Thursday, March 28, 2019

Sweeney on St. Robert Southwell, Poet

I'm reading this book because of another book I've received to review; the author of that other book referred to the late Anne Sweeney's work on St. Robert Southwell's poetry and its place in the English poetic milieu of the sixteenth century. According to Oxford University Press which distributes the book published by Manchester University Press:

It has traditionally been held that Robert Southwell's poetry offers a curious view of Elizabethan England, one that is from the restricted perspective of a priest-hole. This book dismantles that idea by examining the poetry, word by word, discovering layers of new meanings, hidden emblems, and sharp critiques of Elizabeth's courtiers, and even of the ageing queen herself.

Using both the most recent edition of Southwell's poetry and manuscript materials, it addresses both poetry and private writings including letters and diary material to give dramatic context to the radicalisation of a generation of Southwell's countrymen and women, showing how the young Jesuit harnessed both drama and literature to give new poetic poignancy to their experience.

Bringing a rigorously forensic approach to Southwell's 'lighter' pieces, Sweeney can now show to what extent Southwell engaged exclusively through them in direct artistic debate with Spenser, Sidney, and Shakespeare, placing the poetry firmly in the English landscape familiar to Southwell's generation. Those interested in early modern and Elizabethan culture will find much of interest, including new insights into the function of the arts in the private Catholic milieu touched by Southwell in so many ways and places.


I'm just a couple of chapters in and Sweeney provides an insight connected to Elizabeth Lev's book about Catholic Restoration art: the poetry Southwell wrote was inspired by the art he was seeing in the churches of Rome during his studies. Sweeney even notes the painting that may have inspired his best known poem, "The Burning Babe": The Vision of St. Ignatius at La Storta.

Part of her thesis on St. Robert Southwell's poetic method is that his shorter poems are filled with visual imagery, not Petrarchan repetition and elaboration. Therefore, the art that he lived with in Counter-Reformation Rome, especially the art in the Jesuit churches of Il Gesu, Sant'Andrea al Quirinale, and others influenced his poetry.  He transferred the impact of clear and expressive visual representations of sacred and spiritual things on the viewer to descriptive, concrete language.

As Sweeney notes, her book began because she wondered why Ben Jonson admired "The Burning Babe" so much. She believes it's the imagery, the sense of seeing something as you read the poem that elicited Jonson's admiration:

As I in hoary winter’s night stood shivering in the snow,
Surpris’d I was with sudden heat which made my heart to glow;
And lifting up a fearful eye to view what fire was near,
A pretty Babe all burning bright did in the air appear;
Who, scorched with excessive heat, such floods of tears did shed
As though his floods should quench his flames which with his tears were fed.
“Alas!” quoth he, “but newly born, in fiery heats I fry,
Yet none approach to warm their hearts or feel my fire but I!
My faultless breast the furnace is, the fuel wounding thorns,
Love is the fire, and sighs the smoke, the ashes shame and scorns;
The fuel Justice layeth on, and Mercy blows the coals,
The metal in this furnace wrought are men’s defiled souls,
For which, as now on fire I am to work them to their good,
So will I melt into a bath to wash them in my blood.”
With this he vanish’d out of sight and swiftly shrunk away,
And straight I called unto mind that it was Christmas day.

It's not just the image that comes to mind of a man standing in the cold and dark, the sudden appearance of a burning baby suspended in the air, the tears, the message of the baby (with its images of furnace, fire, smoke, ashes, coals, metal, etc), and his sudden disappearance, but also the feeling of shivering cold and blazing heat, and then the sudden realization of the date. The viewer has seen a vision of the infant Jesus already experiencing the suffering of His Passion and it is Christmas Day. This revelation came about not just by repetition and elaboration of abstract ideas, but by seeing something, describing it, and making the connection between the Incarnation and those abstract ideas of Love, Justice, and Mercy: the Paschal Mystery of the Passion, Crucifixion, and Resurrection: Jesus Christ Himself, whether Babe or Man.

Monday, March 25, 2019

Newman's Defense of Marian Doctrine and Devotion

Matt Swaim--or perhaps Anna Mitchell as it should be her turn--and I will talk about Newman and Mary, the Mother of God this morning on the Son Rise Morning Show in our continuing series on soon-to-canonized Cardinal Newman. (About 7:50 a.m. Eastern DST;6:50 a.m. Central DST.)

As promised, here's more insight into the Marian devotion Blessed John Henry Newman developed as a Catholic, starting with his defense of the doctrine of her Immaculate Conception:

Two years after the proclamation of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, Reverend Doctor E.B. Pusey wrote a public letter to the other great survivor of Newman's "defection" from the Oxford Movement and the Church of England, John Keble: An Eirenicon, responding to then Archdeacon Henry Manning's public letter to Pusey, The Workings of the Holy Spirit in the Church of England", in which Manning denied that the Church of England was protected from error the way the Catholic Church is. Pusey mentions the recently proclaimed doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary (declared by Pope Pius IX in 1854: "We declare, pronounce and define that the doctrine which holds that the Blessed Virgin Mary, at the first instant of her conception, by a singular privilege and grace of the Omnipotent God, in virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of mankind, was preserved immaculate from all stain of original sin, has been revealed by God, and therefore should firmly and constantly be believed by all the faithful.") and examines it in a historical context.

Father John Henry Newman then answered Pusey with A Letter Addressed to the Rev. E. B. Pusey, D.D. on Occasion of his Eirenicon, in which he defended the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, starting with the commonly held doctrine that our first parents, Adam and Eve, were without Original Sin, filled with supernatural grace. Mary, the Mother of God is the Second Eve: her obedience and cooperation with God undoes Eve's disobedience:

She holds, as the Fathers teach us, that office in our restoration which Eve held in our fall:—now, in the first place, what were Eve's endowments to enable her to enter upon her trial? She could not have stood against the wiles of the devil, though she was innocent and sinless, without the grant of a large grace. And this she had;—a heavenly gift, which was over and above and additional to that nature of hers, which she received from Adam, a gift which had been given to Adam also before her, at the very time (as it is commonly held) of his original formation. This is Anglican doctrine, as well as Catholic; it is the doctrine of Bishop Bull. He has written a dissertation on the point. He speaks of the doctrine which "many of the Schoolmen affirm, that Adam was created in grace, that is, received a principle of grace and divine life from his very creation, or in the moment of the infusion of his soul; of which," he says, "for my own part I have little doubt." Again, he says, "It is abundantly manifest from the many testimonies alleged, that the ancient doctors of the Church did, with a general consent, acknowledge, that our first parents in the state of integrity, had in them something more than nature, that is, were endowed with the divine principle of the Spirit, in order to a supernatural felicity."

Now, taking this for granted, because I know that you and those who agree with you maintain it as well as we do, I ask you, have you any intention to deny that Mary was as fully endowed as Eve? is it any violent inference, that she, who was to co-operate in the redemption of the world, at least was not less endowed with power from on high, than she who, given as a help-mate to her husband, did in the event but cooperate with him for its ruin? If Eve was raised above human nature by that indwelling moral gift which we call grace, is it rash to say that Mary had even a greater grace? And this consideration gives significance to the Angel's salutation of her as "full of grace,"—an interpretation of the original word which is undoubtedly the right one, as soon as we resist the common Protestant assumption that grace is a mere external approbation or acceptance, answering to the word "favour," whereas it is, as the Fathers teach, a real inward condition or superadded quality of soul. And if Eve had this supernatural inward gift given her from the first moment of her personal existence, is it possible to deny that Mary too had this gift from the very first moment of her personal existence? I do not know how to resist this inference:—well, this is simply and literally the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception. I say the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception is in its substance this, and nothing more or less than this (putting aside the question of degrees of grace); and it really does seem to me bound up in the doctrine of the Fathers, that Mary is the second Eve.

