Monday, February 18, 2019

Newman's Insights into Faith and Reason

Either Annie or Matt and I will discuss Newman on Faith and Reality this morning on the Son Rise Morning Show about 7:50 a.m. Eastern/6:50 a.m. Central. Listen live here.

Last week, the news came that Blessed John Henry Newman will indeed be canonized:

Pope Francis Wednesday approved the canonization of Bl. John Henry Newman, a Roman Catholic cardinal, scholar, and founder of the Oratory of St. Philip Neri in England.

Following a Feb. 12 meeting with Cardinal Angelo Becciu, the head of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, the pope signed off on a second miracle attributed to the intercession of Newman, who was beatified by Pope Benedict XVI in Birmingham, England on Sept. 19, 2010.


The first miracle attributed to Newman’s intercession involved the complete and inexplicable healing of a deacon from a disabling spinal condition.

His second miracle concerned the healing of a pregnant American woman. The woman prayed for the intercession of Cardinal Newman at the time of a life-threatening diagnosis, and her doctors have been unable to explain how or why she was able to suddenly recover.

The date of his canonization has not yet been announced.


For an "imprimatur" for today's discussion, who better to quote than Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI during his homily at Newman's beatification:

The definite service to which Blessed John Henry was called involved applying his keen intellect and his prolific pen to many of the most pressing “subjects of the day”. His insights into the relationship between faith and reason, into the vital place of revealed religion in civilized society, and into the need for a broadly-based and wide-ranging approach to education were not only of profound importance for Victorian England, but continue today to inspire and enlighten many all over the world.

One thing that the promoters of reason and reality against faith and religious belief would not accept was miracles. When Newman "poped", the Protestant and Anglican communities in England thought that he had fallen for superstitious, ignorant, and credulous Roman (foreign) Catholicism. For example, Edwin Abbott Abbott, born on December 20, 1838, criticized John Henry Cardinal Newman because Newman believed in miracles, that the miracles attributed to Jesus Christ in the Gospels were true, and that miracles could still occur. He thought Newman had betrayed Reason by becoming a Catholic.

He wrote Philomythus: An Antidote against Credulity in 1891, and The Anglican Career of Cardinal Newman in 1892. In the first book he argued against Newman's Essays on Miracles which he wrote while at Oriel College in 1825-26 and 1842-43--Newman edited them for publication 1870, making changes "simply of a literary character". 

In the second book (two volumes) he wants to cast doubts on Newman's truthfulness in the Apologia pro vita sua by using the sermons and letters that Newman wrote as an Anglican to trace Newman's progress to the Catholic Church--a progress that Abbott considers totally regressive and superstitious. Abbott proclaims in his preface that Newman's "imagination dominated his reason, even more than his spiritual fears perverted his imagination". He further proclaims that Newman's sermons are "deficient in the Pauline spirit of hope and love, and inconsistent, as well as inadequate, in their expositions of the meanings and claims of faith and reason" and finally that Newman wanted to love God but did not know the meaning of the word love! Of course, he wrote this after Newman's death.

In Newman's "Sermon Notes" for August 11, 1872, he explained to his congregation why we don't see that many miracles compared to New Testament times:

1. INTROD.—Why we do not see miracles.
2. We believe that miracles are wrought now, though they are few.
3. I have spoken of miracles wrought by apostles of countries.
4. And so of saints. If I am asked why miracles scarce, I answer, Saints are scarce. We cannot conceive common men doing miracles.
5. You will ask, Why are saints scarce now? It has ever been that times vary. There are sometimes bursts of supernatural power and greatness.
6. So the Psalms, xliii. [Note 22], lxxiii. [Note 23], lxxxviii. (finis) [Note 24], and Isaias li [Note 25]. {237}
7. But when there are saints there are great miracles. St. Philip.
8. But you will say, If there are few saints on earth, yet there are many in heaven; why do they not do miracles from heaven, as St. Philip used to do, as we read in the accounts appended to his life?
9. Because we have not faith—not individuals merely, but the population. (Enlarge on this.)
10. Vide Luke xix. 26, Matt. xxi. 27, Mark ix. 23, Mark vi. 5.
11. Because men say, 'Unless we see signs and wonders,' etc., in a haughty way.
12. Miracles now come as a reward to faith, in those who do not look out for them. Not denied then.


To Abbot and others in his time--as even now--the idea of miracles was absurd and irrational. Yet Newman argued, reasonably based upon his faith in God's power and mercy, that miracles were possible, if rare. I cite this as an example of Newman's efforts to explain the relationship between faith and reality. 

But his larger argument was that those who claimed to be skeptical and reasonable were not being true to reality at all; they were applying a scientific standard of truth to religious matters that they could not apply in everyday, real life. He argued that even scientific truths gained from experimentation relied in some way on something that could not be proved, something axiomatic. There was always an element of probability and unproved truths involved: we accept our observations, our memories, our perceptions, etc. The fact that we believe the universe is rational and that we can study nature through experimentation and observation is unproved, except by common sense and probability.

This is not to indicate that Newman was equating faith in the God with the scientific method and mere probability, or ignoring the graces of the Theological Virtue of Faith. He was trying to explain to the skeptics of his day why they should respect, not disdain, the faith of any believer, perhaps even especially that of an educated Christian. As John Caizza, PhD, comments in a Winter 2018 article in Modern Age:

In the Grammar, Newman passes from a Thomistic to an Augustinian stance, describing religious belief first in terms of propositions and arguments but subsequently in terms of conviction and faith. Yet, he never leaves his inherently logical methodology, which is representative of the penetrating power of his intellect, and he never tells of his own experiences, except in an indirect manner. The advantage of Newman's logical yet informal approach is that he is able to integrate contemporary developments in knowledge into a general account of religious belief. This was important in Newman's day when Liberalism and skepticism were weakening the social fabric of religious belief. . . .

