Sunday, January 31, 2016

Truth in Historical Interpretation

Suzanne Lipscomb writes about historians and the interpretation of the the facts of history in History Today:

History is debate, history is discussion, history is a conversation. Hugh Trevor-Roper wrote in 1957, ‘history that is not controversial is dead history’. While some of this controversy comes from the pronouncements of historians as public intellectuals addressing the present day, much of it comes from them arguing with each other. The collective noun for historians is – honestly – an ‘argumentation’.

This is not in contradiction to saying that historians aim at truth. What sort of truth we might achieve is debatable. Justin Champion, in writing about what historians are for, states that ‘historical claims to truth are aesthetic and ethical, rather than empirical and objective’. Peter Novick argued that historians make up stories and ‘make no greater (but also no lesser) truth claims than poets or painters’. I think this is to go too far. The past did exist, the events of history did happen. Our job as historians is to get at them as best as possible, on the basis of the evidence we have, in a way that is epistemic: that fits with the facts we can establish. It is this forensic, interrogatory process that is the joy of being an historian.

Yet the truth is, if you take a group of historians working on the same problem, writing at different times and in different places – even if they all use their evidence in a scrupulous, honest, critical and informed way – the conclusions they reach may differ. This is because we are all different people; our context, our formation, our insights are different and the histories we write are personal. If it were not so, there would be little point training up more students to be historians.

This is still a pursuit of truth.

Read the rest here. In another blog post, she offers some good advice for making sure that the facts historians use for their interpretative narratives are correct:

I thought I would presumptuously suggest a Code of Conduct for how historians should use evidence:
  • Use evidence to support your interpretation and seek to understand that evidence correctly.
  • Do not wilfully present evidence out of context, especially not in such a way that the lack of context will render the meaning of the evidence different, unclear or manipulable.
  • Do not cite evidence from sources that you elsewhere discount.
  • At best, do not waste a reader’s time on unsubstantiated sources.
  • At least flag up evidence that is drawn from such sources; do not use it silently.
  • Triangulate; search ardently for evidence that might undermine, as well as corroborate, your hypothesis.
  • Avoid assumption creep: do not allow assertions to move from ‘possibly’ to ‘probably’ to ‘definitely’; do not build more elaborate layers of interpretation on a foundation that is rocky.
  • Do not rely on the secondary assertions of other historians; ad fontes! Go back to the original sources.
  • Guard against confirmation bias; interrogate the ‘facts’ anew and bring a fresh analysis to them; do not mould the facts to your interpretation.
  • Root out and resolve any internal inconsistencies in your argument.
  • Cite sources so that they can be traced, with page numbers, archival call numbers and publication details.

Another Reason for Newman's Canonization

John Allen writes about Blessed John Henry Newman's inspiration for Catholics today:

There are many reasons why religion continues to thrive, but high on the list has been the capacity of a handful of influential religious thinkers to make their ancient traditions relevant to the contemporary situation — to put those traditions in creative conversation with the questions asked by modern women and men.

In that universe, few Catholic figures have packed a stronger punch over the past century than Cardinal John Henry Newman, the 19th-century British convert from Anglicanism whose carefully reasoned journey to Catholicism continues to inspire and provoke.

One might describe Newman as Catholicism’s “patron saint of relevance,” in that one can agree or disagree with his conclusions, but it’s impossible to dismiss them as the relic of a medieval mind.

Anyone who reads Newman today, and scores still do, immediately recognizes a very modern voice. It’s no accident that one of his best-known works is called precisely
Tracts for the Times.

And Father Dwight Longenecker writes for Aleteia:

A saint, however, is not a saint because of his intellectual accomplishments. Should he be declared a saint, John Henry Cardinal Newman will undoubtedly be up there with St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Augustine, St. Bonaventure, St. Edith Stein and St Thomas More as one of the intellectual heavyweights. The galaxy of saints, however, contain stars who are not so bright intellectually. St. John Vianney, St. Joseph Cupertino, St. Therese of Lisieux and many others were not famous for their intellectual prowess or academic accomplishment. If John Henry Newman is a saint, then there is something else about him that we need to consider.

A saint is an ordinary person who has, by God’s grace, reached their full human potential. Therefore if John Henry Newman is to be a saint we must ask whether, by God’s grace, John Henry Newman had become all that John Henry Newman was created to be.

When we look at his life we see that he was gifted with a brilliant mind, a tender heart, and a deep love for God. Each one of those characteristics was fulfilled in his life. It is arguable, therefore, that John Henry Newman used his vast intellectual and spiritual gifts fully to the glory of God. Whether this beautiful soul and beautiful mind are granted the final formal recognition of being a saint is not so much a question of “if” but of “when.”

Since I have read and studied the life and works of Blessed John Henry Newman since I was a sophomore in college, this day of not if but when Newman is canonized is very exciting to me! I'm going to start the month of February off with the daily prayers and meditations from the CTS publication displayed above.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Venerable Mary Ward: Ahead of Her Time

Mary Ward, English nun and recusant, died on January 30, 1645. She was declared Venerable by Pope Benedict XVI in 2009, according to this news release from the Sisters of Loretto:

On 19th December 2009 His Holiness Benedict XVI formally promulgated the Decree recognising the ‘heroic virtue’ demonstrated by Mary Ward and thereby conferring on her the title ‘Venerable’. Her cause will now go forward to the next stage in the process towards beatification and eventual canonization.

Mary Ward (1585-1645) was an Englishwoman from Yorkshire who felt called by God to found a congregation of apostolic, non-enclosed religious women along the model of the Society of Jesus. She spent many years in Rome petitioning the Pope to recognise her new congregation, but in 1631 her order was suppressed and Mary Ward herself accused of heresy. No charges were ever brought but she remained under the shadow of the Inquisition in Rome and her congregation was disbanded. Mary Ward’s ideal of an active congregation of religious women serving the needs of the Church was too advanced for her time. She suffered at the hands of authorities who in different circumstances might have recognised the need for such a congregation. Only in 1877 was her congregation recognised by the Church and only in 1909 was Mary Ward allowed to be named as foundress.

The cause for Mary Ward’s canonization was opened in 1929. The historical research was begun by Fr Grisar SJ and completed by Sr Immolata Wetter CJ accompanied by the Postulator Fr Paul Molinari SJ and the Relator Fr Peter Gumpel SJ. This was accepted by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in 1995. The theologians completed their investigation in May 2009 and recommended unanimously that Mary Ward demonstrated ‘heroic virtue’ and that her cause should go forward. This was confirmed by the commission of Cardinals and Bishops in November 2009 and subsequently by the Pope.

This essay, by Laurence Lux-Sterritt, published in the Revue de L'Histoire des Religions (vol. 225) in 2008 (see full citation below) explains why Mary Ward's vocation to found an order for women modeled on St. Ignatius of Loyola's Society of Jesus was so fraught with difficulty. It wasn't just that she wanted to form an active, not cloistered, order for women, but that she was using the Jesuits as a model. The entire essay is fascinating in its exploration of the propaganda for and against the Jesuits inside and outside of the Church. The author summarizes the issues thus:

Mary Ward’s institute would fall victim to the complexity of the religious context in which it was born. In the post-Tridentine Church, in which historian Elizabeth Rapley observes “a growing male-female dichotomy, an aggressive antifeminism, an irresistible trend towards patriarchy,”[48] Elizabeth Rapley, The Dévotes: Women and Church in...[48] the Institute of English Ladies was condemned as a new female order that was thought both unacceptable and absurd. But this simple opposition, which was encountered by a number of new feminine movements in the seventeenth century, was exacerbated by the predicament of a more political nature. Specifically, for the Church—torn by the strife that set the secular clergy against the Jesuits—Mary Ward was living proof of the ascendancy that the Society of Jesus enjoyed among devoted Catholics of the period. Besides its contempt for the monastic tradition, the mission of the institute gave the Jesuits no small advantage by entrusting them with the guidance of newly converted families. In the context of the 1620s, such a congregation was bound to incur the disapproval of the enemies of the Society of Jesus.

