Monday, February 29, 2016

When Progressives Are Backward

Amity Shlaes, author of The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression, reviews two books in The Wall Street Journal (subscription required) about Eugenics in early twentieth century America: Imbeciles by Adam Cohen and Illiberal Reformers by Thomas C. Leonard. Eugenics almost sounds like a good idea, but then you should immediately think of all the ways that such a process or program of making sure that only the "right people" have babies can be abused. Shlaes summarizes the two books:

The first, Adam Cohen’s compelling “Imbeciles,” focuses on Buck v. Bell, the 1927 case in which the Supreme Court upheld Virginia’s right to sterilize citizens it deemed mentally ill, somehow deficient or, indeed, shiftless. In the second book, “Illiberal Reformers,” Thomas C. Leonard also treats the horrifying rise of compulsory sterilization and, in a deft analysis, goes on to compare the thinking behind eugenics to other forms of supposedly enlightened policy. 

The cause behind human eugenics is the application of Darwin's theories of evolution to social issues:

Nowadays eugenics is portrayed as an unfortunate detail in the story of an otherwise glowing movement, Progressivism. What these two volumes, especially “Illiberal Reformers,” reveal is that eugenics served as a key tool of the Progressive policy makers of the 1920s. “Darwin’s ambiguity on the question of whether evolution resulted in progress or merely change left enough leeway for progressives to claim society must take charge of its own evolution,” Mr. Leonard notes. The consequences of Progressive Darwinism were policies as imprecise, superstitious and inhumane as any they superseded.

The perversity commenced in the asylums, to which state officials packed off the infirm, the old, repeat criminals and anyone whom they judged somehow physically or mentally challenged. So great was the faith of state officials in their own diagnoses that the officials assumed even radical measures, such as forced sterilization, to be justified. Tens of thousands of inmates were duly sterilized, and state officials, far from hiding their work, trumpeted the news, so loud that they got the attention of Europeans, especially the Germans.

U.S. courts upheld the states’ sterilization policies, concluding that the states’ power indeed ranged broadly enough “to cover cutting the fallopian tubes.” As Mr. Cohen reminds us, a Supreme Court bench that included Louis Brandeis, William Howard Taft and Oliver Wendell Holmes found constitutional the sterilization of Carrie Buck, the supposedly feeble-minded daughter in a mother-daughter pair who had both spent time as inmates of Virginia’s State Colony for Epileptics and Feebleminded. In her teenage years Carrie had been raped; the baby that resulted was now in foster care. Authorities ordered the procedure to prevent further children. Commented Justice Holmes, writing for the majority: “Three generations of imbeciles are enough.”

The problem is that Holmes was wrong: Carrie Buck was not an imbecile, nor was her daughter. (Perhaps Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes was the imbecile?):

Only later did health authorities realize that they were sterilizing many healthy citizens. Only later did they reconsider whether a criminal mind could be inherited. And only far later did officials acknowledge that Vivian, Buck’s daughter conceived before her sterilization, had proved perfectly normal.

Shlaes goes on to comment that this Progressive Social Darwinism in the United States directly influenced the eugenics programs in Nazi Germany, the Third Reich’s Law for the Prevention of Hereditarily Diseased Offspring being based on a proposal from the Eugenics Record Office in Cold Springs Harbor, New York. Once the Nazis started carrying out the full logic of eugenics--not just preventing "defective" babies from being born, or "letting" them die without care, but eliminating (killing) them after, even long after, birth--the U.S. eugenics movement faded.

Shlaes highlights Thomas C. Leonard's placement of blame for eugenics policies, which affected charity programs, union contracts, immigration quotas, and other economic management efforts:

Mr. Leonard blames the arrogance of reform itself for the horror of eugenics. Even more than they sought blond children, Mr. Leonard argues, Progressives sought power over their fellow men. The “imprimatur of science,” he says, gave them that power. Theories such as eugenics were useful because they appeased the intellectual and physical vanity of the (then-Caucasian) scientific class. One can easily imagine scientists beating their breasts in pride. Who were the Neanderthals now?

These two books, and Ms. Shlaes's excellent review are salutary warnings to anyone who wants "to play god" (sic) with individual's lives for the sake of what they consider the good of society or the life worth living. I was shocked to learn many years ago that Helen Keller was in favor of eugenics and even thought that hospitals should have "physician juries" to decide whether babies born with birth defects would receive treatment or not. She said, “Our puny sentimentalism has caused us to forget that a human life is sacred only when it may be of some use to itself and to the world.” I have never been able to watch The Miracle Worker with the same wonder and delight since.

Power & Persecution in the Middle East

On Saturday, February 27, I attended most of an event hosted at St. George's Orthodox Christian Cathedral here in Wichita focused on the "Persecuted Christian Communities of the Middle East", especially in Syria and Iraq, but also commenting on the status of Christians in Lebanon, whence many of the members or the ancestors of St. George's have come. The complimentary lunch was excellent, by the way, a foretaste of the annual Lebanese dinner with ruz and yuknee! The turnout in the morning was excellent; some people had to leave after lunch for other Saturday activities. I attended three of the four presentations and left for Confession before the panel discussion and Great Vespers.

Two groups have joined forces to help the Christians in the Middle East: IDC (In Defense of Christians) and the Knights of Columbus. IDC was represented at this meeting: their partnership with the KofC was just announced. The goals of these efforts are humanitarian aid of course, but also to obtain passage of H.Con.Res.75 and United States Department of State acknowledgement that the atrocities committed against Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East as Genocide; and to help stop this genocide by creating an International Protected Zone for indigenous Christians near Mosul, Iraq (near the ancient city of Nineveh). The IDC representative, Ninar Keyrouz, was a little vague about how the International Protected Zone would work, saying that lots of details need to be worked out. Unless ISIS is destroyed, how would the international community even carve out the safe zone? Even if ISIS was kicked out of Iraq, will the Christians in that safe zone need a permanent defense from the international community?

The stories about the ISIS take over of Mosul and other Christian communities are harrowing: looting, executions, kidnapping of children and young girls, dispersal of families, the choice of conversion or death/exile, the betrayal and brutality, the destruction of churches, monasteries and other ancient Christian art, architecture, and artifacts. ISIS is focused on eliminating Christians from their ancestral home and destroying all signs of their civilization and heritage in their efforts to create the Caliphate. Sometimes the speakers seemed to place too much significance on the ethnic heritage, in my humble opinion.

