Thursday, January 31, 2013

Being Protestant in Reformation Britain by Alec Ryrie

That's an intriguing title because one's first thought might be: what else were people (if they weren't Catholic) in England during the Reformation? I think we might (or at least I might) be too quick to assume that there was one way of being part of the Church of England.

According to the book description from OUP:

~Offers the first comprehensive survey of the early Protestant religious experience
~Provides a distinctive perspective on the dynamism, intensity, and breadth of early British Protestant culture
~Focuses on the material reality of religious experience
~Integrates religious history with currently lively fields such as history of emotion, of childhood, and of Puritan reading and writing
~[Is] Clearly and accessibly written

The Reformation was about ideas and power, but it was also about real human lives. Alec Ryrie provides the first comprehensive account of what it actually meant to live a Protestant life in England and Scotland between c. 1530-1640, drawing on a rich mixture of contemporary devotional works, sermons, diaries, biographies, and autobiographies to uncover the lived experience of early modern Protestantism.

Beginning from the surprisingly urgent, multifaceted emotions of Protestantism, Ryrie explores practices of prayer, of family and public worship, and of reading and writing, tracking them through the life course from childhood through conversion and vocation to the deathbed. He examines what Protestant piety drew from its Catholic predecessors and contemporaries, and grounds that piety in material realities such as posture, food and tears.

This perspective shows us what it meant to be Protestant in the British Reformations: a meeting of intensity (a religion which sought authentic feeling above all, and which dreaded hypocrisy and hard-heartedness) with dynamism (a progressive religion, relentlessly pursuing sanctification and dreading idleness). That combination, for good or ill, gave the Protestant experience its particular quality of restless, creative zeal.

The Protestant devotional experience also shows us that this was a broad-based religion: for all the differences across time, between two countries, between men and women, and between puritans and conformists, this was recognisably a unified culture, in which common experiences and practices cut across supposed divides. Alec Ryrie shows us Protestantism, not as the preachers on all sides imagined it, but as it was really lived.

Table of Contents:


Part I: The Protestant Emotions
1: Cultivating the Affections
2: Despair and Salvation
3: The Meaning of Mourning
4: Desire
5: Joy

Part II: The Protestant at Prayer
6: The Meaning of Prayer
7: Answering Prayer
8: The Practice of Prayer
9: Speaking to God
10: Prayer as Struggle

Part III: The Protestant and the Word
11: Reading
12: Writing

Part IV: The Protestant in Company
13: The Experience of Worship
14: Prayer in the Household

Part V: The Protestant Life
15: The Meaning of Life
16: The Stages of Life

Select Bibliography

The author is Alec Ryrie, Professor of the History of Christianity, Durham University:

Alec Ryrie studied History and Theology at the universities of Cambridge, St Andrews, and Oxford. He is now Head of Theology and Religion and Professor of the History of Christianity at Durham University. His previous books include The Age of Reformation (2009), The Sorcerer's Tale (2008), The Origins of the Scottish Reformation (2006) and The Gospel and Henry VIII (2003).

This Morning on the Son Rise Morning Show

Just a reminder that I will be on the Son Rise Morning Show this morning at 7:45 a.m. Eastern/6:45 a.m.. Central to discuss the Catholic Martyrs of England Pilgrimage I announced last week. You can listen live here.

I spoke with Father Steve Mateja, associate pastor at Our Lady of Good Counsel Catholic Church in Plymouth, Michigan earlier this week. He will be the spiritual director on the pilgrimage, offering Mass every day (except the first day when we arrive at Heathrow and travel to York on a "luxury motor coach"). He really has a great devotion to the English Martyrs, which started when he read Evelyn Waugh's biography of St. Edmund Campion--whom we will highlight on the tour when we visit the Tower of London and the Chapel of St. John where Campion disputed with the Anglican clergy after enduring torture on the rack!

If you have any questions--or just want to sign up for the tour--please call Corporate Travel at 313-565-8888!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Book Review: The Time Traveller's Guide to Medieval England

I received this book as a Christmas gift from a kind friend--and I'd to read Ian Mortimer's "sequel": The Time Traveller's Guide to Elizabethan England. Mortimer writes this book as guidebook to England in the fourteenth century:
The past is a foreign country - this is your guidebook. Imagine you could travel in time, back to the fourteenth century. What would you see? What would you smell? More to the point, where are you going to stay? Should you go to a castle or a monastic guest house? And what are you going to eat? What sort of food are you going to be offered by a peasant or a monk or a lord?

This radical new approach turns our entire understanding of history upside down. It shows us that the past is not just something to be studied; it is also something to be lived. It sets out to explain what life was like in the most immediate way, through taking you, the reader, to the middle ages, and showing you everything from the horrors of leprosy and war to the ridiculous excesses of roasted larks and haute couture.
Being a guidebook, many questions are answered which do not normally occur in traditional history books. How do you greet people in the street? What should you use for toilet paper? How fast - and how safely - can you travel? Why might a physician want to taste your blood? And how do you test to see if you are going down with the plague?

The result is the most astonishing social history book you are ever likely to read: revolutionary in its concept, informative and entertaining in its detail, and startling for its portrayal of humanity in an age of violence, exuberance and fear.

The Contents:

Introduction: Welcome to Medieval England
1. The Landscape
2. The People
3. The Medieval Character
4. Basic Essentials
5. What to Wear
6. Travelling
7. Where to Stay
8. What to Eat and Drink
9. Health and Hygiene
10. The Law
11. What to Do

I agree with the publisher's blurb: this is a very entertaining book, filled with detail about daily life, customs, clothing, music, religion, food and drink--so many insights into daily life. It is written as non-fiction but as if the reader is there, experiencing and learning about life in the fourteenth century for peasants, clergy, knights, lords, nobility, and monarchs.

Ian Mortimer's website is also filled with detail and information about this book and The Time Traveller's Guide to Elizabethan England.

Venerable Mary Ward

This site offers the story of her life and death:

Born into a Yorkshire Catholic recusant family in 1585 Mary Ward was remarkable for being among the first women to believe that women should be actively involved in the apostolic life of the Catholic Church. However, initially she opted for the strictest form of contemplative religious life determined to give herself totally to God.
When God revealed to her that a life of prayer and obscurity behind a convent wall was not what she was called to she returned to London in 1609. Here with a group of like-minded young women she engaged in apostolic work disregarding the strict laws against Catholics at the time. Later that same year Mary realised that God was calling her to some form of religious life “more to his glory” To discern what it was she left London for Flanders with her young companions and founded her first house at St Omer.
In 1611, when at prayer, enlightenment came to her and she heard clearly the words: ‘take the same of the Society’ by which she understood the ‘Society of Jesus’ founded by St Ignatius of Loyola. The rest of her life was to be spent in developing a congregation of religious women on the Ignatian model for which she needed, and failed to gain, papal approval.
Three times she and her companions walked to Rome from Flanders, twice to try to gain this approval and the third time as a prisoner of the Inquisition following the suppression of her congregation by Pope Urban VIII in 1631. During this period she founded houses and schools in Liège, Cologne, Rome, Naples, Munich, Vienna, Pressburg and other places, often at the request of the local rulers and bishops, but papal approval eluded her. . . .
Summoned to Rome in 1632 to face charges Mary was granted an audience with the Pope at which she declared: “Holy Father, I neither am nor ever have been a heretic”. She received the comforting reply: “We believe it, we believe it”. No trial ever took place, but Mary Ward was forbidden to leave Rome or to live in community.
In 1637 for reasons of health Mary was allowed to travel to Spa and then on to England. She died during the English Civil War just outside York on January 30th 1645. She is buried in Osbaldwick Anglican churchyard close by.
The same site also describes the progress of her cause for beatification and canonization: she has been declared Venerable--what is needed is a miracle!
The recognition by the Church of Mary Ward as foundress did not take place until 1909, and the First World War then presented a further delay. Only in 1922 was a petition to open her cause sent to Pope Pius XI signed by all the bishops of England. The process opened in Middlesborough, Yorkshire in 1929. Soon afterwards permission was obtained to pursue the case simultaneously in Munich where most of the archive material was available.
The historical research was begun by Fr Josef Grisar SJ and completed by Sr Immolata Wetter CJ accompanied by the Postulator Fr Paul Molinari SJ and the Relator Fr Peter Gumpel SJ. This was accepted by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in 1995. The theologians completed their investigation in May 2009 and recommended unanimously that Mary Ward demonstrated ‘heroic virtue’ and that her cause should go forward. This was confirmed by the commission of Cardinals and Bishops in November 2009, and promulgated by Pope Benedict XVI on 19th December of the same year. By this action Mary Ward was officially recognised as ‘Venerable’ by the Church.
Prayers for her beatification and other devotions may be found here.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Podcasts Available

I talked with Ken Huck on his Radio Maria US "Meet the Author" show last week and the podcast is now available online:

Ken talks with his guest Stephanie Mann author of Supremacy and Survival – How Catholics Endured the English Reformation (published by Scepter). This book is a gripping history of famous events in England that had ramifications reaching across the ocean and impacted religious freedom in America. There are so many real-life twists and turns that the book reads like a novel.

