Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Miracle of Miracles in Holy Week

I love being Catholic every Passiontide and Holy Week. Our Church has a series of rituals and special hymns to accompany us on the journey from Passion Sunday through Palm Sunday and the Triduum to Easter Sunday:

~Veiling the statues
~Receiving and blessing palms
~Processing with palms
~Washing the feet of 12 men
~Stripping the Altars
~Processing with the Eucharist
~Reposing the Eucharist
~Adoration at the Altar of Repose
~The empty, silent church on Good Friday, without His Presence
~The open Tabernacle doors
~Reading the Passion
~Venerating the Cross
~Lighting the Easter Fire
~Marking and Lighting the Easter Candle
~The Exsultet
~The bells ringing when the Gloria is sung at the Easter Vigil
~The Elect receiving the Sacraments of Initiation
~Candidates receiving Confirmation and First Holy Communion
~The renewal of Baptismal promises

These are the Roman Rite rituals that I'm familiar with; I know that many of these rituals are observed in other Christian communities, but they are fundamentally Catholic rituals, and they remind me how blessed I am to be a Catholic.

Robert Royal writes in a different way about the blessings--the miracle--of being Catholic in his reflection on the greatest miracle of all, that in spite of all that Catholics and outsiders do to Jesus's Church, it endures:

Ezra Pound once felt the need to observe: “Any institution that could survive the picturesqueness of the Borgias has a certain native resiliency.” But it’s not only the Borgias. The number of things that we clearly see the Church has survived is quite impressive, indeed unprecedented compared with any other human institution: The death of Jesus. The betrayal of all the apostles (not just Judas). The martyrdom of all the apostles (except for John). Early heresies (so many they would require a separate list). Persecution and martyrdom by the Roman Empire. Acceptance by the Roman Empire. Collapse of the Roman Empire. Barbarian invasions. Saracen invasions (Old St. Peter’s itself sacked in 846). Conflicts with medieval (Christian) kings and emperors. Medieval heresies (Albigenses, Franciscan Spirituals, etc.). The Fall of Byzantium. Renaissance corruption. The Reformation (Rome sacked again in 1527 by the Lutheran troops of Catholic Holy Roman Emperor Charles V). The wars of religion. Late assaults by the Turks. Baroque corruptions. Pascal’s Jesuits. Kings claiming divine rights. Revolutions claiming absolute power. Napoleon. Freemasonry. Liberalism. Socialism. Nazism. Communism. Darwinism. Limp modern liturgies. Priestly sexual abuse. “Women religious” who believe in the Goddess or the cosmic process or whatever, and are proud of it.

This is just a partial list, which would at a minimum also need to recognize the constant presence of bad bishops and priests, and an ever-fickle laity. Under such circumstances – and given the tendency of all things to decay over time, it’s a miracle – perhaps, in a way, the greatest miracle of Christianity, that the Catholic Thing has survived, as Aquinas suggested. If we believe that Jesus is the God who created the universe, his rising from the dead was mere child’s play. Keeping together billions of fallen human beings, whom God has taken the risk of endowing with the freedom to choose their own ways, in a real historical Communion via the fragile earthen vessel we call the Church, may very well require even more divine powers. 

Also, every Holy Week when I experience these rituals, I think how horrible it would be to lose these outward representations--some are sacramentals and some are Sacraments--of the great Paschal Mystery. The Catholic people of England lost these rituals, and many others in the Sarum Use, in the sixteenth century. They were taken away in the name of preventing superstition but these rituals were not superstitious; the Church had developed these rituals to remind people of all that Jesus had done for His people, the Church. 

The rituals of Holy Week were taken away because the reformers did not trust the unity between Jesus and His Church; the reformers were complicating the matter in a way that St. Joan of Arc had warned against: "About Jesus Christ and the Church, I simply know they are just one thing and we shouldn't complicate the matter." Because the English reformers complicated the matter, the Catholic people of England ended up with palmless Palm Sundays, candleless Candlemases and ashless Ash Wednesdays not to mention Shrovetide without Confession and Communion without the Real Presence. So within a couple of generations, they weren't the Catholic people of England anymore and yet a few endured, suffered, survived and revived three centuries later--which is another miracle indeed.

Of course anything good can be abused; even replacing rituals with a non-ritual can be abused and even reading the Bible could be abused superstitiously. Our Christian faith is an incarnational religion that unites the human and Divine in the great mystery and miracle of Jesus and His Church, His Bride for whom He lived and died and rose and lives always. The Catholic Church, messy and sinful as we certainly are with people like me among us, displays that mystery most miraculously every Passiontide, Holy Week, and Triduum.

Both pictures provided and copyright by Mark U. Mann (c) 2013-2015; used by permission. (Holy Week afternoon at Blessed Sacrament; Easter Sunday at St. Anthony of Padua.)

Monday, March 30, 2015

Music for Holy Week from the Chapel of King's College, Cambridge

We venerate the wood of thy Cross, O thou who lovest mankind, for upon it thou, the life of all, was nailed. 

O Saviour, thou hast opened Paradise to the thief who turned to thee in faith, and thou hast counted him worthy of blessedness when he confessed to thee crying, 'O Lord remember me!' 

Accept us like him, as we cry: ‘We all have sinned, in thy merciful kindness despise us not.’ 

Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross; Orthodox. 

King's College, Cambridge is releasing a series of videos made inside the College Chapel featuring the stained glass windows depicting scenes of the Passion:

The films will feature Philharmonia Voices in a specially recorded performance of Grier’s Sword in the Soul, a seven-movement Passiontide sequence for choir, organ and virtuoso cello solo.

Interwoven with the footage of the Grier performance, and using it as a driving narrative force, the films explore the Passion story as portrayed in the famous stained glass windows.

The films focus on the majestic sequence of windows at the East end of the Chapel, which depict a dramatic succession of scenes including Christ before Pilate, Christ carrying the cross, his nailing to the cross, the crucifixion on Golgotha, and finally the deposition from the cross.

By exploring the windows in high resolution, the films will show the extraordinary detail of the stained glass in a way that is almost impossible for anyone viewing the windows from the floor of the Chapel.

The seven films last between two and five minutes, each one exploring a different aspect or episode of the Holy Week narrative. They will be released one by one on the King’s College website during the course of Holy Week in 2015, starting on Palm Sunday, 29 March, and culminating on Holy Saturday, 4 April.

The text of Sword in the Soul is here. More about the composition:

Grier’s Sword in the Soul was originally written in 1991 for a BBC Radio 4 broadcast, but it has not yet been commercially recorded. The imagery of the work’s sung texts, drawn from sources as diverse as the Orthodox liturgy and a 14th -century lyric poem, is particularly striking, making its 7- movement structure particularly well-suited to this visual treatment as a succession of contrasting video tableaux. As a BBC Radio 4 commission for Passiontide broadcast, Sword in the Soul was deliberately written by Grier in his most accessible and ravishing style, and this project will build on the work’s original aims by again ‘broadcasting’ it to a wide audience in Passiontide via the online release of the videos over Holy Week. 

This project is part of the 500th anniversary celebrations at the Chapel.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Jesus and Donkeys

We know that Jesus rode on a donkey for His triumphant entry into Jerusalem from the Gospels  to fulfill the prophecy of Zechariah: “Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” Giotto includes the entry in his frescoes of the life of Christ in the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua. (Look at the little smile on the donkey's face.)

