Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Margaret Beaufort, RIP

The day after Henry VIII turned 18 and achieved his majority, his grandmother and regent died on June 29, 1509. I think it's safe to say that Margaret Beaufort would have been shocked by the religious changes and violence her grandson would bring to England less than 30 years later, especially the execution of her confessor, Bishop John Fisher, not to mention the suppression of the religious orders she supported. According to History Today:

She was a firm adherent of the established religious forms: spiritual sister and participator in the benefits of prayers and masses at the great Benedictine houses of Durham, Westminster, Crowland and Thorney, and benefactress of the conventual Franciscans and Dominicans. She was also the friend of the Carthusians and Friars Observant who were active in encouraging the growth of personal devotion to Christ among the laity. Margaret was conscious of the need to develop her own spirituality and at the same time to communicate to society around her the richness of the Church's traditional devotion and worship, especially in the sacrament of communion. She translated from French to English the fourth book of the Imitation of Christ, which centres on the need for taking this sacrament frequently and for sincere penitence.  . . . [emphasis added: all these would be destroyed, and of course the Carthusians and Observant Franciscans would suffer greatly]

Michael Jones emphasizes that Beaufort worked with Bishop John Fisher to improve the quality of Catholic preaching and teaching:

Fisher and Margaret both saw clearly the communication problem faced by the Church of their day. They sought the answer not only in a clergy better grounded in theology, but in one familiar with the methods and duties of preaching. At Margaret's behest Wynkyn de Worde printed Fisher's own sermons on the penitential psalms, originally preached by him before her, and shortly before her death she commissioned the publication of his sermon at the funeral of Henry VII. Doubtless with Fisher's advice she embarked on the foundation of a university preachership at Cambridge in 1504. The preacher was obliged to leave Cambridge periodically during the year to preach at named churches, mostly in areas where Margaret had estates. The preachership was also supported by Westminister Abbey, but it was envisaged that the post might be held with a college fellowship, which guaranteed an added source of income.

Bishop John Fisher preached his patron's funeral sermon:

The sermon which Fisher preached at Lady Margaret's month's mind compared her with Martha in the gospel, the epitome of virtuous activity. She seemed to him the ideal representative of God-fearing orderliness for their days, a noble patron tempering her power with a humility which showed itself in respect for individuals. Like Martha she was busy about her household: he notices her astute handling of discord, her care for her almsfolk, servants and strangers fed by her charity, as well as personal qualities like her readiness to learn. All the estates of the realm had reason to mourn her: the students and learned men because she was their mother and patron; the religious with whom she conversed, the clergy whom she protected, the nobility to whom she was an example of honour, and the commons for whom she acted as a mediator.

Her tomb is in Westminster Abbey.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

The Collected Prose of T.S. Eliot

Edward Short sent me the link to his latest for The Catholic World Report:

It has been more than 50 years since T.S. Eliot died in 1965, and looking back over that period we can see that the decadence he predicted would overtake the West if it chose to abandon its Christian culture has duly arrived. The only thing about our decadence that might have surprised Eliot is the celerity with which it has come—and its thoroughgoingness. If we look at our social, political, cultural, and religious order, we can see how a kind of metastasizing decadence prevails in all of them. By “decadence” I mean what the Oxford English Dictionary means: “The process of falling away or declining (from a prior state of excellence, vitality, prosperity, etc.); decay; impaired or deteriorated condition.” Robert Louis Stevenson once said, “The obscurest epoch is today,” but no amount of obscurity can conceal the fact that if the Christian civilization that Eliot knew was in decline, the one that we know is radically worse. In this essay I shall look at the first four volumes of The Complete Prose of T.S. Eliot to show how Eliot anatomizes this decadence by returning again and again not only to the question of what constitutes Christian civilization but of how best to understand, protect, and revitalize it.

Re: this project from the Johns Hopkins University Press:

The Complete Prose of T. S. Eliot: The Critical Edition gathers for the first time in one place the collected, uncollected, and unpublished prose of one of the most prolific writers of the twentieth century. The result of a multi-year collaboration among Eliot's Estate, Faber and Faber Ltd., Johns Hopkins University Press, the Beck Digital Center of Emory University, and the Institute of English Studies, University of London, this eight-volume critical edition dramatically expands access to material that has been restricted or inaccessible in private and institutional collections for almost fifty years.

The fully searchable, integrative edition includes all of Eliot's collected essays, reviews, lectures, commentaries from The Criterion, and letters to editors, including more than 700 uncollected and 150 unpublished pieces from 1905 to 1965. Other highlights include essays from his student years at Smith Academy and Harvard and his graduate work at Harvard and Oxford, including his doctoral dissertation; unsigned, unidentified essays published in the
New Statesman and the Monist; essays and reviews published in the Egoist, Athenaeum, TLS, Dial, Art and Letters; his Clark and Turnbull lectures on metaphysical poetry, Norton Lectures, Page-Barbour Lectures, Boutwood Lectures; unpublished essays, lectures, addresses from various archives; and transcripts of broadcasts, speeches, endorsements, and memorial tributes.

Each item has been textually edited, annotated, and cross-referenced by an international group of leading Eliot scholars, led by Ronald Schuchard, a renowned scholar of Eliot and Modernism. The volumes will be released in sequence and published on Project MUSE, with an archival print edition to be published once all eight volumes have been released.

Ronald Schuchard, the Goodrich C. White Professor of English, Emeritus, at Emory University, is the author of award-winning Eliot's Dark Angel (1999) and The Last Minstrels: Yeats and the Revival of the Bardic Arts (2008). The editor of Eliot's Clark and Turnbull lectures, The Varieties of Metaphysical Poetry (1993), he is co-editor with John Kelly of The Collected Letters of W. B. Yeats, Volume 3 (1994), Volume 4 (2005), winner of the MLA's Cohen Award for a Distinguished Edition of Letters, and Volume 5 (forthcoming). A former Guggenheim fellow and founder-director of the T. S. Eliot International Summer School (2009-2013), he is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Short concludes his essay:

Together, the pieces in this great edition point to the one book that sums up all of Eliot’s work in poetry and prose, Notes Towards the Definition of Culture (1948), in which he wrote how, “The dominant force in creating a common culture between peoples each of which has its distinct culture, is religion,” though he was quick to assure his readers that he was “not setting out to convert anybody”: he was “simply stating a fact.” In one passage from that prescient volume, he refers to culture as the “incarnation” of a people’s religion, which, in itself, measures how much culture we have lost in losing our religion. In another passage, the Aristotelian critic in Eliot gives full expression to his understanding of the fragility of a culture that will only be replaced at incalculable cost.
It is in Christianity that our arts have developed; it is in Christianity that the laws of Europe have—until recently—been rooted. It is against a background of Christianity that all our thought has significance. An individual European may not believe that the Christian Faith is true, and yet what he says, and makes, and does, will all spring out of his heritage of Christian culture and depend upon that culture for its meaning. Only a Christian culture could have produced a Voltaire or a Nietzsche. I do not believe that the culture of Europe could survive the complete disappearance of the Christian Faith. And I am convinced of that, not merely because I am a Christian myself, but as a student of social biology. If Christianity goes, the whole of our culture goes. Then you must start painfully again, and you cannot put on a new culture ready made. You must wait for the grass to grow to feed the sheep to give the wool out of which your new coat will be made. You must pass through many centuries of barbarism. We should not live to see the new culture, nor would our great-great-great-grandchildren: and if we did, not one of us would be happy in it.
This may be a project mainly for Eliot scholars, but it is an incredible achievement, demonstrating the power of the digital medium. The first four volumes are on-line now, but when the project is complete, there will be real books published!

