Friday, February 28, 2014

Cardinal Vincent Nichols at Westminster Cathedral

The continuity with the past that Cardinal Nichols is expressing with objects from three Reformation and post-Reformation English Cardinals is impressive. When he celebrates his Mass of Thanksgiving at Westminster Cathedral today he will remember the great St. John Fisher, Cardinal Reginald Pole, and Cardinal William Allen:

Cardinal Vincent will process through the West Doors from Cathedral Piazza along with individual possessions of three English Cardinals from the Reformation. These artefacts symbolize the Catholic Church’s connection to the Reformation Cardinals: The signet ring of Cardinal St John Fisher (c.1469-1535), the pectoral cross of Cardinal Reginald Pole (1500-1558) and the crozier of Cardinal William Allen (1532-1594). Cardinal Vincent has a particular devotion to John Fisher and following further studies, has written a book about the saint who inspires him.

The book Cardinal Vincent wrote about St. John Fisher seems to be out of print: St. John Fisher: Bishop and Theologian in Reformation and Controversy, published by Alive Publishing. EWTN has the introduction in their online library:

As a man of his time, who carried many of the strengths and weaknesses of his age, John Fisher might appear distant from us today. Yet that need not be so. There are many themes of his thought and writing which carry strong echoes for us in this age.

Throughout his life, John Fisher had a deep concern for the well-being and ministry of the clergy. He realised that the health of the Church depended largely on the health of the parish and, in turn, this depended on the work and presence of the clergy. Many of his initiatives, especially during his years of academic life, were aimed at the support and improvement of the priests of his day. . . .

Fisher's main effort in support of the clergy was in the area of education. He wanted a clergy that was better educated, thereby better able to inform and form itself for its important ministry. And in that ministry the task of teaching the faith was uppermost in his mind. He wanted his priests to be able and ready to study. He wanted them to bring the fruits of that study into their preaching. He wanted a laity that understood their faith and not be led astray by erroneous opinions and error. Thus was behind his initiatives at Cambridge. . . .

What would be Fisher's view of similar matters today? He would be dismayed at the public failings of even one priest. He would be adamant about the need for personal renewal and discipline of life. He would look to us bishops and priests in particular to give a clear and helpful account of the truths of faith in a manner which spoke to people of today. I think he would be delighted at the richness of resource available to us, embracing with enthusiasm some of the potential of contemporary means of communication while always on guard for the way in which these same means can be used to circulate misleading or corrosive views. In short, he would recognise a similar pattern of strengths and weaknesses and would offer to us today the same example of steadfast study, disciplined self-application, courage of expression and faithful observance of duty, not least the duty of personal prayer and devotion.

As a reformer, then. Fisher's stance was clear. Reform was not a matter of radical change of structure or teaching of the Church, but rather an issue of personal lives being reformed to the age-old wisdom of the Church in each contemporary setting. I cannot believe that his stance would be any different today.

Here is a review of then Archbishop Nichols' book about St. John Fisher. I heard then Archbishop Vincent Nichols speak of his admiration of St. John Fisher on the great documentary--which is forthcoming from Ignatius Press--Faith of Our Fathers: In Search of the English Martyrs. I received a review copy from Saint Anthony Communications, and thoroughly enjoyed it! More about it this Sunday!

Thursday, February 27, 2014

St. Anne Line and Three Priests at Tyburn

There is a rich story here of martyrdom, the relationships between Recusant Catholic laity and priests, and of love and sacrifice. Although only two priests were martyred with St. Anne Line on February 27, 1601, a third priest connected with her story suffered there a year and a couple of months later. That's why I mention three priests in the headline--and then just think of how many more priests St. Anne Line had assisted and protected!

Anne Heigham Line was a convert to Catholicism; she and her brother William Heigham were disinherited and disowned by their Calvinist father. In 1586 she married Roger Line, another disinherited convert. Not long after Anne and Roger married, he and her brother William were arrested for attending Mass and were exiled from England. Roger lived in Flanders and died in 1594.

Father John Gerard SJ, author of the famous book Autobiography of an Elizabethan Priest, asked Anne to manage two different safe houses for Jesuits, even though she was ill, but because she was destitute, surviving on teaching and sewing. She was arrested on the Feast of the Presentation, February 2, 1601, when Father Francis Page was celebrating Mass; he escaped with her help. She was tried on February 26, carried to court in a chair, where she admitted joyfully that she had helped Father Page escape and only regretted that she had not been able to help even more priests escape!

She was hung at Tyburn in London on February 27 and repeated her statement from court before her execution: "I am sentenced to die for harboring a Catholic priest, and so far I am from repenting for having so done, that I wish, with all my soul, that where I have entertained one, I could have entertained a thousand." Two priests, Father Roger Filcock and Father Mark Barkworth, paid tribute to her before their own executions, drawn, hung, and quartered. Father Filcock kissed her dead hand and the hem of her dress as she still hung from the gibbet and proclaimed, “You have gotten the start of us, sister, but we will follow you as quickly as we may.”

Blessed Mark Barkworth OSB was born about 1572 at Searby in Lincolnshire. He studied for a time at Oxford, though no record remains of his stay there. He was received into the Catholic Church at Douai in 1593, by Father George, a Flemish Jesuit and entered the College there with a view to the priesthood. He matriculated at Douai University on 5 October 1594.

On account of an outbreak of the plague, in 1596 Barkworth was sent to Rome and thence to Valladolid in Spain, where he entered the English College on 28 December 1596. On his way to Spain he is said to have had a vision of St Benedict, who told him he would die a martyr, in the Benedictine habit. While at Valladolid he make firmer contact with to the Benedictine Order. The "Catholic Encyclopedia" notes that there are accounts that his interest in the Benedictines resulted in suffering at the hands of the College superiors, but the Encyclopedia expresses scepticism, suggesting anti-Jesuit bias.

Barkworth was ordained priest at the English College some time before July 1599, when he set out for the English Mission together with Father Thomas Garnet. On his way he stayed at the Benedictine Monastery of Hyrache in Navarre, where his wish to join the order was granted by his being made an Oblate with the privilege of making profession at the hour of death.

After having escaped from the hands of the Huguenots of La Rochelle, he was arrested on reaching England and thrown into Newgate, where he was imprisoned for six months, and was then transferred to Bridewell. There he wrote an appeal to Robert Cecil, signed "George Barkworth". At his examinations he was reported to behave with fearlessness and frank gaiety. Having been condemned with a formal jury verdict, he was thrown into "Limbo", the horrible underground dungeon at Newgate, where he is said to have remained "very cheerful" till his death.

Barkworth was executed at Tyburn with Jesuit Roger Filcock and Anne Line, on 27 February 1601. He sang, on the way to Tyburn, the Paschal Anthem: "Hæc dies quam, fecit Dominus exultemus et lætemur in ea", and Father Filcock joined him in the chant:

Hæc dies quam fecit Dominus; [This is the day which the Lord has made:]
exsultemus, et lætemur in ea. [let us be glad and rejoice in it.]

At Tyburn he told the people: "I am come here to die, being a Catholic, a priest, and a religious man, belonging to the Order of St Benedict; it was by this same order that England was converted."

He was said to be "a man of stature tall and well proportioned showing strength, the hair of his head brown, his beard yellow, somewhat heavy eyed". He was of a cheerful disposition. He suffered in the Benedictine habit, under which he wore a hair-shirt. It was noticed that his knees were, like St. James', hardened by constant kneeling, and an apprentice in the crowd picking up his legs, after the quartering, called out: "Which of you Gospellers can show such a knee?" Contrary to usual practice, the quarters of the priests were not exposed but buried near the scaffold. They were later retrieved by Catholics.

Blessed Roger Filcock (1570-1601) was arrested in England while he was fulfilling a probationary period prior to entering the Jesuits. He had studied at the English College in Rheims, France and then in Valladolid, Spain, but when he asked to join the Society he was encouraged to apply again after ministering for awhile in England.

