Saturday, June 26, 2010

July 1 Radio Interview

I will be on Kresta in The Afternoon next Thursday, July 1 at 5:35 p.m. Eastern/4:35 p.m. Central to discuss Supremacy and Survival. You can listen here live. You might also check out the show's blog.

That will also be the memorial of St. Oliver Plunkett, martyr/victim of the Popish Plot, so I look forward to a post about that Archbishop of Armagh, who was the last priest executed at Tyburn Tree.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Annual Author's Extravaganza in Emporia, Kansas!

This Saturday, June 26, I'll head out on the Kansas turnpike to Emporia, Kansas, home to Town Crier Bookstore for their Fourth Annual Author's Extravaganza booksigning event! This is the last Town Crier bookstore in Kansas. When I was growing up in Wichita there were two or three of them in town. I always liked them because they had big glass jars of pipe tobacco that smelled so good when the clerk removed the lid to dip some out for a customer! In addtion to books, Town Criers featured gifts and cards, and old-fashioned stick candy. Eventually, they closed--perhaps with the coming of the chain bookstores.

As you can see from their website, dozens of authors with several styles and genres of books will be there--who knows if I'll sell any books at all, but at least I'll meet some interesting people!

My mother attended Emporia State Teachers College--now Emporia State University--briefly before World War II; when the young men went off to war she moved to Wichita to work at Boeing. It was in Wichita that she met my father on a blind date (68 years ago this Fourth of July)!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

June 24, 1509: The New King and his Queen, Crowned

Garrett Mattingly notes in his biography of Catherine of Aragon, "It is hard to imagine Henry and Catherine at their coronation. Their images are pale as ghosts beside their later selves . . ." In 1509, Henry was young, tall, an athlete with a ruddy round-cheeked face, while Catherine was fresh, delicate, sweet and winsome. As Mattingly notes, "The Londoners thought her bonny . . . Henry thought her bonnier than any."

I cannot help but think of the juxtaposition of these dates in June, separated by momentous years and events. In June of 1509, Catherine and Henry were wed and crowned; 20 years later Catherine appeared in a court to try the validity of her marriage; six years after that dramatic trial, one of her strongest defenders was executed when Bishop John Fisher opposed the king's supremacy.

But in 1509, the month of June was filled, as Mattingly comments, with festivity, music, laughter, and dancing. The reign of Henry the Eighth and Catherine of Aragon had begun.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Reformers and Martyrs: Sts. John Fisher and Thomas More

Discussing the lives and careers of John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester and Sir Thomas More, Knight in my book Supremacy and Survival: How Catholics Endured the English Reformation I highlight both what they had in common and what distinguished them from one another.

One thing they certainly have in common is their June 22nd memorial on the universal Roman Calendar. In England it is celebrated as a Feast, in honor of their importance to English Catholics. On June 22 in 1535 Bishop John Fisher was beheaded, having been found guilty of treason. Thomas More was beheaded 14 days later for the same reason. As an example of fine historical irony, the Church of England honors Sts. Thomas More and John Fisher on its Calendar of Saints--on July 6, the date of More’s execution--as “Reformation Martyrs”.

They both demonstrated firm defense of Catholic doctrine against the reformers on the Continent, presenting systematic apologetics, referring to the Fathers of the Church and Sacred Tradition to defend the role of the Church in salvation, the ordained priesthood, the Seven Sacraments, the primacy of the Pope, prayer for the Poor Souls in Purgatory, and devotions like intercessory prayer to the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Saints in heaven.

They were both scholarly humanists at the forefront of learning. They were friends of the famed classicist Erasmus of Rotterdam and John Colet, the Dean of St. Paul’s in London. More was famous for his Utopia and renowned for educating his daughters just as well as his sons in the Liberal Arts. Fisher founded Colleges at Oxford and Cambridge to improve the education and formation of priests and invited Erasmus to teach Greek at Cambridge.

