Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Papal Parallels: Pope St. Pius V and Pope St. John Paul II

One of the most common statements leading up to the canonization of Pope St. John Paul II was that he achieved so much during his pontificate (and indeed as Cardinal Archbishop in Krakow, Poland) to implement the Second Vatican Council. On the EWTN World Over episode just before Divine Mercy Sunday, Father Robert Barron noted that the publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, for example, and other projects completed during St. John Paul's II reign, will have lasting impact.

Today's saint, Pope St. Pius V also completed several projects to implement the reforms of the Council of Trent, and they had lasting impact too. His reform of the Roman Missal in 1570, for example, codified the liturgy celebrated in Catholic churches in the Latin Rite until 1962, when Pope St. John XXIII revised it (and then Pope Paul VI issued the Novus Ordo revision). Pius V's edition of the Roman Breviary remained in use until Pope St. Pius X suppressed it and issued his own edition in 1911.

The Catechism of the Council of Trent, commonly called The Roman Catechism, was issued during Pius V's reign. His reign in Rome also saw the reform of public morals, and he demonstrated great personal piety. According to this CNA story:

He was elected Pope on January 7, 1566, with the influential backing of his friend St. Charles Borromeo, and took the name Pius V.  He immediately put into action his vast program of reform by getting rid of many of the extravagant luxuries then prevalent in his court. He gave the money usually invested in these luxuries to the poor whom he personally cared for, washing their feet, consoling those near death, and tending to lepers and the very sick. He spent long hours before the Blessed Sacrament despite his heavy workload.

His pontificate was dedicated to applying the reforms of the Council of Trent, raising the standard of morality and reforming the clergy, and strongly supporting foreign missions.

Also like Pope St. John Paul II, he encouraged devotion to Our Lady, the Blessed Virgin Mary, through recitation of the Rosary, creating a new feast to celebrate the defeat of the Turkish fleet at the Battle of Lepanto:

He worked hard to unite the Christian armies against the Turks, and perhaps the most famous success of his papacy was the miraculous victory of the Christian fleet in the battle of Lepanto on October 7, 1571. The island of Malta was attacked by the Turkish fleet, and nearly every man defending the fortress was killed in battle. The Pope sent out a fleet to meet the enemy, requesting that each man on board pray the Rosary and receive communion. Meanwhile, he called on all of Europe to recite the Rosary and ordered a 40 hour devotion in Rome during which time the battle took place. The Christian fleet, vastly outnumbered by the Turks, inflicted an impossible defeat on the Turkish navy, demolishing the entire fleet.

In memory of the triumph, he declared the day the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary because of her intercession in answering the mass recitation of the Rosary and obtaining the victory. He has also been called ‘the Pope of the Rosary’ for this reason.

The great contrast between these two holy popes was the length of their reigns: Pius V ruled for only six years, while John Paul II was pope almost 27 years! In a way, that makes the accomplishments of Pope St. Pius V all the more remarkable! For those interested in the English Reformation, of course, his great action, which I've covered before on this blog and in my book, Supremacy and Survival, was the excommunication of Elizabeth I of England in the Papal Bull, Regnans in Excelsis. As Pope St. John Paul II battled the Communists in his day, Pope St. Pius V fought against those he saw endangering Catholics in the 16th century: the Turks and the Protestant rulers! Notice that even though Europe was so divided, he called upon all to pray the Rosary for the success of the Christian fleet--the freedom of all Europe, Catholic or Protestant, depended on the victory of Lepanto.

Our Lady of the Rosary, pray for us
Pope St. Pius V, pray for us.
Pope St. Pius X, pray for us.
Pope St. John XXIII, pray for us.
Pope St. John Paul II, pray for us.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Poets and Catholics in Macaulay's Cambridge: They Were Defeated

I went to high school with a girl whose last name was Trollope; she HAD to be a writer, with that last name. Rose Macaulay had to be a writer too, with that last name. She studied history at Somerville College at Oxford, but mostly wrote contemporary fiction--with one notable exception. I was reminded of one of her novels in this Ignatius Press Novels blog post by Dorothy Cummings McLean: The Towers of Trebizond (Best first line in novel: "Take my camel, dear," said my Aunt Dot, as she climbed down from this animal on her return from High Mass.) The High Mass referred to is C of E, and as McLean notes,

Although the book is heavy on irony, it is delightfully funny about English Anglo-Catholics, Roman Catholics and Evangelicals. At the same time, it demonstrates a grave respect for the Christian faith and a poignant longing for Grace. The narrator is in a state of mortal sin, and as the child of a very old Anglo-Catholic family, knows himself or herself to be in a state of mortal sin.

One of the growing mysteries of the book is whether the narrator is a man or a woman. Unfortunately, this is often spoiled by those who write the blurbs on the backs of books. The device places the reader more easily in the head of the narrator, be the reader male or female. It may also suggest that men and women are not as different as they may seem, even in 1956.

In the book travel serves as a metaphor for the soul’s progress towards or away from God. Trebizond, now an impoverished Turkish town whose Byzantine history is of no interest to the locals, represents for the narrator the glories of the past and the material and physical riches of the Byzantine court. But it also represents heaven, and grace, from which the narrator is barred.

Read the rest here.
With that serious undercurrent of sin and forgiveness, The Towers of Trebizond transcends its rather high British humour and is much more than a brittle comedy of manners. Before that book, Macaulay wrote a historical novel, set in Cambridge just before the English Civil War, with Robert Herrick and John Cleveland as characters, and with appearances by John Milton, Sir Kenelm Digby, Sir John Suckling, and a host of "Metaphysical" poets (Abraham Cowley, Henry More, Richard Crashaw, etc.) Please note that John Cleveland, the English poet, died on April 29, 1658--356 years ago today. 
Religion is at the heart of this story too, as it begins in a church where the divisions of Church Papists, Puritans, and Anglicans are all too obvious because of the display of harvest bounty in Robert Herrick's church. One of the fictional characters becomes a Catholic and just avoids being arrested  while attending Mass in Cambridge, along with two priests who are arrested and taken away, probably to be sent into exile. Tensions over religion are increasing in Charles I's reign and the dangers of being Catholic, even in the relatively friendly atmosphere of Charles I's reign, are evident. Even leaders at the university who have demonstrated their animus toward Catholicism are considered Papist if they follow Archbishop Laud's example in using The Book of Common Prayer in high liturgical style, like John Cosins, Vice Chancellor of Cambridge and Master of Peterhouse, who also appears in the novel. 

This is a good summary of the plot of the novel. The copy I have, which I bought from Eighth Day Books and read in 1990, is the Oxford Paperback edition with an introduction by Susan Howatch.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Divine Mercy Sunday, 2014

That was quite a Sunday in the Catholic world! Two popes, one reigning and one emeritus, concelebrating a Mass at which two popes were canonized! The universality of the Catholic Church clearly demonstrated: Mass in Latin; readings in Italian and Polish; the Gospel in Latin and in Greek--hundreds of thousands of pilgrims in attendance throughout Rome! I think this series of pictures from UK's The Daily Mail exemplifies the glories of the day.
Duke and Duchess of Gloucester attended the ceremony to represent Queen Elizabeth II and her government--not quite the level of delegation that attended Pope St. John Paul II's funeral (Prince Charles, the Prime Minister Tony Blair, and then Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams), but still extraordinary that a British monarch would send royalty to attend a canonizations of two popes!