It is indeed to me a most strange phenomenon that so many learned and devout men stumble at this doctrine; and I can only account for it by supposing that in matter of fact they do not know what we mean by the Immaculate Conception; and your Volume (may I say it?) bears out my suspicion. It is a great consolation to have reason for thinking so,—reason for believing that in some sort the persons in question are in the position of those great Saints in former times, who are said to have hesitated about the doctrine, when they would not have hesitated at all, if the word "Conception" had been clearly explained in that sense in which now it is universally received. I do not see how any one who holds with Bull the Catholic doctrine of the supernatural endowments of our first parents, has fair reason for doubting our doctrine about the Blessed Virgin. It has no reference whatever to her parents, but simply to her own person; it does but affirm that, together with the nature which she inherited from her parents, that is, her own nature, she had a superadded fulness of grace, and that from the first moment of her existence. Suppose Eve had stood the trial, and not lost her first grace; and suppose she had eventually had children, those children from the first moment of their existence would, through divine bounty, have received the same privilege that she had ever had; that is, as she was taken from Adam's side, in a garment, so to say, of grace, so they in turn would have received what may be called an immaculate conception. They would have then been conceived in grace, as in fact they are conceived in sin. What is there difficult in this doctrine? What is there unnatural? Mary may be called, as it were, a daughter of Eve unfallen. You believe with us that St. John Baptist had grace given to him three months before his birth, at the time that the Blessed Virgin visited his mother. He accordingly was not immaculately conceived, because he was alive before grace came to him; but our Lady's case only differs from his in this respect, that to her the grace of God came, not three months merely before her birth, but from the first moment of her being, as it had been given to Eve.

But it may be said, How does this enable us to say that she was conceived without original sin? If Anglicans knew what we mean by original sin, they would not ask the question. Our doctrine of original sin is not the same as the Protestant doctrine. "Original sin," with us, cannot be called sin, in the mere ordinary sense of the word "sin;" it is a term denoting Adam's sin as transferred to us, or the state to which Adam's sin reduces his children; but by Protestants it seems to be understood as sin, in much the same sense as actual sin. We, with the Fathers, think of it as something negative, Protestants as something positive. Protestants hold that it is a disease, a radical change of nature, an active poison internally corrupting the soul, infecting its primary elements, and disorganizing it; and they fancy that we ascribe a different nature from ours to the Blessed Virgin, different from that of her parents, and from that of fallen Adam. We hold nothing of the kind; we consider that in Adam she died, as others; that she was included, together with the whole race, in Adam's sentence; that she incurred his debt, as we do; but that, for the sake of Him who was to redeem her and us upon the Cross, to her the debt was remitted by anticipation, on her the sentence was not carried out, except indeed as regards her natural death, for she died when her time came, as others [Note 5]. All this we teach, but we deny that she had original sin; for by original sin we mean, as I have already said, something negative, viz., this only, the deprivation of that supernatural unmerited grace which Adam and Eve had on their first formation,—deprivation and the consequences of deprivation. Mary could not merit, any more than they, the restoration of that grace; but it was restored to her by God's free bounty, from the very first moment of her existence, and thereby, in fact, she never came under the original curse, which consisted in the loss of it. And she had this special privilege, in order to fit her to become the Mother of her and our Redeemer, to fit her mentally, spiritually for it; so that, by the aid of the first grace, she might so grow in grace, that, when the Angel came and her Lord was at hand, she might be "full of grace," prepared as far as a creature could be prepared, to receive Him into her bosom.


Regarding Newman's devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, remember that he included praying the Rosary everyday in his short guide to perfection:

If you ask me what you are to do in order to be perfect, I say, first—Do not lie in bed beyond the due time of rising; give your first thoughts to God; make a good visit to the Blessed Sacrament; say the Angelus devoutly; eat and drink to God’s glory; say the Rosary well; be recollected; keep out bad thoughts; make your evening meditation well; examine yourself daily; go to bed in good time, and you are already perfect.

He also wrote a series of "Meditations on the Litany of Loreto" for the month of May, dividing the titles of Mary in that litany according to her Immaculate Conception, the Annunciation, her Dolours or Sorrows, and her Assumption. In a "Short Service for Rosary Sunday" Newman demonstrated his love for the Blessed Virgin Mary:

IN Jesus Christ is the fullness of the Godhead with all its infinite sanctity. In Mary is reflected the sanctity of Jesus, as by His grace it could be found in a creature.

Mary, as the pattern both of maidenhood and maternity, has exalted woman’s state and nature, and made the Christian virgin and the Christian mother understand the sacredness of their duties in the sight of God.

Her very image is as a book in which we may read at a glance the mystery of the Incarnation, and the mercy of the Redemption; and withal her own gracious perfections also, who was made by her Divine Son the very type of humility, gentleness, fortitude, purity, patience, love.

What Christian mother can look upon her image and not be moved to pray for gentleness, watchfulness, and obedience like Mary’s? What Christian maiden can look upon her without praying for the gifts of simplicity, modesty, purity, recollection, gentleness such as hers?

Who can repeat her very name without finding in it a music which goes to the heart, and brings before him thoughts of God and Jesus Christ, and heaven above, and fills him with the desire of those graces by which heaven is gained?

Hail then, great Mother of God, Queen of Saints, Royal Lady clothed with the sun and crowned with the stars of heaven, whom all generations have called and shall call blessed. We will take our part in praising thee in our own time and place with all the redeemed of our Lord, and will exalt thee in the full assembly of the saints and glorify thee in the Heavenly Jerusalem.


Amen.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

St. Aelred of Rievaulx and His Sister


St. Aelred of Rievaulx, the Cistercian monk and abbot who wrote about Spiritual Friendship, had a younger sister who was an anchoress, living in a cell attached to a church, praying in close proximity to the Blessed Sacrament, participating in Mass and other liturgical services, etc. She asked him to write her with some advice on how to live thus, a Rule, which he did after she had already been an anchoress for some time, according to the text of De Institutione Inclusarum, which I've just read in the translation published in Mowbray's Fleur de Lys edition, edited by Geoffrey Webb and Adrian Walker (1957). Mowbrays Fleur de Lys Series included, as listed in the paperback book I bought at Eighth Day Books a couple of years ago, another work of St. Aelred, On Jesus at Twelve Years Old, works by William of St. Thierry, and others.

His instructions to her are very clear about when she is to rise and when to go to bed (depending on the season); what and when she is to eat (depending on the season), and how she is to pray; how much she should interact with those who come to the church to speak with her; what her servant is to do for her; and how much she should speak in general. Aelred explains that she has really taken on the role of Mary of Bethany, not Martha, and that therefore, she should be happy to sit at the feet of Jesus and learn from Him. If she gives any alms to the poor, she should do so through another: her main form of almsgiving should be her intercessory prayer for pilgrims, nuns, monks, fatherless and motherless children, prelates, widows, and all those who labor.

But the better part of the short book, and the part that is applicable to any Christian, anchorite or not, is St. Aelred's outline of what his sister should think about while she is in her cell: the truths of the Christian life, past, present, and to come. 

The past is all about the life of Jesus from His Incarnation to His Resurrection and Ascension; the present is a meditation on the mercies and the goodness of God in our life today (how He forgives sin and offers hope for effective repentance); the future is death and judgement: the Doom of the end of the world and the beginning of the Eternal kingdom.

