Friday, November 30, 2018

Preparing for Christmas with Blessed John Henry Newman

Hard on the heels of the announcement that the second miracle has been approved for the canonization of Blessed John Henry Newman, the National Catholic Register has published my review of a new book of devotions for Advent and Christmas, Waiting for Christ: Meditations for Advent and Christmas:

Believing that it is “better for Newman to be read in part than not at all,” Christopher Blum of the Augustine Institute has excerpted passages primarily from Blessed John Henry Newman’s Anglican Parochial and Plain Sermons for daily readings during the Advent and Christmas seasons, from Nov. 30 through Jan. 6. To remove any obstacles for readers concerned about Newman’s Victorian eloquence, Blum has also shortened some sentences by replacing semicolons with periods; he has also updated spelling and replaced scriptural quotations from the King James Bible with the Revised Standard Version, Second Catholic Edition.

Readers unfamiliar with Newman’s sermons will discover his spiritual depth, devotion to Jesus Christ and the Blessed Virgin Mary, and firm belief in the providence of God. Catholics preparing during Advent to celebrate Christmas will benefit from his consistent concern that his flocks, Anglican and Catholic, took their faith seriously, knew and understood what they believe, and lived according to those beliefs. These same goals can provide a framework for our four-week spiritual journey to Bethlehem. In the selection for Dec. 11 from “Unreal Words,” for example, Newman exhorts us:
“Aim at seeing things as God sees them. Aim at forming judgments about persons, events, ranks, fortunes, changes, objects, such as God forms. Aim at looking at this life as God looks at it. Aim at looking at the life to come, and the world unseen, as God does. Aim at ‘seeing the King in his beauty.’ All things that we see are but shadows to us and delusions, unless we enter into what they really mean.”
The closing sentences of “Watching” (Dec. 13) combine in a powerful reminder to prepare for the coming of Christ:
“Life is short. Death is certain. The world to come is everlasting.”
Speak those words aloud — for Newman read these sermons to his congregation — and you will feel the impact.

Please read the rest there and more about the second miracle here.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Hanged, Drawn, and Quartered in York

Blessed Edward BurdenAfter studying at Oxford University’s Trinity College, Edward Burden, of County Durham, England, journeyed to the continent to prepare for the Catholic priesthood. He was ordained at Douai, France in 1584 and set out for England two years later. But after spending the following two years serving Catholics in Yorkshire, Father Burden was arrested by the Protestant Elizabethan authorities. While awaiting his fate in a York prison, he saw a fellow Catholic priest incarcerated with him, (Blessed) Robert Dalby, led away to be put on trial. Envious of the latter’s prospects of imminent martyrdom, Father Burden complained, “Shall I always lie here like a beast while my brother hastens to his reward? Truly, I am unworthy of such glory as to suffer for Christ.” But it was not long before Father Burden was himself tried and condemned to death for his priesthood. On November 29, 1588, he was executed by drawing and quartering at York.

Note: Father (Blessed) Robert Dalby was held in York Castle and not executed until after Blessed Edward Burden, on March 16, 1589, with Blessed John Amias. So Father Dalby's martyrdom was not as imminent as Father Burden thought!

Usually, the lay men and women who suffered execution for their faith during Elizabeth's reign were hanged until dead, found guilty of the felony of aiding and abetting a Jesuit or other priest, under the 1585 penal laws. These three lay martyrs, however, were sentenced to the same punishment as any other traitor, because they dared share their Catholic faith and attempt to persuade another Englishman to become a Catholic! This was not just a felony: this was treason!

On November 29, 1596, also in York, Blesseds George Errington, William Gibson, and William Knight (another layman, Blessed Henry Abbot had been condemned under the same charge, but his execution was delayed until March the following year) were hanged, drawn and quartered. They were victims of entrapment, according to Bishop Challoner:

A certain Protestant minister, for some misdemeanour put into York Castle, to reinstate himself in the favour of his superiors, insinuated himself into the good opinion of the Catholic prisoners, by pretending a deep sense of repentance, and a great desire of embracing the Catholic truth . . . So they directed him, after he was enlarged [released], to Mr. Henry Abbot, a zealous convert who lived in Holden in the same country, to procure a priest to reconcile him . . . Mr. Abbot carried him to Carlton to the house of Esquire Stapleton, but did not succeed in finding a priest. Soon after, the traitor having got enough to put them all in danger of the law, accused them to the magistrates . . . They confessed that they had explained to him the Catholic Faith, and upon this they were all found guilty and sentenced to die.

Blessed George Errington could also have been found guilty of the felony of aiding a Catholic priest (so might the others if they knew where to find a priest) because we know he was with St. John Boste at one time, who had suffered martyrdom in 1594. I presume they were in prison because of recusancy and not paying their fines.