A fellow poet once said of T. S. Eliot that the academic character of his poetry should not disguise the fact that Eliot's poems were written in direct response to strongly felt emotions and personal crises. So also with Newman, each of whose major themes in the Grammar was developed in direct response to a controversy in which he was the point man, or a personal crisis when he faced challenges to his religious convictions. It is possible to mistake his British reticence about his spiritual experiences for an abstract, notional knowledge. Unlike when reading St. Augustine, Teresa of Avila, or George Fox, whose personal testimonies are vivid and explicit, it is up to Newman's readers to infer the power of feeling, the extent of motivation and depth of belief required to pursue a lifetime of intellectual writing, pastoral activity, and defense of the Christian faith.

Newman was using terms and methods of arguments that the liberal skeptics used themselves, and that's the apologetic argument he has left us, which many modern apologists use. Catholics are not superstitious, ignorant, and credulous. They believe based on the faith, hope, and love they have experienced, assented to, and live in.

For an example of Blessed John Henry Newman's great devotional faith, read one of his meditations:

1. MY God I believe and know and adore Thee as infinite in the multiplicity and depth of Thy attributes. I adore Thee as containing in Thee an abundance of all that can delight and satisfy the soul. I know, on the contrary, and from sad experience I am too sure, that whatever is created, whatever is earthly, pleases but for the time, and then palls and is a weariness. I believe that there is nothing at all here below, which I should not at length get sick of. I believe, that, though I had all the means of happiness which this life could give, yet in time I should tire of living, feeling everything trite and dull and unprofitable. I believe, that, were it my lot to live the long antediluvian life, and to live it without Thee, I should be utterly, inconceivably, wretched at the end of it. I think I should be tempted to destroy myself for very weariness and disgust. I think I should at last lose my reason and go mad, if my life here was prolonged long enough. I should feel it like solitary confinement, for I should find myself shut up in myself without companion, if I could not converse with Thee, my God. Thou  only, O my Infinite Lord, art ever new, though Thou art the ancient of days—the last as well as the first.

2. Thou, O my God, art ever new, though Thou art the most ancient—Thou alone art the food for eternity. I am to live forever, not for a time—and I have no power over my being; I cannot destroy myself, even though I were so wicked as to wish to do so. I must live on, with intellect and consciousness for ever, in spite of myself. Without Thee eternity would be another name for eternal misery. In Thee alone have I that which can stay me up for ever: Thou alone art the food of my soul. Thou alone art inexhaustible, and ever offerest to me something new to know, something new to love. At the end of millions of years I shall know Thee so little, that I shall seem to myself only beginning. At the end of millions of years I shall find in Thee the same, or rather, greater sweetness than at first, and shall seem then only to be beginning to enjoy Thee: and so on for eternity I shall ever be a little child beginning to be taught the rudiments of Thy infinite Divine nature. For Thou art Thyself the seat and centre of all good, and the only substance in this universe of shadows, and the heaven in which blessed spirits live and rejoice.

3. My God, I take Thee for my portion. From mere prudence I turn from the world to Thee; I give up the world for Thee. I renounce that which promises for Him who performs. To whom else should I go? I desire to find and feed on Thee here; I desire to feed on Thee, Jesu, my Lord, who art risen, who hast gone up on high, who yet remainest with Thy people on earth. I look up to Thee; I look for the Living Bread which is in heaven, which comes down from heaven. Give me ever of this Bread. Destroy this life, which will soon perish—even though Thou dost not destroy it, and fill me with that supernatural life, which will never die.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Edward Short on Newman's Canonization

In The Catholic World Report, Edward Short highlights Cardinal Newman's biglietto speech on combatting liberalism in matters of the religion, but he also mentions, Newman's thoughts on the English Reformation and its aftermath:

Once the news came out today that John Henry Newman (1801-90) would soon be made a saint, after the Vatican announced that the pope had formally approved a second miracle attributed to the great convert’s intercession, many around the world will have rejoiced that the Servant of Truth in Newman will finally be given his proper due. Yet to begin to understand this defining aspect of the man, we have to understand the heroic fight he undertook to combat those who sought to deny or mutilate the Truth. . . .

For Newman, the English Reformation had been a tragedy for the unity of Christendom because it ultimately opened the door not only to apostasy but to the private judgment essential to liberalism. And liberalism gave rise to unbelief, a species of apostasy that was at the very heart of Newman’s apostolate, because it was at the heart of his recognition that there could be no re-evangelization of the English people without proper Catholic education. Unbelief was also more insidious than the repudiation of Catholicism exacted by more formal apostasy because it was so much more prevalent in a society suffused with No Popery. Moreover, the unbelief that followed apostasy posed formidable problems for the newly reconstituted English Catholic Church. If three hundred years of Protestant Christianity had left the English radically hostile to Catholic Christianity, any attempt at reviving the Church in England would have its work cut out for it.

Another ancillary problem, as Newman saw it, was that the English had apostatized twice. If their first apostasy had been from their traditional Catholic faith to the Protestant faith of the Tudors, their second caused them to abandon the Bible Christianity of the Established Church for the rationalism of the Enlightenment, which Newman saw as interchangeable with the liberalism that he spent his life combatting. (One can see this in his excoriating criticism of the Enlightenment historian, Edward Gibbon.) Again, in his ‘bigiletto speech,’ there was nothing happenstance about his speaking of his fight against liberalism in the context of what he called “the great apostasia.” They went hand-in-hand.

That's exactly why I put Newman on the cover of my book, facing Henry VIII. Once he became a Catholic, Newman devoted himself to healing the wounds the Reformation left in England. What Henry VIII put in motion, Newman tried to stop and move in a new way of Faith and Truth and Life.

What a joy to think we will soon call him Saint John Henry Newman! I only wish my husband Mark could have lived to see it (although I believe he knows).

Friday, February 15, 2019

Prepping for Monday: Newman on Faith and Reality

On Monday, February 18, we'll continue our discussion of themes in Blessed John Henry Newman's life and works on the Son Rise Morning Show, focusing on his thoughts on Faith and Reason, or as I've termed it, Faith and Reality. Matt Swaim or Anna Mitchell and I will talk about this about 7:50 a.m. Eastern/6:50 a.m. Central.

