Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy Birthday to Bonnie Prince Charlie!

Charles Edward Stuart, the Young Pretender, "Bonnie Prince Charlie" was born on December 31, 1720 in the Palazzo Muti at Rome, eldest son of James Francis Edward Stuart, the Old Pretender and Maria Klementyna Sobieska. Pope Clement XI had recognized his parents' claim as King James III/VIII and Queen Consort and given them residence there.

The young prince who would claim the title of Charles III grew up in Rome and Bologna, was baptized Charles Edward Louis John Casimir Sylvester Maria with one name referencing his Polish heritage (Casimir) and one paying tribute his father's erstwhile host, King Louis XIV of France.

In 1745 he led the Jacobite invasion of 1745, at first achieving some military success in his attempt to regain the throne of England, Ireland and Scotland for the Catholic Stuarts. The ultimate failure of the cause at Culloden left Scotland at the mercy of the Duke of Cumberland and Bonnie Prince Charlie wandering in Scotland before escaping to the Continent.

He returned to England in 1750 and briefly became an Anglican, hoping that would strengthen his claim and support. By the time he returned to Rome, he repented of that apostasy and returned to the Catholic Church. In 1759 he had another chance when the Duc de Choiseul, chief minister of King Louis XV planned another invasion--but he evidently made a poor impression on his prospective patron. In 1766 his father died and Pope Clement XIII did not recognize him as the rightful king. He married Princess Louise de Stolberg-Gedern and they had an even rockier marriage than his parents! More about him at the end of January, when we remember his death.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Edward Arden, Relative of Shakespeare

Edward Arden, cousin of Mary Arden, William Shakespeare's mother was most unjustly executed on December 30, 1583. Michael Wood's In Search of Shakespeare tells the story of his arrest and execution (although Wood cites the date of his execution as December 20 (typo?):

Although there is no evidence to suggest Arden was directly involved with a plot against the crown, his friendship with more militant Catholics would lead him into trouble. A key player in the 1580 mission of Edmund Campion, Robert Persons, was a close friend of Edward Arden's and probably used his home as a base. After Campion's Jesuit mission was thwarted, government informers (probably about as reliable a source of information as any modern day snitch) claimed that Campion had stayed at Park Hall, the Arden's ancestral home 20 miles north of Stratford, though this could never be proved. . . .

Despite Arden's arrest, the seizure of the Arden's priest, his wife and daughter's confinement in The Tower of London, and mountains of paper evidence purporting to show the link between Arden, Somerville and Throgmorton, no direct evidence of Edward's complicity in a plot could be found.

Even as he was being prepared for execution, Arden protested his innocence. Wood is probably correct that Arden's associations with prominent Catholics got him in trouble, but for a man to be executed for his associations rather than evidence of knowledge or connivance in a conspiracy is of course an injustice. The judge in his case, as in St. Edmund Campion's case, was Christopher Wray, Lord Chief Justice (pictured above). David Marcombe in a chapter of John Foxe at Home and Abroad, edited by D.M. Loades states that Wray was "a government man through and through" but perhaps indifferent in religious matters.

Monday, December 27, 2010

"Corde Natus ex Parentis" translated by John Mason Neale

The Wikipedia entry for "Of the Father's Heart/Love Begotten" features a side-by-side comparison of the original Latin text by Prudentius and the best known English translations, including one by John Mason Neale. It is one of my favorite Christmas hymns, set to a medieval plainchant melody Divinum Mysterium, with the haunting yet comforting refrain, "evermore and evermore".

I first read of John Mason Neale in John Shelton Reed's Glorious Battle: The Cultural Politics of Victorian Anglo-Catholicism. As Vanderbilt University Press describes the book:

How the Anglo-Catholic movement in the Victorian Church of England overcame opposition to establish itself as a legitimate form of Anglicanism.

A thorough, compelling, and often amusing account of how the Anglo-Catholic movement in the Victorian Church of England overcame vehement opposition to establish itself as a legitimate form of Anglicanism.

From working class tenements to the pages of Punch to the very Houses of Parliament, the Victorian Anglo-Catholic movement provoked bitter debate and even violence throughout Victorian times. Rotten vegetables were thrown at priests as they spoke from their pulpits, and fistfights broke out among families over whether dear departed ones would be buried "High Church" or "Low Church." In this innovative critical study, John Shelton Reed provides the first comprehensive treatment of the rise, growth, and eventual consolidation of this controversial movement within the Victorian Church of England.

Reed identifies Anglo-Catholicism as a countercultural movement, in some ways not unlike the counterculture of the 1960s, one that championed practices that were symbolic affronts to some of the central values of the dominant middle-class culture of its time. He identifies certain members of the clergy (including John Henry Newman and his circle), the urban poor, women, and youth of both sexes, expecially those who were put off by "muscular Christianity," as those most attracted both to what the movement had to offer and to the shock value it gave to the institutions, classes, and individuals whom they despised. Each of these component groups can be seen as culturally subordinate or in decline--threatened, oppressed, or at least bored by the Victorian values that the movement challenged--and thus ready to hear subversive messages.

