Thursday, March 31, 2016

Some Fiery Preaching on Easter Sunday--and a Fiery Result

From the Anne Boleyn Files blog:

On Easter Sunday 1532, 31st March, Princess Mary’s confessor, Friar William Peto, preached a rather controversial sermon in the King’s presence at Greenwich’s Franciscan chapel.

Instead of focusing on the Easter story and Christ’s resurrection, Peto, who supported Catherine of Aragon, spoke on 1 Kings 22, in which Micaiah shares his prophecies with King Ahab, but Ahab ignores them and imprisons Micaiah. Ahab then died from wounds inflicted during the battle:

“So the King died and was brought to Samaria, and they buried him there. They washed the chariot at a pool in Samaria (where the prostitutes bathed), and the dogs licked up his blood, as the word of the Lord had declared.”

Peto compared Henry VIII to Ahab, drawing comparisons between Anne Boleyn and Jezebel, Ahab’s wife, who had replaced God’s prophets with pagan priests, as Anne was promoting men of the New Religion. Peto concluded by warning the King that if he carried on the way he was, he would end up like Ahab, and dogs would lick up his blood, too. Peto wanted to set Henry VIII on the right path. He wanted him to abandon Anne Boleyn, with her heretical views, and return to Catherine of Aragon. Henry, however, believed his marriage to Catherine to be invalid, and tried to persuade Peto of that.

Father Peto was an Observant Franciscan and served as the provincial of the Greenwich Franciscans. There was a backlash, of course, as British History Online reports:

The king dissembled his ill-will, but on the provincial's departure for a chapter, he caused one of his chaplains, Dr. Curwen, to preach in the friars' church, contrary to the custom of the convent and the will of the warden. The chaplain's sermon roused the warden, Henry Elston, to expostulate; in the king's presence he gave the chaplain the lie. Henry was very angry, and bade the provincial on his return depose the warden. This he refused to do, and the king had them both arrested (fn. 32) Elston was confined at the Grey Friars of Bedford, (fn. 33) but some months later he and Peto were at Antwerp carrying on the campaign against the king. (fn. 34) . . .

And then Henry VIII and Cromwell pressed the Observant Franciscans to swear an oath "to acknowledge the king as supreme head of the church and repudiate the pope's authority" and they refused:

On 15 June the visitors tried to induce the Greenwich friars to adopt the same procedure, ' specially to the intent that if the discreets should refuse to consent, it were better after our minds to strain a few than a multitude.' The friars, however, ' stiffly affirmed that where the matter concerned particularly every one of their souls, they would answer particularly every man for himself.' After further discussion, the visitors were compelled to examine each friar separately, and each refused to accept the articles, especially that which denied the papal authority. In answer to all the arguments of the visitors they declared that ' they had professed St. Francis' religion, and in the observance thereof they would live and die.' (fn. 51)

On 17 June two cart-loads of friars drove through London to the Tower, (fn. 52) and it is possible that some of the Greenwich Observants were among them. On or before 11 August the friars were expelled from their convent (fn. 53)(though they seem to have made some kind of submission (fn. 54) ) and distributed in different places, generally in houses of the Grey Friars, where, wrote Chapuys to Charles V, 'they were locked up in chains and treated worse than they could be in prison.' (fn. 55) Some, such as John Forest, were actually in prison in London. (fn. 56) Two of them, inclosed in a poor lodging at the Grey Friars, Stamford, and treated as prisoners, were ' in meetly good case as the world at this time requireth,' and sent to London for their little belongings, including a new Psalter, a pair of socks, a penner and inkhorn. (fn. 57) But the severity of their treatment is shown by the fact that out of 140 Observant Friars thirty-one soon died, (fn. 58) and this does not account for all the deaths. Thomas Bourchier, who was a member of the Greenwich friary in the reign of Mary, gives details of several martyrdoms which probably belong to this time, though the writer assigns them to 1537. (fn. 59) On 19 July Anthony Brdrbe, formerly of Magdalen College, Oxford, a distinguished scholar, who had been imprisoned and tortured to such an extent that ' for twenty-five days he could not turn in bed or lift his hands to his mouth,' was strangled with his own cord. (fn. 60) On 27 July Thomas Cortt, who had been imprisoned for a sermon against the king in the church of St. Lawrence, London, died in Newgate. (fn. 61) On 3 August Thomas Belchiam, a young priest, who had composed a book against the king, one copy of which he left in the hands of his brethren at Greenwich, died of starvation in Newgate. (fn. 62) No mention of these three friars occurs in extant contemporary authorities, but Bourchier's account representing the tradition of the Order is probably substantially correct, though the names may be misspelt.

Of course, the ultimate response to the Observant Franciscans' refusal to accept the King's Supremacy was the execution of Blessed John Forest. He was burned alive on gibbet for heresy. You may find more about Father William Peto in the Catholic Encyclopedia.

Reading Half of a Book: "Conversions"

I admit immediately that I read half of this book (Conversions: Two Family Stories from the Reformation and Modern America); the half I was interested in. I had purchased this book a few years ago and was always more interested in the Reformation era conversion story than I was the modern era conversion story. So I when I picked up the book again a couple of weeks ago, I barely skimmed the modern era conversion story chapters and concentrated on the Reformation era conversion story.

Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.

As the publisher, Yale University Press, describes the book:

This powerful and innovative work by a gifted cultural historian explores the effects of religious conversion on family relationships, showing how the challenges of the Reformation can offer insight to families facing similarly divisive situations today. Craig Harline begins with the story of young Jacob Rolandus, the son of a Dutch Reformed preacher, who converted to Catholicism in 1654 and ran away from home, causing his family to disown him. In the companion story, Michael Sunbloom, a young American, leaves his family’s religion in 1973 to convert to Mormonism, similarly upsetting his distraught parents. The modern twist to Michael’s story is his realization that he is gay, causing him to leave his new church, and upsetting his parents again—what will they do now?

Recounting these stories in short, alternating chapters, Harline underscores the parallel aspects of the two far-flung families. Despite different outcomes and forms, their situations involve nearly identical dynamics and heart-wrenching choices. Through the author’s deeply informed imagination, the experiences of a seventeenth-century European family are transformed into immediately recognizable terms.

Jacob Rolandus was in a situation comparable to that of English converts, and so I was most interested in his story. Harline describes not only the family conflict Jacob's conversion caused, but the careful response of Catholic in Calvinist Holland. Although Catholics weren't in as much danger there as they were in England, there were still restrictions on their freedom. It could be dangerous to take in a convert--he could be an agent of the government trying to find out about the Catholic underground. Rolandus had to prove not only to his parents that his mind could not be changed, but prove to the Catholics, including the Jesuits or others from whom he was seeking help and protection from his parents, that he could be trusted. 