In his description of events from the Gospels, Aelred advises his sister to imagine that she is there, that she sees the events as a worshipping and awestruck bystander, entering into the emotions of the events. He offers a beautiful "Prayer at the Passion":

Sweet and kind Jesus, behold me here at Thy feet, a simple and devout worshipper of Thy majesty, who does not scorn They infirmity and weakness; an adorer of Thy piteous death; an acknowledger of Thy great mercy, and not a despiser of the suffering body that Thous has taken from mankind. And therefore I pray and beg Thee that  They sweet blessed manhood might pray for me, and that Thy wonderful pity might commend me to Thy Father. Sweet Jesus, say for me, who worship Thy passion and Thy death with a heart full of meekness and humility, those words which Thou didst say for them who put Thee to death. Merciful Lord, say once for me to Thy Father, 'Father, forgive him!'

Then he continues with details from the Gospels about Jesus on the Cross, Mary and St. John at the foot of the Cross, His death and His wounds, urging his sister to have compassion for these sufferings and to love Jesus.

In the chapters on God's mercy, he speaks of his own sinful past and his efforts to atone. He praises her for her purity and chastity and foretells her easier entrance into Heaven while he still prays that he will be forgiven and his sin atoned for on earth.

In describing the Last Judgment and eternal life in Heaven, Aelred again rejoices at his sister's innocence compared to his own previous lack of virtue. She will surely know the joys of Heaven and union with her Holy Spouse. 

It is a beautiful little book, filled with a spirit of faith, hope and love in Jesus, God's mercy, and the promises of Heaven. We don't know Aelred's sister's name or where she was an anchoress, but her request for him to write her a Rule has given us a wonderful letter, including what the editors rightfully call "one of the most moving [meditations on the life of Our Lord] ever written. . . . To remember the life of Christ is to be brought into His real and living presence as in liturgical prayer. . . . One can see how profoundly Aelred himself lived the gospel . . ." I am very thankful that she asked him to write to her. I plan to reread the chapters on Holy Thursday and the Passion (10, 11, and 12) during Holy Week.

More about the Mowbrays Fleur de Lys Series of spiritual classics--"A paper bound series intended to make available at popular prices some of the shorter devotional works which have come down from past ages of the Christian Church"-- here.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Native American Jacobites!

From The Catholic Herald, a review of a new book from OUP about the Wabanaki confederation of what is now north-eastern USA and south-eastern Canada, highlighting their desire to aid the Catholic Stuarts:

It was 1715 and a tribal people were preparing to assist in restoring Britain’s exiled Royal House of Stuart, sharpening tomahawks, covering themselves in war paint and raising sails on ships built to the highest technical standards of the day.

No, I haven’t been drinking too much Bourbon. Nor am I confusing Scottish highlanders, American Indians and Caribbean pirates. I am writing about a combination of two facts – the amassing of a fleet of sailing ships by the Indian tribes of the Wabanaki confederation, and the role which those tribes played in the Jacobite movement – facts which are virtually unknown but which can be studied in Matthew Bahar’s book,
Storm of the Sea: Indians and Empires in the Atlantic’s Age of Sail. . . .

From the time they learned of the “Glorious Revolution” until the 1760s, the Wabanaki supported the claims of the Stuart dynasty, making them some of the last adherents of the Jacobite cause. It was a position which contributed to their cooperation with the Jacobites’ French allies in colonial campaigns during the War of the League of Augsburg, the War of the Spanish Succession and the War of the Austrian Succession – cooperation of greater strategic significance than might be readily apparent.

The more that Indian aid could minimise France’s need to send men and supplies to North America, the more resources France could spare for a Stuart restoration. Conversely, British victories in the colonies would divert French resources from Jacobite efforts. In 1745, for example, the French colonial fortress of Louisburg fell to a New England army. Had the fortress held out, the army and fleet which Louis XV sent to recapture it the following year would have been ordered to support Prince Charles Edward Stuart’s Jacobite rising, even if it meant setting out on such a mission after the Battle of Culloden.

The Wabanaki also contributed to bleeding dry the House of Hanover’s ability to make war. One of the major props of the power of Hanover was naval supremacy. The British navy’s most important source of timber for shipbuilding was the Wabanakis’ homeland. . . .

More from OUP about the book:

Narratives of cultural encounter in colonial North America often contrast traditional Indian coastal-dwellers and intrepid European seafarers. In Storm of the Sea, Matthew R. Bahar instead tells the forgotten history of Indian pirates hijacking European sailing ships on the rough waters of the north Atlantic and of an Indian navy pressing British seamen into its ranks.

From their earliest encounters with Europeans in the sixteenth century to the end of the Seven Years' War in 1763, the Wabanaki Indians of northern New England and the Canadian Maritimes fought to enhance their relationship with the ocean and the colonists it brought to their shores. This native maritime world clashed with the relentless efforts of Europeans to supplant it with one more amenable to their imperial designs. The Wabanaki fortified their longstanding dominion over the region's land- and seascape by co-opting European sailing technology and regularly plundering the waves of European ships, sailors, and cargo. Their campaign of sea and shore brought wealth, honor, and power to their confederacy while alienating colonial neighbors and thwarting English and French imperialism through devastating attacks. Their seaborne raids developed both a punitive and extractive character; they served at once as violent and honorable retribution for the destructive pressures of colonialism in Indian country and as a strategic enterprise to secure valuable plunder. Ashore, Indian diplomats engaged in shrewd transatlantic negotiations with imperial officials of French Acadia and New England.

Positioning Indians into the Age of Sail,
Storm of the Sea offers an original perspective on Native American, imperial, and Atlantic history.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Preview: Newman and the Blessed Virgin Mary

Since Monday, March 25 is the Feast of the Annunciation, I thought it appropriate that we discuss Newman and the Blessed Virgin Mary on the Son Rise Morning Show in our continuing series. Matt Swaim or Anna Mitchell and I will talk, as usual, about 7:50 am. Eastern DST / 6:50 a.m. Central DST. The segment will be repeated sometime during the nationwide EWTN hour on another day.

Before he became a Catholic, being raised in a traditionally anti-Catholic Anglican milieu, Newman was at first influenced by the usual Protestant belief that Catholics "worshipped" Mary which distracted us from worshipping God. As this article from the University of Dayton by Brother John Samaha, S.M. explains, however, Newman explored Marian doctrines in his Development of Christian Doctrine:

Before embracing Catholicism, John Henry Newman, probably the most famous convert in the last two centuries, formulated an explanation of the development of doctrines in the Catholic Church, especially the Marian doctrines. He explained that the saving truths of revelation were not given by God in timeless and static expression, but dynamic and life-giving truths which continue to unfold and develop. In An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine Newman wrote, "Growth is the only evidence of Life." Ideas live in our minds and continually enlarge into fuller development. "In a higher world it is otherwise, but here below to live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often." . . .

Following his conversion in 1845, John Henry Newman (1801-1890) journeyed to Rome. Upon his return as a Catholic priest he wrote that he "went round by Loreto." As a pilgrim to the Holy House he wanted "to get the Blessed Virgin's blessing." Then he commented about Mary's presence in his life. "I have ever been in her shadow, if I may say it. My college was St. Mary's, and my church, and when I went to Littlemore, there, by my own previous disposition, our Blessed Lady was waiting for me. Nor did she do nothing for me in that low habitation, of which I always think with pleasure."

As an Anglican, Newman thought that the Catholic Church's Marian doctrine and devotion was exaggerated. But in his study of the development of doctrine, he discovered that it was consistent with the early Church. "I was convinced by the Fathers," he explained. The early Fathers and ancient Christian writers viewed Mary as the New Eve. Newman came to understand Mary in patristic terms. He understood the Immaculate Conception was based on Mary's holiness, a concept present in the Fathers, and the Assumption was rooted in her dignity as Mother of God, another concept from the early Christian writers.

