Friday, July 19, 2019

Preview: Newman and Church History

On Monday, July 22, I'll continue my series on the Son Rise Morning Show preparing for Blessed John Henry Newman's canonization on Sunday, October 13. Anna Mitchell and I will discuss "Newman and Church History" for a few minutes at 7:50 a.m. Eastern/6:50 a.m. Central.

In his Apologia pro Vita Sua, Newman describes two books he read when he was 15 and the effects they had on him for many years:

Now I come to two other works, which produced a deep impression on me in the same autumn of 1816, when I was fifteen years old, each contrary to each, and planting in me the seeds of an intellectual inconsistency which disabled me for a long course of years. I read Joseph Milner's Church History, and was nothing short of enamoured of the long extracts from St. Augustine, St. Ambrose, and the other Fathers which I found there. I read them as being the religion of the primitive Christians: but simultaneously with Milner I read Newton on the Prophecies, and in consequence became most firmly convinced that the Pope was the Antichrist predicted by Daniel, St. Paul, and St. John. My imagination was stained by the effects of this doctrine up to the year 1843; it had been obliterated from my reason and judgment at an earlier date; but the thought remained upon me as a sort of false conscience. Hence came that conflict of mind, which so many have felt besides myself;—leading some men to make a compromise between two ideas, so inconsistent with each other,—driving others to beat out the one idea or the other from their minds,—and ending in my own case, after many years of intellectual unrest, in the gradual decay and extinction of one of them,—I do not say in its violent death, for why should I not have murdered it sooner, if I murdered it at all?

So on the one hand, Newman, influenced by Joseph Milner's The History of the Church of Christ (the book's full title), had learned about the Fathers of the Church, which would be in some ways the source of the final impetus of his becoming Catholic and on the other hand by Sir Isaac Newton's Observations upon the Prophecies of Daniel, and the Apocalypse of St. John he was convinced that Pope was the Antichrist and thus had a strong animus toward the Catholic Church. It would be through his study of the Fathers of the Church that he would first intellectually and then religiously cast aside that prejudice against the Catholic Church and the Pope. 

That's why he wrote at the beginning of his Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine that "to be deep in history is to cease to be a Protestant". His reading of the Fathers of the Church and his interest in Church History led him to see as he famously summarized in the Apologia pro Vita Sua, that the Catholic Church had always upheld the true doctrine of the Holy Trinity, the Person of Jesus, the Divinity of the Holy Spirit, and that the Protestant Church or the Anglican Church would always choose the wrong side in those historic early disputes:

About the middle of June I began to study and master the history of the Monophysites. I was absorbed in the doctrinal question. This was from about June 13th to August 30th. It was during this course of reading that for the first time a doubt came upon me of the tenableness of Anglicanism. I recollect on the 30th of July mentioning to a friend, whom I had accidentally met, how remarkable the history was; but by the end of August I was seriously alarmed.

I have described in a former work, how the history affected me. My stronghold was Antiquity; now here, in the middle of the fifth century, I found, as it seemed to me, Christendom of the sixteenth and the nineteenth centuries reflected. I saw my face in that mirror, and I was a Monophysite. The Church of the Via Media was in the position of the Oriental communion, Rome was where she now is; and the Protestants were the Eutychians. Of all passages of history, since history has been, who would have thought of going to the sayings and doings of old Eutyches, that delirus senex, as (I think) Petavius calls him, and to the enormities of the unprincipled Dioscorus, in order to be converted to Rome!


Now let it be simply understood that I am not writing controversially, but with the one object of relating things as they happened to me in the course of my conversion. With this view I will quote a passage from the account, which I gave in 1850, of my reasonings and feelings in 1839:

"It was difficult to make out how the Eutychians or Monophysites were heretics, unless Protestants and Anglicans were heretics also; difficult to find arguments against the Tridentine Fathers, which did not tell against the Fathers of Chalcedon; difficult to condemn the Popes of the sixteenth century, without condemning the Popes of the fifth. The drama of religion, and the combat of truth and error, were ever one and the same. The principles and proceedings of the Church now, were those of the Church then; the principles and proceedings of heretics then, were those of Protestants now. I found it so,—almost fearfully; there was an awful similitude, more awful, because so silent and unimpassioned, between the dead records of the past and the feverish chronicle of the present. The shadow of the fifth century was on the sixteenth. It was like a spirit rising from the troubled waters of the old world, with the shape and lineaments of the new. The Church then, as now, might be called peremptory and stern, resolute, overbearing, and relentless; and heretics were shifting, changeable, reserved, and deceitful, ever courting civil power, and never agreeing together, except by its aid; and the civil power was ever aiming at comprehensions, trying to put the invisible out of view, and substituting expediency for faith. What was the use of continuing the controversy, or defending my position, if, after all, I was forging arguments for Arius or Eutyches, and turning devil's advocate against the much-enduring Athanasius and the majestic Leo? Be my soul with the Saints! and shall I lift up my hand against them? Sooner may my right hand forget her cunning, and wither outright, as his who once stretched it out against a prophet of God! anathema to a whole tribe of Cranmers, Ridleys, Latimers, and Jewels! perish the names of Bramhall, Ussher, Taylor, Stillingfleet, and Barrow from the face of the earth, ere I should do aught but fall at their feet in love and in worship, whose image was continually before my eyes, and whose musical words were ever in my ears and on my tongue!"


Note that the Monophysites and the Eutychians denied the two natures of Jesus Christ, human and divine, in one Divine Person.

He still had to fight that old prejudice against Catholics and the Papacy, but Newman was on his way to becoming a Catholic. The history of the Early Church of the Fathers had been the basis of his efforts to build the Via Media of the Church of England. In July of 1839 he had become uncertain about those foundations; in August of 1839 they had crumbled beneath him after he had read Father Nicholas Wiseman in the Dublin Review, comparing Anglicanism to Donatism and citing St. Augustine of Hippo:

For a mere sentence, the words of St. Augustine, struck me with a power which I never had felt from any words before. To take a familiar instance, they were like the "Turn again Whittington" of the chime; or, to take a more serious one, they were like the "Tolle, lege,—Tolle, lege," of the child, which converted St. Augustine himself. "Securus judicat orbis terrarum!" By those great words of the ancient Father, interpreting and summing up the long and varied course of ecclesiastical history, the theory of the Via Media was absolutely pulverized.

The Donatists were schismatics in Africa from 311 to 411 with whom St. Augustine of Hippo contended.

More about Newman and Church History on Monday. Here is some background on the two books Newman read when he was 15 years old. From the Dictionary of National Biography entry on Joseph Milner:

As a writer Milner is chiefly known in connection with ‘The History of the Church of Christ’ which bears his name, though the literary history of that work is a curious medley. The excellent and somewhat novel idea of the book is no doubt exclusively his. He was painfully struck by the fact that most church histories were in reality little more than records of the errors and disputes of Christians, and thus too often played into the hands of unbelievers. Perhaps the recent publication of Gibbon's ‘Decline and Fall’ (first volume, 1776) strengthened this feeling. At any rate his object was to bring out into greater prominence the bright side of church history. ‘The terms “church” and “Christian,”’ he says, ‘in their natural sense respect only good men. Such a succession of pious men in all ages existed, and it will be no contemptible use of such a history as this if it prove that in every age there have been real followers of Christ.’ With this end in view he brought out the first three volumes— vol. i. in 1794, vol. ii. in 1795, and vol. iii. in 1797. Then death cut short his labours; but even in these first three volumes the hand of Isaac as well as of Joseph may be found, and after Joseph's death Isaac published in 1800 a new and greatly revised edition of vol. i. Vols. ii. and iii. did not require so much revision, because they had been corrected by Isaac in manuscript. In 1803 appeared vol. iv., and in 1809 vol. v., both edited by Isaac, but still containing much of Joseph's work.

Newman is referring to Sir Isaac Newton's Observations upon the Prophecies of Daniel, and the Apocalypse of St. John. The Newton Project comments:

Like most radical Protestants, Newton was keenly interested in the interpretation of Biblical prophecy. However, he believed that God had specially chosen him to deliver the truth about how prophetic texts were to be understood. A central plank of his general prophetic outlook was that images of the vials and trumpets described in the Book of Revelation referred to key events in the downfall of Roman Catholicism. In another remarkable treatise that can be dated to the late 1680s, Newton discussed what he believed would happen to the elect during Jesus’s thousand year reign immediately after his Second Coming. He suggested that Christ would reign with saints over a kingdom of mortals on Earth that would continue to produce successive generations of people until the end of time.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Papal Primacy in Pastor Aeternus

As today is the anniversary of the definition of the Church's teaching on Papal Primacy and Papal Infallibility at the First Vatican Council on July 18, 1870, here are some comments from Father John Trigilio  at Legatus:

Papal primacy is the concept that the bishop of Rome (the pope) is the universal pastor and supreme head of the Catholic Church. He has full, supreme, immediate, and universal jurisdictional authority to govern the Church.

