Monday, October 11, 2021

Book Review: Two by Hugh (Ross Williamson)

I have heard of Hugh Ross Williamson (1901-1978) before: he was an early revisionist historian of the Whig tradition of the English Reformation and its aftermath: The Gunpowder Plot (1951); The Beginning of the English Reformation (1957); The Conspirators and the Crown (1959), etc. He was raised in a Nonconformist (English Protestants not accepting Church of England doctrine and worship) family, became an Anglican minister in 1943 and then became a Catholic in 1955. 

At that time there was no Pastoral Provision (as Pope Saint John Paul II established in 1982) or Anglican Ordinariate (as Pope Benedict XVI established in 2009), so as he was married, he became a layman in the Catholic Church and continued his career as a prolific author. Joseph Pearce highlights his career in Literary Converts: Spiritual Inspiration in an Age of Unbelief (Ignatius Press). 

One of the best anecdotes Pearce relates is Williamson's opportunity to write a play for the 1953 Canterbury Festival (the same event for which T.S. Eliot wrote Murder in the Cathedral and Dorothy L. Sayers The Zeal of Thy House). Like Eliot, whom Williamson admired, he wrote a play about a former Archbishop of Canterbury, entombed in the Cathedral like many Catholic archbishops before him: Reginald Cardinal Pole (!). The current Archbishop of Canterbury, Geoffrey Fisher, did not attend Williamson's play, His Eminence of England, and Robert Speaight, the Catholic (convert) actor who portrayed both St. Thomas of Canterbury and Reginald Cardinal Pole in their respective plays, regretted the low turnout for the performances. 

When he became a Catholic, Williamson lost all his sources of income, including his role on the BBC Brains Trust program (the BBC TV version). His brain--being now Catholic--could not be trusted. So he wrote, acted (as Ian Rossiter), etc., to support his family.

I'm going to comment on these books in the reverse order of my reading: The Great Prayer (Gracewing) and The Great Betrayal (Arouca Press). That's the order in which he wrote them.

The first point to be made about The Great Prayer is that he wrote it was he was still an Anglican minister (dated Maundy Thursday, 1954). When Gracewing (a Catholic publisher in the UK) republished the book, it did not seek a Nihil Obstat or Imprimatur from a Catholic diocese but did ask a Catholic bishop, Alan S. Hopes, to recommend the book. 

Hopes was at the time an Auxiliary Bishop of Westminster and is now the Bishop of East Anglia--coincidentally (?) he was also once an Anglican minister, ordained in 1968. In 1994, he joined the Catholic Church, then was ordained a Catholic priest in 1995, then ordained a bishop in 2003. Pope Francis appointed him the Bishop of East Anglia in 2013. 

N.B.: Hopes had evidently never been married, thus did not need a Pastoral Provision or Personal Ordinariate. 

In his introduction, Hopes notes that "while this is not the most up-to-date scholarly work on this Eucharistic prayer, it does nevertheless hold its value. Its freshness of style will make it a pleasant as well as an informative read for today." (p. vi)

The point is: this is a historical document as much as it is a liturgical and theological study of the Roman Canon, what is now the First Eucharistic Prayer in the Roman Missal of 1970, but which remains the only Eucharistic Prayer in the Roman Missal of 1962. When Hugh Ross Williamson wrote it, he was convinced of certain ecclesiastical and doctrinal facts within the Church of England that proved not to be true: therefore he became a Catholic. 

He hoped that the Roman Canon, since it existed for more than a thousand years before the Church of England was established, could be a point of unity between Catholics and Protestants. He thought that it did not require belief in the doctrine of Transubstantiation to believe in The Real Presence of Jesus Christ, Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity, since this Great Prayer was in use before the Council of Trent. 

Like Newman, Williamson was appealing to antiquity (and more recent history before the English Reformation) for the basis of change or reform in the Church of England:

In praying the Canon we unite ourselves with all fellow-Christians 'throughout the ages, world without end'. In knowing the Canon, we become grounded in the teaching of the primitive Church which Protestants no less than Catholics accept [sic?] and so we may find that the Lord's Table, despite all the controversies which have disgraced His followers, is indeed the centre of unity." (p. 14) . . .

[The division of opinion between Christians is not] "between those who believe in 'some kind of change in the elements' and those who call the change 'Transubstantiation'" . . . [it is] "between those who believe that they are receiving the Body and the Blood in a Sacrament and those who believe that their faith is spiritually quickened by eating bread and drinking wine in an act of remembrance."

The first Archbishop of Canterbury, Saint Augustine, sent by Pope Saint Gregory the Great, had offered the unbloody Sacrifice of the Mass to the Father through the Son in the Holy Spirit through this Great Prayer--why couldn't he, Father Hugh Ross Williamson, do the same?

But his Archbishop of Canterbury, Geoffrey Fisher, disagreed with him on this point as he did on the play celebrating Cardinal Archbishop Pole. I was surprised that in Literary Converts Pearce said that the issue of the Church of South India being admitted to the Anglican Communion was the final blow for Williamson, not the use of the Roman Canon/the Great Prayer in Anglo-Catholic services. 

