Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Book Review: Joseph Pearce's Biography of G.K. Chesterton

It seems like I've been reading this book forever! We started reading it in our local Chesterton Society group late in 2019 I think, three chapters at a time, although we sometimes only got through two chapters during our monthly discussions. Then because of COVID, we had to skip several meetings, both in the spring of 2020 and particularly at the end of the year. My late brother and I were both in the hospital in December; then Steven died on the second day of January and we met on the second Friday of that month to pray a Rosary for the repose of his soul, and then it was bitterly cold in February so we cancelled. A smaller group of us finally met in March this year, and a larger group gathered on the Friday in the Octave of Easter this month. 

We determined then we'd all read the last four chapters, hope to get through two of them in May and finish our discussion of this book in June! Next month we'll decide what to read next: we're leaning toward either Chesterton's study of Charles Dickens or his book about Geoffrey Chaucer. I'm in favor of either, but we'll vote so that Eighth Day Books may obtain the book for us and we'll start discussing it in July!

Wisdom and Innocence: A Life of G.K. Chesterton is an excellent biographical study, combining the narrative of Chesterton's life with a comprehensive review of his works, their reception at the time, and their influence on other writers like C.S. Lewis, Christopher Dawson, Dorothy L. Sayers, and many others. Pearce's vivid description of the Chestertons' (Gilbert and Frances) domestic life is well-matched by his recounting of their travels to the Holy Land, the U.S.A., Ireland, etc.

One theme we did comment on several times, because we had previously (in 2016) read Nancy Carpentier Brown's The Woman Who Was Chesterton, was how Pearce's biography was considerably more favorable toward Chesterton's sister-in-law, Ada Chesterton (his brother Cecil's wife/widow) than Brown's view of her in the context of Frances' life. In Pearce's narration, she seemed more sympathetic to Chesterton and his work, while Brown highlights Frances' negative reaction to Ada's biographical work The Chestertons.

There was one error I spotted: one page 381 in the chapter "Rome and Romance" Pearce mentions that the Chestertons were in Rome for the "Beatification of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales"--that's incorrect: 136 Martyrs of England and Wales were beatified in 1929 by Pope Pius XI. Twenty-nine of those beatified in that group would be canonized among the 40 Martyrs of England and Wales in 1970 by Pope Paul VI.

It was difficult for me to read the last pages, describing Chesterton's death and Frances' grief--too close to my own feelings; I had to put the book down for a day before I could finish it.

I think this biography is one of Joseph Pearce's greatest achievements. Highly recommended.

Monday, April 19, 2021

Today on the Son Rise Morning Show: Relics of Two English Catholic Martyrs

Just a reminder that I'll be on the Son Rise Morning Show this morning to discuss the possible identification of the relics (bones) of Saints Philip Evans, SJ and John Lloyd, two of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales. I'll be on at my usual time, about 7:50 a.m. Eastern/6:50 a.m. Central. Please listen live here or on your local EWTN affiliate.

And here's a reminder of their stories from the series Anna, Matt, and I did last year to tell the stories of all the 40 Martyrs of England and Wales during the 50th anniversary year of their canonization:

While neither of them was accused of being involved in the Popish Plot, Evans and Lloyd were arrested because of heightened efforts in England and Wales to find Catholic priests, even if they had been serving their flocks, like Saint John Lloyd, for many (24) years. Saint Philip Evans, SJ was a more recent recruit to the Catholic mission, having served only four years. . . .

The martyrs were both arrested in late 1678, imprisoned in the Castle Gaol in Cardiff and finally tried in May, 1679. They were executed together on July 22, 1679 in Pwllhalog, near Cardiff at a site known as the "Death Junction".

The Friends of the Ordinariate blog offers these profiles of the two priests:

St. John Lloyd, the older of the two saints by some 15 years, was born at about 1630, and went to the Royal English College at Valladolid, being ordained priest on 7th June 1653. The following April he returned to Wales, and spent 24 years ministering among the Catholics of Glamorgan and Monmouthshire operating over a vast area. His brother was also a secular priest: Fr William Lloyd, who was also imprisoned in the Titus Oates plot, but died as a result of his torture before he was executed.

John Lloyd was arrested 20th November, 1678 and placed in solitary confinement, until being united in a cell with the younger Philip Evans.

St Philip Evans was born in Monmouthshire in 1645, studied at St. Omer, in France, and was ordained for the Society of Jesus in 1675. He immediately returned to Wales, and spent the next four years administering the Sacraments around Abergavenny, in his native Monmouthshire, staying in various different houses and continuing largely unmolested. He stayed at Sker House, with the Tuberville Family, where he was eventually arrested, in the wake of the Titus Oates plot. His betrayer was the younger bother of the owner of the house. He was arrested on the 4th December, 1678. He was then taken to Cardiff and imprisoned in the Castle Goal. For the first few weeks of his incarceration he was in solitary confinement, before being put in the same cell as Fr. John Lloyd. They were imprisoned until trial in May of 1679.

Their trial found them guilty of being priests, and they were sentenced to be hung, drawn and quartered on the 9th May, 1679. It was not, however, until July that the sentence was decreed to be carried out. Philip, a light hearted man, was found playing tennis (they were allowed quite a bit of liberty) on the 21st July when news that the execution was to take place the following day reached him. The jailer told him he should return to prison, to which he responded “what haste is there? First let me play out my game!” which he duly did.

Philip was also a fine harp player, and when his jailers came to collect the two priests on the morning of the execution, they found Philip playing his harp, in spite of his leg shackles. These shackles took an hour to remove, so tight were they, and caused him excruciating pain.

According to this blog honoring the Welsh martyrs, St. Philip Evans was executed first:

When he mounted the scaffold Fr Evans said; “This is the best pulpit a man can have to preach in, therefore, I cannot forbear to tell you again that I die for God and for Religion’s sake.” He addressed the crowd in English and in Welsh, then turning to Fr Lloyd, who stood waiting his own turn, he said, “Adieu, Mr Lloyd! Though only for a little time, for we shall soon meet again.”

St. John Lloyd suffered hanging, drawing, and quartering after him.

St. John Lloyd, pray for us!
St. Philip Evans, pray for us!

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Book Review, Part Two: Newman's Anglican Difficulties

Before I demonstrate to you how Saint John Henry Newman, just five years after his conversion to Catholicism and three years after his ordination to the Catholic priesthood, attempts to remove any prejudices against the Catholic Church in the hearts and minds of the remaining members of the Movement of 1833 (the Oxford Movement), allow me to comment again on Edward Short's introduction.

Edward Short, who sent me the review copy of this new volume in the Newman Millennium Edition, provides a most comprehensive introduction, describing the occasion of Newman's lectures, the location, the press coverage, Newman's composition of the lectures, and the autobiographical nature of the lectures (his look back at his participation in the Oxford Movement was almost a rehearsal for the Apologia pro Vita Sua 14 years later). Short also provides a precis for each of the lectures, and extensive commentary on the critical reaction to them, from newspapers at the time, William Makepeace Thackeray, John Mason Neale, J.M. Capes (who left the Church of the England for the Catholic Church and then left the Catholic Church to return to the Church of England), and other contemporaries--but also Christopher Dawson, Owen Chadwick, ("the doyen of Newman detractors"), John Griffin, Newman biographer Ian Ker, Robert Pattison (author of The Great Dissent), and Stanley L. Jaki, OSB, the previous editor of these lectures (Real-View Books).

Short's footnotes, which are sometimes so long that the text at the top of the page may be only two or three lines, are equally comprehensive, identifying people, texts, and even the context of Newman's mention and use of those cited sources. I admit that sometimes I merely scanned the notes while reading the text while in the midst of Newman's argument, but they provide great resources for understanding the argument, notwithstanding.

