Monday, May 30, 2011

The Cause for Katherine of Aragon, Updated

Gregory Nassif St. John alerted me to this article in The American Spectator, for which Mr. St. John was interviewed by Thomas J. Craughwell: "An American Saint Maker"!

Katharine of Aragon (1485-1536), the first wife of the much-married English king, Henry VIII, has a new champion. Gregory Nassif St. John, a retired New York stage actor now living in Georgia, has begun the process that he hopes and prays will lead to the Catholic Church declaring that Katharine (Nassif St. John uses the traditional English spelling) is a saint. . . .

"Her story touched me very deeply," Nassif St. John said in a recent interview. "I knew she was being treated unfairly and cruelly. Her story stuck with me my whole life."

It's one thing to feel sympathy for Katharine, but how does one go about making her a saint? Encouraged by his parish priest, Nassif St. John wrote to Michael Evans, the Catholic bishop of East Anglia, (the diocese where Katharine died and where she lies buried) and Vincent Nichols, Catholic archbishop of Westminster, seeking their advice. Archbishop Nichols and Bishop Evans both expressed their support for the cause, but emphasized that there must be clear evidence of devotion to Katharine. In other words, there must be proof that people venerate Katharine's memory and consider her saintly.

That evidence has been supplied by Charles Taylor, Dean of the Anglican diocese of Peterborough, England. Every year, about the time of the anniversary of Katharine's death, the clergy of Peterborough Cathedral (site of Katharine's grave) host a three-day commemoration of this holy but cast-off queen. There is an ecumenical memorial service in the cathedral, a candlelight procession to Katharine's grave, and a Catholic Mass offered at the High Altar. . . .

Congratulations to Mr. St. John on reaching such a great audience!

May 30, 1847

Mr. John Henry Newman, former Church of England clergyman, was ordained to the Catholic priesthood on Trinity Sunday, May 30, 1847 in Rome. (Bishop James D. Conley, Auxiliary Bishop of Denver, celebrates his third anniversary of ordination to the episcopate this year on the same date!--he was formerly pastor of my parish.) Newman had studied for ordination at the Propaganda Fidei. Part of his preparation had been the discernment of a particular path for his priestly vocation and he had chosen the Oratory of St. Philip Neri. This book by Placid Murray is very helpful to understanding why Blessed John Henry Newman decided to bring the Oratory Movement to England; for one thing he sought a community where his erstwhile Tractarians could be united.

When Pope Benedict XVI beatified Newman during his visit to England last September, he highlighted the Blessed's role as a priest in Birmingham:

While it is John Henry Newman’s intellectual legacy that has understandably received most attention in the vast literature devoted to his life and work, I prefer on this occasion to conclude with a brief reflection on his life as a priest, a pastor of souls. The warmth and humanity underlying his appreciation of the pastoral ministry is beautifully expressed in another of his famous sermons: "Had Angels been your priests, my brethren, they could not have condoled with you, sympathized with you, have had compassion on you, felt tenderly for you, and made allowances for you, as we can; they could not have been your patterns and guides, and have led you on from your old selves into a new life, as they can who come from the midst of you" ("Men, not Angels: the Priests of the Gospel", Discourses to Mixed Congregations, 3). He lived out that profoundly human vision of priestly ministry in his devoted care for the people of Birmingham during the years that he spent at the Oratory he founded, visiting the sick and the poor, comforting the bereaved, caring for those in prison. No wonder that on his death so many thousands of people lined the local streets as his body was taken to its place of burial not half a mile from here. One hundred and twenty years later, great crowds have assembled once again to rejoice in the Church’s solemn recognition of the outstanding holiness of this much-loved father of souls. What better way to express the joy of this moment than by turning to our heavenly Father in heartfelt thanksgiving, praying in the words that Blessed John Henry Newman placed on the lips of the choirs of angels in heaven:

Praise to the Holiest in the height
And in the depth be praise;
In all his words most wonderful,
Most sure in all his ways!
(The Dream of Gerontius).

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Almanac for May 29

Technically, but perhaps not elegantly, speaking, lots of things happened on May 29:

--G.K. Chesterton was born in 1874!

--Charles II was born in 1630

--Charles II was restored to the thrones of England and Scotland (HAPPY BIRTHDAY!) in 1660

--John Penry, a Welsh Puritan minister and the Martin Marprelate author was executed during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, with her Archbishop of Canterbury, Richard Whitgift, signing the death warrant. He was drawn and hung, but not quartered. There is a strange conspiracy theory about his connections to Christopher Marlowe.

Another event was the murder in 1546 of Cardinal Archbishop of St. Andrews, David Beaton, the last Catholic Cardinal named before the Scottish Reformation erupted. He was utterly opposed to the marriage of Mary, Queen of Scots to Henry VIII's heir Edward, and steadfastly in favor of the "Auld Alliance" between Scotland and France. Beaton served King James V of Scotland as ambassador and attempted to serve the infant Queen as regent. Many at Court blamed him for James V's refusal to meet with Henry VIII--Henry was urging James to follow his lead: take over the Church in Scotland, suppress the monasteries and take their wealth as his own, and break away from the Catholic Church and the Pope's authority. After the Scots were defeated at the battle of Solway Moss, James V died. Beaton regained power in 1543 and cancelled the marriage agreement between Mary and Edward--and of course that led to the "Rough Wooing", English incursions into Scotland.

Beaton had a role in the burning of George Wishart, a Protestant, as a heretic on March 1, 1546 and that led to his murder by Norman Leslie, master of Rothes, and William Kirkcaldy of Grange in the castle of St. Andrews, his home. John Hamilton, who succeeded him as Archbishop, was executed on April 6, 1571, found guilty of conspiracy in the death of Lord Darnley and James Stewart, the Earl of Moray.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Blessed Margaret Pole, Last Plantagenet Princess

On May 28, 1541 Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury was executed on the orders of Henry VIII. She had been held in the Tower of London and was condemned to death without trial. There are reports that her execution was brutal as the axe man did not accomplish his mission with one blow, but hit her head and shoulders before decapitation.

Strange as it might seem to say, she and Anne Boleyn are kind of mirror images on either side of the cataclysms of Henry VIII’s reign, and have much in common:

Henry VIII honored them both, making them the richest women in England in their own right
o Margaret was Countess of Salisbury with lands and castles
o Anne was Marquess of Pembroke with lands and castles

Both were from royal families of England
o Margaret from the Plantagenet family (her father was the Duke of Clarence)—more royal blood than any Tudor!
o Anne from the Howard family

Obviously, both executed—both in connection with the Dissolution of the Monasteries
o Margaret’s execution connected to the Pilgrimage of Grace rebellion against the Dissolution of the Monasteries (emblems of the Five Wounds of Christ, used by the rebels on their banners, found in Margaret’s possession)
o Anne’s execution/plot against her by Cromwell, according to Alison Weir, was connected to Anne’s conflict with him over the process of the Dissolution

Their executions were part of the downfall of their families, orchestrated by Henry VIII
o Anne’s brother was executed, condemned for incest and plotting against the king; the Boleyn party at court destroyed; lands and wealth forfeit to the Crown
o Margaret’s son Lord Montague was executed; other sons in exile; Reginald attainted traitor; lands and wealth forfeit to the Crown

There are obvious differences between them too:

Margaret championed Catherine of Aragon and her daughter Mary, serving as the Princess’s governess and godmother

Anne harassed and threatened Catherine of Aragon and her daughter Mary, forcing the former Princess to serve her daughter Elizabeth

In matters of the religious settlement, things might not be as clear as we might think:

In her book The Lady in the Tower, Alison Weir points out that whatever her reputation for favoring reform of the Church, Anne Boleyn demonstrated conventionally Catholic views of the Sacraments of Confession and Holy Communion, receiving both before her execution and presenting her reception of them as evidence of her innocence to her jailer. (In effect, saying: ‘How could I receive Holy Communion before my death if I have the mortal sin of incest on my soul—which I have not confessed—condemning myself to Hell?’)

Margaret Pole might have been opposed to Henry’s actions against Catherine of Aragon and Mary, and the ascendancy of Anne Boleyn, but she and her family living in England were publicly aghast at her son Reginald Pole’s written remonstrance to Henry VIII which chastised him for his actions and his Supremacy as Head and Governor of the Church in England. Nevertheless Henry knew what side the Pole family was on and told the French ambassador he would destroy them.