There is another interesting parallel between Newman and Williamson here: one of the last blows for Newman, moving him from his Anglican deathbed to the "one, true fold of Christ" was the Jerusalem bishopric to be shared by Church of England and Lutheran prelates.

Williamson descries the "Irrational prejudices [that] still cloud the reason" among the English against the spiritual authority of the Pope (who is mentioned and prayed for in the first prayer of the Great Prayer, the Te Igitur). Although Article XXXVII (37) of the Thirty-Nine Articles rejects the authority of the Pope within England, Williamson argues that it clear that the current Pope (Pius XII) has spiritual, moral, and doctrinal authority over Catholics throughout the world. He wishes that the continuing cries of "No Popery" would cease. 

Just to continue the thread of Archbishop Geoffrey Fisher's impact, we should note that he met with Pope John XXXII at the Vatican in 1960--the first contact between the head of the Church of England and the Vicar of Christ for centuries.

So Williamson faced two of the main issues dividing Protestants (and some Anglo-Catholics) and Catholics: the Real Presence and the authority of the Pope. He also addresses Catholic (catholic?) beliefs about the Blessed Virgin Mary, prayer for the dead, the Communion of Saints, and other controversial topics between Catholics and Protestants from an Anglo-Catholic viewpoint.

Throughout his explication of the Great Prayer, Williamson emphasizes the sacrificial aspect of the Mass, of the offering of the bread and wine, of the re-presentation of the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross, and on the atonement we participate in through this prayer. He notes again that many outside the Church misunderstand what happens at Mass: we do not crucify Jesus again; this an unbloody sacrifice. We can only offer what God has given us; not just the bread and wine on the Altar but ourselves, our intentions, our desire to be one with God. As Williamson also emphasizes, that's the meaning of atonement and he wishes we pronounced it at-one-ment--we want to be united with God and the only way we can be is through Him. We cannot do it ourselves. (Williamson notes that Pelagianism is "that old British heresy which might even be called modern British orthodoxy" (p. 145)--the English priest Pelagius had taught that Original Sin had no effect on human nature; we all had the ability to save ourselves through our Free Will choice of doing good and living according to the Commandments and we really didn't need God's Grace to do so.)

As he notes in the section on "Unde et Memores" after the Consecration:

We are careful not to forget that . . . we can only offer what he has given us. . . Tuis donis ac datus -- 'from what thou hast thyself given and granted.' All we can ever do is to render, not to give, and now, above all, is the moment to remember it. (pp. 114-115) 

Williamson highlights the main purpose of the priesthood: to "consecrate the bread and wine so that they become Christ's Body and Blood, to offer Christ thus present on the altar to the Father, to communicate Christ thus present to the faithful . . . All other functions of the priesthood are allied to or derived from this." (p. 143)

A major frustration throughout the text is that Williamson cites and quotes many authors and works, but does not provide footnotes or definite sources! He refers to Chesterton, Newman, Dom Gregory Dix, the Cure d'Ars, Pope Innocent III, Pope Pius X, C.S. Lewis, Archbishop of Canterbury Benson and his son the Catholic convert Father Benson (I presume), Dean Farrar, Gerard Manley Hopkins, and many, many others. Sometimes he mentions a title, like The Breaking of the Bread (Father John Coventry), Liturgy and Life (Dom Theodore Wesseling), The Christian Sacrifice (Dom Eugene Masure), etc., but he still does not give page numbers or other information. Gracewing obviously published the book without tracking down those citations, because that would be a time-consuming project.

Based upon his deep understanding of the Sacrifice of the Mass and the role of the priesthood, I presume that it would have been a great sorrow to him that when he became Catholic that he could not celebrate the Mass as a Catholic in the fullness that he had wanted to as an Anglican. Williamson could still participate in the offering of the Mass and receive the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus in Holy Communion, but he could not consecrate the bread and the wine. 

But the further sorrow for him--which I'll continue in another post soon--came for him with the changes in the order of the Mass after the Second Vatican Council in the Roman Missal of 1970. He addressed those in the next book I'll review, The Great Betrayal--and among the issues he discusses there is the creation of optional Eucharistic Prayers which he contends do not represent the Sacrifice the Mass as fully as the Great Prayer/The Roman Canon (that's really litotes on my part!).

Arouca Press has brought two of Williamson's essays together in this edition:"The Modern Mass: a Reversion to the Reforms of Cranmer" from 1969 and "The Great Betrayal: Some Thoughts on the Invalidity of the New Mass" from 1971. Joseph Shaw, the current Chairman of the Latin Mass Society in the UK and Williamson's daughter, Julia Ashenden, who was also one of Joseph Pearce's sources in Literary Converts for information about her father, contributed the Foreword and Introduction, respectively. 

Obviously, a more controversial subject. Reading that volume and Pearce's reporting of Williamson's last years reminded me of Evelyn Waugh's bitter trial with the changes made to the celebration of Holy Week and the Holy Mass before the Roman Missal of 1970.

Saturday, October 9, 2021

Saint John Henry Newman: The Fifth Saint of the City of London

Looking around the internet for something different to say  about Saint John Henry Newman on his feast day, I found this comment on the website for an eponymous parish in Manchester:

He is the fifth saint of the City of London, behind Thomas Becket (born in Cheapside), Thomas More (born on Milk Street), Edmund Campion (son of a London bookseller) and Polydore Plasden (of Fleet Street).

