Friday, April 12, 2024

Preview: "Christian Reverence" on the Son Rise Morning Show

I'll start a new series with the Son Rise Morning Show Monday, April 15 (Tax Day!) with one of Saint John Henry Newman's Parochial and Plain Sermons, "Christian Reverence" ("Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling." Psalm 2:11.)

I'll be on at my usual time, about 7:50 a.m. Eastern/6:50 a.m. Central. Listen live here or catch the podcast later.

Newman begins this sermon with a question:

WHY did Christ show Himself to so few witnesses after He rose from the dead? 

And then provides the answer:

Because He was a King . . . Kings do not court the multitude, or show themselves as a spectacle at the will of others. They are the rulers of their people, and have their state as such, and are reverently waited on by their great men: and when they show themselves, they do so out of their condescension. They act by means of their servants, and must be sought by those who would gain favours from them.

Newman then continues to show that Jesus conducted Himself in the same way before His Passion and Resurrection: 

. . . even before He entered into His glory, Christ spoke and acted as a King. . . . When He taught, warned, pitied, prayed for, His ignorant hearers, He never allowed them to relax their reverence or to overlook His condescension. Nay, He did not allow them to praise Him aloud, and publish His acts of grace; as if what is called popularity would be a dishonour to His holy name, and the applause of men would imply their right to censure. The world's praise is akin to contempt. Our Lord delights in the tribute of the secret heart. Such was His conduct in the days of His flesh. Does it not interpret His dealings with us after His resurrection? He who was so reserved in His communications of Himself, even when He came to minister, much more would withdraw Himself from the eyes of men when He was exalted over all things.

As he notes, no humans saw Jesus rise from the tomb: the Angels did, but not even the soldiers set to guard the tomb, who were asleep. The Risen Christ chooses to whom and when He will appear, and Newman catalogs those appearances:

First of all, He appeared to Mary Magdalene in the garden itself where He had been buried; then to the other women who ministered unto Him; then to the two disciples travelling to Emmaus; then to all the Apostles separately; besides, to Peter and to James; and to Thomas in the presence of them all. Yet not even these, His friends, had free access to Him. He said to Mary, "Touch Me not." He came and left them according to His own pleasure. When they saw Him, they felt an awe which they had not felt during His ministry. While they doubted if it were He, "None of them," St. John says, "durst ask Him, Who art Thou? believing that it was the Lord." [John xxi. 12.] However, as kings have their days of state, on which they show themselves publicly to their subjects, so our Lord appointed a meeting of His disciples, when they might see Him. He had determined this even before His crucifixion; and the Angels reminded them of it. "He goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see Him, as He said unto you." [Mark xvi. 7.] The place of meeting was a mountain; the same (it is supposed) as that on which He had been transfigured; and the number who saw Him there was five hundred at once, if we join St. Paul's account to that in the Gospels. At length, after forty days, He was taken from them; He ascended up, "and a cloud received Him out of their sight."

Then Newman turns to his congregation and applies these reactions of the Apostles to them (us):

Are we to feel less humble veneration for Him now, than His Apostles then? Though He is our Savior, and has removed all slavish fear of death and judgment, are we, therefore, to make light of the prospect before us, as if we were sure of that reward which He bids us struggle for? Assuredly, we are still to "serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with reverence,"—to "kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and so we perish from the right way, if His wrath be kindled, yea but a little." In a Christian's course, fear and love must go together. And this is the lesson to be deduced from our Saviour's withdrawing from the world after His resurrection. He showed His love for men by dying for them, and rising again. He maintained His honour and great glory by retiring from them when His merciful purpose was attained, that they might seek Him if they would find Him. He ascended to His Father out of our sight. Sinners would be ill company for the exalted King of Saints. When we have been duly prepared to see Him, we shall be given to approach Him.

In heaven, love will absorb fear; but in this world, fear and love must go together. No one can love God aright without fearing Him; though many fear Him, and yet do not love Him. . . .

Now how does this apply to us here assembled? Are we in danger of speaking or thinking of Christ irreverently?

Even if we are not, Newman warns us not to even to seem to speak or think of Christ without that fear and love of reverence, lest we "allow ourselves to appear profane" and then actually become irreverent "while we are pretending to be so" out of fear of appearing weak to others. (Men do not begin by intending to dishonour God; but they are afraid of the ridicule of others: they are ashamed of appearing religious; and thus are led to pretend that they are worse than they really are. They say things which they do not mean; and, by a miserable weakness, allow actions and habits to be imputed to them which they dare not really indulge in. Hence, they affect a liberty of speech which only befits the companions of evil spirits.)

He warns that such careless language will affect our hearts and our thoughts eventually, so we must not start down that path to becoming "cold, indifferent, [and] profane".

And what do we do if we encounter those, who may be baptized Christian, who did start down that path and now  "are in heart infidels" and "may attempt to disguise their own unbelief under pretence of objecting to one or other of the doctrines or ordinances of religion" and finally "should a time of temptation come, when it would be safe to show themselves as they really are, they will (almost unawares) throw off their profession of Christianity, and join themselves to the scoffing world"?

Newman warns us to tread lightly, since we are sinners too:

We must not take advantage (so to say) of His goodness; or misuse the powers committed to us. Never must we solicitously press the truth upon those who do not profit by what they already possess. It dishonours Christ, while it does the scorner harm, not good. It is casting pearls before swine. We must wait for all opportunities of being useful to men, but beware of attempting too much at once. We must impart the Scripture doctrines, in measure and season, as they can bear them; not being eager to recount them all, rather, hiding them from the world. Seldom must we engage in controversy or dispute; for it lowers the sacred truths to make them a subject for ordinary debate. Common propriety suggests rules like these at once. Who would speak freely about some revered friend in the presence of those who did not value him? or who would think he could with a few words overcome their indifference towards him? or who would hastily dispute about him when his hearers had no desire to be made love him?

Rather, shunning all intemperate words, let us show our light before men by our works. Here we must be safe. In doing justice, showing mercy, speaking the truth, resisting sin, obeying the Church,—in thus glorifying God, there can be no irreverence. And, above all, let us look at home, check all bad thoughts, presumptuous imaginings, vain desires, discontented murmurings, self-complacent reflections, and so in our hearts ever honour Him in secret, whom we reverence by open profession.