One of the main calls to action of the day was to sign the petition to Secretary Kerry for the U.S. to call these attacks on Christians in Iraq and Syria what they are: Genocide--and thus marshal international support and protection for Christians in the Middle East. In the past, we have ignored too many genocides: in Europe under Nazi Germany, in the Ottoman Empire, etc. Those of us attending the event on Saturday were urged to become more aware and to spread awareness of what is happening to Christians in the Middle East: this time, we must acknowledge the crime of genocide and prevent it from happening again. Here is a prayer from the Knights of Columbus so that we may pray as if everything depends on God (because it does) and yet work as if everything depends on us.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

From Candlemas to Execution: St. Anne and Three Priests

There is a rich story here of martyrdom, the relationships between Recusant Catholic laity and priests, and of love and sacrifice. Although only two priests were martyred with St. Anne Line on February 27, 1601, a third priest connected with her story suffered there a year and a couple of months later. That's why I mention three priests in the headline--and then just think of how many more priests St. Anne Line had assisted and protected! Corpus Christi Watershed has published a Mass in her honor. Reports I've read indicated that she was carried to court and to the scaffold because she was so weak, but perhaps she did stand as depicted above before being hung to declare: "I am sentenced to die for harbouring a Catholic priest, and so far I am from repenting for having so done, that I wish, with all my soul, that where I have entertained one [actually, there were many], I could have entertained a thousand."

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

Father John Gerard SJ, author of the famous book Autobiography of an Elizabethan Priest, asked Anne to manage two different safe houses for Jesuits, even though she was ill, but because she was destitute, surviving on teaching and sewing. She was arrested on the Feast of the Presentation, February 2, 1601, when Father Francis Page, SJ was celebrating Mass; he escaped with her help. She was tried on February 26, carried to court in a chair, where she admitted joyfully that she had helped Father Page escape and only regretted that she had not been able to help even more priests escape! After her execution by hanging, Father Filcock kissed her dead hand and the hem of her dress as she still hung from the gibbet and proclaimed, “You have gotten the start of us, sister, but we will follow you as quickly as we may.” Barkworth was first to be hung, disemboweled and quartered. Filcock had to watch his companion suffer, knowing that he would immediately follow. 

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

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

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

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

Father Barkworth sang, on the way to Tyburn, the Paschal Anthem: "Hæc dies quam, fecit Dominus exultemus et lætemur in ea", and Father Filcock joined him in the chant:

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

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

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

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

His journey into England was difficult enough. The ship he was traveling on from Bilbao, Spain to Calais, France, was becalmed just outside the port and fell pray to a Dutch ship blockading the harbor. Filcock was captured, but managed to escape and land surreptitiously on the shore in Kent in 1598. Soon after he began his ministry, he contacted Father Henry Garnet, the Jesuit superior, asking to become a Jesuit. He was accepted into the Society in 1600, but then was betrayed by someone he had studied with in Spain. He was arrested and committed to Newgate Prison in London. His trial did not last long, despite the fact that there was no evidence against him and that the names in the indictment were not names he had used. Before he suffered, he paid tribute to Father Barkworth, saying, "Pray for me to our Lord, whose presence you now enjoy, that I too may faithfully run my course."

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

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

Friday, February 26, 2016

Stations of the Cross on the Road

On Friday, February 12, as I drove to Fort Scott, I listened to the Wyoming Catholic College CD of The Way of the Cross: Meditations by John Henry Cardinal Newman (recorded in 2009 before his beatification), which also includes musical selections performed by the Wyoming Catholic College choir. You may purchase the CD from the college's webstore. EWTN has the texts of Blessed John Henry Newman's meditations here.

I also stopped at St. Martin of Tours in Piqua, Kansas. Although there is no active Catholic parish there anymore, Catholics in the area maintain the church and keep it open for visitors (including a nice WC). It was chilly in the church, but the light was good inside and here are some pictures. First, the exterior--I wish I could have taken a picture of the church as it appeared on the side of the highway, with the bell tower rising above the plains:

A view of the altar and sanctuary from the choir loft and a close up of the crucifix:

And two of the lovely Stations of the Cross:

The reminder above the Pieta is "Save Your Soul":

Speaking of the bell tower, how about climbing this stairway to heaven from the choir loft? (two wooden ladders nailed together!):

And the patron saint himself, St. Martin of Tours:

You might notice the poinsettia flowers; that's because Mass is offered usually (I saw a folder from a funeral Mass in the choir loft) just once a year: on Christmas Eve. The rest of the year it is maintained as an oratory, a place of prayer.

Finally, I'll close this photo post with an interesting sight in Fort Scott: the doorway to the Scottish Rite Temple with the cross and the pelican:

The Scottish Rite Temple closed in 2014 due to declining membership and financial losses, according to this Fort Scott Tribune story.

All pictures (c) 2016 Stephanie A. Mann. Taken with Canon PowerShot S95, my husband's nice point and shoot (for me) camera.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Blessed John Henry Newman on Friendship

Bishop James Conley of Lincoln, Nebraska, quoted Newman in a talk given to teachers in his diocese, "reprinted" in Crisis Magazine:

My spiritual patron, Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman, said that friendship is a school of love, a school of Christian charity. He thought that human friendship teaches us, in a particular way, how to exercise universal charity.

Newman wrote that “the best preparation for loving the world at large, and loving it duly and wisely, is to cultivate an intimate friendship and affection towards those who are immediately about us.”

Friendship is a “school of Christian charity” because friendship makes demands upon us. Our friends are those who are most close to us, who share a vision, and a mission. Our friends are collaborators in the great work—the magnum opus—of our lives. But our friends, like us, are human beings. And relationships with human beings require forgiveness, forbearance, patience, and understanding. We learn those virtues by loving our friends. Newman says that

The real love of man must depend on practice, and therefore, must begin by exercising itself on our friends around us, otherwise it will have no existence. By trying to love our relations and friends, by submitting to their wishes, though contrary to our own, by bearing with their infirmities, by overcoming their occasional waywardness by kindness, by dwelling on their excellences, and trying to copy them, thus it is that we form in our hearts that root of charity, which, though small at first, may, like the mustard seed, at last even overshadow the earth.

Bishop Conley is quoting from Newman's Parochial and Plain Sermon "Love of Relations and Friends", based upon the verse from the First Letter of St. John: "Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God." (4:7). Blessed John Henry Newman goes to demonstrate how observing the old adage that "charity (love) begins at home" has an influence on how we respond in charity (love) to our neighbor and even those we don't know but want to help:

Further, that love of friends and relations, which nature prescribes, is also of use to the Christian, in giving form and direction to his love of mankind at large, and making it intelligent and discriminating. A man, who would fain begin by a general love of all men, necessarily puts them all on a level, and, instead of being cautious, prudent, and sympathising in his benevolence, is hasty and rude; does harm, perhaps, when he means to do good, discourages the virtuous and well-meaning, and wounds the feelings of the gentle. Men of ambitious and ardent minds, for example, desirous of doing good on a large scale, are especially exposed to the temptation of sacrificing individual to general good in their plans of charity. Ill-instructed men, who have strong abstract notions about the necessity of showing generosity and candour towards opponents, often forget to take any thought of those who are associated with themselves; and commence their (so-called) liberal treatment of their enemies by an unkind desertion of their friends. This can hardly be the case, when men cultivate the private charities, as an introduction to more enlarged ones. By laying a foundation of social amiableness, we insensibly learn to observe a due harmony and order in our charity; we learn that all men are not on a level; that the interests of truth and holiness must be religiously observed; and that the Church has claims on us before the world. We can easily afford to be liberal on a large scale, when we have no affections to stand in the way. Those who have not accustomed themselves to love their neighbours whom they have seen, will have nothing to lose or gain, nothing to grieve at or rejoice in, in their larger plans of benevolence. They will take no interest in them for their own sake; rather, they will engage in them, because expedience demands, or credit is gained, or an excuse found for being busy. Hence too we discern how it is, that private virtue is the only sure foundation of public virtue; and that no national good is to be expected (though it may now and then accrue), from men who have not the fear of God before their eyes.

