Tuesday, January 19, 2021

New Year; Newman ("The Lapse of Time")

The days at the end of December and the beginning of this year have been a blur of activities, decisions, and emotions: I mentioned before that I was in the hospital with COVID-related pneumonia (December 7 through 12). My older brother was also in the hospital with COVID-related pneumonia starting on December 3; went home the next week; returned to the COVID ward a couple of days later; went home for about seven days, and then ended up in CCU at another hospital, and finally in hospice/palliative care. He died January 2 in hospice and his funeral was January 13. 

January 16 was the second anniversary of my husband Mark's death. So the Four Last Things, Death, Judgment, Heaven, and Hell have been much on my mind.

Then on January 17 I went to our monthly "Lovers of Newman" group at the IHM convent in Colwich, Kansas to read an unusual New Year's Day sermon by John Henry Newman, "The Lapse of Time". 

Newman delivered this sermon in the University Church of St. Mary the Virgin on January 1, 1832--before the Oxford Movement began--and he celebrated the New Year with his parishioners by reminding them that their time on earth is fleeting, precious, and consequential, that each one of them will die some day--maybe not tomorrow--but some day, and that when they die they will have no time left to live so as to prepare to die.

Death may come suddenly:

We naturally shrink from the thought of death, and of its attendant circumstances; but all that is hateful and fearful about it will be fulfilled in our case, one by one. But all this is nothing compared with the consequences implied in it. Death stops us; it stops our race. Men are engaged about their work, or about their pleasure; they are in the city, or the field; any how they are stopped; their deeds are suddenly gathered in—a reckoning is made—all is sealed up till the great day. What a change is this! In the words used familiarly in speaking of the dead, they are no more. They were full of schemes and projects; whether in a greater or humbler rank, they had their hopes and fears, their prospects, their pursuits, their rivalries; all these are now come to an end. One builds a house, and its roof is not finished; another buys merchandise, and it is not yet sold. And all their virtues and pleasing qualities which endeared them to their friends are, as far as this world is concerned, vanished. Where are they who were so active, so sanguine, so generous? the amiable, the modest, and the kind? We were told that they were dead; they suddenly disappeared; that is all we know about it.

And Newman warned his nineteenth-century congregation that they don't think enough about the souls of the dead:

The world goes on without them; it forgets them. Yes, so it is; the world contrives to forget that men have souls, it looks upon them all as mere parts of some great visible system. This continues to move on; to this the world ascribes a sort of life and personality. When one or other of its members die, it considers them only as falling out of the system, and as come to nought. For a minute, perhaps, it thinks of them in sorrow, then leaves them—leaves them for ever. It keeps its eye on things seen and temporal. Truly whenever a man dies, rich or poor, an immortal soul passes to judgment; but somehow we read of the deaths of persons we have seen or heard of, and this reflection never comes across us. Thus does the world really cast off men's souls, and recognizing only their bodies, it makes it appear as if "that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts, even one thing befalleth them, as the one dieth so dieth the other; yea, they have all one breath, so that a man hath no pre-eminence over a beast, for all is vanity." [Eccles. iii. 19.]

So in 1832, Newman imagined the experience of the dead man, as his soul faces judgment and eternity and realizes he is out of time (in more ways than one):

It goes forth as a stranger on a journey. Man seems to die and to be no more, when he is but quitting us, and is really beginning to live. Then he sees sights which before it did not even enter into his mind to conceive, and the world is even less to him than he to the world. Just now he was lying on the bed of sickness, but in that moment of death what an awful change has come over him! What a crisis for him! There is stillness in the room that lately held him; nothing is doing there, for he is gone, he now belongs to others; he now belongs entirely to the Lord who bought him; to Him he returns; but whether to be lodged safely in His place of hope, or to be imprisoned against the great Day, that is another matter, that depends on the deeds done in the body, whether good or evil. And now what are his thoughts? How infinitely important now appears the value of time, now when it is nothing to him! Nothing; for though he spend centuries waiting for Christ, he cannot now alter his state from bad to good, or from good to bad. What he dieth that he must be for ever; as the tree falleth so must it lie. This is the comfort of the true servant of God, and the misery of the transgressor. His lot is cast once and for all, and he can but wait in hope or in dread. Men on their death-beds have declared, that no one could form a right idea of the value of time till he came to die; but if this has truth in it, how much more truly can it be said after death! What an estimate shall we form of time while we are waiting for judgment! Yes, it is we—all this, I repeat, belongs to us most intimately. It is not to be looked at as a picture, as a man might read a light book in a leisure hour. We must die, the youngest, the healthiest, the most thoughtless; we must be thus unnaturally torn in two, soul from body; and only united again to be made more thoroughly happy or to be miserable for ever.