This means that no bishop, synod, or council of bishops can override his authority. His teaching authority is defined in the doctrine of papal infallibility. His governing authority is contained in papal primacy.

The Eastern Orthodox Church considers the bishop of Rome to have a primacy in honor among the five patriarchs of Jerusalem, Alexandria, Antioch, Constantinople and Rome. They do not recognize his primacy in jurisdiction, however.

Every bishop in the Catholic Church must be approved by the pope and receive a papal mandate before being ordained and consecrated to the episcopacy, and it is the pope who confers on that bishop the authority to govern the diocese to which he has been appointed.

The First Vatican Council defined papal infallibility and papal primacy. “All the faithful of Christ must believe that the Apostolic See and the Roman Pontiff hold primacy over the whole world, and that the Pontiff of Rome himself is the successor of the blessed Peter, the chief of the apostles, and is the true Vicar of Christ and head of the whole Church and faith, and teacher of all Christians.”

The charism of infallibility is exercised only when the pope issues an ex cathedra statement on faith and morals or when he proposes a teaching united with all the bishops of the world. Unlike divine inspiration of scripture, where God directed the sacred authors to write only what he wanted them to write, infallibility means there are no moral or doctrinal errors present in the statement.


And here's a conversation on these doctrines on Thinking With the Church:

These teachings – of an Ecumenical Council – are to be held by all the faithful on pain of mortal sin: to deny them is to separate oneself from the Body of Christ.

Only, what do these teachings mean?

More importantly, what don’t they mean?

Where did they come from?

Why did the Fathers of the I Vatican Council bother with them at all, and why do we bother with them today, when the Papacy as an institution often appears rather to be an impediment to Christian unity than anything else (and don’t be upset with me – I didn’t say it, Pope St. John Paul II did in Ut unum sint, 96).

This week, we explore these questions and others with Christopher Wells, a theologian doing Doctoral work at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas, who has written extensively on both subjects, especially their treatment in the thought and writings of the great 19th Century theologian and Churchman, Henry Edward Cardinal Manning.


Among other comments, Christopher Wells contrasts Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis, noting that the former did not use his primacy or authority as much as he could have, while the latter uses his primacy and authority as much as he can.

I'm still reading--in between assigned reading for my summer school classes at the Spiritual Life Center's Christendom Academy--Adam DeVille's Orthodoxy and the Roman Papacy: Ut Unum Sint and the Prospects of East-West Unity.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

The Cause of the Irish Martyrs

As announced, the Archdiocese of Armagh celebrated the 350th anniversary of St. Oliver Plunkett's appointment as the Archbishop of Armagh in 1669 as described by The Irish Catholic:

People from across the country braved a three-day pilgrimage in honour of St Oliver Plunkett this week, which culminated in the unveiling of a statue of the martyred saint.

A Mass dedicated to the annual procession of the holy relics of St Oliver, as well as commemorating the 350th anniversary of his appointment as Archbishop of Armagh, took place before 100 pilgrims began their 100km trek.

Archbishop Eamon Martin celebrated the Mass on Sunday in St Peter’s Church in Drogheda, Co. Louth, opening a triduum of prayer across the Archdiocese of Armagh.

The statue of St Oliver was unveiled on Tuesday evening. It was commissioned by Archbishop Martin and cast in bronze by Dublin-sculptor Dony McManus.

The seven-foot high statue depicts St Oliver in the final moments of his earthly life.

The saint is in Ecce Homo pose with his hands bound behind his back.

Pictures from the unveiling may be seen at the website of the Archdiocese of Armagh, accompanied by Archbishop Eamon Martin's homily.

In other news from The Irish Catholic, an explanation for the delay in the cause of many Irish martyrs and news of the renewal of their cause at the diocesan level:

Ireland could be set to have 42 more martyrs recognised by the Church in the near future, with Archbishop Eamon Martin revealing that the process of readying their causes for submission to Rome is at “an advanced stage”.

Speaking to
The Irish Catholic at Drogheda’s annual celebration of St Oliver Plunkett, Archbishop Martin said that while his 17th-Century predecessor is Ireland’s most famous martyr, Irish Catholics can look to the examples of many others who heroically gave their lives for the Faith. . . .

According to the Archdiocese of Dublin, which administers the Irish Martyrs Fund, after the beatification of 17 Irish martyrs in 1992 work continued on a second group of 42 martyrs and a positio – a dossier of documentation pertaining to them – was prepared in 1998. . . .

It appears, however, that the positio was never forwarded to the Vatican. Following the 2016 death of Msgr John Hanley, postulator of the martyrs’ causes, the positio was discovered in an examination of his papers.

“Just over two years ago, the papers were consigned to Archbishop Diarmuid Martin and they must be verified regarding their completeness by the relevant office of the Holy See,” a diocesan spokesperson said. “On completion of the examination the second phase of the process can be opened.”

The position contains 18 dossiers, covering 41 Irish people and one English Carmelite priest all killed between 1572 and 1655. The martyrs include 10 lay men and two lay women, with such individuals, Dr Martin said in Drogheda, being especially important examples for today’s Catholics.

St. Oliver Plunkett, pray for us! Holy martyrs of Ireland, pray for us!

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

"Thomas More changed the course of the narrative"

In a presentation on June 25, 2019, Richard Rex spoke in Dublin -- in the Church Blessed John Henry Newman built for the Catholic University of Ireland, which is under the stewardship of the University of Notre Dame as the Notre Dame-Newman Centre for Faith and Reason -- on what Hilary Mantel has done to the reputation of St. Thomas More for the sake of elevating the reputation of Thomas Cromwell. The Iona Institute website offers this introduction:

Professor Richard Rex of Queen’s College, Cambridge, addressed a packed University Church in Dublin last week on the topic: The Two Thomases, namely Thomas More and Thomas Cromwell. In particular, he examined the portrayal of both in Hilary Mantel’s best-selling and widely-praised novels, Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies. Professor Rex, who lectures in Reformation and Tudor history, offers a wry, learned and ultimately devastating analysis of how Mantel essentially reversed the personalities and characters of both men.

As Professor Rex . . . says: “They are two of the emblematic figures of English history: More, the defender of the Catholic Church in England against the tyrannical pretensions of Henry VIII to be the Supreme Head on Earth of the Church of England; and Cromwell, the pliant instrument of tyranny. Robert Bolt’s
A Man for All Seasons cast More as a liberal hero of freedom of conscience and Cromwell as the ruthless agent of State pragmatism. Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall has reversed those polarities for a new age, with Cromwell now the apostle of humanist tolerance and More the hate-filled prophet of religious fanaticism. My aims this evening are to investigate and document this reversal, to show how it was achieved, and to speculate on why it has enjoyed so much success. The key to this final aim is the idea that Thomas More and Thomas Cromwell have, in one little cultural niche, served to embody or represent the changing position of the Catholic Church in modern – or postmodern – western culture. But before we come to that we must unpack and unpick the role reversal and comment on its rationality and plausibility.”

Or as Professor Rex says elsewhere in his address: “To destroy More, the symbol of Catholicism, More must be diminished to the scale of an ant, that Cromwell may trample upon him. Mantel’s fiction shows us a nasty man getting his Tudor come-uppance. History shows us something rather different.”

You may watch video of the presentation here. The Iona Institute website also provides a link to the text of the presentation (which contains some additional material). One of the more interesting insights to me was Professor Rex's analysis of how "Thomas More changed the course of the narrative" that is, changed what Hilary Mantel planned to write:

According to the author, Wolf Hall was originally conceived as a single novel, retelling the rise and fall of its hero. However, as she got to grips with the events of 1534-35, in which Thomas More was targeted and ultimately destroyed by the regime for his refusal to go along with Henry’s assumption of the title of Supreme Head, under Christ, of the Church of England, she found the duel between More and Cromwell irresistibly dramatic. One sees her point. This duel became the dominant theme of the narrative, with a natural end in More’s execution. Thus the original novel was therefore recast as a trilogy, each closed by a beheading: Thomas More in 1535, Anne Boleyn in 1536, and, presumably, in the final volume, which has now been promised for next year, Cromwell himself in 1540. What you should note is that Thomas More changed the course of the narrative. In a sense, I would argue, he took over the story, despite his allotted role as a merely secondary presence within it. More’s impact on the story itself serves to undermine the author’s intentions and assumptions and assertions. Crucially, it was the portrayal of More, not that of Cromwell, which accounts for Wolf Hall’s early vogue.

