Sunday, April 30, 2017

Henry VIII's Last Will and Testament

The UK version of this book has a beautiful cover, emphasizing the document in question. Suzannah Lipscomb is the author of 1536: The Year that Changed Henry VIII and A Journey Through Tudor England, both of which I have purchased, read, and reviewed. I borrowed this book, The King is Dead: The Last Will and Testament of Henry VIII, from our local public library on a rainy Saturday morning and read it through that day. The US version shows Henry VIII, large as life (please pardon the pun), dominating the cover. 

As Lipscomb wrote for History Today in 2015, the central issues of this book are 1) Henry VIII tried to control the succession of the Tudor dynasty from beyond the grave in tremendous detail, trying to account for every contingency, and thwarting the usual primogeniture rules for succession (ignoring his elder sister Margaret's family claims to the throne) based upon the Acts of Succession passed by Parliament that gave him this power. 2) Some historians, including G.R. Elton, believe that there was a conspiracy against the conservatives (the Catholics) at Court when Henry VIII revised his will. 3) For all his effort to control the future, Henry VIII's will was--except for the fact that Edward VI, Mary I, and Elizabeth I succeeded him as he planned--was not executed by those he'd given that responsibility:

A month before he died, on 26 December 1546, Henry VIII had amended his will, which was signed and witnessed four days later. This, his last will and testament, is one of the most intriguing and contested documents in British history.

It was also a document with unique constitutional clout. The Succession Acts of 1536 and 1544 had empowered Henry to designate his successor and to appoint a regency council, should his heir be a minor at the time of his death, through letters patent or his last will. As a result, Henry’s will is dedicated in large part to outlining possible succession scenarios. He may have died, but that didn’t mean Henry was prepared to cede power, and his will was intended to be his chief instrument of control from beyond the grave.

Historians have disagreed, however, about whether the last will really represents Henry’s final wishes. Until now, the consensus has been that the contents of the will were the result of a court conspiracy. This conspiracy theory argues that the will was the product of a coup, that it was not signed when it was dated, and that it was later doctored.

Lipscomb presents cogent arguments against the conspiracy theory of Evangelicals versus Catholics--which was also the centerpiece of Robert Hutchinson's The Last Days of Henry VIII: Conspiracies, Treason and Heresy at the Court of the Dying Tyrant--citing Henry VIII's control of events at Court up to his final illness. He was in charge and Lipscomb denies that he could have been manipulated by the Evangelical courtiers to act against the "Catholics" in leadership. I put the word "Catholics" in quotation marks because these courtiers had accepted and supported and even profited from Henry VIII's caesaropapism. Henry had his reasons for rejecting Bishop Stephen Gardiner's influence in his son's council and he imprisoned and attainted Thomas and Henry Howard because he thought they were trying to take the throne from his son. 

She offers her interpretation of Henry VIII's religious principles and notes that he does not reveal a particularly pious relationship to God the Father--although he does rely dutifully on the Paschal mystery of Jesus's death and resurrection and the Real Presence of Holy Communion in the sacrifice of the Mass--but almost seems to think himself an equal, ordained by the Father to rule England and the Church. He almost orders the Blessed Virgin Mary and the saints to pray for his soul and his salvation (without really mentioning Purgatory but allowing for the contingency that he might not go straight to Heaven after he dies).

Certainly one way that Henry VIII's will was not carried out as he intended was that the Masses he required, the prayers that he wanted, the Altar near the Grand Tomb he desired--none of these signs of a Catholic belief in prayer for the dead were carried out. This also bolsters her argument against the Evangelical conspiracy/Henry VIII wanted the Evangelicals to succeed in England theory.

Very well illustrated, with excellent appendices and a comprehensive bibliography, Lipscomb's book to me demonstrates another facet of Henry VIII's hubris and his focus on controlling life after his death. Those attempts received the answer pride often does as his will was not fulfilled and his desires were indeed forgotten.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

The Consequences of Newman's Warnings about Liberalism

John Nicholas Blaha writes for Touchstone Magazine, noting Blessed John Henry Newman's warnings about the influence of Liberalism on religion from his days as an Anglican in Oxford to his biglietto speech in Rome when he was named a Cardinal in the Catholic Church:

From his years at Oxford in the 1830s till the end of his life in 1890, Newman saw that to indulge in this "false liberty of thought" was to depart in a fundamental way from the heart of Christianity. For Christianity is grounded upon the claim of a divine revelation, however much its adherents may reflect upon and parse that revelation through rational discourse. A disclosure by the deity such as one claimed by Christians must be understood on its own terms rather than trimmed to fit comfortably into the Procrustean bed of human rationality.

Newman's diagnosis was that religious liberalism did just that, with the consequence that religious doctrine soon unraveled into either complete subjectivism on the one hand or, on the other, a denial of any real content to revelation at all. As to the former, Newman protested strenuously against the tendency to direct attention only to the heart at the expense of anything external, as inevitably productive of a narrow and egoistic temper of mind that culminates in placing trust in man rather than God. As to the latter, many in Newman's day claimed that divine revelation was unable to be captured in human language, and therefore could admit of wide, even contradictory interpretations that were of equal value so long as they were sincerely held. Newman's insistent rejoinder to this latitudinarian stance was to inquire, "Why should God speak, unless He meant to say something? Why should He say it, unless He meant us to hear?"

In a letter to his brother Francis that forcefully rebuked liberal views, Newman insisted that "if the fact of a revelation be granted, it is most extravagant and revolting to our reason to suppose that after all its message is not ascertainable and that the divine interposition reveals nothing." Here, Newman echoes St. Paul himself, who squares off against a similar antagonist: "Mere man with his natural gifts cannot take in the thoughts of God's Spirit; they seem mere folly to him, and he cannot grasp them, because they demand a scrutiny which is spiritual" (1 Cor. 2:14).

Please read the rest there. The consequence, however, of following Newman's argument to its completeness is that there is One Truth and at some point, diversity can't be tolerated. Gasp! For Newman to have said that in the nineteenth century, was already inconvenient. To say that again in the twenty-first century is tantamount to hate speech!

Of course, if man-made Global Warming/Climate Change is the One Truth, it must be accepted and no dissent is allowed.

But if one says, with Newman, that Jesus founded One Church and that He gave that Church infallible authority to teach the Gospel with all that means for how we worship, think, pray, and live--that's unacceptable.

When I gave a presentation at the Eighth Day Institute Symposium in January this year, discussing Newman's insistence that Theology must be included as a subject in a university curriculum, one attendee asked me if Newman meant any Theology, including Buddhist or Hindu Theology. Of course not: Newman meant Christian Theology: Newman meant Catholic Theology because Catholic Theology teaches about Revelation based upon Catholic dogma and doctrine because Catholic dogma and doctrine is True because God guarantees its infallibility. Once you start following Newman's arguments against Liberalism in Religion, you realize that he leads you to the Catholic Church, just as his own "great dissent" to use the title of Robert Pattison's 1991 study of  "John Henry Newman and the Liberal Heresy", led Newman to what he called the "one, true fold of Christ".

Friday, April 28, 2017

Gareth Russell on Henry VIII's Fifth Wife

The publisher sent me a copy of this book for my honest opinion about it. I should also mention that the author Gareth Russell asks me to write for The Tudor Times occasionally and that he lists me as one of those who assisted--in a very small way--in the writing of this book (we consulted on the identity of one man). According to Simon and Schuster:

Written with an exciting combination of narrative flair and historical authority, this interpretation of the tragic life of Catherine Howard, fifth wife of Henry VIII, breaks new ground in our understanding of the very young woman who became queen at a time of unprecedented social and political tension and whose terrible errors in judgment quickly led her to the executioner’s block.