Reading those sentences in bold may make a Catholic wonder: how did Newman after his conversion look back at them and reconcile them with his belief in Purgatory? A Soul in Purgatory is bound for glory in Heaven; he or she can do nothing to aid himself or herself while enduring the purgation necessary for sins confessed and forgiven, so it is true that his or her "lot is cast once for all." 

On the other hand, in our discussion we did not know exactly what Newman meant by saying: "for though he spend centuries waiting for Christ" and "he can but wait in hope or in dread". Did Newman believe in 1832 that there was no immediate, particular judgment of the soul until the end of time and the return of Christ in the Second Coming? At that time, did he believe in a form of "soul sleep" in which the soul is still aware?


There's quite a contrast here to his much later work The Dream of Gerontius, which we discussed briefly, with its images of the immediate, particular judgment and the Soul of Gerontius willingly being led to Purgatory by his Guardian Angel. The Soul feels the bitter pang of realizing how he failed God while on Earth and is ready to be purified.

At the end of the sermon--and I encourage you to read the rest here--Newman certainly demonstrates that he is well-past his former Calvinist convictions, as he summarizes the mystery of God's grace and our Free Will:

Those whom Christ saves are they who at once attempt to save themselves, yet despair of saving themselves; who aim to do all, and confess they do nought; who are all love, and all fear; who are the most holy, and yet confess themselves the most sinful; who ever seek to please Him, yet feel they never can; who are full of good works, yet of works of penance. All this seems a contradiction to the natural man, but it is not so to those whom Christ enlightens. They understand in proportion to their illumination, that it is possible to work out their salvation, yet to have it wrought out for them, to fear and tremble at the thought of judgment, yet to rejoice always in the Lord, and hope and pray for His coming.

This must have been quite a sermon to hear on the first day of 1832 in Oxford. Newman was reminding his congregation of hard truths and realities they knew, but did not know. As he says at the beginning of the sermon, if we think of death only in physical and general terms, we don't know about the reality of our own deaths: we have "no knowledge of that great truth at all."

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Lingard on Newman in "The Newman Review"

Shaun Blanchard, Assistant Professor of Theology at Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, tantalizes us in the opening paragraphs of an article in The Newman Review--and then promises more in a subsequent article--by quoting the Catholic historian Father John Lingard's opinion of the recent convert and Oratorian, Father John Henry Newman:

“I don’t like Newman,” wrote the famous English historian Fr. John Lingard in January 1850. The reasons the aged and ailing Catholic historian gave for his antipathy towards perhaps the most celebrated English convert of all time encapsulated the collision of old and new: “too much fancy or enthusiasm”[1] was Lingard’s gripe in a letter to his friend John Walker. The relative obscurity of Lingard today is surprising, since in his day (he died in 1851) he was “the best-known and most widely read English Catholic writer.”[2] Lingard’s “Victorian celebrity” was due primarily to ground-breaking historical works, but also significantly buttressed by his reputation as a formidable theo-political controversialist: both in intra-Catholic squabbles and in defense of his community against Protestant detractors.[3] The crowning achievement of a life of research, his eight-volume History of England (1819–1830) featured pioneering work with primary source material.[4] Lingard’s History was widely reviewed and debated. It was translated into many languages, went through multiple editions, and was even abridged for use as a school textbook in France. In the twentieth century, Hilaire Belloc added a final volume to bring the narrative from 1688 to the present; this version of Lingard’s History of England can still be found in old family libraries around the UK. Lingard can be counted as a kind of founding father of certain “revisionist” historical positions on English history advanced by scholars like Eamon Duffy and Christopher Haigh. Long before Duffy’s classic The Stripping of the Altars (1992), Lingard’s work suggested a re-narration of the Whiggish and triumphalist national story vis-à-vis Catholicism.[5]