These parallels also reflect how quickly things could change in Henry’s Court—as St. Thomas More called it, the Lion’s Den—in 1533, Margaret was in disgrace while Anne was at her height of power; in 1536, Anne was in disgrace and Margaret able to return to Court. Almost immediately, however, Henry VIII received 'De Unitate Ecclesiastica’ from her son Reginald Pole, which placed the entire family in danger. Margaret was first held under house arrest and then placed in the Tower of London in 1539. (Her son Henry, Lord Montague was executed on December 7, 1538.) Although the bill of attainder against her was passed in Parliament on May 12, 1539, it was not until another rebellion in the north against the Dissolution of the Monasteries occurred in April, 1541, that she was executed.

Reginald rejoiced that his mother was a martyr for the faith; she was beatified by Pope Leo XIII in 1886. Hazel Pierce’s biography Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury 1473-1541: Loyalty, Lineage and Leadership, is a model of scholarship and restraint; I have reviewed it on I refer to Margaret Pole’s execution in Supremacy and Survival: How Catholics Endured the English Reformation in the context of Mary I’s accession to the throne. Margaret had been like a second mother to Mary; she had offered to stay with Mary at her own expense when Catherine of Aragon was sent away from Court. The horror of her death was certainly another sorrow for Mary before she was finally restored in stature and legitimacy by her first Parliament as Queen of England.

Sir Robert Shirley and His Chapel

Father George Rutler recently celebrated a Solemn High Mass for Artists at the Church of Our Saviour in New York City. He sent out this weekly column afterwards:

May 22, 2011
by Fr. George W. Rutler

In many ways New York is the artistic capital of the world, and we are in the middle of it. We certainly would be remiss if we did not foster this treasure, in the great Catholic tradition. Many visitors are surprised that much of the devotional art and ecclesiastical decoration in our church is the work of our own parishioners. If we can become an “atelier of the Lord,” it will be very much part of our Christian witness and stewardship.

Our Lord ascended to Heaven so that the Holy Spirit might come at Pentecost and fill the Church with His truth. The greatest art expresses that truth and is far superior to vain “self-expression.” John Keats said “Beauty is truth, truth beauty,” but T.S. Eliot rightly thought that the expression was meaningless sentimentality. The craftsman ignorant of the Creator becomes a vain aesthete expressing nothing more than the ego. While truth is beautiful, beauty is not truth itself but expresses that truth. In the classical tradition, beauty consists in proportion, integrity and clarity: it is harmonious, suited to its purpose, and intelligible. This is sublimely seen in Christ Himself, Who incarnated this beauty as the Way (guiding to a harmony of virtue) and the Truth (revealing God) and the Life (enlightening with creative love). St. Macarius, an Egyptian monk of the fourth century said, “The soul which has been fully illumined by the unspeakable beauty of the glory shining on the countenance of Christ overflows with the Holy Spirit . . . it is all eye, all light, all countenance.”

Art is not merely an option for the Christian. Thus, the wisdom of Lorenzo in The Merchant of Venice: “The man that hath no music in himself, Nor is not mov'd with concord of sweet sounds, Is fit for treasons, stratagems, and spoils . . .” The most sublime art is the Eucharist, in which we “take part in a foretaste of that heavenly liturgy which is celebrated in the holy city of Jerusalem toward which we journey as pilgrims . . .” (Vatican II, SC 8).

Last Sunday, our church was overflowing for a Solemn High Mass to inaugurate a Society of Catholic Artists, founded at the initiative of Catholic painters, musicians, actors and writers. Whatever will be realized from this, it certainly is a hopeful sign in an age whose potential has often been thwarted by a misuse of art to diminish the human spirit. May it someday be said of these good people what was inscribed on the wall of a church in Leicester, England, during the iconoclastic period of the Protectorate: “In the year 1654 when all things were, throughout this nation, either demolished or profaned, Sir Robert Shirley, Baronet, founded and built this church. He it is whose singular praise it is to have done the best things in the worst times, and to have hoped them in the most calamitous.”

Father Rutler is speaking here of the Ferrers Chapel of the Holy Trinity, Staunton Herald which is part of the National Trust. As artists often suffer for their art, Sir Robert Sidney certainly suffered for his patronage:

In the year 1653 no doubt owing to the overthrow of the Prayer Book services in the parish church, Sir Robert Shirley built a large and spacious church close to his own mansion at Staunton Harold. When it was completed the Lord Protector demanded a large sum of money from him on the ground that if he could afford to build a church he could afford to provide him with a regiment of soldiers. On his refusal he was imprisoned in the Tower and died suddenly soon afterwards.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Blessed Margaret Pole on EWTN

EWTN posts this biography from Father Alban Butler:

The life of Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury, was tragic from her cradle to her grave.l Nay, even before she was born, death in its most violent or dreaded forms had been long busy with her family—hastening to extinction a line that had swayed the destinies of England for nearly four centuries and a half. Her grandfather was that splendid Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, the mighty King-maker, who as the "last of the Barons," so fittingly died on the stricken field of garnet, and whose soldier's passing gave to Shakespeare a theme worthy of some of his most affecting lines. Her father was the George, Duke of Clarence, brother of Edward IV, whose death in the Tower in January, 1478, has been attributed to so many causes. The murdered "Princes in the Tower," Edward V and his little brother, the Duke of York, were her first cousins, while her only brother, Edward, Earl of Warwick, was judicially murdered by Henry VII to ensure his own possession of the Crown. The list of tragedies in the family of the Blessed Margaret is still far from complete, but sufficient instances have been given to justify the description we have given of her whole career. . . .

The Countess of Salisbury was taken to East Smithfield early in the morning of 28th May, 1541, and there beheaded on a low block or log in the presence of the Lord Mayor, Aldermen, and a few other spectators. The regular headsman was away from London at the time, and his deputy, an unskilful lout, hacked at the blessed Martyr in such a way as to give some foundation to the story afterwards made current by Lord Herbert of Cherbury, that she had refused to lay her head on the block and was, therefore, struck repeatedly by the executioner till she fell dead. Before her death, she prayed for the King, Queen (Catherine Howard), Prince of Wales (later Edward VI), and the Princess Mary Her last words were: "Blessed are they who suffer persecution for justice' sake for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven."

The body of the Blessed Margaret, Countess of Salisbury, was interred in the Tower, in that Chapel dedicated to St. Peter's Chains, whose illustrious dead and historic associations are enshrined in Macaulay's memorable lines. She was declared Blessed with many of the rest of the English Martyrs by Leo XIII, 29th December, 1886. Others than her co-religionists, no doubt, like to reflect that a life, so marked by piety, and so full of griefs ever heroically borne, has after the lapse of nearly four centuries been thus honoured, and that the last direct descendant of the Plantaganet line has her place in the Hagiography of the Church so long associated with their sway.

Her feast day is tomorrow, but EWTN will broadcast a documentary on her life today, Friday, May 27, from Mary's Dowry Productions:

Blessed Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury. Friday, May 27, 6:30-7 p.m. EDT (EWTN) Filmed on location at the site of her imprisonment — the ruins of Britain’s Cowdray House — this documentary on the life of Blessed Margaret Pole explores its subject’s undaunted bravery in the face of persecution brought on by King Henry VIII’s break with the Catholic Church.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

St. Philip Neri and Blessed John Henry Newman

May 26th is the feast of St. Philip Neri, Apostle of Rome, founder of the Oratorians.

According to this EWTN biography,

Philip Neri was born in Florence in the year 1515, one of four children of the notary Francesco Neri. The mother died while the children were very young, her place being filled by a capable stepmother. From infancy Philip had a docile, merry disposition. They called him "Pippo buono," "good little Phil," for he was a dutiful, attractive, cheerful lad, popular with all who knew him. . . .

One of the most famous members of the Oratorian order, Cardinal Newman, wrote[4] of Neri nearly three hundred years after his death, "he contemplated as the idea of his mission, not the propagation of the faith, nor the exposition of doctrine, nor the catechetical schools; whatever was exact and systematic pleased him not; he put from him monastic rule and authoritative speech, as David refused the armor of his king.... He came to the Eternal City and he sat himself down there, and his home and his family gradually grew up around him, by the spontaneous accession of materials from without. He did not so much seek his own as draw them to him. He sat in his small room, and they in their gay, worldly dresses, the rich and the wellborn, as well as the simple and the illiterate, crowded into it. In the mid-heats of summer, in the frosts of winter still was he in that low and narrow cell at San Girolamo, reading the hearts of those who came to him, and curing their souls' maladies by the very touch of his hand.... And they who came remained gazing and listening till, at length, first one and then another threw off their bravery, and took his poor cassock and girdle instead; or, if they kept it, it was to put haircloth under it, or to take on them a rule of life, while to the world they looked as before."

