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

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Coincidentally: Three Births on October 14

On October 14, 1630, Sophia of Hanover,  the twelfth child of Frederick V, the Elector Palatinate and Elizabeth, the Queen of Bohemia (and James I/VI's daughter) was born.

On October 14, 1633, James, the Duke of York, and future King James II, second son of King Charles I and Queen Henrietta Maria,  was born.

On October 14, 1644, William Penn, son of Sir William Penn and his wife Margaret, was born.

All very coincidental at the time when each of these three were born, but portentous for the future, especially in matters of the English succession and religious toleration.

Sophia of Hanover replaced the direct descendants of James II in the line of succession after his daughter Mary and son-in-law William invaded England and he was declared deposed. She is pictured on the right (wikipedia source) in an Indian costume, painted by her older sister Louise. Sophia of Hanover was chosen by Parliament in 1701 because she was the closest Stuart heir who was NOT Catholic--even her elder brother Edward's children could not succeed to the throne because they were Catholic (he had married a Catholic princess and converted). This Act of Succession was necessary because William and Mary had no children (and Mary was dead by 1701 and William would not remarry), and Princess Anne Stuart's only child to survive infancy, William, Duke of Gloucester, died in 1700. James II's son, James Francis Edward, considered by his supporters to be the Prince of Wales and by his detractors, the Old Pretender, were completely shut out, of course, because what had the Glorious Revolution of 1688 been for, after all! (BTW, Sophia's elder sister Louise, the artist, had also become Catholic and a Cistercian nun and abbess!)

James II converted to Catholicism in about 1668; he succeeded his brother Charles II because Charles had no legitimate heirs. The English Parliament was opposed to his succession from the start and his son's birth and fears of another Catholic Stuart succeeding led to the so-called Glorious Revolution of 1688. His connection with William Penn comes because they were allies in King James' efforts to promote the Declaration of Indulgence and religious toleration in England for dissenters from the Church of England.  As this book explored the issue:

This is a critical study of the astonishing friendship between William Penn and James II—"two cardinal personalities of the modern era, authoritative men who deflected the political current of their time and left lasting influences that still can be felt on both sides of the Atlantic." Their friendship is no mere sidelight to seventeenth-century English history; indeed, it is not so much the friendship of a Quaker and a Catholic that intrigues us but, rather, the closeness of a Quaker leader and a Catholic monarch, standing together at the center of power in England for three decisive years.

Vincent Buranelli introduces his problem thus: "Nothing else in the life of William Penn has puzzled the biographers and historians so much as his persistent loyalty to James II. The antithesis between Catholic monarch and Quaker subject would seem to make any real understanding between the two men improbable; their presumed inability to speak to one another is compounded by the customary interpretation of James as a would-be tyrant and of Penn as an apostle of religious liberty; and yet Penn was not only a courtier throughout his reign but also a friend, possibly the best friend, of the King. . . . James II is one of the most reviled figures of modern history. William Penn is one of the most revered. How is their steadfast friendship to be explained?"

"Penn was loyal to James II, and he was right," argues Buranelli. His book texts (sic) this hypothesis and, in doing so, makes sense of a hitherto baffling side of William Penn.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Thomas Stapleton, RIP


According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, Thomas Stapleton, former Prebend at Chichester Cathedral, died in exile on October 12, 1598. He was known as a controversialist and theologian:

Controversialist, born at Henfield, Sussex, July, 1535; died at Louvain, 12 Oct., 1598. He was the son of William Stapleton, one of the Stapletons of Carlton, Yorkshire. He was educated at the Free School, Canterbury, at Winchester, and at New College, Oxford, where he became a fellow, 18 Jan., 1553. On Elizabeth's accession he left England rather than conform to the new religion, going first to Louvain, and afterwards to Paris, to study theology. In 1563, being in England, he was summoned by the Anglican bishop Barlow to repudiate the pope's authority, but refused and was deprived of the prebend of Woodhorne in Chichester Cathedral, conferred on him in 1558. He then retired to Louvain with his father and other relatives. In 1568 he joined Allen at Douai and took a great part in founding the English college there, both by lecturing and by devoting to its support his salary as lecturer in theology at Anchin College.