May God guide us in a dangerous world; and deliver us from evil. And may He rouse to serious thought, by the power of His Spirit, all who are living in profaneness or unconcern!

Saint John Henry Newman, pray for us!

Tuesday, April 9, 2024

Constantinople in April, 1182: The Massacre of the Latins

I received this book as premium for a charitable contribution I made. It's from Catholic Answers and in both the subtitle and the book description, there's a defiant tone:

What if there’s a better Christian religion than Catholicism? One that has true apostolic doctrines, a more beautiful and ancient liturgy, and freedom from all that “pope” baggage—and valid sacraments, too.

That’s what apologists for Eastern Orthodoxy are selling. In a time of uncertainty and confusion for many Catholics, Orthodox challenges to the Church’s history, teaching, worship, and authority structure have been drawing Catholics away in hope of greener pastures in the East.

But those thinking of jumping off the barque of Peter toward the siren song of Eastern Orthodoxy—and for Protestants who’d like Catholicism’s historical pedigree without all the mess—need to think twice. In
Answering Orthodoxy, Michael Lofton (Reason & Theology Podcast) shows why, with a thorough and critical refutation of Orthodox attacks against the Church.

Formerly Eastern Orthodox himself, Lofton has the knowledge and experience to uncover the flaws in the most common anti-Catholic arguments from Orthodoxy’s top advocates. From intricate doctrinal debates to the historical flubs and foibles of the popes, right on down to the basic understandings (and misunderstandings) of the sacraments Catholics and Orthodox share but don’t always agree on,
Answering Orthodoxy shows where Orthodox attacks go wrong. In so doing, he not only strengthens Catholic conviction in the truth of the Faith, but also shows the Orthodox that there’s not as much distance between them and the Church as they might think, and unity with Rome might be closer than ever.

Whether you’re frustrated with today’s Church and find yourself attracted to Orthodoxy’s antiquity, beauty, and religious rigor, or you’re just looking to learn the best Catholic responses to Orthodox arguments,
Answering Orthodoxy will equip and edify you.

I admit I've only begun to read the book, but in the Introduction, "The History of the Catholic and Orthodox Divide" the author Michael Lofton mentioned an event I had never heard of: "The Massacre of the Latins" in Constantinople. He offers one sentence:

"In the later twelfth century, Constantinople massacred its Latin Catholic inhabitants for political reasons."

He should have said more: 

Mobs in Constantinople, unimpeded by Andronikos I Komnenos, who was leading a coup to overthrow the regent, Empress Maria of Antioch and her son, Emperor Alexios II Komnenos, attacked the Latin quarter. Nearly all the 60,000 Latin-rite Catholics, mostly from Pisa and Genoa, were massacred. The reasons were not just political, but economic, since the Italians were so dominant in the maritime trade and financial sectors, with the encouragement of the former Emperor Manuel I Komnenos, Maria's husband and Alexios' father.

The usual rape and pillaging occurred, with Latin-rite Catholic churches destroyed, etc. This website offers some detail from Byzantium and Venice: A Study in Diplomatic and Cultural Relations from Cambridge University Press:

Donald M. Nicol wrote in Byzantium and Venice that “the people needed no encouragement. With an enthusiasm fired by years of resentment they set about the massacre of all the foreigners that they could find. They directed their fury mainly against the merchant quarters along the Golden Horn. Many had sensed what was coming with the arrival of Andronikos Komnenos and made their escape by sea. Of those who remained, the Pisans and Genoese were the main victims. The slaughter was appalling. The Byzantine clergy shamelessly encouraged the mob to seek out Latin monks and priests. The pope’s legate to Constantinople, the Cardinal John, was decapitated and his severed head was dragged through the streets tied to the tail of a dog. At the end some 4000 westerners who had survived the massacre were rounded up and sold as slaves to the Turks. Those who had escaped by ship took their revenge by burning and looting the Byzantine monasteries on the coasts and islands of the Aegean Sea.”

After Andronikos I Komnenos imprisoned the regent, Maria of Antioch, he forced her son, Alexios II Komnenos to condemn her to death and then to recognize Andronikos as the new emperor, after which he was executed. She was reportedly strangled to death and buried secretly.

Maria of Antioch was one of the offspring of Raymond of Poitiers and Constance of Antioch, daughter of Bohemund II of Antioch and Alice of Jerusalem/Antioch (one of the daughters of King Baldwin II of Jerusalem)! These names are so redolent of twelfth century history, as the First and Second Crusades brought the noble families of Europe in positions of power in the East.

Reading this little bit of history, all inspired by one sentence in the Introduction of a book, reminded me of course, of Pope Saint John Paul II's apology to the Orthodox Church of Greece on May 4, 2001 for the Rape of Constantinople during the Fourth Crusade :

Certainly, we are burdened by past and present controversies and by enduring misunderstandings. But in a spirit of mutual charity these can and must be overcome, for that is what the Lord asks of us. Clearly there is a need for a liberating process of purification of memory. For the occasions past and present, when sons and daughters of the Catholic Church have sinned by action or omission against their Orthodox brothers and sisters, may the Lord grant us the forgiveness we beg of him.

Some memories are especially painful, and some events of the distant past have left deep wounds in the minds and hearts of people to this day. I am thinking of the disastrous sack of the imperial city of Constantinople, which was for so long the bastion of Christianity in the East. It is tragic that the assailants, who had set out to secure free access for Christians to the Holy Land, turned against their own brothers in the faith. The fact that they were Latin Christians fills Catholics with deep regret. How can we fail to see here the mysterium iniquitatis at work in the human heart? To God alone belongs judgement, and therefore we entrust the heavy burden of the past to his endless mercy, imploring him to heal the wounds which still cause suffering to the spirit of the Greek people. Together we must work for this healing if the Europe now emerging is to be true to its identity, which is inseparable from the Christian humanism shared by East and West.

Before that, in 1995, Pope John Paul II had issued two important documents, Ut Unim Sint (That All May be One) and Orientale Lumen (Light of the East), in which he discussed, among more general principles and issues, in particular ecumenical efforts reaching out to the Eastern Orthodox Churches, including not just doctrinal issues, but those controversies and misunderstandings of the past in paragraphs 50 through 61 of Ut Unim Sint. He dedicated Orientale Lumen to more detailed discussion of his regard for the riches of Eastern Orthodox Christianity.

