Monday, May 30, 2016

Samuel L. Clemens and St. Joan of Arc

Samuel L. Clemens had no respect for organized religion nor for the Catholic Church, yet he loved the Maid of Orleans, St. Joan of Arc. Unlike G.B. Shaw, who wrote about St. Joan of Arc to make political points and even to mock the Church's canonization of her whom an (English) ecclesiastical court had condemned as a heretic, Clemens focused on St. Joan's character, which he admired. For example, he wrote, as Mark Twain:

Great as she was in so many ways, she was perhaps even greatest of all in the lofty things just named -- her patient endurance, her steadfastness, her granite fortitude. We may not hope to easily find her mate and twin in these majestic qualities; where we lift our eyes highest we find only a strange and curious contrast -- there in the captive eagle beating his broken wings on the Rock of Saint Helena [Napoleon Bonaparte]. . . .

He even acknowledged and admired the depth of her faith, without skepticism or much difficulty, because he trusted her:

She was deeply religious, and believed that she had daily speech with angels; that she saw them face to face, and that they counselled her, comforted and heartened her, and brought commands to her direct from God. She had a childlike faith in the heavenly origin of her apparitions and her Voices, and not any threat of any form of death was able to frighten it out of her loyal heart. She was a beautiful and simple and lovable character. In the records of the Trials this comes out in clear and shining detail. She was gentle and winning and affectionate, she loved her home and friends and her village life; she was miserable in the presence of pain and suffering; she was full of compassion: on the field of her most splendid victory she forgot her triumphs to hold in her lap the head of a dying enemy and comfort his passing spirit with pitying words; in an age when it was common to slaughter prisoners she stood dauntless between hers and harm, and saved them alive; she was forgiving, generous, unselfish, magnanimous; she was pure from all spot or stain of baseness.

And Twain concludes with this remarkable statement, one which I would make of no one of my acquaintance, dead or alive:

There is no blemish in that rounded and beautiful character.

As Ignatius Press comments on their website about the novel he wrote about his heroine:

Very few people know that Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) wrote a major work on Joan of Arc. Still fewer know that he considered it not only his most important but also his best work. He spent twelve years in research and many months in France doing archival work and then made several attempts until he felt he finally had the story he wanted to tell. He reached his conclusion about Joan's unique place in history only after studying in detail accounts written by both sides, the French and the English.

Because of Mark Twain's antipathy to institutional religion, one might expect an anti-Catholic bias toward Joan or at least toward the bishops and theologians who condemned her. Instead one finds a remarkably accurate biography of the life and mission of Joan of Arc told by one of this country's greatest storytellers. The very fact that Mark Twain wrote this book and wrote it the way he did is a powerful testimony to the attractive power of the Catholic Church's saints. This is a book that really will inform and inspire.

“ I like Joan of Arc best of all my books; and it is the best; I know it perfectly well. And besides, it furnished me seven times the pleasure afforded me by any of the others; twelve years of preparation, and two years of writing. The others needed no preparation and got none.”--— Mark Twain

You may also read the book online here. I read the novel many years ago in the Dover Thrift edition and was amazed by its verisimilitude and historical accuracy. When my husband and I were going often to Paris I enjoyed seeing all the statues of St. Joan of Arc in the churches and in the squares of that glorious city. They were often positioned near the lists of the young men from the parish who died in World War I. 

My husband and I took a day trip to Rouen, visiting the site of her martyrdom, the shrine church built there in her honor, the great abbey church in which she was rehabilitated by the by the Church, and the great Cathedral of Notre Dame. You can see the interiors of each of these edifices on the tourism page for Rouen,individually linked above: les visites virtuelles!

Remember: Six Martyrs at Tyburn on May 30, 1582 and 1612

Saint Luke Kirby, Blessed William Filby, Blessed Lawrence Johnson, and Blessed Thomas Cottam SJ, four priests and martyrs suffered at Tyburn Tree on May 30, 1582. Thirty years later, two more Catholic priests joined the blessed clouds of witnesses at the site of martyrdom: Blessed William or Maurus Scott, OSB and Blessed Richard Newport. St. Luke and his Blessed companions had been tried with St. Edmund Campion in 1581 accused in the trumped-up "Rome and Rheims" plot; they had been asked the same "bloody questions" after the delay in their executions from late 1581 to the middle of 1582.

For St. Luke Kirby, who was included among the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales canonized in 1970, please see this blog, authored by a Benedictine Monk in Ireland with the same last name. Some excerpts:

Saint Luke Kirby, priest and martyr. Born in 1549 in England under Edward VI -- an England severed from its Catholic roots -- Saint Luke was educated at Cambridge. He abjured Protestantism and was reconciled to the Catholic Church at Louvain. He studied for the priesthood at Douai College, then in Rome, and was ordained at Cambrai in 1577 for the English mission. . . .

Imprisoned and Tortured

Five days after his transfer to the Tower of London, Saint Luke was subjected to "the Scavenger's Daughter." This was a hinged hoop of iron; the prisoner was required to kneel and draw himself into a ball, the hoop was placed under his legs and across his back, and then drawn tight, the torturer helping the fit by kneeling on the prisoner's shoulders. Among other things, it caused a flow of blood from the nostrils and sometimes from the tips of the fingers and toes. Father Kirby was tried and found guilty, together with Father Campion and other priests on November 16, 1581. Saint Luke was kept in prison until the end of May, the last four weeks in chains.


When Saint Luke was brought to Tyburn to be executed on May 30th, 1582, Blessed William Filby's body was still hanging from the dreaded 'triple tree'. Standing in the cart beneath the gallows, he declared himself innocent of the treason alleged against him and said that he was, in fact, about to die for the Catholic faith. A number of officials began wearisome discussions with him, arguing points of law and doctrine. They tried in several ways to induce him at first to denounce the Pope and finally to yield in any slight point of doctrine or practice. Father Kirby held fast to the Catholic faith.

Pater Noster

Finally, the Queen’s preachers bid him pray with them, in English, in his last moments: they would pronounce the prayer and asked Luke, if he found nothing objectionable, to repeat their words after them. “Oh,” he said, “you and I are not of one faith, therefore I think I should offend God if I should pray with you.” At this the people began to cry, “Away with him!” So, Saint Luke Kirby, an Englishman saying his Pater Noster in Latin, the language of the Church of Rome, ended his life. After the hanging, his body was gutted and quartered.

Blessed Thomas Cottam, SJ was born 1549, in Lancashire . . . His parents, Laurence Cottam of Dilworth and Anne Brewer, were Protestants. Having completed his studies at Brasenose, Oxford (M.A., 14 July, 1572) he became master of a grammar school in London. Converted there to the faith by Thomas Pound he went over to Douai, and was ordained deacon at Cambrai, Dec., 1577. Desirous of the Indian mission, he went to Rome and was received (8 April, 1579) as a Jesuit novice at Sant' Andrea. Attacked by fever about October, he was sent to Lyons to recuperate, and went thence to the College at Reims, considering himself as accepted for India, if his health improved by a visit to England. In May (probably 28th), 1580, he was ordained priest at Soissons, and started (5 June) with four companions for England. Through the treachery of an English spy by the name of Sledd he was immediately arrested at Dover, but by a ruse of Dr. Ely, one of his fellow-travellers, reached London safely. Ely being imperilled through this friendly act, Cottam voluntarily surrendered himself and was committed "close prisoner" to the Marshalsea, where he perhaps said his first Mass. After being tortured, he was removed, 4 December, 1580 to the Tower, where he endured the rack and the "scavenger's Daughter". He was arraigned with Campion and others and (16 November, 1581) condemned to death. His execution was deferred till 30 May, 1582 (see Munday's 'Breefe Reporte"), when with William Filby, Luke Kirby and Laurence Richardson, secular priests (all beatified 29 December, 1886), he was drawn to Tyburn and executed. His portrait, with martyrdom misdated, is reproduced in Foley, "Records", VII (1) 174; his relics are the Mass corporal used by him and four other martyrs in the Tower (cf. Camm, English Marytrs, II, 563) and perhaps his autograph in the registers of Sant' Andrea. More about Blessed Thomas Cottam, SJ here, at the Singapore Jesuit website.