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Back to Trent with John W. O'Malley, SJ

The  Second Vatican Council has been much in the news, Catholic and mainstream, occasioned by the canonization of the pope who called the Council and the pope who really implemented the Council (John XXIII and John Paul II). When George Weigel wrote on First Things about the canonization of those popes, he commented on the difficulties of implementing the Second Vatican Council;

As everyone who lived through the post-Vatican II years knows, John XXIII’s Council created a lot of turbulence of its own. One reason why, I’m convinced, is that Vatican II, unlike previous ecumenical councils, did not provide authoritative keys to its own proper interpretation. It defined no dogma. It condemned no heresy or heretic(s). It legislated no new canons for the Church’s law, it wrote no creed, it commissioned no catechism. These were the ways previous councils had told the Church, “This is what we mean.” Vatican II did none of that.

The Council of Trent did all all that. From that "Counter-Reformation" Council a new catechism, new statements for reform, decrees on the Sacraments, the crucial doctrine of Justification, etc, gave direction to the Catholic Church for centuries--well, until the Second Vatican Council! In fact, if you compare and contrast the two councils, the usual commentary is that Trent was doctrinal and Vatican II was pastoral. 

John W. O'Malley might disagree about that comment re: Trent: it was both doctrinal and pastoral as it was called both to combat the errors of Luther (and later Calvin) and to reform the Church of abuses and scandals, particularly to improve the care of souls. Thus the three sessions of the Council of Trent focused on both the definition of those doctrines most threatened by Lutherans ideas and the reform of the Church, especially the actions of bishops and parish priests. 

As Harvard University Press describes this 2013 book:

The Council of Trent (1545–1563), the Catholic Church’s attempt to put its house in order in response to the Protestant Reformation, has long been praised and blamed for things it never did. Now, in this first full one-volume history in modern times, John W. O’Malley brings to life the volatile issues that pushed several Holy Roman emperors, kings and queens of France, and five popes—and all of Europe with them—repeatedly to the brink of disaster.

During the council’s eighteen years, war and threat of war among the key players, as well as the Ottoman Turks’ onslaught against Christendom, turned the council into a perilous enterprise. Its leaders declined to make a pronouncement on war against infidels, but Trent’s most glaring and ironic silence was on the authority of the papacy itself. The popes, who reigned as Italian monarchs while serving as pastors, did everything in their power to keep papal reform out of the council’s hands—and their power was considerable. O’Malley shows how the council pursued its contentious parallel agenda of reforming the Church while simultaneously asserting Catholic doctrine.

Like What Happened at Vatican II, O’Malley’s Trent: What Happened at the Council strips mythology from historical truth while providing a clear, concise, and fascinating account of a pivotal episode in Church history. In celebration of the 450th anniversary of the council’s closing, it sets the record straight about the much misunderstood failures and achievements of this critical moment in European history.

O'Malley masterfully narrates the struggle to convene the Council, blocked by papal concerns about conciliarism and the efforts of Francis I of France to thwart the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V, who urgently wanted the Church to launch a council for the sake of unity throughout his Empire. Francis I, Henry VIII, and the Schmalkaldic League of Lutheran princes wanted the Holy Roman Empire to be weakened from within by religious disunity. Throughout the following chapters that cover the three sessions of Trent, O'Malley keeps the narrative of events and his analysis of the decisions reached/documents issued in balance, providing details about personalities, the different factions, and the results of the theologians's discussions and the bishops' decisions.

I have not read his book about the Second Vatican Council--perhaps I'll look it up too. I checked this book out from the Wichita Public Library. I've read and reviewed his Trent and All That, and I read his Four Cultures of the West (might need to re-read it soon).

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Between Conscience and Duty: William Byrd and Thomas Tallis at Princeton

Gallicantus, the group that recorded The Word Unspoken: Sacred Music by William Byrd and Philippe de Monte, is performing two concerts at Princeton University this weekend--one on Saturday, based on the album and the other on Sunday, featuring several "lamentable" compositions. Here is a link to the programs for the concerts.

The first concert is all about Byrd's dilemma, which I've described before of how to be a faithful musical servant to Elizabeth I and be a faithful Catholic at the same time. Gallicantus explores Byrd's motets that serve as coded lamentations over the fall of Catholicism in England (his conscience), then some English works written for Protestant audiences, praising Elizabeth I (his duty), and finally juxtapose the settings of Psalm 136 he and Philippe de Monte exchanged in 1583.

The second concert is all about Thomas Tallis' survival as a Catholic throughout the reigns of Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary I, and Elizabeth I, but seems to set an elegaic and dark tone, as works chosen for the concert are settings of the Lamentations of Jeremiah (for Lenten Tenebrae), and hymns for night prayer (Te Lucis Ante Terminum and Christe Quui Lux es et Dies)--"Sweet Laments of the English Renaissance" could be a Lenten concert, but is being performed on the Octave Day of Easter! And it much resembles the program of Latin works recorded by Magnificat on Linn Records' Where Late the Sweet Bird Sang!

Read more about the concerts here and here.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Easter Friday: Feasting in Easter after Fasting in Lent

Today, being Easter Friday and a Solemnity, we are free of any obligation of abstinence. Blessed John Henry Newman discussed the proper way of observing the cycle of fasts and feasts of the liturgical year in this PPS:

And yet, though the long season of sorrow which ushers in this Blessed Day, in some sense sobers and quells the keenness of our enjoyment, yet without such preparatory season, let us be sure we shall not rejoice at all. None rejoice in Easter-tide less than those who have not grieved in Lent. This is what is seen in the world at large. To them, one season is the same as another, and they take no account of any. Feast-day and fast-day, holy tide and other tide, are one and the same to them. Hence they do not realize the next world at all. To them the Gospels are but like another history; a course of events which took place eighteen hundred years since. They do not make our Savior's life and death present to them: they do not transport themselves back to the time of His sojourn on earth. They do not act over again, and celebrate His history, in their own observance; and the consequence is, that they feel no interest in it. They have neither faith nor love towards it; it has no hold on them. They do not form their estimate of things upon it; they do not hold it as a sort of practical principle in their heart. This is the case not only with the world at large, but too often with men who have the Name of Christ in their mouths. They think they believe in Him, yet when trial comes, or in the daily conduct of life, they are unable to act upon the principles which they profess: and why? because they have thought to dispense with the religious Ordinances, the course of Service, and the round of Sacred Seasons of the Church, and have considered it a simpler and more spiritual religion, not to act religiously except when called to it by extraordinary trial or temptation; because they have thought that, since it is the Christian's duty to rejoice evermore, they would rejoice better if they never sorrowed and never travailed with righteousness. On the contrary, let us be sure that, as previous humiliation sobers our joy, it alone secures it to us. Our Savior says, "Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall he comforted;" and what is true hereafter, is true here. Unless we have mourned, in the weeks that are gone, we shall not rejoice in the season now commencing. It is often said, and truly, that providential affliction brings a man nearer to God. What is the observance of Holy Seasons but such a means of grace?