I'll let you know more about the book, Answering Orthodoxy, when I've finished it!

Image Source (Public Domain): Empress Maria of Antioch, from a manuscript now in the Biblioteca Apostólica Vaticana.

Tuesday, April 2, 2024

Book Review: "Apostles of Empire: The Jesuits and New France"

I have seen reviews (and even the back cover blurb) of this book calling it "revisionist history"; I'd prefer to call it careful history. The author, Bronwen McShea, neither attacks nor defends what the Jesuits did when spreading the Gospel in North America. It's neither hagiography nor a lurid exposé of their efforts both to convert the native population to Christianity and to bring them into the French empire. I say this because throughout the text, McShea demonstrates how the Jesuits both cooperated with the French monarchy and ruling classes to spread the ideals of their native culture and the Catholic faith among the native tribes in North America and differed with the goals and methods of the French monarchy and ruling classes in achieving their missionary efforts. Events in France, like the Fronde, and wars in Europe and North America often thwarted the goals of the Jesuit missionaries to provide protection, education, religious formation, medicine, and other assistance to the Indigenous peoples. While several French elites, like Marie-Madeleine de Vignerot, duchesse d'Aigullon, Francois Sublet de Noyers, and Marguerite d'Alegre, the Marquise de Bauge, and others, contributed to the Jesuits' religious, educational, and charitable efforts, the entity they wanted support from to achieve the other goal of establishing French culture and power in North America, the monarchy and its administration--including military and financial aid--was the one that seemed reluctant to support them as the Society of Jesus desired.

As an example of the cooperation, the Jesuits indeed wanted to encourage cooperation between their Indigenous allies against the Iroquois tribes in colonial organization and military conflict. This continued into the conflict between English and French colonizing efforts in the later seventeenth century in Nine Year's War, etc. They even continued these efforts when the French stopped sending military aid. As an example of their disagreement with the methods and goals of the French monarchy especially during the personal reign of Louis XIV and the premiership of Colbert, the Jesuit missionaries deplored the dangers of the brandy trade and Colbert's encouragement of intermarriage between the Frenchmen and the Indigenous women. The first because it could cause drunkenness and violence in the colonial settlements and the second because the Frenchmen were not worthy of the excellence of the Abenaki or Huron women!

Throughout the book, McShea carefully describes the missionary efforts of the Jesuits in New France, often by telling the stories of the individual Jesuits, their vocations, formation in Old and New France, and missionary careers. At the end of the book, as the Society of Jesus was suppressed first in France by King Louis XV and then throughout the world (except Russia!) by Pope Clement XIV, McShea describes the last days of the remaining Jesuit missionaries in France and in Canada (now held by the English), including two who fell victim to the French Revolution (Fathers Simeon Le Bansais and Julien-Francois Derville) when they returned to France and one who welcomed Benjamin Franklin and the Carroll cousins to Quebec in 1776 (Father Pierre-Rene Floquet). 

The publisher, the University of Nebraska Press describes the book as:

Winner of the 2020 Catholic Press Association Book Award in History

Apostles of Empire is a revisionist history of the French Jesuit mission to Indigenous North Americans in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, offering a comprehensive view of a transatlantic enterprise with integral secular concerns. Between 1611 and 1764, 320 Jesuits were sent from France to North America to serve as missionaries. Most labored in colonial New France, a vast territory comprising eastern Canada and the Great Lakes region, inhabited by diverse Native American populations. Although committed to spreading Catholic doctrines and rituals and adapting them to diverse Indigenous cultures, these missionaries also devoted significant energy to more worldly concerns, particularly the transatlantic expansion of the absolutist-era Bourbon state and the importation of the culture of elite, urban French society.

Apostles of Empire Bronwen McShea accounts for these secular dimensions of the mission’s history through candid portraits of Jesuits engaged in a range of activities. We see them not only preaching and catechizing in terms borrowed from Indigenous idioms but also cultivating trade and military partnerships between the French and various Indian tribes. McShea shows how the Jesuits’ robust conceptions of secular spheres of Christian action informed their efforts from both sides of the Atlantic to build up a French and Catholic empire in North America through Indigenous cooperation.

Please find additional comments below:

Table of Contents (I've added the subtitles in the chapters)

List of Illustrations
--Historiographical Interventions
--Sources and Interpretive Approaches
--Men of this World

Note on Primary Sources

Part 1. Foundations and the Era of the Parisian Relations

1. A Mission for France
--A Young Jesuit in Bourbon Paris (Paul Le Jeune)
--French Expansions and Missions before 1632
--Lay Metropolitan Support and Sebastien Cramoisy's Press
--Working for France's "Powerful Genius"

(Throughout this chapter McShea establishes the importance of the Jesuit Relations, the reports written by the Jesuit missionaries and published in Paris by Sebastien Cramoisy, who "may have been the layman most crucial to the early success of the Jesuit mission to New France", p. 20)

2. Rescuing the “Poor Miserable Savage”
--"At the Best, Their Riches are Only Poverty"
--"Voila, Their Fine Eating"
--"The Cabins on This Country Are Neither Louvres Nor Palaces"
--"I Mocked Their Superstitions"
--Natives as Carnival "Maskers," "Sorcerers," and "Charlatans"

(Throughout this chapter McShea compares the Paul Le Jeune's descriptions of the poverty, bad food, and primitive living quarters of the natives in North America to the poverty, bad food, and primitive living quarters of the rural and urban poor in France!)