His talents were so remarkable that he was soon appointed public professor of divinity, and canon of St. Amatus; and together with Allen he completed the degree of D.D. on 10 July, 1571. In 1584 he resigned these preferments to enter the Society of Jesus, but did not complete his novitiate, and returned to Douai. Philip II appointed him professor of Scripture at Louvain in 1590, to which office a canonry in St. Peter's Church was annexed; and soon after he was made dean of Hilverenbeeck in the Diocese of Boisle-Duc. The emoluments of these offices were all spent in relieving necessitous English Catholics. Meanwhile his fame as a theologian had spread to Rome and Pope Clement VIII thought so much of his theological writings that he caused them to be read aloud at his table. Twice he invited Stapleton to Rome in vain, but his offer to make him prothonotary Apostolic in January, 1597, was accepted. It was generally believed that he would be created cardinal, a suggestion which was disapproved of by Father Agazzari, S. J., rector of the English College, and obstacles were put in the way of his journey to Rome (Eley, "Certaine Briefe Notes", p. 254). He accordingly remained at Louvain till his death in the following year. He left his books and manuscripts (now lost) to the English College at Douai. An original painting of Stapleton is preserved at Douai Abbey, Woolhampton, England.

His first works were translations: Ven. Bede's "History of the Church in England" (Antwerp, 1556), the "Apology of Staphylus" (Antwerp, 1565), and Hosius on "The Expresse Word of God" (1567). His original works were very numerous: "A Fortress of the Faith" (Antwerp); "A Return of Untruths" (Antwerp, 1566); "A Counterblast to M. Horne's vain blast" (Louvain, 1567); "Orationes funebres" (Antwerp, 1577); "Principiorum fidei doctrinalium demonstratio" (Paris, 1578); "Speculum pravitatis hæreticæ" (Douai, 1580); "De universa justificationis doctrina" (Paris, 1582); "Tres Thomæ" (Douai, 1588); "Promptuarium morale" in two parts (Antwerp, 1591, 1592); "Promptuarium Catholicum in Evangelia Dominicalia" (Cologne, 1592); "Promptuarium Catholicum in Evangelia Ferialia" (Cologne, 1594) and "Promptuarium Catholicum in Evangelia Festorum" (Cologne, 1592); "Relectio scholastica" (Antwerp, 1592); "Authoritatis Ecclesiasticæ circa S. Scripturarum approbationem defensio" (Antwerp, 1592); "Apologia pro rege Philippo II" (Constance, 1592), published under the punning pseudonym of Didymus Veridicus Henfildanus, i. e. Thomas the Stable-toned [truth-speaking] Henfieldite. "Antidota Evangelica", "Antidota Apostolica contra nostri Temporis Hæreses" (both at Antwerp, 1595); "Antidota Apostolica in Epistolam Pauli ad Romanos" (Antwerp, 1595); "Triplicatio inchoata" (Antwerp, 1596); "Antidota Apostolica in duas Epistolas ad Corinthios" (Antwerp, 1598); "Orationes catecheticæ" (Antwerp, 1598); "Vere admiranda, seu de Magnitudine Romanæ Ecclesiæ" (Antwerp, 1599); "Orationes academicæ miscellaneæ" (Antwerp, 1602); "Oratio academica" (Mainz, 1608). All his works were republished in four folio volumes in Paris in 1620, with an autobiography of the author in Latin verse and Henry Holland's "Vita Thomæ Stapletoni".


The late, great Father Marvin O'Connell wrote a major study of Thomas Stapleton in 1964, well-reviewed here and here, by me!

Thursday, October 11, 2018

"Divided Loyalties in Tudor England"

Also from behind the History Today paywall, this essay on divided loyalties in families during the Tudor Era, which looks particularly at the Catherine of Aragon faction against the Anne Boleyn faction:

The role played by many noblewomen at the royal court, however, including many of the Howard and Boleyn women, made this more complicated than it might otherwise have been. They did not always follow the dynastic ‘party line’. Women who entered the queen’s household were required to take an oath of service, just as men were. This was in essence an oath of loyalty to one’s new mistress. Women took no comparable oath to the head of their family, but there is considerable evidence to show that their families expected them to fly their flag, promote their interests and seek patronage for their relatives. The dilemma faced by women when family interests and those of their mistress clashed is one that is rarely considered by historians, but it did sometimes occur and could cause anguish on all sides. Elizabeth Stafford/Howard, Duchess of Norfolk (c.1497-1558), is a prime example. The eldest daughter of Edward Stafford, 3rd Duke of Buckingham, and Eleanor Percy, her first betrothal was broken in 1512 in favour of Thomas Howard, then Lord Howard, later 3rd Duke of Norfolk, whose first wife had recently died without giving him a son and heir. Though he was 20 years older than her at the time, Elizabeth’s own status was greater than his; the Howards had not yet regained the dukedom of Norfolk, so the highest title that her new husband could aspire to was the earldom of Surrey, whereas Elizabeth’s own father was a duke and her natal family, the Staffords, had royal blood. Howard was, though, a rising star at the royal court, as Elizabeth was herself. . . . 

