Sunday, August 31, 2014

G.K. Chesterton on John Bunyan

John Bunyan, author of The Pilgrim's Progress, died on August 31, 1688. G.K. Chesterton wrote an introduction to Bunyan's great allegory:

John Bunyan was born in 1628, probably in the November of that year, since his baptism followed in that month. His birthplace was the village of Elsow, just outside Bedford. His family was a good example of a thing of which there are many examples, and of which there cannot be too many-- a sort of plebian aristocracy, plain and insignificant in name and handicraft, but rooted in the land like a royal dukedom. The notion that Bunyan's origin lies amid vagrant tinkers is an error; it lies amid highly respectable tinkers, whose presence can be traced for generations and who had left such evidences as a whole farm which had always been called "Bonyon's End." Bunyan's grandfather, Thomas Bunyan, was a small tradesman or "chapman" who died in 1641; of his father less is known, beyond the fact that he had three wives, of whom the second was the mother of John Bunyan, and the third was to all appearance his worst enemy.

He has left on record himself that his youth was riotous, but to judge by the specimens which he gives it would have seemed to boast only a very mild and clumsy sort of rioting. In all human probability he was really only a course and awkward boy, sometimes dropping in among dubious companions, far more often drifting off sulkily by himself. He served in early life in the army, no uncommon episode in the careers of that kind of sullen wastrel. Some dispute has arisen, not indeed about the actuality of his military service, but about the side on which he served in the Civil War. General internal evidence, however, as well as enormous moral probability, allot him to the Parliamentarian camp.

In the year of the Restoration he was arrested for having preached to unlawful assemblies, and was imprisoned in Bedford Gaol for twelve years. In this sudden isolation, shut out from effective acting or speaking, it occurred to him systematically to write, and he opened the first window on the dark and amazing drama which had been going on within his seemingly dull personality while he ran about the fields to be away from his stepmother or leaned on his pike by the watch fires of the great war.

He wrote "Grace abounding to the Worst of Sinners" perhaps the most powerful work ever wrought by genius with the materials of morbidity. Certainly no Parisian decadent, no Swinburnian poet, no Beardsleyian artist so completely contrived to give disease the vigor of health. It is the masterpiece of an element which has a right to have a masterpiece, since it is a living and recurring element-- the element of the dark and hysterical soul of early youth. It is the epic of the pessimism of boyhood.

During the same period he wrote a less-known work called "The Holy City." He was released in 1672, but as he refused to abandon his preaching, which was now powerful and popular, he was flung back again into prison in 1675. It was during this second detention that he wrote the work which has set him finally among the English immortals, "The Pilgrim's Progress." Many controversies have raged as to whether he owed the allegorical type of narrative to anything before him, but all the allegories mentioned in this connection are almost as unlike "The Pilgrim's Progress" as they are unlike "Vanity Fair." The Elstow tinker produced an original thing, if an original thing was ever produced. Nothing stronger can be said of it than that it dwarfs altogether into insignificance "Grace Abounding" published before it, and "The Holy War," published afterwards. Bunyan, released from prison, died quietly in 1688.

In his collection of essays The Thing (which we are reading in the Wichita branch of the American Chesterton Society), Chesterton writes "On Two Allegories"--Bunyan's in The Pilgrim's Progress and Dante's in The Divine Comedy, comparing and contrasting their allegories and the theologies on which they are based:

Mr. James Douglas, who once presented himself to me as a representative of Protestant truth, and who is certainly a representative of Protestant tradition, answered Mr. Alfred Noyes in terms very typical of the present state of that tradition. He said that we should salute Bunyan's living literary genius, and not bother our heads about Bunyan's obsolete theology. Then he added the comparison which seems to me so thought-provoking: that this is after all what we do, when we admire Dante's genius and not HIS obsolete theology.  Now there is a distinction to be made here; if the whole modern mind is to realize at all where it stands. If I say that Bunyan's theology IS obsolete, but Dante's theology is NOT obsolete--then I know the features of my friend Mr. Douglas will be wreathed in a refined smile of superiority and scorn. He will say that I am a Papist and therefore of course I think the Papist dogmatism living.  But the point is that he is a Protestant and he thinks the Protestant dogmatism dead. I do at least defend the Catholic theory because it can be defended. The Puritans would presumably be defending the Puritan theory--if it could be defended.  The point is that it is dead for them as much as for us.  It is not merely that Mr. Noyes demands the disappearance of a disfigurement; it is that Mr. Douglas says it cannot be a disfigurement because it has already disappeared. Now the Thomist philosophy, on which Dante based his poetry has not disappeared.  It is not a question of faith but of fact; anybody who knows Paris or Oxford, or the worlds where such things are discussed, will tell you that it has not disappeared. All sorts of people, including those who do not believe in it, refer to it and argue against it on equal terms.

I do not believe, for a fact, that modern men so discuss the seventeenth century sectarianism.  Had I the privilege of passing a few days with Mr. Douglas and his young lions of the DAILY EXPRESS, I doubt not that we should discuss and differ about many things. But I do rather doubt whether Mr. Douglas would every now and again cry out, as with a crow of pure delight "Oh, I must read you this charming little bit from Calvin."  I do rather doubt whether his young journalists are joyously capping each other's quotations from Toplady's sermons on Calvinism.  But eager young men do still quote Aquinas, just as they still quote Aristotle. I have heard them at it.  And certain ideas are flying about, even in the original prose of St. Thomas, as well as in the poetry of Dante--or, for that matter, of Donne.

The case of Bunyan is really the opposite of the case of Dante. In Dante the abstract theory still illuminates the poetry; the ideas enlighten even where the images are dark. In Bunyan it is the human facts and figures that are bright; while the spiritual background is not only dark in spirit, but blackened by time and change.  Of course it is true enough that in Dante the mere images are immensely imaginative. It is also true that in one sense some of them are obsolete; in the sense that the incidents are obsolete and the personal judgment merely personal.  Nobody will ever forget how there came through the infernal twilight the figure of that insolent troubadour, carrying his own head aloft in his hand like a lantern to light his way. Everybody knows that such an image is poetically true to certain terrible truths about the unnatural violence of intellectual pride. But as to whether anybody has any business to say that Bertrand de Born is damned, the obvious answer is No. Dante knew no more about it than I do:  only he cared more about it; and his personal quarrel is an obsolete quarrel.  But that sort of thing is not Dante's theology, let alone Catholic theology.

In a word; so far from his theology being obsolete, it would be much truer to say that everything is obsolete except his theology. That he did not happen to like a particular Southern gentleman is obsolete; but that was at most a private fancy, in demonology rather than theology.  We come to theology when we come to theism. And if anybody will read the passage in which Dante grapples with the gigantic problem of describing the Beatific Vision, he will find it is uplifted into another world of ideas from the successful entry to the Golden City at the end of the Pilgrim's Progress. It is a Thought; which a thinker, especially a genuine freethinker, is always free to go on thinking.  The images of Dante are not to be worshipped, any more than any other images. But there is an idea behind all images; and it is before that, in the last lines of the Paradiso, that the spirit of the poet seems first to soar like an eagle and then to fall like a stone.

