Friday, August 30, 2019

August 30, 1588 and the Three Women Martyrs Among the 40


There are two events to remember today. One is the execution of six Catholics--one laywoman, four laymen and one priest--in London as part of the English government's reaction to the attempted invasion of England by the Spanish Armada. 

The other is the memorial of three female English Catholic martyrs, who were canonized among the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales in 1970, but have this special day all to themselves on the liturgical calendar of the Dioceses of England and Wales. They are featured in the right panel of Geoffrey Webb's reredos from the Martyrs' Chapel in St. James, Spanish Place: St. Margaret Ward holds the rope, St. Anne Line the widow is dressed in black, and St. Margaret Clitherow kneels on the door which crushed her when the weights were placed upon it.


The three women share the date of St. Margaret Ward's execution on August 30, 1588 as their memorial--she was part of a second group of martyrs after the failure of the Spanish Armada. She is a virgin martyr: she helped Father Richard Watson escape from Bridewell Prison. She visited him often enough that the jailer finally allowed her to enter without searching her, so she was able to smuggle in a rope. Father Watson unfortunately injured himself while escaping and was unable to retrieve the rope. Margaret found John Roche to help the injured priest once out of prison and both she and John were arrested; John because he had exchanged clothing with the priest and Margaret because the jailer figured out that she was the last person to visit Father Watson before he escaped. She was held in chains, hung up by her hands and scourged as the authorities attempted to force her to tell them where Father Watson went after escaping Bridewell prison. She refused, even though she acknowledged that she helped him. Offered a pardon for attending Church of England services, she again refused. The torture inflicted upon her left her partially paralyzed and she had to be carried to Tyburn for hanging. 

Also martyred that day were Blessed John Roche (who had assisted Margaret Ward in the escape of Father Richard Watson), three other laymen who had assisted priests, Blesseds Richard Lloyd, Richard Martin, and Edward Shelley, and one priest, Blessed Richard Leigh. The regime was certainly sending a message about laity who assisted Catholic priests.

Blessed Richard Leigh's entry from the Catholic Encyclopedia provides some details about the other laymen: English martyr, born in Cambridgeshire about 1561; died at Tyburn, 30 August, 1588. Ordained priest at Rome in February, 1586-7, he came on the mission the same year, was arrested in London, and banished. Returning he was committed to the Tower in June 1588, and was condemned at the Old Bailey for being a priest. With him suffered four laymen and a lady . . . Edward Shelley of Warminghurst, Sussex, and East Smithfield, London (son of Edward Shelley, of Warminghurst, a Master of the Household of the sovereign, and the settlor in "Shelley's case", and Joan, daughter of Paul Eden, of Penshurst, Kent), aged 50 or 60, who was already in the Clink for his religion in April, 1584 was condemned for keeping a book called "My Lord Leicester's Commonwealth" and for having assisted the [Blessed] William Dean [who had been executed on August 28, 1588]. He was apparently uncle by marriage to Benjamin Norton, afterwards one of the seven vicars of Dr. Richard Smith. Richard Martin, of Shropshire, was condemned for being in the company of the Ven. Robert Morton and paying sixpence for his supper. Richard Lloyd, better known as Flower (alias Fludd, alias Graye), a native of the Diocese of Bangor (Wales), aged about 21, younger brother of Father Owen Lloyd was condemned for entertaining a priest named William Horner, alias Forrest. John Roche (alias Neele), an Irish serving-man, and Margaret Ward, gentlewoman of Cheshire, were condemned for having assisted a priest named William Watson (sic)* to escape from Bridewell. 

I have also told the stories of St. Anne Line and St. Margaret Clitherow before on the dates of their executions, here and here, respectively. May these three brave Catholic women martyrs--and all the brave men who suffered this day in 1588-- inspire us!

* Bishop Richard Challoner identifies the priest as Richard Watson, not William.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Book Review: An Autodidact's Book

This book, How to Keep from Losing Your Mind: Educating Yourself Classically to Survive Cultural Indoctrination by Deal W. Hudson, which I read in a pre-publication PDF version, is being released soon by TAN Books:

Liberal education is nothing other than the acquisition of a free mind.

Unfortunately, too many of us have a mind shackled by ideologies and moved by outside forces. We’re pulled and pushed by trends and the prevailing culture. Higher education has become ridiculously expensive and is producing graduates whose minds are anything but free, filled as they are with the prejudices of their teachers.

Only when we break these shackles and habitually exercise a free mind can we call ourselves liberally educated.

In
How to Keep from Losing Your Mind, Deal Hudson will show you how to avoid the false open-mindedness and groupthink of the modern “-isms” promoted by the PC arbiters of our cultural milieu. Instead you’ll learn to:
  • Form the habit of reconsideration, the key to a truly open mind
  • Entertain doubts about your own immediate opinions
  • Argue coherently from first principles, instead of repeating ideological talking points
  • Recognize prejudice and propaganda
  • Avoid sloganeering and engage in real thought
This book will enable every person to rise above the shouting, the name-calling, and the brutal incivility of public discourse and rediscover the pleasure and benefit of contemplating the meaning and noble aims of human life.

Deal asked for early reviewers and offered to send the .pdf file the day after our local G.K. Chesterton group met to discuss the section on the English education system in What's Wrong with the World, and as I started to read How to Read From Losing Your Mind, I thought the timing couldn't be more providential. For in the early twentieth century, Chesterton was already seeing the innovations and distractions that were destroying the education system in England, particularly the rejection of what he saw as the most important purpose of education: handing on the traditions and the truths of Western Christian (Catholic) culture. Chesterton noted that all education is dogmatic: even those who teach there are no truths to convey have a dogma to teach. If the educators don't recognize that fact they won't even know what they're teaching their students. (And the students would know it.)

What Deal Hudson does in this book is help us teach ourselves--be autodidacts--about the classic works of literature, film, and music (adding the last two to the usual consideration of the Western Classical Tradition) and then help us maneuver in the world of social media, the mainstream mass media, and the progressive, anti-traditional cultural milieu we face--where we can lose our minds (and souls). He doesn't reject the internet, citing many sources, especially for musical compositions, that are on-line. Finally, he examines the Four Loves delineated by C.S. Lewis (Storge/Parental Love, Philia/Friendship, Eros, and Agape) and the classic works of literature, film, and music that depict them.

These three parts of the book reflect the three transcendentals that have always kept men and women from losing their minds: Beauty ("The Irresistible Canon"), Truth ("Bad Ideas in Motion"), and Goodness ("Love is the Crux"). Like the line from the Rilke poem in Chapter One, "You Must Change Your Life", the image on the cover depicts what great works of art mean to us and the roles they play in our lives: to challenge, inspire, and educate us: to see more than we have seen before. Hudson goes on to urge us to read or view or listen to works that don't immediately conform to our own comfort, that may be dark or tragic.

In Part One, on Beauty, Hudson argues that there is a canon: "There Are Great Books" and many experts, whom we should generally trust, have identified essential works of literature (novels, plays, short stories, epics, poems, etc). He recommends Harold Bloom's The Western Canon, surveys other experts' lists, and makes his own suggestions (Wilfred Owen for first-time poetry readers). In Chapters Three and Four, Hudson expands the Canon of great works of art to music (classical and film soundtracks) and movies. In both chapters, he offers brief historical sketches, experts to trust, and examples of great works from Lauridsen's O Magnum Mysterium and Bach's Mass in B minor to D.W. Griffith's Way Down East and the films of Andrei Tarkovsky (The Mirror and Andrei Rublev). In the next two chapters, Hudson exemplifies how to read, listen to, engage with works of art, offering insights into the poetry of Elizabeth Jennings, Gerald Finzi's setting of Thomas Traherne's poetry in Dies Natalis, and John Ford's 3 Godfathers, a Western genre film perfect for Christmastime viewing.

