Friday, June 2, 2023

Preview: A Bishop Confessor in Elizabeth I's Reign

After our Memorial Day break, I'll be back on the Son Rise Morning Show Monday, June 5 to discuss another of Father Henry Sebastian Bowden's Mementoes of the English Martyrs and Confessors. On at my usual time, about 6:50 a.m. Central/7:50 a.m. Eastern: please listen live here and/or listen to the podcast later here as we (Matt Swaim or Anna Mitchell and I) discuss Bowden's comments about Bishop David Poole or Pole of Peterborough, a Confessor (not proclaimed a saint but perhaps a martyr in chains in a cause never begun).

Bishop David Poole had a full academic and ecclesiastical career in the midst of Henry VIII's Great Marital Matters, according to the Dictionary of National Biography, although it's not clear from that source how he responded to Henry VIII's efforts to obtain a decree of nullity of his first marriage and how the king resolved that issue, but he must have taken the Oaths of Succession and Supremacy to hold the various offices listed below. Evidently, the date of his birth is not recorded, because he first

appears as a fellow of All Souls' College, Oxford, in 1520. He devoted himself to civil law, and graduated B.Can.L. on 2 July 1526 and D.Can.L. on 17 Feb. 1527-1528. In 1529 he became an advocate in Doctors' Commons. He was connected with the diocese of Lichfield, where he held many preferments, first under Bishop Geoffrey Blyth, and then under Bishop Rowland Lee. He was made prebendary of Tachbrook in Lichfield Cathedral on 11 April 1531, archdeacon of Salop in April 1536, and archdeacon of Derby on 8 Jan. 1542-3. He had previously received the high appointment of dean of the arches and vicar-general of the archbishop of Canterbury on 14 Nov. 1540.

Bishop Rowland Lee was certainly Henry VIII's man, accepting his appointment as the Bishop of Lichfield in 1534 "taking at his consecration the new oath to the king as head of the English Church and not seeking confirmation from the pope. As bishop he remained in Henry’s personal service, endeavouring to establish the legality of his marriage with Anne". Since 1533, Thomas Cranmer had been the Archbishop of Canterbury and in 1540, Henry VIII had been declared the Supreme Head and Governor of the Church of England by Parliament. When Poole was named an Archdeacon, the suppression of the Monasteries had begun. 

Note there's no information about his activities or offices during the reign of Edward VI at all. The 1900 Dictionary of National Biography picks up his career with this statement:

A conscientious adherent of the Roman catholic (sic) faith, he occupied several positions of importance during Mary's reign. In her first year he acted as vicar-general of the bishop of Lichfield (Richard Sampson) and commissioner for the deprivation of married priests (Strype, Memorials, vol. iii. pt. i. p. 168), and in his capacity of archdeacon he sat on the commission for the deprivation of Cranmer, Ridley, and Latimer, and the restoration of Bonner and other deprived bishops (ib. p. 36). He stood high in the favour of Cardinal Pole, said to be a relative, who appointed him his vicar-general (ib. p. 476). During the vacancy of the see of Lichfield on Bishop Sampson's death in 1554, he was appointed commissary for the diocese. In the early part of the same year he took part in the condemnation of Hooper and Taylor (ib. pp. 288, 290). On 25 April 1556 he was appointed on the commission to inquire after heretics, and to proceed against them. On the death of John Chambers, the first bishop of the newly formed diocese of Peterborough, the queen sent letters commendatory to Paul IV in Pole's favour. He was consecrated at Chiswick on 15 Aug. 1557 by Nicholas Heath [q. v.], archbishop of York.

Note that he was consecrated on the feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary and that Queen Mary I and Reginald Cardinal Pole, the Archbishop of Canterbury both died later that year on November 17.

Father Bowden recounts Bishop Poole standing up to Elizabeth I and maintaining his loyalty to the Catholic Church. It's commonly stated that while all the bishops but one (Saint John Fisher, martyr) acceded to Henry VIII's Supremacy, all the bishops appointed during Mary I's reign refused Elizabeth I's Supremacy and Reformation Parliament actions. Owen Oglethorpe of Carlisle did preside at her Coronation but all 20 (twenty) of the Catholic bishops in the House of Lords voted against her Act of Settlement in 1558.

Bowden notes that by the time of Elizabeth I's accession to the throne, Poole was a chronic invalid and received permission not to attend that first Parliament. "Old as he was, he could still bear his witness", Bowden states--Poole would be at least in his 70's if he received his degree before 1520 when he became a Fellow  at All Souls. "He refused to obey Elizabeth's behest" to consecrate Matthew Parker as Archbishop of Canterbury and "he preferred deposition to taking" her Oath of Supremacy. Deprived of his office, he was allowed for a time to live in Staffordshire with a Catholic gentleman, Brian Fowler. Thomas Bentham, Elizabeth I's bishop of Coventry and Lichfield, "represented his presence as injurious to the interests of religion, and he appears to have died in the Fleet [prison] in 1568".

Father Bowden gives this memento the title "Wisdom of the Ancients" and cites Ecclesiasticus/Sirach 8:11-12: "Let not the discourse of the ancients escape thee, for they have learned of their fathers: For of them thou shalt learn understanding, and to give an answer in time of need."

So what lessons do we draw from Bishop Poole's career? While he seems to have gone along with Henry VIII's Supremacy and take-over and remaking of the Church in his image--perhaps he retired from ecclesiastical office during Edward VI's reign?--he seems to have maintained the Catholic Faith and was ready to practice it fully under Mary I and Cardinal Pole. Finally, he was willing to refuse Elizabeth I's Supremacy and remaking of the Church when she came to the throne.