3. Surviving the Beaver Wars and the Fronde
--A Political Mission in France
--A Martyr for Christ and New France (St. Isaac Jogues)
--Maneuvers during the Fronde
--A New Holy War for the "Heirs of Saint Louis"

4. Exporting and Importing Catholic Charity
--Social Charity at the Sillery Reserve
--The Huron Refugee Crisis
--Diversifying Charitable Ministries and New Transatlantic Challenges
--"Give to Many Poor People and to Many Kinds"

Part 2. A Longue Durée of War and Metropolitan Neglect

5. Crusading for Iroquois Country
--The Carignon-Salieres Campaign and the Iroquois Mission
--Western Expansion and Renewed War
--The Nine Years War and the Peace of Montreal
--Queen Anne's War
--Warfare and Conversion

6. Cultivating an Indigenous Colonial Aristocracy
--To "Civilize" the Natives or "Play the Savage"?
--Frustrations with the Colonial French

7. Losing Paris
--The End of the Cramoisy Relations
--A House Divided
--Mounting Metropolitan Skepticism and Indifference
--Renewed Publishing Efforts for the Mission

8. A Mission with No Empire
--Jesuits at the Limits of Empire
--The French and Indian War
--The French Suppression of the Society of Jesus
--Quiet Death under British, Protestant Rule


(A good summary of her overall analysis of the complexity of the Jesuit mission in New France, combining the spread of the Gospel with the establishment of colonial territories. The anecdotes with which she opens her conclusion, of Pope Benedict XV reprimanding "Catholic missionaries who had helped fan the national-imperial zeitgeist" that contributed to the horrors of World War I (in Maximum Illud, 1919) and then canonizing Joan of Arc in 1920, "a saint exceedingly identified with French Nationalism", before, during, and after the Great War (p. 255), symbolize the dual nature of the Jesuit mission in North America. She offers a devastating analysis of how their efforts set the stage for later French colonial efforts, imposing a political, national culture on the native people.)




I would have appreciated a better map showing the different areas of Jesuit missionary activity both in the Canadian north and the USA south (and in between). Figure 5 among the illustrations is a contemporary map but it is very faint and hard to read. It's interesting that McShea never looks at the Arkansas region and the efforts of the French there, but then, as Morris Arnold noted in two books (Unequal Laws Unto a Savage Race: European Legal Traditions in Arkansas, 1686-1836 and Colonial Arkansas, 1686-1804: A Cultural and Social History) on Colonial Arkansas, there wasn't much success in that region for either the French or the Jesuits (see my reviews here and here).

There were two strange typos: one even made the index, as King Louis XVI on page 139 is listed: "In the fall of 1688 Louis XVI went to war over territories in Europe against England, the Hapsburg powers, the Dutch, and other members of the Grand Alliance." (Of course "Louis XVI" should be Louis XIV!) The same transposition of the "I" and the "V" occurs in the Conclusion on page 260: "With political, mercantile, and religious interests coalescing in Paris during Richelieu and Louis XVI's eras . . ." Since I worked as a proofreader at an advertising agency years ago, I know how easy it is for one's eyes to miss details like that!

Having read McShea's first two books (this one and her biography of Richelieu's niece), I look forward to picking up my copy of her next work, Women of the Church: What Every Catholic Should Know, from Eighth Day Books soon.

Wednesday, March 27, 2024

Book Review: Francois Mauriac's "Holy Thursday"

My best friend and I read this book during Lent and got together after Mass on Friday last week to complete our discussion of Nobel Prize winning Francois Mauriac's Holy Thursday: The Night That Changed the World in the Sophia Institute Press edition and translation. It's evidently not in their catalog now, but Cluny Media has a different edition, The Eucharist: The Mystery of Holy Thursday, available.

I went through a Francois Mauriac phase after college, reading The Viper's Tangle, Therese, and The Woman of the Pharisees, in my pursuit of covering the "Catholic Revival" in Literature. This is a very different book as Mauriac describes his memories of attending Holy Thursday Mass, with the Stripping of the Altars and the Mandatum (the Washing of the Feet) as major events. 

It would have been helpful to the reader if Sophia Institute Press would have explained that the Mass on Holy Thursday was different than it is today when Mauriac wrote and when he experienced it as a child. The Stripping of the Altars and reposition of the Host for the Good Friday service (when only the priest received Holy Communion) took place before the Washing of the Feet. When he discusses First Holy Communions, a note to explain that until Pope Pius X's reform that Sacrament was sometimes delayed until the age of 14 would also have been helpful. It was like the "graduating" Sacrament then and Mauriac comments that many stopped receiving Holy Communion or attending Mass after that. A reader not knowing that in 1910 Pius X set the age of seven (7) as the appropriate time of receiving First Holy Communion wouldn't understand Mauriac's comment.

Writing in 1931, Mauriac also comments on how good it was that frequent reception of Holy Communion was encouraged; another contribution of Pope Pius X (in 1905). The influence of Jansenism had discouraged many from going to Communion more than once a year.

In spite of these criticisms, I wouldn't want anyone to be dissuaded from reading this book. There are some beautifully written (translated) passages, like this one:

The anniversary of that evening when the small Host arose on a world sleeping in darkness should fill us with joy. But that very night was the one when the Lord Jesus was delivered up. His best friends could still taste the Bread in their mouths and they were going to abandon Him, to deny Him, to betray Him. And we also, on Holy Thursday, can still taste in our mouths this Bread that is no longer bread; we have not finished adoring this Presence in our bodies, the inconceivable humility of the Son of God, when we have to rise hastily to follow Him to the garden of agony.

We should like to tarry, to see on His shoulder the place where St. John’s forehead rested, to relive in spirit this moment in the history of the world when a piece of bread was broken in deep silence, when a few words sufficed to seal the new alliance of the Creator with His creature.

Already, in the thought of the One who pronounced the words, millions of priests are bending over the chalice, millions of virgins are watching before the tabernacle. A multitude of the servants of the poor are eating the daily Bread which compensates for their daily sacrifice, and endless ranks of children, making their First Communion, open lips which have not yet lost their purity. 
(Chapter I, "The Breaking of the Bread", pp. 3-4)

Or this one:

It is not when He withdrew into the desert that He felt the greatest loneliness, but when He was in the midst of the flock of those wavering hearts which the Spirit had not yet kindled. Doubtless, it was necessary that the man in Him be reassured by the God so that He would not lose heart when confronted by the infinite disproportion between His message and the poor human race destined to receive it.

However, He did not dedicate Himself to solitude as have so many men of genius. He did not flee from the crowd, but gave Himself up to it. What gives Christ as a man a unique character among the masters of the world is first this gift of Himself, this complete abandonment of Himself to the crowd. Before being delivered, He delivered Himself. He does not belong to Himself, not having come to be served, but to serve. He is the slave of slaves. Nothing belongs to Him. He lives in the street, in the fields, in villages. Miserable bodies affected with leprosy crowd Him, suffocate Him. He seeks refuge in a fishing boat, in order to be able to breathe. Dirty hands grab His cloak; virtue springs from Him.