Last year, on December 1, I spoke with Christine Niles on her radio show Forward Boldly about my book and the history of the English Reformation, and that interview is also available online here.

While I'm at it, here's a link to my interview last November with Ian Rutherford of the great Catholic bookstore, Aquinas and More (St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Thomas More)!

And, as a preview of an upcoming interview, I'll be on the Son Rise Morning Show, broadcast from Sacred Heart Radio in Cincinnati, Ohio on the EWTN Radio Network this Thursday, January 31 to discuss the Catholic Martyrs of England Tour and Pilgrimage I just announced. You may listen LIVE here at 7:45 a.m. Eastern/6:45 a.m. Central!

Monday, January 28, 2013

More on M.D.R Leys

A reader of this blog kindly found the obituary for Mary Dorothea Rose Leys from The Times of London, published on September 8, 1967:

Miss Mary Leys, fellow and lecturer in history, and a former vice- principal of St. Anne's College, Oxford, died on Wednesday at Exmouth. She was educated at home because "the family was too poor to afford school fees"'. She was awarded a scholarship to Somerville in 1911, where she read history and took her degree in modern history in 1915. After that she gained valuable experience in a variety of jobs, as county secretary for the Women's Land Army and in the Women's Royal Air Force. In 1919 she began what was to be her life work, teaching history for the Society of Oxford Home-Students, as St Anne’s College then was. In 1938 in addition to her work as history tutor she was appointed vice-principal.
She was twice acting principal, once while Miss Hadow was abroad, and again, after Miss Hadow's death, in 1940. She resigned her history tutorship in 1952 but continued her connexion with the college as Fellow and lecturer in history until 1955. She was deeply interested in all Catholic religious and educational work and much of her spare time was spent in voluntary service for the causes in which she believed. She published a book, Men, Money and Markets in 1936, and with her sister- in-law Rosamond Mitchell, A History of the English People in 1950. After her retirement she first published Between Two Empires, a Study of France: 1814-48. In 1957 she was awarded a Leverhulme Research Fellowship, to assist work on a book on Catholics inEngland, 1559-1829, which was published in 1961. In 1958 appeared A History of London Life written by R. J. Mitchell and M. D. R. Leys.

One alumna of St. Anne's College is Sister Wendy Beckett, the hermit, consecrated virgin, and art critic for the BBC. Somerville College boasts many other great alumni: Vera Brittain, Dorothy L. Sayers, Indira Gandhi, and Margaret Thatcher among them!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Elizabeth I's Other Tutor

Among the Tudor tutors, I've read about John Cheke and Roger Ascham, but BBC History Magazine introduces another tutor of Elizabeth I--and he's one who might have influenced her religious beliefs:

Elizabeth's Faithful Tutor

Simon Adams and David Scott Gehring explain how the Virgin Queen's little-known teacher may have influenced the religious policies of her reign

Elizabeth I enjoys the reputation of being the best-educated of British queens and, as a result, her schooling has been the subject of much discussion.

Her most famous tutor was the Cambridge academic Roger Ascham, who has left the only account of what she studied. However, Ascham’s time with her was brief, from mid-1548 until the beginning of 1550. He was preceded by his pupil and friend, William Grindal, who taught Elizabeth from 1545 until he died of the plague in January 1548.

Grindal and Ascham taught the future queen Latin and Greek, but they were not her only tutors. Giovanni Battista Castiglione (who later became a groom of her Privy Chamber) taught her Italian, and Jean Belmain taught her French, as he did her brother, Edward VI.

The received account of Elizabeth’s education will now have to be completely revised, for she had another tutor in the classical languages, a man who actually served longer than either Grindal or Ascham. He was Johannes Spithovius (John Spithoff), also known as Monasteriensis, from his probable place of birth, somewhere near Münster in north-western Germany.

Spithovius was initially a pupil of the Lutheran reformer, Philip Melanchthon, but he matriculated at the University of Copenhagen in 1542 and was appointed Professor Paedigogicus in 1545. He came to England in 1549 with recommendations from Melanchthon and others to Archbishop Cranmer. Cranmer, together with the Strasbourg reformer Martin Bucer (who had just taken refuge in England himself), recommended Spithovius to the princess in the summer of 1549. . . .

Spithovius records a conversation in February with Sir Thomas Smith over forms of worship. According to a much-debated policy memorandum, the ‘Device for the Alteration of Religion’, Smith was to be appointed the chair of a committee to review the order of worship in advance of the parliament of 1559.

He was also authorised to consult with other learned men. Since no evidence that the committee had actually met has been discovered, scholarly opinion has generally dismissed the proposal as abortive. Thanks to Spithovius’s report it can now be established that the committee did exist.

The fact that it was still at work after the parliament opened may explain why the crown did not introduce the bills for the religious legislation at the beginning of the session.

Elizabeth held Spithovius in considerable regard and his possible influence on her opens up a range of new questions. Though few records of his period as tutor (1549–53) have been left to us, we know that this was a psychologically formative chapter in Elizabeth’s life. And, although we have no clear idea of what he taught her, his presence in her household is further evidence of the cosmopolitan nature of her education.

He certainly increased her understanding of the Lutheran world and she may have gained a reading knowledge of German from him. In view of the complexities of the 1559 religious settlement, it is no less interesting that Smith asked Spithovius about Danish and Saxon practice regarding religious ceremonies.

Without question, whatever the ultimate explanation of the settlement, it was not made in ignorance of Lutheran opinion.

English Historical ReviewFor a limited time you may access the article (and download a .pdf) in The English Historical Review on which this article is based.

The curious aspect of this discovery of Spithovius' influence on the Elizabethan settlement is that his influence was Lutheran--while the Thirty-Nine Articles reflect a greater Reformed or Calvinist influence, at least in soteriology. In fact, the article concludes on a less than conclusive note--except when it comes to Catholicism:

Spithovius’ membership of Elizabeth’s Edwardian household, together with his conversation with Smith, will undoubtedly revive the question of Elizabeth the quasi-Lutheran. Certainly, her direct exposure to Germanic Lutheranism was—at the minimum—far more extensive than heretofore thought. Yet, whatever Smith’s wider review of the prayer-book involved, it was not embodied in the settlement. Any conclusions about the conversation must also take into account the two important statements Elizabeth made on the future settlement in February: the evasive response to Vergerio on the Confession of Augsburg and the Lenten sermons. The choice of the Lenten preachers was not a casual one, and Spithovius was not alone in seeing the sermons, delivered before Elizabeth and a large public audience, as a declaration that no compromise with Catholicism was intended.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Recommending and Rereading

CATHOLICS IN ENGLAND 1559-1829: A Social History.

A reader and writer sent me a message about a resource for Catholics in the Regency Period and the nineteenth century, up to the time of the Emancipation of Catholics in 1829. She wanted some social and historical background. I recommended Edward Norman's history of Catholics in nineteenth century England and M.D.R. Leys's Catholics in England: 1559-1829, A Social History.

