Sunday, March 31, 2013

John Donne and The Resurrection; Anne Hyde and Her Conversion

Last year, I posted on the death of John Donne, the Dean of St. Paul's, poet, pamphleter, Anglican preacher and former Catholic: Find that post here. For Easter Sunday this year, here is his Resurrection poem from the Holy Sonnets:

Moist with one drop of Thy blood, my dry soul
Shall--though she now be in extreme degree
Too stony hard, and yet too fleshly--be
Freed by that drop, from being starved, hard or foul,
And life by this death abled shall control
Death, whom Thy death slew ; nor shall to me
Fear of first or last death bring misery,
If in thy life-book my name thou enroll.
Flesh in that long sleep is not putrified,
But made that there, of which, and for which it was;
Nor can by other means be glorified.
May then sin's sleep and death soon from me pass,
That waked from both, I again risen may
Salute the last and everlasting day.

More on Donne here.

March 31 is also the anniversary of Anne Hyde's death in 1671--the Duchess of York, mother of two queens, Mary II and Anne, she had become Catholic (secretly) soon after the Restoration in 1660. Her conversion to Catholicism influenced her husband, James, the Duke of York and later King James II and VII, to become a Catholic himself. The great compendium of English Catholic spiritual writing, Firmly I Believe and Truly, contains this account of her conversion!

Happy Easter

Christ is Risen!

Truly, He is Risen!

Or, in Charles Wesley's words:

Christ the Lord is risen today, Alleluia!
Earth and heaven in chorus say, Alleluia!
Raise your joys and triumphs high, Alleluia!
Sing, ye heavens, and earth reply, Alleluia!

Love's redeeming work is done, Alleluia!
Fought the fight, the battle won, Alleluia!
Death in vain forbids him rise, Alleluia!
Christ has opened paradise, Alleluia!

Lives again our glorious King, Alleluia!
Where, O death, is now thy sting? Alleluia!
Once he died our souls to save, Alleluia!
Where's thy victory, boasting grave? Alleluia!

Soar we now where Christ has led, Alleluia!
Following our exalted Head, Alleluia!
Made like him, like him we rise, Alleluia!
Ours the cross, the grave, the skies, Alleluia!

Hail the Lord of earth and heaven, Alleluia!
Praise to thee by both be given, Alleluia!
Thee we greet triumphant now, Alleluia!
Hail the Resurrection, thou, Alleluia!

King of glory, soul of bliss, Alleluia!
Everlasting life is this, Alleluia!
Thee to know, thy power to prove, Alleluia!
Thus to sing, and thus to love, Alleluia!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Holy Week and the Ordinariate

I interrupt my self-imposed absence from blogging during Holy Week because I want to comment briefly on the most providentially serendipitous historical context of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham's Holy Week in London.

Taking over Our Lady of the Assumption and Saint Gregory on Warwick Street, the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham this Lent, began Holy Week services in the Anglican Use, of course, with Palm Sunday. But it is the homily of Monsignor Keith Newton for the Chrism Mass that I draw your attention to, as he begins with a quotation from Blessed John Henry Newman, citing a letter Newman wrote to A.J. Hammer in 1845: "To my mind the overbearingly convincing proof is this--were St Athanasius or St Ambrose in London now, they would go to worship, not at St Paul’s Cathedral, but to Warwick Street".

You might remember that Newman later recalled in the Apologia pro vita sua: "I had once been into Warwick Street Chapel, with my father, who, I believe, wanted to hear some piece of music; all that I bore away from it was the recollection of a pulpit and a preacher, and a boy swinging a censer."

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Holy Week Break

I'm taking a break the rest of this week to observe Holy Week and the Triduum.
I'll be back during the Easter Octave!
God bless you all.

Monday, March 25, 2013

A Winchester Martyr on Lady Day

Blessed James Bird or Byrd or Beard was hung, drawn, and quartered for the crime of converting to Catholicism and denying the ecclesial supremacy of Elizabeth I on March 25 in 1593--when he was about 19 years old. He was born and he died in Winchester.

He had traveled to Reims in France after his conversion in his 19th year to attend the seminary but had decided that he didn't have a vocation to the priesthood after all. Returning to England, the authorities suspected what he'd been up to and presented him with the Oath of Supremacy (which by statute requiring certain officials to take the oath, he would normally not have been ask to do). When he refused to take the Oath or even attend an Anglican service--even after his father begged him to--he was condemed to death.

This blog tells a rather charming--or horrible--story of his father seeing his head still on the pole upon the gates of Winchester:

BORN at Winchester of a gentleman's family and brought up a Protestant, he became a Catholic and went to study at Rheims. On his return he was apprehended and charged with being reconciled to the Roman Church, and maintaining the Pope under Christ to be the Head of the Church. Brought to the bar he acknowledged the indictment and received sentence of death as for high treason, though both life and liberty were offered him if he would but once go to the Protestant Church. When his father solicited him to save his life by complying, he modestly answered that, as he had always been obedient to him, so he would obey him now could he do so without offending God-After a long imprisonment he was hanged and quartered at Winchester, March 25, 1593. He suffered with wonderful constancy and cheerfulness, being but nineteen years old. His head was set upon a pole upon one of the gates of the city. His father one day passing by thought that the head bowing down made him a reverence, and cried out: "Oh, Jemmy my son, ever obedient in life, even when dead thou payest reverence to thy father. How far from thy heart was all treason or other wickedness."

He was beatified in 1929 by Pope Pius XI.

St. Margaret Clitherow and Holy Week

I'll be on the Son Rise Morning Show this morning at 7:45 a.m. Eastern and 6:45 a.m. Central (etc) to discuss St. Margaret Clitherow, who was crushed to death on March 25, 1586 at the age of 30. Brian Patrick and I will also discuss the liturgical celebration of Holy Week before and after the English Reformation. You can listen live here--otherwise tune in on your local EWTN affiliate radio station!

Remember that St. Margaret Clitherow was a convert--when she was 18 years old--and since she was born just two years before Queen Mary I died, she almost certainly had no memory and little knowledge about the processions, rituals and traditions of Holy Week in England before the Reformation under Henry VIII, further advanced by Edward VI and his Protectorate, and briefly restored by Mary. At the beginning of Elizabeth I's reign, and particularly in York, of course, there was a transition period and some Catholic priests continued to celebrate Mass and the Sacraments according to the old ways, but even in York, government pressure to uniformity succeeded in ending those practices.

More about St. Margaret Clitherow from last year here--note that the Latin Mass Society of England and Wales will honor her with a pilgrimage this year on Saturday, May 4 (the Feast of the Martyrs of England and Wales)--and more about the pilgrimage to York I'll lead this September here.

For more information about Holy Week before the English Reformation, please see my posts from last year on the Pray the Mass website: on Palm Sunday and on the Triduum.

Moving the Annunciation

Because today is Fig Monday/Monday of Holy Week, the Feast of the Annunciation of Our Lord has been moved this year to the Monday after the Easter Octave/Divine Mercy Sunday. Nevertheless, this article by Richard Cork in The Wall Street Journal about Jan van Eyck's painting of the Annunciation seems worthy of mention today:

Nothing in the Bible story is more astounding than the pivotal instant when, quite suddenly, the Virgin Mary receives an unexpected visitor. Brandishing a resplendent pair of wings, the Angel Gabriel descends from heaven and gives the young woman some shocking news: She will conceive and give birth to Jesus, the Son of God.