Harline explores the moral conflict of Jacob's disobedience to his parents when he becomes a Catholic. His father wants him to come home but Jacob, who is 21, wants to make a new life for himself in the Catholic world. He is finally accepted by the Society of Jesus and studies for the priesthood, eventually becoming a missionary to Brazil.  Jacob and his sister Maria exchange letters in which he tries to convince her to become a Catholic and she tries to convince him to come back home and be reunited with the family in their Reformed faith. Harline has provided a complete translated transcript of these letters on his website.

Harline presents these two conversion stories as parallel, but they really aren't. Jacob Rolandus becomes a Catholic; he is faithful to the Catholic Church; he becomes a Jesuit and a missionary, devoting his life to the spreading of the Gospel. "Michael Sunbloom" becomes a Mormon but then decides he can't remain a Mormon because he has decided he is a homosexual, so he is not faithful to the Mormon Church. Because, as a couple of other reviewers I've read have also noted (like this one), Harline focuses the discussion of conversion, conscience and conflict all on a relational level, he doesn't see the truth claims of religious faith. In fact, he rather dismisses the whole idea of truth in religious affiliation as a case of--particularly when describing the correspondence between Jacob and Marie--something habitual and social. Then why did Jacob leave his home, hurt his parents, sacrifice his life, and become not just a Catholic, but a Jesuit and a missionary? Do we really make such great changes in our lives out of habit and social convention? Because Jacob had some Catholic friends, he became a Catholic and endured all that meant in his time? That's why I skipped so much of the "Michael Sunbloom" narrative and don't accept Harline's conclusions. But I enjoyed the story of Jacob Rolandus, SJ. He was a brave and resolute man.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

English Jesuits in the Crimean War

From the Jesuits in Britain website:

This year, the 30th of March marks the 160th anniversary of the Treaty of Paris: the Treaty which put an end to over two years of fighting between Russia and an alliance of France, the United Kingdom, the Ottoman Empire, and Sardinia in the Crimean War. It was to be a war of several firsts: it was one of the first conflicts to use modern technologies such as explosive naval shells, railways, and telegraphs, one of the first to be documented extensively in written reports and photographs, and it was the first occasion on which the British Government appointed permanent Catholic chaplains to the army.

Among those chaplains were two Jesuits of the English Province (as it was then): Fr Joseph Woollett SJ (1818-1898) and Fr Gerrard Strickland SJ (1822-1856). You may have deduced from the dates of the latter that Fr Strickland was sadly not to return from the Crimea. In an account of Woollett and Strickland prepared for the
Letterae Annuae in the Archives (reference UI/10/2) we are told that:

Since the fall of Sebastopol, the English army had enjoyed the best of health, and the hospital work became light. The Frs felt free to offer their services to the chaplain in the French camp and they proposed that they... should visit the French hospitals which were full with cases of fever, scurvy and frost bite...The Frs saw the danger they incurred and could not expect to escape any more than the French clergy – but charity called them and they were happy to answer the call.

Fr Woollett caught the fever in March 1856 but after a severe illness recovered. Fr Strickland was taken ill two days after Woollett embarked for England but was not so fortunate; he died on the 26th of April. He was buried at Cathcart’s Hill and the funeral was attended by the whole of his Regiment, and by men from every other Regiment in the Division.

Father Woollett had met Florence Nightingale on his way to the Crimea; he also met with Frances Taylor, who would become a Catholic and a religious sister, founding the Poor Servants of the Mother of God. In 2014, she was declared Venerable.

The Jesuits were there to provide religious services for the Irish serving in the British army. As this website notes, many Irish rode in the famous "Charge of Light Brigade":

There were in fact 673 men in the Light Brigade, of whom 114, or nearly 20%, were Irish. During the charge 118 (including 21 Irish) were killed, 127 (including 16 Irish) were wounded and 45 (including 7 Irish) were taken prisoner by the Russians. Some 360 horses were also killed. Of the Light Brigade’s five regiments, the Royal Irish Hussars had the most Irishmen; after returning from the Crimea in 1856 they were based in Dundalk.

Additional detail about Irish involvement in the Crimean war from the same site:

Irish involvement in the Crimea was not, of course, confined to the Light Brigade’s charge, which had no effect on the War. In his excellent work, Ireland and the Crimean War, the historian David Murphy reckons that of 111,000 men who fought in Britain’s Crimean army, over 37,000, or one-third, were Irish, of whom some 7,000 were killed. About 4,000 more Irishmen served there in the British navy. The newly introduced Victoria Cross was awarded to 28 Irishmen in the Crimea, Sgt(later General Sir) Luke O’Connor from Elphin, Co Roscommon, winning the first ever VC in 1857.

Over 100 Irishmen served as British army surgeons; and some 33 Irish Sisters of Mercy and Sisters of Charity went as nurses. Florence Nightingale visited the Mercy Sisters in Dublin in 1852, when she considered becoming a Catholic and joining their order. Eight Irish priests went as chaplains to the Crimea, where three of them died.

Irishmen also served in other armies in the Crimea, most of them with the French. The best known were General (later Marshal) MacMahon, who became President of France; Wexford-born General Sutton, Count of Clonard; and General O’Malley. Among those in the Turkish army were General Coleman, who left Ireland after the 1848 rising; Major John Bernard from Co Offaly; and Major Richard Guyon, a Clareman.

Nearly 650,000 men died in the War: 21,000 British and Irish, 95,000 French and 530,000 Russians, 76% from diseases.

Be Kind to Animals: Happy Birthday to Anna Sewell

I've mentioned how much I loved to read when growing up on this blog before. The author of one of my favorite childhood books was born today in 1820, Anna Sewell:

Anna Sewell is born in Norfolk, England. The daughter of a successful children’s book writer, she helped edit her mother’s manuscripts from an early age but was not published herself until she was 57. Black Beauty, the first significant children’s story in the English language to focus on animal characters, established the precedent for countless other works.

Appalled by the cruel treatment of horses by some masters during her day, Sewell wrote the book “to induce kindness, sympathy, and an understanding treatment of horses.” The story, narrated by the horse, showed Black Beauty’s progression through a series of increasingly cruel owners until the exhausted, ill-treated animal collapses. In the end, the horse is saved by a kind owner.

Sewell wrote the book during the last seven years of her life, when she became an invalid confined to her home. The book was published shortly before her death in 1878 and became one of the best-loved children’s classics of all time. The book was made into a movie three times, in 1946, 1971, and 1994.

My husband and I could not stand to watch the 1994 movie; it's one thing to read about the cruelty, another to see it portrayed so realistically on film. Sewell's family was Quaker but then joined the Church of England in 1835. Did the participation of Anglican William Wilberforce in the efforts to pass the Slavery Abolition Act in 1833 influence this change in religious affiliation, I wonder? or his co-founding of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in 1824?