M.D.R. Leys=Mary Dorothy Rose Leys (died 6 September 1967) and she was an English academic and author. She taught at St Anne's College, Oxford. She also wrote a history of London, with R.J. Mitchell (Rosamond Joscelyne Mitchell).

At least on line I have not been able to find out much more about M.D.R. Leys. I bought my copy of her Catholics in England in Guthrie, Oklahoma on April 6, 1995 and, although I never cited the book in my book, Supremacy and Survival: How Catholics Endured the English Reformation, her view of Catholics for those 270 years informed much of my thinking about the status of Catholics in England after the English Reformation. Writing in the late 1950s, Leys availed herself of much of the work completed by the Catholic Record Society and many archives and other primary sources.

The book was published by the Catholic Book Club, 121Charing Cross Road, London in 1961. It is readily available from the usual used book sources.

About THAT Hat!

Have you noticed the little commotion about Justice Antonin Scalia's choice of hat at President Obama's second inauguration? Some are saying that Scalia CHOSE to wear a hat resembling the hat Thomas More is wearing in the portrait Hans Holbein painted of him as Chancellor of England. They then believe that he wore the hat in protest of President Obama's anti-religious freedom policies like the HHS Contraception-Abortafacient-Sterilization Mandate! Since Thomas More died as a martyr standing up to Henry VIII they see a pointed historical and moral reference here.

It is true that the hat does reference the Holbein portrait:

The hat is a custom-made replica of the hat depicted in Holbein’s famous portrait of St. Thomas More. It was a gift from the St. Thomas More Society of Richmond, Virginia. We presented it to him in November 2010 as a memento of his participation in our 27th annual Red Mass and dinner.

Although Justice Scalia has neither confirmed nor denied the reference and the symbolism of his St. Thomas More hat, it does seem more than a coincidence. What do you think?

Friday, January 25, 2013

Edmund Campion Born in 1540

St. Edmund Campion was born on January 25, 1540. Perhaps there is no better way to celebrate his birth than to recall his entry into glory on December 1, 1581, when he was drawn, hung and quartered at Tyburn in London. This video introducing a beautiful Missal and Hymnal from Corpus Christi Watershed features William Byrd's setting of St. Henry Walpole's poem on the martyr's death:

Why do I use my paper, ink and pen,
And call my wits to counsel what to say?
Such memories were made for mortal men;
I speak of Saints whose names cannot decay.
An Angel's trump were fitter for to sound
Their glorious death if such on earth were found

That store of such were once on earth pursued,
The histories of ancient times record,
Whose constancy great tyrants' rage subdued
Through patient death, professing Christ the Lord:
As his Apostles perfect witness bare,
With many more that blessed Martyrs were.

Whose patience rare and most courageous mind,
With fame renowned perpetual shall endure,
By whose examples we may rightly find,
Of holy life and death a pattern pure.
That we therefore their virtues may embrase
Pray we to Christ to guide us with his grace.

The Big Announcement

I hinted at a big announcement at the end of last year! Now I can make it! I have been working with Corporate Travel Services on designing and planning a CATHOLIC MARTYRS OF ENGLAND PILGRIMAGE.

From September 4 to 12, 2013, we will visit major sites in connection with the martyrs: in York, Oxford, London, Canterbury, and Arundel, focusing on martyrs like St. Margaret Clitherow, St. Edmund Campion, St. Thomas More, St. John Fisher, St. Philip Howard, St. John Southworth, St. Robert Southwell--even St. Thomas a Becket, so symbolic for Henry VIII in the 16th century. While in Oxford, we'll even include sites associated with Blessed John Henry Newman.

We'll visit York Minster, the St. Margaret Clitherow shrine in The Shambles, the ruins of St. Mary's Abbey, and celebrate Mass at the Parish of the English Martyrs in York; see the memorials to the Reformation martyrs in Oxford, tour Trinity and Oriel Colleges (Newman) and celebrate Mass at the Oxford Oratory (which features a mural of St. Edmund Campion's martyrdom and a shrine to Blessed John Henry Newman).

In London, there will be free time for shopping or other sight-seeing, but we will go to Westminster Abbey, Westminster Hall, and Westminster Cathedral, the Tower of London, St. Etheldreda's and Tyburn Convent--and from London we'll visit Canterbury and Arundel (Mass in the Cathedral dedicated to St. Philip Howard!

Our only difficulty was having to leave places out--Cambridge, for example, and other London locations (the Charterhouse, St. Giles-in-the-Fields, etc).

Link here for the official information from CTS about the pilgrimage--and you may download a four color brochure too!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Meet the Author Today with Ken Huck

I'll be on the air with Ken Huck on his Radio Maria USA show, "Meet the Author" today at 3:00 p.m. Eastern/2:00 p.m. Central to discuss Supremacy and Survival: How Catholics Endured the English Reformation!

You may listen live here and remember that podcasts of my radio show on Radio Maria last year, "The English Reformation Today", are also available.

When I sent a copy of my book to Radio Maria last year, it was to Ken Huck's attention for an interview on this show--Father Robert Young saw it before Ken had a chance and contacted me about doing the radio show starting on August 4. I sent another copy to Ken and he scheduled this interview!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Downton Abbey and Anti-Catholicism

I watched the episode of Downton Abbey in which Lady Sybil's husband's Irish Catholicism and Irish nationalist acvities come to the fore. Lord Grantham proclaimed his anti-Catholicism, although he does not want torture or execution for Catholics in twentieth century England--how modern of him! He expresses the belief that Catholics are foreign--"something Johnny Foreigner" about them--so he has never met any English Catholics from the old Recusant families? That seems unlikely. (Lord Grantham was not his best in this episode at all: ignoring issues of his management of the estates, being proud of being a bigot, mocking his daughter's efforts to write a letter to the editor about women's suffrage, etc.)

Spoiler Alert:

The issue of Catholicism will continue in later episodes because Lady Sybil is pregnant--will the baby be baptized in the Anglican Church or the Catholic Church?  The Catholic Herald addressed the issue last year during the original BBC run of Season Three in England:

Downton Abbey, which I confess to not watching very attentively, is now broaching the question of anti-Catholicism.

Up to now I have been puzzled by the way Tom Branson, the Fenian ex-chauffeur and son-in-law, seemingly has no religion. I assumed he was a Protestant (some Irish nationalists were), but it turns out that, no, he is a Catholic after all. Funny it has only surfaced now, as I am pretty certain that someone like the Earl of Grantham, a self-proclaimed anti-Catholic, would not have employed Catholic staff, and would have died of apoplexy att he thought of his daughter marrying one.
How rife was anti-Catholicism in the 1920’s?

Drawing on my admittedly partial knowledge, among the upper classes it was common. It is possible that the aristocracy were less anti-Catholic than the people in the rungs directly below them: after all the Earl of Grantham would have known several Catholic peers, whom he would have seen regularly at the House of Lords. (The Earl in Downton never seems to go there, which is one of the many historical oddities of the series, but let that pass.) Edward VII, the recently deceased King, had several Catholic friends. So, one would imagine that Catholics were socially acceptable in the highest ranks of society, though this would not have extended to intermarriage, partly because of the Church’s laws on that. But further down the social ladder it was a different matter altogether.

The creator of Downton Abbey, Julian Fellowes IS Catholic, and he commented on the theme in this article from The Telegraph:

The unseemly debate in last night’s Downton Abbey over whether the late Lady Sybil Branson’s daughter should be baptised as a Catholic touches on prejudices that its writer Julian Fellowes knows about only too well.

“It is really to illustrate that casual, almost unconscious anti-Catholicism that was found among the upper classes, which lasted well into my growing up years,” says Fellowes, 63, who is a Catholic and an old boy of Ampleforth.