On the morning of July 28, 1540, as King Henry’s VIII’s former confidante Thomas Cromwell was being led to his execution, a teenager named Catherine Howard began her reign as queen of a country simmering with rebellion and terrifying uncertainty. Sixteen months later, the king’s fifth wife would follow her cousin Anne Boleyn to the scaffold, having been convicted of adultery and high treason.

The broad outlines of Catherine’s career might be familiar, but her story up until now has been incomplete. Unlike previous accounts of her life, which portray her as a naïve victim of an ambitious family, this compelling and authoritative biography will shed new light on Catherine Howard’s rise and downfall by reexamining her motives and showing her in her context, a milieu that goes beyond her family and the influential men of the court to include the aristocrats and, most critically, the servants who surrounded her and who, in the end, conspired against her. By illuminating Catherine's entwined upstairs/downstairs worlds as well as societal tensions beyond the palace walls, the author offers a fascinating portrayal of court life in the sixteenth century and a fresh analysis of the forces beyond Catherine’s control that led to her execution—from diplomatic pressure and international politics to the long-festering resentments against the queen’s household at court.

Including a forgotten text of Catherine’s confession in her own words, color illustrations, family tree, map, and extensive notes,
Young and Damned and Fair changes our understanding of one of history’s most famous women while telling the compelling and very human story of complex individuals attempting to survive in a dangerous age.

The emphasis on her household includes first Catherine's life at home and then with her step-grandmother, Agnes Tilney Howard, the Dowager Duchess of Norfolk in Chesworth House and Norfork House. Russell thus introduces us to the powerful Howard family and particularly to Catherine's father, Lord Edmund Howard, who escaped to Calais to avoid his creditors. Edmund's first wife and Catherine's mother, Joyce Culpepper had been married before and had children from that union too. The family tree for the Howard family could have been a little more detailed or there could have been an additional family tree for Lord Edmund's family to clarify all these relationships. Because all these relationships are very important to any story in Tudor England! The connections between families engendered by marriages and offspring create the webs that have to be unwoven and rewoven with every crisis. For Russell's discussion of possible portraits of Catherine Howard in chapter 12, I wish that the publisher had included figure numbers on the illustration inserts and that the text included those figure numbers when referencing the different portrait candidates.

Russell delves into Catherine's life in the Dowager Duchess's household carefully, because this is the source of Catherine's eventual downfall. The lines between what Catherine thought was harmless dalliance and what constituted premarital sex or a contract of marriage will become very important in just a few years. Russell describes her relationships with Henry Manox and Francis Dereham carefully, attentive to Catherine's views of how far was too far and what commitments she had made to them. He also notes that a couple of the other girls tried to warn Catherine of the danger she was in: remember the name of Mary Lascelles . . .

The next household Catherine moves into is that serving Henry VIII's fourth wife, Anne of Cleves (and that household will soon become Catherine's household). Russell clears up some of the myth regarding Anne of Cleves, the so-called "Flander's Mare" and begins to hone in on the real problem with that marriage: Henry VIII. As Russell's portrayal of Henry continues, it's clear that this monarch was supremely selfish. He seems to have wanted all the perquisites of being the king without the responsibilities, especially if those responsibilities discomfited him. Russell notes that while Henry VIII was looking for a fourth wife, the royal households of Europe were offended by his need to evaluate their eligible women. Thomas Cromwell would suffer for his insistence that the king needed to marry in furtherance of national interests (and Henry's own status in Europe). As Russell tells the story, Anne of Cleves wasn't the ugly, awkward woman of Tudor mythology at all. Henry VIII wanted to marry for love, not policy. Cromwell, as Russell notes, forgot this one time to let Henry have his way.

And so he set in motion his divorce/annulment from Anne of Cleves, generously rewarding her for her cooperation, and then had Thomas Cromwell beheaded on the same day he married Catherine Howard, July 28, 1540. Russell then describes the household Catherine took over, how it served the queen, who was in her household and the different ranks and responsibilities, and how she behaved within that household. With the example of the Dowager Duchess's laxness in supervision, Catherine did not, Russell points out, fulfill her responsibilities to her ladies very well--part of her duty was to find the unmarried good husbands and thus she needed to make sure their virtue was intact. The difficulty was that Catherine wasn't sure what that meant.

On the other hand, Russell makes it clear that Catherine excelled in all her public roles: she was attractive, graceful, careful to comport herself well. She visited Henry's three children: Edward, Mary, and Elizabeth. (Russell makes an uncharacteristic error on page 201 when he refers to Elizabeth as "the youngest, least loved, and most ignored of Henry's children." Obviously, Edward was the youngest child.) Catherine and Mary did not get along very well and Russell notes a characteristic of Catherine's: once she took umbrage, she would get her way. 

Russell describes the Royal Progress to the North, when Henry VIII visited parts of his kingdom he had never seen before, as an effort to heal the divisions caused by the Pilgrimage of Grace. As Russell recounts Henry's negotiations with the Irish Parliament and with James V of Scotland in 1541, he notes again that Henry's counselors had a hard time getting the king to see statesmanship in distinction to his personal honor. At the same time as Henry was negotiating these matters, Queen Catherine and Jane Boleyn, Lady Rochford, were negotiating the hidden stairways and entrances of the palaces and castles the Court stayed in during the progress, so that Thomas Culpepper, one of Henry VIII's favorites, could be alone with Catherine.

Once John Lascelles, Mary Lascelles Hall's brother, tells the Archbishop of Canterbury about what Mary knows about the Queen, the pace of the narrative in this book picks up. The king has to be told that his wife might have had a precontract of marriage with another man, and then Henry wants to know everything. His officials begin interviewing Catherine, Dereham, Manox, Lady Rochford, other ladies at Court, the Dowager Duchess and other Howard family members. Thomas Howard, the Duke of Norfolk, separated himself--as Catherine had from him previously--from the matter immediately and he was not included in the round-up of Howards that would follow.

Catherine exhibited another great character flaw: she immediately started blaming others for what had happened. Initially, she admitted that she and Francis Dereham could have had an understanding or precontract. In that case, her marriage to Henry VIII would be annulled and she would have been sent off in disgrace and there would have been some repercussions to the family. Since there weren't any nunneries anymore, she probably would been held under house arrest fair away from Court. But then, she accused Francis Dereham of raping her before she came to Court and mentioned the name Thomas Culpepper. So then the interrogations of all the involved began again and those interrogations included the repeated torture of Dereham, Culpepper and another unfortunate man, Robert Damport. When confronted with reports of her adultery against the king with Thomas Culpepper, Catherine again blamed somebody else: Lady Rochford.

Russell tells this part of the story particularly well, noting again the web of relationship and opportunity as the government this time made information public about what had been discovered. The Privy Council was more open about these matters than it had been about the fall of Anne Boleyn or the last bloodletting of the Yorkists in the White Rose affair. This time, they made it known why the queen had to be executed and why the Howard family had to suffer for not disclosing her past.