Blessed Lawrence Johnson and Blessed William Filby:

Laurence, a son of Richard Johnson, of Great Crosby, Lancashire, was a Fellow of Brasenose College, Oxford, in or before 1569, and supplicated B.A. 25, November, 1572. In 1573 he was at Douai, and on 23 March, 1577, was ordained priest at Cateau-Cambresis. He was sent on the mission 27 July following, and laboured in Lancashire. He was arrested in London on his way to France and imprisoned in Newgate, where he remained until the day of his indictment, 16 November, 1581, when he was committed to the Queen's Bench Prison, and on the day of his condemnation, 17 November, to the Tower, where he had no bedding for two months. 

Filby, born in Oxfordshire between 1557 and 1560; suffered at Tyburn, 30 May, 1582. Educated at Lincoln College, Oxford, he was admitted to the seminary at Reims, 12 October, 1579. He was ordained priest at Reims, 25 March, 1581, and shortly after left for the mission. He was arrested in July, committed to the Tower, removed 14 August to the Marshalsea, and thence back to the Tower again. He was sentenced 17 November, and from that date till he died was loaded with manacles. He was also deprived of his bedding for two months. 

On May 30, 1612:

Blessed William or Maurus Scott, OSB: Benedictine martyr of England. Born William Scott in Chigwell, Essex, England, he studied law at Cambridge, where he became a Catholic. Maurus was converted by Saint John Roberts, the Benedictine, and was sent to Sahagun, in Spain, to St. Facundus Benedictine Abbey. Note: this abbey was on the pilgrimage road to St. James Compostela, and was named for the martyr St. Facundus, who with his companion St. Primitivus, was beheaded in the year 300.

Before leaving England he witnessed the execution of Roberts at Tyburn on December 10, 1610--less than two years later he was brought to the same site. He was ordained in Spain, taking the name Maurus. When he returned to England he was arrested, imprisoned for a year, and then banished. He returned again and again, being exiled each time. Remember that King James I was more reluctant about making martyrs, knowing that they would strengthen, not weaken, the Catholic community; he also thought that it was sign of weakness that the supreme governor of the Church of England had to resort to execution. Finally, Scott was hanged, drawn, and quartered at Tyburn on May 30 with Blessed Richard Newport. They were beatified in 1929. Blessed William Scott was one of the nine Benedictine monks beatified as martyrs by Pope Pius XI that year. The others: Blessed Mark Barkworth, Blessed George Gervase, Blessed John Roberts, Blessed Thomas Tunstall, Blessed Ambrose Barlow, Blessed Alban Roe, Blessed Philip Powel, and Blessed Thomas Pickering. His Wikipedia entry includes these details about his execution:

On the morning of May 30 he was to be executed with Richard Newport, another Catholic priest. He appeared wearing his Benedictine habit and declared himself once again a loyal subject of the King, before being tied to a horse and dragged through the streets to the gallows at Tyburn. Before being executed, he made a declaration of his life, his faith and his conversion to the Catholic Church, and gave the small number of gold coins he had in his purse to the executioner, saying, "Take these, friend, for love of me. I give them to you with good will and gladly do I forgive you my death". He was then hanged, drawn and quartered.

Blessed Richard Newport: English martyr, also called Richard Smith. Born at Harringworth, Nothamptonshire, England, he studied in Rome and was ordained in 1597. Returning to England, he worked in London for a number of years before being arrested and banished twice, but he returned each time. His third arrest was with Blessed William Scott and he was finally executed.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

My Favorite Feast: Corpus Christi

Next to attending Mass, my favorite devotion is Eucharistic Adoration and Benediction. Today's feast, traditionally celebrated on the Thursday following Trinity Sunday but usually moved to the following Sunday, combines both: Mass with special emphasis on the doctrine of the Real Presence, Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament in Exposition (the Host in the Monstrance), a public procession, and Benediction.

Penn State University Press published a book about the development of this feast in 2006:

The feast of Corpus Christi, one of the most solemn feasts of the Latin Church, can be traced to the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215 and its resolution of disputes over the nature of the Eucharist. The feast was first celebrated in Liège in 1246, thanks largely to the efforts of a religious woman, Juliana of Mont Cornillon, who not only popularized the feast, but also wrote key elements of an original office.

This volume presents for the first time a complete set of source materials germane to the study of the feast of Corpus Christi. In addition to the multiple versions of the original Latin liturgy, a set of poems in Old French, and their English translations, the book includes complete transcriptions of the music associated with the feast. An introductory essay lays out the historical context for understanding the initiation and reception of the feast.

In 2012, during his homily for the celebration of this feast, Pope Benedict XVI spoke about the important connection between actual participation in Holy Communion at the Sacrifice of the Mass and Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament outside of Mass, commenting upon the unfortunate idea that the latter detracts from the former:

First of all, a reflection on the importance of Eucharistic worship and, in particular, adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. We shall experience it this evening, after Mass, before the procession, during it and at its conclusion. A unilateral interpretation of the Second Vatican Council penalized this dimension, in practice restricting the Eucharist to the moment of its celebration. Indeed it was very important to recognize the centrality of the celebration in which the Lord summons his people, gathers it round the dual table of the Word and of the Bread of life, nourishes and unites it with himself in the offering of the Sacrifice.

Of course, this evaluation of the liturgical assembly in which the Lord works his mystery of communion and brings it about still applies; but it must be put back into the proper balance. In fact — as often happens — in order to emphasize one aspect one ends by sacrificing another. In this case the correct accentuation of the celebration of the Eucharist has been to the detriment of adoration as an act of faith and prayer addressed to the Lord Jesus, really present in the Sacrament of the Altar.

This imbalance has also had repercussions on the spiritual life of the faithful. In fact, by concentrating the entire relationship with the Eucharistic Jesus in the sole moment of Holy Mass one risks emptying the rest of existential time and space of his presence. This makes ever less perceptible the meaning of Jesus’ constant presence in our midst and with us, a presence that is tangible, close, in our homes, as the “beating Heart” of the city, of the country, and of the area, with its various expressions and activities. The sacrament of Christ’s Charity must permeate the whole of daily life.

Actually it is wrong to set celebration and adoration against each other, as if they were competing. Exactly the opposite is true: worship of the Blessed Sacrament is, as it were, the spiritual “context” in which the community can celebrate the Eucharist well and in truth. Only if it is preceded, accompanied and followed by this inner attitude of faith and adoration can the liturgical action express its full meaning and value. The encounter with Jesus in Holy Mass is truly and fully brought about when the community can recognize that in the Sacrament he dwells in his house, waits for us, invites us to his table, then, after the assembly is dismissed, stays with us, with his discreet and silent presence, and accompanies us with his intercession, continuing to gather our spiritual sacrifices and offer them to the Father.

In this regard I am pleased to highlight the experience we shall be having together this evening too. At the moment of Adoration, we are all equal, kneeling before the Sacrament of Love. The common priesthood and the ministerial priesthood are brought together in Eucharistic worship. It is a very beautiful and significant experience which we have had several times in St Peter’s Basilica, and also in the unforgettable Vigils with young people — I recall, for example, those in Cologne, London, Zagreb and Madrid. It is clear to all that these moments of Eucharistic Vigil prepare for the celebration of the Holy Mass, they prepare hearts for the encounter so that it will be more fruitful.