That was why, in September 1630, the Church ordered the nuncio Pierluigi Carafa to interrogate seven members of the institute at their community in Liege.[49] Wetter, Mary Ward, 38–59.[49] The transcript of the hearing was sent to Rome and studied by Francesco Ingoli, secretary of Propaganda Fide, who was overtly hostile to the Jesuits. He condemned the institute in his report and called for punitive measures. After the deliberations in the congregation, November 21, 1630, Urban VIII remitted the affair to the Inquisition, which decided, in February 1631, to imprison Mary Ward in Munich. The axe fell a little later, when Urban VIII declared the suppression of the so-called “Jesuitesses” in the bull Pastoralis Romani Pontificis. Mary Ward was declared a heretic, and her institute was reduced to the status of a sect in violation of female decency and the prerogatives of the clergy. The supreme pontiff hoped to eradicate “these plants hurtful to the Church.” He ordered they should be “pulled up by the roots, andextirpated”[50] National Library of France, Z Thoisy, 312, items related...[50] since, according to him, the English Ladies threatened the established order far more than they preserved it. 

After her release, Mary Ward retired to England where she continued to serve the recusant community with some of her sisters in a private capacity; she died in Yorkshire in 1645. The institute, however, survived thanks to the elector of Bavaria, Maximilian I (1573–1651), who permitted the English Ladies stationed in Munich to continue to teach, on the strict condition that they no longer claim to be a religious order.[51] See Peters, Mary Ward, 594–97.[51] It was from Munich that renewed effort to obtain papal approval was made. This new institute focused on the instruction of girls, observed enclosure, and did not claim any missionary vocation; it officially had nothing to do with the institute founded by Mary Ward and suppressed in 1631. In 1749, in the bull Quamvis Justo, Benedict XIV recognized it under the name of the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Not until June 7, 2003 (nearly four centuries after Mary Ward claimed to have received the divine command “Take the same of the Society”), did the Church permit the vocation of the founder to exist as she would have liked by adapting the rules of Ignatius of Loyola to a congregation of women, who were at last given the right to bear the name Congregation of Jesus.[52] I thank Sophie Houdard (Université de Paris III - Sorbonne...[52]

Laurence Lux-Sterritt, “ Mary Ward et sa Compagnie de Jésus au féminin dans l'Angleterre de la Contre-Réforme ”, Revue de l’histoire des religions 3/2008 (Volume 225) , p. 393-414

The Tudor Rose and the Wars of the Roses

From the BBC History Magazine, Dan Jones wonders if the dynastic battles called "the Wars of the Roses" were the creation of the victorious Tudor dynasty:

In England, the 14th century ended badly – with regicide. Richard II, having been deposed by his cousin, Henry Bolingbroke, was murdered in prison during the early days of 1400. The usurper Henry IV endured a troubled reign, but his son, Henry V, achieved stunning successes in the wars with France – notably the battle of Agincourt in 1415 and the treaty of Troyes in 1420, by which Henry V laid claim to the French crown for his descendants.

But in 1422 Henry V died of dysentery. His heir was a nine-month-old son, Henry VI, whose birthright – the dual monarchy – required the men around him both to pursue an expensive defensive war in France and also to keep order in an England that was fairly groaning with dukes, earls and bishops of royal blood. Disaster surely loomed.

Or did it? It is often assumed that the Wars of the Roses began simply because, by the 15th century, there were too many men of royal blood clustering around the crown, vying for power and influence over a weak-willed king. Yet if that were the case, civil war would have broken out straight after Henry V’s death. The baby king was watched over by two charismatic and extremely ‘royal’ uncles, John, Duke of Bedford, and Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester. In addition, many more adult relatives of royal descent were expecting a stake in power, including Cardinal Henry Beaufort, bishop of Winchester, who maintained a bitter feud with Gloucester.

Yet the 1420s saw no serious unrest. Rather than fighting one another, the English nobles showed a remarkable unity of purpose at the moment of greatest royal weakness. They did not hive off into dynastic factions, but stuck together, kept the peace and attempted to preserve a normal system of royal government. Even when men came to blows, as Beaufort and Humphrey did in 1424, the violence was quickly stopped and the protagonists reprimanded. There were no roses. There was no blood. And this peace lasted a long time.

Read the rest here.

Jessie Childs reviewed Dan Jones' book-length treatment of this story, which in the U.K. edition had the title, The Hollow Crown, for The Telegraph in 2014:

The Hollow Crown is exhilarating, epic, blood-and-roses history. There are battles fought in snowstorms, beheadings, jousts, clandestine marriages, spurious genealogies, flashes of chivalry and streaks of pure malevolence. There is a “Parliament of Devils”, a “Bloody Meadow”, a “Red Gutter” and even a “Love Day”: Henry’s bizarre attempt to reconcile Beauforts and Percys with York and the Nevilles by having them process, arm in arm, through the streets of London. Jones’s material is thrilling, but it is quite a task to sift, select, structure and contextualise the information. There is fine scholarly intuition on display here and a mastery of the grand narrative; it is a supremely skilful piece of storytelling.

Jones takes the story beyond the Battle of Bosworth of 1485 and the burial of the king in the car park. Despite his victory over Richard III, Henry VII was acutely aware of the frailty of his bloodline and terrified of a Yorkist revival. The Tudor rose was one way of shoring up his position. No matter that the red rose of Lancaster was pretty much a Tudor device: it could be scribbled, retrospectively, into the old scrolls. The conjoined red and white rose gave parity and victory to the Tudors, along with a sense of an ending: “Now civil wounds are stopp’d; peace lives again,” (Richard III, act five, scene eight).

In reality, the blood of the Wars of the Roses seeped into the Tudor tapestry. Pretenders were exterminated and in 1541 Margaret Pole, the 67-year-old niece of Edward IV and Richard III, was hacked to death by an amateur executioner. Soon afterwards, one of her grandsons disappeared in the Tower of London just as her cousins, “the princes in the Tower”, had also faded from sight.

It is often wondered why Sir Thomas More did not finish his History of King Richard III. One theory is that he grew uncomfortable with the Tudor version. “These matters,” he wrote, “be kings’ games, as it were, stage plays, and for the more part played upon scaffolds.” Wise men, he added, “will meddle no further”.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Next Month, in Fort Scott, Kansas

On Saturday, February 13, I'll be one of the speakers, along with Dale Ahlquist, Christopher Check, and Kevin O'Brien at the First Annual History and Heretics Symposium in Fort Scott, Kansas, hosted by The Prairie Troubadour. From their website:

Faithful to Holy Mother Church, The Prairie Troubadour is a group of friends inspired by the likes of Cardinal Newman, ChesterBelloc, John Senior, and other stalwarts of the Faith, to live and share the Joy of Christ through stories, song and good red wine.

By our History and Heretics Symposium, we intend to create an authentic Catholic experience where the Good, the True and the Beautiful are glimpsed through lively discourse punctuated by earnest prayer, toothsome food, strong drink and the real mirth found in friendship.

Catholicism needn't be stodgy and narrow. Quite the contrary! As G.K. Chesterton reminds us, the walls built by the Church through doctrine and discipline are not the walls of a prison, but the "walls of a playground." And as Belloc wrote, "Wherever the Catholic Sun doth shine, there's always laughter and good red wine. At least I've always found it so. Benedicamus Domino."

Indeed it is so. Let us bless the Lord!

The topic for this first day-long symposium is Christendom and Islam and I am going to discuss St. Thomas More's contribution to the defense of Christendom:

For nearly 1,500 years Christianity and Islam have clashed. On February 13th, we’ll examine the history and ideology of this clash and consider what an authentically Christian response to the Islamic threat looks like. This will be a frank discussion void of sentimentality and political correctness but, Lord willing, abiding in charity, hope and good cheer.

More info on the website, including the schedule, venue, lodging, and costs!

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Music for the Septuagesima Season

In the Extraordinary Form of the Latin Liturgy of the Roman Rite, we are in the midst of the pre-Lenten season of Septuagesima and thus I've started listening again to this CD of Spanish Choral Music. Matthew Shorter reviewed it for BBC Music in 2002:

If most British listeners have an image at all of Spanish choral music, it will be of Renaissance masters such as Victoria and Lobo, who brought a special fervour to the seamless 16th-century contrapuntal style.

So neglected is 19th-century Spanish choral music that the majority of recordings on this disc, recently selected by Gramophone as a Critics' Choice CD of the year, are world premières. The Coro Cervantes - Britain's only professional group devoted to Hispanic classical repertoire - and their director Carlos Fernández Aransay are clearly on a mission of discovery and recovery. Their zeal shines forth in these performances, whose passion is balanced by finely-nuanced direction and precise ensemble.

The excitement of discovery is especially palpable in the first four tracks of the disc, which in their awestruck polyphony capture something of the spirit and technique of the Renaissance greats, from the numinous opening of Albéniz's a capella psalm setting to Vicente Goioechea's impassioned Christus Factus est, via some splendid organ fanfares in Granados' Salve Regina and a perfect minute-long sliver of a motet by Falla.