Lingard in fact had quite a lot of interesting things to say about Newman, dating from his growing awareness of the importance of the Oxford Movement in the 1830s until Newman’s conversion in 1845, when Lingard was in his mid-seventies. In a subsequent essay, I’ll explore Lingard’s take on Newman and on the great changes sweeping the English Catholic community at the end of his life (Lingard strongly associated Newman with many of these changes, and mostly bemoaned them). This essay, however, will introduce readers to Lingard, one of the major intellectual lights of the English Catholic community when Newman joined it in 1845 at Littlemore. . . .

Please read the rest there. I look forward to learning more about Lingard's reasons for not liking Newman in the promised subsequent article. Lingard seems to have been most particular about how Catholics practiced their faith, and the last sentence in this quotation seems most contradictory:

While his willingness to defend the Catholic community from outside critics had won him renown, he grew extremely critical of elements within English Catholicism that he found embarrassing, theologically suspect, or intellectually wanting. He dismissively mocked Italian priests who came to England to run retreats fueled by “enthusiasm,” and criticized the women who attended them (sometimes directly, by letter, as attendees included close friends). Lingard’s correspondence also reflects a stereotypical English mistrust of the French and the Irish. A man of the eighteenth century and the Catholic Enlightenment, he could barely contain his dislike of Gothic revival, Pugin’s work, and the Anglo-Catholic Tractarians. While ardently desiring the conversion of non-Catholics, especially socially prominent Anglicans, he distrusted the leading converts of the Oxford Movement like Frederick Faber and Newman. . . .

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Did Henry VIII Corrupt the Morals of England?

David Carlin writes for The Catholic Thing considering the connections between manners and morals and the example of leaders in modeling that connection or not:

I suppose I should mention at this point a political leader or two who tended to corrupt his people with his example of bad taste, bad manners, and bad morals. Maybe I could mention Mussolini. Or maybe Huey Long. Or maybe Sardanapalus. Or maybe I should point to somebody closer to home. But I won’t. Instead I choose King Henry VIII.

Now I’ve read books about Henry, the worst tyrant in our Anglo-American history. But the image of Henry in my mind has not been formed by those learned book
(sic) so much as by the Charles Laughton portrayal of the king in the wonderful 1930s movie, “The Private Lives of Henry VIII.

Two things stand out in my mind. (1) Henry’s piggish way of dining: ripping the chicken (or was it duck?) apart, gorging himself on it, then tossing the bones away over his shoulder. (2) His getting rid of multiple wives, especially his casual decapitation of two of them. Very amusing to watch today. (I saw it again only a week or so ago.) But it wasn’t an edifying example to his people.

I think that many would agree that Henry VIII was a tyrant: he certainly abused the system of justice in his country for his own purposes. Thomas Cromwell and he used Bills of Attainder to condemn those against whom there was no proof of treason or even misprision of treason--and Cromwell found that method of Attainder used summarily against him! 

And that's a source of corruption in a nation. But did he corrupt the personal morals of the English people? Although he sought "divorces" from two wives, Catherine of Aragon and Anne of Cleves--which could more accurately be termed decrees of nullity (that no marriage had taken place)--did more English men seek divorces after Henry VIII's example? 

One could even argue that Henry VIII upheld morality in his own tyrannical fashion, punishing Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard for adultery, violations of morality. (Although there are many arguments to be had about their guilt and the methods of inquiry and trial.)