In the last chapter, however, when Russell sums up Catherine's character, I cannot agree with him that "Her faults were obvious, but usually trivial." She was unfaithful and disloyal. Anachronistically speaking, she was too ready to "throw people under the bus". Those are not trivial faults and Russell does not finally acknowledge her selfishness as cogently as he identifies Henry VIII's (who never did anything for the good of his people!).

I have some quibbles with some of Russell's choices in earlier chapters. He tells about Thomas Wyatt's arrest and imprisonment in 1540, but never mentions that he was involved in the Anne Boleyn affair before in 1536. I also wondered why he never mentions the name of Anne Askew, the evangelical woman burned alive at the stake during Henry's reign when he brings her up twice. In Church tradition, St. Joachim is identified as the Blessed Virgin Mary's father, not St. Jerome (p. 189). Russell obviously is conversant with the standard Tudor bibliography and he steers a clear path through the sea of religious confusion during Henry VIII's reign. Very well-written with some really elegant turns of phrase ("Henry VIII was a man who had somehow gone rotten without ever being ripe." p. 134), this is a biographical study that will appeal to Tudor fans and would be of benefit to those wanting to know the story of Henry VIII's penultimate wife.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

The Queen of Scotland's Confessor, RIP

According to the Catholic Encyclopedia of 1913, Father Robert Abercromby was:

A Jesuit missionary in Scotland in the time of the persecutions, born 1532; died at Braunsberg, in Prussia, 27 April, 1613. He was brought into prominence chiefly by the fact that he converted the Queen of James I of England, when that monarch was as yet James VI of Scotland. The Queen was Anne of Denmark, and her father, an ardent Lutheran, has stipulated that she should have the right to practice her own religion in Scotland, and for that purpose sent with her a chaplain named John Lering who, however, shortly after his arrival, became a Calvinist. The Queen, who abhorred Calvinism, asked some of the Catholic nobles for advice, and it was suggested to call Father Abercromby, who, with some other Jesuits, was secretly working among the Scotch Catholics and winning many illustrious converts to the Church. Though brought up a Lutheran, Queen Anne had in her youth lived with a niece of the Emperor Charles V, and not only knew something of the Faith, but had frequently been present at Mass with her former friend. Abercromby was introduced into the palace, instructed the Queen in the Catholic religion, and received her into the Church. This was about the year 1600. As to the date there is some controversy. Andrew Lang, who merely quotes MacQuhirrie as to the fact of the conversion, without mentioning Abercromby, puts it as occurring in 1598.

This portrait of Anne dates from about 1600. So Anne was a fairly recent Catholic when she went to England with her husband in 1603 after Elizabeth I's death.

Intelligence of it at last came to the ears of the King, who, instead of being angry, warned her to keep it secret, as her conversion might imperil his crown. He even went as far as to appoint Abercromby Superintendent of the Royal Falconry, in order that he might remain near the Queen. Up to the time that James succeeded to the crown of England, Father Abercromby remained at the Scottish Court, celebrating Mass in secret, and giving Holy Communion nine or ten times to his neophyte. When the King and Queen were crowned sovereigns of Great Britain, Anne gave proof of her sincerity by absolutely refusing to receive the Protestant sacrament, declaring that she preferred to forfeit her crown rather than take part in what she considered a sacrilegious profanation. Of this, Lang, in his "History of Scotland", says nothing. She made several ineffectual attempts to convert the King. Abercromby remained in Scotland for some time, but as a price of 10,000 crowns was put upon his head he came to England, only to find that the King's kindly dispositions toward him had undergone a change. The alleged discovery of a Gunpowder Plot in 1605, and the attempts made to implicate the Jesuits in the conspiracy had excited in the mind of the King feelings of bitter hostility to the Society. He ordered a strict search to be made for Abercromby, who consequently left the country and betook himself to Braunsberg, in Eastern Prussia, where he died, in his eighty-first year.

Abercromby was born in Scotland, studied in Rome, and served in Poland/Prussia:

He was born and educated in Scotland, and studied in the Collegium Romanum in Rome, where on 19 August 1563 he became a Jesuit. From 1564 he lived in Braunsberg (then in Royal Prussia), now Braniewo in Poland) where he was professor of grammar in the biggest Polish Jesuit collegium and a novice master. In 1565 he was ordained a priest. In Braniewo he was in constant contact with Cardinal Stanislaus Hosius. He was considered a good priest, but learning Polish was difficult for him, and he had some problems with the finances of the school. Due to these problems he was permitted to leave Poland in 1580, when he met the Scottish king for the first time. In September 1580 he went back to Poland - from 1580 to 1587 he performed similar tasks in Kraków, Poznań and Wilno. In 1587 he left Poland and went back to Scotland. During the journey to Scotland in 1580 and during his second stay there he was organizing transports of Scottish youths to be trained in Polish schools.

After his sojourn in Scotland and England, Father Abercromby returned to the Continent:

Abercromby went back to Braunsberg in 1606. His name was connected to the allegiance oath controversy when a pamphlet "pasquil", Exetasis epistolæ nomine regis, written under the pseudonym Bartholus Pacenius against James I was traced to Braunsberg; but the investigation by Patrick Gordon was inconclusive. He died there on 27 April 1613.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

"Eugene Onegin" on the Radio

After some morning errands and shopping, I came home to listen to the last two acts of Eugene Onegin on the Metropolitan Opera broadcast. When I read Pushkin's Eugene Onegin in translation in college, I was told that reading the original in Russian was the only way to understand the full impact of this novel in poetry. Fortunately, Tchaikovsky's operatic version of the novel, which shifts the dramatic focus from Onegin to Tatiana, can be appreciated by anyone because of the music.

I was in the grocery store while Anna Nebtreko was singing the Letter Scene, but I found the scene from the 2013/2014 production here. The staging--how she wrote the letter holding the notebook in the air and twirling around--made the line "I'm afraid to read it over." unintentionally funny. She won't be able to read her own writing! On the drive home, I heard Onegin's aria when he brushes Tatiana off so coolly.

Once home and the groceries put away, I listened to the last two acts with attention. The Met's program for the opera describes the music thus:

Tchaikovsky’s universally beloved lyric gifts are at their most powerful and multilayered in this opera. Rich ensembles punctuate the work, including a quartet for women near the beginning, an elaborate choral ensemble that concludes the first scene of Act II, and a haunting fugue for tenor and baritone in Act II, Scene 2. The vocal solos are among the most striking in the repertory: anyone who can remember the first stirrings of love will be moved by Tatiana’s extended “Letter Scene” in Act I, in which she rhapsodically composes a letter to Onegin in an outpouring of gorgeous melody. This is rivaled in popularity by the tenor’s moving farewell to his young life in Act II, while Onegin’s Act III narrative on the pointlessness of life borders on Wagnerian. Interspersed among these great solos are finely honed character pieces, such as the French tutor’s charming name-day serenade to Tatiana (in French) and the bass Prince Gremin’s moving ode to the surprise of finding love late in life. Throughout the opera, Tchaikovsky’s unique mastery of dance music provides episodes of ballet that reflect and augment the drama.

I heard a little of Anna Nebtreko's interview with Renee Fleming about her role and the opera: she urged listeners to read the book too, because there's so much more there! As this blogger explains, Lensky's aria, which I was looking forward to, is indeed one of the great highlights of the opera:

The only reason that impresarios can convince leading tenors to take the part of Lensky in Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin is the second act aria ‘Kuda, Kuda’, hereafter referred to as Lensky’s aria. Even then tenors dislike playing a character who dies in the second act. This was why Richard Tucker dropped the role after 1957-58 . “My public doesn’t like to see me die in the second act,” was the explanation he offered.

