Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Preview: Newman on Saint Paul (UPDATED Again)

We've rescheduled this interview for Thursday, June 30, at 7:50 am Eastern/6:50 am Central!

UPDATE: Because of the Supreme Court decision on Dobbs, Matt Swaim needs that time slot back on Monday. We'll reschedule later in the week!

Since we celebrate yet another Solemnity next week, that of Saints Peter and Paul, I suggested to Matt Swaim that we take a look at one of Saint John Henry Newman's sermons on Saint Paul during our Monday, June 27 segment on the Son Rise Morning Show. As you know by now, I'll be on the Son Rise Morning Show at my usual time: about 6:50 a.m. Central/7:50 a.m. Eastern time. Please listen live on EWTN Radio.

The sermon I've selected is "St. Paul's Characteristic Gift", based upon the verse, "Gladly therefore will I glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may dwell in me." 2 Cor. xii. 9. Newman preached it in the University Church in Dublin on an auspicious day:

I think it a happy circumstance that, in this Church, placed, as it is, under the patronage of the great names of St. Peter and St. Paul, the special feast days of these two Apostles (for such we may account the 29th of June as regards St. Peter, and today as regards St. Paul) should, in the first year of our assembling here, each have fallen on a Sunday. And now that we have arrived, through God's protecting Providence, at the latter of these two days, the Conversion of St. Paul, I do not like to forego the opportunity, with whatever misgivings as to my ability, of offering to you, my Brethren, at least a few remarks upon the wonderful work of God's creative grace mercifully presented to our inspection in the person of this great Apostle. Most unworthy of him, I know, is the best that I can say; and even that {94} best I cannot duly exhibit in the space of time allowed me on an occasion such as this; but what is said out of devotion to him, and for the divine glory, will, I trust, have its use, defective though it be, and be a plea for his favourable notice of those who say it, and be graciously accepted by his and our Lord and Master.

Newman begins the sermon by contrasting two general types of saints: those who seem (like Saint John the Apostle), "to have no part in earth or in human nature; but to think, speak, and act under views, affections, and motives simply supernatural. If they love others, it is simply because they love God, and because man is the object either of His compassion, or of His praise. If they rejoice, it is in what is unseen; if they feel interest, it is in what is unearthly; if they speak, it is almost with the voice of Angels; if they eat or drink, it is almost of Angels' food alone . . ."

He classes Saint Paul among the second group: those in "whom the supernatural combines with nature, instead of superseding it,—invigorating it, elevating it, ennobling it; and who are not the less men, because they are saints. They do not put away their natural endowments, but use them to the glory of the Giver; they do not act beside them, but through them; they do not eclipse them by the brightness of divine grace, but only transfigure them. They are versed in human knowledge; they are busy in human society; they understand the human heart; they can throw themselves into the minds of other men; and all this in consequence of natural gifts and secular education."

Then Newman focuses on that verse in which Saint Paul says that he "glories" in his weakness so that the power of Christ dwells in him:

In him, his human nature, his human affections, his human gifts, were possessed and glorified by a new and heavenly life; they remained; he speaks of them in the text, and in his humility he calls them his infirmity. He was not stripped of nature, but clothed with grace and the power of Christ, and therefore he glories in his infirmity. This is the subject on which I wish to enlarge.

A heathen poet has said, Homo sum, humani nihil a me alienum puto. "I am a man; nothing human is without interest to me:" and the sentiment has been widely and deservedly praised. Now this, in a fulness of meaning which a heathen could not understand, is, I conceive, the characteristic of this great Apostle. He is ever speaking, to use his own words, "human things," and "as a man," and "according to man," and "foolishly":—that is, human nature, the common nature of the whole race of Adam, spoke in him, acted in him, with an energetical presence, with a sort of bodily fulness, always under the sovereign command of divine grace, but {96} losing none of its real freedom and power because of its subordination. And the consequence is, that, having the nature of man so strong within him, he is able to enter into human nature, and to sympathize with it, with a gift peculiarly his own.

Newman notes that Saint Paul sympathized on the one hand with the pagans, the Gentiles to whom he especially preached. Even when they wanted to worship him and Barnabas as though they were Hermes and Zeus, Newman says: 

he at once places himself on their level and reckons himself among them, and at the same time speaks of God's love of them, heathens though they were. "Ye men," he cries, "why do ye these things? We also are mortals, men like unto you;" and he adds that God in times past, though suffering all nations to walk in their own ways, "nevertheless left not Himself {99} without testimony, doing good from heaven, giving rains and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness." You see, he says, "our hearts," not "your," as if he were one of those Gentiles; and he dwells in a kindly human way over the food, and the gladness which food causes, which the poor heathen were granted. Hence it is that he is the Apostle who especially insists on our all coming from one father, Adam; for he had pleasure in thinking that all men were brethren. "God hath made," he says, "all mankind of one"; "as in Adam all die, so in Christ all shall be made alive."

But in the same, Newman says, Saint Paul had great empathy for Jews, whom he also wanted to bring to Jesus Christ even though he had a special mission to the Gentiles:

"Hath God cast away His people?" he asks; "God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin." "All are not Israelites that are of Israel." And he dwells upon his confident anticipation of their recovery in time to come. "They are enemies," he says, writing to the Romans, "for your sakes;" that is, you have gained by their loss; "but they are most dear for the sake of the fathers; for the gifts and the calling of God are without repentance." "Blindness in part has happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles should come in; and so all Israel should be saved."

And one more quotation, in which we see a reminder of Newman's great "Heart Speaks to Heart" motto, and his enduring belief that personal influence is an essential way to bringing others to Christ:

To him specially was it given to preach to the world, who knew the world; he subdued the heart, who understood the heart. It was his sympathy that was his means of influence; it was his affectionateness which was his title and instrument of empire. "I became to the Jews a Jew," he says, "that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the Law, as if I were under the Law, that I might gain them that were under the Law. To those that were without the Law, as if I were without {104} the Law, that I might gain them that were without the Law. To the weak I became weak, that I might gain the weak. I became all things to all men, that I might save all."

Newman regrets that he can't say more about Saint Paul's characteristic gift because his time for preaching is at an end! 

Saint Paul the Apostle, pray for us!
Saint John Henry Newman, pray for us!

Image credit (top): Paul and Barnabas at Lystra – painting by Jacob Pynas (MET, 1971.255) This file was donated to Wikimedia Commons as part of a project by the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Shared under a Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication

Image Credit (St John the Apostle by Rubens): public domain

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Saints John Fisher and Thomas More in 2022

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) have posted the themes for the annual Religious Freedom Week. It was formerly a Fortnight for Freedom, from June 22 to July 4, but it's shorter now. It still begins with the memorial of Sts. John Fisher and Thomas More.