God gave him another opportunity to stand fast for the "Wisdom of the Ancients", the Fathers and Councils of the Church whom St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher and others cited before him. He took it, endured the consequences, and perhaps died as martyr in chains, although that's not certain. His Dictionary of National Biography entry, cited above, says he "was 'courteously treated by all persons among whom he lived, and at last' died 'on one of his farms in a good old age,' in May or June 1568 (Heylyn, Hist. of Reformation, anno 1559; Strype, Annals, vol. i. pt. i. pp. 214, 411)."

There is a stained glass depiction of Bishop Poole in St Mary's, Wellingborough, an Anglo-Catholic parish (refusing women's ordination in the Church of England), designed by Sir Ninian Comper in the Perpendicular Gothic Style.

May he rest in peace.

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

Image Source: The English Convent in Bruges, Belgium

On Monday this week on the Son Rise Morning Show, we discussed Father Henry Sebastian Bowden's "Mementoes" for two Catholic Martyrs, Blesseds John Shert and Thomas Ford. I used a portrait of Blessed Thomas Ford on my preview blog post, published on Friday, May 19, which I found on his Wikipedia page. Here's some information about its source, the English Convent in Bruges, Belgium. Professor Francis Young posted some comments on his blog after he visited that site on Carmersstraat 83/85, B-8000 Brugge in August, 2015:

The Priory of Nazareth of the Augustinian Canonesses Regular of St John Lateran, to give it its full title, was founded from St Monica’s Priory in Louvain in 1629 and, with the exception of the colleges for training secular priests at Rome and Valladolid, it is the only English Catholic religious house in Continental Europe, the sole survivor of dozens of communities founded in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries for the sons and daughters of recusants. Virtually all of the communities on the Continent went into ‘exile’ in England in the 1790s, fleeing the French Revolutionary armies (a notable exception was the Benedictine Priory of St Edmund at Douai in France, which was forced out by anti-Catholic laws as late as 1904 and is now located at Woolhampton, Berkshire). The Canonesses of the English Convent were no exception; what was exceptional was that the Bruges community, led by their redoubtable Prioress Mother Mary Augustina More (1732-1807) returned to the Low Countries after the Peace of Amiens in 1802 and have been there ever since.

I encourage you to read the rest of his post, which explains his interest in the community, the location of their exile in England, and of course, the connection to Saint Thomas More, ancestor of Mother Mary Augustina More. She was one of the daughters of Thomas More VIII and Catherine Gifford, a direct descendant in the male line of John More, St. Thomas More's only son. See this list of the descendants of the male and female lines of St. Thomas More and his first wife Joanna (Colt), beginning on page 10 for that generation of Mores.

On the English language version of the convent's website, you'll find a commentary on Saint Thomas More as one of their "Inspirers". On the French version, they cite two other sources of inspiration from the Devotio Moderna tradition, Gerard Grote and Thomas a Kempis.

As the pattern is for these English Catholic nuns in exile after the English Reformation, they had to return to England for refuge during the French Revolution--and were mostly welcomed with some sympathy for their plight. But as Professor Page points out, these nuns returned to the Continent.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: Because the staff of the Son Rise Morning Show take the Memorial Day Holiday off, I will not discuss any of Father Henry Sebastian Bowden's "Mementoes" on Monday, May 29. The next Preview Post will be on Friday, June 2 and the next segment on Monday, June 5!

Monday, May 22, 2023

Preview: Commentary on the Coronation on Treasures of the Faith

Tomorrow morning (Tuesday, May 23), I'll be on a radio program called Treasures of Faith on Divine Mercy Radio (WDMC, 920 AM) in Melbourne, Florida, 10:00 a.m. Central Time, 11:00 a.m. Eastern Time. Listen live here; the host, Mike Gisondi, will send me a link to the podcast of the show about a week later.

AND: he did send me the link for the St. Thomas More interview we conducted in March!

Tomorrow, however, we'll be talking about the recent Coronation of King Charles III and how Catholic Liturgy and Tradition was certainly reflected in the service--down to the vestments Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury and other Church of England prelates wore. He had to borrow them from the Catholic Cathedral of Westminster, according to this story (confirmed by Lambeth Palace, the London headquarters of the Archbishop, and a spokesman from the Cathedral) because he could not access appropriate vestments for himself and the other bishops and prelates.

Mike and I will discuss various other aspects of the event, based on some of the comments I made on the Son Rise Morning Show before the Coronation and an update I posted here.

I included the cover of my magnum--and only--opus here because this has been the theme I've been studying, reading about, talking about, and writing about for the past 15 years  or so (13 years since Supremacy and Survival was published and a few years before that as I wrote and rewrote it and searched for a publisher!). 

The theme: the long-lasting consequences for not just Catholicism but for religion in England after Henry VIII's still-crucial break from Rome. And some of those signs of healing of the break except for one crucial divide: the monarch cannot be a "Roman" Catholic!

The book is readily available from Eighth Day Books here in Wichita, Kansas! And if you want me to sign it before they send, let Warren or any of the staff know and I can easily drop by and autograph it, dedicate it, etc.

Friday, May 19, 2023

Preview: Two Martyrs from Campion's Class of 1581-1582


On Monday, May 22, I'll be on the Son Rise Morning Show at my usual time to discuss Father Henry Bowden's "Mementoes" of two martyrs executed on May 28, 1582. Blesseds John Shert and Thomas Ford were among the 20 priests, including St. Edmund Campion, accused of conspiring against Queen Elizabeth I in the fictitious "Rome and Reims" plot.