There is nothing in this comparison that reflects on the genius and genuineness of Bunyan in his own line or class; but it does serve to put him in his own class.  I think there was something to be said for the vigorous denunciation of Mr. Noyes; but no such denunciation is involved in this distinction. On the contrary, it would be easy to draw the same distinction between two men both at the very top of all literary achievement. It would be true to say, I think, that those who most enjoy reading Homer care more about an eternal humanity than an ephemeral mythology.  The reader of Homer cares more about men than about gods.  So, as far as one can guess, does Homer. It is true that if those curious and capricious Olympians did between them make up a religion, it is now a dead religion. It is the human Hector who so died that he will never die. But we should remonstrate with a critic who, after successfully proving this about Homer, should go on to prove it about Plato. We should protest if he said that the only interest of the Platonic Dialogues to-day is in their playful asides and very lively local colour, in the gay and graceful picture of Greek life; but that nobody troubles nowadays about the obsolete philosophy of Plato. We should point out that there is no truth in the comparison; and that if anything the case is all the other way. Plato's philosophy will be important as long as there is philosophy; and Dante's religion will be important as long as there is religion. Above all it will be important as long as there is that lucid and serene sort of religion that is most in touch with philosophy. Nobody will say that the theology of the Baptist tinker is in that sense serene or even lucid; on many points it necessarily remains obscure. The reason is that such religion does not do what philosophy does; it does not begin at the beginning.  In the matter of mere chronological order, it is true that the pilgrimage of Dante and that of Bunyan both end in the Celestial City.  But it is in a very different sense that the pilgrimage of Bunyan begins in the City of Destruction. The mind of Dante, like that of his master St. Thomas, really begins as well as ends in the City of Creation.  It begins as well as ends in the burning focus in which all things began.  He sees his series from the right end, though he then begins it at the wrong end. But it is the whole point of a personal work like THE PILGRIM'S PROGRESS that it does begin with a man's own private sins and private panic about them.  This intense individualism gives it great force; but it cannot in the nature of things give it great breadth and range. Heaven is haven; but the wanderer has not many other thoughts about it except that it is haven.  It is typical of the two methods, each of them very real in its way, that Dante could write a whole volume, one-third of his gigantic epic, describing the things of Heaven; whereas in the case of Bunyan, as the gates of Heaven open the book itself closes.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Many Martyrs Today: Three Special Women and Several Brave Men

There are really two events to remember today. One is the execution of six Catholics--one laywoman, four laymen and one priest--in London as part of the English government's reaction to the attempted invasion of England by the Spanish Armada. The other is the memorial of three female English Catholic martyrs, who were canonized among the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales in 1970, but have this special day all to themselves on the liturgical calendar of the Dioceses of England and Wales.

St. Margaret Clitheroe and St. Anne Line share the date of St. Margaret Ward's execution on August 30, 1588--she was part of a second group of martyrs after the failure of the Spanish Armada. She is a virgin martyr: she helped Father William Watson escape from Bridewell Prison. She visited him often enough that the jailer finally allowed her to enter without searching her, so she was able to smuggle in a rope. Father Watson injured himself unfortunately while escaping and was unable to retrieve the rope. Margaret found John Roche to help the injured priest once out of prison and both she and John were arrested; John because he had exchanged clothing with the priest and Margaret because the jailer figured out that she was the last person to visit Father Watson before he escaped. She was held in chains, hung up her hands and scourged as the authorities attempted to force her to tell them where Father Watson went after escaping Bridewell prison. She refused, even though she acknowledged that she helped him. Offered a pardon for attending Church of England services, she again refused. The torture inflicted upon her left her partially paralyzed and she had to be carried to Tyburn for hanging.

Also martyred that day were Blessed John Roche (who had assisted Margaret Ward in the escape of Father William Watson), three other laymen who had assisted priests, Blesseds Richard Lloyd, Richard Martin, and Edward Shelley, and one priest, Blessed Richard Leigh. The regime was certainly sending a message about laity who assisted Catholic priests.

The article for Blessed Richard Leigh from the Catholic Encyclopedia offers some details about him and the other laymen executed that day:

English martyr, born in Cambridgeshire about 1561; died at Tyburn, 30 August, 1588. Ordained priest at Rome in February, 1586-7, he came on the mission the same year, was arrested in London, and banished. Returning he was committed to the Tower in June 1588, and was condemned at the Old Bailey for being a priest. With him suffered four laymen and a lady . . . Edward Shelley of Warminghurst, Sussex, and East Smithfield, London (son of Edward Shelley, of Warminghurst, a Master of the Household of the sovereign, and the settlor in "Shelley's case", and Joan, daughter of Paul Eden, of Penshurst, Kent), aged 50 or 60, who was already in the Clink for his religion in April, 1584 was condemned for keeping a book called "My Lord Leicester's Commonwealth" and for having assisted the [Blessed] William Dean [who had been executed on August 28, 1588]. He was apparently uncle by marriage to Benjamin Norton, afterwards one of the seven vicars of Dr. Richard Smith. Richard Martin, of Shropshire, was condemned for being in the company of the Ven. Robert Morton and paying sixpence for his supper. Richard Lloyd, better known as Flower (alias Fludd, alias Graye), a native of the Diocese of Bangor (Wales), aged about 21, younger brother of Father Owen Lloyd was condemned for entertaining a priest named William Horner, alias Forrest. John Roche (alias Neele), an Irish serving-man, and Margaret Ward, gentlewoman of Cheshire, were condemned for having assisted a priest named William Watson to escape from Bridewell. 

St. Margaret Clitherow and St. Anne Line also suffered martyrdom because they protected priests from discovery during England's recusant era. May these three brave Catholic women martyrs--and all the brave men who suffered this day in 1588-- inspire us!

Waugh's Interviews

(Waugh's Sword of Honor trilogy)

Francis Philips writes about Evelyn Waugh in The Catholic Herald, referring to a televised interview he gave in 1960:

Then I came across Fr Tim Finigan’s blog last year about Evelyn Waugh’s “Face to Face” interview with John Freeman in 1960. Never having watched this encounter before, I found it very revealing of the man who could write the mordant satire referred to above. Waugh smiled from time to time as he (briefly) explained a point, but only with his lips; his eyes remained cold, watchful, wary – indicative, as Freeman must have realised, of a gifted, complex and deeply private man who understood his own nature and failings and felt not the slightest desire to share this knowledge with the BBC.

Freeman was a model of patient, self-effacing and sensitive enquiry; a disembodied voice focused on his subject and unvaryingly courteous, even though Waugh refused to expand on any tentative avenues of enquiry. Asked whether he missed the life of the city (Waugh was then living at Combe Flory House in Somerset), he replied “I live in the country as I like to be alone”, indicating that further questions in this line would not be approved. . . .

 There were no revelations, confessions, psychologising or the kind of celebrity chumminess that has characterised interviews in a later age. When Freeman tried to probe him on his conversion, Waugh refused to be drawn; he had realised that “Catholicism was Christianity” at the age of 16, had ignored religion for the next decade and reprimanded Freeman for suggesting that his faith might have brought him comfort or solace: “It isn’t a lucky dip”, he replied, adding in an aside that was not picked up on, that it was “the essence”.

Waugh converted in 1930. In 1949 he explained in an interview that his conversion followed his realization that life was “unintelligible and unendurable without God.” Doubtless, if Freeman had quoted this on “Face to Face” Waugh would have declined to expand. But it indicates much about the intellectual clarity and emotional intensity with which he looked at life.

Julian Jebb interviewed Evelyn Waugh for The Paris Review in 1962, and seemed to have about the same luck, although there are some gems:

It is evident that you reverence the authority of established institutions—the Catholic Church and the army. Would you agree that on one level both Brideshead Revisited and the army trilogy were celebrations of this reverence?
No, certainly not. I reverence the Catholic Church because it is true, not because it is established or an institution. Men at Arms was a kind of uncelebration, a history of Guy Crouchback's disillusion with the army. Guy has old-fashioned ideas of honor and illusions of chivalry; we see these being used up and destroyed by his encounters with the realities of army life.
Would you say that there was any direct moral to the army trilogy?
Yes, I imply that there is a moral purpose, a chance of salvation, in every human life. Do you know the old Protestant hymn which goes: “Once to every man and nation / Comes the moment to decide”? Guy is offered this chance by making himself responsible for the upbringing of Trimmer's child, to see that he is not brought up by his dissolute mother. He is essentially an unselfish character.
And this exchange on characters in fiction:
E. M. Forster has spoken of “flat characters” and “round characters”; if you recognize this distinction, would you agree that you created no “round” characters until A Handful of Dust?
All fictional characters are flat. A writer can give an illusion of depth by giving an apparently stereoscopic view of a character—seeing him from two vantage points; all a writer can do is give more or less information about a character, not information of a different order. . . .But look, I think that your questions are dealing too much with the creation of character and not enough with the technique of writing. I regard writing not as investigation of character, but as an exercise in the use of language, and with this I am obsessed. I have no technical psychological interest. It is drama, speech, and events that interest me.
Does this mean that you continually refine and experiment?
Experiment? God forbid! Look at the results of experiment in the case of a writer like Joyce. He started off writing very well, then you can watch him going mad with vanity. He ends up a lunatic.