Blessed John Henry Newman was the founder of the Oratory Movement in England, as he chose the Oratorian vocation and lifestyle possibly because it resembled the Oxford collegiate structure in community and friendship--he always venerated his patron as his model and guide.

The Pittsburgh Oratory provides links to two sermons Newman preached in 1850 on St. Philip Neri's mission, on January 15 and January 18.

Henriette Anne d'Angleterre and the Treaty of Dover

On May 26, 1670, Charles II and Louis XIV of England and France respectively, signed the Treaty of Dover, in which Charles promised to become a Catholic and Louis promised to pay him enough money to join in an alliance against Holland without having to summon Parliament for funds. Charles II's sister Henrietta, "Minette" or Madame as she was called at the French Court, had some influence upon this meeting at Dover.

The young princess had come to France with her mother Queen Henrietta Maria during the English Civil War. Raised at Court, she became a Roman Catholic and was married to Louis Dieudonne's brother Philippe. As Louis XIV's brother, Philippe was called "Monsieur" and Henrietta "Madame". She was a favorite of the King at Court and lauded for her beauty. Two of Louis's mistresses, Louise de la Valliere (who repented and became a Carmelite) and Francoise-Athenais, Madame de Montespan came from Henrietta's household.

Madame's marriage to Monsieur was not very happy, as he had male lovers and they both had affairs with the same man. She encouraged and attended the meeting of the two kings at Dover, returning to her homeland for the last time. After returning to France she went to Chateau St. Cloud, where she died on June 30, 1670. There was great suspicion of poison. She was buried in St. Denis.

After the death of Henry Benedict Cardinal Stuart, the Jacobite claim continued through Minette's daughter, Anne Marie d'Orleans, who married Victor Amadeus II, Duke of Savoy. Minette's daughter Marie Louise d'Orleans married the unfortunate Carlos II of Spain; she died at age 26 in circumstances much like her mother's. Monsieur married again--Elizabeth Charlotte, Princess of the Palatine, known as Liselotte. (Antonia Fraser's Love and Louis XIV clarifies all the relationships at the Sun King's Court.)

Future Cardinal Protector of England and Pope Born

Giulio di Giuliano de Medici was born on May 26, 1478. He would serve as the Cardinal Protector of England from 1514 to 1523, when he succeeded Adrian VI as Pontiff, reigning as Pope Clement VII. In the former office he was succeeded by Lorenzo Campeggio, the last Cardinal Protector of England and in the latter office by Pope Paul III, born Alessandro Farnese.

As Pope Clement VII, of course, he ruled against Henry VIII in the latter's attempt to have his marriage with Katherine of Aragon declared null so he could marry Anne Boleyn. The position of Cardinal Protector of England was interesting preparation for this conflict, since it had been his role to defend the English view of ecclesiastical matters to the curia in Rome.

There were six cardinal protectors of England from the reign of Henry VII to Henry VII, ending of course with the break away from Rome in 1534. The first cardinal protector, Piccolomini, was also elected pope, reigning (briefly) as Pius III in 1503.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Venerable Bede

May 25 is the feast of St. Bede the Venerable--being called the Venerable Bede does not indicate that he has not been canonized--the author of the Ecclesiatical History of the English Peoples, the Father of English history. He also wrote many scripture commentaries, other chronicles, the lives of abbots and saints, and poetry. Saint Bede is the only English Doctor of the Church (although I hope that after Blessed John Henry Newman is canonized, he will become the second English Doctor of the Church).

His tomb at Durham Cathedral was destroyed in 1541, but his bones were found and a tomb rebuilt for him in the 19th century. We can attempt to experience his world at Bede's World in Jarrow, an interactive museum, which includes access to St. Paul's Anglican church and the ruins of the monastery.

Richard Cromwell, the Second Lord Protector

Oliver Cromwell's son resigned the office of Lord Protector of England on May 25, 1659--he had succeeded his father on September 3, 1658, so he had a short "reign". Richard Cromwell had never received the full support of the New Model Army because he lacked military expertise and he faced the same difficulties both his father and King Charles I had in dealing with Parliament, especially as the government was in desperate need of funds. With Parliament and the Army at conflict, Richard resigned and soon went to France in exile. He was nicknamed "Tumbledown Dick".

He was married to Dorothy Maijor and had inherited her father's Hursley estate in Hampshire. She did not share his exile, however. Richard used pseudonyms including "John Clarke" and wandered throughout Europe until 1680 or 1681. Then he returned to England, lived off profits from his estates and died on July 12, 1712 when he was almost 86 years old. Richard Cromwell was buried in All Saints in Hursley.

Tractarian John Keble was vicar of All Saints from 1835 to 1866.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

More on the Blessed Virgin Mary from Gerard Manley Hopkins

The Blessed Virgin Compared to the Air We Breathe

Wild air, world-mothering air,
Nestling me everywhere,
That each eyelash or hair
Girdles; goes home betwixt
The fleeciest, frailest-flixed
Snowflake; that ’s fairly mixed
With, riddles, and is rife
In every least thing’s life;
This needful, never spent,
And nursing element;
My more than meat and drink,
My meal at every wink;
This air, which, by life’s law,
My lung must draw and draw
Now but to breathe its praise,
Minds me in many ways
Of her who not only
Gave God’s infinity
Dwindled to infancy
Welcome in womb and breast,
Birth, milk, and all the rest
But mothers each new grace
That does now reach our race—
Mary Immaculate,
Merely a woman, yet
Whose presence, power is
Great as no goddess’s
Was deemèd, dreamèd; who
This one work has to do—
Let all God’s glory through,
God’s glory which would go
Through her and from her flow
Off, and no way but so.

I say that we are wound
With mercy round and round
As if with air: the same
Is Mary, more by name.
She, wild web, wondrous robe,
Mantles the guilty globe,
Since God has let dispense
Her prayers his providence:
Nay, more than almoner,
The sweet alms’ self is her
And men are meant to share
Her life as life does air.
If I have understood,
She holds high motherhood
Towards all our ghostly good
And plays in grace her part
About man’s beating heart,
Laying, like air’s fine flood,
The deathdance in his blood;
Yet no part but what will
Be Christ our Saviour still.
Of her flesh he took flesh:
He does take fresh and fresh,
Though much the mystery how,
Not flesh but spirit now
And makes, O marvellous!
New Nazareths in us,
Where she shall yet conceive
Him, morning, noon, and eve;
New Bethlems, and he born
There, evening, noon, and morn—
Bethlem or Nazareth,
Men here may draw like breath
More Christ and baffle death;
Who, born so, comes to be
New self and nobler me
In each one and each one
More makes, when all is done,
Both God’s and Mary’s Son.
Again, look overhead
How air is azurèd;
O how! nay do but stand
Where you can lift your hand
Skywards: rich, rich it laps
Round the four fingergaps.
Yet such a sapphire-shot,
Charged, steepèd sky will not
Stain light. Yea, mark you this:
It does no prejudice.
The glass-blue days are those
When every colour glows,
Each shape and shadow shows.
Blue be it: this blue heaven
The seven or seven times seven
Hued sunbeam will transmit
Perfect, not alter it.
Or if there does some soft,
On things aloof, aloft,
Bloom breathe, that one breath more
Earth is the fairer for.
Whereas did air not make
This bath of blue and slake
His fire, the sun would shake,
A blear and blinding ball
With blackness bound, and all
The thick stars round him roll
Flashing like flecks of coal,
Quartz-fret, or sparks of salt,
In grimy vasty vault.
So God was god of old:
A mother came to mould
Those limbs like ours which are
What must make our daystar
Much dearer to mankind;
Whose glory bare would blind
Or less would win man’s mind.
Through her we may see him
Made sweeter, not made dim,
And her hand leaves his light
Sifted to suit our sight.
Be thou then, O thou dear
Mother, my atmosphere;
My happier world, wherein
To wend and meet no sin;
Above me, round me lie
Fronting my froward eye
With sweet and scarless sky;
Stir in my ears, speak there
Of God’s love, O live air,
Of patience, penance, prayer:
World-mothering air, air wild,
Wound with thee, in thee isled,
Fold home, fast fold thy child.

This site explains the tradition of this comparison and Hopkins' originality of interpretation.