In Part Two of the these lectures, after offering the remaining members of the Movement of 1833--notice that name used by Newman dates the Oxford Movement, placing it in the past--evidence of their parlous position in the Church of England, he admits that these arguments have mainly been negative. Now he will offer more positive arguments to deny their views of the Catholic Church based on five issues:

  • The Social State of Catholic Countries (not evidence against the Sanctity of the Catholic Church)
  • The Religious State of Catholics (not evidence against the Sanctity of the Catholic Church either)
  • Differences among Catholics (not evidence against the Unity of the Catholic Church)
  • Heretical and Schismatical Bodies within the Catholic Church (not evidence against the Catholicity--universality--of the Catholic Church)
  • Ecclesiastical History of the Catholic Church (not evidence against the apostolicity--the unbroken line of Tradition--of the Catholic Church)
What Newman is trying to do is remove their English prejudice against Italy, France, Spain, and Belgium, which they consider to be behind the (progressive English) times:

No man in his senses, certainly no English gentleman, would abandon the high station which his country both occupies and bestows on him in the eyes of man, to make himself the co-religionist of such slaves, and the creature of such a Creed. . . .

What, then, you are saying comes, in fact, to this: We would rather deny our initial principles, than accept such a development of them as the communion of Rome, viewed as it is; we would rather believe Erastianism, and all its train of consequences, to be from God, than the religion of such countries as France and Belgium, Spain and Italy. This is what you must mean to say, and nothing short of it.
(pp. 264-265)

The main thrust of his arguments in these five lectures is what the Catholic Church is and what she aspires to achieve--in contrast to an Erastian church dedicated to serving the worldly ends of the State and the progress of the Nation--saving souls:

The world believes in the world's ends as the greatest of goods; it wishes society to be governed simply and entirely for the sake of this world. Provided it could gain one little islet in the ocean, one foot upon the coast, if it could cheapen tea by sixpence a pound, or make its flag respected among the Esquimaux or Otaheitans, at the cost of a hundred lives and a hundred souls, it would think it a very good bargain. What does it know of hell? it disbelieves it; it spits upon, it abominates, it curses its very name and notion. Next, as to the devil, it does not believe in him either. We next come to the flesh, and it is "free to confess" that it does not think there is any great harm in following the instincts of that nature which, perhaps it goes on to say, God has given. How could it be otherwise? who ever heard of the world fighting against the flesh and the devil? Well, then, what is its notion of evil? Evil, says the world, is whatever is an offence to me, whatever obscures my majesty, whatever disturbs my peace. Order, tranquillity, popular contentment, plenty, prosperity, advance in arts and sciences, literature, refinement, splendour, this is my millennium, or rather my elysium, my swerga; I acknowledge no whole, no individuality, but my own; the units which compose me are but parts of me; they have no perfection in themselves; no end but in me; in my glory is their bliss, and in the hidings of my countenance they come to nought.

Such is the philosophy and practice of the world;—now the Church looks and moves in a simply opposite direction. It contemplates, not the whole, but the parts; not a nation, but the men who form it; not society in the first place, but in the second place, and in the first place individuals; it looks beyond the outward act, on and into the thought, the motive, the intention, and the will; it looks beyond the world, and detects and moves against the devil, who is sitting in ambush behind it. It has, then, a foe in view; nay, it has a battle-field, to which the world is blind; its proper battle-field is the heart of the individual, and its true foe is Satan.

My dear brethren, do not think I am declaiming in the air or translating the pages of some old worm-eaten homily; as I have already said, I bear my own testimony to what has been brought home to me most closely and vividly as a matter of fact since I have been a Catholic; viz., that that mighty world-wide Church, like her Divine Author, regards, consults for, labours for the individual soul; she looks at the souls for whom Christ died, and who are made over to her; and her one object, for which everything is sacrificed—appearances, reputation, worldly triumph—is to acquit herself well of this most awful responsibility. Her one duty is to bring forward the elect to salvation, and to make them as many as she can:—to take offences out of their path, to warn them of sin, to rescue them from evil, to convert them, to teach them, to feed them, to protect them, and to perfect them.
(pp. 267-269)

This passage really jumped out at me as so perfect for our current "Cancel Culture" situation. After describing how the Catholic Church will offer God's forgiveness to any repentant sinner, Newman notes:

With the world it is the reverse; a member of society may go as near the line of evil, as the world draws it, as he will; but, till he has passed it, he is safe. Again, when he has once transgressed it, recovery is impossible; let honour of man or woman be sullied, and to restore its splendour is simply to undo the past; it is impossible. (p. 281)

The problem is now that the line keeps moving and the worldly can't keep behind it!

Just a page after that Newman presents the example that created the greatest scandal to his English readers:

Take a mere beggar-woman, lazy, ragged, and filthy, and not over-scrupulous of truth—(I do not say she had arrived at perfection)—but if she is chaste, and sober, and cheerful, and goes to her religious duties (and I am supposing not at all an impossible case), she will, in the eyes of the Church, have a prospect of heaven, which is quite closed and refused to the State's pattern-man, the just, the upright, the generous, the honourable, the conscientious, if he be all this, not from a supernatural power—(I do not determine whether this is likely to be the fact, but I am contrasting views and principles)—not from a supernatural power, but from mere natural virtue. (p. 282)

Perhaps they should have read again the parable of the Pharisee and the Publican, another scandalous comparison!

In the next lecture, Newman provides his auditors or readers an especially appropriate reminder of the recent Anglican crisis over the Sacrament of Baptism, when he describes what the Catholic Church believes about its effects on the soul and the Church's effort to maintain that state of grace:

A soul which has received the grace of baptism receives with it the germ or faculty of all supernatural virtues whatever,—faith, hope, charity, meekness, patience, sobriety, and every other that can be named; and if it commits mortal sin, it falls out of grace, and forfeits these supernatural powers. It is no longer what it was, and is, so far, in the feeble and frightful condition of those who were never baptized. But there are certain remarkable limitations and alleviations in its punishment, and one is this: that the faculty or power of faith remains to it. Of course the soul may go on to resist and destroy this supernatural faculty also; it may, by an act of the will, rid itself of its faith, as it has stripped itself of grace and love; or it may gradually decay in its faith till it becomes simply infidel; but this is not the common state of a Catholic people. What commonly happens is this, that they fall under the temptations to vice or covetousness, which naturally and urgently beset them, but that faith is left to them. Thus the many are in a condition which is absolutely novel and strange in the ideas of a Protestant; they have a vivid perception, like sense, of things unseen, yet have no desire at all, or affection, towards them; they have knowledge without love. Such is the state of the many; the Church at the same time is ever labouring with all her might to bring them back again to their Maker; and in fact is ever bringing back vast multitudes one by one, though one by one they are ever relapsing from her. The necessity of yearly confession, the Easter communion, the stated seasons of indulgence, the high festivals, Lent, days of obligation, with their Masses and preaching,—these ordinary and routine observances and the extraordinary methods of retreats, missions, jubilees, and the like, are the means by which the powers of the world unseen are ever acting upon the corrupt mass, of which a nation is composed, and breaking up and reversing the dreadful phenomenon which fact and Scripture conspire to place before us. (pp. 304-305)

I would have to quote almost the entire chapter on Ecclesiastical History of the Catholic Church to represent the rich detail Newman provides to describe his studies of the Fathers of the Church in the history of the Arian heresy (in 1839). As Newman concluded in the Apologia Pro Vita Sua:

I saw my face in that mirror, and I was a Monophysite. The Church of the Via Media was in the position of the Oriental communion, Rome was where she now is; and the Protestants were the Eutychians.