The bold emphasis is in the text as downloaded. He later comments:

As one review of Wolf Hall put it, ‘you cannot back Cromwell without spitting on More’. If you can’t back Cromwell without spitting on More, can you back More without spitting on Cromwell? You certainly can’t back both horses. But you can esteem and praise More, even making room for appropriate criticism, without really having to take Cromwell into account at all. Bolt and Mantel once again offer a useful contrast. In A Man for All Seasons, Cromwell is definitely down among the ‘minor characters’ in the credits. But in Wolf Hall, Thomas More is central to the action. This imbalance reflects reality, despite the author. Thomas More has never been forgotten. People fell over themselves to write his biography, even in the Tudor era. The biographies by William Roper, Nicholas Harpsfield, and Thomas Stapleton all survive. The one written by William Rastell is preserved only in a few stray fragments. There have been more editions just of Roper’s Life of More than there have been biographies of Cromwell. Not a century has gone by without its share of biographies of More. No one rushed to write the life of Cromwell. . . .

And Rex concludes with Mantel's own comments about Holbein's portrait of Cromwell at the Frick:

And in the case of Cromwell and More, the pictures are there for us to see. They can be seen in the Frick Collection in New York, where More and Cromwell gaze at each other across a fireplace, captured by the hand of the sixteenth century’s greatest portraitist, Holbein. The author of Wolf Hall herself describes his Cromwell as an ‘incredibly dead picture’. The art critic Waldemar Januszczak more memorably labels Cromwell ‘the least attractive sitter in the whole of Holbein’s art’. The picture is the evidence. A great painter, they say, paints not just the face but the soul. And Holbein’s More is famously and sublimely living. This is the evidence: Cromwell – dead, dull; More – alive, alert. Holbein got it. Seeing is believing. But there’s none so blind as them that will not see.

A full quote
of Waldemar Januszczak on the contrast between the portraits: 

That is why I recommend a visit to the Living Hall at the Frick Collection, and a good gawp at Holbein’s portraits of More and Cromwell. Holbein was there. He knew them both. So what does he make of them?

Of More, he makes one of the most noble presences in the whole of British portraiture. Determined. Handsome. Resolute. With his velvet sleeves and his gold chain, More is a man of rank, but there’s something kindly about his face, too. And in the exact capturing of his five-o’clock shadow, Holbein has produced one of his finest records of the true textures of humanity.

On the other side of the fireplace, the new hero of
Wolf Hall, Cromwell, has none of those qualities. Indeed, with his piggy eyes and his veal-like complexion, he is one of Holbein’s least appealing sitters. He’s shown at a desk, writing. A death warrant, perhaps. Or further instructions for the destruction of a monastery. As soon as I saw him, that famous observation by Hannah Arendt about the “banality of evil” flashed into my thoughts.

So, who to trust? Holbein, who was there? Or Hilary Mantel, who is a great writer, and a worthy winner of the Booker prize? Over to you.

"Over to you" is a weak conclusion!

Rex, in contrast, presents a devastating critique of Mantel's vaunted historical accuracy and how people have fallen for her anachronistically "nice" Thomas Cromwell.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Book Review: "Mary's Bodily Assumption"


At the Eighth Day Institute Florovsky-Newman Week in June, the topic of the two Marian Doctrines proclaimed infallibly by Popes Pius IX and XII came up in the context of the discussion of authority in the Catholic Church. Pope Pius IX proclaimed the infallible doctrine of the Blessed Virgin Mary's Immaculate Conception in 1854 before the definition of Papal Infallibility in 1870. Pope Pius XII exercised papal infallibility in making a doctrinal definition "ex cathedra" for the first and only time since the First Vatican Council in 1950. In both instances, the pious popes conferred with Catholic bishops around the world--not at an Ecumenical Council--to determine if these doctrines about the Mother of God should be defined and proclaimed. Therefore Popes Pius IX and XII spoke as Blessed John Henry Newman summarized it when explaining the definition of Papal Infallibility to William Ewart Gladstone in 1875:
He speaks ex cathedrâ, or infallibly, when he speaks, first, as the Universal Teacher; secondly, in the name and with the authority of the Apostles; thirdly, on a point of faith or morals; fourthly, with the purpose of binding every member of the Church to accept and believe his decision.
I decided to read more about the doctrine of the Assumption--because of a comment one of the other attendees made, that this definition was easier to accept than that of the Immaculate Conception-- and found (at Eighth Day Books) Matthew Levering's book from the University of Notre Dame Press:

In Mary’s Bodily Assumption, Matthew Levering presents a contemporary explanation and defense of the Catholic doctrine of Mary’s bodily Assumption. He asks: How does the Church justify a doctrine that does not have explicit biblical or first-century historical evidence to support it? With the goal of exploring this question more deeply, he divides his discussion into two sections, one historical and the other systematic.

Levering’s historical section aims to retrieve the rich Mariological doctrine of the mid-twentieth century. He introduces the development of Mariology in Catholic Magisterial documents, focusing on Pope Pius XII’s encyclical Munificentissimus Deus of 1950, in which the bodily Assumption of Mary was dogmatically defined, and two later Magisterial documents, Vatican II’s Lumen Gentium and Pope John Paul II’s Redemptoris Mater. Levering addresses the work of the neo-scholastic theologians Joseph Duhr, Aloïs Janssens, and Réginald Garrigou-Lagrange before turning to the great theologians of the nouvelle théologie—Karl Rahner, Hans Urs von Balthasar, Louis Bouyer, Joseph Ratzinger—and their emphasis on biblical typology. Using John Henry Newman as a guide, Levering organizes his systematic section by the three pillars of the doctrine on which Mary’s Assumption rests: biblical typology, the Church as authoritative interpreter of divine revelation under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and the fittingness of Mary’s Assumption in relation to the other mysteries of faith.

Levering’s ecumenical contribution is a significant engagement with Protestant biblical scholars and theologians; it is also a reclamation of Mariology as a central topic in Catholic theology.


The actual text of the book is 152 pages, the notes comprise 71 pages, and the bibliography 35, plus an index. I have not read all of the notes, which are substantial.

I appreciated Levering's method of exposition as outlined in the summary above. He limits his discussion to the 20th century, describing the teaching of the Catholic Church on the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the different theological schools and how they explored the meaning this teaching--their speculative theology--and how in the case of Karl Rahner it led to correction by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Not having read any of Joseph Ratzinger's speculative theology before, Levering's description of his work on the Assumption surprised me.

His exploration of typological interpretation of the Holy Bible as practiced by three Protestant theologians, Richard B. Hays, Peter Ens, and Peter Leithart, seemed to balance exposition of their thoughts and his reaction to their limitations of biblical interpretation by the historical-critical method fairly.

What I appreciated even more was Levering's references to two of Blessed John Henry Newman's Discourses to Mixed Congregations, "The Glories of Mary for the Sake of Her Son" and "The Fitness of the Glories of Mary", although I was surprised that he did not also include Newman's thoughts on Mary as the New Eve from the Letter to Pusey. Nevertheless, the last two chapters present an excellent argument for the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary based first on "The Authority of the Church as Interpreter of Revelation" (Chapter 5) and then on "The Fittingness of Mary's Assumption in God's Economy of Salvation" (Chapter 6).

In Chapter 5, Levering begins with the views of the Lutheran Jaroslav Pelikan (who later--eight years before his death in 2006--became an Orthodox Christian/member of the Orthodox Church in America) that Pope Pius XII had committed "A Papal Usurpation of Authority". Then Levering, led by Newman, explores themes of the Church's interpretative authority: Scripture, Community, Doctrine with biblical examples: "Elijah and the Priests of Baal: "I, even I only, am left" and "Jesus Christ and the People of God". Then he looks at the Church as "the pillar and ground of the Truth" in Church, Liturgy, Dogma.

In Chapter 6, Levering looks at the Church's interpretation of major Christian truths and how they support the fitting reality that the Mother of God would be given the privilege of a Bodily Assumption: "Creation and Fall", "The Election of Israel", and "The Incarnation of the Word". Through the story of the Visitation and Mary's great Magnificat, Levering shows that as the Father elected Israel as His special people and nation, He chose Mary to be the Mother of His Son and thus gave her this special privilege. She did not do it herself; He did it for her!