To be all together in prolonged silence before the Lord present in his Sacrament is one of the most genuine experiences of our being Church, which is accompanied complementarily by the celebration of the Eucharist, by listening to the word of God, by singing and by approaching the table of the Bread of Life together. Communion and contemplation cannot be separated, they go hand in hand. If I am truly to communicate with another person I must know him, I must be able to be in silence close to him, to listen to him and look at him lovingly. True love and true friendship are always nourished by the reciprocity of looks, of intense, eloquent silences full of respect and veneration, so that the encounter may be lived profoundly and personally rather than superficially. And, unfortunately, if this dimension is lacking, sacramental communion itself may become a superficial gesture on our part.

Our Extraordinary Form of the Latin Rite community, which usually gathers for Mass on Sunday at the Church of St. Anthony of Padua at 1 p.m., will instead worship today at the same hour at the Church of the Blessed Sacrament. The choir and a small orchestra will sing and play one of Mozart's Credo Masses, and other music proper to the feast:

- Asperges Me, Stephen A. Erst
- Gloria, Mozart's Credo Mass
- Lauda Sion (sequence), Samuel Webbe
- Sacerdotes Domini (offertory antiphon), William Byrd
- Ave Maria, Jacob Arcadelt
- Sanctus, Mozart Credo Mass
- Benedictus, Mozart Credo Mass
- Agnus Dei, Mozart Credo Mass
- Ave Verum Corpus, Mozart
- Pange Lingua, Thomas Aquinas

And there will be Exposition of the Blessed, a procession and Benediction after Mass.

Fortunately for me, there will be two more opportunities for Exposition, Adoration, and Benediction next week: First Friday on June 3rd at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception and the Parish Holy Hour next Sunday on June 5th at Blessed Sacrament! 

And there's also First Friday Benediction at Blessed Sacrament on June 3rd!

Memory and Reconciliation: St. Thomas a Becket

U.S. President Barack Obama has visited Hiroshima (but not Nagasaki) during his state visit to Japan, remembering and lamenting the use of the atomic bomb by the United States to bring Japan to surrender and end (most of) the fighting of World War II. At the same time, St. Thomas a Becket--a first-class relic of his body at least--has returned to England, whence he went in exile during his conflict with Henry II and where he was murdered in the Cathedral at Canterbury--and where his tomb was desecrated and his bones scattered by Henry VIII. There's a good article in The Spectator, in which a Catholic discusses the different responses at two Westminster sites (Westminster Cathedral, the Catholic church and Westminster Abbey, the former Catholic church) and comments:

I went to catch up with it at Westminster Abbey yesterday for evensong and was baffled that the abbey wasn’t full to capacity; it was a respectable turnout but hardly stuffed to the seams as, I gather, it was in Westminster Cathedral the day before. . . .

Weirdly, the CofE doesn’t quite seem to get its head round the Catholic notion of relics, which is that they’re there for a purpose, to be venerated. So, we like if possible to get our hands on them, or at least near them, or at least near enough for you to feel that your prayers are proximate to the actual bits of the saint; it’s the proximity that’s the great thing. Obviously the Abbey hasn’t been used to this sort of thing for a while, since it was a Benedictine Abbey (which Thomas attended), so they kept us at a safe distance from the High Altar; frankly it was hard to see anything at all from where I was kneeling.

One Catholic cleric there observed that the CofE lacked a sense of irony. Either that, or a short memory. The cult of Becket was one of the chief casualties of the Reformation; there was the 1538 Proclamation which mentioned, inter alia, that his image was to be ‘put down and avoided out of all churches, chapels and other places’. His name was to be erased from all liturgical books and his office, antiphons and collects were to be said no more, ‘to the intent that his grace’s loving subjects shall be no longer blindly led and abused to commit idolatory’. And that’s what happened. Yet yesterday, there was the choir of the Abbey singing as an introit a medieval hymn to Thomas. Ironic, as my friend observed.

It would be possible, I suppose, to see the welcome to Thomas’s elbow by the CofE and the Catholic church as a sign that the Reformation is over; the war is at an end. . . .

The Daily Mail posts a story with many pictures of the services at Westminster Cathedral.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Three Priests at Tyburn and the "Rome and Rheims Plot"

Fathers Thomas Ford, John Shert, and Robert Johnson were hung, drawn, and quartered at Tyburn on May 28, 1582. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, Thomas Ford was:

Born in Devonshire . . . He incepted M.A. at Trinity College, Oxford, 14 July, 1567, and was a fellow, Woods says president, of the college. He went to the English College, Douai, in 1570, and was one of the first three of its students to be ordained, receiving all orders in March, 1573, at Brussels. After becoming B.D. at Douai he left for England, 2 May, 1576, and soon became chaplain to Edward Yate and his Bridgettine guests at Lyford, Berkshire. Arrested with St. Edmund Campion 17 July, 1581, and committed to the Tower 22 July, he was thrice tortured. He was brought before the Queen's Bench 16 November, with his fellow martyr Blessed John Shert, on an absurd charge of conspiracy at Rome and Reims, where he had never been, on dates when he was in England, and both were condemned 21 November. 

So he was held (and tortured) from July 1581 until trial in November 1581, but not executed until May 1582. In addition to his connection with St. Edmund Campion, Thomas Ford had aided the protomartyr St. Cuthbert Mayne:

Late in 1570 a letter from Gregory Martin to [Saint] Cuthbert fell into the Bishop of London's hands. He at once sent a pursuivant to arrest [Saint] Cuthbert and others mentioned in the letter. [Saint] Cuthbert was in the country, and being warned by Blessed Thomas Ford, he evaded arrest by going to Cornwall, whence he arrived at Douai in 1573.

You may read details of Ford's arrest and capture with St. Edmund Campion here.

John Shert, according to the same source, was also held in prison a long time:

A native of Cheshire; took the degree of B.A. at Brasenose College, Oxford, in 1566. Successively schoolmaster in London, and servant to Dr. Thomas Stapleton at Douai, he entered the seminary in 1576, and was ordained subdeacon. He was ordained priest from the English College, Rome, of which he was the senior of the first six scholars. He left Reims for England 27 August, 1579, and was sent to the Tower 14 July 1581.

The Diocese of Shrewsbury adds these details about his trial and execution:

He was one of 20 who stood trial in Westminster Hall, London, for treason in the fictitious “Rome and Rheims Plot” against Queen Elizabeth I. Although he could amply demonstrate that he was in England when the plot was allegedly hatched he, like all the other priests, was convicted

He was the second of three priests to die at Tyburn on 28th May 1582 and was made to watch as the first, Blessed Thomas Ford, was butchered, shouting with arms outspread: “O happy Thomas! You have run that happy race. You blessed soul, pray for me.”

When it was his turn to die, Blessed John rejected an invitation from the Sheriff to request the Queen’s forgiveness on the grounds that he was guilty of no offence. He also refused an offer of clemency if he admitted treason with the words: “Should I for saving this carcass condemn my soul? God forbid!”

He did, however, acknowledge Queen Elizabeth as the legitimate English sovereign but not as the supreme governor of the Church in England. “She is not nor cannot be, nor any other, but only the supreme pastor,” he said.

To the crowd baying for his blood he left the admonition: “Extra ecclesiam nulla salus” (there is no salvation outside of the Catholic Church).

Finally, Robert Johnson:

Born in Shropshire, entered the German College, Rome, 1 October, 1571. Ordained priest at Brussels from the English College, Douai, in April, 1576, he started immediately for England. After a pilgrimage to Rome in 1579 he returned to England in 1580, and was committed to the Poultry Counter 12 July, whence he was transferred to the Tower 5 Dec. On 16 December he was terribly racked, and then thrust into an underground dungeon. He was brought before the Queen's Bench 14 November, and condemned 20 November.