The three who suffered on November 29, 1596 were all beatified by Pope John Paul II among the Eighty-five martyrs of England and Wales. Abbot was beatified in 1929 by Pope Pius XI. Father Burden was also included among the Eighty-Five Martyrs of England and Wales. As Pope St. John Paul II said of the priests and laity among that 85 he beatified on the 22nd of November in 1987:

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

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

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

One of the Last White Roses Decollated

Tower Hill execution site. Image credit.

Edward, the 17th Earl of Warwick, son of George, the Duke of Clarence and Isabel Neville, and brother of Margaret, later Margaret Pole, the Countess of Salisbury, was beheaded on Tower Hill, six days after Perkin Warbeck, the Pretender, was hanged at Tyburn in 1499. This blog considers the question of why (or even whether) Edward, who had been held in detention since the fall of Richard III in 1485, was a threat to the new Tudor Dynasty:

Edward was executed in 1499 because he had allegedly conspired with Perkin Warbeck to escape the Tower. It is not farfetched to believe that Henry VII set the pair up by providing them with guards who were amiable to their goals and gave them false hope. Whether they really did plot or Henry wanted everyone to believe they did, both were put to death in order to clear the way for the marriage of Prince Arthur to Katherine of Aragon.

Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain, Katherine’s parents, clearly saw Edward as a threat based upon their insistence on his removal. Henry was undoubtedly reluctant to execute his wife’s cousin when she had already lost so many to the Wars of the Roses, but, in the end, he decided that the favorable match was worth the loss of one more Plantagenet son. Maybe Edward did present a greater threat than we often give him credit for.

Edward is often referred to as the son of George of Clarence, but let us not forget that his maternal ancestry is no less impressive. Isabel Neville was the daughter of the infamous Kingmaker, and the house of Neville had been powerful enough to sway the Wars of the Roses in whichever direction they chose to place themselves upon. Should Edward have determined to make a claim for himself, he had deep roots of family ties to call upon that Tudor would have been challenged to compete with.

After his decollation, Henry VII paid to have his body interred in the church at Bisham Priory/Abbey, a house of Augustinian Canons (and briefly Benedictine monks), in Berkshire, where many Nevilles and Montagus were buried. Margaret Pole's second son Arthur, who died in 1532 was also buried there. The priory was founded by William Montagu, or de Montacute, the 1st Earl of Salisbury in 1337 on the grounds on his estate.

Of course, all these graves are lost, because after the Dissolution of the Monasteries, the abbey was suppressed and:

The whole of the monastic buildings of the house of Austin Canons founded by William de Montacute Earl of Salisbury in 1337 have been demolished. The abbey hall and church had been destroyed before the site and manor were granted to Sir Philip Hoby in 1553.' (fn. 7) From the surveyors' report made at the same time it would appear that the priory was entirely independent of the buildings occupied by the Templars, which were used as a mansion-house of Margaret Pole Countess of Salisbury at the time of her attainder in 1539, (fn. 8) and had probably been utilized as a residence by the Earls of Salisbury soon after the suppression of the order. (fn. 9) The buildings at the east end of the hall, which consist of the council chamber with the cellars and cloisters under, were erected in the 14th century, and form one side of a fair-sized quadrangle, the other three sides of which were demolished by the Hobys at the time of their alterations and rebuilding, though they had apparently always been parts of a private residence. (fn. 10)

The tombs of the earls who were buried at Bisham (including that of Warwick the Kingmaker) are said to have been removed to the present hall when the abbey church was destroyed. There is, however, no evidence of this in the existing building or any record of their having been removed. In the latter part of the 15th century the screens with the gallery above were erected at the west end of the hall, and about the same time a floor was inserted in the solar and a passage made along its east side against the west wall of the hall.

The suppression of the Augustinian priory in 1537, however, was followed by the brief establishment of a Benedictine house on Henry VIII's orders, after Thomas Cromwell had first made his own arrangements for the management of the house:

Cromwell, in his scheming for his friends and tools, desired to secure the appointment of prior of Bisham for William Barlow, who was at that time prior of Haverfordwest. He ordered the then prior to resign, and sent his instructions to Thomas Benet, LL.D., vicar-general of Sarum, to repair to the priory for the election, doubtless to see that his nominee was appointed. Benet, however, wrote to Cromwell on 16 April, 1535, stating that he would have executed his commands before, only the promised resignation of the incumbent had not been received; nevertheless he would proceed to Bisham on 23 April. A letter of Sir William Carew of 27 April stated that he had heard that the prior, by the persuasion of my Lady of Salisbury and other people, refused to resign, though these very people thought him very unmeet to continue, until they saw that Cromwell meant to prefer one contrary to their minds. (fn. 11)

So Margaret, the Countess of Salisbury, thought it best not to interfere in Cromwell's project--even though the priory was on her property!