A distinguished sociologist, best known as a major interpreter of the American South, Reed here explores new ground with characteristic scholarly acumen, thorough and meticulous research, fresh perspective and insight, and a remarkably engaging literary style. He has uncovered and taken full advantage of a wealth of largely untapped archival material, from the library of Pusey House, Oxford, as well as the Bodleian Library and the British Library, and has fashioned this into a cogent analysis that will enhance understanding of the subject for both scholars and general readers. His conclusions will shed light on many aspects of Victorian studies and the related disciplines of history (social, cultural, political, intellectual, and ecclesiastical), literary studies, women's studies, and the study of social movements. All future work on Anglo-Catholicism and related subjects will be indebted to Reed's Glorious Battle.

Of the Father's love begotten,
ere the worlds began to be,
he is Alpha and Omega,
he the source, the ending he,
of the things that are, that have been,
and that future years shall see,
evermore and evermore!

At his word the words were framèd;
he commanded; it was done:
heaven and earth and depths of ocean
in their threefold order one;
all that grows beneath the shining
of the moon and burning sun,
evermore and evermore!

O that birth for ever blessèd,
when the Virgin, full of grace,
by the Holy Ghost conceiving,
bare the Savior of our race;
and the Babe, the world's Redeemer,
first revealed his sacred face,
evermore and evermore!

This is he whom seers in old time
chanted of with one accord;
whom the voices of the prophets
promised in their faithful word;
now he shines, the long expected,
let creation praise its Lord,
evermore and evermore!

O ye heights of heaven, adore him;
angel-hosts, his praises sing;
powers, dominions, bow before him,
and extol our God and King;
let no tongue on earth be silent,
every voice in concert ring,
evermore and evermore!

Thee let old men, thee let young men,
thee let boys in chorus sing;
matrons, virgins, little maidens,
with glad voices answering:
let their guileless songs re-echo,
and the heart its music bring,
evermore and evermore!

Christ, to thee with God the Father,
and, O Holy Ghost, to thee,
hymn and chant and high thanksgiving,
and unwearied praises be;
honor, glory and dominion,
and eternal victory,
evermore and evermore!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Nine Lessons and Carols

The Christmas Eve Service at King's College Chapel at the University of Cambridge in England is the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols. The website I've linked includes a download of the service booklet and links to BBC broadcasts. Because of the broadcast, you might note all the instructions not to cough or talk, when to stand, what noise making devices to turn off, etc. This festive night has been a tradition at King's College Chapel since 1918 and has been broadcast by the BBC since 1928 (except for in 1930) every year. The first carol is always "Once in Royal David's City", written by Cecil Frances Alexander, who also wrote the lyrics "All Things Bright and Beautiful".

If you want to attend, you must queue between 7:30 and 9 a.m. and if admitted will be seated after 1:30 p.m. BBC Television also records a program, "Carols from King's" for broadcast on Christmas Eve.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

A Restoration at the Met

I admit that this is off topic, but I was really impressed by this article in the New York Times on-line edition about the restoration and reattribution of a portrait of King Philip IV of Spain by Velazquez at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. (Philip IV was the father of Charles II).

The article includes an interactive media link showing the results of first the cleaning of the painting and then the restoration.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Pope Benedict Recalls Visit to the UK

The UK Catholic Herald has some interesting stories about Pope Benedict XVI's speech to the Roman Curia recalling his trip to the United Kingdom in September this year: here and here.

The Holy Father dedicates a great paragraph to explaining what Blessed John Henry Newman meant when his mentioned offering a toast to Conscience first then the Pope:

The driving force that impelled Newman along the path of conversion was conscience. But what does this mean? In modern thinking, the word “conscience” signifies that for moral and religious questions, it is the subjective dimension, the individual, that constitutes the final authority for decision. The world is divided into the realms of the objective and the subjective. To the objective realm belong things that can be calculated and verified by experiment. Religion and morals fall outside the scope of these methods and are therefore considered to lie within the subjective realm. Here, it is said, there are in the final analysis no objective criteria. The ultimate instance that can decide here is therefore the subject alone, and precisely this is what the word “conscience” expresses: in this realm only the individual, with his intuitions and experiences, can decide. Newman’s understanding of conscience is diametrically opposed to this. For him, “conscience” means man’s capacity for truth: the capacity to recognize precisely in the decision-making areas of his life – religion and morals – a truth, the truth. At the same time, conscience – man’s capacity to recognize truth – thereby imposes on him the obligation to set out along the path towards truth, to seek it and to submit to it wherever he finds it. Conscience is both capacity for truth and obedience to the truth which manifests itself to anyone who seeks it with an open heart. The path of Newman’s conversions is a path of conscience – not a path of self-asserting subjectivity but, on the contrary, a path of obedience to the truth that was gradually opening up to him. His third conversion, to Catholicism, required him to give up almost everything that was dear and precious to him: possessions, profession, academic rank, family ties and many friends. The sacrifice demanded of him by obedience to the truth, by his conscience, went further still. Newman had always been aware of having a mission for England. But in the Catholic theology of his time, his voice could hardly make itself heard. It was too foreign in the context of the prevailing form of theological thought and devotion. In January 1863 he wrote in his diary these distressing words: “As a Protestant, I felt my religion dreary, but not my life – but, as a Catholic, my life dreary, not my religion”. He had not yet arrived at the hour when he would be an influential figure. In the humility and darkness of obedience, he had to wait until his message was taken up and understood. In support of the claim that Newman’s concept of conscience matched the modern subjective understanding, people often quote a letter in which he said – should he have to propose a toast – that he would drink first to conscience and then to the Pope. But in this statement, “conscience” does not signify the ultimately binding quality of subjective intuition. It is an expression of the accessibility and the binding force of truth: on this its primacy is based. The second toast can be dedicated to the Pope because it is his task to demand obedience to the truth.