Although Newman had reservations about some teachings of the Catholic Church while an Anglican, he nevertheless was devoted to the Blessed Virgin Mary. In his
Apologia pro Vita Sua he proclaimed, "In spite of my ingrained fears of Rome, and the decision of my reason and conscience against her usages, in spite of my affection for Oxford and Oriel, yet I had a secret longing love of Rome, the Mother of Christianity, and I had a true devotion to the Blessed Virgin, in whose college I lived, whose altar I served, and whose immaculate purity I had in one of my earliest printed sermons made much of."

Before his crisis with Anglicanism, which occasioned his writing of the Development of Doctrine, however, Newman had been influenced by Richard Hurrell Froude, who persuaded Newman of Mary's place in salvation history and the honor due her. In 1832, for  example, on the Feast of the Annunciation, Newman gave this Parochial and Plain Sermon, referring to the promises of the Magnificat from St. Luke's Gospel:

TODAY we celebrate the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary; when the Angel Gabriel was sent to tell her that she was to be the Mother of our Lord, and when the Holy Ghost came upon her, and overshadowed her with the power of the Highest. In that great event was fulfilled her anticipation as expressed in the text. All generations have called her blessed [Note 2]. The Angel began the salutation; he said, "Hail, thou that art highly favoured; the Lord is with thee; blessed [Note 3] art thou among women." Again he said, "Fear not, Mary, for thou hast found favour with God; and, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a Son, and shalt call His name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest." Her cousin Elizabeth was the next to greet her with her appropriate title. Though she was filled with the Holy Ghost at the time she spake, yet, far from thinking herself by such a gift equalled to Mary, she was thereby moved to use the lowlier and more reverent language. "She spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?" ... Then she repeated, "Blessed is she that believed; for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord." Then it was that Mary gave utterance to her feelings in the Hymn which we read in the Evening Service. How many and complicated must they have been! In her was now to be fulfilled that promise which the world had been looking out for during thousands of years. The Seed of the woman, announced to guilty Eve, after long delay, was at length appearing upon earth, and was to be born of her. In her the destinies of the world were to be reversed, and the serpent's head bruised. On her was bestowed the greatest honour ever put upon any individual of our fallen race. God was taking upon Him her flesh, and humbling Himself to be called her offspring;—such is the deep mystery! She of course would feel her own inexpressible unworthiness; and again, her humble lot, her ignorance, her weakness in the eyes of the world. And she had moreover, we may well suppose, that purity and innocence of heart, that bright vision of faith, that confiding trust in her God, which raised all these feelings to an intensity which we, ordinary mortals, cannot understand. We cannot understand them; we repeat her hymn day after day,—yet consider for an instant in how different a mode we say it from that in which she at first uttered it. We even hurry it over, and do not think of the meaning of those words which came from the most highly favoured, awfully gifted of the children of men. "My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. For He hath regarded the low estate of His hand-maiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. For He that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is His name. And His mercy is on them that fear Him from generation to generation."

Ten years later on the Feast of the Purification (Candlemas), Newman would go further toward a Catholic understanding of Marian Doctrine in a Parochial and Plain Sermon on the topic of the development of religious doctrine:

LITTLE is told us in Scripture concerning the Blessed Virgin, but there is one grace of which the Evangelists make her the pattern, in a few simple sentences—of Faith. Zacharias questioned the Angel's message, but "Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word." Accordingly Elisabeth, speaking with an apparent allusion to the contrast thus exhibited between her own highly-favoured husband, righteous Zacharias, and the still more highly-favoured Mary, said, on receiving her salutation, "Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb; Blessed is she that believed, for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord."

2. But Mary's faith did not end in a mere acquiescence in Divine providences and revelations: as the text informs us, she "pondered" them. When the shepherds came, and told of the vision of Angels which they had seen at the time of the Nativity, and how one of them announced that the Infant in her arms was "the Saviour, which is Christ the Lord," while others did but wonder, "Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart." Again, when her Son and Saviour had come to the age of twelve years, and had left her for awhile for His Father's service, and had been found, to her surprise, in the Temple, amid the doctors, both hearing them and asking them questions, and had, on her addressing Him, vouchsafed to justify His conduct, we are told, "His mother kept all these sayings in her heart." And accordingly, at the marriage-feast in Cana, her faith anticipated His first miracle, and she said to the servants, "Whatsoever He saith unto you, do it."

3. Thus St. Mary is our pattern of Faith, both in the reception and in the study of Divine Truth. She does not think it enough to accept, she dwells upon it; not enough to possess, she uses it; not enough to assent, she developes it; not enough to submit the Reason, she reasons upon it; not indeed reasoning first, and believing afterwards, with Zacharias, yet first believing without reasoning, next from love and reverence, reasoning after believing. And thus she symbolizes to us, not only the faith of the unlearned, but of the doctors of the Church also, who have to investigate, and weigh, and define, as well as to profess the Gospel; to draw the line between truth and heresy; to anticipate or remedy the various aberrations of wrong reason; to combat pride and recklessness with their own arms; and thus to triumph over the sophist and the innovator.


On Monday, I'll provide some notes from Newman's Catholic devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Book Review: The Catholic Restoration in Art


According to the publisher, Sophia Institute Press:

Not long after Martin Luther’s defiance of the Church in 1517, dialogue between Protestants and Catholics broke down, brother turned against brother, and devastating religious wars erupted across Europe. Desperate to restore the peace and recover the unity of Faith, Catholic theologians clarified and reaffirmed Catholic doctrines, but turned as well to another form of evangelization: the Arts.

Convinced that to win over the unlettered, the best place to fight heresy was not in the streets but in stone and on canvas, they enlisted the century’s best artists to create a glorious wave of beautiful works of sacred art — Catholic works of sacred art — to draw people together instead of driving them apart.


How Catholic Art Saved the Faith tells the story of the creation and successes of this vibrant, visual-arts SWAT team whose war cry could have been “art for Faith’s sake!” Over the years, it included Michelangelo, of course, and, among other great artists, the edgy Caravaggio, the graceful Guido Reni, the technically perfect Annibale Carracci, the colorful Barocci, the theatrical Bernini, and the passionate Artemisia Gentileschi. Each of these creative souls, despite their own interior struggles, was a key player in this magnificent, generations-long project: the affirmation through beauty of the teachings of the Holy Catholic Church.

Here you will meet the fascinating artists who formed this cadre’s core. You will revel in scores of their full-color paintings. And you will profit from the lucid explanations of their lovely creations: works that over the centuries have touched the hearts and deepened the faith of millions of pilgrims who have made their way to the Eternal City to gaze upon them.

Join those pilgrims now in an encounter with the magnificent artworks of the Catholic Restoration — artworks which from their conception were intended to delight, teach, and inspire. As they have done for the faith of so many, so will they do for you.


The language in the blurb ("this vibrant, visual-arts SWAT team whose war cry could have been "art for Faith's sake!"'; "the affirmation through beauty of the teachings of the Holy Catholic Church"; "lucid explanations of their lovely creations";) is matched by Lev's writing style: bold, almost strident in describing the theological differences between Protestant and Catholic teaching, insightful expression of the Church teaching defended in the individual artworks; cogent analysis of how each artist succeeded in technique, adaptation of the tradition, and creativity.

She is rather dismissive of medieval art and architecture insofar as the Gothic did not suit the new challenges to Catholic teaching: she rejects the rood screen for example because it blocked the view of the Altar--during the Middle Ages the Eucharist was usually reserved in a pyx not a Tabernacle-- and contrasts the static "sacred conversations" of Jesus, Mary, certain saints, and the donors of the work on the side with the dramatic, even emotional depictions of pilgrims and laity before the Blessed Virgin Mary (Caravaggio's Our Lady of Loreto or Our Lady of the Rosary)--and she rejects vehemently the idea that Jesus is pointing to the younger man counting the money in Caravaggio's Call of St. Matthew!