Continuing the contrast of the worldly and the Christian when the seasons of Lent and then of Easter occur in the course of each year, Newman describes the different patterns of fasting and feasting--the world begins with the last and then is forced into the first; the Christian begins with the first and rejoices in the last:

This too must be said concerning the connection of Fasts and Feasts in our religious service, viz., that that sobriety in feasting which previous fasting causes, is itself much to be prized, and especially worth securing. For in this does Christian mirth differ from worldly, that it is subdued; and how shall it be subdued except that the past keeps its hold upon us, and while it warns and sobers us, actually indisposes and tames our flesh against indulgence? In the world feasting comes first and fasting afterwards; men first glut themselves, and then loathe their excesses; they take their fill of good, and then suffer; they are rich that they may be poor; they laugh that they may weep; they rise that they may fall. But in the Church of God it is reversed; the poor shall be rich, the lowly shall be exalted, those that sow in tears shall reap in joy, those that mourn shall be comforted, those that suffer with Christ shall reign with Him; even as Christ (in our Church's words) "went not up to joy, but first He suffered pain. He entered not into His glory before He was crucified. So truly our way to eternal joy is to suffer here with Christ, and our door to enter into eternal life is gladly to die with Christ, that we may rise again from death, and dwell with him in everlasting life." And what is true of the general course of our redemption is, I say, fulfilled also in the yearly and other commemorations of it. Our Festivals are preceded by humiliation, that we may keep them duly; not boisterously or fanatically, but in a refined, subdued, chastised spirit, which is the true rejoicing in the Lord.

In one of those great, long sentences Newman can sustain with clarity to its periodic end, he cites three Gospel accounts of Resurrection appearances:

In such a spirit let us endeavor to celebrate this most holy of all Festivals, this continued festal Season, which lasts for fifty days, whereas Lent is forty, as if to show that where sin abounded, there much more has grace abounded. Such indeed seems the tone of mind which took possession of the Apostles when certified of the Resurrection; and while they waited for, or when they had the sight of their risen Lord. If we consider, we shall find the accounts of that season in the Gospels, marked with much of pensiveness and tender and joyful melancholy; the sweet and pleasant frame of those who have gone through pain, and out of pain receive pleasure. Whether we read the account of St. Mary Magdalen weeping at the sepulchre, seeing Jesus and knowing Him not, recognizing His voice, attempting to embrace His feet, and then sinking into silent awe and delight, till she rose and hastened to tell the perplexed Apostles;—or turn to that solemn meeting, which was the third, when He stood on the shore and addressed His disciples, and Peter plunged into the water, and then with the rest was awed into silence and durst not speak, but only obeyed His command, and ate of the fish in silence, and so remained in the presence of One in whom they joyed, whom they loved, as He knew, more than all things, till He broke silence by asking Peter if he loved Him:—or lastly, consider the time when He appeared unto a great number of disciples on the mountain in Galilee, and all worshiped Him, but some doubted:—who does not see that their Festival was such as I have been describing it, a holy, tender, reverent, manly joy, not so manly as to be rude, not so tender as to be effeminate, but (as if) an Angel's mood, the mingled offering of all that is best and highest in man's and woman's nature brought together,—St. Mary Magdalen and St. Peter blended into St. John? And here perhaps we learn a lesson from the deep silence which Scripture observes concerning the Blessed Virgin after the Resurrection; as if she, who was too pure and holy a flower to be more than seen here on earth, even during the season of her Son's humiliation, was altogether drawn by the Angels within the veil on His Resurrection, and had her joy in Paradise with Gabriel who had been the first to honor her, and with those elder Saints who arose after the Resurrection, appeared in the Holy City, and then vanished away.

Thus Blessed John Henry Newman reminds us that the source of our rejoicing is the Resurrection; even as we feast and do not fast during this Easter Octave, our joy should be in the Lord's triumph over death, not the meat or the other pleasures we enjoy. Read the rest of the sermon here.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

"Gravity", the Octave of Easter, and Mystagogy

My husband bought me the DVD set of Gravity for me as an Easter present and we watched it together Easter Monday evening. I readily admit that my viewing of movie, beyond appreciating the plot, excellent acting, and special effects is influenced by this week of Easter celebration. But from the special features on the second DVD in this package, I know that the creators meant for this to be a story about rebirth and redemption; it's a space adventure that helps even the viewer overcome her fears. Warned by George Clooney's character Matt Kowalski (as he jokes) that he has a bad feeling about this mission, at first I did not think I could watch the disaster that was about to occur.

At the end of the movie, Ryan Stone, the neophyte, stumbles to her feet after her rebirth and baptism, experiencing gravity after being weightless, and murmurs, "Thank you". Who is she thanking? She has emerged from the womb of a tiny capsule and plunged into death before rising to a new life. How will she live from now on? At the beginning of the movie, while she feared being in space as a scientist-cum-astronaut, she enjoyed the silence and isolation. Facing her fears and overcoming one danger after another, she has to accept both letting go and deciding to go on. When she thinks she is going to die and prepares to give up and die, she regrets that there is really no one to mourn for her, no one to pray for her--and that she does not know how to pray, because nobody ever taught her how. Once she decides to try to survive, she does pray: she talks to a person she believes is in some happy afterlife so that he can give a message to someone she loves. And then she says her prayer of gratitude once back on earth.

In the early Church, this Octave week of Easter, each day celebrating the Solemnity of Solemnities, Easter Sunday, was dedicated to the neophytes, those who had been brought into the Church at the Easter Vigil. As they attended Mass during the week they wore their baptismal white robes until Low or Quasimodo* Sunday (From the Introit: Quasi modo geniti infantes, rationabile, sine dolo lac concupiscite ut in eo crescatis in salutem si gustastis quoniam dulcis Dominus--I Peter 2:2)After that Mass, they put aside their white albs and joined the community without distinction--but they continue their mystagogic catechesis, learning more about the mysteries they had only heard about during their long catechumenate.

The movie, of course, ends with Ryan Stone on the beach, waiting for her rescuers. The movie is over, but the story hasn't ended. If she is to continue to grow in her new life, she will need some mystagogy: perhaps someone to teach her more about prayer; a community to give and receive help and support; some way to live out the change (the conversion) she's just experienced. She may have escaped the dangers of carbon dioxide, space debris, fire, freezing, and hopelessness by herself, but she wasn't alone. Kowalski was somehow there with her even after he sacrificed his life for her, and the simple Inuit fisherman Aningaaq, with his barking dogs and crying baby, comforts her. Those who trained her had prepared her; Houston awaited her and would track her once her capsule entered the atmosphere of Earth, sending someone to bring her home. Perhaps now home will be something more than going to work and driving aimlessly.

Even if you don't make connections like I have, Gravity is an exciting movie about resilience and survival. Sandra Bullock should have won the award for best actress of the year for this performance!

*Quasimodo, the bell-ringer from Victor Hugo's novel Notre Dame de Paris, is found as an infant at the cathedral on Low Sunday and is thus given his name from the Introit. More about Low Sunday here.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Two Popes to be Canonized on Divine Mercy Sunday

I think The Wall Street Journal gave this editorial the wrong subtitle ("Two popes who differed on the Second Vatican Council become saints a half century later.") although the headline could be correct ("A Moment of Reconciliation for Catholics"):
Pope John called Vatican II in 1959 because he had come to the "conviction that something ought to be done in order to make the church more responsive to this modern world, in order to make the modern world more responsive to the church," according to Jesuit Father Ladislas Orsy, one of the council's official theologians. Or, as Pope John famously put it, he wanted to open the church's windows and let in some fresh air. Initiating Vatican II was by far the most consequential action of his pontificate, though he died in 1963 after the first of the council's four sessions.
Pope John Paul attended the entire council as a young bishop, making major contributions to the 1965 document "Gaudium Et Spes," which dealt with the church in the modern world. He argued that Catholics could better engage secular culture if they approached it more sympathetically. He was also a supporter of the council's declaration on religious freedom, and he furthered the council's aim of world-wide evangelical outreach by traveling to 129 countries during his pontificate. But he also made it his job to correct what he viewed as deviations from the council—including dissent in religious orders—that some had justified by appealing to an expansive spirit of Vatican II.
We cannot say that soon-to-be-canonized Blesseds John XXIII and John Paul II disagreed about the Second Vatican Council because the former died before the Council concluded and had no opportunity to implement it in his own diocese (Rome) or in the universal Church. The latter did have the opportunity to implement it in his own Polish diocese and brought that experience to the universal Church when elected Supreme Pontiff. I think that Blessed John Paul II had already worked to open the Church's windows "and let in some fresh air" as he taught in university, worked with young laity, and opposed the oppression of the Communists in Poland.