Cromwell succeeded in forcing Barlow on Bisham Priory, but it is doubtful if he ever visited his new preferment, for he was speedily dispatched on an embassy to Scotland. Whilst absent in Scotland in January, 1536, Barlow was appointed bishop of St. Asaph, the first of the many sees that he held; in April he was translated to St. David's, but was allowed as a court favourite to hold the priory of Bisham in commendam.

The summary of the Valor of 1536 gives the income of this priory as £185 11s. 0½d., which would have brought it within the suppression of the lesser houses; but the full Valor for Berkshire is missing, and the abstract among the first fruits documents is obviously incorrect in some particulars. The ministers' accounts of the Augmentation Office give the total income as £327 4s. 6d.

The obsequious Barlow was ready, however, at once to comply with the desire of Henry and Cromwell, and on 5 July, 1536, he surrendered Bisham to the king. But now came about a singular state of things. Bisham alone among all the monasteries of England was selected by the fickle Henry VIII to be re-established on a much more imposing and wealthy scale, the priory being converted into an abbey.

On 6 July, 1537, John Cordrey, abbot of Chertsey, Surrey, with William the prior and thirteen monks, surrendered, on condition of being re-established as an abbey about to be founded by the king at the late priory of Bisham. On 18 December, 1537, the king granted a charter of portentous length to the new foundation of the order of St. Benedict 'out of sincere devotion to God and the Blessed Virgin His Mother.' It was to consist of an abbot and thirteen monks, and was founded by Henry to secure prayers for his good estate during life, and for the soul of Jane his late queen, also for the souls of his posterity and progenitors, and for the souls of all the faithful departed. This new abbey of the Holy Trinity was to be endowed with the house, lands, and all the appurtenances of the late priory of Bisham, and also with the lands of the late abbey of Chertsey, and of the priories of Cardigan, Beddgelert, Ankerwyke, Little Marlow, Medmenham, &c., to the annual value of £661 14s. 9d. Moreover, to give greater dignity to this new abbey, Henry granted his beloved John Cordrey licence to wear an episcopal mitre. (fn. 12)

Abbot Cordrey did not remain at Bisham long, because "the king's sorrow over the death of Jane Seymour soon evaporated, and with it seems to have gone his short-lived desire for prayers either for the living or for the dead. The abbey of Bisham lasted for exactly six months, and then John the abbot, William the prior, and the convent of monks were called upon to execute a second farcical 'surrender' of all their possessions, which they duly executed on 19 June, 1538, in favour of Richard Layton and Edward Carne, doctors of law, the king's visitors. (fn. 14)"

Margaret Pole would eventually follow her brother to the block, although she was beheaded inside the Tower precincts, on May 27, 1541. Her son Henry Pole, Baron Montagu was beheaded on Tower Hill like his uncle on January 9, 1539.

Monday, November 26, 2018

"Sarum Mass" at Hampton Court Palace's Chapel Royal

According to this Facebook post, yesterday might have been a historic day:

This Sunday 25 November, a unique and historic event is taking place at the Chapel Royal at Hampton Court Palace - for the first time since the 16th century, the sublime music of Thomas Tallis will accompany the liturgy for which it was originally written. Tallis was a Gentleman of the Chapel Royal in the 1500s, who would have sung for the monarch at Hampton Court. His music Missa Puer natus est nobis will be played on Sunday, accompanying the Eucharist.

After the service, the Gentlemens’ new recording of Tallis Latin music for lower voices (which includes the Missa Puer natus est) will be officially launched. The disk, on the Resonus label, will be released for sale on December 3.

It's not clear to me whether this was a Catholic Mass, celebrated by a priest with faculties of the local ordinary, or a Church of England service performed according to the Sarum Use. I think it's more likely the latter. As of this posting, the Catholic Herald did not have a story about it, nor did the Roman Catholic Diocese of Arundel & Brighton have any notice of it. Perhaps more information will be forthcoming soon.

As I understand it, a "Sarum Mass" would be a pre-Tridentine Roman Rite Mass according to the Sarum Use (from the Cathedral at Salisbury).

More information about the CD release here:

The Gentlemen of HM Chapel Royal, Hampton Court Palace and their director Carl Jackson make their Resonus Classics debut with this album of works for lower voices by Thomas Tallis – himself a Gentleman of the Tudor Chapel Royal serving under four monarchs.