In his Conclusion, Levering admits that his arguments may not convince Protestants that Mary was assumed into Heaven or convince Orthodox that the Catholic Church should have proclaimed her Bodily Assumption as a doctrine, but he does hope that he has presented 20th and 21st century Catholic on this doctrine cogently. The late, great Monsignor William Carr always told us at the Newman Center that Mary's Assumption was the great sign for us of the victory over Death that Jesus Christ has won for us. As she represents the Church in Heaven, she represents our hope for eternal life with the Holy Trinity. Levering echoes this: "Each August 15, then, the Church liturgically celebrates the wondrous truth that, through Jesus and the Holy Spirit, Mary has become the first to receive the promise that we are to be "heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ . . . (Romans 8:17)"

Highly recommended!! For more on Newman and the Blessed Virgin Mary, see this from The International Centre of Newman Friends.

Friday, July 12, 2019

Saints Geoffrey and Joachim, English Martyrs

Alias Wall and Jones, two of the 40 Martyrs of England and Wales!

Saint John Jones, OFM was a recusant martyr during the reign of Elizabeth I. Born in Wales, he joined the Franciscans in England during the reign of Mary I, then went into exile, completed his novitiate, and then was ordained and prepared to return to England as a missionary:

Towards 1590 John was sent to the friary of Ara Coeli in Rome, the general headquarters of the Order. From there he wished to return to England to take part in the mission to care for faithful Catholics, who risked their livelihoods and often their lives to sustain their missionary priests. The priests themselves were subject to the gruesome death of hanging, drawing and quartering as traitors for the simple fact of exercising their priesthood. John begged an audience with the Pope and Clement VIII embraced him, gave him a solemn blessing and told him: “Go, because I believe you to be a true son of Saint Francis. Pray to God for me and for his holy Church."

In England John Jones exercised an heroic hidden ministry, animating the Catholic faith among recusants and prudently seeking to reconcile those who had submitted to Elizabeth's Church of England. The existence of a missionary priest in England was one of frequent moves, constant vigilance and continued flight from Elizabeth's vigilant secret services, supervised by William Cecil and Francis Walsingham.

Despite his care, John Jones was caught in late 1595 or early 1596 by Richard Topcliffe, who nurtured a cruel hatred for the Catholic faith and was sanctioned by the Queen to maintain a private torture chamber in his house for the Catholic priests he apprehended. John Jones was accused of being a spy and sent to the notorious Clink prison, from which we derive the expression “being in clink”. There he languished for nigh on two years awaiting trial. In prison Jones continued his ministry and converted many, including Saint John Rigby, who was himself martyred two years after John Jones (on 21st June 1600).

On 3rd July 1598 John Jones was finally brought to trial for having exercised his ministry as a Catholic priest in England. He was sentenced to hanging, drawing and quartering at Saint Thomas Watering, but was meanwhile imprisoned at Marshalsea prison. The Jesuit Henry Garnet recounts in a letter that on 12th July 1598 John was tied to a trellis and dragged to the place of his torment. He was held there for an hour before execution during which time Topcliffe harangued the crowd with his supposed crimes. Garnet recounts that the crowd was touched more by John's prayers than by the calumnies of his torturer and executioner. His remains were hung up on the road between Newington and Lambeth.



Image credit: Used by permission of the webmaster: A stained glass depiction of Franciscan Saints above the high altar [at the former Chilworth Friary of the Holy Ghost]: at the extreme left is Blessed John Jones, at the extreme right Blessed John Wall (also known as Joachim of St Anne), both of whom are now canonised Saints.

He shares his feast with a Popish Plot Martyr, St. John Wall. This website (Roman Catholic Saints) uses his name in religion (and St. John Jones's) to tell his story:

John Wall, in religion Father Joachim of St Anna, was the fourth son of Anthony Wall of Chingle (Singleton) Hall, Lancashire. He was born in 1620, and when very young, was sent to the English College at Douai. From there he proceeded to Rome, where he was raised to the priesthood in 1648. Several years later he returned to Douai and was clothed in the habit of St Francis in the convent of St Bonaventure. He made his solemn profession on January 1, 1652. So great was the estimation in which he was held by his brethren, that within a few months he was elected vicar of the convent, and soon after, master of novices.

In 1656 Father Joachim of St Anna joined the English mission, and for 12 years he labored on Worcestershire under the names of Francis Johnson or Webb, winning souls even more by his example than by his words. At Harvington to this day the memory of Blessed Father Johnson is cherished, and stories of his heroic zeal are recounted by the descendants of those who were privileged to know and love the glorious martyr.

Some of the charges raised against Father Wall when he was captured, were that he had said Mass, heard confessions, and received converts into the Church. He was accidentally found, in December 1678, at the house of a friend, Mr Finch of Rushock, and carried off by the sheriff's officer. He was committed to Worchester (sic) jail, and lay captive for five months, enduring patiently all the loneliness, suffering, and horrors of prison life, which at that time were scarcely less dreadful than death itself.


The Franciscan website makes his entanglement with the Popish Plot clear:
He remained there for 22 years ministering to the Catholics of the area. In 1678 he went to London to meet the Jesuit Claude de la Colombière, and the two spoke together of their desire for martyrdom. The context of this meeting was the renewed persecution that was unleashed in the wake of the incriminating lies of Titus Oates and his invented Catholic plot against King Charles II. 
Returning from this encounter, John was staying with a friend in Rushock Court. There he was mistaken for one of the so-called plotters, Francis Johnson, and arrested. . . . .
Back to the Roman Catholic Saints website:

One of Father Wall's brethren in religion, Father William Levison, has the privilege of seeing the martyr for the space of four or five hours on the day before his execution. Father William tells us:
"I heard his confession and communicated him, to his great joy and satisfaction. While in prison he carried himself like a true servant of his crucified Master, thirsting after nothing more than the shedding of his blood for the love of his God, which he performed with a courage and cheerfulness becoming a valiant soldier of Christ, to the great edification of all the Catholics, and admiration of all the Protestants."
Father Wall's martyrdom took place on Red Hill, overlooking the city of Worcester, on August 22, 1679. His head was kept in the convent at Douai until the French Revolution broke out and the community fled to England. What became of it, then, is not known.

Saints Geoffrey and Joachim were beatified in 1929 and canonized in 1970 under the names John Jones and John Wall.

Saint John Jones, pray for us!
Saint John Wall, pray for us!

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

St. John Gabriel Perboyre

Like many Catholics, I receive lots of mail from religious orders, offering cards, Masses, religious items, etc. My late mother always had this rule: if you use what they send you, send them a donation! Her other rule was, once you order from them, they will keep sending you "free gifts" and other offers! This is their way of raising funds obviously and we have to be just and generous. At least that's what my mother taught me.

Yesterday was the feast of Saint Augustine Zhao Rong and companions, 120 martyrs who suffered between 1648 and 1930 in China, canonized in 2000 by Pope Saint John Paul II. I received a medal from the Vincentian Association of the Miraculous Medal (AMM)--which I'd ordered after receiving their Summer Newsletter--of another martyr who suffered in China canonized by Pope Saint John Paul II in 1996: Saint John Gabriel Perboyre, a French missionary. More from the AMM about this saint:

The eldest son of Pierre and Marie, John Gabriel, was born on the 6th of January 1802. In 1816 John Gabriel accompanied a younger brother, Louis, to a high school in Montauban that had been started by their uncle, Fr. Jacques Perboyre, C.M., to prepare young men for the seminary. In the Spring of 1817, his teachers noting John Gabriel’s intelligence and piety suggested he remain with his brother and continue his studies. Though willing to return home if needed on the farm, John Gabriel wrote to his father that he believed that the Lord was calling him to the priesthood.

From his earliest days in the seminary, John Gabriel had longed for the China mission. In 1832, however, his superiors appointed him a novice director in the Vincentian Motherhouse. The departure of some Vincentians to China in 1835 renewed his missionary longing. Poor health stood in the way, but finally his doctor saw the voyage to the Orient as a possible cure. Five months at sea brought John Gabriel to Macao where he studied Chinese.

In December of 1835, Father Perboyre, along with several missionaries, set sail from Macao in a Junk. Since the Chinese law forbade the entry of Christian missionaries, the Christian captain and crew disguised themselves as merchants and smuggled John Gabriel on to the mainland of China.

Following a five month overland journey to the Vincentian mission center in Ho-nan, Father Perboyre suffered a severe attack of fever that forced him to rest for three months. But he was able enough to continue his mastering of the Chinese language. In the company of two Chinese Vincentians he spent the years 1837 and 1838 reanimating the faith in Catholic villages by preaching, catechizing and administering the sacraments. Some of the Vincentian mission areas were desperately poor and John Gabriel shared the meager fare of his flock.