As I grew up in the Diocese of Wichita, I believe that I was spared some of the confusions of the implementation of the Second Vatican Council. We had a wise bishop, David M. Maloney, may he rest in peace. Nevertheless, I remember some of the vapid songs we sang, and of the ridiculous catechesis I endured in high school (interpreting the lyrics of Simon and Garfunkel! "I Am A Rock" as the foundation of life!), and some other horrors ("Stairway to Heaven"--instrumental only at least--at Mass!).

The crucial issue, certainly highlighted in the last sentence of the second paragraph I quoted above, has been the interpretation of the Second Vatican Council and even more, the "expansive spirit of Vatican II". Ay, there's the rub! Blessed John Paul II--not in any disagreement with either of his predecessors--addressed the fullness of the interpretation of the Council, according to the Council Fathers' intent. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI continued Pope John Paul II's work; as a peritus at the Council, he had his own view of what happened in its aftermath. Another great contribution he made to the historical view of the Council was the term a hermeneutic of reform or continuity; not seeing the Second Vatican Council as a break with the past, but as part of the history of the Church, guided by the Holy Spirit. Benedict XVI presented this "hermeneutic of continuity" early in his reign, at the end of 2005:

Well, it all depends on the correct interpretation of the Council or - as we would say today - on its proper hermeneutics, the correct key to its interpretation and application. The problems in its implementation arose from the fact that two contrary hermeneutics came face to face and quarrelled with each other. One caused confusion, the other, silently but more and more visibly, bore and is bearing fruit.

On the one hand, there is an interpretation that I would call "a hermeneutic of discontinuity and rupture"; it has frequently availed itself of the sympathies of the mass media, and also one trend of modern theology. On the other, there is the "hermeneutic of reform", of renewal in the continuity of the one subject-Church which the Lord has given to us. She is a subject which increases in time and develops, yet always remaining the same, the one subject of the journeying People of God.

The hermeneutic of discontinuity risks ending in a split between the pre-conciliar Church and the post-conciliar Church. It asserts that the texts of the Council as such do not yet express the true spirit of the Council. It claims that they are the result of compromises in which, to reach unanimity, it was found necessary to keep and reconfirm many old things that are now pointless. However, the true spirit of the Council is not to be found in these compromises but instead in the impulses toward the new that are contained in the texts.

These innovations alone were supposed to represent the true spirit of the Council, and starting from and in conformity with them, it would be possible to move ahead. Precisely because the texts would only imperfectly reflect the true spirit of the Council and its newness, it would be necessary to go courageously beyond the texts and make room for the newness in which the Council's deepest intention would be expressed, even if it were still vague. . . .

Read the rest of the WSJ article here. Read the rest of Benedict XVI's comments on the implementation of the documents and reforms of the Second Vatican Council here. Perhaps there will be reconciliation within the Church between these two groups. I look forward to hearing what Pope Francis has to say on Divine Mercy Sunday as two Servants of the Servants of God are canonized (and to seeing if Emeritus Pope Benedict attends the ceremony!).

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Blessed John XXIII and the Archbishop of Canterbury

As appropriate in these days leading up to the canonization of Blessed John XXIII and Blessed John Paul II, the National Catholic Register publishes this article by Father Dwight Longenecker about the first stages of ecumenical dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Church of England:

On Dec. 2, 1960, the Swiss Guards looked up to see an Anglican archbishop clad in a purple cassock and Canterbury cap striding up the steps to the Vatican’s apostolic palace. It was the first time an archbishop of Canterbury had visited the Vatican for 600 years.

A former school headmaster, Archbishop Geoffrey Fisher had been the head of the Worldwide Anglican Communion since 1945. On the election of Pope John XXIII in 1958, a new spirit of ecumenism was in the air. After Pope John established a new Secretariat for the Promotion of Christian Unity in June of that year, the rambunctious Archbishop Fisher decided to call on the pope. His unexpected visit set the Vatican diplomatic machine into a tizzy, but Pope John XXIII welcomed him, and together they broke centuries of deadlock between the two Churches.

Ever since King Henry VIII’s break with Rome, the tension between Catholics and Anglicans had grown into a bitter, centuries-long feud. Nevertheless, by the 18th and 19th centuries, the relationship began to thaw.

In the 18th century, a remarkable correspondence developed between Archbishop of Canterbury William Wake and French Catholic bishops, and in the 19th century, Blessed John Henry Newman’s conversion brought scores of Anglicans into the Catholic Church, rekindling the dream of unity. Hoping for a positive response, an Anglican layman, Lord Halifax, pressured for Rome to decide on the validity of Anglican orders. The hope was dashed in 1896, when Pope Leo XIII issued his "motu proprio" Apostolicae Curae (On the Nullity of Anglican Orders), declaring Anglican orders to be "utterly null and void."

Read the rest here. One of the interesting results of this meeting was that while Blessed John XXIII accepted in a way the Anglican idea of the via media--as being something other than Protestantism--the Anglican Archbishop could not accept the notion of unity through restoration and obedience:

During the meeting, Pope John made some observations on the Gospel. In his meditations, he thought of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. At the end, the gentle pope asked the archbishop when the Anglicans would come back, and Archbishop Fisher made his now-famous reply — that it was impossible to go back; instead, "we must go forward together."

The wisdom of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI with the Anglican Ordinariate is that he created a new, better way of going "forward together" in unity and holiness.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

English Martyrs on April 20

From 2012, here is a compilation of posts on English martyrs from the reigns of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I--the Nun of Kent and her companions might not be considered martyrs for Jesus Christ and his Church, but they certainly were victims of Henry VIII's break from the Catholic Church.

On April 20, 1534, Elizabeth Barton, the Nun of Kent, was executed at Tyburn, London, along with monks and priests named as her co-conspirators.

On April 20, 1584, Father James Bell and layman John Finch were martyred in Lancaster. Pope Pius XI beatified them in 1929.

On April 20, 1586, two priests captured in the house of Roger Line, the husband of St. Anne Line, were hung, drawn, and quartered at Tyburn: Blessed Richard Sargent and Blessed William Thomson--both beatified by Blessed John Paul II. Roger Line and William Heigham, Anne Line's brother, would both be exiled as they were taken in the arrest of the two priests.

On April 20, 1602, three more priests were executed at Tyburn--and among them another with connection to St. Anne Line--Blesseds Thomas Tichborne, Robert Watkinson, and Francis Page. Father Francis Page was the priest who was beginning to say Mass for the Feast of the Purification (Candlesmas) when the safe house St. Anne Line was managing was raided. He escaped, and she suffered in his stead--that time.