No one kept less aloof; no one was ever less guarded, more accessible — such He is still today in the tabernacle, given up entirely to all — yet nevertheless, He was alone with His Father, in that mysterious, ineffable union which He sometimes confessed, for this secret also escaped Him: “No one knows who the Father is, except the Son.”
(Chapter VIII, "The Secret of Holy Thursday", pp. 58-59)

Mauriac obviously loves and admires St. Therese of Lisieux: he cites her several times, and he relies upon St. Thomas Aquinas and his Corpus Christi Office and hymns when discussing Transubstantiation. He also cites Bishop Bossuet and Jacques Riviere without naming his sources and recommends Jacques Maritain's The Angelic Doctor.

Reading this book by Mauriac makes me wonder about three books Cluny Media also publishes: The Son of Man, The Life of Jesus, and What I Believe. But they will have to wait for another day . . . before I decide to purchase them. There's a line!

Friday, March 22, 2024

Preview: Saint Thomas More: "Most Enemies" as Best Friends

On Monday, March 25--which would usually be the Solemnity of the the Annunciation of Our Lord--but this year is the Monday of Holy Week (the Annunciation will be celebrated on April 9, the Monday after the great Octave of Easter), we'll close out our Lenten series on St. Thomas More's "A Godly Meditation" on the Son Rise Morning Show. I'll be on at my usual time, about 7:50 a.m. Eastern/6:50 a.m. Central. Listen live here or catch the podcast later.

Please recall that this Lenten series has been based upon two entries from Father Henry Sebastian Bowden's Mementoes of the English Martyrs and Confessors For Every Day of the Year. Father Bowden titles the two entries, on pages 63 and 64, "In the Shadow of Death" (1) and (2) with the final verse from the Benedictus, "To enlighten them that sit in darkness and the shadow of death" and "To direct our feet into the way of peace" divided between them. (Luke 1:79)

We have come to the last grace St. Thomas More asked of Our Lord, and his summation of the value of the graces he has requested.

Image credit: (Public Domain) Children of Jacob sell their brother Joseph, by Konstantin Flavitsky, 1855.

In his last petition, St. Thomas More prays not just to forgive his enemies, but to be grateful to them! More uses the example of the Old Testament patriarch Joseph, and how his brothers' betrayal of him worked to not only his good but the whole family's good--and even to the eventual Exodus and foundation of the Kingdom of Israel!

Give me thy grace, good Lord,

To think my most enemies my best friends, for the brethren of Joseph could never have done him so much good with their love and favour as they did him with their malice and hatred.

At the beginning of Holy Week, as we will hear at Masses throughout the week and at the service on Good Friday how Judas betrayed Jesus, Saint Peter denied Him, and all the other Apostles, save Saint John, abandoned Him, it seems appropriate to meditate on More's choice of Joseph, this Old Testament type (foreshadowing) of Jesus in More's use of him as an example. Like the "happy fault" of Adam highlighted in the Easter Vigil Exsultet, this betrayal worked to the good. 

Because Jacob loved Joseph more than all his other sons, they were jealous of him and wanted to kill him. His brother Reuben tried to save him, but they sold him into slavery (for either twenty pieces of silver or thirty pieces of gold, depending on the version) and then returned to tell Jacob he had been attacked and killed, showing him Joseph's bloody coat.

Image Credit: (Public Domain) Joseph's bloody coat brought to Jacob by Diego Velasquez, 1630. (Note that the dog doesn't trust the brothers at all: it can smell the goat's blood on the coat!)

Joseph suffered at first in Egypt, but eventually became the Pharaoh's great advisor, interpreting a dream and preparing for a long famine by storing grain. So when Jacob sent his sons to Egypt to buy grain, Joseph and Jacob were finally reunited and the whole family moved to Egypt, thus setting up the Exodus and the great Covenant with Israel.

More wants to think of all that has happened to him as providential and for his ultimate good, as it had been for Joseph and Jacob and the Kingdom of Israel.

This is the source of his ability, during his imprisonment, the interrogations, the trial, the guilty verdict and sentencing to the death of a traitor, and the day of his execution, to wish that he and his former colleagues, his friends and family, would all meet "merrily in Heaven" some day.

Image Credit: (Public Domain) John Rogers Herbert (1810-1890) - Sir Thomas More and his Daughter (watching the protomartyrs of the English Reformation being taken to Tyburn for execution as traitors).

Father Bowden does not include this final line in the second entry:

These minds are more to be desired of every man than all the treasure of all the princes and kings, Christian and heathen, were it gathered and layed together all upon one heap.

What are"these minds" (these thoughts and petitions)? St. Thomas More says that "these minds" outweigh "all the treasure" of all the richest royal men, "Christian and heathen" if it could be all brought "together all upon one heap"!

Think of Tolkien's illustration of Smaug's treasure in The Hobbit!

Those "minds" are the graces More asked God to give him in his last months on earth; all the thoughts and prayers and actions God would help him think and pray and do and not do: the detachment from worldly things and the attachment to Christ and His passion; the repentance and penance he wished to experience to be ready for death and Heaven: to let Christ increase in his life as he decreased in the world and his own concern; to love God more and himself less. That seems to sum up all those petitions in one heap:

Give me thy grace, good Lord,
To set the world at naught.
To set my mind fast upon thee and not to hang
Upon the blast of men’s mouths.
To be content to be solitary,
Not to long for worldly company.
Little and little utterly to cast off the world
And rid my mind of all the business thereof.
Not to long to hear of any worldly things,
But that the hearing of worldly fantasies may be to me displeasant.
Gladly to be thinking of God,
Piteously to call for his help.
To lean unto the comfort of God,
Busily to labour to love him.
To know my own vility and wretchedness,
To humble and meeken myself under the mighty hand of God.
To bewail my sins past
For the purging of them patiently to suffer adversity.
Gladly to bear my purgatory here;
To be joyful of tribulations.
To walk the narrow way that leadeth to life,
To bear the cross with Christ.
To have the last thing in remembrance,
To have ever afore mine eye my death that is ever at hand.
To make death no stranger to me,
To foresee and consider the everlasting fire of hell.
To pray for pardon before the Judge come,
To have continually in mind the Passion that Christ suffered for me.
For his benefits incessantly to give him thanks,
To buy the time again that I before have lost.
To abstain from vain confabulations,
To eschew light foolish mirth and gladness.
Recreations not necessary to cut off;
Of worldly substance, friends, liberty, life and all
To set the loss at right naught for the winning of Christ.