For more than a century, China outlawed Christianity and had a death penalty on all Europeans attempting to spread the faith. Authorities often overlooked this law, but in 1839 the Viceroy of the province of Hu-pei began a persecution and used his local Mandarins to obtain the names of priests and catechists in their areas. In September 1839, the Mandarin of Hu-pei, where there was a Vincentian mission center, sent soldiers to arrest the missionaries. Warned of the danger by some Christians, the priests scattered in different directions. John Gabriel hid in a bamboo forest, but a beaten and tortured catechist led the soldiers to him.

Frequently tortured in prison, Father Perboyre refused to betray his faith and his associates. In May 1840 his case went to the Emperor where he was found guilty of preaching Christianity and condemned to death. John Gabriel Perboyre was executed on September 11, 1840, in the Chinese custom of being tied to a stake and triple strangled. Andrew Fong, a generous and valiant catechist who had aided Father Perboyre in his imprisonment, retrieved his body and buried it in the Christian cemetery where Blessed Francis Regis Clet, C.M., was buried. Both their remains now repose in the chapel of the Vincentian Motherhouse in Paris, France.

I visited the Motherhouse on Rue de Sevres (after a visit to the Chapel of the Miraculous Medal and before visits to La Grande Epicerie and Le Bon Marche!), but did not see his shrine or that of Clet. I'll have to review my souvenirs to see if I purchased a brochure!

AMM also provides this prayer composed by Saint John Gabriel Perboyre:

O my Divine Savior,
Transform me into Yourself.
May my hands be the hands of Jesus.
Grant that every faculty of my body
May serve only to glorify You.

Above all,
Transform my soul and all its powers
So that my memory, will and affection
May be the memory, will and affections
Of Jesus.

I pray You
To destroy in me all that is not of You.
Grant that I may live but in You, by You and for You,
So that I may truly say, with Saint Paul,
“I live – now not I – But Christ lives in me. Amen.


His feast day is September 11.

The image of the martyr chained to the cross reminds me of Blessed John Forest, the English martyr burned alive for the religious crime of heresy during Henry VIII's reign. He was not tied to a stake but suspended above the fire just as this martyr was not nailed to the cross but hanged from it and strangled.

You might notice in the AMM newsletter that St. John Gabriel Perboyre's feast is not permitted to be celebrated in China by the Communist authorities. While Catholics and other Christians--and some Muslims--are suffering harassment and persecution by the Communists, I'm praying with St. John, St. Augustine and companions, and other martyrs who have suffered to intercede for the suffering Church in China now.

Image source and attribution: public domain (statue outside)

Image source and attribution: public domain (statue of martyrdom)

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

The Martyrs of Gorkum


Several years ago, when Matthew Bunson was the editor of OSV's The Catholic Answer Magazine, he published my article on the Martyrs of Gorkum (July/August 2016). OSV has ceased print publication of that magazine, but that article--and some others I written around that time--is on-line in a publication called Simply Catholic. I had to write a rather long historical exposition to explain the circumstances of these martyrdoms, describing the conflict between Catholics and Protestants in the Netherlands during the Eighty Years War, including the role of "The Sea Beggars", pirates that Elizabeth I supported by allowing them to dock at English ports:

In Gorkum, the Calvinist Sea Beggars caught and imprisoned eleven Franciscan friars and lay brothers, four parish priests, two Norbertine canons, an Augustinian canon regular and a Dominican friar . . .:

• Godfried of Mervel, Vicar of Melveren, Sint-Truiden, Franciscan priest, vicar of the friary in Gorkum
• Theodore of der Eem, Franciscan friar and priest, chaplain to a community of Franciscan Tertiary Sisters in Gorkum
• Nicholas Pieck, Franciscan friar, priest and theologian, guardian of the friary in Gorkum
• Nicasius of Heeze, Franciscan friar, theologian and priest
• Jerome of Weert, Franciscan friar, priest, pastor in Gorkum
• Anthony of Hoornaar, Franciscan friar and priest
• Willehad of Denmark, Franciscan friar and priest
• Francis of Roye, Franciscan friar and priest
• Anthony of Weert, Franciscan friar and priest
• Peter of Assche, Franciscan lay brother
• Cornelius of Wijk bij Duurstede, Franciscan lay brother
• Leonard van Veghel, secular priest and pastor of Gorkum
• Andrew Wouters, secular priest, pastor of Heinenoord in the Hoeksche Waard
• Godfried van Duynen, secular priest, former pastor in northern France
• Nicholas Poppel, secular priest, chaplain in Gorkum
• Adrian van Hilvarenbeek, Norbertine canon and pastor in Monster, South Holland
• James Lacobs, Norbertine canon
• Jan of Oisterwijk, canon regular, a chaplain for the Beguinage in Gorkum

John of Cologne, a Dominican pastor, came to Gorkum after hearing of the others’ arrest to offer spiritual consolation and thus was arrested.

These 19 were held in prison from June 26 until July 6 and then taken in two separate groups to Brielle to appear before the leader of the Sea Beggars, William de la Marck.

They were given the chance to renounce their allegiance to the pope and to deny the Real Presence in the Eucharist. They refused.

Throughout their imprisonment and interrogations, the 19 were brutalized, offered for public display and held in spite of orders from the leader of the Dutch rebellion, William the Silent (the Prince of Orange).

On July 9, 1572, these witnesses to Christ were hanged. Their bodies were mutilated during their executions and after, before they were dumped in a ditch.

Catholics in the Netherlands immediately started visiting the site of their execution and venerating them as martyrs and intercessors. Their relics were taken to a Franciscan friary in Brussels.

Pope Benedict XIV beatified the Franciscans and their companions in 1675.

Brad S. Gregory recounts in “Salvation at Stake: Christian Martyrdom in Early Modern Europe” (Harvard University Press, 1999) that on Dec. 9, 1688, the archbishop of Mechelen honored the Gorkum martyrs with a Mass and procession in Brussels that began at the friary and continued to the Cathedral of St. Gudule (now dedicated to St. Michael the Archangel) and back to the friary.

Gregory notes that “virtually every [person in Brussels] must have known about the Gorkum martyrs and the local repose of their relics” (pp. 300-301) after this great event.

When the friary was suppressed in 1796 during the French Revolution’s campaign of de-Christianization (Brussels was in French territory then), the relics were moved to the Church of St. Nicholas just off the Grand Place.

Pope Pius IX canonized the Gorkum martyrs in 1865 and, in 1870, a gilded bronze reliquary was created for the relics, decorated with their images on the sides of the rectangular case and events from their arrest and martyrdom on the lid. . . .


Please read the rest there. More about the painting of their martyrdom here.

Monday, July 8, 2019

Significance of Newman's Canonization

As I noted yesterday Matt Swaim or Anna Mitchell and I will continue our Santo Subito series on the Son Rise Morning Show today about 7:50 a.m. Eastern/6:50 a.m. Central.

If it's Matt--and it just might be since I've been talking to Anna the past three weeks--it would be appropriate since he works for the Coming Home Network, helping pastors and family members on their journeys to the Catholic Church. Newman's example as a convert and then as one aiding those who wanted to become Catholics will be essential to his role as a canonized saint. I quoted that passage from the 1865 edition of the Apologia pro Vita Sua a couple of weeks ago in which he noted some difficulties he had with certain Catholic teachings but then stated: "I had no difficulty in believing [them], as soon as I believed that the Catholic Roman Church was the oracle of God, and that she had declared this doctrine to be part of the original revelation.

That's a statement so clear that "cradle" Catholics, baptized and initiated throughout their childhoods should meditate upon it. Do I believe that the "Catholic Roman Church" is the oracle of God, teaching His revelation? As a late great friend of mine commented in another context, if I believe that I receive the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ at Mass in the Catholic Church, how can I dissent from other Church teaching, like against abortion, contraception, and euthanasia? Once I believe she is the sure guide and teacher of God's revelation, I believe her and accept her authority, based upon the Word God, the Holy Bible and the Apostolic Tradition. Newman's faith is a great model to follow in a skeptical and unbelieving world for those who came to the Catholic Church from other faith communities, those who converted, and those who grew up Catholic.

Newman studied and read himself into the Catholic Roman Church mainly through reading the Fathers of the Church and then seeing their teaching handed on through the ages until his own day. As Father Ian Ker says in his Newman on Vatican II, he was a historical theologian. Newman is one of the great guides to Church History. He acknowledges all the failures and failings of the members of the Church at the same time he has great faith and confidence of the guidance of the Holy Spirit in the Church, keeping her from error in teaching on morals and doctrine.

Another great significance to Newman's canonization is the role of Mother Mary Angelica's EWTN: both miracles obtained by his intercession were requested by Catholics in the United States of America who had come to know Newman because of programming on EWTN!