While he has joined that exalted company it should be noted that Saint John Henry Newman is the only Confessor saint among the five. The others are martyrs:

St. Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, martyred on December 29, 1170, in the Cathedral.

St. Thomas More, Knight and Layman, martyred on July 6, 1535 outside the Tower of London, on the Even of St. Thomas, the vigil of the feast of the Translation of the Relics of St. Thomas of Canterbury.

St. Edmund Campion, SJ, martyred on December 1, 1581 at Tyburn, in London.

St. Polydore Plasden, the son of a London horner (maker of musical instruments) on Fleet Street, martyred on December 10, 1591, outside St. Swithun Well's house near Gray's Inn in London.

As the Birmingham Oratory website reminds us, however, Newman wasn't in London long:

John Henry Newman was born on February 21st, 1801, in London. He was the eldest of six and was the son of John and Jemima Newman. His father was a banker in the city, and was able to give John Henry Newman a middle class upbringing on Southampton Street in Bloomsbury. His family were practising members of the Church of England, so Newman was exposed to Holy Scripture at an early age, becoming an avid reader of it. At the age of seven, Newman went to study at Great Ealing School [in London]. . . .

At the age of sixteen, Newman became an undergraduate at Trinity College, Oxford. After his undergraduate studies he was elected to a fellowship at Oriel College, at the time the leading college of the university, in 1822.

So from 1817 to 1841, when he moved to Littlemore, Newman was, as he thought he always would be, in Oxford (24 years). Therefore, we associate Newman much more with Oxford than we do with London. 

Once he left Littlemore in 1846, he went to Maryvale, then to Rome, and back to Maryvale, finally settling in Birmingham in 1849, where would live in the Oratory until his death in 1890 (41 years), with trips to Dublin, Rome, and other locations, including giving the Lectures on Certain Difficulties felt by Anglicans in submitting to the Catholic Church at the London Oratory in 1850. But troubles between the Birmingham and London Oratories meant that he did not return to the London Oratory until 1881 after he'd been named a Cardinal by Pope Leo XIII. There is now a chapel dedicated to him in the London Oratory.

It's an interesting perspective on Newman, whose life is so often noted as being divided approximately in half: the first half of his life an Anglican, the last half a Catholic. For sixteen years or so he was a Londoner; for 24 years like the snapdragon on the walls in Oxford, and for 41 years in Birmingham.

Just a reminder of the prayers and readings for his feast as celebrated in England.

Saint Thomas of Canterbury, pray for us!
Saint Thomas More, pray for us!
Saint Edmund Campion, pray for us!
Saint Polydore Plasden, pray for us!

Saint John Henry Newman, pray for us!

Monday, October 4, 2021

Lingard on Newman, Part Two

I've been waiting for this article since January of this year, when I wrote:

I look forward to learning more about Lingard's reasons for not liking Newman in the promised subsequent article. . . .

I also commented that John Lingard's desire for conversions to the Catholic Church was not completely satisfied by those who converted: he mistrusted Newman and Faber, etc.

Shaun Blanchard's concluding article about Lingard's mistrust and dislike of Newman continues the same theme: rather contradictory but also rather ignorant. For example Blanchard notes that Lingard associated Newman with Faber too closely--he lumped the Oxford converts together without distinction or discrimination:

Lingard followed news of Newman and his conversion closely.[12] However, in addition to never really permitting Newman to shake his association with the Oxford Movement (a strike against him in Lingard’s eyes), the old Cisalpine also seems to have negatively associated Newman with Faber (whom he called “credulous”)[13] and with the burgeoning ultramontanism and Romanticism sweeping English Catholicism. Unfortunately, Lingard never recognized Newman as the profoundly unique thinker he was, nor as one who deftly eschewed the standard binaries and party lines of the age and of the church. Lingard even admitted, in 1845, to not having yet read Newman![14] . . .

The second reason for Lingard’s sense of alienation from those he called the “Newmanites” was more principled. When he bluntly admitted to John Walker in January of 1850 that he “didn’t like Newman” that reasons he cited are telling: “too much fancy or enthusiasm.”[20] While there is an element of taste here—Lingard was a man of the Catholic Enlightenment who naturally recoiled from Romanticism and Pugin’s neo-Gothic revival—there was also an important principle at stake.[21] For Lingard, and many of his generation, the theologically correct and pragmatically most effective way to engage Protestants was through stripping away superstitions, triumphalism, and any unnecessary accretions to the Old Faith. Protestants rightly resented all of these things. What remained could be grasped by Protestants of good will as the pure faith of their English ancestors and, indeed, of the early church.

We have to remember that Lingard died in 1851, just after the Restoration of the Hierarchy and just six (6) years after Newman's conversion--but for one who knows a little about Newman's devotional and even architectural proclivities, these comments are strange and seem unfair. If Lingard hadn't read of any Newman's writings in 1845, would he have read Loss and Gain, the Discourses to Mixed Congregations, or Anglican Difficulties (or followed the reports of the lectures) by 1850? 