The aria doesn’t make great demands on a tenor’s range, rather it requires great style and cantabile. I’ve put an English translation of the aria’s words below. I’ve made no attempt to present the words actually sung by the singers included in this compendium as they do the piece in Russian, English, German, Swedish, and Italian. I can offer no insight on the accuracy of the Russian diction by the singers who are not Russian but who sing Lensky’s Aria in the original language.

The blogger then provides numerous versions of Lensky's Aria, something opera fanatics often like to do (splice together different singers performing the same aria and either decide which singer is performing or which is the best performance). After sampling several of these performances, I have to admit that the native Russian singers--like the native Russian readers of Pushkin--have the advantage.

The question opera companies and performers face now is: are there enough fanatics to kept the art alive? Opera is the most extraordinary art, combining music, storytelling, drama, tradition, stage production, costumes, make-up, dance, etc. Is there still an audience for such riches? Renee Fleming is retiring from the operatic stage after her final performance of Der Rosenkavalier this season at the Met. The New York Times brought up the issue in the context of her retirement (my husband brought this article to my attention):

Her departure is a watershed moment for her extravagant, expensive art form, which is always imagining itself in trouble — what is opera about except crises? — but may really be in peril this time. Not only is opera more divorced than ever from mainstream culture, but also its core audience, the people who buy subscriptions, is literally dying off. The Met has had some luck attracting new operagoers through social media, collaborations with theater and visual artists, and fresher branding, but the most reliable way of ensuring attendance is still by casting big international stars, and one of Ms. Fleming’s magnitude is almost impossible to replace. Plácido Domingo, the only singer on her level still performing, is 76, and, though he keeps defying time, can’t go on forever; younger artists like Anna Netrebko and Jonas Kaufmann may be opera-famous, but are hardly household names.

Fleming's Marschallin will be on the radio for that last performance--can you imagine the ovation? In Gottes Namen. Amen.

Monday, April 24, 2017

St. George and the English Martyrs

In England today both Catholics and Anglicans are celebrating the Feast of St. George. He is best known as the slayer of a dragon but St. George of Lydda was a martyr. His feast is usually celebrated on April 23, but since that was the Second Sunday of Easter and the last day of the Easter Octave, it's been translated to April 24 this year in England.

This image of him being dragged through the streets to his execution, a panel from a 15th century painting by Bernat Martorell, explains why Westminster Cathedral has a chapel dedicated to St. George and the English Martyrs. Those martyred saints who were accused of treason because they were Catholic priests, or were converts or had influenced the conversion of others, were dragged through the streets just like St. George had been.

More about the painting here and here. (It's one of those art history mysteries recently solved; the pieces of a retable were separated during the Spanish Civil War and still are: one piece in Chicago, the rest in Paris!)

Like some of the English Martyrs honored in the Cathedral's chapel, St. George was tortured before being dragged and beheaded as this painting by Michiel Coxie from the 16th century shows.

The Cathedral's website has not been updated yet, but the page for the chapel explains the plans and this story from The Catholic Herald describes the changes after they'd been unveiled last year. I posted information about the dedication of the chapel here.

St. George and the English Martyrs, pray for us!

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Meanwhile, in Scotland

According to a story in The Catholic Herald, more Catholics attend Sunday services (Mass) than Protestants (the Kirk):

The Catholic Church is likely to become the largest churchgoing denomination in Scotland.

Figures from the 2016 Scottish Church Census reveal that the Catholic Church and Church of Scotland both make up 35 per cent of the churchgoing population, but that the Catholic proportion is expanding.

The report found 135,600 weekly Catholic Mass attenders compared to 136,910 attending Church of Scotland services. The figures also showed a total of 389,510 weekly attenders of churches of any denomination.

Peter Brierley, who conducted the study, told the Scottish Catholic Observer the Catholic Church would have the most Sunday churchgoers if trends continued.

The Scottish Catholic Observer provides more detail:

Fr Thomas Boyle, the Catholic Church’s representative on the panel that commissioned the report, said it reflected the fact that ‘Scotland is a very different place from 50 or even 30 years ago.’

“On a simplistic level there are many more different things which people can do on a Sunday than they could decades ago and that has had an effect,” he said. “The traditional Scottish Calvinistic Sabbath observance just doesn’t exist anymore. Social changes mean that there isn’t the same proportion of the Scottish population which professes the Christian faith or belongs to a Church.”

He said that the ‘continuing hostility of the liberal consensus to religious belief and organised religion has its effects, particularly on younger generations,’ but that ‘from a Catholic perspective the residual loyalty of many means that they continue to have their children Baptised and send them to Catholic schools.’

“This is best exemplified in the 2011 census where the figure for people self-identifying as Catholic was recorded as 100,000 higher than what the Church had registered,” he said. “This could be seen as tribal, but equally it can be seen as people who are religious or spiritual but simply don’t attend Church. Non-attendance at Chur
ch doesn’t mean that people don’t pray or live a Christian life with the values that inspire them.”

One reason both papers note for the Sunday Mass attendance is the influx of Polish Catholics, who are faithful to that obligation and opportunity.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Carthusian Gardens: Cells and Horticulture

Via Tea at Trianon: English Heritage describes how the Carthusians at Mount Grace Priory had gardens outside their cells:

The garden of the Mount Grace Priory cell is English Heritage’s best preserved example of monastic horticulture. It was replanted for the first time in 1994, following archaeological excavation of the cells. The excavations showed that the lay-out and use of each garden varied according to the inclination and interest of the individual monk.

The pattern of paths and beds in the garden was based on archaeological evidence, but it was uncertain which plants were used or how they may have been arranged in the beds. None of the recent planting was intended to be a restoration or reconstruction of the original garden. It instead was a demonstration of the kinds of plants that were grown in gardens at the time the monastery flourished.

Equipment, too, has changed how we tend to our gardens today. Monk’s tools would have been simple wooden and metal ards (like a small hand pulled plough) or mattocks rather than the mechanised marvels of today’s horticulture. Rather than a tractor, power for larger plots would have been provided by oxen.

Cell gardens as at Mount Grace Priory provided monks with the opportunity for manual labour within the confines of their own cell, which was a key part of the Carthusian ideal. As a hortus conclusus (enclosed garden) they also had biblical associations including the garden of the ‘Song of Solomon’, and alluded to the ‘original’ Garden of Eden, or to ‘Paradise’ itself. These spaces were not primarily for food production but had multiple functions of spirituality, health and utility. The mass of food for the monks came from much larger kitchen gardens, plots and farms elsewhere.

These cell gardens were strongly geometric in form, often compartmentalised (defining spaces for medicinal or poisonous species) and in the 15th century started to become decorative. This included a mix of medicinal and aromatic herbs, and flowering plants to lift the mind and spirit and to aid contemplation.

English Heritage also describes how Mount Grace was a thriving community as late as 1523, with a waiting list of men wanting to become Carthusians. The last prior, John Wilson, tried to save the house:

Though the Carthusians featured prominently in the early opposition to Henry VIII’s divorce from Katherine of Aragon and the consequent break with Rome, Mount Grace remained relatively untroubled during the first years of the Reformation.

The monks refused to become involved with the Pilgrimage of Grace, the popular rising that broke out in Yorkshire in the autumn of 1536 in reaction to the suppression of the lesser monasteries.