Pope Benedict packs a great deal of understanding of Newman and his times in that paragraph:

--"The path of Newman’s conversions is a path of conscience – not a path of self-asserting subjectivity but, on the contrary, a path of obedience to the truth that was gradually opening up to him. "

As Blessed John Henry progressed from belief in Jesus Christ and an invisible church of believers, to belief in Jesus Christ and loyalty to the Church Jesus founded, located in the via media of the Church of England, to belief in Jesus Christ and the one, true, holy, catholic and apostolic Church, he was always focused on the Divine Person of Jesus and His truth, way, and life. Newman was always devoted to Jesus and to the truths He revealed. The Pope's words about the 'truth that was gradually opening up to him' contain an indirect reference to Newman's Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine!

--"Newman had always been aware of having a mission for England. But in the Catholic theology of his time, his voice could hardly make itself heard. It was too foreign in the context of the prevailing form of theological thought and devotion. In the humility and darkness of obedience, he had to wait until his message was taken up and understood. "

Here Benedict subtly but effectively notes that the hierarchy did not really know what to do with the great convert once they had him. Blessed John Henry Newman endured rejection, failure, and disappointment, responding with obedience. Newman's message was heard only after the attack of Charles Kingsley on the one hand and the honor of the Cardinalate from Pope Leo XIII on the other!

Lest we think that we understand Newman and appreciate him so more than his contemporaries did, the Pope reminds us that Newman's toast comment is often misinterpreted and used to support dissent:

--"In support of the claim that Newman’s concept of conscience matched the modern subjective understanding, people often quote a letter in which he said – should he have to propose a toast – that he would drink first to conscience and then to the Pope. But in this statement, “conscience” does not signify the ultimately binding quality of subjective intuition. It is an expression of the accessibility and the binding force of truth: on this its primacy is based. The second toast can be dedicated to the Pope because it is his task to demand obedience to the truth."

I think that with proper attention and study, we will benefit for years from the addresses, homilies and speeches Pope Benedict XVI made during and after his official visit to the United Kingdom in September, 2010.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Chesterton the Blogger?

The UK Catholic Herald posts this review of a new book about G.K. Chesterton's holiness--The Holiness of G K Chesterton, edited by William Oddie which I don't think is available yet in the USA. The reviewer comments "that Chesterton would have taken to the blogosphere with gusto. Words, writing and quick repartee came naturally to him; ideas and images flowed ceaselessly from his pen. Faced by the atheist brigade he would have fizzed and sparkled, laughed and lunged, as ready to win over as well as to win."

BBC's Worst Briton of the 12th Century

St. Thomas a Becket was born on December 21, 1118. In 2005, he was selected as the Worst Briton of the 12th Century:

The "greedy" Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, was nominated by Professor John Hudson, of St Andrews University, as the 12th century's worst villain.

"He divided England in a way that even many churchmen who shared some of his views thought unnecessary and self-indulgent," he said.

"He was a founder of gesture politics.

"Those who share my prejudice against Becket may consider his assassination in Canterbury Cathedral on 29 December, 1170, a fittingly grisly end."

I think that Henry II engaged in some "gesture politics" himself, trumping up charges against his former chancellor--and expressing his desire for someone to solve the problem of Becket for him.
The last sentence in the professor's overview reveals quite a bit: "my prejudice"? assassination--murder--violence in a cathedral a "fittingly grisly end"? I think the BBC's website provides a little more balanced view of the disputes between St. Thomas a Becket and Henry II. Seems to me that the professor reveals the role of bias in his evaluation of Becket.

Of course, St. Thomas a Becket's opposition to Henry II was too real a symbol to Henry VIII when a few members of the clergy like the Carthusians and Bishop John Fisher and one layman, Sir Thomas More opposed his will in the 16th century. Not content with violently executing the current opponents of his supremacy over the Church in England, Henry went after the martyr and saint, destroying his tomb and keeping the jewels and gold that had decorated it. St. Thomas a Becket's feast, December 29, was removed from the sanctoral calendar--although the Church of England honors him now on that date.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Book Review: The Tudors: The Complete Story of England's Most Notorious Dynasty

The Tudors: The Complete Story of England's Most Notorious Dynasty, by G.J. Meyer is a one-volume history of the Tudor dynasty, written for a popular audience by an author referencing many standard works on the era. Meyer's references all are secondary sources and he offers his own interpretation of the dynasty based on his reading of these materials. G.J. Meyer is also a journalist and author of a study of the First World War, A World Undone: The Story of the Great War, also published by Delacorte Press.