It would be wrong to suggest that Elizabeth was alone in her support of Catherine at this point. Gertrude, Marchioness of Exeter, was described by Chapuys in 1531 as ‘the only true comforter and friend the Queen and the Princess have’ and she passed on information about Privy Council discussions. Maria, Lady Willoughby, rode through the night and then talked her way into Kimbolton Castle in order to be with Catherine as she lay dying in January 1536. Many noblewomen were among those who had listened to and encouraged the pro-Catherine, anti-Anne prophecies of Elizabeth Barton, the ‘nun of Kent’, in 1534, including the aforementioned Marchioness of Exeter, alongside Margaret, Countess of Salisbury, Anne, Lady Hussey, and Mary, Lady Kingston. All of these women were seasoned courtiers, like Elizabeth, and would no doubt have known one another well.

Read the rest of "Divided Loyalties in Tudor England" by Nicola Clark, Senior Lecturer in History at the University of Chichester and the author of Gender, Family and Politics: The Howard Women, 1485-1558 (Oxford, 2018) while you can!

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

The English Republic and Religion

From History Today (available now online at least):

The English republic was rooted in the religious and political idealism of its visionaries, administrators and apologists. As Bernard Capp demonstrated, in England’s Culture Wars (2012), the new regime set about a comprehensive programme of moral and social reform. The Cromwellian vision for a godly nation was energetically pursued, though it achieved more in some areas than in others. New laws made adultery a capital crime. Popular pastimes, including drinking and horse racing, were carefully controlled. The legislation promoted a ‘reformation of manners’ that was reflected in a new republican aesthetic. The visual culture, as in Robert Walker’s portraits of the leaders of the new regime, and public oratory on major state occasions, such as the sermon preached by John Owen at the funeral of Henry Ireton, promoted personal religion, moral sobriety and civic responsibility as the virtues that would enable and sustain the revolutionary regime. 

But fashions in the court were changing. The move, in 1653, from Commonwealth to Protectorate alienated the most ideological republicans, who felt that the transition to a single office of leader was betraying the aspirations of ‘generation 1649’. In 1657 some of those who had supported the Protectorate blanched at the offer of the crown that was made to Cromwell in its second constitution. At the same time, the regime’s growing number of critics began to notice that the programme for a reformation of morals seemed to focus more on the disruptive habits of the lower orders than on the recreations of the new elites. While local magistrates pressed hard against popular music and dancing, the Cromwellian court was slowly returning to these traditional festivities. In November 1657, the French ambassador noted a ‘different spirit’ in Whitehall, at the wedding of Cromwell’s youngest daughters, ‘dances having been held there again during these past days, and the preachers of the older times are withdrawing from it’.

The subtitle of Capp's book is Puritan Reformation and its Enemies in the Interregnum, 1649-1660.

Read the rest of "The End of the English Republic" by Crawford Gribben, Professor of History at Queen’s University Belfast and the author of John Owen and English Puritanism: Experiences of Defeat (Oxford University Press, 2016) while you can (before it moves behind the paywall!)

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Blessed John Henry Newman's Cause

Matt Swaim and I will discuss Blessed John Henry Newman on the Son Rise Morning Show this morning at 6:45 a.m. Eastern/5:45 a.m. Central. If you aren't up that early, here's a link to their SoundCloud page.

Blessed John Henry Newman's memorial is not on the liturgical calendar of the United States of America, but last year when we attended Noon Mass at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception on October 9, the Rector, Father Adam Keiter, chose to celebrate Newman! He cited his right as the celebrant to celebrate Newman's feast because of pastoral need. The theme of his homily was “Ten thousand difficulties do not make one doubt.”!

Perhaps devotion to Newman is stronger in the USA than it is in the UK, this article from the Catholic Herald suggests: after all, the two miracles (one recognized, the other under investigation) that have resulted from his cause are from the USA:

In 2010, John Henry Newman was the last Englishman to be named Blessed. Newman would appear best placed to become Britain’s next official saint – not least given the backing and resources of a religious congregation, the Oratorians, to facilitate this.