His journey into England was difficult enough. The ship he was traveling on from Bilbao, Spain to Calais, France, was becalmed just outside the port and fell pray to a Dutch ship blockading the harbor. Filcock was captured, but managed to escape and land surreptitiously on the shore in Kent in 1598. Soon after he began his ministry, he contacted Father Henry Garnet, the Jesuit superior, asking to become a Jesuit. He was accepted into the Society in 1600, but then was betrayed by someone he had studied with in Spain. He was arrested and committed to Newgate Prison in London. His trial did not last long, despite the fact that there was no evidence against him and that the names in the indictment were not names he had used. Together with Father Mark Barkworth, a Benedictine, he was tied to a hurdle and dragged through the streets to Tyburn. Barkworth was first to be hung, disembowelled and quartered. Filcock had to watch his companion suffer, knowing that he would immediately follow.

St. Anne Line was among the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales canonized by Pope Paul VI in 1970. She, St. Margaret Clitherow and St. Margaret Ward share a separate Feast on August 30 (the date of St. Margaret Ward's martyrdom in 1588) in the dioceses of England. Blessed Mark Barkworth was beatified by Pope Pius XI on 15 December 1929. Pope John Paul II beatified Blessed Roger Filcock on the 22nd of November 1987.

Father Francis Page, whom St. Anne Line had protected at the Mass of the Presentation of Our Lord was later arrested and executed for his priesthood, suffering on April 20, 1602. He was beatified by Pope Pius XI on 15 December 1929.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Cardinal Merry del Val, RIP

O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed, deliver me, O Jesus.
From the desire of being loved,
From the desire of being extolled,
From the desire of being honored,
From the desire of being praised,
From the desire of being preferred to others,
From the desire of being consulted,
From the desire of being approved,

From the fear of being humiliated, deliver me, O Jesus.
From the fear of being despised,
From the fear of suffering rebukes,
From the fear of being calumniated,
From the fear of being forgotten,
From the fear of being ridiculed,
From the fear of being wronged,
From the fear of being suspected,

That others may be loved more than I, O Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be esteemed more than I,
That, in the opinion of the world, others may, increase and I may decrease,
That others may be chosen and I set aside,
That others may be praised and I unnoticed,
That others may be preferred to me in everything,
That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should, O Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.


Cardinal Rafael Merry de Val, Secretary of State for Pope St. Pius X, died on Feburary 26, 1930. He composed the Litany of Humility, above. He was born in England at the Spanish Embassy in London on October 10, 1865 and was educated at Catholic schools in England and then in Rome.

According to this article, he maintained those early links with England, including his investigation of the validity of Anglican Orders in the Catholic Church:

After graduating from the Pontifical Gregorian University, he became one of the most influential and consulted figures of pontifical Rome, especially when it came to problems regarding Anglicanism. His perfect knowledge of the environment and of the language, his frequent trips across the English Channel, and the esteem of Cardinal Vaughan gave him great authority.

Entrusted by Leo XIII with the thorny question of the validity of Anglican orders – at the uncertain, hesitant beginning of the ecumenical journey – he led the Holy See to the negative response, made official in September of 1896 with the bull "Apostolicae Curae," of which he was the main architect. On the basis of practice that had stood for three hundred years, and of an exhaustive historical investigation, Leo XIII confirmed the "nullity" of the "ordinations carried out with the Anglican rite," thereby denying the apostolic succession of those bishops. The reconciliation of Anglicans and Catholics, which had been proceeding for some time, came to an abrupt halt, while the young prelate established himself as the spokesman of a stance of doctrinal austerity that was different from, if not incompatible with, the policy of Rampolla, who was secretary of state at the time.

He was well known for his facility with languages, his piety and devotion (evidenced by the prayer above), and his great personal support of Pope St. Pius X, whose cause for canonization he introduced and supported. Cardinal Merry del Val died on February 26, 1930 during an operation for appendicitus. His cause for canonization has been introduced and he is a Servant of God.

Image source: Wikipedia commons.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Holy Grail in "The Catholic Answer Magazine"

I mentioned last week that I would have another article in OSV's The Catholic Answer Magazine, in the March/April issue. I received my subscription copy in the mail on Saturday, and it's on-line now. Here's an excerpt--read the rest here:

If you’re aware of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table — if you’ve heard Richard Wagner’s opera Parsifal or seen movies such as “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” — you’ve heard of the Holy Grail.
That object of quest and romance, providing supernatural nourishment and healing, has a long history in literature and legend. Tales about the Holy Grail — as a stone or gem, as the chalice Jesus used, or as the platter on which the Passover lamb was served at the Last Supper before Jesus suffered and died on Calvary — appeared in French, English, German and Italian during the 12th and 13th centuries. The stories include mysterious connections with Joseph of Arimathea, the spear of Longinus (the centurion who pierced Christ’s side on the cross) and even the conversion of England. The Grail was also sometimes described as the cup in which Joseph of Arimathea caught the blood and water that poured from Christ’s side after Longinus pierced Him as He hung dead on the cross, a mysterious sign of the Sacraments of Baptism and the Eucharist and their source in the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Will Ye No Come Again? A Portrait of Bonnie Prince Charlie

A genuine and acceptably bonny portrait of Bonnie Prince Charlie has been rediscovered, by the remorseful art historian who broke hearts in the Scottish souvenir industry by debunking the best-known portrait of the national hero, immortalised on countless tins of shortbread.
The long-lost portrait of the pink-cheeked prince was painted in Edinburgh in 1745 by one of Scotland's most renowned artists, Allan Ramsay, in the year the Young Pretender, grandson of the deposed Stuart king James II, launched a doomed invasion of England in an attempt to restore his family to the throne. It is the only known portrait of the prince made in Britain: the butchery of the battle of Culloden ended the Jacobite rebellion, Charles spent the rest of his life in exile, died in 1788 and was buried in Rome.
"Such a great image," Bendor Grosvenor said fondly of his discovery, which he tracked down from an old photograph to Gosford House, the family home of the Earls of Wemyss, just outside Edinburgh. "It gets the confidence of a man who wanted to invade England at the age of 24."

You may see the portrait at The Guardian site.

When Bendor Grosvener opined that a famous portrait of Bonnie Prince Charlie (seen at right) was really of his brother Henry Benedict, later Cardinal, Stuart, he really upset the apple cart, as this BBC article demonstrates:

Now a leading expert believes the pastel might be Prince Henry Benedict instead of Charles Edward Stuart.
The gallery said it was not uncommon for re-attributions to be made.
It follows a two-year row over the identity of the man in the painting since London art dealer Bendor Grosvenor claimed it was not Bonnie Prince Charlie.
At first the gallery dismissed the claim citing expert on Jacobite portraiture, Dr Edward Corp of the University of Toulouse, France, in its defence.
However, Dr Corp has now changed his opinion in an article in the latest issue of The British Art Journal.
He said: "'The weight of evidence, perhaps regrettably, supports Bendor Grosvenor's argument that the pastel in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery shows Prince Henry rather than Prince Charles."

I think when you compare that portrait above to this of the Duke of York as Cardinal York, the resemblance is clear. Part of the reason experts thought it could not be Henry was that he was a Cardinal by 1747--but he had been in command of the naval expedition of the '45, and evidently both he and his elder brother had sat for portraits by Maurice Quentin de La Tour.

As Dr. Corp noted, this re-attribution was a really big deal:

"It is not merely the catalogue of the Scottish National Portrait Gallery which needs to be corrected.
"The impression which an entire nation has derived of this important historical figure should also be changed.
"The portrait is now reproduced in all biographies of the prince, and has been selected to illustrate the article about him in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography."
Still the real search is for a portrait of Bonnie Prince Charlie by Maurice Quentin de La Tour painted around the same time as this painting of Henry Benedict, the Duke of York.

