Sunday, August 19, 2018

The Princess Mary Refuses to Conform

How appropriate and timely for a Sunday! The Princess Mary stood up to her brother and his minions adamantly when they tried to force her to give up attending the Catholic Mass in her household during August 1551. As this biography by Jean Marie Stone published in 1901 and based on primary sources describes the growing pressure on Henry VIII's eldest daughter, it began in March that year and increased through the spring and summer.

The law of Uniformity once passed, Edward’s ministers could only justify it by carrying it out logically; but in thus doing they cut through marrow and bone, and the acts of the Privy Council show the drastic nature of their dealings with the disobedient. On the 19th March, Sergeant Morgan had been summoned before the Council for hearing Mass at St. John’s, in the Lady Mary’s house, two or three days previously, “and not being able to excuse himself, because that, being a learned man, he should give so ill an example to others, he was committed to the Fleet prison”.[275]

On the 24th, Sir Anthony Browne was examined as to whether he had of late heard any Mass or not, when he answered, “that indeed twice or thrice at the New Hall; and once at Romford, as my Lady Mary was coming hither about ten days past, he had heard Mass. Which being considered as a notable ill example, was thought requisite to be corrected, and therefore he was committed to the Fleet.”[276]

On the same day, Rochester, Comptroller of Mary’s household, was interrogated as to “how many ordinary chaplains her Grace had”. He answered that she had four, namely Drs. Mallet, Hopton, Barker and Ricardes. But it was not until August that definite steps were taken to coerce the Princess into subjection. The story of the proceedings as it is told in the Acts of the Privy Council is dramatic.[277]


The English envoys having signified to the Emperor the ultimatum of Edward’s government on the 9th August, on the 15th, three of Mary’s servants, Rochester, Waldegrave and Sir Francis Englefield appeared before the Council, and were commanded on their return home, to call Mary’s chaplains together, and to inhibit them from further saying Mass in her house, or in any other place, contrary to the King’s laws, under pain of the King’s high indignation and displeasure. As Rochester made many excuses “to avoid the report of this matter unto her Grace and the execution thereof in her house, he was finally commanded on his allegiance to see it performed, and in case her Grace should dismiss him, and the rest out of her service, upon the receipt of this message (as he pretended she would) then was he and the rest commanded on the King’s Majesty’s behalf, neither to avoid her service nor to depart from her house, but to see this order prescribed unto them fulfilled until they should have further commandment from hence”.[278]

On August 19, 1551 Mary wrote to her half-brother Edward and emphasized that she had understood that she would be exempt from the Act of Uniformity, especially after the Holy Roman Emperor had threatened England with war if she were forced to conform:

They were then dismissed, and returned to Mary, but were summoned to appear again on the 24th, to give an account of their doings. In the meanwhile, the Princess wrote the following letter to Edward, which was perhaps more forcible than anything she had hitherto said in her defence:—

“My duty most humbly remembered unto your Majesty. It may please the same to be advertised, that I have by my servants received your most honourable letter, the contents whereof do not a little trouble me, and so much the more for that any of my servants should move or attempt me in matters touching my soul, which I think the meanest subjects within your realm could evil bear at their servants’ hands; having for my part utterly refused heretofore to talk with them in such matters, and of all other persons least regarded them therein; to whom I have declared what I think, as she which trusted that your Majesty would have suffered me, your poor humble sister and beadswoman, to have used the accustomed Mass, which the King your father and mine, with all his predecessors evermore used; wherein also I have been brought up from my youth, and thereunto my conscience doth not only bind me, which by no means will suffer me to think one thing and do another, but also the promise made to the Emperor, by your Majesty’s Council, was an assurance to me, that in so doing I should not offend the laws, although they seem now to qualify and deny the thing. And at my last waiting upon your Majesty, I was so bold to declare my mind and conscience to the same, and desired your Highness rather than you should constrain me to leave the Mass, to take my life, whereunto your Majesty made me a very gentle answer. And now I beseech your Highness to give me leave to write what I think touching your Majesty’s letters. Indeed they be signed with your own hand, and nevertheless in my opinion not your Majesty’s in effect, because it is well known (as heretofore I have declared in the presence of your Highness) that although our Lord be praised, your Majesty hath far more knowledge, and greater gifts than others of your years, yet it is not possible that your Highness can at these years be a judge in matters of religion. And therefore I take it, that the matter in your letter proceedeth from such as do wish these things to take place, which be most agreeable to themselves, by whose doings (your Majesty not offended) I intend not to rule my conscience. And thus, without molesting your Highness any further, I humbly beseech the same, ever for God’s sake to bear with me as you have done, and not to think that by my doings or ensample any inconvenience might grow to your Majesty, or your realm; for I use it not after any such sort, putting no doubt but in time to come, whether I live or die, your Majesty shall perceive mine intent is grounded upon a true love towards you, whose royal estate I beseech Almighty God long to continue, which is and shall be my daily prayer, according to my duty. And after pardon craved of your Majesty, for these rude and bold letters, if neither at my humble suit, nor for regard of the promise made to the Emperor, your Highness will suffer and bear with me as you have done, till your Majesty may be a judge herein yourself, and right understand their proceedings (of which your goodness yet I despair not) otherwise rather than offend God and my conscience, I offer my body at your will, and death shall be more welcome than life with a troubled conscience.

“Most humbly beseeching your Majesty to pardon my slowness in answering your letters, for my old disease would not suffer me to write any sooner. And thus I pray Almighty God to keep your Majesty in all virtue and honour, with good health and long life to his pleasure.

“From my poor house at Copped Hall, the xix of August.