Please listen live here at about 6:50 a.m. Central/7:50 a.m. Eastern, or check out the podcast later here.

In 1581, it was not yet Treasonous for an Englishman to return to his native land as a Catholic priest: the 1585 Act Against the Jesuits and the Seminary Priests made it easier to condemn him to death. So when 20 (twenty) priests were arrested in 1581, they had to be charged under existing treason laws. So they were accused of conspiracy, one they'd developed in meetings held in Rome and Reims. Except they hadn't formed any conspiracy, and they testified at trial that they were in England when they were supposed to be in Rome or Reims. Since the guilty verdicts were a foregone conclusion, even after Campion and others had been questioned and tortured, that didn't matter.

On page 175 of  Mementoes of the English Martyrs and ConfessorsFather Henry Sebastian Bowden recounts Blessed John Shert's last words at Tyburn on May 28, 1582, with the title "Praise and Thanksgiving" and the verse "Offer to God the Sacrifice of Praise and pay thy vows to the Most High" (Psalm 49:14). Blessed Thomas Ford, who had been captured with Campion at Lyford Grange in Berkshire, was still hanging from Tyburn Tree and Shert exclaimed:

"O happy Thomas! Happy art thou that didst run the happy race! O benedicta anima! O blessed soul, thou art in a good case! Thou blessed soul, pray for me."

When he was rebuked for "praying to the dead", he continued:

"O Blessed Lady, Mother of God, pray for me, and the saints of heaven, pray for me."

Then he made an Act of Thanksgiving:

"O Blessed Lord, to Thee be all honor and praise" and rejoiced that he would die "so happy a death for Thy Sake"!

Then he was hanged, drawn, and quartered. 

As for Blessed Thomas Ford, Bowden provides some insight into the traps the authorities tried to catch him in--to prove the conspiracy--in an entry titled "The Snares of the Pharisees" with the verse "And the Pharisees watched . . . that they might find an accusation against Him " (Luke 6:7) on page 177. 

They wanted him to say that he was in England to enforce Pope Pius V's Bull Regnans in Excelsis and further the efforts of the Northern Rebellion. He answered them:

. . .  He could not reply as to the legality of the bull of Pius V against Elizabeth, as he was not privy to its circumstances . . .

. . . As to the pope's authorization of the Northern Rebellion, being a private subject, he cannot answer . . .

As Bowden notes, this questioning "was a mere pretext, and Fr. Ford saw through the device . . ."

He, like Saint John Henry Newman centuries later, was a graduate of Trinity College at the University of Oxford. As Bowden notes, Ford began to express "Catholic sympathies," and he "abjured Protestantism and went to Douay" in 1570, and returned to England in 1576. Blessed John Shert was also an Oxford man, earning his degree from Brasenose College. The Catholic Encyclopedia offers this brief outline:

Successively schoolmaster in London, and servant to Dr. Thomas Stapleton at Douai, he entered the seminary in 1576, and was ordained subdeacon. He was ordained priest from the English College, Rome, of which he was the senior of the first six scholars. He left Reims for England 27 August, 1579, and was sent to the Tower 14 July 1581.

Along with Blessed John Shert and Thomas Ford, Blessed Robert Johnson was also executed at Tyburn on May 28. 1582. Father Bowden provides a memento of his martyrdom on page 169: Father Johnson began to pray in Latin and was admonished to "Pray as Christ taught." He replied, "Do you think Christ taught in English?"

The spirit of the martyrs! Keeping their wits about them and being witty too!

Blessed John Shert, pray for us!

Blessed Thomas Ford, pray for us!

Blessed Robert Johnson, pray for us!

Saint Edmund Campion, pray for us!

Image Credit (Public Domain): Portrait of Blessed Thomas Ford in The English Convent in Bruges (NB: the long wound on his chest and the knife protruding, signifying that he was disemboweled at his execution.)

Wednesday, May 17, 2023

The Rogation Days and the Litanies

I mentioned on my Facebook page how happy I was that the Benedictus monthly Mass book for May included the Litany and Prayers for the Rogation Days, May 15, 16, and 17. The Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday before Ascension Thursday, which in our diocese is celebrated on Sunday, are the Rogation Days. As the Fish Eaters website explains: 

"Rogation" comes from the Latin "rogare," which means "to ask," and Rogation Days are days during which we seek to ask God's mercy, appease His anger, avert the chastisements He makes manifest through natural disasters, and ask for His blessings, particularly with regard to farming, gardening, and other agricultural pursuits. They are set aside to remind us how radically dependent we are on God through His creation, and how prayer can help protect us from nature's often cruel ways. Hence, its mood is somber and beseeching; its liturgical color is purple. . . .

Pope St. Leo III -- the Pope who crowned Charlemagne on Christmas Day of 800 -- introduced these days of penance into Rome in 816, the year of his death, after which they became standard throughout the Roman Church.

The liturgy for the Rogation Days, during which the priest is vested in purple, begins with Psalm 43:26 --"Arise, O Lord, help us and redeem us for Thy name's sake" -- which is followed by the Litany of the Saints. At the Litany's "Sancta Maria," all stand and a procession begins, which in older times was (and still is in rural areas) usually around the boundaries of the parish, giving to the procession the name of "beating the bounds."

The Litany is followed by Psalm 69, a series of petitions, and the Mass, with readings from James 5:16-20 and Luke 11:5-14. Prayer for God's blessing of farmers' fields so that they yield a bountiful harvest is common.