That reminded me of the goals of Blessed Frederic Ozanam and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul: not organized, systematic philanthropy, but personal, immediate charity from one Christian to another.

The first coat of arms at the top is Bishop Conley's, the second is Cardinal Newman's.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Justice Scalia and St. Thomas More

Father Paul Scalia celebrated his father's funeral Mass at the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC. Video of his homily is readily available on several media outlets. He began with a trap, setting us up to think his homily would be a eulogy for Antonin Scalia:

We are gathered here because of one man. A man known personally to many of us, known only by reputation to even more. A man loved by many, scorned by others. A man known for great controversy, and for great compassion. That man, of course, is Jesus of Nazareth.

It is He whom we proclaim. Jesus Christ, son of the father, born of the Virgin Mary, crucified, buried, risen, seated at the right hand of the Father. It is because of him. because of his life, death and resurrection that we do not mourn as those who have no hope, but in confidence we commend Antonin Scalia to the mercy of God.

Scripture says Jesus Christ is the same yesterday today and forever. And that sets a good course for our thoughts and our prayers here today. In effect, we look in three directions. To yesterday, in thanksgiving. To today, in petition. And into eternity, with hope.

If you've heard the homily, you should have caught the reference to St. Thomas More, whom Justice Scalia admired and revered:

God blessed Dad, as is well known, with a love for his country. He knew well what a close-run thing the founding of our nation was. And he saw in that founding, as did the founders themselves, a blessing, a blessing quickly lost when faith is banned form the public square, or when we refuse to bring it there. So he understood that there is no conflict between loving God and loving one’s country, between one’s faith and one’s public service. Dad understood that the deeper he went in his Catholic faith, the better a citizen and public servant he became. God blessed him with the desire to be the country’s good servant because he was God’s first.

This blog post discusses how Scalia admired St. Thomas More:

Justice Antonin Scalia’s veneration of St. Thomas More was well known. His chambers included a replica of Hans Holbein’s portrait of Thomas More. At Barack Obama’s second presidential inauguration, Antonin Scalia wore a replica of the round black hat More wears in that portrait.

Scalia revered Thomas More for his conscientious and principled loyalty to Catholic teaching. Scalia scorned the image promoted in Robert Bolt’s Man for All Seasons of More as being some free-thinking individualist who happened to find himself in disagreement with King Henry VIII over his second marriage to Ann (sic) Boleyn. Instead, Scalia honored Thomas More as the loyal Catholic he was in historical fact.

On the Theophilus Blog, in association with the Catholic Theological Union, Gerald E. Nora goes on to recount an example of Scalia citing St. Thomas More at a meeting of the Catholic Lawyers Guild of Chicago. More about that hat here.

As I listened to the homily on Saturday, I thought of the other St. Thomas More connection as Father Paul reminded us, as More did in his Supplication of Souls, not to canonize the dead immediately, but to pray for the Poor Souls in Purgatory:

So we look to the past, to Jesus Christ yesterday. We call to mind all of these blessings, and we give our Lord the honor and glory for them, for they are His work. We look to Jesus today, in petition, to the present moment, here and now, as we mourn the one we love and admire, the one whose absence pains us. Today we pray for him. We pray for the repose of his soul. We thank God for his goodness to Dad as is right and just. But we also know that although dad believed, he did so imperfectly, like the rest of us. He tried to love God and neighbor, but like the rest of us did so imperfectly.

He was a practicing Catholic, “practicing” in the sense that he hadn’t perfected it yet. Or rather, Christ was not yet perfected in him. And only those in whom Christ is brought to perfection can enter heaven. We are here, then, to lend our prayers to that perfecting, to that final work of God’s grace, in freeing Dad from every encumbrance of sin.

But don’t take my word for it. Dad himself, not surprisingly, had something to say on the matter. Writing years ago to a Presbyterian minister whose funeral service he admired, he summarized quite nicely the pitfalls of funerals and why he didn’t like eulogies.

He wrote: “Even when the deceased was an admirable person, indeed especially when the deceased was an admirable person, praise for his virtues can cause us to forget that we are praying for and giving thanks for God’s inexplicable mercy to a sinner.”

Now he would not have exempted himself from that. We are here then, as he would want, to pray for God’s inexplicable mercy to a sinner. To this sinner, Antonin Scalia. Let us not show him a false love and allow our admiration to deprive him of our prayers. We continue to show affection for him and do good for him by praying for him: That all stain of sin be washed away, that all wounds be healed, that he be purified of all that is not Christ. That he rest in peace.

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord and let perpetual light shine upon him. May the souls of all the faithful departed rest in peace. Amen. 

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

The Four Sharpest Eyes in England

G.K. Chesterton compares what William Cobbett and Jane Austen saw when they looked at the ruins of England's abbeys, especially when some part of the abbey has become the manor house, as in Northanger Abbey (or Downton Abbey?):

We should think it rather odd if a profiteer had a country house that was called The Cathedral. We might think it strange if a stockbroker had built a villa and habitually referred to it as a church. But we can hardly see the preposterous profanity by which one chance rich man after another has been able to commandeer or purchase a house which he still calls an Abbey. It is precisely as if he had gone to live in the parish church; had breakfasted on the altar, or cleaned his teeth in the font. That is the short and sharp summary of what has happened in English history; but few can get it thus foreshortened or in any such sharp outline. Anyhow, this third type of monument of the past does offer itself visibly to the eye like the other two. The romantic reactionary at the end of the eighteenth century might not often find the Bad Baronet in a castle, but might really find him in an abbey. The most attractive of all such reactionaries, Miss Catherine Morland, was not altogether disappointed in her search for the Mysteries of Udolpho. She knew at least that General Tilney lived in an abbey; though even she could hardly have mistaken General Tilney for an abbot. Nor was she wrong in supposing that a crime had been committed by that gentleman in Northanger Abbey. His crime was not being an abbot. But Jane Austen, who had so piercing a penetration of the shams of her own age, had had a little too much genteel education to penetrate the shams of history. Despite the perverse humour of her juvenile History of England, despite her spirited sympathy with Mary Stuart, she could not be expected to see the truth about the Tudor transition. In these matters she had begun with books, and could not be expected to read what is written in mere buildings and big monuments. She was educated, and had not the luck to be self-educated like Cobbett. The comparison is not so incongruous as it may seem. They were the four sharpest eyes that God had given to the England of that time; but two of them were turned inward into the home, and two were looking out of the window. I wish I could think that they ever met.