For those who haven't studied Newman for years or who have barely heard of him, I'd recommend starting with the edition of his sermons from Paulist Press in their Classics of Western Spirituality. Father Ian Ker selected the sermons and provides an excellent introduction. I'd also recommend the Paulist Press edition of his Meditations and Devotions, which are quite eloquent and simple, also edited by Father Ian Ker. It includes Nmost famous meditation, "Hope in God--Creator":

1. God was all-complete, all-blessed in Himself; but it was His will to create a world for His glory. He is Almighty, and might have done all things Himself, but it has been His will to bring about His purposes by the beings He has created. We are all created to His glory—we are created to do His will. I am created to do something or to be something for which no one else is created; I have a place in God's counsels, in God's world, which no one else has; whether I be rich or poor, despised or esteemed by man, God knows me and calls me by my name.

2. God has created me to do Him some definite service; He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another. I have my mission—I never may know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next. Somehow I am necessary for His purposes, as necessary in my place as an Archangel in his—if, indeed, I fail, He can raise another, as He could make the stones children of Abraham. Yet I have a part in this great work; I am a link in a chain, a bond of connexion between persons. He has not created me for naught. I shall do good, I shall do His work; I shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth in my own place, while not intending it, if I do but keep His commandments and serve Him in my calling.

3. Therefore I will trust Him. Whatever, wherever I am, I can never be thrown away. If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve Him; in perplexity, my perplexity may serve Him; if I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve Him. My sickness, or perplexity, or sorrow may be necessary causes of some great end, which is quite beyond us. He does nothing in vain; He may prolong my life, He may shorten it; He knows what He is about. He may take away my friends, He may throw me among strangers, He may make me feel desolate, make my spirits sink, hide the future from me—still He knows what He is about.

O Adonai, O Ruler of Israel, Thou that guidest Joseph like a flock, O Emmanuel, O Sapientia, I give myself to Thee. I trust Thee wholly. Thou art wiser than I—more loving to me than I myself. Deign to fulfil Thy high purposes in me whatever they be—work in and through me. I am born to serve Thee, to be Thine, to be Thy instrument. Let me be Thy blind instrument. I ask not to see—I ask not to know—I ask simply to be used. Amen.

Blessed John Henry Newman, pray for us!

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Preview: Santo Subito Tomorrow

Matt Swaim or Anna Mitchell and I will continue our Santo Subito series on the Son Rise Morning Show tomorrow, Monday, July 8 about 7:50 a.m. Eastern/6:50 a.m. Central.

Now we know when Blessed John Henry Newman will be canonized: on Sunday, October 13, just a few days after his feast day, the date he became a Catholic. In view of this confirmation, we'll talk about the significance of this canonization, especially for those who've been devoted to Newman for years, or studied his life and works, explored his thought and prayed for this day.

Like me.

What does it mean for me that Newman will be canonized a saint in about three months?

Through all the years that I've studied Newman and attended lectures about his life and works, his special care for the education and formation of the laity has been a highlight. His guidance for both the laity and the hierarchy should be studied and he should be venerated as a patron saint for the laity, especially in practical matters in administration: in the on-going crisis of trust in the Church today; in our parishes and schools; in all the lay organizations that work to influence our culture in so many ways, from apologetics to special causes.

I hope he is named a Doctor of the Church; like St. Thomas Aquinas in some ways, devotion to St. John Henry Newman can combine ongoing immersion in his works with continuing interest in his life and his personal expressions of faith. In his great works from the Parochial and Plain Sermons to the Grammar of Assent, Newman grappled with explaining the truths of the Catholic faith to a world that was not as certain as he was and the Church is that the world makes sense and God has created the world to make sense so we can have faith in Him and His Creation and Revelation. As he described in his Apologia Pro Vita Sua, he dedicated his life to the pursuit of holiness and doing God's will.

More tomorrow (including his influence on converts in his age and ours and the US based, EWTN influenced source of both miracles!).

Blessed--Saint--John Henry Newman, pray for us!

Friday, July 5, 2019

St. Thomas More to his Daughter Margaret

Margaret More Roper received this letter from her father, written on July 5, 1535 before his execution:

Our Lord bless you good daughter and your good husband and your little boy and all yours and all my children and all my godchildren and all our friends. Recommend me when you may to my good daughter Cecily whom I beseech our Lord to comfort, and I send her my blessing and to all her children and pray her to pray for me. I send her an handkercher and God comfort my good son her husband. My good daughter Daunce hath the picture in parchment that you delivered me from my Lady Conyers, her name is on the back side. Shew her that I heartily pray her that you may send it in my name to her again for a token from me to pray for me.

I like special well Dorothy Colly, I pray you be good unto her. I would wit whether this be she that you wrote me of. If not, I pray you be good to the other as you may in her affliction, and to my good daughter Joan Aleyn to give her I pray you some kind answer, for she sued hither to me this day to pray you be good to her.

I cumber you, good Margaret, much, but I would be sorry, if it should be any longer than tomorrow, 
for it is Saint Thomas' Even and the Utas [Octave] of Saint Peter and therefore tomorrow long I to go to God, it were a day very meet and convenient for me. I never liked your manner toward me better than when you kissed me last for I love when daughterly love and dear charity hath not leisure to look to worldly courtesy.

Fare well my dear child and pray for me, and I shall for you and all your friends that we may merrily meet in heaven. I thank you for your great cost.

I send now unto my good daughter Clement her algorism stone and I send her and my good son and all hers God's blessing and mine.

I pray you at time convenient recommend me to my good son John More. I liked well his natural fashion. Our Lord bless him and his good wife my loving daughter, to whom I pray him be good, as he hath great cause, and that if the land of mine come to his hand, he break not my will concerning his sister Daunce. And our Lord bless Thomas and Austin and all that they shall have.


The little boy More refers to is Thomas Roper, who was born in 1533. Cecily More was his third daughter by Jane Colt, married to Giles Heron. His "good daughter Daunce" was Elizabeth, who was married to William Daunce. Dorothy Colly or Colley was Margaret's maid; Joan Aleyn attended the school More had for his daughters and son at Chelsea. "St. Thomas's Even" refers to the vigil of the feast of the transfer of St. Thomas a Becket's body to Canterbury Cathedral; the feast of Saint Peter was on June 29, so July 26 was the last day of the Octave of that feast. Margaret Giggs Clement was another of the wards Thomas More educated; she would witness his execution. John More, his only son, was 26 years old.

When he writes "I never liked your manner toward me better than when you kissed me last for I love when daughterly love and dear charity hath not leisure to look to worldly courtesy", More is referring to how Margaret embraced him as he was going back to the Tower of London after being condemned--she forced through the guards, kissed him, and held on to him. 

What a letter to receive from your father the night before he died!

There are varying accounts of how the family received St. Thomas More's hair shirt before he died: some that he sent it to Margaret with this letter, some that Margaret Giggs Clement received it from him. We do know for certain that the family took the hair shirt with them into exile into what is now Belgium, in Mechelen and Louvain. As this blog explains:

In any case, the hair shirt ultimately passed to Giggs Clements’ youngest daughter, Prioress Margaret Clement (1539–1612), a nun of the English convent of St Monica’s, founded in Louvain during the period when it was illegal to practice Catholicism in England. The nuns of St Monica’s claim to be More’s spiritual heirs through Margaret Giggs and her daughter Margaret Clement.

The hair shirt remained in Prioress Clement’s community and the communities descended from St Monica’s up until the 1980s, by which time most of the exiled English convents had returned to England.

St. Thomas More's hair shirt is publicly displayed in a side chapel--of the Holy Cross--at Buckfast Abbey!

St. Thomas More, pray for us!

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Three Things about July 4th


First of all, it is our country's Independence Day, celebrating our Declaration of Independence from Great Britain as first published on July 4, 1776:

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. . . .


We the people, with our Constitution, our local, state, and federal governments, our actions, our causes, and our blood, have been living out these words, struggling to fulfill them, fighting over what they mean, and uniting again around those ideas expressed 243 years ago.

Happy Independence Day!