Most Renaissance painters who tackled this popular subject ensured that a sizable gap divorces Mary from Gabriel. But when Jan van Eyck took up the challenge, he broke through to a radical alternative. Based in Bruges as court painter to Philip the Good, the powerful Duke of Burgundy, van Eyck was renowned as a pioneer of naturalism in the new medium of oil paint. And in a tall, narrow painting made about 1435, executed with mesmerizing precision and a wealth of meanings, he removes the setting from the Virgin's home. Instead, "The Annunciation" now occurs in a richly detailed church. By breaking away from the domestic context favored in so many other treatments of the subject, van Eyck creates an image packed with coded messages about the triumph of the new faith over the old scriptures.

At first, our eyes are caught up in the intensity of the encounter between Angel and Virgin. In this thin panel, we grow conscious of how very close these figures are to one another. Although the ecclesiastical setting could hardly be more formal, their encounter feels like a private moment, no doubt reflecting van Eyck's own awareness that Mary is now being impregnated with the seed of the Christ child. Rays of golden light shoot down from an upper window, bearing the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove. One ray descends directly onto the crown of the Virgin's head, piercing her so that Jesus can be conceived.
In December last year, I posted about the exhibition of works by Van Eyck and others in Rotterdam. Cork concludes his WSJ article with some comments about the presence of this painting in the National Gallery of Art in DC:
Nearly five centuries after it was painted, "The Annunciation" became the focus of a battle between the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg and an obsessive American multimillionaire. In June 1930, Hermitage officials were appalled by Stalin's decision to sell key paintings in its collection to wealthy foreign collectors. But Andrew Mellon, the U.S. secretary of the Treasury, bought "The Annunciation" with 20 other Hermitage paintings before locking them away in a basement near his Washington home. And in 1935, after the U.S. government brought tax-evasion charges against him, Mellon suddenly announced that he would found a great gallery in the capital.
Six years later, the National Gallery of Art was duly inaugurated by President Franklin Roosevelt. And one of its star paintings is undoubtedly "The Annunciation." Its impact today prompts many visitors to scrutinize this luminous image with a sense of wonder, just as Christians have always marveled at the infinitely mysterious miracle of the Virgin birth. [Not just the Virgin Birth, of course, but the magnificent miracle of the Incarnation!]
Richard Cork is the author of The Healing Presence of Art: A History of Western Art in Hospitals from Yale University Press:
Between birth and death, many of life's most critical moments occur in hospital, and they deserve to take place in surroundings that match their significance. In this spirit, from the early Renaissance through to the modern period, artists have made immensely powerful work in hospitals across the western world, enhancing the environments where patients and medical staff strive towards better health.
Distinguished art historian Richard Cork became fascinated by the extraordinary richness of art produced in hospitals, encompassing work by many of the great masters - Piero della Francesca, Rogier van der Weyden, El Greco, William Hogarth, Jacques-Louis David, Vincent van Gogh, Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, Fernand Leger, Marc Chagall and Naum Gabo. Cork's brilliant survey discovers the astonishing variety of images found in medical settings, ranging from dramatic confrontations with suffering (Matthias Grunewald at Isenheim) to the most sublime celebrations of heavenly ecstasy (Giovanni Battista Tiepolo in Venice). In the process, he reveals art's prodigious ability to humanize our hospitals, alleviate their clinical bleakness and leave a profound, lasting impression on patients, staff and visitors.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

More Music for Holy Week

Years and years ago, my husband bought me this CD when he went to a conference in Dallas, Texas. It was released on the L'Oiseau-Lyre label in 1989 and has been rereleased now by ArchivMusic:
Barbara Katherine Jones and John Blackley direct Schola Antiqua in this 1985 collection of traditional Music for Holy Week, released as part of the Florilegium series on the L'Oiseau Lyre label.

A leader of its time, this recording represents Schola Antiqua's interpretation on the subject of proportional rhythm. Up until the point of this recording, most renderings of the music were based on the principle that all notes were fundamentally of equal length.

Founded in 1972 for the study and performance of chant and early liturgical music, Schola Antiqua's discography also includes
Plainsong and Polyphony from Medieval Germany and A Guide to Gregorian Chant.
The first hymn on the CD is Venantius Fortunatus's Vexilla Regis:

Vexilla regis prodeunt
Fulget crucis mysterium
Quo carne carnis conditor
Suspensus est patibulo.

Quo vulneratus insuper
Mucrone diro lanceae
Ut nos lavaret crimine
Manavit unda et sanguine.

Impleta sunt quae concinit
David fideli carmine
Dicens In nationibus
Regnavit a ligno Deus.

The disc also contains the Ordinary for Maundy Thursday and Responsories, Antiphons, and the Improperia for Good Friday, concluding with the hymn Crux Fidelis/Pange Lingua, also by Fortunatus.

For years, I have also enjoyed listening to the Choir of King's College, Cambridge CD of Music for Holy Week conducted by Philip Ledger.

Unfortunately, this CD is out of print, but it includes music by Thomas Tallis, John Taverner, and Orlando Gibbons. The cover features a detail of Lamentation by Paul Troger, an Austrian artist who specialized in those Baroque ceiling paintings of apothesis and triumph, especially in monastic buildings and churches throughout Austria (including Melk Abbey).
Happy Holy Week: may the celebration of the Lord's Passion and Death deepen our devotion to Our Savior and bless us with His peace and salvation. I'll be taking a break from the blog after the Monday of Holy Week.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Music For Holy Week

Stile Antico has another new CD, which I'll be listening to starting tomorrow, called Passion & Resurrection:

Stile Antico's seventh recording focuses on the dramatic events of Holy Week, retracing in music the journey from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday. Twelve different composers are represented in an enthralling programme encompassing the English, Flemish and Spanish Renaissance. At the heart of the disc are twin settings of the mediaeval carol Woefully Arrayed: one by William Cornysh (1465-1523), and one commissioned in 2009 especially for Stile Antico by British composer John McCabe (b. 1939) and recorded here for the first time.

The CD contains performances of:
  1. Cornysh: Woefully Arrayed
  2. Gibbons: Hosanna to the Son of David
  3. Tallis: O sacrum convivium
  4. Lassus: In monte Oliveti
  5. Morales: O crux, ave
  6. Victoria: O vos omnes
  7. John McCabe: Woefully Arrayed
  8. Taverner: Dum transisset
  9. Guerrero: Maria Magdalene
  10. Byrd: In resurrectione tua
  11. Lheritier: Surrexit pastor bonus
  12. Gibbons: I am the Resurrection
  13. Crecquillon: Congratulamini mihi
The CD folder and booklet are beautifully illustrated, with pictures of the Risen Christ, Christ the Man of Sorrows, and border details from fifteenth century English Books of Hours.

First Things featured William Cornysh's "Woefully Arrayed" yesterday:

Woefully arrayed
My blood, man for thee ran, it may not be nayed;
My body, blo and wan;
Woefully arrayed.

Behold me, I pray thee
with all thy whole reason
and be not hard-hearted,
and for this encheason,
sith I for thy soul sake
was slain in good season,
Beguiled and betrayed
by Judas’ false treason,
unkindly entreated,
with sharp cord sore freted,
the Jews me threated,
they mowed, they grinned,
they scorned me,
condem’d to death as thou may’st see;
Woefully arrayed.

Thus naked am I nailed.
O man, for thy sake;
I love thee, then love me,
why sleepst thou, awake,
remember my tender heartroot for thee brake;
with pains my veins constrained to crake;
thus tugged to and fro,
thus wrapped all in woe,
whereas never man was so entreated,
thus in most cruel wise
was like a lamb offer’d in sacrifice;
Woefully arrayed.

Of sharp thom I have worn
a crown on my head.
So pained, so strained, so rueful, so red,
thus bobbed, thus robbed,
thus for thy love dead;
unfeigned, not deigned,
my blood for to shed,
my feet and handes sore
the sturdy nailes bore;
what might I suffer more,
than I have done, O man, for thee?
Come when thou list, welcome to me!
Woefully arrayed.