One reason that this music is so little known is that, as Shorter notes, it is from "a period in which Spanish church music seems to have been under attack from all sides, as first Napoleonic invaders and later the Spanish government itself seized church assets, closed music chapels and finally banned lay musicians from performing in churches."

You can hear some samples here. The revival of sacred choral music in Spain came through Pope St. Pius X's moto proprio on sacred music, Tra le Sollecitudini.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

An Earlier Second Spring? Dom David Knowles on Father Augustine Baker

I purchased a copy of this book at Eighth Day Books last year and have dipped into it every so often, reading one or two of the essays. (There is another copy available at EDB.) It contains essays on Aelfric of Eynsham, Richard Rolle, Walter Hilton, The Cloud of Unknowing, Dame Julian of Norwish, St. John Fisher (by E.E. Reynolds), St. Thomas More, Father Persons, SJ, Father Augustine Baker, Bishop Richard Challoner, Cardinal Newman (two--one by Dessain), Cardinal Manning, Father Faber, John Chapman, Monsignor Ronald Knox, and "Spiritual Reading for Our Times".

Dom David Knowles writes about Father Augustine Baker in what seems to have been the introduction or review of an edition of Baker's great work the Sancta Sophia. In establishing the context of Baker's lifetime, Knowles refers to a "Second Spring" of English Catholicism--and when I think of the Second Spring of English Catholicism, I think of Blessed John Henry Newman's 1852 sermon. Nevertheless, Dom Knowles makes a good argument for his use of that term:

The life of David (in religion Dom Augustine) Baker covered almost exactly (1575-1641), the period between the final break with Catholicism in the early years of Elizabeth I and the beginning of the civil disturbances which were to put to an end any hope there might have been of a massive re-establishment of the old religion as a powerful minority among all classes in the country.

Knowles is referring to the Northern Rebellion and various plots against Elizabeth, blaming them for the alienation of many Catholic nobles and landowners for fear of being aligned with traitorous plots.

Seen from another viewpoint, it was the period in which the new Catholicism, that of the Council of Trent, of the Jesuits, and of the Counter-Reformation, made its impact on England; it was a time of anguish and persecution; and yet it was a very real Second Spring, in which the first newcomers from the recently founded seminaries and colleges fired their relatives and converts at home with a zeal that had been lacking in the generation that had lost the faith, and that peopled monasteries and convents in France in the Low Countries with religious in exile; it was also, unhappily, a time of feuds and quarrels and mistakes, and of a clash of aims and hopes and ideals that ultimately did as much as the spirit of Puritanism to check the spread of faith in this country. David Baker had experience of all this.

In this long sentence, Knowles balances the achievements and the failures of the Catholic missionary project, referring to the conflicts for example between the Jesuits and the Appellants, etc. He also refers to "the generation that had lost the faith": the generation during the reign of Henry VIII that let Thomas More, John Fisher, and other martyrs of that time bear the burden of the faith while they compromised and plundered.

Knowles had a remarkable ability, probably through great effort and practice, of summing up historical trends. In those two sentences, he provides extraordinary insights into not just the lifespan of one man's life (66 years) but an age in England's history.

Monday, January 25, 2016

The Pratulin Martyrs

A facebook friend, Father Dennis Brown, posted about the Pratulin martyrs who suffered during the reign of Tsar Nicholas I yesterday. I had never heard for them so I looked up their story and then found this homily preached by St. John Paul II during a pastoral visit to Poland in 1999. On this last day of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which is also the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, I'm sharing portions of that homily:

At this moment, memories stir in me of earlier meetings with the Church of Siedlce, especially the commemoration of the millennium of the Baptism of Poland in 1996, and the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the Diocese, at which I was able to celebrate the Eucharist at Koden of the Sapieha, at the feet of Our Lady Queen of Podlasia. I joyfully come among you today and give thanks to Divine Providence that I have been given the chance to venerate the relics of the Martyrs of Podlasia. In them, the words of Saint Paul which we heard in today’s liturgy were fulfilled in a special way: “neither death, nor life...nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom 8:38-39).

2. “Holy Father, keep them in your name, those whom you have given me, that they may be one as we are one” (Jn 17:11).

Christ spoke these words on the day before his Passion and Death. In a certain sense, they are his last will and testament. For two thousand years, the Church has moved through history with this testament, with this prayer for unity. Yet there are times in history when this prayer has a special relevance, and we are living in one of those times now. The first millennium of the Church’s history was marked essentially by unity, but from the beginning of the second millennium there have been divisions, first in the East and then later in the West. For almost ten centuries, Christianity has been divided.

This reality has marked and continues to mark the Church which for a thousand years has carried out its mission on Polish soil. In the time of the First Republic, the Polish-Lithuanian-Ruthenian regions were a place where Eastern and Western traditions lived side by side. Slowly, however, there emerged the effects of the division which, as is well known, split Rome and Byzantium in the middle of the eleventh century. Yet gradually the understanding of the need to rebuild unity matured, especially after the Council of Florence in the fifteenth century. The year 1596 saw the historic event known as the Union of Brest. From that time, in the territories of the First Republic, and especially in the Eastern territories, the number of Dioceses and parishes of the Greek-Catholic Church increased. Although preserving the Eastern tradition in the liturgy, in discipline and in language, these Christians remained in union with the Apostolic See.

The Diocese of Siedlce, where we are today, and especially the area of Pratulin, is the place that bears particular witness to that historic process. It was here the confessors of Christ belonging to the Greek-Catholic Church, Blessed Wincenty Lewoniuk and his twelve companions, were martyred.

Three years ago, at their Beatification in Saint Peter’s Square in Rome, I said that “they witnessed to an unshakeable fidelity to the Lord of the vineyard. They did not disappoint him, but staying united to Christ as branches to the vine they brought forth the desired fruits of conversion and holiness. They persevered, even at the cost of the supreme sacrifice. As faithful 'servants' of the Lord, trusting in his grace, they bore witness to their membership of the Catholic Church in fidelity to their Eastern tradition. With a gesture so generous, the martyrs of Pratulin defended not only the holy place of worship in front of which they were slaughtered but also the Church of Christ entrusted to the Apostle Peter, of which they felt themselves to be living stones” (6 October 1996).

The Martyrs of Pratulin defended the Church, which is the vineyard of the Lord. They remained faithful to the Church to the very end and they did not yield to the pressures of the world of their time, which for that precise reason hated them. In their life and in their death, Christ’s request in the Priestly Prayer has been fulfilled: “I have given them your word; and the world has hated them . . . I do not pray that you take them from the world, but that you keep them from the evil one . . . Consecrate them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be consecrated in truth” (Jn 17:14-15, 17-19). They bore witness to their fidelity to Christ in his holy Church. In the world in which they lived they sought courageously to defeat, by means of truth and goodness, the evil that was spreading ever more widely, and lovingly they strove to calm the hatred that was raging. Like Christ, who offered himself in sacrifice for them, to consecrate them in the truth – so did they offer their lives for the sake of faithfulness to Christ’s truth and defence of the Church’s unity. These simple people, fathers of families, chose at the critical moment to suffer death rather than yield to pressure in a way untrue to their conscience. “How sweet it is to die for the faith” – these were their last words.

We thank them for their witness which should become the heritage of the entire Church in Poland for the third millennium which is now so near. They made their great contribution to the building of unity. Through the generous sacrifice of their lives, they kept full faith with the cry of Jesus to his Father: “keep them in your name, those whom you have given me, that they may be one as we are one”. By their death they confirmed the commitment to Christ of the Catholic Church of Eastern tradition. The same spirit sustained the countless faithful of the Byzantine-Ukrainian Rite, Bishops, priests and lay people, who during forty-five years of persecution remained faithful to Christ, preserving their identity as a Church. In this witness, fidelity to Christ is interwoven with fidelity to the Church and becomes a service of unity.

Read the rest here. Recounting these details of past atrocities is almost like a process of truth and reconciliation--we have to face the past, repent or apologize for it, and forgive one another. 