“Your Majesty’s most humble sister,

“Marye.”[279]


The Princess Mary was able to outlast the rule of Edward Seymour, the Duke of Somerset, who was executed at the end of 1551. She was stronger against her half-brother Edward on the matter of attending the Holy Mass than she had been against her father on the matter of signing a document acknowledging Henry VIII's supremacy over the Church, her parents' invalid marriage, and her own illegitimacy in June of 1536. The Duke of Norfolk had, however, threatened to "beat her and knock her head so violently against the wall, that they would make it as soft as baked apples". Dealing with her powerful father was different than responding to her half-brother, who was still a minor, his reign administered by councilors and the protector, Somerset.

The National Archives has posted images of the report of those sent to confront Mary at Copped Hall in Essex (previously the property of Walsham Abbey) after she wrote the letter. She told them she would rather die than replace the Holy Mass with services from the Book of Common Prayer!

According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, Mary Jane Stone or Jane Mary Stone was:

Born at Brighton, Sussex, in 1853; died at Battle, Sussex, 3 May, 1908. She was educated at a Calvinist school in Paris and at Aschaffenburg in Germany, where she acquired an intimate knowledge of French, German, and Italian. In Germany Miss Stone was brought into touch with the Catholic religion, and exchanged Protestantism for the "free atmosphere", as she expressed it, of the Catholic Church. She was received into the Church by Monsignor Ketteler, then Bishop of Mainz. Her historical studies, for which, perhaps, she is best known to the public, were, on her return to England, encouraged by the fathers of the Society of Jesus. Her talent and painstaking method of research earned for her a speedy recognition in her "Mary the First, Queen of England" (1901). This is a study of the unhappy queen which takes first rank amongst historical monographs. Miss Stone also wrote "Faithful unto Death", a study of the martyrs of the Order of St. Francis during the Reformation period (1892); "Eleanor Leslie", a memoir of a notable Scottish convert to the Church (1898); "Reformation and Renaissance", a group of studies on the periods indicated (1904); "Studies from Court and Cloister", reprinted essays, of which perhaps the most interesting are those on "Margaret Tudor", "Sir Henry Bedingfeld", and a "Missing Page from the Idylls of the King" (1905); "The Church in English History", a higher textbook for teachers of history (1907). Her "Cardinal Pole", begun for the St. Nicholas Series, was interrupted by her death. She was a frequent contributor to the greater periodicals, the "Dublin Review", "Month", "Blackwood's", "Cornhill", etc., and contributed several articles to THE CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA.

Friday, August 17, 2018

The Inaugural Florovsky Week Evaluation

Director Doctor Erin Doom reports on the Florovsky Week held last month:

I'VE SAID it before and I’ll say it again: “The inaugural Florovsky Week was glorious!” It was a great success, far exceeding my hopes and expectations. But it wasn’t perfect.

As for its success, it was remarkable to see how much in common Catholics, Orthodox, and Protestants actually have…if they return to the Fathers. And this is precisely what the plenary speakers did (Hans Boersma – Protestant; Kenneth Howell – Catholic; and Bradley Nassif – Orthodox) as they explored the key question posed for the event: “Justification by Faith Alone?” And they all found the same emphasis of participation in Christ, or deification, as the Orthodox put it. Heeding Florovsky’s call to return to the Fathers as a way to overcome division thus proved to be an effective proposal. And it was amazing to experience it. If you missed it, you don’t want to repeat that mistake next year. You can go ahead and put it down on your calendar: June 4-8, 2019 on “The Patristic View of Church Authority: Bible, Pope or Conciliarity?”

When Doctor Doom discusses the imperfection of the week, he focuses on the thing I noticed too--we never really discussed, nor did anyone cogently defend, Martin Luther's doctrine of "Justification by Faith Alone"--in fact, we hardly mentioned it:

As for its imperfections, the key question that was posed was never actually addressed. So while it was remarkable to see the united understanding of salvation as participation in Christ, that emphasis distracted us from the question of justification. I think there are two ways to look at this failure. On the one hand, it’s really not such a failure. The speakers heeded the admonition to return to the Fathers. And they just didn’t find much on the issue of justification. Instead, they found participation, union, and deification. And I mostly agree with all three speakers who indicated that this pre-Reformation emphasis on participation might be the way to get past the dividing issue of justification. But on the other hand, the question of justification was a real question during the period of reformations. . . .

Please read the rest there. Among the main speakers, Hans Boersma, an Anglican, who was the designated Protestant speaker, focused on what he termed "participation"; there were Protestant speakers in the breakout session too, but none of their abstracts indicated that they discussed or defended Luther's doctrine of Justification by Faith Alone. I wonder why.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Newman on the Assumption of the BVM

From his Discourses to Mixed Congregations: "Discourse 18. On the Fitness of the Glories of Mary":

. . . it is a great evidence of truth, in the case of revealed teaching, that it is so consistent, that it so hangs together, that one thing springs out of another, that each part requires and is required by the rest.

This great principle, which is exemplified so variously in the structure and history of Catholic doctrine, which will receive more and more illustrations the more carefully and minutely we examine the subject, is brought before us especially at this season, when we are celebrating the Assumption of our Blessed Lady, the Mother of God, into heaven. We receive it on the belief of ages; but, viewed in the light of reason, it is the fitness of this termination of her earthly course which so persuasively recommends it to our minds: we feel it "ought" to be; that it "becomes" her Lord and Son thus to provide for one who was so singular and special, both in herself and her relations to Him. We find that it is simply in harmony with the substance and main outlines of the doctrine of the Incarnation, and that without it Catholic teaching would have a character of incompleteness, and would disappoint our pious expectations.

Let us direct our thoughts to this subject today, my brethren; and with a view of helping you to do so, I will first state what the Church has taught and defined from the first ages concerning the Blessed Virgin, and then you will see how naturally the devotion which her children show her, and the praises with which they honour her, follow from it.