In the Apologia he even cites his own account of how he reached that realization from the final lecture in this book:

It was difficult to make out how the Eutychians or Monophysites were heretics, unless Protestants and Anglicans were heretics also; difficult to find arguments against the Tridentine Fathers, which did not tell against the Fathers of Chalcedon; difficult to condemn the Popes of the sixteenth century, without condemning the Popes of the fifth. The drama of religion, and the combat of truth and error, were ever one and the same. The principles and proceedings of the Church now, were those of the Church then; the principles and proceedings of heretics then, were those of Protestants now. I found it so,—almost fearfully; there was an awful similitude, more awful, because so silent and unimpassioned, between the dead records of the past and the feverish chronicle of the present. The shadow of the fifth century was on the sixteenth. It was like a spirit rising from the troubled waters of the old world, with the shape and lineaments of the new. The Church then, as now, might be called peremptory and stern, resolute, overbearing, and relentless; and heretics were shifting, changeable, reserved, and deceitful, ever courting civil power, and never agreeing together, except by its aid; and the civil power was ever aiming at comprehensions, trying to put the invisible out of view, and substituting expediency for faith. What was the use of continuing the controversy, or defending my position, if, after all, I was forging arguments for Arius or Eutyches, and turning devil's advocate against the much-enduring Athanasius and the majestic Leo? Be my soul with the Saints! and shall I lift up my hand against them? Sooner may my right hand forget her cunning, and wither outright, as his who once stretched it out against a prophet of God! anathema to a whole tribe of Cranmers, Ridleys, Latimers, and Jewels! perish the names of Bramhall, Ussher, Taylor, Stillingfleet, and Barrow from the face of the earth, ere I should do aught but fall at their feet in love and in worship, whose image was continually before my eyes, and whose musical words were ever in my ears and on my tongue! (pp. 426-427 in Difficulties of Anglicans)

My final comment about this section of the book is that Newman reminds us today--as Catholic laity, religious, and clerics--of the purpose of the Catholic Church: the salvation of souls. That's the center from which our worship of God, our prayers and works, our charity and activity, in the workplace, in our families, in our parishes and schools, and among our best friends and company, and all should radiate. Thus it may infuse all of actions to achieve God's will, calling people to Jesus and His Church.

This a magnificent volume of Newman's works in an appropriately presented edition. Highly recommended!

Image Credit: (Used under a CC BY-SA 3.0 license) Statue outside the Church of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, popularly known as Brompton Oratory, in London (the second location of the London Oratory; Newman presented these lectures at the King William Street location)

Saturday, April 17, 2021

Book Review, Part One: Newman's Anglican Difficulties

Re-reading this book after almost thirty years--my late husband Mark gave me a copy of Father Stanley Jaki's edition of Newman's Certain Difficulties Felt by Anglicans in Catholic Teaching in 1995--I was impressed more this time with the second part of his attempts to persuade his former colleagues in the Oxford or Tractarian Movement to leave the Church of England and become (Roman) Catholics. He called them members of "the Movement of 1833".

In the first part, "Communion with the Roman See the Legitimate Issue of the Religious Movement of 1833", I think Newman succeeded completely proving that those remaining in the Oxford Movement had no true home in the Church of England. He demonstrates to them that they will have no meaningful influence on the Church or the Nation, since the Church serves the Nation and the Nation rules the Church. Newman uses the recent history of the Gorham Judgment to show them this. Queen Victoria's Privy Council ruled that Baptism wasn't really a Sacrament after all and that a minister of the Church of England didn't really need to believe it was a Sacrament, effecting the grace of God it symbolized in the pouring of water and the words "I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen." Of course, members of the Movement of 1833 had been totally supportive of Bishop Philpott of Exeter not to ordain the Reverend George Cornelius Gorham and were disappointed in the Queen's Privy Council decision, because it meant the State ruled on a Church issue (the exact reason that Keble presented his sermon on the "National Apostasy" in 1833).

Newman probably convinced many that their position in the Church of England was tenuous: the Movement of 1833 was foreign to the Erastian Church of England; it was not derived from that National Church; it was not moving in the direction of the National Church which was moving in the direction of the Nation ("progressively"); they could not expect to remain a party, a branch, or a sect in the Church of England. So he concludes in the last lecture of this section:

Therefore, I say now,—as I have said years ago, when others have wished still to uphold their party, after their arguments had broken under them—Find out first of all where you stand, take your position, write down your creed, draw up your catechism. Tell me why you form your party, under what conditions, how long it is to last, what are your relations to the Establishment, and to the other branches (as you speak) of the Universal Church, how you stand relatively to Antiquity, what is Antiquity, whether you accept the Via Media, whether you are zealous for "Apostolical order," what is your rule of faith, how you prove it, and what are your doctrines. It is easy for a while to be doing merely what you do at present; to remain where you are, till it is proved to you that you must go; to refuse to say what you hold and what you do not, and to act only on the offensive; but you cannot do this for ever. The time is coming, or is come, when you must act in some way or other for yourselves, unless you would drift to some form of infidelity, or give up principle altogether, or believe or not believe by accident. The onus probandi will be on your side then. Now you are content to be negative and fragmentary in doctrine; you aim at nothing higher than smart articles in newspapers and magazines, at clever hits, spirited attacks, raillery, satire, skirmishing on posts of your own selecting; fastening on weak points, or what you think so, in Dissenters or Catholics; inventing ingenious retorts, evading dangerous questions; parading this or that isolated doctrine as essential, and praising this or that Catholic practice or Catholic saint, to make up for abuse, and to show your impartiality; and taking all along a high, eclectic, patronising, indifferent tone; this has been for some time past your line, and it will not suffice; it excites no respect, it creates no confidence, it inspires no hope.

And when, at length, you have one and all agreed upon your creed, and developed it doctrinally, morally, and polemically, then find for it some safe foundation, deeper and firmer than private judgment, which may ensure its transmission and continuance to generations to come. And, when you have done all this, then, last of all, persuade others and yourselves, that the foundation you have formed is surer and more trustworthy than that of Erastianism, on the one hand, and of immemorial and uninterrupted tradition, that is, of Catholicism, on the other.

Throughout this first part, Newman explores the impact of Erastianism, state control of the Church of England through laws enacted in Parliament and decisions made in the secular courts, and the impact of private judgment, each man or woman deciding what God teaches in the Holy Bible and in His Church--what Erastianism and private judgment mean for what the Movement of 1833 set out to defend. The Church of England, Newman tries to demonstrate to them, cannot be a Branch or a Via Media, of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church founded by Jesus Christ as long as it remains a National Church, following the path of the Nation, according to the private judgment of its citizens about what is wrong and what is right, how a Christian gains salvation and goes to Heaven, what the Church teaches, what the Bible means, etc. And the Movement of 1833 has no influence over that State control or that private judgment.

He has to contravene his own arguments in the 1830's and 40's to develop the theory of the Via Media, his own statements against the Catholic Church, his own efforts to establish the apostolicity, universality, holiness, and unity of the Church of England as a Branch Church in his Tracts for the Times!

As Newman presents these arguments to the remaining members of the Movement of 1833, he composes masterful passages, and I have highlighted, underlined, starred, asterisked, and commented on many pages of my book. Just a few examples.