Friday, August 29, 2014

An Obscure Masterpiece

Willard Spiegelman, Hughes Professor of English at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, describes Caravaggio's masterpiece, "The Taking of Christ" for The Wall Street Journal:

Seven figures, one barely noticeable, are tightly bound within the confines of a small space. On the left, John the Evangelist turns his back on the others, his hands lifted in shock, surprise or exclamation. Next to him, Christ is dressed in red and blue garments. His eyes, hooded to the point of invisibility, look down, and he clasps his hands in resignation. Judas, having just kissed the Savior, grips Jesus with his left hand. Both men—typical of Caravaggio—have dirty nails. Their brows are furrowed. John, Jesus and Judas look like parts of one person, their three heads all in a line, with John's seemingly joined Siamese-fashion to Christ's, and Judas's mouth having just separated from the man he has sold to the enemy.

Dead center in the picture is the arresting officer, of whose face we can see only a nose and the outline of an upper lip. Otherwise, he is a study in metal. His left arm clasps Christ and his hand extends from the shiny, steel-colored armor of his arm and breastplate. His helmet completes the image. He is all exoskeleton, barely a man at all. The painter has offered an allegory of the way the State—hard, metallic and unyielding—comes to overwhelm compliant, beleaguered, passive humanity. Beside the main officer another, older, soldier reveals more flesh—nose and moustache—but in neither of these figures can we see eyes. In the rear we can make out only the outline of yet one more soldier.

This leaves us with the most mysterious figure of all, neither Roman nor Jew. Dark-headed, handsome, with eyes fully revealed and looking intently at the scene in front of him, this man holds in his right hand a lantern, which offers illumination from behind and to the right of Jesus and Judas. Who is he? The consensus among the experts is that Caravaggio has produced a self-portrait.

This is one of "Ireland's Favorite Paintings" at the National Gallery of Ireland, which displays it on indefinite loan from the Irish Jesuits.

Image Credit: Public Domain.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

O Bone Jesu: St. Edmund Arrowsmith, SJ

O bone Jesu,
miserere nobis,
quia tu creasti nos,
tu redemisti nos
sanguine tuo praetiosissimo.

Today's English Catholic Martyr was raised in a recusant family and suffered much for his Catholic faith and his priesthood. Executed on the vigil of the Feast of the Beheading of St. John the Baptist, it is interesting to note that his defense of holy matrimony brought about his final arrest. Like St. John the Baptist, speaking to Herod, he told one of his flock that his marriage was not valid and was betrayed.

According to this site, Catholic Online:

St. Edmund Arrowsmith (1585 - 1628) Edmund was the son of Robert Arrowsmith, a farmer, and was born at Haydock, England. He was baptized Brian, but always used his Confirmation name of Edmund. The family was constantly harrassed for its adherence to Catholicism, and in 1605 Edmund left England and went to Douai to study for the priesthood. He was ordained in 1612 and sent on the English mission the following year. He ministered to the Catholics of Lancashire without incident until about 1622, when he was arrested and questioned by the Protestant bishop of Chester. He was released when King James ordered all arrested priests be freed, joined the Jesuits in 1624, and in 1628 was arrested when betrayed by a young man he had censored for an incestuous marriage. He was convicted of being a Catholic priest, sentenced to death, and hanged, drawn, and quartered at Lancaster on August 28th. He was canonized as one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales by Pope Paul VI in 1970. His feast day is August 28th.

He recited the prayer O bone Jesu (Oh, Good Jesus, have mercy on us; because you have created us, you have redeemed us through your most Precious Blood), on his way to execution.

The BBC Exposes the Myth of the Spanish Inquisition

Last year in Homiletic & Pastoral Review, I wrote about the Spanish Inquisition:

The Monty Python cohort may have said, “Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition,” but Catholics can expect it to be brought up regularly. This exaggerated version emphasizes all the depths of the Black Legend of Spain: the tyranny of the popes and the Catholic Church, torture, and the multitude of victims writhing in agony, burned alive during the auto-da-fe. The quick facts to present in response to an attack on the Church concerning the Spanish Inquisition are these:
  • The government wanted the Spanish Inquisition, not the Church; the State was in charge.
  • Successive popes, like Pope Sixtus IV and Innocent VIII complained to Spain about the conduct of the Inquisition.
  • The Church never tortured anyone—Spanish officials may have, but no Inquisitorial friar or monk ever tortured someone accused of heresy.
  • The Church did not burn anyone to death; in fact, of the approximately 2,000 condemned to death by the State, very few were actually executed—they were usually burned in effigy, having fled the country.
  •  Those condemned were not burned alive at the stake during the auto-da-fe.
Those are the facts to present, but the deeper issue is that in medieval and early modern (Renaissance and Reformation) eras in Europe, heresy was a serious matter for the State. Queen Elizabeth I in England wanted all her subjects to be members of the Church of England, and King Philip II of Spain wanted all his subjects to be Catholics. To them, it was a measure of unity and loyalty in their realms. We look back and think, how could the government be so concerned about what doctrine their subjects believed, what religion they practiced? Governments today around the world are just as concerned about the religious practice of their citizens. Even the United States, which has enshrined religious liberty in our Bill of Rights, is facing a crisis of religious freedom and the rights of conscience.

After watching the 1994 episode from the BBC's Timewatch series linked above, I realized I told only part of the story, because I was defending the Church from attack, not the Spanish Inquisition itself. The BBC's examination of the myth of the Spanish Inquisition is balanced and exact in citing the facts about the history of that effort to suppress heresy, using for what at that time was new information gained from the opening of the archives of the office of the Inquisition. There is discussion of the propaganda of the Black Legend from print media to fiction to even opera (Verdi's Don Carlo). The most disturbing aspect of this propaganda, which did come from enemies of the Catholic Church and the Spanish Empire--many of whom were Protestant, we must admit--is how it contrasts with the horrible record of witch burning in Europe, mostly in Protestant countries. The BBC notes that around 3,000 were sentenced to death during the Spanish Inquisition, but that 150,000 were burned alive as witches--while the Spanish Inquisition rejected the so-called "evidence" of a woman being a witch. Yet even our era accepts the imagery of Spanish cruelty while ignoring northern European horrors. 

The documentary points out that the Spanish Inquisition courts were so well known for their relative fairness that prisoners accused in other civil courts would pretend to be heretics just to switch. The Inquisition courts did allow for proving the negative--that the accused was not a heretic--while other civil courts in that era supposed the guilt of the accused just because he had been accused. Think of the 17th century victims of the false Popish Plot in England. Their efforts to prove themselves not guilty were frustrated by the assumption by the court that they were guilty of conspiracy and treason because they were Catholics. Whatever evidence they offered to prove for example that they could not have been where Titus Oates said they were because they had witnesses who could testify they were somewhere else--it would be rejected because the witnesses were Catholic and thus part of the conspiracy.

It's a long video (about 45 minutes) but well worth watching. Oh, and just like I did above, the program starts with Monty Python, torturing a woman on the comfy chair and poking her with pillows! The end is charming too as a happy chorus proclaims English superiority to all other peoples and nations!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

St. Nicholas Owen in The Catholic Herald

Francis Phillips reviews a new book about St. Nicholas Owen:

While on holiday last week I read “St Nicholas Owen: Priest-hole Maker” by Tony Reynolds (published by Gracewing, £9.99.) I have always been drawn to what I have read about this man of small stature, not a priest but who saved the lives of many priests in the Elizabethan period with his highly ingenious priest-holes. This book fills in the gaps of my knowledge – though there is much that we don’t know about his early life.