From Chesterton's William Cobbett. 

BTW: Jane Austen enthusiasts will mark 2017 as the 200th anniversary of her death. She will replace Charles Darwin on the ten pound note, according to this BBC story in 2013!

Monday, February 22, 2016

Upheld by Stillness: Reflections on Renaissance Gems

I posted a preview of this new CD earlier this month: Upheld by Stillness: Renaissance gems and their reflections - Volume 1: Byrd. I received my copy last Friday and have listened to it several times this past weekend. ORA, founded and conducted by Suzi Digby, is a new vocal group. From their website:

ORA believes that we are in a second Golden Age of choral music, matching that of the Renaissance. It takes the musical experience of old and new masterworks to new levels through its live performances and recordings.

ORA combines the talent of the UK’s leading singers with a fresh and enticing approach to performance. It is not just about singing, though that is at the core of its being, it is also about engaging audiences on many levels with a dramatic and all-encompassing approach to performance that makes true ‘experiences’ out of concerts.

ORA is also about championing contemporary composers. We love the choral music that is being written today and ORA is passionate about commissioning, recording and performing new works. We hope you will share our passion. 

This first CD is the beginning of series of recordings ORA plans to make of Renaissance compositions matched with newly commissioned works. According to this interview, Suzi Digby has many works lined up, and the first one is a blockbuster:

For the 250th anniversary of Tallis's epic Spem in Alium, we have commissioned James MacMillan (considered by some to be the greatest living choral composer) to write a 40-part reflection. This happens to be in 2020: a fortuitous number!

Other forthcoming pairings include...

Ēriks Ešenvalds - Infelix Ego (paired with Byrd’s setting of the same text)

John Barber - Sicut Lilium (with Brumel’s setting)

Jonathan Dove - Vadam et circuibo (with Victoria’s setting)

Ken Burton - Loquebantur (with Tallis’ setting)

Richard Allain - Videte Miraculum (with Tallis’ setting)

Frank Ferko - If Ye Love Me (with Tallis’ setting)

Harry Escott - O Light of Light (with Tallis’ setting of O Nata Lux)

Alec Roth - Night Song (with Tallis’ setting of Te Lucis Ante Terminum)

and a new setting of Psalm 150 to Archbishop Parker’s words in his Psalter, to accompany Tallis’ Tunes for Archbishop Parker’s Psalter.

It would make sense for the second CD to be focused on the works of Thomas Tallis, another great English Renaissance composer, if that's what ORA intends. 

The work on this CD that most intrigued me as an historian of the English Reformation and as an English literature major was the one I highlighted in my first post about the CD, Alexander L'Estrange's "Show me, deare Christ". To recall what he said about his thought process in composing this work:

It was fascinating to reflect on what the words ‘I believe’ would have meant for William Byrd as a well-known recusant - a Catholic who refused to go to church. In Elizabethan England, being caught with Latin ‘popish’ books, celebrating Catholic Mass or, even worse, harbouring a priest in your house, could mean jail. For Jesuit martyrs like Edmund Campion, Robert Southwell and countless others, their fate was much worse: hanging, drawing and quartering and then your body parts being boiled in salt water and cumin seed before being displayed on pikes around the city. Lovely!

So it is all the more amazing that Byrd was able to write and publish his three Latin masses in the 1590s. Remember this was effectively illegal music that only someone courageous enough to risk accusations of treason would buy or sing. Church choirs certainly wouldn’t be queuing up to sing it.

In the course of my research, I eventually came to churchman and poet John Donne's Holy Sonnet XVIII. This poem beautifully expresses Donne’s lifelong despairing of the fragmentation of the church. Donne himself was a Catholic and his brother died in prison, guilty of 'harbouring a seminary priest'. Donne converted to Anglicanism in 1615 and later became Dean of St Paul's Cathedral in London. Like Byrd, he would have understood only too well the dichotomy of different brands of the same Christian faith – which continues to challenge the Christian community to this day.

I don't know if L'Estrange intended this reaction, but I as listened to the music--and even more, read the words he sets to music--I heard a great debate between belief and doubt, between Byrd, Campion, and Southwell on one side and John Donne on the other. William Byrd, the recusant Catholic, and the martyred Saints Edmund Campion and Robert Southwell are confident in their Catholic faith, ready to die for it, or at least pay fines and suffer trouble for it. "Credo in unum Deum . . .  Et unam sanctum catholicam and apostolicam ecclesiam." Donne, on the other hand, is uncertain about where the true Church Jesus founded is: he is not restful in the Anglican church, even though he is one of its ministers, serving as the Dean of St. Paul's Cathedral, encouraged by King James I. Donne's sonnet is mostly questions, while Byrd, Campion, and Southwell make statements and live and die by them, while Donne finally resolves to court and embrace "thy mild dove" which is "open to most men."

L'Estrange quotes Byrd's last will and testament: " . . . that I may live and die a true and perfect member of the holy Catholic Church, without which I believe there is no salvation for me". St. Edmund Campion is determined " . . . either to win you to Heaven or to die upon your pikes" and L'Estrange also cites his words at the conclusion of his trial with the other priests in 1581: "In condemning us, you condemn all your own ancestors, all our ancient bishops and kings, all that was once the glory of England . . .". And he quotes the poems of St. Robert Southwell too, all juxtaposed with the Latin of the Nicene and Athanasian Creed  ("For unless a person keeps this faith whole and entire, he will undoubtedly be lost forever."). Because the composition ends with the statement of belief from the Credo, it seems the Catholics are more steadfast and resolute than doubting, questioning Donne. 

First Printed Notice: The Annual Catholic Culture Conference

We are just two months away from the annual Catholic Culture Conference at the Spiritual Life Center. From the Wichita diocesan newspaper, The Catholic Advance:

. . . A Catholic culture is an environment which fosters our authentic development in mind, body, and spirit. John Senior described this culture as “the natural environment of truth, assisted by art, ordered intrinsically, that is, from within – to the praise, reverence, and service of God our Lord. To restore it, we must learn its language.”

This is the motivation, and hope, for the 2nd Annual Catholic Culture Conference April 22-23 at the Spiritual Life Center. The theme of this year’s conference is “Reviving the Catholic Imagination.”

Our keynote speaker is Dr. Anthony Esolen. Professor Esolen currently serves as professor of English at Providence College, and is perhaps best known for his widely acclaimed translation of Dante’s
Divine Comedy. He has also authored several original works, including The Politically Incorrect Guide to Western Civilization and the satirically titled Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child. He regularly writes for publications including The Catholic Thing and Crisis Magazine.