Shrewsbury offers this detail about his trial and execution:

During the trial Blessed Robert gave evidence against claims by George Eliot, the renegade Catholic who betrayed Campion, that he and St John Paine had tried to persuade him to join a plot against Elizabeth. All the defendants were convicted, however, in spite of the lack of evidence against them. Campion, St Ralph Sherwin and St Alexander Briant were executed almost straight away. But Blessed Robert was held in custody until 28th May the following year when he was drawn face down on a hurdle to the Tyburn Tree along with Blessed John Shert, another Shrewsbury priest, and Blessed Thomas Ford.

Blessed Robert was the last to die, after being forced to watch the quartering of Blessed John. He went to his death vowing his loyalty to the Queen and protesting his innocence of treason, saying: “I teach (nothing) but the Catholic faith”.

When the Sheriff accused him of being a traitor he replied: “If I be a traitor for maintaining this faith then all the kings and queens of this realm heretofore, and all our ancestors, were traitors for they maintained the same.”

So why the long delay in their executions? Saints Edmund Campion, Ralph Sherwin, and Alexander Briant had all been executed on December 1, 1581, not long after the trial. Dom Bede Camm suggests in his Lives of the English Martyrs, published in 1916, that the Elizabethan government recognized that their efforts to curtail the flow of missionary priests through execution had failed and that the trumped up conspiracy charges had also been exposed as false. Camm notes that a pamphlet issued by the government to demonstrate the "traitorous affection" of Campion and the other priests didn't even mention the "Rome and Rheims Plot". Therefore, the remaining "conspirators" were asked a series of "bloody questions" about Pope Pius V's papal bull Regnans in Excelsis, Queen Elizabeth's supremacy and legitimacy as monarch, the Northern Rebellion, etc. Of course, their responses to these questions are opinions, not actions against the state or the monarch. Their responses may attest to their "traitorous affections" but are not acts of treason for which a person may be condemned and executed, even under English Common Law at that time. So both the trial and this extra-judicial questioning were unjust.

Pope Leo XIII beatified 54 martyrs of England and Wales on December 29, 1886 and these three were among that group. Blessed Thomas Ford, Blessed John Shert, and Blessed Robert Johnson, pray for us!

Friday, May 27, 2016

Pugin and St. Augustine of Canterbury

St. Bede the Venerable, St. Philip Neri, and now St. Augustine of Canterbury, there has been quite a sequence of English or English related saints this week. In The Catholic Herald, Father Marcus Holden discusses the revival of St. Augustine's Ramsgate, the shrine church designed and built by A.W.G. Pugin:

Pugin’s church of St Augustine in Ramsgate became a shrine in 2012. It is now the official place to honour the coming of Christianity from Rome to the Anglo-Saxon people with the mission of St Augustine.

In a stunning location overlooking the sea, the shrine is near to where St Augustine first landed in AD 597. Augustus Pugin moved to this place and built his own “ideal” church (and was buried there) precisely because “blessed Austen had landed nearby”. He called it “the cradle of Catholicism in England”.

Pugin desired a rebirth of Catholic culture in the place where it had been first conceived. When Archbishop Peter Smith inaugurated the new shrine he was filling a gap of 474 years since the last great shrine of St Augustine had been destroyed in Canterbury. This significant act has inspired thousands of pilgrims to visit ever since.

Shrines are powerhouses of the new evangelisation. At St Augustine’s, the majority of our visitors are not Catholic and yet they too enjoy the experience. Beauty reaches everyone. Heritage is a forgotten tool for sharing the faith in a gentle, non-intrusive manner.

At present we are welcoming more than 10,000 visitors each year and that number is increasing. The shrine celebrates liturgy to a very high standard in both the Ordinary and Extraordinary Forms. Artists and historians are making important contributions. Last year we also launched with Explore Kent a signed walking route called “the Way of St Augustine”. It connects Canterbury to Ramsgate, following the route that the saint took after preaching to King Ethelbert.

More about St. Augustine of Canterbury from the shrine Pugin built:

Augustine of England was a Benedictine monk who became the first Archbishop of Canterbury in the year 597. He is considered the “Apostle to the English” and a founder of the English Church. Augustine was the prior of the monastery of St Andrew in Rome when Pope Gregory the Great chose him in 595 to lead a mission, usually known as the Gregorian mission, to convert the English from paganism. The Anglo-Saxons had invaded and settled on the island of Britannia one hundred and fifty years before. In 597, Augustine landed on the Isle of Thanet. At a meeting at Ebbesfleet with King Ethelbert, the principal ruler of the Anglo-Saxons, Augustine first proclaimed the gospel to the English. Augustine and his group of forty monks were invited back to Canterbury and through their holy lives, miracles and preaching converted 10,000 souls. King Ethelbert was also baptised and allowed the monks to establish a Cathedral church and a Monastery. There began the long and fruitful Christian history of the English people. From Augustine’s foundation missionaries were sent to establish the Christian faith in London, Rochester and York. He probably died on 26th May 604 and was soon revered as a saint. Many centuries of devotion followed. In 1534 his shrine at Canterbury was destroyed only to be restored on 1st March 2012 on the Isle of Thanet near to where he first landed, at Pugin’s Church of St Augustine, Ramsgate.

St. Augustine of Canterbury, pray for us!

(Image credit: Wikipedia Commons, public domain).

Thursday, May 26, 2016

St. Philip Neri, Newman's Patron

Today is the feast of St. Philip Neri, Blessed John Henry Newman's patron and model as an Oratorian. His feast this year comes soon after Pentecost and Trinity Sunday. This homily describes the "personal Pentecost" that Philip Neri experienced and its effects:

To depict this special quality that people experienced in their contact with him, St Philip is often described in art, poetry and prayers as having a heart of fire. But this is not merely a metaphor. During his lifetime many people noticed that he seemed always to be warm; he was often flushed, and would walk around with his cassock unbuttoned at the chest, even in the middle of winter. Not only that, but several of his disciples reported that his heart used to beat violently when he prayed or preached, sometimes enough to shake the bench on which he was sitting. Some people could hear his heart beating across the room, and others experienced unspeakable peace and joy when he embraced them and held their heads to his breast. Typically of St Philip, although so many people witnessed this incredible warmth and palpitation of his heart, no one knew where it came from, until St Philip was on his deathbed. There he told one of his favourite disciples, Father Pietro Consolini, who waited until he himself lay dying, early in 1643, before he revealed the secret of St Philip’s personal Pentecost.

Over a period of about ten years, while St Philip was in his twenties and still a layman, he used to spend many nights in prayer, either on the porticos of Roman churches, or in the catacombs, the underground burial places of the martyrs outside the walls of the City. On the vigil of Pentecost in 1544, St Philip was praying in the Catacombs of Saint Sebastian, on the Via Appia, as he had done many times, and asking God to give him the Holy Spirit. As the night passed, St Philip was suddenly filled with great joy, and had a vision of the Holy Spirit, who appeared to him as a ball of fire. This fire entered into St Philip’s mouth, and descended to his heart, causing it to expand to twice its normal size, and breaking two of his ribs in the process. He said that it filled his whole body with such joy and consolation that he finally had to throw himself on the ground and cry out, “No more, Lord! No more!”

This mystical experience was a defining moment in St Philip’s life. But he did not make much of its extraordinary nature, and he would not want us to do so either. “As for those who run after visions,” he would say, “we must lay hold of them by the feet and pull them to the ground by force, lest they should fall into the devil’s net.” Rather, its importance lay in the fact that, from that moment on, St Philip was convinced and constantly aware of the presence and action of the Holy Spirit in him and through him. This mystical experience of the Spirit gave him great confidence in living his vocation, and carrying out what he saw to be his special mission. He was sure that he had received the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and this assurance set him free to bear the Spirit’s fruits.

Therefore, Blessed John Henry Newman called his patron a “vessel of the Holy Spirit” and the homily goes on to use commentary from Newman and others to highlight the gifts of the Holy Spirit in St. Philip Neri's life. Read the rest there.

St. Philip Neri, pray for us! Blessed John Henry Newman, pray for us!