Monday, June 27, 2016

With Heart and Voice: Prayers by St. Edmund and Blessed Newman

On Sunday mornings, we like to listen to With Heart and Voice on WXXI:

With Heart and Voice offers a wide spectrum of western sacred music. Exploring the ever-growing treasury of works for life's spiritual side, its seasons and celebrations, With Heart and Voice presents choral and organ music of many faiths, of many cultures, nationalities, and over a thousand years of celebration. Hosted by Peter DuBois, the program celebrates the seasons of the liturgical year and focuses on the richness and beauty of sacred music. With Heart and Voice began as a local Sunday morning program on WXXI-FM Classical 91.5 in 1975, and has been broadcast nationally since 1989.

Yesterday morning, the host included an anthem composed by Jonathan Dove based on prayers by St. Edmund of Abingdon, which was included on a recording from Wells Cathedral:

Into thy hands was commissioned by Salisbury Cathedral to celebrate the 750th anniversary of the canonization of St Edmund of Abingdon (1175–1240), who was Canon Treasurer of Salisbury before becoming Archbishop of Canterbury. Dove was asked for an anthem which set words of St Edmund (he actually set two prayers) which would be sung in Pontigny Abbey in France where St Edmund is buried. Of the work Dove has written: ‘Knowing that it was a very resonant building, I imagined that the echo would be part of the piece, and set the first prayer spaciously, allowing for the sound of each phrase to reverberate. The second prayer talks of pilgrimage and eternity, and the music reflects this in a calm processional which does not reach an ending, but simply, in trust, surrenders itself.’

The two prayers:

Into Thy hands, O Lord, and into the hands of Thy holy angels, I commit and entrust this day my soul, my relations, my benefactors, my friends and my enemies, and all Thy people. Keep us, O Lord, through the day, by the merits and intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and all the saints, from all vicious and unruly desires, from all sins and temptations of the devil, and from sudden and unprovided death and the pains of hell. Illuminate my heart with the grace of Thy Holy Spirit; grant that I may ever be obedient to Thy commandments; suffer me not to be separated from Thee, O Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with God the Father and the Holy Spirit for ever and ever. Amen.

Lord Jesus Christ, mercifully grant to me that the rest of my pilgrimage may be directed according to thy will, that the rest of my life may be completed in thee and my soul may deserve to enjoy thee who art eternal life forever. Amen.

We also heard a setting of Blessed John Henry Newman's great prayer for the evening, which is also included on a recording, this time from the Choir of Trinity College, Cambridge:

St Thomas Church, Fifth Avenue, sustains a fine choir of boys and men, and it was for these forces and their conductor John Scott that Briggs wrote O Lord, support us in 2005. Commissioned by the then Assistant Organist Jeremy Bruns for his wife Kathy, this setting of an exquisite evening collect from the Book of Common Prayer is a tender wash of unashamed loveliness.

It's cited as an anonymous work, but it's Newman's Prayer:

May He support us all the day long, till the shades lengthen and the evening comes, and the busy world is hushed, and the fever of life is over, and our work is done. Then in His mercy may He give us a safe lodging, and a holy rest and peace at the last. Amen.

Friday, June 24, 2016

King George V and the Accession Oath

Before 1910, but even after the 1829 Emancipation of Catholics, English monarchs still had to take an extraordinarily insulting anti-Catholic oath before Parliament upon their accession to the throne:

I, A. B., by the grace of God King (or Queen) of England, Scotland and Ireland, Defender of the Faith, do solemnly and sincerely in the presence of God, profess, testify, and declare, that I do believe that in the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper there is not any Transubstantiation of the elements of bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ at or after the consecration thereof by any person whatsoever: and that the invocation or adoration of the Virgin Mary or any other Saint, and the Sacrifice of the Mass, as they are now used in the Church of Rome, are superstitious and idolatrous. And I do solemnly in the presence of God profess, testify, and declare that I do make this declaration, and every part thereof, in the plain and ordinary sense of the words read unto me, as they are commonly understood by English Protestants, without any such dispensation from any person or authority or person whatsoever, or without thinking that I am or can be acquitted before God or man, or absolved of this declaration or any part thereof, although the Pope, or any other person or persons, or power whatsoever, should dispense with or annul the same or declare that it was null and void from the beginning"

King Edward VII, George's father, had not wanted to take that oath upon his accession--either before Parliament or at his coronation, but it required an Act of Parliament. As this site notes:

George V in 1910 objected to the wording in the Accession Declaration used since Queen Anne’s reign, which denied the existence of transubstantiation in the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. He was also offended by references to invocations to the Virgin Mary and the sacrifice of the Mass as being superstitious and idolatrous. Despite some strong opposition the King succeeded in having all the above deleted and replaced by a more straightforward Declaration: ‘I (name) do solemnly and sincerely in the presence of God profess, testify and declare that I am a faithful Protestant, and that I will, according to the true intent of the enactments which secure the Protestant succession to the Throne of the Realm, uphold and maintain the said enactments to the best of my powers according to the law.’ Each monarch since then, including our current Queen has used that Declaration.

George was following his father's lead; Edward VII once reminded a courtier: “You don’t understand me. I am the King of all the people.” George V was crowned on June 22, 1911. 

Rome and the Counter-Reformation in England

This book is on my wish list for later--I have at least four upcoming projects (three presentations and one article) before I can even think of reading it--but I know that Father Philip Hughes is an excellent historian and will teach something I need to know about this era that fascinates me so. From the publisher:

One can find many of Fr. Hughes works on the Reformation reprinted. Still, one that is lacking his is great study of the Reformation in England. He admits at the outset that the conclusion is already known by the reader before he picks up the book, that the counter-reformation failed in England. What the reader may not know is why.

To that purpose, Fr. Hughes begins his study with the accession of Queen Mary and the appointment of Cardinal Reginald Pole to England as Cardinal Legate. Then he begins the study of how they refashioned the Church to be so strong that the episcopacy universally resisted Elizabeth. He also explores the condition of the average cleric, layman and other things from official documents and primary source texts.

In the next phase, he examines in detail the rise of Protestantism again under Elizabeth, and the projects of St. Pius V and Gregory XIII to help Englishmen depose Elizabeth. The importance of this study is that in the English Protestant historical tradition, Pius V and Gregory, along with the Jesuits and others, are accused of plotting the murder and assassination of Elizabeth. Fr. Hughes, by examining official papers, shows why this was not true, albeit also offering criticism of the official policy in these years. What he shows is that Rome never really had an accurate story on what was going on in England, and as a result committed many blunders in the period when the counter-reformation might have succeeded.

