Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Princess Diana's Great-Great-Great Uncle

The Honorable George Spencer, son of the 2nd Earl Spencer, now known as Servant of God Father Ignatius Spencer, is thus the Great-Great-Great-Great Uncle of Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge and his brother Prince Henry (Harry) of Wales. He should be proclaimed Venerable soon, according to the Diocese of Shrewsbury:

The Vatican has taken a key step along the road to declaring a priest related to Princes William and Harry to be a saint.

A 20-year investigation into the life and works of Father Ignatius Spencer has been approved by Vatican historians.

The document, known as a positio, has now been passed over to theologians of the Vatican Congregation for the Causes of Sainthood.

If they decide there is “evidence of sanctity”, they will then ask Pope Francis to declare the Victorian Passionist priest as “Venerable”.

At that point, the Catholic Church will begin the search for two miracles needed first for his beatification – when he will be given the title of Blessed – and then his canonisation, when he will be declared to be a saint.

Fr John Kearns, the British Passionist Provincial, described the development as a “step down the road” to sainthood.

“The positio has been finished and finalised and has been submitted to Rome and has got through the historical commission and is now going to the theologians,” said Fr Kearns . . .

“We would invite people to pray that the sanctity of Father Ignatius Spencer can eventually be recognised by the Church.”

Princes William and Harry are related to Eton-educated Father Spencer through their mother Diana, Princess of Wales.

Members of the aristocratic Spencer family, he was her great great great uncle and also a great uncle of Winston Churchill.

This blog provides his account of his conversion, which must have been as shocking at the time as John Henry Newman's especially since Spencer was a scion of English nobility. He was ordained a minister in the Church of England but then began to have doubts and difficulties with its teachings and even to think about the claims of the Catholic Church to be the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church founded by Jesus:

It is now time, then, to state the principal steps by which it pleased God gradually to overcome my prejudices against the Catholic Church. In my early education I heard very little about the Catholic Church. I had been taught in general terms, that it was full of errors and superstitions; that at the glorious era of the Reformation, Luther had begun the work of dispelling the darkness with which the spiritual tyranny of the Popes had covered the world; and that England was one of the favoured nations which had shaken of the yoke, and had adopted the most admirable system of faith and worship of any of the Reformed Churches. This is the general statement of the case, which has been handed down from father to son since the days of Queen Elizabeth. If it be asked how people can suffer themselves to be so imposed upon, I can only answer, that men will readily believe what flatters their personal or their national vanity, and therefore the English have received this tale with ready credulity; and hardly one in a thousand stops to doubt what comes confirmed by such a weight of authority, and what he naturally desires to be true. As it was under these impressions that I looked on what I saw of the Catholic religion when I was in Italy ten or twelve years ago, it is no wonder that I went home only confirmed in my prejudices.

After I had taken orders, I began to make theology a study; I read some Protestant Commentaries on the Apocalypse, applying to what are called the errors of Popery what is there revealed of the great defection from the truth to take place in the latter days; and I put it down for certain, that in whatever body of men the truth was to be found, the last place to seek it in was among the Catholics. Protestants, in general; would consider Catholics not only as misguided; but as incorrigible in their errors; and if any of them should entertain the thought of a future healing of the divisions of the Church, and its reestablishment as one united body, they would not look forward to this being to take place by the return of Protestants within the pale of the Catholic Church, after a reformation of her abuses. Their idea is, that God’s people must come out from her; that she is prefigured by the spiritual Babylon, and that her end is not to be corrected, but utterly destroyed.

At one time; perhaps, I should have assented to principles like these; but I did not hold them long, when I began to think for myself. The first circumstance by which it pleased God in some degree to open my eyes, was a correspondence into which I entered with a person who withheld his name; but who professed to be a young man of the Protestant Church, who had been some time in a Catholic town abroad, where conversations he had had with some Catholics, and his observation of their worship and character had led him to doubt the truth of what he had been taught in his childhood about Popery and the Reformation. He professed to be under great suspense and misery, and entreated me, as a well-informed Protestant, to satisfy him on a few questions which he proposed. I entered with joy on this correspondence; which continued for six months. I expected easily to convince him that the Catholic Church was full of errors; but he answered my arguments, and I perceived that he became more and more disposed to join it. I discovered; by· means of this correspondence; that I had never duly considered the principles of our Reformation; that my objections to the Catholic Church were prejudices adopted from the sayings of others, not the result of my own observation. Instead of gaining the advantage in this controversy, I saw, and I owned to my correspondent, that a great change had been produced in myself. I no longer desired to persuade him to keep in the communion of the Protestant Church; but rather determined and promised to follow up the same enquiries with him, if he would make his name known to me, and only pause awhile before he joined the Catholics but I heard no more of him till after my conversion and arrival at Rome, when I discovered that my correspondent was a lady who had herself been converted a short time before she wrote to me.

After Spencer became a Catholic, he studied for the priesthood at the Venerable English College in Rome and met Father, now Blessed, Dominic Barberi, the Passionist who yearned to go to England as a missionary. According to the same blog, he also tried to meet with one of the leaders of the Oxford Movement in Oxford, John Henry Newman:

In August 1832 George returned to England to act as a curate to a church in Walsall where he was given particular care of a chapel in West Bromwich. Here he opened three schools, gave lectures on religion and made many converts, as well as his usual activities in the parish. George’s reputation as a preacher began to grow and soon he was preaching as far afield as St. Chad’s, Manchester and St. Mary’s, Derby. During a visit to France in 1838 George proposed a ‘Crusade of Prayer for the Conversion of England’ to the Archbishop of Paris. Many of George’s influential friends joined this campaign and news of it spread throughout Britain and the Empire. In May 1839 he was appointed spiritual director to the seminarians at Oscott College and in the same month preached at St. Chad’s, Manchester on ‘The Great Importance of a Reunion Between the Catholics and the Protestants of England and the Method of Effecting It.’ In January 1840 George visited John Henry Newman at Oriel College, Oxford to ask Newman to join him in prayer for “unity in truth”, Newman sent him away and refused even to see Spencer, but later apologised for this in his Apologia;

“This feeling led me into the excess of being very rude to that zealous and most charitable man, Mr. Spencer, when he came to Oxford in January, 1840, to get Anglicans to set about praying for Unity. I myself then, or soon after, drew up such prayers; it was one of the first thoughts which came upon me after my shock, but I was too much annoyed with the political action of the members of the Roman Church in England to wish to have anything to do with them personally. So glad in my heart was I to see him when he came to my rooms, whither Mr. Palmer of Magdalen brought him, that I could have laughed for joy; I think I did; but I was very rude to him, I would not meet him at dinner, and that, (though I did not say so,) because I considered him ” in loco apostatx ” from the Anglican Church, and I hereby beg his pardon for it.”

Spencer did become a Passionist and succeeded Blessed Dominic Barberi as leader of the order in England and Belgium:

On January 5 1847 George Spencer received the Passionist habit from the hands of his old friend Father Dominic Barberi who had brought the Congregation to England in 1841. George received the religious name Father Ignatius of Saint Paul, the name he would be known by ever after. Ignatius threw himself into Passionist life and after making his religious profession in 1848 began preaching sermons throughout Britain and Ireland, always calling for prayers for the conversion of England. In August 1849 Ignatius was preaching in Belgium when he heard of Father Dominic’s death, consequently he was now Provincial of the Passionist Congregation in England and Belgium. In 1851 Ignatius set out to Rome to gain the approval of the Pope for his work, on his return he also met with several prominent bishops, as well as with Emperor Franz Josef of Austria.