The first two parts of the book, "The Sacraments" and "Intercession" are the most successful demonstration of the premise of the book: that the images and architecture of Counter-Reformation Rome, starting with the reign of Pope Sixtus V helped the Church defend and revive the doctrines and religious devotions codified at the Council of Trent. The Real Presence, the Sacrament of Penance, Holy Orders, Baptism, the Communion of Saints, the Blessed Virgin Mary, prayer for the Poor Souls in Purgatory, miracles, repentance, etc: Lev matches the restated doctrine to certain paintings exactly.

The third part, "Cooperation" did not explore the thesis of how Catholic Art Saved the Faith but how the Church continued our mission to preach the Gospel to the whole world. The hall of maps and Bernini's Fountain of the Four Rivers are at a remove from the work of the Church in the later sixteenth and early seventeenth century. The chapter on "Faith and Empiricism" also deviates from the thesis as Lev explores the relationship between faith and reason; the Church and science. I don't think she clarified effectively the difference between Aristotelian/Scholastic Empiricism and the modern Empiricism of Locke and Hume.

The later chapters, on the martyrs, the dignity of women, and the war on sin get back on track, and Lev ends her analysis of faith and art with a discussion of Michelangelo's Last Judgement in the Sistine Chapel. She also provides some good hints for making great Catholic art part of our lives; brief biographies of the major artists, photo credits, and a bibliography.

The blurb highlights the many color plates: most of them are excellent, but a few are low resolution and rather grainy. At least once--when discussing the statue of St. Thomas the Apostle by le Gros in St. John Lateran--no image accompanies the text. (Image Credit)

I mentioned re-reading a chapter from Sir Kenneth Clark's Civilisation, earlier this week. As soon as I started reading this book I remembered Clark's chapter and episode on the Catholic Counter Reformation in Rome through art and architecture. He outlines the same thesis:

The leaders of the Catholic Reformation had made the inspired decision not to go half-way to meet Protestantism in any of its objections, but rather to glory in those very doctrines that the Protestants had most forcibly, and sometimes, it must be admitted, most logically, repudiated. Luther than repudiated the authority of the Pope: very well, no pains must be spared in making a giant assertion that St. Peter, the first bishop of Rome, had been divinely appointed as Christ's Vicar on Earth. Ever since Erasmus, intelligent men in the north had spoken scornfully of relics: very well, their importance must be magnified . . . The veneration of relics was connected with the cult of the saints and this had been equally condemned by the reformers. Very well, the saints should be made more insistently real to the imagination and in particular their sufferings and their ecstasies should be vividly recorded.

In all these ways the Church gave imaginative expression to deep-seated human impulses. . . . (pp. 177-178)

Lev displays none of the diffidence that Clark did about this program of seventeenth century "new evangelization" re-asserting Catholic doctrine and worship to the citizens of Rome, pilgrims, and other visitors. (Kenneth Clark explains some of that diffidence by referring to his English education which denigrated the recovery of the Catholic Church after the Reformation as depending on "the Inquisition, the Index and the Society of Jesus"-- p. 175.) Nevertheless, his prior testimony supports her assertion that the art and architecture of Catholic Reformation Rome "saved the faith" among confused and distracted Catholics after the divisions of the Protestant Reformation. And remember that Kenneth Clark became a Catholic on his deathbed!

This book deserves to be on the bookshelf next to Thomas E. Wood Jr.'s How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization and other historical, cultural apologetics like Rodney Stark's Bearing False Witness.

Please note that I purchased the book.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Four Spaniards and One Saint!

So I was re-reading Kenneth Clark's chapter on the Counter-Reformation in Rome (Chapter/Episode 7 "Grandeur and Obedience") in Civilisation to find his view of the Catholic revival and how it succeeded after the Protestant Reformation. He mentions the day when "Ignatius, Teresa, Filipo Neri, and Francis Xavier" were all canonized as being "like the baptism of a regenerated Rome" (p. 175 in the 1969 paperback edition). But Clark gets the date wrong: he says it was on May 22, 1622, and he leaves out one of the saints canonized that day!

It really happened on March 12 in 1622. Pope Gregory XV capped off the Counter-Reformation era by canonizing four great reformer saints: St. Ignatius of Loyola, St. Francis Xavier, St. Teresa of Avila, and St. Philip Neri and the patron saint of Madrid, St. Isidore the Farmer. In Rome, they were most proud of St. Philip Neri, the one Roman among the canonized, thus the quip, "Four Spaniards and One Saint." Jesuits around the world celebrate this day as a day of thanksgiving, according to this website:

A little-known day of Jesuit thanksgiving was celebrated on March 12 to mark the canonizations of two of the most famous Jesuits: St. Ignatius of Loyola and St. Francis Xavier. Every year on that date, each Jesuit offers a special prayer or Mass of Thanksgiving for the gift of the saints’ canonizations, which occurred on March 12, 1622 — 66 years after the death of Ignatius and 70 years after the death of Xavier.

The founder of the Society of Jesus, Ignatius lived most of his priestly life in a small room in Rome, directing the newly founded Society. Francis Xavier, one of the Society’s most well-known missionaries, lived most of his Jesuit life traveling around Asia, preaching and baptizing.

Pope Gregory XV was responsible for canonizing the two Jesuits, and he held religious orders in high esteem. The pope was educated by the Jesuits at the “Collegio Romano,” the university founded by Ignatius in Rome that is now known as the Gregorian University.

On the same day Ignatius and Francis Xavier were canonized, Pope Gregory XV also canonized Teresa of Avila, reformer of the Carmelites; Philip Neri, founder of the Oratorian Fathers; and Isidore of Madrid, a simple but devout farmer, now patron of farmers, peasants, day laborers and rural communities.

The grouping of these five dissimilar saints took some by surprise and illustrated that there is no mold for being holy or even for becoming a canonized saint. Pope Gregory XV was never canonized, but he did keep his connection to the Jesuit saints. The pope was buried in the Church of Saint Ignatius in Rome when he died in 1623.


Blessed John Henry Newman wrote of St. Philip Neri, his patron as an Oratorian:

. . . Nothing was too high for him, nothing too low. He taught poor begging women to use mental prayer; he took out boys to play; he protected orphans; he acted as novice-master to the children of St. Dominic. He was the teacher and director of artisans, mechanics, cashiers in banks, merchants, workers in gold, artists, men of science. He was consulted by monks, canons, lawyers, physicians, courtiers; ladies of the highest rank, convicts going to execution, engaged in their turn his solicitude and prayers. Cardinals hung about his room, and Popes asked for his miraculous aid in disease, and his ministrations in death. It was his mission to save men, not from, but in, the world. To break the haughtiness of rank, and the fastidiousness of fashion, he gave his penitents public mortifications; to draw the young from the theatres, he opened his Oratory of Sacred Music; to rescue the careless from the Carnival and its excesses, he set out in pilgrimage to the Seven Basilicas. For those who loved reading, he substituted, for the works of chivalry or the hurtful novels of the day, the true romance and the celestial poetry of the Lives of the Saints. He set one of his disciples to write history against the heretics of that age; another to treat of the Notes of the Church; a third, to undertake the Martyrs and Christian Antiquities;—for, while in the discourses and devotions of the Oratory, he prescribed the simplicity of the primitive monks, he wished his children, individually and in private, to cultivate all their gifts to the full. He, however, was, after all and in all, their true model,—the humble priest, shrinking from every kind of dignity, or post, or office, and living the greater part of day and night in prayer, in his room or upon the housetop.