Here's what the USCCB posts about these martyrs this year:

Sts. Thomas More and John Fisher were Renaissance men. Talented and energetic, they contributed to the humanist scholarship of early modern England. More wrote theological and philosophical treatises, while making a career as a lawyer and government official. Bishop John Fisher worked as an administrator at Cambridge, confronted the challenge Martin Luther presented to Christian Europe, and most importantly served as Bishop of Rochester. As a bishop, he is notable for his dedication to preaching at a time when bishops tended to focus on politics. These men were brilliant. They both corresponded with Erasmus, who helped Bishop Fisher learn Greek and Hebrew, and who also famously referred to More as a man for all seasons.

Above all their accomplishments, these men bore witness to a deep faith in Christ and his Church. More considered joining religious life and was assiduous in his devotional practices. As a married man, he committed himself wholly to his vocation as a father. At the time, disciplinary practices with children tended to be severe, but More’s children testify to his warmth, patience, and generosity.

St. John Fisher was a model shepherd and demonstrated remarkable humility. He remained in the small Diocese of Rochester his entire episcopal ministry, devoting himself to his local church rather than seeking promotion to a larger, more powerful diocese. . . .

So far I have resisted this temptation: Cluny Media has issued handsome new paperback editions of E.E. Reynolds' biographies of these great martyr saints:

Laicorum hominum decus et ornamentum—“the glory and ornament of the laity”: thus did Pope Pius XI define St. Thomas More. In this accomplished study of “the king’s good servant, but God’s first,” E. E. Reynolds demonstrates the aptness of that epithet. Placing the primary emphasis on Thomas More’s religious significance, but without neglecting his political and literary legacy, Reynolds produces a richly detailed portrait of this husband and father, lawyer and statesman, and servant to and martyr for Jesus Christ and his Church. To assist in his interpretations and analyses, Reynolds gathers the many threads of previous scholarship on More by T. E. Bridgett, A. F. Pollard, and R. W. Chambers (to name but a few). Especially valuable is the generous provision throughout the book of primary-source material from More’s own works and correspondence, with the spellings modernized for comfortable reading.


Of John Fisher, Pope Pius XI said: “Whenever there was question of defending the integrity of faith and morals…he was not afraid to proclaim the truth openly, and to defend by every means in his power the divine teachings of the Church.” In this compleat biography, E. E. Reynolds provides a thorough account of Fisher’s life and works, detailing his youth and education and storied career—chaplain to Lady Margaret Beaufort, grandmother of Henry VIII; proctor of the University of Cambridge at age twenty-five; ordination to the episcopacy at age thirty-five, to mention but a few; his profound piety and devotion to his pastoral duties; his spirited response to Luther and the Protestant revolt; and his staunch defense of Catherine of Aragon and refusal, even unto death, to submit to Henry VIII’s claims of supreme power.

If I see them in the near future on the shelves at Eighth Day Books, I may succumb to the temptation. I do have an older edition of Reynold's on Saint John Fisher, but a little Westie girl nimbled on it one time years ago. (Amanda must have known about what Francis Bacon said about books: “Some books should be tasted, some devoured, but only a few should be chewed and digested thoroughly.”)

Saint John Fisher, pray for us!
Saint Thomas More, pray for us!

Friday, June 17, 2022

Preview: Newman and Corpus Christi

Since the Catholic dioceses in the USA will begin the USCCB's Eucharistic Revival following the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi) on Sunday, June 19, Matt Swaim and I will discuss St. John Henry Newman and the Holy Eucharist on Monday, June 20. As you know, I'll be on the Son Rise Morning Show at my usual time: about 6:50 a.m. Central/7:50 a.m. Eastern time. Please listen live on EWTN Radio.

This may seem a strange place to begin, but whenever I think of Newman and the Holy Eucharist this passage at the end of the Apologia Pro Vita Sua comes to my mind:

In Chapter 5, Newman proclaims that after becoming a Catholic, he had “no further history of my religious opinions to narrate”. Of course he was still thinking about theological and doctrinal matters, but he didn't have to form private judgments about them in the same way as he did before. For instance, he mentions the Catholic Church's teaching on transubstantiation:

People say that the doctrine of Transubstantiation is difficult to believe; I did not believe the doctrine till I was a Catholic. I had no difficulty in believing it, as soon as I believed that the Catholic Roman Church was the oracle of God, and that she had declared this doctrine to be part of the original revelation. It is difficult, impossible, to imagine, I grant;—but how is it difficult to believe?

Then he cites a comment by Thomas Babington Macaulay:

Yet Macaulay thought it so difficult to believe, that he had need of a believer in it of talents as eminent as Sir Thomas More, before he could bring himself to conceive that the Catholics of an enlightened age could resist "the overwhelming force of the argument against it." "Sir Thomas More," he says, "is one of the choice specimens of wisdom and virtue; and the doctrine of transubstantiation is a kind of proof charge. A faith which stands that test, will stand any test."

For your reference, here's the passage from Newman's Tract 90, in which he attempted to reconcile the doctrines of the Catholic Church with the Thirty-Nine articles of the Church of England. He focuses on Transubstantiation in this article. Tract 90 was the last of the Tracts for the Times and presaged the end of the Tractarian or Oxford Movement, and particularly Newman's leadership of it. The Tract was condemned by the University and Oxford's Bishop (presiding at the Cathedral of Christ Church) and Newman barely escaped censure. He moved out to the College at Littlemore.

This is the statement from the Thirty-Nine Articles of the Church of England against the Real Presence of Jesus in Holy Communion:

The supper of the Lord is not only a sign of the love that Christians ought to have among themselves; but rather is a Sacrament of our redemption by Christ's death: insomuch that to those who rightly and with faith, receive the same, the bread that we break is a partaking of the body of Christ, likewise the cup of blessing is a partaking of the blood of Christ. Transubstantiation (or the change of the substance of Bread and Wine) in the supper of the Lord, cannot be proved by Holy Writ; but is repugnant to the plain words of scripture, overthroweth the nature of the Sacrament and hath given occasion to many superstitions. The Body of Christ is given, taken and eaten in the Supper, only after an Heavenly and spiritual manner. And the mean whereby the Body of Christ is received and eaten in the Supper is Faith. The Sacrament of the Lord's Supper was not by Christ's ordinance reserved, carried about, lifted up or worshipped.
— Articles of Religion No.28 "The Lord's Supper": Book of Common Prayer 1662

As an Anglican minister, Newman did speak of Holy Communion, as in one of his Parochial and Plain Sermons, "The Eucharistic Presence":

The text speaks of the greatest and highest of all the Sacramental mysteries, which faith has been vouchsafed, that of Holy Communion. Christ, who died and rose again for us, is in it spiritually present, in the fulness of His death and of His resurrection. We call His presence in this Holy Sacrament a {137} spiritual presence, not as if "spiritual" were but a name or mode of speech, and He were really absent, but by way of expressing that He who is present there can neither be seen nor heard; that He cannot be approached or ascertained by any of the senses; that He is not present in place, that He is not present carnally, though He is really present. And how this is, of course is a mystery. All that we know or need know is that He is given to us, and that in the Sacrament of Holy Communion. . . 