John McCabe comments on his version of "Woefully Arrayed" here:

Woefully arrayed is a supreme choral setting by William Cornysh, Junior, who died in 1523, of a text usually regarded as of anonymous composition, though there have been some attributions to John Skelton. It is a thoughtful, powerful meditation on Christ on the Cross, and though Cornysh's setting has remarkable intensity and contrapuntal artistry, I felt a strong wish to add my own response to this fine text. The different versions of it have different verses - that used by Cornysh has three verses (plus the refrain), while there are others with four or even five (one attributted to Skelton has five). I have chosen to restrict myself to the three used by Cornysh, using my own adaptation of the modernised words which yet incorporates some archaisms - a deliberate choice for reasons of rhythm and verbal sound.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

A Chestertonian Pope Francis?

William Oddie offers us another reading option to start connecting with Pope Francis, named in honor of St. Francis of Assisi: Chesterton's biography of that great saint. In The Catholic Herald, Oddie writes:

I had been told that Pope Francis was an admirer of Chesterton and was googling around trying to see if there was anything out there that might confirm it. I suddenly realised that it was I myself who over 15 years ago had written that Sunday Telegraph article. Suddenly I wondered: who was the archbishop who had signed the letter? Not a certain Archbishop Bergoglio, by any chance? If so, my own ambition that procedures towards Chesterton’s canonisation should indeed be initiated had just taken a major step towards being realised. But no: Pope Francis became archbishop only in 1998. But he was in 1995 a close colleague of his predecessor, as an auxiliary bishop of Buenos Aires: did he too sign the letter? [Emphasis added.]

The web yielded just one nugget of possibly accurate information, and if anyone can verify it, it would be of considerable interest to me. It’s a little circuitous; according to the Italian Chesterton Society, the Societa Chestertoniana Italiana: “Pare che Papa Francesco sia socio della Società Chestertoniana Argentina”: “It seems that Pope Francis is a member of the Argentine Chesterton Society.” Unfortunately, that society’s website says nothing of this, but it looks to me as though it hasn’t been touched for some time, and may be moribund (it happens).

It wouldn’t, however, surprise me at all if the claim were true. The obvious link could be Chesterton’s great work on St Francis. I thought immediately of one passage which seemed to be directly relevant to the Pope’s clear determination not to be steered spiritually off course by the power and dignity of his new position. It begins with a discussion of why St Francis called his followers friars (which Chesterton translates as “Little Brothers”) rather than monks:

“Presumably he was already resolved… that they should take the three vows of poverty, chastity and obedience which had always been the mark of a monk. But it would seem that he was not so much afraid of the idea of a monk as of the idea of an abbot. He was afraid that the great spiritual magistracies which had given even to their holiest possessors at least a sort of impersonal and corporate pride, would import an element of pomposity that would spoil his extremely and almost extravagantly simple version of the life of humility. But the supreme difference was concerned, of course, with the idea that [his] monks were to become migratory and almost nomadic instead of stationary. They were to mingle with the world; and to this the more old-fashioned monk would naturally reply by asking how they were to mingle with the world without becoming entangled with the world. It was a much more real question than a loose religiosity is likely to realise; but St. Francis had his answer to it, of his own individual sort; and the interest of the problem is in that highly individual answer.”

Monastic humility, says Chesterton, in this new Franciscan version, is to be attained by mingling with the world: St Francis, too, doubtless, would have taken public transport rather than the official limos which would no doubt today be offered, and he certainly lived simply (as did Archbishop Bergoglio) rather than in the luxury he could have had.

I love that comment: "I suddenly realised that it was I myself who over 15 years ago had written that Sunday Telegraph article." Any excuse to read or re-read Chesterton! More on his book on St. Francis of Assisi here, from Dale Ahlquist and the American Chesterton Society.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Ordinariate and Pope Francis

As the National Catholic Register published a great tribute to the achievements of Pope Emeritus Benedict, the Personal Ordinariate for former Anglicans received its due attention:

In 2011, the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham was founded in England and Wales for the reception of Anglicans into full communion with the Catholic Church, while maintaining their distinctive Anglican patrimony. A year ago, the Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter was established in the U.S., while the Ordinariate of Our Lady of the Southern Cross was established in Australia last June.

Having made the accommodation of former Anglicans with their patrimony his personal project by enacting his 2009 apostolic constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus, Pope Benedict’s actions in creating these foundations could prove to be a major lasting legacy of his pontificate.
This is a fact particularly recognized by the ordinary of the U.S. ordinariate, Msgr. Jeffrey Steenson. In a Feb. 11 statement, he commented that "members of the ordinariate are in a particular way the spiritual children of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI."
Msgr. Steenson noted that ever since Pope Benedict’s time as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, "the reconciliation of Anglicans to the Catholic Church has been one of his principal tasks."
Despite expressing sadness at the Pope’s abdication, Msgr. Steenson said there is also "a deeper joy, knowing that we are the fruit of his vision for Catholic unity."
There has been some concern about the future of the Ordinariate because of some comments Pope Francis made when he was Archbishop in Argentina. The Anglican bishop of Argentina, Greg Venables, reported that Archbishop Bergoglio told him the Ordinariate was unneccesary, as The Telegraph story recounts:
The Rt Rev Greg Venables, the Anglican Bishop of Argentina, said that Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, had told him "very clearly" that he doubts about the Ordinariate and thought there was no need for Anglicans who want closer ties with their Catholic counterparts to leave their church. . . .
He added: "He called me to have breakfast with him one morning and told me very clearly that the Ordinariate was quite unnecessary and that the Church needs us as Anglicans."
The Ordinary of the Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter in the USA, Monsignor Jeffrey Stinson, responded:
We have received a number of inquiries from those who are concerned about what our new Pope’s attitude may be toward the Ordinariates, occasioned by an anecdotal report from an Anglican bishop in Argentina. It is important to remember that our Ordinariates were created by an apostolic constitution, thereby giving them real permanence and stability. But it is even more important to remember what it means to be Catholic, to have the full assurance that faith brings. Christ the Good Shepherd entrusted the governance of the Church to St. Peter and his successors. To be in communion with Peter brings a confidence we never knew as Anglicans. Pope Francis understands the pilgrim character of our communities and will be a wise and caring pastor to us!
I think this is just part of the strange competitive comparison and contrast between emeritus Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis going on in both the secular and to some extent Catholic media. The Ordinariate effort may have been a particular interest of Benedict, but Francis will certainly not interfere with its progress.

Monday, March 18, 2013

The Hound of Heaven

EWTN Radio broadcasts the old Family Theatre Classic Radio shows produced under the guidance of Father Patrick Peyton and last night as I drifted off to sleep I heard the "Hound of Heaven" featuring Mel Ferrer:

Family Theater was one of the most successful shows on radio, running for 22 years over the Mutual Broadcasting System and featuring half hour dramatizations with religious themes sandwiched between Christian messages about God and prayer. Their shows seem dated today with blatantly zealous religious content and overblown music, but they were immensely popular during the 1940s and 50s and not only their radio plays but the accompanying messages featured major actors of the day.