While it at first seems strange to post about this series of executions and martyrdom on Easter Sunday, we should remember that the promise of resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come were not just notions the martyrs held. They believed in Faith and thus would suffer and die. As Chesterton and others have noted, no one would dare die for Jesus and His Church if they did not believe in the glories of Easter!

Happy Easter!


Christ is Risen! Truly He is Risen!

Since It's Easter--Dante's In Heaven

Rod Dreher writes about Dante's The Divine Comedy in The Wall Street Journal this Easter weekend, reminding us that Dante starts his visit to the afterlife in Hell on Good Friday and enters Purgatory and Heaven on Easter Sunday:

On the spiral journey downward into the Inferno, Dante learns that all sin is a function of disordered desire—a distortion of love. The damned either loved evil things or loved good things—such as food and sex—in the wrong way. They dwell forever in the pit because they used their God-given free will—the quality that makes us most human—to choose sin over righteousness.

The pilgrim's dramatic encounters in the "Inferno"—with tormented shades such as the adulterous Francesca, the prideful Farinata and the silver-tongued deceiver Ulysses—offer no simplistic morals. They are, instead, a profound exploration of the lies we tell ourselves to justify our desires and to conceal our deeds and motives from ourselves.

 This opens the pilgrim Dante's eyes to his own sins and the ways that yielding to them drew him from life's straight path. The first steps to freedom require honestly recognizing that one is enslaved—and one's own responsibility for that bondage.

 The second stage of the journey begins on Easter morning, at the foot of Mount Purgatory. Dante and his guide, the Roman poet Virgil, stagger out of the Inferno and begin the climb to the summit. If "Inferno" is about recognizing and understanding one's sin, "Purgatory" is about repenting of it, purifying one's will to become fit for Paradise.

is the most dramatic of the three books of The Divine Comedy, because it is in that book that Dante himself and all the Poor Souls can make progress in perfection. The damned in Hell can achieve nothing for all their useless activity; the blessed have achieved their goal in Heaven.

 As Dreher notes, The Divine Comedy is a story of redemption for the poet, and can be for the reader too:

The practical applications of Dante's wisdom cannot be separated from the pleasure of reading his verse, and this accounts for much of the life-changing power of the Comedy. For Dante, beauty provides signposts on the seeker's road to truth. The wandering Florentine's experiences with beauty, especially that of the angelic Beatrice, taught him that our loves lead us to heaven or to hell, depending on whether we are able to satisfy them within the divine order.

 This is why "The Divine Comedy" is an icon, not an idol: Its beauty belongs to heaven. But it may also be taken into the hearts and minds of those woebegone wayfarers who read it as a guidebook and hold it high as a lantern, sent across the centuries from one lost soul to another, illuminating the way out of the dark wood that, sooner or later, ensnares us all.

Easter Sunday at Durham Before the Dissolution and the Reformation

Remembering the glories of the recent past, a former monk of Durham Abbey recounted the rituals of early morning on Easter Sunday, as the guarding of the Sepulchre ended with the Resurrection:

There was in the abbye church of duresme [Durham] verye solemne service uppon easter day betweene 3 and 4 of the clocke in the morninge in honour of the resurrection where 2 of the oldest monkes of the quire came to the sepulchre, being sett upp upon good friday after the passion all covered with redd velvett and embrodered with gold, and then did sence it either monke with a paire of silver sencors sittinge on theire knees before the sepulcher;

then they both risinge came to the sepulchre, out of the which with great reverence they tooke a marvelous beautiful Image of our saviour representinge the resurrection with a crosse in his hand in the breast wheof was enclosed in bright Christall the holy sacrament of the altar, throughe the which christall the blessed host was conspicuous, to the behoulders;

then after the elevation of the said picture carryed by the said 2 monkes uppon a faire velvett cushion all embrodered singinge the anthem of christus resurgens they brought to the high altar settinge that on the midst therof whereon it stood the two monkes kneelinge on theire knees before the altar, and senceing it all the time that the rest of the whole quire was in singinge the foresaid anthem of Xpus resrugens;

the which anthem being ended the 2 monkes tooke up the cushines and the picture from the altar supportinge it betwixt them, proceeding in procession from the high altar to the south quire dore where there was 4 antient gentlemen belonginge to the prior appointed to attend theire cominge holdinge upp a most rich cannopye of purple velvett tached round about with redd silke, and gold fringe;

and at everye corner did stand one of theise ancient gentlemen to beare it over the said Image, with the holy sacrament carried by two monkes round about the church the whole quire waitinge uppon it with goodly torches and great store of other lights, all singinge rejoyceinge and praising god most devoutly till they came to the high altar againe, wheron they did place the said Image there to remaine untill the assencion day.

The image above (from Wikipedia/public domain) is of an alabaster carving created in 14th century England. You might remember that there has been a travelling exhibition of these surviving alabasters from the Victoria & Albert Museum the past few years, most recently (from my search) at The Dayton Art Institute. Those alabaster carvings that survived the English Reformation and the iconoclasm of the reign of Edward VI were found on the Continent or in private homes. 

As the book that accompanied the exhibition noted:

During the later Middle Ages, England had a thriving art industry that produced religious alabaster sculptures in large numbers and exported them to virtually every country in Europe. Despite the success and scale of this industry, however, English alabasters have remained a neglected art form. Alabaster is a remarkable and attractive material for a sculptor to work with. It is a fine-grained, rare form of gypsum, superficially resembling marble, but with a softer, deeper translucent glow and a creamy, yellow-ochre finish. Because the material was soft and easy to carve, and was found in large quantities beneath the soil of the English Midlands, medieval English sculptors worked this mineral resource extensively from the late fourteenth century until the Reformation in the 1530s, creating lively, spirited reliefs for altarpieces and devotional figures.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

William Cornysh and Our Sorrowful Mother

That's not William Cornysh on the cover of The Tallis Scholars CD of music by William Cornysh: that's King Henry VII. Cornysh the younger's music--and possibly that of his father of the same name, who died in 1502--is one of the highlights of what remains of the Eton Choirbook. The  younger Cornysh was employed by Henry VII and continued to serve as musician and composer for Henry VIII. According to the notes for this 1988 CD:

William Cornysh (d.1523) lived at a crucial moment in the development of English music. On the one hand he contributed to the last and most florid style to be found in the Eton Choirbook; and on the other he must have realised that this style could go no further, beginning to simplify his music and thus setting a technique for the future. There is therefore considerable variety in his small output and this recording, which contains all the sacred music by him which may be reconstructed and a selection of his secular compositions, reflects it: from the unparalleled complexities of the last phrases of the Magnificat to the naive directness of Ah, Robin.

Cornysh was an early and rare example of what is now called the Renaissance artist. A man of remarkable intelligence, he was well-known in his lifetime not only as an outstanding musician, but also as a poet, dramatist and actor. Unfortunately none of his dramatic writings has survived, though there is a poem by him in the British Library entitled A Treatise bitwene Trouth and Enformacion which was written while serving a jail sentence in the Fleet prison. In this he claimed that he had been convicted by false information and thus wrongfully accused, though it is not known exactly what the accusation was. As an actor he took part in many plays at court, some of which have survived, including The Golden Arbour (1511) and the Triumph of Love and Beauty (1514). But it was within the activities of the court masque that he would have had the ideal opportunity to show off his many talents. In 1501 he is reported as having devised the pageants and 'disguysings' for the marriage festivities of Arthur, Prince of Wales and Katherine of Aragon. More importantly, in June 1520 he led the Chapel Royal's ceremonies at the Field of the Cloth of Gold, which included not only singing but a full-scale pageant. In 1522 the Emperor Charles V visited England to negotiate with Henry VIII and on June 15 the court was entertained with a play by Cornysh which outlined in simple allegory the progress of the discussions and their expected outcome.