More on the Scottish National Portrait Gallery here.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Henry, the Duke of Cornwall, Dies

You might be wondering which Duke of Cornwall died on February 22. This Duke of Cornwall--the title given to the eldest son of the king--could have been Henry IXth.

On the 1st of January in 1511, Queen Katherine of England was safely delivered of a son, who was named Henry after his father Henry VIII (and his father Henry VII). He was their second child and first son--heir apparent. His older sister was born prematurely and stillborn on January 31, 1510. Baby Henry was baptized on January 5th with King Louis XII of France and William Warham, Archbishop of Canterbury as godfathers and Margaret of Austria, Duchess of Savoy as his godmother, although his great-aunt Anne of York, Countess of Surrey stood in as proxy for her (representing a great link to the Plantagenet line as her father was Edward IV). He was called the Duke of Cornwall and would have been named the Prince of Wales--Katherine was still the Princess of Wales--had he survived infancy.

Henry held the most magnificent tournament of his reign on February 12 and 13, honoring his Queen by wearing her favours--he loved her more than ever now that they had their son and heir. The British Library features this article on the Westminster Tournament Challenge, which "describes the events that took place during the tournament, puts forth the rules of the Tournament in the form of a charter, and outlines the allegorical structure of the Burgundian-style Tournament." The Westminster Tournament Role is another famous record of these two glorious days when Henry VIII jousted as "Sir Loyal Heart" and everyone rejoiced at the birth of an heir to continue the Tudor Dynasty.

Sadly, "the New Year's boy", "Little Prince Hal" died on February 22, 1511--no indication of the cause of death is recorded. Both parents, so recently united in pride and joy in their little boy were now devastated by grief and sorrow. Katherine spent hours praying on her knees while Henry went to war against France and Spain. They would experience this pattern again when another Henry, Duke of Cornwall was born and survived a month in 1514 after another stillborn infant in 1513.

I presume it would have been an inconvenient fact to point out to Henry years later when he protested that their marriage was invalid in God's eyes and that's why Katherine had borne him no sons--she did bear him sons. They just did not survive infancy! What might have been if either Henry, Duke of Cornwall had survived infancy and become Henry, Prince of Wales and then King Henry IX? Would there have been any English Reformation at all? Would we even know who Anne Boleyn was?

Friday, February 21, 2014

The Life and Works of St. Robert Southwell

Here's an excellent overview from The Poetry Foundation of St. Robert Southwell's life and literary works --and his brave endurance and execution:

Robert Southwell was born around 1561 at Horsham St. Faith, Norfolk, the youngest son and fifth child in a family of eight. The Southwells, a county family that had prospered from the dissolution of the monasteries, formed part of a network of wealthy, interrelated families that included the Wriothsleys, Howards, Bacons, and Cecils as well as recusants such as Vaux, Arden, and Copley. Southwell was a studious boy whose father liked to call him "Father Robert." In 1576 Southwell, like many other boys of his class, was sent overseas to be educated in the Jesuit school at Douai. He would not see England again for ten years. Between the ages of fifteen and seventeen he became convinced of his vocation to a religious life, and in 1578 he was admitted to the noviceship at Rome, where he embarked upon his formation as a Jesuit. In 1581 he transferred from the Roman to the English College, where he became tutor and perfect of studies. He was ordained in 1584 and was sent on the English mission in 1586, landing secretly with his fellow Jesuit Henry Garnet somewhere between Dover and Folkestone in early July. He was about twenty-five years old.

Christopher Devlin estimated a Catholic priest's chance of survival in England in 1586 as one in three. Southwell led the active but disguised and secret life of a pastor for six years, working mostly in and around London except for some journeys into the Midlands. For much of this period he lived under the protection of Anne, countess of Arundel, whose husband, the earl, was a prisoner in the Tower of London. In June 1592 the notorious priest hunter Richard Topcliffe succeeded in capturing Southwell. Topcliffe, Elizabeth I's servant and favorite, "an atrocious psychopath," in Geoffrey Hill's words, was allowed to torture prisoners in his own house. Southwell was in this man's hands and then in the hands of Privy Council interrogators and torturers for a month; news of his transfer to solitary confinement in the Tower was a relief to his friends.

After more than two years' imprisonment he was moved to the notorious cell in Newgate called Limbo, and his trial took place on 20 February 1595 under the statute of 1585, which had made it treason to be a Catholic priest and administer the sacraments in England. He was found guilty and was executed the next day by hanging, drawing, and quartering. At his trial Southwell said that he had been tortured ten times and would rather have endured ten executions. Pierre Janelle, who quotes the records in detail, writes that Southwell made of his trial and execution "a work of art of supreme beauty." He was thirty-three at his death. Pope Paul VI canonized him on 25 October 1970 as one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales.

Remember that I'll be on the Son Rise Morning Show, produced by Sacred Heart Radio for the EWTN Radio Network, around 7:45 a.m. Eastern/6:45 a.m. Central to discuss this great saint, poet, and martyr.

Happy Birthday to Blessed John Henry Newman

From Blessed John Paul II in 2001:

On the occasion of the second centenary of the birth of the Venerable Servant of God John Henry Newman, I gladly join you, your Brother Bishops of England and Wales, the priests of the Birmingham Oratory and a host of voices throughout the world in praising God for the gift of the great English Cardinal and for his enduring witness.

As Newman pondered the mysterious divine plan unfolding in his own life, he came to a deep and abiding sense that "God has created me to do Him some definite service. He has committed some work to me which he has not committed to another. I have my mission" (Meditations and Devotions). How true that thought now appears as we consider his long life and the influence which he has had beyond death. He was born at a particular time – 21 February 1801; in a particular place – London; and to a particular family – the firstborn of John Newman and Jemima Fourdrinier. But the particular mission entrusted to him by God ensures that John Henry Newman belongs to every time and place and people.

Newman was born in troubled times which knew not only political and military upheaval but also turbulence of soul. Old certitudes were shaken, and believers were faced with the threat of rationalism on the one hand and fideism on the other. Rationalism brought with it a rejection of both authority and transcendence, while fideism turned from the challenges of history and the tasks of this world to a distorted dependence upon authority and the supernatural. In such a world, Newman came eventually to a remarkable synthesis of faith and reason which were for him "like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of the truth" (Fides et Ratio,Introduction; cf. ibid., 74). It was the passionate contemplation of truth which also led him to a liberating acceptance of the authority which has its roots in Christ, and to the sense of the supernatural which opens the human mind and heart to the full range of possibilities revealed in Christ. "Lead kindly light amid the encircling gloom, lead Thou me on", Newman wrote in The Pillar of the Cloud; and for him Christ was the light at the heart of every kind of darkness. For his tomb he chose the inscription: Ex umbris et imaginibus in veritatem; and it was clear at the end of his life’s journey that Christ was the truth he had found.

But Newman’s search was shot through with pain. Once he had come to that unshakeable sense of the mission entrusted to him by God, he declared: "Therefore, I will trust Him... If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve Him, in perplexity, my perplexity may serve Him... He does nothing in vain... He may take away my friends. He may throw me among strangers. He may make me feel desolate, make my spirits sink, hide the future from me. Still, He knows what He is about" (Meditations and Devotions)All these trials he knew in his life; but rather than diminish or destroy him they paradoxically strengthened his faith in the God who had called him, and confirmed him in the conviction that God "does nothing in vain". In the end, therefore, what shines forth in Newman is the mystery of the Lord’s Cross: this was the heart of his mission, the absolute truth which he contemplated, the "kindly light" which led him on.

As we thank God for the gift of the Venerable John Henry Newman on the two hundredth anniversary of his birth, we pray that this sure and eloquent guide in our perplexity will also become for us in all our needs a powerful intercessor before the throne of grace. Let us pray that the time will soon come when the Church can officially and publicly proclaim the exemplary holiness of Cardinal John Henry Newman, one of the most distinguished and versatile champions of English spirituality. With my Apostolic Blessing.

From EWTN's Document Library.