On page 72 in Lecture II "The Movement of 1833 Foreign to the National Church":

Faith has one meaning to a Catholic, another to a Protestant. And life,—is it the religious "life" of England, or of Prussia, that he [Archdeacon Hare, whom Newman quoted in previous paragraphs] means, or is it Catholic life, that is, the life which belongs to Catholic principles? Else he will be arguing in a circle, if he is to prove that Protestants have that life, which manifests "the presence of the Spirit," on the ground of their having, as they are sure to have, a life congenial and in conformity to Protestant principles. If then "life" means strength, activity, energy, and well-being of any kind whatever, in that case doubtless the national religion is alive. It is a great power in the midst of us; it wields an enormous influence; it represses a hundred foes; it conducts a hundred undertakings. It attracts men to it, uses them, rewards them; it has thousands of beautiful homes up and down the country, where quiet men may do its work and benefit its people; it collects vast sums in the shape of voluntary offerings, and with them it builds churches, prints and distributes innumerable Bibles, books, and tracts and sustains missionaries in all parts of the earth. In all parts of the earth it opposes the Catholic Church, denounces her as antichristian, bribes the world against her, obstructs her influence, apes her authority, and confuses her evidence. In all parts of the world it is the religion of gentlemen, of scholars, of men of substance, and men of no personal faith at all. If this be life,—if it be life to impart a tone to the court and houses of parliament, to ministers of state, to law and literature, to universities and schools, and to society,—if it be life to be a principle of order in the population, and an organ of benevolence and almsgiving towards the poor,—if it be life to make men decent, respectable, and sensible, to embellish and refine the family circle, to deprive vice of its grossness, and to shed a gloss over avarice and ambition,—if indeed it is the life of religion to be the first jewel in the Queen's crown, and the highest step of her throne, then doubtless the National Church is replete, it overflows with life; but the question has still to be answered, Life of what kind? Heresy has its life, worldliness has its life. Is the Establishment's life merely national life, or is it something more? Is it Catholic life as well? Is it a supernatural life? Is it congenial with, does it proceed from, does it belong to, the principles of Apostles, Martyrs, Evangelists, and Doctors, the principles which the movement of 1833 thought to impose or to graft upon it, or does it revolt from them? If it be Catholic and Apostolic, it will endure Catholic and Apostolic principles; no one doubts it can endure Erastian; no one doubts it can be patient of Protestant; this is the problem which was started by the movement in question, the problem for which, surely, there has been an abundance of tests in the course of twenty years.

This quotation demonstrates how often and fairly Newman proposes the arguments of those who do want to remain in the Church of England and then identifies the weakness and flaws of their arguments: what good is lots of activity if it's based on bad ideas and principles?

From Lecture III, "The Life of the Movement of 1833 Not Derived from the National Church", pages 105 to 106:

You tell me, my brethren, that you have the clear evidence of the influences of grace in your hearts, by its effects sensible at the moment or permanent in the event. You tell me, that you have been converted from sin to holiness, or that you have received great support and comfort under trial, or that you have been carried over very special temptations, though you have not submitted yourselves to the Catholic Church. More than this, you tell me of the peace, and joy, and strength which you have experienced in your own ordinances. You tell me, that when you began to go weekly to communion you found yourselves wonderfully advanced in purity. You tell me that you went to confession, and you never will believe that the hand of God was not over you at the moment when you received absolution. You were ordained, and a fragrance breathed around you; you hung over the dead, and you all but saw the happy spirit of the departed. This is what you say, and the like of this; and I am not the person, my dear brethren, to quarrel with the truth of what you say. I am not the person to be jealous of such facts, nor to wish you to contradict your own memory and your own nature, nor am I so ungrateful to God's former mercies to myself, to have the heart to deny them in you. As to miracles, indeed, if such you mean, that of course is a matter which might lead to dispute; but if you merely mean to say that the supernatural grace of God, as shown either at the time or by consequent fruits, has overshadowed you at certain times, has been with you when you were taking part in the Anglican ordinances, I have no wish, and a Catholic has no anxiety, to deny it.

Why should I deny to your memory what is so pleasant in mine? Cannot I too look back on many years past, and many events, in which I myself experienced what is now your confidence? Can I forget the happy life I have led all my days, with no cares, no anxieties worth remembering; without desolateness, or fever of thought, or gloom of mind, or doubt of God's love to me and providence over me? Can I forget,—I never can forget,—the day when in my youth I first bound myself to the ministry of God in that old church of St. Frideswide, the patroness of Oxford? nor how I wept most abundant, and most sweet tears, when I thought what I then had become; though I looked on ordination as no sacramental rite, nor even to baptism ascribed any supernatural virtue? Can I wipe out from my memory, or wish to wipe out, those happy Sunday mornings, light or dark, year after year, when I celebrated your communion-rite, in my own church of St. Mary's; and in the pleasantness and joy of it heard nothing of the strife of tongues which surrounded its walls? . . .

What a magnificent and magnanimous appeal to shared feelings, demonstrating his empathy with them--while they know Newman is now a Catholic and cannot support their decision to remain in the Church of England. That last clause "and in the pleasantness and joy of it heard nothing of the strife of tongues which surrounded its walls?" is the warning that all those joys would be scorned by the Bishops, the Establishment, etc, outside the Oxford Movement. They won't find the kind of sympathy and empathy Newman offers them in their own Church.

He can be pretty tough on them too, as in this passage from Lecture V, "The Providential Course of the Movement of 1833 not in the Direction of a Party in the National Church", pages 188-191:

And now, my brethren, will it not be so, as I have said, of simple necessity, if you attempt at this time to perpetuate in the National Church a form of opinion which the National Church disowns? You do not follow its Bishops; you disown its existing traditions; you are discontented with its divines; you protest against its law courts; you shrink from its laity; you outstrip its Prayer Book. You have in all respects an eclectic or an original religion of our own. You dare not stand or fall by Andrewes, or by Laud, or by Hammond, or by Bull, or by Thorndike, or by all of them together. There is a consensus of divines, stronger than there is for Baptismal Regeneration or the Apostolical Succession, that Rome is, strictly and literally, an anti-Christian power:—Liberals and High Churchmen in your Communion in this agree with Evangelicals; you put it aside. There is a consensus against Transubstantiation, besides the declaration of the Article; yet many of you hold it notwithstanding. Nearly all your divines, if not all, call themselves Protestants, and you anathematize the name. Who makes the concessions to Catholics which you do, yet remains separate from them? Who, among Anglican authorities, would speak of Penance as a Sacrament, as you do? Who of them encourages, much less insists upon, auricular confession, as you? or makes fasting an obligation? or uses the crucifix and the rosary? or reserves the consecrated bread? or believes in miracles as existing in your communion? or administers, as I believe you do, Extreme Unction? In some points you prefer Rome, in others Greece, in others England, in others Scotland; and of that preference your own private judgment is the ultimate sanction.

What am I to say in answer to conduct so preposterous? Say you go by any authority whatever, and I shall know where to find you, and I shall respect you. Swear by any school of Religion, old or modern, by Ronge's Church, or the Evangelical Alliance, nay, by Yourselves, and I shall know what you mean, and will listen to you. But do not come to me with the latest fashion of opinion which the world has seen, and protest to me that it is the oldest. Do not come to me at this time of day with views palpably new, isolated, original, sui generis, warranted old neither by Christian nor unbeliever, and challenge me to answer what I really have not the patience to read. Life is not long enough for such trifles. Go elsewhere, not to me, if you wish to make a proselyte. Your inconsistency, my dear brethren, is on your very front.
 
I cannot nor should not cite every extraordinary passage; but Newman also demonstrates his mastery of Church history as when he describes the conflict between St. Ambrose of Milan and the Arian Empress Justina (pp. 82-84) or the protracted controversy between Henry II and St. Thomas Becket (pp. 211-214)--and he will further explore the history of the Arian controversy in the Part Two, "Difficulties in Accepting the Communion of Rome as One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic".

I'll comment further on Newman's line of argument in Part Two in a second post on this marvelous book.

Friday, April 16, 2021

Preview: A Box of Bones and Two of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales

Anna Mitchell asked me to come on the Son Rise Morning Show Monday, April 19 to discuss an announcement about Saints Philip Evans, SJ and John Lloyd, two of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales. I'll be on at my usual time, about 7:50 a.m. Eastern/6:50 a.m. Central. Please listen live here or on your local EWTN affiliate.

About 150 years ago, a box of bones was discovered at the Holywell Shrine in Wales--St. Winifrede's Well, a place of pilgrimage and healing for centuries before the English Reformation and even after Henry VIII's suppression of the nearby Basingwerk Abbey and closure of the shrine. 

Please note that Henry VIII's father (Henry VII) is believed to have visited Holywell before the Battle of Bosworth and that there is evidence that his grandmother, Margaret Beaufort, may have contributed to the building of the structures at the shrine remaining today. It always startles me how Henry VIII not only broke away from the universal Catholic Church (redundant I know) but also with his family's recent history and heritage.