Now, as you know, it has been held from the first, and defined from an early age, that Mary is the Mother of God. She is not merely the Mother of our Lord's manhood, or of our Lord's body, but she is to be considered the Mother of the Word Himself, the Word incarnate. God, in the person of the Word, the Second Person of the All-glorious Trinity, humbled Himself to become her Son. Non horruisti Virginis uterum, as the Church sings, "Thou didst not disdain the Virgin's womb". He took the substance of His human flesh from her, and clothed in it He lay within her; and He bore it about with Him after birth, as a sort of badge and witness that He, though God, was hers. He was nursed and tended by her; He was suckled by her; He lay in her arms. As time went on, He ministered to her, and obeyed her. He lived with her for thirty years, in one house, with an uninterrupted intercourse, and with only the saintly Joseph to share it with Him. She was the witness of His growth, of His joys, of His sorrows, of His prayers; she was blest with His smile, with the touch of His hand, with the whisper of His affection, with the expression of His thoughts and His feelings, for that length of time. Now, my brethren, what ought she to be, what is it becoming that she should be, who was so favoured? . . .


But in a festive season, my dear brethren, I must not weary you with argument, when we should offer specially to the Blessed Virgin the homage of our love and loyalty; yet, let me finish as I have begun;—I will be brief, but bear with me if I view her bright Assumption, as I have viewed her immaculate purity, rather as a point of doctrine than as a theme for devotion.

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. . . .


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? . . . 

Also, here are some meditations on titles of Mary from Newman's Meditations and Devotions. Remember that Newman was writing and meditating upon Mary's Assumption more than one hundred years before Pope Pius XII defined the doctrine of the Assumption on November 1, 1950 in the Apostolic Constitution Munificentissimus Deus!

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

The Future Pope Pius VII

Barnaba Niccolò Maria Luigi Chiaramonti, the future Pope Pius VII, was born on August 14, 1742. He joined the Benedictine order when he was 14 years old and made his final vows on August 20, 1758taking the name Gregory or Gregorio. He was ordained a priest on September 21, 1765. The Catholic Encyclopedia describes the circumstances of his papal election:

According to an ordinance issued by Pius VI, 13 Nov., 1798, the city where the largest number of cardinals was to be found at the time of his death was to be the scene of the subsequent election. In conformity with these instructions the cardinals met in conclave, after his death (29 Aug., 1799), in the Benedictine monastery of San Giorgio at Venice. The place was agreeable to the emperor, who bore the expense of the election. Thirty-four cardinals were in attendance on the opening day, 30 Nov., 1799; to these was added a few days later Cardinal Herzan, who acted simultaneously as imperial commissioner. It was not long before the election of Cardinal Bellisomi seemed assured. He was, however, unacceptable to the Austrian party, who favoured Cardinal Mattei. As neither candidate could secure a sufficient number of votes, a third name, that of Cardinal Gerdil, was proposed, but his election was vetoed by Austria. At last, after the conclave had lasted three months, some of the neutral cardinals, including Maury, suggested Chiaramonti as a suitable candidate and, with the tactful support of the secretary of the conclave, Ercole Consalvi, he was elected. The new pope was crowned as Pius VII on 21 March, 1800, at Venice. He then left this city in an Austrian vessel for Rome, where he made his solemn entry on 3 July, amid the universal joy of the populace. Of all-important consequence for his reign was the elevation on 11 Aug., 1800, of Ercole Consalvi, one of the greatest statesmen of the nineteenth century, to the college of cardinals and to the office of secretary of state. Consalvi retained to the end the confidence of the pope, although the conflict with Napoleon forced him out of office for several years.

One of the Cardinals at this election was Henry Benedict Cardinal Stuart, Bonnie Prince Charlie's brother.

Like his predecessor, Pope Pius VI, Pius VII endured exile from Rome during Napoleon I's reign. Consalvi successfully negotiated the Concordat of 1801 with Napoleon, re-establishing some of the Catholic Church's rights in France. Pope Pius VII was present at Napoleon and Josephine's coronations in the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris in 1804. When France occupied and annexed Rome, Pius was sent to Savona on the coast of Italy.

From Pope Benedict XVI's homily during a visit to Savona, Italy in 2008:

It is a pilgrimage that is also a memory and a tribute to my Venerable Predecessor Pius VII, whose dramatic experience is indissolubly linked to this City and its Marian Shrine. Two centuries later, I come to renew the expression of gratitude of the Holy See and of the entire Church for the faith, love and courage with which your fellow citizens supported the Pope under house arrest in this City, imposed upon him by Napoleon Bonaparte. Many testimonies of the manifestations of solidarity for the Pontiff, sometimes even at personal risk, have been preserved. They are events that the people of Savona can well be proud to commemorate today. As your Bishop rightly observed, through the power of the Holy Spirit, that dark page of Europe's history has become rich in graces and teachings for our day too. It teaches us courage in facing the challenges of the world: materialism, relativism, secularism without ever yielding to compromises, ready to pay in person while remaining faithful to the Lord and his Church. The example of serene firmness set by Pope Pius VII invites us to keep our trust in God unaltered in trials, aware that although he permits the Church to experience difficult moments he never abandons us. The episode the Great Pontiff went through in your land invites us always to trust in the intercession and motherly assistance of Mary Most Holy.

From 1809 to 1814, Pope Pius VII was held prisoner at Fontainebleau. When Napoleon fell, he returned to Rome. Pius began the process of restoring the Jesuits; he established several new dioceses in the United States; and he worked to restore Rome after the French occupation. He died on August 20, 1823 after a fall, breaking his hip. He died on the 65th anniversary of his profession as a Benedictine monk.