Think of the passage of  time since this was written! The author and the subject of the letter have both been beatified, and the recipient of the letter, Vincent Nichols then Archbishop of Birmingham now Archbishop of Westminster, will receive his red hat tomorrow on the Feast of The Chair of St. Peter the Apostle.

We will have to toast the Blessed John Henry Newman tonight at Eighth Day Books during our G.K. Chesterton meeting! I've already baked the cake and the champagne is in the fridge. We'll meet at 6:30 discuss the first ten essays in The Thing by GKC.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Other Publications Tab

I have updated the Other Publications tab with new links to all the articles I've had published so far in OSV's The Catholic Answer Magazine. Editor Matthew Bunson told me that he'll be publishing another article he asked me to write in the March/April issue, and yet another in the May/June issue. OSV (Our Sunday Visitor) recently revamped their website and now allows visitors to see all content, regardless of print subscription. Dr. Bunson accepted another article recently, so I'll let you know when it will appear in print and on line. (The covers above are the issues when my article made the cover!)

St. Robert Southwell on the Son Rise Morning Show

I'll be on the Son Rise Morning Show tomorrow morning to talk about one of the most amazing martyrs of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales: St. Robert Southwell. This fine Jesuit poet and martyr endured tremendous tortures at the hands of Richard Topcliffe and then an execution that sickened the crowd so much that they would not allow the torture to continue. I've posted often about St. Robert Southwell, his poetry, his connections with St. Philip Howard and other figures of the English Mission--but I've never mentioned the family connection to the story of St. Thomas More.

St. Robert's grandfather, Sir Richard Southwell, was one of the survivors of the Tudor Dynasty, serving Henry VIII, being imprisoned for his Catholicism during the reign of Edward VI, serving Mary I, and finally being removed from Court--because of his Catholicism--early in the reign of Elizabeth I and dying very rich in 1564. His legitimized son Richard Southwell of Horsham St. Faith's, Norfolk was St. Robert Southwell's son.(Richard of Horsham St. Faith's mother was his father's second wife, but he was conceived while the elder Richard was married to another woman). 

The connection to St. Thomas More? Sir Richard Southwell was one of those the St. Thomas More's cell in the Tower of London taking away More's books and writing materials when Sir Richard Rich supposedly heard More condemn himself by speaking treason. Southwell denied having heard any of the conversation between More and Rich, being busy with the books, but the Court convicted More anyway. While Sir Richard Southwell was willing to benefit from the Dissolution of the Monasteries, at least he was unwilling to corroborate Sir Richard Rich's perjury.

Sir Richard certainly participated in the fall and execution of Henry Howard, the Earl of Surrey, as he presented evidence about Surrey's addition of the arms of St. Edward the Confessor to his heraldic escutcheon--when such arms could only be displayed by the Prince of Wales. While no one could find the escutcheon when they searched for it, Southwell's word was enough to condemn Surrey for treason at the paranoid end of Henry VIII's reign. Surrey's execution and the imprisonment of Thomas Howard, the 3rd Duke of Norfolk were major blows to the Catholic coalition at Court, but Southwell shares more than a first name with Sir Richard Rich--an ability to advance by choosing the winning side in almost every conflict.

Matt Swaim, the new host of the Son Rise Morning Show, and I will discuss Sir Richard Southwell's grandson, the martyred saint, Robert Southwell, at 7:45 a.m. Eastern/6:45 a.m. Central tomorrow! Please listen live here!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

A Hidden Masterpiece on Display

From UK's The Catholic Herald comes this story about Franz von Rohden's 1854 Crucifixion (pictured above; used by permission), which was in a closet at Ushaw College since sometime in the 1970's:

A painting that was kept in a closet at Ushaw College for 30 years and is hailed by scholars as a masterpiece has gone on display for the first time.

The work, by the German painter Franz von Rohden, was hung in a chapel at the junior college until the 1970s, when it was put in storage.

It was discovered following the closure of the seminary in 2011.

The painting had been commissioned in the 1850s by Mgr Charles Newsham, the president of Ushaw, who wanted it for private devotion.

On the advice of Cardinal Wiseman he had sought a painting from the Nazarene school – a group of German artists who moved to Rome to emulate pre-modern masters of the 15th century.

From the University of Durham website:

This exhibition focuses on a rare and largely neglected masterpiece by the Nazarene artist Franz von Rohden (1817-1903) currently preserved at Ushaw College. The painting, which depicts the Crucifixion of Our Lord with the Virgin Mary, St John and Mary Magdalene (1854), exemplifies the artistic creed of the Nazarene school of painting, founded in Rome by a group of dissident German artists in the early nineteenth century and characterised by the radical recourse to the pictorial repertoire of Italian pre-modern masters. While still relatively unknown in England today, the Nazarene movement exerted a tremendous influence on European Romanticism, the Gothic Revival and the British Pre-Raphaelites. . . . 

The painting has never left Ushaw College and is here exhibited to the wider public for the first time. While still in progress in Rohden’s Roman atelier, this exquisite painting had already become a sensation. Its first admirers called it ‘a miracle of art and a most devotion-inspiring picture’ and elected it as ‘the finest picture of the subject that ever was painted’. The recourse to Nazarene art was suggested to Newsham by Ushaw’s most illustrious alumnus, Cardinal Nicholas Patrick Wiseman (1802-1865). The need to go to Rome, for the acquisition of artistic objects to adorn the college, coincided with the need to turn to the Holy See for the acquisition of sacred objects charged with a particular devotional energy. Nazarene artists, such as Rohden, suitably fulfilled this need.

More about the Nazarene Movement in religious art here. Rather like the naming of the Metaphysical Poets (per Samuel Johnson), the Nazarene name was given as a negative commentary on their style.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Heresy Without Orthodoxy: Ross Douthat's "Bad Religion"

My husband and I visited our friendly neighborhood Eighth Day Books on Saturday and I purchased this book: Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics. I am finding it fascinating reading. Heresies are essential topics in my study of Church History: the history of the Early Church can almost be seen as a struggle against heresy. As each heresy proposed a simple, logical way of understanding, for example, how Jesus was both God and Man, the bishops met at the councils and restated true Church teaching. The Arian heresy, particularly, divided the Church as St. Athanasius stood up against the world to defend the truth about Jesus. Sometimes we forget how cruel heresy can be (C. Fitzsimmons Allison wrote a book titled The Cruelty of Heresy: An Affirmation of Christian Orthodoxy that explored the more existential aspects of that cruelty), as the supporters of the heresy cast out the defenders of orthodoxy. I think we often view the orthodox as having all the power--but it isn't always so.
I'll post a review in the next couple of days, but for now, here's a couple of notes: Douthat's thesis is that the problem is not that religion is on decline in the U.S.A., but that we have almost too much religion, and most of it is unorthodox. While so much of the popular religion is unorthodox, the orthodox religion--let's use C.S. Lewis' term, "Mere Christianity"--is not strong enough, persuasive enough or perhaps even confident enough to call people back to historical, doctrinal, sacramental, and moral orthodoxy.  Douthat starts his review of these issues with the post-World War II situation, examines the era when Reinhold Niebuhr, Billy Graham, Archbishop Fulton Sheen, and Martin Luther King, Jr. demonstrated the strengths of Mainline Protestantism, Evangelical Protestantism, Catholicism, and the African-American Church. He then looks at the period of accommodation, including the sad story of the decline of the Catholic Church in America after the Second Vatican Council--his narrative seems accurate enough to me. Philip Jenkins, Russell Shaw, and Al Kresta (I want to read his new book and Eighth Day should have it in stock by our G.K. Chesterton reading group meeting this Friday) have covered some of the same ground in different works, but Douthat is both persuasive and compelling in his view of the past almost 60 years.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Britain and the Holy See: 1982 to 2012

In 2012, Britain and the Holy See celebrated 30 years of uninterrupted diplomatic relations with a conference at the Venerable English College in Rome. According to a Catholic News Agency article at the time:

Today [March  30, 2012] the United Kingdom marked 30 years of full diplomatic relations with the Holy See with a one-day conference in Rome.