Even though Henry VIII closed down the shrine, had St. Winifrede's relics destroyed and suppressed the abbey, Holywell remained a site of pilgrimage and of Catholic hope. Blessed Edward Oldcorne, SJ, another martyr, like Saints Evans and Lloyd, who suffered after the Gunpowder Plot was discovered in 1605, had traveled to Holywell when suffering from throat cancer during his sixteen years of missionary work--and was cured. The Gunpowder Plot conspirators visited the shrine. James II and his queen, Mary Beatrice of Modena visited the shrine in hopes of conceiving a son and heir--and their hopes were fulfilled.

Distant as Wales is from London and the center of England's administrative and judicial power, both secular and Jesuit priests were able to maintain their missions in Holywell in the seventeenth century until the great panic of the Popish Plot in 1678 and 1679. The last of the 40 Martyrs of England and Wales were the six priests arrested in and near Wales in the general hysteria of the Popish Plot: Philip Evans, SJ, David Lewis, SJ, John Wall, Franciscan, John Kemble, John Lloyd, and John Plessington. They had nothing to do with the Popish Plot (they couldn't anyway, since there wasn't any conspiracy to assassinate Charles II) and most of them had been serving as missionary priests in that area for years.

As the Jesuit Collections website describes the discovery of the bones:

In 1878 a discovery was made in an attic of the Jesuit priest’s house in Holywell. A wooden box containing two skulls, and a variety of other bones wrapped in an ancient linen jacket. One of the skulls had a large hole in the cranium. Some of the bones showed evident signs of having been cut with a sharp knife. This indicated that these bones related to two individuals who had been hanged, drawn and quartered, and whose bones had been hidden for safety, possibly for two centuries.

Fr Morris was invited to investigate and made this drawing. He speculated that they were martyrs because of the age of the bone and the fact that they had been hidden in a Jesuit house, but made no suggestion as to their identities.

So whose bones were they? And why were they kept together?

The source of the mystery about these bones is that there was no documentation in the box with them; their provenance was not clearly indicated--where they had been, how they'd been saved, why they were wrapped in a linen jacket, much less whose bones they were--all unknown.

Dr. Jan Graffius, Curator of Stonyhurst College, believes they might be the bones of Saints Philip Evans, SJ and John Lloyd. She has assembled the evidence of the bones, the style of the  linen jacket, where the bones were found, the fact that two persons' bones are together, the difference between the treatment of the bones, etc., to come to that conclusion. As she comments in this CNA story:

“The starting point is you look at the evidence in front of you,” she told CNA in an interview. “So you have two skulls. One has a hole in the cranium, and many of the bones that are associated with the two skulls show evidence of having been cut with a sharp knife.”

“The immediate premise that you draw from that is that at least one of these two was dismembered after death and that one of the heads was stuck on a spike.”

Acknowledging that the details were “quite graphic,” she continued: “I examined the skull to see whether the hole in the top had been inflicted from the outside in or from the inside out. And the way the bone had been damaged indicated that the force had come from within the skull, within the cranium itself. It had also been pierced by something from inside, like a spike.”

“The clinching argument was that the coccyx . . . -- the bone at the base of the spine -- had been severed very cleanly. And when you’re hanging, drawing, and quartering, the quartering is literal: you cut the body into pieces. And that indicates to me where you would normally expect the cuts to come from severing the legs from the body.”

She consulted with other experts, Maurice Whitehead of the Venerable English College in Rome and Hannah Thomas of the Bar Convent in York and they suggested that these bones could be the relics of Saints Evans and Lloyd:

“They both said, ‘Look, this must be Evans and Lloyd because they were very closely associated in life.’ They spent their last six months or so together in prison. They were executed at the same time. They were buried, or disposed of, at the same time, and they are always spoken of as a pair, if you like, because of the close friendship they had during life.”

“So it makes perfect logical and historical sense for these two bones of these very closely associated men to have been rescued together, and secreted together.”

It is not an absolutely certain conclusion, based on Graffius' inductive reasoning: no DNA has been processed; no familial DNA has been gathered to compare, and there is no indication that there's any plan to pursue this method of investigation. As she concludes the CNA interview, she has "a good degree of confidence" that these bones are the relics of Evans and Lloyd. 

But what this effort to identify these bones reveals is the horrible violence of the execution of these priests, especially of Saint Philip Evans the Jesuit and the first to be hanged, drawn, and quartered--perhaps to persuade Saint John Lloyd to deny his faith--and the care Catholics took after their executions to find their bodies, bury them, perhaps disinter their bones to prevent them being found, keep them safe as relics, etc.

In my home diocese, Wichita, Kansas, as Matt Swaim and Anna Mitchell have mentioned, the remains of Servant of God Chaplain Emil Joseph Kapaun have definitely been identified through DNA matching. The Kapaun family have been working closely with the diocese and the decision has been made to have his remains interred in a crypt in our Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. As our diocesan paper, The Catholic Advance, notes, this:

would not only provide a safe and secure location for them, but would also allow opportunities for Catholics and many others inspired by Fr. Kapaun’s life to be able to visit and venerate this priest, whose cause for sainthood progresses. In 1993, Fr. Emil Kapaun was named a “Servant of God”, which signified that his cause for canonization could begin. Fr. Kapaun’s placement in the Cathedral will be a temporary location in the event that the Church recognize him as a saint in the future, in which case a dedicated shrine or chapel might be erected to hold his remains and commemorate his life.

I cite this just as a comparison between a proven identification and a likely identification.

Saint Philip Evans, pray for us!
Saint John Lloyd, pray for us!
Servant of God, Emil Kapaun, pray for us!

Image Credit: Saint Philip Evans, SJ (used under a CC BY-SA 3.0 license)
Image Credit: Then Second Lieutenant Emil J. Kapaun (Public domain)

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Roman Catholic Relief Act of 1926

Let's just file this under the category: Learning Something New Each Day. I was doing some research before responding to a post about the death of Prince Philip on Facebook--someone had said it would still be an act of treason if a Catholic persuaded an heir to the throne (Prince Charles or Prince William, especially) to leave the Church of England for the Catholic Church. I thought that such penal laws had been repealed with the Catholic Emancipation Act of 1829, which was given Royal Assent by King George IV on April 13 of that year. I knew that Act left some disabilities for Catholics yet to be removed, but I had not heard of or studied the Catholic Relief Act of 1926, to which King George V, Queen Elizabeth II's grandfather, gave his Royal Assent on December 15 of that year. Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa!

According to the Encyclopedia Britannica the 1829 Emancipation Act left these protections of the Protestant religion of the Church of England in place:

In 1829 this carefully restricted freedom again to practise the proscribed religion was extended by the statute commonly known as the Catholic Emancipation Act (io Geo. IV., c. 7). It further disestablished oaths and declarations against Transubstantiation, the invocation of saints and the sacrifice of the mass, by making such oaths and declarations no longer a qualification for member ship of parliament or the holding of any office, franchise or civil right, except offices in or connected with the Established churches, or in any educational institution in regard to which such oaths obtained. But a new oath, against any attempt to subvert the Protestant religion, was imposed upon Members of Parliament, naval, military and municipal officers and electors. Priests were forbidden to sit in the House of Commons, but all civil and mili tary offices were thrown open to Catholics, except the regency of the kingdom, the lord chancellorship, the lord-lieutenancy of Ire land and the high commissionership of the Church of Scotland.

Also they could not present to livings in the Church of England.

