and made a bonfire of them in public. The value of these was calculated to be fifty thousand silver pieces.20 In this powerful way the word of the Lord spread more and more widely and successfully.

If Henry VIII was comparing the books in the monasteries he was destroying to the books of magic St. Paul had encouraged the people of Ephesus to burn, I think both Bishop Matthew Parker and John Leland would have disagreed (privately and secretly)!

Monday, October 15, 2018

Pope Gregory XIV, RIP: A Pope and Three Saints

On October 15, 1591, Pope Gregory XIV, born Niccolò Sfondrati on February 11, 1535, died in Rome. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, he was pious and ascetic before his election to the papacy:

His father Francesco, a Milanese senator, had, after the death of his wife, been created cardinal by Pope Paul III, in 1544. Niccolò studied at the Universities of perugia and Padua, was ordained priest, and then appointed Bishop of Cremona, in 1560. He participated in the sessions of the Council of Trent, 1561-1563, and was created Cardinal-Priest of Santa Cecilia by Gregory XIII on 12 December 1583. Urban VII having died on 27 September, 1590, Sfondrati was elected to succeed him on 5 December, 1590, after a protracted conclave of more than two months, and took the name of Gregory XIV. The new pope had not aspired to the tiara. Cardinal Montalto, who came to his cell to inform him that the Sacred College had agreed on his election, found him kneeling in prayer before a crucifix. When on the next day he was elected he burst into tears and said to the cardinals: "God forgive you! What have you done?" From his youth he had been a man of piety and mortification. Before entering the ecclesiastical state he was a constant companion of Charles Borromeo, and when cardinal, he was an intimate friend of Philip Neri whose holy life he strove to imitate.

Pope Gregory XIV was very actively involved in the French Wars of Religion, trying to prevent the Calvinist Henry of Navarre from succeeding the last son of Henri II and Catherine de Medici:

As soon as he became pope, he gave his energetic support to the French League, and took active measures against Henry of Navarre, whom Sixtus V, in 1585, had declared a heretic and excluded from succession to the French throne. In accordance with the Salic law, after the death of Henry III in 1589, Henry of Navarre was to succeed to the French throne, but the prevalent idea of those times was that no Protestant could become King of France, which was for the most part Catholic. The nobles, moreover, threatened to rise up against the rule of Henry of Navarre unless he promised to become a Catholic. In order to reconcile the nobility and the people to his reign, Henry declared on 4 August, 1589, that he would become a Catholic and uphold the Catholic religion in France. When Gregory XIV became pope, Henry had not yet fulfilled his promise and gave little hope of doing it in the near future. The pope, therefore, decided to assist the French League in its efforts to depose Henry by force of arms and in this he was encouraged by Philip II of Spain. In his monitorial letter to the Council of Paris, 1 March, 1591, he renewed the sentence of excommunication against Henry, and ordered the clergy, nobles, judicial functionaries, and the Third Estate of France to renounce him, under pain of severe penalties.

He only reigned ten months and ten days:

He vainly tried to induce Philip Neri to accept the purple. On 21 September, 1591, he raised to the dignity of a religious order the Congregation of the Fathers of a Good Death (Clerici regulares ministrantes infirmis) founded by St. Camillus de Lellis. In his Bull "Cogit nos", dated 21 March, 1591, he forbade under pain of excommunication all bets concerning the election of a pope, the duration of a pontificate, or the creation of new cardinals. In a decree, dated 18 April, 1591, he ordered reparation to be made to the Indians of the Philippines by their conquerors wherever it was possible, and commanded under pain of excommunication that all Indian slaves in the islands should be set free. Gregory XIV also appointed a commission to revise the Sixtine Bible and another commission to continue the revision of the Pian Breviary.

So, in spite of his relatively short life (56 years) and brief reign, he had contact with three men who would be declared saints: Borromeo, Neri, and de Lellis!


First image: St. Charles Borromeo intercedes for plague victims by Jordaens.
Second image: St. Philip Neri by Tiepolo
Third image: St. Camillus helping the plague victims by Subleyras