Nothing can show more clearly how high the blessing is, than to observe that the Church's tendency has been, not to detract from its marvellousness, but to increase it. The Church has never thought little of the gift; so far from it, we know that one very large portion of Christendom holds more than we hold. That belief, which goes beyond ours, shows how great the gift is really. I allude to the doctrine of what is called Transubstantiation, which we do not admit; or that the bread and wine cease to be, and that Christ's sacred Body and Blood are directly seen, touched, and handled, under the appearances of Bread and Wine. This our Church considers there is no ground for saying, and our Lord's own words contain marvel enough, even without adding any thing to them by way of explanation. Let us, then, now consider them in themselves, apart from additions which came afterwards. . . .

So that's enough proof of Newman's difficulties and disbelief while he was an Anglican in the True, Real, Substantial Presence of Jesus Christ in Holy Communion, as defined by the Council of Trent: "by the consecration of the bread and of the wine, a conversion is made of the whole substance of the bread into the substance (substantia) of the body of Christ our Lord, and of the whole substance of the wine into the substance of His blood; which conversion is, by the holy Catholic Church, suitably and properly called Transubstantiation". (While the outward accidents of bread and wine remain.)

Now, if you consult his Meditations and Devotions, you'll see Newman's great love of the Mass and of Holy Communion, and particularly of Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament after he became a Catholic and also a Catholic priest.

He composed a prayer for "A Short Visit to the Blessed Sacrament before Meditation":

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

I place myself in the presence of Him, in whose Incarnate Presence I am before I place myself there.

I adore Thee, O my Saviour, present here as God and man, in soul and body, in true flesh and blood.

I acknowledge and confess that I kneel before that Sacred Humanity, which was conceived in Mary's womb, and lay in Mary's bosom; which grew up to man's estate, and by the Sea of Galilee called the Twelve, wrought miracles, and spoke words of wisdom and peace; which in due season hung on the cross, lay in the tomb, rose from the dead, and now reigns in heaven.

I praise, and bless, and give myself wholly to Him, who is the true Bread of my soul, and my everlasting joy. Amen.

That might be useful for those of us with an assigned time of prayer in an Adoration Chapel or during a Forty Hours celebration.

He translated the Anima Christi (this is the translation I use every day):

Soul of Christ, be my sanctification;
Body of Christ, be my salvation;
Blood of Christ, fill all my veins;
Water of Christ’s side, wash out my stains;
Passion of Christ, my comfort be;
O good Jesu, listen to me;
In thy wounds I fain would hide,
Ne’er to be parted from Thy side;
Guard me, should the foe assail me;
Call me when my life shall fail me;
Bid me come to Thee above,
With Thy saints to sing Thy love,
World without end. Amen.

And, finally, this excerpt from his meditation on receiving Holy Communion, part of his "Meditations on Christian Doctrine":

O my God, holiness becometh Thy House, and yet Thou dost make Thy abode in my breast. My Lord, my Saviour, to me Thou comest, hidden under the semblance of earthly things, yet in that very flesh and blood which Thou didst take from Mary. Thou, who didst first inhabit Mary's breast, dost come to me. My God, Thou seest me; I cannot see myself. Were I ever so good a judge about myself, ever so unbiassed, and with ever so correct a rule of judging, still, from my very nature, I cannot look at myself, and view myself truly and wholly. But Thou, as Thou comest to me, contemplatest me. When I say, Domine, non sum dignus—"Lord, I am not worthy"—Thou whom I am addressing, alone understandest in their fulness the words which I use. Thou seest how unworthy so great a sinner is to receive the One Holy God, whom the Seraphim adore with trembling. Thou seest, not only the stains and scars of past sins, but the mutilations, the deep cavities, the chronic disorders which they have left in my soul. Thou seest the innumerable living sins, though they be not mortal, living in their power and presence, their guilt, and their penalties, which clothe me. Thou seest all my bad habits, all my mean principles, all wayward lawless thoughts, my multitude of infirmities and miseries, yet Thou comest. Thou seest most perfectly how little I really feel what I am now saying, yet Thou comest. O my God, left to myself should I not perish under the awful splendour and the consuming fire of Thy Majesty. Enable me to bear Thee, lest I have to say with Peter, "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!"

I cannot omit this brief quotation from Newman's Sermon Notes on May 25, 1856 (Sunday within the Octave of Corpus Christi), "Devotion to the Holy Eucharist":

. . . Our Lord came 1800 years ago. How shall we feel reverence of what took place 1800 years ago? . . .

How almighty love and wisdom has met this. He has met this by living among us with a continual presence. He is not past, He is present now. And though He is not seen, He is here. The same God who walked the water, who did miracles, etc., {129} is in the Tabernacle. We come before Him, we speak to Him just as He was spoken to 1800 years ago, etc. . . .

[I can't help but hear G.K. Chesterton's echo of that statement: "Christ is on earth today; alive on a thousand altars; and He does solve people’s problems exactly as He did when He was on earth in the more ordinary sense."]

[Yes, the feast of Corpus Christi once had an Octave; Pope Pius XII suppressed it in 1955.]

So although Newman may have begun believing in the fullness of the Catholic Church's teaching on the Real Presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, in Transubstantiation, in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, etc., simply because he had come to be believe that "the Catholic Roman Church was the oracle of God, and that she had declared this doctrine to be part of the original revelation" he obviously grew in his dedication to celebrating the Mass, receiving Holy Communion, and adoring Jesus Christ, truly Present in the Holy Eucharist.

Blessed be Jesus in the most Holy Sacrament of the Altar!

Saint John Henry Newman, pray for us!

Image Credit (public domain): Christ with the Eucharist, Vicente Juan Masip, 16th century.

Friday, June 10, 2022

Preview: Newman and the Sacred Heart of Jesus

Matt Swaim and I will continue our series of vignettes from Saint John Henry Newman's sermons and other works on Monday, June 13 with a discussion of Newman and Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

I'll be on the Son Rise Morning Show at my usual time: about 6:50 a.m. Central/7:50 a.m. Eastern time. Please listen live on EWTN Radio.