Although they shared a common call to personal holiness, demonstrated through prayer, asceticism, and charity, they had different vocations. Those different vocations explain their different responses to the crucial issue of their times: Henry VIII’s desire for a legitimate male heir. To achieve this goal Henry was convinced that he needed to be released from his first marriage to his brother Arthur’s widow Catherine of Aragon so that he could marry Anne Boleyn, a noble woman whom he desired, but who refused to become his mistress like her sister had been. Henry petitioned Pope Clement VII to revoke the dispensation he had received in order to marry Catherine and declare that marriage null.

John Fisher was an ordained bishop of the Catholic Church; pastor of his diocese, teacher of the Truths of the Catholic Faith. Thomas More, although he’d considered a vocation as a cloistered religious among the Carthusians of the Charterhouse in London, was a married man and a father, active in the secular sphere as a lawyer, judge, diplomat, and government official.

So when Henry VIII, having exhausted his efforts for an annulment from Rome, decided to make himself the Supreme Head and Governor of the Church in England, thus appropriating the power to annul his own marriage, Bishop Fisher opposed him. Alone among the bishops, whom Henry threatened, fined, and harassed, he would not accept Henry’s new role. Furthermore, he took Catherine of Aragon’s side, serving as her counselor and comparing himself to John the Baptist in his role of defending the sanctity of marriage. If he was John the Baptist, Henry was Herod and Anne Boleyn was Herodias--not very complimentary comparisons!

Thomas More was not as open about his opposition to Henry’s actions. He accepted the position of Chancellor after the removal of Thomas Wolsey, Archbishop of York, on the grounds that he would not be involved in Henry’s “Great Matter”. It is surely a sign of Henry’s respect for him that he accepted More’s terms. Thomas Cromwell, who would eventually succeed him as Chancellor (and follow him to the chopping block) did Henry’s bidding.

As Robert Bolt depicts in A Man for All Seasons, More was careful never to tell anyone, even his wife, what he thought about the divorce and remarriage. He resigned as Chancellor when it was clear his efforts in that office and his influence on the king had come to naught; he went into retirement and kept his peace, hoping to be left in peace.

But Henry was not content just with achieving his goals--divorcing Catherine, marrying Anne, taking over the Church, dissolving the monasteries--he wanted assent to what he had done, requiring bishops, abbots, nobles and officials to swear oaths assenting to his supremacy in the Church and the nullity of his first marriage. When Fisher and More refused they were imprisoned in the Tower of London, enduring discomfort and constant pressure to take the oaths. They were both tried and found guilty of treason through the trickery and perjury of one Richard Rich.

They benefited from a sort of mercy from Henry VIII, as their sentences to being hung, drawn, and quartered were commuted to mere beheading. They shared a calm and prayerful attitude on the scaffold. Their executions permanently damaged Henry’s reputation at the time and throughout history.

One final distinction needs to be addressed: Although Thomas More is better known through Bolt’s play and the award-winning 1966 movie, John Fisher deserves our attention. His efforts to refute Luther and his eloquence as a preacher should be studied more intently. (Ignatius Press offers his Exposition of the Seven Penitential Psalms as a good starting point.)

St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More, pray for us.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Honoring the Martyrs

Thomas More Defending the Liberty of the House of Commons, painting by Vivian Forbes, St Stephen’s Hall, English Parliament, London, photograph by Jarrold Publishing, Norwich, England. (Source)
On June 22, I'll be on the air with Brian Patrick on the Son Rise Morning Show to discuss St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More at 6:45 a.m. Central/7:45 a.m. Eastern!

In anticipation of St. Thomas More's feast, UK's Catholic Herald has a fine piece by Father Alexander Lucie-Smith reflecting on Pope Benedict XVI's upcoming visit to Westminster Hall, where both Bishop Fisher and More were tried. The title of Father Lucie-Smith's article is "More stood up against the tyranny of ego" and includes this meditation on Tudor "justice":

That trial, back in July 1535, was a disgraceful event. More, being a lawyer, knew that he could not be convicted if he kept silence; however, Richard Rich, an enthusiastic servant of the Crown, testified that More had told him in conversation that he did not believe in the Royal Supremacy, and it was this perjured evidence that led to More's conviction and death. Richard Rich has subsequently suffered the fate of being held up as the epitome of all that is bad in politics. There was certainly something wrong with Tudor justice, and More was not its only victim; very few of those who fell foul of the Tudor monarchy deserved death even according to the laws of the day. More was the victim of arbitrary rule, an example offered to England and the rest of Europe of what happened to those who stood in the way of the royal will.