Meyer uses the word "notorious" in the subtitle and on occasion in the text he notes that the Tudors excelled in certain discreditable activities: torture, for instance and execution by various means. He calls Henry VIII a monster and tries to remove the romantic fascination of Elizabeth I by diminishing her role in matters of state and emphasizing her vanity and desire for syncophantic praise. Meyer terms Edward VI "a King too early" and Mary I "a Queen too late".

One omission I think is a chapter dedicated to Henry VII! Shouldn't a complete history of a dynasty include a chapter on the founder of the dynasty? He incorporates an overview of Henry VII's rise to the throne and reign into the Prologue and the first chapter of Part One. By the second chapter, Meyer is already discussing the King's Great Matter, and the issues of Henry's marriage to Katherine of Aragon dominate throughout that section. Part Two documents Henry's tyranny and excess with the Dissolution of the Monasteries (Meyer relies on Gasquet here and would do better with Knowles), the Acts of Supremacy and Succession, executions, marriages, etc.

The hardcover edition includes a dustjacket with Elizabeth I and Henry VIII's portraits, in that order, because those are the monarchs he devotes the most pages to in the text. He does, however, give the reigns of Edward and Mary their due, as they share Part Three. Part Four is dedicated to Elizabeth I with a very good analysis of the issues of succession.

Between narrative chapters, Meyer inserts background notes on topics like the monasteries in England, the Tower of London and executions, the Protestant Reformation, the Council of Trent, Parliament, etc. The reader can either follow these excursions or maintain the narrative, but they do provide good background. I certainly think he should have incorporated the background of Mary I's life before her accession to the throne in the chapter on her reign, rather than attaching it in one of the background notes to that section.

Among his secondary sources, he lists Father John Lingard's History of England, but also references standard modern works by Eamon Duffy, D.M. Loades, David Starkey, Lacey Baldwin Smith, Antonia Fraser, and J.J. Scarisbrick, et al. He uses the sources adeptly to back up his interpretation of events and personalities.

I found it to be a very good overview of the Tudor dynasty and I agree with many of his judgments. Meyer is straightforward about his purpose, his method, and his limitations. He does not claim to be an academic scholar but he does claim the conclusions he had reached about the Tudors based on reading and studying academic works.

My husband bought me this book as a gift.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Philip V of Spain and the War of Spanish Succession

Philip, Duke of Anjou andPetit Fils de France, was born at Versailles on December 19, 1683, the second son of Le Grand Dauphin of the Sun King, Louis XIV, also called Louis. Philips' older brother was Louis Le Petit Dauphin, who would be the father of Louis XV! When poor Charles II of Spain died in 1700, Philip was named as his heir. (I say "poor Charles II" because reports of his disabilities and deformities are rather horrifying.) The prospect of the Bourbon family controlling both the Kingdoms of France and of Spain was too much for the other European powers, including England/Great Britain, and thus began the War of Spanish Succession, which was fought in the North American British colonies as "Queen Anne's War."

One of the Duke of York's/James II's erstwhile followers, John Churchill, the lst Duke of Marlborough led British troops in the Low Countries (the Netherlands, Belgium, etc today). Churchill's victory at the Battle of Blenheim in 1704 brought him Queen Anne's gratitude and Blenheim Palace, but his wife's insistence on supporting the Whigs tired the Queen, who favored the Tories, as they supported the Church of England. After the War of Spanish Succession and the eventual death of Queen Anne, Marlborough gave his support to the Hanoverians, even after maintaining contact with the Jacobites toward the end of Anne's reign. He would even assist with the defeat of James II's son and Anne's half-brother, James Francis Edward (James III) in 1715.

The Treaty of Utrecht in 1713 led Queen Anne of England to pack the House of Lords and gain a Tory majority to accept the treaty and the end of the war. When the War of Spanish Succession was finally decided, with Philip V of Spain renouncing his rights to succession in France, Spain surrendered Gibraltor and Minorca to Great Britain. He reigned in Spain from 1700 to 1724, abdicating briefly for his son, Louis I (another Louis!) who died after seven months on the throne; therefore Philip V returned to reign from 1724 to 1746. The great castrati, Farinelli, sang for the king when he was depressed

Philip was succeeded by his son Ferdinand, who reigned from 1746 to 1759. By Philip's second marriage to Elizabeth of Parma, his daughter Infanta Maria Theresa Antonia Rafaela became Dauphine of France, married to [wait for it]--Louis, the Dauphin of Louis XV of France. She died after giving birth to a daughter, but the Dauphin remarried, to Maria Josepha of Saxony. Their sons Louis Auguste, Louis Stanislaus Xavier (reflecting family support for the Jesuits, bien sur!), and Charles Philippe reigned as Kings of France, respectively: Louis XVI, Louis XVIII (in deference to the Dauphin {Louis XVII} who died in the Temple), and Charles X. The two Bourbon lines "almost" joined to rule in both Spain and France!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Chesterton and Chiasmus

Since I am a student of rhetoric*, I read this review of Farnsworth's Classical English Rhetoric from Godine Books in the Wall Street Journal with interest. Then when I read how much Farnsworth appreciates Chesterton, my interest was really picqued!--to quote:

An incidental effect of Mr. Farnsworth's selection of examples is a kind of covert literary criticism. We are alerted to G.K. Chesterton's love of chiasmus—the ABBA pattern in which repetition involves reversal. Chesterton writes that "we do not get good laws to restrain bad people. We get good people to restrain bad laws" and that "an inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered; an adventure is an inconvenience rightly considered." According to Mr. Farnsworth, the device suited the author because "he believed that modern thought constantly had things backward."