During a visit to Paris in 2010 I visited the church of Notre Dame des Victoires and noted this large Ex Voto near the shrine of Our Lady of Victory which thanks the Blessed Virgin Mary for three conversions. It also references prayer for the conversion of England encouraged by the "Reverend George Spencer", known as "Father Ignatius" of the Passionists, who had died on October 1, 1864. 

Blessed Dominic Barberi, pray for us!
Blessed John Henry Newman, pray for us!
Servant of God Ignatius Spencer, pray for us!

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

G.K. on G.F. Watts

G.K. is of course G.K. Chesterton (Gilbert Keith); G.F. Watts is George Frederick Watts, the Victorian era artist. The G.K. and Frances Chesterton facebook page (on August 29, 2016) featured a long quote from his book about G.F. Watts, published in 1904. Chesterton introduces his remarks about the painting by noting that the observer will at first think it misnamed:

His first thought, of course, would be that the picture was called Despair; his second (when he discovered his error in the catalogue), that it has been entered under the wrong number; his third, that the painter was mad. But if we imagine that he overcame these preliminary feelings and that as he stared at that queer twilight picture a dim and powerful sense of meaning began to grow upon him—what would he see? He would see something for which there is neither speech nor language, which has been too vast for any eye to see and too secret for any religion to utter, even as an esoteric doctrine. Standing before that picture, he finds himself in the presence of a great truth. He perceives that there is something in man which is always apparently on the eve of disappearing, but never disappears, an assurance which is always apparently saying farewell and yet illimitably lingers, a string which is always stretched to snapping and yet never snaps. He perceives that the queerest and most delicate thing in us, the most fragile, the most fantastic, is in truth the backbone and indestructible. He knows a great moral fact: that there never was an age of assurance, that there never was an age of faith. Faith is always at a disadvantage; it is a perpetually defeated thing which survives all its conquerors. The desperate modern talk about dark days and reeling altars, and the end of Gods and angels, is the oldest talk in the world: lamentations over the growth of agnosticism can be found in the monkish sermons of the dark ages; horror at youthful impiety can be found in the Iliad. This is the thing that never deserts men and yet always, with daring diplomacy, threatens to desert them. It has indeed dwelt among and controlled all the kings and crowds, but only with the air of a pilgrim passing by. It has indeed warmed and lit men from the beginning of Eden with an unending glow, but it was the glow of an eternal sunset.

Here, in this dim picture, its trick is almost betrayed. No one can name this picture properly, but Watts, who painted it, has named it Hope. But the point is that this title is not (as those think who call it "literary") the reality behind the symbol, but another symbol for the same thing, or, to speak yet more strictly, another symbol describing another part or aspect of the same complex reality. Two men felt a swift, violent, invisible thing in the world: one said the word "hope," the other painted a picture in blue and green paint. The picture is inadequate; the word "hope" is inadequate; but between them, like two angles in the calculation of a distance, they almost locate a mystery, a mystery that for hundreds of ages has been hunted by men and evaded them. And the title is therefore not so much the substance of one of Watts' pictures, it is rather an epigram upon it. It is merely an approximate attempt to convey, by snatching up the tool of another craftsman, the direction attempted in the painter's own craft. He calls it Hope, and that is perhaps the best title. It reminds us among other things of a fact which is too little remembered, that faith, hope, and charity, the three mystical virtues of Christianity, are also the gayest of the virtues. Paganism, as I have suggested, is not gay, but rather nobly sad; the spirit of Watts, which is as a rule nobly sad also, here comes nearer perhaps than anywhere else to mysticism in the strict sense, the mysticism which is full of secret passion and belief, like that of Fra Angelico or Blake. But though Watts calls his tremendous reality Hope, we may call it many other things. Call it faith, call it vitality, call it the will to live, call it the religion of to-morrow morning, call it the immortality of man, call it self-love and vanity; it is the thing that explains why man survives all things and why there is no such thing as a pessimist.

Chesterton analyzes both the allegorical paintings and the many portraits of famous literary men and others by Watts. Watts produced the 1882 portrait of Cardinal Henry Manning, seen here as the cover illustration for an edition of Strachey's Eminent Victorians. Chesterton finds fault with Watts' portraiture, however, commenting:

He makes all his portraits too classical. It may seem like a paradox to say that he makes them too human; but humanity is a classis and therefore classical. He recurs too much to the correct type which includes all men. He has, for instance, a worship of great men so complete that it makes him tend in the direction of painting them all alike. There may be too much of Browning in his Tennyson, too much of Tennyson in his Browning. There is certainly a touch of Manning in his John Stuart Mill, and a touch of the Minotaur in many of his portraits of Imperial politicians. While he celebrates the individual with a peculiar insight, it is nevertheless always referred to a general human type.

Chesterton thinks Watts has gone too far in depicting Manning's ascetism and its results:

The portrait of Cardinal Manning is worth a further and special notice, because it is an illustration of the fact to which I have before alluded: the fact that while Watts in one sense always gets the best out of his sitters, he does not by any means always get the handsomest out of them. Manning was a singularly fine-looking man, even in his emaciation. A friend of mine, who was particularly artistic both by instinct and habits, gazed for a long time at a photograph of the terrible old man clad in those Cardinal's robes and regalia in which he exercised more than a Cardinal's power, and said reflectively, "He would have made his fortune as a model." A great many of the photographs of Manning, indeed almost any casual glimpses of him, present him as more beautiful than he appears in Watts' portrait. To the ordinary onlooker there was behind the wreck of flesh and the splendid skeleton the remains of a very handsome English gentleman; relics of one who might have hunted foxes and married an American heiress. Watts has no eyes for anything except that sublime vow which he would himself repudiate, that awful Church which he would himself disown. He exaggerates the devotionalism of Manning. He is more ascetic than the ascetics; more Catholic than Catholicism. Just so, he would be, if he were painting the Sheik-el-Islam, more Moslem than the Mohammedans. He has no eyes but for ideas.

Project Gutenberg of Australia has made the text of Chesterton's book on Watts available online, including 32 works of Watts, both allegories and portraits.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Damian Thompson on Saving the English Ordinariate

In The Catholic Herald, Damian Thompson discusses the state of the Anglican Ordinariate and what needs to be done to save it:

When the Catholic Herald asked me to write this article, I wasn’t enthusiastic. Having noisily championed the Ordinariate from day one, I wasn’t keen to hear – yet again – its own faithful tell me that, well, it was a nice idea, but everyone hates us and even some of our own priests aren’t really on board.

Sure enough, that is exactly what I’ve been told and I’m now convinced that the Ordinariate in its present form will wither away.

But note the qualification: in its present form. Those 80 priests include visionaries who believe that the Ordinariate can reinvent itself.

By that, they mean that the fantasy of group conversions needs to be ditched. Also, Ordinariate priests and laity who never liked their unique Missal, Divine Worship, should slip quietly into the Catholic mainstream.

Only then will a smaller Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham enrich the whole Church with the radiant Divine Worship, revive moribund parishes and evangelise with the vigour of its Anglo-Catholic forebears. That sounds like wishful thinking – but the people who believe in it make a stronger practical case for this Ordinariate Mark II than anyone ever did for the launch model.

Citing the success of the Oratorians, he believes the key is Divine Worship, the liturgy of the Ordinariate:

Fr David Palmer, who runs the Nottingham Ordinariate group, thinks the answer is to “unchain” Divine Worship – that is, to allow any Catholic priest to say its Mass. “It has prayers at the foot of the altar, the option for a last Gospel. In many ways it offers the cross-fertilisation between old and new forms of the Roman Rite that Pope Benedict hoped for,” he argues.