Mel Ferrer starred in a very special play that was used several times during the show's two decades. The hero was a real person - Francis Thompson - one of England's most revered 19th century authors, whose greatest work was a poem entitled "The Hound of Heaven". In this dramatization based on his life, Francis Thompson is a lost soul, living on the streets of London, hopelessly addicted to opium and unable to secure a job. Two diverse people offer him assistance - a cobbler named Nick McMasters and a prostitute named Ann. Nick gives him a job along with food, a place to live and an undemanding friendship, but Francis wanders away from the cobbler when it becomes clear he'll never be able to learn the trade. Running from the footsteps that constantly haunt him, he collapses in front of Ann, whose gentle nursing brings Francis back to reality inspiring him to write again. But when he proposes to her she disappears from his life, knowing he has greatness in him that's beyond what she can offer. Instead of following up on his manuscript, Francis vainly searches for Ann and finally - alone and completely defeated - he realizes that the footsteps he's hearing are the hound of heaven representing his loss of faith and that only God can help him.

Francis Thompson is a marvelous role, and Mel Ferrer's reading is beautifully nuanced. He's greatly assisted by Ronald O'Connor's narrator, who represents the voice of God in a surprisingly prominent role. Jane Withers not only enacts Ann, but offered up the religious messages before and after the play, all of which were done in front of a live audience. The radio play was written by Frederick Lipp and the entire show was directed by Joseph F. Mansfield.
I fled Him, down the nights and down the days;
I fled Him, down the arches of the years;
I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways
Of my own mind; and in the midst of tears
I hid from Him, and under running laughter.
Up vistaed hopes I sped;
And shot, precipitated,
Adown Titanic glooms of chasmed fears,
From those strong Feet that followed, followed after.
But with unhurrying chase,
And unperturbèd pace,
Deliberate speed, majestic instancy,
They beat—and a Voice beat
More instant than the Feet—
'All things betray thee, who betrayest Me'.
Francis Thompson (16 December 1859 – 13 November 1907) was also aided by the Catholic convert and publisher Wilfred Meynell, according to the Catholic Encyclopedia:
Having seen some numbers of a new Catholic magazine, "Merry England", he sent these poems to the editor, Mr. Wilfrid Meynell, in 1888, giving his address at a post-office. The manuscripts were pigeonholed for a short time, but when Mr. Meynell read them he lost no time in writing to the sender a welcoming letter which was returned from the post-office. The only way then to reach him was to publish the essay and the poem, so that the author might see them and disclose himself. He did see them, and wrote to the editor giving his address at a chemist's shop. Thither Mr. Meynell went, and was told that the poet owed a certain sum for opium, and was to be found hard by, selling matches. Having settled matters between the druggist and his client, Mr. Meynell wrote a pressing invitation to Thompson to call upon him. That day was the last of the poet's destitution. He was never again friendless or without food, clothing, shelter, or fire. The first step was to restore him to better health and to overcome the opium habit. A doctor's care, and some months at Storrington, Sussex, where he lived as a boarder at the Premonstratensian monastery, gave him a new hold upon life. It was there, entirely free temporarily from opium, that he began in earnest to write poetry. "Daisy" and the magnificent "Ode to the Setting Sun" were the first fruits. Mr. Meynell, finding him in better health but suffering from the loneliness of his life, brought him to London and established him near himself. Thenceforward with some changes to country air, he was either an inmate or a constant visitor until his death nineteen years later.

In the years from 1889 to 1896 Thompson wrote the poems contained in the three volumes, "Poems", "Sister Songs", and "New Poems". In "Sister Songs" he celebrated his affection for the two elder of the little daughters of his host and more than brother; "Love in Dian's Lap" was written in honour of Mrs. Meynell, and expressed the great attachment of his life; and in the same book "The Making of Viola" was composed for a younger child. At Mr. Meynell's house Thompson met Mr. Garvin and Coventry Patmore, who soon became his friends, and whose great poetic and spiritual influence was thenceforth pre-eminent in all his writings, and Mrs. Meynell introduced him at Box Hill to George Meredith. Besides these his friendships were few. In the last weeks of his life he received great kindness from Mr. Wilfrid Blunt, in Sussex. During all these years Mr. Meynell encouraged him to practise journalism and to write essays, chiefly as a remedy for occasional melancholy. The essay on Shelley, published twenty years later and immediately famous, was amongst the earliest of these writings; "The Life of St. Ignatius" and "Health and Holiness" were produced subsequently.
I have a copy of the above edition of Thompson's St. Ignatius Loyola--it might be timely reading with the election of the first Jesuit as Pope!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Blessed John Henry Newman on Passion Sunday

On the calendar of the Extraordinary Form of the Latin Liturgy of the Roman Rite, today is Passion Sunday. Blessed John Henry Newman compiled these notes for one of his sermons on this fifth Sunday in the season of Lent, meditating on Christ's priesthood. The readings for today's Mass are from the Letter to the Hebrews, chapter 9, verses 11-15 and from the Gospel of St. John, chapter 8,  verses 46-59. Newman's notes:

1. INTROD.—Go through the gospel of the day, showing the strangeness of our Lord's doctrine, and the surprise and contempt of the Jews, in detail—modes of expression, ideas, objects, different.

2. So it was: it was a different system. If the world was true, He was not; if He, the world not.

3. They felt it obscurely and in detail, though He did not speak openly. How would they have felt if our Lord had said openly, 'I am the priest of the world'? What a great expression! But this is the truth, as forced on us by today's epistle. What the gospel says obscurely the epistle speaks out.

4. What is a priest? See how much it implies: first the need of reconciliation—it has at once to do with sin; it presupposes sin. When then our Lord is known to come as a priest, see how the whole face of the world is changed. Describe the world, how it goes on, buying and selling, etc.; then the light thrown on it that it is responsible to God, and has ill acquitted itself of that responsibility.

5. Again, it implies one the highest in rank. The head of the family was a priest—primogeniture. Hence Christ the Son of God.

6. Christ then, the Son of God, offers for the whole world, and that offering is Himself. He who is high as eternity, whose arms stretch through infinity, is lifted up on the cross for the sins of the world.

7. And He is a priest for ever. 'Thou art a priest for ever according to the order of Melchisedec.' The offering of the Mass. Say not it is an historical religion, done and over; it lasts.

8. And as, for ever, so all things with blood. Why? Grace of Christ, and Adam's grace before the fall. Men 'washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb'; 'the blood of Christ cleanseth,' 1 John i. 7

9. Now turn back and see how different from what we see—need of faith, so says our Lord in the gospel of the day.

10. And this awful addition, 'He that heareth the word of God is of God,' etc., John viii. 47

11. This a reason for these yearly commemorations, to bring on us the thought of the unseen world.
Less obscure, perhaps, is Newman's Litany of the Passion, which is included in the Meditations and Devotions for private use:
Jesus, the Eternal Wisdom, Have mercy on us.
The Word made flesh, Have mercy on us.
Hated by the world, Have mercy on us.
Sold for thirty pieces of silver, Have mercy on us.
Sweating blood in Thy agony, Have mercy on us.
Betrayed by Judas, Have mercy on us.
Forsaken by Thy disciples, Have mercy on us.
Struck upon the cheek, Have mercy on us.
Accused by false witnesses, Have mercy on us.
Spit upon in the face, Have mercy on us.
Denied by Peter, Have mercy on us.
Mocked by Herod, Have mercy on us.
Scourged by Pilate, Have mercy on us.
Rejected for Barabbas, Have mercy on us.
Loaded with the cross, Have mercy on us.
Crowned with thorns, Have mercy on us.
Stripped of Thy garments, Have mercy on us.
Nailed to the tree, Have mercy on us.
Reviled by the Jews, Have mercy on us.
Scoffed at by the malefactor, Have mercy on us.
Wounded in the side, Have mercy on us.
Shedding Thy last drop of blood, Have mercy on us.
Forsaken by Thy Father, Have mercy on us.
Dying for our sins, Have mercy on us.