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Musical Life of English Catholics: Which Catholics?

In New York this Friday at St. Vincent Ferrer Church: "The Musical Life of Catholics Under Elizabeth", sponsored by The Society of St. Hugh of Cluny:

This event explores the riches of English Catholic musical and religious culture under the Tudors. The lecture by Dr. Samuel Schmitt will describe the musical life of recusant Catholics in the time of Elizabeth, with live examples provided by Grant and Priscilla Herreid and Charles Weaver. The mass which follows, in the traditional Dominican rite, features the Missa Regali of Robert Fayrfax, essentially in its original liturgical context, in the English Gothic Revival setting of the Church of St. Vincent Ferrer. The contrast in musical styles will serve to highlight what was lost and what was gained in sacred music in the tumultuous passing from the age of Fayrfax to that of Byrd.

Samuel A. Schmitt has dedicated the better part of twenty years to making beautiful music for the Church as an organist, conductor, composer, teacher, and choral singer. He studied the Solesmes method of chant with Dr. Theodore Marier at the Catholic University of America, and earned both a master’s degree in liturgical music with a concentration in organ performance, and a doctorate in musicology for his research into the music and liturgical practice of persecuted Catholics in Elizabethan England. Dr. Schmitt has served as music director and organist at churches in several states and was an assistant organist at the Cathedral of St. Matthew and the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, both in Washington, DC. He currently serves as assistant organist at St. Theresa’s Church in Trumbull, CT, while promoting the artistic legacy of his grandfather as executive director of the Carl Schmitt Foundation.

Of course, I can't attend, but I wonder if Dr. Schmitt will discuss the different musical experiences of Recusant Catholics and Church Papists. Church Papists, attending Church of England services in public conformity and Catholic Mass secretly, would experience the full Anglican development of both vernacular and Latin church music, especially if they attended services in any Royal Chapel or at the Universities. A few recusant Catholics, attending Mass secretly, might have heard the Masses and Gradualia composed by William Byrd or Thomas Tallis--if they could attend Mass in the embassy chapels of Catholic countries like Spain or Portugal, they would hear Victoria or Palestrina. I would think the musical experience of English Catholics would be quite varied, and could be determined by class and rank, and certainly by location. Perhaps I'll ask the speaker via email!

Pope Benedict XVI on St. Bede the Venerable

During his series of addresses on the Doctors of the Church during his weekly general audiences , Pope Benedict XVI spoke about St. Bede the Venerable on February 18, 2009:

The Saint we are approaching today is called Bede and was born in the north-east of England, to be exact, Northumbria, in the year 672 or 673. He himself recounts that when he was seven years old his parents entrusted him to the Abbot of the neighbouring Benedictine monastery to be educated: "spending all the remaining time of my life a dweller in that monastery". He recalls, "I wholly applied myself to the study of Scripture; and amidst the observance of the monastic Rule and the daily charge of singing in church, I always took delight in learning, or teaching, or writing" (Historia eccl. Anglorum, v, 24). In fact, Bede became one of the most outstanding erudite figures of the early Middle Ages since he was able to avail himself of many precious manuscripts which his Abbots would bring him on their return from frequent journeys to the continent and to Rome. His teaching and the fame of his writings occasioned his friendships with many of the most important figures of his time who encouraged him to persevere in his work from which so many were to benefit. When Bede fell ill, he did not stop working, always preserving an inner joy that he expressed in prayer and song. He ended his most important work, the Historia Ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum, with this invocation: "I beseech you, O good Jesus, that to the one to whom you have graciously granted sweetly to drink in the words of your knowledge, you will also vouchsafe in your loving kindness that he may one day come to you, the Fountain of all wisdom, and appear for ever before your face". Death took him on 26 May 737: it was the Ascension.

Sacred Scripture was the constant source of Bede's theological reflection. After a critical study of the text (a copy of the monumental
Codex Amiatinus of the Vulgate on which Bede worked has come down to us), he comments on the Bible, interpreting it in a Christological key, that is, combining two things: on the one hand he listens to exactly what the text says, he really seeks to hear and understand the text itself; on the other, he is convinced that the key to understanding Sacred Scripture as the one word of God is Christ, and with Christ, in his light, one understands the Old and New Testaments as "one" Sacred Scripture. The events of the Old and New Testaments go together, they are the way to Christ, although expressed in different signs and institutions (this is what he calls the concordia sacramentorum). For example, the tent of the covenant that Moses pitched in the desert and the first and second temple of Jerusalem are images of the Church, the new temple built on Christ and on the Apostles with living stones, held together by the love of the Spirit. And just as pagan peoples also contributed to building the ancient temple by making available valuable materials and the technical experience of their master builders, so too contributing to the construction of the Church there were apostles and teachers, not only from ancient Jewish, Greek and Latin lineage, but also from the new peoples, among whom Bede was pleased to list the Irish Celts and Anglo-Saxons. St Bede saw the growth of the universal dimension of the Church which is not restricted to one specific culture but is comprised of all the cultures of the world that must be open to Christ and find in him their goal.

Pope Benedict certainly did not ignore Bede's importance as a Church historian:

Another of Bede's favourite topics is the history of the Church. After studying the period described in the Acts of the Apostles, he reviews the history of the Fathers and the Councils, convinced that the work of the Holy Spirit continues in history. In the Chronica Maiora, Bede outlines a chronology that was to become the basis of the universal Calendar "ab incarnatione Domini". In his day, time was calculated from the foundation of the City of Rome. Realizing that the true reference point, the centre of history, is the Birth of Christ, Bede gave us this calendar that interprets history starting from the Incarnation of the Lord. Bede records the first six Ecumenical Councils and their developments, faithfully presenting Christian doctrine, both Mariological and soteriological, and denouncing the Monophysite and Monothelite, Iconoclastic and Neo-Pelagian heresies. Lastly he compiled with documentary rigour and literary expertise the Ecclesiastical History of the English Peoples mentioned above, which earned him recognition as "the father of English historiography". The characteristic features of the Church that Bede sought to emphasize are: a) catholicity, seen as faithfulness to tradition while remaining open to historical developments, and as the quest for unity in multiplicity, in historical and cultural diversity according to the directives Pope Gregory the Great had given to Augustine of Canterbury, the Apostle of England; b) apostolicity and Roman traditions: in this regard he deemed it of prime importance to convince all the Irish, Celtic and Pict Churches to have one celebration for Easter in accordance with the Roman calendar. The Computo, which he worked out scientifically to establish the exact date of the Easter celebration, hence the entire cycle of the liturgical year, became the reference text for the whole Catholic Church.

Read the rest of his address here.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Sixteenth Century Identities: Mind the Gap!

As historians study the past, finding documents, locating contemporary reports, etc., I think one of the interesting aspects of these efforts is identifying a person. Think of the identity issues for Shakespeare--the lost years, the different signatures, the different spellings of his last name, the different portraits. Another example: we don't really know what Anne Boleyn looked like; we have contemporary descriptions but no authenticated portrait. The same is true of Catherine Howard, the other wife Henry VIII had beheaded: we have never found a portrait of her. Who knows, we may some day: but until then we don't have a clear vision of what she looked like. And then there is the issue of alias: many of the missionary priests coming to England under the threat of arrest and trial for treason used alias to disguise their identity. There are definite gaps and the careful historian observes their mysteries carefully. We have to "Mind the Gap"!

On his Recusants and renegades blog, Martin Robb is trying to identify a certain person and confirm that he was Catholic priest in Tudor England, with all its religious change and confusion:

In my last post I noted that Thomas Lucke’s will of 1551, with its explicitly Catholic preamble, suggests that Thomas retained his attachment to England’s traditional faith, despite the fact that when he made his will he was serving as a priest in the reformed Church of England, two years after the Catholic mass had been banned by Edward VI. In addition to this evidence of Thomas’ religious sympathies, his will is also a useful source of information about his relatives and contemporaries, including as it does a substantial number of bequests. I’ve been following up some of these names, in an attempt to understand the milieu in which Thomas Lucke, and my other sixteenth-century ancestors, lived.