Pope Benedict XVI named him a Servant of God in 2007.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Ursula Pole Stafford, RIP

Ursula Pole Stafford's mother, brother, father-in-law, and one of her sons lost their heads during the reigns of Henry VIII and Mary I. One of her daughters found favor with Elizabeth I. Ursula died on August 12, 1570. Her mother was Blessed Margaret Pole, the Countess of Salisbury (executed on 27 May 1541); her eldest brother was Henry Pole, First Baron Montagu (executed on 9 January 1539); her father-in-law was Edward Stafford, Third Duke of Buckingham (executed on 17 May 1521); her son was Thomas Stafford (executed on 28 May 1557). Her daughter Dorothy married another Stafford--her distant cousin William, Mary Boleyn's widower--and served as Elizabeth I's Mistress of the Robes, an important role in the Queen's household. Dorothy and her family were staunch Protestants and went into exile during Queen Mary I's reign.

Historian Conor Byrne comments on her family's fortunes and her survival, dying of natural causes with her head still on:

In the space of two years, Ursula had lost both her mother and her eldest brother. It was fortunate for her that her brother Geoffrey was pardoned and managed to escape abroad; notwithstanding this fortune, Ursula surely experienced considerable grief and emotional turmoil. The impact of knowing that her mother had been brutally massacred in the most appalling of circumstances can only be imagined. Luckily, Ursula managed to escape the bloodbath of the Pole family.

Ursula died on 12 August 1570. Her life had been eventful, but she managed to keep her head at a time when Tudor fear and paranoia was rife. She enjoyed greater fortune in the reign of Edward VI, when her husband was promoted to the barony, and as aforementioned her daughter was warmly received at the court of Elizabeth I. Ursula seems to have died in obscure circumstances. We cannot even be sure of where she was buried. She is one of the forgotten royal women of Tudor England, a Yorkist lady perhaps regarded by some as the rightful princess of England.


It's not clear whether or not Ursula remained true to her mother's religion (not to mention her brother Reginald Cardinal Pole, the last Catholic Archbishop of Canterbury). This blog comments that her husband reverted to Catholicism during Mary I's reign. Their son Thomas's rebellion against Mary was based on his concerns about the queen marrying Philip of Spain and belief that he had a better claim to the throne, through his mother being the heir of the Plantagenet Duke of Clarence. Her daughter Dorothy and other children appear to have conformed to the established church--did she, out of expediency?

Note that she died two days before what would have been her mother's 97th birthday (August 14, 1473)!

Friday, August 10, 2018

Suppression of the Observant Friars, 1534

The Observant Friars of Greenwich were the parish priests for Henry VIII's family: their church was the site of his baptism (perhaps), his wedding to Catherine of Aragon in 1509, and both Mary and Elizabeth were baptized there. Before his Great Matter dominated their relationship, Henry VIII admired the Observant Franciscans of Greenwich. According to British History Online:

Henry VIII, in 1513, wrote from his palace of Greenwich to Leo X that he could not sufficiently commend the Observant Friars' strict adherence to poverty, their sincerity, charity and devotion. No Order battled more assiduously against vice, and none were more active in keeping Christ's fold.

From the beginning, however, the Friars sided with Catherine of Aragon in opposing Henry VIII's attempts to have his marriage to her declared null. They were vocal in their opposition, using the pulpit at Sunday Mass, even, to descry Henry's marital ambitions to replace their queen (who might have been a third order Franciscan) with Anne Boleyn. In 1534, things came to a head:

Henry probably hoped to bend the friars to his will at this time. He gave them an alms of 10 marks; (fn. 47) the Princess Elizabeth was christened in the church with great pomp 10 September, (fn. 48) and the minister, warden, and friars of Greenwich begged for the king's pardon 21 December. [1533](fn. 49) But on 13 April, 1534, a royal commission was issued to the provincial priors of the Austin and Black Friars to visit all the friars' houses and bind every friar by oath to acknowledge the king as supreme head of the church and repudiate the pope's authority. (fn. 50) On 14 June Roland Lee and Thomas Bedyll, acting on instructions from the commissioners, visited Richmond, and induced the friars there to entrust their case to four ' discreets' or representatives, who should attend the visitors the next day at Greenwich. On 15 June the visitors tried to induce the Greenwich friars to adopt the same procedure, 'specially to the intent that if the discreets should refuse to consent, it were better after our minds to strain a few than a multitude.' The friars, however, 'stiffly affirmed that where the matter concerned particularly every one of their souls, they would answer particularly every man for himself.' After further discussion, the visitors were compelled to examine each friar separately, and each refused to accept the articles, especially that which denied the papal authority. In answer to all the arguments of the visitors they declared that 'they had professed St. Francis' religion, and in the observance thereof they would live and die.' (fn. 51)

On 17 June two cart-loads of friars drove through London to the Tower, (fn. 52) and it is possible that some of the Greenwich Observants were among them. On or before 11 August the friars were expelled from their convent (fn. 53) (though they seem to have made some kind of submission (fn. 54) ) and distributed in different places, generally in houses of the Grey Friars, where, wrote Chapuys to Charles V, 'they were locked up in chains and treated worse than they could be in prison.' (fn. 55) Some, such as John Forest, were actually in prison in London. (fn. 56) Two of them, inclosed in a poor lodging at the Grey Friars, Stamford, and treated as prisoners, were 'in meetly good case as the world at this time requireth,' and sent to London for their little belongings, including a new Psalter, a pair of socks, a penner and inkhorn. (fn. 57) But the severity of their treatment is shown by the fact that out of 140 Observant Friars thirty-one soon died, (fn. 58) and this does not account for all the deaths. Thomas Bourchier, who was a member of the Greenwich friary in the reign of Mary, gives details of several martyrdoms which probably belong to this time, though the writer assigns them to 1537. (fn. 59) On 19 July Anthony Brookby, formerly of Magdalen College, Oxford, a distinguished scholar, who had been imprisoned and tortured to such an extent that ' for twenty-five days he could not turn in bed or lift his hands to his mouth,' was strangled with his own cord. (fn. 60) On 27 July Thomas Cortt, who had been imprisoned for a sermon against the king in the church of St. Lawrence, London, died in Newgate. (fn. 61) On 3 August Thomas Belchiam, a young priest, who had composed a book against the king, one copy of which he left in the hands of his brethren at Greenwich, died of starvation in Newgate. (fn. 62) No mention of these three friars occurs in extant contemporary authorities, but Bourchier's account representing the tradition of the Order is probably substantially correct, though the names may be misspelt.