Since his beatification in 2010, there has been a notable increase in the display of images of Blessed John Henry in English churches. It’s less clear whether there has been an increase in large-scale popular devotion to the man. Perhaps this is because much of Newman’s public life and witness is about the intellect. There were no stigmata, no public miracles, no levitations; instead there were builders’ bills, court writs and endless misunderstandings. As a result Newman’s holiness is understated, a quiet but steadfast devotion to God’s will.

There are three stages in the Vatican’s recogition of a saint. First, the Pope declares them Venerable, meaning that they have lived a life of “heroic virtue”. To be beatified, a miracle is usually needed; canonisation requires two. It was thanks to Newman’s prayers that an American deacon, Jack Sullivan, was healed of a crippling spinal condition. In 2016, the Vatican began investigating a possible second miracle: a mother, also in the United States, who was healed during a life-threatening pregnancy. . . .

Tellingly, Newman’s miraculous cure was reported not in his homeland but in the United States. Modern secular Britain seems decidedly uninterested in Catholic saints, or potential ones. Although there has always been popular devotion to saints among British Catholics, such devotion appears less prominent in regard to indigenous men and women who are on their way to being canonised.


Surely, the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, under the spiritual protection of Blessed John Henry Newman, has also contributed to English Catholic devotion to Newman?

In the United States, the presence of Newman Centers at secular universities, the Newman Connection that supports them, books and magazine articles about him, the National Institute for Newman Studies, the Cardinal Newman Society, the Newman Association of America, and the reflections from his works that the Magnificat prayer magazine often selects, keep his name in front of thoughtful Catholics.

Blessed John Henry Newman, pray for us!

Eternal Father, you led JOHN HENRY NEWMAN to follow the kindly light of Truth, and he obediently responded to your heavenly calls at any cost. As writer, preacher, counsellor and educator, as pastor, Oratorian, and servant of the poor he labored to build up your Kingdom.

Grant that through your Vicar on Earth we may hear the words, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant, enter into the company of the canonized saints.”

May you manifest your Servant’s power of intercession by even extraordinary answers to the prayers of the faithful throughout the world. We pray particularly for our intentions in his name and in the name of Jesus Christ your Son our Lord. Amen.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Songs of Farewell

The October issue of the BBC Classical Music Magazine included a disc with Hubert Parry's Songs of Farewell. And these performance notes  by John Bawden explain:

By the time Parry was composing the Songs of Farewell he knew that he had not long to live. Though they are Parry’s own valediction – he died two years after their completion – they can also be seen as his farewell to the rapidly vanishing world of his youth. Common to all the texts are the contrasting themes of the transitory nature of life and the redeeming power of faith. The motets are to a large extent expressions of personal belief rather than orthodox liturgical works; only the final setting has a recognised sacred text.

The six individual motets are arranged in a carefully organised scheme of developing length and complexity. The first two, for just four vocal parts, are quite short and rhythmically and harmonically relatively straightforward. Here and elsewhere Parry’s liberal use of rests to punctuate phrases and emphasise (sic) aspects of the text is both effective and original. "Never weather-beaten sail" and "There is an old belief" are in five and six parts respectively, and introduce a degree of counterpoint into the texture. The final pair of motets, "At the round earth’s imagined corners" and "Lord, let me know mine end", are significantly longer and call for seven and eight voice parts. The harmony now becomes much more chromatic, the rhythmic figuration more intricate, and the counterpoint more audacious. This treatment of the set as a single, organic entity gives it an intensity and power considerably greater than the sum of its six individual parts. Not surprisingly, Parry’s
Songs of Farewell are widely acknowledged as masterpieces of unaccompanied choral writing.

The second song is by Sir John Davies, who was an attorney and poet, according to the History of Parliament:

In later years, Davies prospered as a lawyer but he never succeeded in obtaining a permanent post in London. In March 1603 he accompanied Lord Hunsdon to the Scottish court. King James, on hearing that the author of Nosce Teipsum had come, is said to have ‘embraced him and conceived a considerable liking for him’. Preferment followed and Davies embarked on a career in Ireland. In 1619 he returned to England to practise as a serjeant-at-law. He published legal works, including digests and reports specifically adapted for Ireland, and made an abridgment of Coke’s reports, published in 1615. Appointed chief justice of the King’s bench in November 1626, he died on 8 Dec., before he had entered upon his new office.