He also seems keen to rehabilitate writers and speakers whose rhetorical artistry is undervalued; besides his liking for Chesterton, he shows deep admiration for the Irish statesman Henry Grattan (1746-1820), whose studied repetition of a word ("No lawyer can say so; because no lawyer could say so without forfeiting his character as a lawyer") is an instance, we are told, of conduplicatio. But more than anything Mr. Farnsworth wants to restore the reputation of rhetorical artistry per se, and the result is a handsome work of reference.
National Review likes it too.

*My master's thesis was on Hugh Blair's Lectures on Rhetoric and Belles-Lettres and Jane Austen's Persuasion and I read Cicero against Catiline in Latin III at Kapaun-Mt. Carmel High School!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Tony Blair, John Henry Newman and England

George Weigel melds a review of Tony Blair's autobiography and an analysis of the papal visit to England in September this year in "Fail, Britannia" from the December 2010 issue of First Things. He recounts the secularist/atheist opposition to the visit and contrasts it to the positive response of Catholics and the public alike, highlighting some of Pope Benedict's great messages: the simple, profound message to Catholic students about holiness and happiness and God's love; the "cost of discipleship" Blessed John Henry Newman's life demonstrates; the need for faith and reason to each have their proper roles in modern society, and the spiritual reponse of faith and healing, repentance and grace to the scandal of priestly abuse. Neverthess Weigel does not have much hope for the adequate response of the hierarchy of the British Isles to evangelize and reach out along the same lines. Secular Britain will have a hard time responding adequately to Benedict's message since it values most "what works" rather than considering "what is true." Weigel can always be counted on for some insightful and and thought provoking analysis of events and texts. (I have the print version of the issue and enjoyed reading the article there so much more since I could thus avoid the temptation of scrolling down online to look at some of the comments!)

William Oddie responds to Weigel's analysis in his blog for The Catholic Herald in a post titled "George Weigel thinks there is a ‘hollowness’ at the heart of post-Blair Britain". Oddie thinks that Weigel is too pessimistic about the Catholic response to Pope Benedict's visit--that at least the laity is ready to respond.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Advent in Merry Old England

In the Catholic Church in the west at least today, Advent is emphasized as a time of waiting, preparation for the coming of Jesus Christ--in the future and in history. There are some elements of penitence: vestments are purple; we do not sing the Gloria at Sunday Masses; we hear often about the counter-cultural nature of Advent as we wait to celebrate Christmas and then celebrate Christmas for a season and not just a day. That's the position of Advent overall.

Before the English Reformation, Advent was a season of penitence and fasting--except I suppose where the Boy Bishop handed out treats and declared holidays from December 6 to December 29!!--preparing for the feast of Christmas with its joyous celebration. There were no marriages during the season of Advent (or of Lent) and the Ember Days (Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays after December 13, the feast of St. Lucy) of the Advent season were Fast Days. As Christmas was one of the great feasts of the year when the laity would receive Holy Communion, parishioners prepared by receiving the Sacrament of Penance, examining their consciences, confessing their sins, and fulfilling the penance given by the priest.

As Eamon Duffy comments in both The Stripping of the Altars and The Voices of Morebath, the seasons and feasts of the Church year were integrated parts of the social and personal life of Catholic Christians in England before the English Reformations of Henry VIII, Edward VI, and Elizabeth I. They provided order and remembrance; most events would be dated by a religious date: a child was born two days after Michaelmas; a couple were married five days after Christmas; a father died on the eve of Candlemas. (Wouldn't help much to use the movable feasts of Easter and Pentecost!) The feasts and seasons provided a pattern of work and rest, fasting and feasting, life and death. That pattern is certainly something lost after the Reformation Parliament.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Book Review: Looking for the King by David C. Downing

While riding the RER B from the CDG airport train terminal to Paris every day during our visit last month (my husband traveled to Paris on business so we stayed up by the airport), I read David C. Downing's Inkling's novel, which I found quite transporting. I almost expected magically to exit the RER or the Metro and arrive in Oxford!

It's an interesting quest novel: the protagonist, American Tom McCord ends up searching for many things. His first goal is to find Arthur so he may write a great book and become famous and successful. Then he joins another American, Laura Hartman who has dreams connected with the Spear of Longinus, brought to England by Joseph of Arimathea. While on these two searches, McCord and Hartman meet the Inklings, C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Charles Williams and others. Influenced by them Tom begins to search for academic integrity and focuses on more transcendent issues. The whole story is tied up with the beginnings of World War II--Warnie Lewis has been called up to active duty--and Adolf Hitler's own desire to find the Spear of Destiny that pierced Jesus's side on the cross. As Tom wanted to find historical evidence of Arthur to create his own greatness, so Hitler wants to possess the Spear to guarantee power and victory!