Recorded in the impressive surroundings of the Chapel Royal where the choir is resident, this first disc with The Gentlemen presents works for four and seven voices including the Missa Puer natus est nobis based on chant for Christmas Day, and the sumptuous Suscipe quaeso Domine.

You might remember that 2016 Catholic Vespers were prayed in the Chapel Royal.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

"Green Dolphin Street": Novel or Movie?

Hendrickson Publishers has re-issued a nice uniform set of several of Elizabeth Goudge's novels. One "uniform" aspect of these re-printings is that the publishers have seen fit to highlight some possibly controversial aspect of Goudge's works to warn sensitive readers. In The White Witch they warned me that I might not like how Goudge depicts Romany people; in Green Dolphin Street they warned me that I might not like how Goudge depicts the Maori people in New Zealand and that colonial attitudes may not be enlightened enough for 21st century readers! The publishers even suggest that they considered bowdlerizing Goudge's work but decided that readers can handle it after all.

I wonder what trigger warnings Hendrickson adds to their different editions of the Holy Bible!

Nevertheless, it's good to have these books in print. Green Dolphin Street or Green Dolphin Country, as it was published in the U.K., was the basis of the 1947 MGM movie with Lana Turner as Marianne, Donna Reed as Marguerite, and Richard Hart as the man in the middle of the two sisters, William Ozanne.

I've watched the movie several times--and wrote about it for The St. Austin Review (subscriber access required)--and now I've read the novel, so the most common question is: which is better, the novel or the movie?

The answer in this case is: both.

The movie is excellent as a film; it maintains the outline of the plot, condenses the action in time, and heightens some of the dramatic tension.

The novel is excellent as a work of fiction: Goudge signals early on the crucial issue of the plot (that William Ozanne gets names, including Marianne's and Marguerite's, mixed up all the time); she creates an interior life for each of her characters, and she spreads the action of these three lives, and the other people around them, over a longer period of time--about forty years. The three main characters are in their sixties when they reunite. The final resolution of the plot, for example, comes not just before Marguerite makes her final vows (as in the movie) but years after she has become the Mother Superior at the convent in their hometown (after several years in a French convent).

The movie leaves out one set of supporting characters, Samuel and Susanna, Christian missionaries to New Zealand who befriend William and Marianne Ozanne. Nat, Captain O'Hara's first mate, isn't featured in the movie either.

Although the novel's omniscient narration is divided almost equally among the three main characters, it is Marianne who faces the greatest crisis and must develop more as a person. William and Marguerite have genuinely loving and open personalities; Marianne is a controlling and manipulative person who needs to learn that she is not in control. Her attempted manipulation of people and events almost led to her daughter making a terrible marital mistake, for example. Goudge notes Marianne's progress in humility by noting that she finally accepts that she really can't make her parents' home totally her own. She accepts that some things should be left to reflect the influence of the past.

Highly recommended.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Evelyn Waugh and Blessed Miguel Pro

On the memorial of Blessed Miguel Pro the Jesuit priest executed on November 23, 1927 in Mexico, it seems appropriate to remember how Evelyn Waugh, in the introduction to the second edition of his biography of then Blessed Edmund Campion, mentioned that the "Martyrdom of Father Pro in Mexico re-enacted Campion's in faithful detail" and that the "haunted, trapped, murdered priest is our contemporary."

Waugh visited Mexico after he wrote Campion's biography and wrote a book criticizing the Mexican revolution and its effects, particularly the persecution of the Catholic Church and her priests. He spent two months in Mexico:

I went to Mexico in order to write a book about it ; in order to verify and reconsider impressions formed at a distance. To have travelled a lot, to have spent, as I had done, the first twelve years of adult life intermittently on the move, is to this extent a disadvantage that one’s mind falls into the habit of recognizing similarities rather than differences. At the age of thirty-five one needs to go to the moon, or some such place, to recapture the excitement with which one first landed at Calais. For many people Mexico has, in the past, had this lunar character. Lunar it still remains, but in no poetic sense. It is waste land, part of a dead or, at any rate, a dying planet. Politics, everywhere destructive, have here dried up the place, frozen it, cracked it and powdered it to dust. Is civilization, like a leper, beginning to rot at its extremities? In the sixteenth century human life was disordered and talent stultified by the obsession of theology; today we are plague- stricken by politics. It is a fact; distressing for us, dull for our descendants, but inescapable. This is a political book; its aim, roughly, is to examine a single problem; why it was that last summer a small and almost friendless republic jubilantly recalled its Minister from London, and, more important, why people in England thought about this event as they did; why, for instance, patriotic feeling burst into indignation whenever a freight ship — British only in name, trading in defiance of official advice — was sunk in Spanish waters, and remained indifferent when a rich and essential British industry was openly stolen in time of peace. If one could understand that problem one would come very near to understanding all the problems that vex us today, for it has at its origin the universal, deliberately fostered anarchy of public relations and private opinions that is rapidly making the world uninhabitable. 