In Part Two, on Truth, Hudson offers advice--using great works of literature, music, and movies--to help us navigate our current culture. Insights from Pieper at Leisure, Thoreau by Walden Pond, and Plato's "Allegory of the Cave" help the reader take time and pay attention. He urges us to study history and gain cultural literacy with E.D. Hirsch, and learn more about military and religious history with Camille Paglia so we can remember where "we've" been and know where we're going. Among the clouds of witnesses Hudson presents to help us think about human nature and human rights are Pope St. John Paul II, Carl Linnaeus, Aristotle, and St. Thomas Aquinas--you'll keep good company in this book! Along with insights from Philip Rieff and Mary Beard, Hudson offers his own experiences as a student and professor in dealing with attacks of multiculturalism and feminism on the very canon of great works of Western civilization this book espouses. To help his readers avoid the influence of despots and dictators of every kind, from heads of nations to virtue-signalers on Twitter, Hudson offers insights from Joseph Roth, Arthur Miller, and Henryk Gorecki, among others, with an unspoken admonition--"Never forget!" In the final chapter of Part Two, Hudson faces the limitations of an education based on the classics of the Western Canon, reminding us through George Steiner--and others--that some of the greatest atrocities of the 20th century were perpetrated by men and women with excellent educations. Nevertheless, as he concludes, an education in the classics at least plausibly offers us "freedom of mind" in an intelligible world.

So far, Hudson has not really offered his lists of recommended works beyond citing discrete examples as shown in the summaries above. When he gets to Goodness, however, and to Love, through exploring love in our families, among our friends, between lovers, and the love St. Paul describes in 1 Corinthians 13:1-13, Hudson does give us lists of books, music, and movies. This is appropriate, because each of these four loves is demonstrated through action, not just feeling. The lover sings, tells stories, writes verse to describe her father, her friend, her spouse, her Savior. These are chapters to be read and re-read with beautiful, true, and good explorations of Homer's The Odyssey, Wagner's Siegfried Idyll, Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, Twain's Huckleberry Finn, John Dowland's Songs, Hitchcock's Vertigo, Bruckner's Os Justi, Dreyer's Ordet, and Dante's Paradiso.

How does Hudson top that? With a discussion of Shakespeare and Cervantes, great contemporaries of early modern Europe, who both died in 1616 and have influenced drama and literature ever since. As Hudson notes early in the book, these great works are so accessible to us today, in print, on-line, in audio format. All any reader has to do, after consulting this book for orientation and guidance, is decide that he must change his life, then sit quietly and attend to avoid cultural indoctrination and be free.

The bibliography is comprehensive.

(I found a few errors in the book but they will be corrected in the second edition.)

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Saint Edmund Arrowsmith, SJ

Saint Edmund Arrowsmith, SJ, is one of the 40 Martyrs of England and Wales. From the Jesuits in Britain:

Edmund Arrowsmith was born in Lancashire in 1585.  His mother was a member of the Gerard family – prominent recusants who included Fr John Gerard and Bl Miles Gerard.  His parents were imprisoned for adherence to the faith and he and his siblings were taken in by neighbours.
In 1605 he enrolled at the English College, Douai.  He was ordained at Arras in December 1612, returning to Lancashire the following year to carry out priestly ministry in secret.  Stonyhurst College still holds the small trunk of vestments and equipment which he carried from house to house.  He was arrested in 1622, but released the following year on an amnesty from King James. He joined the Jesuits in 1624.
In 1628 Edmund was betrayed to the authorities and was convicted of being a Roman Catholic priest.  He was hanged, drawn and quartered at Lancaster on 28th August, now his feast day.
Edmund was beatified in 1929 and canonized as one of the Forty Martyrs by Pope Paul VI in1970. His hand was preserved by his family and it now rests in the Church of St Oswald and St Edmund Arrowsmith, Ashton-in-Makerfield.  
That parish hosts an annual pilgrimage Mass to venerate the martyr's Holy Hand (it was held on Sunday, August 25 this year)!
His last words were "O Bone Jesu!" (O Good Jesus!), the first words of a sequence of psalms attributed to St. Bernard of Clairvaux, sung here by The Sixteen in Robert Parson's Latin motet:
O good Jesus.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death, and my enemy will say, ‘I have overcome him.’ O Lord.
Into your hands I commit my spirit: deliver me, Lord God of truth. O Messiah.
I have spoken: Lord, make me know my end. O Holy One.
And what is the number of my days: that I may know what is lacking in me. O my God.
You have broken my bonds: I will offer you the sacrifice of praise and call on the name of our Lord. O Emmanuel.
I have no refuge; no one cares for my life. O Christ.
I have cried to you, O Lord, I have said, ‘You are my hope, my portion in the land of the living.’ O our King.
Give me a sign of your goodness, that my enemies may see it and be put to shame, for you, Lord, have helped me and comforted me. O teacher.
You have let the light of your face shine on us: you have filled my heart with joy. Amen.
St. Edmund Arrowsmith, pray for us!

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

"The Great Holocaust of the [Popish] Plot"

The summer of 1679 in England was a tense and dangerous one for Catholics; nevertheless, they survived and were even strengthened by what John Kenyon calls "the great holocaust of the [Popish] plot". At the beginning his book, which I think is still the standard text for comprehending the social, religious, and legal aspects of the Popish Plot, Kenyon declares that he will not use the titles Venerable, Blessed, or Saint when referring to the victims of that period of anti-Catholic hysteria. Nevertheless, he pays tribute to these martyrs in a way:

Between 20 June and 27 August 1679 . . . fourteen Catholics were executed; one layman, two Franciscans, four seminary priests, and seven Jesuits. . . . To the Catholics, it must have seemed that the reign of terror would henceforward mount in intensity, engulfing at least those priests still in prison . . .

But the whole process was self-defeating [for the Whigs]. . . . there is some evidence that the steady denials of those convicted were beginning to take effect. . . .

In the provinces, where the victims were notable local figures, and were being executed not for specific treason but merely for being in orders, feelings were even stronger. . . . The deaths of men like Francis Wall [St. John Wall], John Kemble and David Lewis did no one any good except the Catholic community, which was strengthened by their sacrifice. . . .

The sheriff of Monmouth (James Herbert of Coldbrook) postponed David Lewis's execution as long as he could, then stayed away from it . . . (pp. 205-206)

Saint David Lewis, SJ, was executed on August 27, 1679. at Usk in Monmouthshire. He was able to give a long last speech and the large crowd that witnessed his execution--predominantly Protestant--made sure that he was dead before he was eviscerated.

His feast is celebrated in Wales on August 26 since today is the feast of St. Monica of Hippo, St. Augustine of Hippo's mother.

James Herbert of Coldbrook, according to the History of Parliament, suffered some backlash because of that delay in executing Saint Davis Lewis: "on 18 Nov. 1680 [he] was reprimanded by the House of Lords for his lack of zeal in prosecuting Papists, though with the qualification that his loyalty and protestantism [sic] were not impugned."

St. David Lewis is one of the 40 Martyrs of England and Wales, canonized in 1970 by Pope Paul VI.

St. David Lewis, pray for us!

Monday, August 26, 2019

Newman and Literature, Part Two

As promised, I'll be on the Son Rise Morning Show bright and early this morning (6:50 a.m. Central/ 7:50 a.m. Eastern) to talk with Anna Mitchell about Newman and Literature, focusing today on the wide range of Newman's literary output.

If we survey Newman's literary works--not forgetting the four great books he wrote (the Apologia pro Vita Sua; The Idea of the University; the Essay on the Development of Doctrine; the Grammar of Assent)--we see a great variety. He wrote book reviews, poetry, novels, hymns, saint's lives, historical essays, sermons, speeches, presentations, essays, tracts, prefaces; he translated Latin hymns and works of the Fathers of the Church, etc. He edited his books, reworked them years after their first publication, dedicated them to friends of many years. (His other novel, Callista: A Sketch of the Third Century, is also a conversion story, but in the midst of martyrdom in Roman North Africa--and features St. Cyprian of Carthage!)