There is also a tradition that Mary, carrying Jesus in her womb, rode on a donkey from Nazareth to Bethlehem--it is usually accepted that she would have ridden on a donkey on the way to Egypt after the murder of the Innocent baby boys by Herod. The Holy Family was not rich, so a donkey to carry the pregnant Mary and to carry Mary and the child Jesus is a reasonable assumption, but it's certainly not in scripture. Giotto pictures the donkey carrying Mary and Jesus to Egypt in same life cycle:

There is a lovely picture book titled The Donkey's Dream, which depicts the donkey carrying Mary to Bethlehem dreaming of what he is carrying: a city, a ship, a fountain, a rose, then a “lady full of heaven”, all images of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

So the humble work animal, the ass, might have carried Jesus to His birth in Bethlehem's stable, into Egypt (and perhaps back?) and certainly to His Passion, Death, and Resurrection in Jerusalem.

The seer Malle in H.F.M. Prescott's great chronicle of the Dissolution of the Monasteries and the Pilgrimage of Grace The Man on a Donkey sees Jesus come riding on a donkey over the bridge to Grinton. Her only message is "There was a great wind of light blowing, and sore pain." That echoes Mary's message to King Alfred the Great in Chesterton's epic poem The Ballad of the White Horse:

"I tell you naught for your comfort, 
 Yea, naught for your desire, 
 Save that the sky grows darker yet 
 And the sea rises higher. 

 "Night shall be thrice night over you, 
 And heaven an iron cope. 
 Do you have joy without a cause, 
 Yea, faith without a hope?"

Mentioning Chesterton brings me to his great poem on the donkey who carried Jesus into Jerusalem. Like the donkey dreaming in the children's book I linked above, Chesterton's donkey knows something great has happened:

When fishes flew and forests walked
And figs grew upon thorn,
Some moment when the moon was blood
Then surely I was born.

With monstrous head and sickening cry
And ears like errant wings,
The devil’s walking parody
On all four-footed things.

The tattered outlaw of the earth,
Of ancient crooked will;
Starve, scourge, deride me: I am dumb,
I keep my secret still.

Fools! For I also had my hour
One far fierce hour and sweet:
There was a shout about my ears,
And palms before my feet.

Hosanna to the Son of David! The King of Glory comes!

Saturday, March 28, 2015

The First Saturday in May: St. Thomas More

This is a bargain, folks, if I do say so myself: I'll be making a presentation at the Spiritual Life Center here in Wichita on Saturday, May 2 on St. Thomas More. From the Spiritual Life Center website:

The Real Saint Thomas More
A discussion and objection to the portrayal of St. Thomas More in the currently running miniseries on PBS "Wolf Hall"
Stephanie Mann

The 1966 movie
A Man for All Seasons has been the most popular and familiar depiction of St. Thomas More. Based on Robert Bolt’s play, the movie presents More as a family man, a man of conscience, faith, good humor, wit, and of course bravery. Hilary Mantel’s novel Wolf Hall and the BBC miniseries based on it, now airing on PBS on Masterpiece Theatre, give a very different view of St. Thomas More.

Mann will present this morning program at the Spiritual Life Center on Saturday, May 2 from 9:30 to 11:00 a.m. She will discuss the life and martyrdom of St. Thomas More and review some of the controversies of his era, including state prosecution of religious heresy and the issues of loyalties to secular and religious authority.

“One of the headlines in England when the miniseries first aired asked ‘Sir Thomas More: Saint or Sinner?’ and the answer is yes,” said Mann, “so we’ll reexamine what it means to be proclaimed a saint in the Catholic Church. It certainly does not mean that a saint never committed a sin.”

St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More were canonized as martyrs in 1935 by Pope Pius XI and Pope St. John Paul II named St. Thomas More the Patron of Statesmen and Politicians in 2000. More is also the patron saint of lawyers, large families, and adoption.

The cost for attending this presentation? Time, of course, and transportation--but the Spiritual Life Center's fee is only $10.00!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Sir Thomas Elyot's Connections with Thomas More

Sir Thomas Elyot, born around 1490, son of Sir Richard Elyot, died March 26, 1546. According to The Cambridge History of English and American Literature, Volume III Renascence and Reformation:

Elyot had no university training. He was educated at home and, at a comparatively early age, had acquired a good knowledge of Latin, Greek and Italian. He says that, before he was twenty, he had read Galen and other medical writings with a “worshipful physician,” conjectured to have been Linacre.

His earliest work, The Boke of the Governour, the best known of his writings, made him famous and probably proved his introduction to the career as a diplomatic agent in which he spent the greater part of his life. It is a lengthy and exhaustive treatise on the education which those who are destined to govern ought to receive. It begins with a discussion of the various kinds of commonwealths, and sets forth the advantages of monarchy, aristocracy and democracy. The author decides that monarchy is the best form of government; but it demands the appointment of subordinate rulers over the various parts of the kingdom who are to be the eyes, ears, hands and legs of the supreme ruler. They ought to be taken from the “estate called worshipful,” provided they have sufficient virtue and knowledge, but they must be carefully educated. It is the more necessary to insist upon this as education is not valued as it ought to be. Pride looks upon learning as a “notable reproach to a great gentleman,” and lords are apt to ask the price of tutors as they demand the qualification of cooks. . . . 

Elyot’s reputation among his contemporaries rested on more than his Boke of the Governour. He wrote The Castel of Helth, full of prescriptions and remedies largely selected from Galen and other medical authorities of antiquity. His two tracts: A swete and devoute sermon of Holy Saynt Ciprian, of Mortalitie of Man and The Rules of a Christian lyfe made by Picus, erle of Mirandula, both translated into Englyshe, provided food for the soul. His translations from Latin and Greek into English, made at a time when all were anxious to share in classical learning, and only a few possessed a knowledge of the classical languages sufficient to enable them to share its benefits, were very popular and were reprinted over and over again. To this class belong: The Doctrine of Princes, made by the noble oratour Isocrates, and translated out of Greke in to Englishe; The Bankette of Science (a collection of sayings translated from the Fathers); The Education or Bringinge up of Children, translated out of Plutarche; The Image of Governance, compiled of the actes and sentences notable of the moste noble Emperour Alexander Severus, late translated out of Greke into Englyshe and others of a like kind. Henry VIII himself encouraged Elyot in the compilation on his Latin-English lexicon: The Dictionary of Syr T. Eliot, knyght, with its later title, Bibliotheca Eliotae. This dictionary and his translations continued to be appreciated in a wonderful manner for two generations at least. If Erasmus popularised the classical renascence for scholars, Elyot rendered it accessible to the mass of the people who had no acquaintance with the languages of antiquity.

Elyot was also a friend of Sir Thomas More, a friendship with did not help him at Court during the 1530's. He acknowledged that friendship but protested his loyalty to Henry VIII was greater. When he traveled on diplomatic missions to persuade Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor to be more positive about Henry VIII's annulment of his marriage to Katherine of Aragon, he was accused of being lukewarm in his efforts. Although Elyot was involved in the suppression of the monasteries, but he did not benefit or receive any spoils. Like More, he was a proponent of education for women and he married one of Thomas More's students, Margaret Barrow. In 1540 he wrote The Defence of Good Women, espousing the view that an educated wife would be an excellent companion for her husband. Queen Zenobia of Palmyra in that book may represent Queen Katherine of Aragon, who was certainly well-educated and concerned for the education of the Princess Mary.

According to this review of Greg Walker's 2005 bookWriting Under Tyranny: English Literature and the Henrician Reformation, Elyot was indeed frustrated by his lack of success in Henry's Court:

The five chapters in section two describe and discuss the works of Sir Thomas Elyot within the context of the King's 'Great Matter', and the repeated frustrations of Elyot's desire for public office. Elyot's literary career apparently tracked his political one as he moved from the early optimism of his prescriptive work, The Book Named the Governor (1530–31), to the later reworking of classical Roman history in The Image of Governance (1540–41), which is read here, alongside Uwe Baumann's arguments from 1998–9 (for example), as a satire on contemporary life. Elyot's preface to this later book only paid lip-service to 'a measured defence of the Henrician via media' (p. 160), as Professor Walker, following George Bernard, describes Henry's 'chosen' religious policy of these years.