Following the scene to the eventual failure, Fr. Hughes also answers the pivotal questions: Were the English martyrs really traitors to the crown, as official history maintains? Were Cardinal Allen, the founder of Douay College, or Fr. Persons of the Jesuits, active tools of Spanish policy in England? Or did they rather believe the Spaniards would help the Catholic cause? Did St. Pius V try to assassinate Elizabeth?

In all this Fr. Hughes uses primary sources, letters, and reason to paint for us the picture of the counter-reformation’s failures. If one wants to know what Catholic action and life were like in England during the Marian Restoration and the Elizabethan imposition of Protestantism, this is the work.

This article at is partially based on Father Hughes's book, detailing stages in the Counter-Reformation in England from the reign of Mary I through Elizabeth I.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

A Little Death: Mary's Confession

A year after the holy Cardinal Bishop of Rochester John Fisher suffered beheading on the block at Tower Hill, the Princess Mary sent a letter to her father that betrayed everything her mother Katherine of Aragon had fought for and the the good bishop had died for:

First I confess and acknowledge the king’s majesty to be my sovereign lord and king, in the imperial crown of this realm of England; and do submit myself to his highness and to each and every law and statute of this realm, as it becomes a true and faithful subject to do; which I shall also obey, keep, observe, advance and maintain according to my bounden duty with all the power, force and qualities with which God had endued me, during my life.

I do recognize, accept, take, repute and acknowledge the king’s highness to be supreme head on earth, under Christ, of the church of England; and do utterly refuse the bishop of Rome’s pretended authority, power and jurisdiction within this realm, formerly usurped, according to the laws and statutes made on that behalf, and by all the king’s true subjects humbly received, admitted, obeyed, kept and observed.

And I do also utterly renounce and forsake all manner of remedy, interest and advantage which I may by any means claim by the bishop of Rome’s laws, processes, jurisdiction or sentence, at this time or in any way hereafter, by any manner of title, colour, means or cause that is, shall or can be devised for that purpose.

I do freely, frankly and for the discharge of my duty towards God, the king’s highness and his laws, without other respect, recognize and acknowledge that the marriage formerly had between his majesty and my mother, the late princess dowager, was by God’s law and man’s law incestuous and unlawful.

From Hunsdon, this Thursday, at eleven of the clock at night.

Your Grace’s most humble and obedient daughter and handmaid, Mary.

Note how late at night she completed this letter.

Thus she accepted the title of bastard for herself, as the subtitle of Anna Whitelock's 2010 biography lists her titles in order: Princess, Bastard, Queen.

She regretted it for the rest of her life.

St. Thomas More, Trusting in God

From one of his letters written in the Tower, St. Thomas More tried to help his daughter help his family understand what he had to do. This is from the Office Readings for the Feast of Sts. John Fisher and Thomas More, June 22, the second reading, Common of Martyrs, For Several Martyrs:

Although I know well, Margaret, that because of my past wickedness I deserve to be abandoned by God, I cannot but trust in his merciful goodness. His grace has strengthened me until now and made me content to lose goods, land, and life as well, rather than to swear against my conscience. God’s grace has given the king a gracious frame of mind toward me, so that as yet he has taken from me nothing but my liberty. In doing this His Majesty has done me such great good with respect to spiritual profit that I trust that among all the great benefits he has heaped so abundantly upon me I count my imprisonment the very greatest. I cannot, therefore, mistrust the grace of God. Either he shall keep the king in that gracious frame of mind to continue to do me no harm, or else, if it be his pleasure that for my other sins I suffer in this case as I shall not deserve, then his grace shall give me the strength to bear it patiently, and perhaps even gladly.

By the merits of his bitter passion joined to mine and far surpassing in merit for me all that I can suffer myself, his bounteous goodness shall release me from the pains of purgatory and shall increase my reward in heaven besides.

I will not mistrust him, Meg, though I shall feel myself weakening and on the verge of being overcome with fear. I shall remember how Saint Peter at a blast of wind began to sink because of his lack of faith, and I shall do as he did: call upon Christ and pray to him for help. And then I trust he shall place his holy hand on me and in the stormy seas hold me up from drowning.

And if he permits me to play Saint Peter further and to fall to the ground and to swear and forswear, may God our Lord in his tender mercy keep me from this, and let me lose if it so happen, and never win thereby! Still, if this should happen, afterward I trust that in his goodness he will look on me with pity as he did upon Saint Peter, and make me stand up again and confess the truth of my conscience afresh and endure here the shame and harm of my own fault.

And finally, Margaret, I know this well: that without my fault he will not let me be lost. I shall, therefore, with good hope commit myself wholly to him. And if he permits me to perish for my faults, then I shall serve as praise for his justice. But in good faith, Meg, I trust that his tender pity shall keep my poor soul safe and make me commend his mercy.

And, therefore, my own good daughter, do not let your mind be troubled over anything that shall happen to me in this world. Nothing can come but what God wills. And I am very sure that whatever that be, however bad it may seem, it shall indeed be the best.

And the Collect for the feast/memorial:

O God, who in martyrdom
have brought true faith to its highest expression,
graciously grant
that, strengthened through the intercession
of Saints John Fisher and Thomas More,
we may confirm by the witness of our life
the faith we profess with our lips.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

In the USA, today is a memorial; in England, it is a Feast!

How a Holy Man Dies: St. John Fisher

The author Michael Davies described the day of Fisher's beheading--he was awakened early and told the time of his execution; he asked to be allowed to sleep longer--and he was too weak to walk from his cell through the Tower to Tower Hill:

When he came out of the Tower, a summer morning's mist hung over the river, wreathing the buildings in a golden haze. Two of the Lieutenant's men carried him in a chair to the gate, and there they set him down, while waiting for the Sheriffs. The cardinal stood up and leaning his shoulder against a wall for support, opened the little New Testament he carried in his hand. "O Lord," he said, so that all could hear him, "this is the last time I shall ever open this book. Let some comforting place now chance to me whereby I, Thy poor servant, may glorify Thee in my last hour"----and looking down at the page, he read:

"Now this is etemal life: that they may know Thee, the one true God, and Jesus Christ Whom Thou has sent I have glorified Thee on earth: I have finished the work which Thou gavest me to do"(John, 17:3-4).

Whereupon he shut the book, saying: "Here is even learning enough for me to my life's end." His lips were moving in prayer, as they carried him to Tower Hill. And when they reached the scaffold, the rough men of his escort offered to help him up the ladder. But he smiled at them: "Nay, masters, now let me alone, ye shall see me go up to my death well enough myself; without help." And forthwith he began to climb, almost nimbly. As he reached the top the sun appeared from behind the clouds, and its light shone upon his face. He was heard to murmur some words from Psalm 33: Accedite ad eum, etilluminamim, et facies vestræ non confundentur. The masked headsman knelt----as the custom was----to ask his pardon. And again the cardinal's manliness dictated every word of his answer: "I forgive thee with all my heart, and I trust on Our Lord Thou shalt see me die even lustily." Then they stripped him of his gown and furred tippet, and he stood in his doublet and hose before the crowd which had gathered to see his death. A gasp of pity went up at the sight of his "long, lean, slender body, nothing in manner but skin and bones . . . the flesh clean wasted away; and a very image of death, and as one might say, death in a man's shape and using a man's voice." He was offered a final chance to save his life by acknowledging the royal supremacy, but the Saint turned to the crowd, and from the front of the scaffold, he spoke these words:

"Christian people, I am come hither to die for the faith of Christ's Catholic Church, and I thank God hitherto my courage hath served me well thereto, so that yet hitherto I have not feared death; wherefore I desire you help me and assist me with your prayers, that at the very point and instant of my death's stroke, and in the very moment of my death, I then faint not in any point of the Catholic Faith for fear; and I pray God save the king and the realm, and hold His holy hand over it, and send the king a good counsel."