The pace is excellent and one of the great pleasures of the book is how Downing quotes and transforms material from the Inklings' works into dialogue. His descriptions of Oxford locations, like Blackwell's Bookstore and the "Bird and Baby" pub are quite effective. As unread pages dwindled, I did begin to wonder how Downing would wrap it all up, which he did quite handily and with a mininum of explanation and explication. I hope he writes a sequel, because I want to know how Tom and Laura's relationship develops and if Tom becomes a Catholic Christian!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Anne Vaux and the Gunpowder Plot

Speaking of the Gunpowder Plot in connection with Henry Garnet, SJ and the Bye Plot reminded me of Anne Vaux. According to the website published by the Houses of Parliament in 2005 to celebrate or commemorate the 400th anniversary of the discovery of the plot:

Anne Vaux was born in 1562, the daughter of a Catholic nobleman, Lord Vaux of Harrowden. She was a cousin of Francis Tresham. Unmarried, she seems to have devoted her life to supporting the cause of Catholicism in England and for many years she helped the Jesuit priest Henry Garnett to carry out his secret missionary work.

Working often with her widowed sister, Eleanor Brooksby, she created safe houses for Garnett and other clerics. One of them was Baddesley Clinton in Warwickshire, now belonging to the National Trust; another was White Webbs in Enfield Chase, near London. Both houses were fitted up with priest holes or hiding places for the priests.

Several of the conspirators met at White Webbs in the summer and autumn of 1605, and although she did not know about the Plot, Anne Vaux did have some suspicions. After the discovery of the Plot she was arrested but soon released, and following her release tried to protect Garnett, posing as his sister, a Mrs Perkins. By the beginning of December Garnett was in hiding at Hindlip House, where he was eventually found on 27 January.

After his arrest, Anne Vaux followed Garnett to London and tried to pass secret messages to him, which were intercepted by the authorities. She was herself arrested again in March and interrogated. Distraught at Garnett's death, she was released in August and lived first in Leicestershire and then in Derbyshire, where she ran a Catholic school. She died some time after 1637.

Of Garnet, the same site notes:

Henry Garnett was born in 1555, and went to Winchester College, where he was said to be a brilliant scholar. He probably left in 1571 for religious reasons and in 1575 left England to join the Jesuit order.

Ordained in about 1582 in Rome, in 1586 he travelled back to England with a fellow Jesuit, Robert Southwell. Garnett soon made contact with other Jesuits in England, including Weston, their leader. He also met the Vaux family soon after his arrival, who were to be his protectors for the next twenty years.

Following Weston's arrest, Garnett succeeded him as superior of the Jesuit order. Thanks to the Vauxes, especially Anne, Garnett evaded arrest for twenty years, during which many of his colleagues, including Southwell, were caught and executed. During the 1590s he had to try to sort out increasingly bitter disputes between the Jesuits and other Catholic clergy in England.

Garnett hoped for a more liberal attitude towards the Catholics from James I. Though disappointed in his hopes, he followed his instructions from Rome to do as much as he could to prevent plots against the King. Garnett knew many of those involved in the Plot very well and was aware of their determination to do something.

He first learnt about the Plot in late July 1605, when a fellow priest, Oswald Tesimond, explained to him (with Catesby's agreement) what he had been told in the confessional by Robert Catesby, so that they could discuss between them the issues of conscience that it involved. Whether Tesimond's discussion with Garnett had itself been a confession was an important point much discussed later.

Garnett tried to stop the conspirators, but did not reveal what he knew to the authorities. By October he may have thought that the plans had been abandoned. He first heard of its discovery at Coughton Court, in Warwickshire, the home of the Throckmorton family, in a letter from Robert Catesby on 6 November. He went into hiding immediately and was eventually captured in January 27th 1606. His trial took place on 28 March and he was executed on 3 May.

Many Catholics regarded Garnett as a martyr. A piece of straw taken from the scaffold on which he was executed was said to have miraculously acquired his image, and was venerated as a relic. A process of canonisation as a saint was begun but was never completed.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Father William Watson, Priest and Traitor

Sometimes, of course, when Catholic priests were suspected of plotting against the government of England, they were plotting against the government or the monarch. Not every Catholic priest or layman executed by the English government died as a martyr! And although English Catholic men traveled to the Continent to study for the priesthood and for the mission in England, they did not always agree about what that mission was. In the latter part of Elizabeth I's reign, there was division between the Jesuits and some of the secular, non-religious priests called the Appellants over the better way to deal with the issues of Elizabeth's excommunication and rightful authority as Queen in England--dividing spiritual and temporal authority, as it were. The Appellants wanted to appeal to the Queen for mercy, claiming that they were loyal to her in temporal matters while still practicing their Catholic faith.

William Watson, who was executed on December 9, 1603, exemplifies these two trends in a fascinating pattern. Because he had great hopes that James VI of Scotland, when succeeding Elizabeth in England would be ready to accommodate this more subtle distinction between the secular and the spiritual authority of the monarch, Watson met James in Scotland. When James did not accept this radical notion, Watson concocted the Bye Plot to kidnap James, seize the Tower of London, and establish a Catholic government in England.