Elyot's fruitless search for a job at the centre of government, in particular a place on the privy council, and his real or imagined sense of grievance against Thomas Cranmer who succeeded where Elyot failed, is a familiar story. Its poignancy and its impact on his writing have also been discussed by Elyot's several biographers and by Professor Walker, briefly, in another book, but the detail and the clarity of its exposition here are to be welcomed. This section has a good narrative structure, and gives Elyot's story a satisfying emotional, as well as intellectual, coherence.

Elyot was on another diplomatic mission to the Court of the Holy Roman Emperor when Thomas More was tried, condemned and executed. He heard of his friend's death from Charles V, and was much distressed. Elyot did not profit at all from his work for Henry VIII because as a diplomat he bore the expenses of travel and hospitality. He had an estate in Carlton, Cambridgeshire and was buried in St. Peter's Church there.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

March 25: An Extraordinary Day

On March 25, 1586, St. Margaret Clitherow was pressed to death in the Toll Booth on the Ouse Bridge in the city of York--it was Good Friday that year. More about the Pearl of York here. She is one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales.

Today is also the Solemnity of the Annunciation of Our Lord, which was once a Holyday of Obligation (and should be again, I think). Only nine months until Christmas! John Mason Neale translated a hymn by Venantius Fortunatus, Quem terra, pontus, aethera thus:

The God whom earth, and sea, and sky,
Adore, and laud, and magnify,
Who o’er their threefold fabric reigns,
The virgin’s spotless womb contains.

The God whose will by moon and sun
And all things in due course is done,
Is borne upon a maiden’s breast,
By fullest heavenly grace possessed.

How blest the mother, in whose shrine
The great Artificer Divine,
Whose hand contains the earth and sky,
Vouchsafed, as in His ark, to lie!

Blest, in the message Gabriel brought;
Blest, by the work the Spirit wrought:
From whom the Great Desire of earth
Took human flesh and human birth.

All honor, laud, and glory be,
O Jesu, virgin-born, to Thee!
All glory, as is ever meet,
To Father and to Paraclete.

Here is a performance of the original Latin hymn in a composition by William Byrd.

Today is also Maryland Day, commemorating March 25, 1634 when the Ark and Dove (pictured left on a three cent stamp) landed in what is now St. Mary's County, Maryland. George Calvert, Lord Baltimore, a revert to the Catholic faith, founded a colony where Catholics could practice their faith as Protestants. More about Maryland Day here.

Finally, this is Tolkien Reading Day, celebrated every March 25 since 2003 by the Tolkien Society--March 25 is the date of the destruction of the Ring, and thus the Fall of Sauron. This Dominican blog unpacks more of the symbolism and significance of this day:

In a seemingly insignificant detail in one of the appendices of his masterpiece, The Lord of the Rings, J. R. R. Tolkien notes that the destruction of the One Ring and the defeat of Sauron took place on March 25. What might have led Tolkien to date the destruction of the ring with such precision? Being a devout Catholic, Tolkien most likely was subtly weaving into his work an ancient Christian tradition regarding the Solemnity of the Annunciation, the feast the Church celebrates today.

According to this tradition, the date of the Annunciation coincided with a number of significant events in salvation history. March 25 was not only the day on which Christ was conceived in Our Lady’s womb; it was also the day of the creation of the world, the day Adam and Eve fell, the day Abraham (nearly) sacrificed his son Isaac, the day the Israelites were set free from Egypt, and the day of the crucifixion. . . .

While Tolkien probably set the destruction of the ring on March 25th more for its association with the crucifixion than with the Annunciation, the two are intimately linked – the incarnation is ordered to the crucifixion (and, with it, the resurrection).

Tolkien’s use of this tradition illustrates an important aspect of the incarnation and the cross. While the destruction of the ring meant the defeat of Sauron, this did not put to an end all of Middle Earth’s troubles. The members of the fellowship still had work to do. Similarly, though the incarnation and the cross spell the defeat of Satan, we, too, have work to do. And like Frodo, our success will come not through earthly power, but by humility. For it was by the humility that characterized Mary, the New Eve, that she untied the knot of the first Eve, and it was by His humility that Christ overcame death (Phil 2:5-11). May she who is full of grace obtain for us the graces we need to participate in Christ’s humility and to obey Him in whatever tasks He gives us. 

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Saints and Sinners: Richard III

From Vincent Cardinal Nichols's homily at the Mass for Richard III, celebrated at Holy Cross Church, the Catholic parish church and Dominican priory on Monday, March 23:

This evening we fulfil a profound and essential Christian duty: that of praying for the dead, for the repose of their eternal souls. Here we pray for King Richard III, ‘King of England and France and Lord of Ireland’ to use a title he ascribed to himself. This is a remarkable moment.

The prayer we offer for him this evening is the best prayer there is: the offering of the Holy Mass, the prayer of Jesus himself, made complete in the oblation of his body and blood on the altar of the cross, present here for us on this altar. This is the summit of all prayer, for it is made in and through the one person, the eternal Word, through whom all created beings have life. It is a prayer that arises from the very core of creation, the cry of the Word returning to the Father and carrying within it the totality of that creation, marred and broken in its history, yet still longing for the completion for which it has been created. It is, therefore, such an important Catholic tradition to seek the celebration of Mass for the repose of the souls of those who have died, especially for each of our loved ones whose passing we mourn. Let us not forget or neglect this great gift. . . .

. . . this evening we pray that the merciful judgement of our loving God is extended to him in every degree, for we know that it is only the gift of God’s mercy that protects us from the demands of God’s justice.

I am much relieved that this evening we are not required to come to any such judgement ourselves. Indeed the judgement of our fellow human being is only of passing consequence for we know how fickle that judgement can be. This we see most clearly as reflection continues on the dramatic years of the House of Tudor in both fiction and historical research: saints are recast as sinners and sinners can become saints. But that is not our business. . . .

This evening we pray that this promise of the Lord is indeed fulfilled. We offer this holy Mass that even while his remains are lying in the Cathedral nearby, his soul is united with God in the glory of heaven there to await the final resurrection of all things in Christ.

This was the hope he held in his heart. This is the hope we hold for ourselves and our loved ones too. We share this one hope and the faith and love which accompany it. In this grace we pray for this dead King and we pray that the kingship in Christ, given to us all, may truly guide our lives and make us builders of that eternal Kingdom here in our world today.

I appreciate the Cardinal's glancing reference to Wolf Hall and how Thomas More the saint has been "recast" as a sinner--especially when remembering that More wrote about Richard III as a tyrant!

This site has all the details of the re-burial of Richard III in the Anglican cathedral in Leicester, including the text of the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster's homily at Compline Sunday night. You may see the beautiful chasuble the Cardinal wore at Mass yesterday here.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Yet Another Charles Carroll

The Carroll family of Maryland is recognized because Charles Carroll of Carrollton was the only Catholic and the last surviving signer of the Declaration of Independence. His family used descriptions to distinguish between the different generations of Charles Carrolls: Charles Carroll the Settler, Charles Carroll of Annapolis, Charles Carroll of Carrollton, and Charles Carroll of Homewood.

The Charles Carroll born today, March 22, in 1723 called himself Charles Carroll, Barrister. He was a distant Anglican cousin of the great Maryland Carrolls. His father--you guessed it--Charles Carroll, a surgeon had left Ireland in 1715 and renounced Catholicism to become an Anglican. As the website for Mount Clare Museum House notes:

At that time Maryland was a Protestant colony and Roman Catholics were not allowed to hold public office or have public worship services. Dr. Carroll wanted to be able to own land and participate in political activities. He settled in Annapolis where he practiced medicine and engaged in land speculation. In 1722, Dr. Carroll married Dorothy Blake of Talbot County on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. On Sunday, March 22, 1723, their first son, Charles, was born. Dr. and Mrs. Carroll had two other children, John Henry and Mary Clare.