I've prayed the Litanies these three days as a private devotion, and in thanksgiving for the rain drought-stricken Kansas received Sunday!!

As I was reading Illusions of Reform: Responses to Cavadini, Healy, and Weinandy in Defense of the Traditional Latin Mass & the Faithful Who Attend It, I noticed a footnote (3) on page 184 in the article "Bible by the Pound" by Father Peter Miller, OSB. He recounts how the Ember Days, quarterly days of prayer and fasting, were thought by the reformers of the liturgy after the Second Vatican Council worthy of being retained, "but choosing their new dates was delegated to bishops' conferences, and none of the conferences ever got around to assigning dates, so a 1700-year old tradition disappeared." Father Miller tells the reader to look it up: it's in the Wikipedia article for Ember Days:

"In order that the Rogation Days and Ember Days may be adapted to the different regions and different needs of the faithful, the Conferences of Bishops should arrange the time and manner in which they are held. Consequently, concerning their duration, whether they are to last one or more days, or be repeated in the course of the year, norms are to be established by the competent authority, taking into consideration local needs. The Mass for each day of these celebrations should be chosen from among the Masses for Various Needs, and should be one which is more particularly appropriate to the purpose of the supplications."[12]

The Wikipedia article for Rogation Days demonstrates that we could have Rogation Days too:

The reform of the Liturgical Calendar for Roman Catholics in 1969 delegated the establishment of Rogation Days, along with Ember Days, to the episcopal conferences.[20] Their observance in the Latin Church subsequently declined, but the observance has revived somewhat since Pope John Paul II allowed Rogation days as a permitted, but not mandated, observance.[17] For those Catholics who continue to celebrate Mass according to the General Roman Calendar of 1960 or earlier, the Rogation Days are still kept, unless a higher ranking feast would occur on the day.[21]

As Father Miller comments in his footnote: "(Kind of embarrassing.)"

From this site, it looks like the Episcopal Church still observes these days:

Traditionally, these are the three days before Ascension Day on which the litany is sung (or recited) in procession as an act of intercession. They originated in Vienne, France, in the fifth century when Bishop Mamertus introduced days of fasting and prayer to ward off a threatened disaster. In England they were associated with the blessing of the fields at planting. The vicar “beat the bounds” of the parish, processing around the fields reciting psalms and the litany. In the United States they have been associated with rural life and with agriculture and fishing. The propers in the BCP {Book of Common Prayer] (pp. 207-208, 258-259, 930) have widened their scope to include commerce and industry and the stewardship of creation. The BCP also permits their celebration at other times to accommodate different regional growing seasons. The BOS [Book of Occasional Services] contains material for a Rogation procession, including petitions to be added to the Great Litany and the prayers of the people. The term is from the Latin rogatio, “asking.”

But once you know the tradition, and have access to the prayers, nothing--except your own lack of will or recollection--can stop you from praying the Litanies and the beautiful prayers!

Deo Gratias!

Friday, May 12, 2023

Preview: A Martyr and a Confessor in York

Again I'm matching up a martyr and a confessor for our series recollecting the stories of the English Martyrs and Confessors on Monday, May 15 on the Son Rise Morning Show. Blessed Richard Thirkeld or Thirkell and Mary Hutton were contemporaries of Saint Margaret Clitherow--in fact, he had been one of her confessors! She was one of the female Catholic recusants who, like Clitherow, caused the Church of England and secular authorities in York so much trouble, sheltering priests and teaching their children the Catholic Faith.

So please listen live here about about 6:51 a.m. Central/7:51 a.m. Eastern. You may also find the podcast later that day here.

According to the old Catholic Encyclopedia, Thirkeld was:

Educated at Queen's College, Oxford, 1564-1565. Studied at Douai and Rheims, France. Ordained on 18 April 1579 at an age somewhat older than his confreres. Returned to England on 23 May 1579 as a home missioner around York. Confessor to Saint Margaret Clitherow. Arrested on Annunciation Eve in 1583 for the crime of priesthood; the authorities became suspicious when he visited a Catholic prisoner. Lodged in Ousebridge Kidcote prison, York, for two months. He wore a cassock and biretta to trial, was convicted on 27 May 1583 of hearing confessions and bringing the lapsed back to the Church, and was sentenced on 28 May 1583 to death. He used his time in jail to minister to other prisoners, working especially with others sentenced to death. Martyred in secret on May 29 for fear his covert parishioners would cause a civil disturbance. Six of his letters have survived. [This site excerpts two of those letters.]

In this entry for Blessed Richard Thirkeld in Mementoes of the English Martyrs and Confessors (and there are several, including some of those letters he wrote from prison), Father Bowden emphasizes how the martyr engaged in debate with the Dean of York (Matthew Hutton, later Archbishop of York). The dean attacked the practice of asking the intercession of the saints, and when Thirkeld offered to give him some explanation from St. Augustine, changed the subject. He declared the pope to be the anti-christ and when Thirkeld proclaimed that the pope was the Vicar of Christ and the Supreme Head of the Church, the dean "in a fury of passion leaped from his chair, declaring he would not suffer such language." The title for this entry is "Points in Controversy" and the verse is "Carefully study to present thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly handling the worth of truth." (2 Timothy 2:15)

After Thirkeld's execution, his head and the head of another martyred priest, Blessed William Hart, was displayed in front the Ousebridge Kidcote prison. Mary Hutton, a recusant Catholic, was accused of removing those heads as relics--and her children were threatened with beating with birches, and so they admitted their mother had done it.