Another favorite book from my childhood, related to Black Beauty, was Beautiful Joe, written by (Margaret) Marshall Saunders, about a family that cares for and protects abused and abandoned animals. Both of these novels have a moral message but are still good stories, even if the device of the horse or the dog narrating his story requires tremendous suspension of disbelief. 

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Tobias Matthew, RIP (And His Son)

Tobias Matthew was born in 1546, son of Sir John Mathew of Ross and died on March 29, 1628. In between those dates, he attended University College and Christ Church at the University of Oxford, taking his B.A. in 1564 and his M.A. in 1566. Attracting the kind attention of Queen Elizabeth I, he continued to rise along a university and clerical career: Public Orator in 1569, President of St. John's College in 1572; Dean of Christ Church in 1576 and then Vice Chancellor of the University in 1579. He then became Dean of Durham in 1579; Bishop of Durham in 1595 and finally Archbishop of York during the reign of James I in 1606.

In 1581, he was one of the debate opponents of St. Edmund Campion at Westminster and he published his argument in Piissimi et eminentissimi viri Tobiae Matthew, archiepiscopi olim Eboracencis concio apologetica adversus Campianam. Although he may have wanted to celebrate his efforts, but it was clear that Campion had bested the Anglican divines: that's why only the first debate was held in public (the rest were in private apartments in the Tower). As Archbishop of York he worked hard to convert recusants, to persuade them to conform to the established Church of England. Nevertheless, he fell out of James I's favor.

Ironically, then, his son Tobie Matthew born in October of 1577, became a Roman Catholic! Like his father he attended Christ Church, receiving his M.A. in 1597; then he studied at Gray's Inn and became a friend of Francis Bacon and a Member of Parliament. Active at both the Courts of Elizabeth and James, he traveled to Italy in 1604--there he met several Catholics and became a Catholic. He had promised his parents that he would not travel in Italy; evidently they were concerned about some attractions he would encounter there. Obviously, the conversion of the Archbishop of York's son was a serious matter. When he returned to England he was imprisoned and held in the Fleet Prison for six months as officials attempted to re-convert him. Eventually he was released and returned to the Continent where he studied for the priesthood in Rome, ordained by Cardinal Robert Bellarmine on May 20, 1614.

James I allowed him to return to England and he translated Bacon's Essays into Italian in 1617--then he was exiled again from 1619 to 1622, recalled thereafter to assist in the negotiations for the marriage of Charles to Maria Anna, the Infanta of Spain. James I sent him to Madrid, Spain and knighted him. Even though that marriage plan fell through, Charles I would marry Henrietta Maria after his accession, and Father Tobie Matthew was very much in that Catholic Queens' circle at Court.

When the Civil War started in 1640 he fled to Ghent and lived with the Jesuits there, dying in October of 1655. He completed other translations and wrote A Relation of the death of Troilo Severe, Baron of Rome (1620), A Missive of Consolation sent from Flanders to the Catholics of England (1647), and A True Historical Relation of the Conversion of Sir Tobie Matthew to the Holie Catholic Faith. There is some debate about whether or not he became a Jesuit.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Mother Mary Angelica, RIP

Mother Angelica, foundress of the Eternal Word Television Network, of two religious orders, and EWTN radio, died Easter Sunday, March 27, 2016. My husband and I were running an errand when we heard the news. After praying for her departed soul, we said almost at the same time that she and her network had, apart from our crucial formation during college at St. Paul's Parish-Newman Center, the greatest impact on our life as Catholics. Because of EWTN, we benefited from so many resources: the programming, the books, the people, the outlook on the traditional devotion and piety--which has certainly informed our love for the Extraordinary Form of the Latin Rite Mass. We first listened to her radio programming on shortwave radio! Now we have access to EWTN on-line, on broadcast radio, on cable, on Roku, in print (The National Catholic Register), etc, etc.

Our debt to her is great.

One more thing: it was being on EWTN, both the television network and the radio programming, that gave real support to my work on the English Reformation. The day EWTN broadcast the Bookmark I had taped with Doug Keck in January of 2010 was Sunday, September 19, 2010. Pope Benedict XVI had just beatified John Henry Newman. The first printing of Supremacy and Survival sold out in November.

Thank you, Mother Angelica! I am certain that there are dozens and dozens of Catholic writers who would, could, and should express the same gratitude--some on a much greater scale!

Eternal rest grant unto her O Lord and let light perpetual shine upon her. May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

Santo Subito!

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Blessed John Henry Newman on Easter

From Parochial and Plain Sermon "Christ, a Quickening Spirit":

O blessed day of the Resurrection, which of old time was called the Queen of Festivals, and raised among Christians an anxious, nay contentious diligence duly to honour it! Blessed day, once only passed in sorrow, when the Lord actually rose, and the disciples believed not; but ever since a day of joy to the faith and love of the Church! In ancient times, Christians all over the world began it with a morning salutation. Each man said to his neighbour, "Christ is risen;" and his neighbour answered him, "Christ is risen indeed, and hath appeared unto Simon." Even to Simon, the coward disciple who denied Him thrice, Christ is risen; even to us, who long ago vowed to obey Him, and have yet so often denied Him before men, so often taken part with sin, and followed the world, when Christ called us another way. "Christ is risen indeed, and hath appeared to Simon!" to Simon Peter the favoured Apostle, on whom the Church is built, Christ has appeared. He has appeared to His Holy Church first of all, and in the Church He dispenses blessings, such as the world knows not of. Blessed are they if they knew their blessedness, who are allowed, as we are, week after week, and Festival after Festival, to seek and find in that Holy Church the Saviour of their souls! Blessed are they beyond language or thought, to whom it is vouchsafed to receive those tokens of His love, which cannot otherwise be gained by man, the pledges and means of His special presence, in the Sacrament of His Supper; who are allowed to eat and drink the food of immortality, and receive life from the bleeding side of the Son of God!

Happy Easter!

Chesterton to the Neophytes

In the diocese of Wichita, Kansas last night, perhaps 327 adults joined the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil. At least that's how many Candidates (who had already been baptized) and Catechumens or Elect (who have never been baptized) participated in the Rite of Election this year, according to The Catholic Advance, our diocesan newspaper.

The Elect received the Sacraments of Initiation last night: Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Communion, while the candidates affirmed their belief in all that the Catholic Church teaches and received the Sacraments of Confirmation and Holy Communion. Some may have been baptized Catholics and have received their First Holy Communion in the second grade and then fell away from the practice of the Faith: they were confirmed last night. The Elect of last night are the Neophytes of this Easter Sunday Morning.

I know at least two of those who became Catholics last night and I know that G.K. Chesterton played a great role in one of them deciding to become Catholic.

Chesterton thought often about his "conversion" to Catholicism from the Church of England and he wrote about it often, publishing at least four separate works on why he converted:

The Catholic Church and Conversion
Why I Am A Catholic
"Why I am a Catholic" essay in The Thing: Why I Am A Catholic
In The Well and the Shallows, essays on

Our G.K. Chesterton group has been reading those various essays which Ignatius Press has collected in one volume--and are just about to finish the last three essays, which will combine with reading chapters from The Woman Who Was Chesterton starting in April. 