Dr. Charles Carroll was also ambitious for his son:

Dr. Carroll wished Charles be educated abroad, so at the age of 10, Charles, with his father, left Annapolis for England. The voyage was difficult, forcing them ashore in Portugal. Because the trip was so traumatic for young "Charlie", Dr. Carroll left him with the Reverend Edward Jones at English House in West Lisbon, Portugal, where he stayed until he was 16. He then went to England to attend Eton and later entered the University of Cambridge. After 12 years of study abroad, Charles returned to Annapolis in 1746. He enjoyed the sophisticated social life of Annapolis, at the same time applying himself to learning the management of the farms and mills on the Patapsco. Dr. Carroll felt Charles should have further education in order to advance in the world, so at the age of 28, Charles set sail for England where he studied law at the Inns of Court and resided in the Middle Temple in London.

Charles, now a Barrister-at-Law, returned home three months before his father's death in 1755, well prepared to assume the duties commensurate with his large inheritance. At the age of 32 he was one of the wealthiest members of the Maryland aristocracy. He was elected to fill his father's seat as the Delegate from Anne Arundel County to the Lower House of the Assembly. As there were four Carrolls of the same name living in Annapolis at that time, Charles designated himself in 1766 as "Charles Carroll, Barrister".
(my emphasis)

Charles Carroll, Barrister died 60 years and one day old on March 23, 1783. As Ronald Hoffman, author of Princes of Ireland, Planters of Maryland: A Carroll Saga, 1500-1782, notes, Charles Carroll, Barrister's father's choice to convert was one that the other Charles Carrolls, from the Settler, through of Annapolis, to of Carrollton and of Homewood, refused to make, even though the Settler had come to Maryland in 1688 hoping to take advantage of the religious tolerance of Catholic Maryland. Bad timing, since the Glorious Revolution of 1688 wiped out that tolerance and religious freedom. Fortunately, Maryland officials never really enforced the penal laws against Catholics in Maryland with any regularity. Charles Carroll of Carrollton studied for many years on the Continent and in England in an effort to prepare him for life in Anglican Maryland, as Hoffman notes in this paper for the American Antiquarian Society.

Charles Carroll, Barrister and his Catholic cousins did cooperate in the revolutionary cause--but it's Charles Carroll of Carrollton we remember.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Elena Maria Vidal Interviews Nancy Bilyeau

From the Tea at Trianon blog, this interview with Nancy Bilyeau (above) has these last questions, and if you'll scroll down you'll see why the last one in particular piqued my interest:

5.) Thomas Cromwell, whom many regard as Henry's evil genius in the pillaging of the monasteries, has experienced some good press lately via Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall. Why do you think Henry gave Cromwell such a free hand in despoiling Catholic religious houses and shrines, etc. in England?

NB: There were two reasons. Money and vindictiveness. Henry VIII was emptying his treasury. He spent a great deal of the money that his frugal father, Henry VII, left him on trying to wage war on France and on luxurious living. Cromwell opened up an enormous new source of cash: the land and buildings and valuables owned by the Catholic abbeys, priories and shrines. It was a land grab. Henry VIII would not have to beg Parliament for money or be forced to listen to his nobles if he had his own source of money. And by handing out properties to the “new men,” he bound them closer to him alone.

The vindictiveness comes from the king’s anger over the Pope not granting him the annulment he wanted. He had to wait for years, being frustrated and sometimes outmaneuvered by the opposition: his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, her nephew, the Emperor Charles V, and those loyal to them. By the time Henry VIII married Anne Boleyn and had himself declared head of the Church of England, he was seething. He seemed like he had won a victory, but by pulling away from the great Catholic powers he isolated himself. And then he had to defeat a very serious rebellion, the Pilgrimage of Grace, that broke out in the North of England, among people who feared and hated Cromwell’s religious reforms. Henry VIII blamed the monastic orders for stirring up dissent and also he distrusted them because he thought their loyalty was to their orders and to Rome, rather than to him. He took out his vengeance. His cruelty to some, such as the Observant Franciscans, the Carthusian Martyrs and the abbot of Glastonbury, is stomach turning. You don’t see any of this in Wolf Hall.

6.) Joanna is a devout but spirited heroine and anything but dull. Thank you for challenging the stereotypes that exist about pious people, namely that they are dull, bigoted and cannot think for themselves. Joanna is bursting with life, love and determination and actually reminds me of some nuns that I have known. Where do you think people get such dreary stereotypes of devout people?

NB: I think that some people who don’t know anything about nuns and monks believe they are strange, joyless creatures. They don’t see any happiness in devotion to a spiritual life. I met a sister at a real Dominican Order in the United States who was friendly and upbeat and told jokes. A nice “normal” person. She read my second and third books for accuracy. And in my books I tried to show the spirited intellectual life of the time, particularly in The Crown. Having a meal with Bishop Stephen Gardiner would be many things, I’m sure, but it would not be dull! I received two emails from friars after The Crown was published that said they felt I had captured what it was like to live in a religious community.

7.) For those who are inspired by your novels to explore Tudor England through their own research, what non-fiction books would you recommend?

NB: There are so many wonderful books! Here is a sampling:

The Stripping of the Altars and Saints, Sacrilege and Sedition, by Eamon Duffy

Henry VIII, by Jasper Ridley

Inside the Tudor Court: Henry VIII and His Six Wives Through the Writings of His Spanish Ambassador, by Lauren Mackay

Winter King: Henry VII and the Dawn of Tudor England, by Thomas Penn

Henry VIII: The King and His Court and The Lady in the Tower, by Alison Weir

Elizabeth: The Struggle for the Throne, by David Starkey

The Creation of Anne Boleyn, by Susan Bordo

Supremacy and Survival, by Stephanie Mann

Read the rest there. Nancy also mentions my review on her blog!

Thomas Cromwell: Catholic or Evangelical?

The witnesses of Thomas Cromwell's execution in The Tapestry are shocked to hear him proclaim at the block that he dies a Catholic. Michael Everett writes in History Today about Thomas Cromwell's religious convictions, or lack thereof:

Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII's leading minister during the 1530s, is often described as a religious reformer. According to consensus, Cromwell was a deeply committed evangelical, who steered the king towards reform in religion more radical than Henry himself wanted. Yet the little evidence we have for Cromwell's religious views is frustratingly inconclusive; some even points another way. . . .

Yet there is little direct evidence for Cromwell's religious beliefs. He did not pen any scholarly works which might offer hints of his affiliations, nor does his considerable correspondence contain much which touches on theology or doctrine at all. In fact, several pieces of evidence counter the view that Cromwell was a religious radical. Inventories of his possessions show that, throughout the 1530s, he continued to own many traditional religious images, including 'ii ymages in lether gylted the one of our ladye the other of saynte christopher'. Cromwell's will also invoked 'our blessed ladie Saynct Mary the vyrgyn and Mother with all the holie companye of heuen to be Medyatours and Intercessours' for his soul. He even specified a priest of 'good lyuyng' should be hired 'to Syng' for his soul, and money was left for friars in London to 'pray for my Soule'. This suggests that Cromwell still believed in the intercessory power of prayer and in the importance of good works, as well as in the ability of saints to act as mediators for men's souls. These were notably traditional beliefs for someone who – it is often claimed – was one of the driving forces behind the early Reformation in England.

Everett's book, The Rise of Thomas Cromwell:Power and Politics in the Reign of Henry VIII, 1485-1534 is due out from Yale University Press next month. The blurb:

How much does the Thomas Cromwell of popular novels and television series resemble the real Cromwell? This meticulous study of Cromwell’s early political career expands and revises what has been understood concerning the life and talents of Henry VIII’s chief minister. Michael Everett provides a new and enlightening account of Cromwell’s rise to power, his influence on the king, his role in the Reformation, and his impact on the future of the nation.