Another View of Shakespeare's Religion

2016 is the Shakespeare year of our lifetime: the 400th anniversary of his death. Everybody is writing about him, performing his plays, doing something to honor him. Just one example: one of my favorite early music groups, Stile Antico, is honoring Shakespeare with a special program, "The Wonder of Will":

To mark of the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare, Stile Antico and the Folger Consort collaborate on a glorious programme of Elizabethan and Jacobean music. Shakespearean songs and music for his greatest patron King James I are heard along with works by his contemporaries William Byrd and John Dowland, including the Lachrimae for five viols and lute. Viols and voices join in period anthems, and Stile Antico performs contemporary settings of Shakespearean texts by acclaimed young composers Huw Watkins and Nico Muhly.
William ByrdO Lord, make thy servant Elizabeth 
John DowlandLachrimae Antique
DowlandSay, Love, if ever thou did’st find
DowlandLachrimae Antique Novae
Byrd: Why do I use my Paper, Ink and Pen
DowlandLachrimae gementes 
Byrd: Exsurge, Domine
DowlandLachrimae Tristes 
Huw WatkinsThe Phoenix and the Turtle
Will AytonFantasia on ‘Flow my Tears’
Thomas TomkinsBe strong and of a good courage
DowlandLachrimae Coactae 
Robert JohnsonFull fathom five
DowlandLachrimae Amantis
Nico MuhlyGentle sleep
DowlandLachrimae Verae
WilbyeDraw on, sweet night
Note that they had to cancel their Washington, DC dates because of the blizzard this past weekend. I hope Stile Antico releases a CD of that program.

The OUP (Oxford University Press) blog revisits a common question: Was Shakespeare a Catholic? Gillian Woods, author of Shakespeare's Unreformed Fictions, offers her insights:

Questions such as ‘was Shakespeare a Protestant or a Catholic?’ use terms that are too neat for the reality of post-Reformation England. The simple labels Catholic, Protestant, and Puritan paper over a complex lived experience. Even in less turbulent times, religion is a framework for belief; actual faith slips in and out of official doctrine. Religion establishes a set of principles about belief and practice, but individuals pick and choose which bits they listen to.

‘Catholicism’ was an especially tricky category in this era. Under pressure of crippling fines and even execution, early modern Catholics maintained their faith in a variety of ways. Not every so-called papist supported the pope. The Roman Catholic Church of this era encompassed ‘recusants’ (who openly displayed their Catholicism by refusing to attend mandatory Church of England services) and ‘church papists’ (who conformed to the monarch’s protestant customs, but secretly practiced Catholicism). Some Catholics supported Elizabeth politically, looking to the pope only in spiritual matters; others plotted her overthrow. Catholicism was in the eye of the beholder; hotter Protestants saw many elements of Elizabeth’s own Church as horrifyingly ‘Romish’, but to average Protestants those puritanical objections seemed hysterical. Some accepted the theology and politics of the reformation, but still harboured an emotional attachment to older traditions, like praying for the dead. Furthermore, people have a habit of changing their minds over time, shifting their beliefs at different moments of their lives. Asking about the confessional allegiance of any early modern individual is a much more difficult – and interesting – enterprise than figuring out an either/or choice. Whatever Shakespeare’s personal faith was, he wrote plays that worked for audiences who had to feel their way through these dilemmas, audiences for whom Protestantism was the official state religion, but who experienced a far messier reality.

Playhouses provided spaces to explore these anxieties. Even though the direct representation of specific theological controversy was banned, Renaissance plays frequently featured elements of the Roman Catholic religion that had been practically outlawed in real life. Purgatorial ghosts and well-meaning friars still appeared on stage; star-crossed lovers framed their first kiss in terms of saintly intercession and statue veneration (Romeo and Juliet, 1.4.206-19); and various characters swore ‘by the mass’, ‘by the rood’, and ‘by’r lady’. Shakespeare wrote over sixty years after Henry VIII set the Reformation in motion. By the 1590s, English friars, nuns and hermits belonged firmly to the past, and many writers used them like the formula ‘once upon a time’: to create a safely distant, fictional world.

Read the rest there. When she avers that "Religion establishes a set of principles about belief and practice, but individuals pick and choose which bits they listen to" I know what she means. But I usually think of that in the context of morality: choices in personal or sexual behavior, especially in my lifetime. A Catholic who does not attend Mass on Sundays or other Solemnities usually thinks of herself as being separated from the Church and in that era, Mass attendance was not only the mark of being a Catholic but the most dangerous since it required the presence of a priest (an act of treason); assistance to the priest (a felony); attendance at Mass (a felony) and absence, perhaps, from the Anglican service in the nearby parish (a fine at the least). 

Sunday, January 24, 2016

News About Walsingham and Canterbury

In The National Catholic Register, Joanna Bogle writes about the honor given to the Catholic shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham:

Pope Francis has declared Walsingham a minor basilica. It was a dramatic scene, as Bishop Alan Hopes of East Anglia made the announcement at Mass on the feast of the Holy Family in Walsingham, reading aloud a Latin document from Rome.

Applause broke out as, with a sweep of his arms, he included the large modern church, the domain with its Stations of the Cross and the medieval Slipper Chapel, and announced, “All of this is now a minor basilica!”

The rector, Msgr. John Armitage, said that this wonderful news was a tribute to all the people who have worked and prayed at Walsingham over the years, as well as the pilgrims who have come in large numbers from across Britain. “It represents so much of what has been happening in the shrine for so long,” Msgr. Armitage said. “It’s a recognition by the Holy Father of the long history of this shrine. This is a rare privilege, and it says so much for Walsingham and for the great heart and witness of so many people. This is about history, and faith, and everything that makes up Walsingham.”

More here, including a video of the announcement, read first in Latin, from the shrine website.

There's also the news that pilgrims from Hungary will be on pilgrimage to Canterbury this May, bringing relics of St. Thomas a Becket to the site of his martyrdom. From the Hungarian Embassy in London, comes this announcement from Ambassador Péter Szabadhegy:

His Excellency informed the press that in a joint initiative with the Church of England and the Catholic Church of England and Wales, the Embassy of Hungary would bring the relic of St. Thomas Becket having kept in Esztergom/Hungary to the United Kingdom. As an important part of the set of events, a Holy Mass at Westminster Cathedral will be celebrated on 23 May by Cardinal Péter Erdő, Primate of Hungary, Archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest and Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, in the presence of János Áder, President of Hungary and Archbishop Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury.

During the ‘Becket-week’, the relic from Esztergom will be displayed and celebrated together with other rare relics of St. Thomas at Westminster Abbey, the Houses of Parliament, Lambeth Palace and Mercer’s Chapel. At the end of the week, the relics will be transferred to Rochester Cathedral and to Canterbury Cathedral.

The Ambassador underlined that this would be the first time for the British public to have the opportunity to see the relic of St. Thomas Becket, having been kept with great reverence in Esztergom/Hungary for 800 years. The relic represents the deep and manifold historical and cultural links between Hungary and the UK.

The Telegraph offers some background on how the relic came to Hungary and also notes why St. Thomas a Becket was so honored there:

More recently, the relic took on added significance in Hungary as the focal point of a renewed cult of the saint which grew up under Communism as a symbol of resistance to over-mighty state.

The Hungarian Ambassador, Péter Szabadhegy, said Becket is revered in his country as “representative of the struggle of the church against repression for religious liberty”. . . .

It is traditionally held that the surviving relic in Hungary was acquired by Cardinal Lukács Bánffy, a friend of Becket’s from their student days in Paris, who went on to become Archbishop of Esztergom.

But is also thought possible that Margaret of France, who spent much of her life in England as wife of Henry II’s son, known as the “young King”, but was widowed and went on to become Queen of Hungary. Becket negotiated the marriage pact which brought her to England and would have been a major influence on her life.

Poor Henry VIII; all his good work being undone! Deo Gratias!

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Newman's Second Miracle?

From The Catholic Herald:

The Archbishop of Birmingham has welcomed reports that the Vatican is investigating a possible second “miracle” which may lead to the canonisation of Blessed Cardinal John Henry Newman.

Archbishop Bernard Longley said it was a “great joy” to know that the Cause was making progress.

He said the occasion should also spur on Catholics to renew their prayers for the canonisation of Blessed Dominic Barberi, who received Newman into the Catholic faith from the Church of England.

“Blessed Cardinal Newman has left an extraordinarily rich spiritual legacy – not least through the two Oratory communities in Birmingham and Oxford – as well as to the Church nationally and internationally,” Archbishop Longley said.

“It would be a great joy to see him take a step closer to being named among the saints and would be an encouragement to all who have been inspired by him seek the truth by seeking Christ.

“At the same time, and especially during this Jubilee Year of Mercy, I am sure that Blessed John Henry Newman would want us to continue praying for the canonisation of Blessed Dominic Barberi, the Passionist priest who first enabled him to receive the Sacrament of mercy at his reception into full communion with the Catholic Church at Littlemore in 1845 and who gave him a new insight into the merciful love of God.”