Robert Crawley, the Earl of Grantham, has, in a previous episode of the series, opined that Catholics have “something Johnny Foreigner” about them. “It wasn’t that they were nasty – Robert certainly isn’t – but they thought that somehow Catholics were un-English and so 'not quite right’,” says Fellowes. “I am not aware that anyone else has ever touched on it, so I thought it might be interesting.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Chalice, sequel to The Crown

Order the Book!Coming in March 2013:

In the next novel from Nancy Bilyeau after her acclaimed debut The Crown, novice Joanna Stafford plunges into an even more dangerous conspiracy as she comes up against some of the most powerful men of her era.

In 1538, England is in the midst of bloody power struggles between crown and cross that threaten to tear the country apart. Joanna Stafford has seen what lies inside the king's torture rooms and risks imprisonment again, when she is caught up in a shadowy international plot targeting the King. As the power plays turn vicious, Joanna understands she may have to assume her role in a prophecy foretold by three different seers, each more omniscient than the last.

Joanna realizes the life of Henry VIII as well as the future of Christendom are in her hands—hands that must someday hold the chalice that lays at the center of these deadly prophecies...

"Rarely have the terrors of Henry VIII's reformation been so exciting. Court intrigue, bloody executions, and haunting emotional entanglements create a heady brew of mystery and adventure that sweeps us from the devastation of the ransacked cloisters to the dangerous spy centers of London and the Low Countries, as ex-novice Joanna Stafford fights to save her way of life and fulfill an ancient prophecy, before everything she loves is destroyed."
—C.W. Gortner, author of The Queen's Vow

You may download a preview here (requires an account or facebook login). I wonder if Bilyeau will include any details of the Exeter conspiracy, which involved the Courtenays and the Poles.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Cold January Mornings, January 21, 1586 and 1642

The facts:
~Blessed Edward Stransham, priest and martyr--A native of Oxford, born about 1554, earning his BA from St. John's College in 1575-76. Then he went to Douai in 1577 and Reims in 1578. Because he was ill he returned to England to recuperate; then went back to Reims in 1579; ordained in 1580. In 1581 he returned to England as a missionary priest, but was still suffering from consumption; he left England in 1583, bringing 12 Oxford converts with him to Reims. After a stay in Paris, he returned to England and was arrested while saying Mass in London in 1585 and executed at Tyburn on January 21, 1586.
~Blessed Nicholas Wheeler (or Woodfen), priest and martyr--Born at Leominster in 1550, he studied for the priesthood in Reims, after ordination he returned to England with Edward Stransham, and was executed with him at Tyburn in 1586. (He is honored at this church in Herefordshire.)

~Saint Alban Roe, OSB, priest and martyr--Born in Suffolk in 1583, after his conversion to Catholicism, he became a Benedictine and was ordained; he was arrested several times during his ministry, and exiled and imprisoned for seventeen years. He was executed at Tyburn in 1642.
~Blessed Thomas Green (Reynolds), priest and martyr--Born under the name Green, he trained at Rheims, Valladolid and Seville; exiled from England once, he returned and spent fourteen years imprisoned until his execution at Tyburn in 1642 at the age of 80.

The significance:
In 1586, Blessed William Freeman witnessed the executions of Stransham and Wheeler. He became a Catholic, went to Reims, was ordained and returned to England as a missionary priest. He was hung, drawn, and quartered for that crime on 13 August 1595in Warwick, after spending some time in Stratford-on-Avon.

Notice, however, that the time Fathers Stransham and Wheeler spent in England was relatively short. Although Stransham traveled back and forth between England and the Continent because of his health (how poorly he must have fared in prison while waiting trial and execution!), he and Wheeler received no second chances once finally captured--during some periods of Elizabeth I's reign, that was the common practice: capture, torture (if some plot was suspected), trial, execution.

St. Alban Roe and Blessed Thomas Green, ministering during the Stuart dynasty, however, received different treatment. They were captured, imprisoned, and exiled, sent back to the Continent--then they returned. Their long final imprisonments were spent in relative "freedom". St. Alban Roe was allowed to leave his cell in the Fleet prison, minister to Catholics, and return at night for lock-up. In 1641 he was transferred to close confinement within the strict Newgate prison and was finally tried in 1642 and found guilty of treason under the statute 27 Eliz c.2 for being a priest. [The authorities really didn't know what to do with him and at trial Roe perplexed the judge so much that he suspended his sentence of execution!] Just before his death, Alban asked the sheriff if his life would be spared if he renounced his Catholic religion and became an Anglican. The sheriff swore he would be spared if he did. Alban then said to all: “See, then, what the crime is for which I am to die, and whether my religion be not my only treason... I wish I had a thousand lives; then would I sacrifice them all for so worthy a cause.”

His companion, Blessed Thomas Reynolds (Green) had also been exiled in 1606, during the reign of James I--after the Gunpowder Plot!--but had returned to England to serve Catholics until he was arrested in 1628. He spent fourteen years in prison before his trial and execution. Why the long prison sentences, the relative freedom, the delay in trial and execution? Because Charles I was reigning without Parliament! "When he finally had to recall Parliament and the Long Parliament convened, however, the hangings began again in earnest (20 between 1641 and 1646 including Fr. Alban [and Fr. Reynolds])" Ampleforth Abbey notes.

The situation: think of the cold these men endured those January mornings. After all dangers of their missionary efforts, the discomforts of imprisonment, and the anticipation of the horrendously painful and humiliating death they were about to undergo, they were shivering with cold. The hurdles they were tied to, on their backs, bumped and jostled on frozen ground. St. John Roberts, executed in December of 1610, managed to joke about the cold: when someone said he should be wearing a cap, he asked "are you afraid I'll catch a cold?"; when he arrived at the scaffold he saw the fire (which would actually be used to burn his guts) and said "I see you have prepared a hot breakfast for us!" It's clear that the demeanor and steadiness of these four men moved the crowds to empathy--and at least in one case we know of, conversion.

The stories of the English Catholic martyrs--like all the Church's martyrs from Apostolic times until today--never cease to inspire!

BBC Magazine Reviews Thomas Wyatt Bio

Thomas Wyatt: The Heart's Forest
The current BBC History magazine contains this review of Susan Brigden's new biography of Thomas Wyatt the elder, written by another Tudor scholar, George Bernard:

George Bernard considers an emotive attempt to understand the trials and tribulations faced by a poet in the court of Henry VIII

Gentleman, courtier, diplomat and, most remarkably, poet, Thomas Wyatt died of a fever at the age of 39 but had also come perilously close to losing his life on two earlier occasions. He was briefly held in the Tower in May 1536 on suspicion of having been among Anne Boleyn’s lovers, and again in January 1541 on suspicion of being less than fully loyal to Henry VIII when on embassy to Charles V, Holy Roman emperor.

Wyatt’s verses are hauntingly allusive, often making reference to deep but unrequited love, fears of betrayal by supposed friends, and the challenges of serving, and advising, Henry, a monarch who demanded total allegiance.

Susan Brigden’s biography is an attempt to bring together what we know about Thomas Wyatt from letters, and especially diplomatic correspondence, and what his poems can be taken to reveal. As with her earlier books she proceeds by evocation, building up, quotation by quotation, a vivid impression of how Wyatt felt, whether unhappy in love or frustrated at the impossible demands of his master, who expected his diplomats to persuade European rulers of the justice of his divorce and of his royal supremacy over the church.

Brigden’s is a distinctive voice that holds the attention throughout. It is easy to imagine her reading her book out loud by candlelight in the atmospheric setting of Hampton Court Palace. Her labours in the archives have been prodigious, and her endnotes show her to be well-read in the current literature. Acknowledgments to the “powerful vision” of one scholar and the “persuasive” interpretation of another are readily made. But Brigden’s evocative approach makes it harder for her to deal in her main text with different interpretations. She gives, for example, an account of Anne Boleyn’s fall, and the endnotes fairly cite the books and articles by historians who have engaged in what Steven Gunn has called “trench warfare” over the matter. However, she does not attempt to give reasons why she takes the view she does and rejects others.

Read the rest here.

I enjoyed and benefitted much from reading Susan Brigden's New Worlds, Lost Worlds: The Rule of the Tudors, 1485 to 1603, part of the Penguin History of Britain series, because of her interest in the Reformation and religion:

No period in British history today retains more resonance and mystery than the sixteenth century. The leading figures of the time have become almost mythical, and the terrors and grandeurs of Tudor Britain have resonance with even the least historically minded readers.