The power and resonance of his voice, the courage of his spirit triumphing over the obvious weakness of his body, amazed them all, and a murmur of admiration was still rustling the crowd when they saw him go down on his knees and begin to pray. They stood in awed silence while he said the Te Deum in praise of God, and the Psalm In Thee O Lord have I put my trust, the humble request for strength beyond his own. Then he signed to the executioner to bind his eyes. For a moment more he prayed, hands and heart raised to Heaven. Then he lay down and put his wasted neck upon the low block. The executioner, who had been standing back, took one quick step forward, raised his ax and with a single blow cut off his head. So copious a stream of blood poured from the neck that those present wondered how it could have come from so thin and wasted a frame. 

O God, who in martyrdom
have brought true faith to its highest expression,
graciously grant
that, strengthened through the intercession
of Saints John Fisher and Thomas More,
we may confirm by the witness of our life
the faith we profess with our lips.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Kicking Off the Annual Fortnight For Freedom

First of all, I'll be on the Son Rise Morning Show today and tomorrow: today at 7:45 a.m. Eastern during the first Sacred Heart Radio broadcast hour (6:45 a.m. Central) and then tomorrow with a rebroadcast during the EWTN national broadcast hour (from 6 to 7 a.m. Eastern or 5 to 6 a.m. Central). Anna Mitchell and I will discuss St. John Fisher, based upon this article in The National Catholic Register.

Then this evening, I'll be presenting at the The Ladder, the home of EDI's Sisters of Sophia, on Margaret More Roper, St. Thomas More's daughter.

This year, the focus of the Fortnight for Freedom is "Witnesses to Freedom" and the relics of St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher are touring the USA--not coming close to us in Wichita, unfortunately--according to this story in America magazine:

This year the USCCB—along with Jesuit-run Stonyhurst College in the Diocese of Lancashire, England—is coordinating a U.S. tour of relics of Sts. Thomas More and John Fisher to promote respect for religious liberty. Both were executed by King Henry VIII for their Catholic beliefs.

The relics will go to Miami, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Minnesota, Denver, Phoenix, Los Angeles and Washington.

In addition, the USCCB is highlighting the Christian witness of 14 women and men—one each day of the fortnight observance, including:

• Blessed Oscar Romero, the slain archbishop of San Salvador.

• The Little Sisters of the Poor, the order at the forefront of the court fight against the contraceptive mandate.

• The Martyrs of Compiegne, France. The 16 Carmelites were guillotined during the French Revolution for defying the government's suppression of their monastery.

• The Coptic Christians who were killed by Islamic State militants last year.

"Reflecting on the lives of these great men and women can show us how we might serve as witnesses to freedom today," said the USCCB statement on the 2016 Fortnight for Freedom.

Last year, I highlighted the English Reformation saints and blessed who were executed during this period. On June 21, 1600, St. John Rigby, a layman, was hung at St. Thomas Waterings because he admitted that he had converted to Catholicism and had not attended Anglican services since that time. More about him here.

St. John Fisher, pray for us!
St. Thomas More, pray for us!
St. John Rigby, pray for us!

Monday, June 20, 2016

England, the EU, and the English Reformation

I don't have any knowledge to speak of the debate about whether the UK should stay in the EU, but I do find this debate interesting: which is more like the English Reformation: staying or going?

In The Guardian, Giles Fraser says the UK leaving the EU is like the English Reformation:

And this should be entirely unsurprising, given that the Reformation was largely a protest about heteronomous power. “The bishop of Rome hath no jurisdiction in this realm of England” goes the 37th of the 39 articles of religion, still – officially, at least – a summary of the theology of the Church of England, of which the Queen is supreme governor.

The backstory is familiar. In England, Henry VIII opportunistically purloined the pope’s authority under the pretext of localising the power of the church. There was nothing particularly honourable about Henry’s power grab. He just didn’t like being told what to do by some bloke in an Italian city. But freed from Roman authority, the Bible could be translated out of the elitist language of Vatican officialdom and into a vernacular that everyone could understand. And it was from this sense of grassroots empowerment that democracy was revived by the Protestant Levellers.

With every attempt – plots, armadas etc – by the pope to reclaim what he thought of as his, a stubborn commitment to English independence came to be lodged ever more firmly in our intellectual marrow. Nothing equivalent has shaped the intellectual worldview of Catholic countries. . . . 

. . . there are those of us who protest against our laws being crafted by some foreign power, beyond the control of our domestic parliament. Brexit perfectly recycles this defiant spirit of the Reformation.

Fraser sees the English Reformation as a political, not religious act: Henry VIII declaring England an Empire and himself its Caesar-Pope. Since Henry VIII's break from Papal authority and establishment of a new church is so complicated, I can see his point. 

But on this site from the University of Oxford, Diarmaid MacCulloch says the opposite is true: the UK staying in the EU is like the English Reformation:

Oh dear, Giles, how wrong can you be, about both the English Reformation and the wider movement across Europe? After its first explosion in northern Germany in 1517, the European Reformation was a completely international movement, transcending and breaking down local boundaries. The lesser Reformations of England and Scotland – distinct from each other, remember, Giles – were just part of this greater whole.

There was no idea of little Englandism in such Protestant reformers as the main author of England’s Book of Common Prayer, Thomas Cranmer, who is absent from Giles’s argument. Cranmer, the first Protestant Archbishop of Canterbury, was aiming for the English Reformation to resemble as closely as possible his favourite movement in Europe, that of a mainland European city called Strasbourg (though German Reformers, and Cranmer, the English Archbishop with a German wife, would have called it Strassburg). . . . 

MacCulloch makes an interesting point about the language of the Reformation, although of course the reformers all wanted the Holy Bible and the order of worship for their various communities to be in the vernacular:

This unity is also seen in the language of the Reformation: Latin, an international language. It is a mistake to think of Latin simply as the language of Roman Catholicism and its liturgy. It was more truly a universal language, a genuinely effective Esperanto, than English is today. You needed to learn it, certainly, but learning Latin was the main point of schools at the time, and once you had it, you truly were a citizen of a single culture. Without Latin, Protestantism simply couldn’t have spread across local boundaries.