Newman's command of literary genres is masterful. As Father Ian Ker commented years ago, he can be brutally satirical as in The Present Position of Catholics in England in which he sends up the English tradition of anti-Catholicism while lampooning the English claim that tradition doesn't bind them: they are reasonable, skeptical, fact-finding men who have accepted the tradition that Catholics are ignorant, superstitious, and under priestly control without evidence, without ever having met or talked to a Catholic in their lives, based on what someone else told them and what everyone has always said:

If you asked the first person you met why he believed that our religion was so baneful and odious, he would not say, "I have had good proofs of it;" or, "I know Catholics too well to doubt it;" or, "I am well read in history, and I can vouch for it;" or, "I have lived such a long time in Catholic countries, I ought to know;"—(of course, I do not mean that no one would make such a reply, but I mean that it would not be the reply of the mass of men; far from it). No; single out a man from the multitude, and he would say something of this sort: "I am sure it is;" he will look significant, and say, "You will find it a hard job to make me think otherwise;" or he will look wise and say, "I can make a pretty good guess how things go on among you;" or he will be angry, and cry out, "Those fellows, the priests, I would not believe them, though they swore themselves black in the face;" or he will speak loudly, and overbear and drown all remonstrance: "It is too notorious for proof; every one knows it; every book says it; it has been so ruled long ago. It is rather too much in the nineteenth century to be told to begin history again, and to have to reverse our elementary facts." That is, in other words, the multitude of men hate Catholicism mainly on tradition, there being few, indeed, who have made fact and argument the primary or the supplemental grounds of their aversion to it. And observe, they hate it on a single, isolated tradition, not a complex, conclusive tradition—not the united tradition of many places. It is true, indeed, that Holland, and Geneva, and Prussia, each has its own tradition against the Catholic Church; but our countrymen do in no sense believe, from any judgment they form on those united British and foreign traditions, but from the tradition of their own nation alone; which, though certainly it comprises millions of souls, nevertheless, is so intimately one by the continual intercourse and mutual communication of part with part, that it cannot with any fairness be considered to contain a number of separate testimonies, but only one. Yet this meagre evidence, I say, suffices to produce in the men of this generation an enthusiastic, undoubting and energetic persuasion that we torture heretics, immure nuns, sell licences to sin, and are plotting against kings and governments; all, I say, because this was said of Catholics when they were boys. It is the old heirloom, the family picture, which is at once their informant and their proof.

Image Credit (Public Domain): Newman's Desk in the Birmingham Oratory

Or he can be rhapsodic, as in this praise of his patron St. Philip Neri, in presenting the example of a good man in contrast to the fascination of sin and evil in fiction:

Philip preferred, as he expressed it, tranquilly to cast in his net to gain them; he preferred to yield to the stream, and direct the current, which he could not stop, of science, literature, art, and fashion, and to sweeten and to sanctify what God had made very good and man had spoilt. 

And so he contemplated as the idea of his mission, not the propagation of the faith, nor the exposition of doctrine, nor the catechetical schools; whatever was exact and systematic pleased him not; he put from him monastic rule and authoritative speech, as David refused the armour of his king. No; he would be but an ordinary individual priest as others: and his weapons should be but unaffected humility and unpretending love. All he did was to be done by the light, and fervour, and convincing eloquence of his personal character and his easy conversation. He came to the Eternal City and he sat himself down there, and his home and his family gradually grew up around him, by the spontaneous accession of materials from without. He did not so much seek his own as draw them to him.

This post would be as long as one of Newman's paragraphs (or sentences) if I went on to describe all his command of literary style and persuasive argument, all the beauty and power of his prose, etc. So just one more genre: poetry.

Newman would have to be considered a minor poet, but as a minor poet, he's had a significant impact in Catholic (and Anglican) hymnography, with three poems turned into hymns ("Lead, Kindly Light", "Praise to the Holiest", "Firmly I Believe and Truly"). The first is probably the most famous, set to various hymn tunes:

LEAD, Kindly Light, amid the encircling gloom          
Lead Thou me on!
The night is dark, and I am far from home—          
Lead Thou me on!
Keep Thou my feet; I do not ask to see

The distant scene—one step enough for me.

I was not ever thus, nor pray'd that Thou          
Shouldst lead me on.
I loved to choose and see my path, but now          
Lead Thou me on! 
I loved the garish day, and, spite of fears,

Pride ruled my will: remember not past years.

So long Thy power hath blest me, sure it still          
Will lead me on,
O'er moor and fen, o'er crag and torrent, till          
The night is gone;
And with the morn those angel faces smile

Which I have loved long since, and lost awhile.

At Sea.
June 16, 1833.

Even the Mormon Tabernacle Choir appreciates Newman's poem in their sensitive performance of the John B. Dykes setting of the hymn I've linked above!

One of his longer poems, The Dream of Gerontius, was extraordinarily popular in its day--and was used by Sir Edward Elgar as the text for his oratorio of the same name. In a couple of weeks Matt Swaim and I will discuss it and its theme of the Four Last Things: Death, Judgment, Heaven, and Hell. (Anna Mitchell is preparing to go on maternity leave!)

Sunday, August 25, 2019

King St. Louis of France


Today, August 25, would be the memorial of St. Louis, King of France if it were not a Sunday. He is one of the patron saints of France and his equestrian statue stands across from St. Joan of Arc on the facade of Sacre Coeur in Paris. St. Louis is also on the sanctoral calendar of the Episcopalian Church here in the USA:

(Apr. 25, 1214-Aug. 25, 1270). The patron saint for the Third Order of St. Francis. Born in Poissy, Louis IX became King of France on Nov. 29, 1226, and ruled until his death. He lived an austere and prayerful life, and embodied the highest ideals of medieval kingship. He sought to live a Franciscan life of poverty and self-denial in the midst of royal splendor. Louis built the Sainte-Chapelle in Paris as a reliquary for the Crown of Thorns which he acquired in 1239. He participated in crusades in 1248 and 1270. Louis endowed a number of religious houses and supported the theological college founded by Robert de Sorbon in 1257. While on crusade in 1270 he urged the Greek ambassadors to seek reunion with the Church of Rome. He was canonized by Pope Boniface VIII in 1297. Louis died in Tunis while on crusade. He is commemorated in the Episcopal calendar of the church year on Aug. 25.

St. Louis may be the patron saint for the Third Order of St. Francis, but he had contacts with Dominicans too. In particular, St. Thomas Aquinas. In his book about St. Thomas Aquinas, The Dumb Ox, Chesterton describes the famous encounter between the monarch and the friar:


It is a real case against conventional hagiography that it sometimes tends to make all saints seem to be the same. Whereas in fact no men are more different than saints; not even murderers. And there could hardly be a more complete contrast, given the essentials of holiness, than between St. Thomas and St. Louis. St. Louis was born a knight and a king; but he was one of those men in whom a certain simplicity, combined with courage and activity, makes it natural, and in a sense easy, to fulfil directly and promptly any duty or office, however official. He was a man in whom holiness and healthiness had no quarrel; and their issue was in action. He did not go in for thinking much, in the sense of theorising much. But, even in theory, he had that sort of presence of mind, which belongs to the rare and really practical man when he has to think. He never said the wrong thing; and he was orthodox by instinct. In the old pagan proverb about kings being philosophers or philosophers kings, there was a certain miscalculation, connected with a mystery that only Christianity could reveal. For while it is possible for a king to wish much to be a saint, it is not possible for a saint to wish very much to be a king. A good man will hardly be always dreaming of being a great monarch; but, such is the liberality of the Church, that she cannot forbid even a great monarch to dream of being a good man. But Louis was a straight-forward soldierly sort of person who did not particularly mind being a king, any more than he would have minded being a captain or a sergeant or any other rank in his army. Now a man like St. Thomas would definitely dislike being a king, or being entangled with the pomp and politics of kings; not only his humility, but a sort of subconscious fastidiousness and fine dislike of futility, often found in leisurely and learned men with large minds, would really have prevented him making contact with the complexity of court life. Also, he was anxious all his life to keep out of politics; and there was no political symbol more striking, or in a sense more challenging, at that moment, than the power of the King in Paris. . . .