Monday, May 23, 2011

May Is Mary's Month: Gerard Manley Hopkins

The New Theological Movement
blog recently asked the question why the month of May is regarded as Mary's month and cited Gerard Manley Hopkins' poem addressing the same issue:

The MAY Magnificat by Gerard Manley Hopkins

MAY is Mary’s month, and I
Muse at that and wonder why:
Her feasts follow reason,
Dated due to season—

Candlemas, Lady Day;
But the Lady Month, May,
Why fasten that upon her,
With a feasting in her honour?

Is it only its being brighter
Than the most are must delight her?
Is it opportunest
And flowers finds soonest?

Ask of her, the mighty mother:
Her reply puts this other
Question: What is Spring?—
Growth in every thing—

Flesh and fleece, fur and feather,
Grass and greenworld all together;
Star-eyed strawberry-breasted
Throstle above her nested

Cluster of bugle blue eggs thin
Forms and warms the life within;
And bird and blossom swell
In sod or sheath or shell.

All things rising, all things sizing
Mary sees, sympathising
With that world of good,
Nature’s motherhood.

Their magnifying of each its kind
With delight calls to mind
How she did in her stored
Magnify the Lord.

Well but there was more than this:
Spring’s universal bliss
Much, had much to say
To offering Mary May.

When drop-of-blood-and-foam-dapple
Bloom lights the orchard-apple
And thicket and thorp are merry
With silver-surfèd cherry

And azuring-over greybell makes
Wood banks and brakes wash wet like lakes
And magic cuckoocall
Caps, clears, and clinches all—

This ecstasy all through mothering earth
Tells Mary her mirth till Christ’s birth
To remember and exultation
In God who was her salvation.

Rochester Cathedral and the Baker Saint

The Catholic Herald recounts the story of St. William of Perth, whose cult flourished at Rochester Cathedral:

William of Perth, who died in 1201, was very much a Scottish saint; his cult, however, is closely linked with the history of Rochester cathedral.

All that is known of William comes from John of Tynemouth’s Sanctilogium, written in the mid-14th century.

A baker by trade, William used to set aside every 10th loaf for the poor. Arriving for Mass early one morning, he discovered an abandoned child at the entrance to the church. He adopted the boy, who became known as “Cockermay Doucri” (David the Foundling), and whom he taught the arts of bakery.

Years later, in 1201, in fulfilment of a vow, William undertook a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, taking Cockermay Doucri with him. They stayed three days in Rochester; as they left the city, however, the apprentice lured his master into a remote spot – now near St William’s Hospital, on the road to Maidstone – and slit his throat, presumably for his few possessions. . . .

The madwoman who found his body was cured and William was buried in Rochester Cathedral. Because of other reported cures, his tomb became a pilgrimage site and the Cathedral was able to raise funds for rebuilding and expansion.

Of course, here is the punchline:

His shrine was destroyed on Henry VIII‘s orders in 1538. In 1883, however, a 13th-century wall-painting of William was discovered in Frindsbury church near Rochester.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Alexander Pope

Alexander Pope was born on May 21, 1688. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia of 1917, his parents were Catholic and their son was raised Catholic, which in that age meant his choice of career and his opportunities for education were limited:

The poet's father was a linen merchant in Lombard Street, London, who before the end of the seventeenth century retired on a moderate fortune first to Kensington, then to Binfield, and finally to Chiswick, where he died in 1717. Soon after this event Pope with his mother removed to the villa at Twickenham, which became his permanent abode, and which, with its five acres, its gardens, and its grotto, will be forever associated with his memory. As a child he was very delicate, and he retained a constitutional weakness as well as a deformity of body all through his life, while in stature he was very diminutive. His early education was spasmodic and irregular, but before he was twelve he had picked up a smattering of Latin and Greek from various tutors and at sundry schools, and subsequently he acquired a similar knowledge of French and Italian. From his thirteenth year onward he was self-instructed and he was an extensive reader. Barred from a political and to a great extent from a professional career by the penal laws then in force against Catholics, he did not feel the restraint very acutely, for his earliest aspiration was to be a poet, and at an exceptionally youthful period he was engaged in writing verses.

This site includes link to his poetry on-line and offers these notes on his work:

According to Reuben Brower, “Pope became after Chaucer, Shakespeare, and Milton the most European of English poets” (The Poetry of Allusion) because his learning and facility with Latin and Greek allowed him to follow and surpass Dryden’s example as a poet, critic, and translator.

Like Dryden, much of Pope’s poetry, and all of his major poems, are inextricably linked to his mastery of the heroic couplet. Aubrey Williams goes so far as to praise Pope’s early Pastorals for introducing “a couplet style more refined and musical than any before in English versification” (DLB 95). In Pope’s hands a form that has since gone progressively moribund, but which was ubiquitous in his day, could move seamlessly from pastoral to satire to epic or moral epistle and be consistently effective.

His Essay on Criticism (1711) established Pope as a significant poetic voice. It also prompted the first of many printed, personal attacks. John Dennis, a prominent critic whom Pope ridiculed in the Essay, aimed his venomous response at Pope’s ailing body, his character, and his religious faith. Joseph Addison, on the other hand, praised Pope for both insight and execution, and Samuel Johnson later hailed the poem for exhibiting “every mode of excellence that can embellish or dignify didactick composition” (Life of Pope). Windsor-Forest, The Rape of the Lock, and The Temple of Fame followed and confirmed Pope’s place among celebrated poets, a place marked again by the publication of The Works of Mr. Alexander Pope. Pope was only 29.

If Pope’s translations of Homer have received less attention than his other works over the years, it is only because translations rarely receive their due. He spent nearly a decade translating Homer’s Greek into English heroic couplets and may have damaged his fragile health in the process. The success of the result entrenched Pope as his generation’s foremost man of letters. More importantly, Pope achieved financial security and independence through subscription sales of his translations, an accomplishment that allowed him to “retire” to a villa at Twickenham.

Regarding the translation of Homer, the classical scholar Richard Bentley told him, "It is a pretty poem, Mr. Pope, but you must not call it Homer."

Although born and raised a Catholic, it seems that Pope rather fell away from the Church. A priest did come to him on his deathbed--he died May 30, 1744.

Friday, May 20, 2011

What a Headline!

From the Hermeneutic of Continuity blog: "Oxford, Jansenism, Newman, and Blessed Lucy of Narnia"!

George Digby, 2nd Earl of Bristol

George Digby the 2nd Earl of Bristol, sometime Catholic, advisor to Charles I and of Charles II, died on May 20, 1677. The Wikipedia article cited here includes a summary of his character:

Bristol was one of the most striking and conspicuous figures of his time, a man of brilliant abilities, a great orator, one who distinguished himself without effort in any sphere of activity he chose to enter, but whose natural gifts were marred by a restless ambition and instability of character fatal to real greatness.

Clarendon describes him as "the only man I ever knew of such incomparable parts that was none the wiser for any experience or misfortune that befell him," and records his extraordinary facility in making friends and making enemies. Horace Walpole characterized him in a series of his smartest antitheses as "a singular person whose life was one contradiction." "He wrote against popery and embraced it; he was a zealous opposer of the court and a sacrifice for it; was conscientiously converted in the midst of his prosecution of Lord Strafford and was most unconscientiously a persecutor of Lord Clarendon. With great parts, he always hurt himself and his friends; with romantic bravery, he was always an unsuccessful commander. He spoke for the Test Act, though a Roman Catholic; and addicted himself to astrology on the birthday of true philosophy."

Thursday, May 19, 2011

May 19 in Other Years: 804 and 988

With all due respect to Anne Boleyn, two other deaths on May 19 should be remembered.

The great scholar Alcuin of York died on May 19 in 804 and St. Dunstan of Canterbury on May 19 in 988.

This BBC History article offers detail about Alcuin's life and influence, particularly at the Court of Charlemagne:

King Charles the Great, known often as Charlemagne (768-814), recognised in Alcuin a scholar who could help him to achieve a renaissance of learning and reform of the Church. At the king's invitation, Alcuin joined the royal court in 781, and became one of Charlemagne's chief advisers on religious and educational matters.

Alcuin was made head of the palace school at Aachen, which was attended by members of the royal court and the sons of noble families, and he established a great library there. He revised the church liturgy and the Bible and, along with another great scholar, Theodulf of Orleans, he was responsible for an intellectual movement within the Carolingian empire in which many schools of learning were attached to monasteries and cathedrals, and Latin was restored to a position as a literary language.