Above all Brigden sees the key to the Tudor world as religion - the new world of Protestantism and its battle with the the old world of uniform Catholicism. This great religious rent in the fabric of English society underlies the savage violence and turbulence of the period - from Henry VIII's break with Rome to the overwhelming threat of the Spanish Armada.

New Worlds, Lost Worlds is a startlingly atmospheric tour de force.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

The Eve of St. Agnes

File:Hunt William Holman The flight of Madeline and Porphyro during the Drunkenness attending the Revelry Eve of Saint Agnes.jpg

From John Keats' narrative poem:

St. Agnes' Eve—Ah, bitter chill it was!
The owl, for all his feathers, was a-cold;
The hare limp'd trembling through the frozen grass,
And silent was the flock in woolly fold:
Numb were the Beadsman's fingers, while he told
His rosary, and while his frosted breath,
Like pious incense from a censer old,
Seem'd taking flight for heaven, without a death,
Past the sweet Virgin's picture, while his prayer he saith.

His prayer he saith, this patient, holy man;
Then takes his lamp, and riseth from his knees,
And back returneth, meagre, barefoot, wan,
Along the chapel aisle by slow degrees:
The sculptur'd dead, on each side, seem to freeze,
Emprison'd in black, purgatorial rails:
Knights, ladies, praying in dumb orat'ries,
He passeth by; and his weak spirit fails
To think how they may ache in icy hoods and mails.

Tennyson* also wrote a poem on the eve, the vigil of the feast of St. Agnes, virgin and martyr, as this site describes; the Pre-Raphaelites chose Keats' poem to illustrate, however, as the painting by William Holman Hunt above exemplifies.

The tradition on the Eve of St. Agnes for a young woman to seek a vision of her future husband is explained here:

St. Agnes, like St. Valentine, St. Catherine of Alexandria, and St. Anthony of Padua, is invoked by single women in search of a husband -- and today is a good day to pray such a prayer. In fact, Medieval folklore says that on St. Agnes Eve, girls are often granted visions of their future husbands. Scottish girls would meet in a crop field at midnight, throw grain onto the soil, and pray:

Agnes sweet and Agnes fair,
Hither, hither, now repair;
Bonny Agnes, let me see
The lad who is to marry me.

In some places, it was said that those who fast, keep silence, and conduct certain rituals will have a vision of their future husband. The rituals vary from place to place, but included among them are walking backwards to bed while not looking behind you; pulling out a row of pins, saying a Pater for each one; eating a yolkless boiled egg with salt filling the cavity where the yolk had been, thereby prompting the future husband to bring the girl water in a dream; making a special cake called a "dumb cake," walking backward with it to bed, and eating it; and sprinkling sprigs of thyme and rosemary with holy water, placing them on each side of the bed, and invoking St. Agnes.

*St. Agnes' Eve

by Alfred Tennyson

Deep on the convent-roof the snows
Are sparkling to the moon:
My breath to heaven like vapour goes:
May my soul follow soon!
The shadows of the convent-towers
Slant down the snowy sward,
Still creeping with the creeping hours
That lead me to my Lord:
Make Thou my spirit pure and clear
As are the frosty skies,
Or this first snowdrop of the year
That in my bosom lies.

As these white robes are soil'd and dark,
To yonder shining ground;
As this pale taper's earthly spark,
To yonder argent round;
So shows my soul before the Lamb,
My spirit before Thee;
So in mine earthly house I am,
To that I hope to be.
Break up the heavens, O Lord! and far,
Thro' all yon starlight keen,
Draw me, thy bride, a glittering star,
In raiment white and clean.

He lifts me to the golden doors;
The flashes come and go;
All heaven bursts her starry floors,
And strows her lights below,
And deepens on and up! the gates
Roll back, and far within
For me the Heavenly Bridegroom waits,
To make me pure of sin.
The sabbaths of Eternity,
One sabbath deep and wide--
A light upon the shining sea--
The bridegroom with his bride!

The Green Season: Ordinary Time

Soon after my piece on Time in the Liturgy appeared on, the site administrator put out a call to the regular contributors for an article about Ordinary Time, and I volunteered, making up for skipping a December contribution, I think:

On September 2, 2007, Pope Benedict XVI celebrated Mass in Loreto with 300,000 young people in the congregation. He spoke about our stewardship of creation. Unfortunately, the mainstream media thought his homily was all about environmentalism and one writer thought the pope had chosen his vestments to fit with the “Green” theme. The journalist did not know that Pope Benedict XVI was celebrating Mass during Ordinary Time and that green is the liturgical color of Ordinary Time. To avoid errors like that journalist committed, let’s look more closely at Ordinary Time on the Church calendar.
The term “Ordinary Time” is the English translation of the Latin name for this season on the Roman Calendar: Tempus per annum (literally “time through the year”). There are two periods of Ordinary Time through the year: the first (and shorter) begins Monday after the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord (which is the end of the Christmas season) and ends on Tuesday before Ash Wednesday  (the beginning of Lent); the second begins Monday after Pentecost (which is the end of the Easter season) and ends on the Saturday before the First Sunday of Advent. These two periods of Ordinary Time are designated by naming the Sundays of Ordinary Time numerically (the Second Sunday of Ordinary Time, the Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, etc), although there are Sunday Feasts during Ordinary Time: Corpus Christi (moved in most dioceses in the United States to Sunday from Thursday), Trinity Sunday, and Christ the King, for example. Note that there is no First Sunday of Ordinary Time, since the Feast of the Baptism of Our Lord preempts it. Most years, there are 33 weeks of Ordinary Time through the year. The term “Ordinary” could indeed refer to the ordinal numbering of the weeks of Ordinary Time.
Please read the rest here. This is my 13th submission to! Lucky #13!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Tudor Portrait Recycling with a Twist

Portrait of Sir Francis Walsingham.From Elena Maria Vidal's Tea at Trianon blog comes this story from The Guardian about a special exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery in London:

He was the eyes and ears of Elizabeth I, the loyal spymaster and ruthless counterterror chief: Sir Francis Walsingham was the man who knew everything. Or not quite everything, it seems. Certainly not that his portrait was secretly painted over an overtly Roman Catholic image of the holy Virgin and Child.

“He would not have been delighted,” speculated Dr Tarnya Cooper, standing in front of the remarkable new discovery going on show at the National Portrait Gallery. “You do wonder if the artist might be enjoying a private joke."

The gallery on Thursday opened a display showing x-rays of devotional paintings it has discovered underneath its portraits of two key Tudor statesmen. As well as a Virgin and Child under Walsingham, researchers found A Flagellation of Christ under the Queen’s lord treasurer Thomas Sackville.

The Walsingham portrait dates from the 1580s when Protestant England was isolated and supporting the war in the Netherlands against the Spanish.

“The Catholics are the absolute enemy at this period so the idea that you’ve got this wonderful devotional image underneath your portrait would probably be rather horrifying to him,” Cooper, the NPG’s chief curator, said. 

It was a surprise finding. “There is not very much that Walsingham does not know about of what’s going on in courts across Europe, he has a huge network of informers, is an incredibly wily man and is someone with a public reputation. For somebody who is not wonderfully keen on Walsingham this would be a clever way of getting at him."

The NPG believes it cannot be accidental that after x-raying more than 120 Tudor portraits and mostly finding nothing, it found an image so emblematic of Roman Catholicism under Walsingham. “It is intriguing that it is under the spymaster-general,” said Cooper.

You can see the portrait in question and the x-ray results here, although I find it hard to see the image behind the portrait on-line:

Recent technical analysis undertaken as part of the Making Art in Tudor Britain project has revealed that some of the Gallery’s sixteenth-century portraits were painted over pre-existing paintings. This could have occurred for a variety of reasons and provides fascinating insight into artistic production during the period.