As this site explains, female Catholic recusants were particularly troublesome for the authorities:

. . . After priests the second most feared rebel group were female recusants. There was strict surveillance within the city, monitoring movements and keeping track of church attendance.

Once a month, commissioners conducted a survey of all Catholic prisoners within the prison which outlined females to be manipulators and religious converters as well as the largest group to miss church services. Their imprisonments were often stricter than men, excluding the treatment of priests. . . .

Records show that Catholic women harboured the most priests. In 1593, Ann Thwing was imprisoned for harbouring a priest and was sentenced along with another woman, a Mrs Stapleton. Both women were in York Castle until 1600. Mrs Stapleton was pardoned, Ann’s fate is unknown. In 1599, Eleanore Hunt received a death sentence for harbouring Christopher Wharton, a priest who was also sentenced to death at York Castle.

In 1575, a group of York women – ‘Mrs Dorothy Vavasour’, Frances Hall, Janet Geldad and Isabel Porter – became the first women to stand in front of the High Commission and be charged with ’causes ecclesiastical’. This was the refusal to attend church service.

The following year, the Lord President of Huntingdon, Henry Hastings, was instructed by the council to provide further details into church attendance. His list had 33 names, 23 being women, and included Vavasour, Geldad, Hall and Porter. Also on the list was Margaret Clitherow.

When Mary Hutton was arrested, her husband William Hutton was already in prison for recusancy. Mary was not executed, but she was put in "the low place" in prison and left to die there of fever sometime after Blessed Richard Thirkeld's execution. The title for her Confessor's entry is "Devotion to Relics" and the verse is from Psalm 33/34, verse 20 (cited in John 19:36): "The Lord keepeth all their bones; not one of them shall be broken."

The juxtaposition of these two memories certainly demonstrates the cooperation between the Catholic recusant laity and the missionary priests, both risking their lives. The missionary priests knew what tortures and executions they could/would face. The Catholic laity also knew the monetary and mortal dangers they faced. They were prepared to suffer so the Sacraments could be celebrated, especially the Holy Mass, and the Catholic Faith would survive the Penal times in England.

Blessed Richard Thirkeld, pray for us!
Saint Margaret Clitherow, pray for us!

Tuesday, May 9, 2023

Lady Joan Vaux and Queen Catherine of Aragon

While browsing the Medieval Manuscript Blog at the British Library website, I found this entry about a Book of Hours and its owner:

The British Library is home to hundreds of beautiful illuminated Books of Hours, prayerbooks that were hugely popular during the medieval and early modern eras, as they allowed lay people to develop and observe their own routines of personal devotion. These Books of Hours also provide us with significant insights into the lives of their patrons and owners, who often inscribed these manuscripts with their own beliefs, thoughts and recollections, details of significant events in their lives, and interactions with their most intimate circles of friends and family.

One such Book of Hours (Add MS 17012) stands out for the additions made for one of its female owners. Originally written and illuminated in Antwerp around the year 1500, it subsequently came to London, where it belonged to a prominent woman at the early Tudor court. The volume’s female owner used it not simply as her own personal prayerbook and set of devotions, but also as an autograph book, in which she collected signatures and expressions of favour from numerous members of the court, and even the Tudor royal family. . . .

That Tudor lady was Joan Vaux, Lady Guildford (c.1463-September 4, 1538), a courtier in the Courts of King Henry VII, King Henry VIII, and even (briefly) of Mary Tudor, the Queen of France, third wife (briefly) of King Louis XII. She served as Lady-in-Waiting to Margaret Beaufort, to the household of Queen Elizabeth of York, and as governess to both the Tudor princesses. She was present when Erasmus of Rotterdam met the Royal Family. (Depicted by Frank Cadogan Cowper (1877-1958): "Erasmus visiting the children of Henry VII accompanied by Joan Vaux")

According to the blog, among the messages in her breviary are:

. . . expressions of favour from no less than six members of the Tudor royal family. These appear most prominently on a single opening at the very beginning of the Book of the Hours, before its main collection of prayers. . . .

including this one:

I thinke the prayers of a frend the
most acceptable unto God and
because I take you for one of myn
assured I pray you remembre me
in yours.

Katherine the queen

According to the Wikipedia article on Joan Vaux, citing a book titled A Who's Who of Tudor Women by Kathy Lynn Emerson:

As a former lady in the household of Elizabeth of York, Joan was summoned to give a deposition as to whether Prince Arthur and Catherine of Aragon had consummated their marriage.[21] She reported that they had spent their wedding night "in together in the same bed", from her personal knowledge; and that she had heard from Queen Elizabeth herself that Arthur and Catherine had lain together "as man and wife all alone five or six nights after the said marriage".[22]

So part of her testimony, recounting what Queen Elizabeth, Henry VII's wife and Arthur's mother, had told her, was hearsay. It could not be corroborated since Elizabeth of York had died in 1503. And note that she did not say that they had consummated the marriage, just used euphemistic language. Evidently, there was no "bedding ceremony" after Arthur and Catherine's wedding, because that never seems to be mentioned in reports of their first night together. Sean Cunningham, in a BBC History Magazine History Extra blog post, "Prince Arthur, Catherine of Aragon, and Henry VIII: a story of early Tudor triumph and tragedy", explains:

In 1527–28, during the evidence-gathering for the annulment of her marriage to Henry VIII, she was adamant in her assertion that she was still a virgin at Arthur’s death. Shyness and exhaustion might have explained why nothing happened on the wedding night, but the couple had time to become intimate during a less-hectic life in Ludlow over the winter of 1501–02. . . .