And when he died, a continued stream of people, says his biographer, came to see his body, during the two days that it remained in the church, kissing his bier, touching him with their rosaries or their rings, or taking away portions of his hair, or the flowers which were strewed over him; and, among the crowd, persons of every rank and condition were heard lamenting and extolling one who was so lowly, yet so great; who had been so variously endowed, and had been the pupil of so many saintly masters; who had the breadth of view of St. Dominic, the poetry of St. Benedict, the wisdom of St. Ignatius, and all recommended by an unassuming grace and a winning tenderness which were his own. 


Of St. Isidore the Farmer, Loyola Press notes:

Isidore was born in Madrid, Spain, and farming was to be his labor, working for the same landowner his whole life. While he walked the fields, plowing, planting, and harvesting, he also prayed. As a hardworking man, Isidore had three great loves: God, his family, and the soil. He and his wife Maria, who is also honored as a saint, proved to all their neighbors that poverty, hard work, and sorrow (their only child died as little boy) cannot destroy human happiness if we accept them with faith and in union with Christ. Isidore understood clearly that, without soil, the human race cannot exist too long. The insight may explain why he always had such a reverent attitude toward his work as a farmer.

Isidore and Maria were known for their love of the poor. Often they brought food to poor, hungry persons and prayed with them. During his lifetime, Isidore had the gift of miracles. If he was late for work because he went to Mass, and angel was seen plowing for him. More than once he fed hungry people with food that seemed to multiply miraculously. He died after a peaceful life of hard labor and charity.



I'll let you know why I was re-reading that chapter in Civilisation soon, after I finish reading this book: How Catholic Art Saved the Faith: The Triumph of Beauty and Truth in Counter-Reformation Art by Elizabeth Lev from Sophia Institute Press.

Monday, March 11, 2019

From "The Letter to the Duke of Norfolk"

So we have sprung ahead but Matt or Anna and I will still be discussing Newman on Conscience and Authority on the Son Rise Morning Show today at 7:50 a.m. Eastern Daylight Savings Time/6:50 am.. Central Daylight Savings Time. We are not wasting daylight here!

In Chapter Five of Newman's Letter to the Duke of Norfolk, he explains both God's authority and its presence in "His rational creatures" as conscience:

I say, then, that the Supreme Being is of a certain character, which, expressed in human language, we call ethical. He has the attributes of justice, truth, wisdom, sanctity, benevolence and mercy, as eternal characteristics in His nature, the very Law of His being, identical with Himself; and next, when He became Creator, He implanted this Law, which is Himself, in the intelligence of all His rational creatures. The Divine Law, then, is the rule of ethical truth, the standard of right and wrong, a sovereign, irreversible, absolute authority in the presence of men and Angels. "The eternal law," says St. Augustine, "is the Divine Reason or Will of God, commanding {247} the observance, forbidding the disturbance, of the natural order of things." "The natural law," says St. Thomas, "is an impression of the Divine Light in us, a participation of the eternal law in the rational creature." (Gousset, Theol. Moral., t. i. pp. 24, &c.) This law, as apprehended in the minds of individual men, is called "conscience;" and though it may suffer refraction in passing into the intellectual medium of each, it is not therefore so affected as to lose its character of being the Divine Law, but still has, as such, the prerogative of commanding obedience. "The Divine Law," says Cardinal Gousset, "is the supreme rule of actions; our thoughts, desires, words, acts, all that man is, is subject to the domain of the law of God; and this law is the rule of our conduct by means of our conscience. Hence it is never lawful to go against our conscience; as the fourth Lateran Council says, 'Quidquid fit contra conscientiam, ├Ždificat ad gehennam.'"

This view of conscience, I know, is very different from that ordinarily taken of it, both by the science and literature, and by the public opinion, of this day. It is founded on the doctrine that conscience is the voice of God, whereas it is fashionable on all hands now to consider it in one way or another a creation of man. Of course, there are great and broad exceptions to this statement. It is not true of many or most religious bodies of men; especially not of their teachers and ministers. When Anglicans, Wesleyans, the various Presbyterian sects in Scotland, and other denominations among us, speak of conscience, they mean what we mean, the voice of God in the nature and heart of man, as distinct from the voice of Revelation. They speak of a principle planted within us, before we have had any training, although training and experience are necessary for its strength, growth, and due formation. They consider it a constituent element of the mind, as our perception of other ideas may be, as our powers of reasoning, as our sense of order and the beautiful, and our other intellectual endowments. They consider it, as Catholics consider it, to be the internal witness of both the existence and the law of God. They think it holds of God, and not of man, as an Angel walking on the earth would be no citizen or dependent of the Civil Power. They would not allow, any more than we do, that it could be resolved into any combination of principles in our nature, more elementary than itself; nay, though it may be called, and is, a law of the mind, they would not grant that it was nothing more; I mean, that it was not a dictate, nor conveyed the notion of responsibility, of duty, of a threat and a promise, with a vividness which discriminated it from all other constituents of our nature.

This, at least, is how I read the doctrine of Protestants as well as of Catholics. The rule and measure of duty is not utility, nor expedience, nor the happiness of the greatest number, nor State convenience, nor fitness, order, and the pulchrum. Conscience is not a long-sighted selfishness, nor a desire to be consistent with oneself; but it is a messenger from Him, who, both in nature and in grace, speaks to us behind a veil, and teaches and rules us by His representatives. Conscience is the aboriginal Vicar of Christ, a prophet in its informations, a monarch in its peremptoriness, a priest in its blessings and anathemas, and, even though the eternal priesthood throughout the Church could cease to be, in it the sacerdotal principle would remain and would have a sway.


But as Newman concedes, most people in his day would not recognize that definition of conscience at all:

When men advocate the rights of conscience, they in no sense mean the rights of the Creator, nor the duty to Him, in thought and deed, of the creature; but the right of thinking, speaking, writing, and acting, according to their judgment or their humour, without any thought of God at all. They do not even pretend to go by any moral rule, but they demand, what they think is an Englishman's prerogative, for each to be his own master in all things, and to profess what he pleases, asking no one's leave, and accounting priest or preacher, speaker or writer, unutterably impertinent, who dares to say a word against his going to perdition, if he like it, in his own way. Conscience has rights because it has duties; but in this age, with a large portion of the public, it is the very right and freedom of conscience to dispense with conscience, to ignore a Lawgiver and Judge, to be independent of unseen obligations. It becomes a licence to take up any or no religion, to take up this or that and let it go again, to go to church, to go to chapel, to boast of being above all religions and to be an impartial critic of each of them. Conscience is a stern monitor, but in this century it has been superseded by a counterfeit, which the eighteen centuries prior to it never heard of, and could not have mistaken for it, if they had. It is the right of self-will.

What Newman is describing here is what he also calls "liberalism in religion" in his Biglietto Speech when he became a Cardinal: the idea that there is no truth and therefore there is neither any way to know the truth or any obligation to submit to the truth! So when William Gladstone protested that Catholics in England would have to deny their consciences in obedience to the infallibility of the Pope as defined at the First Vatican Council, he was really saying that Catholics would have to deny their "right of self-will." Since true conscience reflects the law of God, the Pope cannot make Catholics deny their conscience thus understood because he is only, when he speaks ex cathedra on matters of faith and morals, speaking the truth:

So indeed it is; did the Pope speak against Conscience in the true sense of the word, he would commit a suicidal act. He would be cutting the ground from under his feet. His very mission is to proclaim the moral law, and to protect and strengthen that "Light which enlighteneth every man that cometh into the world." On the law of conscience and its sacredness are founded both his authority in theory and his power in fact. Whether this or that particular Pope in this bad world always kept this great truth in view in all he did, it is for history to tell. I am considering here the Papacy in its office and its duties, and in reference to those who acknowledge its claims. They are not bound by the Pope's personal character or private acts, but by his formal teaching. Thus viewing his position, we shall find that it is by the universal sense of right and wrong, the consciousness of transgression, the pangs of guilt, and the dread of retribution, as first principles deeply lodged in the hearts of men, it is thus and only thus, that he has gained his footing in the world and achieved his success. It is his claim to come from the Divine Lawgiver, in order to elicit, protect, and enforce those truths which the Lawgiver has sown in our very nature, it is this and this only that is the explanation of his length of life more than antediluvian. The championship of the Moral Law and of conscience is his raison d'être. The fact of his mission is the answer to the complaints of those who feel the insufficiency of the natural light; and the insufficiency of that light is the justification of his mission.