In his later years, he lived at Englefield, Berkshire. His wife, says Aubrey, ‘was a prophetess, or rather witch’ who afterwards published several fanatical works which led to her imprisonment in the Tower for sedition. She foretold Davies’s death by three years, insisting on wearing mourning in the interim. A daughter married Ferdinando Hastings, Lord Hastings, 6th Earl of Huntingdon.
Man, by Sir John Davies. 1569–1626

I KNOW my soul hath power to know all things,
Yet she is blind and ignorant in all:
I know I'm one of Nature's little kings,
Yet to the least and vilest things am thrall.

I know my life 's a pain and but a span;
I know my sense is mock'd in everything;
And, to conclude, I know myself a Man—
Which is a proud and yet a wretched thing.

Even more than John Davies, John Donne struggled to find secure employment and success, especially after he married Ann More clandestinely:

Throughout his middle years he and his wife brought up an ever-increasing family with the aid of relatives, friends, and patrons, and on the uncertain income he could bring in by polemical hackwork and the like. His anxious attempts to gain secular employment in the queen’s household in Ireland, or with the Virginia Company, all came to nothing, and he seized the opportunity to accompany Sir Robert Drury on a diplomatic mission in France in 1612. From these frustrated years came most of the verse letters, funeral poems, epithalamiums, and holy sonnets, as well as the prose treatises Biathanatos (1647), Pseudo-Martyr (1610), and Ignatius his Conclave (1611). . . .

Donne took holy orders in January 1615, having been persuaded by King James himself of his fitness for a ministry “to which he was, and appeared, very unwilling, apprehending it (such was his mistaking modesty) to be too weighty for his abilities.” So writes his first biographer, Izaak Walton, who had known him well and often heard him preach. Once committed to the Church, Donne devoted himself to it totally, and his life thereafter becomes a record of incumbencies held and sermons preached.

His wife died in childbirth in 1617. He was elected dean of St. Paul’s in November 1621, and he became the most celebrated cleric of his age, preaching frequently before the king at court as well as at St. Paul’s and other churches. 160 of his sermons have survived. The few religious poems he wrote after he became a priest show no falling off in imaginative power, yet the calling of his later years committed him to prose, and the artistry of his Devotions and sermons at least matches the artistry of his poems.

Holy Sonnet 7, by John Donne. 1572-1631

At the round earth's imagin'd corners, blow
Your trumpets, angels, and arise, arise
From death, you numberless infinities
Of souls, and to your scatter'd bodies go;
All whom the flood did, and fire shall o'erthrow,
All whom war, dearth, age, agues, tyrannies,
Despair, law, chance hath slain, and you whose eyes
Shall behold God and never taste death's woe.
But let them sleep, Lord, and me mourn a space,
For if above all these my sins abound,
'Tis late to ask abundance of thy grace
When we are there; here on this lowly ground
Teach me how to repent; for that's as good
As if thou'hadst seal'd my pardon with thy blood.

The other poems/selections are "My soul, there is a country" by Henry Vaughan (1622-1695); "Never weather-beaten sail" by Thomas Campion (1622-1695); "There is an old belief" by John Gibson Lockhart (1794-1854), Sir Walter Scott's son-in-law, and Psalm 39, "Lord, let me know mine end".

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

St. Thomas a Becket at the Abbey of Saint Victor in Paris

I am reading Margot E. Fassler's second, revised edition of Gothic Song: Victorine Sequences and Augustinian Reform in Twelfth-Century Paris (originally published by Cambridge University Press and now available from the University of Notre Dame Press):

Margot E. Fassler’s richly documented history—winner of the Otto Kinkeldey Award from the American Musicological Society and the John Nicholas Brown Prize from the Medieval Academy of America—demonstrates how the Augustinians of St. Victor, Paris, used an art of memory to build sonic models of the church. This musical art developed over time, inspired by the religious ideals of Hugh and Richard of St. Victor and their understandings of image and the spiritual journey. Gothic Song: Victorine Sequences and Augustinian Reform in Twelfth-Century Paris demonstrates the centrality of sequences to western medieval Christian liturgical and artistic experience, and to our understanding of change and continuity in medieval culture. Fassler examines the figure of Adam of St. Victor and the possible layers within the repertories created at various churches in Paris, probes the ways the Victorine sequences worked musically and exegetically, and situates this repertory within the intellectual and spiritual ideals of the Augustinian canons regular, especially those of the Abbey of St. Victor. Originally published in hardover in 1993, this paperback edition includes a new introduction by Fassler, in which she reviews the state of scholarship on late sequences since the original publication of Gothic Song. Her notes to the introduction provide the bibliography necessary for situating the Victorine sequences, and the late sequences in general, in contemporary thought.