In his will, Thomas Lucke makes a number of bequests to his niece Alice, my 12 x great grandmother. One of them reads as follows:

I wyll of that monye that ys in Gregorye Martynes hands of Mayghfelde xlv to the povertie there to be dystrybuted by my executor. And the Resydue of the monye in his hands, I wyll halfe to Alice Lucke: the other halffe I wyll equally betwene Thomasyn Lucke and Elizabeth Lucke, by the hands of my executor to theme to be delyvred.
So, Robb has been in search of Gregory Martin and has been frustrated:

However, there is one other reference to a Gregory Martin in the records, and it’s an intriguing one. In 1529 Robert Sawyer of Mayfield made his will. The opening paragraph is in Latin and it culminates in a list of witnesses, which includes the name ‘Gregorio Marten’. The word that follows this name is difficult to read, but it could be ‘clico’, which might be an abbreviation for ‘clerico’. Indeed, the transcript by the Sussex Record Society translates the word as ‘clerk’: in other words, priest.

Is this the same person who would appear in the wills of John and Thomas Lucke some twenty years later, and was he really a priest? Unfortunately, I’ve found no trace of a Gregory Martin in the clergy records, but they only begin in 1540. Could he have been a member of a religious order, rather than a secular priest? Then again, if the person mentioned in those later wills was a priest, why was he not described as such, given that Thomas Lucke doesn’t hesitate to append the word ‘clerke’ to the name of Richard Cressweller, one of the witnesses to his will? Had Gregory Martin ceased to serve as a priest by 1551, or is this a different person altogether?

And then he wonders if there's a connection between his Gregory Martin and the Father Gregory Martin who worked on the Douai-Rheims translation of the Holy Bible into English! Read the rest there; it's a fascinating exploration of identity in the sixteenth century:

On the other hand, if we could prove a connection, it might be further proof of the Catholic sympathies of my Lucke ancestors, especially if Gregory Martin of Mayfield was actually a (former?) priest. However, even if he turns out to have been born elsewhere in Sussex, and even if he was from Mayfield, we have no evidence to connect him with the Gregory Martin of Mayfield mentioned in the wills of John and Thomas Lucke. The fact that they shared a name, and an unusual one at that, suggests some kind of connection – but what?

Mind the gap!

Illustration credit: CC license from Wikipedia commons.

Monday, May 23, 2016

St. Philip Neri, Savonarola, and Renaissance Polyphony

Girolamo Savonarola was executed in the main square of Florence on May 23, 1498--it was a brutal execution that came after the Dominican friar had been tortured. He and his companions were stripped of their habits and hung by the neck above fires lit to burn their bodies. Their ashes were scattered in the Arno.

Savonarola was a hero to St. Philip Neri, as he had studied at the convent of San Marco (St. Mark's). Blessed John Henry Newman wrote about his patron's admiration of the Florentine friar in the two sermons he preached at the Oratory in Birmingham in 1848.

First, describing Savonarola:

A true son of St. Dominic, in energy, in severity of life, in contempt of merely secular learning, a forerunner of the Dominican St. Pius [V] in boldness, in resoluteness, in zeal for the honour of the House of God, and for the restoration of holy discipline, Savonarola felt "his spirit stirred up within him," like another Paul, when he came to that beautiful home of genius and philosophy; for he found Florence, like another Athens, "wholly given to idolatry." He groaned within him, and was troubled, and refused consolation, when he beheld a Christian court and people priding itself on its material greatness, its intellectual gifts, and its social refinement, while it abandoned itself to luxury, to feast and song and revel, to fine shows and splendid apparel, to an impure poetry, to a depraved and sensual character of art, to heathen speculations, and to forbidden, superstitious practices. His vehement spirit could not be restrained, and got the better of him, and—unlike the Apostle, whose prudence, gentleness, love of his kind, and human accomplishments are nowhere more happily shown than in his speech to the Athenians —he burst forth into a whirlwind of indignation and invective against all that he found in Florence, and condemned the whole established system, and all who took part of it, high and low, prince or prelate, ecclesiastic or layman, with a pitiless rigour,—which for the moment certainly did a great deal more than St. Paul was able to do at the Areopagus; for St. Paul made only one or two converts there, and departed, whereas Savonarola had great immediate success, frightened and abashed the offenders, rallied round him the better disposed, and elicited and developed whatever there was of piety, whether in the multitude or in the upper class.

It was the truth of his cause, the earnestness of his convictions, the singleness of his aims, the impartiality of his censures, the intrepidity of his menaces, which constituted the secret of his success. Yet a less worthy motive lent its aid; men crowded round a pulpit, from which others were attacked as well as themselves. The humbler offender was pleased to be told that crime was a leveller of ranks, and to find that he thus was a gainer in the common demoralization. The laity bore to be denounced, when the clergy were not spared; and the rich and noble suffered a declamation which did not stop short of the sacred Chair of St. Peter. . . .

A very wonderful man, you will allow, my Brethren, was this Savonarola. I shall say nothing more of him, except what was the issue of his reforms. For years, as I have said, he had his own way; at length, his innocence, sincerity, and zeal were the ruin of his humility. He presumed; he exalted himself against a power which none can assail without misfortune. He put himself in opposition to the Holy See, and, as some say, disobeyed its injunctions. Reform is not wrought out by disobedience; this was not the way to be the Apostle either of Florence or of Rome. Then trouble came upon him, a great reaction ensued; his enemies got the upper hand; he went into extravagances himself; the people deserted him; he was put to death, strangled, hung on a gibbet, and then burned in the very square where he had set fire to the costly furniture of vanity and sin. 

And then of St. Philip Neri's connection to Savonarola:

Philip was born in Florence within twenty years after [Savonarola]. The memory of the heroic friar was then still fresh in the minds of men, who would be talking familiarly of him to the younger generation,—of the scenes which their own eyes had witnessed, and of the deeds of penance which they had done at his bidding. Especially vivid would the recollections of him be in the convent of St. Mark; for there was his cell, there the garden where he walked up and down in meditation, and refused to notice the great prince of the day; there would be his crucifix, his habit, his discipline, his books, and whatever had once been his. Now, it so happened, St. Philip was a child of this very convent; here he received his first religious instruction, and in after times  he used to say, "Whatever there was of good in me, when I was young, I owed it to the Fathers of St. Mark's, in Florence." For Savonarola he retained a singular affection all through his life; he kept his picture in his room, and about the year 1560, when the question came before Popes Paul IV. and Pius IV., of the condemnation of Savonarola's teaching, he interceded fervently and successfully in his behalf before the Blessed Sacrament, exposed on the occasion in the Dominican church at Rome.

There's a new CD from Magnificat (directed by Philip Cave) of music inspired by Savonarola: Scattered Ashes: Josquin's Miserere and the Savonarolan LegacyYou can listen/watch a sample of this recording hereAccording to Linn Records:

Magnificat's 25th anniversary recording, Scattered Ashes, features contrasting and parallel works of great passion inspired by the meditations of the infamous Dominican friar Girolamo Savonarola.