Henry Garnet, one of Watson's Jesuit adversaries, found out about the Bye Plot and reported it to the authorities. Watson and his fellow conspirators were captured, tried and executed. Father Robert Parsons and the Jesuits who had been also negotiating with James and his new government, also hoped that their cooperation in reporting this plot would encouraged the government to ameliorate conditions for Catholics.

Ironically, Henry Garnet would later be executed for his role in the Gunpowder Plot in 1606--a matter more complex than Watson's direct plotting. One of the plotters, Robert Catesby, asked Father Garnet some "hypothetical" moral questions and Garnet warned him against rebellion and the taking of innocent lives; another Jesuit who knew of the plot confessed it to Garnet who told him to do all in his power to prevent it--so Garnet may have been protecting the Seal of Confession. James I was careful not to make a martyr out of Garnet; he was threatened with torture but only tortured once (unlike poor Guy Fawkes in 1605) and was hung until dead before the rest of the traitor's sentence was carried out.

Also, the investigation of the Bye Plot led to the discovery of the Main Plot, which connived to place Arbella Stuart (pictured above) on the throne after deposing James.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The birth of Mary, Queen of Scots

Mary, Queen of France and Queen of Scotland, also claiming the title Queen of England, was born on December 8, 1542 at Linlithgow Castle. Her father, James V was mortally ill after a resounding defeat by the English in November of that year. When hearing that his second wife, Mary of Guise had been delivered of a girl, he is said to have turned in face to the wall in bed, saying only "It came from a woman; it will end in a woman" referring to the Stewart claim to Scotland's throne.

Mary became Queen of Scotland as an infant, six days old. Her cousin, James Hamilton the Earl of Arran served as regent and arranged the marriage of Mary to Edward, Henry VIII's heir which would have led to the uniting of England and Scotland under Tudor rule. But Mary of Guise and other Catholic supporters opposed this treaty; they removed Mary to Stirling Castle and Parliament repudiated the agreement James Hamilton had made.

Henry VIII was then enraged and sent an army to invade and pillage Scotland--the "Rough Wooing" of 1544 that only strenthened the Scots' resolve to oppose the marriage. Eventually, a marriage was arranged between Mary and Francois, the Dauphin of France, and thus Mary went to live at the French Court, guided by her mother's family, the House of Guise.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley

Henry Stuart, First Duke of Albany, Lord Darnley was the grandson of Margaret Tudor, dowager Queen of Scotland and her second husband Archibald Douglas. He was born on December 7, 1545. His mother was Margaret Douglas, whom Mary I thought had a better claim to the English throne than Mary's half-sister Elizabeth--since she was legitimate, and Mary firmly believed that Elizabeth was not.

The marriage of Henry Stuart to Mary, Queen of Scots strengthened the claim of both to reign in England, since they were first cousins tracing descent from Henry VIII's older sister Margaret--except that Henry VIII's will had diverted the succession from the Stuarts to the Greys. (You'll need to read Leanda le Lisle's book on the Grey sisters and how Elizabeth treated them to see how that worked out). Stuart was Mary's second husband as she was the widow of Francois II, briefly King of France. They were married on July 9, 1565 and Henry was proclaimed King of Scotland.

Their marriage and Darnley's title as King of Scotland were most displeasing to Elizabeth--for one of her subjects to become a foreign monarch was an insult. The marriage soon became displeasing to Mary too because Darnley not only caused dissension at Court but committeed horrific violence while Mary was pregnant, murdering her private secretary, David Rizzio in her presence. They may have reconciled briefly after the birth of their son James, but then Darnley was discovered murdered in the orchard at Kirk o Fields on February 10, 1567.
Mary's supposed guilt in his murder--and the disastrous marriage to the Earl of Bothwell--led to her fall from power in Scotland and imprisonment in England by Elizabeth I, who always recognized Mary's claim to succeed her if Elizabeth did not marry and produce an heir. Because Elizabeth never did marry and because Mary was a Catholic, the issue of the succession provided tension throughout much of Elizabeth's reign. Mary became the linch pin of plots to rescue her, depose Elizabeth and place Mary on the throne in Catholic circles--the Babington and Throckmorton plots, etc--that finally led to Mary's execution.
Alison Weir deals with the question of Mary's guilt in Darnley's murder in her book Mary, Queen of Scots and the Murder of Lord Darnley in which she pretty convincingly argues, in part, that Mary was framed through purposeful misreading of the so-called Casket Letters.

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Last Abbot of Colchester

On December 1, I commemorated the three Jesuit martyrs under Elizabethan recusancy--John Whitehead remembered one of the three abbots executed by Henry VIII during the Dissolution of the Monasteries: Blessed John Beche.