Controversially, Everett depicts Cromwell not as the fervent evangelical, Machiavellian politician, or the revolutionary administrator that earlier historians have perceived. Instead he reveals Cromwell as a highly capable and efficient servant of the Crown, rising to power not by masterminding Henry VIII’s split with Rome but rather by dint of exceptional skills as an administrator.

Michael Everett gained a PhD at the University of Southampton where he is now a visiting fellow. He currently works at the House of Commons, London, and lives in Hampshire, UK.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Thomas Seymour, RIP

Thomas Seymour, one of Edward VI's uncles, died on the block on March 20, 1549 at the age of 41. He left a baby daughter, Mary, whose mother, Catherine Parr (Henry VIII's last wife) had died in childbirth. Seymour was the 1st Baron Seymour of Sudeley and had been Lord High Admiral of England, but he was accused of treason against Edward VI. Seymour's brother was Lord High Protector, Edward Seymour, 1st Duke of Somerset, who would also die at the block during Edward's reign.

The young Princess Elizabeth had lived with Parr and Seymour for a time after Henry VIII's death, but was removed from the household after Catherine Parr noticed the untoward behavior of Seymour toward Elizabeth. Lady Jane Grey was also in their care and she was in the household when Parr gave birth to her only child, Mary; this was her fourth marriage. Parr died after Mary's birth (surely named after the Princess Mary?). 

This orphaned baby was placed in the care of Katherine Willoughby, the widow of Charles Brandon, the Duke of Suffolk (who had married Henry VIII's younger sister Mary). Although Katherine Willoughby was of Spanish descent--her mother was one of Catherine of Aragon's ladies-in-waiting and best friends--she was not a Catholic, but favored the Protestant cause. And, although she was friend of Catherine Parr's, Katherine did not appreciate being the guardian of this little baby girl.

Linda Porter writes about Seymour's fall and the fate of his little girl in this History Today article:

Without the steadying influence of Katherine Parr and perhaps suffering more from the effects of bereavement than has often been supposed, Thomas Seymour’s judgement, which had been unpredictable in the past, now deserted him completely. His resentment against the power and authority of his brother rankled, his own role in politics being ill-defined, and he began to develop schemes for raising the country in revolt and perhaps even marrying Elizabeth. Neither of these ideas was as hare-brained as they look with hindsight, but both were fraught with danger and Thomas lacked any real power-base from which to impose himself on England. Eventually he was caught apparently trying to kidnap Edward VI, who had been very fond of his younger uncle until he shot his pet dog in the ensuing fracas. The background to this incident remains murky but the campaign of vilification that swung into action to discredit Seymour was swift and relentless. Attainted and therefore never brought to trial, Thomas was executed for treason on March 17th, 1549 (sic), leaving Lady Mary an orphan at the age of seven months.

Thomas did not appoint any of his own or Katherine’s relatives as guardian to his daughter. He could scarcely have handed her to the brother who signed his death warrant and no one else among the extended Parr or Seymour families seems to have taken much interest in the child. Like most of his former ‘friends’, they were all trying to put as much distance between themselves and Thomas Seymour as possible. Instead, Katherine Brandon, Duchess of Suffolk, a close friend of Katherine Parr and a lady of seemingly unimpeachable reforming religious ideas, was appointed as guardian. It was not a charge she accepted with enthusiasm.

Despite her strong religious views, the duchess’s bosom was not full of Christian charity. Lady Mary may have been a dispossessed orphan, but she was an expensive one. As a queen’s daughter, she came with a household of her own, consisting of a lady governess, rockers, laundresses and other servants. The government was supposed to provide for her upkeep and the payment of her staff but the duchess could not get Somerset to part with the money until she appealed to William Cecil, then a prominent member of the duke’s household, to intervene on her behalf. The letter she wrote makes it clear how much she resented ‘the queen’s child’, as she frostily referred to the little girl.

The article concludes with what might have been the child's epitaph:

I whom at the cost
Of her own life
My queenly mother
Bore with the pangs of labour
Sleep under this marble
An unfit traveller.
If Death had given me to live longer
That virtue, that modesty, That obedience of my excellent Mother
That Heavenly courageous nature
Would have lived again in me.
Now, whoever
You are, fare thee well
Because I cannot speak any more, this stone
Is a memorial to my brief life

Read the rest here.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Treason in 1688

From Crisis Magazine, K.V. Turley writes about "The Last Catholic King of Ireland":

The King’s brother, the Duke of York, was now King James II of England and of Ireland, and James VII of Scotland. This passing of throne from one brother to another was not met with universal rejoicing, however, for James was Catholic. And one who had come to the Faith in adulthood through a path of reason and, of course, grace—a path that was as unpopular as it was to prove dangerous for him. But that was not the whole story. Whereas Charles had placated the oligarchy that since his return from exile had effectively ruled, James was made of different stuff. His was a character as straight as his brother’s had been strategic, it was this that was to be his undoing. As he ascended the throne, it is fair to say that traitors encircled him, a virtual vipers nest, who were ready to sell him to the highest bidder. Conveniently, and to that end, they did not have far to look.

Across the sea in Holland lived one of the oddest pairs ever to sit upon any throne in Europe: their names, William, Prince of Orange, and his spouse, the daughter of James, Mary. A strange woman who cried bitter tears on her wedding day, her husband’s manner and reputation were odder still. It was towards these that the whole treacherous cabal now crept. At the time its members were in the employ of James, no doubt with endless assertions of loyalty, whilst all the while searching for an opportunity to betray him. Despite protestations of fears about religion, this circle was really only ever interested in one thing: its own ambitions. It didn't take long before it found the basis on which to rally the mob and produce the coup d’état it longed for, ironically, wrapped in the guise of “Religious Liberty.”

Turley also describes James's conversion in exile after the failure of the Battle of Boyne:

By 1690, his libertine youth long since behind him, he turned inward. Soon after, in November of that same year, he was to be seen making pilgrimage to the Cistercian monastery of La Trappe, one of the most austere of all religious houses. There he sought out a hermit—a former soldier and man of the world who had shunned all for a life of solitude and silence in a forest near the monastery. The conversation that passed between the two left an indelible mark. When asked if there was anything the man missed of the world the reply was as blunt as it was thought provoking. And, needless to say, it was the king who left their brief exchange the more thoughtful. Later this was to be compounded by his stay at the monastery where the first chant he heard intoned was Psalm 118, its words of lament for this changing world and all its woes struck a chord for the Royal who sat listening. When he left the monks some days later, to those around him he was a changed man; one determined to live his Catholic faith in as heroic a fashion as he had observed in the cloisters of La Trappe.

Thereafter, this desire for sanctity was now to be lived out in the world as his prayer and reception of the Sacraments intensified. In addition, he took to the mortification of the flesh with a zeal (and an iron chain) that raised ironic smiles among the more worldly courtiers of Versailles, for this deposed King had become a penitent. Suddenly all his life, both the intensely personal vices he had struggled with since youth through to the very public calamity sealed at the Boyne, appeared to at last make sense. And as it did so, he understood that the loss of his realm was mysteriously the Will of God and with this knowledge, he resolved to spend what time was left him in prayer and penance.

Read the rest there.