He seems to have relied merely upon his impressions and prejudices, not upon any real research or sources.

Lingard had very particular goals in mind for any converts, and Blanchard again highlights Lingard's rather contradictory views of the converts coming out of the Oxford Movement:

There is a kind of paradox here, or at least a tension, because on one hand Lingard intimated that the new converts were not Catholic enough—or at least suspiciously attached to “false ideas they imbibed at Oxford”—but on the other hand they were resented for being too Catholic, in the sense of trying to assimilate their Catholicism too much to a foreign standard that was Roman, “Jesuitical,” or Italian.

In an odd way, Newman appears to great advantage in this article, because not knowing what Lingard had written about him, he expressed admiration of Lingard's methods and "comportment":

Newman, thankfully, seems to have been totally unaware that Lingard disliked him. At the death of Lingard’s close friend John Walker in 1873 (to whom Lingard confided so much of his disdain for “Newmanites”!). Newman wrote of his “greatest esteem” for Walker. Newman “looked at [Walker] with veneration as one of the few remaining priests who kept up the tradition of Dr. Lingard’s generation of Catholics.”[24] Seven years earlier, Newman had written to John Walker, thanking him for sending information on Lingard’s intra-Catholic controversies in the early 1830’s. In light of his later praise of Lingard, Newman presumably approved of his comportment. In Lingardian fashion, Newman went on in the same letter to caution against the merits of seeking out confrontation with Anglicans.[25] . . .

Blanchard hopes that Lingard might have learned to like Newman if he had lived longer:

Had he lived longer, or had he been fairer to Newman and actually engaged with his thought as an individual rather than a symbol, Lingard would have seen that the sensitive and brilliant Oxford convert was in fact preserving many of the concerns that Lingard himself held dear. We should keep in mind that in the years around Newman’s conversion, Lingard was an old man, suffering on and off from ill health. It is nevertheless unfortunate that Lingard did not engage with Newman’s ecclesiology in particular. He would have discovered a kindred spirit with nuanced and sophisticated views of the structures and offices of the church. Lingard would have also seen how much more he had in common with Newman than with the Mannings, Fabers, and Wards with which he lumped him together. . . .

In his first footnote to the article, Blanchard highlights an excellent source for a review of Father John Lingard's historical career and outlook for his future investigation, which I reviewed in 2010:

An informative chapter on Lingard from John Vidmar should be included in my review of the secondary literature on Lingard: Vidmar, English Catholic Historians and the English Reformation, 1585–1954 (Eastbourne: Sussex Academic Press, 2005), 52–74.

By the way, it's available in paperback now!

Monday, September 27, 2021

William Leigh and Woodchester

I happened upon part of an episode of a program called Escape to the Country on our local PBS "Create" channel:

Jules Hudson is helping a self-confessed city-lover to break free from the big smoke and find some countryside calm where she can raise her young son. With a budget of £850,000, Gloucestershire is the chosen location, and her little sister is coming along for support. While in the county, Jules also tries his hand at some 19th-century building skills within the walls of an abandoned gothic mansion.

What piqued my interest during Jules Hudson's visit to "an abandoned gothic mansion" was when the owner's status as a convert to Catholicism was mentioned!

William Leigh, as the host and his guide in the mansion mentioned had joined the Catholic Church in 1844. Because he had inherited a fortune and excellent business prospects, Leigh wanted to build a gothic mansion for a kind of retreat center for Catholics, living in community in a still hostile environment, according to the show. 

So you know I had to find out more! Thus I found this book, Woodchester: A Gothic Vision: The Story of William Leigh, Benjamin Bucknall and the Building of Woodchester Mansion by Liz Davenport, which I've purchased on Kindle. (All proceeds from the sales of the book go to the Woodchester Mansion Trust.)

This website offers a review of the book and highlights William Leigh's zeal to create a Catholic community in the Cotswolds:

Chapter III opens with the purchase of Woodchester Park in 1845, where Leigh aimed to create a Catholic community in the Cotswolds. Advice was first sought from A. W. N. Pugin, who described Woodchester Mansion as "wretched" and advocated demolition. Leigh's thoughts then turned to a community, with church and monastery, to be served by the Passionists. Pugin considered all this to be too ambitious for the budget and site, and withdrew from any involvement. However, by this time, Leigh was already consulting Charles Hansom, whose estimate for the church was considerably lower. The foundation stone of the church was laid by Bishop Ullathorne in 1846. Through Ullathorne, Leigh paid for a design by Hansom for work in Australia, seeing it as a model church for "the New World." Others followed. Leigh was careless of cost and had high expectations. The interior of Leigh's Church of the Annunciation near Woodchester, designed by Hansom, "resembled the new House of Lords." The east window above the altar was painted by William Wailes, there is a doom painting above the chancel arch and floor tiles were by Minton. This impacted upon the Mansion, where the builder was personally out of pocket and work was at risk of stopping.