The liner notes for the CD are here, including details about how Savonarola wrote a meditation on Psalm 50/51 and began one on Psalm 30/31 and how different composers wrote settings of those psalms or the friar's meditations. Among the works including on the recording is William Byrd's Infelix Ego and the author of the liner notes, Patrick Macey, invokes the specter of persecution of Catholics in Elizabethan England and how "Byrd's setting of Savonarola's meditation must have given voice to their sense of persecution, as well as their hope in the Lord's mercy." Note that Patrick Macey wrote an Oxford monograph of Savonarola's musical influence published in 1998 but out of print now, with the evocative title Bonfire Songs:

An underground tradition of sacred songs--Italian laude--thrived in Italy during the sixteenth century. The texts of many were written by the condemned heretic Fra Girolamo Savonarola, who was burned at the stake in Florence in 1498. This study explores the religious and social functions of these laudeduring Savonarola's time in Florence. It also reconstructs music for laude written to venerate the friar after his death. Savonarola's meditations on Psalms 30 and 50 were also set to music as motets by some of the leading composers of the 16th century, in a style of "high art" music remarkably distinct from the more popular tone of the lauda. These complex motets were often the result of networks of patronage at courts in Ferrara, France, and England. The book includes a CD with a generous selection of performances of the music discussed.

Remember that the Italian Laude were also incorporated into St. Philip Neri's Oratorian meditations, as just cited in the oratorio by Alessandro Scarlatti that I just reviewed.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Blessed John Forest, Observant Friar and Martyr

Blessed John Forest was executed by being burned to death, suspended over the flames from a gibbet in chains on May 22, 1538 because he opposed Henry VIII's marriage to Anne Boleyn, the annulment of Henry's marriage to Catherine of Aragon, and Henry's claim to supremacy and religious and ecclesiastical matters in England, which was heresy to Henry VIII. He was one of the Observant Franciscans. According to the Franciscans in the Province of Great Britain website: 

John was born into the noble Forest family, probably in Oxford, in 1471. At seventeen years of age he joined the Observant Friars Minor in Greenwich. He completed his studies at Oxford at the age of 26 and was ordained priest in Greenwich. Cardinal Wolsey gave him the task of preaching in St. Paul's Cross Church and Queen Catherine of Aragon chose him as her chaplain and then confessor. (The Greenwich friary was attached to the Royal Palace of Greenwich). In this role he opposed the divorce that King Henry VIII wanted to obtain from the Queen. In 1532, Guardian of the Greenwich friary, he spoke to the friars of the plans the King had to suppress the Order in England and denounced from the pulpit at St. Paul's Cross Henry's plans for a divorce. In 1533 he was imprisoned in Newgate prison and condemned to death. In 1534 Henry did indeed suppress the Observant friars and ordered them dispersed to other friaries. John was released from prison and by 1538 was in confinement in a Conventual Franciscan friary, his death sentence having been neither commuted nor carried out. From this confinement he could correspond with the Queen and he also wrote a tract against Henry entitled: De auctoritate Ecclesiae et Pontificis maximi (On the Authority of the Church and the Supreme Pontiff), defending the papal primacy in the Church. He was denounced to the King for this tract and also for refusing to swear the oath of loyalty demanded by Cromwell. When he refused to admit that his resistance to the King was an error John was burned over a slow fire on 22nd May 1538 in Smithfield Market. He died praying for his enemies.

Dom Bede Camm wrote an extended narrative of Blessed John Forest's stand against Henry VIII, his correspondence with Queen Katherine of Aragon, Latimer's long sermon before Forest was burned alive, and the martyr's last words: "Domine, miserere mei".

The Catholic Encyclopedia has this further detail about his execution and information about his beatification:

The statue of "Darvell Gatheren" which had been brought from the church of Llanderfel in Wales, was thrown on the pile of firewood; and thus, according to popular belief, was fulfilled an old prophecy, that this holy image would set a forest on fire. The holy man's martyrdom lasted two hours, at the end of which the executioners threw him, together with the gibbet on which he hung, into the fire. Father Forest, together with fifty-three other English martyrs, was declared Blessed by Pope Leo XIII, on 9 December, 1886, and his feast is kept by the Friars Minor on 22 May.

Image credit: Wikipedia commons, under license. It depicts his statue in St. Etheldreda's, Ely Place in London.

Blessed John Forest, pray for us.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Scarlatti and Ottoboni's Saint in the Making

The liner notes--which came as a CD-rom disc included in the jewel box--of San Filippo Neri recorded by soloists and the Alessandro Stradella Consort, describe the genesis of the oratorio form in the prayer meetings at the Oratory:

The death of St. Philip Neri in 1595 occurred during a period of stylistic change in music, when polyphony was giving way to accompanied monody. In the wake of this transformation a musical genre developed which was destined to become the sacred equivalent of opera. It is generally accepted that it originated in the so-called ‘exercises’ or prayer meetings promoted by St. Philip Neri in ‘oratories’, connected to various churches in which the faithful gathered with the purpose of transforming their leisure hours into an edifying pastime. This new genre was encouraged by the popularity of two collections of Laudi spirituali composed and published in Rome by Giovanni Animuccia. These and other simple and devotional pieces imbued with the spirit of the Counter-Reformation were sung at the beginning and the end of the spiritual exercises. It seems that the poet Francesco Balducci of Palermo, who was closely associated with the Roman oratories of Santa Maria della Vallicella and San Marcello, must be credited with having unified, some decades after the death of St. Philip, the texts of the two Laude that framed the sermon. This confirmed the new quasioperatic form, which soon adopted the name ‘oratorio’ from the sites where the devotional meetings were held.

Although the title of this oratorio reflects the canonization of St. Philip Neri on March 12, 1622 by Pope Gregory XV along with St. Ignatius of Loyola, St. Francis Xavier, St. Teresa of Avila, and St. Isidore the Farmer, Pietro Cardinal Ottobini's libretto depicts Philip wrestling with sanctity in dialogue with the three theological virtues Faith, Hope, and Charity:

While other authors claimed to have produced ‘a summary of the said St Philìp’s life’ (Padua, 1729), Cardinal Ottoboni hardly bothered with biographical facts. His libretto is divided into the established two parts, each consisting of a series of dialogues between St. Philip and the three Theological Virtues. They evoke his youth in Florence and two later important episodes in the saint’s life and death. His initial doubts and hesitations are overcome by the fervour of the reassuring exhortations of the three Virtues: from Rome, where he had settled, Philip wished to follow the example of St Francis Saverio in carrying the Word of Christ to ‘the Indian shores’; but Faith and Charity conclude Part I of the oratorio by revealing ‘God’s high command’: the aspiring missionary must stay in Rome, and the sweat of his brow must bathe the ground reddened with the blood of the martyrs.

My husband and I have listened to this oratorio twice, but I have not strictly followed along with the libretto/sung text yet, which of course I had to print out from the CD-rom. As the Gramophone review I posted before notes, the saint's final aria, as he dies with fading breath, is touching and beautiful, even in the English translation and certainly in the performance:

Recitative: Come, oh come, my God
Take my spirit, guide it in peace.
I leave you, dear companions of my travails.
Live in peace; my own heart I leave to you
in loving remembrance.
May the ardour never end
that descended from my breast to yours,
and with ardent prayers
never cease to pray to the sovereign shepherd,
elected to guide his flock,
that the divine hand
will bring a happy future.

Aria: My Jesus, I hear your voice,
calling me, bidding me to come.
As fainting and tired
I feel my life ebbing,
in your breast that was wounded on the cross,
receive my soul.

After that last gasp of beauty, the martial conclusion as Charity hopes for peace in the midst of the War of the Spanish Succession as Pope Clement XI negotiates peace is almost jarring:

With war the angry earth will resound
from far and wide.
Clement seated on his throne
in his white garment
shall show the way to peace.