St. Dunstan was Archbishop of Canterbury from 960 to 978. His shrine and relics were destroyed during the English Reformation, after having been discovered by William Warham, Cranmer's predecessor, in 1508. Before the cult of St. Thomas a Becket took hold, St. Dunstan was one of the most popular saints in England. During his clerical career, he was Abbot of Glastonbury and Bishop of both London and Worcester. He is honored in the Catholic Church, the Orthodox Church and the Church of England on his feast day.

St. Dunstan's in Canterbury is famous as the resting place of St. Thomas More's head.

The Execution of Anne Boleyn

Anne Boleyn was executed on May 19, 1536. The picture is from the tv series, The Tudors, which had to stage many executions during its four seasons--Natalie Dormer portrayed Henry VIII's second wife.

As I've previously stated, Gareth Russell developed a great day by day narrative of Anne Boleyn's arrest, imprisonment, trial, and execution last year on his blog and has been updating and reposting them this year, so check at Confessions of Ci-Devant for his update today.

Last year, I posted some notes on Anne Boleyn's role in the English Reformation, found here.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Getting All Fired Up!

Blessed John Forest, an Observant Franciscan of the friary at Greenwich, was executed on May 22, 1538--found guilty of the brand new heresy of denying the ecclesiatical supremacy of Henry VIII in England. In anticipation of his date of martyrdom, I'll be on the Son Rise Morning Show this Friday, May 20 to discuss his death and the fate of the Franciscans in England under Henry VIII. Please listen live at 7:45 a.m. Eastern time, 6:45 a.m. Central. Then catch my post on Sunday, May 22. My interview with Brian Patrick on May 4, Feast of the Reformation Martyrs, is archived here.

Sir Thomas Wyatt Survives

As Gareth Russell noted in yesterday's post on the executions of the men accused of adultery (and in the case of her brother, incest) with Anne Boleyn and treason against Henry VIII, the poet Thomas Wyatt the elder was also imprisoned in the Tower, threatened with the same charges. He was, however, freed. [Which has sometimes made me wonder about the element of justice in the matter. If Henry VIII and Cromwell didn't care about the true guilt or innocence of Anne and George Boleyn and the other men, what's one more head? The randomness of who lived and died confuses me, I guess.]

Be that as it may, Elena Maria Vidal has brought a new book about Sir Thomas Wyatt, poet and courtier, to our attention. From The Guardian review of Graven with Diamonds: The Many Lives of THOMAS WYATT, Courier, Poet, Assassin, Spy by Nicola Shulman:

At the centre of this nexus of romance and gossip was the dangerously appealing figure of Anne Boleyn. Beautiful, sharp-witted and no less sharp-tongued, she was 17 when she arrived at court in 1521, after two years soaking up the modish graces and affectations of the French court. She immediately caught the eye of Henry, though it would be 12 years before they were secretly married – the inconveniences of a royal divorce, and its epoch-making repercussions across Europe, accounting for this delay. The extent of Wyatt's intimacy with Anne remains uncertain. According to contemporary sources, when he learned of the king's intention to marry her, Wyatt confessed that he had been her lover. When her star fell in 1536, he was imprisoned in the Tower, though he was never formally accused – as others were – of sexual relations with her. In a powerful poem, discovered by Kenneth Muir in Dublin in 1959, Wyatt records his feelings in prison – "These bloody days have broken my heart" – and perhaps his witnessing of Anne's execution from an upstairs window of the Bell Tower, where he was held: "The bell tower showed me such a sight / That in my head sticks day and night. / There did I learn out of a grate, / For all favour, glory or might, / That yet circa regna tonat [around the throne it thunders]."

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Queen Elizabeth II in Ireland

Queen Elizabeth II recently surpassed King George III in longevity on the throne yet she is visiting the Republic of Ireland for the first time in her almost 60 year old reign, starting today, May 17. The Catholic Herald published this analysis of her visit:

There have been difficult moments in her long reign, and the week of May 17 to May 20 may prove a challenging phase for the Queen. That is the week when she visits the Republic of Ireland, the first British monarch to go to what was once called “southern Ireland” since her grandfather’s state visit to Dublin in July 1911. The Queen has made over 380 state visits during her reign, and to many parts of the globe: but until now the Republic of Ireland has been the one destination which was never included.

It is hardly necessary to repeat the numerous reasons why such a visit could not take place until now: but the partition of Ireland and the “Troubles” in the north certainly played a part. Anglo-Irish relations have been through some tricky times in recent decades, reaching a nadir in the 1970s and 80s. In 1977, when Elizabeth made a formal visit to Belfast, she was hanged in effigy in the Falls Road. In 1979, her uncle by marriage, Lord Mountbatten, was murdered just off the Sligo coast. In response, Irish republicans would cite many distressing events – such as Bloody Sunday in 1972 – when Crown troops opened fire on unarmed citizens. And there’s another point: in Ireland, the British Army was historically referred to as “Crown forces” – the notorious Black and Tans being an example – so that “the Crown” itself was linked with the conduct of some of its less worthy soldiery.

The author and columnist at The Catholic Herald, Mary Kenny is also the author of Crown and Shamrock: Love and Hate Between Ireland and the British Monarchy and Goodbye to Catholic Ireland. It will be interesting to follow coverage of this event.

May 17, 1536: A Bloody Day on Tower Hill

Anne Boleyn's brother George, Viscount Rochford, three of Henry VIII's courtiers (Sir Henry Norris, Sir Francis Weston, Sir William Brereton) and court musician Mark Smeaton were executed on Tower Hill on May 17, 1536.

Last year Gareth Russell presented an excellent series of posts on the days between Anne Boleyn's arrest and her execution. He provided great detail about the conduct of these five men on the scaffold--it was indeed a bloody, bloody day. I recommend you go to his blog and peruse his review of these posts, updated this year.

Monday, May 16, 2011

May 16th Departures

On May 16, 1532, Sir Thomas More resigned as Chancellor of England, succeeded by Thomas Cromwell. More concluded that he could not influence Henry VIII anymore. He might have hoped for some peace and quiet, but Henry and Cromwell wanted his approval and benediction. More did not attend the coronation of Anne Boleyn; in 1533 and 1534 he was accused of first, accepting bribes, and second of supporting Elizabeth Barton, the Nun of Kent. The first accusation was ridiculous and the second easily disposed of. Nevertheless, he ended up in the Tower of London in 1534 while the government continued to pressure him to take the Oaths of Supremacy and Succession. As he complained of chest pains before, his health deteriorated while in the Tower.

On May 16, 1568, Mary Stuart, the deposed Queen of Scotland left that country after losing the Battle of Langside and escaped to England. She hoped for some support from Elizabeth Tudor to regain her throne. Instead, she was moved from castle to castle (Carlisle Castle, Bolton Castle, Tutbury, and Sheffield) under different degrees of comfort and activity while a trial was held to determine her guilt in her second husband, Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley's death. The trial ended in a strange verdict and she was neither declared guilty or innocent. The only thing that was certain is that she was not going to return to Scotland as Queen. Mary was held under house arrest and became the focus of plots to remove Elizabeth from the throne of England. As she had been a very active person, riding and hunting, the enforced inactivity wore on her.

Both of them were finally brought to trial--Thomas More at Westminster Hall; Mary at Fotheringay Castle. Both St. Thomas More and Mary, Queen of Scots ended their lives kneeling before blocks of wood, waiting for the executioner's blow to fall--More on July 6, 1535 and Mary on February 8, 1587.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Sun King Rises to the Throne

On May 14, 1643, Louis-Dieudonne succeeded his father Louis XIII to the thrones of France and Navarre (on the same date that Henry IV was assassinated in 1610). He would reign for more than 72 years! Just as Henry VIII had arranged a council for his heir, Edward VI, Louis XIII prepared for the reign of his minor son. And just as Henry VIII's will was thwarted by the Seymour family, Louis XIII' widow Anne of Austria got rid of the council, appointed herself sole regent, and worked with Cardinal Mazarin to rule France and Navarre. In 1661, Mazarin died and Louis XIV began his personal rule.

Elements of that personal rule included support of the Stuarts on the throne and in exile. His mother hosted Queen Henrietta Maria during the English Civil War, while he would host James II in exile after the Glorious Revolution, supporting his attempt to retake the throne and welcoming him back, sadly, after James's loss at the Battle of the Boyne. Louis XIV also recognized James III, the Old Pretender when James II died and again supported the attempt to regain the thrones of England and Scotland in 1715. By the time James III headed back from Scotland, however, Louis XIV was dead and he had to find a new home on the Continent.