It's always sad to read about the religious orders acting against each other--those who were willing to take the oaths and conform to Henry VIII's demands were willing to do his bidding against those were ready to stand against him.--and then it's ironic when you recognize that their compliance did nothing to save their orders in England after 1536. More about the Franciscans in England here.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

An Early Elizabethan Era Martyr, Blessed John Felton

Dom Bede Camm wrote about the first group of Catholic martyrs of the English Reformation beatified by Pope Leo XIII. He discussed the offenses of four of the early Elizabethan martyrs (John Felton, John Storey, Father Thomas Woodhouse, and Thomas Percy, the Earl of Northumberland), noting that each of them had offended Elizabeth I in connection with her temporal power:

Coming now to Felton, Storey, Woodhouse, Percy, whose deaths were connected in one way or another with the Rising or the excommunication, we see that their causes involve many more problems than the lives of the other martyrs do. One might, for instance, discuss their patriotism in so far as they championed the old order, which was being subverted by a monstrous exercise of royal tyranny. One might draw out parallels between them and others, such as Hampden, who are commonly belauded as champions of popular resistance to the encroachments of the Crown, and the comparison would be greatly in favour of the Catholics. But here we are only concerned with the precise question of their martyrdom. Were they executed out of the motive of hatred of the Faith? Were they persecuted for professing the Faith, or for performing some act intimately connected with that profession ? On these points, too, this group of martyrs is somewhat exceptional.

For, whereas all the other martyrs were conspicuous for their inoffensiveness, these four had annoyed the Queen or opposed her titles or temporal claims. If we take a partial view of their cases, and fix our eyes exclusively on their abnormal features, we may feel a doubt about their claim to the honours of martyrdom. But it is needless to say that such a way of looking at them would not only be quite unfair, it would misrepresent the facts. We cannot arrive at the truth without considering the cases in their surroundings ; we must consider these executions as parts of a cruel persecution?

Speaking of Blessed John Felton, Dom Camm comments:

In Felton's case, if we regard nothing but the fact of his having set up the Bull of Deposition, we might remain uncertain about his claim to martyrdom. It is not everyone who meets his death while executing the sentences of an ecclesiastical court who is a martyr, for such sentences may and do provoke many passions besides hatred of the Faith. Even Catholic princes who would on no account have tampered with the faith or discipline of the Church, have been known to execute Papal messengers who brought them notice of excommunication, and yet no one pretends that such messengers deserve to be canonized as martyrs. But if we enlarge our view, and regard the whole of the circumstances of Felton's case, we at once see how different his was from that just described. He was not executed by a Catholic unwilling to tamper with the liberties of the Church, but by a persecutor of the Church eager to extinguish every single one of its liberties. Nor did either side regard the exercise of Papal authority in question as an issue unconnected with the continuance of the old Faith in this country. It seemed to be the only remedy in that desperate struggle. Felton took what seemed the last chance "to secure that the Pope's Apostolic voice should be heard, and his Apostolic judgment made known among his English flock. Death endured for that cause was true martyrdom."

As the Dictionary of National Biography describes him, Felton was a

catholic (sic) layman, [and] was descended from an ancient family in Norfolk. He was a gentleman of large property, and resided at Bermondsey Abbey, near Southwark, Surrey. His wife had been maid of honour to Queen Mary, who just before her death recommended her to Queen Elizabeth. Indeed, Elizabeth held her in great respect, for they had been friends and companions in childhood, and on this account Mrs. Felton was favoured with a special grant to keep a priest in her house. When Pius V published the bull of excommunication and deprivation against Elizabeth, Felton obtained copies of it from the Spanish ambassador's chaplain, who immediately left the kingdom. Felton published the bull in this country by affixing a copy to the gates of the Bishop of London's palace between two and three o'clock of the morning of 15 May 1570. The government, surprised at and alarmed by this daring deed, at once ordered a general search to be made in all suspected places, and another copy of the bull was discovered in the chambers of a student of Lincoln's Inn, who confessed, when put to the rack, that he had received it from Felton. The next day the lord mayor, the lord chief justice, and the two sheriffs of London, with five hundred halberdiers, surrounded Bermondsey Abbey early in the morning. Felton, guessing their errand, opened the doors and gave himself into their custody, frankly admitting that he had set up the bull. He was conveyed to the Tower, where he was placed on the rack, but he resolutely refused to make any further confession.

He was arraigned at Guildhall on 4 Aug. 1570, and on the 8th of the same month was drawn on a sledge to St. Paul's churchyard, where he was hanged in front of the episcopal palace. He said that he gloried in the deed, and proclaimed himself a martyr to the papal supremacy. Though he gave the queen no other title than that of the Pretender, he asked her pardon if he had injured her; and in token that he bore her no malice, he sent her a present, by the Earl of Essex, of a diamond ring, worth 400l., which he drew from his finger. His body was beheaded and quartered, ‘and carried to Newgate to be parboiled, and so set up, as the other rebels were.’