Catherine’s testimony was a powerful factor. A solemn oath carried great weight, even if she was searching her memory of events at the start of the 16th century. Given the intensity of her first few months in a foreign country, it is unlikely that she would have forgotten such details.

The five months that Catherine and Arthur spent together in 1501–02 must have created intense memories for Catherine. For Henry VII’s other surviving son, Henry, Prince Arthur perhaps stirred different recollections. Henry VIII’s divorce of Catherine was secured without the truth of events in his brother’s marriage-bed being established. . . .

Cunningham's last comment is intriguing as it indicates that Henry VIII went ahead with his Great Matter without Pope Clement VII's declaration that the marriage was null and void--that there had no marriage between Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon--and without real proof of the matter by proclaiming himself the "Pope" of England so his new Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer had the power to resolve the issue in May of 1533.

But before that, the Legatine Court's drama of June 21, 1529, offered Catherine of Aragon the opportunity to speak to her husband directly:

. . . I loved all those whom ye loved only for your sake, whether I had cause or no, or whether they were my friends or enemies. This twenty years I have been your true wife or, more, and by me ye have had divers children, although it has pleased God to call them out of this world, which has been no default in me.

And when ye had me at first, I take God to be my judge, I was a true maid without touch of man; and whether it be true or no, I put it to your conscience. If there be any just cause by the law that ye can allege against me, either of dishonesty or any other impediment to banish and put me from you, I am well content to depart, to my great shame and dishonour; and if there be none, then here I most lowly beseech you let me remain in my former estate, and receive justice in your princely hands. . . .

That seems the best testimony we can find these centuries later. Quite a challenge to the King's conscience and one historical records do not answer.

But back to the manuscript blog post: After describing other autographs and prayers, including one from the Princess Mary with a translation of a prayer by St. Thomas Aquinas, it continues:

The multiple expressions of royal favour throughout the Book of Hours speak to the prominence and reputation of its owner, and they also provide a fascinating insight into the changing dynamics of the Tudor court itself. This is particularly apparent in the treatment of the inscriptions made by Catherine of Aragon and her daughter Mary. In all these cases, vigorous attempts at erasure have been made. Catherine’s title as ‘quene’ and ‘wife’ to Henry VIII, and Mary’s title as ‘princess’, have been scrubbed away and subsequently overwritten to prevent them from being read. . . .

It is unclear whether Joan was forced to undertake the removal of Catherine’s and Mary’s titles in her own Book of Hours, or whether this was the work of a later owner of the book.

"Forced" to mar her own Book of Hours? Was it inspected by Cromwell to verify compliance? Brings up some sad scenes in one's imagination . . .

This post and the erasures and overwriting in Joan Vaux's breviary reminded me of Eamon Duffy's book Marking the Hours: English People and Their Prayers, 1240-1570, published by Yale University Press.

Monday, May 8, 2023

The Tudors and the Greenwich Church of the Observant Friars


This post ties in with our Son Rise Morning Show discussion today of the correspondence between Queen Catherine of England and Blessed John Forest because it demonstrates the close ties between the founder of the Tudor Dynasty, King Henry VII and the church or chapel of the Observant Friars at Greenwich. From the Medieval Manuscripts blog of the British Library, evidence of that linkage:

Greenwich Palace was a favourite of England’s Tudor monarchs. Beside the palace stood the church of the Observant Friars, founded in 1482. Being so close to a royal residence, the church played a regular part in royal ceremonies — Henry VIII, Mary I and Elizabeth I were all baptised there. This church had political and religious importance, which is reinforced by two manuscripts digitised for the Library’s Medieval and Renaissance Women project. Egerton MS 2341/1 and Egerton MS 2341/2 contain instructions for the glaziers creating the stained glass for the church’s East window. These instructions demonstrate how that window was designed to strengthen the new Tudor dynasty.

Probably originally a single roll, the two manuscripts are undated. They must have been written after 1489, when Margaret Tudor was born, as she is one of the individuals to be depicted in the window. In turn, they presumably pre-date the death of Elizabeth of York, Henry VII’s queen, in February 1503, as the text refers to her in the present tense. They may have been made in the early 1490s, and before the church was consecrated by April 1494.

The post goes on to describe the saints to be depicted in the stained glass windows, particularly all the Anglo-Saxon female saints and concludes:

By focusing on royal women from before the Norman Conquest, the window placed Henry, his queen and his daughter among a cohort of royal women stretching back over a thousand years. He could claim direct descent from St Margaret, the ancestor of every English king from Henry II onwards. She, in turn, was linked to several of these Saxon saints. This window presented a Tudor history that looked beyond the dynastic squabbles of the 15th century, using these women to emphasise Henry VII’s link to a more distant and less contentious Anglo-Saxon past.

This does make sense because Henry VII's claim to the throne was through his mother's lineage, not his father's. One of the saints featured was Saint Margaret of Scotland, wife of King Malcolm III. She was an English princess, according to the old Encyclopedia Britannica:

the daughter of the English prince Edward, son of Edmund Ironside, and sister of Edgar Ætheling, and was probably born in Hungary. In 1067 the widow and children of Edward fled from Northumberland with a large number of followers and sought the protection of the Scottish king. The marriage of Malcolm and Margaret soon took place and was followed by several invasions of Northumberland by the Scottish king, probably in support of the claims of his brother-in-law Edgar. These, however, had little result beyond the devastation of the province. Far more important were the effects of this alliance upon the history of Scotland. A considerable portion of the old Northumbrian kingdom had been reduced by the Scottish kings in the previous century, but up to this time the English population had little influence upon the ruling element of the kingdom. Malcolm’s marriage undoubtedly improved the condition of the English to a great extent, and under Margaret’s sons, Edgar, Alexander I. and David I., the Scottish court practically became anglicized. Margaret died on the 17th of November 1093, four days after her husband and her eldest son Edward, who were slain in an invasion of Northumberland. She rebuilt the monastery of Iona, and was canonized in 1251 on account of her great benefactions to the Church.