Somehow they steered that reluctant bulk of reflection to a seat in the royal banquet hall; and all that we know of Thomas tells us that he was perfectly courteous to those who spoke to him, but spoke little, and was soon forgotten in the most brilliant and noisy clatter in the world: the noise of French talking. What the Frenchmen were talking about we do not know; but they forgot all about the large fat Italian in their midst, and it seems only too possible that he forgot all about them. Sudden silences will occur even in French conversation; and in one of these the interruption came. There had long been no word or motion in that huge heap of black and white weeds, like motley in mourning, which marked him as a mendicant friar out of the streets, and contrasted with all the colours and patterns and quarterings of that first and freshest dawn of chivalry and heraldry. The triangular shields and pennons and pointed spears, the triangular swords of the Crusade, the pointed windows and the conical hoods, repeated everywhere that fresh French medieval spirit that did, in every sense, come to the point. But the colours of the coats were gay and varied, with little to rebuke their richness; for St. Louis, who had himself a special quality of coming to the point, had said to his courtiers, "Vanity should be avoided; but every man should dress well, in the manner of his rank, that his wife may the more easily love him."

And then suddenly the goblets leapt and rattled on the board and the great table shook, for the friar had brought down his huge fist like a club of stone, with a crash that startled everyone like an explosion; and had cried out in a strong voice, but like a man in the grip of a dream, "And that will settle the Manichees!"

The palace of a king, even when it is the palace of a saint, has it conventions. A shock thrilled through the court, and every one felt as if the fat friar from Italy had thrown a plate at King Louis, or knocked his crown sideways. They all looked timidly at the terrible seat, that was for a thousand years the throne of the Capets: and many there were presumably prepared to pitch the big black-robed beggarman out of the window. But St. Louis, simple as he seemed, was no mere medieval fountain of honour or even fountain of mercy but also the fountain of two eternal rivers: the irony and the courtesy of France. And he turned to his secretaries, asking them in a low voice to take their tablets round to the sear of the absent-minded controversialist, and take a note of the argument that had just occurred to him; because it must be a very good one and he might forget it. . . . 

In the painting above by Niklaus Manuel, the two saints sit across the table from one another. There are two dark discs above their heads, which represent halos. Notice too the dog sitting under the table next to St. Louis's feet, while a dove (the Holy Spirit) inspires St. Thomas Aquinas!

St. Louis of France, pray for us!
St. Thomas Aquinas, pray for us!

Friday, August 23, 2019

Preview: Newman and Literature, Part Two

As I commented on the Son Rise Morning Show earlier this week (Monday, 8/19), Blessed John Henry Newman knew the power of Literature--of stories, tales, fiction--to persuade and move an audience. One of the best proofs of this is his first novel, Loss and Gain: The Story of a Convert. It is a semi-autobiographical story about a High Church Anglican at Oxford who becomes Catholic.

When the novel was published in 1848, the Advertisement to the novel explained its purpose:

THE following tale is not intended as a work of controversy in behalf of the Catholic Religion, but as a description of what is understood by few, viz., the course of thought and state of mind,—or rather one such course and state,—which issues in conviction of its Divine origin.

Nor is it founded on fact, to use the common phrase. It is not the history of any individual mind among the recent converts to the Catholic Church. The principal characters are imaginary; and the writer wishes to disclaim personal allusion in any. It is with this view that he has feigned ecclesiastical bodies and places, to avoid the chance, which might otherwise occur, of unintentionally suggesting to the reader real individuals, who were far from his thoughts.

At the same time, free use has been made of sayings and doings which were characteristic of the time and place in which the scene is laid. And, moreover, when, as in a tale, a general truth or fact is exhibited in individual specimens of it, it is impossible that the ideal representation should not more or less coincide, in spite of the author's endeavour, or even without his recognition, with its existing instances or champions.

It must also be added, to prevent a further misconception, that no proper representative is intended in this tale of the religious opinions which had lately so much influence in the University of Oxford.


Newman wrote the novel in part to answer another work of fiction, From Oxford to Rome: And how it fared with some who lately made the journey by Miss Elizabeth Harris. Harris had become a Catholic and then returned to the Anglican communion. She intimated in the novel that Newman and his Oratorian fellow converts were thinking about returning to the Church of England too. As the advertisement to the sixth edition of Loss and Gain in 1874 explained:

A TALE, directed against the Oxford converts to the Catholic Faith, was sent from England to the author of this Volume in the summer of 1847, when he was resident at Santa Croce in Rome. Its contents were as wantonly and preposterously fanciful, as they were injurious to those whose motives and actions it professed to represent; but a formal criticism or grave notice of it seemed to him out of place.

The suitable answer lay rather in the publication of a second tale; drawn up with a stricter regard to truth and probability, and with at least some personal knowledge of Oxford, and some perception of the various aspects of the religious phenomenon, which the work in question handled so rudely and so unskilfully.

Especially was he desirous of dissipating the fog of pomposity and solemn pretence, which its writer had thrown around the personages introduced into it, by showing, as in a specimen, that those who were smitten with love of the Catholic Church, were nevertheless as able to write common-sense prose as other men.

Under these circumstances "Loss and Gain" was given to the public.


Newman  was not aiming to write a Catholic novel of opposing propaganda, however, but a good novel. Notice that one of things he disliked about Harris's novel was that the Catholic converts she depicted weren't as able "to write common-sense prose as other men"! Her characters were pompous and pretentious--Newman wanted to write more naturally and often pokes fun at those who do speak pompously. He did not write about perfect, sinless men and women, but real, fallen people who are struggling to find their way. In this novel, the way the protagonist, Charles Reding, is navigating is the way of religion. Newman introduces the religious matters that were at issue in Oxford in his time with a discussion about a chapel as Reding and his friend William Sheffield encounter a Mr. Bateman as they walk down High Street in Oxford on their way to Oxley:

He proceeded to give the history of the chapel—all it had been, all it might have been, all it was not, all it was to be.

"It is to be a real specimen of a Catholic Chapel," he said; "we mean to make the attempt of getting the Bishop to dedicate it to the Royal Martyr—why should not we have our St. Charles as well as the Romanists?—and it will be quite sweet to hear the vesper-bell tolling over the sullen moor every evening, in all weathers, and amid all the changes and chances of this mortal life."

Sheffield asked what congregation they expected to collect at that hour.

"That's a low view," answered Bateman; "it does not signify at all. In real Catholic churches the number of the congregation is nothing to the purpose; service is for those who come, not for those who stay away."

"Well," said Sheffield, "I understand what that means when a Roman Catholic says it; for a priest is supposed to offer sacrifice, which he can do without a congregation as well as with one. And, again, Catholic chapels often stand over the bodies of martyrs, or on some place of miracle, as a record; but our service is 'Common Prayer,' and how can you have that without a congregation?"

Bateman replied that, even if members of the University did not drop in, which he expected, at least the bell would be a memento far and near.

"Ah, I see," retorted Sheffield, "the use will be the reverse of what you said just now; it is not for those that come, but for those who stay away. The congregation is outside, not inside; it's an outside concern. I once saw a tall church-tower—so it appeared from the road; but on the sides you saw it was but a thin wall, made to look like a tower, in order to give the church an imposing effect. Do run up such a bit of a wall, and put the bell in it."

"There's another reason," answered Bateman, "for restoring the chapel, quite independent of the service. It has been a chapel from time immemorial, and was consecrated by our Catholic forefathers."

Sheffield argued that this would be as good a reason for keeping up the Mass as for keeping up the chapel.

"We do keep up the Mass," said Bateman; "we offer our Mass every Sunday, according to the rite of the English Cyprian, as honest Peter Heylin calls him; what would you have more?"