This BBC page holds that the father may have written the works in the Eton Choirbook, since the son was better known for Courtly masques and entertainments--but he was Master of the Children of the Chapel Royal for many years. On this Holy Saturday, however, what I am most interested in is the Stabat Mater, the title of the CD and the last work on the CD:

The Stabat mater is a masterpiece which contains frequent contrasts between ornate and simpler passages: these juxtapositions are something of a speciality of Cornysh's. That this setting is less well-known might be because the opening sections survive incomplete, though these have been magnificently reconstructed by Professor Frank Harrison. In general Cornysh's style is less introverted than that of his greatest contemporary John Browne. Cornysh always seemed to be striving for the most brilliant effect, or the most pathetic tone, a way of thinking which would have made him perfectly suited to the madrigal a hundred years later, and makes him reminiscent of Thomas Weelkes.

Cornysh is also the composer of Woefully Arrayed, performed here by Stile Antico, from their 2012 CD Passion and Resurrection:

Gimell Records even has a vinyl recording of the Tallis Scholars' CD of Cornysh music available--carefully preserved from the 20th century.

An Ancient Homily for Holy Saturday: The Harrowing of Hell

Something strange is happening -- there is a great silence on earth today, a great silence and stillness. The whole earth keeps silence because the King is asleep. The earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh and he has raised up all who have slept ever since the world began. God has died in the flesh and hell trembles with fear.

He has gone to search for our first parent, as for a lost sheep. Greatly desiring to visit those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, he has gone to free from sorrow the captives Adam and Eve. The Lord approached them bearing the Cross, the weapon that had won him the victory. At the sight of him Adam, the first man he had created, struck his breast in terror and cried out to everyone: 'My Lord be with you all.' Christ answered him: 'And with your spirit.' He took him by the hand and raised him up, saying: 'Awake, o sleeper, and rise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.'

I am your God, who for your sake have become your son. Out of love for you and your descendants I now by my own authority command all who are held in bondage to come forth, all who are in darkness to be enlightened, all who are sleeping to arise. I order you, O sleeper, to awake. I did not create you to be held a prisoner in Hell. Rise from the dead, for I am the life of the dead. Rise up, work of my hands, you who were created in my image. Rise, let us leave this place, for you are in Me and I in you; together we form one person and cannot be separated.

For your sake I, your God, became your son; I, the Lord, took the form of a slave; I, Whose home is above the heavens, descended to the earth and beneath the earth. For your sake, for the sake of man, I became like a man without help, free among the dead. For the sake of you, who left a garden, I was betrayed to the Jews in a garden, and I was crucified in a garden.

See on My Face the spittle I received in order to restore to you the life I once breathed into you. See there the marks of the blows I received in order to refashion your warped nature in my image. On My back see the marks of the scourging I endured to remove the burden of sin that weighs upon your back. See My hands, nailed firmly to a tree, for you who once wickedly stretched out your hand to a tree.

I slept on the cross and a sword pierced My side for you who slept in paradise and brought forth Eve from your side. My side has healed the pain in yours. My sleep will rouse you from your sleep in Hell. The sword that pierced Me has sheathed the sword that was turned against you.

Rise. Let us leave this place. The enemy led you out of the earthly paradise. I will not restore you to that paradise, but will enthrone you in heaven. I forbade you the tree that was only a symbol of life, but see, I who am life itself am now one with you. I appointed cherubim to guard you as slaves are guarded, but now I make them worship you as God. The throne formed by cherubim awaits you, its bearers swift and eager. The bridal chamber is adorned, the banquet is ready, the eternal dwelling places are prepared, the treasure houses of all good things lie open. The kingdom of heaven has been prepared for you from all eternity.

The Eastern Orthodox iconography for the Resurrection (image source from Wikipedia Commons; U.S. copyright expired) depicts this moment of Jesus bringing Adam and Eve out of their captivity to heaven. Today should be a day of waiting and silence--there is no Mass until the Easter Vigil, the most splendid liturgical celebration of the entire year, with the Holy Fire, the Easter Candle, the Exultet, the readings and psalms from the Old Testament, the bells and exultation of the Gloria after so long a silence--and the reception of converts, their Baptism, Confirmation,and First Holy Communion! It's hard to stay recollected on a day usually given over to errands and yard work; here in Wichita, the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary have scheduled a Sorrowful Mother Vigil today from Noon to 3:00 p.m. at St. Joseph's Catholic Church. More information here.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Good Friday: Mourning for Christ's Sufferings

Blessed John Henry Newman wrote one of his most powerful Parochial and Plain Sermons to awaken in his congregation real love and compassion for Jesus in His suffering and death. He reminded them that they could be so used to the descriptions of the agony of the garden, the scourging at the pillar and crowning with thorns, the carrying of the cross, and the crucifixion (the five sorrowful mysteries of the Rosary!) that the words become less meaningful, and their sorrow and compassion less heartfelt.

You will ask, how are we to learn to feel pain and anguish at the thought of Christ's sufferings? I answer, by thinking of them, that is, by dwelling on the thought. This, through God's mercy, is in the power of every one. No one who will but solemnly think over the history of those sufferings, as drawn out for us in the Gospels, but will gradually gain, through God's grace, a sense of them, will in a measure realize them, will in a measure be as if he saw them, will feel towards them as being not merely a tale written in a book, but as a true history, as a series of events which took place. It is indeed a great mercy that this duty which I speak of, though so high, is notwithstanding so level with the powers of all classes of persons, learned and unlearned, if they wish to perform it. Any one can think of Christ's sufferings, if he will; and knows well what to think about. "It is not in heaven that thou shouldst say, Who shall go up for us to heaven and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it? Neither is it beyond the sea that thou shouldst say, Who shall go over the sea for us? ... but the word is very nigh unto thee;" very nigh, for it is in the four Gospels, which, at this day at least, are open to all men. All men may read or hear the Gospels, and in knowing them, they will know all that is necessary to be known in order to feel aright; they will know all that any one knows, all that has been told us, all that the greatest saints have ever had to make them full of love and sacred fear.

To help his listeners feel that pain and anguish, he uses examples: like of the compassion you feel when you hear of an animal being mistreated, or thinking of a child being tortured like Our Lord was tortured:

What if wicked men took and crucified a young child? What if they deliberately seized its poor little frame, and stretched out its arms, nailed them to a cross bar of wood, drove a stake through its two feet, and fastened them to a beam, and so left it to die? It is almost too shocking to say; perhaps, you will actually say it is too shocking, and ought not to be said. O, my brethren, you feel the horror of this, and yet you can bear to read of Christ's sufferings without horror; for what is that little child's agony to His? and which deserved it more? which is the more innocent? which the holier? was He not gentler, sweeter, meeker, more tender, more loving, than any little child? Why are you shocked at the one, why are you not shocked at the other?