With the death of Father Dominic Barberi, the Passionist Provincial, the Passionists concluded that the Woodchester community was too small to sustain the number of services Leigh sought. Ullathorne suggested replacing them with Dominicans, who were based at Hinckley in Leicestershire, where the Hansoms had previously resided. Their requirements were more costly than the Passionists, which further impacted upon Leigh's work at the Mansion. The final cost, partly funded by Leigh, was around £20,000. As Davenport frequently points out, Leigh was not careful in his budgeting and typically overspent. . . .

Here's a gallery of images from the unfinished mansion: work basically ceased after William Leigh's death in 1873.

Once I found out about the connection to Blessed Dominic Barberi, the Passionist missionary to England who among other great things received Saint John Henry Newman into the Catholic Church, you can imagine that I wanted to know more! 

I have found the websites of two Catholic churches in the area associated with Woodchester Mansion and William Leigh, The Church of the Immaculate Conception in Stroud and Woodchester  Priory on St. Mary's Hill also in Stroud.

From what I have gleaned from this information now is that of William Leigh we could partially apply verse 9 from Psalm 69 (Douai-Rheims translation) to his efforts:

For the zeal of thy house hath eaten me up: and the reproaches of them that reproached thee are fallen upon me.

He set out on a great project but was not able to complete it, God bless him! Yet his efforts bore fruit in the community and he is well-remembered.

More to come, I assure you! I will post a review of the book noted above in due time.

Blessed Dominic Barberi, pray for us!
Saint John Henry Newman, pray for us!

Image Credit: (Public Domain): Photo d'une peinture de Dominique Barberi, prêtre, né à Viterbo en 1792, mort en Angleterre en 1849.

Thursday, September 23, 2021

Charles Lamb and Chesterton Agree: More Graces, Please!

G.K. Chesterton's famous quote on gratitude: 

“You say grace before meals. All right. But I say grace before the concert and the opera, and grace before the play and pantomime, and grace before I open a book, and grace before sketching, painting, swimming, fencing, boxing, walking, playing, dancing and grace before I dip the pen in the ink.”

Note that this website presents Chesterton's reflection as a poem.


In the Essays of Elia, Charles Lamb reflects on saying "Grace Before Meat" and like Chesterton, wants to add occasions of gratitude--but he wants specially written "forms":

THE custom of saying grace at meals had, probably, its origin in the early times of the world, and the hunter-state of man, when dinners were precarious things, and a full meal was more than a common blessing; when a belly-full was a windfall, and looked like a special providence. In the shouts and triumphal songs with which, after a season of sharp abstinence, a lucky booty of deer's or goat's flesh would naturally be ushered home, existed, perhaps, the germ of the modern grace. It is not otherwise easy to be understood, why the blessing of food -- the act of eating -- should have had a particular expression of thanksgiving annexed to it, distinct from that implied and silent gratitude with which we are expected to enter upon the enjoyment of the many other various gifts and good things of existence. I own that I am disposed to say grace upon twenty other occasions in the course of the day besides my dinner. I want a form for setting out upon a pleasant walk, for a moonlight ramble, for a friendly meeting, or a solved problem. Why have we none for books, these spiritual repasts -- a grace before Milton -- a grace before Shakespeare -- a devotional exercise proper to be said before reading The Fairie Queene? . . .

Eighth Day Books has used the selection in bold italic for one of its bookmarks, free with the purchase of any book!!

I think one form will do for any of the occasions Chesterton and Lamb mention:


Bless us O Lord and these thy gifts, which we are about to receive, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Neither author considers expressing gratitude after the experience of the concert, the opera, the pleasant walk, The Faerie Queene:

We give Thee thanks, Almighty God, for all thy benefits, Who live and reign for ever and ever. Amen.

Charles Lamb cared for his beloved sister Mary throughout his life, protecting her from condemnation when she killed their mother during a fit of "lunacy" as authorities called it (there was no insanity defense at that time). He kept her out of public "mad houses" but she and he both spent time in asylums when their madness was out of control. More on Charles Lamb here. More on eighteenth century insane asylums here.

Image Credit (public domain): Grace before the Meal, by Fritz von Uhde, 1885

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

The Battle of Zutphen and Sir Philip Sidney (and St. Edmund Campion!)

On September 22, 1586, Spanish forces defeated the Anglo-Dutch allies at the Battle of Zutphen in the Spanish Netherlands. (In May of 1591, the Anglo-Dutch allies, led by Maurice of Orange, would besiege the Spaniards and win the city back.) 

During a cavalry charge, Sir Philip Sidney was fatally wounded, as it turned out, because the surgeons could not remove the musket ball from his thigh and he died of gangrene poisoning in the city Arnhem on October 17, 1586. Biographers now, like Alan Stewart, dismiss the legend that Sidney removed a piece of his body armor that would have protected him from this wound because another Englishman did not wear it. Stewart comments that the English generally preferred light armor, so Sidney wouldn't have been wearing it in the first place.  

His body was returned to England and he was buried in the Old St. Paul's Cathedral but his grave and monument were destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666. His posthumous reputation as a Renaissance courtier was aided by his biographer Fulke Greville and Edmund Spenser's elegy Astrophel.