The succeeding pages are notes on anarchy. 

Waugh was very critical of the Wilson administration's response to the persecution of Catholics under the new Mexican government and Constitution:

President Wilson was reluctant to admit the crimes of his proteges; it was only after the facts had again and again been set before him and Catholic opinion in America was becoming seriously inflamed, that he sent a protest. He asked for three things: freedom for foreigners to pursue their businesses in peace; an amnesty for political opponents; a remission of the persecution of religion. ‘Nothing will shock the civilized world more,’ he wrote, ‘than punitive and vindictive action towards priests or ministers of any Church, whether Catholic or Protestant; and the Government of the United States ventures most respectfully but most earnestly to caution the leaders of the Mexican people on this delicate and vital matter. The treatment already said to have been accorded priests has had a most unfortunate effect on opinion outside of Mexico.’ Carranza accordingly went before the Congress in December 1918 to propose a modification of the ‘Constitution of Queretaro’ in favour of the Church. But Obregon had now entered into an alliance with the CROM; the price for their support was the continued persecution of the Church. Obregon’s supporters in Congress were therefore instructed to reject the amendments. Carranza was driven out and murdered. Once again American intervention had proved disastrous.

Chapter Seven of Robbery Under Law, "The Straight Fight", offers his interpretation of anti-Catholicism in Mexico, its sources and propaganda. Of Blessed Miguel Pro, he writes, noting how President Calles had photographs of his execution published, that he was the hero of Catholics in the late 1930's:

There were hundreds of others done to death at the same time. Mexico had been infertile of religious heroes for some generations; now she suddenly burst into flower; but popular imagination always seeks to personify its ideals, and it is on Pro, very worthily, that it has fastened as the embodiment of the spirit Calles provoked. Within a few hours of his death he was already canonized in the hearts of the people; with typical ineptitude Calles had photographers on the scene of the execution and issued pictures of it to the press; within a day or two it was a criminal offence to possess one; they circulated nevertheless from hand to hand and were reproduced in secret all over the country. Today you can buy cards of Pro outside the churches and even government apologists have stopped trying to justify his death. It was a mistake, they admit; it was indeed; one of those resounding mistakes which make history. While Dwight Morrow and his clown and Calles were off on a trip together in the Presidential train talking of debt settlements, Pro was being shot in a back yard. Dwight Morrow is already forgotten. Pro is the inspiration of thousands through whom the Mexican Church is still alive.

Waugh writes about the Cristeros:

The present situation of the Church in Mexico is the result of the truce effected with the mediation of Dwight Morrow. Mexican Catholics profess small gratitude to him for his intervention. The promises then made by the government have not been kept. The Cristeros were induced to surrender their arms under an amnesty which has been broken by a series of retributive murders. The hierarchy believed that their spiritual work was to be allowed to continue without persecution; they have been bitterly disappointed. For Catholics the unhappy character of the compromise has been emphasized by the grave warning of the late Pope in the encyclical Firmissimam Constantiam of Easter 1937.

Browsing that chapter, with Waugh's description of Our Lady of Guadalupe, demonstrated to me what a thoughtful Catholic Evelyn Waugh truly was. He understands--as a convert--both the outsider and the insider view of the Catholic Church, our doctrine, worship, and devotion.

Blessed Miguel Pro, pray for us!

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Tallis for Thanksgiving

My late parents--especially my mother--often lamented that Thanksgiving was passed over so quickly in the Christmas rush. When I found this CD I bought them a copy and one for us as well, since it featured music for Thanksgiving!

The CD combines works from the British Colonies, Tudor England, and the Continent in the Middle Ages. Thus there are compositions by Thomas Tallis and Peter Abelard mixed among hymns from the American shape-note tradition and psalmody. The theme of all the hymns and songs is thanks and praise of Almighty God.

The image on the cardboard cover of the CD (no jewel box) is Currier & Ives' 1867 lithograph titled "Home to Thanksgiving." Please note that it's not "Home for Thanksgiving"! It's not so much an event to be celebrated as an activity to be observed.

This Thanksgiving would have been what my brother once called an "Annigiving", because it is also our late parents' wedding anniversary.