Second: On July 4 in 1603 Philippe de Monte, a Spanish composer died; on July 4 in 1623 William Byrd, an English composer, died. They had collaborated, long distance, on a setting of Psalm 136. Gallicantus made a CD of the music and the ideas that brought de Monte and Byrd into collaboration:

The connection that brings together the music of William Byrd (c1540-1623) and Philippe de Monte (1521-1603) is a most unusual one: a very rare documented instance of two composers from distant parts of Europe engaging in a personal musical exchange. According to an 18th-century manuscript in the British Library, de Monte had come to England in 1554 as a singer in the choir that accompanied his employer, the Spanish king Philip II, as he contracted a dynastic marriage to Mary Tudor. It seems that de Monte may have made contact with the young William Byrd, for some 30 years later he sent him the eight-part motet Super flumina Babylonis, and the following year, Byrd responded with his own eight-part Quomodo cantabimus, whose words are drawn from verses of that same psalm, No 136. Exactly what occasioned this musical transaction is not known, but the words must have held particular resonance for Byrd at that time, as this famous psalm of captivity and exile would surely be interpreted as a barely veiled allusion to the dangerous situation that he and his fellow recusant Catholics were facing under a Protestant regime in England at a time when political tensions were aggravating the existing religious ones; perhaps word of these developments had reached de Monte, either in Prague or via his benefice at Cambrai, near the Catholic English College at Douai.

Third: on July 4, 1594, one Catholic priest and three laymen were executed under Queen Elizabeth I's penal recusancy laws in Dorchester: 

Blessed John Cornelius, SJ priest and martyr
Blessed Thomas Bosgrave, martyr
Blessed John Carey, martyr
Blessed Patrick Salmon, martyr

They were all from Ireland! They are numbered among the Chideock Martyrs.

On July 4, 1597, one Catholic priest and three laymen were executed under Queen Elizabeth I's penal recusancy laws in York: 

Blessed William Andleby, priest and martyr
Blessed Henry Abbot, martyr
Blessed Thomas Warcop, martyr
Blessed Edward Fulthorp, martyr

More about these eight martyrs here. As Robert Hugh Benson asked in the title of one of his novels, "by what authority" did Queen Elizabeth I execute men for being Catholic priests and other men for helping Catholic priests? Only by the power and authority of "absolute Despotism"!

Blessed martyrs of England and Ireland, pray for us!

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Timed for the American Chesterton Society Annual Conference

The July/August issue of the St Austin Review is all about Chesterton! It will be perfect reading for those attending the American Chesterton Society Annual Conference the first weekend in August.

My contribution to this issue is not Chestertonian. It's a book review of Southwell's Sphere: The Influence of England's Secret Poet by Gary M. Bouchard. An excerpt:

After studying on the Continent, joining the Society of Jesus in Rome, and being ordained a priest, Englishman Robert Southwell came home secretly to offer Mass and give the other Sacraments to the underground Catholics of England. He also sought to encourage her poets to a better form of art, to turn from “the follies and fayninges of love” and instead “see how well verse and vertue sute together”as he admonished “His Loving Cousin” in the foreword to editions of “St. Peter’s Complaint”.

In Southwell’s Sphere: The Influence of England’s Secret Poet Gary M. Bouchard traces the impact of that foreword and Southwell’s poems on contemporary and later English poets, noting that while Southwell had influence and even some fame—in spite or because of his execution for treason—in the Elizabethan era, his reputation has dwindled to the inclusion of “The Burning Babe” in anthologies. Responding to recent work of Anne R. Sweeney (Robert Southwell: Snow in Arcadia: Redrawing the English Lyric Landscape, 1586-95), Alison Shell (Catholicism, Controversy and the English Literary Imagination, 1558-1660), Gary Kuchar (The Poetry of Religious Sorrow in Early Modern England) and others, Bouchard wants to make his own contribution to exploring Southwell’s underappreciated influence on English literature.

As Bouchard summarizes, Southwell’s call to reform English poetry “instructed William Alabaster, provoked Edmund Spenser, prompted George Herbert, haunted John Donne, inspired Richard Crashaw and consoled Gerard [Manley] Hopkins.” He explores each author’s response to not only Southwell’s martyred Catholicism but his call to change the way they were writing poetry. Except for Spenser, these poets were clergymen. Alabaster converted to Catholicism and relapsed; Donne was raised a Catholic and apostatized; Crashaw and Hopkins were Catholic converts who remained faithful. Herbert and Spenser were Protestants. . . .


I'm looking forward to receiving my complimentary copy.

The Last English Confessor Saint

Most commentators are mentioning that Saint John Henry Newman will be the first saint from the British isles canonized since St. John Ogilvie (1976). Ogilvie was canonized as a martyr from Scotland. Newman will also be the first Confessor saint--one who did not suffer as a martyr--from England for hundreds of years. For 618 years, in fact.

In 1401 Pope Boniface IX, in the midst of the Western Schism, canonized St. John Twenge or Thwing of Bridlington. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia he is (was) the:

Last English saint canonized, canon regular, Prior of St. Mary's, Bridlington, b. near the town, 1319; d. at Bridlington, 1379. He was of the Yorkshire family Twenge, which family in Reformation days supplied two priest-martyrs and was also instrumental in establishing the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Bar Convent, York. John completed his studies at Oxford and then entered the Priory of Bridlington. Charged successively with various offices in the community, he was finally despite his reluctance elected prior, which office he held until his death. Even in his lifetime he enjoyed a reputation for great holiness and for miraculous powers. On one occasion he changed water into wine. On another, five seamen from Hartlepool in danger of shipwreck called upon God in the name of His servant, John of Bridlington, whereupon the prior himself appeared to them in his canonical habit and brought them safely to shore. After his death the fame of the miracles wrought by his intercession spread rapidly through the land. Archbishop Neville charged his suffragans and others to take evidence with a view to his canonization, 26 July, 1386; and the same prelate assisted by the Bishops of Durham and Carlisle officiated at a solemn translation of his body, 11 March, 1404 (sic), de mandato Domini Papae. This pope, Boniface IX, shortly afterwards canonized him. The fact has been doubted and disputed; but the original Bull was recently unearthed in the Vatican archives by Mr. T.A. Twemlow, who was engaged in research work there for the British Government. St. John was especially invoked by women in cases of difficult confinement. At the Reformation the people besought the royal plunderer to spare the magnificent shrine of the saint, but in vain; it was destroyed in 1537. The splendid nave of the church, restored in 1857, is all that now remains of Bridlington Priory. The saint's feast is observed by the canons regular on 9 October.

So, note the date of St. John of Bridlington's feast day: the 9th of October. St. John Henry Newman's feast day--as established at his beatification--is the 9th of October.

Bridlington Priory is of course a Church of England church. The priory's website posts this information about the Catholic saint. More information about the saint from the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, provided for free! including these details about the progress of his cause, which took much less time than Newman's:

A canon named Hugh, who may himself have been a member of the Bridlington community, wrote the first biography of John between 1379 and 1401. A Middle English verse life in the northern dialect by one who claimed to have witnessed Thwing's deeds appeared about the same time. Reports of miracles occurring at his tomb prompted Alexander Neville, archbishop of York, to delegate Robert Dalton, his vicar-general, to interview witnesses to these miracles in 1386. In 1388, 'out of regard for John de Thweng, late Prior', Richard II gave permission to the Bridlington Priory to crenellate its buildings. According to Walsingham, reports of miracles at Thwing's tomb had spread all over England by 1389. Henry Bolingbroke made an offering at Bridlington in 1391 upon returning from a campaign in Prussia and, as King Henry IV, he sent John Guisburn, a canon of Bridlington, to Rome in 1400 to secure Thwing's canonization. In a bull of Boniface IX, dated 24 September 1401, John Thwing was officially canonized. With the aid of a grant from Henry IV, a shrine for his remains was constructed adjacent to the Bridlington Priory. In 1404 Archbishop Scrope and the bishops of Lincoln and Carlisle officiated at the translation of Thwing's body. Henry IV placed his son Prince Henry under the patronage of St John of Bridlington, and the prince made an offering of 5 marks at the shrine in 1407 in fulfilment of a previous vow. The hagiographer John Capgrave's edition of the life of St John of Bridlington added new accounts of miracles to those mentioned in the first biography by Hugh.

The two martyrs mentioned in the Catholic Encyclopedia notice are Blesseds Edward and Thomas Thwing. More about them here.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

St. Thomas More Prepares for Death


On July 1, 1535 St. Thomas More left Westminster Hall a condemned man. His daughter Margaret was waiting for him as he returned to the Tower of London and embraced him. This historical painting by William Frederick Yeames in 1872 depicts that scene. Notice that Thomas More has a beard, which he is reported to have moved out of the way before  he was beheaded since it had committed no treason (having grown while he was in prison).