Catholic devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus developed over the centuries. One of its earliest sources from the Fathers of the Church was contemplation of the piercing of Jesus's heart on the cross, the wound from which blood and water flowed. Those signs of sacred water and saving blood, of course, have long been seen as representing Baptism and Holy Communion. This EWTN transcription of an article from 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia provides some background on the development of this devotion.

The modern celebration of the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and other devotions like First Fridays and Eucharistic Adoration on the Thursday before them, stem from the visions of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque in the 17th century in France. Pope Pius IX established the Feast of the Sacred Heart on the Friday after the Feast of Corpus Christi in 1856. Pope Leo XIII consecrated the entire human race to the Sacred Heart of Jesus on June 11, 1899.

As an Anglican, Newman knew little, probably, of this devotion, but as a Catholic, he certainly celebrated the Feast as Pope Pius IX had established just eleven years after his conversion. Since as a Cardinal he chose the motto of Cor ad Cor Loquitor, it makes sense that this devotion would mean something to him. (Note the two hearts above the one on his Cardinalate shield--one of them represents the Immaculate Heart Mary, the memorial following the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart.)

There are two readily available documents showing Newman's devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and his celebration of the feast. The first is from his Meditations and Devotions. These meditations and devotions were published after his death, but according to his secretary at the Birmingham Oratory, Newman had intended to prepare a year-long devotional for the use of the boys at the Oratory School. You'll notice how personal and direct this prayer of adoration is, based on the doctrine of the Incarnation of Our Lord, the Second Person of the Trinity, as truly God and truly man.

1. O SACRED Heart of Jesus, I adore Thee in the oneness of the Personality of the Second Person of the Holy Trinity. Whatever belongs to the Person of Jesus, belongs therefore to God, and is to be worshipped with that one and the same worship which we pay to Jesus. He did not take on Him His human nature, as something distinct and separate from Himself, but as simply, absolutely, eternally His, so as to be included by us in the very thought of Him. I worship Thee, O Heart of Jesus, as being Jesus Himself, as being that Eternal Word in human nature which He took wholly and lives in wholly, and therefore in Thee. Thou art the Heart of the Most High made man. In worshipping Thee, I worship my Incarnate God, Emmanuel. I worship Thee, as bearing a part in that Passion which is my life, for Thou didst burst and break, through agony, in the garden of Gethsemani, and Thy precious contents trickled out, through the veins and pores of the skin, upon the earth. And again, Thou hadst been drained all but dry upon the Cross; and then, after death, Thou wast pierced by the lance, and gavest out the small remains of that inestimable treasure, which is our redemption.

2. My God, my Saviour, I adore Thy Sacred Heart, for that heart is the seat and source of all Thy {413} tenderest human affections for us sinners. It is the instrument and organ of Thy love. It did beat for us. It yearned over us. It ached for us, and for our salvation. It was on fire through zeal, that the glory of God might be manifested in and by us. It is the channel through which has come to us all Thy overflowing human affection, all Thy Divine Charity towards us. All Thy incomprehensible compassion for us, as God and Man, as our Creator and our Redeemer and Judge, has come to us, and comes, in one inseparably mingled stream, through that Sacred Heart. O most Sacred symbol and Sacrament of Love, divine and human, in its fulness, Thou didst save me by Thy divine strength, and Thy human affection, and then at length by that wonder-working blood, wherewith Thou didst overflow.

3. O most Sacred, most loving Heart of Jesus, Thou art concealed in the Holy Eucharist, and Thou beatest for us still. Now as then Thou savest, Desiderio desideravi—"With desire I have desired." I worship Thee then with all my best love and awe, with my fervent affection, with my most subdued, most resolved will. O my God, when Thou dost condescend to suffer me to receive Thee, to eat and drink Thee, and Thou for a while takest up Thy abode within me, O make my heart beat with Thy Heart. Purify it of all that is earthly, all that is proud and sensual, all that is hard and cruel, of all perversity, of all disorder, of all deadness. So fill it with Thee, that neither the events of the day nor the circumstances of the time may have power to ruffle it, but that in Thy love and Thy fear it may have peace.

Then, in his Sermon Notes, for Newman had started to give more feverino type of sermons, not writing them through to be read, but preparing numbered lists of what he wanted to say, he offers an explanation of the practice of this devotion on the Feast of the Sacred Heart on June 6, 1875.

His second point introduces the doctrinal basis of this devotion: "Our Lord is One. He is the one God. He took on Him a manhood, a body and soul; that body from Mary. Still, He was one, not two—one, as each of us is one."

Newman makes a comparison with the way that we love a certain attribute of someone we love because we love him or her and how we can love the Heart of Jesus because will love Him:
Further, if I said I loved the face, or the smile, or liked to take the hand of my father or mother, it would be because I loved them. And so, when I speak of the separate portions of our Lord's human frame, I really am worshipping Him. So in the Blessed Sacrament we do not conceive of His Body and Blood as separate from Him.

During Eucharistic Adoration at a Holy Hour, or Forty Hours Devotion, or private prayer before the Blessed Sacrament in a monstrance in an Adoration Chapel, we not idolize the Host as a separate object: we adore Jesus, the Son of God, the Second Person of the Trinity, present Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity in that Host or in that Tabernacle, veiled from sight.

Newman's last three points are:

8. What is the Heart the symbol of?—of His love, His affection for us, so that He suffered for us—the agony in the garden.

9. Moreover, of His love in the Holy Eucharist.

10. The Heart was the seat, first, of His love for us; secondly, of His many griefs and sorrows.

Trying to imagine what Father Newman was saying in developing these notes further is an interesting and humbling effort--I look forward to what Matt Swaim will draw from this exercise!--but we can see that Newman wanted to show his congregation how devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus helped them realize how much Jesus loved and loves them: He suffered and died for us; He comes to us in Holy Communion. Newman, for whom religious devotions were always based on the teachings of Jesus and His Church, made the connections between how we believe in Jesus and how we demonsrate our devotions to Him in prayer and worship of His Sacred Heart and in the Eucharist. 