Many other restrictions upon religious liberty were maintained. Judicial and municipal officers were forbidden to attend in their insignia any public worship, except in a building of the Established Church; priests and monks were prohibited from conducting ceremonies or wearing habits save in their churches or private houses. Jesuits and all other male persons under religious vows already in the country were to register themselves—they did so for many years—and the entry into the country of those not already there was forbidden, with the exception of those of them who, being natural born British subjects, had left the country temporarily, and of others who might get a licence from a Protestant secretary of State to come into the country for a period not exceeding six months. To admit a person into a religious order was made a misdemeanour; the admitted person was to be banished for life, and transported for life if he had not gone within three months after the sentence of banishment. An attempt (apparently the only attempt) to enforce this law against religious orders was made as late as 1902, but the magistrate refused a summons and was upheld by the High Court : R. v. Kennedy; 86 Law Times Rep. 753. In 1898 parliament had declined to pass a bill for repealing the law, but it has now been repealed by the Roman Catholic Relief Act, 1926.

Please read more here from the same source about attempts to address such limitations on Catholics.

The Roman Catholic Relief Act of 1926 removed other disabilities against Catholics that were not being enforced:

Disabilities still remained however, and in 1926 yet another repeal Act was passed, the Roman Catholic Relief Act, 1926 (which however does not apply to Northern Ireland). The enactments repealed by this latest legislation are, in addition to the repeal of the law against religious orders already referred to, as follows:—The Act of forbidding the possession of Catholic liturgies and books of devotion and statues, is repealed. The Religious Houses Act, 1559, which declared religious orders to be superstitious, and gifts for their benefit therefore voidable, as being for a superstitious use is also revoked. So is the Act of 1715, above referred to, for appointing commissioners to raise money out of recusants' estates. Then the Relief Act of 1791 was made more fully relieving by removing from it the section which forbade steeples and bells in Catholic churches and prohibited a priest from officiating at funerals in (presumably Protestant) churches or church-yards, or from exercising any rights or ceremonies or wearing the habits of an order out of doors or in a private house where more than five persons in addition to the household were assembled, or from exercising his functions at all unless he had first taken the oath of allegiance and abjuration (a similar prohibition in the Act of 1829 being also removed). From the Act of 1791 was also eliminated the section which prohibited the establishment or endowment of a religious order or school or college by Roman Catholics.

Another issue to be addressed was the offering of Masses for the Dead requested in the Last Wills and Testaments of Catholics in England:

It related to bequests for masses for the testator's soul, and the decision may be classed with the measures of legislative relief since, until 1919, when the decision was given, it had been assumed (after ineffectual attempts to obtain legal sanction for such be quests) that they were unlawful. The decision was given by the House of Lords in the case of Bourne v. Keane (Law Rep. [1919] App. Cas. 815). It overruled the leading case of West v. Shuttleworth (decided in 1835) and other cases following that decision, which had proceeded on the assumption that bequests for masses for the dead were now illegal because the Chantries Act of 1547 had confiscated gifts for such masses in existence at that time. It was held by the House of Lords in Bourne v. Keane that this was a wrong interpretation of the Chantries Act, that that Act did not govern subsequent bequests, and that with the repeal of the statutes which had made the Catholic religion illegal, the old common law legality of masses for the dead revived.

The author of the article in the Encyclopedia Britannica believes that Catholics are completely free to practice their religion in England as long as they don't interfere with the affairs of the Church of England, but he does offer a caveat to his stated confidence:

. . . it may now be said, with some confidence (but the maze of anti-Catholic legislation and the piecemeal nature and intricacies of the repeals make absolute confidence appear rash) that full liberty is now restored to the Catholic religion . . .

Doing this research of course led me to a book, which I've ordered from England through Amazon (in one of those exceptions to my rule of buying books at Eighth Day Books!):  Catholic Emancipation 1829 to 1929: Essays by Various Writers with an Introduction by His Eminence Cardinal Bourne. I am in great anticipation of receiving it and reading it later this month! One of the "various writers" is G.K. Chesterton!

Right now, I'm still being dazzled by Saint John Henry Newman's great efforts to persuade the remaining members of the "movement of 1833" to become Catholic--moving onto the section in which he attempts to remove their bad, English superiority complex influenced, views of the Catholic faith as practiced, including in so-called Catholic countries. How can the the Catholic Church be one, holy, catholic, and apostolic when it has so many bad Catholics in it? Isn't that the mystery so many Catholics wrestle with even today, much less those who may be attracted to her as the "one, true fold of Christ" (Newman's phrase)?

Happy Easter! It's still Easter: Christ is Risen; He is Risen Indeed!

Image credit (public domain): King George V in 1923.

Monday, April 12, 2021

Prince Philip, the Queen's "liege man of life and limb", RIP


I was sad to hear about the death of the Duke of Edinburgh, mostly because I empathize with Queen Elizabeth II, as I am a widow too. Since the man who had been her stay and support is gone, as is mine, I feel for her. 

Also my mother and she share the same birthday, April 21--we always joked about whose turn it was the make the official birthday greeting call.

And I am not a royalist. If I was a royalist, I would have to be a Jacobite and regard the current occupant of the throne as the usurper of the Catholic Stuart line, descendants of King James II and VI, the Old Pretender, and the Young Pretender, since there aren't any descendants of the Cardinal Pretender! So I'm not posting this because of burning interest in the House of Windsor. By the way, my parents lived on WINDSOR Street in their own little palace.

No, my interests are mostly because of the issue of Catholicism and/or religion in England, and secondarily just because of the human interests of family and history.

Prince Philip was born on the island of Corfu as the Greek ruling family was going to exile. He was baptized into the Greek Orthodox Church, which probably means that he received all three Sacraments of Initiation: Baptism, Chrismation (Confirmation), and Holy Communion as an infant. 

He certainly endured and survived a confusing and disrupted childhood in the early to mid twentieth century. Yet I recall reading a review in the Wall Street Journal of a recent biography last year (I can't access the full review now) that he never revealed much about that childhood and youth. His biographer stated that “For him duty is at the center of everything. It is not a choice.” so he just did his duty and didn't talk about it that much. That's probably one reason his death is receiving so much attention now: that almost unheard of sense of duty and reserve when self-promotion is the norm combined with self-proclaimed victim-hood.

His family separated after their exile from Greece in the throes of the Greco-Turkish war and World War I; Philip studied on the Continent and in England and fought for England in World War II (in the Royal Navy); his four sisters had married Germans and Philip's brothers-in-law fought for Germany and some joined the Nazi Party. His father, Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark, resided in the south of France and Monaco; his mother, Princess Alice of Battenburg (known as Princess Andrew in Greece after her marriage), who was a great-granddaughter of Queen Victoria, was congenitally deaf and was committed to an asylum in Switzerland for a time.

Alice had joined the Anglican Church, but when she and Prince Andrew were married, their ceremonies were first Civil, then Lutheran AND Greek Orthodox. She later became Greek Orthodox, while her son Philip joined the Anglican Church. I don't know if his Orthodoxy (if he had remained a member of the Greek Orthodox Church) would have been any impediment to his marriage to the then Princess Elizabeth, but Geoffrey Fisher, then the Archbishop of Canterbury received him into the Church of England in October 1947 before their wedding on November 20 that year. Prince Philip's surviving sisters could not attend the wedding (nor Elizabeth's coronation in 1953) because of their Nazi connections.

His mother is the person who fascinates me most: she is known as a "Righteous Among the Nations" because of her aid to the Jews in Greece during World War II. She followed the example of her relative, the Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna of Russia, becoming a religious sister in the Orthodox (Greek) Church while Elizabeth became a nun in the Russian Orthodox Church. She died in England but is buried in the same church as Elizabeth, the Church of Mary Magdalene at Gethsemane in Jerusalem. Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna has been canonized a saint in the Russia Orthodox Church and is honored as a martyr at Westminster Abbey!

Since Prince Philip died on the Friday of the Octave of Easter, and Gospel readings for the Masses of the Catholic Church have been filled with references to St. Mary Magdalen, I've chosen a painting of St. Mary Magdalen with the Resurrected Jesus to illustrate this post: Appearance of Jesus Christ to Maria Magdalena (1835) by Alexander Andreyevich Ivanov, a Russian painter (1808-1858).

In the sure and certain hope of the Resurrection of the Dead, may Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, rest in the peace of Christ.