The reason I use the term Reality is that Newman was working to correct some problems with how the Victorians thought of Faith. They opposed Faith and Reason or Faith and Reality: Faith was superstitious belief without foundation; it was almost emotional and even sometimes thought of feminine--that's why Newman's great challenger Charles Kingsley accepted the term "Muscular Christianity" to describe his view of Christian life: manly, athletic, emphasizing brotherhood, duty, and honor.

Reason or our view of Reality was skeptical, questioning, searching, and perhaps, as in the case of Newman's younger brother Francis (or Frank) adopting an agnostic stance, never committing one way or the other. It mattered less what you believed: what mattered more was what you did, how you lived, how you faced reality.

Since, two weeks ago, I emphasized how important Christian doctrine was to Newman, you may well believe that he would not accept this separation between Faith and Reality. He dealt with this issue as both an Anglican and a Catholic, offering fifteen Oxford University Sermons on how we experience Faith and Reason in Reality; how they work together. In his preface to the 1871 edition (published after he had written A Grammar of Assent), Newman provided a guide to the sermons, outlining his argument. Here are the first five (excerpted):

1. Before setting down a definition of Faith and of Reason, it will be right to consider what is the popular notion of Faith and Reason, in contrast with each other.

2. According to this popular sense, Faith is the judging on weak grounds in religious matters, and Reason on strong grounds. Faith involves easiness, and Reason slowness in accepting the claims of Religion; by Faith is meant a feeling or sentiment, by Reason an exercise of common sense; Faith is conversant with conjectures or presumptions, Reason with proofs.

3. But now, to speak more definitely, what ought we to understand by the faculty of Reason largely understood?

4. The process of the Reasoning Faculty is either explicit or implicit: that is, either with or without a direct recognition, on the part of the mind, of the starting-point and path of thought from and through which it comes to its conclusion.

5. The process of reasoning, whether implicit or explicit, is the act of one and the same faculty, to  which also belongs the power of analyzing that process, and of thereby passing from implicit to explicit. Reasoning, thus retrospectively employed in analyzing itself, results in a specific science or art, called logic, which is a sort of rhetoric, bringing out to advantage the implicit acts on which it has proceeded. . . .


In 1870, he wrote A Grammar of Assent, taking up the same issues, but focused on proving that one can assent to something as true without ascertaining a scientific standard of proof. One can achieve Certitude and Assent to a truth, from the mundane (the trains will run according to schedule) to the sublime (God sent his Son, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, to redeem mankind through His Cross and Resurrection) without being unreasonable or superstitious: we do it all the time.

In both his 1841 letters to The Times of London, "The Tamworth Reading Room" (part IV in his Discussions and Arguments) and The Idea of a University, Newman argued that the study of religion truths, of Theology, was necessary to education. Theology is a university subject, it has content and argument, it is to be reasoned with, explored, and studied: without it, a university does not live up to its name: it does not teach universal knowledge.

Newman presents these arguments in philosophical and psychological depth in these works; what I'll do on Monday is look at what these efforts mean for Catholics today, and why Newman's work in this field relates to how we present our faith and live our faith today.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

The Protestant Throckmorton


Sir Nicholas Throckmorton died on February 12, 1571; he was a survivor of the Tudor succession, restored to favor under Mary I in spite of his initial support of Lady Jane Grey--who was executed on February 12 in 1554--and suspicion of his involvement in the Wyatt Rebellion. According to the Dictionary of National Biography:

diplomatist, born in 1515, was fourth of the eight sons of Sir George Throckmorton of Coughton, Warwickshire. His grandfather, Sir Robert Throckmorton (son of Thomas, and grandson of Sir John Throckmorton [q. v.]), was a privy councillor under Henry VII, and died in 1519 while on a pilgrimage to Palestine. His mother was Katharine, daughter of Sir Nicholas, lord Vaux of Harrowden, by his wife Elizabeth, daughter of Henry, lord Fitzhugh, and widow of Sir William Parr, K.G. She was thus aunt by marriage to Queen Catherine Parr, and Sir Nicholas claimed the queen as his first cousin. His father, Sir George, incurred, owing to some local topic of dispute, the ill-will of Cromwell, whose manor of Oversley adjoined that of Coughton. Early in 1540 Cromwell contrived to have his neighbour imprisoned on a charge of denying Henry VIII's supremacy, but Lady Throckmorton's niece, Catherine Parr, used her influence with the king to procure Sir George's release. Sir George was one of the chief witnesses against Cromwell at his trial, which took place in the same year, and was consulted by Henry VIII in the course of the proceedings. After Cromwell's fall Sir George purchased Cromwell's forfeited manor of Oversley. He was sheriff of Warwickshire and Leicestershire in 1526 and 1546, and built the great gatehouse at Coughton. He died soon after Queen Mary's accession. Sir Robert Throckmorton (d. 1570), Sir George's eldest son and successor in the Coughton estate, was succeeded by his son Thomas (d. 1614), who, as a staunch catholic, suffered much persecution and loss of property during Elizabeth's reign. Thomas Throckmorton's grandson Robert was a devoted royalist, and was created a baronet on 1 Sept. 1642. The baronetcy is still held by a descendant.

As for Nicholas, the fourth son, he was a Protestant:

Nicholas was chiefly brought up by his mother's brother-in-law, Lord Parr. In youth he served as page to the Duke of Richmond, and probably went to Paris with his master in 1532. With two brothers he joined the household of his family connection, Catherine Parr, soon after her marriage to Henry VIII in July 1543. Unlike other members of his family, he accepted the reformed faith of his mistress, and remained a sturdy protestant till his death. He and two brothers were present as sympathising spectators at the execution of Anne Askew, the protestant martyr, in 1546 (Narratives of the Reformation, Camden Soc. pp. 41–2).

Throckmorton entered public life as M.P. for Malden in 1545, and sat in the House of Commons almost continuously till 1567. The accession of Edward VI was favourable to his fortunes. With the king's religious sentiment he was in thorough sympathy, and Edward liked him personally. . . .