But the whole point of England, as More certainly believed, was that the King was not all-powerful. The royal will had to take account of Parliament, the rule of law, as well as the highest law of all, the law of God, known to humans through natural law. These were necessary breaks on the tendency to tyranny. And history has proved More right. Henry VIII was the nearest thing we ever had to an absolute monarch, but his reign marked the furthest reach of royal power. No monarch after him was ever able to wield so much power, though several would have loved to have done so. It is thanks to Thomas More, and people like him, that the temper of this land has never been sympathetic to dictatorship.

(Remember that Thomas More is honored on the date of Bishop John Fisher's martyrdom--that's why the article mentions the July trial.)

More stood up for Parliament against the king and confronted Cardinal Wolsey before, as the picture aboves depicts. Father Lucie-Smith relates More's (and Fisher's) opposition to the tyranny of Henry VIII to Pope Benedict XVI's opposition to the tyranny of relativism today:
Thomas More espoused the minority view and was bullied to death by the Tudor state, which denied the absolute value of respect for conscientious objection. In our own day anyone who refuses to accept the dictatorship of relativism - that is, the idea that you can believe anything as long as your belief is not a belief in an absolute truth - is abused, ridiculed, slandered, threatened with arrest, accused of crimes without any serious evidence to back up such accusations, and told to shut up. . . .
I have no idea what the Pope will say when he stands at the spot where St Thomas More was condemned, but I am sure he will stand up for truth with all the fortitude of St Thomas More. The very fact of his presence will be an assertion of the right to freedom of conscience, and freedom of association, both freedoms so very repugnant to this present age.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Gilbert Keith Chesterton

G.K. Chesterton died on June 14, 1936. Since today is Flag Day in the United States of America,
I offer a few quotations from his 1922 book, What I Saw in America:
  • "America is the only country ever founded on a creed."
  • "The Declaration of Independence dogmatically bases all rights on the fact that God created all men equal; and it is right; for if they were not created equal, they were certainly evolved unequal. There is no basis for democracy except in a dogma about the divine origin of man."

  • "The unconscious democracy of America is a very fine thing. It is a true and deep and instinctive assumption of the equality of citizens, which even voting and elections have not destroyed."

On a very personal note, we are celebrating my father's passage into eternal life today with a Rosary and Funeral Mass at the Church of the Blessed Sacrament in Wichita, Kansas. His name is James Monroe Boyer and he died on Thursday, June 10; he was a World War II veteran, serving in Europe as a gunner in B-17s in the Army Air Corps. He and my mother have been married 65 years last November. Rest in Peace, Daddy!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Another Wedding Anniversary!

On June 13, 1625, Charles I of England married Henrietta Maria, sister of King Louis XIII of France. His father, James I, had attempted to negotiate a match between his heir and the Infanta Maria Anna of Spain, but Philip III's demands for Charles to remain in Spain and become Catholic were too much. Nevertheless, negotiations for him to marry another Catholic princess meant James and Charles had to promise Henrietta Maria freedom of religion which required Catholic priests at the English Court and some amelioration of the recusancy laws against Catholics in England.

These points of the marriage treaty were very unpopular with the Protestants of England--both Anglicans and Puritans. Henrietta Maria was not crowned queen of England because she could not participate in the Anglican service. At first, Charles and Henrietta Maria did not get along well, but they did develop a very loving relationship. During the period of his personal rule, Charles and Henrietta protected Catholic priests from execution, but when Parliament was in session, they were unable to influence the courts.

As I have discussed before on this blog and in Supremacy and Survival: How Catholics Endured the English Reformation, the loving relationship between the two gave many in England pause--they thought Charles might become Roman Catholic for love of his wife and that he allowed her too much freedom to practice her religion and even bring members of Court to conversion.