Saint Thomas More, pray for us!

Best wishes for a happy and prayerful Holy Week and Easter Sunday!

Friday, March 15, 2024

Preview: St. Thomas More on "Vain Confabulations" and "Foolish Mirth"

On Monday, March 18, we'll discuss the penultimate section of St. Thomas More's "A Godly Meditation" on the Son Rise Morning Show. I'll be on at my usual time, about 7:50 a.m. Eastern/6:50 a.m. Central. Listen live here or catch the podcast later.

This may be the most difficult section of this meditation to think about because More seems willing to cast off many of the characteristics that made him More: his love of humor, of silly (sometimes rather off-color) jokes, of mirth, friendship, and gladness . . .  (less of More?)

Do we have to do that too?

And this section contains one of the most perplexing lines in the prayer: "To buy the time again that I before have lost" . . . 

How do we make up for lost or wasted time? 

In this fifth week of Lent, as we've entered Passiontide and in some parishes the statues and crucifixes are veiled, can we make up for our Lenten failures now?

Give me thy grace, good Lord,

To pray for pardon before the Judge come,
To have continually in mind the Passion that Christ suffered for me.
For his benefits incessantly to give him thanks,
To buy the time again that I before have lost.
To abstain from vain confabulations,
To eschew light foolish mirth and gladness.
Recreations not necessary to cut off;
Of worldly substance, friends, liberty, life and all
To set the loss at right naught for the winning of Christ.

The word "confabulations" has the word fable in its root: Merriam Webster defines it thus:

Confabulate is a fabulous word for making fantastic fabrications. Given the similarities in spelling and sound, you might guess that confabulate and fabulous come from the same root, and they do—the Latin fābula, which refers to a conversation or a story. Another fābula descendant that continues to tell tales in English is fable. All three words have long histories in English: fable first appears in writing in the 14th century, and fabulous follows in the 15th.

This line about "vain confabulations" recalls his earlier mention of "worldly fantasies", but here he's referring to a method of telling a story. He has to reject those methods if they are in vain, just for the exercise of showing what he can do. He wants to reject "light foolish mirth and gladness" in contrast to the joy and gladness mentioned in last week's meditation ("Gladly to bear my purgatory here; To be joyful of tribulations").

Nevertheless, More used the structure of fables in other Tower Works to make his points through stories. He wrote The Dialogue of Comfort against Tribulation while in the Tower, imagining an old sick uncle counselling his frightened nephew on how to deal with the consequences of a Turkish invasion. He was certainly providing spiritual counsel to those afraid of suffering and death, with Christian philosophy and Catholic piety. And he exchanged letters with his daughters Margaret and Alice as his Dialogue on Conscience, using a fable of Aesop and another of the lion and the wolf, and the famous story about "Company" on the Jury to explain what he meant when he said he had to obey his formed and considered conscience. These were among  his usual methods of engaging in controversy, using stories to tell a lesson. He established fictional situations--like his Utopia--to showcase a discussion or dialogue about real issues with true consequences.

As readers of this blog know, he also wrote the Sadness of Christ and the Treatise on the Passion while in the Tower, as he desired to "have continually in mind the Passion that Christ suffered for me". In those works he explored the texts of the Gospels for their moral and spiritual implications for himself and other Christians.

Saint Thomas More's discernment of how to balance these issues of detachment and preparation for death and the life to come is what makes this "Godly Meditation" so deeply personal to him at that time and yet filled with inspiration for us. Even as he faced his past sins and his future judgment, he reminded himself and us that he should be intent upon his present, to make use of the time he had in reparation and preparation. That's what we do every Lent: practice acts of detachment through prayer, fasting, and almsgiving; reflect on, confess, and repent of our sins; prepare for the celebration of Easter--all as the model of being prepared for the life to come in the hope the Resurrection and Heaven.

Saint Thomas More, pray for us!

Friday, March 8, 2024

Preview: St. Thomas More, the Four Last Things and Purgatory

On Monday, March 11, the Monday of the Fourth Week of Lent 2024, we'll conduct our next segment on St. Thomas More's "A Godly Meditation", focusing on another section of his prayer. I'll be on at my usual time, about 7:50 a.m. Eastern/6:50 a.m. Central. Listen live here or catch the podcast later.

I've picked up a few lines from last week's post because they fit in so well with More's theme of repentance and preparation for the four last things: Death, Judgment, Heaven and Hell. As part of his preparation, he suggests to us, I propose, the traditional meditation on death, and the desire to avoid suffering in Purgatory after judgment by accepting suffering while we live:

Give me thy grace, good Lord,

To know my own vility and wretchedness,
To humble and meeken myself under the mighty hand of God,
To bewail my sins past
For the purging of them patiently to suffer adversity.
Gladly to bear my purgatory here;
To be joyful of tribulations.

To walk the narrow way that leadeth to life,
To bear the cross with Christ.

To have the last thing in remembrance,
To have ever afore mine eye my death that is ever at hand.
To make death no stranger to me,
To foresee and consider the everlasting fire of hell.

These are all sobering thoughts: as Christians we all know that we will die, face judgment, and either spend our eternal life in Heaven or Hell. We know the choice we face: choose life or choose death. At times the notion of death can be abstract or distant from us, even as we attend the funerals of friends and family, but once we've been at a couple of deathbeds--as I have--we know it's inevitable.

More had written a meditation on Death before in an unfinished collaboration with his daughter Margaret on The Four Last Things. In that work, he emphasizes how thinking of Death, based upon Sirach 7:36 ("Remember the last things, and you will never sin"), can help us avoid sin, especially the Seven Deadly Sins, and develop their opposite virtues in preparation for the joys of Heaven.