Perhaps these two paragraphs from the "Why I Am a Catholic" essay in The Thing summarize Chesterton's reasons for becoming a Catholic. He just kept finding out that the Catholic Church told the truth:

There is barely space here to indicate this one thing out of the thousand things that confirm the same fact and confirm each other. I would undertake to pick up any topic at random, from pork to pyrotechnics, and show that it illustrates the truth of the only true philosophy; so realistic is the remark that all roads lead to Rome. Out of all these I have here only taken one fact; that the thing is pursued age after age by an unreasonable hatred that is perpetually changing its reason. Now of nearly all the dead heresies it may be said that they are not only dead, but damned; that is, they are condemned or would be condemned by common sense, even outside the Church, when once the mood and mania of them is passed. Nobody now wants to revive the Divine Right of Kings which the first Anglicans advanced against the Pope. Nobody now wants to revive the Calvinism which the first Puritans advanced against the King. Nobody now is sorry that the Iconoclasts were prevented from smashing all the statues of Italy. Nobody now is sorry that the Jansenists failed to destroy all the dramas of France. Nobody who knows anything about the Albigensians regrets that they did not convert the world to pessimism and perversion. Nobody who really understands the logic of the Lollards (a much more sympathetic set of people) really wishes that they had succeeded in taking away all political rights and privileges from everybody who was not in a state of grace. "Dominion founded on Grace" was a devout ideal, but considered as a plan for disregarding an Irish policeman controlling the traffic in Piccadilly, until we have discovered whether he has confessed recently to his Irish priest, it is wanting in actuality. In nine cases out of ten the Church simply stood for sanity and social balance against heretics who were sometimes very like lunatics. Yet at each separate moment the pressure of the prevalent error was very strong; the exaggerated error of a whole generation, like the strength of the Manchester School in the 'fifties, or of Fabian Socialism as a fashion in my own youth. A study of the true historical cases commonly shows us the spirit of the age going wrong, and the Catholics at least relatively going right. It is a mind surviving a hundred moods. 

As I say, this is only one aspect; but it was the first that affected me and it leads on to others. When a hammer has hit the right nail on the head a hundred times, there comes a time when we think it was not altogether by accident. But these historical proofs would be nothing without the human and personal proofs, which would need quite a different sort of description. It is enough to say that those who know the Catholic practice find it not only right, but always right when everything else is wrong; making the Confessional the very throne of candour where the world outside talks nonsense about it as a sort of conspiracy; upholding humility when everybody is praising pride; charged with sentimental charity when the world is talking a brutal utilitarianism; charged with dogmatic harshness when the world is loud and loose with vulgar sentimentalism--as it is to-day. At the place where the roads meet there is no doubt of the convergence. A man may think all sorts of things, most of them honest and many of them true, about the right way to turn in the maze at Hampton Court. But he does not think he is in the centre; he knows.

Welcome home, Neophytes, reverts, and new Catholics! Make yourself at home, all cradle Catholics who renewed our baptismal promises--that perhaps others made for us--last night or will renew them today! 

Happy Easter! Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!

Saturday, March 26, 2016

William Byrd and Arvo Part from The Sixteen (and Thomas Tallis too)

This new CD from Harry Christophers and The Sixteen will be out soon in the U.S.A. (April 1, no fooling):

Whilst coming from very different eras, William Byrd and Arvo Pärt are both considered masters of sacred music despite having faced considerable persecution for their work. This programme presents six of William Byrd’s works from the Cantiones Sacrae including the monumental "Tribue, Domine", and the mighty eight-voice motet "Ad Dominum cum tribularer". The three works by Arvo Pärt speak in his unmistakable voice, with its unique blend of ancient and modern, and include his mesmerising "Nunc dimittis" which is crafted in his bell-like ‘tinitinnabuli’ style.

In 2016 The Sixteen’s Choral Pilgrimage will take The Deer’s Cry programme to 33 towns and cities across the UK including London, Oxford, Cambridge, York, Manchester, Cardiff and Edinburgh.

The title "The Deer's Cry" refers St. Patrick's prayer also called the Lorica or Breastplate of St Patrick. More about it here from the Irish Chaplaincy in Ireland.

The program consists of:

Byrd- Diliges Dominum

Byrd- Christe qui lux es et dies

Arvo- Pärt The Deer’s Cry

Byrd- Emendemus in melius

Arvo- Pärt The Woman with the Alabaster Box

Byrd- Miserere mihi Domine

Byrd- Ad Dominum cum tribularer

Tallis/Byrd- Miserere nostri

Tallis- When Jesus went

Byrd- O lux beata Trinitas

Arvo- Pärt Nunc dimittis

Byrd- Laetentur coeli

Byrd- Tribue, Domine

Here's a review!

Friday, March 25, 2016

Holy Week: Good Friday and The Annunciation Postponed

Because today is Good Friday, the Feast of the Annunciation of Our Lord, which is usually celebrated on March 25, has been moved this year to the Monday after the Easter Octave/Divine Mercy Sunday: April 4. Nevertheless, what was announced by the Angel Gabriel to the Blessed Virgin Mary--with her cooperation/fiat--was the Incarnation. The Incarnation is essential to what happened on Good Friday, as Blessed John Henry Newman explains in his Parochial and Plain Sermon, "The Incarnate Son, a Sufferer and Sacrifice":

Here then, as you see, we are at once introduced into a very mysterious subject, though one which concerns us most nearly. There was a virtue in His death, which there could be in no other, for He was God. We, indeed, could not have told beforehand what would follow from so high an event as God becoming incarnate and dying on the Cross; but that something extraordinary and high would issue from it, we might have been quite sure, though nothing had been told us. He would not have so humbled Himself for nought; He could not so humble Himself (if I may use the expression) without momentous consequences.

It would be well if we opened our minds to what is meant by the doctrine of the Son of God dying on the Cross for us. I do not say we shall ever be able to solve the mystery of it, but we may understand in what the Mystery consists; and that is what many men are deficient in. They have no clear views what the truth of the matter is; if they had, it would make them more serious than they are. Let it be understood, then, that the Almighty Son of God, who had been in the bosom of the Father from everlasting, became man; became man as truly as He was always God. He was God from God, as the Creed says; that is, as being the Son of the Father, He had all those infinite perfections from the Father which the Father had. He was of one substance with the Father, and was God, because the Father was God. He was truly God, but He became as truly man. He became man, yet so as not to cease in any respect being what He was before. He added a new nature to Himself, yet so intimately, that it was as if He had actually left His former self, which He did not. "The Word became flesh:" even this would seem mystery and marvel enough, but even this was not all; not only was He "made man," but, as the Creed goes on to state, He "was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate, He suffered and was buried."