The archbishop spoke after the Tablet, a Catholic weekly magazine, revealed that the Archdiocese of Chicago had investigated the inexplicable healing of a young American mother who prayed for the Victorian cardinal’s intercession when she became afflicted by a “life-threatening pregnancy”.

Read the rest here.

The Birmingham Oratory outlines three reasons that Blessed John Henry Newman should be canonized, looking at aspects of his life and work beyond the intellectual and literary:

A fundamental component of Newman’s spirituality is his conviction of the primacy and immediacy of the unseen spiritual world around us. We need this initial conviction as we try to evangelize peoples and cultures that often ignore the reality of the supernatural, or else they take an unhealthy interest in warped versions of supernatural reality – occultism and all its poisonous derivatives.

Newman’s belief that what we see around us is only a tiny part of reality properly understood is at the heart of his theological and spiritual insights, both as an Anglican clergyman and later as a Catholic priest. . . .

Secondly, we should be inspired by the heroic docility with which he followed where the Spirit led. He was not in any way a charismatic in the modern sense of that label. He believed our prayer should always be tranquil and sober. However, by the use of his mind and by a finely tuned self-awareness of his own spiritual sensibilities he persevered step by step under the Spirit’s guidance along the path to truth, a path that led him out of the errors and prejudices which had coloured his earlier beliefs. The convert who in 1845 acknowledged the Roman Catholic Church as the one true fold of the Redeemer was the man who for many years previously had seriously believed that the Pope was antichrist, and the Roman Church a purveyor of idolatry, heresy, and superstition. . . .

Thirdly, we have the example of the fruitful integration within Newman himself of his love for God and his love of neighbour. His harmonious integration of those two great loves shows us that the gift of faith is a gift for the whole person. Newman loved God with the same heart and mind with which he also loved other creatures. His celibate and chaste affective life was not clouded by anything akin to what the post-Freudian world likes to call ‘repression’. His capacity for deep friendship with others, women and men, is well documented. It is charmingly revealed in the attentive and affectionate letters he wrote to his closer friends.

In an age like our own when genuine friendship can so easily be occluded by an obsessive sexualization of human affectivity, Newman reminds us that human love at its best is a pointer towards that supreme love to which we are all called, whatever our state in life and whatever our role in the Church: our personal love for our personal Saviour. John Henry’s human affections were an integral part of his spiritual journey. His friendships brought him closer to God. . . .

Read the rest there.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

One of the Forty Martyrs: St. Alban Roe, OSB and Companion

Also on January 21, but in 1642, one of the canonized Forty Martyrs of England and Wales suffered execution after many years of service in England. As the parish church named for him in Wildwood, Missouri, USA tells his story:

Bartholomew Roe was born at Suffolk, England in 1583 during the reign of Queen Elizabeth. He was reared in a good Anglican home and later attended Cambridge University. It was while he was attending this university, during a summer break, that he visited the Abbey of St. Alban just north of London. At that time, the Abbey was a prison for Catholics. It was named after the first English martyr, Alban, who died around the end of the third century, our secondary patron Saint.

It was at this Abbey that Bartholomew met a prisoner, whose name is unknown to this day, who inspired him to take a good hard look at the faith of his forefathers. Returning to Cambridge, this inspiration grew into the decision to join the Catholic Church. Not content with this, he decided to become a priest in Post Reformation England and he left for France to study for the priesthood.

He was accepted by the Benedictine Community in France, the same community that had fled Westminster during the reign of Henry VIII. He began to care for Catholic prisoners. He was soon imprisoned but continued to minister with his cheerful disposition.

The Abbey of St. Albans referred to above, had of course been suppressed in the Dissolution; the Gatehouse was used as a prison while the people of the town had bought the abbey church from Henry VIII. According to BHO (British History Online):

After the Suppression, the monastic buildings, excepting the Lady chapel and the Great Court, were granted, in 1550, to Sir Richard Lee. The abbey church was retained by the Crown till 1553, when it was sold to the mayor and burgesses of St. Albans, to be their parish church instead of St. Andrews, which was then pulled down; and the Lady chapel was at the same date cut off to be used as a grammar school.

The maintenance of the great church must at all times have been a heavy charge on the parish funds, and it is not to be wondered at that when, in the last century, repairs were undertaken on a large scale, it was found that the building was in a very unsafe state. It has emerged from the ordeal with the loss of many of its ancient features, but is at least structurally sound. As it stands to-day [1908], its great length, and the warm tone of its ancient brickwork, suffice to make it a striking and picturesque building; but not even time can ever make the new fronts of the transepts tolerable. The central tower, with parts of the north transept and the eastern bays of the nave, are the only parts of the building which preserve an ancient exterior, and have undoubtedly gained by the loss of their original coating of plaster and whitewash. The west wall of the north transept is the most characteristic piece of early masonry, with courses of Roman brick alternating, though irregularly, with lines of large undressed flints, while the more careful work of the central tower is entirely faced with brickwork, the only other material employed being the Barnack stone of the shafts and capitals. The walling of the clearstory of the presbytery retains its thirteenth-century surface of reused Roman brick, with a band of later and more deeply-coloured brickwork above it, but hardly any other part of the exterior has any claim to antiquity. Roofs, gables, buttresses, pinnacles, windows, all are alike new, and it will be long before the cathedral church regains that look of reverend antiquity which was one of the chief charms of the abbey church a generation ago.

In 2015, the Anglican bishop of London, Richard Chartres, dedicated a new series of statues for the rood screen, including St. Alban Roe, according to this story. (Also note that every Friday in the Anglican Cathedral, a Catholic Mass is celebrated.) St. Alban Roe, OSB is depicted with playing cards in his hands. He played cards in the alehouses near the Fleet prison during his 17 year stay there--with prayers as wagers.

His companion, Blessed Thomas Green or Reynolds (Green was the surname he was born with), was 80 years old when he suffered being hung, drawn, and quartered. He had been a priest for about 50 years and had been exiled once from England, in 1606, after the Gunpowder Plot. Obviously, Fatehr Green returned to England to continue his service. He had been sentenced to death 14 years before his execution and been held in similar circumstances at St. Alban Roe. They were able to pray together and absolve each other before suffering.

Martyrs and Their Witness

When St. Edmund Campion suffered execution on December 1, 1581, drops of his blood fell on Henry Walpole. Walpole then left England to study for the priesthood and thus returned as a missionary like Campion. Just like Campion--but only more quickly--he was captured, then imprisoned, tortured, and executed. In the same way, on January 21, 1586, Blesseds Edward Stransham and Nicholas Wheeler (or Woodfen) were executed at Tyburn; Blessed William Freeman, who would suffer their fate nine years later, witnessed their hanging, drawing, and quartering and yet was inspired to follow their path to exile, study, ordination, and return as a missionary priest.

~Blessed Edward Stransham, priest and martyr--A native of Oxford, born about 1554, earning his BA from St. John's College in 1575-76. Then he went to Douai in 1577 and Reims in 1578. Because he was ill he returned to England to recuperate; then went back to Reims in 1579; ordained in 1580. In 1581 he returned to England as a missionary priest, but was still suffering from consumption; he left England in 1583, bringing 12 Oxford converts with him to Reims. After a stay in Paris, he returned to England and was arrested while saying Mass in Bishopsgate Street Without, London, 17 July, 1585 and held for trial.
~Blessed Nicholas Wheeler (or Woodfen), priest and martyr--Born at Leominster in 1550, he studied for the priesthood in Reims, after ordination he returned to England with Edward Stransham, and was executed with him at Tyburn in 1586. Dressed like a lawyer, he had lived near the Inns of Court, one of the legal training schools in London, serving covert Catholics studying there.

Blessed William Freeman witnessed the executions of Stransham and Wheeler. He became a Catholic, went to Reims, was ordained and returned to England as a missionary priest. He was hung, drawn, and quartered for that crime on 13 August 1595 in Warwick, after spending some time in Stratford-on-Avon.

Although Blesseds Stransham and Wheeler were martyred first, Blessed William Freeman was beatified before they were, by Pope Pius XI in 1929. Today's martyrs were named Venerable on November 10, 1986 and then beatified November 22, 1987 by Pope Saint John Paul II.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

From OUP Next Month: Bad Queen Bess?