The Fathers of the Birmingham Oratory collected and published these Sermon Notes in 1913 with some comments about Father Newman and later Cardinal Newman's delivery of them in the Introduction:

His manner of speaking was the same in the pulpit as on ordinary occasions; in fact, he was not preaching but conversing, very thoughtfully and earnestly, but still conversing. His voice, with its gentleness, the trueness of every note in it, its haunting tone of (if sadness be too strong a word) patient enduring and pity, has often been described by those who heard it at St. Mary's in the old Oxford days, and, judging from their descriptions, it seems to have been the same in old {viii} age as it was then. Probably the initial impression on one who heard it for the first time would be that it varied very little. This, however, was certainly not the case. Changes of expression or feeling were constantly coming over it, but so naturally and in such perfect unison with what was being said at the moment, that they were hardly noted at the time. It was only afterwards, if something had struck home and kept coming back to the mind, that one realised that it was not the words only, but something in the tone of the voice in which they were said, that haunted the memory.

Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us!
Saint John Henry Newman, pray for us!

Image credit (public domain): Sacred Heart of Jesus, Portuguese painting from the 19th century.

Friday, June 3, 2022

Preview: Newman and the Church in Whitsuntide

So the first event in my Very Newman Summer has passed: I delivered my EDI Ad Fontes Patronal Lecture on St. John Henry Newman on Thursday and I think it went well. I also met with my "boss" for this summer session's class on Newman and the New Evangelization for Newman University.

Now on to the next Very Newman Summer project: weekly (Monday morning) spots on the Son Rise Morning Show on EWTN Radio! Matt Swaim and I will discuss Whitsuntide (post-Pentecost) sermon from Newman's Parochial and Plain Sermons (PPS) on Monday, June 6 at my usual time: about 6:50 a.m. Central/7:50 a.m. Eastern time. Please listen live on EWTN Radio.

In this sermon, "The Weapons of Saints", Newman takes as his text Matthew 19:30: "Many that are first shall be last, and the last shall be first." He's talking about how the world really has changed after the events we remember and celebrate during the Easter Season: the Resurrection and Ascension of Our Lord Jesus Christ and the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost:

THESE words are fulfilled under the Gospel in many ways. Our Saviour in one place applies them to the rejection of the Jews and the calling of the Gentiles; but in the context, in which they stand as I have cited them, they seem to have a further meaning, and to embody a great principle, which we all indeed acknowledge, but are deficient in mastering. Under the dispensation of the Spirit all things were to become new and to be reversed. Strength, numbers, wealth, philosophy, eloquence, craft, experience of life, knowledge of human nature, these are the means by which worldly men have ever gained the world. But in that kingdom which Christ has set up, all is contrariwise. "The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds." What was before in honour, has been dishonoured; what {314} before was in dishonour, has come to honour; what before was successful, fails; what before failed, succeeds. What before was great, has become little; what before was little, has become great. Weakness has conquered strength, for the hidden strength of God "is made perfect in weakness." Death has conquered life, for in that death is a more glorious resurrection. Spirit has conquered flesh; for that spirit is an inspiration from above. A new kingdom has been established, not merely different from all kingdoms before it, but contrary to them; a paradox in the eyes of man,—the visible rule of the invisible Saviour.

Thus Newman presents many examples of how the world has been turned upside down, starting with Mary's Magnificat and her celebration of what was already happening after the Holy Spirit had overshadowed her and she had conceived her and our Savior ("So she spoke of His "scattering the proud," "putting down the mighty," "exalting the humble and meek," "filling the hungry with good things," and "sending the rich empty away." This was a shadow or outline of that Kingdom of the Spirit, which was then coming on the earth.")

Then Newman, referring the Saints as the members of the Church on earth, doing great things, continues:

Yes, so it is; since Christ sent down gifts from on high, the Saints are ever taking possession of the kingdom, and with the weapons of Saints. The invisible powers of the heavens, truth, meekness, and righteousness, are ever coming in upon the earth, ever pouring in, gathering, thronging, warring, triumphing, under the guidance of Him who "is alive and was dead, and is alive for evermore." The beloved disciple saw Him mounted on a white horse, and going forth "conquering and to conquer." "And the armies which were in heaven followed Him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean. And out of His mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it He should smite the nations, and He shall rule them with a rod of iron." [Rev. xix. 14, 15.]

But, as ever, Newman wants to awaken a greater awareness of the impact of these doctrinal truths in the minds and hearts of his congregation and how they must live them out:

Now let us apply this great truth to ourselves; for be it ever recollected, we are the sons of God, we are the soldiers of Christ. The kingdom is within us, and among us, and around us. We are apt to speak of it as a matter of history; we speak of it as at a distance; but really we are a part of it, or ought to be; and, as we wish to be a living portion of it, which is our only hope of salvation, we must learn what its {317} characters are in order to imitate them. It is the characteristic of Christ's Church, that the first should be last, and the last first; are we realizing in ourselves and taking part in this wonderful appointment of God?

As he so often does in these PPS, Newman displays a great imaginative knowledge of how we think: we yearn for peace, for Utopia, for everything to be easy--but at the same time we want greatness and achievement. We want what the world cannot give us:

We have most of us by nature longings more or less, and aspirations, after something greater than this world can give. Youth, especially, has a natural love of what is noble and heroic. We like to hear marvellous tales, which throw us out of things as they are, and introduce us to things that are not. We so love the idea of the invisible, that we even build fabrics in the air for ourselves, if heavenly truth be not vouchsafed us. We love to fancy ourselves involved in circumstances of danger or trial, and acquitting ourselves well under them. Or we imagine some perfection, such as earth has not, which we follow, and render it our homage and our heart. . . .

That line about building castles in the air ("fabrics in the air") reminds me of Newman's own youth. As he writes in the first chapter of the Apologia pro Vita Sua quoting a note he'd made in journal in 1820, "I used to wish the Arabian Tales were true: my imagination ran on unknown influences, on magical powers, and talismans … I thought life might be a dream, or I an Angel, and all this world a deception, my fellow-angels by a playful device concealing themselves from me, and deceiving me with the semblance of a material world." 

Newman thought of The Matrix long before the Wachowskis!

And remember that he is speaking to young men at the University of Oxford, one of the heights of greatness for the elite of England! Imagine a preacher telling students at Harvard or Brown University about this different way to greatness and fulfillment.

Then he reminds them of the only way they can approach these dreams as reality in their lives:

While their hearts are thus unsettled, Christ comes to them, if they will receive Him, and promises to satisfy their great need, this hunger and thirst which wearies them. He does not wait till they have learned to ridicule high feelings as mere romantic dreams: He comes to the young; He has them baptized betimes, and then promises them, and in a higher way, those unknown blessings which they yearn after. He seems to say, in the words of the Apostle, "What ye {319} ignorantly worship, that declare I unto you." You are seeking what you see not, I give it you; you desire to be great, I will make you so; but observe how,—just in the reverse way to what you expect; the way to real glory is to become unknown and despised.