When Mount Grace was eventually suppressed in December 1539 the community were given generous pensions. The prior was granted the hermitage and chapel of The Mount in nearby Osmotherley, which belonged to the priory.[11] He, with one of his monks and two lay brothers, was to join the charterhouse of Sheen when it was refounded under Mary I in 1555.[12]

The last prior of Sheen Priory in Richmond, named the House of Jesus of Bethlehem, was Maurice Chauncey. He was:

one of the few religious of the London charterhouse who purchased their lives of Henry VIII. by compliance with his wishes, and on its dissolution obtained a pension of £5. In his future penitence he deeply bewailed that he had not shared the crown of martyrdom, and spoke of himself as 'the spotted and diseased sheep of the flock.' The Carthusians, who were for a short time gathered together under Prior Maurice at Sheen during Mary's reign, were the scattered remnant of the various English charterhouses. Several died during their brief sojourn at the restored house, and the rest followed their superior into exile on Elizabeth's accession. Prior Maurice died at Paris on 12 July 1581; two years later his history of the sufferings of the Carthusians under Henry VIII. was printed, of which Mr. Froude made so much use in his graphic and sympathetic account of their treatment. (fn. 34)

In exile, the remaining Carthusians gathering in Belgium under Chauncey's leadership in the Sheen Anglorum Charterhouse.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Why the Anglican Ordinariates Have Survived

For the National Catholic Register, Peter Jesserer Smith writes:

Benedict XVI gave a tremendous gift to the English-speaking world in 2009, when he finally realized a dream centuries in the making, and established a permanent canonical home for groups from the Anglican tradition seeking to enter the Catholic Church with the apostolic constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus.

Today, the Catholic Church has three Personal Ordinariates — informally known as the “Anglican Ordinariates” — that preserve the Anglican patrimony in their Catholic parishes, communities, and religious orders. These Personal Ordinariates have the only English form of the Roman Missal, promulgated by Pope Francis, called Divine Worship — an actual English form, not an English translation of the Latin Mass — written in traditional, poetic “Prayer Book” English. Each Personal Ordinariate covers a region of the globe (Oceania, the United Kingdom, and North America) and is headed by a bishop or ordinary who falls directly under the jurisdiction of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

But how did the Vatican determine the solution for corporate unification with the Catholic Church had to be this structure called a “Personal Ordinariate?”

The story behind that answer can be found in an illuminating theological address on the CDF by Bishop Steven Lopes, who was tapped by Pope Francis to lead the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter (covering the U.S. and Canada) in 2016.

Bishop Lopes delivered his March 28 address “Unity of Faith in a Diversity of Expression: The Work of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith” to a gathering of students and professors of the Institut für Historische Theologie, Liturgiewissenschaft und Sakramententheologie at the University of Vienna. The bishop is not a convert from Anglicanism, but is a lifelong Catholic whose work with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith over 10 years immersed him in the Anglican patrimony and the project of corporate reunification between groups of Anglicans and the Catholic Church.

Earlier attempts at this kind of structure within the Church had failed because responsibility for them was placed with the local dioceses. The structures were soon submerged in the local dioceses for several reasons. With the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith coordinating Ordinariate efforts, overseeing the implementation of the Divine Worship, and guaranteeing Ordinariate faithfulness to the fullness of Catholic teaching, the Ordinariates started off at least with a stable foundation.

The text of Bishop Steven Lopes's presentation is here. Note that he was once an official at the CDF. Just another reason to be grateful to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI!

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Happy Easter! Happy Birthday to Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger!

Tracey Rowland writes for The Catholic Herald:

Benedict XVI will celebrate his 90th birthday on Easter Sunday. Cardinal Joachim Meisner famously described him as a man who is as intelligent as 12 professors and as pious as a child making his First Communion.

If one inserts the words “Joseph Ratzinger” into the Google Scholar search engine, which records academic publications, one obtains some 24,600 hits in four seconds. The words “Benedict XVI” bring up even more results – 66,100. As a comparison, Walter Kasper scores a mere 6,930 and Hans Küng 6,270. Hans Urs von Balthasar and Henri de Lubac score 16,900 and 13,200 hits respectively.

The only theologian of the last century I could find who trumps the 66,100 figure is Karl Barth, who has been the subject of a massive 127,000 academic articles. The Catholic theologian who came closest to Ratzinger was Karl Rahner, weighing in at 41,500 hits.

As Bavaria’s most famous son since Ludwig II enters his 10th decade of life, it is worth considering what the impact of all these publications might be in the brave new world of 21st-century Catholicism. My thought is that the publications of Ratzinger will form a treasury to be mined by future generations trying to piece together elements of a fragmented Christian culture. . . .

The discovery of Ratzinger by future generations may well lead them on to the literary and philosophical treasures of his Polish friend Karol Wojtyła and the theology of his Swiss friend von Balthasar, his French friend de Lubac, his Italian friend Giussani and an English author called John Henry Newman. They may even find Tolkien and a writer from the Orkneys called Mackay Brown, the Norwegian Nobel laureate Sigrid Undset and an Etonian called George from the noble house of Spencer who thought there needed to be a prayer crusade for the restoration of the old faith in Britain (he is known today as Ignatius Spencer).

Through these authors, a generation tired of the banality of cheap intimacy and nominalism gone mad may rediscover the buried capital of a civilisation built on the belief that the Incarnation really did happen. They may also gradually learn to distinguish a secularised Christianity that hooked itself up to whatever zeitgeist wafted along from the real mysteries celebrated in something called the old Christian calendar.

Please read the rest (the middle!) there. One reason future generations will be able to rediscover Pope Benedict XVI's great legacy will be Rowland's book!

From Pope Benedict XVI's Easter homily in 2012:

At Easter, on the morning of the first day of the week, God said once again: “Let there be light”. The night on the Mount of Olives, the solar eclipse of Jesus’ passion and death, the night of the grave had all passed. Now it is the first day once again – creation is beginning anew. “Let there be light”, says God, “and there was light”: Jesus rises from the grave. Life is stronger than death. Good is stronger than evil. Love is stronger than hate. Truth is stronger than lies. The darkness of the previous days is driven away the moment Jesus rises from the grave and himself becomes God’s pure light. But this applies not only to him, not only to the darkness of those days. With the resurrection of Jesus, light itself is created anew. He draws all of us after him into the new light of the resurrection and he conquers all darkness. He is God’s new day, new for all of us.

But how is this to come about? How does all this affect us so that instead of remaining word it becomes a reality that draws us in? Through the sacrament of baptism and the profession of faith, the Lord has built a bridge across to us, through which the new day reaches us. The Lord says to the newly-baptized: Fiat lux – let there be light. God’s new day – the day of indestructible life, comes also to us. Christ takes you by the hand. From now on you are held by him and walk with him into the light, into real life. For this reason the early Church called baptism photismos – illumination.

Why was this? The darkness that poses a real threat to mankind, after all, is the fact that he can see and investigate tangible material things, but cannot see where the world is going or whence it comes, where our own life is going, what is good and what is evil. The darkness enshrouding God and obscuring values is the real threat to our existence and to the world in general. If God and moral values, the difference between good and evil, remain in darkness, then all other “lights”, that put such incredible technical feats within our reach, are not only progress but also dangers that put us and the world at risk. Today we can illuminate our cities so brightly that the stars of the sky are no longer visible. Is this not an image of the problems caused by our version of enlightenment? With regard to material things, our knowledge and our technical accomplishments are legion, but what reaches beyond, the things of God and the question of good, we can no longer identify. Faith, then, which reveals God’s light to us, is the true enlightenment, enabling God’s light to break into our world, opening our eyes to the true light.