The Abbey of St. Victor was destroyed during the French Revolution, but during its height of influence, when the Augustinian Canons there were the confessions and spiritual counselors of the Parisian hierarchy, it was filled with many side altars and relics, which specially written sequences for the Blessed Virgin Mary and the saints honored at those altars.

Among them was St. Thomas of Canterbury and devotion to him at the Abbey of St. Victor began even before his canonization. It continued through the 16th century as this little snippet from an article demonstrates:

In late December 1585, the abbey of Saint-Victor, on the south-eastern-edge of Paris, played host to a group of English Catholics. The journal of Guillaume Cotin, the community’s librarian, tells us that the English arrived in the run-up to the feast of the martyrdom of Saint Thomas of Canterbury. The feast itself, on 29 December, was marked by a high mass sung in honour of the saint, with a sermon [service] in English. Several supplementary masses were also celebrated by English priests. Apparently, in order to attend these celebrations, ‘English Catholics came in very great multitude’.

The Abbey of St. Victor was home for great theologians and mystics of the medieval era: Hugh of St. Victor, Adam of St. Victor, and Richard of St. Victor. As the old Catholic Encyclopedia entry for it indicates, its reforming spirit reached England and Ireland, but it lost its fervour, even being tainted by Jansenism:

The time came when abbots in commendam were introduced and signs of decay were manifested. Towards the end of the fifteenth century some efforts were made to reform the abbey with canons brought from the newly-established Windesheim congregation. A few years later Cardinal de Larochefoucauld again attempted to reform it, but in vain. The canons, moreover, were implicated in the Jansenist movement, only one, the Venerable Jourdan, remaining faithful to the old spirit and traditions. At that time there lived at St. Victor Santeul, the great classical poet, whose Latin proses were adopted by the Gallican Liturgy. The end of the abbey came with the French Revolution. In 1800 the church and the other buildings were sold, the famous library was dispersed, and a few years later everything had disappeared. There are still a few convents of canonesses, at Bruges, Ypres, and Neuilly, who keep the rule and spirit which they originally received from the Abbey of St. Victor's. [in 1912]

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

The Exeter Madonna at The Frick

At The Frick in New York City, an exhibition explores some artifacts and paintings from the world of the Carthusians, associated with the Charterhouse of Bruges:

This exhibition brings together two masterpieces of early Netherlandish painting commissioned in the 1440s by the Carthusian monk Jan Vos, reuniting them for only the second time in their history. The panels — the Frick’s Virgin and Child with St. Barbara, St. Elizabeth, and Jan Vos, by Jan van Eyck and his workshop, and The Virgin and Child with St. Barbara and Jan Vos by Petrus Christus, now in the Gemäldegalerie, Berlin — were commissioned by Vos during his tenure as prior of the Carthusian monastery (or charterhouse) of Bruges. The panels are presented with Carthusian objects that place them in their rich monastic context, offering a glimpse into the visual environment of the charterhouse and highlighting the role that images played in shaping devotional life and funerary practices in Europe during the late Middle Ages.

The Charterhouse of Bruges is on view in the museum’s Cabinet Gallery and is curated by Emma Capron, the 2016–18 Anne L. Poulet Curatorial Fellow at The Frick Collection. The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated scholarly catalogue published by The Frick Collection in association with D Giles Ltd., London.

The Virgin and Child with St. Barbara and Jan Vos by Petrus Christus is also known as the Exeter Madonna because its "first modern owner" was Brownlow Cecil, the 2nd Marquess of Exeter (second creation in 1801). He acquired it in 1815 and sold it in 1888.

The Charterhouse of Bruges referred to in this exhibit was at Genadendal. The other famous Charterhouse in Bruges was the Sheen Anglorum, founded after the Carthusians in England were either executed, starved to death, or sent into exile during the English Reformation.