In this prayer More's traditional Catholic piety emphasizes the most somber side of this meditation on the Four Last Things: he does not meditate on the joys of Heaven, but considers the "everlasting fire of hell". The only hint of Heaven is that his preparation "leadeth to life". He is praying to find joy and gladness in the midst of his tribulations with the consolation that they can prepare him for the joys of heaven. In his desire to expiate the temporal effects of his past sins, confessed and forgiven, More wants to avoid Purgatory--a Catholic doctrine he'd defended in The Supplication of Souls in answer to Simon Fish's Supplication of Beggars--after death: to "go straight to Heaven" and the presence of God.

We can juxtapose this somber meditation with More's repeatedly stated hope that he and his family, friends, even those who would condemn him, sentence him, and prepare him for execution would "meet merrily in Heaven". As he prayed in his Treatise on the Passion:

Good Lord, give me the grace so to spend my life that when the day of my death shall come, though I feel pain in my body, I may feel comfort in soul and – with faithful hope of Your mercy, in due love towards You and charity towards the world – I may, through Your grace, depart hence into Your glory. Amen.


Almighty Jesus Christ, who would for our example observe the law that You came to change and, being Maker of the whole earth, would have yet no dwelling-house therein: give us Your grace so to keep Your holy law and so to reckon ourselves for no dwellers but for pilgrims upon earth that we may long and make haste, walking with faith in the way of virtuous works, to come to the glorious country wherein You have bought us inheritance forever with Your own precious blood. Amen.

I look forward to my discussion with Anna or Matt on Monday! 

Monday, March 4, 2024

Blessed Nicholas Horner, Tailor and Martyr

While we're focusing on St. Thomas More's "A Godly Meditation" on the Son Rise Morning Show, I did not want to miss some of the great martyrs' and confessors' stories in Father Bowden's Mementoes this Lent. This one today, Blessed Nicholas Horner, is particularly affecting, as he suffered so much in prison and at the scaffold because of his loyalty to The Faith. And yet, he received many consolations:

A native of York, a tailor by trade and a zealous Catholic, he endeavoured, according to his ability, to persuade others to embrace the faith. Having come up to London to be cured of a wound in his leg, he was committed to Newgate for harbouring priests. There the heavy fetter on his leg and the deprivation of all medical aid rendered an amputation necessary. During the operation he sat upon a form, unbound, in silence, a priest the while ([Blessed John] Hewett [or Hewitt], who was afterwards himself a Martyr) holding his head, and he was further comforted by such a vivid apprehension of Christ bearing His Cross that he seemed to see it on His shoulders. Freed at the earnest suit of his friends, he worked at his trade at some lodgings at Smithfield. Again cast into Bridewell for harbouring priests, he was hung up by the wrists till he nearly died. At length condemned solely for making a jerkin for a priest, he was hanged in front of his lodging in Smithfield, 3 March 1590. On the night before his execution, finding him self overwhelmed with anguish, he betook him self to prayer, and perceived a bright crown of glory hanging over his head. Assured of its reality, he said: “O Lord, Thy will be mine,” and died with extraordinary signs of joy.

Father Bowden uses the title "The Vestments of Salvation" for this entry on March 4, and the Bible verse, "He hath clothed me with the garments of salvation" (Isaiah 61:10)

According to England's laws he was accused of two great offenses: encouraging others to become Catholic and assisting priests. The only thing he could be guilty of was making a jerkin (a kind of vest) for a priest! When Father Bowden wrote about him, Horner had been declared Venerable; Pope St. John Paul II beatified him with 84 other martyrs of England and Wales in 1987.

Blessed Nicholas Horner, pray for us!

Image Credit: (With Permission): Detail of a stained glass window in Tyburn Convent by Margaret Agnes Rope 

Friday, March 1, 2024

Preview: Thomas More on the World, God, and the Confession of Sins

Continuing our series on St. Thomas More's "A Godly Meditation" on Monday, March 4, Anna Mitchell or Matt Swaim of the Son Rise Morning Show and I will discuss this next arbitrarily chosen portion of More's prayer. 

As you know by now, I'll be on at my usual time, about 7:50 a.m. Eastern/6:50 a.m. Central. Listen live here or catch the podcast later.

More continues his concern with being rid of worldly concerns and delves more deeply into what it means to have his mind set "fast upon" God, including a good examination of conscience and confession of sins:

Give me thy grace, good Lord,

Not to long to hear of any worldly things,
But that the hearing of worldly fantasies may be to me displeasant.
Gladly to be thinking of God,
Piteously to call for his help.
To lean unto the comfort of God,
Busily to labour to love him.
To know my own vility and wretchedness,
To humble and meeken myself under the mighty hand of God,
To bewail my sins passed.
For the purging of them, patiently to suffer adversity.

Later in this prayer, More refers to "vain confabulations", to avoid making up different versions of reality, imagining himself in different circumstances. He has to face what's happening to him now, face his dependence on God, and face the ways that he has failed to love God throughout his life.

He cannot imagine himself back home at Chelsea with his loving family and friends: the only way he can achieve that it by violating his conscience. He certainly doesn't want to think of himself at Court, trying to influence worldly events: that time has passed. He has already done all he could.

So he turns to God: thinking of Him; calling for His help; leaning on His comfort; working to love Him, mentally, prayerfully, spiritually.

As he strives to become more attached to God, More turns to an examination of conscience, reviewing the sins he committed in the past, repenting of them, and being ready to suffer for them in his current circumstances. 

Matt brought up conscience (referring to the Catechism of the Catholic Church) during our discussion last week, and here More prays to know, to humble himself, to become meek, to bewail his sins, and suffer adversity to purge himself of the temporal punishment due to those sins, all by examining his conscience thoroughly.

In his preface to the Vintage Spiritual Classics volume of Selected Writings of Thomas More, Joseph W. Koterski, SJ, highlights More's "practice of a careful and daily examination of conscience in which he had steeled himself since his youth", "reserving a time and place for the examination of conscience", even creating a separate oratory at his home in Chelsea for that meditation. 

So, applying this portion of More's "Godly Meditation" to our 2024 Lenten observance, it points us to the Sacrament of Confession. Since Lent is the season of repentance and conversion, the Church highlights the Sacrament of Confession. My local parish has added opportunities for Reconciliation/Penance/Confession throughout the Lent and our pastor just highlighted the need for Confession, not just once a year, but more often, for very practical reasons: 

While the requirement is once a year, the Church encourages people to go to Confession once a month, because she knows how difficult it is to remember things that happened almost a year ago. Along with that, the less often we go to Confession we lose our sense of sin and then we do not clearly see sins that we might see if we regularly examine our conscience and bring ours sins to the sacrament of mercy. (Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church March 3 Parish Bulletin.)