Dear friends, as I conclude, I would like to add one more thought about light and illumination. On Easter night, the night of the new creation, the Church presents the mystery of light using a unique and very humble symbol: the Paschal candle. This is a light that lives from sacrifice. The candle shines inasmuch as it is burnt up. It gives light, inasmuch as it gives itself. Thus the Church presents most beautifully the paschal mystery of Christ, who gives himself and so bestows the great light. Secondly, we should remember that the light of the candle is a fire. Fire is the power that shapes the world, the force of transformation. And fire gives warmth. Here too the mystery of Christ is made newly visible. Christ, the light, is fire, flame, burning up evil and so reshaping both the world and ourselves. “Whoever is close to me is close to the fire,” as Jesus is reported by Origen to have said. And this fire is both heat and light: not a cold light, but one through which God’s warmth and goodness reach down to us.

The great hymn of the Exsultet, which the deacon sings at the beginning of the Easter liturgy, points us quite gently towards a further aspect. It reminds us that this object, the candle, has its origin in the work of bees. So the whole of creation plays its part. In the candle, creation becomes a bearer of light. But in the mind of the Fathers, the candle also in some sense contains a silent reference to the Church,. The cooperation of the living community of believers in the Church in some way resembles the activity of bees. It builds up the community of light. So the candle serves as a summons to us to become involved in the community of the Church, whose raison d’être is to let the light of Christ shine upon the world.

Let us pray to the Lord at this time that he may grant us to experience the joy of his light; let us pray that we ourselves may become bearers of his light, and that through the Church, Christ’s radiant face may enter our world (cf. LG 1). Amen.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

The Silence of Holy Saturday

The Tabernacle is empty; the Altar is bare; the Sanctuary Light is out: Holy Saturday. At Blessed Sacrament, where my husband took this picture several years ago, the Adoration Chapel is closed. The pre-sanctified hosts left from Good Friday's communion services are hidden away.

Of course, Jesus reigns in Heaven today as He did yesterday, Good Friday and He will tomorrow, Easter Sunday, and every day before and after, to the ages of ages. But today we pause to mourn for the suffering and death of Our Savior.

I watched some of the EWTN Family Celebrations last weekend. During his talk Father Larry Richards said something like, "Remember when the Romans martyred the Christians in the Coliseum?" Of course I can't remember it as though I directly experienced it; none of us can. But through the Judeo-Christian way of remembering, I can remember it in a significant way. I don't just remember it as a long-ago event; I remember it as something that echoes down the ages today. That's why history fascinates me so much.

Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger meditated on the silence of Holy Saturday, offering these reflections on the death of God and the pause of this day:

The terrible mystery of Holy Saturday, its abyss of silence, has thus acquired a crushing reality in these days of ours. For, this is Holy Saturday: the day of God’s concealment, the day of that unprecedented paradox we express in the Creed with the words: “Descended into hell”, descended into the mystery of death. On Good Friday we still had the crucified man to look at. Holy Saturday is empty, the heavy stone of the new tomb is covering the dead man, it’s all over, the faith seems to have been definitively unmasked as fantasy. No God saved this Jesus who posed as his Son. There is no further need for concern: the wary who were somewhat hesitant, who wondered if things could have been different, were right after all. Holy Saturday: the day God was buried; is not this the day we are living now, and formidably so? Did not our century mark the start of one long Holy Saturday, the day God was absent, when even the hearts of the disciples were plunged into an icy chasm that grows wider and wider, and thus, filled with shame and anguish, they set out to go home, dark-spirited and annihilated in their desperation they head for Emmaus, without realizing that he whom they believed to be dead is in their midst? God is dead and we killed him: are we really aware that this phrase is taken almost literally from Christian tradition and that often in our viae crucis we have made something similar resound without realizing the tremendous gravity of what we said? We killed him, by enclosing him in the stale shell of routine thinking, by exiling him in a form of pity with no content of reality, lost in the gyre of devotional phrases, or of archaeological treasuries; we killed him through the ambiguity of our lives which also laid a veil of darkness over him: in fact, what else would have been able to make God more problematical in this world than the problematical nature of the faith and of the love of his faithful? 

The divine darkness of this day, of this century which is increasingly becoming one long Holy Saturday, is speaking to our conscience. It is one of our concerns. But in spite of it all, it holds something of comfort for us. The death of God in Jesus Christ is at the same time the expression of his radical solidarity with us. The most obscure mystery of the faith is at the same time the clearest sign of a hope without end. And what is more: only through the failure of Holy Friday, only through the silence of death of Holy Saturday, were the disciples able to be led to an understanding of all that Jesus truly was and all that his message truly meant. God had to die for them so that he could truly live in them. The image they had formed of God, within which they had tried to hold him down, had to be destroyed so that through the rubble of the ruined house they might see the sky, him himself who remains, always, the infinitely greater. We need the silence of God to experience again the abyss of his greatness and the chasm of our nothingness which would grow wider and wider without him. 

But all the glory and joy will come back tonight with the Easter Vigil. In the meantime, Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence!

Deo Gratias!

Friday, April 14, 2017

All Together Now: Holy Week In East and West

All Christians--East and West--are celebrating Holy Week and Easter at the same time this year! There are some differences, of course, as this Antiochian Orthodox website explains, including exactly when Lent ends:

Great Lent and Holy Week are two separate fasts, and two separate celebrations. Great Lent ends on Friday of the fifth week (the day before Lazarus Saturday). Holy Week begins immediately thereafter. Let's explore the meaning of each of the solemn days of Passion Week.

Lazarus Saturday: Lazarus Saturday is the day which begins Holy Week. It commemorates the raising of our Lord's friend Lazarus, who had been in the tomb four days. This act confirmed the universal resurrection from the dead that all of us will experience at our Lord's Second Coming. This miracle led many to faith, but it also led to the chief priest's and Pharisees' decision to kill Jesus (John 11:47-57).

Palm Sunday (The Entrance of our Lord into Jerusalem): Our Lord enters Jerusalem and is proclaimed king - but in an earthly sense, as many people of His time were seeking a political Messiah. Our Lord is King, of course, but of a different type - the eternal King prophesied by Zechariah the Prophet. We use palms on this day to show that we too accept Jesus as the true King and Messiah of the Jews, Who we are willing to follow - even to the cross.

Holy Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday: The first thing that must be said about these services, and most of the other services of Holy Week, is that they are "sung" in anticipation. Each service is rotated ahead twelve hours. The evening service, therefore, is actually the service of the next morning, while the morning services of Holy Thursday and Holy Saturday are actually the services of the coming evening. . . .

Please read the rest there. Here is the schedule for services at St. George's Orthodox Christian Cathedral this week.

In honor of the occasion, I'm listening to Maximilian Steinberg's Passion Week!

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Sarum Rite Holy Thursday: The Stripping of the Altars

As this blogger notes, the Sarum Use celebration of Holy Thursday is more solemn than the Latin Rite. As the Ordinary Form of the Latin Rite remembers the institution of the sacraments of Holy Communion and Holy Orders, the priest wears white vestments; the Gloria is sung; bells ring, and the Altar is quietly stripped after the Blessed Sacrament has being processed to the Altar of Repose. An air of solemnity sets in with that procession and the chanting of St. Thomas Aquinas's Eucharistic hymn, Pange, lingua and we try to meet Jesus's challenge in the Garden of Gethsemane, "Could you not watch one hour with me?"