The Poetry Foundation notes in its biography of Sidney that he met Edmund Campion in 1577 during his "official mission of extending the queen's condolences to the family of Maximilian II":

In Prague he also visited Edmund Campion, whom he must have known, if only casually, from their days at Oxford. To his tutor in Rome, Campion described Sidney, mistakenly, as "a poor wavering soul" who might be amenable to conversion to the Roman Church. It is clear that his interest in Sidney was opportunistic. Yet Campion's words provide no basis for saying, as John Buxton has, that Sidney was cynically "using all his tact and charm to learn from Campion's own lips how far conversion had led him on the path of disloyalty." Rather, though Sidney held Campion to be in "a full wrong divinity"--as he said of Orpheus, Amphion, and Homer in
The Defence of Poetry--he probably admired the gifted and accomplished Jesuit, as many others did. Sidney genuinely sought "the prayers of all good men" and was happy to assist even Catholics who would ease the suffering of the poor. The catalogue of the long-dispersed library at Penshurst, recently discovered by Germaine Warkentin, lists an edition of the Conference in the Tower with Campion, (1581) published shortly after Campion's execution. If in fact this book belonged to Philip Sidney, perhaps he hoped to find in it evidence that Campion had discovered the true religion in the hours before his death.

Edmund Campion had left Oxford in 1569, the year after Sidney had come to attend Christ Church. The two men shared the patronage of the Earl of Leicester: Sidney because Leicester was his uncle; Campion because of his display of rhetorical brilliance when Elizabeth I visited Oxford in 1566.

Their "tours" of Europe overlap: Sidney from 1572 to 1575; Campion from 1571 to 1580. But they were seeking vastly different goals: Sidney to forge a Protestant alliance; Campion to study for the priesthood and to teach in Prague at the Jesuit College. 

And they both hoped the other would convert: Sidney hoped Campion would return to the Church of England; Campion hoped that Sidney would be reconciled to his ancestral Catholicism.

Image Credit (public domain): The Fatal Wounding of Sir Philip Sidney (1805)by Benjamin West.

Monday, September 20, 2021

Another Newman Poem Set to Music


In June, I posted some comments on the concert featuring two settings of St. John Henry Newman's Meditation (by Sir James MacMillan and Will Todd). Today, I highlight another of Newman's poems set to music, this time by James Whitbourn, in a commission for the choir of Oriel College (which Newman served as Fellow and Tutor). The poem is titled "Solitude":

There is in stillness oft a magic power
To calm the breast, when struggling passions lower;
Touch'd by its influence, in the soul arise
Diviner feelings, kindred with the skies.
By this the Arab's kindling thoughts expand,
When circling skies inclose the desert sand;
For this the hermit seeks the thickest grove,
To catch th' inspiring glow of heavenly love.
It is not solely in the freedom given
To purify and fix the heart on heaven;
There is a Spirit singing aye in air,
That lifts us high above all mortal care.
No mortal measure swells that mystic sound,
No mortal minstrel breathes such tones around,—
The Angels' hymn,—the sovereign harmony
That guides the rolling orbs along the sky,—
And hence perchance the tales of saints who view'd
And heard Angelic choirs in solitude.
By most unheard,—because the earthly din
Of toil or mirth has charms their ears to win.
Alas for man! he knows not of the bliss,
The heaven that brightens such a life as this.

You may read an analysis of this poem here, by Professor Barb Wyman of McNeese State University in Lake Charles, Louisiana on the Cardinal John Henry Newman website. He wrote this poem in Oxford during the Michaelmas Term (between the first of October and December 17) in 1818. It is the first poem in his Verses on Various Occasions.

The work premiered during Trinity Term in 2019:

Sunday 12th May: Craig Ogden, Guitar

Visiting Musician, classical guitarist Craig Ogden, will perform in the first recital. You are encouraged to remain for Choral Evensong at 6pm, during which Craig Ogden will perform with the Chapel Choir with music including the premiere of Solitude by James Whitbourn.

Here's a performance by the Houston Chamber Choir with quite a bit of amplification. I prefer this recording from Oxford University Press 2020 Choral Highlights. More about the composer here.

I found that I had to have the text in front of me as I listened to either version which is another reason I preferred the OUP recording without the distraction of the videography in the Houston performance.

Sunday, September 19, 2021

+Bishop Bill Fey, OFM Cap., RIP

Each September, I receive several mailings from religious orders and other organizations offering Masses for the Poor Souls for All Souls Day and throughout the month of November. A couple of days ago, I got the one from the Capuchins, highlighting several from their order who had died since last All Souls Day. One of the faces looked familiar and then I recognized the name: Bishop Bill Fey, OFM Cap, who died January 19, 2021 (just 17 days after my brother Steven here in Wichita, KS) in Pittsburgh, PA. You may find his obituary here. He had retired as the Bishop of Kimbe, Papua New Guinea in 2018 and returned to the USA in 2020; he'd suffered a couple of strokes before his retirement and became ill with COVID-19 after joining a Capuchin friary in Pittsburgh.