Chesterton's Sanctity in THE ATLANTIC

James Parker writes about "Saint" Gilbert:

If the Catholic Church makes G. K. Chesterton a saint—as an influential group of Catholics is proposing it should—the story of his enormous coffin may become rather significant. Symbolic, even parabolic. Chesterton’s coffin was too huge, you see, to be carried down the stairs of his house in Beaconsfield, its occupant being legendarily overweight at the time of his death, in 1936. So it went out a second-floor window. Very Chestertonian: gravity, meet levity. Hagiographers might pursue the biblical resonance here, citing the Gospel passages in which a paralyzed man, unable to penetrate the crowds surrounding the house in Capernaum where Jesus was staying, is lowered in through a hole in the roof. Or they might simply declare that Gilbert Keith Chesterton’s was a spirit too large to go out through the conventional narrow door of death—that it had to be received, as it were, directly into the sky.

In his vastness and mobility, Chesterton continues to elude definition: He was a Catholic convert and an oracular man of letters, a pneumatic cultural presence, an aphorist with the production rate of a pulp novelist. Poetry, criticism, fiction, biography, columns, public debate—the phenomenon known to early-20th-century newspaper readers as “GKC” was half cornucopia, half content mill. If you’ve got a couple of days, read his impish, ageless, inside-out terrorist thrillerThe Man Who Was Thursday. If you’ve got an afternoon, read his masterpiece of Christian apologetics Orthodoxy: ontological basics retailed with a blissful, zooming frivolity, Thomas Aquinas meets Eddie Van Halen. If you’ve got half an hour, read “The Blue Cross,” the first and most glitteringly perfect of his stories featuring the crime-busting village priest Father Brown. If you’ve got only 10 minutes, read his essay “A Much Repeated Repetition.” (“Of a mechanical thing we have a full knowledge. Of a living thing we have a divine ignorance.”)

Read the rest here.

Our G.K. Chesterton reading group meets tomorrow night at Eighth Day Books (on the second floor at the table among books about Church history, the Bible, and education) at 6:30 p.m. We are reading The Well and the Shallows.

Gracewing publishes the book pictured above: The Holiness of G. K. Chesterton, with contributions by Sheridan Gilley, Ian Ker, Nicholas Madden OCD, Aidan Nichols OP, John Saward and Bob Wild and an introduction by editor William Oddie:

G. K. Chesterton was one of the most provocative and well-loved English writers of the 20th century. Renowned for his journalism and as an essayist, he was the author of around eighty books, some two hundred short stories, four thousand essays and several plays. His writing ranged from fiction and poetry, to history, philosophy, political, social and literary criticism, theology and Catholic apologetics. His works reflect a life that was filled with wonder and joy, a constancy in fighting for the Christian faith in a world losing belief, a lifelong devotion to the Blessed Virgin and his love for all men, especially the poor. But are these grounds for his canonisation? The late Cardinal Emmett Carter described G. K. Chesterton, on the 50th anniversary of his death as one of the “holy lay persons” who have exercised a truly prophetic role within the Church and the world.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Weaving Up Loose Ends: Nancy Bilyeau's THE TAPESTRY

Nancy Bilyeau, the author of the Joanna Stafford trilogy, kindly sent me a copy of the third volume in her trilogy--which also led me to look back on the first volume (The Crown) and read the second volume (The Chalice) this weekend. I am wrapped up in the reign of Henry VIII right now while the end of The Tapestry indicates Joanna Stafford, former Dominican novice, daughter of a second tier noble, tapestry weaver, and conspirator may not be back to involve herself in other Court intrigues. (The Tapestry originally had the alliterative title, The Covenant to go with the first two novels.)

I can't help thinking that Joanna's story should have another reason to go to Court so we can see her view of the end of Henry VIII's reign. She should be the witness of the last days of Henry VIII: the Prebendaries Plot, Katherine Parr bringing the three Tudor children together, the final Howard family fall, etc. Joanna Stafford is not just a fascinating character and actor in Bilyeau's fictional conspiracies, but she is a lens through which to view the Tudor Court and England after Henry VIII broke away from the Catholic Church, dissolved the monasteries and the friaries,. and changed his subject's religious lives.

This interview gives me some hope as Nancy Bilyeau states: "But I do have other ideas for Joanna Stafford, and it’s possible that I will write a second trilogy of Joanna novels. I really want to bring Joanna forward to the reigns of the children of Henry VIII, and particularly the Marian Counter-Reformation!"

In this novel, however, Henry has unraveled his own kingdom, setting factions against each other like colors in the pattern of Joanna's tapestries. Men and women are willing to do almost anything to remove him from power or keep him in power--the former was clear in The Chalice when Joanna almost participated in the murder of Henry VIII when he drank wine from a poisoned chalice--and the conspirators in this volume will even seek help from the occult to remove Thomas Cromwell from his position of influence on Henry VIII

While Joanna is still in danger after Cromwell's fall and execution, Joanna recognizes that England is in even greater danger because nothing will stop Henry VIII. She realizes this when she sees Thomas Abel, Richard Featherston, and Edward Powell, three former chaplains and defenders of Queen Catherine of Aragon and Robert Barnes, Thomas Garrett, and William Jerome, three Lutheran supporters of Cromwell drawn on sledges to Smithfield. The Catholics would be hung and quartered, while the Lutherans would be burned alive. According to Henry VIII, the first three are traitors, the second, heretics:

So King Henry VIII showed his true heart. He did not favor the Catholics, nor did he follow the Lutherans. It was impossible to understand him, to live safely in his kingdom. The removal of Cromwell had not made him a better man. There was something twisted--even diseased--in a mind that would command that the condemned be paired as opposites on the hurdles. How foolish Bishop Gardiner and the Howards were to think they could predict what King Henry would do--or control his actions.

When it is impossible to live safely in a kingdom, the King has failed because he is a tyrant.

I went back to read The Chalice, which I already had on Kindle, to understand the danger posed to Joanna throughout this novel. I found it an even more compelling read as Joanna was drawn into the so-called Exeter Conspiracy, the legacies of Elizabeth Barton, the Nun of Kent, and even the turmoil between Catholics and Protestants in the Holy Roman Empire. Nevertheless, as this book weaves the past and present dangers together, it is a compelling read.

Joanna is always loyal to her family, even though she is sensitive to the slights she receives and the horrors she witnesses. In this novel, she does all she can for Catherine Howard as she fears for how she is being used by the Howards and by Henry VIII. She nearly always does what someone tells her what not do (or does not do what someone tells her to do) especially when Geoffrey Scovill tells her what not to do or what to do. If she should stay, she leaves; if she should go, she stays--but that's what drives the story forward.

Catherine Howard and Thomas Culpepper's story in The Tapestry matches in a way the story of the Courtenays and the Poles in The Chalice, although Bilyeau does omit the involvement and execution of Francis Dereham, in a way I think to build up Catherine's innocence--especially because Dereham experienced the full agony of being partially hung, eviscerated, and quartered.

Throughout this trilogy, Bilyeau provides excellent character studies of the historical figures from Henry VIII, so sad at the end, through the Princess Mary, and of course Stephen Gardiner, the Bishop of Winchester and Thomas Howard,  the Duke of Norfolk. She also demonstrates the effects the English Reformation was having on the common people, with whom Joanna lives in Dartford. They are experiencing--and will continue to experience--the changes in religion after the break from Rome. Bilyeau shows how the same unraveling that is taking place at the very top of English culture is also occurring among the common folk: the same hatred, opposition of Protestant vs. Papist (which everyone had been before in England), and the same spying and conspiring against one another. As Joanna knows, it is impossible to live safely in Henry VIII's kingdom. How she and the man she chooses (no other revelations here) will live without interference from Henry VIII and his successors remains either to to seen or is up to the readers' imagination.

The Tapestry is available for pre-order at Amazon here and at Barnes & Noble here.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

In Honor of St. Patrick's Day

Two poems by the Irish poet Joseph Plunkett (yes, his family was related to the great martyr, St. Oliver Plunkett), executed in 1916 after the Easter Rising:

I see his blood upon the rose

I see his blood upon the rose
And in the stars the glory of his eyes,
His body gleams amid eternal snows,
His tears fall from the skies.