The Sarum Use Holy Thursday omits the Gloria, uses Red vestments (as on Palm Sunday and Good Friday), and the Altar is ceremoniously and significantly stripped in preparation for Good Friday, as this post describes.

  • When the Altar is stripped, that symbolizes the stripping of Jesus at Calvary before He is nailed to the cross.
  • When the Altar is washed with wine and water, that symbolizes the blood and water that poured from His wounded side, representing Baptism and Holy Communion.
  • When the Altar is scrubbed with a brush, that symbolizes the scourging at the Pillar. 

More about the Sarum Use here.

A friend of mine posted on his Facebook page that his students were having trouble understanding or relating to Josef Pieper's theories of the relationship between religious ritual and leisure. They are Catholic high school students, but they have been secularized to degree that they don't see the connections between the great public work of the Church and their private lives. Sadly, I think the post-modern Catholic Church liturgy--not because of the Holy Thursday rites at all, which I think are wonderful--has contributed to this problem. The suppression of the prayers of Tenebrae, for example, stripped Holy Week of some of its mystery, not to mention the great cultural riches of musical settings of Jeremiah's Lamentations. Note that many Mainline Protestant churches celebrate Tenebrae, because they recognize the conflict between good and evil during Holy Week, and that we all participate in that conflict and live it everyday. When we remember the Passion and Death of Jesus, we should experience darkness and silence in the liturgy.

Father James V. Schall, SJ, identified the issue in his Foreword to the Ignatius Press edition of Leisure: The Basis of Culture:

When a culture is in the process of denying its own roots, it becomes most important to know what these roots are. We had best know what we reject before we reject it. If we are going to build a chair, the first thing we need to know, above all else, is what a chair is. Otherwise, we can do nothing. We are not a culture that never understood what a human being was in his nature and in his destiny.

Rather we are a culture that, having once known these things, has decided against living them or understanding them. Indeed, we have decided to reject most of them, almost as an act of defiance—as an act of pure humanism—as if what we are is not first given to us. We have let an empty future that we propose to make by our own standards become the ideal over and against a real past that revealed to us what man really was and is: namely, a being open to wonder who did not create himself or the world in which he dwells.

During Holy Week, being "a being open to wonder who did not create himself or the world in which he dwells' also means being a being open to wonder who did not redeem himself and whose suffering and striving only has meaning because of Jesus, who suffered for us, died for us, and rose for us. Something indeed to wonder about through prayer and meditation--which require leisure and time and attention.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Pilate's Wife on the Son Rise Morning Show

UPDATE: I did not post this in time for the email distribution, so I've linked the Soundcloud version here, thanks to Anna Mitchell. It may or may not be included in the EWTN national hour on Thursday, April 13. I'll be on the Son Rise Morning Show today a little after 6:45 a.m. Central/7:45 a.m. Eastern to talk with Anna Mitchell about my latest blog post for the National Catholic Register: from the Gospel of St. Matthew, we know that Pilate's wife asked him not to get involved in the trial of Jesus. She had a terrible dream and she believes that Jesus is righteous. What did she dream?

Two authors make suggestions in their dramatic and literary works (Dorothy L. Sayers and Gertrude von le Fort), and both of their ideas involve the Creed.

Read more here and listen live here.

In case you missed it, the Register also posted this last week: I wrote it after my husband and I attended Mass in Mountain Home and we saw the statues and crucifixes all veiled.

Blessed Holy Week! God bless you all!

Monday, April 10, 2017

"The Overthrow of Catholic Culture"

Looks intriguing: From Yale this June:

A sumptuously written people’s history and a major retelling and reinterpretation of the story of the English Reformation

Centuries on, what the Reformation was and what it accomplished remain deeply contentious. Peter Marshall’s sweeping new history—the first major overview for general readers in a generation—argues that sixteenth-century England was a society neither desperate for nor allergic to change, but one open to ideas of “reform” in various competing guises. King Henry VIII wanted an orderly, uniform Reformation, but his actions opened a Pandora’s Box from which pluralism and diversity flowed and rooted themselves in English life.

With sensitivity to individual experience as well as masterfully synthesizing historical and institutional developments, Marshall frames the perceptions and actions of people great and small, from monarchs and bishops to ordinary families and ecclesiastics, against a backdrop of profound change that altered the meanings of “religion” itself. This engaging history reveals what was really at stake in the overthrow of Catholic culture and the reshaping of the English Church.

In the meantime, I've received a review copy of Gareth Russell's latest: Young and Damned and Fair: The Life of Catherine Howard, Fifth Wife of King Henry VIII:

Written with an exciting combination of narrative flair and historical authority, this interpretation of the tragic life of Catherine Howard, fifth wife of Henry VIII, breaks new ground in our understanding of the very young woman who became queen at a time of unprecedented social and political tension and whose terrible errors in judgment quickly led her to the executioner’s block.

On the morning of July 28, 1540, as King Henry’s VIII’s former confidante Thomas Cromwell was being led to his execution, a teenager named Catherine Howard began her reign as queen of a country simmering with rebellion and terrifying uncertainty. Sixteen months later, the king’s fifth wife would follow her cousin Anne Boleyn to the scaffold, having been convicted of adultery and high treason.

The broad outlines of Catherine’s career might be familiar, but her story up until now has been incomplete. Unlike previous accounts of her life, which portray her as a naïve victim of an ambitious family, this compelling and authoritative biography will shed new light on Catherine Howard’s rise and downfall by reexamining her motives and showing her in her context, a milieu that goes beyond her family and the influential men of the court to include the aristocrats and, most critically, the servants who surrounded her and who, in the end, conspired against her. By illuminating Catherine's entwined upstairs/downstairs worlds as well as societal tensions beyond the palace walls, the author offers a fascinating portrayal of court life in the sixteenth century and a fresh analysis of the forces beyond Catherine’s control that led to her execution—from diplomatic pressure and international politics to the long-festering resentments against the queen’s household at court.

Including a forgotten text of Catherine’s confession in her own words, color illustrations, family tree, map, and extensive notes, Young and Damned and Fair changes our understanding of one of history’s most famous women while telling the compelling and very human story of complex individuals attempting to survive in a dangerous age.

I'll be intrigued to follow the author's thesis throughout the book:

Putting her household, and her grandmother's, at the center of a biography of Catherine makes her story a grand tale of the Henrician court at its twilight, a glittering but pernicious sunset, in which the King's unstable behavior and his courtiers' labyrinthine deceptions ensured that fortune's wheel  was moving more rapidly than at any previous point at his vicious but fascinating reign. Accounts of the gorgeous ceremonies held to celebrate the resubmission of the north to royal control [after the Pilgrimage of Grace and the imposition of martial law] saw Catherine, the girl in the silver dress, gleaming, Daisy Buchanan-like, safe and proud above the hot struggles of the poor--the perfect medieval royal consort. Until, like a bolt out of the heavens, a scandal resulted in an investigation in which nearly everyone close to Catherine was questioned and which ultimately wrapped itself in ever more intricate coils around the young Queen until, to her utter bewilderment, it choked life from her entirely. (from the Introduction, p. xxi)

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Holy Week Has Begun

Gregorian chant:

Gloria, laus et honor tibi sit, Rex Christe Redemptor: Cui puerile decus prompsit Hosanna pium.