Because everything will be opposite of what the world says because Jesus gives us a different way to be great: wash the another's feet as He did; sit at the lower place to be asked up higher; turn the other cheek; dont' seek revenge; embrace poverty as a blessing . . .

Then as ever, Newman ends with the stirring promise of the fulfillment of God's promises. In this world and the next, through God's grace and favor, and our own cooperation with those gifts, we will succeed:

Let us then, my brethren, understand our place, as the redeemed children of God. . . . Let this be the settled view of all who would promote Christ's cause upon earth. If we are true to ourselves, nothing can really thwart us. Our warfare is not with carnal weapons, but with heavenly. The world does not understand what our real power is, and where it lies. And until we put ourselves into its hands of our own act, it can do nothing against us. Till [Unless] we leave off patience, meekness, purity, resignation, and peace, it can do nothing against that Truth which is our birthright, that Cause which is ours, as it has been the cause of all saints before us. But let all who would labour for God in a dark time beware of any thing which ruffles, excites, and in any way withdraws them from the love of God and Christ, and simple obedience to Him.

This be our duty in the dark night, while we wait for the day; while we wait for Him who is our Day; {326} while we wait for His coming, who is gone, who will return, and before whom all the tribes of the earth will mourn, but the sons of God will rejoice. "It doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is. And every man that hath this hope in Him purifieth himself, even as He is pure." [1 John iii. 2, 3.] It is our blessedness to be made like the all-holy, all-gracious, long-suffering, and merciful God; who made and who redeemed us; in whose presence is perfect rest, and perfect peace; whom the Seraphim are harmoniously praising, and the Cherubim tranquilly contemplating, and Angels silently serving, and the Church thankfully worshipping. All is order, repose, love, and holiness in heaven. There is no anxiety, no ambition, no resentment, no discontent, no bitterness, no remorse, no tumult. "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee: because He trusteth in Thee. Trust ye in the Lord for ever: for in the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength." [Isa. xxvi. 3, 4.]

Come Holy Spirit, enkindle in us the fire of Your Love!

Saint John Henry Newman, pray for us!

Image credit (Public Domain): Duccio's Pentecost

Friday, May 27, 2022

Beginning my Newman Summer, the Summer of '22

As I prepare to enter into a very Newman Summer with my Ad Fontes "Newman Lecture" next Thursday and the class I begin teaching on line the Monday after that ("Newman and the New Evangelization/Newman for Catechists") for Newman University's Graduate program in Theology, and one other Newmanian thing TBA, I read this Coming Home Network conversion story by Brian Besong. 

It includes this marvelous, miraculous dream of Newman:

. . . One afternoon, my mom and I were discussing Catholicism. At a certain point in the conversation, she interrupted me and said something along the lines of “Oh my goodness…” with a long pause, and then “Oh my gosh…” Of course, I asked her what was going on. She began to get choked up and told me that she had just remembered a dream she had the night before. She had dreamt that she was with my dad’s mom at a Catholic Mass. At the end of the Mass, my mom and my grandmother left and saw that the priest who had celebrated the Mass who was (as she described him repeatedly) “beautiful” and “glowing.” The memory of him was the reason she had been choked up and when she began actually describing him, she started to cry outright and quickly got off the phone with me. This was very out of character.

That happened on a Friday night and I thought about the dream all weekend. I didn’t think that an ordinary dream could have had such a powerful effect on my mom. On the following Sunday, I told my dad that I thought the dream wasn’t an ordinary dream and that the beautiful priest whom she saw glowing was not just some imagination, but a real Catholic saint who had interceded on her behalf and whom God had granted to show up in her dream. Thus, I told him that my expectation would be that at some point she would see a picture of the saint who was in her dream and recognize who it was. He asked me who I thought the priest might have been and I told him that the first one that sprang to mind was the English Cardinal John Henry Newman, a convert from Anglicanism. He hadn’t heard of him and afterward I talked to my mom for a few minutes and then got off the phone.

About ten minutes later, I got a frantic phone call from my mom. She had told me that “a very weird goose bump thing just happened.” The reason she was frantic was that, after getting off the phone with me, my dad had pulled up a picture of Blessed Cardinal Newman online. He didn’t say anything to her about it, but had simply pulled up the picture and asked her if she recognized the person. She instantly recognized him as the “saint” that was in her dream, but my dad refused to explain who he was and told her to call me to find out. I quickly explained to her who Cardinal Newman was and his significance; she was flabbergasted. Needless to say, she had never heard of Cardinal Newman, nor had she seen his picture. She talked to me for a few minutes more and got off the phone (she was, after all, still officially a Protestant at this point, though on the fence about converting).

I chose the painting of Newman above because he is smiling and almost glowing--I don't know what image Brian's father showed his mother, but this one seemed most suitable.

After all the years (since 1979). I've studied Newman, I still remember how some argued that he should be canonized just because of all the conversions he'd inspired in his lifetime and in the 20th century. But no, the answer came, he needs to be canonized through the usual development of devotion and intercession, following the process of study, evaluation, and miracles. 

So the experience of this family brings Newman's journey to being raised to the honors of the altar full circle from those old thoughts: like a miraculous vision, it led to Brian's mother becoming a Catholic--and, when you read the rest of the story, you'll discover that it was in answer to a prayer that such a dream would help his mother. And that there's even something more than that!

As the long summer days of heat and humidity (in Kansas, at least) come upon us, this prayer is so appropriate:

May He support us all the day long
till the shades lengthen
and the evening comes
and the busy world is hushed
and the fever of life is over
and our work is done.
Then in His mercy
may He give us a safe lodging
and a holy rest
and peace at the last. Amen.

Saint John Henry Newman, pray for us!

Image Credit (Public Domain): Painting of Cardinal Newman, by Jane Fortescue Seymour, Lady Coleridge, circa 1876

Monday, May 16, 2022

Saint Thomas More and the Princes in the Tower

My local PBS station is airing episodes of Lucy Worsley Investigates and I watched the first installment on the Princes in the Tower Sunday night. The Princes in the Tower are of course King Edward V of England and Richard of Shrewsbury, Duke of York, the sons of King Edward IV.

Saint Thomas More's History of King Richard III was rather important to her investigation of the mystery: did Richard III order their murder? did Thomas More have good reason to name the murderers? or did Henry VII murder the princes after he defeated Richard III on Bosworth Field? were the two Pretenders (Lambert Simnel and Perkin Warbeck) really the Princes?

Partisans for and against Richard III offer their opinions and Worsley tries to find documentation and evidence about the mystery.

I don't want to give away her conclusions, except to say that she does not agree entirely with Josephine Tey!