How else would such star Protestant refugees in King Edward VI’s England as Strassburg’s Martin Bucer or Poland’s Johannes à Lasco have talked to their English hosts or indeed to each other, if not in Latin? Latin was the secret weapon of Protestant reformers just as much as it was the language of the Pope. Indeed, it helped either side in the great quarrels of the Reformation understand each other properly when they were insulting each other (which they did, a lot).

But I think MacCulloch overstates Protestant unity, which was already breaking apart during Edward VI's reign in matters of doctrine and worship. 

Finally, MacCulloch partially agrees with his friend:

Giles: you might have a slight point in characterising King Henry VIII of England as a Brexiteer. He broke with the Pope in 1533. Through force of personality plus quite a lot of threats and bluster, he bullied his parliament into pretending that his Church’s independence had actually always been there in English history, just hidden from sight by Romish cunning.

But do remember that Henry VIII was emphatically not a Protestant; in fact, he burned some of them for heresy. The Reformation here flourished in spite of him, not because of him. Henry VIII is definitely not my idea of an acceptable leader, either for the Reformation, the Church of England or modern Britain in general.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

From the Birmingham Oratory: Faith of our Fathers

The weekly reflection from Newman's foundation, the Birmingham Oratory, compares and contrasts the challenges Sts. John Fisher and Thomas More faced in the sixteenth century to those Catholics in England face today:

Today in this country, being a faithful Catholic means adhering to a set of beliefs and a way of life which have little meaning in the eyes of most other people. We Catholics believe that Christ Jesus is the Son of God, and there is no other Name that can save us. We believe that there is hell to avoid and heaven to gain. We believe that divine worship, prayer, good works, justice – Gospel justice – are far more necessary than most of the things which the world counts as valuable.

Should we then opt out of the secular world? For the majority of Catholics that is neither possible nor desirable. In a post-Christian country we have a more difficult task. God calls us not to opt out but to opt in. He calls us to engage with an increasingly pagan society, not to condemn it, for it condemns itself, but to convert it to the knowledge and love of Christ. We win others to Christ only by peaceful means; by living that Truth which we preach, and by playing an appropriate part in serving the common good.

St John Fisher and St Thomas More knew how much it mattered to remain Catholic whatever the consequences. Their example helps us to remember that being a good Catholic need not mean sectarianism or party-spirit. But it does mean facing the fact of being different in many ways from much of the rest of modern society. It often means having to swim against the tide, as we make our way to heaven.

Friday, June 17, 2016

The "Cardinal of Norfolk" Dies

The life of Philip Thomas Howard, O.P., Cardinal of Norfolk, Grand Almoner to Catherine of Braganza, Queen-consort of King Charles II., and restorer of the English province of Friar-Preachers or Dominicans , compiled from original manuscripts, with a sketch of the rise, missions, and influence of the Dominican order, and of its early history in England (as told by Father C.F. Raymond Palmer, OP) ended on June 17, 1694. He was named for his great grandfather St. Philip Howard, the martyr in chains--yet he was raised as an Anglican, becoming a Catholic after meeting his Catholic grandmother, Alethia Talbot, who lived in the Netherlands during and after the English Civil War while he was on his Grand Tour of Europe. His uncle was Blessed William Howard, executed in the hysteria of the Popish Plot.

According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, Philip Cardinal Howard 

. . . was the third son of Henry Frederick Howard, afterwards Earl of Arundel and Surrey and head of the House of Norfolk (the dukedom of Norfolk being forfeited, though restored in 1660). The mother of Philip was Elizabeth, daughter of the Duke of Lennox; he was thus allied to the reigning sovereign of England. At the age of sixteen he joined the Dominican Order in Italy, was professed at Rome, 1646, and took the name of Thomas in religion. Residing at Naples for his studies, he was chosen to deliver a Latin address to the general chapter of his order in Rome. He justified the choice delivering a fervent address on the conversion of England, which led to a decree being passed by the chapter, urging provincials and priors to do all they could to receive English, Irish, and Scotch novices into the order, with a view to its preservation in those countries. He was thenceforth wholly devoted to the conversion of England and to the progress of his order in that country. He was ordained priest in 1652, and with the sanction of his superiors set himself to carry out the ideas he had matured in his mind. He founded the priory of Bornhem in Flanders, with a college for English youths attached to it, and was himself the first prior and novice master. He also founded at Vilvorde a convent of nuns of the Second Order of St. Dominic, now at Carisbrooke.

In the reign of Charles II Father Howard was made grand almoner to Queen Catherine of Braganza. He resided at St. James's Palace, with a salary of 500 pounds a year, and had a position of influence at Court. An outbreak of Puritan violence compelling him to leave England, he resumed his position as prior at Bornhem. He was made cardinal in 1675, by Pope Clement X, being assigned the title of S. Cecilia trans Tiberim, exchanged later for the Dominican church of S. Maria supra Minervam. He now took up his residence at Rome and entered into the service of the Universal Church, especially watching over the interests of the Catholic faith in England. 

In 1672 he was nominated by the Holy See as Vicar Apostolic of England with a see in partibus, but the appointment, owing to the opposition of the "English Chapter" to his being a vicar Apostolic, and the insistence that he should be a bishop with ordinary jurisdiction, was not confirmed. He was to have been Bishop of Helenopolis. In 1679 he was made Protector of England and Scotland. At his instance the Feast of St. Edward the Confessor was extended to the whole Church. He rebuilt the English College in Rome, and revised the rules of Douai College.

Cardinal Howard cooperated later with James II in the increase of vicars Apostolic in England from one to four, an arrangement which lasted till 1840, when the number was increased to eight by Gregory XVI. Burnet shows in his "History" that Cardinal Howard regretted the steps which led to the crisis in the reign of James II and which his counsels sought to avert. The cardinal's plans were thwarted and the ill-starred mission of the Earl of Castlemaine to Rome showed the rise of another spirit which he did not share. When the crisis he foresaw came, he had the consolation at least of knowing that his foundation at Bornhem was beyond the grasp of the new persecutors.

Cardinal Howard assisted at three conclaves, for the election of Innocent XI in 1676, Alexander VIII in 1689, and Innocent XII in 1691. He died in the twentieth year of his cardinalate, at the age of 64, and was buried in his titular church of S. Maria supra Minervam at Rome. His foundations in Flanders flourished till the French Revolution, when they were despoiled to a great extent, and were eventually transferred to England. The English Dominican Province looks to him as its father and restorer, and the American Province also regards him to a great extent in the same light. After his death the Master General, Father Antoninus Cloche, addressed a letter to the whole order, lamenting the loss of one who had done so great a work for the English Church and the order.

The Dominican Priory that moved from Vilvorde to Carisbrooke on the Isle of Wight is no longer occupied by Dominican nuns, but still serves a spiritual/religious purpose, according to the Carisbrooke Priory website:

Carisbrooke Priory was orginally the home of Dominican nuns who belonged to the Order of Preachers, founded in southern France by a Spaniard, Dominic of Guzman, at the beginning of the 13th Century.

St Dominic's Priory as it was then called was built in 1865-1866 for the Lady Countess of Clare, a devout convert to the Catholic faith and a tertiary. The Pugin influenced architect Gilbert Blount - who as a civil engineer had previously worked as a superintendent on the Thames Tunnel for Isambard Kingdom Brunel - built the Priory in Gothic style, and a number of interesting architectural features of the main building and its gateway have contributed to its Grade II listing.