Felton was low of stature, and of a black complexion; naturally of a warm temper, and almost ungovernable where the interest of his religion was concerned. His plate and jewels, valued at 33,000 pounds, were seized for the queen's use. He was beatified by decree of Pope Leo XIII, dated 29 Dec. 1886.

Monday, August 6, 2018

Parker and Jonson

Matthew Parker, the future Archbishop of Canterbury (1559-1575) was born during reign of Henry VII, on August 6, 1504. He attended the University of Cambridge at Corpus Christi college and was influenced by the Cambridge reformers, who were bringing Lutheran ideas of reform to England.

Anne Boleyn appointed Parker her chaplain and also made sure he received other preferments. He survived her fall and execution, and became one of Henry VIII's chaplains. He was a moderate reformer during the reign of Henry VIII; he accepted the more conservative reforms Henry demanded in 1539 and 1540.

When Henry VIII died, Parker got married; under Edward VI he supported the efforts of John Dudley, the Duke of Northumberland to continue the reformation. He became friends with Martin Bucer and preached his funeral sermon in 1551. When Mary I came to the throne, Parker lost all his benefices because he was married, but he was otherwise free and did not seek exile. Even though he had been close to Northumberland he was not arrested or harrassed in any way during Mary's reign.

Elizabeth I named him Archbishop of Canterbury in 1559; he was never involved in matters of state and never part of her Privy Counsel. He struggled throughout his tenure to maintain uniformity in the Church of England and against the puritan reformers who wished to eliminate any vestiges of Catholicism in the established Church. For instance, the issue of clerical vestments during Book of Common Prayer services involved Parker in controversy that he thought interferred with the true course of reform.

His friendship with Martin Bucer must have influenced him in this matter, for Bucer tried to stay out of the same type of controversies over vestments and the eucharist during his exile in England. As Pollard wrote of Parker in the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica: "He distrusted popular enthusiasm, and he wrote in horror of the idea that “the people” should be the reformers of the Church. He was not inspiring as a leader of religion; and no dogma, no original theory of church government, no prayer-book, not even a tract or a hymn is associated with his name. The 56 volumes published by the Parker Society include only one by its eponymous hero, and that is a volume of correspondence. He was a disciplinarian, a scholar, a modest and moderate man of genuine piety and irreproachable morals."

Thomas Tallis composed nine psalm tunes for Archbishop Parker's Psalter: Man blest no doubt (Psalm 1); Let God arise in majesty (Psalm 68); Why fum'th in Fight (Psalm 2); O come in one to praise the Lord (Psalm 95); E'en like the hunted hind (Psalm 42); Expend, O Lord, my plaint (Psalm 5); Why brag'st in malice high (Psalm 52); God grant with grace (Psalm 67); Come Holy Ghost, eternal God (Veni Creator). Ralph Vaughn Williams used the psalm tune for "Why Fum'th in Fight" in his "Fantasia on a theme of Thomas Tallis".

Matthew Parker, according to his alma mater, contributed greatly to Anglo-Saxon studies:

A benefactor to the University of Cambridge, Parker's greatest tangible legacy is his library of manuscripts and early printed books entrusted to Corpus Christi College in 1574. He was an avid book collector, salvaging medieval manuscripts dispersed at the dissolution of the monasteries; he was particularly keen to preserve materials relating to Anglo-Saxon England, motivated by his search for evidence of an ancient English-speaking Church independent of Rome. The extraordinary collection of documents that resulted from his efforts is still housed at Corpus Christi College, and consists of items spanning from the sixth-century Gospels of St. Augustine to sixteenth-century records relating to the English Reformation.

There's a website with many scans of materials in the Parker Library.

Ben Jonson, the poet and playwright, died on August 6, 1637. He was born circa June 11, 1572 and for 12 dangerous years, from the time he was imprisoned in 1598 until after King Henry IV of France was assassinated in 1610, Ben Jonson was a Catholic. He paid Recusancy fines, refused to take Communion in the Church of England, and faced accusations of "persuading to popery". Robert S. Miola explores Ben Jonson's conversion and recantation of his conversion in this 2001 article from Renaissance and Reformation. Miola notes that even after he began to take Communion in the Church of England, Jonson remained interested in Catholic theology and doctrine, with many Catholic books in his extensive private library, including Thomas Stapleton's book about St. Thomas the Apostle, St. Thomas a Becket, and Sir Thomas More (Tres Thomae). Jonson often referenced the Blessed Virgin Mary in distinctly Catholic tones and tropes, as in this poem for Queen Henrietta Maria, "An
Epigram to the Queen, Then Lying In" (1630):

Hail Mary, full of grace, it once was said,
And by an angel, to the blessed'st maid,
The mother of our Lord: why may not I
(Without profaneness) yet, a poet, cry
Hail Mary, full of honours, to my queen,
The mother of our prince? When was there seen
(Except the joy that the first Mary brought,
Whereby the safety of mankind was wrought)
So general a gladness to an isle,
To make the hearts of a whole nation smile,
As in this prince? Let it be lawful, so
To compare small with great, as still we owe
Glory to God. Then, hail to Mary! Spring
Of so much safety to the realm, and king.

After suffering a series of strokes, Jonson died on August 6 and was buried in Westminster Abbey on August 9, 1637. His poem "A Hymn to God the Father" is an appropriate remembrance:

Hear me, O God! 
A broken heart 
Is my best part. 
Use still thy rod, 
That I may prove 
Therein thy Love. 

If thou hadst not 
Been stern to me, 
But left me free, 
I had forgot 
Myself and thee. 

For sin's so sweet, 
As minds ill-bent 
Rarely repent, 
Until they meet 
Their punishment. 

Who more can crave 
Than thou hast done? 
That gav'st a Son, 
To free a slave, 
First made of nought; 
With all since bought. 

Sin, Death, and Hell 
His glorious name 
Quite overcame, 
Yet I rebel 
And slight the same. 