But Travis Curtright provides us with free resources, should you want to read a student edition of More's Richard III and a study guide.

One of the vignettes of this episode included her visit to Buckfast Abbey to view the hair shirt of Saint Thomas More, displayed there for public veneration since 2016. She questioned the authenticity of this relic, and Abbot David Charleswell, who had escorted her to the side altar, provided some explanation, but this blog gives much more detail:

In the century after More’s death a few competing stories sprang up about the hair shirt, and these are what I’m trying to unpick at the moment. One tradition has it that More sent the hair shirt to his daughter, the extraordinarily learned Margaret More Roper (1505–1544), who gave it to her equally learned sister by adoption, Margaret Giggs Clement (1508–1570), who later went into exile with her family to practice her faith, reportedly taking the hair shirt and other More relic-objects with her. Other traditions hold that Thomas More sent it to Giggs rather than Roper, who kept it until her death. Still other traditions state that he sent it to Giggs, who gave it to Roper, who returned it to Giggs, while another source claims that he sent it to his wife Alice. In any case, the hair shirt ultimately passed to Giggs Clements’ youngest daughter, Prioress Margaret Clement (1539–1612), a nun of the English convent of St Monica’s, founded in Louvain during the period when it was illegal to practice Catholicism in England. The nuns of St Monica’s claim to be More’s spiritual heirs through Margaret Giggs and her daughter Margaret Clement.

The hair shirt remained in Prioress Clement’s community and the communities descended from St Monica’s up until the 1980s, by which time most of the exiled English convents had returned to England. When I first began my doctoral studies in 2010 the exact whereabouts of the hair shirt were not clear. I recently discovered that when the modern-day St Monica’s convent closed, the hair shirt went to the Diocese of Plymouth for safe keeping. In 2011 it was transferred to Buckfast at the request of Abbot David Charleswell who arranged for it to be put on public permanent display at Buckfast starting in 2016.

So this first episode of Lucy Worsley Investigates provides almost as much information about St. Thomas More as it does about Richard III and the Princes in the Tower! It's interesting, also, that she finds more evidence about St. Thomas More than she does about the mystery she investigates.

Saint Thomas More, pray for us!

Picture credit (Public Domain): The Two Princes Edward and Richard in the Tower, 1483 by Sir John Everett Millais, 1878, part of the Royal Holloway picture collection. Edward V at right wears the garter of the Order of the Garter beneath his left knee.

Thursday, May 12, 2022

The Solemnity of Corpus Christi and the York Mystery Plays

The Solemnity of Corpus Christi, the patronal feast of our parish, Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church, is on Sunday, June 19 this year. Since the Traditional Latin Mass is celebrated every Thursday at Blessed Sacrament, it will also be celebrated on Thursday, June 16! From the online parish calendar I see that a Corpus Christi Novena is planned with more details to come, and our annual parish festival will be celebrated on the weekend of the feast day. And by the way, our parish is one of the designated pilgrimage sites for our diocesan Year of the Eucharist!

I'm thinking about this feast, not just because it's one of my favorites feasts of the Liturgical Calendar, but because I saw this post from the Adoremus Bulletin in my Facebook feed. The author, Dr. Marcel Antonio Brown, describes the connections between the feast of Corpus Christi and the York Mystery Plays, beyond the fact that they were performed in honor of the feast. For example:

Joseph’s Trouble About Mary, sponsored by a guild which manufactured liturgical items such as thuribles, dramatizes Joseph’s difficulty in comprehending the Virgin-with-Child, the great mystery or sacramentum of Christ’s Body.[3] The wonder of Joseph becomes specifically Eucharistic in The Nativity when Mary welcomes the Christ-child with a litany used by the late-medieval lay faithful during the Elevation of the Host at Mass.[4] At the end of the play, Mary and Joseph lay the Christ-child in the manger while repeating together a vernacular version of the prayer prescribed for the priest’s quiet recitation in Latin (tacita voce) at the end of each Mass in accord with the rubrics of the York Missal.[5] The Nativity subtly shows that the Body of Christ, the Christ-child born in the stables at Bethlehem, is thus made present at every Mass, a miracle celebrated in sacred drama in York on Corpus Christi Day.

If you click on footnote #4, you'll see that Brown directs you to a source published in 1942:

See R. H. Robbins, “Levation Prayers in Middle English Verse” (Modern Philology 40.2, 1942), p. 136, where the early fifteenth-century MS Royal 17.C.xvii provides an analogy for lines 57-63 of the York Nativity.

The verses he highlights, lines 57 to 63, are:

Hayle, my Lord God, hayle prince of pees,
Hayle my Fadir, and hayle my Sone,
Hayle sovereyne sege all synnes to sesse,
Hayle God and man in erth to wonne!
Hayle, thurgh whos myht
All this worlde was first begonne,
Merknes and light.

This University of Rochester website provides some background on Levation Prayers, a devotion practiced by the laity during the Elevation of the Blessed Sacrament during the Canon of the Mass:

Since taking communion (that is, eating a consecrated host and drinking consec­rated wine) was not as common as it is in today’s Christian churches, the moment when the laity saw the host, known as the levation (or elevation), was their primary form of contact with the Eucharist. Ecclesiastical writers strongly emphasized the importance of the levation. A widely-circulated list of the benefits gained from seeing the host daily included promises that the worshipper would not suffer sudden death, a lack of food, or blindness on any day that he or she saw the consecrated host.2 Writers also required the laity to view the host with highly concentrated devotion. The statutes of Coventry suggest that the sacring bell is like “a gentle trumpet announcing the arrival of a judge, indeed of a savior,” and many authorities encouraged the laity to utter heartfelt prayers at the moment of the levation.3

These prayers exist in a variety of vernacular forms; as Russell Hope Robbins has argued, the heightened emotion of this moment required laity to pray in the language they knew best.4 Perhaps for the same reason, writers who offered their own suggestions for levation prayer stressed that it did not matter which version the laity used, so long as they prayed in some form.

These sacramental mystery plays, of course, were suppressed in England during the Reformation era. Brown also comments on the strange absence of the institution of the Eucharist in the 27th play of the cycle:

The bakers’ Last Supper, featuring the apocryphal character Marcellus leading the disciples to the Lamb’s Supper, contains a curious lacuna: at the moment of the institution of the Eucharist, the manuscript is corrupt. Richard Beadle, the world’s leading textual-bibliographical scholar of The York Plays, suspects “deliberate removal” of this section of the play.[8]  

Thus hoping to hide from future generations the devotion of the English people in the past? How ridiculous, since the Catholic Mass was celebrated in secret in Recusant England and in public throughout Catholic Europe!