But citing Alexander Korda's 1934 movie The Private Life of Henry VIII as an example of the king's bad manners at the dining table is inaccurate and misleading. As Alison Weir pointed out in her 2001/2008 book Henry VIII: King and Court:

As a rule, Henry did not dine in the great halls of his palaces, and his table manners were highly refined, as was the code of etiquette followed at his court. He was in fact a most fastidious man, and – for his time – unusually obsessed with hygiene. (page 1 of her Introduction)

She dedicates an entire chapter (9) to the "Elegant Manners, Extreme Decorum, and Very Great Politeness" at Henry VIII's Court.

Carlin's use of a movie scene (although I do remember a similar scene of gluttony as a fantastic main course was served to Henry VIII in the Showtime series The Tudors) to establish Henry VIII's bad manners as a key to his bad morals and bad influence on his country damages his case.

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Best Books Read in 2020

Near the top of my selections for best books read in 2020: Reinhard Hutter's John Henry Newman on Truth & Its Counterfeits: A Guide for Our Times. I devoted two posts to my review of it: here and here. As I summarized my impressions of the book and its impact on me:

The bibliography is excellent, and the footnotes, as I mentioned, are important to read. I recommend the book to anyone who is interested in the influence of Newman's teachings and writings on conscience, faith, ecclesiology and the Church's magisterium, and the idea of a university. I enjoyed and benefited from "hearing" Professor Hutter's voice of reason and experience throughout his discussion of these important subjects. It's a book I've had a hard time putting down even after I read the last word.

In contrast, Eamon Duffy's brief study of Newman was the most disappointing read of 2020. It could have been written by his brother Frank or Edwin Abbot.

Either a close second or tied for top spot: Robert R. Reilly's America on Trial: A Defense of the Founding. It also merited two posts for my review: here and here. For me, Reilly's survey of the influences on our countries founders as framers of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States of America was a great philosophical education:

Robert R. Reilly, whom I saw speak at the Midwest Catholic Family Conference in Wichita (cancelled this year by COVID of course) a few years ago on his book The Closing of the Muslim Mind: How Intellectual Suicide Created the Modern Islamist Crisis, in this book offers an exploration of the philosophical and intellectual sources that inspired the Founders of the United States of America in their quest for independence from Great Britain and the establishment of a new nation.

He goes all the way back to the pre-philosophical era, explores Greek philosophy focusing on Aristotle, Jewish monotheism, and the Latin/Roman Catholic synthesis of Greek philosophy and Revelation focusing on St. Thomas Aquinas, and continues his philosophical lessons through to the eighteenth century.

Other best non-fiction books: Lisa McClain's Lest We Be Damned; Maura Jane Farrelly's Anti-Catholicism in America, 1620-1860; and Liturgical Mysticism by David Fagerberg.

I did not read much fiction last year, so Simon Tolkien's No Man's Land is my top pick in that category.

For the most entertaining book read last year: G.K. Chesterton's The Victorian Age in Literature. In his chapter on the Great Victorian Novelists, he shows a great appreciation for Jane Austen, which I appreciated:

Her [George Eliot's] originals and even her contemporaries had shown the feminine power in fiction as  well or better than she. Charlotte Brontë, understood along her own instincts, was as great; Jane Austen was greater. The latter comes into our present consideration only as that most exasperating thing, an ideal unachieved. It is like leaving an unconquered fortress in the rear. No woman later has captured the complete common sense of Jane Austen. She could keep her head, while all the after women went about looking for their brains. She could describe a man coolly; which neither George Eliot nor Charlotte Brontë could do. She knew what she knew, like a sound dogmatist: she did not know what she did not know—like a sound agnostic. But she belongs to a vanished world before the great progressive age of which I write. (p. 35)

He later says of her in comparison to Eliot and the Brontës :

Jane Austen was born before those bonds which (we are told) protected woman from truth, were burst by the Brontës or elaborately untied by George Eliot. Yet the fact remains that Jane Austen knew much more about men than either of them. Jane Austen may have been protected from truth: but it was precious little of truth that was protected from her. When Darcy, in finally confessing his faults, says, "I have been a selfish being all my life, in practice though not in theory," he gets nearer to a complete confession of the intelligent male than ever was even hinted by the Byronic lapses of the Brontës' heroes or the elaborate exculpations of George Eliot's. Jane Austen, of course, covered an infinitely smaller field than any of her later rivals; but I have always believed in the victory of small nationalities. (p. 37)

If you like, please cite your favorite books from last year in the comments. 