Dr. Esolen will give three presentations at the conference. A keynote presentation entitled “The Smallest of the Seeds: The Union of All Things in Christ” on Friday, April 22, followed “Dante and the Glorious Liberty of the Children of God” and “Assaults on Spiritual Liberty” on Saturday, April 23. The conference will also feature other presentations by regional and local speakers including Bo Bonner, Stephanie Mann, Jackie Arnold, Matthew Umbarger, and Fr. Ken Van Haverbeke.
Gates is assistant program director at the center.

Want to hear Esolen?

Space is limited to the first 150 registrants. Sign up early by calling the Spiritual Life Center at (316) 744-0167 or online at Registration includes a wine and appetizer social Friday evening, and breakfast and lunch on Saturday. Early bird rates, by April 11, are commuter $55, single occupancy $85, double occupancy $75.

I'm preparing my presentation now: "Cobbett, Chesterton, and Merry Old England."

Sunday, February 21, 2016

February 21: Southwell and Newman

What a remarkable doctrine of the Church is the Communion of Saints! Two great holy men were born this day--one to eternal life, the other to life on earth: St. Robert Southwell was executed on February 21, 1595 and Blessed John Henry Newman was born on February 21, 1801. When I talked to Matt Swaim on the Son Rise Morning Show Friday, I mentioned the things these two men have in common:

~They are both Englishmen
~Both are converts to the Catholic faith from the Anglican church
~Both went to the Continent to study for the priesthood
~Both are order priests: Southwell a Jesuit and Newman an Oratorian
~Both are poets, although Southwell is probably the greater poet (but Newman's The Dream of Gerontius is a great achievement)

Of course, they differ vastly in their deaths and that marks their different status as saints in heaven: St. Robert Southwell was canonized as a martyr, while Newman was beatified--and perhaps soon will be canonized--as a confessor of the faith. Here's an article I wrote describing the differences between martyrs and confessors.

St. Robert Southwell was 33 years old when he was executed at Tyburn on February 21, 1595. When he cited his age during his trial, his torturer Richard Topcliffe mocked him for claiming equality with Jesus Christ. Southwell answered that he was but a worm.

It is hard to be temperate when writing about his arrest, torture and execution--it is obviously a horrendous blot against the Elizabethan "regime". He was betrayed by a woman that Elizabeth's pursuivant Richard Topcliffe had raped and blackmailed--he promised to find her a husband since she was pregnant with his child if she would turn Southwell in; he was tortured--illegally and excruciatingly--numerous times, starting with a visit to Topcliffe's personal torture chamber, while Elizabeth's officials looked on; then he was held in fetid conditions until his father visited him in Westminster's gatehouse and petitioned the queen to put him to death rather than leave him there, in his own filth.

Moved to the Tower of London he was held in greater but solitary comfort, but Queen Elizabeth allowed the sadistic Topcliffe to continue torturing Southwell, who had readily admitted his priesthood. Prior to his trial on February 20 he was moved into a hole called Limbo; the government did not even try to implicate him in any plot against the Queen; he was executed just because he was a Catholic priest. When he was executed on February 21st, the crowds made sure he was dead before the butchery began--and no one cheered when his severed head was displayed to the crowd. Indeed, Elizabeth's government recognized that they had gone too far--there was lull in executions of Catholic priests in London. Lord Cecil even ignored Topcliffe's desires to get started on new victims.

Robert Southwell was canonized by Pope Paul VI in 1970 among the group called The 40 Martyrs of England and Wales. In addition to being a steadfast martyr, he is regarded as one of the great poets of the Elizabethan Age.

Pope St. John Paul II remembered the 200th anniversary of Newman's birth in this 2001 letter to Birmingham:

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

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

John Henry Newman was beatified by Pope Benedict in 2010: we are awaiting the confirmation of a second miracle that would lead to his canonization. When he is canonized, he will be the first English saint since 1970 (referring to the canonization of the 40 Martyrs of England and Wales) and the first British saint since 1976 (St. John Ogilvie, SJ, martyred in Scotland). Many Newman devotees hope that he will be declared a Doctor (Teacher) of the Church once he is canonized.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

The Boy King Crowned

Edward VI was crowned King of England and Ireland on February 20, 1547. This site explains some of the changes made to the coronation ceremony to reflect the religious changes England was about to undergo under Edward VI's Protector, Edward Seymour, and rest of the Privy Council:

Edward VI’s coronation was subjected to substantial revision and interpretation. He was the first monarch to be formally proclaimed king prior to his coronation and the Recognition and the oath were redrafted by his Privy Council. The most radical change of the ceremony was the considerably reduced role of churchmen, traditionally the intermediaries between God and the King. The ceremony itself was shortened because of the boy’s young age: instead of the usual twelve hours, it took “mere” seven.

A dais had been erected in the richly decorated Abbey. On it was a throne decorated in damask and gold, with two cushions to help raise the small King. The ceremony started with Edward VI taking his coronation oath (promissio regis) on the Sacrament – the usual form since 14th century. After taking the oath, Edward was prepared for receiving unction. From 14th century onwards two special tunic-like shirts, one of white lawn, the other of red tartaryn, were worn by the Monarch for this part of the ceremony. The antiphon “Veni Creator Spiritus” was sung during the preliminaries to anointing.

The task of divesting the King of his clothes in readiness for anointing was traditionally the prerogative of the Archbishop and/or other senior clergymen. For Edward’s coronation, the task fell to the Lord Great Chamberlain. Only two ceremonial tasks were assigned to clergymen: the Bishop or Dean of Westminster dried the anointed places with a cotton cloth and delivering the royal buskins (soft boots) and spurs to the Lord Great Chamberlain.

Edward’s anointing was surprisingly religious, so to speak, because the coronation itself generally played down the notion of the King needing any additional sanctity. Edward received both chrism and holy oil on his breast, elbows, wrists, crown and, uniquely, the soles of his feet. This very thorough anointing was performed by the Archbishop of Canterbury who in his address to the King at the coronation strongly attacked the sacramental nature of the traditional consecration and unction, and denied Popes had the power to make Kings. Among other things, the Archbishop declared that the “solemn rites of coronation have their ends and utility; yet neither direct force or necessity” and that “the oil, if added, is but a ceremony”.

Cranmer’s address also included a repudiation of the Roman Catholic Church’s authority over the crown, a discussion of the significance of coronation rites, the king’s duties ( which include emulating the godly King Josiah of Judah in banishing idolatry from the land), and a blessing on the king’s reign. Among other things, he said: “The bishops of Canterbury, for the most part, have crowned your predecessors, and anointed them kings of this land; yet it was not in their power to receive or reject them… Your Majesty is God’s Vice-regent and Christ’s vicar within your own dominions, and to see, with your predecessor Josiah, God truly worshiped and idolatry destroyed, the terrain of the Bishops of Rome banished from your subjects and images removed”.