Fr Alexander Lucie-Smith, a cradle Catholic theologian, recently preached at an Ordinariate Mass. “I was struck by its nobility,” he says. “How refreshing to hear a translation of the Canon written by someone whose first language is English. If the Church is serious about ‘celebrating diversity’, then it should allow priests like me to say it.”

That won’t happen. A Mass that draws so heavily on medieval English piety represents the wrong sort of diversity for “go-ahead” bishops. Although they can’t ban diocesan priests celebrating in the Extraordinary Form, they can stop them using Divine Worship.

But they absolutely cannot stop Ordinariate priests from saying their own Mass, or cradle Catholics from attending it. And this is where the Ordinariate Mark II comes in.

Very soon, the network of Ordinariate communities will disintegrate like a piece of old lace. What will not disintegrate is the papal legislation setting up ordinariates in America and Australia as well as Britain.

If an Ordinariate priest in England is determined enough, he can find a way of taking charge of a parish and offering a Divine Worship Sunday Mass.

Read the rest there. Of course, there is also the old-fashioned Catholic way: prayer. The English Ordinariate is dedicated to Our Lady of Walsingham and Blessed John Henry Newman is its heavenly patron. From the Ordinariate website:

O Mary, recall the solemn moment
when Jesus, your divine Son,
dying on the cross
confided us to your maternal care.

You are our Mother;
we desire ever to remain your devout children.

Let us therefore feel the effects
of your powerful intercession with Jesus Christ.

Make your name again glorious in this place,
once renowned throughout our land
by your visits, favours and many miracles.

Pray, O Holy Mother of God,
for the conversion of England,
restoration of the sick,
consolation for the afflicted,
repentance of sinners,
peace to the departed.

O Blessed Mary, Mother of God,
Our Lady of Walsingham,
intercede for us. Amen

Friday, August 26, 2016

Coincidentally: Katherine of Aragon's Grave

When two stories about Katherine of Aragon's grave at Peterborough Cathedral appear in my in-box, I just can't ignore the coincidence:

K.V. Turley writes about a journey to visit her grave and pray for her in Crisis Magazine, beginning with the circumstances of her death, including Henry VIII's refusal to let the Princess Mary see her mother one last time:

By December 1535, she lay dying. Banished from the Royal Court, she was at Kimbolton Castle with a few faithful attendants. As the end drew near, the king continued to refuse her pleas that she might see their daughter, Mary. Suffering was all this queen was to know, and, indeed, had known for many years; those final few years were to prove bitter fare indeed for Katherine. She had watched a younger woman, Anne Boleyn, bewitch her husband and then covet Katherine’s royal title. Nevertheless, not for a moment did Katherine countenance divorce, nor would she have any part in the theological games Henry played in his attempt to salve a guilty conscience. Throughout it all, she saw his predicament not as a constitutional one but as a moral one.

This was no ordinary woman. It is sometimes forgotten that Katherine was the daughter of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain. Like her mother, she was Catholic first, a monarch second, understanding her life and vocation in that order. Her faith was to be no pragmatic political piety; under her royal robes she wore the garb of the Third Order of St. Francis. Each day her religious devotions took many hours; a rosary was never far from her hands. Even in the forlorn days of exile from Henry’s court, she prayed earnestly for her husband.

At the English Historical Fiction Authors blog, Linda Fetterley Root describes the graves of the first three of Henry VIII's wives, starting with Katherine's:

On the morning of her death, Henry VIII’s discarded wife dictated two letters, one to her kinsman The Holy Roman Emperor, and the other, to the husband who had put her aside. It is not the scornful lament to which she was entitled and which the king deserved. In it, she wishes him well and requests Henry to extend benevolence toward their daughter and generosity to her servants. But it ends as the last letter written by a lover: 'Lastly, I make this vow. That mine eyes desire you above all things.’

When the king heard of her death, he donned clothes of celebratory yellow and frolicked the night away. He was not dancing with his wife, Queen Anne, for whom he had all but moved mountains to marry. He had already tired of her.

And thus, the daughter of the legendary lovers Ferdinand and Isabella was taken to the nearby Abbey of Peterborough and interred in the choir aisle to the north of the altar, with no more pomp than due a Dowager Princess of Wales, the title to which she had been demoted. She was put to rest as Arthur’s wife, not Henry’s. Katharine died on January 2, 1536, and was buried 22 days later. A mere three months after that, on May 2, Queen Anne Boleyn was arrested, and 17 days later, she was dead. Four months and a week after Katharine's death, Lady Jane Seymour was Queen of England.[ii]

In his excellent biography Catherine of Aragon, written in 1941, Garrett Mattingly remarked that few of the hopes the Queen still held when she died had been realized.[iii] However, her burial site at Peterborough may well have been an incidental beneficiary of her death. During the Dissolution of the Monasteries, achieved by a legislative scheme orchestrated by Henry VIII between 1536 and 1541, Peterborough Abbey Church was confiscated but spared. By royal edict, Henry granted Letters Patent to Peterborough making it a Cathedral and named the former abbot as its bishop.[iv] Thus, Peterborough was appropriately Anglicanized. Some historians think it was spared because it housed the remains of a royal who had once been considered Queen of England. It is just as likely that Henry saw it as a potential source of revenue for the Crown.

May she rest in the Peace of Christ.

Image Credit: Released by author into Public Domain.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Elizabeth I and Her Catholic Subjects

Jessie Childs, the author of God's Traitors: Terror & Faith in Elizabethan England, had this article ("Elizabeth I's War with England's Catholics") published in the May 2014 issue of the BBC History Magazine:

In 1828, builders removing a lintel over a doorway at Rushton Hall in Northamptonshire were surprised to see an old, beautifully bound book come down with the rubble. They decided to investigate and knocked through a thick partition wall, exposing a recess, about 5 feet long and 15 inches wide. Inside, wrapped up in a large sheet, was an enormous bundle of papers and books that had once belonged to Sir Thomas Tresham, a Catholic gentleman in the reign of Elizabeth I.

There have been other discoveries in other counties: a secret room chanced upon by a boy exploring a derelict wing of Harvington Hall, near Kidderminster, in 1894; a small wax disc bearing the imprint of a cross and a lamb (an Agnus Dei), found in a box nailed to a joist by an electrician working in the attic of Lyford Grange, Berkshire, in 1959; and a ‘pedlar’s chest’ containing vestments, a chalice and a portable altar, bricked in at Samlesbury Hall, Lancashire. Each bears testimony to the resourcefulness and courage with which Catholic men and women tried to keep their faith in Protestant England.

Under Elizabeth I, Catholics grew adept at concealment. Their lifeblood – the Mass – was banned. Anyone who heard it risked a fine and prison. Hence the need for secret Mass-kits and altar-stones small enough to slip into the pocket. Their priests – essential agents of sacramental grace – were outlawed.

Reconciling anyone to Rome (and, indeed, being reconciled) was made treason. After 1585, any priest ordained abroad since 1559, and found on English soil, was automatically deemed a traitor and his lay host a felon, both punishable by death. Hence the need for priest-holes, like the one at Harvington Hall, or at Hindlip, where a feeding tube was embedded in the masonry.

Even personal devotional items like rosary beads or the Agnus Dei found at Lyford were regarded with suspicion, since a statute of 1571 had ruled that the receipt of such ‘superstitious’ items, blessed by the pope or his priests, would lead to forfeiture of lands and goods.

It is impossible to know how many Catholics there were in Elizabethan England, for few were willing to be categorised and counted. John Bossy (defining a Catholic as one who habitually, though not necessarily regularly, used the services of a priest) estimated some 40,000 in 1603, less than one per cent of the population.

Read the rest there (for as long as it's available!)