I see his face in every flower;
The thunder and the singing of the birds
Are but his voice—and carven by his power
Rocks are his written words.

All pathways by his feet are worn,
His strong heart stirs the ever-beating sea,
His crown of thorns is twined with every thorn,
His cross is every tree.

The Splendour of God

The drunken stars stagger across the sky,
The moon wavers and sways like a wind-blown bud,
Beneath my feet the earth like drifting scud
Lapses and slides, wallows and shoots on high;
Immovable things start suddenly flying by,
The city shakes and quavers, a city of mud
And ooze—a brawling cataract is my blood
Of molten metal and fire—like God am I.

When God crushes his passion-fruit for our thirst
And the universe totters—I have burst the grape
Of the world, and let its powerful blood escape
Untasted—crying whether my vision durst
See God’s high glory in a girl’s soft shape—
God! Is my worship blessed or accurst?

Monday, March 16, 2015

The "Inquisition" on the Son Rise Morning Show

Matt Swaim and I will be discussing the "Inquisition" this morning on the Son Rise Morning Show in our Church History Apologetics series--right after the 6:45 a.m. Central time news headlines with Anna Mitchell (7:45 a.m. Eastern).

Since nobody expects it, we will focus on the Spanish Inquisition, although the term "Inquisition" could refer to various secular government efforts to eliminate religious heresy in various countries. England had an inquisition against the Lollards, for example. In southern France, the Albigensians were the threat to unity.

Herbert Butterfield helps us acknowledge the situation when he notes that the late medieval era into the sixteenth century was “a time when any serious error concerning divine things as almost universally regarded as blasphemy,” and that “state and the secular rulers could not imagine that religious non-conformity might be consistent with public order.”

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.

As I posted last year, however, after finding a BBC video about the Spanish Inquisition, I realized there was even more to the story:

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.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

The REAL Eleanor of Aquitaine

History Today posts this review of Inventing Eleanor: The Medieval and Post-Medieval Image of Eleanor of Aquitaine, by Michael Evans, published by Bloomsbury Academic:

Eleanor of Aquitaine (1124- 1204) has stood in the spotlight for eight centuries, but paradoxically the real Eleanor remains a shadowy figure. Duchess of Aquitaine, Queen of France and England, mother of two English kings, her achievements have been overlaid by successive washes of notoriety, glamour and spin, until separating fact from fiction has become a Herculean task.

Inventing Eleanor, Michael Evans attempts that untanglement with panache. Examining the ideas, myths and legends surrounding Eleanor, he focuses on the historians and artists who have constructed an Eleanor very different from the 12th-century queen and sets out to discover how and why. The work considers the medieval primary sources before tracing the post-medieval development of Eleanor’s image to the present.

Inventing Eleanor is a fine addition to the Eleanor oeuvre. It has a scholarly focus, but it is written in a winning and readable style. Evans argues convincingly that Eleanor was ‘far from unique among 12th century royal and noble women’ and seeks to unravel how she acquired her false reputation for exceptionalism. He opines that her modern biographers must take a lot of the blame and that we, the public, would often rather believe colourful myth above prosaic truth. He explores the way in which Eleanor’s reputation has been distorted to suit the ideologies of particular historical periods and historians. The feminist movement of the late 20th century, for example, has spawned an interest in Eleanor as a female hero, exaggerating her influence, reinforcing her fabled exceptionalism. 

Read the rest there.

According to the publisher:

Eleanor of Aquitaine (1124-1204), queen of France and England and mother of two kings, has often been described as one of the most remarkable women of the Middle Ages. Yet her real achievements have been embellished--and even obscured--by myths that have grown up over eight centuries. This process began in her own lifetime, as chroniclers reported rumours of her scandalous conduct on crusade, and has continued ever since. She has been variously viewed as an adulterous queen, a monstrous mother and a jealous murderess, but also as a patron of literature, champion of courtly love and proto-feminist defender of women's rights. Inventing Eleanor interrogates the myths that have grown up around the figure of Eleanor of Aquitaine and investigates how and why historians and artists have invented an Eleanor who is very different from the 12th-century queen. The book first considers the medieval primary sources and then proceeds to trace the post-medieval development of the image of Eleanor, from demonic queen to feminist icon, in historiography and the broader culture.

The contents:

Introduction / Section I: Medieval and Post-Medieval Myths About Eleanor / 1. Eleanor as Queen of France / 2. Eleanor and the South / 3. Eleanor and the Crusades / 4. Eleanor and England / Section II: Eleanor and the Historians / 5. Eleanor in Anglo-American Historiography / 6. Eleanor in French Historiography / Section III: Eleanor in Culture / 7. The Visual Arts / 8. Drama and Opera / 9. Literature / 10. Eleanor in the Movies / Conclusion: The Transformation of Eleanor.

Here is an interview with the author, in which he notes how hard it is to correct myths of history. He is fighting another version of the Whig interpretation of history, in which authors like Amy Kelly, Thomas Cahill and others see 20th and 21st century feminist values in a thoroughly medieval woman.

Looks fascinating, but it's incredibly expensive! Almost $90.00 for the Kindle edition! The publisher certainly did not spend much money on the cover design--but it's an academic press I know. This is book for inter-library loan!

Saints and Beauty: Pope Benedict XVI's "Holy Men and Women"

Father Benedict, the former Pope Benedict XVI and Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, expressed the link between beauty and holiness often, for example, in this message to a gathering of Communion and Liberation in 2002:

Nothing can bring us into close contact with the beauty of Christ himself other than the world of beauty created by faith and light that shines out from the faces of the saints, through whom his own light becomes visible.

Another great quotation extends that link to its impact on evangelization and apologetics:

I have often affirmed my conviction that the true apology of Christian faith, the most convincing demonstration of its truth…are the saints and the beauty that the faith has generated.

In this volume of addresses from his General Audiences in 2010 and 2011, Pope Benedict XVI beautifully conveyed the individual holiness of each of these Holy Men and Women of the Middle Ages and Beyond. For each saint (or holy man and woman NOT yet canonized), he delineates what made them holy, how they "let Jesus so totally overwhelm their life that they could say with Saint Paul, "it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me" (Gal. 2:20)" (chapter 36, "Holiness"). Pope Benedict presents them as examples for us to follow to be united with Jesus--he points out their special contributions to the Church and the world and does not neglect to speak of their difficulties with Church hierarchy or their own communities. 

Benedict dedicated three addresses to Saints Bonaventure and Thomas Aquinas, and two to St. Hildegard of Bingen, whom he had canonized. He highlights many of the great saints of the Counter-reformation or Catholic reformation era, but omits St. Ignatius of Loyola and St. Philip Neri from his survey; obviously there is a big chronological gap between St. Alphonsus Liguori and St. Therese of Lisieux, the two saints he describes last.

He did speak of St. Ignatius in 2006:

On April 22, 2006, Pope Benedict XVI presided over a Eucharistic concelebration for the Society of Jesus. He addressed the fathers and brothers of the Society present at the Vatican Basilica, calling to mind the dedication and fidelity of their founder.

“St. Ignatius of Loyola was first and foremost a man of God who in his life put God, his greatest glory and his greatest service, first,” the Pope said. “He was a profoundly prayerful man for whom the daily celebration of the Eucharist was the heart and crowning point of his day.”

“Precisely because he was a man of God, St Ignatius was a faithful servant of the Church,” Benedict continued, recalling the saint's “special vow of obedience to the Pope, which he himself describes as 'our first and principal foundation.'”Highlighting the need for “an intense spiritual and cultural training,” Pope Benedict called upon the Society of Jesus to follow in the footsteps of St. Ignatius and continue his work of service to the Church and obedience to the Pope, so that it's members “may faithfully meet the urgent needs of the Church today.”