We mustn't forget that Louis XIV's brother Philippe had married Henrietta of England and that Louis and Charles II agreed to the Treaty of Dover in 1670 with Henrietta's influence.

The picture is from our visit to Versailles several years ago: from the Salon of War.

Friday, May 13, 2011

And, Now, for Something Completely Different!

This May marks the 30th anniversary of my baccalaureate graduation from Wichita State University--yikes!--and it led me to think about some of my classes and professors. I also happened to meet one of them at a local bookstore and he lamented to me the state of the History department there today. He reported that they have no professorial faculty to teach Ancient or Medieval History!

My major was English Language and Literature, but I worked in the History department office and tried to match up Literature and History classes covering the same era as often as I could. One spring semester I enrolled in Restoration and Eighteenth Century English Literature and blue-carded a directed studies History course on Restoration and Eighteenth Century English History from retired Associate Professor Lewis A. Dralle, who brought this bit of English poesy to my attention:

The Vicar of Bray

In good King Charles's golden days,
When Loyalty no harm meant;
A Zealous High-Church man I was,
And so I gain'd Preferment.
Unto my Flock I daily Preach'd,
Kings are by God appointed,
And Damn'd are those who dare resist,
Or touch the Lord's Anointed.
And this is law, I will maintain
Unto my Dying Day, Sir.
That whatsoever King may reign,
I will be the Vicar of Bray, Sir!

When Royal James possest the crown,
And popery grew in fashion;
The Penal Law I shouted down,
And read the Declaration:
The Church of Rome I found would fit
Full well my Constitution,
And I had been a Jesuit,
But for the Revolution.
And this is law, I will maintain
Unto my Dying Day, Sir.
That whatsoever King may reign,
I will be the Vicar of Bray, Sir!

When William our Deliverer came,
To heal the Nation's Grievance,
I turn'd the Cat in Pan again,
And swore to him Allegiance:
Old Principles I did revoke,
Set conscience at a distance,
Passive Obedience is a Joke,
A Jest is non-resistance.
And this is law, I will maintain
Unto my Dying Day, Sir.
That whatsoever King may reign,
I will be the Vicar of Bray, Sir!

When Royal Ann became our Queen,
Then Church of England's Glory,
Another face of things was seen,
And I became a Tory:
Occasional Conformists base
I Damn'd, and Moderation,
And thought the Church in danger was,
From such Prevarication.
And this is law, I will maintain
Unto my Dying Day, Sir.
That whatsoever King may reign,
I will be the Vicar of Bray, Sir!

When George in Pudding time came o'er,
And Moderate Men looked big, Sir,
My Principles I chang'd once more,
And so became a Whig, Sir.
And thus Preferment I procur'd,
From our Faith's great Defender
And almost every day abjur'd
The Pope, and the Pretender.
And this is law, I will maintain
Unto my Dying Day, Sir.
That whatsoever King may reign,
I will be the Vicar of Bray, Sir!

The Illustrious House of Hannover,
And Protestant succession,
To these I lustily will swear,
Whilst they can keep possession:
For in my Faith, and Loyalty,
I never once will faulter,
But George, my lawful king shall be,
Except the Times shou'd alter.
And this is law, I will maintain
Unto my Dying Day, Sir.
That whatsoever King may reign,
I will be the Vicar of Bray, Sir!

Dr. Dralle also recommended Norman Sykes' Church and State in England in the Eighteenth Century which is now evidently undergoing a re-evaluation as historiography in that era is developing. Finally, he told me to find the novels of Robert Hugh Benson--which the library at St. Paul's Parish-Newman Center at WSU just happened to have!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

The Cult of St. Pancras in England

Once I Was a Clever Boy features this post on St. Pancras, which begins with St. Pancras Station in London and ends with a common theme on this blog, the destruction of a monastery and a cult in England:

Which last brings me neatly to the saint himself. St Pancras of Rome (d. circa 304, supposedly) is a Roman martyr of the Via Aurelia. Pope St. Symmachus (498-514) erected a basilica over his grave in the cemetery of Octavilla. This was rebuilt by Pope Honorius I (625-38), who added a confessio and placed the altar directly over Pancras' tomb.

In the sixth or early seventh century Pancras received a legendary Passio that made him a wealthy orphan from Phrygia born in the time of Valerian and Gallienus (254-60) and brought to Rome by his uncle and, at the age of fourteen, martyred by beheading under the Emperor Diocletian ( 284-305; started his persecution in 303). His corpse was left for the dogs to eat, but a Christian woman secretly buried it in the nearby catacombs.

Gregory of Tours records that Pancras was considered especially vigilant in punishing those who had broken their word and that oaths were therefore often taken at his tomb. His basilica is included in the seventh-century pilgrim itineraries for Rome; it was rebuilt in the late eighth and early ninth centuries and again in the seventeenth century. Pancras' cult spread widely across Europe. Probably because he has the same feast day as SS. Nereus and Achilleus, he too came to be considered a military saint. There are numerous castle chapel dedications to him from the twelfth century onward. In the later Middle Ages he was one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers.

The Fourteen Holy Helpers also included England's patron saint, St. George, St. Blaise, St. Erasmus, St. Catherine of Alexandria, St. Margaret of Antioch, and St. Barbara. Continuing:

In England the cult of St Pancras appears to have begun with the Roman mission of 597 - that is just as his Passio was being written and disseminated. St Augustine dedicated in his honour the first church he erected in Canterbury - later incorporated in what became St Augustine's Abbey. Fifty years later Pope St Vitalian (657-672 ) sent to King Oswy of Northumbria (d.670), in addition to filings from St Peter's Chains, a portion of the martyr's relics, the distribution of which seems to have propagated his cult in England.

Relics of St Pancras that ended up at Waltham Cross could well be those in the portable shrine Harold Godwinson is depicted as swearing on in the Bayeux Tapestry. Pancras as one who punished oath-breakers would clearly fit very well into such an account from the Norman standpoint.

In 1077 William de Warenne established the first Cluniac priory in England at Lewes in Sussex, and dedicated it to St Pancras. Given the relative proximity to Hastings this may reflect an awareness of gratitude to the saint for his intercession in 1066. If that is so, maybe we should take St Pancras more seriously in England than as just the name of a railway terminus.

The priory church, modelled on the great new church of Cluny itself, was larger than Chicester cathedral. The history and remains of the priory can be studied on the excellent and well researched website Lewes Priory.

There was alas no sixteenth century Betjeman to save Lewes Priory from the destructive urges of the sixteenth century, nor to protect its remains from further damage in the nineteenth century when the railway came to the town and cut through the site. Writing this I am beginning to think that in England at least one of the attributes of St Pancras should be a railway engine.

Florence Nightingale and Conversion

Florence Nightingale, the famed Lady of the Lamp, was born on May 12, 1820 and died on August 13, 1910. She was raised a Unitarian Universalist and yet at one time investigated the possiblity of joining a Catholic religious order. Nightingale, according to biographer Gillian Gill, saw that as a means to the end of becoming a professional nurse. Father Henry Manning, who had left the Oxford Movement and the Church of England to become a Catholic priest (and who would become the second Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster) corresponded with her.

Her Unitarian beliefs however prevented any serious consideration of conversion. When she went to the Crimea to assist the British military she did take Catholic sisters with her as nurses. There was some fear that the sisters would try to convert good Protestant men, weakened by their wounds and illness--so the Catholic sisters took care of the Irish Catholic soldiers.

As I recount in the second revised printing of Supremacy and Survival: How Catholics Endured the English Reformation, however, one of the English lay nurses who accompanied Nightingale, Frances Taylor, did become a Catholic after working with the Catholic sisters and Irish soldiers in Scutari. After returning to England she founded the Poor Servants of the Mother of God and Frances Taylor became Mother Mary Magdalene of the Sacred Heart. She wrote Tyborne: and the Gem of Christendom, one of the first Catholic historical novels about the English Reformation.

Florence Nightingale is honored by the Church of England on August 12 as a social activist, even though she was not even a Christian. As a Unitarian, she did not believe in the Holy Trinity, in the Divinity of Jesus Christ and in many other crucial Christian teachings. But she is an English heroine, so they honor her.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

St. Damian the Leper Priest and his Defender

Today is the feast of St. Damian de Veuster, the missionary priest from Belgium who served the leper colony in Molokai, Hawaii. This site recounts the famous defense he received from Robert Louis Stevenson:

However, just months after Damien's death, when the Rev. C.M. Hyde's letter was published identifying Damien as "a coarse, dirty man, headstrong, and bigoted," accusing him of violating his vows, and expressing overall surprise that Damien should be seen as a "saintly philanthropist," one Robert Louis Stevenson, who was by now settled in Samoa, responded unambiguously.