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Stained Glass: Sacred Heart in Colwich

We drove out to Colwich, Kansas on Saturday to visit a fruit stand and then stopped in Sacred Heart Catholic Church for a visit to the Blessed Sacrament and morning prayer. We noted how the stained glass windows closer to the altar and sanctuary seemed to be older--definitely in a different style than the windows depicting the Beatitudes further back in the nave.

The Holy Family at work (detail):

The death of St. Joseph (patron saint of happy, holy deaths), also a detail:

This picture of St. Anne and the Blessed Virgin window shows the architectural structure around the image of Mary and her mother:

And this window dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary:

Three of the four windows at the front of the church had that green background and architectural frame--the St. Joseph window had a blue background and different architecture at the top, so must have been added or perhaps replaced an older window.

The beatitude windows were definitely added later with very different artwork and design.This one depicts one of the American Martyrs, perhaps St. Isaac Jogues, SJ with the beatitude, "Blessed are they who suffer persecution for justice sake".

These churches built by German immigrants always impress me and my husband--the artistry, the care, the love lavished upon the parish church shines through as surely as the sun through the stained glass windows. I could not find any history of the church or how the stained glass windows were procured or designed. We plan to visit several rural churches in the area this fall.

Adventures in Good Music

Listening to a classical music station early yesterday morning, we heard the second movement of Beethoven's Pathetique piano sonata (number 8). It reminded us immediately of the program Adventures in Good Music hosted on public radio for years by Karl Haas. We expected to hear his greeting, "Hello, everyone." As The New York Times described the show in his obituary on February 8, :

Hallmarks of "Adventures in Good Music" included a snippet of Beethoven's "Pathétique" sonata played at the beginning and end of each broadcast (sometimes by Mr. Haas himself), Mr. Haas's slightly accented English, and the punning titles he thought up for his programs, including "Haydn, Go Seek," "From Stern to Bow" (about the violinist Isaac Stern), "Baroque and in Debt" and "The Joy of Sax."

One listener wrote Haas in the 1960's to say that it was a "longhair program with a crew cut," a description he was happy to repeat. Some longhairs looked down their noses a bit at Mr. Haas, but that didn't matter to thousands of regular listeners.

I read his book Inside Music years ago too, and it is still in print! He certainly was popularizer of classical music, confident that anyone could appreciate it, even without a music degree or even being able to read music or play an instrument. Those abilities and that training certainly enhance the experience, but anyone who has the leisure to listen to the music will "understand" it!

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

From "Margaret Pole": Thomas More's Trial and Execution

Amberley Publishing provides these bullet points to demonstrate what makes this book special:

  • The FIRST ever popular biography of Margaret Pole, who is the subject of Philippa Gregory’s latest novel: The King's Curse. [note that this distinguishes this book from Hazel Pierce’s biography Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury 1473-1541: Loyalty, Lineage and Leadership (University of Wales Press, 2003)]
  •  Endorsement from LEANDA DE LISLE, author of Tudor: The Family Story, will appear on the cover: “At last, a biography of one of the most powerful and fascinating women of the Tudor period: the tragic and dramatic story of Margaret Pole, the last Plantagenet, has too long been overlooked.' 
  • Tudors have never been so popular. The BBC TV adaptation of Hilary Mantel’s trilogy Wolf Hall has been a massive hit, helping to maintain high level of interest in all things Tudor. 
  • Margaret Pole had connections to all manner of visitor attractions, including Farleigh Hungerford Castle, Somerset, where she was born,and the Tower of London.

Here is an excerpt from Chapter 7, "Unheard-Of Cruelty", describing the trial and execution of Sir Thomas More.

More's trial took place on 1 July. Among the judges were Thomas, Duke of Norfolk (uncle to Anne Boleyn), Charles, Duke of Suffolk (married to the king's sister Mary), Thomas Boleyn, Earl of Wiltshire (the queen's father), George Boleyn, Lord Rochford (the queen's brother), Thomas Audley, Lord Chancellor, and Thomas Cromwell. Henry Pole, Lord Montague, was also appointed to the commission of oyer and terminer to try More, but Duncan Derrett notes that he did not take his place there. This may have been due to indisposition (as we shall see shortly, he was reported dangerously ill a few days later), but it may have also been that he found an excuse to avoid sitting in judgment of a man with whom his family had been on excellent terms. Years before, the apparently ailing More had written to John Clement and Reginald Pole, then at Oxford, to thank them for their solicitude for their health, and had added, 'I thank you, my dear Pole, doubly for deigning to procure for me the advice of so skillful a physician, and no less for obtaining from your mother--noblest and best of women, and fully worthy of such a son, the remedy prescribed and for getting it made up'. More had also proudly informed his scholarly daughter, Margaret Roper, that 'a young man of the noblest rank and of the widest attainments in literature . . . as conspicuous for his piety as he is for his learning' had been dumbfounded to realize that his daughter was the author of a letter More had shown him; the man whose opinion pleased More so much was likely Reginald Pole.

The star witness was Solicitor General Richard Rich, who had turned up at More's prison cell in June to seize his books and writing materials and, it appears, to entrap him into treason. Rich claimed that as his companions busied themselves with removing More's cherished books, he entered into a discussion with More, who stated that Parliament had no authority to make the king the supreme head of the church. Too weak to stand for his trial, More nonetheless mounted a vigorous defense, accusing Rich of perjury and attacking his character. Telling Rich that he was 'sorrier for your perjury than for my own peril', he reminded his accuser that they lived in the same parish, where 'you were esteemed to be very light of tongue, a great dicer, and of no commendable fame. And so in your house at the Temple, where has been your chief bringing up, were you likewise accounted'. Turning to his judges, More asked, 'Can it therefore seem likely to your honourable lordships that I would, in so weighty a cause, so unadvisedly overshoot myself as to trust Master Rich, a man by me always reputed for one of very little truth . . . that I would utter to him the secrets of my conscience touching the king's supremacy?' More's defense rattled Rich sufficiently for him to call his companions at the interview, Sir Richard Southwell and Master Thomas Palmer, to corroborate his story, but to no avail. Both men claimed, rather improbably, to have been so absorbed in seizing the bibliophilic More's library that they had paid no heed to the conversation between him and Rich.

Despite this poor evidentiary showing, More was promptly found guilty. But More was not yet done. As Audley, the chancellor, prepared to pass the grim sentence upon him, the prisoner, himself a lawyer and former chancellor, interrupted to remind him that it was the custom for ask the prisoner why judgment should not be given against him then to protest against his indictment as 'grounded upon an Act of Parliament directly repugnant to the laws of God and His Holy Church'. Continuing in this vein, More managed to thoroughly discomfit his judges, but the victory was fleeting, ending as soon as Audley resumed his task of pronouncing the sentence. More's execution was scheduled for 6 July, the same day the court was departing on a progress.

Not wanting his hair shirt exposed to public view as he was stripped to his undergarments during his execution, More sent it, along with an affectionate letter, to his daughter on 5 July. The next morning, Sir Thomas Pope came from the king and his council to announce, as More had already surmised, that he would die that day. Pope brought the order that More refrain from 'using many words' on the scaffold, but also assured him that the king would allow his family to attend his burial. With Pope's departure, More dressed in his best clothing for his execution, only to be dissuaded by the Lieutenant of the Tower, William Kingston (who in less than a year would be presiding over an even more high-profile execution) that the executioner, who would be getting More's clothing as a perquisite of the job, was 'worthless fellow' who would make ill use of it. More settled for sending the executioner a gold coin known as an angel and changing into a less costly garment. Then, in William Roper's words:

And so was he brought by Mr. Lieutenant out of the Tower, and from thence led towards the place of execution, where going up the scaffold, which was so weak that it was ready to fall, he said to Mr. Lieutenant, "I pray you, I pray you, Mr. Lieutenant, see me safe up, and for my coming down let me shift for myself." Then desired he all the people thereabouts to pray for him, and to bear witness with him, that he should then suffer death in and for the faith of the holy Catholic Church, which done he kneeled down, and after his prayers said, he turned to the executioner, and with a cheerful countenance spake unto him. "Pluck up thy spirits, man, and be not afraid to do thine office, my neck is very short. Take heed therefore thou shoot not awry for saving thine honesty." So passed Sir Thomas More out of this world to God.