Monday, October 1, 2018

The Oaten Hill Martyrs: October 1, 1588

"The Oaten Hill Martyrs" were executed on Oaten Hill in Canterbury on October 1, 1588. According to this page on the website for St. Thomas of Canterbury Roman Catholic Church, they were: 

BLESSED EDWARD CAMPION 
Edward Campion was the alias used by Father Gerard Edwards. He was born at Ludlow in Shropshire and studied at Oxford where he obtained a degree. This would indicate that he had subscribed to the new religion, since only those prepared to take the Oath of Supremacy, swearing on the Bible that the king was the rightful governor of the Church in England and so denying the authority of the Pope, could come down with a degree. He then became a servant to Gregory Fiennes, 8th Baron Dacres of the South. Baron Dacres was married to Anne Sackville, a member of a family with strong Catholic leanings. Gerard was reconciled to the Church at this time, and in February 1586 went to the English Seminary at Rheims. Here he adopted the name of Campion in order to associate himself more closely with St Edmund Campion, who had been martyred some years earlier. Because of his good education, his priestly training was shortened, and he was ordained in March 1587. A few days later he set sail for England, but after only a few weeks was arrested at Sittingbourne. He confessed he was a priest and boldly avowed that the religion now professed in England was heretical. He was then taken to London and imprisoned in the Marshalsea Prison in South London. Father Campion was examined again on 14th August,1588, and at the end of September he was sent to Canterbury for execution. 

(I used the image of St. Edmund Campion's martyrdom on December 1, 1581 because of Blessed Edward Campion's devotion to that martyr, noted above.)

BLESSED CHRISTOPHER BUXTON 
Christopher Buxton, a Derbyshire man, was born in 1562, and was educated at Tidewell Grammar School where one of his masters was Nicholas Garlick who was himself martyred for the Faith. In July 1582 Christopher arrived with two school-friends at Rheims. In 1584 he was sent to the English College in Rome where he was ordained on 26th October 1586. He had a lengthy and difficult journey across Europe, calling in at Rheims on his way to Dieppe. In September 1587 he crossed over to Kent, but was arrested there in November and taken to the Marshalsea prison. On 15th August 1588 Father Buxton was examined and then taken to Canterbury for trial and execution at the end of September. At his examination he admitted he was a priest. 

BLESSED ROBERT WILCOX 
Robert Wilcox was born in Chester in 1558 and entered the seminary at Rheims when he was twenty-five years old. He was ordained on 20th April 1585 and arrived in England on 7th June 1586. He was arrested almost immediately at Lydd in Kent, presumably where he landed. He, too, was sent to the Marshalsea where he was examined on 15th August 1588. Here he admitted he was a priest and was sent for trial with the others to Canterbury. 

BLESSED ROBERT WIDMERPOOL 
Robert Widmerpool was born in Nottinghamshire in 1560 and was at Oxford in 1578. There is no record that he graduated, an indication that he had remained a Catholic. A little later he obtained a post as a tutor with the Countess of Northumberland. In 1588 he was charged with hospitality towards priests and specifically with having introduced a priest into the house of the Countess. He was imprisoned in the Marshalsea, and was sent down with the others for trial and execution at Canterbury. It would seem that it was decided that the executions of Catholics should take place in significant local centres around London so that the example made by them would be felt as widely as possible. 

These four were beatified in 1929 by Pope Pius XI. Holy Martyrs of England, pray for us!

The Chester Martyrs: October 1, 1588

In response to the attempted invasion of England by Spain by the Armada, from late August through October in 1588, the Elizabeth government arranged several executions of Catholic priests and/or laity to demonstrate the fate of traitors. In Chichester and in Canterbury on October 1, 1588, the government planned two more group executions of priests. 

In Chichester, something unusual happened—one of the priests on the scaffold recanted and agreed to take the Oath of Supremacy. Four priests had been condemned to death on September 30, but one of the four had already taken the Oath of Supremacy after condemnation to avoid being hanged, drawn, and quartered. 

Father Edward James and Father Ralph Crockett had been arrested on April 19, 1586 and held in prison in London for more than two years without trial (from April 27, 1586). After the failure of the Spanish Armada, these imprisoned Catholic priests were prime targets of the English government for vengeance and punishment. Fr. James and Fr. Crockett were tried in Chichester along with Father John Oven and Father Francis Edwardes, found guilty and sentenced to death, but Fr. Oven took the Oath of Supremacy and was reprieved.