Or an elderly person:

And now, instead of taking the case of the young, innocent, and confiding, let us take another instance which will present to us our Lord's passion under another aspect. Let us suppose that some aged and venerable person whom we have known as long as we could recollect any thing, and loved and reverenced, suppose such a one, who had often done us kindnesses, who had taught us, who had given us good advice, who had encouraged us, smiled on us, comforted us in trouble, whom we knew to be very good and religious, very holy, full of wisdom, full of heaven, with grey hairs and awful countenance, waiting for Almighty God's summons to leave this world for a better place; suppose, I say, such a one whom we have ourselves known, and whose memory is dear to us, rudely seized by fierce men, stripped naked in public, insulted, driven about here and there, made a laughing-stock, struck, spit on, dressed up in other clothes in ridicule, then severely scourged on the back, then laden with some heavy load till he could carry it no longer, pulled and dragged about, and at last exposed with all his wounds to the gaze of a rude multitude who came and jeered him, what would be our feelings? Let us in our mind think of this person or that, and consider how we should be overwhelmed and pierced through and through by such a hideous occurrence.

And then Newman concludes with the vivid description of Christ's suffering:

But what is all this to the suffering of the holy Jesus, which we bear to read of as a matter of course! Only think of Him, when in His wounded state, and without garment on, He had to creep up the ladder, as He could, which led Him up the cross high enough for His murderers to nail Him to it; and consider who it was that was in that misery. Or again, view Him dying, hour after hour bleeding to death; and how? in peace? no; with His arms stretched out, and His face exposed to view, and any one who pleased coming and staring at Him, mocking Him, and watching the gradual ebbing of His strength, and the approach of death. These are some of the appalling details which the Gospels contain, and surely they were not recorded for nothing; but that we might dwell on them.

Then he encourages his listeners to think about how St. John, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and St. Mary Magdalen, and other followers of Jesus must have felt seeing their master, her Son, so cruelly tortured. And then he addresses the lukewarmness some in his congregation might feel:

One thing I will add:—if there be persons here present who are conscious to themselves that they do not feel the grief which this season should cause them, who feel now as they do at other times, let them consider with themselves whether perhaps this defect does not arise from their having neglected to come to church, whether during this season or at other times, as often as they might. Our feelings are not in our own power; God alone can rule our feelings; God alone can make us sorrow, when we would but cannot sorrow; but will He, if we have not diligently sought Him according to our opportunities in this house of grace? I speak of those who might come to prayers more frequently, and do not. I know well that many cannot come. I speak of those who can, if they will. Even if they come as often as they are able, I know well they will not be satisfied with their own feelings; they will be conscious even then that they ought to grieve more than they do; of course none of us feels the great event of this day as he ought, and therefore we all ought to be dissatisfied with ourselves. However, if this is not our own fault, we need not be out of heart, for God will mercifully lead us forward in His own time; but if it arises from our not coming to prayers here as often as we might, then our coldness and deadness are our own fault, and I beg you all to consider that that fault is not a slight one. It is said in the Book of Revelation, "Behold He cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see Him, and they also which pierced Him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of Him." [Rev. i. 7.] We, my, brethren, every one of us, shall one day rise from our graves, and see Jesus Christ; we shall see Him who hung on the cross, we shall see His wounds, we shall see the marks in His hands, and in His feet, and in His side. Do we wish to be of those, then, who wail and lament, or of those who rejoice? If we would not lament at the sight of Him then, we must lament at the thought of Him now. Let us prepare to meet our God; let us come into His Presence whenever we can; let us try to fancy as if we saw the Cross and Him upon it; let us draw near to it; let us beg Him to look on us as He did on the penitent thief, and let us say to Him, "Lord remember me when Thou comest in Thy kingdom." [Luke xxiii. 42.]

Please read the rest here. Photo (c) Mark U. Mann, 2014 (taken in Paris at St. Ambroise and used by permission).

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Book Review: "The Sadness of Christ" by St. Thomas More

Last Saturday, I finished reading St Thomas More's De Tristitia Christi, in the English translation included in the Vintage Spiritual Classics edition of this work, his last prayers and letters from the Tower, and other works. It seems appropriate to post a review of this work on Holy Thursday, since it was after the Last Supper, with His institution of the Eucharist and the Priesthood, that Jesus went to pray in the Garden of Gethsemane. Also, it was on April 17, 1534 that Sir Thomas More, Knight, the former Chancellor of England, was imprisoned in the Tower of London.

Although I read The Sadness of Christ primarily as a Lenten devotion, I also began to learn more about St. Thomas More in his last months: his devotion to Jesus Christ; his knowledge of Scripture and the Fathers of the Church; his obvious deep reading of the Holy Bible and practice in exegesis; his deep concern for the Church; and  most of all, his recognition of his own sinfulness and failure, and his preparation for death. I mentioned last month that I found an article with the thesis that More prepared for martyrdom by writing De Tristitia Christi, just as he deal with the issues of trouble and conflict in the Dialogue of Comfort--writing both for himself and those who would face the same crisis after him.

Although he knew, as he states in The Sadness of Christ, that no martyr had ever faced or suffered the agonies and the tortures Jesus was to face and that Jesus knew he was to face while praying in the Garden of Gethsemane, More was facing a terrible execution (until Henry VIII commuted it to beheading) if/when found guilty of treason. He had seen the Carthusian Priors, Father Richard Reynolds and Father John Haile taken from the Tower and knew they faced being drawn through the streets, hung until barely conscious, eviscerated while alive, and then quartered and beheaded. When they went as bridegrooms to their wedding day, he told his daughter that God knew he was not ready to die ("Whereas thy silly father, Meg, that like a most wicked caitiff hath passed the whole course of his miserable life most sinfully, God, thinking him not worthy so soon to come to that eternal felicity, leaving him here yet still in the world, further to be plagued and turmoiled with misery.") So from that date of May 4, 1535 to his own execution on July 6, 1535, he faced even greater preparations for his own death.

Even as he devoted himself to meditating on the Agony in the Garden, with the drama of Jesus's three prayers to His Father to let the cup of suffering pass by, the sleeping Apostles neglecting His vigil, and the betrayal of Judas, More was thinking of his own day. He compares the sleeping Apostles to their negligent successors, the Bishops, in the midst of the attacks on the Church and  at the same time he contrasts the negligence of the Apostles to the activity and decision of Judas, betraying Jesus and turning Him over to the Sanhedrin. He was as much concerned by the betrayal of Jesus in the 16th century as he was Judas' betraying kiss that first Holy Thursday night. He was concerned about the growing disbelief in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist and also about those "autodidacts" who interpreted Scripture on their own authority, not based on the teaching and Tradition of the universal Catholic Church.

For his part, More examines the Gospel passages describing Christ's agony in the garden using the four senses of Scripture: literal, moral, spiritual, and eschatological. He applies their lessons to our acceptance of the doctrine of the Incarnation, to how we must be prepared to suffer and die when facing martyrdom, to our prayer life whether waking or sleeping, and to the life to come. It's fascinating how many paragraphs he dedicates to the mystery of the young man who flees the Garden, leaving his garment behind. He examines the moral implications of running away, whether to avoid danger or to avoid the near occasion of sin.

The Center for Thomas More Studies is going to host a seminar on "The Theology of Thomas More's Tower Works" in November this year. I will be interested in seeing what conclusions are reached by the academics gathered in Irvine, Texas. I am not a theologian, but as I read The Sadness of Christ, I recognized again what a faithful and devout Catholic Thomas More was, how diligently he studied and tried to live his faith, how concerned he was with doing God's will and preparing to do God's will, and how much he loved Jesus. As he prepared to suffer and die, More left a testament and example for others, both in his written work and in his life.