During his introductory remarks on March 30, U.K. Ambassador Nigel Baker called 1982 “a red-letter year in the relationship between Britain and the Holy See.”
The year “saw the establishment of bilateral diplomatic relations at ambassadorial level and the United Kingdom, for the first time, welcomed a reigning Pontiff – Blessed Pope John Paul II – to its shores.”

The day-long event, which was hosted by Rome’s Venerable English College, was titled “Britain and the Holy See: A Celebration of 1982 and the Wider Relationship.” With the assistance of numerous contributors, it attempted to review the events of 30 years ago and assess their historical, diplomatic and ecumenical impact.

Vatican Radio recently talked to Nigel Baker, the current U.K. ambassador to the Holy See, about the publication of the proceedings of that 2012 conference:

Celebrating Britain’s relations with the Holy See: that’s the goal of a glossy new publication bringing together contributions from Catholics and Anglicans, clerics and diplomats, professors, historians and ecumenical experts.

The book looks back to Pope John Paul II’s historical visit to Britain in 1982, as well as Pope Benedict’s state visit in 2010, tracing progress on both political and religious fronts. But it also recalls the darker days of division and alienation that lasted for four and a half centuries before John Paul’s groundbreaking pastoral visit.

To delve deeper into its pages and the story it tells, Philippa Hitchen sat down with Britain’s current representative to the Holy See, Ambassador Nigel Baker.

You may listen to the interview here.

As Ambassador Baker commented:

"During the colloquium I reminded people that this our oldest embassy, our embassy to the Holy See. The first resident British ambassador – English ambassador, at the time – was sent on mission in 1479 by King Edward IV. […] So when you get into context, talking about the Britain – Holy See relationship, you have to go back a long way in history and look at the impact of history, how we’ve got to where we are now.

"I think sometimes people can get confused. I always tell people I am accredited to the Holy See, which means the global Catholic network, the governance of the global Catholic Church. And I think people quite quickly realise that’s quite a different beast from a bilateral ambassador to, for example, the republic of Italy. In the colloquium and in the book we have presentations from two British cardinals, who remember the visit of Pope John Paul II vividly; we have Scottish, Welsh and English contributions; important contributions about the ecumenical relationship – both an Anglican bishop and an official of the Holy See talking about the relationship between Catholicism and Anglicanism. And I think all of these add to that complex mix which is the relationship between Britain and the Holy See, which goes far beyond the sometimes rather transactional relationship that ordinary bilateral relationships can be.” has an entry for the booklet, but does not have it in stock! I am still searching.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Charles I's Painter Looks Over His Shoulder

Richard Cork discusses Anthony Van Dyck's last "Self-Portrait" in The Wall Street Journal; he finds the artist concerned about his patron and his own health:

Van Dyck appears increasingly ill-at-ease, as if his fierce concentration on the task at hand has been diverted by some unexpected intrusion. He seems startled, and I can imagine him feeling annoyed by the disturbance. His mouth might be on the point of opening. A hint of a frown can be detected curving up from the edge of his raised right eyebrow.

What is really going on here? Van Dyck's last "Self-Portrait" may well reflect his gathering alarm about the state of his adopted home. Charles I, who contributed so greatly to Van Dyck's success, had alienated a growing number of powerful forces. And Van Dyck's eminent position within the royal court must have alerted him to the danger now confronting the monarch. (Civil war would break out in 1642.) Van Dyck was sensitive enough to appreciate the problem, and his anxiety could have been exacerbated by his own illness.

Van Dyck probably sensed, when he stared at his own reflection and set it down on canvas, that his health was ominously poor. In August 1641 the Countess of Roxburghe reported in a letter that he had been ill for a long time, and soon afterward Van Dyck grew so infirm that he abandoned a major commission to paint Cardinal Richelieu's portrait in Paris. He must have felt very frustrated, and at the base of the elaborate oak frame surrounding his last "Self-Portrait" a demonic face scowls as he opens his mouth in a roar of rage. There is certainly a haunting awareness of transience in the "Self-Portrait." Even as he emphasizes the strength of his penetrating gaze, Van Dyck conveys a melancholy awareness that nothing of him will endure very long, apart from the art he creates. The white shirt that occupies such a prominent space near the center of the painting looks as turbulent as a storm-stricken sea. This boldly handled passage of paint could almost be seen as prophetic, hinting at the military tempest that was about to engulf England and destroy the king along with so many of his subjects in a catastrophic conflict.

The National Portrait Gallery in London is raising funds to purchase, preserve, and display this portrait (and keep it from being obtained by a private collector). More about that effort here.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Sheppard, Davy, and Mundy from The Sixteen

On their new CD and in their 2014 Choral Pilgrimage:

The Sixteen returns to its grass roots and revisits the golden age of Renaissance polyphony in England for the repertoire of its latest disc. In this new programme the award-winning ensemble presents a stunning selection of music by Richard Davy, John Sheppard and William Mundy.

Little is known about the life of Richard Davy. He is, however, the second most represented of all the composers in the Eton Choirbook and wrote in the beautifully florid style so characteristic of 1490s English music. The mere fact that his music survived the Reformation is nothing short of a miracle. He was a scholar of Magdalen College, Oxford, where he acted as choir master and organist and it is believed that he wrote the monumental O Domine caeli terraeque creator in the span of a single day during his time at the college.

John Sheppard's musical style contains all the grandness and idiosyncrasies of English harmonic invention, as is aptly displayed on this new recording which includes one of the gems of Tudor music - the glorious seven-part Trinity antiphons Libera nos with their ethereal combination of upper voices balanced with an even-note cantus firmus in the bass, as well as one of the most grandiose of Sheppard’s responsories, Gaude, gaude, gaude Maria, a magnificent setting of the responsory and prosa for Second Vespers for the Feast of the Purification.

William Mundy was one of the few composers whose career bridged the Reformation and allowed him to develop his style through a variety of important periods. His Votive antiphon,Vox patris caelestis, probably written for the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the reign of Mary Tudor, can be considered as the culmination of the great antiphon tradition with its elaborate and virtuosic vocal writing and daunting extended range.

The track listings are:

John Sheppard (c.1515-58/9)
1. Gaude, gaude, gaude Maria
William Mundy (c.1530-before 1591)
2. Adolescentulus sum ego
Richard Davy (c.1465-c.1521)
3. O Domine caeli terraeque creator
4. Libra nos I & II
5. In manus tuas I
6. Ah, mine heart, remember thee well
7. In manus tuas III
8. Vox patris caelestis

While enduring withdrawal symptoms from the football season Sunday night, I watched the first episodes of Music and Monarchy again--with performances from Eton College, King's College, Cambridge, et al. I enjoyed again how David Starkey and his experts demonstrated the arrangements of College choirs around the huge choir book; then showed the changes made in the composition of music and the membership of the choir during the Tudor Reformation transitions, etc.

Something I did not comment on when I posted my review of Music and Monarchy is the other gradual transition Starkey demonstrates. From the Tudors to the Stuarts to the Hanoverians to the Windsors, the purpose of music at Court, Chapel Royal, and Cathedral changed. First, as Starkey showed particularly with the example of Henry V and Henry VI, the purpose was worship of God. Then, with the Restoration of Charles II and particularly the coronation of James II, the purpose was supporting the monarchy and king, which Purcell continued with the odes to Mary, for example, during the reign of William and Mary. After William curtailed music at Court, English music was revived during the Hanoverian dynasty by the German Handel--and George III supported his music and talent so much that the focus of the musical performance for the monarchy became recognition of the composer. With the Windsors, the purpose of music for the monarchy was patriotism or even nationalism: "Land of Hope and Glory", the Proms, the processional hymn by Ralph Vaughn Williams at Elizabeth II's coronation, "All People That On Earth Do Dwell", the focus was on the people and the glories of being English!