The nuns lived at the Priory from December 1866 to October 1989 and were visited by a number of dignitaries including Queen Victoria. Many of the nuns were skilled needlewomen as the permanent exhibition of vestments now at Carisbrooke Castle clearly shows. Others translated books, illuminated scripts and later on set up a printing press for the production of Christmas and greetings cards and stationery. Their quiet life was centered around prayer and the Chapel was the focus of this.

The Priory was purchased by the Carisbrooke Priory Trust in April 1993. Founded as a registered charity it also became a company limited by guarantee in 2008.

More about the history of the Dominican order in England here.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Recent Musical Discoveries: From Ladies (almost) Only

Speaking of the Sisters of Sophia, the ladies-only monthly event held at EDI's venue, The Ladder, reminded me that my husband and I realized one week that all the music we were listening to was performed by ladies in at least two genres: pop (with jazz influence) and classical.

First of all, Mark had bought me a CD of great American Song Book standards all about the moon and the stars: If the Moon Turns Green . . ., sung by Diana Panton. Songs like "Fly Me to the Moon," "I've Told Every Little Star", "Moon River", "Moonlight Serenade", etc, accompanied by guitar, bass, and piano.

Mark also discovered Rachael Price's The Good Hours, which he purchased as an MP3: also filled with great standards like "Skylark", "Mood Indigo", "Serenade in Blue", etc. From Rachael's solo, jazz career, we moved on to her work with Lake Street Dive, for example: Bad Self Portraits.

My contribution to this almost ladies-only music selection--bringing in the group kind of broke the streak--was the two-album set from Deutsche Grammophon (new LPs):

Titled Duo, it contains performances by pianist Helene Grimaud and cellist Sol Gabetta of Cello Sonatas by Brahms (No. 1 op. 38), Debussy (D minor), and Shostakovich (op. 40), and the Fantasiestucke of Schumann (op. 73). The two LP set came with a free digital download! You may view the promotional video from DG here.

History Made at Oxford's Christ Church Cathedral

Christ Church Cathedral, the Anglican cathedral of Oxford, has recently appointed a new Ecumenical Canon, the Reverend Robin Gibbons, per the Oxford University Department for Continuing Education Summer term newsletter:

Honorary Canons are people who have given distinguished service either in the Diocese or wider church and serve as ambassadors for the Cathedral in their parish, life or ministry.

Each year a number of new Canons are installed at a service in the Cathedral at the end of January and take part in the Cathedral life by becoming a member of the College of Canons.

Robin's appointment was made in recognition of his many years of close work with the Anglican Church, his role as a Chaplain for Catholics of the Eastern Rite (Middle Eastern Catholics who belong to the Greek-Catholic Church one of the many eastern churches in communion with Rome ) and for his work in theological education. . . .

Robin's appointment is historical, in that he is the first Catholic priest to be installed as a Canon since the suppression of St Frideswide’s Priory by Wolsey in 1525 to found Cardinal College (later Christ Church) and the foundation of the Cathedral in 1545/6.

The term Ecumenical Canon acknowledges the desire of the Anglican Church to work with other churches and encourage closer relationships through the appointment of individuals as Canons who share the mission and vision of the Cathedral.

Robin already helps with the termly After Eight Service in Christ Church and is involved in collaborative work on St Frideswide with the Educational Officer in the Cathedral and now acts as one of the occasional Day Chaplains.

Professor Henry Mayr-Harting was the first Roman Catholic and also first lay Canon to be appointed in 1997 when he became Regius Professor of Ecclesiastical History.

The photo above (C) Stephanie A. Mann 2016, was taken during my Oxford Experience trip in 2009: it's the tower of Christ Church Cathedral, which is part of the infrastructure of the college's main (Tom) quad, taken from inside the cathedral's garden.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

June 15, 1598 in York

Peter Snow, of Ripon, England, was ordained a priest in Soissons, France in 1591. After returning to England, he served for seven years in Yorkshire, ministering to his fellow Catholics persecuted under Queen Elizabeth I. In the spring of 1598, he received assistance in his travels from a Yorkshire native, Ralph Grimston, a married layman from Nidd. Ralph had previously suffered imprisonment for opening his home to Catholic priests. On or around May 1, 1598, Father Snow and Ralph were captured while journeying together to York. Father Snow was condemned to death by hanging, drawing, and quartering for being a priest. Ralph was condemned to death by hanging for having assisted Father Snow and for having attempted to prevent the priest’s arrest when they were caught. They suffered martyrdom together on June 15 at York.

The Catholic Cathedral at Leeds, dedicated to St. Anne, has their skulls as relics, and the University of Dundee reconstructed their faces based on their skulls (just like they do on Bones and all the other forensic cop shows on television!). It's rather heartbreaking to imagine the young Father Peter Snow enduring the tortures of being hung and eviscerated during his execution--unlike the stylized portraits of the sixteenth century or the idealized images of the martyrs, the picture of him on the left is more realistic (if we believe the reconstruction). Mr. Grimston seems stalwart and, I guess, normal, balding and wrinkled. I can imagine him taking a swing at the pursuivants on the road to York, trying to fight them off to give Father Show a chance. They were beatified by Pope Saint John Paul II in 1987, among the Eighty-Five Martyrs of England and Wales.

When he beatified this group of priests and laymen, the pope described their unity in service, worship, doctrine, and prayer, which certainly describes the partnership between Blessed Peter Snow and Blessed Ralph Grimston:

Among these eighty-five martyrs we find priests and laymen, scholars and craftsmen. The oldest was in his eighties, and the youngest no more than twenty-four. There were among them a printer, a bartender, a stable-hand, a tailor. What unites them all is the sacrifice of their lives in the service of Christ their Lord.

The priests among them wished only to feed their people with the Bread of Life and with the Word of the Gospel. To do so meant risking their lives. But for them this price was small compared to the riches they could bring to their people in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

The twenty-two laymen in this group of martyrs shared to the full the same love of the Eucharist. They, too, repeatedly risked their lives, working together with their priests, assisting, protecting and sheltering them. Laymen and priests worked together; together they stood on the scaffold and together welcomed death. Many women, too, not included today in this group of martyrs, suffered for their faith and died in prison. They have earned our undying admiration and remembrance.

These martyrs gave their lives for their loyalty to the authority of the Successor of Peter, who alone is Pastor of the whole flock. They also gave their lives for the unity of the Church, since they shared the Church’s fait, unaltered down the ages, that the Successor of Peter has been given the task of serving and ensuring "the unity of the flock of Christ". He has been given by Christ the particular role of confirming the faith of his brethren.

The martyrs grasped the importance of that Petrine ministry. They gave their lives rather than deny this truth of their faith. Over the centuries the Church in England, Wales and Scotland has drawn inspiration from these martyrs and continues in love of the Mass and in faithful adherence to the Bishop of Rome. The same loyalty and faithfulness to the Pope is demonstrated today whenever the work of renewal in the Church is carried out in accordance with the teachings of the Second Vatican Council and in communion with the universal Church.