From the publisher, Oxford University Press:

Bad Queen Bess? analyses the back and forth between the Elizabethan regime and various Catholic critics, who, from the early 1570s to the early 1590s, sought to characterize that regime as a conspiracy of evil counsel. Through a genre novel - the libellous secret history - to English political discourse, various (usually anonymous) Catholic authors claimed to reveal to the public what was "really happening" behind the curtain of official lies and disinformation with which the clique of evil counsellors at the heart of the Elizabethan state habitually cloaked their sinister maneuvers. Elements within the regime, centred on William Cecil and his circle, replied to these assaults with their own species of plot talk and libellous secret history, specializing in conspiracy-driven accounts of the Catholic, Marian [Mary, Queen of Scots], and then, latterly, Spanish threats.

Peter Lake presents a series of (mutually constitutive) moves and counter moves, in the course of which the regime's claims to represent a form of public political virtue, to speak for the commonweal and true religion, elicited from certain Catholic critics a simply inverted rhetoric of private political vice, persecution, and tyranny. The resulting exchanges are read not only as a species of "political thought," but as a way of thinking about politics as process and of distinguishing between "politics" and "religion." They are also analyzed as modes of political communication and pitch-making - involving print, circulating manuscripts, performance, and rumor - and thus as constitutive of an emergent mode of "public politics" and perhaps of a "post reformation public sphere." While the focus is primarily English, the origins and imbrication of these texts within, and their direct address to, wider European events and audiences is always present. The aim is thus to contribute simultaneously to the political, cultural, intellectual, and religious histories of the period.

Oxford also notes that in Bad Queen Bess?: Libellous Politics, Secret Histories and the Politics of Publicity in Elizabethan England, Peter Lake, University Distinguished Professor of History and co-author (with Michael Questier) of The Trials of Margaret Clitherow:
  • Puts Catholic polemical and political activity at the center of Elizabethan politics
  • Focuses on the emergence of a style of public politics consequent on the religious conflicts and uncertainties of the age
  • Emphasises the interaction between performance, manuscript, rumor, and print in the conduct of public politics, both by the state and its enemies
  • Draws upon the emergent genre of the libellous secret history as a type of historical analysis
While this sounds fascinating, it does give me pause: This book uses the lies, half-truths, and deceptions the government and its critics used against each other to present the truth about history! See the table of contents here.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Vespers from Brompton

Tomorrow the BBC will broadcast Vespers for the feast of Saints Fabian (Pope and Martyr) & Sebastian (Roman Soldier and Martyr) from the Brompton Oratory on its long-running Choral Evensong program. The musical program includes:

Organ Prelude: Intonatio del ottavo tono (Andrea Gabrieli)
Invitatory: Anon (17th century)
Psalms 128-132 (Gregorian chant and falsi-bordoni)
Office Hymn: Sanctorum meritis (Gregorian chant and Palestrina)
Magnificat sexti toni (Lassus)
Antiphon of Our Lady: Alma Redemptoris Mater (L’Héritier)
Organ Voluntary: Praeludium in D minor, BuxWV140 (Buxtehude)

Celebrant: The Revd Father Michael Lang
Director of Music: Patrick Russill
Organist: Ben Bloor

Father Michael Uwe Lang is the author of three books on the liturgy published by Ignatius Press. The latest is Signs of The Holy One: Liturgy, Ritual, and Expression of the Sacred and it features a cover photo of the Easter Vigil at the London Oratory. Father Lang has an M.A. in theology from the University of Vienna and a Ph.D. in theology from the University of Oxford. In addition to being a priest of the Oratory of Saint Philip Neri in London, he is currently Lecturer in Theology at Heythrop College, University of London, and on the Visiting Faculty at the Liturgical Institute in Mundelein, Ill. His other books published by Ignatius are Turning Towards the Lord and The Voice of the Church at Prayer.

The director of music at the Oratory of St. Philip Neri in London, Patrick Russill

is recognised as one of the leading figures in English church music. Following organ studies with Nicholas Danby while organ scholar at New College, Oxford, he was appointed Organist of the London Oratory in 1977 at the age of 23 in succession to Ralph Downes, on Downes’ nomination. In 1999 he was appointed Director of Music at the Oratory, assuming overall responsibility for its choral tradition and especially for its famous professional choir, which under his direction ‘remains among the finest mixed-voice choirs in the country’ (Choir & Organ). . . .

As an organ recitalist he has played at the Royal Festival Hall and Queen Elizabeth Hall, in Europe, Asia and all over the UK. He introduced the reconstructed Tudor organs of the Early English Organ Project to London’s South Bank in a Queen Elizabeth Hall recital acclaimed by the Independent on Sunday, in its classical review of 2007, as the outstanding London keyboard concert of the year.

The Guardian also reviewed that recital, highlighting the sad destruction and loss of many organs in the churches of England after the Reformation:

Time, and the zealotry of Protestant reformers, have ensured that, of the thousands of organs in cathedrals, churches and religious foundations in pre-Reformation England, none have survived. But the discovery in Suffolk of a couple of substantial fragments in the shape of original wooden soundboards has allowed the reconstruction of two instruments, both played in this concert by Patrick Russill.

We have also lost a great deal of the music that would have sounded on the originals. But enough remains, even in fragmentary form, of the works of John Redford, Thomas Preston and John Blitheman, as well as better known figures such as Thomas Tallis and William Byrd, to indicate that the 16th century was a high point of English keyboard composition. Virtuoso fancies by Byrd contained in My Ladye Nevell's Booke showed a secular side to a composer best known for his sacred music, and offered Russill a welcome opportunity for some right-hand flamboyance, which he seized.

After the live broadcast, the program is repeated on Sunday and then is available on demand on-line for a time.

Monday, January 18, 2016

The Third Monday of the Month: On the Son Rise Morning Show

This morning on the Son Rise Morning Show, Matt Swaim and I will discuss recent events in the Anglican Communion. I'll be on the air after the 7:45 a.m. Eastern/6:45 a.m. Central break. You may listen live here.

I'm referring to the meeting of the 37 Primates of the Anglican Communion last week in Canterbury. The big announcement last week was that after agreeing to the agenda, the Primates addressed the issue that threatened to destroy the Anglican Communion by temporarily suspending the Episcopal Church in the USA from the Anglican Communion's official functions, while it is still part of the Anglican Communion:

The meeting started by agreeing the agenda. The first agreed item was to discuss an important point of contention among Anglicans worldwide: the recent change to the doctrine of marriage by The Episcopal Church in the USA.

Over the past week the unanimous decision of the Primates was to walk together, however painful this is, and despite our differences, as a deep expression of our unity in the body of Christ. We looked at what that meant in practical terms.

We received the recommendation of a working group of our members which took up the task of how our Anglican Communion of Churches might walk together and our unity be strengthened. Their work, consistent with previous statements of the Primates’ meetings, addressed what consequences follow for The Episcopal Church in relation to the Anglican Communion following its recent change of marriage doctrine. The recommendations in paragraphs 7 and 8 of the Addendum A below are:

“It is our unanimous desire to walk together. However given the seriousness of these matters we formally acknowledge this distance by requiring that for a period of three years The Episcopal Church no longer represent us on ecumenical and interfaith bodies, should not be appointed or elected to an internal standing committee and that while participating in the internal bodies of the Anglican Communion, they will not take part in decision making on any issues pertaining to doctrine or polity.

“We have asked the Archbishop of Canterbury to appoint a Task Group to maintain conversation among ourselves with the intention of restoration of relationship, the rebuilding of mutual trust, healing the legacy of hurt, recognising the extent of our commonality and exploring our deep differences, ensuring they are held between us in the love and grace of Christ.”

These recommendations were adopted by the majority of the Primates present.

It just cannot be coincidental that this statement was issued on the same day as the fifth anniversary of the founding of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady in Walsingham, which was followed by the organizing of an Anglican Ordinariate in the USA a year later. Nor can it be ignored that the Vatican had arranged for two great relics of England's Catholic past to be on display at Canterbury: the staff of Pope St. Gregory the Great and the bloodied vestment of St. Thomas of Canterbury.

Most commentators note that this is just puts off the harder decisions about marriage in the Anglican Communion, because the Episcopalians and other "liberals" are not going to change their teaching, while the more "conservative" Anglicans, from Africa for example, are not going to change theirs or allow the "liberals" to change Anglican teaching throughout the Communion. This semi-suspension just "kicks the can" down the road for another meeting to reconsider where the two sides are.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Jakob Balde, SJ and Thomas More

Yesterday at the Eighth Day Institute Symposium, I met Patrick Callahan, Dean of Humanitas and Kowalski Chair in Catholic Thought of the Institute for Faith and Culture at the Newman Center on the campus of the University of Kansas. KU is in Lawrence and the Newman Center is named for St. Lawrence! The Institute publishes a journal titled Thesauri Ecclesiae (Treasures of the Church), referencing St. Laurence the Deacon's response to the Roman authorities when they ordered him to turn in the treasures of the Church--he gathered the poor around him.