From God, to the King, to the composer, to the people.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The "Gloomy Dean" and Thomas More's "Unfinished" Reformation

William Ralph Inge was Dean of St. Paul's Cathedral from 1911 to 1934 (thus a successor of John Colet, John Feckenham, and John Donne, among many others) and a prolific author. He was called the "Gloomy Dean" because of the rather pessimistic attitude he expressed in his Evening Standard columns. I think a more elegant epithet would have been the "Melancholy Dean" as a pun on Hamlet!

According to this site, Dean Inge "was a passionate Christian Platonist known in the academy for his work on mysticism, Plotinus and a synthesis of Christianity and Platonism." Inge was definitely passionate about his opposition to the Catholic Church. As the Wikipedia article states, "He was a strong proponent of a spiritual type of religion—"that autonomous faith which rests upon experience and individual inspiration"—as opposed to one of coercive authority; he was outspoken in his criticisms of the Roman Catholic Church."

In an essay titled "Protestantism: A Problem Novel", G.K. Chesterton critiqued a pamphlet in which the Protestant Divine argued for a new Reformation, since he was not inclined to follow Lutheran or Calvinist doctrine. But first Chesterton argues the pamphlet should have been titled Catholicism since the Dean cannot really define Protestantism, but can certainly attack Catholicism:

It is only what he has to say about Catholicism that is clear, consistent and to the point. It is warmed and quickened by the human and hearty motive of hatred; and it makes everything else in the book look timid and tortuous by comparison.

Chesterton quotes Dean Inge's description of the purpose of Protestantism and comments on it:
"What is the main function of Protestantism? It is essentially an attempt to check the tendency to corruption and degradation which attacks every institutional religion." So far, so good. In that case St. Charles Borromeo, for instance, was obviously a leading Protestant. St. Dominic and St. Francis, who purged the congested conventionalism of much of the monasticism around them, were obviously leading Protestants. The Jesuits who sifted legend by the learning of Bollandism, were obviously leading Protestants. But most living Protestant leaders are not leading Protestants. If degradation drags down EVERY institutional religion, it has presumably dragged down Protestant institutional religion. Protestants might possibly appear to purge Protestantism; but so did Catholics appear to purge Catholicism. Plainly this definition is perfectly useless as a DISTINCTION between Protestantism and Catholicism.
But then, Chesterton cites the strangest comment of all in the Gloomy Dean's pamphlet:

It is in this direction that Protestants may look for the beginning of what may really be a new Reformation, a resumption of the unfinished work of Sir Thomas More, Giordano Bruno and Erasmus.
I'm not sure what Giordano Bruno would have really contributed to this new Reformation? Denial of the Divine Person of  Our Incarnate Savior? Heliocentrism? But Chesterton really has some fun with Inge's suggestion that we need "a resumption of the unfinished work of Sir Thomas More . . .":

In short, Protestants may look forward to a Reformation modelled on the work of two Catholics and one obscure mystic, who was not a Protestant and of whose tenets they and the world know practically nothing. One hardly knows where to begin, in criticising this very new Reformation, two-thirds of which was apparently started by men of the Old Religion. We might meekly suggest that, if it be regrettable that the work of Sir Thomas More was "unfinished," some portion of the blame may perhaps attach to the movement that cut off his head. . . .

For this, it seems, is how we stand. We are not to follow Luther and Calvin. But we are to follow More and Erasmus. And that, if you please, is the true Protestantism and the promise of a second Reformation. We are to copy the views and virtues of the men who found they could remain under the Pope, and especially of one who actually died for the supremacy of the Pope.

So I have to ask, did Dean Inge realize what kind of Reformation Sir/Saint Thomas More would have led or encouraged? More would certainly have reformed abuses: he would have used Bishop/St. John Fisher as the model of a good bishop, resident and attentive; he would have held up the Carthusians and Observant Franciscans (also martyred under Henry VIII) as models of monastic and mendicant life; he would have agreed with Erasmus that Catholic piety and devotion needed to be based on the Holy Bible. Did Dean Inge realize that St. Thomas More's "unfinished work" of Reformation would have maintained Catholic teaching on the Sacraments, on the Real Presence of Holy Communion, on the role of the Papacy? St. Thomas More would not have been a strong proponent of a Reformation based on "that autonomous faith which rests upon experience and individual inspiration"--he would have looked to the legitimate authority of the Catholic Church and would have appealed to "Christendom" as he said at his trial, not to something autonomous and individual, for the inspiration of his Reformation.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

An Amazing Anniversary: The Resignation of Pope Benedict XVI

Matthew Bunson remembers February 11, 2013 in Our Sunday Visitor:

Many Catholics can remember the dramatic Year of Three Popes in 1978, when Pope Paul VI died, was succeeded by the short-lived Pope John Paul I and was himself followed by Pope Blessed John Paul II. Years from now, Catholics looking back at 2013 will likely express a similar amazement at the Year of Two Popes. The one notable difference, of course, is that the sede vacante— the interregnum between pontiffs — was not to bury a deceased pope and elect his successor, but to witness the departure of one pope through resignation and the election of a new Vicar of Christ under circumstances not encountered in more than 700 years.

Pope Benedict XVI’s announcement last February that he would renounce the papacy at the end of that month sent a genuine shockwave through the Church and across the globe. His decision was not unprecedented, but it was certainly unique in the modern life of the Church. . . .

On the morning of Feb. 11, 2013, Pope Benedict informed a gathering of the cardinals in Rome and other officials of the Roman Curia that he was resigning. Cardinal Angelo Sodano, dean of the College of Cardinals, spoke for the shocked room of prelates — and ultimately for the whole Church — when he said: “Your moving message has resounded in this room like a lightning bolt in a calm sky. We’ve listened to you with a sense of shock, rather in total disbelief.”

Pope Benedict had not rushed into the decision. His health had been declining, and he had grown increasingly concerned about his ability to govern the Church with the energy needed to deal with the crises of modernity and to implement the reforms that were needed. According to the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, Pope Benedict had reached the decision to resign after his journey to Mexico and Cuba in the spring of 2012.

I do remember the Year of Three Popes--I heard the early morning radio reports of Pope John Paul I's death and told my mother (my father was out of town on business). When I told her the Pope was dead, she said "Again?' (it was very early in the morning of course!)

I remember last year's amazing announcement too. I was all set to talk to Brian Patrick on the Son Rise Morning Show about Shrovetide, Confession, pancakes and pancake races. Then producer Matt Swaim emailed me with a change in topic: we would instead discuss Pope Benedict and the English Reformation, highlighting the September 2010 visit to Scotland and England, the establishment of the Anglican Ordinariate, and the beatification of John Henry Newman--all the ways Benedict had tried to heal the wounds of the sixteenth century. Eventually, I found a place for the article that developed after that interview--it's in the January/February issue of the St. Austin Review. (But you have to subscribe to the print edition to read it/or buy an individual copy.)

Matt Swaim described that busy morning for The Catholic Beat in Cincinnati, as he scrambled to refocus that day's programming to respond to the news:

My first call was to EWTN Rome Bureau Chief Joan Lewis, who breathlessly begged me to give her five minutes before calling her back for a live interview. Since she’s based in Rome, it worked out that she’d been awake for several hours, and was able to speak to the physical appearance of Pope Benedict in recent days. Al Kresta was also awake (even though he mans the afternoon program on the network), and was able to join in the conversation as well. At that point, I had put out dozens of emails, Twitter messages and phone calls to people like Vatican Radio’s Emer McCarthy (who did an excellent job, especially since she and everyone else at the Vatican officially had the day off), Canon Lawyer Ed Peters, who was able to comment with reasonable intelligence about what this all meant canonically, Teresa Tomeo, whose show airs after ours on EWTN, and others, piecing together things as they came to mind and potential guests responded. Special thanks goes out to Stephanie Mann, whose planned segment on English Shrovetide traditions instantly became a segment on the significance of Pope Benedict’s other major historical move- the introduction of the Anglican Ordinariate. . . .