He was born in Oxford probably in 1562, the son of a carpenter. He himself chose to become an apprentice in joinery – a more skilled trade and one that was to exploit his considerable gifts to good effect in the Catholic cause. Owen was one of four sons: two older brothers became priests – a highly dangerous choice of vocation in Tudor England – and the youngest, the only one to marry, became a printer, and then chose to engage in the secret printing of Catholic literature. So all four sons in this humble Oxford carpenter’s family took their Catholic faith with a resolute seriousness that could, in those days, lead to imprisonment and death. No details are given of Owen’s parents but I should have loved to have known more of what early influences kindled such a strong faith. We know a lot about the domestic life of St Thomas More for obvious reasons, but nothing about the childhood influences of a man equally courageous in remaining steadfast to his faith to the bitter end.

Owen died under torture in 1606. It is known that he suffered for some years from a hernia. The kind of torments devised by the torturers of the period often caused a rupture in the stomach wall of victims, which would increase the agony. This happened in Owen’s case and led to a prolonged and agonizing death. But throughout his ordeal he gave nothing away to his interrogators. He had spent 18 or 19 years as the faithful servant of the Jesuit Father Henry Garnet, knowing that to “relieve, comfort, aid or maintain” a Catholic priest would make him liable to death as a traitor. Contemporary accounts suggest he was personable, discreet and highly skilled in the peculiar demands of his illegal work. As with St Margaret Clitherow, another Elizabethan martyr, Owen shows that great sanctity has nothing to do with social status or superior educational attainments.

I thought the cover illustration rather striking: it is by Matthew Alderman. More about the book on the publisher's website.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

St. David Lewis and Blessed Dominic Barberi, Missionary Priests

The National Calendar for the Catholic Church in England and Wales honors two missionaries from very different eras today. In England the memorial honors Blessed Dominic Barberi--in Wales, St. David Lewis, SJ. Like St. John Kemble and St. John Wall on August 22, St. David Lewis was a victim of the Popish Plot.

The particularly repellent aspects of the Popish Plot are:

1) There was no plot at all: Titus Oates perjured himself and made it all up
2) Parliament's leaders, like Lord Shaftesbury, Anthony-Ashley Cooper, fomented it
3) Charles II knew it was not true and yet seemed powerless to prevent it
4) The vaunted English Court system was duped by it and was an accessory to multiple injustices--like that experienced by today's saint!

It took the Courts far too long to recognize this injustice--at which time it started finding the accused not guilty--and Parliament never truly admitted its culpability. Titus Oates was found guilty of perjury but was soon rewarded by the regime of William and Mary with a pension. Charles II protected his brother and his wife, although James and Mary Beatrice fled to Ireland in exile. Charles did not give in to the desire of Parliament to bypass his Catholic brother the succession, either.

St. David Lewis was born and raised in a Protestant family but when he went to Paris at age 16 he was moved to become a Catholic! He was ordained in 1642 in Rome and joined the Jesuit order in 1645--like St. John Kemble he served in Monmouthshire for some years.

In November of 1678, he was arrested, taken to London and questioned in connection with the Popish Plot. Lord Shaftesbury offered him freedom if he gave information about the Plot and renounced his Catholicism. David said he had no knowledge of the Plot and would not renounce his faith.

St. David Lewis was then returned to Monmouthshire and executed in Usk on August 27, 1679. He is the last Welsh martyr. Like Blessed Dominic Barberi, his memorial is on August 26 to avoid conflict with that of St. Monica, St. Augustine's mother. This blog contains some great detail about the Last Welsh Martyr! He was canonized among the 40 Martyrs of England and Wales in 1970 by Pope Paul VI.
Blessed Dominic Barberi also died on August 27, in 1849 and is honored on August 26 and featured on the National Calendar in England. He is probably best known for having received John Henry Newman into the Catholic Church on October 9, 1845 but there are other aspects to his life that should be recalled.

The first is that he was born in Italy during Napoleonic rule, meaning that he grew up in milieu of anti-clericalism and irreligion. His large peasant family placed him with an uncle and he was a shepherd. Young Dominic became attracted to the Passionist Order and joined them as a novice in 1814, after restrictions against religious orders were removed.
Secondly, although in England his English language skills were never that strong (which probably gave some the impression he was not that bright), he was a tremendous theologian and scholar for the Passionist order. He was entrusted with greater and greater responsibility in the order and the mission field.
Thirdly, he received this special call to serve the people of England and received converts. I believe he heard that call because John Henry Newman needed him. As Newman was living in Littlemore after the suppression of the Oxford Movement he was as he said on his deathbed as an Anglican--but he was not yet ready to recover and become a Catholic. The example of Father Barberi, enduring ridicule for his poor English, being stoned in the streets and yet persevering to bring Christ to the people--even leading the first Corpus Christi procession in England since the Reformation--impressed Newman. As he had written, "If they [Catholic religious] want to convert England let them go barefooted into our manufacturing towns-let them preach to the people like St. Francis Xavier-let them be pelted and trampled on-and I will admit that they can do what we cannot…What a day it will be when God will make arise among their Communion saintly men such as Bernard and the Borromeo’s…The English will never be favorably inclined to a party of conspirators and instigators; only faith and sanctity are irresistible.”

Father Barberi said,  "What a spectacle it was for me to see Newman at my feet! All that I have suffered since I left Italy has been well compensated by this event. I hope the effects of such a conversion may be great."

The International Centre of Newman Friends offers this detail of that momentous event on October 8 and 9, 1845:

"The original historians, who were also closer to the facts, delighted in presenting the events of that night in a dramatic fashion, something which Dominic never would have done, being always very simple and loath to talk about himself. Alfonso Capecelatro, for example, who was an Oratorian and a future Cardinal, wrote about the event ten years after the death of Dominic: “Dalgarins (sic)invited a certain Fr. Dominic of the Mother of God, a Provincial of the Passionists, to go to Aston Hall in Littlemore, telling him that he was being called to a work in the service of God: and unwittingly, he agreed. He was always conscious that every delay could possibly result in some great harm to the office to which he called. However because of a terrible storm he set out in a covered coach. He endured five hours of driving rain and, as it so pleased God, completely exhausted he arrived at Littlemore at night. Without delay he entered in the solitary dwelling of those fervent men who were famous throughout England, and with great humility Newman fell at his feet, telling him that he would not move from there until he was blessed and received into the Church of Jesus Christ.”

Beyond this great event, Father Dominic worked very hard while in England, establishing churches, preaching and teaching. He suffered a heart attack and died in Reading on August 27, 1849. He is buried in St. Anne's church, St. Helens, Merseyside, alongside Father Ignatius Spencer, an Anglican convert and Passionist, and Elizabeth Prout, another Anglican convert and the foundress of the Institute of the Holy Family. You can watch this interesting interview of Blessed Dominic, portrayed by Kevin O'Brien on EWTN's The Journey Home. Pope Paul VI beatified Dominic Barberi in 1963 in the midst of the Second Vatican Council and his cause is still active in the Birmingham, England archdiocese.
St. David Lewis, martyr, pray for us! Blessed Dominic Barberi, confessor, pray for us!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Saint Louis and St. Louis

Mark and I visited the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (Sacre Coeur) in Paris during our 2012 visit on a cold, clear, crisp November Saturday and I took this picture of the statue of St. Louis.

Today is his feast day and this year marks two great anniversaries: the 800th anniversary of his birth and the 250th anniversary of the founding of the city of St. Louis, Missouri!

Yesterday, the Bourbon heir to the throne of France, Prince Louis, was present at a vigil Mass celebrated at the great Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis in St. Louis:

A descendant of St. Louis IX, King of France, Prince Louis was born April 24, 1974. A member of the Royal House of Bourbon, he grew up in Madrid. Prince Louis is the oldest of the Capetian line of French kings and descends in a direct line from Henry IV, the first king of the Bourbon branch. Ten generations link him directly to Louis XIV. He has dual French-Spanish nationality.

After studying economic sciences at the Lycee Francaise de Madrid, the prince went to the university Centro Universitario de Estudios Financieros, gaining an advanced degree in economic science, with a specialization in finances. He is an international vice president of a bank based in Venezuela.
Prince Louis is a great-grandson of King Alphonse XIII of Spain, and a cousin of King Phillip of Spain. As successor of the kings of France and as head of house, the prince is regularly invited by local or national authorities to preside over commemorative ceremonies, both in France and in the various countries in which the Capetians had a historical role. Known formally as Louis Alphonse of Bourbon, Duke of Anjou, he enjoys sports, including skiing, polo, ice hockey -- and he ran marathons in New York, Berlin and Paris.