Although he was Protestant, he eventually sided with the Catholic Mary instead of the Protestant Jane:

Throckmorton's signature was appended to the letters patent of 7 June 1553 which limited the succession of the crown to Lady Jane Grey and her descendants (Chronicle of Queen Jane, p. 100). Immediately after Edward's death and Lady Jane's accession, Throckmorton's wife acted by way of deputy for Lady Jane as godmother of a son of Edward Underhill, the ‘Hot-Gospeller,’ at his christening in the Tower of London (19 July 1553); the boy was named Guilford after Lady Jane's husband (Narratives of the Reformation, p. 153). On the same day Mary was generally proclaimed queen. Throckmorton is reported to have been at the moment at Northampton, and when Sir Thomas Tresham formally declared for Mary there, he is said to have made a protest in Lady Jane's favour, which exposed him to personal risk at the townspeople's hands (Chron. of Queen Jane, p. 12). But Throckmorton's devotion to Lady Jane was more specious than real, and he had no intention of forfeiting the goodwill of her rival Mary. He was credited by his friends with having taken a step of the first importance to Mary's welfare on the very day of Edward VI's death by sending her London goldsmith to her at Hoddesdon to apprise her of the loss of her brother, and to warn her of the danger that threatened her if she fell into the clutches of the Duke of Northumberland (Legend of Throckmorton, vv. 111 et seq.; cf.Goodman's Life and Times, i. 117). On Mary's arrival in London she showed no resentment at Throckmorton's dalliance with Lady Jane's pretensions, and he sat as member for Old Sarum in her first parliament of October–December 1553.

But he was suspected of involvement in the Wyatt Plot and spent some time in the Tower of London, but was acquitted at trial by the jury! That's extraordinary in the history of treason trials, but he had defended himself well--and both he and the jury were still imprisoned after the verdict.

When Mary died and Elizabeth became queen, Throckmorton began diplomatic contacts with Mary Stuart, Queen of Scotland and Queen of France (briefly):

Elizabeth's accession to the throne opened to him a career of political activity. He was at once appointed chief butler and chamberlain of the exchequer, and was elected M.P. for Lyme Regis on 2 Jan. 1558–9. In the following May the more important office of ambassador to France was bestowed on him (cf. Cal. State Papers, Dom., 1547–80, p. 128). On 9 Jan. 1559–60 the queen signed instructions in which he was directed to protest against the assumption of the arms of England by Francis II, who had married Mary Queen of Scots on 24 April 1558, and had ascended the French throne on 10 July 1559 (Hatfield MSS. i. 165–7; State Papers, Foreign, 1559–60, No. 557). Francis died on 5 Dec. 1560, and Throckmorton was much occupied in the weeks that followed in seeking to induce Queen Mary to forego ‘the style and title of sovereign of England,’ and to postpone her assumption of her sovereignty in Scotland. Throckmorton had many audiences of her, and acknowledged her fascination. They corresponded on friendly terms, and despite differences in their religious and political opinions, he thenceforth did whatever he could to serve her, consistently with his duty to his country (cf. Labanoff, Lettres de Marie Stuart, i. 94, 128). He now succeeded in reconciling Elizabeth to the prospect of Queen Mary's settlement in Scotland. But he endeavoured to persuade Mary to tolerate protestantism among her subjects, and did not allow his personal regard for her to diminish his zeal for his own creed. The Venetian ambassador in France described him (3 July 1561) as ‘the most cruel adversary that the catholic religion has in England’ (Cal. Venetian State Papers, 1558–80, p. 333). He showed every mark of hostility to the Guises and of sympathy with the Huguenots, and urged Elizabeth to ally herself publicly and without delay with the Huguenots in France and the reformers in Scotland. Little heed was paid to his proposals.

As you read the rest of the biography, you might notice that Throckmorton was not always a successful diplomat. One problem he had was that Elizabeth I's directions were not always clear, and sometimes even contradictory. He fell out of her graces one last time over Thomas Howard, the Duke of Norfolk's idea of marrying the deposed Mary, Queen of Scots:

Throckmorton thenceforth suffered acutely from a sense of disappointment. His health failed during 1568, but he maintained friendly relations with Cecil, to whom he wrote from Fulham on 2 Sept. 1568 that he proposed to kill a buck at Cecil's house at Mortlake. He had long favoured the proposal to wed Queen Mary to the Duke of Norfolk, and he was consequently suspected next year of sympathy with the rebellion of northern catholics in Queen Mary's behalf. In September 1569 he was imprisoned in Windsor Castle, but he was soon released and no further proceedings were taken against him. He died in London on 12 Feb. 1570–1. . . . Throckmorton was buried on the south side of the chancel in St. Catherine Cree Church in the city of London.

Image Credit at top: Throckmorton's monument in St. Katherine Cree. Note the bottom of the the portrait of William Laud, Archbishop of Canterbury above the tomb in this picture (he was Bishop of London when he consecrated the rebuilt church in 1631).

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Portrait Miniatures in the Elizabethan and Jacobean Eras

Timed perfectly for the opening of an exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery in London called "Elizabethan Treasures: Miniatures by Hilliard and Oliver", The Literary Review has posted this review of a biography of Nicholas Hilliard, one of the great portrait miniaturists of the Elizabethan era:

According to Elizabeth Goldring in this engrossing biography, the earliest recorded use of the term ‘miniature’ in English literature comes in Sir Philip Sidney’s prose romance The New Arcadia, written in the early 1580s. Four ladies bathe and splash playfully in the River Ladon, personified as male, and he responds delightedly by making numerous bubbles, as if ‘he would in each of those bubbles set forth the miniature of them’. It’s a pleasing image, calling to mind the delicacy and radiance of the works of Nicholas Hilliard, the leading miniaturist (or ‘limner’) of the Elizabethan age, whom Sidney knew and with whom he discussed emerging ideas about the theory and practice of art. In some ways, a miniature had the ephemerality of a bubble, capturing an individual at a fleeting moment in time, often recorded in an inscription noting the date and the sitter’s age. Yet it also made that moment last for posterity, as shown in this sumptuous book, where Hilliard’s subjects gaze back at us piercingly from many of the 250 colour illustrations.