Just a year ago today!

(Image Credit: Pope Benedict XVI's Papal Coat of Arms)

Monday, February 10, 2014

Diplomacy and Division Between England and Rome

As I noted yesterday, I'll be on the Son Rise Morning Show this morning to discuss the meeting between Pope Francis and Queen Elizabeth II. This is not the Queen's first visit to the Vatican.

In 1980, Queen Elizabeth met with Pope John Paul II at the Vatican as part of a State Visit to Italy. She has also met Pope John Paul II, Pope John XIII, and Pope Pius XII at the Vatican (the latter when she was a princess) in private audiences. Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI met her during their visits to the British Isles, in 1982 and 2010, respectively.

This is not a State Visit--the Queen and the Duke are having a private luncheon with the President of Italy and then going to the Vatican to meet Pope Francis. They will meet at the Santa Marta guesthouse and not in the Apostolic Palace.

There are many pictures on the web of Queen Elizabeth's earlier visits, wearing a black dress, black closed shoes, and a black veil--but the veil or head covering is not technically required.

Because of the English Reformation, the history of English and Vatican diplomatic relations since the 16th century has been uneven, to say the least. Before Henry VIII"s break from Rome (Pope Clement VII), English monarchs sent ambassadors to the Papal States, as the popes of that era were secular rulers in addition to being the Bishop of Rome and the Vicar of Christ. Henry VII and Henry VIII additionally had "Cardinal Protectors" who addressed ecclesiastical matters like the appointment of bishops. England had a long history of links to Rome and those links had been strong for centuries--Saxon and Mercian kings began the tradition of giving Peter's Pence, which of course ended during Henry VIII's reign.

Mary I and James II both re-established some diplomatic ties to the Vatican, but her death and the Glorious Revolution, respectively, ended those brief periods. Informal diplomacy between the Great Britain and the Pope took place during the French Revolution under the argument that the enemy of my enemy is my friend--in opposition to the French Revolution and the First Empire under Napoleon.

The first post-Reformation ambassador was assigned to the Vatican in 1914 at the beginning of World War I--and he was a Catholic, Henry Howard. His official title was "His Majesty's Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary on a Special Mission to His Holiness the Pope". Things were stable for awhile and then in the 1930's troubles between Church and State in Malta led to another long break in higher level diplomacy at least. The Troubles in Northern Ireland also strained relations and an ambassador-level official was not appointed again until 1982, the same year that Pope John Paul II visited Scotland, England, Ireland, and Wales.

The current British ambassador to the Holy See (not the Vatican City-State) is Nigel Baker. The current ambassador from the Holy See to the Court of St. James--that is, the current Apostolic Nuncio--is Archbishop Antonio Mennini.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Pope Francis and Elizabeth II to Meet

I'll be on the Son Rise Morning Show tomorrow morning at 7:45 Eastern/6:45 Central. Matt Swaim asked me to discuss this meeting, scheduled for April at the Vatican, between the Supreme Governor of the Church of England and the Pope, the Vicar of Christ, the successor of St. Peter--and the head of the Vatican City-State and the Holy See! This sounds like a rather low key visit, however, and is taking place at the Santa Marta guesthouse after the Queen has lunch with the president of Italy.

On the Son Rise Morning Show, we'll discuss the history of relations between the England and Rome, which of course, broke off during the reign of Henry VIII, and weren't firmly re-established until the reign of George V. Queen Elizabeth II has met most of the popes since Pope Pius XII (she has also met all of the U.S. Presidents since Dwight D. Eisenhower--and met Truman when she was just a princess!).

So, tune in tomorrow--you can listen live here. And I'll post some background here tomorrow, too.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

The Middle Ages Weren't That Dark/The Renaissance Wasn't That Bright

I'm reading G.K. Chesterton's The Thing, as I mentioned, and I think he would appreciate this article, which turns the tables on the usual paradigm re: the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. That table turning is something Chesterton does all the time.

First, the article, from The Telegraph by Dominic Selwood, "The bloody underside of the 'civilised' Renaissance":

If you looked only at the luscious paintings by Fra Angelico and Botticelli, and if you listened only to the soaring ethereal voices of Palestrina and Byrd, you would think the Renaissance was a release of centuries of pent-up creativity. You would conclude, as was once fashionable, that when the Renaissance detonated in late 1300s Italy, it sprayed hope, colour, and sensuality into a monochrome and rigid medieval world grappling with a plague that had slain a third of Europe. [In case you think Selwood is exaggerating, remember William Manchester's A World Lit Only by Fire.]

But you would be wrong for many reasons.

For starters, there was nothing monochrome about the medieval world. You need only look at the extraordinary renovations now under way at Chartres cathedral, where they are restoring the hulking grey walls and statues to their former brightly decorated brilliance, injecting a vibrancy that those who grew up with 1960s architecture can barely take in.

Equally as importantly, there was a lot the Renaissance, for all its splendour, left unchanged. It may have been a celebration of living rather than earthly preparation for an afterlife, but it did not immediately improve life for everyone. For example, as the oligarchs of the day splashed their immense wealth around, patronizing works and monuments to their eternal glory, the majority of the population remained bound to the unforgiving and harsh drudgery of subsistence level agricultural and artisanal life.

We sometimes have a slightly deluded view of the period, seeing it as the dawning of a civilised age of "high culture", with an intense new focus on art, writing, and music – quite unlike anything that had gone before.

Selwood goes on to comment on two horrible executions--dark highlights of the Renaissance--that of Girolamo Savonarola (mentioned in the context of the anniversary of his "Bonfire of the Vanities" on February 7, 1497) and the other of Mary, Queen of Scots on February 8, 1587.

As he describes Savonarola's end:

In the time-honoured fashion, a kangaroo court was duly convened. Savonarola and his two most loyal fellow Dominican friars were first tried by civil judges, then by Church commissioners, although neither result was ever in doubt. As one of the judges noted before the trial, “We shall have a fine bonfire tonight.”

The three priests were quickly convicted, sentenced, stripped, walked over spikes, then hanged and burned in the central Piazza della Signoria. The once-adoring Florentines danced around the pyre, and the city’s children threw stones at the burning corpses.

And then he describes the execution of Mary, Queen of Scots (illustrated above):

It was a tawdry affair. Mary was not permitted a priest of her religion, so said her own prayers quietly in Latin. She remained poised and calm. Among her last words, she forgave her executioner with all her heart because “now, I hope, you shall make an end of all my troubles”.

The first blow with the axe missed her neck and took off part of her head. The next was not hard enough, But the third finally severed her neck. Her dog, bloodied by the gore, lay between her head and shoulders, refusing to be parted from her. According to an eye witness, “her lips stirred up and down a quarter of an hour after her head was cut off”.

As a final insult, her request to be buried in Rheims was overruled, and she was given a Protestant funeral in Peterborough.

Read the rest of the article here (which also ties in the forthcoming visit of Queen Elizabeth and Pope Francis at the Vatican).

Now, for Chesterton's turning the tables: in an article titled "The Early Bird in History", Chesterton notes "there's a common and current charge against the Catholic Church, that she is, as the phrase goes, always behind the times."

Not that there's anything wrong with that, he says, when you consider the times, but then he notes at least one instance in which the Catholic Church was far ahead of anyone else and in ways that no other institution had caught up with (in 1929, at least). He examines the rehabilitation of St. Joan of Arc. Chesterton notes that her canonization may have taken centuries, but her rehabilitation did not. The Church investigated, acknowledged the injustice, and cleared her name during the lifetime of her family-- of her mother. 

Then Chesterton considers some other cases: Did Edward III repent of the brutal execution of William Wallace by Edward I?  Did Elizabeth I rehabilitate Sir Thomas More, acknowledge the error of his trial, conviction, and execution as a traitor? Of course they did not. 