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

In Progress: What I'm Reading Now (Newman and Tolkien)

Edward Short, who edited and wrote the introduction to the Millennium Edition of Saint John Henry Newman's lectures on Anglican Difficulties (CERTAIN DIFFICULTIES FELT BY ANGLICANS IN CATHOLIC TEACHING CONSIDERED In Twelve Lectures addressed in 1850 to the Party of the Religious Movement of 1833), kindly sent me a review copy. His introduction provides excellent background to the circumstances which led to Newman presenting these lectures at the London Oratory, trying to persuade his former Tractarians to acknowledge there was no place for them in the Church of England, especially after the Gorham Judgment, when Queen Victoria's Privy Council determined that the Reverend George C. Gorham should become the Vicar of Brampford Speke, in spite of his denial of baptismal regeneration. Newman used all his rhetorical skill and art--like Cicero against Catiline--to bring them to the Catholic Church, which would uphold the Truth of the Sacrament of Baptism, that it had a spiritual effect as symbolized by the action of washing with water in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, as the Holy Bible and the Fathers of the Church taught. This controversy about Baptism within the Church of England in the 1840's has great parallels to the controversy about the priesthood and episcopacy (women priests and bishops) in the same National/State Church more recently, which certainly proves one of Newman's points--the Church of England will ever move in the direction the State and the Nation are moving. Thus the Anglicann Ordinariate!

So I've read Short's introduction and am reading the lectures now, in the midst of Lecture V, "The Providential Course of the Movement of 1833 [Newman's term for the Oxford or Tractarian Movement he had previously led with Keble and Pusey] not in the Direction of a Party in the National Church". Short's footnotes throughout these lectures are also very thorough, identifying works, literary allusions, people Newman refers to, etc., providing additional depth of context.

I've also started reading Holly Ordway's Tolkien's Modern Reading: Middle-earth Beyond the Middle Ages, which I purchased at Eighth Day Books:

Tolkien’s Modern Reading addresses the claim that Tolkien “read very little modern fiction, and took no serious notice of it.” This claim, made by one of his first biographers, has led to the widely accepted view that Tolkien was dismissive of modern culture, and that The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings are fundamentally medieval and nostalgic in their inspiration.

In fact, as Holly Ordway demonstrates in this major corrective, Tolkien enjoyed a broad range of contemporary works, engaged with them in detail and depth, and even named specific titles as sources for and influences upon his creation of Middle-earth.

Drawing on meticulous archival research, Ordway shows how Tolkien appreciated authors as diverse as James Joyce and Beatrix Potter, Rider Haggard and Edith Nesbit, William Morris and Kenneth Grahame. She surveys the work of figures such as S.R. Crockett and J.H. Shorthouse, who are forgotten now but made a significant impression on Tolkien. He even read Americans like Longfellow and Sinclair Lewis, assimilating what he read in characteristically complex ways, both as positive example and as influence-by-opposition.


Tolkien’s Modern Reading not only enables a clearer understanding of Tolkien’s epic, it also illuminates his views on topics such as technology, women, empire, and race. For Tolkien’s genius was not simply backward-looking: it was intimately connected with the literature of his own time and concerned with the issues and crises of modernity. Ordway’s ground-breaking study reveals that Tolkien brought to the workings of his fantastic imagination a deep knowledge of both the facts and the fictions of the modern world.

And Ordway's book--from her Prelude in fact--has led me to another historical fiction novel, set during the reign of Charles I, John Inglesant: A Romance by Joseph Henry Shorthouse, written in Birmingham! The summary title is:

MR. JOHN INGLESANT SOMETIME SERVANT TO KING CHARLES I. WITH AN ACCOUNT OF HIS BIRTH, EDUCATION, AND TRAINING BY THE JESUITS AND A PARTICULAR RELATION OF THE SECRET SERVICES IN WHICH HE WAS ENGAGED ESPECIALLY IN CONNECTION WITH THE LATE IRISH REBELLION WITH SEVERAL OTHER REMARKABLE PASSAGES AND OCCURRENCES, ALSO A HISTORY OF HIS RELIGIOUS DOUBTS AND EXPERIENCES AND OF THE MOLINISTS OR QUIETISTS IN ITALY IN WHICH COUNTRY HE RESIDED FOR MANY YEARS WITH AN ACCOUNT OF THE ELECTION OF THE LATE POPE AND MANY OTHER EVENTS AND AFFAIRS.

The book begins during the reign of Henry VIII as Cromwell sends John Inglesant's ancestor Richard to conduct some delicate negotiations with the Prior of a monastery in Norfolk, near Malmsbury, Westacre Priory, a house Augustinian Canons.

There really was such Priory, and according to British History Online, it was dissolved in a fashion quite different from Shorthouse's fiction. The visitors, Doctor Legh and John ap Rice, a notary public, accused the Prior, the sub-prior and several canons of quite grave sins, which they were supposed to have confessed. The entry on British History Online casts quite grave doubts on these confessions:

At any rate no credence whatever could have been given to this particular charge made by these notorious 'visitors'; for although, according to them, West Acre was by far the foulest lived of all the Norfolk religious houses, in October of the very year when their report of the prior of Westacre's personal and conventual enormities had been rendered, William Wingfield was one of the fourteen Norfolk gentlemen specially appointed by the king to abide in their counties and act as justices to keep good order during the absence of the rest of the gentlemen and noblemen during the northern rebellion, the priors of West Acre and Castle Acre being the only two ecclesiastics of the county selected for this honour. (fn. 23)

On 15 January, 1538, West Acre Priory, with the dependent priory or cell of Great Massingham and all its possessions, was surrendered to Robert Southwell, attorney of the Augmentation Office, to be held by him for a year with remainder to the king. The surrender was signed by the prior and seven of the canons. This was the first of the monastic 'surrenders,' and its farcical character is clear; for a month earlier (16 December, 1537) Sir Roger Townsend wrote to Cromwell saying that all the goods of West Acre Priory had been sequestrated according to order and inventories taken. On 9 December there had been some endeavour otherwise to dispose of the monastic property. Commissioner Layton waxed wroth on this subject, and in a letter to Cromwell from West Acre, three days after its 'surrender,' he wrote:—

As for Westacre, what falsehood in the prior and convent, what bribery, spoil, and ruin contrived by the inhabitants it were long to write; but their wrenches, wiles, and guiles shall nothing them prevail. (fn. 24)

Prior Wingfield, notwithstanding his reputed sins and trickery, had the handsome pension granted him of £40 per annum, of which he was still in receipt in 1555; he also held the rectory of Burnham Thorpe.

The 'surrender' of West Acre was accompanied by a vaguely but extravagantly worded 'confession' of lax living. The better known and absurd so-called 'confession' of the monks of St. Andrew's, Northampton, has been dealt with in another volume of this series. (fn. 25) The private correspondence of the visitors with the Lord Privy Seal makes it quite clear that these two confessions (the only ones on record) were written by them; it is more than probable that neither the canons of the one house nor the monks of the other had any knowledge whatsoever of the documents in question. This is a grave charge to make against Ap Rice, Legh, and Layton; but those who have studied the Cromwell correspondence at the Public Record Office at first hand cease to be surprised at any depth of moral turpitude displayed by his active agents. (fn. 26)

Only the Gatehouse is left now.

Full reviews of the books to come in due course.

Monday, April 5, 2021

Book Review: "The Fourth Cup" by Scott Hahn

On Holy Thursday and Good Friday last week I read Scott Hahn's The Fourth Cup: Unveiling the Mystery of the Last Supper and the Cross. I received this book in 2018 but had not read it until now. Scott Hahn combines his conversion story--familiar to some readers from his best-selling book written with his wife Kimberly Rome Sweet Home--with his scriptural and theological investigations of the meaning of the words Jesus spoke on the Cross before He died (quoted in St. John's Gospel) "It Is Finished." In the introduction Hahn mentions that he has presented his talk on "The Fourth Cup" many times and this book represents a fuller telling of the background to that presentation.