Read the rest there.

Friday, February 19, 2016

The Second Sunday of Lent

Matt Swaim and I will discuss two great historical events to remember on Sunday, February 21, the Second Sunday of Lent this morning on the Son Rise Morning Show (7:45 a.m. Eastern/6:45 a.m. Central). Listen live here--Annie Mitchell also told me they'd repeat the interview on Monday morning (February 22) during the national hour broadcast on EWTN.

St. Robert Southwell was hung, drawn, and quartered at Tyburn Tree on February 21, 1595. He is one of the great Jesuit martyrs of the English Reformation. He was also a great poet.

Blessed John Henry Newman was born on February 21, 1801--so Sunday is the 215th anniversary of that great Catholic convert's birth into an Anglican family in the City of London. He was also a great--or at least very good--poet!

I'll post more information about these two great saints, one a martyr, the other a confessor, and their significance on Sunday.

Music for Lent: William Byrd, et al.

R.J. Stove writes for The Catholic World Report, suggesting music for Lent:

Apologies if readers’ individual favorites have been omitted, but such omissions are inescapable. A playlist truly illustrative of Lenten music down the ages would be Wagnerian in its length, even if YouTube retains some surprising gaps (it is weak above all in 19th-century and early 20th-century Lenten repertoire). Order could be imposed upon “embarrassment of riches” chaos solely by adopting these stringent yardsticks for musical selection:

~To include only music that, whatever its composers’ own religious allegiance, could be performed in the context of a penitential Catholic liturgy. So nothing from Handel’s Messiah—even though that is much better attuned to Easter than to the Nativity—and no Passion settings by Bach or Heinrich Schütz either. Alas.
~To eschew pure plainchant (as distinct from composed music with a plainchant basis).
~To prefer—when a work has attracted several renditions displaying a broadly equal standard—YouTube recordings which show the relevant printed score, over YouTube recordings which do not.
~To choose nothing, however praiseworthy, over 15 minutes long (which, sadly, rules out Thomas Tallis’ complete Lamentations).
~To bypass the examples that have acquired lives of their own in secular fora. This necessitated omitting, for instance, such concert-hall staples as Pergolesi’s extremely famous Stabat Mater, the scarcely less celebrated Palestrina version, and Rossini’s disconcertingly operatic treatment of the same words. Gregorio Allegri’s thrice-familiar Miserere has likewise been avoided.

Once those criteria were put in place, the process of selecting works became not easy by any means, but less difficult. With what upshots, others must judge. . . .

I'm glad to see that he includes a selection prayed at Mass at St. Eugene-Ste. Cecile in Paris:

Henri Du Mont, born two generations earlier than Fux, spent his youth in the Low Countries (principally the cities of Maastricht and Liège) before moving, in 1639, to France. There he occupied various exalted posts in the House of Bourbon’s service. His Lenten meditation on mortality, Media Vita in Morte Sumus, dates from 1668 and—as this account of it from Paris’ own Schola Sainte-Cécile indicates—is marked by a self-effacing, no-nonsense chordal approach, better fitted to the words than any obviously histrionic idiom would have been.

And then William Byrd's Ne Irascaris, Domine" sung by the Durham Cathedral Choir:

From Du Mont we cross the Channel and move back more than half a century to William Byrd, the one outstanding Elizabethan composer who remained Catholic while living in England throughout Elizabeth’s reign. (John Bull, John Dowland, and Peter Philips all spent as much time abroad as possible. Tallis and Christopher Tye—unlike Byrd, both old enough to have adult memories of the Henrician terrorism—stayed discreet about their ultimate religious allegiances.) Originally appearing in the 1589 collection Cantiones Sacrae, Byrd’s Lenten motet Ne Irascaris, Domine is among his most powerful and most openly recusant works; no hearer at the time can possibly have misconstrued the stress he places on the word “desolata.” The Durham Cathedral Choir has a surprising and agreeable Continental harshness of sound, with a merciful absence of that Oxonian-Cantabridgian gentility which is so alien to English music’s greatest dissident.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Coincidences: Mary I, Fra Angelico, and Martin Luther

Mary I, eventually Queen Regnant of England, was born on February 18, 1516. Clare Ridgway of The Anne Boleyn Files writes:

On this day in history, in the early hours of Monday 18th February 1516, at the Palace of Placentia in Greenwich, Catherine of Aragon gave birth to a healthy daughter. It was Catherine’s sixth pregnancy (some say fifth) and it must have been a relief to hear the baby cry and see her wriggle, even if she was ‘just’ a girl.

Anna Whitelock describes how, three days after her birth, this baby girl was baptised at the nearby Church of the Observant Friars with Margaret Pole, the Countess of Salisbury, standing as her godmother.* At the end of the ceremony, heralds proclaimed:-

“God send and give long life unto the right high, right noble and excellent Princess mary, Princess of England and daughter of our most dread sovereign lord the King’s Higness.”

The little girl had been named Mary after her father’s favourite sister, Mary Tudor, and Linda Porter writes of how the baby princess was “small but pretty” and “already showed signs that she had inherited the red-gold hair of both her parents and the clear Tudor complexion.” She had also inherited her parents’ pride, intelligence and strength of character. As her parents gazed at their daughter, breathing sighs of relief that she seemed fit and healthy, they would have had no idea that this tiny girl would one day be Queen of England, that she would face many challenges with courage and would fight for her throne and win.

*Other sources note that: "Her godparents included her great-aunt the Countess of Devon, Lord Chancellor Thomas Wolsey, and the Duchess of Norfolk.[5] Henry VIII's cousin once removed, Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury, stood sponsor for Mary's confirmation, which was held immediately after the baptism.[6]"

Thirty years later, the Reformer, Martin Luther, died on February 18, 1546. As this site briefly describes his last years and death:

During his last years of life Luther fought against many physical ailments. The death of his daughter Magdelena, in 1542, was also very difficult for him.

Luther's relationship to people with different beliefs, especially the Jews, deteriorated drastically during these years. His 1523 work Jesus was born a Jew showed a concilliatory (sic) attitude; however, in later years the aging reformer sentenced all who did not want to convert to his beliefs. The strongly anti-semetic (sic) work
Jews and their Lies (1543) came out during this period.

Luther continued to lead the Reformation in its fight against its enemies even in the last years of his life. With his 1545 work
Against the Papacy at Rome Founded by the Devil! he performed his last blow against the Roman Church.

Luther continued his preaching duties despite his various disappointments and ailments.

Luther continued to teach at Wittenberg University until the end of his life; his last lecture ended with the words: "I am weak, I cannot go on."

Luther set off on his last trip on January 17, 1546, to his birthplace Eisleben (only in German).

Although he was drawn with illness, he went to settle a dispute among the Mansfeld Counts. The negotiations ended successfully.