Blessed Peter Snow and Blessed Ralph Grimston, pray for us!

Dying as Hidden Servants of Christ

On June 15, 1537, the second group of those Carthusians held in Newgate Prison, without charge, or trial, or sentence, or any other mark of justice except for the will of Henry VIII, began to die. Brothers Thomas Scryven and Thomas Redyng died on June 15 and June 16--Dom Richard Bere did not die till August 9, and the priest Thomas Johnson not until September 20, so they must have received some nutrition, according to the King's great mercy.

One survived this starvation ordeal: Brother William Horne. He was finally attainted by Parliament in 1540 and executed at Tyburn on August 4, 1540.

In his book Saints and Scholars, David Knowles eulogizes the Newgate prison group:

The third and most numerous band was denied even the dignity of a formal trial and execution. They had asked to live as hidden servants of Christ; they died, silent witnesses to his words, hidden from the eyes of all. Chained without possibility of movement in a foul atmosphere, and systematically starved . . .

Rarely indeed in the annals of the Church have any confessors of the faith endured trials longer, more varied or more bitter then these unknown monks. They had left the world, as they hoped, for good; but the children of the world, to gain their private ends, had violated their solitude to demand of them an approval and a submission which they could not give. They had long made of their austere and exacting Rule a means to the loving and joyful service of God; pain and desolation, therefor, when they came, held no terrors for them. When bishops and theologians paltered or denied they were not ashamed to confess the Son of Man. They died faithful witnesses to the Catholic teaching that Christ had built his Church upon a rock.

Blessed Carthusian martyrs, pray for us.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

For Ladies Only: Sisters of Sophia

For seven years, the Eighth Day Institute hosted meetings of the Hall of Men, a male-only enclave of fellowship and formation, with presentations on various heroes (and some heroines) of Christianity. The Eighth Day Institute brings Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant clergy and laity together for the renewal of culture. Just last September, EDI organized the Sisters of Sophia, a female-only enclave of fellowship and formation, held almost every month on the  third Tuesday. We gather for a meal and a presentation about a Christian heroine. So far we have heard about heroines like St. Cecilia, St. Elizabeth the New Martyr, Christina Rossetti, and St. Therese of Lisieux.

Next Tuesday, June 21, is the third Tuesday of the month, and I am presenting on my heroine: Margaret More Roper, St. Thomas More's "dearest Meg". The schedule is:

6:15 Doors Open
6:30 Food and Fellowship
7:30 Eighth Day Convocation and
Lecture on Margaret More Roper; daughter of Sir Thomas More by Stephanie Mann
8:15 Q&A and Closing Prayer

If you are in the Wichita area and if you are female, here's more information about the event, including an opportunity to RSVP. This is such an opportune date to discuss Margaret More Roper: the eve of her father's Sanctoral Memorial, the beginning of the annual Fortnight for Freedom, the Tuesday after Father's Day--many beautiful connections! 

Monday, June 13, 2016

Happy Birthday, Dorothy L. Sayers!

Dorothy Leigh Sayers, novelist, translator, and Anglo-Catholic Christian apologist, was born on June 13, 1893; she died on December 17, 1957. She was born at the Christ Church Cathedral headmaster's house in Oxford because her father was chaplain. She attended Somerville College, the women's college in Oxford and received an MA degree in 1920. Sayers worked in the advertising field as a copywriter for several years, working on Guinness and Colman's Mustard accounts. She also worked in publishing, at Blackwell's of Oxford.

The Dorothy L. Sayers Society provides more detail about her life and works and her alma mater is proud of its influence on her life and work.

Although she is better known for her Lord Peter Wimsey series of mystery novels, I have always appreciated her more for the translation of Dante's Divine Comedy (particularly her introductions to Hell and Purgatory) and her Christian apologetics and other works. Like C.S. Lewis and T.S. Eliot, she stands high in my short-list of 20th century Anglo Catholics. 

I am very sorry that Penguin diverted her from completing the translation of Paradise to translate The Song of Roland! I know that her translation of the Divine Comedy, left incomplete at her death, is not considered the best--but I thought her introductions displayed an excellent understanding of Catholic doctrine and medieval culture.

Creed or ChaosThe Mind of the Maker, and The Whimsical Christian all offer good orthodox Christian doctrine and a valid theological viewpoint. Her emphasis -- her insistence -- on the importance of doctrine called Blessed John Henry Newman's Oxford Sermons to mind. 

I went through a Dorothy L. Sayers phase when I was working for Eighth Day Books after being laid off from an advertising firm in the 1980's--I read the mysteries, the essays, the translations, everything--except for the book I'm reading now. I've pulled just about all those books off my shelf because I'm preparing a talk about Dorothy L. Sayers for the Second Annual Inklings Festival held by the Eighth Day Institute here in Wichita on Saturday, July 23rd.

The title of my presentation, in keeping with theme of the festival, is "Are Women Human? Can We Be Divine?: Dorothy L. Sayers Takes the Case" and the book I'm reading now is Are Women Human? from Eerdmans:

One of the first women to graduate from Oxford University, Dorothy Sayers pursued her goals whether or not what she wanted to do was ordinarily understood to be "feminine." Sayers did not devote a great deal of time to talking or writing about feminism, but she did explicitly address the issue of women's role in society in the two classic essays collected here.

Central to Sayers's reflections is the conviction that both men and women are first of all human beings and must be regarded as essentially much more alike than different. We are to be true not so much to our sex as to our humanity. The proper role of both men and women, in her view, is to find the work for which they are suited and to do it.

Though written several decades ago, these essays still offer in Sayers's piquant style a sensible and conciliatory approach to ongoing gender issues.

Brahms and Brahms and Bruckner

We found another used LP in very good condition--evidently played once to make a reel-to-reel recording, my husband thinks--of Brahms' Symphony No. 3 in F, Op. 90, with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Fritz Reiner. This performance was recorded in Orchestra Hall, Chicago in 1957 and the RCA Victor Living Stereo LP released in 1958. It still makes the lists of great performances/recordings of this symphony. The liner notes are by Irving Kolodin, one of the most powerful and influential critics of the 20th century (see this story from Opera News). I was just now listening to the third movement, the Poco allegretto, of which Kolodin says: "Many listeners date their earliest attraction to symphonic music from this appealing movement, with its serenely expressive cello melody, its attractive aural curves and vistas. What makes it the endlessly satisfying thing it is, however, are the subtleties which become apparent as acquaintance ripens. For all its Poco allegretto marking, it is a scherzo as Brahms conceived the term, in which the conventional return to the opening (after the trio) is replaced by a wonderfully elaborate new version of the beginning. Moreover, it is replete with refinements of orchestration--that art of which Brahms supposedly knew so little--in which nothing ever happens the same way twice."

Here is a picture of the record on the turntable, a 1970's Yamaha:

Here is a picture of the symbol the previous owner stamped on all his record labels and sleeves, according to the owner of the record store.

I've also been listening quite often--in my car as I drive to see my mother in a care home about twenty minutes away--this award-winning recording of motets by Brahms and Anton Bruckner from Tenebrae. You may watch and listen to a selection from the recording here.