May they rest in peace and may we all be reunited at the heavenly banquet!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 18, 2018

St. Thomas More's Poor Souls on the Son Rise Morning Show

Annie Mitchell asked me to talk about St. Thomas More and the Poor Souls in Purgatory tomorrow (Monday, November 19) on the Son Rise Morning Show. I'll be on at the end of their 7:00 a.m. Eastern time hour, at about 7:50 (6:50 a.m. Central time). Listen live on the Sacred Heart Radio website.

St. Thomas More is honored as a saint because he was martyred for the Faith in 1535, but he had been working to defending the Catholic faith and Church teaching for several years before he was imprisoned in 1534. He wrote dialogues, point-by-point refutations of certain publications, and other works of apologetics against errors about the Catholic faith.

The most creative of these works, in my opinion, is his 1529 work on purgatory, The Supplication of Souls.

I wrote about More's efforts to defend the Church's teaching on Purgatory and the practice of praying for the Poor Souls in Purgatory for the National Catholic Register, and that's why Annie wanted to discuss this with me tomorrow:

As the Protestant Reformation was developing on the Continent and coming to England through books and certain followers of Lutheran ideas, Thomas More saw the danger in the attacks on Purgatory. In his book “The Supplication of Souls” More was answering a pamphlet, “A Supplication for the Beggars” by Simon Fish.

Fish charged that Masses and prayers for the dead diverted alms from the poor and he urged Henry VIII to destroy the priesthood, force priests to get married and get jobs, and thus eradicate Masses for the dead, for which priests received stipends.

More knew how dangerous this suggestion was: not only would prayer for the dead, the great bond between the living and the dead, be destroyed, but also the ministerial priesthood, and the Sacrifice of the Mass. The whole economy of salvation and the communion of saints were at stake, so he answered Fish’s pamphlet as creatively and persuasively as he could. More hoped, through his apologetics, to preserve Hope in Heavenly happiness in England before it could be destroyed by false teaching.

While the commercial world is already celebrating Christmas, we Catholics are still praying for the Poor Souls in Purgatory during the month of November, dedicated to their memory and their purification.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Two Deaths and One Burial

Queen Mary I, England's first and only Catholic Queen Regnant, and the last Catholic Archbishop of Canterbury, Reginald Cardinal Pole, both died on November 17, 1558.

Also on that date Hugh Aston, the composer and chorister, was buried in St. Margaret's Church, Leicester. According to HOASM, Aston or Ashton or Assheton is

the most important of the less famous composers represented in the Forrest-Heyther and Peterhouse partbooks. He graduated Bachelor of Music at Oxford in 1510. It was fitting therefore that the choirmaster's post at Cardinal College, Oxford which Taverner was persuaded to take was first offered to him. Aston may have been in London and associated with the royal court from 1510 to 1525.Aston was master of the choristers at St Mary Newarke College, Leicester in 1525, and remained there until the College was dissolved in 1548. Drew a pension in Newarke granted in 1544 until Nov. 17, 1558. He was not the eponymous Archdeacon of York (d. 1522) or Canon of St. Stephen's, Westminster (d. 1523).

He has 'A Hornepype' for keyboard in a MS in the British Museum; he may also have composed My lady Careys dompe and The short mesure off my lady Wynkfyld's rownde.

Much of Aston's music is in fact very vigorous and forceful, sometimes rather in the manner of Taverner, but with a fondness for tiny florid touches which sometimes produce rather rough unessential dissonances. Some of the imitative writing for full choir in the Mass Videte manus meas (cantus firmus an antiphon from Vespers of Easter Tuesday) is similar in its energetic quality to parts of Taverner's Gloria tibi Trinitas, especially at 'rex coelestis' or 'descendit de coelis'; but in general there is a far more mechanical handling of less interesting shapes.

The best of Aston is probably to be found in the antiphons Gaude virgo mater Christi and Ave Maria divae matris Annae. The melodic style here occasionally points ahead quite strikingly to that of later composers in the new boldness of outline of some important melodic phrases; in particular one notes in several places a new kind of melodic expansion in which an important interval is enlarged when imitated to help create a sense of growth and climax.

The Blue Heron vocal ensemble has recorded three of Aston's Marian Antiphons on their first of five CDs devoted to the music of the Peterhouse Partbook. Stile Antico also included Gaude Virgo Mater Christi on their Music for Compline CD.