Married in 2004 to Margaret of Caracas, Venezuela, the couple have a daughter and twin sons.

The Archdiocese of St. Louis published this editorial in the St. Louis Review earlier this month in preparation for the feast in such an important anniversary year:

This year's celebration of the 250th anniversary of the founding of our city is a fitting time to commit ourselves to the Christian values and dedication to the poor of the man whose name is St. Louis.

Louis IX served as king of France in the mid-13th century and was known as a living embodiment of the Christianity of the time. He had a special place in his heart for religious orders -- as does our city, known as the home of many communities of men and women religious and the many ministries they established here.

His biographers note that St. Louis received indigent people each day and brought them food. In Lent and Advent, he cared for all who came, often waiting on them in person. He had a passion for justice, and changed the "King's court" of his ancestors into a popular court, where he listened to any of his subjects who came with grievances and gave what seemed to them wise and impartial judgments. He sought to replace the feudal method of settling disputes by combat with peaceful arbitration or the judicial process of a trial, complete with the presentation of testimony.

The man who is St. Louis also gave generous monetary gifts to poor people whether others considered them worthy or not. Monks and nuns, widows and prostitutes, gentlefolk fallen on hard times and minstrels too old or sick to perform, St. Louis gave happily to them all. He also built hospitals and homes for those who needed them.

King Saint Louis was canonized at Orvieto in 1297 by Pope Boniface VIII.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Leonine Prayers after Mass

With the two crises of Black Masses in Cambridge, Mass. and Oklahoma City, Okla, mocking the Catholic faith and desecrating the Sacramental Host, Catholics have been urged to pray the Prayer to St. Michael the Archangel, composed by Pope Leo XIII:

Saint Michael the Archangel,
defend us in battle;
be our safeguard against the wickedness and snares of the devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray;
and do thou, O Prince of the heavenly host,
by the Divine power of God, cast into hell Satan,
and with him all evil spirits
who prowl through the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen

The prayer to Saint Michael is just one of the prayers that Pope Leo XIII ordered to be said after Low Mass by the priest and the congregation in Catholic churches throughout the world. Pope Pius IX had required Catholics in the Papal States to offer certain prayers after Mass during the crisis of the Italian revolution in 1859: three Hail Marys, the Salve Regina and a special Collect. Pope Leo expanded the use of those prayers in 1884 and added the St. Michael the Archangel Prayer in 1886 Popes Pius XI and XII emphasized that the Leonine prayers, named for Pope Leo XIII, were to be prayed for the conversion of Russia.

In 1964, the Instruction on Implementing the Constitution on Sacred Liturgy, Inter oecumenici suppressed both the Last Gospel, read after the dismissal and final blessing, and the Leonine Prayers. On Sunday, April 24, 1994 St. John Paul II nevertheless encouraged Catholics to pray the St. Michael Prayer during his Regina Caeli message and prayers:

May prayer strengthen us for the spiritual battle we are told about in the Letter to the Ephesians: ‘Draw strength from the Lord and from His mighty power’ (Ephesians 6:10). The Book of Revelation refers to this same battle, recalling before our eyes the image of St. Michael the Archangel (Revelation 12:7). Pope Leo XIII certainly had a very vivid recollection of this scene when, at the end of the last century, he introduced a special prayer to St. Michael throughout the Church. Although this prayer is no longer recited at the end of Mass, I ask everyone not to forget it and to recite it to obtain help in the battle against forces of darkness and against the spirit of this world.

Archbishop Coakley in Oklahoma City asked that this prayer be said at the end of every Mass and that Eucharist Holy Hours be offered "to honor Christ's Real Presence in the Holy Eucharist". Bishop Slattery in the Tulsa Oklahoma diocese asked Catholics there to pray a decade of the Rosary and the St. Michael Prayer. And although we have the good news that the organizers of the Black Mass have returned the consecrated Host they planned to desecrate, those prayers are still needed as they still plan to hold some mockery of the Mass at the Civic Center in Oklahoma City.

You may find the full text of the Leonine Prayers in both England and Latin here. Although the congregational praying of them has been suppressed, anyone may pray these prayers after Mass, High or Low, in the Ordinary or Extraordinary Form--or whenever!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Byrd Yesterday and Today

No sooner do I prepare a post on the link to my StAR article on "Reading Between the Line(r Note)s: Tudor Church Music and Revisionist History" but I read about this new recording of William Byrd's three Masses, composed for five, four, and three voices, from The Choir of Westminster Cathedral (the Catholic Westminster in London). The purpose of the recording is to highlight the significance of these Masses in both the sixteenth and the nineteenth centuries:

A new recording of the most perfect of Tudor masterpieces, Byrd’s three Mass-settings, from the cradle of their nineteenth-century rehabilitation. Westminster Cathedral Choir is enjoying a vintage period, and here we hear its trademark sound in all its glory: unfettered, natural singing from the trebles underpinned by warm yet clear tones from the gentlemen.

This recording celebrates Byrd’s Catholic Masses in two ways simultaneously. Most obviously, it addresses great and timeless works, which themselves address great and timeless liturgical texts. But at the same time it reminds us that the revival of Byrd’s Masses in the late nineteenth century was pioneered by Roman Catholic church choirs. This is a point worth pondering. Since the accession of Queen Elizabeth I in 1558, the choirs of England’s Protestant cathedrals and college chapels have had their own distinctive musical repertory, which has flourished and grown in unbroken tradition. The anthems and services of Thomas Tallis, for instance, have never fallen from cathedral use; they have been the epitome of Choral Evensong and Eucharist for more than four centuries. This Anglican repertory, however, is not what Roman Catholic worship requires. When major Catholic choral foundations were established in late Victorian and Edwardian England, at Downside Abbey, the Brompton Oratory, and above all at Westminster Cathedral, there was a quest for new and more relevant music; and it was at these places that William Byrd’s three Latin Masses were revived. Hence the pertinence of this recording; it celebrates that Catholic revival no less than it celebrates the works themselves.

As John Milsom writes in the liner notes (!):

It is hard to imagine a time when William Byrd’s Latin Masses and motets were not a cherished part of England’s musical culture. Today these works seem to soar among the pinnacles of Tudor achievement, alongside the plays of Shakespeare, Byrd’s contemporary; yet for two hundred years, from roughly the mid-seventeenth century to the mid-nineteenth, they fell almost wholly from favour and use. This long neglect has nothing to do with their intrinsic quality, which has never been questioned. It is to do with the fact that they are Catholic music. Since 1558, England has been officially a Protestant nation, and Catholic culture has had to negotiate its place as best it can. Byrd’s Catholic music, composed for a suppressed minority group in the decades around 1600, was by necessity inconspicuous when it was new, and it was wholly shunned by the established church. Only in more tolerant times has it risen to the surface, to be recognized and loved for its true worth. . . .

. . . William Byrd, if he could hear these performances, would be amazed, for they are not at all what he would have envisaged. In the 1590s, when his Masses were composed, there were no Catholic church choirs in England, and he never imagined them being sung proudly and publicly in cathedrals for all to hear. Few hard facts survive about the kinds of performances Byrd’s Catholic works received in his lifetime, but we can speculate with a fair degree of confidence. In the age of the Spanish Armada and the Gunpowder Plot, England’s Roman Catholic community celebrated Mass covertly behind closed doors, taking pains not to be found out and punished or fined. Their secret services took place in rooms hastily converted into chapels, led by priests who led surreptitious lives. If music was used, then it was sung and played by whoever came safely to hand: family members, invited guests and trusted servants. By definition, then, Byrd’s Masses are really chamber music, not choral repertory, and it was never Byrd’s intention that they should be sung in the resonant ambience of a great church by a choir such as that of Westminster Cathedral.