But I'll come in 
Before my loss 
Me farther toss, 
As sure to win 
Under His cross. 

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Requiem Mass and Burial of Anne of Cleves


Anne of Cleves, Henry VIII's fourth wife, died on July 16, 1557 during the reign of Mary I. On August 4 she was buried in Westminster Abbey, according to Catholic ritual. As Tracy Borman argues in this History Today article, she may have been the most successful of Henry's wives: she survived him and lived happily ever after. Anne accepted the annulment settlement Henry granted her, acceded to his wishes, and ended up with land and comfort. After Henry's marriage to Catherine Howard ended with her beheading, Anne might have married Henry again:

Speculation began at once about who would be the king’s next wife. Among the potential candidates was Anne of Cleves. She had been careful to remain on good terms with Henry after their annulment, and had shown no signs of resentment at being so humiliatingly rejected. She had been a regular visitor to court and had also received several visits from her former husband, which by all accounts had been very convivial. The pair had exchanged New Year’s gifts in 1542. But the king made no indication of wishing to revive their union, and although Anne was rumoured to be bitterly disappointed when he married his sixth and final wife, Katherine Parr, this may have been just for show.

By that time, Anne was comfortably ensconced at Hever with all the riches and honours of being a queen, but none of the disadvantages of being married to the ageing, bloated and increasingly tyrannical king. She remained there for the rest of her days, outliving her estranged husband, who died in 1547 and was succeeded by Edward, his nine-year-old son.


She avoided Court during Edward VI's reign but soon returned when Mary succeeded:

The archetypal ‘merry widow’ (or divorcee), Anne also outlived Henry’s son, Edward, who died after just six years on the throne. He was succeeded by his elder half-sister Mary, with whom Anne was still on good terms. She and Elizabeth were accorded the place of honour at Mary’s lavish coronation. The two women shared an open chariot which was richly arrayed with crimson velvet and “cloth of silver”. Anne and her younger stepdaughter were also given new dresses made from a similarly rich silver material, and in the procession to Westminster Abbey they walked together directly behind the new queen.

But neither Anne nor Elizabeth would long enjoy Mary’s favour. Their reformist religious views set them at odds with the new conservative Catholic regime, and there were soon rumours that the two women were conspiring against the queen. These were almost certainly untrue: Anne was far too sensible to take such a risk and had no grudge against Mary. Fortunately, Mary retained enough of her former affection for Anne not to act against her.

With characteristic discretion, Anne left court soon after Mary’s accession, resolved to live out her days quietly at Hever and Chelsea – another manor left to her by Henry. It was while staying at the latter that Anne died on 16 July 1557, after a short illness. Although she was only 41 years of age, she had outlived each of Henry VIII’s five other wives – and had had a happier ending than any of them.


Borman's comments about Anne's "reformist religious views" are confusing, since she was buried, according to Westminster Abbey, with Catholic Rites as "Anne had wanted". If she was a Protestant, she would not have wanted a Catholic Requiem Funeral Mass, which was sung by the Abbot of Westminster, John Feckenham. Such a Mass would be replete with prayers for the dead, which a Protestant reformist would probably not have wanted, having rejected the doctrine of Purgatorial perfecting before Heaven. Nancy Bilyeau notes that Anne indeed wanted to be buried with “the suffrages of the holy church according to the Catholic faith.” And the Tudor Times notes, Anne had been born and raised a Catholic (she conformed to Henry's wishes to become an Anglican and returned to the Catholic Church at Mary's request):

During Anne’s early childhood, a large part of the empire, roughly correspondingly to Germany, was convulsed by the religious upheaval instigated by the Augustinian monk, Martin Luther, followed by the hugely destructive Peasants’ War. This tumult led to many of the northern Imperial states seeking to reduce, or even throw off altogether, the control of the Empire in secular matters, and the Roman Catholic hierarchy in religious matters.

In Cleves, Anne’s father did not join the Lutheran party overtly, and Anne was brought up as a Catholic (contrary to what is often supposed). Duke John sought reform of the Church within his territories, but he looked to Erasmus rather than Luther for guidance. Duchess Maria was far less interested in ecclesiastical reform than her husband.


Therefore, the term "reformist religious views" would have to be carefully defined. Many Catholics wanted the Church to be reformed and made more faithful and holy--that doesn't mean they rejected certain Catholic doctrine, worship and devotion or that they became Lutherans. Whether or not Erasmus laid the egg that Luther hatched, Erasmus remained a Catholic.

One more note about her Catholic funeral: the Princess Elizabeth, later Queen Elizabeth I, was the chief mourner, remaining with Anne's body in state in the Choir of Westminster Abbey, listening to Abbot Feckenham's Catholic sermon on the Psalms, and attending the Requiem, hearing the prayers for Anne and the chant of Dies Irae:

Dies irae, dies illa
solvet saeclum in favilla:
teste David cum Sibylla.

Quantus tremor est futurus,
quando judex est venturus,
cuncta stricte discussurus!

Tuba mirum spargens sonum
per sepulcra regionum,
coget omnes ante thronum.

Mors stupebit et natura,
cum resurget creatura,
judicanti responsura.

Liber scriptus proferetur,
in quo totum continetur,
unde mundus judicetur.

Judex ergo cum sedebit,
quidquid latet apparebit:
nil inultum remanebit.

Quid sum miser tunc dicturus?
Quem patronum rogaturus,
cum vix justus sit securus?

Rex tremendae majestatis,
qui salvandos salvas gratis,
salva me fons pietatis.

Recordare, Jesu pie,
quod sum causa tuae viae:
ne me perdas illa die.

Quaerens me, sedisti lassus:
redemisti Crucem passus:
tantus labor non sit cassus.