Whether Sheffield understood this or no, at least it was beyond Charles. Was the Common Prayer the English Mass, or the Communion-service, or the Litany, or the sermon, or any part of these? or were Bateman's words really a confession that there were clergymen who actually said the Popish Mass once a week? Bateman's precise meaning, however, is lost to posterity; for they had by this time arrived at the door of the chapel. It had once been the chapel of an almshouse; a small farm-house stood near; but, for population, it was plain no "church accommodation was wanted". Before entering, Charles hung back, and whispered to his friend that he did not know Bateman. An introduction, in consequence, took place. "Reding of St. Saviour's—Bateman of Nun's Hall;" after which ceremony, in place of holy water, they managed to enter the chapel in company.


Thus, it's clear that Newman had made a good study of English literature; he knew how to use dialogue to depict character and the conflicts and quandaries faced by the characters in his story. The confusions about faith and worship in the Church of England will continue in Reding's heart and conscience. He begins to have doubts about the 39 Articles of the Church of England; he discusses these doubts with other Anglicans, High Church and Low; he talks to one Catholic convert; he has to tell his family about these difficulties, and once he has decided to become a Catholic Reding endures a succession of arguments against taking such a step. Finally, he comes into a Catholic church--the Passionist parish in London (a Passionist, Blessed Dominic Barberi, received Newman into the Catholic Church)--and presents himself for admission to the Church:

Though Reding had continued standing, no one would have noticed him; but he saw the time was come for him to kneel, and accordingly he moved into a corner seat on the bench nearest him. He had hardly done so, when a procession with lights passed from the sacristy to the altar; something went on which he did not understand, and then suddenly began what, by the Miserere and Ora pro nobis, he perceived to be a litany; a hymn followed. Reding thought he never had been present at worship before, so absorbed was the attention, so intense was the devotion of the congregation. What particularly struck him was, that whereas in the Church of England the clergyman or the organ was everything and the people nothing, except so far as the clerk is their representative, here it was just reversed. The priest hardly spoke, or at least audibly; but the whole congregation was as though one vast instrument or Panharmonicon, moving all together, and what was most remarkable, as if self-moved. They did not seem to require any one to prompt or direct them, though in the Litany the choir took the alternate parts. The words were Latin, but every one seemed to understand them thoroughly, and to be offering up his prayers to the Blessed Trinity, and the Incarnate Saviour, and the great Mother of God, and the glorified Saints, with hearts full in proportion to the energy of the sounds they uttered. There was a little boy near him, and a poor woman, singing at the pitch of their voices. There was no mistaking it; Reding said to himself, "This is a popular religion". He looked round at the building; it was, as we have said, very plain, and bore the marks of being unfinished; but the Living Temple which was manifested in it needed no curious carving or rich marble to complete it, "for the glory of God had enlightened it, and the Lamb was the lamp thereof". "How wonderful," said Charles to himself, "that people call this worship formal and external; it seems to possess all classes, young and old, polished and vulgar, men and women indiscriminately; it is the working of one Spirit in all, making many one."

While he was thus thinking, a change came over the worship. A priest, or at least an assistant, had mounted for a moment above the altar, and removed a chalice or vessel which stood there; he could not see distinctly. A cloud of incense was rising on high; the people suddenly all bowed low; what could it mean? the truth flashed on him, fearfully yet sweetly; it was the Blessed Sacrament—it was the Lord Incarnate who was on the altar, who had come to visit and to bless His people. It was the Great Presence, which makes a Catholic Church different from every other place in the world; which makes it, as no other place can be, holy. The Breviary offices were by this time not unknown to Reding; and as he threw himself on the pavement, in sudden self-abasement and joy, some words of those great Antiphons came into his mouth, from which Willis had formerly quoted: "O Adonai, et Dux domûs Israel, qui Moysi in rubo apparuisti; O Emmanuel, Exspectatio Gentium et Salvator earum, veni ad salvandum nos, Domine Deus noster".


More about Newman and Literature, including his other literary works, on Monday. Anna Mitchell and I will continue this discussion of Newman and Literature in our Santo Subito! series on the Son Rise Morning Show Monday, August 26 at 6:50 a.m. Central/7:50 a.m. Eastern!

Thursday, August 22, 2019

"The Function and Purpose of Every Fragment"

On a not so recent visit to Eighth Day Books, I noticed stacks of books by Patrick Leigh Fermor and picked up this one about his visits to monasteries, especially to the Abbey of Saint Wandrille de Fontenelle, and La Trappe Abbey (aka La Grande Trappe). Fermor is renowned as a travel writer and the New York Review of Books publishes excellent editions of his works:

Patrick Leigh Fermor (1915–2011) was an intrepid traveler and a heroic soldier who is widely considered to be one of the finest travel writers of the twentieth century. After his stormy school days, followed by the walk across Europe to Constantinople that begins in A Time of Gifts (1977) and continues through Between the Woods and the Water (1986) and The Broken Road (published posthumously in 2013), he lived and traveled in the Balkans and the Greek archipelago. His books A Time to Keep Silence (1957), Mani (1958) and Roumeli (1966) attest to his deep interest in languages and remote places. In the Second World War he joined the Irish Guards, became a liaison officer in Albania, and fought in Greece and Crete. He was awarded the DSO and OBE. Leigh Fermor lived partly in Greece—in the house he designed with his wife, Joan, in an olive grove in the Mani—and partly in Worcestershire. In 2004 he was knighted for his services to literature and to British–Greek relations. Artemis Cooper’s biography, Patrick Leigh Fermor: An Adventure, was published by New York Review Books in 2013. Author photo: Patrick Leigh Fermor.

Warren Farha's recommendation notwithstanding, what really convinced me to buy the book was this section, quoted in the author's original Introduction to the 1957 edition of A Time to Keep Silence (reissued in 1987). He was referring to the impressions made on a traveler by the ruins of monasteries in Cappadocia and then he comments:

But, for us in the West, because of all such relics they are the most compelling mementos of the life that once animated them, the ruined abbeys of England that have remained desolate since the Reformation will always be the most moving and tragic. For there is no riddle here. We know the function and purpose of every fragment and the exact details of the holy life that should be sheltering there. We know, too, the miserable and wanton story of their destruction and their dereliction, and have only to close our eyes for a second for the imagination to rebuild the towers and the pinnacles and summon to our ears the quiet rumour of monkish activity and the sounds of bells melted long ago. They emerge in the fields like the peaks of a vanished Atlantis drowned four centuries deep. The gutted cloisters stand uselessly among the furrows and only broken pillars mark the former symmetry of the aisles and ambulatories. Surrounded by elder-flower, with their bases entangled in bracken and blueberry and bridged at their summits with arches and broken spandrels that fly spinning over the tree-tops in slender trajectories, the clustering pillars suspend the great empty circumference of a rose-window in the rook-haunted sky. It is as though some tremendous Gregorian chant has been interrupted hundreds of years ago to hang there petrified at its climax ever since.


The grounds of the abbeys, through the efforts of the National Trust and other organizations, are all cleaned up now. Fermor's evocative, alliterative prose depicts a more unkempt vision of the ruins, more like these vintage images of Byland and Fountains abbeys.

In the chapters on the Benedictine Abbey of  Saint Wandrille de Fontenelle, and the Trappist La Trappe Abbey in France, Fermor demonstrates great sympathy and admiration of the monks. He stays as a guest in both houses for some time and gets used to the rhythm of the Rule through his observation and limited participation. While he is astonished by the strictness of the Trappist rule, he accepts the consolations that those monks allowed to converse with him describe. He enjoys the silence and the freedom he experiences in Saint Wandrille and Solesmes (which he barely describes because he found staying there so much like staying at Saint Wandrille); after having a hard time at the beginning getting used to the silence and the solitude, when he leaves and rejoins the busy modern world of Paris, he misses the monastery peace.