From Once I was a Clever Boy:

December 1st 1539 saw the third martyrdom of an English Benedictine abbot that autumn, with that of the Abbot of Colchester following those of his brothers of Reading and Glastonbury. . . .Pope Leo XIII beatified Abbot John Beche on 13 May, 1895.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Sunday Mass at St. Germain-en-Laye

On November 21st, the Feast of Christ the King, my husband and I rode the RER A from Chatelet les Halles through central Paris (Auber, Etoile and La Defense stations) and Nanterre and Pecq to St. Germain-en-Laye for Sunday Mass at the parish church of that community outside Paris. It was raining when we arrived at the RER exit.
The church was full for 10 a.m. Mass (we arrived just a little late) and the organist was joined by a trumpet and trombone for festive music. We were impressed by how attentive the congregation was. Mark and I are always glad we have our Magnificat prayer books because they give some reading material during the homily. I heard the words "roi" and "humilite" mentioned often, but could not follow closely enough.
After Mass we took some pictures, especially of the shrine dedicated to James II, Mary Beatrice and their daughter Louise.
The World War I memorial was impressive and this medieval statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary, discovered buried after the French Revolution, is much beloved of the people in St. Germain-en-Laye.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Philippe Egalite's Revolutionary Home Base

For the first time on this visit to Paris, I went to the gardens and arcades of the Palais Royale and walked through the Court d'Honneur. Eighth time is the charm!

After visiting Notre Dames des Victoires, I stopped in a tabac across from the church and then walked by Place des Victoires where the statue of Louis Quatorze was covered with scaffolding. I proceeded along Rue Vivienne after a detour through Galerie Vivienne, passing "Le Grand Colbert" displaying a poster of the Diane Keaton/Jack Nicholson movie Something's Got to Give! Entering the Palais Royale I window shopped in the arcades and took a few pictures in the gardens. The Court d'Honneur also had scaffolding in some sections, but I did see the artistic deployment of black and white striped columns!

I exited from the Palais and saw this elegant cafe under the columns--from the Chatelet metro off Rue Rivoli I proceeded to Nation for my visit to Picpus. Tuesday, November 16 was one of the brightest days we had in Paris this year. Wednesday and Thursday that week were very chilly and grey--more on them in other posts.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Admiral Coligny and the Oratory at the Louvre

The St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre and the assassination of Admiral Coligny in Paris confirmed in English minds that Catholicism and treacherous terrorism were synonymous. The Oratoire du Louvre was a Catholic church, established by the Oratorians in 1621, given to Parisian Reformed Protestants by Napoleon in 1811. This statue of the Admiral was dedicated in 1889, almost 317 years after those horrible events.

The church has always been closed when I've been in the area and the day I took this picture was one of the few sunny days we had in Paris this November.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Operatic Picpus

To follow up from my posts at Cimietiere Picpus, both the Carmelites of Compiegne and the poet Andrea Chenier are featured in celebrated operas: Poulenc's Dialogues of the Carmelites, via Bernanos's interpretation of Getrud von le Fort's Song at the Scaffold and Umberto Giordano's Andrea Chenier.

Here is Poulenc's finale at the Met in a classic staging by John Dexter. Note the priest surreptitiously blessing the Carmelites on their way to the guillotine.

At the Opera du Rhin. A less literal interpretation--no crowds, no guillotine!

And the final duet from the Giordano opera--Caballe (!) and Carreras--verismo!! (the Met 1983 Gala--worthy of many more Youtube searches--Freni and Domingo in the great duet from Verdi's Otello; Roberta Peters as Lucia di Lammermoor; Der Rosenkavalier trio with Soderstrom, Battle and Von Stade; McCracken in cowboy boots as Otello--I have it on VHS, not DVD--what a gala!)

And if you like Giordano from an earlier generation: Corelli and Tebaldi--very verismo! The heroine Maddalena meets the poet Chenier awaiting his execution by the Terror. She takes the place of a condemned woman and joins him at the guillotine at dawn. Before that, they have to sing about it--this is opera, after all!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

December 1, 1581

St. Ralph Sherwin was executed on December 1, 1581 along with St. Edmund Campion and St. Alexander Briant. They were hung, drawn, and quartered after being found guilty of being Catholic priests present in England.

As The Catholic Herald notes, Sherwin was very much like Campion in his academic career and his sacrifice thereof:

Sherwin’s career began, like Campion’s, in a blaze of academic glory. A Derbyshire man, he showed such early promise that he was selected for a fellowship at Exeter College, Oxford.

There, according to Anthony à Wood, he was “accounted an acute philosopher and an excellent Grecian and Hebrician”. As Campion had made his mark with a Latin oration before Queen Elizabeth in 1566, so Sherwin, when he took his MA in 1574, impressed the Queen’s favourite, the Earl of Leicester.

The baubles of this world were his for the grasping. In 1575, however, he left Oxford and embraced Roman Catholicism, proceeding to Douai to study for the priesthood under William Allen. In March 1577 he was ordained at Cateau Cambrésis by the Bishop of Cambrai.

Like Campion, he was tortured repeatedly in the Tower of London. Elizabeth's government tried to force these three Jesuits to confess to some sort of treasoness conspiracy against the state, but there wasn't away, except that they dared, as Campion would remind the court at Westminster, to practice the Catholic faith as their forefathers had done in England for centuries.

The martyr's last words: "Jesu, Jesu, Jesu, esto mihi Jesus!"