The novelist appeared so bothered that though Hyde appeared to have acted with kindness towards him on more than one previous occasion, Stevenson now responded that his letter of rebuttal would represent the last correspondence he would ever have with the man.

Hyde perceived Damien as 'dirty.' Stevenson responded sarcastically saying 'he was.' Think of the poor lepers annoyed with this dirty comrade. But the clean Dr. Hyde was at his food in a fine house.' Hyde perceived Damien as 'coarse' to which Stevenson conceded the possibility, then suggested that Peter and John the Baptizer were hardly gentle and asked, “but you, who were so refined, why were you not there, to cheer them [the lepers] up with the lights of culture?"

Regarding the charge that Damien was not faithful in his vows, Stevenson claimed to have heard this rumour once before in Samoa when a man from Honolulu volunteered the details only to be shouted down by an angry hearer who allegedly was on Stevenson's record as saying:

"You miserable little ------. If the story were a thousand times true, can't you see you're a million times lower ------- for daring to repeat it."

Point by point Stevenson deconstructed Hyde's letter, eventually reducing Hyde's entire argument to one of jealousy, and expressing overall surprise that Hyde should still seek to be heard.

"Your Church and Damien's were in Hawaii upon a rivalry to do well: to help, to edify, to set divine example. You having (in one huge instance) failed, and Damien succeeded, I marvel that it should not have occurred to you that you were doomed to silence."

As this site recounts, the Rev. Hyde retracted his statements and made amends through donations to the leper colony:

Throughout the letter, Stevenson suggested that Hyde was in fact motivated by jealousy in that Catholics rather than Presbyterians were gaining converts due to their work amongst the lepers and also by hypocrisy, in that Hyde lived in comfort in his manse in Honolulu, while Damien lived a Spartan life on Molokai.

Stevenson even further argued that Hyde's letter, rather than serving to destroy Damien's reputation, would ultimately lead to his vindication and to his being proclaimed a saint of the Catholic Church, a prophecy which was to be fulfilled in 2009.

The letter had an almost immediate effect, with many, including the Prince of Wales (later Edward VII), donating money to the leprosium of Molokai. To his credit, Hyde realised he had gone too far and sought to redeem himself through organising donations to the work of the boys' home on Molokai.

Robert Louis Stevenson had been raised in a strict Presbyterian home in Scotland, but seems never to have reconciled himself to Calvinist TULIP doctrines. Chesterton admired Stevenson's work and published a critical study.

A Place to Write

My husband recently attended a wedding in the Kansas City area and then celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary on the Country Club Plaza the rest of the weekend. We browsed through the Restoration Hardware store on the Plaza (in the space previously occupied by a movie theater) and found this "Mayfair Steamer Secretary Trunk" for a mere $3,500 and change. According to the online catalog:

Crafted by antiques dealer and furniture maker Timothy Oulton of London, our oversized steamer trunk armoire is configured as an ingeniously designed secretary.

~Reproduction antique steamer trunk
~Handmade of distressed vintage cigar leather over a solid wood frame
~Aniline-dyed leather has an antiqued, vintage look
~Accented with over 3,000 hand-hammered brass nailheads
~Features a pull-down desktop and multiple drawers, cubbies, wire management and bookshelves
~Lined in leather-edged canvas
~Stands on wheels for mobility and closes for storage and privacy
~Leather-bound corner brackets, leather-wrapped handles, oak slats with a tobacco finish and cast-metal antiqued hardware
~No two are exactly alike, making each trunk truly unique
~Leather is resistant to scratches and becomes softer over time and with use, contributing to its antiqued patina

It looked like a very convenient arrangement, especially if one concentrated on one project: all the resources close at hand; places for storage; even a sense of privacy and seclusion. Because of its size, however (39"W x 29"D x 76"H) it wouldn't seem to fit in traditional home--better for a loft or large studio. I liked it and could imagine myself working away and then closing the doors to hide all the clutter of a busy desktop!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Sophie Scholl, the White Rose, and Conscience

Sophie Scholl, White Rose objector to Nazi rule in Germany, was born on May 9, 1921; she was guillotined on February 22, 1943. Scholl is one of the most admired women in 20th Century German history--but what does she have to do with the subject of this blog?

According to this Catholic Herald story from 2009, she and her White Rose compatriots were very much influenced by Blessed John Henry Newman, particularly by his teachings on conscience:

Cardinal John Henry Newman was an inspiration of Germany's greatest heroine in defying Adolf Hitler, scholars have claimed.

New documents unearthed by German academics have revealed that the writings of the 19th-century English theologian were a direct influence on Sophie Scholl, who was beheaded for circulating leaflets urging students at Munich University to rise up against Nazi terror.

Scholl, a student who was 21 at the time of her death in February 1943, is a legend in Germany, with two films made about her life and more than 190 schools named after her. She was also voted "woman of the 20th century" by readers of Brigitte, a women's magazine, and a popular 2003 television series called Greatest Germans declared her to be the greatest German woman of all time.

But behind her heroism was the "theology of conscience" expounded by Cardinal Newman, according to Professor Günther Biemer, the leading German interpreter of Newman, and Jakob Knab, an expert on the life of Sophie Scholl, who will later this year publish research in Newman Studien on the White Rose resistance movement, to which she belonged.

The researchers also found a link between Scholl and Pope Benedict XVI in the scholar who inspired her study of Blessed John Henry Newman:

He added: "The religious question at the heart of the White Rose has not been adequately acknowledged and it is only through the work of Guenter Biemer and Jakob Knab that Newman's influence... can be identified as highly significant."

In his speech Fr Fenlon explained that Sophie, a Lutheran, was introduced to the works of Newman by a scholar called Theodor Haecker, who had written to the Birmingham Oratory in 1920 asking for copies of Newman's work, which he wanted to translate into German. . . .

It was through Haecker that the young Joseph Ratzinger - the future Pope Benedict XVI - learned to admire Newman, who died in Birmingham in 1890.

Conscience is a subtext throughout the history of the English Reformation and its aftermath--beginning with Henry VIII's "tender conscience" about having married his brother's widow. Robert Bolt's A Man for All Seasons centers St. Thomas More's heroism on his defense of the rights of conscience. Blessed John Henry Newman, as I've posted before, defended the rights and outlined the responsibilities of conscience, properly understood, in reaction to English concerns about the doctrine of Papal Infallibility.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

The House of Percy: Kings in the North

After reading about the House of Percy online and all the troubles of the Earls of Northumberland during the reigns of the Tudors and the Stuarts, I looked for a book about the family. I found this review of Alexander Rose's Kings in the North: The House of Percy in British History by Jonathan Sumption, which includes an overview of those troubles:

Marcel Proust, we are told, was never more pleased than when he came upon the name of the Duke of Northumberland. Perennially fascinated by the boom of ancient titles, the novelist was delighted by its echo of high lineage and its sheer sonority. As the equally elegant and superior English writer who tells us this observed, the title had a "sort of thunderous quality".

For most of its history, it has been borne by the Percy family, who became earls of Northumberland in the 14th century and dukes in the 18th. The Percys were companions of the Conqueror, prominent participants in English civil wars from the 12th century to the 16th, captains in the 100 years war, alternately heroes and villains in the history plays of Shakespeare, accessories to the gunpowder plot, political fixers under George III, generals in the American war of independence and admirals in the Napoleonic wars, ministers of Queen Victoria, and Tory wirepullers in the 1920s. Over the past eight centuries, two earls and one duke have been killed in battle, most recently in 1940; one has been lynched by a mob; one beheaded for treason, one shot by government assassins, five incarcerated in the Tower for more or less prolonged periods, and one beatified by the Church of Rome. It is a striking record of public service or disservice, depending on your point of view. The Percys are still the owners of Alnwick Castle and Syon House, and are among the largest landowners in Britain. . . .

As soon as the Scottish menace faded in the 16th century, the Percys lost their power. The Tudors no longer needed a viceroy in the north. The sixth earl was ruined by Henry VIII, the seventh executed by Elizabeth, the eighth murdered in the Tower and the ninth abandoned politics for chemistry and astronomy. His successors abandoned the north altogether, and went to live on their Sussex and London estates. The modern fortunes of the family are due to Sir Hugh Smithson, who married the last Percy heiress in the 18th century, adopted her name, and re-established the family as a great northern dynasty.