Now here, I say, is a fresh mystery in the history of His humiliation, and the thought of it will cast a new and solemn light on the chapters we shall read during the week. I have said that, after His incarnation, man's nature was as much and as truly Christ's as His Divine attributes; St. Paul even speaks of God "purchasing us with His own blood," and of the "Lord of glory" being "killed," expressions which, more than any other, show how absolutely and simply He had put on Him the nature of man. As the soul acts through the body as its instrument,—in a more perfect way, but as intimately, did the Eternal Word of God act through the manhood which He had taken. When He spoke, it was literally God speaking; when He suffered, it was God suffering. Not that the Divine Nature itself could suffer, any more than our soul can see or hear; but, as the soul sees and hears through the organs of the body, so God the Son suffered in that human nature which He had taken to Himself and made His own. And in that nature He did truly suffer; as truly as He framed the worlds through His Almighty power, so through His human nature did He suffer; for when He came on earth, His manhood became as truly and personally His, as His Almighty power had been from everlasting. . . .

This is why He "humbled Himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross." "Christ hath redeemed us," says the Apostle elsewhere, "from the curse of the Law, being made a curse for us." Again, he says that Christ has "made peace by the blood of His cross." He has "reconciled" us "in the body of His flesh through death, to present us holy and unblameable, and unreproveable in His sight." Or, as St. John says, the saints "have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb." And no one speaks more explicitly on this great mystery than the prophet Isaiah, many hundred years before it was accomplished. "Surely He hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows. He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon Him, and with His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned every one to his own way, and the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all." [Gal. iii. 13. Col. i. 20-22. Rev. vii. 14. Isa. liii. 4-6.]

We believe, then, that when Christ suffered on the cross, our nature suffered in Him. Human nature, fallen and corrupt, was under the wrath of God, and it was impossible that it should be restored to His favour till it had expiated its sin by suffering. Why this was necessary, we know not; but we are told expressly, that we are "all by nature children of wrath," that "by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified," and that "the wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the people that forget God." The Son of God then took our nature on Him, that in Him it might do and suffer what in itself was impossible to it. What it could not effect of itself, it could effect in Him. He carried it about Him through a life of penance. He carried it forward to agony and death. In Him our sinful nature died and rose again. When it died in Him on the cross, that death was its new creation. In Him it satisfied its old and heavy debt; for the presence of His Divinity gave it transcendent merit. His presence had kept it pure from sin from the first. His Hand had carefully selected the choicest specimen of our nature from the Virgin's substance; and, separating from it all defilement, His personal indwelling hallowed it and gave it power. And thus, when it had been offered up upon the Cross, and was made perfect by suffering, it became the first-fruits of a new man; it became a Divine leaven of holiness for the new birth and spiritual life of as many as should receive it. And thus, as the Apostle says, "If one died for all, then did all die;" "our old man is crucified in Him, that the body of sin might be destroyed;" and "together" with Christ "when we were dead in sins, hath He quickened us, and raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus." Thus "we are members of His body, from His flesh, and from His bones: for whosoever eateth His flesh and drinketh His blood, hath eternal life," for His flesh is meat indeed, and His blood is drink indeed; and "he that eateth His flesh and drinketh His blood dwelleth in Him, and He in him." [2 Cor. v. 14. Rom. vi. 6. Eph. ii. 5, 6; v. 30. John vi. 54.]

No wonder then that artists and mystics have so often meditated upon the presence of Mary, the Mother of God--not just of Jesus, not just of His human nature--the Mother of the Incarnate Second Person of the Trinity, on the Way of the Cross (the Stabat Mater), at the foot of the Cross, and at the Descent from the Cross, as in this detail from Pietro Lorenzetti's frescoes in the Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi in Assisi, Italy. She conceived and gave birth to, after all, a Person, not just a nature. At the foot of the Cross, the prophecy of Simeon in the Temple at the Presentation was fulfilled: “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted (and you yourself a sword will pierce) so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Holy Week: The Triduum Before the English Reformation

Please note: I'll be on the Son Rise Morning Show this morning to discuss St. Margaret Clitherow, whose execution was on Good Friday, March 25, 1586--470 years ago. The show is live today but tomorrow they'll run "best of" programming. Listen live here a little after 7:45 a.m. Eastern/6:45 a.m. Central. The National Catholic Register will publish my article on St. Margaret Clitherow tomorrow too! Since Margaret Middleton Clitherow was born just two years before Elizabeth I became queen and established the rituals of the Church of England as law, she probably had no memory and may never have heard of the Sarum Use rituals of Holy Week: the stripping of the altars, the creeping to the Cross, the Easter Sepulchre--although "stubborn" Catholics still crept to the Cross on Good Friday in spite of the fact it was not part of The Book of Common Prayer ritual and was indeed condemned as popish superstition.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

The Last Abbey Surrenders

Waltham Abbey in Essex, in its last foundation a house of Augustinian Canons, surrendered to the Crown on March 23, 1540. It was the last abbey to surrender in the Dissolution or Suppression of the Monasteries. Robert Fuller was the last abbot; he had officiated at Queen Jane Seymour's funeral in 1537. He received a generous pension but may have died soon after the surrender as his will was probated in November 1540. Waltham Abbey was refounded by Henry II as penance after the murder of St. Thomas a Becket; it had originally been founded as a church and college by Harold Godwinson and he was buried there after the Battle of Hastings. Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn visited the Abbey and the abbot tried to maintain the house, bribing Cromwell. According to British History Online:

The net value of the abbey is given in the Valor as £900 4s. 3d., the gross value (fn. 73) being £1,079 2s. 1d. yearly. It was thus the richest house in Essex. But though the most important of the English Augustinian houses it was not quite the richest, being surpassed by Cirencester, Merton, Leicester and Plympton. No event of any importance occurred in connexion with the dissolution. The abbot appears to have paid the usual bribes to Cromwell, as much as £50 being received (fn. 74) from him in 1535. Waltham managed to outlast every other abbey in England, and it was not until 23 March, 1540, that it was formally surrendered (fn. 75) by Robert, abbot, Thomas Waryn, Robert Wodleff, Robert Reed, William Lelle, Thomas Hawkyns, George Sollys, Edmund Sander, Robert Parkar, Edward Story, Hugh Yonge, Humphrey Martyn, Miles Garrard, John Noris, John Sander, John Homstyd, Robert Hull and Edmund Freke. The last three of these were at Leighs and Martyn was at Dunmow in 1534, all, apparently, having been transferred to Waltham after the dissolution of their priories. On the day after the surrender pensions (fn. 76) were awarded; the abbot receiving the large amount of £200 yearly in lands and other possessions, and the prior, chaunter, sub-prior, sexton and other canons sums varying from £20 to £5 yearly. The abbot had a grant (fn. 77) for life accordingly, on 6 May, of the manors of Woodford, Theydon Bois, Netteswell, Passelow, Stanford le Hope, Wormingford, Stanway, Cullings and Arlesey, and the rectories and advowsons of the churches of Wormingford and Arlesey besides other lands which had belonged to St. Bartholomew's Priory.