Newman also discusses conscience in The Grammar of Assent in the context of belief in One God in chapter five.

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Edward I's Succession Decision

From The Literary Review, this review of a book coming out later this month, Daughters of Chivalry: The Forgotten Children of Edward I. Catherine Hanley likes the book (mostly):

Edward I and his first queen, Eleanor of Castile, were at the sharp end of medieval infant mortality statistics. Eleanor gave birth to at least fourteen children, only to see five of her daughters die in their first year and – perhaps even more agonisingly – three of her sons reach the ages of five, six and ten before they, too, perished.

The question of how parents dealt with such staggering loss has been the subject of much enquiry; of equal interest but less well researched is how the remaining children dealt with the loss of siblings, and how this affected their relationships with the other survivors. The career of Edward and Eleanor’s only surviving son, the future Edward II, is familiar, but, unsurprisingly, less is known of the five sisters who lived to adulthood: Eleanora, Joanna, Margaret, Mary and Elizabeth.
Daughters of Chivalry is thus a welcome addition to the shelves of medieval history.

Hanley notices one gap in the comprehensive survey of the lives of these five women:

One conspicuous omission is an examination of the question of female succession. It is mentioned in passing that Eleanora was second in line to the throne, but more consideration could have been given to just how significant this was, particularly since the author is keen to stress throughout the book that medieval royal women had political duties as well as childbearing ones.

After the death of ten-year-old Alphonso in 1284, the sole surviving son was a four-month-old baby. Given the high rate of mortality among his children, Edward I was in danger of becoming the first English king for 150 years to die without a male heir (in the twelfth century the death of Henry I without a legitimate son had led to two decades of civil war). This left him with a critical decision to make, and in 1290 he decreed that if this eventuality came to pass, the crown would pass not to his brother, Edmund, but to his eldest daughter and her heirs. This enshrined the precedent of succession via the female line, which would have significant consequences for the English crown in years to come.

I don't think I've ever read about that precedent in any discussion of Henry VIII's decisions about the succession. Usually, the medieval precedent cited is Queen Matilda in the twelfth century (the crisis and civil war cited above after Henry I's death). 

Edward must have felt confident that his daughter would be acceptable as a Queen Regnant--and he and his father Henry III had faced great rebellion among the barons and nobles of England (Simon de Montfort et al). Edward's beloved Queen Eleanor of Castile died in 1290--thus this decision about the succession--and he did not remarry until 1299. His second wife, Margaret of France, bore him two more sons (Thomas and Edmund), so the succession seemed more secure. Nevertheless, Edward I had made the decision in 1290 that if his only son Edward of Carnarvon died before he died, his daughter Eleanora would reign. Of course, Edward II did survive his father and that's another story.

Friday, March 8, 2019

Preview: Newman on Conscience and Authority


After our Pancake and Confession interlude last Monday, the Son Rise Morning Show hosts (Matt and Anna) are ready to pick up the Newman series in preparation for his canonization sometime this year. Our topic on Monday, March 11 at about 7:50 a.m. Eastern/6:50 a.m. Central will be Newman on Conscience and Authority.

Last month on the anniversary of the executions of the members of the White Rose (Sophie Scholl and her brother Hans), I mentioned that Pope Benedict XVI, then Cardinal Ratzinger, in 1990 described how much Newman's presentation of conscience meant to him after the war. At the end of 2010, the year in which he beatified Newman during his visit to Scotland and England, Pope Benedict reflected further on Newman, conscience, and authority:

Finally I should like to recall once more the beatification of Cardinal John Henry Newman. Why was he beatified? What does he have to say to us? Many responses could be given to these questions, which were explored in the context of the beatification. I would like to highlight just two aspects which belong together and which, in the final analysis, express the same thing. The first is that we must learn from Newman’s three conversions, because they were steps along a spiritual path that concerns us all. Here I would like to emphasize just the first conversion: to faith in the living God. Until that moment, Newman thought like the average men of his time and indeed like the average men of today, who do not simply exclude the existence of God, but consider it as something uncertain, something with no essential role to play in their lives. What appeared genuinely real to him, as to the men of his and our day, is the empirical, matter that can be grasped. This is the “reality” according to which one finds one’s bearings. The “real” is what can be grasped, it is the things that can be calculated and taken in one’s hand. In his conversion, Newman recognized that it is exactly the other way round: that God and the soul, man’s spiritual identity, constitute what is genuinely real, what counts. These are much more real than objects that can be grasped. This conversion was a Copernican revolution. What had previously seemed unreal and secondary was now revealed to be the genuinely decisive element. Where such a conversion takes place, it is not just a person’s theory that changes: the fundamental shape of life changes. We are all in constant need of such conversion: then we are on the right path.

The driving force that impelled Newman along the path of conversion was conscience. But what does this mean? In modern thinking, the word “conscience” signifies that for moral and religious questions, it is the subjective dimension, the individual, that constitutes the final authority for decision. The world is divided into the realms of the objective and the subjective. To the objective realm belong things that can be calculated and verified by experiment. Religion and morals fall outside the scope of these methods and are therefore considered to lie within the subjective realm. Here, it is said, there are in the final analysis no objective criteria. The ultimate instance that can decide here is therefore the subject alone, and precisely this is what the word “conscience” expresses: in this realm only the individual, with his intuitions and experiences, can decide. Newman’s understanding of conscience is diametrically opposed to this. For him, “conscience” means man’s capacity for truth: the capacity to recognize precisely in the decision-making areas of his life – religion and morals – a truth, the truth. At the same time, conscience – man’s capacity to recognize truth – thereby imposes on him the obligation to set out along the path towards truth, to seek it and to submit to it wherever he finds it. Conscience is both capacity for truth and obedience to the truth which manifests itself to anyone who seeks it with an open heart. The path of Newman’s conversions is a path of conscience – not a path of self-asserting subjectivity but, on the contrary, a path of obedience to the truth that was gradually opening up to him. His third conversion, to Catholicism, required him to give up almost everything that was dear and precious to him: possessions, profession, academic rank, family ties and many friends. The sacrifice demanded of him by obedience to the truth, by his conscience, went further still. Newman had always been aware of having a mission for England. But in the Catholic theology of his time, his voice could hardly make itself heard. It was too foreign in the context of the prevailing form of theological thought and devotion. In January 1863 he wrote in his diary these distressing words: “As a Protestant, I felt my religion dreary, but not my life – but, as a Catholic, my life dreary, not my religion”. He had not yet arrived at the hour when he would be an influential figure. In the humility and darkness of obedience, he had to wait until his message was taken up and understood. In support of the claim that Newman’s concept of conscience matched the modern subjective understanding, people often quote a letter in which he said – should he have to propose a toast – that he would drink first to conscience and then to the Pope. But in this statement, “conscience” does not signify the ultimately binding quality of subjective intuition. It is an expression of the accessibility and the binding force of truth: on this its primacy is based. The second toast can be dedicated to the Pope because it is his task to demand obedience to the truth.