The statues in Catholic churches are veiled from this Sunday until Easter. As notes, we do this because: "This veiling of the statues and icons stems from the Gospel reading of Passion Sunday (John 8:46-59), at the end of which the Jews take up stones to cast at Jesus, Who hides Himself away. The veiling also symbolizes the fact that Christ's Divinity was hidden at the time of His Passion and death, the very essence of Passiontide."

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Two More Martyrs in York: Richard Dalby and John Amias

On March 16, 1589, these two priests suffered being hung, drawn and quartered in York.

Robert Dalby was from Hemingbrough in the East Riding of Yorkshire and lived at first as a Protestant minister. Becoming a Catholic, he entered the English College at Rheims on 30 September 1586 to study for the priesthood. He was ordained a priest at Châlons on 16 April 1588. It was on 25 August that year that he set out for England. He was arrested almost immediately upon landing at Scarborough on the Yorkshire coast and imprisoned in York Castle.

There is some doubt about the early life of Blessed John Amias. One story is that he was indeed John Amias or Amyas, born at Wakefield in Yorkshire, England, where he married and raised a family, exercising the trade of cloth-merchant. On the death of his wife, he divided his property among his children and left for the Continent to become a priest. There is also a possibility that he was really William Anne (surname), youngest son of John and Katherine Anne, of Frickley near Wakefield.

Regardless of his actual name, on 22 June 1580, a widower calling himself "John Amias" entered the English College at Rheims to study for the priesthood. He was ordained a priest in Rheim Cathedral on 25 March 1581. On 5 June of that year Amias set out for Paris and then England, as a missionary, in the company of another priest, Edmund Sykes. Of his missionary life we know little. Towards the end of 1588 he was seized at the house of a Mr. Murton at Melling in Lancashire and imprisoned in York Castle.

Yorkshire, as I've commented before on this blog and in Supremacy and Survival: How Catholics Endured the English Reformation, was one of those districts of England where recusancy and Catholicism was particularly strong. This History of York describes the Catholic Resistance during Elizabeth I's reign, providing some details of the trouble the queen had in asserting her authority. That's one of the reasons York is the first stop on the Catholic Martyrs of England tour this September. The shrine of St. Margaret Clitherow in The Shambles, York Castle and York Tyburn, where these two priests, yesterday's martyr Blessed William Hart, St. Henry Walpole, and many other Catholics suffered execution are on the itinerary. A visit to York Minster, St. Mary's Abbey's ruins and Mass at the Parish of the English Martyrs completes the itinerary.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The Jacobite Pretender and the Venetian Conclave of 1799-1800

Yesterday, March 11 (NS) was the birthday of the last direct-line Stuart Pretender, Henry Benedict Stuart. Since the Papal Conclave of 2013 began today, however, and Henry Cardinal Stuart was among the Cardinal electors in Venice during the extraordinary Conclave of 1799-1800, I thought I would highlight his career again today.

Henry Benedict Stuart was the second son of the Old Pretender, James Francis Edward Stuart, who was recognized by his supporters as James III and VIII, King of England, Ireland and Scotland, and James III's wife Princess Maria Klementyna Sobieska. Henry was born on March 11, 1725 at the Palazzo Muti in Rome and baptized by Pope Benedict XIII the same day. Henry supported his brother Charles Edward Stuart, aka the Young Pretender, aka "Bonnie Prince Charlie" during this attempt to recover the throne of England, Ireland and Scotland from George I in 1745, but afterwards became a priest, bishop, and cardinal in the Church.

The French Revolution of 1789 hurt Cardinal Stuart financially, as did his support of Pope Pius VI, who was captured and deposed by Napoleon Bonaparte's forces in 1798 and died in Valence, France in 1799. Along with several other cardinals, Henry Stuart fled first to Naples and then to Venice, where the Conclave finally met and took quite some time to elect the next pope. According to this site, which gives many details of these events, "The Conclave had lasted three months and fourteen days, the vacancy six months and sixteen days."

The Conclave met in the Benedictine monastery of San Giorgio, located on the island of San Giorgio Maggiore--the monastery would be suppressed in 1806, and is now the headquarters of the Cini Foundation, which has restored it. Barnaba Niccolò Maria Luigi Chiaramonti, who had been a Benedictine monk (named Gregory) was finally elected on March 14, 1800 and crowned, wearing a papier mache tiara decorated with jewel stones donated by the other cardinals, in the monastery church. He took the name Pius, becoming the VIIth pope with that name.

In the meantime, Cardinal Stuart's financial difficulties were addressed with a 4,000 pound annuity from King George III and he eventually returned to his diocese in Frascati. He later became Dean of the College of Cardinals in 1803 and died in Frascati in 1807.

Book Review: Jesus of Nazareth, Volume 2

I finished reading Joseph Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI's Jesus of Nazareth: Part Two: Holy Week from the Entrance into Jerusalem to the Resurrection this weekend. I bought this book when it was published, but just now got around to reading it. I was impressed again by this most Augustinian of theologians using such a Scholastic method: elucidating our reading of the text of the Gospel telling of the story of Our Lord's Passion, Death, and Resurrection by reviewing the common historical-critical interpretations, and then going deeper into these mysteries of faith through faith.

Ignatius Press offers substantial excerpts from the book on this website, including the section that was the highpoint for me in the reading the book--Ratzinger's meditation on the themes of truth and power, justice and peace, truth and justice woven through the drama of Jesus's trial before Pontius Pilate. Jesus confronts Pilate with quite a challenge and test: to accept truth that claims a higher power and to conduct justice that results in more than peace and security (and Pilate fails both tests):

At this point we must pass from considerations about the person of Pilate to the trial itself. In John 18:34–35 it is clearly stated that, on the basis of the information in his possession, Pilate had nothing that would incriminate Jesus. Nothing had come to the knowledge of the Roman authority that could in any way have posed a risk to law and order. The charge came from Jesus' own people, from the Temple authority. It must have astonished Pilate that Jesus' own people presented themselves to him as defenders of Rome, when the information at his disposal did not suggest the need for any action on his part.

Yet during the interrogation we suddenly arrive at a dramatic moment: Jesus' confession. To Pilate's question: "So you are a king?" he answers: "You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Every one who is of the truth hears my voice" ( Jn 18:37). Previously Jesus had said: "My kingship is not of this world; if my kingship were of this world, my servants would fight, that I might not be handed over to the Jews; but my kingship is not from the world" (18:36).

This "confession" of Jesus places Pilate in an extraordinary situation: the accused claims kingship and a kingdom (basileía). Yet he underlines the complete otherness of his kingship, and he even makes the particular point that must have been decisive for the Roman judge: No one is fighting for this kingship. If power, indeed military power, is characteristic of kingship and kingdoms, there is no sign of it in Jesus' case. And neither is there any threat to Roman order. This kingdom is powerless. It has "no legions".

With these words Jesus created a thoroughly new concept of kingship and kingdom, and he held it up to Pilate, the representative of classical worldly power. What is Pilate to make of it, and what are we to make of it, this concept of kingdom and kingship? Is it unreal, is it sheer fantasy that can be safely ignored? Or does it somehow affect us?

In addition to the clear delimitation of his concept of kingdom (no fighting, earthly powerlessness), Jesus had introduced a positive idea, in order to explain the nature and particular character of the power of this kingship: namely, truth. Pilate brought another idea into play as the dialogue proceeded, one that came from his own world and was normally connected with "kingdom": namely, power — authority (exousía). Dominion demands power; it even defines it. Jesus, however, defines as the essence of his kingship witness to the truth. Is truth a political category? Or has Jesus' "kingdom" nothing to do with politics? To which order does it belong? If Jesus bases his concept of kingship and kingdom on truth as the fundamental category, then it is entirely understandable that the pragmatic Pilate asks him: "What is truth?" (18:38).