He manages to seem something more than a visitor or a mere observer. Through his contacts with the monks who interact with guests he goes beyond curiosity to acceptance. Therefore he defends the monks against the charges of uselessness and seeking escape from the world. In fact, Fermor almost seems to contradict the statement that Chesterton made in his essay "Why I am a Catholic"; at least in the monastic orders the Catholic Church has developed and approved, Fermor is "just to the Catholic Church" without feeling "a tug toward it":

"It is impossible to be just to the Catholic Church. The moment men cease to pull against it, they feel a tug toward it. The moment they cease to shout it down, they begin to listen to it with pleasure. The moment they try to be fair to it, they begin to be fond of it."

He admires those who personify the monastic ideal and honors them through his admiration, but he does not imitate them. He goes to Paris and checks into the Hotel La Louisiane on the Rue de la Seine and soon gets used to the noise and distractions.

He also visits the rock monasteries of Cappadocia, Turkey, commenting on the mysteries of their origins and their abandonment, their sculptured architecture and the remains of frescoes and signs of monastic life and worship.

Then Fermor concludes with a appreciation of the new monasteries in England, established after the French Revolution and Catholic Emancipation, and finally with the "humanity and simplicity" of St. Basil of Caesarea.

Some of those phrases from his description of abbey ruins in England echo in my heart: 

--the miserable and wanton story of their destruction and their dereliction
--the sounds of bells melted long ago
--like the peaks of a vanished Atlantis drowned four centuries deep
--the clustering pillars suspend the great empty circumference of a rose-window in the rook-haunted sky
--some tremendous Gregorian chant has been interrupted hundreds of years ago to hang there petrified at its climax ever since.

When I read that last line it reminded me of the Unfinished Vespers of St. Thomas a Becket almost 370 years before the last monasteries were suppressed and dispersed, cut off as the soldiers attacked the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

The Popish Plot: William Bedloe, RIP

William Bedloe who assisted Titus Oates in perjury and false accusations against Jesuit priests and other Catholics in the Popish Plot during the reign of King Charles II died on August 20, 1680. His entry in the Dictionary of National Biography, written by Joseph Woodfall Ebsworth, denounces him as a "dishonest adventurer and 'evidence' in the Popish plot". Bedloe was complicit with the conviction of at least one innocent man, Blessed Edward Coleman or Colman.

His biographical entry describes his duplicity with dizzying detail:

He claimed for himself the attainment of proficiency in Latin, heraldry, and mathematics. David Lewis, the Jesuit, who was afterwards executed at Monmouth, took notice of the boy when he was twelve years old, and taught him much, with intent of converting him. When aged twenty, in 1670, he travelled to London with one hundred pounds in his pocket, and lived near two Jesuits, Father Harman and Father Johnson. They dined at Locket's ordinary, and were said to adjourn to Mother Cresswell's. Bedloe certainly lived a sharping life in London before he went to Dunkirk, where he was recommended by the lady abbess to Sir John Warner, who sent him to Father Harcourt, the Jesuit, afterwards executed on the evidence of Oates. By his own account, William Bedloe went to Rome, Flanders, Spain, &c., carrying letters; but opened them and made forged copies, which he delivered, retaining the originals. He bore an alias of Captain Williams, under which he cheated the Prince of Orange, and from him, by fraud, obtained a captain's commission. But this captaincy was as apocryphal as the 'invisible degree' of doctor won by Titus Oates at Salamanca. Five years of varied service, intrigues, frauds, and broils, prepared him, with occasional employment by the Jesuits, for emerging into notice as a betrayer and forsworn spy. He declared that Titus Oates had anticipated and outstripped him in making revelations of the popish plot. At the beginning of August 1678, he confessed that he 'had once been an ill man, but desired to be so no more.' He wrote from Bristol, offering to make startling declarations. The Earl of Danby gave little credit to him; and in revenge for this, Bedloe asserted that a bribe was offered to him by Danby, who promised that he should be supported in whatever country he chose to retire into, if he would suppress his threatened revelations. The commons accepted his account of the murder of Sir E. B. Godfrey, and gave him 500l. The extant portrait of Bedloe, prefixed to his 'Narrative' of the fire of London having been caused by the papists, shows a villainous countenance, harsh and forbidding, full of malice and revenge. With beetle brows, hard mouth, and savage eyes, we see the man, unscrupulous, unrelenting, as he in later life became. Dressed in finery beyond his station, his arrogance is as self-evident as his malice. He declared that Counsellor Reading had tried to tamper with him for suppression of his testimony, and Reading was condemned to a year's imprisonment, with exposure for an hour in the pillory, and to pay a fine of 1,000l. Bedloe made many accusations and found willing associates. The king's chemist, Dr. James, deposed that one Dr. Smith, a papist, tried to make him poison Bedloe with a pill on 20 March 1679. By this time he was almost as popular as Oates. He received ten pounds weekly allowance from the royal funds, and lived at the rate of two thousand a year. Rich dupes were plentiful. The citizens feasted him. His folio pamphlets, with copperplate portrait prefixed, had a large sale. He attributed the most extensive plots and execrable crimes, falsely, to the Romanists.

Bedloe went too far, however, and was facing distrust and waning influence when he died:

Then he was recalled to London in the middle of July 1680. He was now, with Oates, experiencing the fickleness of fortune and the waning of popularity. Sir George Jeffreys [left], on the bench, told him sharp truths, and he felt his power deserting him. He retreated back to Bristol, where he had left his wife Anna, who, in her illness, summoned him, at beginning of August. He fell ill after his hurried journey, having 'broken his gall' by violent riding. He was said to be past cure. At the commencement of the assizes on 16 Aug., Sir Francis North, chief justice of the common pleas, attended Bedloe, and took his dying deposition. There had been a promise of fresh revelations, but none of importance were forthcoming. He reiterated old statements as really true, his wife being beside him. James Bedloe [his brother] made immediate application for money from King Charles, through North, next day. This application, 'that his sickness was very changeable, and that money was required for his subsistence,' explains the persistence of the family in the accusation of the Jesuits. William's death took place on Friday, 20 Aug. 1680.

When Sir George Jeffreys, later of the Bloody Assizes (as featured in the Errol Flynn movie Captain Blood) turns against you, you're in trouble. Although Jeffreys would later serve James II as Lord Chancellor, he was no friend of Catholics and was certainly ready to find them guilty of treason--as was Sir William Scroggs, Lord Chief Justice at the time of the Popish Plot--and it was not until the end, nearly, of all the trials and executions, that these judges began to see the perjury of Oates, Bedloe, and others.

Although Ebsworth denounces Bedloe, he's no friend of Catholics either, using the terms Romanists and Papist, and Romanism (in his biography of Edward Coleman, Bedloe's chief victim).

Monday, August 19, 2019

On the Son Rise Morning Show: Newman and Literature, Part One


As promised, I'll be on the Son Rise Morning Show bright and early this morning (6:50 a.m. Central/ 7:50 a.m. Eastern) to talk with Anna Mitchell about Newman and Literature, focusing today on Newman's literary style.

Blessed John Newman was once told in a letter that someone thought he was a saint and he replied humbly:

I return you Miss Moore’s letter. You must undeceive her about me, though I suppose she uses words in a general sense. She called Newman a saint. I have nothing of a Saint about me as every one knows, and it is a severe (and salutary) mortification to be thought next door to one. I may have a high view of many things, but it is the consequence of education and of a peculiar cast of intellect—but this is very different from being what I admire. I have no tendency to be a saint—it is a sad thing to say. Saints are not literary men, they do not love the classics, they do not write Tales. I may be well enough in my way, but it is not the ‘high line.’ People ought to feel this, most people do. But those who are at a distance have fee-fa-fum notions about one. It is enough for me to black the saints’ shoes—if St. Philip uses blacking, in heaven. (LD XIII:419).