This display highlights two rare examples in which paintings with religious iconography have been discovered beneath portraits. Images generated by analytical techniques such as x-radiography and infrared reflectography are used to reveal the hidden paintings, and the portraits are also paired with loans from other collections to give an impression of the underlying compositions. The display also includes an interesting portrait with a fragment from a decorative scheme on the reverse, which suggests that it was originally intended to be viewed from both sides.

More on Francis Walsingham here.

Friday, January 18, 2013

The Printed Book Still "Lives"!

The Catholic World Report calls our attention to a story in the Wall Street Journal that cites the survival of the printed book:

Half a decade into the e-book revolution, though, the prognosis for traditional books is suddenly looking brighter. Hardcover books are displaying surprising resiliency. The growth in e-book sales is slowing markedly. And purchases of e-readers are actually shrinking, as consumers opt instead for multipurpose tablets. It may be that e-books, rather than replacing printed books, will ultimately serve a role more like that of audio books—a complement to traditional reading, not a substitute.

How attached are Americans to old-fashioned books? Just look at the results of a Pew Research Center survey released last month. The report showed that the percentage of adults who have read an e-book rose modestly over the past year, from 16% to 23%. But it also revealed that fully 89% of regular book readers said that they had read at least one printed book during the preceding 12 months. Only 30% reported reading even a single e-book in the past year.

In the WSJ article, Nicholas Carr notes:

From the start, e-book purchases have skewed disproportionately toward fiction, with novels representing close to two-thirds of sales. Digital best-seller lists are dominated in particular by genre novels, like thrillers and romances. Screen reading seems particularly well-suited to the kind of light entertainments that have traditionally been sold in supermarkets and airports as mass-market paperbacks.

These are, by design, the most disposable of books. We read them quickly and have no desire to hang onto them after we've turned the last page. We may even be a little embarrassed to be seen reading them, which makes anonymous digital versions all the more appealing. The "Fifty Shades of Grey" phenomenon probably wouldn't have happened if e-books didn't exist.

Readers of weightier fare, including literary fiction and narrative nonfiction, have been less inclined to go digital. They seem to prefer the heft and durability, the tactile pleasures, of what we still call "real books"—the kind you can set on a shelf.

E-books, in other words, may turn out to be just another format—an even lighter-weight, more disposable paperback. That would fit with the discovery that once people start buying digital books, they don't necessarily stop buying printed ones. In fact, according to Pew, nearly 90% of e-book readers continue to read physical volumes. The two forms seem to serve different purposes.

That's my experience too--what about you?

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Spiritual English Historical Fiction

Novelist Stephanie Cowell writes on the English Historical Fiction Authors blog:

I once told a friend that it was impossible for me to write a novel without a nun or a priest in it. In my household this has become a bit of a joke; my husband likes to say, “Oh you wouldn’t like this book or movie! No one’s searching for God!” Well, sometimes it is true.

I am myself a church mouse; I can hardly pass an old church or chapel in England without slipping inside. Oh the history! Sometimes a thousand years or more in one church. Women were praying for families seven hundred years ago in the very spot where you stand.

Roughly I can put the nuns, priests and devout characters in novels in three categories: sleuth, spiritual seekers, and secondary characters who slip in and out of pages baptizing and burying (in the many periods of historical fiction, religion was a major part of one’s life.) And of course the first two categories intermingle. . . .
My own most spiritual novel NICHOLAS COOKE is about an Elizabethan boy who grows up as an actor, soldier and physician and longs to be a priest and serve God but is always in too much trouble; it was published in the 90s by W.W. Norton and is now available on Kindle. I was involved in my own intense spiritual search when I wrote it but even with that, I can’t say where it came from. The spiritual parts of the writing descended on me as the light does in Riley’s novel. “I have never once seen God, and yet I feel Him more intensely than I feel you. It burns inside me so fiercely that it should kill me.” Library Journal called it “An exquisitely drawn portrait of a robust age and a complex man at war with himself.” I was astonished when the novel was featured in People Magazine. Of all my books!
More about the author and her works here. I might have to check out Nicholas Cooke!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Echoes of Oxford

Loss and Gain coverThis week's guest on the Journey Home series on EWTN television was Trevor Lipscombe, director of The Catholic University of America Press:

A native of England, Lipscombe received his Bachelor of Science degree in physics from Queen Mary College of the University of London in 1983, and he earned his doctorate in 1986 from Oxford University.

He did his post-doctoral work at the Benjamin Levich Institute for Physico-Chemical Hydrodynamics at the City University of New York. He then made a commitment to a year of volunteer work at the Institute for Youth Advocacy at Covenant House in New York City. He met his future wife, a fellow volunteer, there and decided to make his permanent home in the United States. Lipscombe and his wife now have five children ages 7 to 19.

After a year at Covenant House, Lipscombe took a position as the senior editorial assistant for the American Physical Society’s Physical Review. With that first position in scholarly publishing, Lipscombe says he was “hooked.”

“Academic publishing is a wonderful profession. It is immensely rewarding to work with the leading professors in their academic fields and to help them publish the finest works of scholarship possible,” says Lipscombe.

Lipscombe continues to publish occasionally in his own academic field of theoretical fluid mechanics. A former high school and college rugby player, Lipscombe’s book The Physics of Rugby (Nottingham University Press) was named one of the top 10 physics books of 2009 by Physical World magazine.

His continued interest in physics is a hobby, he says. “While some people like to spend free time doing crossword puzzles, I like to play with equations as they relate to everyday life.”

Not shy about his commitment to his Catholic faith, Lipscombe (a lector at his local parish) says CUA had a unique draw for him. “I look forward to helping to support the mission of The Catholic University of America and to raising the visibility and prestige of the CUA Press,” says Lipscombe.

Mr. Lipscombe is also the editor of the Ignatius Press Critical Edition of Blessed John Henry Newman's novel, Loss and Gain:

This novel about a young man's intellectual and spiritual development was the first work John Henry Newman wrote after entering the Roman Catholic Church in 1845. The story describes the perplexing questions and doubts Charles Reding experiences while attending Oxford.

Though intending to avoid the religious controversies that are being heatedly debated at the university, Reding ends up leaving the Church of England and becoming a Catholic. A former Anglican clergyman who was later named a Catholic cardinal, Newman wrote this autobiographical novel to illustrate his own reasons for embracing Catholicism.

That last sentence is surprising, because during the Journey Home program, Mr. Lipscombe expressed doubt about the autobiographical nature of the novel, citing Newman's own declaration that it was not.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Two Anniversaries: Elizabeth I and the Ordinariate

On January 15, 1559 Elizabeth Tudor was crowned and anointed Queen of England and Ireland in Westminster Abbey with a ceremony based on that developed for her half-sister Mary Tudor five years or so earlier. There are reports that she left the sanctuary area when the Bishop of Carlisle elevated the Sacred Host and that she did not receive Holy Communion. She was only 25 years old--after the succession of a boy king, too young (legally) to reign, and of a middle aged woman, perhaps too old to reign, her youth must have been very refreshing. Her subjects anticipated her marriage.

Her first Parliament would establish the Via Media of the Church of England while the Convocation of Bishops as constituted by the late Reginald Cardinal Pole, Archbishop of Canterbury, almost to the man, refused to swear the Oaths of Supremacy and Uniformity demanded by it. Elizabeth appointed Matthew Parker, who had been one of her mother's chaplains, as her Archbishop of Canterbury--she was, after all, Supreme Governor of the Church, as determined by Parliament. The bishops, priests and officials at the universities of Oxford and Cambridge who refused to take her oaths and follow his leadership would be deposed from their positions, exiled or imprisoned.

On January 15, 2011, as the History on the official site of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham reminds us,  the

Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham was erected by decree of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on the same day, and the then Fr Keith Newton was appointed by the Holy Father as its first Ordinary.