Juste judex ultionis,
donum fac remissionis
ante diem rationis.

Ingemisco, tamquam reus:
culpa rubet vultus meus:
supplicanti parce, Deus.

Qui Mariam absolvisti,
et latronem exaudisti,
mihi quoque spem dedisti.

Preces meae non sunt dignae:
sed tu bonus fac benigne,
ne perenni cremer igne.

Inter oves locum praesta,
et ab haedis me sequestra,
statuens in parte dextra.

Confutatis maledictis,
flammis acribus addictis:
voca me cum benedictis.

Oro supplex et acclinis,
cor contritum quasi cinis:
gere curam mei finis.

Lacrimosa dies illa,
qua resurget ex favilla
judicandus homo reus.

Huic ergo parce, Deus:
pie Jesu Domine,
dona eis requiem. Amen.


The monks of the Benedictine Abbey would have prayed for Anne as she and Mary wished through the ages. But when Mary died and Elizabeth came to the throne, Elizabeth would reject Abbot Feckenham's ceremonial greeting, suppress Westminster Abbey, and place the Abbot under arrest. Her religious settlement, in the Thirty-Nine Articles, would again reject prayers for the dead and the doctrine of Purgatory.

Image credit: Doom Painting, St Mary's Church, North Leigh, Oxfordshire, 15th century

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

The Holy Maccabean Martyrs


In the Orthodox Church and on the calendars of the Extraordinary Form of the Latin Rite AND of the Eastern or Byzantine Catholic Rite, today is the feast of the Holy Maccabean Martyrs, the prophet St. Eleazar, the mother (Solomonia) and her seven sons (Abim, Antonius, Gurias, Eleazar, Eusebonus, Alimus and Marcellus) who were tortured and killed because they would not eat pig flesh, violating Jewish law, when the Syrian King Antiochus Epiphanes ordered them to. Their stories are told in the second book of Maccabees 6:18–7:42.

Their resistance and heroism were remembered on the Catholic calendar because they are models of obedience to God's law rather than the civil law. At least one English Catholic martyr, Blessed John Slade, invoked the Holy Maccabean martyrs during his trial for recusancy, refusing to acknowledge Elizabeth I as the Governor of the Christian Church in England.

Abbot Gueranger wrote about the mother and her sons in The Liturgical Year:

The Holy Ghost, who would Himself hand down to posterity the acts of the protomartyr of the New Law, did the same with regard to the passion of Stephen's glorious predecessors in the ages of expectation. Indeed, it was he who then, as under the law of love, inspired with both words and courage these valiant brothers, and their still more admirable mother, who, seeing her seven sons one after the other suffering the most horrible tortures, uttered nothing but burning exhortations to die. Surrounded by their mutilated bodies, she mocked the tyrant who, in false pity, wished her to persuade at least the youngest to save his life; she bent over the last child of her tender love and said to him: My son, have pity upon me, that bore thee nine months in my womb, and gave thee suck three years, and nourished thee, and brought thee up unto this age. I beseech thee, my son, look upon Heaven and earth, and all that is in them: and consider that God made them out of nothing and mankind also: so thou shalt not fear this tormentor, receive death, that in that mercy I may receive thee again with thy brethren (2 Mach. 7:27, 28, 29). And the intrepid youth ran in his innocence to the tortures; and the incomparable mother followed her sons.

The Breviary Lesson is taken from a sermon of St. Gregory Nazianzen:

What [shall I say] of the Maccabees? For this festal day is celebrated in their name by this present congregation. Although by many they are not held in honor, because they did not enter on the conflict after Christ, yet they are worthy to be honored by all, because they showed courage and constancy in defense of the laws and institutions of their fathers. For if they suffered martyrdom before the Passion of Christ, what would they have done, if they had suffered persecution after Christ, and if they had had, as a model to be imitated, His death, which He accepted for our salvation? For, if they showed such and so great a courage, when they had no example before them, would they not have been even more courageous in the battle, if they had had that example before their eyes? There is even a certain mystical and hidden reason, which seems highly probable to me, and to all who love God, that none of those who suffered martyrdom before the coming of Christ could have attained to it without faith in Christ.


EWTN provides this information about other Old Testament figures remembered on the Eastern Catholic calendar (from ZENIT in 2007):

After our reply on invoking Old Testament saints (Oct. 30) several readers suggested that I had given insufficient consideration to the fact that almost all the Eastern Catholic Churches do have specific feast days for Old Testament figures.

The objection is valid, although some such oversights are almost inevitable, as a result of the relatively brief extension of our replies as well as of our incomplete knowledge of the Eastern liturgies. This goes to show that we often learn more from our readers than we manage to impart.

Among the celebrations readers mentioned were some saints of the Melkite (Greek or Byzantine Catholic) calendar. A reader cites "Malachi, Jan. 3; Zechariah, Feb. 8; Job, May 6; Amos, June 15; Ezekiel, July 23; Eleazar, the Seven Holy Maccabees, their mother Salome, Aug. 1; Joshua and Moses, Sept. 1 and 4; Hosea, Oct. 17; Daniel and the Three Holy Youths, Dec. 17."

Many of the other holy ones celebrated are grouped toward the last four months of the year. Also, the reader notes: "The Sunday between Dec. 11 and 17 commemorates the holy ancestors of Christ, and the Sunday between Dec. 18 and 24 commemorates all the Old Testament saints from Abraham to Joseph, the husband of Mary."

Besides St. Joseph, both the Latin and Eastern calendars celebrate some saints who are on the frontier between the Old and New Testaments. These include Joachim and Anna, Simeon and the prophetess Anna, Zechariah and Elizabeth, and St. John the Baptist.

Although the Maccabean martyrs are not on the current Roman Rite liturgical calendar, they are still worthy of our devotion and, God help us, of our imitation!