Some have used this to deprecate Newman's beatification and canonization saying it was somehow against his will--but isn't this what most of us would reply if someone said we were saints? He did not say that he didn't want to be a saint (be in Heaven), but that he did not want to be called a saint while he was still alive.

Nonetheless, Newman was a "literary" man who loved the classics and wrote Tales and who wanted to be a good writer, communicating truth and action to his audience, reaching them to persuade them, console them, excite them to good thoughts, good works, good ways of living.

In a book published in 1932, Favorite Newman Sermons Selected by Daniel M. O'Connell, S.J., the editor included "Newman's Rules for Writing Sermons":

1. A man should be in earnest–by which I mean he should write, not for the sake of writing, but to bring out his thoughts.

2. He should never aim to be eloquent.

3. He should keep his idea in view, and should write sentences over and over again till he has expressed his meaning accurately, forcibly, and in few words.

4. He should aim at being understood by his hearers or readers.

5. He should use words which are likely to be understood. Ornament and amplification will come spontaneously in due time, but he should never seek them.

6. He must creep before he can fly–by which I mean that humility, which is a great Christian virtue, has a place in literary composition.

7. He who is ambitious will never write well; but he who tries to say simply what he feels and thinks, what religion demands, what faith teaches, what the Gospel promises, will be eloquent without intending it, and will write better English than if he made a study of English literature.

Regarding rule number seven, Newman had also made a study of English literature, and he knew the power of all literature (tales, stories, novels, plays, poetry, etc). He had a high view of the power of Literature to move and influence people. In The Idea of the University he argues that if Theology is not part of a university curriculum, Literature could take its place (and so could Science). Literature, however, may be the greater danger to Theology because, if Science “ignores the idea of moral evil”, Literature recognizes and understands it too well, and can make it both attractive and sympathetic to the reader. Newman states that Literature is the voice of “the natural man”, fallen and sinful: 

Literature stands related to Man as Science stands to Nature; it is his history. Man is composed of body and soul; he thinks and he acts; he has appetites, passions, affections, motives, designs; he has within him the lifelong struggle of duty with inclination; he has an intellect fertile and capacious; he is formed for society, and society multiplies and diversifies in endless combinations his personal characteristics, moral and intellectual. All this constitutes his life; of all this Literature is the expression; so that Literature is to man in some sort what autobiography is to the individual; it is his Life and Remains. Moreover, he is this sentient, intelligent, creative, and operative being, quite independent of any extraordinary aid from Heaven, or any definite religious belief; and as such, as he is in himself, does Literature represent him; it is the Life and Remains of the natural man, innocent or guilty. I do not mean to say that it is impossible in its very notion that Literature should be tinctured by a religious spirit; Hebrew Literature, as far as it can be called Literature, certainly is simply theological, and has a character imprinted on it which is above nature; but I am speaking of what is to be expected without any extraordinary dispensation; and I say that, in matter of fact, as Science is the reflection of Nature, so is Literature also—the one, of Nature physical, the other, of Nature moral and social. Circumstances, such as locality, period, language, seem to make little or no difference in the character of Literature, as such; on the whole, all Literatures are one; they are the voices of the natural man.

He counsels that the university should not censure or bowdlerize works of literature and shield students from them. He warns that you cannot “attempt a sinless Literature of sinful man”. The students at a university must read the classic works of literature if they are to be prepared for the world and to develop the philosophical method that he claimed was the purpose of university education.

Newman had studied the art of writing and noted in a lecture to the Philosophy department at the Catholic University of Ireland, as quoted by Father Juan Velez, that:

. . . writing is essentially a personal work, not something that results from production or a natural process. It is not a mere vehicle of things or symbols as is the case with mathematics. “Literature is the personal use or exercise of language.” And this is proved from the fact each author writes differently, and the genius masters language for his purpose: “while the many use language as they find it, the man of genius uses it indeed, but subjects it withal to his own purposes, and moulds it according to his own peculiarities. The throng and succession of ideas, thoughts, feelings, imaginations, aspirations, which pass within him, the abstractions, the juxtapositions, the comparisons, the discriminations, the conceptions, which are so original in him, his views of external things, his judgments upon life, manners, and history, the exercises of his wit, of his humour, of his depth, of his sagacity, all these innumerable and incessant creations, the very pulsation and throbbing of his intellect, does he image forth, to all does he give utterance, in a corresponding language, which is as multiform as this inward mental action itself and analogous to it, the faithful expression of his intense personality…” Language is as the very shadow of an author, it is unique, not someone else’s shadow.

He goes further: “Thought and speech are inseparable from each other. Matter and expression are parts of one: style is a thinking out into language. This is what I have been laying down, and this is literature; not things, not the verbal symbols of things; not on the other hand mere words; but thoughts expressed in language.” Men, unlike animals, exercise logos, the Greek word for both reason and speech. A classical author has both; he thinks and writes his thoughts. He is not like a traveler unable to write who engages a professional letter writer. Excellent writers such as Shakespeare or Walter Scott did not aim at diction for its own sake; instead they poured forth beautiful words because they had beautiful thoughts.


Newman definitely had beautiful thoughts, about Jesus, the Catholic Church, the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Saints, education, the laity, faith and reason, etc. That's why getting used to his writing style, as Ciceronian and Victorian as it is, is worth doing. 

Friday, August 16, 2019

Preview: Newman and Literature, Part One

On Monday, August 19, Anna Mitchell and I will begin a two part discussion of Blessed John Henry Newman and Literature in our Santo Subito! Series on the Son Rise Morning Show (at the usual time: 6:50 a.m. Central/7:50 a.m. Eastern). We'll start with discussing Newman's writing style and then next Monday we'll talk about the incredible range of his literary production!

I have been reading Newman's works since I was a sophomore in college and I was an English major, used to reading Victorian novels, etc--and I'd taken four years of Latin in high school. I've gotten accustomed to Newman's style, which is definitely Ciceronian. Having read some of Cicero's Orations in Latin class I was already influenced by this style, but it can take some getting used to.

Ciceronian sentences are also called periodic sentences: you have to read all the way to the period ending the sentence to understand what the author is saying. Taking one ready to hand example, so often quoted from Newman's The Idea of a University:

Quarry the granite rock with razors, or moor the vessel with a thread of silk; then may you hope with such keen and delicate instruments as human knowledge and human reason to contend against those giants, the passion and the pride of man.

Newman's Ciceronian style is classically balanced:

Basil and Julian were fellow-students at the schools of Athens; and one became the Saint and Doctor of the Church, the other her scoffing and relentless foe.

Newman's classic style presents examples in sets of three, as in this sentence describing the different aspects of priest, prophet, and king:

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.

Newman's Ciceronian style shows the power of invention, building up examples that demonstrate his point so aptly that the reader shares his conclusion:

To consider the world in its length and breadth, its various history, the many races of man, their starts, their fortunes, their mutual alienation, their conflicts, and then their ways, habits, governments, forms of worship; their enterprises, their aimless courses, their random achievements and acquirements, the impotent conclusion of long-standing facts, the tokens so faint and broken of a superintending design, the blind evolution of what turn out to be great powers or truths, the progress of things, as if from unreasoning elements, not towards final causes, the greatness and littleness of man, his far-reaching aims, his short duration, the curtain hung over his futurity, the disappointments of life, the defeat of good, the success of evil, physical pain, mental anguish, the prevalence and intensity of sin, the pervading idolatries, the corruptions, the dreary hopeless irreligion, that condition of the whole race, so fearfully yet exactly described in the Apostle’s words, ‘having no hope and without God in the world’,—all this is a vision to dizzy and appall; and inflicts upon the mind the sense of a profound mystery, which is absolutely beyond human solution.

What shall be said to this heart-piercing, reason-bewildering fact?


I can only answer that either there is no Creator, or this living society of men is in a true sense discarded from His presence.