Reginald Pole would later write to the king, of the deaths of More and the rest, 'From the time that I heard of the slaughter of those men, I do not deny that I lay senseless and unable to speak for almost a month, so stunned was I by the novelty and wonder of such unheard-of cruelty'.

The entire chapter recounts the executions or martyrdoms of those who had opposed Henry VIII's religious supremacy: the six Carthusians, Father Richard Reynolds of Syon Abbey, Father John Haile, and Bishop John Fisher. As Higginbotham narrates those stories, she interweaves the fate of Katherine of Aragon and her daughter Mary, especially after Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn wed and Elizabeth is born, and of course, Margaret Pole, dismissed from Mary's household--and Reginald Pole, who leaves England, not to return for more than 20 years, during the reign of Mary I.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Coincidences on August 22

On August 22nd, 1553, John Dudley, the First Duke of Northumberland, was executed for his role in the attempted coup d'etat to place his daughter-in-law, Jane Dudley (nee Grey) on the throne, diverting the succession from Mary Tudor as Queen of England and Ireland. 

On August 22nd, 1572, Thomas Percy, Seventh Earl of Northumberland, was executed for his role in the Northern Rebellion, which might have had the result of deposing Elizabeth I and placing Mary, the erstwhile Queen of Scots on the throne of England and Ireland (and Scotland). 

What a fascinating coincidence, that two scions of the same household would die on the same date, with 19 years separating their executions! These two men have another thing in common: at the block both of them spoke strongly of their Catholic faith. John Dudley reverted to Catholicism while in the Tower of London--perhaps he hoped for mercy from Mary--and he publicly retracted and regretted the efforts of the Edwardine government to introduce Calvinist reforms, warning the people against listening to deceptive preachers teaching new things:

And one thing more good people I have to say unto you, which I am chiefly moved to do for discharge of my conscience; that is to warn you and exhort you to beware of these seditious preachers, and teachers of new doctrine, which pretend to preach God's word, but in very deed they preach their own fancies, who were never able to explicate themselves, they know not today what they would have tomorrow, there is no stay in their teaching; doctrine, they open the book, but they cannot shut it again. Take heed how you enter into strange opinions or new doctrine, which hath done no small hurt in this realm, and hath justly procured the ire and wrath of god upon us, as well may appear who so list to call to remembrance the manyfold plagues that this realm hath been touched with all since we dissevered ourselves from the catholic church of Christ, and from the doctrine which hath been received by the holy apostles, martyrs, and all saints, and used through all realms christened since Christ.

And I verily believe, that all the plagues that have chanced to this realm of late years since afore the death of king Henry the eight, hath justly fallen upon us, for that we have deuvded [divided] ourself from the rest of Christendom whereof we be but as a spark in comparison: Have we not had war, famine, pestilence, the death of our king, rebellion, sedition among ourselves, conspiracies? Have we not had sundry erroneous opinions sprung up among us in this realm, since we have forsaken the unity of the catholic Church? and what other plagues be there that we have not felt?

Thomas Percy was stubbornly recalcitrant, in the Elizabethan government's view, as a Catholic, not repenting of his betrayal of Elizabeth, but warning the English that they were schismatic. While he was in prison, and on the scaffold, he was urged to conform to the Church of England and thus save his life, but he declared himself a lifelong Catholic and would not budge. In defiance of the norms of executions, he did not repent of his sins against the queen or warn others against committing such sins after him--his only regret was for the common people who suffered for their zeal in defending the Catholic Church. He is one of the Ten Blessed Martyrs of Sussex and a stained glass window honors him in Sacred Heart Church, Petworth. He was beatified by Pope Leo XIII in 1895.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Updates and Deadlines

I apologize for the lack of blogging: I'm working on a project with a fast approaching deadline! I'm writing an article for the Tudor Life magazine about The Pilgrimage of Grace, exploring the meaning of that title and the banner of that pilgrimage depicting the Five Wounds of Jesus.

In the meantime, I've updated my "Presentations and Interviews" and by "Other Publications" tabs. The former includes a teaser from the Spiritual Life Center of my presentation on Blessed John Henry Newman on Faith, Family, and Friends, which I think went well. The latter includes the announcement that my article on Papal Bulls and other official documents will be in the September/October issue of OSV's The Catholic Answer Magazine.

Have a wonderful Sunday!

Friday, August 19, 2016

More in Washington

This is just a teaser from the Saint John Paul II National Shrine in Washington, DC:

On September 16, the Shrine will open a temporary exhibit, God's Servant First: The Life and Legacy of Thomas More. Through relics, artifacts, manuscripts, and printed books, the exhibit will explore the culture of More’s life and times, as well as examine his wider historical significance.

I'll post more details when they become available (shouldn't they refer to him as Saint Thomas More?)

What I'm Reading Now: Margaret Pole

On Tuesday, August 23, I'll be one of the stops on the Amberley Publishing blog-tour for Susan Higginbotham's Margaret Pole: The Countess in the Tower. I'm reading it now and looking forward to following the tour. From Amberley, the blurb:

Of the many executions ordered by Henry VIII, surely the most horrifying was that of sixty-seven-year-old Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury, hacked to pieces on the scaffold by a blundering headsman. From the start, Margaret’s life had been marred by tragedy and violence: her father, George, Duke of Clarence, had been executed at the order of his own brother, Edward IV, and her naïve young brother, Edward, Earl of Warwick, had spent most of his life in the Tower before being executed on the orders of Henry VII. Yet Margaret, friend to Catherine of Aragon and the beloved governess of her daughter Mary, had seemed destined for a happier fate, until religious upheaval and rebellion caused Margaret and her family to fall from grace. From Margaret’s birth as the daughter of a royal duke to her beatification centuries after her death, 'Margaret Pole: The Countess in the Tower' tells the story of one of the fortress’s most unlikely prisoners. 

More information about the blog tour and the book to come!

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Some Good News from Unexpected Sources

The Catholic Herald has been commenting often on a revival in the Catholic Church in England, noting its unexpected sources: the Syro-Malabar eparchy, the Oratorians, and the Extraordinary Form:

Britain’s Syro-Malabar Catholics, soon to grace the city of Preston with a long-deserved cathedral, seem to be having something of a breakout moment. In June, the ordination of a deacon in Southwark diocese attracted headlines in Catholic publications across the world: Joice James Pallickamyalil is the ancient Kerala-rooted Church’s very first married deacon. (He is also, I feel loyalty-bound to note, a product of the St Mary’s University formation programme.) And last month a new Eparchy for Great Britain – a kind of diocese sans frontière – was announced. It is only the fourth to be established outside India.

All this from a British Syro-Malabar community of perhaps 40,000 (around one per cent of the global total) who, until very recently, the clear majority of their fellow Catholics never even knew existed. If so, then they’ve been missing out on one of this country’s most remarkable Catholic success stories.