Luther did not have the energy to return to Wittenberg. He died on February 18, 1546 in Eisleben. On his death bed, he prayed "Into your hands, I command my spirit. You have saved me, Father, you faithful God."

After the coffin was displayed for two days in Eisleben, Luther's body was transported through Halle and Bitterfeld back to Wittenberg.

On February 22 Luther was laid to rest in the Castle Church in Wittenberg; Johannes Bugenhagen held the funeral oration.

And today is also the feast of Blessed Fra Angelico, a great Dominican saint and Renaissance artist:

Bl. John of Fiesole, popularly known as Bl. Fra Angelico, was a Dominican painter in the mid-fifteenth century known for the beauty of his paintings and the holiness of his priestly life. Nicknamed “Angelico” by his brothers, his Dominican consecration and life are worthy of imitation as he preached Jesus Christ by his life, his words, and his paintings.

Given the name Guido at Baptism, this saint was born near Vicchio, in the vicinity of Florence, at the end of the 14th century. From his youth he practiced the art of painting. Having entered the Dominican convent in Fiesole, he was given the name Brother Giovanni (Brother John). After ordination he held various responsibilities, one of which was that of prior of the convent in Fiesole.

Faithful to the promises he made as a Dominican, to preach the Gospel after having contemplated it in prayer, Fra Angelico put his creativity at the disposal of the Lord. With brush and paint in hand, he used his talents to transmit to all people the sublimity and the redemptive strength of the divine mysteries.

Between 1425 and 1447, Fra Angelico carried out his activity for the Dominican convents and other ecclesiastical institutes at Fiesole, Florence (most especially at the convent of San Marco), Cortona and Orvieto. The fame of his genius merited him the esteem of the Sovereign Pontiffs Eugenio IV and Nicolas V, who contracted him for the task of frescoing several rooms in the Vatican Palace (1445-1449).

Fra Angelico died on February 18, 1455, in the convent of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva in Rome and was buried in the adjoining Basilica, where his body was covered by a simple slab on which was carved his portrait. With a personality that was uncomplicated and clear, Brother Giovanni had lived a poor and humble life, refusing honors and positions.

The virtue and the profound religious spirit which characterized the life of this artist and Dominican is reflected in his spirituality, his purity, and the luminosity of his art. Even before his official recognition as a blessed of the Church, he had been given by the faithful the title “Beato Angelico.” In a moving ceremony on October 18, 1984, Pope John Paul II, on his knees in front of Fra Angelico’s tomb, proclaimed him solemnly to be the universal patron of all artists.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Who Is Ashley Bell?

My husband is a fan of Dean Koontz's books and he just finished Ashley Bell a couple of days ago and let me read the book before he has to return it to the Wichita Public Library. According to the publisher's blurb:

The girl who said no to death.

Bibi Blair is a fierce, funny, dauntless young woman—whose doctor says she has one year to live.

She replies, “We’ll see.”

Her sudden recovery astonishes medical science.

An enigmatic woman convinces Bibi that she escaped death so that she can save someone else. Someone named Ashley Bell.

But save her from what, from whom? And who is Ashley Bell? Where is she?

Bibi’s obsession with finding Ashley sends her on the run from threats both mystical and worldly, including a rich and charismatic cult leader with terrifying ambitions.

Here is an eloquent, riveting, brilliantly paced story with an exhilarating heroine and a twisting, ingenious plot filled with staggering surprises.Ashley Bell is a new milestone in literary suspense from the long-acclaimed master.

The book has a different cover in the U.K. and other markets, one that reflects more on the mystery of Ashley Bell and less on the character of Bibi Blair (whom I assume is pictured on the U.S. cover).

Koontz combines suspense and mystery with otherworldly questions about life and death. Not wanting to give away the plot, but as an author Koontz is reflecting on the power of imagination and even the responsibility of those, like even him, who create worlds and characters with their imaginations. In addition to the intriguing thematic aspect of the novel, Koontz maintains tremendous pace and interest, dropping hints along the way about Bibi's search for Ashley Bell. One of the reasons I enjoy Koontz's recent works (I have not read the Odd or Frankenstein series) is his emphasis on the conflict between good and evil, in which good, being good, always triumphs, even though its practitioners suffer from the assaults of evil. Although he ultimately did not like the book, Patrick Anderson admires Koontz's prose style in this review for The Washington Post:

Koontz’s increasingly bizarre story is enhanced by his colorful prose. A woman’s “blue eyes were two jewels of hatred.” A woman smiles at a naive man “the way a fox smiled at a tender rabbit.” At evening, “the sun balanced on the sea, a fat round bead of blood.”One peculiarity of the novel is Koontz’s endless evocation of the fog that rolls in off the Pacific; it’s variously “the white eclipse . . . cataracts of fog . . . headlight-silvered fog . . . the claustrophobic fog . . . the long fingers of fog . . . the hampering fog . . . a towering slow-moving tsunami of mist through which headlights swam like golden koi.” There are perhaps 50 such phrases, and they make the story increasingly otherworldly. Is anything real here, or are we adrift in a world of dreams?

I'd recommend Ashley Bell to those who like Dean Koontz and can accept the world of suspense and fantasy, especially as it reflects the war in Heaven and the defeat of Hell. 

Monday, February 15, 2016

Love You More; Love You, More

After a great History and Heretics Symposium in Fort Scott, Kansas, I returned to my husband on St. Valentine's Day (aka this year the First Sunday of Lent) and he presented me with the St. Valentine's Day card pictured above. "Love you, More" or "Love You More", either way it sums up a great weekend. 

I drove to Fort Scott on Friday with a few stops on the way and arrived at the Sleep Inn before 3 p.m.; it was wonderful to be greeted at the front desk because they were expecting me! Excellent new hotel, featuring EWTN among their cable offerings. A large group of Prairie Troubadour members and Symposium organizers met for dinner that evening at the Crooner's Lounge next door to the Liberty Theatre, the site of the symposium. I had the delicious crab cakes; Warren Farha from Eighth Day Books was setting up his travelling bookstore on the bar in the lobby of the theatre as other vendors set up their tables.

Saturday morning, the program began with Christopher Check telling the story of the battle of Lepanto and then reciting from almost perfect memory G.K. Chesterton's poem. After a break, Father McElwee and Dan Kerr announced the bad news and the good news: Kevin O'Brien was delayed on the way from Kansas City but Hilaire Belloc had appeared to give an overview of The Great Heresies. When Belloc removed his tweed jacket, Kevin O'Brien announced his arrival.

The Crooner's Lounge catered the hot lunch and then I made my presentation. Father McElwee then lead us in the recitation of the Rosary, and after another break, Dale Ahlquist made his presentation. The four of us sat on stage and answered questions from the audience (Kevin O'Brien was himself).