Grand choral polyphony was, however, the stuff of Byrd’s main career; for he lived a double life. In public, Byrd was the towering member of Queen Elizabeth’s chapel royal, a choir that served monarch, court, and the swarm of overseas diplomats and visitors that mingled with them. This choir typically sang in the grand chapels of the queen’s palaces, such as Westminster, Greenwich and Richmond, and on occasions it also sang in more public places, even out of doors. It was for this choir, wearing his public hat as England’s foremost musician, that Byrd sang, composed and played the organ, and it was therefore with the Chapel Royal in mind that Byrd composed his Great Service, a work of the greatest splendour, setting texts from the Book of Common Prayer for use at Mattins, Eucharist and Evensong. But this was only one side of Byrd’s life. In private, he moved in the network of England’s Catholic community, whose religious beliefs he shared, and for whom he also wrote music—initially motets, but latterly also works for liturgical use, such as the three Masses and, later, the impressive cycle called Gradualia. As Byrd grew older his allegiances shifted, and he spent less time in London and more time with the Catholics in rural Essex, where he set up home. But his retreat never became a rift. Up to his death Byrd remained loyal to his queen
[and king; Byrd died during the reign of James I] and his country, and he was tolerated at court even by those who knew of his double life. . . .

Read the rest here. The cover art is described thusly: The Madonna delle Ombre (1450, detail) by Fra Angelico (Guido di Pietro) (c1387-1455) Museo di San Marco dell'Angelico, Florence / Bridgeman Art Library, London

English Recusant Composers in StAR

I mentioned that I would share the cover of the September/October issue of the Saint Austin Review as soon as it was available, and here it is!

But I can do even more, because Joseph Pearce (I presume) chose my article as the one to represent the issue on the StAR website and you may read the article here! What a nice surprise (to me at least).

BTW, please see my updated Other Publications tab.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Baring, Over-Bearing, and Past Bearing

Frank Weathers offers some notes on Maurice Baring, friend of G.K. Chesterton and Hilaire Belloc:

What? There is a third person in the Chesterbelloc? George Bernard Shaw forgot someone? Exactly, dear reader.

See the portrait above? It’s by Sir James Gunn, and it is entitled, “The Conversation Piece.” Surely you recognize the heavyset fellow on the left, and the irascible looking fellow on the right. But who is the tall guy in the center? That would be Maurice Baring, the friend G.B. Shaw forgot.

It is said that when Chesterton saw the finished painting he quipped, “Baring, over-bearing, and past-bearing.” Joseph Pearce wrote at length about this friendship in his excellent book, Literary Converts. There is also a little article written by Pearce about him at Catholic Authors.

Baring wrote a fascinating historical novel about the English Reformation, Robert Peckham. I reviewed it for In contrast to the novels by Robert Hugh Benson, Baring daringly writes about a man who chooses neither to conform to the established church or to stand boldly against it, and suffers for his lack of action:

Baring offers a third way—also a way of trouble and suffering. Robert Peckham does not choose; as he admits at the end, he fails to speak and act when he should and as his conscience compels him: “I was most blameworthy . . . in my relations with my father. I never told him the truth; not the whole truth. . . . I never dared tell him that I saw full well that the consequence of his acts [supporting whatever changes in religious policy Henry VIII and his successors made] would be to bring about the contrary of what he desired and the ruin of all he held most dear” (p. 278). Fearing his father, who places loyalty to the monarch above family or Church, Peckham can never take the action he should to speak up, to protest, to resist.

Peckham’s father Edmund had determined that the best way to be a good Catholic was to be a good Englishman—and particularly to fulfill the oath of loyalty he made to Henry VIII to support each of his heirs without question.  Edmund Peckham thus accepts all the religious changes, including iconoclasm, suppression of the Holy Mass, heresy trials, burnings at the stake, etc.  Whatever Robert does say to his father cannot persuade him to change. Perhaps fortunately, Edmund Peckham dies at the beginning of Elizabeth I’s reign: he can still have a Catholic priest at his deathbed, but the funeral service must be according to the Book of Common Prayer.

Robert Peckham also fails in his relationships with both his wife and the woman he should have married; again because he does not speak when he should. Baring’s great achievement in this novel—which is surely aided by his choice of first person narration—is that he keeps the reader fascinated by the relationships and relative lack of action in Peckham’s life.

Robert Peckham offers us a lesson: we must choose; we must choose either life or death; either the City of God or the City of Man—and if we do not choose rightly, or if we try to avoid the choice God places before us, we will not know peace merely by avoiding conflict and confrontation. In every age, Catholic Christians have faced momentous choices. Catholics in sixteenth century England faced the great choice of loving Jesus Christ and His Church more than life itself, suffering fines, imprisonment, torture, and death. Baring structured this novel, about a fictional “Robert Peckham” who avoids that choice, around the epitaph of the real Robert Peckham in the Church of St. Gregory the Great on the Caelian Hill in Rome:

Here lies Robert Peckham, Englishman and Catholic, who after England’s break with the Church, left England because he could not live in his country without the Faith and, having come to Rome, died there because he could not live apart from his country.

As Weathers notes, Maurice Baring did choose: he became a Catholic, received into the Church at the Brompton Oratory: he said of his conversion that it was "the only action in my life which I am quite certain I have never regretted.”

Robert Peckham certainly had many regrets:

I was rash when I should have been timid, and timid when I should have been bold. . . .I should never have left England. I should have remained and resisted, or died in the attempt.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

A Trip to New York Every Month (or every other)?!

If I could, I would go for the October, November, January, and March sessions. Julia Yost, presenting "Anglo-Catholic Modernism: Writing Religious Beauty in the Modern Era" is a PhD candidate at Yale University in English. She wrote about Gerard Manley Hopkins, SJ in First Things earlier this year, exploring the supposed inverse relationship between his priestly vocation and his poetry:

Hope, of course, is totally crosswise with the critical consensus on Hopkins. Among academic critics, it is an article of faith that there is not “One Hopkins,” but rather two: There is Hopkins the Poet, and there is Hopkins the Priest. Hopkins the Poet (of whom academic critics, pace Hope, cannot get enough) wrote Hopkins’s Nature Sonnets of the 1870s. Hopkins the Priest (who they wish had never been born) wrote Hopkins’s so-called Terrible Sonnets of 1884 and following.

The Nature Sonnets are full of the quirky, technicolor “Hopkinsian” vision, hymning “all things counter, original, spare, strange; / Whatever is fickle, freckled.” They are quirky to the point of self-parody, perhaps, but commonly celebrated as a major literary achievement, an eruption of Modernist poetics fifty years early.

Whereas the Terrible Sonnets, written during the miserable five years in Dublin that would kill him at forty-five (open sewers, typhoid), are done in black-and-white. They warn starkly of “two flocks, two folds—black, white; right, wrong; reckon but, reck but, mind / But these two.” Everybody is in one “flock” or the other, bound for heaven or for hell. Every action tends either to salvation or to damnation. (Hopkins was a Jesuit, back when that meant something.) These poems are less vibrant than the Nature Sonnets, less baroque, less original, less “Hopkinsian” in short.

So you can paint by numbers the common critical picture of Hopkins’s artistic decline. The more dogmatic, the less poetic. You can be a Poet or a Priest, orthodox or original, a dogmatist or an artist.

Now, of course these binaries are nonsense. Biographically speaking, Hopkins had been a Priest when he wrote the Nature Sonnets, and he was still a Poet when he wrote the Terrible Sonnets. Of course the Terrible Sonnets are less colorful than the earlier works—but they are no less poetic and original. Hopkins’s much-lamented dogmatism was what allowed him to discern divine design in unlikely places. This vision was the wellspring of his originality, and it was operating in Dublin as impressively as before—perhaps more so.