The liner notes for this CD introduced me to a new term, Cecilian, referring to reforms that predated Pope St. Pius X's 1903 call for the return to Gregorian Chant and Renaissance polyphony in sacred music for the Holy Mass:

Bruckner’s mature motets were written during a period of reform of music for the Catholic Church. The revisionist trend gathered pace in 1866 when the German priest and composer, Franz Xaver Witt, launched a journal devoted to the cause of ‘improving’ church music. The following year, he set out his manifesto and dealt with the practicalities of delivering it. Witt condemned the ‘trashy church music’ favoured by Catholic parochial choirs and suggested a ‘churchly’ alternative, one rooted in the ‘true’ music of such past masters as Palestrina and in the melodic purity of Gregorian chant. Witt’s words inspired the foundation of the Allgemeine Cäcilien-Verband (General Association of St Cecilia), or Cäcilien Verein (Cecilian Society) as it became known. His brainchild, named for music’s patron saint, soon grew in stature, leading one overenthusiastic cleric to describe it by the mid-1880s as ‘a small world power’.

In many ways Bruckner’s motets respect Cecilian ideals. They were informed by chant and Palestrinian polyphony; they also served to heighten the intensity of ritual worship without drawing attention to their composer’s ingenuity. Locus iste, written for the inauguration of the votive chapel of Linz’s New Cathedral, was first performed on 29 October 1869 under the direction of Johann Baptist Burgstaller, a driving force of the Cecilian Movement in Upper Austria. Bruckner’s predominantly homophonic gradual amounts to a study in simplicity. Its text, from Genesis 28:16-17, concerns Jacob’s reflections after waking from the dream in which he saw a ladder rising from earth to heaven. The work’s bass line, rarely silent, unfolds as a metaphor for a sacred building’s sure foundations.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

A Prayerful Poetic Retreat with Gerard Manley Hopkins, SJ

The Jesuits in Britain have posted this ten-part reflection on Gerard Manley Hopkins' life and poetry as a "Pray As You Go" retreat. One of their biographical postings on Hopkins notes that "It was during his time in the rural tranquility of St Beuno's that he found most encouragement and inspiration for the poetry for which he is now famous."

More on St. Beuno's in rural north Wales:

St Beuno's College was built in 1848 as a place for Jesuits to study theology. Up to this time prospective Jesuit priests studied in Stonyhurst College, Lancashire, but the increasing numbers put a strain on the old buildings. So in 1846, the then Provincial Superior of the British Jesuits, Fr Randal Lythgoe, when visiting the Jesuit parish in Holywell travelled to see some farm land that the Society of Jesus owned near Tremeirchion and immediately decided that this should be the site for his new ‘theologate’. In early Victorian days when epidemics of typhoid and cholera regularly swept cities, the country air of North Wales was considered a healthy place to prepare the young men to go into the new industrial towns and cities to serve in schools and parishes.

The architect was Joseph Aloysius Hansom, of Hansom Cab fames. Gerard Manley Hopkins, the Jesuit poet who studied at St Beuno's College from 1874-7, described the building in a letter to his father: "It is built of limestone, decent outside, skimping within, Gothic like Lancing College done worse".

Hopkins was certainly inspired to begin to write a play about St. Winifrede's Well. St. Winifrede was St. Beuno's niece, and her Holy Well survived the English Reformation, remaining a site of pilgrimage. Blessed Edward Oldcorne visited the Holy Well and was cured of throat cancer, and James II and his queen Mary Beatrice of Modena visited the well hoping to conceive and safely deliver a male child. More about St. Beuno here

Saturday, June 11, 2016

The Prayer Book Rebellion

Like the Pilgrimage of Grace in northern England during Henry VIII's reign, the Prayer Book Rebellion in Cornwall during Edward VI's reign demonstrates that some of the people didn't want the religious change that was being imposed on them after Henry proclaimed himself Supreme Head and Governor of the Church in England. The BBC History Magazine posts this story, including links to nine locations associated with the Prayer Book Rebellion:

Then, in 1549, the government introduced a new Book of Common Prayer. Printed in English, the book was alien to the common people, who were accustomed to hearing their church services in Latin. It proved even more incendiary in Cornwall, where many people still spoke Cornish, a Brythonic language very like Welsh. Here, the replacement of the Latin service with an English version awoke cultural sensitivities as well as religious ones.

In June 1549, the county exploded into rebellion and thousands of angry commoners, together with many parish priests and some gentlemen, gathered at the ancient hill fort of Castle Canyke near Bodmin. Within a few days, the rebels had captured all who remained loyal to the king, and nowhere in Cornwall held out in support of the crown.

The protest soon spread to the Devonshire village of Sampford Courtenay, where, the day after the new prayer book came into force, the villagers demanded that their priest wear his old garments and read from the old service book. The minister swiftly reverted to “his old popish attire and sayeth mass and all such services as in times past accustomed”, while a local yeoman who tried to oppose the protestors was killed. . . .

“The rebellion was the outcome of an accumulation of grievances, some of which dated back to before Edward came to the throne”, says Professor Mark Stoyle of the University of Southampton. “The revolt was primarily fuelled by religious conservatism, but a desire to protect Cornish cultural distinctiveness also played its part.”

Among the list of demands that the rebels sent to the government was one which stated that: “We will not receive the new service because it is but like a Christmas game, but we will have our old service of matins, mass, evensong and procession in Latin not in English, as it was before. And so we the Cornish men, whereof certain of us understand no English, utterly refuse this new English.”

After laying siege to Exeter and failing to take the city, the rebels fought battles with the royal forces and were finally defeated. Then the usual process of punishing the rebels began--four of the nine sites included in the BBC History Magazine are associated with executions and a massacre. Two priests supporting the rebellion were hung in chains: "Henry Joyes, the vicar of Chipping Norton" in Oxfordshire and "Robert Welsh, a Cornishman by birth and the vicar of St Thomas church near Exeter". More than 900 rebel prisoners were murdered at the orders of John Russell, Earl of Bedford at Clyst St Mary and of course the rebel leaders were executed, including Sir Humphrey Arundell, in London.

In 2007, the Anglican Bishop of Truro, William Ind, apologized for the government's actions in the Prayer Book Rebellion:

In acknowledging the "brutality and stupidity" of the atrocities on behalf of the Church, Bishop Bill Ind tried to heal much of the hurt felt by many Cornish people, who believe the Church of England has long tried to ignore the events of 1549 Prayerbook (sic)Rebellion.

In a wide-ranging address at Pelynt Parish Church in South East Cornwall, the man dubbed "The People's Bishop" attempted to draw a line under a moment in history which left one in ten of the Cornish population dead.

Bishop Bill, who was in Pelynt to be presented with the prestigious Trelawny Plate, said: "I am often asked about my attitude to the Prayerbook Rebellion and in my opinion, there is no doubt that the English Government behaved brutally and stupidly and killed many Cornish people. I don't think apologising for something that happened over 500 years ago helps, but I am sorry about what happened and I think it was an enormous mistake."