Happy New Year!!

Saturday, January 2, 2021

The Other Thomas: Some News from The Center for Thomas More Studies

I received an email from The Center for Thomas More Studies with several updates and links, including this 
one of a translation of Sir Thomas More: humaniste et martyr by Father Louis Bouyer (of the Oratory) from the French by Andrea Frank.

The website has been updated. Of course, they highlighted the publication of The Essential Works of Thomas More from Yale University Press and the website created to provide supporting materials for that publication.

Before circumstances toward the end of the year, including concerns about the local spike in coronavirus cases, prevented us from meeting, I was reading More's A Dialogue of Comfort Against Tribulation with a small group, masked and socially distanced, at Eighth Day Books. I hope we can start gathering again later this month, or as soon as possible.

Friday, January 1, 2021

Book Review: Memory, Martyrs, and Mission

This is the book from the Venerable English College, offered through January 29, 2021 as a free ebook.

As the publisher (Gangemi Editore) describes the book:

Essays to Commemorate the 850th Anniversary of the Martyrdom of St Thomas Becket (c. 1118-1170) | Foreword by Mgr Philip Whitmore Rector of the Venerable English College, Rome. Essays by Judith Champ, Peter Davidson, Eamon Duffy, Peter Leech, Peter Phillips, Carol M. Richardson, Nicholas Schofield. Edited by Maurice Whitehead 

The murder on 29 December 1170 of Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, sent shockwaves across the Christian world. The combination of his martyrdom, his canonization in 1173, and the creation of a shrine to him at Canterbury in 1220 increased the importance of the Via Francigena – the ancient pilgrim route from Canterbury to Rome: indeed the English Hospice, founded in Rome in 1362 for pilgrims from England and Wales, was dedicated to the Most Holy Trinity and St Thomas of Canterbury. The transformation in 1579 of the English Hospice into a new English College in Rome, preparing future priests to serve on the dangerous post-Reformation mission to England and Wales, engendered further martyrdoms: between 1581 and 1679, forty-four members of the Venerable English College, Rome, were executed for serving as priests on the mission to England and Wales. Exploring three major themes – Memory, Martyrs, and Mission – this volume analyses, on the 850th anniversary of his death, the enduring legacy of St Thomas of Canterbury, expressed in English seminaries in continental Europe through their distinctive spiritual, artistic and literary activities; the resilience of those institutions to radical change over the centuries, in the face of revolution, war and social upheaval; and the challenges and opportunities for the effective formation of priests ready to meet the changing demands of mission in the twenty-first century. The volume concludes by demonstrating how music associated with St Thomas of Canterbury has resonated across the centuries, from soon after his martyrdom down to the present day.

My first comment is that I do not like ebooks and this one compounds my dislike by not having a table of contents with links to the chapters; I also don't like the illustrations being at the back of the book, making it hard to move between them and the chapters they pertain to. Each chapter is well documented with end notes; in those with sections, the end notes appear at the end of each section. Well-illustrated. 

I definitely prefer printed, tangible books.