Three Holiest Days--and Nights--of the Year

The “Maundy” of Maundy Thursday comes from the Mandatum, the new commandment Jesus gave his Apostles after washing their feet at the Last Supper--love one another as I have loved you. The ceremonial re-enactment of Jesus' humility was not part of the parish celebration of Holy Thursday in Pre-Reformation England. It was performed at monasteries and abbeys, and the monarchs of England used to wash the feet of twelve poor people and then give them money and food. The last monarch to perform this ceremony of humility was King James II. William and Mary turned the duty over to their Almoner, the official in charge of charity, and now Queen Elizabeth II hands out “Maundy Money” designed by the Royal Mint.

But the Sarum Use had another great ceremony: after Mass on Maundy Thursday, all the altars were stripped, washed with water and wine, and scrubbed with sticks--certainly gestures filled with meaning. Jesus was stripped before the Crucifixion; water and blood, representing the Eucharistic water and wine, poured from His side when pierced by the lance; the sticks surely represented the scourges used to whip Him before He carried the cross. The section on the celebration of Holy Week in Eamon Duffy's The Stripping of the Altars is, to me, an entirely convincing demonstration of the focus of Catholics in England before the destruction of these ceremonies on the reality of Redemption and devotion to Jesus Christ. It was part of peoples' lives--every gesture, every ritual meant something and made the events of that Holy Week present to them.

Good Friday was a solemn day of fasting, just as it is today. The sacramental reality of Jesus’ redemptive suffering and death were commemorated by the ritual of "Creeping to the Cross" which compares to our current form of Venerating the Cross as one of the four parts of the Good Friday service. Henry VIII allowed the performance of this ritual throughout his "rule" as Supreme Head and Governor of the Church in England, but wanted to make sure that no one celebrated it, and other observances, out of superstition, as this narrative indicates:

"Holy water, holy bread, the use of vestments, Candlemas candles, ashes, palms, creeping to the Cross, sepulchres, hallowing of the font, and “all other like laudable customs, rites, and ceremonies” were allowed by the Ten Articles of 1536 “as good and laudable things to put us in memory of what they signify.” On February 26, 1539 (Wilkins, III, 842), Henry issued a proclamation in which holy water, holy bread, kneeling and creeping to the Cross on Good Friday, setting up lights before the Corpus Christi on Easter Day, bearing candles at the Purification were allowed since “as yet” they had not being abolished. But they were to be used without superstition. “Let the minister on each day instruct the people on the right and godly use of every ceremony. On every Sunday let him declare that holy water is sprinkled in remembrance of our baptism and of the sprinkling of the blood of Christ. On every Sunday let holy bread be given, to remind men of the housel, or Eucharist, which in the beginning of the Christian Church was received more often than now, and in sign of unity, for as the bread is made of many grains so are all Christian men one mystical body of Christ. Let candles be borne at Candlemas, but in memory of Christ, the spiritual light. On Ash Wednesday let ashes be given to every Christian man to remind him that he is dust and ashes. On Palm Sunday let palms be borne, but let it be declared that it is in memory of Christ’s entry into Jerusalem. Let it be declared on Good Friday, that creeping to the Cross and kissing the Cross signify humility and the memory of our redemption.”

During the reign of Edward VI, Archbishop Cranmer's Book of Common Prayer omitted the ceremony and Parliament forbade it. Mary I's restoration of Catholicism revived the practice which then was forbidden again under Elizabeth I. The people, however, did not want to give it up and Anglican bishops complained that some still "creeped" on their knees to the Cross on Good Friday well into Elizabeth's reign.This blog presents a post-Dissolution recollection of the Good Friday Creeping to the Cross and preparation of the Sepulchre:

Within the Abbye Church of Durham uppon good friday theire was marvelous solemne service, in the which service time after the passion was sung two of the eldest monkes did take a goodly large crucifix all of gold of the picture of our saviour Christ nailed uppon the crosse lyinge uppon a velvett cushion, havinge St Cuthberts armes uppon it all imbroydered with gold bringinge that betwixt them uppon the said cushion to the lowest stepps in the quire, and there betwixt them did hold the said picture of our saviour sittinge of every side on ther knees of that;

and then one of the said monkes did rise and went a prettye way from it sittinge downe uppon his knees with his shoes put of[f] verye reverently did creepe away uppon his knees unto the said crosse and most reverently did kisse it, and after him the other monkes did so likewise;

and then they did sitt them downe on eyther side of the said crosse and holdinge it betwixt them, and after that the prior came forth of his stall, and did sitt him downe of his knees with his shooes of[f] and in like sort did creepe also unto the said crosse and all the monkes after him one after an nother, in the same order;

and, in the meane time all the whole quire singinge an Himne, the service beinge ended the two monkes did carrye it to the sepulchre with great reverence, which sepulchre was sett upp in the morninge on the north side of the quire nigh to the high altar before the service time and there did lay it within the said sepulchre, with great devotion with another picture of our saviour Christ, in whose breast they did enclose with great reverence the most holy and blessed sacrament of the altar senceinge and prayinge unto it uppon theire knees a great space settinge two taper lighted before it, which tapers did burne unto Easter day in the morninge that it was taken forth.

After the ceremonies of  the pre-sanctified Communion (which only the priest received) on Good Friday, the priest took off his vestments and placed a pyx containing a consecrated Host with the Cross that had just been venerated, wrapped in linen cloths, in a sepulchre on the north side of the church. This was the Easter Sepulchre and candles were kept lit before it while the parish guarded it in vigil until Easter Sunday morning. Parish accounts document the expenses for candles and for food and drink supplied to those who remained on guard through the night of Good Friday, all day Holy Saturday and through the vigil of that night until dawn. (The Triduum did not include a nighttime Easter Vigil; the Great Service of Light was restored in 1955 in the Roman Rite.)

Then early Easter morning, the parish clergy would place the consecrated Host in the hanging pyx by the high altar and carry the cross in procession after it was solemnly removed from the Sepulchre, risen and acclaimed, with the church bells ringing and the choir chanting "Christus Resurgens" (Christ, risen from the dead, dieth now no more). The cross was then placed on a side altar and the people again venerated it throughout the octave of Easter.You can hear a sixteenth century version of the chant set by the English Catholic exile, Peter Phillips, here.

Eamon Duffy's essential and seminal The Stripping of the Altars again is our source for understanding how deeply this devotion and ritual had taken root in medieval English Catholicism before the Reformation. As he says, these actions were "designed to inculcate and give dramatic expression to orthodox teaching, not merely on the saving power of Christ's cross and Passion but on the doctrine of the Eucharist." (p. 31)

The Easter Sepulchre was part of the furniture of the parish church, either as a freestanding wooden frame or as a niche or table tomb in the structure of the wall. Images of the sleeping soldiers, St. Mary Magdalen, the Risen Christ and adoring angels adorned the sepulchre.

The ritual was condemned by Archbishop Cranmer and the reformers especially during the reign of Edward VI, when it was forbidden. It was restored during Mary I's reign and church records document the expenses for the candles and the guards' supplies again--and then the sepulchres were destroyed and the ritual was forbidden again during Elizabeth's reign.

As we celebrate the Latin Rite services of Holy Week and the Holy Triduum, this background on the Sarum Use in Medieval England may inform our devotion to Jesus Christ, Our Savior, as we recall His suffering, death and glorious Resurrection from the Dead.