As he notes the question he sought to answer is "What" Is Finished? What is "It"? He was a Protestant when he first considered the question and as he studied it studied Jewish and early Christian sources it influenced his decisions as a pastor and professor. Those decisions led him and those attending his church and his classes to say that he was beginning to sound too much like a Catholic. In this book (I read Rome Sweet Home years ago and can't remember if he mentions this particular issue of his reading and research before his conversion) Hahn reveals that this effort to answer the question What is "It"? led him to study the teachings of the Catholic Church and to an even more momentous decision: to become a Catholic.

I do recall that he highlights the experience of attending Mass in the church at Marquette University and the great impact of that experience in Rome Sweet Home--and he includes that story in this book too.

Each chapter is divided into sections with punning headings: Hallel Can You Go?; Pasch, Presence, and Future; Sealed with a Curse; Seder Rite Words; Justin Case, etc. Those puns and word play shouldn't make the reader think that Hahn is not dealing with these questions of ritual, sacrifice, and salvation with appropriate depth and reflection. 

As I attended the Holy Triduum, especially as the Gospel of John was proclaimed on Good Friday, echoes of Hahn's book were in my ears.

Highly recommended. He succeeds in presenting his research and conclusions dramatically as they occurred in his own life and theologically in their meaning and impact on how we worship in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

Thursday, April 1, 2021

Newman on the Feast of Cana and the Feast before Christ's Passion

I have to thank Michael Pakaluk for featuring this sermon in his translation and commentary on St. John's Gospel (The Voice of Mary in the Gospel according to John). Newman wrote it while still an Anglican and it was published in Sermons on Subjects of the Day: "Our Lord's Last Supper and His First". According to the chronology of his sermons it was offered on Quinquagesima Sunday (February 26) in 1843, two years and several months before Newman joined the Catholic Church. (Sermons on Subjects of the Day is the volume which includes his last sermon as an Anglican, "The Parting of Friends" delivered in Littlemore on September 25, 1843.)

In this sermon Newman discusses the importance of feasts in general from the Old Testament to the New (the parting feast of Laban and Jacob; the Passover; Elisha's slaughtering the oxen for a feast before he follows Elijah; the feast with St. Matthew after he follows Jesus). Then he remarks:

Nay, may we not say that our Lord Himself had commenced His ministry, that is, bade farewell to His earthly home, at a feast? for it was at the marriage entertainment at Cana of Galilee that He did His first miracle, and manifested forth His glory. He was in the house of friends, He was surrounded by intimates and followers, and He took a familiar interest in the exigencies of the feast. He supplied a principal want which was interfering with their festivity. It was His contribution to it. By supplying it miraculously He showed that He was beginning a new life, the life of a Messenger from God, and that that feast was the last scene of the old life. And, moreover, He made use of one remarkable expression, which seems to imply that this change of condition really was in His thoughts, if we may dare so to speak of them, or at all to interpret them. For when His Mother said unto Him, "They have no wine," He answered, "What have I to do with thee?" [John ii. 3, 4.] He had had to do with her for thirty years. She had borne Him, she had nursed Him, she had taught Him. And when He had reached twelve years old, at the age when the young may expect to be separated from their parents, He had only become more intimately one with them, for we are told that "He went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them." [Luke ii. 51.] Eighteen years had passed away since this occurred. St. Joseph (as it seems) had been taken to his rest. Mary remained; but from Mary, His Mother, He must now part, for the three years of His ministry. He had gently intimated this to her at the very time of His becoming subject to her, intimated that His heavenly Father's work was a higher call than any earthly duty. "Wist ye not," He said, when found in the Temple, "that I must be about My Father's business?" [Luke ii. 49.] The time was now come when this was to be fulfilled, and, therefore, when His Mother addressed Him at the marriage feast, He answered, "What have I to do with thee?" What is between Me and thee, My Mother, any longer? "The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand." [Mark i. 15.]

And hence the words which I have quoted were but the introduction to others like them, in which He seemed to put His Mother from His thoughts, as being called to the work of a divine ministry. When He was told that His Mother and His brethren stood without, and sent unto Him, calling Him, He seemed to answer, that henceforth He had no mother and no brethren after the flesh, for He was called on to fulfil His own precept, as fulfilling all righteousness, and to "hate His father and mother, and brethren and sisters, yea, and His own life also." [Luke xiv. 26.] "He answered and said unto him that told Him, Who is My Mother? and who are My brethren? and He stretched forth His hand towards His disciples, and said, Behold My Mother and My brethren. For whosoever shall do the will of My Father which is in heaven" (about whose "business," in His own former words, He was then engaged), "the same is My brother and sister, and Mother." [Matt. xii. 48-50.]

The inferred tone of Jesus's words to His Mother and the use of the word Woman rather than Mother at the Marriage Feast of Cana has troubled readers and led some to think that Jesus did not love His mother, or was rebuking her in some way. The other episodes Newman quotes have sometimes been used to denigrate the Blessed Mother, to deny her holiness and even the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception.

But Newman offers a different interpretation: Jesus served His Heavenly Father's will in His ministry and His passion until He acknowledged and provided for the Blessed Virgin Mary before He dies on the Cross:

Nor is there any token recorded in the Gospels of His affection for His Mother, till His ministry was brought to an end, and we know well what were the tender words which almost immediately preceded "It is finished." His love revived, that is, He allowed it to appear, as His Father's work was ending. "There stood by the cross of Jesus, His Mother, and His Mother's sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus therefore saw His Mother, and the disciple standing by whom He loved, He saith unto His Mother, Woman, behold thy son! Then saith He to the disciple, Behold thy Mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home." [John xix. 25-27.]

And Newman also sees a deeper meaning to this pattern of feasts and parting at the beginning and the end of Christ's ministry:

He took leave then of His Mother at a feast, as He afterwards took leave of His disciples at a feast. But there is perhaps a still closer connexion between the feast of Cana and His Paschal Supper, and, as we are already engaged in the subject, it may be allowable to proceed with it.

It will be observed, then, that though He was bidding farewell to His earthly home in the one, and His disciples in the other, yet in neither case was He leaving them for good, but for a season. His Mother He acknowledged again when He was expiring; His disciples on His resurrection. And He gave both the one and the other intimations, not only that He was then separating Himself from them, but also that it was not a separation for ever. . . .

And now let us turn to that other most sacred and sad feast to which the text relates; sad because it was designed to introduce, not His ministry, but His passion, yet in this respect agreeing with the feast in which He began to manifest His glory, that it was a feast of valediction, a sort of sober carnival, before He entered upon His trial. We shall find, as in the former feast, that He intimated both that He was leaving those with whom He had hitherto companied, yet that it was for a time only, not for ever. . . .

Such seems to be the connexion between the feast with which our Lord began, and that with which He ended His ministry. Nay, may we not add without violence, that in the former feast He had in mind and intended to foreshadow the latter? for what was that first miracle by which He manifested His glory in the former, but the strange and awful change of the element of water into wine? and what did He in the latter, but change the Paschal Supper and the typical lamb into the sacrament of His atoning sacrifice, and the creatures of bread and wine into the verities of His most precious Body and Blood? He began His ministry with a miracle; He ended it with a greater.


Although Newman offered this sermon at the end of the pre-Lenten Septuagesima period, "Our Lord's Last Supper and His First" presents some wonderful insights into the first two days of the Holy Triduum, Holy Thursday and Good Friday. Wishing you all a holy and blessed Triduum, I'll be back on Easter Monday! God bless you all!

Image credits (all public domain): The Marriage Feast of Cana from Les Grandes heures de Jean de Berry (1409); Fra Angelico - Crucifixion with the Virgin, John the Evangelist, and Mary Magdalene; and The first Eucharist, depicted by Juan de Juanes in The Last Supper, c. 1562.