And Stephen Bullivant goes on to note:

Down in Devon, for example, the School of the Annunciation at Buckfast is one of several new (or re-newed) educational establishments taking the Faith very seriously indeed. Meanwhile, in the Orkneys, the thriving Sons of the Most Holy Redeemer were approved as an institute of diocesan right by Bishop Hugh Gilbert earlier this year, having been reconciled with Rome in 2008 (a move which, if recent reports come to fruition, may well have paved the way for a much larger homecoming of the SSPX).

Speaking of religious life in the north, note inter alia: Glasgow’s Sisters of the Gospel of Life (established 2000), the Canons of St Ambrose and St Charles in Carlisle (established 2014), two new Oratories in York and Manchester (with another on the way in Bournemouth), and three historic parishes given serious new life by two traditionalist groups: the Institute of Christ the King (Preston, New Brighton) and the FSSP (Warrington).

The other order or institute providing is Blessed John Henry Newman's foundation of the Oratorians of St. Philip Neri in England. Also from the Herald in May this year:

A new community of the Congregation of the Oratory of St Philip Neri is to be established in Bournemouth.

The community, which will be inaugurated at the Sacred Heart church in September, will be the sixth Oratory to be set up in England.

Bishop Philip Egan of Portsmouth, who invited the Oratorians to Bournemouth, said they would form part of a “major evangelisation drive”.

The centre will be an “Oratory in formation” and will be made up of Fr Dominic Jacob, co-founder of the Oxford Oratory, Fr Peter Edwards and Fr David Hutton.

There are some interesting aspects of this revival: one that it is not coming from the Anglican Ordinariate in the way that many hoped it would. The Ordinariate is still growing and succeeding, but there have not been large group moves lately even though the Church of England continues on its merry way. 

The second interesting aspect is that the orders, institutes, and communities assisting with this revival all celebrate traditional, beautiful liturgies. The implementation of liturgical reforms after the Second Vatican Council did not effect any changes in the Eastern Rites of the Church, so the Syro-Malabar rite retains its ancient patriarchal traditions. The Oratory parishes often celebrate Mass in the Extraordinary Form (and the Ordinary Form in Latin), while the FSSP and Institute of Christ the King, both established during the reign of Pope St. John Paul II, celebrate only the Extraordinary Form. The Oratorians, FSSP, and Institute parishes also emphasize traditional devotions (the Rosary, Eucharistic Adoration and Benediction, pilgrimages, novenas, Vespers, etc). 

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Two Assumptions

I attended Mass twice for the Solemnity of the Assumption on Monday, August 15. My husband and I went to Noon Mass at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, which was very well attended, even though the bishops in the USA had removed the obligation to attend on this Holy Day because it fell on a Monday (!). The choir director and organist ought to be a little concerned, because we sang "Immaculate Mary", Parisian Plain Chant, and "Hail, Holy Queen" without their assistance quite ably.

Then I drove to Pilsen, Kansas in Marion County to attend Low Mass in the Extraordinary Form at the Church of St. John Nepomucene, which was the home parish of Servant of God Emil Kapaun. St. John Nepomucene is the patron saint of Czechoslovakia and of confessors--he was martyred because he refused to reveal the confession of the queen to her husband, King Wenceslaus IV of Bohemia. Thus, the patron saint of the church, one of the four churches in the Holy Family Parish of Marion County, is depicted with his finger on his lips at the High Altar:

The side altars were beautiful too:

And the exterior of the church, facing the westward setting sun:

And here is the statue depicting Chaplain Kapaun helping a wounded soldier:

The horizon:

Our Lady, assumed into Heaven, pray for us!
St. John Nepomucene, pray for us!
Servant of God Father Emil Kapaun, pray for us!

Finally, the old Fina Gas Station (I should have stopped to see what the prices were the last time gas was pumped there, but I wanted to reach Kansas 15 before it was completely dark):

Monday, August 15, 2016

" Ignem veni mittere in terram"!

Yesterday the Sunday Gospel was from St. Luke (12:49-53):

Jesus said to his disciples:“I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing! There is a baptism with which I must be baptized, and how great is my anguish until it is accomplished! Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. From now on a household of five will be divided, three against two and two against three; a father will be divided against his son and a son against his father, a mother against her daughter and a daughter against her mother, a mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.”

Father Adam Keiter, the Rector of the Cathedral, used the phrase "I have come to set the earth on fire" to frame his homily, referring to the Venerable English College in Rome and its Latin motto, Ignem veni mittere in terram. Sometime this week, they will post the audio file of his homily on the Cathedral website

It moved me to hear a priest speak about the martyred priests of the Venerable, how they trained and prepared in the midst of the splendor of Counter-Reformation Rome (with the Oratorian Philip Neri as a neighbor), the music of Palestrina, the art of Michelangelo, and the architecture of Bernini and then traveled in disguise to their home country to serve Catholics in hiding, knowing that they faced arrest, torture, and horrendous death--and 44 from the Venerable have been canonized or beatified because they suffered such a martyrdom. Father Keiter then went on the verse about the baptism Jesus wanted so urgently to accomplish: His crucifixion, death, and Resurrection. He also reminded us of the gloriously precious presence of Jesus in the Tabernacle and how so many have suffered and died throughout Church history, including in sixteenth and seventeenth England, to offer and receive Holy Communion.

When we came home from Mass, I searched for the remarks Pope Benedict XVI made when he visited the Venerable on December 3, 2012 at the close of the 650th anniversary celebrations, because the pope also highlighted that motto:

Your College motto speaks of Christ’s desire to bring fire to the earth, and your mission is to serve as his instruments in the work of rekindling the faith in your respective homelands. Fire in sacred Scripture frequently serves to indicate the divine presence, whether it be the burning bush from which God revealed his name to Moses, the pillar of fire that guided the people of Israel on their journey from slavery to freedom, or the tongues of fire that descended upon the Apostles at Pentecost, enabling them to go forth in the power of the Spirit to proclaim the Gospel to the ends of the earth. Just as a small fire can set a whole forest ablaze (cf. Jas 3:5), so the faithful testimony of a few can release the purifying and transforming power of God’s love so that it spreads like wildfire throughout a community or a nation. Like the martyrs of England and Wales, then, let your hearts burn with love for Christ, for the Church and for the Mass.

When I visited the United Kingdom, I saw for myself that there is a great spiritual hunger among the people. Bring them the true nourishment that comes from knowing, loving and serving Christ. Speak the truth of the Gospel to them with love. Offer them the living water of the Christian faith and point them towards the bread of life, so that their hunger and thirst may be satisfied. Above all, however, let the light of Christ shine through you by living lives of holiness, following in the footsteps of the many great saints of England and Wales, the holy men and women who bore witness to God’s love, even at the cost of their lives. The College to which you belong, the neighbourhood in which you live and study, the tradition of faith and Christian witness that has formed you: all these are hallowed by the presence of many saints. Make it your aspiration to be counted among their number.

Please be assured of an affectionate remembrance in my prayers for yourselves and for all the alumni of the Venerable English College. I make my own the greeting so often heard on the lips of a great friend and neighbour of the College, Saint Philip Neri,Salvete, flores martyrum! Commending you, and all to whom the Lord sends you, to the loving intercession of Our Lady of Walsingham, I gladly impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of peace and joy in the Lord Jesus Christ. Thank you.

Blessed John Henry Newman on the Assumption

Fortunately for my husband and me, we will be able to attend Mass today at Noon for today's great Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary even though it is not a Holy Day of Obligation since it occurs on a Monday this year.

Although the dogma of Mary's Assumption was not proclaimed until 1950 by Pope Pius XII ("By the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and by our own authority, we pronounce, declare, and define it to be a divinely revealed dogma: that the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory."), Our Lady's Dormition and Assumption had been taught and reflected upon throughout the centuries.