Israel es tu Rex, Davidis et inclyta proles: Nomine qui in Domini, Rex benedicte, venis.

Plebs Hebraea tibi cum palmis obvia venit: Cum prece, voto, hymnis, adsumus ecce tibi.

Glory, praise and honor to Thee, O King Christ, the Redeemer: to whom children poured their glad and sweet hosanna’s song.

Hail, King of Israel! David’s Son of royal fame! Who comes in the Name of the Lord, O Blessed King.

With palms the Jews went forth to meet Thee. We greet Thee now with prayers and hymns.

And Chesterton's "The Donkey":

When fishes flew and forests walked
And figs grew upon thorn,
Some moment when the moon was blood
Then surely I was born.

With monstrous head and sickening cry
And ears like errant wings,
The devil’s walking parody
On all four-footed things.

The tattered outlaw of the earth,
Of ancient crooked will;
Starve, scourge, deride me: I am dumb,
I keep my secret still.

Fools! For I also had my hour
One far fierce hour and sweet:
There was a shout about my ears,
And palms before my feet.

Hosanna to the Son of David! The King of Glory comes!

A Tudor Contrafactum

In the May 2016 issue of Early Music, David Skinner presented a new discovery about a collaboration between Henry VIII's last wife, Katherine Parr and Thomas Tallis:

Thomas Tallis’s Gaude gloriosa Dei mater is one of the finest large-scale Tudor votive antiphons. It has long been regarded as a celebration of the short-lived return to Catholicism under Queen Mary and as a tribute to the Henrician masterpieces of the pre-Reformation years. All of the sources are Elizabethan, but one: the incomplete fragments of the Contratenor part with a hitherto unidentified English text, discovered in 1978 during building renovations at Corpus Christi College, Oxford. The author of that text has now been identified as Henry VIII’s sixth and last queen, Katherine Parr. Less than a year after her marriage to Henry, Katherine produced her first publication, Psalmes or Prayers (1544). These included 15 psalm-collages (or psalm ‘centos’) translated into English from Fisher’s Psalmi seu precationes , originally published in 1525. Katherine’s translations are followed by a prayer for the king, and another ‘for men to saie entryng into battaile’. England was at war with Scotland and France. The Ninth Psalm, ‘Se lorde and behold’, headed ‘against ennemies’ was set to an earlier version of Tallis’s Gaude gloriosa. This discovery sheds light on the circumstances behind the production of this most extraordinary English contrafactum. It is here argued that the adaptation was not only intimately bound with Psalmes or prayers but also with Cranmer’s Exhortation unto prayer and English Litany, and part of a flurry of activity leading to its first use at St Paul’s Cathedral on Friday, 23 May. It would have been a unique and short-lived event quite new to the liturgical stage including as its centrepiece an English version with stirring themes of war of the most complex early Tudor votive antiphons. More personally, the exercise seems aptly to demonstrate Katherine’s passion for reform and Henry’s growing conservatism in the final years of his reign: an elaborate meld of a hotly topical vernacular text with an established stylistic idiom. The earlier Henrician origins of Gaude gloriosa are also considered.

Here is a performance of Tallis's Gaude gloriosa dei mater. More about that piece here.

It is extraordinary, however, that Parr would translate the work of a traitor against her husband--a little like having a portrait of his first wife around--except that Parr did use the saintly bishop's works in a definitely reformist way. David Skinner and Alamire will perform the piece on Good Friday as part of the Holy Week Festival at St. John Smith's and Obsidian will release a CD by Alamire and Fretwork later this year.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Four Martyrs: One Canonized; Three Beatified

Four martyrs on April 7: two in 1595 and two more in 1606:

St. Henry Walpole, who is one of the 40 Martyrs of England and Wales canonized in 1970, was influenced by the martyrdom of St. Edmund Campion to become a priest and return to England as a Jesuit missionary (drops of blood from Campion's torturous death fell on Walpole). 

A poem celebrating Father Campion's death is ascribed to Henry Walpole, "Why do I use my paper, ink and pen", which William Byrd set to music (leaving out some of the more controversial verses that warned Queen Elizabeth I that she was misled about Catholic missionaries' efforts in England):

Why do I use my paper, ink and pen?
And call my wits to counsel what to say?
Such memories were made for mortal men;
I speak of Saints whose names cannot decay.
An Angel’s trump were fitter for to sound
Their glorious death if such on earth were found.

That store of such were once on earth pursued,
The histories of ancient times record,
Whose constancy great tyrants’ rage subdued
Through patient death, professing Christ the Lord:
As his Apostles perfect witness bare,
With many more that blessed Martyrs were.

Whose patience rare and most courageous mind,
With fame renowned perpetual shall endure,
By whose examples we may rightly find,
Of holy life and death a pattern pure.
That we therefore their virtues may embrase
Pray we to Christ to guide us with his grace.

According to this 
blog, after studying for the priesthood on the Continent, becoming a Jesuit, and enduring imprisonment while serving English Catholics in the Spanish Netherlands, Walpole returned to England on December 4, 1593 and was betrayed and captured almost immediately.

One night of freedom in England was followed by 16 months of imprisonment. Walpole admitted during his first interrogation that he was a Jesuit and had come to England to convert people. He was transferred to York Castle for three months, and was permitted to leave the prison to discuss theology with Protestant visitors. Then he was transferred to the Tower of London at the end of February, 1594, so that the notorious priest-torturer Richard Topcliffe could wrest information from him. 

Walpole was tortured brutally on the rack and was suspended by his wrists for hours, but Topcliffe stretched the tortures out over the course of a year to prevent an accidental death. Walpole endured torture 14 different times before being returned in 1595 to York to stand trial under the law that made it high treason for an Englishman simply to return home after receiving Holy Orders abroad. The man who had once aspired to be a lawyer defended himself ably, pointing out that the law only applied to priests who had not given themselves up to officials within three days of arrival. He himself had been arrested less than a day after landing in England, so he had not violated that law. The judges responded by demanding that he take the Oath of Supremacy, acknowledging the queen's complete authority in religion. He refused to do so and was convicted of high treason. 

On April 7, Walpole was dragged out of York to be executed along with another priest who was killed first. Then the Jesuit climbed the ladder to the gallows and asked the onlookers to pray with him. After he finished the Our Father but before he could say the Hail Mary, the executioner pushed him away from the ladder; then he was taken down and dismembered. The Jesuits in England lost a promising young priest whom they had hoped would take the place of Father Southwell; they received another example of fidelity and courage. 

Blessed Alexander Rawlins:

Alexander was born in Worcestershire, England, where he was jailed twice for his fervent Catholicism. In 1589 he went to the English seminary in Reims and was ordained there in 1590. Returning to England the following year (with another future martyr and saint, Father Edmund Gennings), Alexander was arrested. He was condemned to death and on April 7, 1595, and along with Henry Walpole was hanged, drawn, and quartered in York, England. He was beatified in 1929.

For the stories of Blessed Edward Oldcorne and Blessed Ralph Ashley, click here. They were arrested, tortured, and executed in the aftermath of the Gunpowder Plot during the reign of James I.

Saint Henry Walpole, Blessed Alexander Rawlins, Blessed Edward Oldcorne, Blessed Ralph Ashley, pray for us.