The reason I recognized his name is because he was a Newman scholar:

Bill completed his theological studies at Capuchin College in Washington, DC, in 1969 and received a Master of Arts degree from the Catholic University of America in 1970 before enrolling for doctoral studies at Oxford University in England, where he was awarded the degree of D.Phil.Oxon (doctorate in Philosophy) in 1974. His doctoral thesis was entitled John Henry Newman, Empiricist Philosophy and the Certainty of Faith. His interest in the work of that future saint would continue throughout his life; his doctoral thesis was published in book form entitled Faith and Doubt: the Unfolding of Newman’s Thought on Certainty (Patmos Press: 1976). He went on to contribute scholarly articles and to deliver numerous papers and lectures on Cardinal Newman’s thought and writings over the years.

He came to the Newman Center at Wichita State University sometime in the early 1980's to give a day-long program based upon his book. I still have my notes from that day but have lost the program that was printed for the occasion.

The last time I'd seen his name in association with St. John Henry Newman was this blurb for John Henry Newman: Spiritual Director, 1845-1890 by Peter C. Wilcox, STD: 

Drawing on Newman's vast correspondence, Wilcox has given us a very human portrait of a spiritual master of remarkable sensitivity. Readers will find Newman's account of the development of revealed doctrine reflected in his understanding of the spiritual development of ordinary people. Newman comes across as someone who listens with respect and then speaks with careful balance--promoting devotion without excessive piety, reasonableness without rationality, and compassion without sentimentality--always challenging without demanding. --William Fey, OFM Cap., Bishop of Kimbe, Papua New Guinea

May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed, rest in peace.

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

St. John Henry Newman and Our Lady of Sorrows

I've been working my way through the articles by John R. Griffin posted on the Christendom College website, and finished his survey of "Newman and the Mother of God" yesterday. As Griffin explains:

My paper has three parts. The first is concerned with what might be loosely called the “tractarian” view of Mary, namely the Marian devotions put forward by Newman and his mentor John Keble during the first Oxford Movement. The second part consists of a description of the Anglican charge to the effect that Roman Catholics, as part of their system, encouraged or at least tolerated the “worship” of Mary. The third and final part is concerned with Newman’s writings on behalf of the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception and the devotions that surround Mary.

You may read the rest there. I'm going to jump to the end, "the third and final part" in which Griffin comments:

Notwithstanding his shyness or reticence on the matter of public declarations of his love for Mary, Newman has written some of the most beautiful devotional statements ever made about Our Blessed Mother. In his Meditations we have many examples of his abundant love for the Mother of God . . .

As an example of this love and devotion, Newman wrote a series of meditations on the Litany of Loretto for the month of May. From May 17 to 23, he focused on Our Lady's Dolours or sorrows, as the Church does today with the Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows (yesterday we celebrated the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross--please note the hierarchy of the celebrations!). Here's a sample:

Mary is the "Vas Insigne Devotionis," The Most Devout Virgin

TO be devout is to be devoted. We know what is meant by a devoted wife or daughter. It is one whose thoughts centre in the person so deeply loved, so tenderly cherished. She follows him about with her eyes; she is ever seeking some means of serving him; and, if her services are very small in their character, that only shows how intimate they are, and how incessant. And especially if the object of her love be weak, or in pain, or near to die, still more intensely does she live in his life, and know nothing but him.

This intense devotion towards our Lord, forgetting self in love for Him, is instanced in St. Paul, who says. "I know nothing but Jesus Christ and Him crucified." And again, "I live, [yet] now not I, but Christ liveth in me; and [the life] that I now live in the flesh, I live in the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself for me." [Note 2]

But great as was St. Paul's devotion to our Lord, much greater was that of the Blessed Virgin; because she was His Mother, and because she had Him and all His sufferings actually before her eyes, and because she had the long intimacy of thirty years with Him, and because she was from her special sanctity so ineffably near to Him in spirit. When, then, He was mocked, bruised, scourged, and nailed to the Cross, she felt as keenly as if every indignity and torture inflicted on Him was struck at herself. She could have cried out in agony at every pang of His.

This is called her compassion, or her suffering with her Son, and it arose from this that she was the "Vas insigne devotionis."

The rest of Newman's meditations on Our Lady's Dolours may be found here at the Newman Reader.

Our Lady of Sorrows, pray for us!
St. John Henry Newman, pray for us!

Image Credit (public domain): "Madonna in Sorrow", by Titian, 1554

Monday, September 13, 2021

The Agnus Dei and "agni dei" in Recusant England


I've been listening to a new CD from The Sixteen and Harry Christophers: Agnus Dei. It's a compilation of performances of different settings of the Agnus Dei, The Lamb of God, part of the Ordinary of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, chanted/sung before Holy Communion:

Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccati mundi, miserere nobis

Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccati mundi, miserere nobis

Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccati mundi, dona nobis pacem

(Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy on us

Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy on us

Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, grant us peace.)