I'm not sure that Pope Benedict wrote much about St. Philip Neri.

Since Pope Francis is encouraging Catholics to visit their parishes for Confession and Adoration today, it does seem appropriate to cite his predecessor's comments about St. Alphonsus Liguori and the forgiveness of sins:

In his day, there was a very strict and widespread interpretation of moral life because of the Jansenist mentality which, instead of fostering trust and hope in God’s mercy, fomented fear and presented a grim and severe face of God, very remote from the face revealed to us by Jesus. Especially in his main work entitled Moral Theology, St Alphonsus proposed a balanced and convincing synthesis of the requirements of God’s law, engraved on our hearts, fully revealed by Christ and interpreted authoritatively by the Church, and of the dynamics of the conscience and of human freedom, which precisely in adherence to truth and goodness permit the person’s development and fulfilment.

Alphonsus recommended to pastors of souls and confessors that they be faithful to the Catholic moral doctrine, assuming at the same time a charitable, understanding and gentle attitude so that penitents might feel accompanied, supported and encouraged on their journey of faith and of Christian life.

St Alphonsus never tired of repeating that priests are a visible sign of the infinite mercy of God who forgives and enlightens the mind and heart of the sinner so that he may convert and change his life. In our epoch, in which there are clear signs of the loss of the moral conscience and — it must be recognized — of a certain lack of esteem for the sacrament of Confession, St Alphonsus’ teaching is still very timely.

Reading this book does whet my appetite for the other two series, on the early Church Fathers from Clement of Rome to St. Augustine and on the Father and Teachers of the Church from Leo the Great to Peter Lombard, especially the latter, which I've already ordered on my Kindle!

Thursday, March 12, 2015

"Four Spaniards and One Saint"

On March 12, 1622, Pope Gregory XV capped off the Counter-Reformation era by canonizing four great reformer saints: St. Ignatius of Loyola, St. Francis Xavier, St. Teresa of Avila, and St. Philip Neri and the patron saint of Madrid, St. Isidore the Farmer. In Rome, they were most proud of St. Philip Neri, the one Roman among the canonized, thus the quip, "Four Spaniards and One Saint." Jesuits around the world celebrate this day as a day of thanksgiving, according to this website:

A little-known day of Jesuit thanksgiving was celebrated on March 12 to mark the canonizations of two of the most famous Jesuits: St. Ignatius of Loyola and St. Francis Xavier. Every year on that date, each Jesuit offers a special prayer or Mass of Thanksgiving for the gift of the saints’ canonizations, which occurred on March 12, 1622 — 66 years after the death of Ignatius and 70 years after the death of Xavier.

The founder of the Society of Jesus, Ignatius lived most of his priestly life in a small room in Rome, directing the newly founded Society. Francis Xavier, one of the Society’s most well-known missionaries, lived most of his Jesuit life traveling around Asia, preaching and baptizing.

Pope Gregory XV was responsible for canonizing the two Jesuits, and he held religious orders in high esteem. The pope was educated by the Jesuits at the “Collegio Romano,” the university founded by Ignatius in Rome that is now known as the Gregorian University.

On the same day Ignatius and Francis Xavier were canonized, Pope Gregory XV also canonized Teresa of Avila, reformer of the Carmelites; Philip Neri, founder of the Oratorian Fathers; and Isidore of Madrid, a simple but devout farmer, now patron of farmers, peasants, day laborers and rural communities.

The grouping of these five dissimilar saints took some by surprise and illustrated that there is no mold for being holy or even for becoming a canonized saint. Pope Gregory XV was never canonized, but he did keep his connection to the Jesuit saints. The pope was buried in the Church of Saint Ignatius in Rome when he died in 1623.

Blessed John Henry Newman wrote of St. Philip Neri, his patron as an Oratorian:

It is not surprising that, with this tenderness, with this prudence, and with the zeal and charity to which both were subordinate, his influence increased year by year, till he gained a place in the heart of the Roman population, which he has never lost. There are those whose greatest works are their earliest; there are others, who, at first scarcely distinguishable from a whole class who look the same, distance them in the long run, and do more and more wonderful works the longer they live. Philip was thirty-five before he was ordained; forty, before he began his exercises in his room; fifty, before he had a church; sixty before he formed his disciples into a congregation; near seventy, before he put himself at the head of it. As the Blessed Virgin's name has by a majestic growth expanded and extended itself through the Church, "taking root in an honourable people, and resting in the Holy City," so the influence of Philip was, at the end of many years, paramount in that place which he has so long dwelt in as an obscure, disregarded stranger. Sharp eyes and holy sympathies indeed had detected "Philip Neri, as a saint living in caves," when he was a youth; but it required half a century to develope this truth to the intelligence of the multitude of men. At length there was no possibility of mistaking it. Visitors to Rome discerned the presence of one who was greater than Pope and Cardinals, holy, venerable and vigilant as the rulers of the Church then were. "Among all the wonderful things which I saw in Rome," says one of them, writing when Philip was turned fifty, "I took the chief pleasure in beholding the multitude of devout and spiritual persons who frequented the Oratory. Amid the monuments of antiquity, the superb palaces and courts of so many illustrious lords, it appeared to me that the glory of this exemplar shone forth with surpassing light." "I go," says another visitor, ten years later, "to the Oratory, where they deliver every day most beautiful discourses on the gospel, or on the virtues and vices, or ecclesiastical history, or the lives of the saints. Persons of distinction go to hear them, bishops, prelates, and the like. They who deliver them are in holy orders, and of most exemplary life. Their superior is a certain Reverend Father Philip, an old man of sixty, who, they say, is an oracle, not only in Rome, but in the far-off parts of Italy, and of France and Spain, so that many come to him for counsel; indeed he is another Thomas à Kempis, or Tauler."

But it required to live in Rome to understand what his influence really was. Nothing was too high for him, nothing too low. He taught poor begging women to use mental prayer; he took out boys to play; he protected orphans; he acted as novice-master to the children of St. Dominic. He was the teacher and director of artisans, mechanics, cashiers in banks, merchants, workers in gold, artists, men of science. He was consulted by monks, canons, lawyers, physicians, courtiers; ladies of the highest rank, convicts going to execution, engaged in their turn his solicitude and prayers. Cardinals hung about his room, and Popes asked for his miraculous aid in disease, and his ministrations in death. It was his mission to save men, not from, but in, the world. To break the haughtiness of rank, and the fastidiousness of fashion, he gave his penitents public mortifications; to draw the young from the theatres, he opened his Oratory of Sacred Music; to rescue the careless from the Carnival and its excesses, he set out in pilgrimage to the Seven Basilicas. For those who loved reading, he substituted, for the works of chivalry or the hurtful novels of the day, the true romance and the celestial poetry of the Lives of the Saints. He set one of his disciples to write history against the heretics of that age; another to treat of the Notes of the Church; a third, to undertake the Martyrs and Christian Antiquities;—for, while in the discourses and devotions of the Oratory, he prescribed the simplicity of the primitive monks, he wished his children, individually and in private, to cultivate all their gifts to the full. He, however, was, after all and in all, their true model,—the humble priest, shrinking from every kind of dignity, or post, or office, and living the greater part of day and night in prayer, in his room or upon the housetop.

And when he died, a continued stream of people, says his biographer, came to see his body, during the two days that it remained in the church, kissing his bier, touching him with their rosaries or their rings, or taking away portions of his hair, or the flowers which were strewed over him; and, among the crowd, persons of every rank and condition were heard lamenting and extolling one who was so lowly, yet so great; who had been so variously endowed, and had been the pupil of so many saintly masters; who had the breadth of view of St. Dominic, the poetry of St. Benedict, the wisdom of St. Ignatius, and all recommended by an unassuming grace and a winning tenderness which were his own.

Portrait above; Pope Gregory XV (source).