In the original scheme (fn. 78) for the establishment of new bishoprics at the dissolution it was intended that Waltham should be raised to the position of a cathedral, but this was never done. Its possessions were dispersed after the surrender. The demesne lands of the monastery were leased (fn. 79) to Anthony Denny on 12 April, 1541, He was made keeper (fn. 80) of the site on 9 January, 1542; and on 28 June, 1547, this was granted (fn. 81) to him in fee.

An extensive inventory (fn. 82) was taken of the goods of the abbey. Most of the vestry stuff is marked as given to the parish church of Waltham and other poor churches round. The church and household plate was mostly reserved for the king, and Sir John Williams, master of the jewels, received 1,169 ounces to his use on 18 March, 1541; but part of the household plate was given to the abbot and part sold to Denny. Part of the goods were received by the abbot, Denny and others, and rewards of a year's wages were given to a large number of servants

Anthony Denny did very well through the Court of Augmentations and Henry VIII's friendship, according to his Parliamentary biography:

Between 1535 and 1545 Denny became the most intimate of Henry VIII’s few friends. As keeper of Westminster palace and of the royal household there he acted as receiver and paymaster of the King’s personal spending money, much of which was kept in the jewel house in the palace. His own income from offices has been estimated at some £200 but royal grants of land were the chief source of his wealth; in his will he acknowledged that ‘by the princely liberality’ of Henry VIII he had gained ‘all that I leave or can leave to my posterity’. The most important of these grants were, in 1536, houses in Westminster known as Paradise, Purgatory and Hell, and Cheshunt priory with its lands in four counties; in 1538, Hertford priory; in 1540, Amwell manor, Hertfordshire and Waltham rectory, Essex; in 1542, Mettingham college, Suffolk, with six East Anglian manors; and in 1547, in the distribution of crown lands after Henry VIII’s death, the freehold reversions to most of Waltham abbey’s estates, with over 2,000 acres of land elsewhere. An exchange of lands with the King was confirmed by an Act (35 Hen. VIII, no. 23) in 1544. Denny also leased property from the crown and made extensive purchases in Essex and Hertfordshire from private individuals. At his death he owned about 20,000 acres in Essex and Hertfordshire alone, his annual income from land being probably as much as £750. With the possibility of raising considerable sums from his London customs office, and from a licence granted him in December 1546 to export wheat, beer and leather, he was undoubtedly a wealthy man.

The abbey church is now an Anglican parish and remains of the abbey, the gatehouse and bridge, are part of the English Heritage program.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

The Joanna Stafford Trilogy: All in Paperback

As of today, all three of Nancy Bilyeau's Joanna Stafford series novels are in paperback: The Crown, The Chalice, and The Tapestry. Joanna Stafford is a Dominican nun who is cast out of her priory because of the Dissolution of the Monasteries (and the Friaries, and the Convents) perpetrated by Henry VIII and Thomas Cromwell.

As you know if you read this blog with any regularity, I post often about the Dissolution of the Monasteries: It was the greatest cultural calamity ever inflicted upon England. It meant the loss of great art and architecture, books and music, order and rule, hospitality, education, and the spiritual, religious life. It left a gaping hole in English life: the prayer and penitence of good monks and nuns and the preaching and poverty of good friars.

It's easy to say that not all monks, nuns, and friars were good, but many, even the vast majority were faithful to their Rule and their vows. If the English Reformation was supposed to improve and revive the Church in England, it failed entirely in this case because all it did was destroy, pillage, and plunder the religious heart of England.

Although Bilyeau does not focus on these losses directly, since she is telling stories of intrigue, danger, and conspiracy, her choice of Joanna Stafford as a heroine means that calamity is part of the desperation at the heart of each plot. When we first meet Joanna Stafford at the beginning of The Crown she is on her way to offer some sort of comfort to her cousin, Margaret Bulmer, who is being burned at the stake for her role in the Pilgrimage of Grace, the northern uprising of commons, nobles, and monks against the suppression of monasteries and other changes in religion being enforced by the monarch and his minions. One of the last times we see her in The Tapestry, she is trying to comfort Catherine Howard as Henry VIII's fifth wife awaits her fate.

At the heart of each plot, each symbol (the crown, the chalice, the tapestry) is indeed the desperation of those English men and women who saw how destructive Henry VIII's Supremacy and tyranny were. Joanna Stafford witnesses and gets involved with these plots to thwart Henry VIII or even remove him from the throne through murder (The Chalice).

As I wrote in my review of The Tapestry last year:

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

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

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

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

I recommend all three books as good historical fiction! More about the books from the publisher and more about Nancy on her website. Nancy Bilyeau discusses her books and the research she did with Christine Niles here.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Holy Week: Woefully Arrayed

From Stile Antico: William Cornysh's setting of "Woefully Arrayed":

Woefully arrayed
My blood, man for thee ran, it may not be nayed;
My body, blo and wan;
Woefully arrayed.

Behold me, I pray thee
with all thy whole reason
and be not hard-hearted,
and for this encheason,
sith I for thy soul sake
was slain in good season,
Beguiled and betrayed
by Judas’ false treason,
unkindly entreated,
with sharp cord sore freted,
the Jews me threated,
they mowed, they grinned,
they scorned me,
condem’d to death as thou may’st see;
Woefully arrayed.

Thus naked am I nailed.
O man, for thy sake;
I love thee, then love me,
why sleepst thou, awake,
remember my tender heartroot for thee brake;
with pains my veins constrained to crake;
thus tugged to and fro,
thus wrapped all in woe,
whereas never man was so entreated,
thus in most cruel wise
was like a lamb offer’d in sacrifice;
Woefully arrayed.

Of sharp thom I have worn
a crown on my head.
So pained, so strained, so rueful, so red,
thus bobbed, thus robbed,
thus for thy love dead;
unfeigned, not deigned,
my blood for to shed,
my feet and handes sore
the sturdy nailes bore;
what might I suffer more,
than I have done, O man, for thee?
Come when thou list, welcome to me!
Woefully arrayed.