The program over, many of the attendees went to Mass at Mary, Queen of Angels at 5:30 p.m. and then returned to the Liberty Theatre for hors d'oeuvres and drinks, continuing our discussions in the balcony (where cigar smoking was permitted) and on the main level. 

I nearly had the westbound highway to myself this morning, After exchanging our St. Valentine's Day cards, we walked the dogs and then Mark grilled some great steaks for dinner. 

I think the First Annual History and Heretics Symposium was a great success and I look forward to attending the Second in 2017.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

The Death of the Winter Queen

Elizabeth Stuart, the widow of Frederick of the Palatinate, died on February 13, 1662 in England at Leicester House. Lisa Jardine contributed comments about her on the BBC's A Point of View page in 2013:

. . . in late 1619, Frederick and Elizabeth were crowned King and Queen of Bohemia (today part of the Czech Republic) at the invitation of the Bohemian Confederacy, to prevent a Catholic incumbent ascending the throne - only to be driven from their court in Prague and deprived of all their Palatinate lands the following year by the Hapsburg Emperor Ferdinand.

The "Winter King and Queen" - so called because their reign had lasted a single winter - sought refuge back in the Netherlands, in The Hague.

Frederick died in 1632, but Elizabeth lived on in the Dutch Republic for a further 30 years, returning to England in 1661, a year before her death and a year after the restoration of her nephew Charles II.

It was to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the wedding of the Winter King and Queen that I came to be in the Hague last week, walking through heavy snow past the Mauritshuis to the grand opening of a glorious exhibition of 17th Century paintings of the couple and their family.

The Hague's glitterati were there, as was the British ambassador to the Netherlands. This was, after all, at its heart, a very British occasion, even if the speeches were in Dutch.

As I listened to our host praising the enduring political power and influence of Elizabeth of Bohemia, Holland's queen of hearts, I asked myself why there had been no equivalent celebration in the UK?

How had we missed the opportunity to mark the appearance on the royal scene of a couple who in their own day had matched the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge for glamour, and who at the time of their marriage were similarly destined to achieve international power and influence?

How, above all, have we all but forgotten the Winter Queen? Many readers will never even have heard of her.

Jardine goes on to discuss her efforts to regain the Palatinate for her son and to marry her other children off well--read the rest here. One of Elizabeth's daughters, however, Louise Hollandine became a Catholic and a Cistercian nun in France. Another daughter, Elizabeth, also became a nun--but as a Calvinist Abbess-Princess at the Hertford Abbey in Saxony. Elizabeth corresponded with Descartes.

According to the Westminster Abbey site, Queen Elizabeth of Bohemia

is buried in the same vault as her brother Henry and son Rupert. Her parents had been buried in another part of the chapel. [The Lady Chapel] The inscription on her coffin plate reads:

"The remains of the Most Serene and Puissant Princess Elizabeth, Queen of Bohemia, relict of Frederick, by the grace of God King of Bohemia, Chief Steward and Elector Palatine of the Holy Roman Empire, only daughter of James, sister of Charles I and aunt of Charles, the second of that name, kings of Great Britain, France and Ireland. She fell asleep most piously in the Lord at Leicester House, on Thursday 13 Feb., year of Christ's Nativity 1661 in the 66th year of her age"

The date is given in Old Style dating. Her name and date of death were inscribed, with others, above the vault in the 19th century. The stone is between the monuments of Mary Queen of Scots and the Countess of Lennox in the chapel.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Driving Eastward on the Friday after Ash Wednesday

Unlike John Donne, I am going the right direction as I travel on a Lenten Friday, east toward Fort Scott, Kansas.

Of course, I'm referring to John Donne's poem, "Good Friday, 1613, Riding Westward":

Let mans Soule be a Spheare, and then, in this,
The intelligence that moves, devotion is,
And as the other Spheares, by being growne
Subject to forraigne motion, lose their owne,
And being by others hurried every day,
Scarce in a yeare their naturall forme obey:
Pleasure or businesse, so, our Soules admit
For their first mover, and are whirld by it.
Hence is't, that I am carryed towards the West
This day, when my Soules forme bends toward the East.
There I should see a Sunne, by rising set,
And by that setting endlesse day beget;
But that Christ on this Crosse, did rise and fall,
Sinne had eternally benighted all.
Yet dare I'almost be glad, I do not see
That spectacle of too much weight for mee.
Who sees Gods face, that is selfe life, must dye;
What a death were it then to see God dye?
It made his owne Lieutenant Nature shrinke,
It made his footstoole crack, and the Sunne winke.
Could I behold those hands which span the Poles,
And tune all spheares at once peirc'd with those holes?
Could I behold that endlesse height which is
Zenith to us, and our Antipodes,
Humbled below us? or that blood which is
The seat of all our Soules, if not of his,
Made durt of dust, or that flesh which was worne
By God, for his apparell, rag'd, and torne?
If on these things I durst not looke, durst I
Upon his miserable mother cast mine eye,
Who was Gods partner here, and furnish'd thus
Halfe of that Sacrifice, which ransom'd us?
Though these things, as I ride, be from mine eye,
They'are present yet unto my memory,
For that looks towards them; and thou look'st towards mee,
O Saviour, as thou hang'st upon the tree;
I turne my backe to thee, but to receive
Corrections, till thy mercies bid thee leave.
O thinke mee worth thine anger, punish mee,
Burne off my rusts, and my deformity,
Restore thine Image, so much, by thy grace,
That thou may'st know mee, and I'll turne my face.

My road, Highway 54, actually goes through the old railroad towns along the way, in counties Sedgwick, Butler, Greenwood, Woodson, Allen, and Bourbon. Thus, I'll drive through or alongside El Dorado, Prospect, Rosalia, Eureka, Neal, Toronto, Yates Center, Piqua, Gas, La Harpe, Moran, and Bronson before I reach Fort Scott. 

Piqua piques my interest because it is the birthplace of Buster Keaton and there is a beautiful church, St. Martin of Tours, maintained by the Catholics nearby. I will pay tribute to The Great Stone Face while I visit Piqua. His parents were in vaudeville and his mother Myra gave birth to Joseph Frank while they were on the road. Bronson, Kansas has a Civil War memorial, so I might stop by the city park to take a photo. 

Each of these towns and cities has a history and it has been fun to spend some time on the internet to find out a little about each. For instance, Gas, which is just a few miles east of Iola, was indeed named for its raison d'etre, natural gas. Rosalia was named by the first postmaster after his wife and was platted in 1883. John C. Woods, a native Wichitan who served as an executioner (hanging Frank, von Ribbentrop, and others) at the Nuremberg trials, is buried in Toronto. Debra Dean Barnes, Miss America 1968, was born and raised in Moran, Kansas.

Once I arrive in Fort Scott, I'll check into my hotel, reconnoiter about town, and then meet the other speakers at the History and Heretics Symposium for dinner. I'll publish updates on my drive east soon.