Blessed John Henry Newman meditated on its meaning soon after he had become an Oratorian and published "On the Fitness of the Glories of Mary" in his Discourses to Mixed Congregations in 1849--one hundred and one years before Pope Pius XII's Munificentissimus Deus:

YOU may recollect, my brethren, our Lord's words when on the day of His resurrection He had joined the two disciples on their way to Emmaus, and found them sad and perplexed in consequence of His death. He said, "Ought not Christ to suffer these things, and so enter into His glory?" He appealed to the fitness and congruity which existed between this otherwise surprising event and the other truths which had been revealed concerning the Divine purpose of saving the world. And so, too, St. Paul, in speaking of the same wonderful appointment of God; "It became Him," he says, "for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, who had brought many sons unto glory, to consummate the Author of their salvation by suffering". Elsewhere, speaking of prophesying, or the exposition of what is latent in Divine truth, he bids his brethren exercise the gift "according to the analogy or rule of faith"; that is, so that the doctrine preached may correspond and fit into what is already received. Thus, you see, it is a great evidence of truth, in the case of revealed teaching, that it is so consistent, that it so hangs together, that one thing springs out of another, that each part requires and is required by the rest.

This great principle, which is exemplified so variously in the structure and history of Catholic doctrine, which will receive more and more illustrations the more carefully and minutely we examine the subject, is brought before us especially at this season, when we are celebrating the Assumption of our Blessed Lady, the Mother of God, into heaven. We receive it on the belief of ages; but, viewed in the light of reason, it is the fitness of this termination of her earthly course which so persuasively recommends it to our minds: we feel it "ought" to be; that it "becomes" her Lord and Son thus to provide for one who was so singular and special, both in herself and her relations to Him. We find that it is simply in harmony with the substance and main outlines of the doctrine of the Incarnation, and that without it Catholic teaching would have a character of incompleteness, and would disappoint our pious expectations.

Let us direct our thoughts to this subject today, my brethren; and with a view of helping you to do so, I will first state what the Church has taught and defined from the first ages concerning the Blessed Virgin, and then you will see how naturally the devotion which her children show her, and the praises with which they honour her, follow from it.

Now, as you know, it has been held from the first, and defined from an early age, that Mary is the Mother of God. She is not merely the Mother of our Lord's manhood, or of our Lord's body, but she is to be considered the Mother of the Word Himself, the Word incarnate. God, in the person of the Word, the Second Person of the All-glorious Trinity, humbled Himself to become her Son. Non horruisti Virginis uterum, as the Church sings, "Thou didst not disdain the Virgin's womb". He took the substance of His human flesh from her, and clothed in it He lay within her; and He bore it about with Him after birth, as a sort of badge and witness that He, though God, was hers. He was nursed and tended by her; He was suckled by her; He lay in her arms. As time went on, He ministered to her, and obeyed her. He lived with her for thirty years, in one house, with an uninterrupted intercourse, and with only the saintly Joseph to share it with Him. She was the witness of His growth, of His joys, of His sorrows, of His prayers; she was blest with His smile, with the touch of His hand, with the whisper of His affection, with the expression of His thoughts and His feelings, for that length of time. Now, my brethren, what ought she to be, what is it becoming that she should be, who was so favoured? . . .

But in a festive season, my dear brethren, I must not weary you with argument, when we should offer specially to the Blessed Virgin the homage of our love and loyalty; yet, let me finish as I have begun;—I will be brief, but bear with me if I view her bright Assumption, as I have viewed her immaculate purity, rather as a point of doctrine than as a theme for devotion.

It was surely fitting then, it was becoming, that she should be taken up into heaven and not lie in the grave till Christ's second coming, who had passed a life of sanctity and of miracle such as hers. All the works of God are in a beautiful harmony; they are carried on to the end as they begin. This is the difficulty which men of the world find in believing miracles at all; they think these break the order and consistency of God's visible word, not knowing that they do but subserve a higher order of things, and introduce a supernatural perfection. But at least, my brethren, when one miracle is wrought, it may be expected to draw others after it for the completion of what is begun. Miracles must be wrought for some great end; and if the course of things fell back again into a natural order before its termination, how could we but feel a disappointment? and if we were told that this certainly was to be, how could we but judge the information improbable and difficult to believe? Now this applies to the history of our Lady. . . .

Why should she share the curse of Adam, who had no share in his fall? "Dust thou art, and into dust thou shalt return," was the sentence upon sin; she then, who was not a sinner, fitly never saw corruption. She died, then, as we hold, because even our Lord and Saviour died; she died, as she suffered, because she was in this world, because she was in a state of things in which suffering and death are the rule. She lived under their external sway; and, as she obeyed Caesar by coming for enrolment to Bethlehem, so did she, when God willed it, yield to the tyranny of death, and was dissolved into soul and body, as well as others. But though she died as well as others, she died not as others die; for, through the merits of her Son, by whom she was what she was, by the grace of Christ which in her had anticipated sin, which had filled her with light, which had purified her flesh from all defilement, she was also saved from disease and malady, and all that weakens and decays the bodily frame. Original sin had not been found in her, by the wear of her senses, and the waste of her frame, and the decrepitude of years, propagating death. She died, but her death was a mere fact, not an effect; and, when it was over, it ceased to be. She died that she might live, she died as a matter of form or (as I may call it) an observance, in order to fulfil, what is called, the debt of nature,—not primarily for herself or because of sin, but to submit herself to her condition, to glorify God, to do what her Son did; not however as her Son and Saviour, with any suffering for any special end; not with a martyr's death, for her martyrdom had been in living; not as an atonement, for man could not make it, and One had made it, and made it for all; but in order to finish her course, and to receive her crown.

Read the rest here.

Friday, August 12, 2016

War and Peace? The End of "The Flying Inn"

Our Greater Wichita American Chesterton Local Society meets tonight (6:30 p.m.) at Eighth Day Books (which definitely has a sign) to continue/conclude our discussion of The Flying Inn. Just to give away the plot, here's the end of the novel, which we definitely plan to explicate together:

The palisade, put up by the new landlord in front of the old tangled ground by the tunnel, she had long regarded as something as settled and ordinary as one of the walls of the drawing room. It swung and split and sprang into a thousand pieces under the mere blow of human bodies bursting with rage; and the great wave crested the obstacle more clearly than she had ever seen any great wave crest the parade. Only, when the fence was broken, she saw behind it something that robbed her of reason; so that she seemed to be living in all ages and all lands at once. She never could describe the vision afterward; but she always denied it was a dream. She said it was worse; it was something more real than reality. It was a line of real soldiers, which is always a magnificent sight. But they might have been the soldiers of Hannibal or of Attila, they might have been dug up from the cemeteries of Sidon and Babylon, for all Joan had to do with them. There, encamped in English meadows, with a hawthorn-tree in front of them and three beeches behind, was something that has never been in camp nearer than some leagues south of Paris, since that Carolus called The Hammer broke it backward at Tours.

There flew the green standard of that great faith and strong civilization which has so often almost entered the great cities of the West; which long encircled Vienna, which was barely barred from Paris; but which had never before been seen in arms on the soil of England. At one end of the line stood Philip Ivywood, in a uniform of his own special creation, a compromise between the Sepoy and the Turkish uniform. The compromise worked more and more wildly in Joan's mind. If any impression remained it was merely that England had conquered India and Turkey had conquered England. Then she saw that Ivywood, for all his uniform, was not the Commander of these forces, for an old man, with a great scar on his face, which was not a European face, set himself in the front of the battle, as if it had been a battle in the old epics, and crossed swords with Patrick Dalroy. He had come to return the scar upon his forehead; and he returned it with many wounds, though at last it was he who sank under the sword thrust. He fell on his face; and Dalroy looked at him with something that is much more great than pity. Blood was flowing from Patrick's wrist and forehead, but he made a salute with his sword. As he was doing so, the corpse, as it appeared, laboriously lifted a face, with feeble eyelids. And, seeming to understand the quarters of the sky by instinct, Oman Pasha dragged himself a foot or so to the left; and fell with his face toward Mecca.