On Ash Wednesday 2011, around 900 laity and clergy of the Church of England ceased public ministry in the Anglican Communion and began a forty day period of preparation to be received into the full communion of the Catholic Church.
In March 2011, the Holy Father elevated Fr John Broadhurst and Fr Andrew Burnham to the rank of Prelate of Honour, and Fr Keith Newton to the rank of Protonotary Apostolic.
During Holy Week 2011, almost 1000 men, women and young people were received into the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham.
After Easter the former Anglican clergy were ordained to the diaconate and then, around Pentecost 2011, they were ordained to the sacred priesthood.
This new structure within the Catholic Church is a generous and pioneering attempt to heal the wounds of sin and division between Anglicans and Catholics. The Holy Father, speaking at St Mary’s College, Oscott, at the end of his 2010 State Visit to the United Kingdom, said the Ordinariate “should be seen as a prophetic gesture that can contribute positively to the developing relations between Anglicans and Catholics. It helps us to set our sights on the ultimate goal of all ecumenical activity: the restoration of full ecclesial communion in the context of which the mutual exchange of gifts from our respective spiritual patrimonies serves as an enrichment to us all”.
So today is the 454th anniversary of Elizabeth I's coronation and the second anniversary of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Pre-Lent Liturgical Time: Septuagesima

I look forward to receiving my Pre-Lent Supplement from Laudamus Te which

will contain morning/evening prayers, meditations, and feast propers for Septuagesima Sunday, January 27, through the Feast of the Seven Servite Fathers, February 12.

This is pre-Lenten period known as Septuagesima (seventy)--part of the liturgical year in the Extraordinary Form of the Latin Rite which was replaced by Ordinary Time after the reform of the liturgy in the 1960's and 1970's. Septuagesima begins the fast before Lent: we fast from the Alleluia and the Gloria, and begin voluntary fasting.

The Sundays of Septuagesima are: Septuagesima, and Sexagesima, Quinquagesima and the traditional name for the first Sunday of Lent is Quadragesima. They all mark the time before Easter: 70 days, 60 days, 50 days, 40 days. More about Septuagesima here.

The period before Lent included feasting as well as fasting: in earlier times, Catholics used up all the meat, cheese, and other meat products before Ash Wednesday: Carnival (farewell meat!). And that period ended with Shrovetide in the final days before Ash Wednesday, finishing up the last of the meat and going to Confession just before Lent began. In Kansas, we have an interesting commemoration of Shrovetide with the annual Pancake Race in Liberal, Kansas, held in conjunction with a race in Olney, England. (Making pancakes is a good way to use up grease!) The race recalls an event in the 15th century:

In Olney, the Pancake Race tradition dates back more than 500 years to 1445. A woman engrossed in using up cooking fats (forbidden during Lent) was making pancakes. Hearing the church bells ring calling everyone to the shriving service, she grabbed her head scarf (required in church) and ran to the church, skillet and pancake in hand and still apron-clad. In following years, neighbors got into the act and it became a race to see who could reach the church first and collect a "Kiss of Peace" from the verger (bell-ringer.) The kiss is still the traditional prize in both races.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

My Latest Article for

As you may note by the badge on the right side of my blog, I'm a regular contributor to the site (although I skipped December!). Here's my latest, covering one of my favorite topics, the Liturgical Year:

St. Augustine of Hippo meditated on the meaning of time in his great Confessions, exploring the mystery of time as God lives in its eternal present in contrast to Augustine living in the past, the present and the future (Book Eleven). We may be more inclined to talk about time management, trying to control time, maximize its use and our productivity—scheduling our lives and activities, squeezing more items in, multitasking (we think) and bemoaning our ultimate lack of control over time. Liturgical time as we celebrate the mysteries of Christ and His Paschal Mystery might offer us a better insight into St. Augustine’s great meditations.

For example, we have just experienced the beginning of the liturgical year with the great season of Advent. Time was a major theme in Advent as we looked forward to the coming of Christ: His Second Coming at the end of time; His coming as an infant, born to the Blessed Virgin Mary at a particular time, in a particular place (as St. Luke’s Gospel tells us and as Pope Benedict XVI brilliantly elucidates in his study of the Infancy Narratives); and His coming to each of us at the end of our time on earth, when we face our particular judgment and enter eternity. At every Mass, in every Sacrament, Jesus is present to us in the present; thus we meditate on all the times Jesus comes during the Season of Advent.

Read the rest here!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Richard Challoner, RIP

Richard Challoner, Vicar Apostolic for the London District in England, died on January 12, 1781. The Vicar Apostolic structure provided support for Catholic priests and laity in Engand in the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries until the Restoration of the Hierarchy in 1850.

Born on September 29, 1691, he was raised a Presbyterian until after his father died when his mother became a servant in a Catholic household. Then he was raised Catholic and was baptized when he was thirteen. He entered the English College in Douai in 1705 and remained there until he returned to England in 1730. Challoner was ordained a priest in 1716 and served as an adminstrator at Douai for many years until becoming a missionary priest in London among the poor; although the recusancy laws were not as strictly enforced at that time, Father Challoner was still disguised as a layman and was careful not to attract official attention the the Masses and other Sacraments he celebrated in all kinds of locations.

In 1728 he had published his first work, Think Well on It. William Hyland discusses his many other published works in this Touchstone article.

Among his works, including a revision of the Douai-Rheims Bible and several devotional books, I think his most interesting were the historical and hagiographical efforts--books on the Anglo-Saxon and Medieval saints and especially on the Catholics martyrs who suffered in England from the reign of Henry VIII to that of Charles II. Those works provided the tiny minority of Catholics in England a vision of their past and indeed of its glories. In their own age they were nearly forgotten and quite ignored--not even worth persecuting!

Strangely enough, that latter condition changed after Parliament passed the Catholic Relief Act of 1778. Lord Gordon, President of the Protestant Assocation enraged the mobs so in 1780 that various No Popery riots took place (as recounted in Charles Dickens' Barnaby Rudge), as well as a march on Parliament, leading to many arrests and executions. The mobs also attacked the Embassy buildings of Bavaria and Sardinia, as well as the homes of wealthy noble Catholics. Bishop Challoner, aged 89, had to hide--just like a 16th century priest of old--until the mobs left his London home. The shock and terror of that near escape was too much for him. Bishop Challoner suffered paralysis two days before his death.

He was succeeded as Vicar Apostolic by his Coadjutor James Talbot; the last to hold that title was Nicholas Wiseman, who became the first Archbishop of Westminster in 1850.

St. Aelred of Rievaulx, BFF

On January 12, 1167, Aelred, Abbot of Rievaulx died; therefore, this is his feast day. He was born c. 1110 in Hexham to a priestly family , was educated there and possibly at Durham, and was a courtier of David I, king of Scots, before entering the Cistercian abbey of Rievaulx in the early or mid 1130s. In 1143 Ailred became the first abbot of its daughter house of Revesby in the Lincolnshire Wolds. In 1147 he was elected abbot of Rievaulx, a position he held until his death. Under his rule Rievaulx was a vibrant institution, helping to spread the Cistercian model of momastic life across northern England and beyond.

In his book, Saints and Scholars: Twenty-Five Medieval Portraits, David Knowles comments that St. Aelred of Rievaulx is a "singularly attractive figure whom, thanks to the records left by a disciple and still more to his own writings, we can see as a living man in some completeness. . . . As we read, a corner of the veil that hides the past from us seems to lift . . ."

Among St. Aelred's 13 surviving written works, perhaps the most famous is his treatise on Spiritual Friendship:

"Friendship is that virtue by which spirits are bound by ties of love and sweetness, and out of many are made one. Even the philosophers of this world have ranked friendship not with things casual or transitory but with the virtues which are eternal. Solomon in the Book of Proverbs appears to agree with them when he says: "he that is a friend loves at all times," manifestly declaring that friendship is eternal if it is true friendship; but if it should ever cease to be, then it was not true friendship, even though it seemed to be so."


"For spiritual friendship, which we call true, should be desired, not for consideration of any worldly advantage or for any extrinsic cause, but from the dignity of its own nature and the feelings of the human heart, so that its fruition and reward Is nothing other than itself. ... And so spiritual friendship among the just is born of a similarity in life, morals, and pursuits, that is, it is a mutual conformity in matters human and divine united with benevolence and charity."

but remember:

"This type of friendship is not common."