Then on October 1st, at Broyle Heath, Fr. Edwardes took the Oath of Supremacy and was reprieved--Fr. James and Fr. Crockett refused to recant and the butchery of their execution was carried out, after they first absolved each other on the scaffold. So often when we tell the story of the Catholic recusants and the Catholic priests of that recusant era, we emphasize the heroic faithfulness of those who suffered and died. This story reminds us that some who faced the crisis of life and death chose to recant their Catholic faith and avoid martyrdom.

This blog points out that: "Blessed Ralph Crockett and Blessed Edward James had never offered a mass or heard a confession in England. They accomplished their ministry in their death." They were beatified by Pope Pius XI in 1929 (among many others).

In her novel Superstition Corner, the Catholic convert from Anglicanism Sheila Kaye-Smith depicts the effect of Father Edwardes recanting and accepting the Oath of Supremacy on a recusant Catholic who knew him. Catherine Alard has traveled to Chichester, hoping to meet her brother who is now a Catholic priest, and hears about the impending executions:

Among much that was painful for her to hear, Catherine learned that the names of the other two priests were Ralph Crockett and Edward James, so she now knew for certain that Father Oven had refused his martyr's crown. The number of her honest men was dwindling . . . miserere mei. . . . She felt strangely moved and exalted, almost light-headed, as at last she jostled her way under the gate and came out on the high-road leading to the Broyle.

About a mile farther on the gallows rose up before her, and she felt a curious fear and constriction of her heart. This would not be the first hanging she had seen, but it would indeed, as the landlord had said, be different from the others. To-day she would see men die, but not for their own sins. No doubt their sufferings would be a passion offered for the sins of the unfaithful—for the unfaithful that they did not know as well as for the unfaithful that they knew. These three friends would die expiating her father's conformity, her mother's adultery, her friend's apostasy: they would wipe her world clean as they left it. . . . Yet before they died she would have to witness dreadful things, and for a moment her heart failed her. Though she had never been squeamish, she was glad to be on the outskirts of the crowd that swarmed round the scaffold.


Catherine witnesses the executions of Father Crockett, appalled by the animosity of the crowd toward the priest and horrified by his suffering:

Then silence fell: the executioner stood on the ladder watching the victim's struggles, and when they seemed to decrease gave the order for him to be cut down. He was caught as he fell, and his clothes torn off him, so that castration and dismemberment could follow while he was still alive. Catherine had never before seen an execution for high treason, and an ordinary hanging had always stopped short of this. She began to feel a little sick, and would have closed her eyes had she been able, but a kind of paralysis had taken her, and she could not move; she could only sit there staring and holding up her beads.

After seeing Father James suffer in the same horrible way, she notices that Father Edwardes’ execution is not proceeding apace, but that he has begun to cry out for mercy:

"Oh, Lord!" cried Catherine. "Oh, dear, dear Lord!" A great yell broke from the crowd, and she expected to see the wretched man carried up the ladder and flung off in a bundle. But the next moment she saw that something else was happening. Three men in black who had been standing with the magistrates on the scaffold now came forward, and she guessed that they were the Protestant ministers. They gathered round Francis Edwards (sic), who was vomiting. She knew that they were offering him his life at a price which in his terror and exhaustion he might pay. De profundus clamavi ad te, Domine: Domine, exaudi vocem meum. Oh, Lord, help him; oh, Lord, spare him. . . . Oh, Lord, let him fall down dead rather than deny his faith. . . . Oh, Lord, spare him. . . . Domine, Domine, exaudi vocem meum. The crowd was shouting and muttering—some were urging the martyr to change his faith and save his life. "'At, that's right 'at, that's right!" "Be a Protestant and live!" But others said: "You can never trust a Jesuit." "Set him free and he poisons us all." The cries swelled to a roar, and all the time a voice was shouting in her ear miserere mei! miserere mei! She did not know it was her own. . . .

She could stay no longer; the sheriff came to the edge of the scaffold to address the crowd, but she would not wait. She had seen enough—too much; and in that distracted moment she did not know which was too much—the sufferings of the martyrs or the sparing of the apostate. Francis Edwards had been spared—he would not have to climb that ladder, to endure that agony, to suffer that outrageous death. She was glad—she was glad. No, no—she was not glad. She was sorry.


Kaye-Smith’s description of the crowd and its changing fancies serve as a good example the expectations of the witnesses of the executions to see justice handed out effectively. They did not trust the recanting priest and might have admired the priests who endured their executions more. Please see the next post for the story of the Oaten Hill Martyrs at Canterbury, also on October 1 in 1588.