Friday, June 11, 2010

June 11, 1509: The New King and His Wife

Henry VIII married Catherine of Aragon on this date in 1509. His father had obtained a papal dispensation for this marriage after her first husband, Arthur, died. When her mother, the great queen Isabella of Castile, died in 1504 Henry VII's interest in continuing the alliance with Spain waned--but he did not want to return Catherine's dowry.
She lived in a kind of marital limbo for five years, but when the first Tudor king died, his son took the action of marrying Catherine on his own as soon as he was of age. She was 24 years old; he 18.
As a young woman, Catherine was very beautiful: fair complexion, blue-eyed, with reddish-blonde or auburn hair. It is interesting that she is often depicted in movies and tv series on the Tudors as dark haired and with olive-tone skin (like Irene Papas in Anne of A Thousand Days).

Thursday, June 10, 2010

June 10, 1688: IT'S A BOY!!

James Francis Edward Stuart, son of James II and VII of England, Ireland and Scotland and Mary Beatrice of Modena was born on June 10, 1688. His birth was denounced by some, including his half-sister Anne, as a fraud with claims a substitute baby boy was brought in a warming pan!

Throughout the history of the Tudor and Stuart dynasties, who had a baby, what gender the baby was, and how long the baby lived had tremendous consequences for not just the succession, but the religious settlements: for instance, Catherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn both conceived sons for Henry VIII, but they either did not survive to be born or their infancy. We know how drastic Henry's actions were in response to both of these failures--and how crucially they affected the history of religion in England.

In this case, the birth of a healthy son led, not to the security and strengthening of the Stuart dynasty, but to its fall, as the ruling classes and leaders of the Church of England could not accept the succession of another Catholic King of England. They invited a foreign prince, William of Orange to invade England and then to reign with his English wife, James II's older daughter, Mary. William and Mary had no children who survived pregnancy.

Queen Anne, who reigned after both Mary and William died, was pregnant 18 times during her marriage to Prince George of Denmark, but none of her children survived beyond the age of 11 (William, the Duke of Gloucester died in 1700 at that age). Anne realized that James Francis Edward was indeed her father and stepmother's son, but was too devoted to the Church of England to accept his succession. Parliament determined that by no means (even though his claim to the throne was secure) would the Roman Catholic "Old Pretender" be allowed to succeed--and therefore, the crown was offered to the House of Hanover.

In the meantime, the Catholic House of Stuart lived on in exile on Continent, planning and leading invasions, hoping to regain the throne. James Francis Edward grew up in France, living at St. Germain-en-Laye west of Paris. He married and had two sons, but even though the gender was right the religion was wrong and the Jacobite movement failed when Bonnie Prince Charlie died (since his brother Henry was a Catholic Cardinal).

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Pilgrimage of Grace and the Son Rise Morning Show

This Friday, June 11 is the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Sacred Heart Radio is hosting a radiothon fundraiser on the Son Rise Morning Show. I will be on the air around 7:45 Eastern/6:45 Central that morning to talk about devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus in the years before the English Reformation, particularly manifested in the Five Wounds of Christ banners carried by the Pilgrimage of Grace. If you're up and about that early in the morning this Friday, you can click on the link and listen live!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Being English = Being Anti-Catholic?

The Catholic Herald has an editorial today about the history of anti-catholicism and anti-papalism in England, which bears out Owen Chadwick's comment in the Penguin history of the Reformation, "Suspicion of Rome became almost a part of the national character, a part of patriotism, a part of the Englishness of a man":

At the very centre of the national psyche there seems to be a basic suspicion of Catholicism which can be difficult to pinpoint: but it has certainly reared its head recently. The front cover of Private Eye with Pope Benedict on the balcony and the crowd in St Peter’s Square supplying the crude – but hardly unforeseeable – punchline may have shocked some and offended others, but it certainly should not have surprised anyone, as it belongs to a great tradition of English anti-Catholic satire: a tradition which has its roots in the dark days of the penal laws, and its high-water mark in the decades which followed emancipation.