As Samuel Johnson said in the eighteenth century, "Depend upon it, Sir, when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully." St. Thomas More did not have a fortnight to prepare for his execution--or rather he had had more than a year to prepare for his death while imprisoned in the Tower of London--after he was sentenced to being hanged, drawn, and quartered on July 1, 1535. Once back in his cell, Thomas More concentrated again on his death, writing a prayer that combined devotion, a general examination of conscience, and petitions for God's grace to live and die according to His will. It is a model of devotion, faith, and thoughtfulness, titled "A Devout Prayer". After beginning with the Pater Noster, Ave Maria, and Credo, More continued:

O Holy Trinity, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, three equal and coeternal Persons and one Almighty God, have mercy on me, vile, abject, abominable, sinful wretch, meekly knowledging before Thine High Majesty my long-continued sinful life, even from my very childhood hitherto.

In my childhood (in this point and that point). After my childhood (in this point and that point, and so forth by every age).

Now, good gracious Lord, as Thou givest me Thy grace to knowledge them, so give me Thy grace not only in word but in heart also, with very sorrowful contrition to repent them and utterly to forsake them. And forgive me those sins also in which, by mine own default, through evil affections and evil custom, my reason is with sensuality so blinded that I cannot discern them for sin. And illumine, good Lord, mine heart, and give me Thy grace to know them and to knowledge them, and forgive me my sins negligently forgotten, and bring them to my mind with grace to be purely confessed of them.

Glorious God, give me from henceforth Thy grace, with little respect unto the world, so to set and fix firmly mine heart upon Thee, that I may say with Thy blessed apostle St. Paul: "Mundus mihi crucifixus est et ego mundo. Mihi vivere Christus est et mori lucrum. Cupio dissolvi et esse cum Christo."[The world is crucified to me and I to the world. For me to live is Christ and to die is gain. I wish to be dissolved and be with Christ. (Gal. 6:14 and Phil 1:21-23)]

Give me Thy grace to amend my life and to have an eye to mine end without grudge of death, which to them that die in Thee, good Lord, in the gate of a wealthy life.

Almighty God, Doce me facere voluntatem Tuam. Fac me currere in odore unguentorum tuorum. Apprehende manum meam dexteram et deduc me in via recta propter inimicos meos. Trahe me post te. In chamo et freno maxillas meas constringe, quum non approximo ad te. [Teach me to do your will. Make me run in the scent of your unguents. Take my right hand, and lead me in the right path because of my enemies. Draw me after you. With a muzzle and bridle restrain my jaws when I do not draw near to you. (Psalm 31:9)]


O glorious God, all sinful fear, all sinful sorrow and pensiveness, all sinful hope, all sinful mirth and gladness take from me. And on the other side, concerning such fear, such sorrow, such heaviness, such comfort, consolation, and gladness as shall be profitable for my soul: Fac mecum secundum magnam bonitatem tuam Domine. [Deal with me according to your great goodness, O Lord. (Psalm 118:124)]

Good Lord, give me the grace, in all my fear and agony, to have recourse to that great fear and wonderful agony that Thou, my sweet Saviour, hadst at the Mount of Olivet before Thy most bitter passion, and in the meditation thereof to conceive ghostly comfort and consolation profitable for my soul.

Almighty God, take from me all vain-glorious minds, all appetites of mine own praise, all envy, covetise, gluttony, sloth, and lechery, all wrathful affections, all appetite of revenging, all desire or delight of other folk's harm, all pleasure in provoking any person to wrath and anger, all delight of exprobation or insultation against any person in their affliction and calamity.

And give me, good Lord, an humble, lowly, quiet, peaceable, patient, charitable, kind, tender, and pitiful mind with all my works, and all my words, and all my thoughts, to have a taste of Thy holy, blessed Spirit.

Give me, good Lord, a full faith, a firm hope, and a fervent charity, a love to the good Lord incomparable above the love to myself; and that I love nothing to Thy displeasure, but everything in an order to Thee.

Give me, good Lord, a longing to be with Thee, not for the avoiding of the calamities of this wretched world, nor so much for the avoiding of the pains of purgatory, nor of the pains of hell neither, nor so much for the attaining of the joys of heaven in respect of mine own commodity, as even, for a very love to Thee.

And bear me, good Lord, Thy love and favour, which thing my love to Thee-ward, were it never so great, could not, but of Thy great goodness deserve.

And pardon me, good Lord, that I am so bold to ask so high petitions, being so vile a sinful wretch, and so unworthy to attain the lowest. But yet, good Lord, such they be as I am bounden to wish, and should be nearer the effectual desire of them if my manifold sins were not the let. From which, O glorious Trinity, vouchsafe, of Thy goodness to wash me with that blessed blood that issued out of Thy tender body, O sweet Saviour Christ, in the divers torments of Thy most bitter passion.

Take from me, good Lord, this lukewarm fashion, or rather key-cold manner of meditation, and this dulness in praying unto Thee. And give me warmth, delight, and quickness in thinking upon Thee. And give me Thy grace to long for Thine holy sacraments, and specially to rejoice in the presence of Thy very blessed body, sweet Saviour Christ, in the holy sacrament of the altar, and duly to thank Thee for Thy gracious visitation therewith, and at that high memorial with tender compassion to remember and consider Thy most bitter passion.

Make us all, good Lord, virtually participant of that holy sacrament this day, and every day. Make us all lively members, sweet Saviour Christ, of Thine holy mystical body, Thy Catholic Church.

Dignare, Domine, die isto sine peccato nos custodire. [Deign, O Lord, on that day to preserve us without sin.]
Miserere nostri, Domine, miserere nostri. [Have mercy on us, Lord, have mercy on us.]
Fiat misericordia tua, Domine, super nos, quemadmodum speravimus in te. [Let your mercy, O Lord, be upon us, just as we have hoped in you. (Psalm 32:22)]
In te, Domine, speravi, non confundar in æternum. [In you, O Lord, I have hoped, let me not be confounded in eternity. (Psalm 30 2)]
R. Ora pro nobis, sancta Dei genitrix. [Pray for us, holy Mother of God]
V. Ut digni efficiamur promissionibus Christi. [That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.]

Then he prayed for his friends and enemies:

Pro amicis.

Almighty God, have mercy on N. and N. (with special meditation and consideration of every friend, as godly affections and occasion requireth).

Pro inimicis.

Almighty God, have mercy on N. and N., and on all that bear me evil will, and would me harm, and their faults and mine together by such easy, tender, merciful means as Thine infinite wisdom best can devise, vouchsafe to amend and redress and make us saved souls in heaven together, where we may ever live and love together with Thee and Thy blessed saints, O glorious Trinity, for the bitter passion of our sweet Saviour Christ. Amen.

God, give me patience in tribulation and grace in everything, to conform my will to Thine, that I may truly say: "Fiat voluntas tua, sicut in coelo et in terra". [Thy will be done on earth and it is in heaven. (Pater Noster)]

The things, good Lord, that I pray for, give me Thy grace to labour for. Amen.


Yale's university library has Thomas More's prayer book in its Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library:

It is not known how the prayer book survived after More was executed. It first surfaced in an exhibition in 1929 and was purchased by the Beinecke Library in 1965. It actually comprises two printed books: a book of Hours and a Psalter. Printed in 1522 and 1525 in Paris for the English market, the books retain their original simple black binding.

The annotations on the book of Hours were gathered by More’s nephew, William Rastell, and published in his 1557 edition of the English works of Thomas More. (Starting in 1958, Yale’s St. Thomas More Project, an international scholarly collaboration, edited and published 16 volumes of More’s writings; they are all still in print.) These verses show More wrestling with, and reconciling himself to, a painful death and the possible ruin of his family for his religious convictions. They are his best-known spiritual writings.


Yale University Press published a facsimile edition, which is out of print unfortunately:

These facsimile pages are taken from a Latin Book of Hours and a liturgical Latin Psalter which were in St. Thomas More’s possession while he was a prisoner in the Tower of London and which he used for meditation during the period before his execution. In the margins of nineteen pages of the Book of Hours, More wrote his “Godly Meditation,” lines resonant with his intense spirituality as he pondered his awaiting death yet reflecting the lot of any Christian as he endeavors to “walk the narrow way”; the margins of the Psalter include 150 notes that give deep insight into More’s personal grief and sorrows during his imprisonment. The annotated pages of both volumes are here reproduced in their original size, with those from the Book of Hours in full color.

Mr. Martz and Mr. Sylvester, both professor of English at Yale University and chairman and executive editor, respectively, of the Yale Edition of the Works of St. Thomas More, provide full transcriptions of all the marginalia, with translations of the Latin notes, as well as an Introduction describing the books and analyzing the spiritual and scholarly significance of the annotation. A companion volume to the Yale Edition of the Complete Works of St. Thomas More.


An interesting anecdote about More's Prayer Book here.

St. Thomas More, pray for us!