It is the question that is also asked by modern political theory: Can politics accept truth as a structural category? Or must truth, as something unattainable, be relegated to the subjective sphere, its place taken by an attempt to build peace and justice using whatever instruments are available to power? By relying on truth, does not politics, in view of the impossibility of attaining consensus on truth, make itself a tool of particular traditions that in reality are merely forms of holding on to power?

And yet, on the other hand, what happens when truth counts for nothing? What kind of justice is then possible? Must there not be common criteria that guarantee real justice for all — criteria that are independent of the arbitrariness of changing opinions and powerful lobbies? Is it not true that the great dictatorships were fed by the power of the ideological lie and that only truth was capable of bringing freedom?

Read the rest of this excerpt here. While I found the book very interesting and often surprising--I had never heard before about the theory of a break between Jesus's Preaching of the Kingdom of God in Galilee and his Passion and Death in Jerusalem as though Jesus decided the first effort had failed and dropped back to "Plan B"--but I did not find it a very devotional read. The Pope Emeritus offers much for meditation, but the text is almost academic. Not that that's a bad thing! I don't mean that the book reads like a textbook, but that Joseph Ratzinger shows great erudition, constant study, and currency with the requisite bibliography. He is teaching, not necessarily preaching and he moves between the levels of instruction and exhortation very effectively. Of course I recommend it.

Table of Contents

Publisher's Note

Chapter 1: The Entrance into Jerusalem and the Cleansing of the Temple
1. The Entrance into Jerusalem
2. The Cleansing of the Temple

Chapter 2: Jesus' Eschatological Discourse
1. The End of the Temple
2. The Times of the Gentiles 
3. Prophecy and Apocalyptic in the Eschatological Discourse

Chapter 3: The Washing of the Feet 
The hour of Jesus
"You are clean"
Sacramentum and exemplum — gift and task: The "new commandment"
The mystery of the betrayer
Two conversations with Peter
Washing of feet and confession of sin

Chapter 4: Jesus' High-Priestly Prayer
1. The Jewish Feast of Atonement as Biblical Background to the High-Priestly Prayer
2. Four Major Themes of the Prayer 
"This is eternal life . . ."
"Sanctify them in the truth . . ."
"I have made your name known to them . . ."
"That they may all be one . . ."

Chapter 5: The Last Supper
1. The Dating of the Last Supper
2. The Institution of the Eucharist
3. The Theology of the Words of Institution
4. From the Last Supper to the Sunday Morning Eucharist

Chapter 6: Gethsemane 
1. On the Way to the Mount of Olives
2. The Prayer of Jesus
3. Jesus' Will and the Will of the Father
4. Jesus' Prayer on the Mount of Olives in the Letter to the Hebrews 

Chapter 7: The Trial of Jesus 
1. Preliminary Discussion in the Sanhedrin
2. Jesus before the Sanhedrin
3. Jesus before Pilate

Chapter 8: Crucifixion and Burial of Jesus 
1. Preliminary Reflection: Word and Event in the Passion Narrative
2. Jesus on the Cross
a. The first of Jesus' words from the Cross: "Father, forgive them"
b. Jesus is mocked
c. Jesus' cry of abandonment
d. The casting of lots for Jesus' garments
e. "I thirst"
f. The women at the foot of the Cross — the Mother of Jesus
g. Jesus dies on the Cross
h. Jesus' burial
3. Jesus' Death as Reconciliation (Atonement) and Salvation

Chapter 9: Jesus' Resurrection from the Dead
1. What Is the Resurrection of Jesus?
2. The Two Different Types of Resurrection Testimony
a. The Confessional Tradition
1. Jesus' death
2. The question of the empty tomb
3. The third day
4. The witnesses
b. The Narrative Tradition
1. Jesus' appearances to Paul 
2. The appearances of Jesus in the Gospels
3. Summary: The Nature of Jesus' Resurrection and Its Historical Significance

Epilogue: He Ascended into Heaven — He Is Seated at the Right Hand of the Father, and He Will Come Again in Glory 

Index of Biblical References
Index of Proper Names and Subjects

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Herbert, Vaughn Williams, and Allen

This morning at Mass for Laetare Sunday, at the Offertory the choir sang an arrangement of Ralph Vaughn Williams' The Call (George Herbert's poem) for choir, organ and flute. Above, a youtube video of Thomas Allen singing The Call at a Proms performance in 2004. (Starts at 5:38, after "Love Bade Me Welcome"; both are from the Five Mystical Songs (1906-1911)--then the choir sings the rousing Antiphon!)

Come, my Way, my Truth, my Life:
Such a Way, as gives us breath:
Such a Truth, as ends all strife:
Such a Life, as killeth death.

Come, my Light, my Feast, my Strength:
Such a Light, as shows a feast:
Such a Feast, as mends in length:
Such a Strength, as makes his guest.

Come, my Joy, my Love, my Heart:
Such a Joy, as none can move:
Such a Love, as none can part:
Such a Heart, as joyes in love.

I have Allen's recording of the Five Mystical Songs with the Serenade to Music, Flo Campi, and the Fantasia on Christmas Carols--it is one of my favorite CDs!

St. John Ogilvie, SJ

On this Sunday, the Fourth (Laetere) Sunday of Lent and the beginning of Daylight Savings time here in the USA, it's very appropriate to consider the story of St. John Ogilvie, who endured the torture of sleep deprivation while being questioned by Scottish authorities. He was martyred on March 10, 1615.

As the CNA website recounts his story:

March 10 is the liturgical memorial of Saint John Ogilvie, a 16th-and 17th-century Scotsman who converted from Presbyterianism to Catholicism, served as a Jesuit priest, and died as a martyr at the hands of state officials. St. John was executed for treason, refusing to accept King James I’s claim of supremacy over the Church. Pope Paul VI canonized him in 1976, making him Scotland’s first canonized saint for several hundred years.

In February 2010, during a visit to Rome by the Scottish bishops’conference, Benedict XVI asked the bishops to promote devotion to St. John Ogilvie among priests – since the Jesuit martyr had been “truly outstanding in his dedication to a difficult and dangerous pastoral ministry, to the point of laying down his life.” Later that year, during the Scottish segment of his U.K. visit, the Pope again encouraged priests to look to the saint’s “dedicated, selfless and brave” example. [Blessed John Paul II also mentioned St. John Ogilvie during his visit to Scotland in 1982.]

John Ogilvie was born in 1579, a member of a noble family. Some of his relatives had kept the Catholic faith, while others adhered to John Calvin’s interpretation of Protestantism as Presbyterians. Though raised as a Calvinist, John had doubts about the compatibility of this system with Scripture. In particular, he could not reconcile Calvin’s theology of predestination with Biblical passages teaching that God loves all people and wills each of them to be saved.

This difficulty, coupled with the contrast between Catholic unity and the multiple Protestant sects and denominations, influenced John’s decision to enter the Catholic Church. He made the decision at age 17 while studying in Belgium, and in 1599 he became a novice in the Society of Jesus. After extensive study and training he was ordained a Jesuit priest in Paris during 1610.

John greatly desired to go back to his native country and encourage its return to the Catholic Church. He served for a time as a priest in France, while requesting to be sent back to Scotland. Others within his order made it clear to him that such a mission would be dangerous and unlikely to produce much fruit. In 1613, however, John obtained the assignment he desired.

He soon discovered the truth of the warnings he had received from other Jesuits, about the difficulty of Catholic evangelization in Scotland. Many members of the upper classes were not interested in returning to the Church, though he did carry out pastoral work among a largely poor population of Scots who had kept the faith. After a period in England he returned to France, seeking directions on how to proceed in light of his lack of success.