Miniatures were often referred to as ‘jewels’, a term that captures their glittering beauty and the way that they were worn on the body, often in cases embellished with gemstones. Within the pictures also, Hilliard paid minute attention to costumes and jewellery, developing a new technique of simulating gems by ‘laying a ground of real silver, burnishing it to a shine, and then, with a heated needle, modelling the jewel out of stained resin’. Magnified images illustrate this in astonishing detail. Goldring also provides fascinating information about Hilliard’s techniques: playing cards were used as backing for miniatures; pigments were often mixed in mussel shells; paint was applied with a fine brush made of squirrel hair; silver was treated with garlic juice to guard it against tarnishing. . . .

Read the rest here.

Of Isaac Oliver, the NPG website offers this note:

Oliver was born in Rouen and came to England with his family as a Huguenot refugee. He learnt the art of miniature painting from Nicholas Hilliard but unlike Hilliard, and as a result of his understanding of continental art, he used light and shade (chiaroscuro) to develop a softer, more illusionistic style. Oliver was appointed miniaturist to Anne of Denmark, wife of James I, and later to their eldest son Henry, Prince of Wales.

Friday, February 8, 2019

What's Wrong With the World?

Tonight our local Society of Gilbert Keith Chesterton group will start discussing Chesterton's What's Wrong With the World. According to Dale Ahlquist:

Chesterton’s book, What’s Wrong with the World, was supposedly written in 1910. But there is good evidence that it was actually written today.

Our society is experiencing exactly the crisis that Chesterton warned us about almost a century ago. There is a greater disparity than ever between the rich and poor. Our families are falling apart, our schools are in utter chaos, our basic freedoms are under assault. It affects every one of us. As Chesterton says, “Not only are we all in the same boat, but we are all seasick.”

But while we agree about the evil, we no longer agree about the good. The main thing that is wrong with the world is that we do not ask what is right. It is the loss of ideals that makes reform such a difficult task.

Some people say that idealism is impractical. But Chesterton says, “Idealism is only considering everything in its practical essence.” In other words, idealism is common sense. It is what the common man knows is right, in spite of all the voices telling him it is impractical or unrealistic or out-dated. And when Chesterton says idealism, he means the Christian ideal. “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried.” It would mean the ideal house and the happy family, the holy family of history. It would mean making laws that respect the family as the most important unit of society, and laws which are moral and respect religious principles. It would mean the widespread distribution of property and capital to provide for greater justice and liberty. It would mean not being afraid to teach the truth to our children. But we have left the truth behind us. And instead of turning around and going back and fixing things, we rush madly forward towards we know not what, and call ourselves, “progressive.” Instead of the solid family and the church and the republic being held up as ideals, these things are now assailed by those who have never known them, or by those who have failed to fulfill them. “Men invent new ideals because they are afraid to attempt old ideals. They look forward with enthusiasm, because they are afraid to look back.”

Reading this book is good preparation for the 2019 Conference of the Society, because its theme is "The Future of the Family."

The Society of Gilbert Keith Chesterton is the new name for this entity:

The Society of Gilbert Keith Chesterton is a Catholic lay apostolate, recognized formally as a canonical private association of the Christian faithful. The mission of the Society is to promote Catholic education, evangelization, and the social teaching of the Church. To help carry out its mission, the Society sponsors organizations including the American Chesterton Society, the Chesterton Schools Network, and Teach for Christ.

The Society has a mission statement, with the purpose of "Renewing Society Through Christian Joy & Common Sense":

The Society of Gilbert Keith Chesterton is a Catholic lay apostolate, recognized formally as a canonical private association of the Christian faithful. Our organization exists to draw people to the Catholic faith — or back to their Catholic faith — and to help them live joyful and holy lives.

Our mission is to promote Catholic education, evangelization, and the social teaching of the Church. Our sponsored organizations, including the schools in the Chesterton Schools Network and Teach for Christ, help carry out our mission.

We look to G.K. Chesterton as the preeminent model for the New Evangelization: an articulate defender of the faith with charity for all (even with whom he disagreed); and a life permeated by an enduring sense of joy, wonder, and gratitude. . . .


Please read the rest there.

As for our group tonight, we will gather at Eighth Day Books around 6:30 p.m. and talk about the first three chapters in WWWW in Part One. The Homelessness of Man: I. The Medical Mistake, II. Wanted, an Unpractical Man, and III. The New Hypocrite. 

Refreshments will be served!!

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

The KING'S Bedpost: A Model in its Genre

The genre I'm referring to is the reinterpretation or correction of a common theory about a historical object or event, suggesting another, accepted view is incorrect or incomplete.

The late Margaret Aston took on Roy Strong's dating of the allegorical painting Edward VI and the Pope in this wonderfully illustrated and elegantly argued exploration of religious issues during Elizabeth I's reign. Aston does it with such good humour and careful explanation that I think that even Roy Strong wouldn't mind her suggestion that he was wrong to date this painting to the reign of Edward VI, even though it seems to depict events occurring while that new Josiah was on the throne and his Protectors and Council were implementing a truly Calvinist and iconoclastic Reformation in England.

Much of Aston's evidence is graphic as she dates the sphinx-like bedpost at the bottom of Henry VIII's bed, and indeed Henry VIII's posture, including the hand on his knee and the pointing finger, by citing another image, created after both Edward and Mary I reigned, on the Continent by Peter Galle in 1564. Aston also found a drawing of the Fall of Babel dating to 1567 upon which the inset picture of the destruction of idols could be based. Those two models take the allegorical picture out of Edward VI's reign and into Elizabeth's reign.

Aston then describes how in the minds of many Puritans, Elizabeth was not as strong on the destruction of idols as she should be. She refused, for example, to get rid of the crucifix and candles on the altar in her private chapel; nor would she allow the Eleanor Cross in Cheapside, which included an image of the Blessed Virgin Mary and Jesus on a panel, to be destroyed. She was not the Josiah her brother had been at all.