I would presume that Julia Yost will mention Hopkins in her January 17 lecture at the Catholic Artists Society lecture series.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Pope St. Pius X and Holy Communion

I wrote this for the Pray the Mass website which shut down last year. I thought it was appropriate to bring it back to the web for the 100th anniversary of Pope St. Pius X's death--his is feast, however, is tomorrow:

Although we may think of the Middle Ages as a time of great faith and devotion to the Holy Eucharist, Catholics did not receive Holy Communion often. As the late Eric Ives pointed out in his 2013 study, The Reformation Experience, 16th century Catholics in England demonstrated great devotion to the Blessed Sacrament. At Sunday Mass, they were most attentive at the moment of consecration, worshipping the Body and the Blood of Jesus as the priest elevated the Host and the Chalice. At great shrines and cathedrals, the faithful wanted to see the Precious Body and Blood as each Mass was celebrated in separate chapels. The Feast of Corpus Christi was instantly popular in England with its processions and special sequence and hymns. During Holy Week, the Sarum rite vigil protecting the consecrated Host from Good Friday to Easter also demonstrates their devotion to the Real Presence. The one thing they did not do is receive Holy Communion often. They were obligated to receive during the Easter Season (Easter Duty), but the practice of frequent Communion had fallen off during the Middle Ages.

The Council of Trent addressed this issue of Catholic laity not receiving Holy Communion and urged frequent reception of the Eucharist by the laity at Mass, provided that they were free of Mortal Sin. Many of the great religious orders founded after the Reformation, like the Society of Jesus, the Oratorians, the Redemptorists, and others, encouraged the laity to receive Holy Communion and also aided the laity with devotions and prayers.

Jansenism, a heretical movement beginning in France during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, discouraged frequent Communion. Pope St. Pius X referred to this problem in his “Sacra Tridentina: On Frequent and Daily Reception of Holy Communion,” issued on December 20, 1905:

Piety, however, grew cold, and especially afterward because of the widespread plague of Jansenism, disputes began to arise concerning the dispositions with which one ought to receive frequent and daily Communion; and writers vied with one another in demanding more and more stringent conditions as necessary to be fulfilled. The result of such disputes was that very few were considered worthy to receive the Holy Eucharist daily, and to derive from this most health-giving Sacrament its more abundant fruits; the others were content to partake of it once a year, or once a month, or at most once a week. To such a degree, indeed, was rigorism carried that whole classes of persons were excluded from a frequent approach to the Holy Table, for instance, merchants or those who were married. 

Jansenism required such rigorous standards of preparation because of its overall belief “that there are some commands of God which just men cannot keep, no matter how hard they wish and strive” as stated in one of the five propositions condemned by Pope Innocent X in 1653.

Although, as Pope St. Pius X wrote, several of his predecessors made statements against these rigorist views,

The poison of Jansenism, however, which, under the pretext of showing due honor and reverence to the Eucharist, had infected the minds even of good men, was by no means a thing of the past. The question as to the dispositions for the proper and licit reception of Holy Communion survived the declarations of the Holy See, and it was a fact that certain theologians of good repute were of the opinion that daily Communion could be permitted to the faithful only rarely and subject to many conditions.

The Pope pointed out that others went to the opposite extreme:

They held that daily Communion was prescribed by divine law and that no day should pass without communicating, and besides other practices not in accord with the approved usage of the Church, they determined that the Eucharist must be received even on Good Friday and in fact so administered it.

(Note that he was writing before the major revision of the Holy Week liturgy, which now includes a Communion service on Good Friday with Hosts consecrated at Mass on Holy Thursday.)

So Pope St. Pius X stated unequivocally that members of the laity were to be encouraged to receive Holy Communion frequently, even daily, as long as they had the correct disposition and were not in a state of Mortal Sin. He called on both factions to unite around this discipline and not place obstacles in the way of the lay faithful. For this document, and his decision on the proper age for First Holy Communion, Pope St. Pius X became known as “the Pope of the Eucharist”.

In 1910 he approved a “Decree of the Sacred Congregation of the Discipline of the Sacraments on First Communion” setting the age of discretion or reason at about age seven. Inspired by the verse from the Synoptic Gospels: "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for of such is the kingdom of God”; he again urged that the Church unite around this discipline because of the sacramental benefits of Holy Communion.

Giuseppe Sarto succeeded Pope Leo XIII in 1903 and began his reign at Pope Pius X with the motto “To Restore all Things in Christ” (Ephesians 1:10). Among other liturgical reforms, he also revised the Breviary and issued the motu proprio “Tra le Sollecitudini” in 1903 soon after becoming pope encouraging not only the revival of Gregorian chant in the celebration of Mass, but active participation by the laity in chant. He acknowledged progress in the arts by commending the use of Renaissance polyphony (especially the works of Palestrina), but warned against any “theatrical” or “profane” influences in liturgical music.

Pope Pius X died in on August 20, 1914 at the beginning of World War I and was succeeded by Benedict XV. In 1954 he was canonized and his feast is on August 21 (since St. Bernard of Clairvaux’s feast is on August 20).

Pope St. Pius X, the Pope of the Eucharist, pray for us!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Preview of StAR's September/October Issue

The William Byrd Festival is in progress in Portland, Oregon with its concluding events coming up this weekend. The reason I lead off with this notice is that I have an article about Byrd and other recusant composers coming out in the September/October issue of the St. Austin Review (plus a book review).

According to Joseph Pearce, who ought to know:

The theme of the next issue of the St. Austin Review is “Recusants and Martyrs: English Resistance to the Tudor Terror”.

-Shaun Blanchard views St. Thomas More as the Ideal Christian
-Joseph Pearce connects Shakespeare and St. Thomas More
-Mark Amorose waxes poetical about Recusants
-Anne Barbeau Gardiner discovers Secret Hiding Places: Recusant Houses and Priest-Holes Made by a Saint
  • Stephanie A. Mann reads between the lines in her survey of Tudor Church Music and Revisionist History
-T. Renee Kozinski looks iconically at St. Edmund Campion and the Tyburn Tree
-John Beaumont tells the tale of A Remarkable Convert Priest, Resisting the Tudor Terror
-Stephen Brady condemns The Murder of Merrie England
-Brendan King admires The Picture that Painted a Poem, explaining How an Italian Masterpiece Inspired an English Saint
-Trevor Lipscombe elegizes Our Lady’s Dowry
-Susan Treacy muses on William Byrd’s Gradualia
-M. J. Needham praises the Art of Katie Schmid in the full colour art feature
-Kevin O’Brien tackles Modern Persecution and the Catholic Church
-James Bemis checks off Schindler’s List in his ongoing survey of the Vatican’s List of “great films”
-Fr. Benedict Kiely contemplates the meaning of the priesthood
-Donald DeMarco spies A Ray of Hope for the Family in Quebec
-Michael Lichens remembers Stratford Caldecott
-Carol Anne Jones reviews Was Shakespeare Catholic? by Peter Milward
  • Stephanie A. Mann reviews Catholics of the Anglican Patrimony by Aidan Nicholls
-Carol Anne Jones reviews Anne Line: Shakespeare’s Tragic Muse by Martin Dodwell
-Mark Newcomb reviews The One Thomas More by Travis Curtright

I'll post the cover as soon as it is available!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Mosul Today and England Yesterday

Father Christopher Colven, rector of St. James, Spanish Place, offers these reflections on the current state of affairs in Mosul, Iraq and in the England during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries:

The Christian communities of Iraq are among the oldest that have existed and it is particularly painful to see the witness of 2,000 years persecuted and dispersed. As our bishops reminded us last weekend, the Eucharist will have been celebrated in Mosul for the best part of two millennia – but now no more – no altar, no priest, no Christian people. We must continue to pray and do whatever we can for our brothers and sisters as they seek a new security, but it does us well to remember that what we take so easily for granted is a great privilege denied to many in our own times, and that there were many sad years here in England when the state forbade the celebration of the Mass. The reredos above the Martyrs altar in Saint Michael’s Chapel (this is the original which has been reproduced in many other Catholic churches) depicts a few of those who were willing to make the ultimate sacrifice of their own lives for the sake of the Mass. Several of those depicted were ordinary working people - John Roche, the Thames lighterman, together with three housewives Margaret Clitheroe, Anne Line and Margaret Ward – all of them martyred for trying to ensure that, despite every attempt to frustrate them, the Holy Sacrifice would continue to be offered on English soil.