Sumption offered some caveats about the book's padding with British history whenever the biographical details ran out, but I thought I'd find a reasonably priced used copy -- no such luck. Rare as hen's teeth, I guess. I'll have to use interlibrary loan if I really want to read it.

Archbishop Nichols at the Charterhouse

When I was on the Son Rise Morning Show Wednesday, May 4, Brian Patrick asked me how the Feast of the English Martyrs, specifically the Carthusian Martyrs executed May 4, 1535, is observed in England. I mentioned that the Church of the England and the Catholic Church in England hold a prayer service to commemorate the day, and that I would be following up on this year's event. Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster offered the homily after the Solemn Evensong:

Sermon for Solemn Evensong and Commemoration of the Carthusian Martyrs St John Houghton and Companions
Wednesday 4 May 2011
The Chapel, Sutton’s Hospital in Charterhouse.

Shortly, from this chapel, where we have celebrated such a beautiful solemn evensong, we will process to the Chapel Court, the site of the ancient Priory Church. There, as the Master will remind us, the Carthusian Community – having a few days earlier undertaken their reconciliation with God and one another - offered the Mass of the Holy Spirit.

They did so that the “gracious Comforter himself” would “console, strengthen and direct [their] hearts”. And, as we will hear, during that holy Mass the monks experienced the voice of a gentle breeze, which, though no more than a sweetly whispered murmur, was nevertheless an irresistible power.

It is so fitting that we are reminded of that outpouring of the Holy Spirit during this season of Eastertide. For Our Lord’s Passion, Death and Resurrection is also the time of the new coming of the Holy Spirit, which Jesus had promised in the Upper Room where he kept his Passover with the Twelve. Jesus, the Christ, consecrated by the Father with the anointing of the Holy Spirit, gave up his spirit on the cross so that risen he may bestow it upon his Apostles. “Receive the Holy Spirit”, he says.Then, just as he himself was sent, so he calls the Apostles to be ministers of, and witnesses to, that peace and reconciliation which are the fruits of the new creation inaugurated by his death and resurrection. This apostolic mission is given its definitive manifestation on the day of Pentecost. Full of the strength of the Holy Spirit, the Apostles go out to fulfil faithfully their vocation, even though in so doing they encountered suffering and death.

That same Holy Spirit came upon the Carthusian martyrs whom we commemorate today. The gift of the Holy Spirit moved them to be reconciled with God and with one another. That soft murmur carried sweetly and strongly, to their inner ear, the very word of God: “Fear not: for I have redeemed you, I have called you by your name; you are mine”; I will be with you through river and fire to bring you to the glory for which I have created you. Yes, a gentle breath convincing them utterly that the fiery trial ahead would make them nothing less than partakers in Christ’s sufferings - thus something in which to rejoice! And it was “the spirit of glory and of God” resting upon them which enabled this brave brotherhood to believe unswervingly that “when [Christ’s] glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.”

The sound from Heaven heard just after the consecration of the Mass was indeed the promise of future glory: a sure hope on which to draw during their courageous witness to the truth of God and His holy Church.

That courageous witness was given four hundred and seventy six years ago today when Saint John Houghton, after pardoning his executioner with a moving embrace and kiss, went to his death praying one of the psalms we sang tonight: In te, Domine, speravi.

It was such hope, born of the Spirit, such a firm trust in God our strong rock and deliverer, which preserved St John in fidelity to his calling and mission; such inspired trust and hope permitting St John in his suffering to give voice to the very passion of Christ: “Into your hands I commend my spirit”. In this, too, he was one with Christ’s Passover into the Father’s glory. . . .

The Archbishop then went on to reflect on the recent Royal Wedding AND on the beatification of John Paul II.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Reflections on the Royal Wedding

I did not think that I would have time to watch the Royal Wedding early in the morning on Friday, April 29 because my husband and I were getting ready to drive to a friend's wedding three and a half hours away later that day. But he encouraged me to watch some of the ritual. Born and raised in the USA, I cried when they sang "God Save the Queen." And I also cried when they sang "Jerusalem", because it's just so glorious. And I just wished that Diane Sawyer and the ABC News crew would quit talking about all the incidentals and concentrate on the reality of the wedding.

Some weeks before the Royal Wedding I happened to see a segment on one of those silly celebrity shows featuring supplies for those who wanted to be in London that day. The supplies included things like barf bags and packages of condoms(!), all emblazoned with William and Kate's pictures. Like Diane Sawyer and Robin Roberts, they really did not understand the reality of the wedding. It was not just a fancy dress day; the couple will someday soon announce the birth of a child to continue the succession; perhaps not as quickly as the father hoped in Yentl, but sometime in the not-too-distant future.

The sermon from the Anglican Bishop of London, the hymns chosen for the ceremony--

"Guide Me, O Thou Great Redeemer" (which was sung at Prince Williams' mother's memorial service in 2008)
"Love Divine, All Loves Excelling" (by Charles Wesley)
"Ubi Caritas et Amor"
"Jerusalem" (by William Blake and known to American audiences, as the news anchors intoned "from the movie Chariots of Fire")
"Blest Pair of Sirens" (by John Milton), not to mention
"God Save the Queen" (the National Anthem)

--the ritual of the wedding ceremony, the prayers of the Bishop and the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the prayer the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge wrote indicated the reality of the day: they are giving themselves to each other in the service of their country, of their people. This was not just another celebrity wedding with some additional pomp and circumstance.

Elena Maria Vidal linked to a great article from the Daily Mail in which columnist Melanie Phillips commented:

For here was one of the most striking aspects of that day. We are repeatedly told that Britain has now left religion far behind. And similarly, traditional marriage is said to be a thing of the past.

But last Friday, people in this apparently godless nation were held spellbound by a wedding ceremony which was explicitly not just religious but Christian.

What was even more notable was the special prayer composed by the happy couple themselves.

For in this they prayed for help to focus on the important things in life, to serve and to help the needy — all ‘in the spirit of Jesus’.

This was in effect an explicit dedication of themselves to a life of service to the nation on behalf of the Christian institution of the monarchy.

I just hope that if Charles, the Prince of Wales, does survive his mother, he leaves the coronation ceremony alone and ensures the continuity demonstrated by this Royal Wedding.

More on Syon Abbey

I posted a brief excerpt about the original Syon Abbey from the Syon Park website on May 4.

The history goes on to explain what happened after the dissolution of the Abbey in 1539:

After the suppression of the abbey, the estate became Crown property and became the possession of the 1st Duke of Somerset, the Lord Protector to the young son of King Henry VIII, Edward VI. He built Syon House in the Italian Renaissance style, over the foundations of the west end of the huge abbey church, (which was the size of a cathedral), between 1547 and his death by execution in 1552. Syon was then acquired by a rival, John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland (no relation to the present family.) The Duke's son, Lord Guildford Dudley, had married Lady Jane Grey, the great-granddaughter of King Henry VII and it was at Syon that she was formally offered the Crown by the Duke. She accepted reluctantly, was conveyed to London by river and proclaimed Queen. Nine days later, she was displaced by King Henry VIII's eldest daughter, Mary Tudor. The following year Lady Jane Grey was executed. In 1557, the Roman Catholic Queen Mary recalled the nuns to re-establish their abbey at Syon. But she died suddenly in 1558 and the nuns left the country on the accession of her Protestant sister, Queen Elizabeth I. (In 1861 the nuns returned to England to found their religious community in Devon, where they reside to this day). In 1594, Henry Percy, 9th Earl of Northumberland, acquired Syon through his marriage to Dorothy Devereux and the Percy family has lived at Syon House ever since.

The history page also includes this link to a description of excavations and information about the "Lost Abbey of Sion".

One event the history omits is that Catherine Howard was kept sequestered in the former abbey while Henry VIII and his courtiers investigated the charges of treason against her. Then she was moved to the Tower of London when Parliament passed a Bill of Attainder against her, in preparation for her execution.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Bess of Hardwick: Formidable Indeed!

Once I Was a Clever Boy featured this post of "Bess of Hardwick (1527-1608), the remarkable self-made, or self-improving, Derbyshire woman who became the matriarch of the Cavendish family."

I read her biography a few years ago by Mary S. Lovell--since Bess and her fourth husband the Earl of Shrewsury "hosted" the imprisoned Queen of Scots, Mary Stuart, great pressures came to bear on their finances and their already contentious marriage.

Bess of Hardwick's granddaughter Arbella is another fascinating figure of the the Stuart era--but not that much connected to the issues of the English Reformation.