Contents:

Foreword by Mgr Philip Whitmore, Rector of the Venerable English College, Rome
List of contributors (bios)
List of illustrations

Chapter 1. St. Thomas a Becket (c. 1118-1170): Patron of the Venerable English College Church, Rome and of the English Clergy. --Nicholas Schofield
(each chapter begins with an abstract)
  • 'The Holy, Blissful Martyr'
  • St. Thomas and the English Catholic diaspora
  • 'Thomas Points the Way': The Cult at the Venerable English College
  • 'Martyr for the Liberty of the Church': Becket and the Victorians
  • A Patron for Modern Times
Chapter 2. The English Colleges of Douai and Rheims, the Venerable English College, Rome, and the Tridentine Seminary. --Eamon Duffy

Chapter 3. The Cultural Life of the English Colleges in Continental Europe: An Overview. --Peter Davidson

Chapter 4. 'No other of Christianity except that which we preach to them': the Venerable Bede and the 1580s Martyrs' Frescoes of the Venerable English College, Rome. --Carol M. Richardson
  • The fresco context
  • Three conversions
    • Peter
    • Eleutherius
    • Alban and Amphibalus
    • Constantine and Helena
  • Ursula
    • Gregory and Augustine
  • Brightness and Englishness
Chapter 5. The Restoration of the English and Welsh Seminaries in the Aftermath of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars. --Peter Phillips
  • The final days of the English College, Douai
  • The Venerable English College, Rome
Chapter 6. New Wine in Old Wineskins? Harnessing the Power of History to Renew Priestly Formation. -- Judith Champ
  • 'Not drowning, but waving' (sic)
  • Understanding the past
  • Changes of culture: priestly or clerical?
  • What kind of Church: what kind of priest?
  • The changing nature of vocations to the priesthood
  • What kind of formation?
  • The role of the parish in formation
  • The art of accompaniment
  • Seminary and beyond
Chapter 7. Gaudeamus omnes: Catholic Liturgical Music for St. Thomas Becket in the British Isles, Continental Europe, and the Venerable English College, Rome, c. 1170-2020. --Peter Leech
  • Liturgical Music for St. Thomas of Canterbury in the British Isles, 1170-c. 1538
  • Liturgical Music for St. Thomas of Canterbury outside the British Isles to c. 1570
  • Becket Music in Britain, 1533-c. 1800
  • Liturgical Music for Becket in Continental Europe, c. 1550-. 1850
The only chapter I found lacking was Chapter 6; the author did not seem to live up to the title of the paper and only tangentially referred to the past or specifically the past formation and mission of priests from the Venerable College and their mission in England during the recusant period. It also raised more issues that it really addressed--although it certainly pertains to the VEC's current mission of training priests from various dioceses of England. Eamon Duffy's paper contained material from Chapter 5 "Founding Father, William, Cardinal Allen" from his 2017 Reformation Divided: Catholics, Protestants, and the Conversion of England.

Father Nicholas Schofield provides an excellent overview of St. Thomas of Canterbury's reputation through the centuries, while Chapters 3 through 5 explore aspects of the art and architecture of the VEC and the internal and external struggles of the English Colleges before, during, and after the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars. The last chapter, which includes musical examples in an appendix, provides an excellent survey of the celebration of the feast of St. Thomas a Becket in liturgical music.

By the way, Father Schofield posts on the blog for the Archives of the Venerable English College, Rome, and I've included a link to Tales from the Archives on my blog roll on the right side of this blog.

If you haven't downloaded this free ebook yet, I recommend you do so soon--before January 29!!

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

850 Years Ago Tonight: Murder in the Cathedral

Before COVID struck, there were great plans to celebrate this 850th anniversary of the martyrdom, or some might say, assassination, of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Saint Thomas a Becket. The British Museum, for example, postponed their major exhibit Thomas a Becket: Murder and the Making of a Saint to open in 2021 (it was scheduled to open in October this year). The Venerable English College is still remembering the event in a special way this year:

December 29th, 2020 marks the 850th anniversary of the martyrdom of Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury. The English Hospice, founded in Rome in 1362 for pilgrims from England and Wales, was dedicated to the Most Holy Trinity and St Thomas of Canterbury.

The transformation in 1579 of the Hospice into a new English College in Rome, preparing priests for the dangerous post-Reformation mission to England and Wales, engendered further martyrdoms, with 44 members of the College being executed for serving as priests on the mission.