We know that Newman admired Cicero; he contributed an article to an encyclopedia on his life and works. He praised the orator and politician at the same time that he noted his failures:

It may be doubted, indeed, whether any individual ever rose to power by more virtuous and truly honourable conduct; the integrity of his public life was only equalled by the correctness of his private morals; and it may at first sight excite our wonder that a course so splendidly begun should afterwards so little fulfil its early promise. Yet it was a failure from the period of his Consulate to his Pro-prætorship in Cilicia, and each year is found to diminish his influence in public affairs, till it expires altogether with the death of Pompey. This surprise, however, arises in no small degree from measuring Cicero's political importance by his present reputation, and confounding the authority he deservedly possesses as an author with the opinions entertained of him by his contemporaries as a statesman. From the consequence usually attached to passing events, a politician's celebrity is often at its zenith in his own generation; while the author, who is in the highest repute with posterity, may perhaps have been little valued or courted in his own day. Virtue indeed so conspicuous as that of Cicero, studies so dignified, and oratorical powers so commanding, will always invest their possessor with a large portion of reputation and authority; and this is nowhere more apparent than in the enthusiastic welcome with which he was greeted on his return from exile. But unless other qualities be added, more peculiarly necessary for a statesman, they will hardly of themselves carry that political weight which some writers have attached to Cicero's public life, and which his own self-love led him to appropriate.

What he admired most about Cicero was his philosophical development of the Latin language to explore ideas more deeply and persuasively, which is what he would do in English.

More about Newman and Literature, focused on his writing style, on Monday . . .

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Tradition and the Doctrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary


The University of Dayton has some excellent background on the Tradition and the Doctrine that the Blessed Virgin Mary was Assumed Body and Soul into Heaven:

Belief that Mary has been taken up and is now in heaven with both her body and her soul has been part of the teaching of the Catholic Church since the earliest centuries of Christianity. The strongest evidence for the belief of the early Christians is found in ancient liturgies and in homilies in honor of Mary's passing. A second source, widely spread in the Middle Ages is known as the Transitus writings. Today, the renewed discussion about the location of the tomb of Mary indicates interest about Mary's Assumption into heaven.

By the end of the Middle Ages, belief in Mary's Assumption into heaven was well established theologically and part of the devotional expressions of the people. The word Assumption comes from the Latin verb assumere, meaning "to take to oneself." Our Lord, Jesus Christ took Mary home to himself where he is.

For Martin Luther, Mary's Assumption was an understood fact, as his homily of 1522 indicates, in spite of the fact that Mary's Assumption is not expressly reported in Sacred Scripture. For Protestant reformer, Martin Butzer (1545), there was no reason to doubt about the Assumption of the Virgin into heavenly glory. "Indeed, no Christian doubts that the most worthy Mother of the Lord lives with her beloved Son in heavenly joy." (Marienlexikon, vol 3, 200)

H. Bullinger (1590), also a Protestant reformer, sought for a theological foundation for the Assumption in Scripture. He showed that the Old Testament tells of Elias, taken to heaven bodily to teach us about our immortality, and – because of our immortal soul – to respectfully honor the bodies of the saints. Against this backdrop he states, "Because of this, we believe that the pure immaculate chamber of the God-bearer, the Virgin Mary, is a temple of the Holy Spirit, that is her holy body, borne by angels into heaven." (Marienlexikon, vol 3, 200)

In the light of a long history of Christian belief since patristic times, in 1950, Pope Pius XII defined Mary's Assumption into Heaven as a dogma of Roman Catholicism:

"the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heaven."

The proclamation of this dogma is found in the encyclical
(sic): Munificentissimus Deus.

In Munificentissimus Deus, which is actually not an encyclical but an Apostolic Constitution, a more authoritative papal document, Pope Pius XII pointed out that the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary had been celebrated in art, music, and liturgy for centuries.

Blessed John Henry Newman at the Oratory of St. Philip Neri in Birmingham preached on the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary just about one hundred years before Pope Pius XII proclaimed the doctrine:

It was surely fitting then, it was becoming, that she should be taken up into heaven and not lie in the grave till Christ's second coming, who had passed a life of sanctity and of miracle such as hers. All the works of God are in a beautiful harmony; they are carried on to the end as they begin. This is the difficulty which men of the world find in believing miracles at all; they think these break the order and consistency of God's visible word, not knowing that they do but subserve a higher order of things, and introduce a supernatural perfection. But at least, my brethren, when one miracle is wrought, it may be expected to draw others after it for the completion of what is begun. Miracles must be wrought for some great end; and if the course of things fell back again into a natural order before its termination, how could we but feel a disappointment? and if we were told that this certainly was to be, how could we but judge the information improbable and difficult to believe? Now this applies to the history of our Lady. I say, it would be a greater miracle if, her life being what it was, her death was like that of other men, than if it were such as to correspond to her life. Who can conceive, my brethren, that God should so repay the debt, which He condescended to owe to His Mother, for the elements of His human body, as to allow the flesh and blood from which it was taken to moulder in the grave? Do the sons of men thus deal with their mothers? do they not nourish and sustain them in their feebleness, and keep them in life while they are able? Or who can conceive that that virginal frame, which never sinned, was to undergo the death of a sinner? Why should she share the curse of Adam, who had no share in his fall? "Dust thou art, and into dust thou shalt return," was the sentence upon sin; she then, who was not a sinner, fitly never saw corruption. She died, then, as we hold, because even our Lord and Saviour died; she died, as she suffered, because she was in this world, because she was in a state of things in which suffering and death are the rule. She lived under their external sway; and, as she obeyed Caesar by coming for enrolment to Bethlehem, so did she, when God willed it, yield to the tyranny of death, and was dissolved into soul and body, as well as others. But though she died as well as others, she died not as others die; for, through the merits of her Son, by whom she was what she was, by the grace of Christ which in her had anticipated sin, which had filled her with light, which had purified her flesh from all defilement, she was also saved from disease and malady, and all that weakens and decays the bodily frame. Original sin had not been found in her, by the wear of her senses, and the waste of her frame, and the decrepitude of years, propagating death. She died, but her death was a mere fact, not an effect; and, when it was over, it ceased to be. She died that she might live, she died as a matter of form or (as I may call it) an observance, in order to fulfil, what is called, the debt of nature,—not primarily for herself or because of sin, but to submit herself to her condition, to glorify God, to do what her Son did; not however as her Son and Saviour, with any suffering for any special end; not with a martyr's death, for her martyrdom had been in living; not as an atonement, for man could not make it, and One had made it, and made it for all; but in order to finish her course, and to receive her crown.

And therefore she died in private. It became Him, who died for the world, to die in the world's sight; it became the Great Sacrifice to be lifted up on high, as a light that could not be hid. But she, the lily of Eden, who had always dwelt out of the sight of man, fittingly did she die in the garden's shade, and amid the sweet flowers in which she had lived. Her departure made no noise in the world. The Church went about her common duties, preaching, converting, suffering; there were persecutions, there was fleeing from place to place, there were martyrs, there were triumphs; at length the rumour spread abroad that the Mother of God was no longer upon earth. Pilgrims went to and fro; they sought for her relics, but they found them not; did she die at Ephesus? or did she die at Jerusalem? reports varied; but her tomb could not be pointed out, or if it was found, it was open; and instead of her pure and fragrant body, there was a growth of lilies from the earth which she had touched. So inquirers went home marvelling, and waiting for further light. And then it was said, how that when her dissolution was at hand, and her soul was to pass in triumph before the judgment-seat of her Son, the apostles were suddenly gathered together in the place, even in the Holy City, to bear part in the joyful ceremonial; how that they buried her with fitting rites; how that the third day, when they came to the tomb, they found it empty, and angelic choirs with their glad voices were heard singing day and night the glories of their risen Queen. But, however we feel towards the details of this history (nor is there anything in it which will be unwelcome or difficult to piety), so much cannot be doubted, from the consent of the whole Catholic world and the revelations made to holy souls, that, as is befitting, she is, soul and body, with her Son and God in heaven, and that we are enabled to celebrate, not only her death, but her Assumption.