The French Jesuits ordered John back to Scotland, however, where he resumed his ministry to the underground Church as well as the smaller number of people interested in converting. His arrest came about when one potential “convert” turned out to be an informer, who had John arrested and interrogated.

The first criminal accusation St. John Ogilvie faced was that of celebrating Mass within the King’s realm. Unwilling to incriminate himself, he suffered two months of imprisonment. An iron bar was attached to his feet to prevent him from moving in his cell. Despite this ordeal, he strongly resisted pressure to give evidence against other Scottish Catholics.

Severe torture was then inflicted on John. His hair and fingernails were pulled out, and for a period of nine days he was prevented from sleeping by continual stabbing with sharp stakes. His jailers beat him, flung him to the floor of his cell, and shouted in his ears. Nothing, however, could make him renounce his faith or betray his Catholic countrymen to the authorities.

John’s tormentors were impressed by his fortitude, and by the surprising sense of humor that he showed in the face of the brutal punishments. But they could not spare his life, unless the Jesuit priest gave an acceptable response to a series of questions provided by King James I. Johndeclared his loyalty to the king, but steadfastly rejected James’claim to supremacy over the Church in religious matters. The priest was eventually convicted on a charge of high treason.

Attempts to ply John with bribery – in exchange for his return to Protestantism, and his betrayal of fellow Catholics – continued even as he was being led to his execution. His own defiant words are recorded: for the Catholic faith, he said, he would "willingly and joyfully pour forth even a hundred lives. Snatch away that one which I have from me, and make no delay about it, but my religion you will never snatch away from me!"

Asked whether he was afraid to die, the priest replied: “I fear death as much as you do your dinner.” St. John Ogilvie was executed by hanging on March 10, 1615.

As a last gesture before his hanging, St. John had tossed his Rosary beads into the crowd where they were caught by a Calvinist nobleman. The man, Baron John ab Eckersdorff, later became a Catholic, tracing his conversion to the incident and the martyr’s beads.

John Ogilvie was canonized in 1976, becoming the first Scottish saint since 1250 (St. Margaret of Scotland). Pope Paul VI's homily during the Mass for his canonization is available on the Vatican website--most of it is in Italian, but it begins and ends with English:

We have great joy in being able to announce to all of God’s pilgrim Church on earth the glorious name of a new Saint, that of John Ogilvie, who died a martyr in Glasgow, on 10 March 1615, and who has already been accorded the honour of beatification by our venerable predecessor Pope Pius XI, on 22 December 1929. . . .

The conclusion of this very simple talk of ours cannot be without a word of ardent satisfaction for you, sons and daughters of Scotland, who have come to this solemn and culminating canonization of the new Saint-the Saint whom you, above all others, have the right to call your own.

We are happy to recognize in this sympathetic and heroic figure of a man, a saint and a martyr the symbol of your own religious, strong and generous land. And in Saint John Ogilvie we willingly greet a glorious champion of your people, an ideal exemplar of your past history, a magnificent inspiration for your happy future. We honour in Saint John Ogilvie an outstanding member of that Society of Jesus which has given so many other valiant soldiers like him to the cause of Christ and of civilization. In him we jubilantly greet a beloved son of the Catholic Church, a typical citizen of the world who is called to discover the light for its harmony, progress and peace in the faith of Christ.

Honour to you, representatives of a Scotland that has given to humanity such a great hero of freedom and of faith.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Happy Birthday, William Cobbett!

In honor of William Cobbett's birthday on March 9, 1763, let us pretend we are gathered in The William Cobbett public house in Farnham, raising a pint in his honor!

Happy Birthday to the author of Rural Rides and A History of the Protestant Reformation in England and Ireland!

G.K. Chesterton wrote of the latter:

“He seemed to be calling black white, when he declared that what was white had been blackened, or that what seemed to be white had only been whitewashed.” Cobbett called Elizabeth I, "Bloody Bess" and Mary I, "Good Queen Mary"--and people reading his work knew that Elizabeth I had been Bloody, "if pursuing people with execution and persecution and torture makes a person bloody" and that Mary I had been good, "if certain real virtues and responsibilities make a person good" -- as Chesterton notes, "It was not really Cobbett's history that was in controversy; it was his controversialism. It was not his facts that were challenged, it was his challenge."

Photo credit: wikipedia commons.

Friday, March 8, 2013

St.Thomas of Canterbury, Martyr (et al)

From the English Historical Fiction Writers blog: Author Rosanne E. Lortz helps us with "Understanding the Archbishop: Thomas Becket and the Case of the Criminous Clerks":

Thomas Becket is known far and wide as the archbishop who wrangled with England’s Henry II and ended up being slain in the church at Canterbury. Although most consider Becket’s murder a deplorable event, historical opinion is divided over whether Becket was in the right in the first place. Did he really have any justification for standing in Henry’s way? Was he not simply quibbling over minutiae and defending an indefensible position?<

The place that I will pick up in the story is just after Henry finagled matters so that Becket could become the Archbishop of Canterbury. Previously, Becket had been Henry’s royal chancellor and had proved his usefulness and loyalty to the king time and again. But within the month of his election as archbishop, he resigned his position as royal chancellor. It was a move he did not have to make. In the king’s mind, Becket could have retained both positions without any conflict of interest. Becket thought otherwise. This resignation of the chancellorship was the first manifestation that he was not the king’s man any longer.

Those inside of Becket’s household began to see a change in their master. John of Salisbury wrote that, “Upon his consecration he immediately put off the old man, and put on the hairshirt and the monk, crucifying the flesh with its passions and desires.” No longer was his house a scene of Epicurean delights. The gold was gone from the tables. The fare was frugal and spare. Becket also took seriously his liturgical duties. He performed the office of the sacraments with all the reverence that was required but that had never been expected of him. He withdrew as often as he could into prayer and study in order that he might be better equipped for his office of teacher and pastor.

Right away the pulpit of Canterbury resounded with a new voice, a voice powerful and persuasive, the like of which had not been heard since the days of Archbishop Anselm. The chronicler Roger of Pontigny gives us a taste of Becket’s preaching:

It happened at that time in certain crowded gathering that Thomas delivered a sermon to the clergy and people in the presence of the king. His sermon concerned the kingdom of Christ the Lord, which is the Church, and the worldly kingdom, and the powers of each realm, priestly and royal, and also the two swords, the spiritual and the material. And as on this occasion he discussed much about ecclesiastical and secular power in a wonderful way—for he was very eloquent—the king took note of each of his words, and recognizing that he rated ecclesiastical dignity far above any secular title, he did not receive his sermon with a placid spirit. For he sensed from his words how distant the archbishop was from his own position.

Becket had changed, and not—in Henry’s mind—for the better.

Reading about St. Thomas a Becket--and indeed watching the Richard Burton-Peter O'Toole movie, I've often thought that St. Thomas a Becket's change is the perfect demonstration of the power of the Sacrament of Holy Orders. He'd been ordained, after all, and was now a priest and bishop. Becket was transformed.

During the English Catholic Martyrs Pilgrimage, we'll spend a day in Canterbury. Although St. Thomas of Canterbury is the first martyr you think of when you think of Canterbury, there are several Catholic Martyrs from the Reformation era. St. John Stone is one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales, and I would call him a Supremacy martyr. He refused to swear Henry VIII's Oath of Supremacy and suffered martyrdom for the same cause at St. Thomas a Becket: the unity of the Catholic Church and the primacy of Jesus's Vicar on earth, the Pope. St. Thomas More has a Canterbury connection, as his head--the one removed at Henry's command--is in the Roper family chapel of St. Dunstan's Anglican Church. Finally, there are the Oaten Hill Martyrs (Recusant Martyrs) who suffered during the reign of Elizabeth I in the aftermath of the Spanish Armada: Blessed Edward Campion, Blessed Christopher Buxton, Blessed Robert Wilcox, and Blessed Robert Widmerpool. From this site, we know that:

~Robert Wilcox was the first to suffer. He told his companions to be of good heart. He was going to heaven before them, where he would would carry the tidings of their coming after him.