John Martiall (1534-97), an English Catholic living in exile rejoiced that Elizabeth prayed before a Crucifix. He wrote A Treatyse of the Crosse, gathred out of the Scriptures, Councelles, and auncient Fathers of the Primitiue Church in 1564 and dedicated it to Elizabeth! James Calfhill of Oxford responded with Answer to the Treatise of the Crosse and Martiall wrote again in response to Calfhill with A Replie to M. Calfhills "blasphemous Answer made against the Treatise of the Crosse.

Numerous attempts were made to persuade Elizabeth to get rid of that Crucifix and it was even destroyed by a couple of visitors to the chapel. Calvinists preached sermons to her; courtiers counselled her, and even common men wrote to her, but she replaced the Crucifix and candlesticks again and was adamant that they would remain in her chapel! She did stop having the candles lit.

This allegory would have been a reminder to her that only the strong leadership of a Josiah or Hezekiah, or other great Old Testament king, could contend with the dangers of the Papacy--which she well knew as a source of rebellion against--and Popery. To demonstrate that leadership she had to destroy all the idols in England, in her chapel and in her capital.

Aston also describes the predicament of Thomas Howard, the son of Henry Howard, the Earl of Surrey, and father of St. Philip Howard. She suggests that this painting, with the depiction of the two Seymour brothers, Edward and Thomas, who brought down his father and grandfather at the end of Henry VIII's reign, would have been a warning to him to stop flirting with Popery by plotting to marry the deposed Mary Stuart of Scotland, at that time a "guest" of Elizabeth. John Foxe, who had been Howard's tutor, urged him to avoid the grave danger he was getting into and to return absolutely to the strong Calvinist doctrine he had taught him.

Aston does not contend that she has proved beyond a doubt that she is right about either of these theories, but this article notes that later scientific research did prove she was right about the dating of the painting:

Twenty years later, in 2013 (and possibly as a result of Aston’s work), King Edward VI and the Pope was chosen as one of three portraits to be renovated by the National Portrait Gallery through support of an art conservation project. This project confirmed the theory of a later production date. Dendrochronological analysis helped researchers conclude that the panel was made from a tree that was felled between 1574 and 1590.

This is really masterful work, explaining many facets of the English Reformation through the analysis of an allegorical painting which is not really a great work of art but a fascinating image nonetheless. 

Monday, February 4, 2019

Newman on Believing in God and Doctrine

As promised, this morning, I'll continue the series on Blessed John Henry Newman on the Son Rise Morning Show. This episode's theme is Newman on God and Doctrine. On Friday, I offered some excerpts from the first chapter of the Apologia pro vita sua on the development of Newman's religious opinions focused on the doctrines he had accepted up to the year 1833, when he became one of the leaders of the Oxford Movement.

One of the ways this belief in God and His Revelation manifested itself in Newman's Oxford years was in his Parochial and Plain Sermons (PPS) which he preached at the University Church of St. Mary the Virgin (my late husband Mark took the picture of the pulpit in that church). In those sermons he elucidated Christian doctrine to his congregation, often emphasizing that they had to live as if they really believed those doctrines. Probably the best example is in "Unreal Words", Sermon 3 in fifth volume of the PPS.

Newman warns that in his day, Christians behaved as though God had not revealed His Truth, the doctrines that they should believe. Just as people have opinions and make statements on many things and ideas they have no real knowledge of, many talk about religious truth without any real knowledge of it. But those who should have knowledge of it, Christians who recite the Creed, read the Holy Bible, go to church services on Sunday, etc., speak the same way. There is a disconnect between what they say they believe and what they really do believe:

This is a day in which there is (rightly or wrongly) so much of private judgment, so much of separation and difference, so much of preaching and teaching, so much of authorship, that it involves individual profession, responsibility, and recompense in a way peculiarly its own. It will not then be out of place if, in connexion with the text, we consider some of the many ways in which persons, whether in this age or in another, make unreal professions, or seeing see not, and hearing hear not, and speak without mastering, or trying to master, their words. This I will attempt to do at some length, and in matters of detail, which are not the less important because they are minute. . . .

This is a day in which all men are obliged to have an opinion on all questions, political, social, and religious, because they have in some way or other an influence upon the decision; yet the multitude are for the most part absolutely without capacity to take their part in it. . . .

And hence it is that the popular voice is so changeable. One man or measure is the idol of the people today, another tomorrow. They have never got beyond accepting shadows for things.


The same thing happens within the Christian life, Newman warns. Christians don't really apply the truths of the Christian faith to their everyday life, to the crises of life and death, illness and recovery, or even to the religious practice of their faith, in how they pray, in their love of Jesus, their fear of God, their preparation for death, their acknowledgement of sin. They don't act as if what the Church teaches is really true--that their belief in God and their assent to Christian Doctrine has consequences. He calls this "profession without action, or . . . speaking without really seeing and feeling".

He offers this advice:

What I have been saying comes to this:—be in earnest, and you will speak of religion where, and when, and how you should; aim at things, and your words will be right without aiming. There are ten thousand ways of looking at this world, but only one right way. The man of pleasure has his way, the man of gain his, and the man of intellect his. Poor men and rich men, governors and governed, prosperous and discontented, learned and unlearned, each has his own way of looking at the things which come before him, and each has a wrong way. There is but one right way; it is the way in which God looks at the world. Aim at looking at it in God's way. Aim at seeing things as God sees them. Aim at forming judgments about persons, events, ranks, fortunes, changes, objects, such as God forms. Aim at looking at this life as God looks at it. Aim at looking at the life to come, and the world unseen, as God does. Aim at "seeing the King in his beauty." All things that we see are but shadows to us and delusions, unless we enter into what they really mean.