Father Colven goes on to highlight our proper dispositions for receiving Holy Communion at Mass, citing Pope St. Pius X, whose memorial we will celebrate on Thursday this week:

The new Bishop of East Anglia has recently made the point that we are in danger of losing our grasp on the Eucharistic Mystery: because the Mass is now so easily available (a minimum of three Masses each weekday here at Spanish Place alone) and Holy Communion is received as a matter of course (often without any real time of preparation) we can become blasé in approaching the Bread of Life. It was Saint Pius X at the beginning of the last century who encouraged all Catholics to make their Holy Communion as regularly as possible – and that is clearly a very good thing to do – but Saint Paul issues a stern warning in his dealings with the Corinthian Christians about any failure to “discern the Lord’s Body” when doing so: we must never treat holy things in a casual way. “Everyone is to recollect themselves before eating this bread and drinking this cup because a person who eats and drinks without recognising the Body is eating and drinking his own condemnation” (1 Corinthians 11:28).

Then he brings us back to the memory of the English Catholic martyrs who were willing to suffer so much for the sake of the Holy Eucharist, the source and summit of our Catholic faith:

The current suffering of so many of those who are with us “in Christ", as well as the particular history of the Catholic Church in these islands, should give  pause for thought and the opportunity to think out afresh what the celebration of the Eucharist means to us.  Tyburn Tree, where so many of countrymen and women accepted terrible deaths is only a few hundred yards from Saint James’s doors – “lest we forget”. Mother Teresa of Calcutta caused a notice to be  put up in the sacristy of each of her convents worldwide: it was an admonition to the celebrant – but it applies as well to the faithful gathered around any altar: “O priest of God, offer this Mass as if it were your first … and as if it were your last”.

Image credit.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Mr. Darcy Proposes Again

My husband and I went to see Woody Allen's new movie, Magic in the Moonlight with Colin Firth as a melancholy magician who sets out to prove that Emma Stone, the supposed psychic medium is a fraud. Of course, he ends up falling in love with her--it's a rather lightweight Woody Allen movie and its supposed discussion of whether there is anything beyond this life on earth is really beside the point of the movie. It's set in 1928 in the south of France (Coe d'Azur and Provence), the costumes are excellent and the music is fun.

Colin Firth, however, must have experienced a moment of deja vu as he played his character, Stanley, because as he proposed to Sophie he seems to be channeling (just to use one of Sophie's terms) another character. Stanley's proposal of marriage is diffident and proud, just as Mr. Darcy's was to Elizabeth in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice:

"In vain I have struggled.  It will not do.  My feelings will not be repressed.  You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you."
Elizabeth's astonishment was beyond expression. She stared, coloured, doubted, and was silent. This he considered sufficient encouragement; and the avowal of all that he felt, and had long felt for her, immediately followed. He spoke well; but there were feelings besides those of the heart to be detailed; and he was not more eloquent on the subject of tenderness than of pride. His sense of her inferiority-- of its being a degradation-- of the family obstacles which had always opposed to inclination, were dwelt on with a warmth which seemed due to the consequence he was wounding, but was very unlikely to recommend his suit.

In spite of her deeply-rooted dislike, she could not be insensible to the compliment of such a man's affection, and though her intentions did not vary for an instant, she was at first sorry for the pain he was to receive; till, roused to resentment by his subsequent language, she lost all compassion in anger. She tried, however, to compose herself to answer him with patience, when he should have done. He concluded with representing to her the strength of that attachment which, in spite of all his endeavours, he had found impossible to conquer; and with expressing his hope that it would now be rewarded by her acceptance of his hand. As he said this, she could easily see that he had no doubt of a favourable answer. He spoke of apprehension and anxiety, but his countenance expressed real security. Such a circumstance could only exasperate farther, and, when he ceased, the colour rose into her cheeks, and she said:

"In such cases as this, it is, I believe, the established mode to express a sense of obligation for the sentiments avowed, however unequally they may be returned. It is natural that obligation should be felt, and if I could feel gratitude, I would now thank you. But I cannot-- I have never desired your good opinion, and you have certainly bestowed it most unwillingly. I am sorry to have occasioned pain to anyone. It has been most unconsciously done, however, and I hope will be of short duration. The feelings which, you tell me, have long prevented the acknowledgment of your regard, can have little difficulty in overcoming it after this explanation."
You can watch Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy both insult Elizabeth's family and social connections while expressing his love even though it's unreasonable and irresponsible of him in this clip from 1995 BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice:
 It's a long way from Jane Austen to Woody Allen!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Elena Maria Vidal on Diane de Poitiers and Anne Boleyn

Historical fiction author Elena Maria Vidal discusses a biography of French king Henri II's long-time mistress Diane de Poitiers and compares and contrasts two royal marital triangles: Henri II-Catherine de Medici-Diane de Poitiers and Henry VIII-Katherine of Aragon-Anne Boleyn:

The Moon Mistress by Jehanne d'Orliac is a 1930 biography of the beloved mistress of Henri II of France. After reading about Henri's queen, Catherine de Medici, and taking her side, I thought it only fair to see what anyone had to say on Diane's behalf. By the way, I tend to take the side of the legitimate wife in such situations; I do so in the Catherine/Henri/Diane triangle as in the Katherine/Henry VIII/Anne Boleyn fiasco. One thing I have learned in Diane's favor, to put it gingerly, is that if Diane had wanted she could have talked Henri into annulling Catherine and marrying herself.  She could have been Queen. She had complete dominion over her Henri in a way that Anne never had over her own Henry, except perhaps for a passing year or two. Instead, Diane did everything she could to strengthen Henri's marriage by encouraging him to sleep with his wife and beget progeny. There are several practical reasons for this: Diane was twenty years older than Henri and knew that Catherine had a better chance of bearing children for France, which she did. The bottom line, however, is that in spite of her scandalous relationship with the king, Diane was more conservative than Anne; she despised the new religious ideas which fascinated the latter and never wavered in her support for the Roman Catholic Church. Diane, strangely enough, is one reason why France and the royal family remained Catholic.

Why do I keep dragging in Anne Boleyn? Anne and Diane were both ladies-in-waiting to Queen Claude of France and must surely have known each other. Even then, Diane was the more conservative, preferring the the staid household of Queen Claude to the licentious court at large. Anne, according to d'Orliac's book, finding the placid routine of the Queen to be deadly dull, asked to be transferred to the more lively service of the Duchessse d'Alençon. Diane, by that time, was already happily married to Louis de Brézé, a much older man known as the Grant' Sénéchal. He adored his young wife and after his death she wore mourning for the rest of her life, as well as the title of the Grant Sénéchalle.

Until she became Henri's mistress, Diane was known for her chastity and faithfulness to her husband and to his memory, and for her dedication to bringing up her daughters in a proper Christian manner. She was an outdoorsy sort and lived for the hunt, in accord with her name. Her early education had been flawless. Diane had been brought up in the court of the regent Anne de Beaujeu, daughter of Louis XI, who ruled during the minority of her brother Charles VIII. Anne made certain all the girls in her care were thoroughly versed in music, literature, history and the classics. In Anne's household, Diane also learned how to be a great lady and skilled courtier. She was known for her integrity, grace, intellect, and charities. This was no small feat.

The Renaissance, though much-lauded as a time for rediscovering the learning and cultural riches of ancient Greece and Rome, brought with it a renewed fascination with paganism, the occult, and alchemy, as well as a general decadence which permeated the great courts of Europe, including the papal court. Such decadence and total disregard of morality spurred on the Protestant "reformers" who offered a "pure" Christianity. Diane found herself a widow with young daughters caught amid a power struggle with the Reformers for control of the French throne. The mistress of Henri's father Francis I leaned towards the Protestants, whereas Henri's  Catholic wife, the young Catherine Medici, was deeply enthralled with her astrologers and alchemists. Diane, as royal mistress, a queen in all but name, kept Henri, his children, and his court from chaos through her ability to manage people as well as finances and prickly situations. Under Henri II, France recovered from the debts of Francis I while experiencing a flourishing of the arts.

Read the rest here.

By the way, Elena Maria Vidal is preparing her latest novel for publication--she sent me the manuscript for review a couple of months ago and I contributed a back cover blurb--and now she's sent me a proof copy. The Paradise Tree is set for release in October this year and I highly recommend it. She is also raising some funds to cover publication and marketing expenses. Read more here.