The VEC has just produced an impressive new book titled
Memory, Martyrs, and Mission. Essays to Commemorate the 850th Anniversary of the Martyrdom of St Thomas Becket (c. 1118–1170). The e-book version of this volume is being made available to readers for a limited time.

Hurry! Only available until January 29th, 2021. (If you do download the book, you might consider making a gift to the Venerabile through the North American Friends of the Venerable English College (NAFVEC).

I have a new CD to listen to today (in addition to the Unfinished Vespers of December 29, 1170), from Hungaroton Classics.

The BBC also has a story about St. Thomas of Canterbury, concerning a "certain little book" he wanted to be sure to take into exile with him in 1164:

In exile he would need money, so before leaving Northampton, Becket had secretly sent his closest confidant, the scholar Herbert of Bosham, to Canterbury, to gather as much as he could and to take it to the Abbey of St Bertin, near Calais. But there was also one other thing he wanted Herbert to find - a certain little book.

"The implication is that it was a book that was very important to Becket, and that Herbert would know what it was," Anne Duggan says.

"It's quite interesting that he doesn't tell us - so there is a mystery there. It wasn't a law book, it wasn't a gospel, it was a little book - a codicella." . . .

Saint Thomas of Canterbury, pray for us!

Remember, it's still the Octave of Christmas: Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 27, 2020

Pope Leo XIII and the Feast of the Holy Family

Pope Leo XIII holds a special place in my heart because he made Father John Henry Newman of the Oratory a Cardinal, even though he knew it might cause trouble, and referred to Newman as ‘Il mio cardinale’ (My Cardinal)! But I did not realize how important his influence was to the feast of the Holy Family, which we celebrate today!

According to this blog:

The Feast of the Holy Family is of recent origin. In 1663 Barbara d’Hillehoust founded at Montreal the Association of the Holy Family; this devotion soon spread and in 1893 Pope Leo XIII expressed his approval of a Feast under this title and himself composed part of the Office. The Feast was welcomed by succeeding Pontiffs as an efficacious means for bringing home to the Christian people the example of the Holy Family at Nazareth, and by the restoration of the true spirit of family life, stemming, in some measure, the evils of modern society. These motives led Pope Benedict XV to insert the Feast into the Universal Calendar, and from 1921 it has been fixed for this present Sunday.

To be clear: in the 1962 liturgical calendar of the Extraordinary Form of the Latin Rite, this feast is celebrated the Sunday after Epiphany (today the EFLR observes the Sunday in the Octave of Christmas); on the 1970 liturgical calendar of the Ordinary Form of the Latin Rite, this feast is celebrated on the Sunday in the Octave of Christmas. If both Christmas Day and the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God are on Sundays, the feast is celebrated on December 30.

Pope Leo XIII composed the hymns for Matins, Vespers, and Lauds. The December 2020 Magnificat prayer magazine has a translation of his Matin hymn for today's Morning Prayer and of his Lauds hymn for Evening Prayer. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia:

The opening words of the hymn for Matins of the Feast of the Holy Family. The Holy See instituted the feast in 1893, making it a duplex majus (greater double) and assigning it to the third Sunday after Epiphany. Leo XIII composed the three hymns (Vespers, Matins, Lauds) of the Breviary Office. The hymn for Matins contains nine Sapphic stanzas of the classical type of the first stanza:

Sacra jam splendent decorata lychnis
Templa, jam sertis redimitur ara,
Et pio fumant redolentque aerrae
Thuris honore.

(A thousand lights their glory shed
On shrines and altars garlanded,
While swinging censers dusk the air
With perfumed prayer.)

The hymns for Vespers (O lux beata caelitum) and Lauds (O gente felix hospita) are in classical dimeter iambics, four-lined stanzas, of which the Vespers hymn contains six and the Lauds hymn seven exclusive of the usual Marian doxology (Jesu tibi sit gloria). All three hymns are replete with spiritual unction, graceful expression, and classical dignity of form. They reflect the sentiment of the pope in his letter establishing a Pious Association in honour of the Holy Family and in his Encyclical dealing with the condition of working-men.