After that the turret turned round and round about Joan and she knew not whether the things she saw were history or prophecy. Something in that last fact of being crushed by the weapons of brown men and yellow, secretly entrenched in English meadows, had made the English what they had not been for centuries. The hawthorn-tree was twisted and broken, as it was at the Battle of Ashdown, when Alfred led his first charge against the Danes. The beech-trees were splashed up to their lowest branches with the mingling of brave heathen and brave Christian blood. She knew no more than that when a column of the Christian rebels, led by Humphrey of the Sign of the Ship, burst through the choked and forgotten tunnel and took the Turkish regiment in the rear, it was the end.

That violent and revolving vision became something beyond the human voice or human ear. She could not intelligently hear even the shots and shouts round the last magnificent rally of the Turks. It was natural, therefore, that she should not hear the words Lord Ivywood addressed to his next-door neighbour, a Turkish officer, or rather to himself. But his words were:

"I have gone where God has never dared to go. I am above the silly supermen as they are above mere men. Where I walk in the Heavens, no man has walked before me; and I am alone in a garden. All this passing about me is like the lonely plucking of garden flowers. I will have this blossom, I will have that."

The sentence ended so suddenly that the officer looked at him, as if expecting him to speak. But he did not speak.

But Patrick and Joan, wandering together in a world made warm and fresh again, as it can be for few in a world that calls courage frenzy and love superstition, feeling every branching tree as a friend with arms open for the man, or every sweeping slope as a great train trailing behind the woman, did one day climb up to the little white cottage that was now the home of the Superman.

He sat playing with a pale, reposeful face, with scraps of flower and weed put before him on a wooden table. He did not notice them, nor anything else around him; scarcely even Enid Wimpole, who attended to all his wants.

"He is perfectly happy," she said quietly.

Joan, with the glow on her dark face, could not prevent herself from replying, "And we are so happy."

"Yes," said Enid, "but his happiness will last," and she wept.

"I understand," said Joan, and kissed her cousin, not without tears of her own.

I take it that Lord Ivywood has gone mad after seeing his ally's army defeated, struck down by his hubris ("I have gone where God has never dared to go."). Thus the vaunted Superman ("I am above the silly supermen as they are above mere men") who thought he could remake the world is left playing with small pieces of that world. I don't know how he can be perfectly happy, however, since he is out of his mind!

What do you think? Please join us at 6:30 p.m. at Eighth Day Books to discuss!

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Blessed John Henry Newman, RIP

John Henry Cardinal Newman died on August 11, 1890. In 1990, Pope St. John Paul II wrote an official letter to the Archbishop of Birmingham, remarking on the centenary of Newman's death:

At the approach of the first Centenary of the death of John Henry Newman and in response to your kind invitation, I gladly associate myself with the celebrations that mark this event in England and indeed in many countries throughout the world. The memory of the great Cardinal’s noble life and his copious writings seem to touch the minds and hearts of many people today with a freshness and relevance that has scarcely faded with the passing of a century.

The Centenary year coincides with the beginning of a period of profound change in world events. This period has begun with new prospects for genuine freedom and signs of a renewed awareness of the need to build life, both individual and social, on the solid foundation of unfailing respect for the human person and his inalienable God-given dignity. To all searching minds in this present historical context, Newman’s voice speaks with a timely message.

Newman’s long life shows him to have been an ardent disciple of truth. The unfolding of his career confirms the single-heartedness of his aims as expressed in the following words which he made his own: "My desire hath been to have Truth for my chiefest friend, and no enemy but error" (J. H. Newman The Via Media, London 1911, vol. 1, pp. XII-XIII). In periods of trial and suffering he persevered with confidence, knowing that time was on the side of truth.

Newman’s quest for the truth led him to search for a voice that would speak to him the authority of the living Christ. His example holds a lasting appeal for all sincere scholars and disciples of truth. He urges them to keep asking the deeper, more basic questions about the meaning of life and of all human history; not to be content with a partial response to the great mystery that is man himself; to have the intellectual honesty and moral courage to accept the light of truth, no matter what personal sacrifice it may involve. Above all, Newman is a magnificent guide for all those who perceive that the key, the focal point and the goal of all human history is to be found in Christ (Cfr. Gaudium et Spes, 10) and in union with him in that community of faith, hope and charity, which is his holy Church, through which he communicates truth and grace to all (Cfr. Lumen Gentium, 8).

That same year, then Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger made a presentation in Rome commenting on Newman's influence in his life and especially on Newman's presentation of conscience and authority:

Newman had become a convert as a man of conscience; it was his conscience that led him out of the old ties and securities into the world of Catholicism, which was difficult and strange for him. But this way of conscience is everything except a way of self-sufficient subjectivity: it is a way of obedience to objective truth.

The second step in Newman's lifelong journey of conversion was overcoming the subjective evangelical position in favour of an understanding of Christendom based on the objectivity of dogma. In this connection I find a formulation from one of his early sermons to be especially significant today:

"True Christendom is shown... in obedience and not through a state of consciousness. Thus, the whole duty and work of a Christian is made up of these two parts, Faith and Obedience; "looking unto Jesus' (Heb 2: 9)... and acting according to His will.... I conceive that we are in danger, in this day, of insisting on neither of these as we ought; regarding all true and careful consideration of the Object of faith as barren orthodoxy, technical subtlety... and... making the test of our being religious to consist in our having what is called a spiritual state of heart...".

In this context some sentences from The Arians of the Fourth Century, which may sound rather astonishing at first, seem important to me: " detect and to approve the principle on which... peace is grounded in Scripture; to submit to the dictation of truth, as such, as a primary authority in matters of political and private conduct; to understand... zeal to be prior in the succession of Christian graces to benevolence".

Newman had been in failing health since the end of 1889; he was nearly blind (having memorized two votive Masses so he could offer Mass privately without reading from the Roman Missal) and had indeed said Mass the last time on Christmas day that year. Unable to read the Breviary, he prayed the Rosary. 

Two days before Newman died his niece Grace Longford, the only child of his estranged sister Harriett visited him. Newman had not seen her since she was three years old. 

Prayer for Canonization: 

ETERNAL Father, You led JOHN HENRY NEWMAN to follow the kindly light of Truth, and he obediently responded to your heavenly calls at any cost. As writer, preacher, counsellor and educator, as pastor, Oratorian, and servant of the poor he laboured to build up your Kingdom. 

Grant that through your Vicar on Earth we may hear the words, 'Well done, thou good and faithful servant, enter into the company of the canonized saints.' 

May you manifest your Servant's power of intercession by even extraordinary answers to the prayers of the faithful throughout the world. We pray particularly for our intentions in his name and in the name of Jesus Christ your Son our Lord. Amen.

Note that his feast, celebrated in England and Wales, is on October 9, the date of his acceptance into the Catholic Church in 1845, instead of being on the date of his death--of his entrance into eternal life. Since August 11 was already the feast day of St. Clare of Assisi, this alternate date was chosen when Pope Benedict XVI beatified Newman in 2010--perhaps looking forward to the day when he is proclaimed a saint and honored on the Roman Calendar throughout the world!