Friday, November 16, 2018

The Duke Who Was a Butler, A Late Jacobite, RIP

Or, if you prefer, the Butler who was a Duke: James FitzJames Butler, 2nd Duke of Ormonde, an Irish Protestant statesman, at first served King James II, then switched sides to William and Mary, switching back again after Anne died and George I of Hanover succeeded during the '15. According to the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica he was born in Dublin on April 29, 1665 and educated in France and then at Christ Church, Oxford. Then:

He obtained command of a cavalry regiment in Ireland in 1684, and having received an appointment at court on the accession of James II., he served against the duke of Monmouth. Having succeeded his grandfather as duke of Ormonde in 1688, he joined William of Orange, by whom he was made colonel of a regiment of horse-guards, which he commanded at the battle of the Boyne. In 1691 he served on the continent under William, and after the accession of Anne he was placed in command of the land forces co-operating with Sir George Rooke in Spain. Having been made a privy councillor, Ormonde succeeded Rochester as viceroy of Ireland in 1703, a post which he held till 1707. On the dismissal of the duke of Marlborough in 1711, Ormonde was appointed captain general in his place, and allowed himself to be made the tool of the Tory ministry, whose policy was to carry on the war in the Netherlands while giving secret orders to Ormonde to take no active part in supporting their allies under Prince Eugene. Ormonde's position as captain-general made him a personage of much importance in the crisis brought about by the death of Queen Anne. Though he had supported the revolution of 1688, he was traditionally a Tory, and Lord Bolingbroke was his political leader. During the last years of Queen Anne he almost certainly had Jacobite leanings, and corresponded with the duke of Berwick. He joined Bolingbroke and Oxford, however, in signing the proclamation of King George I., by whom he was nevertheless deprived of the captain-generalship. In June 1715 he was impeached, and fled to France, where he for some time resided with Bolingbroke, and in 1716 his immense estates were confiscated to the crown by act of parliament, though by a subsequent act his brother, Charles Butler, earl of Arran, was enabled to repurchase them. After taking part in the Jacobite invasion in 1715, Ormonde settled in Spain, where he was in favour at court and enjoyed a pension from the crown. Towards the end of his life he resided much at Avignon, where he was seen in 1733 by Lady Mary Wortley Montagu. Ormonde died on the 16th of November 1745, and was buried in Westminster Abbey.

With little of his grandfather's ability, and inferior to him in elevation of character, Ormonde was nevertheless one of the great figures of his time. Handsome, dignified, magnanimous and open-handed, and free from the meanness, treachery and venality of many of his leading contemporaries, he enjoyed a popularity which, with greater stability of purpose, might have enabled him to exercise commanding influence over events.

According to the Westminster Abbey website, James Butler was interred in the family

vault on 22nd May 1746. His first wife was Lady Anne Hyde, daughter of Lawrence, 1st Earl of Rochester. Two young children by her were buried in the vault (Elisabeth and Mary). His second wife was Mary Somerset, daughter of Henry, Duke of Beaufort. She is said never to have seen her husband during his exile and she was buried on 25th November 1733. Their son Thomas was buried 1689, daughter Henrietta in 1701 and Elizabeth(who died unmarried) in 1750.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

The Ides of November, 1539

The last Abbots of Reading and Glastonbury suffered martyrdom on November 15, 1539. Hugh Cook Faringdon and Richard Whiting had both sworn fealty to Henry VIII as Supreme Head and Governor of the Church of England, but had resisted the required surrender of their monasteries.

The Reading Museum has a painting of Abbot Faringdon's execution:

Faringdon was accused of denying the king’s title to be head of the Church in England and was found guilty of treason. He was sentenced to death by being drawn, hanged, disembowelled and beheaded.

The Abbot was dragged on a hurdle by a horse around the streets of Reading. The painting shows him tied to the hurdle beside the gallows by the west front of the Abbey church in the Forbury. At Faringdon’s feet stand two priests, John Eynon, priest of St Giles, and John Rugg, who were also executed. The Mayor of Reading, Thomas Mirth, is robed in a black gown; next to him are the two burgesses of Parliament, Thomas Vachell and John Raymond, with a sergeant at law representing the State.

This is one of ten paintings illustrating important events in the history of Reading Abbey. They were commissioned from 1909 onwards by Dr Jamieson Boyd Hurry, a local doctor with a particular interest in Reading Abbey.

More about Reading Abbey and its Royal connections:

Reading Abbey was founded by King Henry I in 1121 after his son and heir died in the White Ship. He intended it to be his own burial place and memorial. It was one of the principal religious foundations in the country, well endowed by the founder and his successors. The first monks who arrived on 18 June 1121 were Benedictines from the Cluniac order and came from Cluny in France and Lewes in Sussex. The first abbot, Abbot Hugh of Amiens, was appointed in 1123.

The presence of the Abbey had a considerable effect on the development of Reading and its influence can still be seen on the street pattern today. Reading's current Abbey Quarter includes the whole of the Abbey precinct.