And the University of Rochester has this comment on that lacuna:

The Bakers were an obvious choice for the Last Supper since bread was an essential requirement for the institution of the Eucharist. No event in biblical history could be of greater significance in relation to the feast of Corpus Christi, which was a celebration of the Sacrament of the Eucharist in liturgical rite and procession as well as, at York, the plays. It is thus all the more unfortunate that, due to the loss of a leaf between lines 89 and 90, the central portion of the narrative with its representation of the blessing of the bread and wine is missing. The actions performed by Jesus at the table very likely were modeled on the gestures of the priest in consecrating the elements at Mass.

Please read the rest of Dr. Brown's article at the Adoremus Bulletin site, and two other articles, here and here, he wrote about York Mystery Plays.

This solemn feast is just a little more than a month away! Perhaps there's still time to read the Oxford World Classics modern language edition!

Thursday, May 5, 2022

This Year's EDI Academic Week: Now Named "Ad Fontes"

Beginning June 1st with the Festal Banquet at Newman University and continuing with prayers, lectures, academic papers, and Plenary Dialogues at Newman University and St. George Catholic Christian Cathedral on June 2nd, 3rd, and 4th, Eighth Day Institute's annual academic theological event has been announced:

Co-sponsored by St George Orthodox Christian Cathedral and the Gerber Institute for Catholic Studies, the Ad Fontes Academic Week promotes a “return to the sources for Christian unity.” Heeding Fr. Florovsky's advice, rather than simply overlooking differences, this conference seeks to overcome the different views of sin. And we do so by returning to the common Tradition, by learning to read the Fathers as living masters, rather than as historical documents.

In years past, this conference has been known as the Florovsky-Newman Week. This year we have decided to broaden our perspective by honoring Thomas F. Torrance together with our other two patrons. Torrance was a Protestant who, like the Orthodox Fr. Georges Florovsky and Catholic St. John Henry Newman, called for a return to patristic sources as a guide for the modern Church..

Join us for this unique event as we return to the sources—ad fontes—in order to explore, challenge, and encourage one another to better love God and neighbor, and to work towards unity by way of the Fathers.

The topic this year is "What Weight Is Sin? Patristic Views of Sin" and the schedule, still being refined, is posted here.

Also note that there is a pre-Ad Fontes seminar: "Sin in the Bible, the Fathers, the Liturgy, & Literature" with texts still to be announced. I've attended two of those seminars and they are wonderful, as participants discuss the texts.

I'll be presenting the annual Newman Lecture on Thursday, June 2 at 9:00 a.m. at Newman University. My topic is "Newman on Hypocrisy and Holiness in the Life of a Christian":

John Henry Cardinal Newman, before his canonization in 2019, may have been studied mostly for his controversial works like the Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine, The Letter to the Duke of Norfolk, or classics like the Apologia pro Vita Sua and Idea of a University. Interest in his spiritual influence as an Anglican preacher in the Parochial and Plain Sermons and as the founder of the Oratory of St. Philip Neri in England, has been increasing, however, as his cause for canonization progressed (and succeeded on October 13, 2019).

This annual Newman lecture will focus on his efforts as the Vicar of the University Church of St. Mary the Virgin in Oxford to help his congregation free themselves from the corruptions of what he called the “Religion of the Day” and their comforts as part of the establishment in England to lead true Christian lives, loving God fully and avoiding the besetting sin of hypocrisy.

The continuity of that effort will also be briefly explored through some of his Meditations and Devotions, prepared for the boys of the Oratory School in Birmingham. 

Watch for updates (including the other speakers' abstracts and the list of academic papers to be presented) on the EDI website or Facebook page.

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

"The torments they endured were horrible": The Catholic Martyrs of England and Wales, 1535-1679

From Fr. Christopher George Phillips, the retired founding pastor of Our Lady of the Atonement Church in San Antonio, Texas, a parish of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of Saint Peter, comes this reflection on the May 4th feast of Catholic Martyrs of England and Wales:

The English Martyrs include 284 men and women who gave their lives during the 16th and 17th centuries. They were martyred simply because they remained steadfast in their Catholic faith. What had happened?

King Henry VIII had proclaimed himself supreme head of the Church in England, claiming for himself and his successors power over his subjects not only in civil matters, but also in all things spiritual. He took to himself a spiritual power that can belong only to the Pope as the Vicar of Christ and Successor of St. Peter. The Catholics at that time wanted to be loyal subjects of the Crown, but their consciences could not allow them to grant the power of spiritual supremacy. It is as though, in the United States, the president and Congress took upon themselves the power to determine what we as Catholics believe, and how we worship. We could not allow Congress to pass laws that changed the Church’s teaching about the Mass, or what we believe about God. But this was what had happened in England and Wales. This was what led many people to face death courageously rather than act against their consciences and deny their Catholic faith.

Please read the rest there.

This Feast, honoring all the martyrs, canonized and beatified, is celebrated in the Anglican Ordinariate* and in the dioceses of England on May 4th, the date of the execution of the Protomartyrs in 1535 (Saints John Houghton, Augustine Webster, Robert Lawrence, Richard Reynolds, and Blessed John Haile); in the dioceses of Wales, their Feast, known as the Feast of Six Welsh Martyrs and [English] Companions, is celebrated on October 25th, the date that Pope Saint Paul VI canonized the 40 Martyrs of England and Wales in 1979.

*Please note that is celebrated as a Feast in the Anglican Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, but as a Memorial in the Ordinariates of the Chair of St. Peter in North American and of Our Lady of the Southern Cross in Australia.

According to the Liturgical Calendar of England:

The English Men and Women martyred for the Catholic Faith 1535–1680 and beatified or canonised by the Holy See. On this day in 1535 there died at Tyburn three Carthusian monks, the first of many martyrs, Catholic and Protestant, of the English reformation. Of these martyrs, forty two [including Saints John Fisher and Thomas More, and the six Welsh Martyrs] have been canonised and a further two hundred and forty two declared blessed, but the number of those who died on the scaffold, perished in prison, or suffered harsh persecution for their faith in the course of a century and a half cannot now be reckoned. They came from every walk of life; there are among them rich and poor, married and single, women and men. They are remembered for the example they gave of constancy in their faith, and courage in the face of persecution.

The Six Welsh Martyrs, listed on the website of the Liturgical Calendar of Wales are: Saints John Jones, Philip Evans, John Lloyd, David Lewis, Richard Gwyn, and John Roberts. Saints Evans, Lloyd, Lewis, and Gwyn were executed in the throes of the Popish Plot in 1679.

Holy Catholic Martyrs of England and Wales, pray for us!