More about these hymns and translations may be found here.

It's still Christmas: Merry Christmas!

Image Source (Public Domain): Miniature in the Grandes Heures of Anne of Brittany, 1503-08, by Jean Bourdichon

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

First Book on 2021 Wish List

I'm going to ask Warren at Eighth Day Books to order this for me as soon as it's available next year (scheduled for release on January 5, 2021!) Per the publisher, Bloomsbury:

As an authority on the religion of medieval and early modern England, Eamon Duffy is preeminent. In his revisionist masterpiece The Stripping of the Altars, Duffy opened up new areas of research and entirely fresh perspectives on the origin and progress of the English Reformation.

Duffy's focus has always been on the practices and institutions through which ordinary people lived and experienced their religion, but which the Protestant reformers abolished as idolatry and superstition. The first part of
A People's Tragedy examines the two most important of these institutions: the rise and fall of pilgrimage to the cathedral shrines of England, and the destruction of the monasteries under Henry VIII, as exemplified by the dissolution of the ancient Anglo-Saxon monastery of Ely. In the title essay of the volume, Duffy tells the harrowing story of the Elizabethan regime's savage suppression of the last Catholic rebellion against the Reformation, the Rising of the Northern Earls in 1569.

In the second half of the book Duffy considers the changing ways in which the Reformation has been thought and written about: the evolution of Catholic portrayals of Martin Luther, from hostile caricature to partial approval; the role of historians of the Reformation in the emergence of English national identity; and the improbable story of the twentieth century revival of Anglican and Catholic pilgrimage to the medieval Marian shrine of Walsingham. Finally, he considers the changing ways in which attitudes to the Reformation have been reflected in fiction, culminating with Hilary Mantel's gripping trilogy on the rise and fall of Henry VIII's political and religious fixer, Thomas Cromwell, and her controversial portrayal of Cromwell's Catholic opponent and victim, Sir Thomas More.

I know for a fact that Warren has stocked a book with the same title but a different subject: Orlando Figes' A People's Tragedy: The Russian Revolution, 1891-1924! Eighth Day Books has Natasha's Dance by the same author in stock.

I'm sure like Reformation Divided (2017), also published by Bloomsbury, some of this material has been published before, but Duffy's insights into the history and the historiography of Reformation England are always welcome.

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Book Review: Four Novellas by Gertrud von le Fort

I purchased this book at Eighth Day Books a couple of weeks ago (and there's still copy on the shelf as I post this review!). According to the publisher, Ignatius Press:

Newly translated into English for the first time, these four novellas from the acclaimed German writer Gertrud von le Fort are from her later works of historical fiction. Ominous and mysterious, these page-turning stories bring to life momentous chapters in from the past.

The Innocents, set in Germany after the Second World War, is a poignant family drama about the horrors of war, the suffering of the innocent, and the demands of justice.

The Ostracized Woman traces the fate of a Prussian family at the end of World War II to the heroic deed of an ancestor done centuries before.

The Last Meeting imagines the last encounter between Madame de La Valliére and Madame de Montespan, rival mistresses of King Louis XIV of France.

The Tower of Constance leads the reader into the heart of the infamous French prison of the same name while exploring the role of conscience in the religious and philosophical conflicts of the eighteenth-century.

Reading them in the translation by Michael J. Miller, what I noticed most was the tension and suspense that von le Fort created in each of these tales. Some great mystery, some great injustice, must be brought to reconciliation--through sacrifice, understanding, or mercy. Each story or novella is a moral mystery and each is effectively paced and plotted.

For the last two stories, I was happy, however, that I had read Antonia Fraser's Love and Louis XIV: The Women in the Life of the Sun King several years ago. It helped me understand the background of the moral issues of the Most Christian King and his defense of orthodoxy in France in the context of his adultery, conflict between his mistresses, their own desires to confess their sin and be absolved, and of course, his control of the Church.

I recommend this volume of Gertrud von le Fort's later works: they are thought-provoking and moving.