From Blessed John Henry Newman's Parochial and Plain Sermon "The Humiliation of the Eternal Son":

After this manner, then, must be understood His suffering, temptation, and obedience, not as if He ceased to be what He had ever been, but, having clothed Himself with a created essence, He made it the instrument of His humiliation; He acted in it, He obeyed and suffered through it. Do not we see among men, circumstances of a peculiar kind throw one of our own race out of himself, so that he, the same man, acts as if his usual self were not in being, and he had fresh feelings and faculties, for the occasion, higher or lower than before? Far be it from our thoughts to parallel the incarnation of the Eternal Word with such an accidental change! but I mention it, not to explain a Mystery (which I relinquished the thought of from the first), but to facilitate your conception of Him who is the subject of it, to help you towards contemplating Him as God and man at once, as still the Son of God though He had assumed a nature short of His original perfection. That Eternal Power, which, till then, had thought and acted as God, began to think and act as a man, with all man's faculties, affections, and imperfections, sin excepted. Before He came on earth, He was infinitely above joy and grief, fear and anger, pain and heaviness; but afterwards all these properties and many more were His as fully as they are ours. Before He came on earth, He had but the perfections of God, but afterwards He had also the virtues of a creature, such as faith, meekness, self-denial. Before He came on earth He could not be tempted of evil; but afterwards He had a man's heart, a man's tears, and a man's wants and infirmities. His Divine Nature indeed pervaded His manhood, so that every deed and word of His in the flesh savoured of eternity and infinity; but, on the other hand, from the time He was born of the Virgin Mary, he had a natural fear of danger, a natural shrinking from pain, though ever subject to the ruling influence of that Holy and Eternal Essence which was in Him. For instance, we read on one occasion of His praying that the cup might pass from Him; and, at another, when Peter showed surprise at the prospect of His crucifixion, He rebuked him sharply, as if for tempting Him to murmur and disobey.

Thus He possessed at once a double assemblage of attributes, divine and human. Still he was all-powerful, though in the form of a servant; still He was all-knowing, though seemingly ignorant; still incapable of temptation, though exposed to it; and if any one stumble at this, as not a mere mystery, but in the very form of language a contradiction of terms, I would have him reflect on those peculiarities of human nature itself, which I just now hinted at. Let him consider the condition of his own mind, and see how like a contradiction it is. Let him reflect upon the faculty of memory, and try to determine whether he does or does not know a thing which he cannot recollect, or rather, whether it may not be said of him, that one self-same person, that in one sense he knows it, in another he does not know it. This may serve to appease his imagination, if it startles at the mystery. Or let him consider the state of an infant, which seems, indeed, to be without a soul for many months, which seems to have only the senses and functions of animal life, yet has, we know, a soul, which may even be regenerated. What, indeed, can be more mysterious than the Baptism of an infant? How strange is it, yet how transporting a sight, what a source of meditation is opened on us, while we look upon what seems so helpless, so reason-less, and know that at that moment it has a soul so fully formed, as on the one hand, indeed, to be a child of wrath; and, on the other (blessed be God), to be capable of a new birth through the Spirit! Who can say, if we had eyes to see, in what state that infant soul is? Who can say it has not its energies of reason and of will in some unknown sphere, quite consistently with the reality of its insensibility to the external world? Who can say that all of us, or at least all who are living in the faith of Christ, have not some strange but unconscious life in God's presence all the while we are here, seeing what we do not know we see, impressed yet without power of reflection, and this, without having a double self in consequence, and with an increase to us, not a diminution, of the practical reality of our earthly sojourn and probation? Are there not men before now who, like Elisha, when his spirit followed Gehazi, or St. Peter, when he announced the coming of Sapphira's bearers, or St. Paul, when his presence went before him to Corinth [2 Kings v. 26. Acts v. 9. 1 Cor. iv. 19; v. 3.], seem to range beyond themselves, even while in the flesh? Who knows where he is "in visions of the night?" And this being so, how can we pronounce it to be any contradiction that, while the Word of God was upon earth, in our flesh, compassed within and without with human virtues and feelings, with faith and patience, fear and joy, grief, misgivings, infirmities, temptations, still He was, according to His Divine Nature, as from the first, passing in thought from one end of heaven even to the other, reading all hearts, foreseeing all events, and receiving all worship as in the bosom of the Father? This, indeed, is what He suggests to us Himself in those surprising words addressed to Nicodemus, which might even be taken to imply that even His human nature was at that very time in heaven while He spoke to him. "No man hath ascended up to heaven, but He that came down from heaven, even the Son of man, which is in heaven." [John iii. 13.]

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Holy Week: St. Peter

Blessed John Henry Newman on St. Peter's boldness and fall:

And can we find any where such calmness and simplicity as marked His devotion and His obedience? When does He ever speak with fervour or vehemence? Or, if there be one or two words of His in His mysterious agony and death, characterized by an energy which we do not comprehend, and which sinners must silently adore, still how conspicuous and undeniable is His composure in the general tenour of His words and conduct! Consider the prayer He gave us; and this is the more to the purpose, for the very reason that He has given it as a model for our worship. How plain and unadorned is it! How few are the words of it! How grave and solemn the petitions! What an entire absence of tumult and feverish emotion! Surely our own feelings tell us, it could not be otherwise. To suppose it otherwise were an irreverence towards Him.—At another time when He is said to have "rejoiced in spirit," His thanksgiving is marked with the same undisturbed tranquility. "I thank Thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Thy sight."—Again, think of His prayer in the garden. He then was in distress of mind beyond our understanding. Something there was, we know not what, which weighed heavy upon Him. He prayed He might be spared the extreme bitterness of His trial. Yet how subdued and how concise is His petition! "Abba, Father, all things are possible unto Thee: take away this cup from Me; nevertheless, not what I will, but what Thou wilt." [Luke x. 21. Mark xiv. 36.] And this is but one instance, though a chief one, of that deep tranquility of mind, which is conspicuous throughout the solemn history of the Atonement. Read the thirteenth chapter of St. John, in which He is described as washing His disciples' feet, Peter's in particular. Reflect upon His serious words addressed at several times to Judas who betrayed Him; and His conduct when seized by His enemies, when brought before Pilate, and lastly, when suffering on the cross. When does He set us an example of passionate devotion, of enthusiastic wishes, or of intemperate words?

Such is the lesson our Saviour's conduct teaches us. Now let me remind you how diligently we are taught the same by our own Church. Christ gave us a prayer to guide us in praying to the Father; and upon this model our own Liturgy is strictly formed. You will look in vain in the Prayer Book for long or vehement Prayers; for it is only upon occasions that agitation of mind is right, but there is ever a call upon us for seriousness, gravity, simplicity, deliberate trust, deep-seated humility. Many persons, doubtless, think the Church prayers, for this very reason, cold and formal. They do not discern their high perfection, and they think they could easily write better prayers. When such opinions are advanced, it is quite sufficient to turn our thoughts to our Saviour's precept and example. It cannot be denied that those who thus speak, ought to consider our Lord's prayer defective; and sometimes they are profane enough to think so, and to confess they think so. But I pass this by. Granting for argument's sake His precepts were intentionally defective, as delivered before the Holy Ghost descended, yet what will they say to His example? Can even the fullest light of the Gospel revealed after His resurrection, bring us His followers into the remotest resemblance to our Blessed Lord's holiness? yet how calm was He, who was perfect man, in His own obedience!