His abbey was, of course, suppressed during Henry VIII's reign, and on 3 December 1538 Abbot Blyton and his twenty-two monks gathered in Rievaulx’s chapter-house for the final time and surrendered their abbey to the royal commissioners. But now the abbey is a National Park, hailed as "one of the most complete and impressive abbeys in Britain" and "one of the most popular visitor attractions in the North"!

Friday, January 11, 2013

On the Son Rise Morning Show: Blessed William Carter

I'll be on the Son Rise Morning Show this morning at 7:45 a.m. Eastern/6:45 a.m. Central to discuss the martyrdom of Blessed William Carter, a Catholic printer and bookseller in Elizabethan London on January 11, 1584.

Today's English Catholic martyr's story reveals some of the debates and conflicts between Catholics during the Elizabethan era. The Jesuits and a group of secular or seminary priests called the Appellants disagreed about the divided loyalties of Catholics in England and what they could do about them. You might remember this was an issue brought up in the 2011 book, The Trials of Margaret Clitherow--and she was completely opposed to the Appellant view. Some thought that Catholics could attend Church of England services sometimes: to be part of the only Christian community openly available to them and to avoid the recusancy fines. They would abstain from the Anglican holy communion, ignore Anglican/Reformed preaching, and remain true to Catholic doctrine, sacraments, and devotions. They would certainly be loyal to their queen Elizabeth I in temporal matters but remain true to the Catholic Church in spiritual and religious matters--except that by attending the Church of England services, they paid manifestly public "lip service" to her governance of the Church of England! The Jesuits and others like St. Margaret Clitherow who agreed with them followed the restrictions of Will in Rodgers & Hammerstein's Oklahoma (but without the accent): "With me it's all er nuthin'/Is it all er nuthin' with you?/It cain't be "in between"/It cain't be "now and then"/No half and half romance will do!"

The reason for this background is the title of the book Blessed William Carter printed and for which he was arrested, tortured, and executed: Dr. Gregory Martin's "A Treatise of Schisme: Shewing, that Al Catholikes Ought in Any Wise to Abstaine Altogether From Heretical Conunenticles, to Witt, Their Prayers, Sermons, &c". According to wikipedia, Dr. Gregory Martin (c. 1542 to 28 October 1582)

was an English Catholic scholar, the translator of the Douai Version of the Bible from the Latin Vulgate. In preparing the translation he was assisted by several of the other scholars then living in the English College, Douai, but Gregory Martin made the whole translation in the first instance and bore the brunt of the work throughout.

He was born in Maxfield, parish of Guestling, near Winchelsea, in Sussex, and entered as one of the original scholars of St. John's College, Oxford, in 1557. Among those who entered at the beginning was Edmund Campion, the Jesuit martyr; at this period of his life, he conformed to the Established Anglican Church, and was ordained as a deacon. Gregory Martin was his close friend throughout his Oxford days, and himself remained a Catholic. When he found it necessary to quit the university, he was tutor in the family of the Duke of Norfolk, where he had among his pupils Philip Howard, Earl of Arundel, also subsequently martyred. During his residence with the Duke, Martin wrote to Campion, warning him that he was being led away into danger by his ambition, and begging him to leave Oxford. It is said that it was in great measure due to this advice that Campion migrated to Dublin in 1570, and accepted a post in the university there.

In the meantime, Gregory Martin left the house of the Duke of Norfolk, and crossing the seas, presented himself at Dr. Allen's College at Douai as a candidate for the priesthood, in 1570. During his early days there, he wrote once more to Campion, and they met at Douai, Campion was now a professed Catholic, and he received minor orders and the subdiaconate, after which he proceeded to Rome and eventually entered the Society of Jesus. Having finished his theology, Gregory Martin was ordained priest in March, 1573. Three years later he went to Rome to assist Allen in the foundation of the English College there, known by the title of the "Venerabile".

Martin remained two years, during which time he organized the course of studies at the new college; when he was recalled by Allen to Reims, where the college had moved from Douai in consequence of political troubles. Martin and Campion met for the last time, when the latter made a short stay at Reims in the summer of 1580, on his way to the English Mission. It was during the four years after his return from Rome that Gregory Martin's settled to a Catholic translation of the Bible. The Reformers continually quoted their versions; Allen wanted to meet them on their own ground. He determined to attempt the work at his college, and deputed Martin to undertake the translation. Thomas Worthington, Richard Bristowe, William Rainolds, and Allen himself were to assist in revising the text and preparing suitable notes to the passages which were most used by the Protestants. It was accuracy of rendering which was chiefly needed by the controversial exigencies of the day.

Martin's translation was made from the Vulgate, and is full of Latinisms, so that it has little of the rhythmic harmony of the Anglican Authorized Version: but in accuracy and scholarship, it was superior to the English versions which had preceded it, and it is understood to have had influence on the translators of King James's Version. In many cases in which they did not follow the Douai, the editors of the Revised Version have upheld Martin's translation. The Reims New Testament first appeared in 1582. The Old Testament was not published till more than a quarter of a century later. This, however, was solely due to want of funds. It was not called for with such urgency, and its publication was put off from year to year. But it was all prepared at the same time as the New Testament, and by the same editors. Martin was found to be in consumption. In the hope of saving his life, Allen sent him to Paris, but the disease was past cure. He returned to Reims to die, and he was buried in the parish church of St. Stephen. Allen preached the funeral discourse, and erercted a long Latin inscription on the tomb of his friend.

The following is a list of Martin's works:
"Treatise of Schisme" (Douai, 1578)
"Discovery of the Manifold Corruptions of the Holy Scripture by the Heretikes of our Daies" (Reims, 1582)
Reims Testament and Douay Bible
"Treatise of Christian Peregrination" (Reims, 1583)
"Of the Love of the Soul" (St. Omer, 1603)
"Gregorius Martinus ad Adolphum Mekerchum pro veteri et vera Græcarum Literarum Pronunciatione" (Oxford, 1712)

Today's martyr, Blessed William Carter was born in London, 1548; suffered for treason at Tyburn on 11 January 1584. Son of John Carter, a draper, and Agnes, his wife, he was apprenticed to John Cawood, queen's printer, on Candlemas Day, 1563, for ten years, and afterwards acted as secretary to Nicholas Harpsfield, last Catholic archdeacon of Canterbury, then a prisoner. Note that Harpsfield wrote an early biography of Thomas More, left England during the reign of Edward VI for Louvain, returned during the reign of Mary I and participated in heresy trials, and finally, opposed the ordination of Matthew Parker as Archbishop of Canterbury, for which he was imprisoned in the Fleet with his brother John. Therefore, William Carter was very brave, associating with an imprisoned cleric who had refused the Oath of Supremacy!

When Harpsfield died (after release from prison on grounds of ill health) Carter married and set up a press on Tower Hill. Among other Catholic books he printed a new edition (1000 copies) of Dr. Gregory Martin's "A Treatise of Schisme", in 1580, for which he was at once arrested and imprisoned in the Gatehouse. Before this he had been in the Poultry Compter--a small prison run by a Sheriff in the City of London--from 23 September to 28 October 1578. He was transferred to the Tower, 1582, and paid for his own diet there down to midsummer, 1583. Having been tortured on the rack, he was indicted at the Old Bailey--the central criminal court in England—on 10 January 1584, for having printed Dr. Martin's book, in which was a paragraph where confidence was expressed that the Catholic Hope would triumph, and a pious Judith would slay Holofernes. This was interpreted as an incitement to slay the queen. His wife died while he was in prison.

He was beatified in 1987 by Blessed Pope John Paul II.

Printing 1000 copies of Martin's book?--that seems a considerable press run. Evidently he knew there were customers for that book. Carter was a well-to-do man, as he was able to pay for his room and board in prison for perhaps a year. The government tortured him to discover names of any "Judiths" out there ready to behead "Holofernes"--if they had found any evidence of a conspiracy they would have used better evidence than the interpretation of a certain line in a book! But that was the atmosphere of fear and suspicion at that time.