Her feast is celebrated on November 16. Most of her relics were lost (discarded) during the Scottish Reformation. One of her daughters, Maud or Matilda, married King Henry I of England, so she was good choice for Henry VII to highlight. As the blog post notes, not only his mother (Margaret Beaufort), but his eldest daughter was named Margaret too:

Another famous saint to be featured in the window was Margaret of Scotland, the granddaughter of Edmund Ironside and wife of Malcolm III, king of Scots. Their daughter, Maud (or Matilda), married Henry I of England, while Margaret’s great-grandson himself became king as Henry II. In an interesting historical parallel, Margaret, Henry VII’s daughter, who was to appear in the pane below St Margaret, would marry a Scottish king, like her saintly namesake, and have a great-grandson who would become king of England: James VI and I.

Saint Margaret of Scotland, pray for us!
Blessed and Venerable Martyrs of the Observant Franciscans of Greenwich, pray for us!

Saturday, May 6, 2023

Updates/Clarification on the Coronation Oath Issues, Etc

When I talked to Anna Mitchell on the Son Rise Morning Show Thursday, May 4th, she had just read the news at the bottom of the hour (6:30 a.m. my time) that Vincent Nichols, the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster would be the first Catholic prelate to be present at a Coronation since the English Reformation to offer this benediction: “May God pour upon you the riches of his grace, keep you in his holy fear, prepare you for a happy eternity, and receive you at the last into his immortal glory.” (Note that the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales also issued a special prayer card for the occasion, urging Catholics to pray for the new King and Queen.)

So we had a brief discussion about who had been the last Catholic bishop at a Coronation and she was a little surprised to hear that the last Catholic Coronation had been that of Queen Elizabeth I. Owen Oglethorpe, the Bishop of Carlisle, presided over her Coronation on January 15, 1559 and celebrated the Catholic Mass too, of course.

Elizabeth I did not have many choices: her Reformation Parliament had not met yet; Reginald Cardinal Pole, the Archbishop of Canterbury had died the same day as Mary I, and other prelates either refused or were not to her liking. As Oglethorpe's entry in the Dictionary of National Biography explains:

He showed some firmness when called upon to say mass before the queen in the first days of her reign. Elizabeth forbade him to elevate the Host, which, according to a Roman authority, he insisted on doing (Strype, Annals, vol. i. pt. i. p. 73). The coronation soon followed. In the vacancy of the see of Canterbury, it naturally fell to the Archbishop of York to perform the ceremony; but Heath, alarmed by ominous presages of a change in religion, refused to officiate. Tunstall of Durham was too old, and perhaps shared in Heath's objection. It devolved, therefore, on Oglethorpe, as his suffragan, to take his metropolitan's place, and on 16 Jan. 1559, the other diocesan bishops attending, with the exception of Bonner, who, however, lent him his robes for the function, he placed the crown on the head of Elizabeth, but it is asserted that he never forgave himself for an act the momentous consequences of which he hardly foresaw, and remorse for his unfaithfulness to the church is said to have hastened his end. The same month he attended Elizabeth's first parliament, when he expressed his dissent from the bills for restoring the first-fruits and tenths to the crown, and the royal supremacy, the iniquitous forced exchange of bishops' lands for impropriate tithes, and other measures (Strype, Annals, vol. i. pt. i. pp. 82-7). He was also present at the opening of the disputation on religion at Westminster in March 1559, and was one of those who were fined for declining to enter on the dispute when they saw which way things were tending. The fine imposed on him amounted to 250l., and he had to give recognisances for good behaviour (ib. pp. 129, 137-9). On 15 May, together with Archbishop Heath and the other bishops who adhered to the old faith, he was summoned before the queen, and, on their unanimous refusal to take the oath of supremacy, they were all deprived (ib. pp. 206, 210). He only survived his deprivation a few months. He died suddenly of apoplexy on the last day of that year.

That same entry by Edmund Venables explains that this was a change in character for Oglethorpe, for with the accession of young King Edward VI, "His conduct shows him to have being a man of no strength of character, with little love for the series of religious changes through which the clergy were being hustled, but reluctantly accepting them rather than forego the dignity and emoluments of office."

More detail about Elizabeth I's coronation here from a 1953 article by A.L. Rowse.

Also, just before we went on the air, I added the detail (via a Facebook message) that the Oath Charles III is taking today is a drastic revision of the the Oath as written after the Glorious Revolution. That oath contained several anti-Catholic statements. King Edward VII, Queen Victoria's son, had not wanted to profess those promises, but could not get the changes made; his son George V (Charles' great-grandfather) refused to open the next Parliament unless the oath was revised as it is now and was for King George VI and Queen Elizabeth II. The Coronation Oath before 1910 was this:

"I, A. B., by the grace of God King (or Queen) of England, Scotland and Ireland, Defender of the Faith, do solemnly and sincerely in the presence of God, profess, testify, and declare, that I do believe that in the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper there is not any Transubstantiation of the elements of bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ at or after the consecration thereof by any person whatsoever: and that the invocation or adoration of the Virgin Mary or any other Saint, and the Sacrifice of the Mass, as they are now used in the Church of Rome, are superstitious and idolatrous. And I do solemnly in the presence of God profess, testify, and declare that I do make this declaration, and every part thereof, in the plain and ordinary sense of the words read unto me, as they are commonly understood by English Protestants, without any such dispensation from any person or authority or person whatsoever, or without thinking that I am or can be acquitted before God or man, or absolved of this declaration or any part thereof, although the Pope, or any other person or persons, or power whatsoever, should dispense with or annul the same or declare that it was null and void from the beginning."