During the penal era, anti-Catholicism was, of course, government policy. It has been argued that the excommunication of Elizabeth in 1570 provided the ideal opportunity for the Cecil administration to implement its abiding achievement: the propagation of the idea it was impossible to be a Catholic and a good Englishman. Against the historical backdrop of Armada, Gunpowder Plot, Civil War, the flight of James II, Jacobite risings of 1715 and 1745, and almost constant war with France, it is easy to see how anti-Catholic feeling was easily sustained in the nation's consciousness.

Rome’s disassociation from the Jacobite cause in 1766 paved the way for the Catholic Relief legislation of the late 1770s, which in 1780 set off rioting in London: and while it is unlikely that more than a handful of the mob cared one way or the other for the Pope, they still rallied to the cry of “no Popery!”

In that context, vehement anti-Catholicism was found in both the mainstream press and satirical journals. Rome was Babylon, and the Pope its Whore: he was the Scarlet Lady, the Antichrist, whose followers were enslaved in his service, and who would cheerfully murder all good Protestants in their beds, given the chance.

The author, Serenhedd James, goes on to discuss the violent reaction of the English press to the restoration of the hierarchy in 1850 and the slight abatement of anti-catholicism in the last century or so. The editorial cartoons he describes sound just like some of those printed during the Know Nothing period in the United States by Thomas Nast (above).

James concludes by noting that the common Englishman does not believe that when Pope Benedict XVI visits Scotland and England this September he will dissolve Parliament, force Queen Elizabeth II to submit to his authority and establish the Inquisition throughout the British Isles, but he still distrusts Catholicism and the pope.

Of course, people can disagree with the Church because of our teachings: for Anglican or Protestant believers that can be a source of dislike and contempt. People can also distrust the Church because of the scandal our sins can cause; but anti-catholicism is also a prejudice that goes beyond reason or contempt to hatred and bigotry.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Bare Ruined Choirs: A Review

Dom David Knowles died before final editing on this version of the third volume in his series on monaticism in England. The original volume was highly praised by historians of the time like R. W. Southern and G. R. Elton. While it is slightly abridged, it serves as a great chronicle of the monastic movement in England just before and during the Dissolution of the Monasteries, masterminded and coordinated by Thomas Cromwell, Vice Regent and Chancellor of Henry VIII.

Throughout the book Knowles, himself a Benedictine, is even-handed and fair about the condition of the monasteries. In the epilogue he notes that some were in definite need of drastic reform, some had diminished in numbers such that individual foundations should have been combined; on the other hand, some of the best houses were destroyed (The Observant Franciscans, the Carthusians, Syon) because of their zeal to defend the Church against Henry's Supremacy, and the majority were harmless: perhaps not pure and zealous, but not deserving of destruction.

This abridged version, and the complete third volume, The Religious Orders in England III: The Tudor Age are highly recommended.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Endurance until Death: Blessed John Story

When I was writing Supremacy and Survival, somewhere around draft # 14 or 15, my husband said that I needed to create some story to show how all the changes in religious practice under the Tudors influenced the ordinary person in England. So I added details about what a fictional family might experience through the generations; it might be pretty effective. Then in continuing research, I discovered this martyr, John Story or John Storey. He attended Oxford during the reign of Henry VIII, served in Parliament under Edward VI and endured imprisonment for opposing the young king's Prayer Book legislation. He fled to the Continent and exile in Louvain, the Spanish Netherlands (now Belgium) and returned to England when Mary I came to the throne and served Bishop Bonner as a canon lawyer during the heresy trials. Once again, when Elizabeth I's Parliament started to legislate the Anglican religious settlement with the Book of Common Prayer and Thirty-Nine Articles, Story opposed them, ended up in prison, escaped, was captured, and escaped a second time to return in exile to the Spanish Netherlands. Elizabethan agents kidnapped him there, and although he had renounced his allegiance to her in favor of King Philip II of Spain, brought him back to England. He endured torture in the Tower of London, was tried and executed on June 1, 1571. St. Edmund Campion, on his way to Douai to study for the Catholic priesthood, witnessed his trial. Thus John Story endured all the religious changes and remained true to his faith, even unto dying for it, throughout the reigns of Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary I, and Elizabeth I.