It is not an easy thing to learn that new language which Christ has brought us. He has interpreted all things for us in a new way; He has brought us a religion which sheds a new light on all that happens. Try to learn this language. Do not get it by rote, or speak it as a thing of course. Try to understand what you say. Time is short, eternity is long; God is great, man is weak; he stands between heaven and hell; Christ is his Saviour; Christ has suffered for him. The Holy Ghost sanctifies him; repentance purifies him, faith justifies, works save. These are solemn truths, which need not be actually spoken, except in the way of creed or of teaching; but which must be laid up in the heart. That a thing is true, is no reason that it should be said, but that it should be done; that it should be acted upon; that it should be made our own inwardly.

Let us avoid talking, of whatever kind; whether mere empty talking, or censorious talking, or idle profession, or descanting upon Gospel doctrines, or the affectation of philosophy, or the pretence of eloquence. Let us guard against frivolity, love of display, love of being talked about, love of singularity, love of seeming original. Let us aim at meaning what we say, and saying what we mean; let us aim at knowing when we understand a truth, and when we do not. When we do not, let us take it on faith, and let us profess to do so. Let us receive the truth in reverence, and pray God to give us a good will, and divine light, and spiritual strength, that it may bear fruit within us.


Newman wrote "The Dream of Gerontius" in 1865. Before he dies Gerontius makes a statement of his faith. Gerontius is on the edge of that eternity and his last thoughts are of God. He is dying in the conviction that these words are real:

Sanctus fortis, Sanctus Deus,
De profundis oro te,
Miserere, Judex meus,
Parce mihi, Domine.
Firmly I believe and truly
God is three, and God is One;
And I next acknowledge duly
Manhood taken by the Son.
And I trust and hope most fully
In that Manhood crucified;
And each thought and deed unruly
Do to death, as He has died.
Simply to His grace and wholly
Light and life and strength belong,
And I love, supremely, solely,
Him the holy, Him the strong.
Sanctus fortis, Sanctus Deus,
De profundis oro te,
Miserere, Judex meus,
Parce mihi, Domine.
And I hold in veneration,
For the love of Him alone,
Holy Church, as His creation,
And her teachings, as His own.
And I take with joy whatever
Now besets me, pain or fear,
And with a strong will I sever
All the ties which bind me here.
Adoration aye be given,
With and through the angelic host,
To the God of earth and heaven,
Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
Sanctus fortis, Sanctus Deus,
De profundis oro te,
Miserere, Judex meus,
Mortis in discrimine.


Beyond Elgar's oratorio based on Newman's poem, "Firmly I Believe and Truly" has been set as a hymn, either to the tune Halton Holgate or Shipston.

Friday, February 1, 2019

Newman: God and Doctrine


On Monday, February 4, Anna Mitchell or Matt Swam and I--and I think it is Anna's turn since Matt won the coin toss last time--will continue our discussion of Blessed John Henry Newman's life and works on the Son Rise Morning Show. (Listen live here after 7:45 a.m. Eastern/6:45 a.m. Central.)

After the two segments on his life last month, we are going to focus on several themes in Newman works, starting with God and Doctrine. In Newman's life and works, we see that for him belief in God meant acceptance of Revelation, the Creeds, and Doctrine.

In other words, the dogma lived loudly within him!

His understanding of that Doctrine developed and changed (he was a Calvinist but finally rejected that teaching), and once he became a Catholic, he accepted the Church's teachings on that Doctrine without reserve (see below).

In the first chapter of his Apologia pro vita sua, Blessed John Henry Newman describes his early journey of faith in God and His Revelation (the doctrines and dogma of the Christian faith). He was raised in a low Church of England family (his mother had Huguenot forebears), he knew his Anglican Catechism, and he read the Holy Bible. When he was 15, he experienced a religious conversion because of the influence of the Reverend Walter Mayers and Calvinism:

When I was fifteen, (in the autumn of 1816,) a great change of thought took place in me. I fell under the influences of a definite Creed, and received into my intellect impressions of dogma, which, through God's mercy, have never been effaced or obscured. Above and beyond the conversations and sermons of the excellent man, long dead, the Rev. Walter Mayers, of Pembroke College, Oxford, who was the human means of this beginning of divine faith in me, was the effect of the books which he put into my hands, all of the school of Calvin. One of the first books I read was a work of Romaine's; I neither recollect the title nor the contents, except one doctrine, which of course I do not include among those which I believe to have come from a divine source, viz. the doctrine of final perseverance. I received it at once, and believed that the inward conversion of which I was conscious, (and of which I still am more certain than that I have hands and feet,) would last into the next life, and that I was elected to eternal glory. I have no consciousness that this belief had any tendency whatever to lead me to be careless about pleasing God. I retained it till the age of twenty-one, when it gradually faded away; but I believe that it had some influence on my opinions, in the direction of those childish imaginations which I have already mentioned, viz. in isolating me from the objects which surrounded me, in confirming me in my mistrust of the reality of material phenomena, and making me rest in the thought of two and two only absolute and luminously self-evident beings, myself and my Creator;—for while I considered myself predestined to salvation, my mind did not dwell upon others, as fancying them simply passed over, not predestined to eternal death. I only thought of the mercy to myself.

Then he read the works of Thomas Scott of Aston Sandford. From them he, having started to fall away from Calvinist doctrines, learned about the search for truth and the doctrine of the Holy Trinity:

What, I suppose, will strike any reader of Scott's history and writings, is his bold unworldliness and vigorous independence of mind. He followed truth wherever it led him, beginning with Unitarianism, and ending in a zealous faith in the Holy Trinity. It was he who first planted deep in my mind that fundamental truth of religion. With the assistance of Scott's Essays, and the admirable work of Jones of Nayland, I made a collection of Scripture texts in proof of the doctrine, with remarks (I think) of my own upon them, before I was sixteen; and a few months later I drew up a series of texts in support of each verse of the Athanasian Creed. These papers I have still.

Besides his unworldliness, what I also admired in Scott was his resolute opposition to Antinomianism, and the minutely practical character of his writings. They show him to be a true Englishman, and I deeply felt his influence; and for years I used almost as proverbs what I considered to be the scope and issue of his doctrine, Holiness rather than peace, and Growth the only evidence of life.