In the Spring 2015 issue of the publication, I noticed a poem about Thomas More, "Thomae Mori Constantia" which Dean Callahan had translated ("The Steadfastness of Thomas More"). The poem was written by a German Jesuit, Jakob Balde. As the entry in the 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia explains, Balde was:

A German poet, b. 4 January, 1604, in the Imperial free town of Ensisheim in Upper Alsace; d. at Neuburg, 9 August, 1668. He studies the classics and rhetoric in the Jesuit college of his native town, philosophy and law at the University Ingolstadt, where on 1 July, 1624, he was admitted into the Society of Jesus. Having undergone the usual ascetical and literary training he taught classics and rhetoric in the colleges of Munich and Innsbruck, and in his leisure hours composed the Latin mock-heroic poem "Batrachomyomachia" (The Battle of the Frogs and the Mice). After completing his theological studies at Ingolstadt, where he was ordained priest in 1633, he was appointed professor of eloquence in the university. Called to Munich a few years later to educate the sons of Duke Albert, he soon after received the office of court preacher to the elector Maximilian. Owing to failing health he was, in 1654, sent to Neuburg on the Danube, where he became the intimate friend and adviser of the Count Palatine Philipp Wilhelm. Here he died. The poetical works of Balde are marked by a brilliant imagination, noble thoughts, wit and humour, strength and tenderness of feeling, great learning, love of nature, and knowledge of the human heart. His mastery of classical Latin was such that he wielded it with astonishing power and originality, and he used the ancient metres and poetical forms with consummate ease and skill. His poetical themes are the world and religion, friendship and fatherland, art and letters. His patriotic accents, says Herder, have made him a German poet for all time. He witnessed the horrors of the Thirty Years War, and the devastation and disruption of his country, and while lamenting the fate of Germany, sought the re-awaken in the hearts of the people the old national spirit.

Balde was above all a lyric poet, many of his odes to the Virgin Mother of God being of surpassing beauty, but he has also written epic and pastoral poems, satires, elegies, and drams. During his lifetime he was acclaimed "the German Horace", but soon after his death he fell into neglect, until Herder, towards the end of the eighteenth century, by his translation of many of Balde's lyrics, published in the periodical "Terpsichore", revived the poet's memory and the fame of his genius among scholars. Balde, however, could never have become a popular poet in the wider sense of the word, as nearly all his works were written in Latin, which was in his time the international language of the cultured classes, whereas German was too unwieldy and crude a vehicle of poetical expression. Balde's poetry is not faultless; he occasionally offends against good taste, burdens his verses with mythological lore, and odes not always keep his luxuriant imagination under control. The only complete edition of his works was published in eight volumes at Munich in 1729.

Dean Callahan gave me permission to share a little bit of the poem and his translation. Balde depicts examples of More's constancy even in the face of prison and his family's importunings:

Not prison nor his wife Alice moved him
Off course: and not his trembling son-in-law
Nor Margaret with a woman's pleading sobs
   And tears in front of her father.

Non carcer illum, non Aloysia,
Dimovit uxor: nec trepidus gener.
Nec ante Patrem Margarita
   Faemineo lacrymosa questu.

Balde states that More was more steadfast than King Henry and absolutely resolute from beginning to end, hastening to prison, "grim-faced but glad" as others wept about him:

Full of the future, where for the tomb he stood,
And having calmed the hangman's shaking hand
With his reward, he gave his neck
   To be struck by the bloody iron.

Plenus futuri quo tumulo stetit,
Postquam paventem Carnificis manum
Mercede firmasset, cruento
   Colla dedit ferienda ferro.

Karl Maurer, Associate Professor in the Department of Classics at the University of Dallas, also offers texts and translations of some of Balde's poetry here. Many thanks to Dean Callahan for allowing me to share portions of his translation on my blog.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Edward Gibbon, RIP

Edward Gibbon died on January 16, 1794 at the age of only 56. Of course, he is most famous for The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, which he blamed on Christianity in part. As Donald S. Prudio commented last year, the 250th anniversary of Gibbon's inspiration to write Decline and Fall:

Edward Gibbon sat upon the steps of Ara Coeli. He could just look over the crest of the hill where there spread out the expanse of the Roman forum, the domain of Cato, Cicero, and Caesar. He would not have had to face the brooding monstrosity of the Victor Emmanuel monument, a towering oversized expanse of white marble, charitably called by Romans “the dentures.” Its absence made for a clear view to the Basilica of San Marco and the Cancelleria, next to the tenements of the contemporary Piazza Venezia. To his left was the marvelous Campidoglio of Michelangelo, echoing for Gibbon the attempt to rescue the city from its medieval torpor, and bring pagan Rome back to life.

Just at that moment the Franciscan friars began one of the hours of the Divine Office. Their chants echoed out to Gibbon. Here were these Catholic religious in sole possession of this monument of Western humanity. Why had the magnificent civilization fallen, which Gibbon prized so highly? The concatenation of chant and ruin bore powerfully on the young man. Gibbon was an archetype for his own generation. His outlook was that of the Enlightenment, at one with men like Voltaire, straining against the forces of tradition which they considered to retard social development. Chief among these was the Catholic Church. Though the young man had a yearlong dalliance with Catholicism a decade before, it ended with a desultory reconversion to Protestantism, perhaps a factor in his later writing.

Gibbon began to turn over the matter in his mind. These chanting friars behind him were the cause of the fall of Roman dominion, for they had exchanged the spirited pagan search for glory for an otherworldly promise of salvation. In short, the Roman Empire had died of Christianity. It was a febrile religion, which had unmanned the ancient world. Rome became terminally ill when it converted to the Church because, to use his famous term, it suffered a “loss of nerve.”

Two other historians later visited the ruins of the great Forum and set out to refute Gibbon: Blessed Frederic Ozanam and Christopher Dawson. I just read Robert Royal's introduction and analysis of Christopher Dawson's project to understand the role of religion in culture and civilization, and specifically the role of Christianity in Western Culture in A Deeper Vision: The Catholic Intellectual Tradition in the Twentieth Century, and as ever when this is mentioned, I'm so surprised when Royal mentions how Dawson, who was so influential in mid-century Catholic and mainstream academic history, is relatively unknown. I've known about Dawson for decades, so I guess I was ahead of the curve. He--like Ozanam--was introduced to me when I was a sophomore in college at the Newman Center at WSU, and his Religion and the Rise of Western Culture was an assigned text in a Medieval History course. Eighth Day Books has featured that work and others of his on its shelves and in its annual catalog (formerly published) for years. I did not know that he had fallen out of favor at all!

Friday, January 15, 2016

457 Years Ago--and Just Five Years Ago--Today

Four hundred and fifty-seven years ago, on January 15, 1559 Elizabeth Tudor was crowned and anointed Queen of England and Ireland in Westminster Abbey with a ceremony based on that developed for her half-sister Mary Tudor five years or so earlier. There are reports that she left the sanctuary area when the Bishop of Carlisle elevated the Sacred Host and that she did not receive Holy Communion. She was only 25 years old--after the succession of a boy king, too young (legally) to reign, and of a middle aged woman, perhaps too old to reign, her youth must have been very refreshing. Her subjects anticipated her marriage.

Her first Parliament would establish the Via Media of the Church of England while the Convocation of Bishops as constituted by the late Reginald Cardinal Pole, Archbishop of Canterbury, almost to the man, refused to swear the Oaths of Supremacy and Uniformity demanded by it. Elizabeth appointed Matthew Parker, who had been one of her mother's chaplains, as her Archbishop of Canterbury--she was, after all, Supreme Governor of the Church, as determined by Parliament. The bishops, priests and officials at the universities of Oxford and Cambridge who refused to take her oaths and follow his leadership would be deposed from their positions, exiled or imprisoned.

Five years ago today, the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham was founded, and tomorrow the Ordinary of the Ordinariate will celebrate this extraordinary anniversary with Mass at the Church of the Most Precious Blood in London.