Pope Benedict packs a great deal of understanding of Newman and his times in those paragraphs:

--"The path of Newman’s conversions is a path of conscience – not a path of self-asserting subjectivity but, on the contrary, a path of obedience to the truth that was gradually opening up to him. "

As Blessed John Henry progressed from belief in Jesus Christ and an invisible church of believers, to belief in Jesus Christ and loyalty to the Church Jesus founded, located in the via media of the Church of England, to belief in Jesus Christ and the one, true, holy, catholic and apostolic Church, he was always focused on the Divine Person of Jesus and His truth, way, and life. Newman was always devoted to Jesus and to the truths He revealed. The Pope's words about the 'truth that was gradually opening up to him' contain an indirect reference to Newman's Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine!

Newman knew that conscience did not reflect his own decisions about what was right and what was wrong. It had to be formed to reflect on what God said was right and wrong. It was the voice of God, not his own voice, helping him decide whether or not to do something (or not do something). Too many people in his own day, and perhaps even more in ours, think that conscience is what keeps us consistent with our own standards--not keeping us consistent with God's standards.

--For him, “conscience” means man’s capacity for truth: the capacity to recognize precisely in the decision-making areas of his life – religion and morals – a truth, the truth. At the same time, conscience – man’s capacity to recognize truth – thereby imposes on him the obligation to set out along the path towards truth, to seek it and to submit to it wherever he finds it. Conscience is both capacity for truth and obedience to the truth which manifests itself to anyone who seeks it with an open heart. 

That's why Newman accepted authority: the search for the truth. Objective truth exists and it has been revealed by God. Jesus came to give us the fullness of that truth and He established His Church, including the Pope and the Magisterium, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to safeguard that truth.

Lest we think that we understand Newman and appreciate him so more than his contemporaries did, the Pope reminds us that Newman's toast comment is often misinterpreted and used to support dissent:

--"In support of the claim that Newman’s concept of conscience matched the modern subjective understanding, people often quote a letter in which he said – should he have to propose a toast – that he would drink first to conscience and then to the Pope. But in this statement, “conscience” does not signify the ultimately binding quality of subjective intuition. It is an expression of the accessibility and the binding force of truth: on this its primacy is based. The second toast can be dedicated to the Pope because it is his task to demand obedience to the truth."

Thus Pope Benedict reminded the Curia that Newman, believing that the Papacy and the Magisterium of the Catholic Church taught the truth as revealed by God, saw no contradiction between someone toasting or celebrating his conscience and then celebrating the Pope in his role of infallibility in matters of faith and morals.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Contemporary Writing about the English Martyrs

I'm still reading this article by Susannah Brietz Monta, "Representing Martyrdom in Tudor England", available for free on the Oxford Handbooks site. I've printed it out for easier reading:

While the scope of English religious persecution pales in comparison with that of the continent, England’s several official changes of religion and its many Catholic martyrs make it a distinct case.9 Still, Tudor martyrdom ought not to be studied in isolation. Foxe’s first Latin martyrology, Commentarii rerum in ecclesia gestarum (1554), was influenced by continental Protestants, such as Matthias Flacius (Illyricus), and the Lutheran martyrologists known as the Magdeburg Centuriators; in turn, the martyrologists Adriaan van Haemstede, Ludwig Rabus, and Jean Crespin made use of the Commentarii.10 Much of Foxe’s second Latin martyrology, Rerum in Ecclesia gestarum (Basle, 1559), was incorporated into Crespin’s Actiones et monumenta martyrum (Geneva, 1560), the title of which influenced that of Foxe’s English martyrology, the Actes and Monuments.11 The fullest Catholic response to Foxe’s Actes and Monuments was written in Latin for a broad audience; the Concertatio Ecclesiae Catholica in Anglia was first published in Trier in 1583 and in subsequent, expanded editions from 1588. Continental interest in English Catholic martyrs was significant.12Diego de Yepez, bishop of Taracona and confessor to Philip II, wrote a history of the English persecution, and numerous works in Latin and vernacular languages commemorated martyrs from Edmund Campion in 1581 to priests executed during the English Civil Wars in the 1640s.13
As affecting, dramatic offerings of religious testimony, martyrologies served important religious and polemical functions.14 Reformation-era martyrologies seek to establish continuity with Christianity’s foundational martyrdom, that of Christ, and to extend and shape subsequent Christian history. The construction of martyrdom concerns the writing of historical narrative, the boundaries of genre, the nature of living tradition, the power of exemplarity, the invocation of reading communities, and practices of imitatio, or imitation, in its literary and devotional forms. The making of martyrs thus depends upon both contemporary literary practices and religious convictions, as this essay hopes to show.

The writer of the essay has also published Martyrdom and Literature in Early Modern England (Cambridge University Press, 2009) and an edition of Anthony Copley's A Fig for Fortune: A Catholic Response to the Faerie Queene (Manchester University Press, 2016).

I don't know how long this 25 page essay will be available for download and printing, so be forewarned. Also, please note the licensing restrictions!

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Juan Luis Vives and Thomas More

Juan Luis Vives was born on March 6, 1492/1493 in Valencia, Spain. He was a great humanist scholar, friend of Erasmus, educational adviser to Katherine of Aragon to prepare her daughter (also Henry VIII's daughter) to be Queen of England. His family had suffered during the Spanish Inquisition under Katherine's parents, Ferdinand and Isabella, but he was willing to serve as her daughter's tutor and to disagree with Henry VIII on the grounds of the annulment Henry eventually sought from Katherine (he had to leave England).

He was also a friend of Sir Thomas More. As this UNESCO publication describes his career in England, More had a real influence on him:

His commentary on Saint Augustine’s City of God (Comentaria ad libros De Civitate Dei D. Aurelii Agustini) (Louvain-Bruges, 1521-22), a work commissioned by Erasmus and dedicated to King Henry VIII, is a brilliant critical, historical and philological interpretation surpassing anything he had previously published. He had close contacts with the Court. Cardinal Wolsey honoured him with his friendship; it was he who dubbed Vives as ‘doctor melifluo’ because his prose flowed like honey. Although he had established a worldwide reputation and was in receipt of a royal pension, Vives lived in strained circumstances. 

An outstanding member of the brilliant humanist cultural group at the English Court with which Vives communicated was Thomas More, the most famous of the English humanists and the most admired and respected by Henry VIII. More would eventually send Henry to the block for opposing his divorce from Queen Catherine. Vives also opposed this divorce and was obliged on that account to return to Louvain in 1528. His friendship with the powerful never caused him to waver in his convictions. 

Thomas More, whom he met as early as 1520, had a profound influence on Vives. Until then, his works had been basically humanist in character, with a religious dimension that he never failed to cultivate. The bulk of his writings consisted of commentaries on a wide variety of classical authors through whom he sought to introduce his pupils to the Graeco-Latin world. But from that time onwards, he emerged as a thinker dedicated to the writing of voluminous works on philosophy, morals, social policy and education—from the time of his retirement to Bruges until his death in 1540. The impact of Thomas More is particularly significant because of his deep social commitment, clearly expressed in Utopia. Utopia is the name of an island discovered by a Portuguese navigator, who begins a new wholesome life there, based on natural morals and religion in opposition to the corrupt, debased, bellicose environment around him. 

De subventione pauperam [Help for the Poor] (Bruges, 1526) by Vives and a large number of letters on the virtues of peace reveal the political, social and ethical influence of Thomas More. The title of Chapter IX, Book I, of this book reflects the thinking of both: ‘What God gives to each person is not given for each person alone.’

In 2015, an exhibition in Valencia and a conference at the Institute of Historical Research, Senate House in London, supported by the Spanish Embassy explored the friendship between More and Vives.