That proved to be wishful thinking, however, as the Catholic Encyclopedia entry for Pope Clement XI demonstrates:

In his efforts to establish peace among the powers of Europe and to uphold the rights of the Church, he met with scant success; for the eighteenth century was eminently the age of selfishness and infidelity. One of his first public acts was to protest against the assumption (1701) by the Elector of Brandenburg of the title of King of Prussia. The pope's action, though often derided and misinterpreted, was natural enough, not only because the bestowal of royal titles had always been regarded as the privilege of the Holy See, but also because Prussia belonged by ancient right to the ecclesiastico-military institute known as the Teutonic Order. In the troubles excited by the rivalry of France and the Empire for the Spanish succession, Pope Clement resolved to maintain a neutral attitude; but this was found to be impossible. When, therefore, the Bourbon was crowned in Madrid as Philip V, amid the universal acclamations of the Spaniards, the pope acquiesced and acknowledged the validity of his title. This embittered the morose Emperor Leopold, and the relations between Austria and the Holy See became so strained that the pope did not conceal his satisfaction when the French and Bavarian troops began that march on Vienna which ended so disastrously on the field of Blenheim. Marlborough's victory, followed by Prince Eugene's successful campaign in Piedmont, placed Italy at the mercy of the Austrians. Leopold died in 1705 and was succeeded by his oldest son Joseph, a worthy precursor of Joseph II. A contest immediately began on the question known as Jus primarum precum, involving the right of the crown to appoint to vacant benefices. The victorious Austrians, now masters of Northern Italy, invaded the Papal States, took possession of Piacenza and Parma, annexed Comacchio and besieged Ferrara. Clement at first offered a spirited resistance, but,abandoned by all, could not hope for success, and when a strong detachment of Protestant troops under the command of the Prince of Hesse-Cassel reached Bologna, fearing a repetition of the fearful scenes of 1527, he finally gave way (15 Jan., 1709), acknowledged the Archduke Charles as King of Spain "without detriment to the rights of another", and promised him the investiture of Naples. Though the Bourbon monarchs had done nothing to aid the pope in his unequal struggle, both Louis and Philip became very indignant and retaliated by every means in their power. . . . In the negotiations preceding the Peace of Utrecht (1713) the rights of the pope were studiously neglected; his nuncio was not accorded a hearing; his dominions were parcelled out to suit the convenience of either party.

Pope Clement XI, however, was a reforming pope and lived simply and without corruption. He was elected pontiff just couple of months after his ordination in November of 1700:

The enthusiasm with which his elevation was greeted throughout the world is the best evidence of his worth. Even Protestants received the intelligence with joy and the city of Nuremberg struck a medal in his honour. The sincere Catholic reformers greeted his accession as the death-knell of nepotism; for, though he had many relatives, it was known that he had instigated and written the severe condemnation of that abuse issued by his predecessor. As pontiff, he did not belie his principles. He bestowed the offices of his court upon the most worthy subjects and ordered his brother to keep at a distance and refrain from adopting any new title or interfering in matters of state. In the government of the States of the Church, Clement was a capable administrator. He provided diligently for the needs of his subjects, was extremely charitable to the poor, bettered the condition of the prisons, and secured food for the populace in time of scarcity. He won the good will of artists by prohibiting the exportation of ancient masterpieces, and of scientists by commissioning Bianchini to lay down on the pavement of Sta Maria degli Angioli the meridian of Rome, known as the Clementina.

His capacity for work was prodigious. He slept but little and ate so sparingly that a few pence per day sufficed for his table. Every day he confessed and celebrated Mass. He entered minutely into the details of every measure which came before him, and with his own hand prepared the numerous allocutions, Briefs, and constitutions afterwards collected and published. He also found time to preach his beautiful homilies and was frequently to be seen in the confessional. Though his powerful frame more than once sank under the weight of his labours and cares, he continued to keep rigorously the fasts of the Church, and generally allowed himself but the shortest possible respite from his labours.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Heroes and Sages and Their Consciences

Two years ago this October, I presented on Blessed John Henry Newman: Conversion and Conscience at the Spiritual Life Center. During the presentation on conscience I discussed Newman's depiction of the false idea of conscience he described in his Letter to the Duke of Norfolk in response to Gladstone's pamphlet warning against the divisive effects of Papal infallibility in England:

When men advocate the rights of conscience, they in no sense mean the rights of the Creator, nor the duty to Him, in thought and deed, of the creature; but the right of thinking, speaking, writing, and acting, according to their judgment or their humour, without any thought of God at all. They do not even pretend to go by any moral rule, but they demand, what they think is an Englishman's prerogative, for each to be his own master in all things, and to profess what he pleases, asking no one's leave, and accounting priest or preacher, speaker or writer, unutterably impertinent, who dares to say a word against his going to perdition, if he like it, in his own way. Conscience has rights because it has duties; but in this age, with a large portion of the public, it is the very right and freedom of conscience to dispense with conscience, to ignore a Lawgiver and Judge, to be independent of unseen obligations. It becomes a licence to take up any or no religion, to take up this or that and let it go again, to go to church, to go to chapel, to boast of being above all religions and to be an impartial critic of each of them. Conscience is a stern monitor, but in this century it has been superseded by a counterfeit, which the eighteen centuries prior to it never heard of, and could not have mistaken for it, if they had. It is the right of self-will.

In my post-Easter mystagogical reading, In The Redeeming Christ by F.X.Durrwell, that author presents a higher standard of personal judgement in his chapter on Christian Obedience. He compares and contrasts The Greek Ideal of perfection and human excellence to the Old Testament and then New Testament ideals. I was struck by his characterization of Greek moral ideals according to a humanist standard:

Pagan man saw perfection as belonging to the order of reason; he expected to find it in the fullest human development of his own faculties. This humanism found its purest expression in the Greek world. This Greek ideal lay not in holiness in the biblical sense--consecration, union with God's will--but in the autonomous development of all that is noblest in man. This search for perfection achieved its goal most characteristically in the hero and in the sage. The hero's heroism consisted in an affirmation of himself whereby he was superior to all adversity, a lofty kind of egoism. The wisdom of the sage lay in grasping the great principles of human life and living in conformity with them. In both cases the result was complete freedom: each obeyed only himself, his own will to be great, the truths learnt from his own reason. Even when the Greek was obliged to carry his heroism as far as death, it remained always a heroism of fidelity to himself.

It may be a higher standard, but it's the same autonomy that Newman described as a false image of conscience and the standard it responds to: the individual decides what is excellent, good, and true--for him. It is still "the right of self-will". By that standard, what's excellent, good, and true for me might not be excellent, good, and true for you. We can establish no objective standards to respond to and measure ourselves by. If this rule applies to all areas of human endeavor, we can soon have no science, no arts, no literature, no history that we can share--we can hardly discuss the standards by which we judge the success of a scientific experiment, a painting, a novel, or a narrative, because of individual subjectivity. Judgment of excellence and perfection becomes a matter of taste, and de gustibus non disputandum est (of taste, there is no disputation or discussion). This is that "dictatorship of relativism" that Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger spoke of to the College of Cardinals in 2005 before his election as Pope Benedict XVI:

We are building a dictatorship of relativism that does not recognize anything as definitive and whose ultimate goal consists solely of one's own ego and desires.

We, however, have a different goal: the Son of God, the true man. He is the measure of true humanism. An "adult" faith is not a faith that follows the trends of fashion and the latest novelty; a mature adult faith is deeply rooted in friendship with Christ. It is this friendship that opens us up to all that is good and gives us a criterion by which to distinguish the true from the false, and deceipt from truth.

We must develop this adult faith; we must guide the flock of Christ to this faith. And it is this faith - only faith - that creates unity and is fulfilled in love.

On this theme, St Paul offers us as a fundamental formula for Christian existence some beautiful words, in contrast to the continual vicissitudes of those who, like children, are tossed about by the waves: make truth in love. Truth and love coincide in Christ. To the extent that we draw close to Christ, in our own lives too, truth and love are blended. Love without truth would be blind; truth without love would be like "a clanging cymbal" (I Cor 13: 1).

Here the standard--and Father Durrwell would certainly agree--is not myself but Jesus Christ, my Redeemer and Lord, His love and true humanism.

More on In The Redeeming Christ soon. And FYI: I will be speaking on Blessed John Henry Newman this summer at the Spiritual Life Center in the Docentium Series on August 18. My topic is "John Henry Newman on Faith, Family and Friends".