Late last year, the OLW (Our Lady of Walsingham) Ordinariate conducted a survey to discuss the next steps for the groups that had been formed since January 15, 2011, and noted:

As the project team (made up of three experienced Ordinariate priests and a member of the lay faithful with experience in strategic planning) visited groups, there was a real sense in which we became aware that we were walking on “holy ground.” Even in the smallest groups there was an excitement and joy as people told their stories of the past few years. In many places and in many different ways excellent work is being done. The sharing of treasure referred to in Anglicanorum Coetibus is happening as diocesan Catholics join the Ordinariate in worship and members of the Ordinariate join in the life of the wider Catholic community. Throughout our visits we experienced an appreciation and affection for the Ordinary but also a clear concern that he is overworked and under supported. Similarly, without exception, there was a clear sense that the groups were well cared for by their priests but a concern as to how supported their priests were. Most groups remain enthusiastic but there is also, inevitably, a little weariness and realisation that we have reached the stage where further development of the structures of the Ordinariate is necessary in order to share the vision of Pope Benedict XVI as we enter the next phase in our mission. 

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Aubrey Beardsley at London's NPG

Miguel Cullen writes about an exhibition of Aubrey Beardsley's portraits at London's National Portrait Galley in The Catholic Herald:

A small exhibition of portraits of Aubrey Beardsley at the National Portrait Gallery reveals a touching detail involving the socialite illustrator’s premature death. There is a picture of him in the Hotel Cosmopolitan, in Menton, France, where he died of tuberculosis aged 25. To the left is a crucifix: Beardsley had converted to Catholicism a year previously, and died with a rosary in his fingers. The next day his mother and sister arranged a Requiem Mass for him at Menton Cathedral; he was buried in the adjacent cemetery.

Beardsley’s passage “from Decadence to Catholicism” was one that was well-trodden. After him came Lord Alfred Douglas; John Gray, the poet and translator of Verlaine’s Catholic poems; the writer Ernest Dowson and Oscar Wilde’s friend Robbie Ross. All were artist-converts of fin-de-siècle England.

Beardsley was the ultimate Victorian hipster. He drew spindly, Japonism-inspired subjects taken from mythology on a flat perspective. His circle was inextricably linked with Oscar Wilde’s. When Wilde was arrested at the Cadogan Hotel, headlines screamed : “Oscar Wilde Arrested: Yellow Book Under His Arm”. Beardsley was art editor of The Yellow Book, an avant-garde magazine. In the public’s eye, they were arrogant, too-clever-by-half peddlers in obscenity (according to the Daily Mail). On the day of Wilde’s arrest, offices of the similarly “obscene” Yellow Book were vandalised by crowds.

With that list of "artist-converts of fin-de-siècle England" moving "from Decadence to Catholicism" Cullen almost references the title of Ellis Hanson's 1998 book from Harvard University Press, Decadence and Catholicism, which included Beardsley's "The Ascension of Saint Rose of Lima" on its cover. At least one reviewer found it a deeply flawed and confusing work, noting that:

In Decadence and Catholicism, there is no faith but Catholicism and these decadents are its prophets. Hanson frequently uses 'Catholic' as a synonym for 'Christian,' slipping between these terms in the same paragraphs (68, 231, 368-369). Indeed, virtually any reference to souls, faith, religion, guilt, spirit, or sin is triumphantly adduced as proof of underlying Catholicism -- regardless of the fact that these terms were fashionable in their own right in the nineteenth century or that they occupied a common lexicon shared by anyone with religious training or operating in the Anglican-based cultural environment of nineteenth-century Britain. In Hanson's world, anyone with the slightest interest in the soul must be a closet Catholic. Nor does he ever extend to other religions the kind of respect he gives Catholicism. Any decadent man who is not Catholic is just a proto-Catholic or a might-as-well-be Catholic, with no understanding of how an upbringing in particular Protestant denominations (or, in Raffalovich's case, in Judaism) might have specifically shaped religious experience. This unremitting Catholic-centrism leads him to make identifications that are unintentionally funny, as when he calls Gilbert and Sullivan's "Patience" a "religious satire" (242) -- presumably because "Patience" parodies the medieval revival, which Hanson equates with ritualism, thus Anglo-Catholicism, and therefore Catholicism itself.

While Hanson tends to spy Catholics under every bed, he is curiously ambivalent about their faith. With an introduction and conclusion sure to alienate Catholic scholars with its provocative attack on the Church (amongst other things, he views the Church as a corporate behemoth and "the bulwark of reactionary politics throughout the world" (371)), he spends the rest of the book giving heartfelt, emotional testimony about the power and beauty and necessity of what he calls 'the Faith' in a way sure to make poststructuralists uneasy.

Men and women don't convert to any religion because of the aesthetics of art and architecture, ritual and music--those change. Gerard Manley Hopkins protested that his conversion was not to the beautiful liturgy and churches of Catholicism; the newly re-established Catholic church in England didn't offer those glories. If he wanted beautiful churches and liturgy, the ritualistic movement of the Tractarians provided that, with incense and candles and ceremony.

There has to be some content, some meaning beyond the surface if the conversion is going to be real, effective, and lasting. A surer guide to conversion than Walter Pater's aesthetics or the pre-Raphaelite fascination with the Middle Ages was needed, and this author suggests it was Blessed John Henry Newman, but even he doubts the depths of these decadent conversions:

John Henry Newman (1801–1890) had a considerable impact on English Catholic thinking throughout the Victorian period and after. For fin de siècle Catholics, he was the glorious forebear and the fatherly reference. As the leading figure of the Oxford Movement, he played an essential role in the Tractarian attempt at restoring a sacramental spirituality and re-establishing the authority of tradition. The Movement, whose ideas were expressed in the Tracts for the Times published between 1833 and 1841, was in the end torn by internal conflicts that led to a number to conversions to Roman Catholicism, the most famous of which being Newman’s in 1845. The Ritualistic phase followed the Tractarian moment in the second half of the century, focusing on liturgical reforms and introducing ceremonials in which the sacramental emphasis marked an appropriation of Roman doctrine. 

All fin de siècle Catholic literature is influenced by Tractarian thought. The Decadents share with the Oxford theologians the rejection of modernity and religious liberalism. They are also highly receptive to the Tractarian focus on rituals and sacraments, on the sacred role of the ordained priest, and on the antiquity of the Christian religion; they also have the same admiration for the mediaeval Church as Tractarian authors like Richard Hurrell Froude. The refusal of any form of compromise with contemporary society and the importance given to the liturgy had a profound impact on the vision of Catholicism that can be found in Decadent writing. The ritualistic dimension of late Tractarianism certainly left a more lasting imprint on fin de siècle converts than the dogmatic and ecclesiological reflection with which the movement had started and which they did not show much interest in, with the notable exception of Lionel Johnson, who was according to W. B. Yeats the theologian of the group (“Lionel Johnson was to be our critic, and above all our theologian, for he had been converted to Catholicism and his orthodoxy, too learned to question, had accepted all we did.”) . . .

The Decadent converts drew their inspiration from a variety of sources, preferring the “Art-Catholic” works of Rossetti, the French poetry of Parnassians and Symbolists and the writings of Newman over the great English and Protestant tradition represented in the 19th century by Arnold, Ruskin, Browning and Tennyson. And of course, there is also the seminal influence of Pater, which led many critics, most famously T. S. Eliot in his essay on Arnold and Pater, to dismiss fin de siècle conversions as superficial and unsubstantial. Eliot’s rebuttal of “aesthetic religion” is unfair, though, as these authors’ various spiritual itineraries often reflect a real and profound search for religious meaning. Although their quest was expressed in aesthetic rather than theological terms, although the subjectivity of experience often took pre-eminence over the sense of ecclesiastic belonging, although their beliefs and modes of life were at times rather eccentric, their religion was in no way less valid than the more orthodox and dogmatic faith of later Catholic writers such as G. K. Chesterton or Hilaire Belloc. The importance given to aesthetic emotions as part of religious experience is not only the fruit of a superficial reading of Pater’s writings, as T. S. Eliot seems to imply: it also bears the imprint of a theological tradition going back to Newman (who is rarely accused of shallowness), which places the emphasis on the personal dimension of faith rather than on intellectual obedience. One might argue that this focus on the individual over the ecclesial is fundamentally Protestant. The literary converts of the Decadence, despite their vocal rejection of the Reformation’s heritage, were all deeply marked by their Protestant upbringing, and their writings often represent a rather un-Catholic Catholicism, as if their vision of the Roman Church was distorted through a Protestant prism. The over-dramatic, romanticised religion that they describe is often closer to the depictions that can be found in the Gothic novel and in anti-Catholic pamphlets than to the actual faith practised by the average Catholic under Victoria’s reign.

Father John Henry Newman, among the working-class families of Birmingham, would have been a model for that "actual faith".