And although More may have been faithful in his examinations of conscience and Sacramental Confessions, he admits that he still needs to make up for the consequences of those sins, so he is willing to endure suffering to expiate them. As another English saint, John Henry Newman, wrote in a Lenten sermon when he was an Anglican:

Let us be wise enough to have our agony in this world, not in the next. If we humble ourselves now, God will pardon us then. We cannot escape punishment, here or hereafter; we must take our choice, whether to suffer and mourn a little now, or much then. (PPS "Lent, the Season of Repentance.")

Saint Thomas More, pray for us!

Saint John Henry Newman, pray for us!

Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Two Posts from "The Newman Review": Lost Voices and How to Read Newman

Just a couple of excerpts from two articles in the recent online Newman Review from the National Institute of Newman Studies:

The first is from Julia Meszaros and Bonnie Lander Johnson, editors of the Catholic Women Writers series from the Catholic University of America Press. They explain why these "Lost Voices of the Catholic Literary Revival" deserve to be heard, by being celebrated and read:

The work of these women indicates that the Revival lasted much longer than is usually thought (women were writing earlier and later than most of the men associated with the Revival) and that its writers were located in all areas of Britain and Ireland, not merely in the south of England. Novels by Catholic women are often concerned with different theological questions than we find in the work of Waugh and Greene. They are set in families and villages and in the institutional communities in which the writers themselves first encountered the faith: schools, convents, or convent schools. Almost wholly unrecognized by scholarship of the Catholic novel, or indeed the novel generally, are the frequent depictions of female religious life in novels of the twentieth century.

Highlighted is a book I've had on my "to be read" pile for awhile but now have started to read:

Another writer of the Revival now back in print in the Catholic Women Writers series is Sheila Kaye-Smith, until recently forgotten but a bestseller in the 1920s. Her 1925 novel The End of the House of Alard was written during her conversion from high Anglicanism to Catholicism and, long before Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited, explores the post-war erosion of the aristocracy from a Catholic point of view. Faced with the decline of their family estate, Alard’s characters must discern between intrinsic and instrumental goods. In relaying their struggles, Kaye-Smith boldly takes all that was most loved about her own best-selling genre—the aristocracy’s glamour, its age-old traditions, and its role in community-building—and subordinates it to a higher truth. The novel in some ways dramatizes Kaye-Smith’s own experience of how many fruits of the world can, and at times must, be put aside by those who choose God, and how this sacrifice brings with it different riches entirely unseen and unknown by those who refuse to give up what is most dear to them.

The second article offers some insights into what makes reading Newman such a rewarding challenge. (The author, Luigi Rossi  was a Visiting Scholar at NINS during September 2023. He is Assistant Professor (Maître de Conférences) of Education at the Catholic University of the West in Angers, France.):

Compared to my usual diet of scholarly articles and books, Newman’s writings stood out for what appeared to me as their meandering character. Unlike most contemporary works, Newman does not state upfront what he is going to say and then take the reader through the motions of a demonstration delivered blow by blow. He begins, instead, with a puzzle, or a question, that he brings before his audience; he unfolds his thinking slowly, almost searchingly, from his initial questions; he also frequently refrains from tying up his argument, leaving whatever he said simply to “air” with the reader.4

After overcoming my initial disorientation at a style that looks unsystematic––from the standpoint of contemporary academic standards––I started to notice a growing curiosity in me: not just for what Newman says, but precisely for how he says it. To be more precise: I noticed myself referring back to the experience of reading Newman’s texts in order to get a firmer hold on his understanding of how reason operates in the ordinary conduct of life. As I did that, I eventually retrieved within myself a freer, more meandering style of reasoning, not unlike that which Newman practices in his writing. In a way, reading Newman brought me closer to what it is to read a text: making space for it to breathe, for its images to resonate, for its metaphors to blossom into rich associations, and eventually, to witness a meaningful figure come into being by this slow maturation. . . .

Please read the rest there.

I think this is one of the ways that Newman drew his listeners and draws his readers into their imaginations--not of fantasy--but of thought and reality. They were, as evidenced by the popularity of these sermons in their time, and those who read him today--or hear him read as I do at our monthly Newman reading gatherings--engaged in his exploration of an important spiritual, moral, religious truth.

After our most recent "Lovers of Newman" meeting, following a "Colloquy" tradition founded by the late Father Ian Ker in the 1990's, I realized that I could not think of another convert to Catholicism whose pre-conversion works we read with such attention and devotion. 

Can you?

And I'm thinking particularly of our reading of his Parochial and Plain Sermons and other sermons he wrote as an Anglican, not just as explorations of his developing thought, but as sources of spiritual, moral, and religious insights and guidance. Since I attended my first Newman School of Catholic Thought in 1979, I've been encouraged to read these Anglican sermons. It's true that at our monthly sermon readings we have discussions about a more Catholic understanding of some matters, but primarily, as Father William R. Lamm did so many years ago in 1934, we appreciate his spiritual legacy and his goals in those sermons (from my 2021 review of Father Lamm's book):

Father Lamm's thesis is that in Newman's sermons given as Vicar of the University Church of St. Mary's the Virgin in Oxford, he had a special purpose. He wanted to give general spiritual direction to those students in his congregation who wanted to be REAL Christians, who wanted to pursue holiness and perfection in the spiritual and moral life. Therefore, Father Lamm argues that Newman's spiritual legacy centers around these themes: what keeps us from becoming perfect (not considering grave, mortal sin) and what can help us become perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect.

What Newman sees as keeping us from pursuing holiness and the realizing of God's Presence in our souls, according to Lamm, is our hypocrisy as we deceive ourselves about our spiritual state, deceive others, and attempt to deceive God. What will help us pursue holiness and the realizing of God's Presence is Surrender to God's Will through repentance, and the practice of a host of virtues, including love, faith, hope, obedience, and fervour, summed up as sincerity and simplicity--watching for God and developing the habit of prayer. . . .

Saint John Henry Newman, pray for us!