To conclude:—Let us take warning from St. Peter's fall. Let us not promise much; let us not talk much of ourselves; let us not be high-minded, nor encourage ourselves in impetuous bold language in religion. Let us take warning, too, from that fickle multitude who cried, first Hosanna, then Crucify. A miracle startled them into a sudden adoration of their Saviour;—its effect upon them soon died away. And thus the especial mercies of God sometimes excite us for a season. We feel Christ speaking to us through our consciences and hearts; and we fancy He is assuring us we are His true servants, when He is but calling on us to receive Him. Let us not be content with saying "Lord, Lord," without "doing the thing which He says." The husbandman's son who said, "I go, sir," yet went not to the vineyard, gained nothing by his fair words. One secret act of self-denial, one sacrifice of inclination to duty, is worth all the mere good thoughts, warm feelings, passionate prayers, in which idle people indulge themselves. It will give us more comfort on our deathbed to reflect on one deed of self-denying mercy, purity, or humility, than to recollect the shedding of many tears, and the recurrence of frequent transports, and much spiritual exultation. These latter feelings come and go; they may or may not accompany hearty obedience; they are never tests of it; but good actions are the fruits of faith, and assure us that we are Christ's; they comfort us as an evidence of the Spirit working in us. By them we shall be judged at the last day; and though they have no worth in themselves, by reason of that infection of sin which gives its character to every thing we do, yet they will be accepted for His sake, who bore the agony in the garden, and suffered as a sinner on the cross.

From the Parochial and Plain Sermon, "Religious Emotion".

Mary Roper Bassett, RIP

Mary (nee Roper) Bassett died on March 20, 1572, She was St. Thomas More's grand-daughter, Margaret More Roper's youngest daughter. She followed in her mother's footsteps as a scholar and translator. It's very appropriate to remember her today on this Palm Sunday as we enter the Holy Week of Passiontide, because she translated and edited her grandfather's last Tower Work: De Tristitia de ChristiShe titled her edition Of the sorowe, werinesse, feare, and prayer of Christ before hys taking. Scepter Publishers offers a modern translation.

Her mother sought the best education possible for Mary, trying to convince Roger Ascham to leave the University of Cambridge and be her tutor. Mary was married twice, first to Stephen Clarke and then to James Bassett, whose stepfather was Arthur, Viscount Lisle, Henry VIII's deputy at Calais:

Educated in France and under Gardiner, with a mother who was called by Foxe ‘an utter enemy to God’s honour’, and a stepfather under suspicion of papistry, it is no surprise that Bassett grew up an enthusiastic follower of the old faith. He remained steadfast to Gardiner on the bishop’s imprisonment in 1547 and worked hard for his release, even petitioning Parliament to that effect. In 1551 the bishop named Bassett one of his proctors at his trial, where he took a considerable part in the examinations. Bassett was himself imprisoned for a short time in October 1551 and on his release went to Flanders ‘because he would the better preserve himself not to be intangled with the schism’.

On Mary’s accession Bassett returned from his self-imposed exile: Gardiner, now lord chancellor, welcomed him back, retained his services, and named him for minor appointments in the Queen’s Household and later in King Philip’s. Bassett enjoyed the trust of Mary and her consort, and on two occasions he was sent to Brussels with important despatches for Philip, who granted him a pension of 1300 crowns and gave presents to his wife at their wedding and to their son at his christening; in gratitude Bassett called his elder son Philip. Bassett was also a friend of Edward Courtenay, Earl of Devon. On the earl’s departure from England he became one of his trustees, and regularly corresponded with him until his death at Padua in September 1556. As an intimate of the King and Queen, he advised Courtenay on his behaviour towards them and mediated in his favour. . . .

Bassett’s marriage to Mary Roper drew him into the circle of friends and kinsmen of Sir Thomas More. Like most of her relations she was a learned lady, ‘very well experted in the Latin and Greek tongues’, who had translated Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History, as well as other works of the early Fathers. Rastell’s edition of More’s English works, published in 1557, included her translation of her grandfather’s Treatise on the Passion. [which was written in English--this should refer to the "Sadness of Christ"] Bassett himself, despite the vicissitudes of his early education, was a fluent linguist, and a contemporary considered him endowed with ‘all spiritual and bodily gifts’, so they were probably well-matched.

The marriage was short-lived, however. Bassett was only just over 30 when he made his will on 6 Sept. 1558. He bequeathed his ‘dear and well-beloved wife’ jewels, half his goods, his house in Chelsea and a life interest in his lands. He left small gifts to three of his sisters, lamenting that his ‘ability’ was ‘now but small’, and that if his debts had not been so great he would ‘better have remembered them’. To his unborn child (Charles) he left the lease of his house near the Savoy. Except for £20 to the Black Friars of Smithfield and provision for his servants, he ordered the residue of his goods, together with the wardship of his nephew and all his leases in Devon, to be sold to pay his debts. He appointed his father-in-law, William Rastell and Ralph Cholmley as his executors, and his nephew James Courtenay (his fellow-knight in November 1554) and the dean of St. Paul’s as overseers. Bassett died on 21 Nov. 1558 and was buried five days later at Blackfriars, Smithfield, hardly living to see the new reign which could have brought for him only renewed exile or imprisonment, as it did for his two sons.

According to the Wikipedia entry for James Bassett, Philip and Charles, like the rest of the More-Roper extended family, indeed suffered for their faith:

  • Philip Basset (born May 1557[35]), eldest son and heir, who was named after his father's master Phillip II of Spain, who gave presents to Mary Roper on her marriage and was godfather by proxy to Philip Basset at his christening.[36] The Spanish ambassador, count de Feria, gave from King Philip "a great gilt cup", later mentioned in James' will.[37] He trained as a lawyer entering Lincolns Inn on 8 October 1572, from which he was later expelled for recusancy. He was jailed in the Fleet, but probably escaped to Ireland. He married a sister of Richard Verney of Compton Verney in Warwickshire, but had a difficult life due to his adherence to the Catholic religion. By 1595 his fortunes had almost entirely disappeared.[38]
  • Charles Basset, 2nd son, born posthumously 1558/9. He too suffered for his recusancy. He was arrested in 1581 as having been associated with the Jesuit priests Edmund Campion (died 1581) and Robert Persons (died 1610) and the Jesuit mission of that year. He was admitted to the English College in Rome in November 1581 with a letter of introduction from Persons to the Rector describing him as " a youth of an illustrious and wealthy family and the great-grandson of Sir Thomas More with talent, manners, virtues worthy of himself and his ancestors". His health broke down in 1583 and he returned to France and died "a most holy death" at Rheims, bequeathing all his possessions to the English College in Rome.[39]

Her other great translation is of Eusebius's History of the Church, a most challenging project described here.