He acknowledges that in the 19th century the English did "make a romance about Wallace" and finally start thinking of St. Joan of Arc with more favor and recognition of their own tawdry role. (Shakespeare's depiction of Joan, he notes, features "insular insults".)

Chesterton has two more historical parallels: have the English honored Daniel O'Connell, the catalyst of Catholic Emancipation within one hundred years of that great milestone (1829-1929)? Have they accepted Robert Emmet of Ireland as well as they've accepted George Washington of the United States of America? No--in 1929, they had not. Thus, Chesterton demonstrates that the Catholic Church was not so far behind the times as "people" say, and in fact, the secular world is really far behind in the process of acknowledging past injustices.

You've have to read the rest of the essay, particularly as Chesterton cites how far ahead of their times the Jesuits were! 

Next week, I might have to share what Chesterton writes about Dean Inge and Thomas More--it's funny, true, and surprising at the same time.

Friday, February 7, 2014

2014 Newman Lecture in Wichita, Kansas

During the week around Blessed John Henry Newman's birthday on February 21, Newman University hosts its annual Cardinal Newman Week, with a presentation, alumni and development events, Mass, and High Tea. The speaker this year is Professor Kevin Godfrey from Alvernia University, a Franciscan university in Reading, Pennsylvania.

According to Newman University's website:

Alvernia University theology professor Kevin Godfrey will be the featured presenter at the Gerber Institute-sponsored Cardinal Newman Lecture on Tuesday, February 18 at 4 pm in the Dugan-Gorges Conference Center on the campus of Newman University. The lecture, part of Newman University’s annual celebration of Cardinal Newman Week in honor of its namesake, is free and open to the public.

Professor Godfrey’s lecture is titled “John Henry Newman on the Mind’s Ability to Know God: The Knowledge-Generating Interplay of Imagination, Conscience and Prayer.”

Abstract: At age fifteen, John Henry Newman (1801-1890) became convinced that it is possible for the human mind to know God and to do so with the ultimate conviction of certitude. From that youthful insight and for the rest of his life Newman struggled to understand and express the deeper epistemological significance of that life-altering, adolescent experience. His understanding of how the mind works to know God is one of the compelling topics that he thought about endlessly. This presentation will introduce Newman’s ideas about knowing God. It will also share reflections about teaching and learning based on Newman’s insights about knowing God.

Biography: Dr. Kevin Godfrey has published articles and delivered scholarly papers at national and international conferences on topics in Historical Theology and Christian Spirituality. His main areas of interest for research are the Franciscan Tradition and the theology of John Henry Cardinal Newman. He has served as convener and moderator of the Thought of John Henry Newman Group of the Catholic Theological Society of America for the past seven years.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

St. Gilbert of Sempringham

The Clerk of Oxford posted on St. Gilbert of Sempringham on Tuesday, February 4, his feast day. St. Gilbert started the only distinctively English monastic order, which of course was destroyed by Henry VIII:

Gilbert of Sempringham, who died on 4 February 1189, is notable as the founder of the Gilbertine order, and the only Englishman to have founded a religious order in the Middle Ages. I wrote about him once before here, but today I thought I'd post some extracts from the account of his life which was written, shortly after his death, by a member of the community at Sempringham. All the quotations below are taken from The Book of St Gilbert, ed. Raymonde Foreville and Gillian Keir (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1987), which contains the Life of Gilbert and the documents relating to his canonisation.

The Gilbertine account of his life begins:

The glory of righteousness arises and lights every man who comes into this world and wishes him to come to knowledge of His name; at its setting it has cast rays of new brilliance upon the western lands of the western world. When its radiance had been cast into our midst from on high, there shone in the darkness of our night like a heavenly star brought among us a man of exemplary life called Gilbert. Chosen to be God’s servant in the land of England, he was born in a place called Sempringham of a distinguished family (something that usually and properly acts as an encouragement to virtue); but by the special nature of his life this man overcame both the world and his worldly origin. His father was called Jocelin; he was a worthy knight as well as a virtuous and wealthy man: a Norman, who owned many properties scattered throughout Lincolnshire. But his mother was English by birth, of parents who were faithful folk but came from an inferior rank.

Read the rest here.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Next for Our GKC Reading Group: The Thing

In a couple of weeks our Wichita branch of the American Chesterton Society will start our reading of G.K. Chesterton's The Thing: Why I am a Catholic. We are reading it from the Ignatius Press edition of the Collected Works: Volume III.

It seems to me that this Chesterton work might be excellent reading for the New Evangelization, which both Blessed Pope John Paul II and Emeritus Pope Benedict have proclaimed. As Dale Ahlquist notes in his Chesterton 101 lesson for this book:

The essays in this collection were originally written for Catholic publications and are somewhat different from his other journalism because here Chesterton is writing for a specifically Catholic audience. And yet his vigorous defense of the Catholic faith seems to invite all comers. But as for addressing Catholics, there is one passage that is strikingly relevant to modern Catholics who seem intent on “reforming” things in the Church, whether it be the liturgy, the moral teachings, or the fundamental doctrines of the faith: “In the matter of reforming things, as distinct from deforming them,” says Chesterton, there are two kinds of reformers. “Let us say, for the sake of simplicity, a fence or gate erected across a road. The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, ‘I don’t see the use of this; let us clear it away.’ To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: ‘If you don’t see the use of it, I certainly won’t let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it.’”

I watched Raymond Arroyo interview Al Kresta about his new book, Dangers to the Faith: Recognizing Catholicism’s 21st Century Opponents on EWTN's The World Over. Arroyo quoted Kresta from the book saying that Catholics, including the laity, in the 21st Century still aren't prepared to defend the Faith, still aren't prepared to account for our joy in Jesus Christ and His Church. Even after the great teaching pontificates of Blessed John Paul II and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, as Kresta said, the hay is still in the lofts of the barns and hasn't reached the horses below. But so many lay evangelists have labored to get their messages out--the entire "Theology of the Body" effort for example. George Weigel has written and spoken about Blessed John Paul II in books, articles, interviews, and speeches. Father Charles Connor presented a season of exploring "The Thought of Pope Benedict XVI" on EWTN. Ignatius Press has published dozens of Pope Benedict/Joseph Ratzinger's books before and during his papacy. I don't think it's for lack of effort on the part of teachers. Many of them have been in the loft, preparing the hay for our consumption.

Perhaps it's us, the students--switching metaphors from the farm to the classroom--who aren't attentive and don't take the time to listen and learn. (We have met the enemy--the danger to the Faith--and he is us!) Or to quote G.K. Chesterton's response to the question "What's wrong with the world?"--"I am." "What's wrong  with the Church?" "I am."

So, if you are in Wichita, Kansas on February 21 and want to read Chesterton on Catholicism, you're welcome to come to Eighth Day Books (2838 East Douglas) at 6:30 p.m. We'll enjoy some pre-Lenten snacks and discuss the first ten essays in The Thing. Eighth Day Books should have Volume III of Chesterton's Collected Works in stock. Warren, the proprietor, has C. S. Lewis, G.K. Chesterton, Dorothy L. Sayers, George MacDonald, Charles Williams, et al, in a special section on the first floor. 

As a sample, here's an excerpt from the essay titled "Why I am a Catholic," in which Chesterton discusses the Dissolution of the Monasteries:

It Is perfectly true that we can find real wrongs, provoking rebellion, in the Roman Church just before the Reformation.  What we cannot find is one of those real wrongs that the Reformation reformed. For instance, it was an abominable abuse that the corruption of the monasteries sometimes permitted a rich noble to play the patron and even play at being the Abbot, or draw on the revenues supposed to belong to a brotherhood of poverty and charity.  But all that the Reformation did was to allow the same rich noble to take over ALL the revenue, to seize the whole house and turn it into a palace or a pig-sty, and utterly stamp out the last legend of the poor brotherhood.