There are 20 (twenty) settings on this CD:

1. Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924) (from Requiem, Op. 48) 5.16
2. Thomas Tallis (c.1505-85) (from Missa Puer natus est nobis) 8.53
3. Domenico Scarlatti (1685-1757) (from Missa Breve ‘La Stella’) 1.44
4. Tomás Luis de Victoria (1548-1611) (from Requiem of 1605) 3.57
5. Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643) (from Messa a 4 da cappella, SV 257) 2.06
6. Edmund Rubbra (1901-88) (from Missa Cantuariensis, Op. 59) 2.04
7. Orlande de Lassus (c.1532-94) (from Missa Bell’ amfritit’ altera) 4.29
8. J.S. Bach (1685-1750) (from Mass in B minor, BWV 232) 2.40
9. Duarte Lôbo (c.1565-1646) (from Missa pro defunctis a 8) 2.33
10. Bartłomiej Pękiel (fl.1633-70) (from Missa Concertata ‘La Lombardesca’) 1.47
(Conductor: Eamonn Dougan)
11. Frank Martin (1890-1974) (from Mass for Double Choir) 5.42
12. G.P. da Palestrina (1525-94) (from Missa Papae Marcelli) 3.34
13. Benjamin Britten (1913-76) (from Missa Brevis in D, Op. 63) 2.10
14. Christopher Tye (c.1505-73) (from Missa Euge bone) 6.30
15. Gregorio Allegri (1582-1652) (from Missa Che fa oggi il mio sole) 4.15
16. Francis Poulenc (1899-1963) (from Mass in G, FP 89) 4.39
(Soli: Julie Cooper soprano, Kim Porter alto, Jeremy Budd tenor, Ben Davies bass)
17. John Sheppard (c.1515-58) (from Missa Cantate) 4.55
18. G.F. Handel (1685-1759) Behold, the Lamb of God (from Messiah, HWV 56) 3.13
19. Manuel Cardoso (1566-1650) (from Missa Regina caeli) 2.11
20. Samuel Barber (1910-81) [based on the famous "Adagio"] (Solo: Ruth Dean soprano) 8.29

Not only those riches, but the CD cover featuring the Adoration of the Mystic Lamb!! made this a must have for me (and I bought a copy as a gift for a dear friend's birthday last week).

But while searching for something else online, I found this article titled "The agnus dei, Catholic devotion, and confessional politics in early modern England" by Aislinn Muller, in the British Catholic History journal, published online by Cambridge University Press: 24 April 2018. According to the abstract:

After 1571 Catholic sacred objects were outlawed in England, and the possession of such objects could be prosecuted under the statute of praemunire. Despite this prohibition sacred objects including rosaries, blessed beads, and the agnus dei (wax pendants blessed by the pope) remained a critical part of Catholic devotion. This article examines the role of the agnus dei in English Catholic communities and the unique political connotations it acquired during the reign of Elizabeth I. It assesses the uses of these sacramentals in Catholic missions to England, their reception amongst Catholics, and the political significance of the agnus dei in light of the papal excommunication of Elizabeth I in 1570.

Please read the article there as allowances to share from it are limited.

You might recall that St. Cuthbert Mayne, one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales and the protomartyr of the seminary priests who returned to England as missionaries after ordination on the Continent, was condemned partially because he had brought an agnus dei into England:

He was ordained in 1575 and came to England with St. John Payne (Payne and Mayne!) in 1576. When Father Cuthbert Mayne was arrested in June, 1577, authorities had some trouble in gathering evidence that corresponded with charges punishable by death:

He was brought to trial in September; meanwhile his imprisonment was of the harshest order. His indictment under statutes of 1 and 13 Elizabeth was under five counts: first, that he had obtained from the Roman See a "faculty", containing absolution of the queen's subjects; second, that he had published the same at Golden; third, that he had taught the ecclesiastical authority of the pope in Launceston Gaol; fourth, that he had brought into the kingdom an Agnus Dei and had delivered the same to Mr. Tregian; fifth, that he had said Mass.

Father Mayne offered a defense for each of these counts:

As to the first and second counts, the martyr showed that the supposed "faculty" was merely a copy printed at Douai of an announcement of the Jubilee of 1575, and that its application having expired with the end of the jubilee, he certainly had not published it either at Golden or elsewhere. As to the third count, he maintained that he had said nothing definite on the subject to the three illiterate witnesses who asserted the contrary. As to the fourth count, he urged that the fact that he was wearing an Agnus Dei at the time of his arrest was no evidence that he had brought it into the kingdom or delivered it to Mr. Tregian. As to the fifth count, he contended that the finding of a Missal, a chalice, and vestments in his room did not prove that he had said Mass.

He was condemned in September but not executed by hanging, drawing, and quartering until November 30, 1577.

We should remember that Mr. Tregian, Sir Francis Tregian, suffered for receiving that his contact with Father Mayne and for almost receiving the agnus dei and copy of the Papal Bull:

Tregian was indicted under the Statute of Praemunire prohibiting dissemination of papal bulls. Mayne had a souvenir copy of a proclamation regarding the 1575 Holy Year dispensation, and it was supposed that he intended to give it to Tregian. Tregian was held in the Marshalsea for ten months before being returned to Cornwall for trial. At first the jury would return no verdict, but after threats from the judges a conviction was obtained.

Tregian's death sentence was remitted to imprisonment and his property confiscated. He was incarcerated at Windsor and then in various London prisons for twenty-eight years, eventually winding up at Fleet Prison, where his wife joined him. On the petition of his friends, he was released by King James I. . . .

Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccati mundi, miserere nobis.

Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccati mundi, miserere nobis.

Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccati mundi, dona nobis pacem.

Sancte Cuthbert Mayne, ora pro nobis!