Since the Glorious Revolution had overthrown the last Catholic King of England, James II and he was in France and his sons and grandsons would remain Pretenders to the throne, such an Anti-Catholic Oath was thought necessary.

See page 19 of the May issue of The Portal, the magazine of the Anglican Ordinariate in England for more background!

Friday, May 5, 2023

Preview: A Royal Confessor and an Observant Martyr

We'll continue our series on Father Henry Sebastian Bowden's book, Mementoes of the English Martyrs and Confessors for Every Day in the Year on the Son Rise Morning Show next Monday, May 8 at a little after 6:45 a.m. Central/7:45 a.m. Eastern. Please listen live here or find the podcast later that day here.

This time we'll feature an exchange of letters between one whom Father Henry Sebastian Bowden terms a Confessor, one who suffered for the faith during the English Reformation but was neither martyred nor considered for canonization, and a martyr, both from the reign of Henry VIII.

The Confessor, who writes to her priestly confessor, is Catherine of Aragon, and the Martyr is Blessed John Forest, her "venerated Father" who would suffer a unique martyrdom. On page 159, in "A Royal Penitent", Queen Catherine writes to the Observant Franciscan Father John Forest because she thinks he will be executed soon for his early and lasting opposition to Henry VIII's plans to have the marriage between himself and Catherine dissolved so he may marry Anne Boleyn. (You might recall that the Observant Franciscans at Greenwich, so associated with the royal family, supported the validity of that marriage from the very beginning of the King's Great Matter. The couple was married at the Observant's chapel at the Royal Palace on June 22, 1509, after all.) 

Queen Catherine had been exiled from Court since 1531 and after Thomas Cranmer, the Archbishop of Canterbury had declared her marriage to Henry VIII null and void in May 1533, the king would not allow her any other title than Dowager Princess of Wales, although she continued to refer to herself as the Queen (she had been anointed and crowned Queen of England and Wales on June 24, 1509)! Cranmer also had to declare Henry VIII's marriage to Anne Boleyn, which had been celebrated before that annulment, was valid.

The dates of this correspondence, which Bowden might have accessed through Don Bede Camm's The Lives of the English Martyrs, are not certain. Bowden does include Camm's work as one of his sources in his Introduction (p. 7). Father John Morris, SJ, who wrote Forest's entry in Camm's book, dates it to sometime in 1534 when Forest was in prison because of his opposition to Henry's actions.

So, perhaps in 1534, by then in Cambridgeshire at either Buckton Towers* or Kimbolton Castle, Queen Catherine of England and Wales wrote her confessor, lamenting that he will die before her, leaving her without his counsel for he was "the man who had taught me the most in divine things." She says she would be willing to suffer "a thousand torments than follow you after a time." She asks for his prayers, for him to "commend me always to God, now and from your place in heaven" and call herself his "most sorrowful daughter." The verse for her entry is Ruth 1:16: "whither thou goest . . ."

Father John Forest answers her from prison that he "was filled with incredible joy" because he "saw how great is your constancy in the faith." He begs her prayers and commends her to Saint Francis of Assisi and especially Saint Catherine of Siena (whose feast we just celebrated at the end of April); especially "when you hear of my execution, I heartily beg of you to pray for me to her. I send to you my rosary, as I have but three days to live." Father Bowden gives his memento the title "One Only Gospel" with the verse from Galatians 1:18 as Forest reminds her to reject any doctrine of "heretics" and remain true to the Church's teaching.

What Bowden does not tell us is that Queen Catherine of England and Wales died before Blessed John Forest after a long illness and much distress that she could not see her daughter Mary before she died (unless she accepted her Dowager title and Mary's illegitimacy), on January 7, 1536 at age 50. She was buried in Peterborough Cathedral on January 29. Her tomb bears the title "Katharine Queen of England", courtesy of Queen Mary of Teck, King George V's consort. The Cathedral holds a festival every January in her honor, with a Catholic Mass celebrated.

According to Camm's book, Forest was released from prison for a time to the Grey Friar Franciscan house near Smithfield until he was finally brought to trial for heresy and burned at the stake on May 22, 1538 at Smithfield. On page 171, on the anniversary of his martyrdom, Bowden remembers him with the title "A Living Holocaust". According to the 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia:

On 22 May following he was taken to Smithfield to be burned. The statue of Saint Derfel which had been brought from the church of Llanderfel in Wales, was thrown on the pile of firewood; and thus, according to popular belief, was fulfilled an old prophecy, that this holy image would set a forest on fire. The holy man's martyrdom lasted two hours, at the end of which the executioners threw him, together with the gibbet on which he hung, into the fire. 

He was beatified by Pope Leo XIII in 1886.

Blessed John Forest, pray for us! and may the Soul of Queen Catherine of England, rest in peace.

*I think of Catherine of Aragon would be pleased that Buckton Towers is now The Claret Centre, a retreat and conference center, run by the Claretians, with the Church of Saint Hugh of Lincoln on the grounds, and two chapels, one dedicated to Our Lady and the other to Saint Anthony Claret! (She might not be thrilled with the plainness of the church and chapels, however--not quite what she was used to in her era!)