Antinomianism is the belief that the chosen elect do not even have to follow the Ten Commandments: they are saved and no morality applies to them; no sin can affect their election and certainty of Heaven. 

Newman also described two more influences: one that would remain throughout his life; the other he would reject: Church History (and the Fathers of the Church) and Anti-Catholicism:

Now I come to two other works, which produced a deep impression on me in the same Autumn of 1816, when I was fifteen years old, each contrary to each, and planting in me the seeds of an intellectual inconsistency which disabled me for a long course of years. I read Joseph Milner's Church History, and was nothing short of enamoured of the long extracts from St. Augustine, St. Ambrose, and the other Fathers which I found there. I read them as being the religion of the primitive Christians: but simultaneously with Milner I read Newton On the Prophecies, and in consequence became most firmly convinced that the Pope was the Antichrist predicted by Daniel, St. Paul, and St. John. My imagination was stained by the effects of this doctrine up to the year 1843; it had been obliterated from my reason and judgment at an earlier date; but the thought remained upon me as a sort of false conscience.

At each step of Newman's description of the influence of various men and books in this survey of the history of his religious opinions from about 1816 to 1833, he emphasizes the doctrine he learned: the Holy Trinity, Calvinist TULIP, Eternal Life in Heaven or in Hell, etc. He accepted other doctrines while at the University of Oxford before 1833: Baptismal regeneration (the end of his Calvinist phase); the Anglican doctrine of Tradition ("that the sacred text [of the Holy Bible] was never intended to teach doctrine, but only to prove it, and that, if we would learn doctrine, we must have recourse to the formularies of the Church; for instance to the Catechism, and to the Creeds"); apostolic succession; the Christian Church "as a substantive body or corporation"; the Real Presence in the Eucharist, etc.

In chapters two through four of the Apologia pro vita sua, Newman traces the further development of his religious ideas as he tries to develop the Via Media of the Anglican Church. But in chapter five he begins with this statement:

FROM the time that I became a Catholic, of course I have no further history of my religious opinions to narrate. In saying this, I do not mean to say that my mind has been idle, or that I have given up thinking on theological subjects; but that I have had no variations to record, and have had no anxiety of heart whatever. I have been in perfect peace and contentment; I never have had one doubt. I was not conscious to myself, on my conversion, of any change, intellectual or moral, wrought in my mind. I was not conscious of firmer faith in the fundamental truths of Revelation, or of more self-command; I had not more fervour; but it was like coming into port after a rough sea; and my happiness on that score remains to this day without interruption.

Image Credit: Adoration of the Holy Trinity by Albrecht Durer.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

The English Reformation in Art and Music


Two packages arrived on Monday: one containing a fine used copy of of Margaret Aston's The King's Bedpost: Reformation and Iconography in a Tudor Group Portrait and the other a newly released CD from Stile Antico, In a Strange Land: Elizabethan Composers in Exile.

I've listened to the CD twice and am still reading the book.

I'm familiar with the stories of most of the composers on the CD (Dowland, Byrd, Dering, Philips, White, and De Monte) and have CDs with some of the same works (Byrd's "Tristitia et anxietas" and his "Quomodo cantabimus", written in response to Philippe de Monte's "Super flumina Babylonis"; Robert White's "Lamentations a 5", etc).

Richard Dering's "Factum est silentium" was an exciting and exuberant discovery:

Factum est silentium in caelo,
Dum committeret bellum draco cum Michaele Archangelo.

Audita est vox millia millium dicentium:
Salus, honor et virtus omnipotenti Deo.
Millia millium minestrabant ei et decies centena millia assistebant ei.
[Alleluia.]

There was silence in heaven
When the dragon fought with the Archangel Michael.

The voice of a thousand thousand was heard saying:
Salvation, honour and power be to almighty God.
A thousand thousand ministered to him and ten hundreds of thousands stood before him.
[Alleluia.]

Here it is sung by the Choir of Clare College! As another record label, Hyperion, describes Dering and this work, which is the Antiphon for the Benedictus canticle during the Lauds of Michaelmas:

Dering was, like Philips, an English Catholic musician who went into exile in the Spanish Netherlands (or, according to another account, converted to Catholicism while visiting Rome in 1612). By 1617 he was organist to the convent of English nuns in Brussels, and in the same year published his first collection of Cantiones Sacrae; the publisher was the noted Phal├Ęse of Antwerp who also published music by Philips. Factum est silentium comes from a second collection which appeared in 1618; its declamatory, dramatic style shows clearly the influence of the new Italian Baroque style which Dering’s compatriots in England were perhaps slower to embrace.

The new work on the CD, a setting of Shakespeare's poem, "The Phoenix and The Turtle", underwhelmed me. The words were lost in the music of Huw Watkins. The liner notes explain that he "portrays the busy hustle and bustle of funeral preparations, before a slower sublime setting of the concluding threnody." "Busy hustle and bustle of funeral preparations"? I don't hear that in the poem's opening:

Let the bird of loudest lay 
On the sole Arabian tree 
Herald sad and trumpet be, 
To whose sound chaste wings obey. 

But thou shrieking harbinger, 
Foul precurrer of the fiend, 
Augur of the fever's end, 
To this troop come thou not near. 

From this session interdict 
Every fowl of tyrant wing, 
Save the eagle, feather'd king; 
Keep the obsequy so strict. 

Let the priest in surplice white, 
That defunctive music can, 
Be the death-divining swan, 
Lest the requiem lack his right. 

And thou treble-dated crow, 
That thy sable gender mak'st 
With the breath thou giv'st and tak'st, 
'Mongst our mourners shalt thou go. . . .

This sounds more directions first for who should not attend the funeral and then who should, not running around making arrangements! The notes do mention the theory that Shakespeare is paying tribute to St. Anne Line and her exiled husband Roger.

More on Aston's study of the meaning and date of "King Edward VI and the Pope" which is in the National Portrait Gallery in London after I've finished reading the book.