~Edward Campion was next to die. We do not know what he said before his death, but it is on record that he refused a chance to escape from the Marshalsea, saying: I would gladly escape if I did not hope to suffer martyrdom.

~Robert Widmerpool was probably the next to die. He kissed the ladder and the rope, and with the rope round his neck gave God hearty thanks for bringing him to so great a glory as that of dying for his faith in the same place where St Thomas of Canterbury had died for his.

~Finally, Christopher Buxton was led to the scaffold. He was the youngest and was offered his life if he conformed to the new Church. Father Buxton replied: I would not purchase a corruptible life at such a rate, and, if I had one hundred lives, I would willingly lay them all down in defence of my faith.

While we are in Canterbury this September, Father Steven Mateja will offer Mass at St. Thomas of Canterbury Catholic Church.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

My First Review on Robert Peckham

I heard about and the sites' need for reviewers from two sources: the Son Rise Morning Show and the Catholic Writers Guide. I've identified four "classic" works to review and here is the first one: Maurice Baring's historical novel, Robert Peckham:

I was rash when I should have been timid, and timid when I should have been bold. . . .I should never have left England. I should have remained and resisted, or died in the attempt.—Robert Peckham, summing up his life in Maurice Baring’s novel, Robert Peckham

Maurice Baring was a contemporary and friend of G.K. Chesterton and Hilaire Belloc, but his literary contributions as novelist, poet, and essayist are less remembered today. This historical novel, Robert Peckham, is a fascinating first person narration of a life during the Tudor dynasty in England. Robert Peckham, the narrator and protagonist, lives in the shadow of his father in service and loyalty to Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary I, and Elizabeth I, witnessing all the religious changes of the sixteenth century and the English Reformation. Peckham sees the execution of martyrs, the dissolution of monasteries, and the destruction of Catholicism—all the while enduring an unhappy marriage and family life.

Other novelists have depicted this era, often including historical characters: Robert Hugh Benson’s trio of Tudor novels (The King’s Achievement, By What Authority?, and Come Rack! Come Rope!) are tales of adventure, as English men and women confront the crucial issues of loyalty and conscience; choosing between their Catholic faith and the established Church of England; suffering torture and execution and proving their courage and endurance. Even those who choose to conform to the state church and renounce their Catholicism suffer loss and endure trouble.

Read the rest at and I'll let you know when my next review is online!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The Prebendaries' Plot of 1543 and Tyburn in 1544

Blessed Germain or Jermyn or German Gardiner was executed at Tyburn on March 7, 1544. He was beatified in 1886 by Pope Leo XIII. As Bishop of Winchester Stephen Gardiner's nephew and secretary, he became involved in the Prebendaries' Plot of 1543 and was hung, drawn, and quartered for the denial of Henry VIII's Supremacy over the Church of England.

The Prebendaries' Plot was named after the five prebendary canons of Canterbury Cathedral (including William Hadleigh, a monk at Christchurch Canterbury prior to the monastery's dissolution) who formed its core. Others involved were two holders of the new cathedral office of "six preacher" (created in 1541), along with various local non-cathedral priests and Kentish gentlemen (eg Thomas Moyle, Edward Thwaites and Cyriac Pettit). Simultaneous agitation at the court in Windsor, and the conspiracy in general, was led covertly by Stephen Gardiner, bishop of Winchester.

Henry VIII's chaplain Richard Cox was charged with investigating and suppressing it, and his success (240 priests and 60 laypeople of both sexes were accused of involvement) led to his being made Cranmer's chancellor (and later, under Elizabeth, bishop of Ely). Gardiner survived, though his relation Germain Gardiner, who had acted as his secretary and intermediary to the plotters in Kent, was executed in 1544 for questioning the Royal Supremacy.

So Blessed Germain Gardiner was left as the scapegoat to suffer for the plot, while Henry VIII, still valuing Bishop Stephen Gardiner's efforts in supporting both Henry's "Great Matter" and his more "conservative" reformation of the Church, spared his uncle.

Along with Gardiner, Blessed John Larke, friend of St. Thomas More and former rector of Chelsea (More's parish) and Blessed John Ireland, also connected with St. Thomas More and Chelsea, were executed for denying Henry VIII's Supremacy. Robert Singleton, a parish priest, was also executed under a charge of treason, but he has not been beatified.

John Heywood, the playwright and grandfather of John Donne was also on the scaffold at Tyburn sentenced to death, but he recanted and was spared. He also had connections to St. Thomas More and survived the ups and downs of the Tudor succession until Elizabeth I's reign. Then he went into exile in Mechelen, Belgium where he died around 1580. You may have used one of John Heywood epigrams and not realized the source: wikipedia lists many of the most famous:

What you have, hold.
Haste maketh waste. (1546)
Out of sight out of mind. (1542)
When the sun shineth, make hay. (1546)
Look ere ye leap. (1546)
Two heads are better than one. (1546)
Love me, love my dog. (1546)
Beggars should be no choosers. (1546)
All is well that ends well. (1546)
The fat is in the fire. (1546)
I know on which side my bread is buttered. (1546)
One good turn asketh another. (1546)
A penny for your thought. (1546)
Rome was not built in one day. (1546)
Better late than never. (1546)
An ill wind that bloweth no man to good. (1546)
The more the merrier. (1546)
You cannot see the wood for the trees. (1546)
This hitteth the nail on the head. (1546)
No man ought to look a given horse in the mouth. (1546)
Tread a woorme on the tayle and it must turne agayne. (1546)
Many hands make light work. (1546)
Wolde ye bothe eate your cake and haue your cake? (1562)
When he should get aught, each finger is a thumb. (1546)

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Devotion to the Five Wounds of Christ

During my hour of Adoration before the Blessed Sacrament at Blessed Sacrament Church this Sunday, I prayed from A Prayer Book of Catholic Devotions: Praying the Seasons and Feasts of the Church Year, compiled by William G. Storey, DMS, Professor Emeritus of Liturgy and Church History at the University of Notre Dame and published by Loyola Press.

Among the devotions he includes for Lent is to the Five Wounds of Jesus, beginning with this hymn attributed to Thomas a Kempis and translated by John Mason Neale:

O love, how deep, how broad, how high,
How passing thought and fantasy,
That God, the Son of God should take
Our mortal form for mortals' sake.

For us to evil power betrayed,
Scourged, mocked, in purple robe arrayed,
He bore the shameful cross and death,
For us gave up his dying breath.

For us he rose from death again;
For us he went on high to reign;
For us he sent the Spirit here
To guide, to strengthen, and to cheer.

All glory to our Lord and God
For love so deep, so high, so broad:
The Trinity whom we adore
Forever and forevermore.

Then follows a little office of devotion to the Five Wounds. Dr. Storey also includes another devotion attributed to St. Clare of Assisi with prayers to each of the Five Wounds: one in each hand, one in each foot, and one in Our Savior's side.

As you might recall, devotion to the Five Wounds of Jesus was very popular in England before the Reformation and became a symbol of opposition to the Henrician and Elizabethan religious changes. Both the Pilgrimage of Grace and the North Rebellion used the banner of the Five Wounds.

More on this devotion here, from the aptly named Fish Eaters.