Monks John Thorne and Roger James also suffered with Abbot Whiting on Glastonbury Tor. Glastonbury was one of the richest abbeys in the kingdom, and one of the best run and most observant of the Rule of St. Benedict: it was a ripe target for Henry VIII, Thomas Cromwell, and the Court of Augmentations. Reading Abbey was a Benedictine house established during the reign of King Henry I and dedicated to Our Lady and St. John the Evangelist. It was initially part of the Cluniac branch of the Benedictine order. Cromwell had to trump up some charges against the elderly abbot at Glastonbury, because his Visitor first reported that everything was managed very well there; the monks were observant of the Benedictine Rule. Cromwell told Richard Layton to look further: hisjob was not to find excellence but detect failure as the the excuse for suppression.

More about the martyrs at Glastonbury here and about those at Reading. Perhaps their martyrdoms expiated their guilt for denying the authority of Christ's Vicar on earth: These six martyrs of the Dissolution of the Monasteries on November 15, 1539 (three each at Reading and Glastonbury) represent in some ways the remorse of the abbots and abbey leadership, who had accepted Henry VIII's oaths that proclaimed his authority over the Church of England as Supreme Head and Governor. Somehow they did not realize or imagine what he could and would do with that power and authority.

Pope Leo XIII beatified these six monastic martyrs in 1895.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Richard Topcliffe, Pursuivant and Torturer

Richard Topcliffe was born on November 14, 1531. He was the eldest son of Robert Topcliffe of Somerby, Lincolnshire, and his wife, Margaret, who was the the daughter of Thomas Burgh, 1st Baron Burgh of Gainsborough, former chamberlain of the household to queen Anne Boleyn. His parents died when he was 12 years old and he became the ward of Sir Anthony Neville who had married his aunt Anne, Margaret's sister.

Richard Topcliffe, was, of course, Queen Elizabeth's servant, with the duties of finding and torturing priests. The History of Parliament website provides some detail of his career, with definite hints of unpopularity:

The time and manner of Topcliffe’s entry into public service are alike uncertain. The earliest reference to him as ‘her Majesty’s servant’ dates only from March 1573; but his own claim, made in June 1601, to have done 44 years’ service places its beginning much earlier, and indeed hints at a possible entry into Elizabeth’s retinue before her accession. . . .

Before the third and final session of this Parliament, in 1581, Topcliffe had begun his career as an interrogator of suspects. It is likely that he was drawn into this business both through his continuing interest in the northern rebels and by his attachment to the Earl of Shrewsbury, the custodian of Mary Stuart. It was at Shrewsbury’s instance that in 1578 Topcliffe helped to investigate the activities of some of the ex-rebels, and it was to the Earl that he reported on these and other matters. But it may well have been the anti-Catholic legislation of the parliamentary session of 1581 which determined that Catholic-hunting should become Topcliffe’s life-work. Although we know next to nothing of his part in that session (he was on one minor legal committee, 20 Feb.) his mounting activity in investigation from early in 1582 seems to reflect an accession of zeal as well as an expansion of opportunity. By the time the next Parliament met in the autumn of 1584 Topcliffe could be ranked with the notorious Richard Young as an acknowledged master of this ugly craft. . . .

The next 15 years of Topcliffe’s life were to make his name synonymous with the worst rigours of the Elizabethan struggle against Catholicism. It is clear that in much of what he did Topcliffe was acting under orders—whether under a commission such as that of March 1593 against Jesuits or under one of the numerous Council warrants to him to use torture—and that those who gave him these orders must share the odium of their consequences. Moreover, his superiors made only spasmodic efforts to restrain him. His brutal treatment of Southwell in 1592 cost him a spell in prison; in 1595, following the disclosure of Thomas Fitzherbert’s attempt to bribe him into doing two of the Fitzherberts to death, Topcliffe was again committed for a few weeks for maligning Privy Councillors; and early in 1596 he had to answer to the Council for his arbitrary behaviour towards prisoners in the Gatehouse. But every check was followed by a fresh outburst of activity, and only in his last few years did the moderating of official policy, and the failing of his own vigour, bring it to an end.

The gravamen of the indictment of Topcliffe is that he displayed an unmistakable and nauseating relish in the performance of his duties. On this the verdict of contemporaries is amply borne out by the evidence of his many letters and by the marginalia preserved in one of his books. It was, and is, easy to believe any evil of such a man; and to reflect that some of the worst accusations—among them that he reserved his most hideous tortures for infliction in his own house—rest upon fragile evidence is not to excuse him. Nor is there much profit in speculating on the influences which went to his making, although his early loss of both parents, the impact of rebellion upon his infant awareness, and perhaps some marital misfortunes might enter into the reckoning. . . .

Topcliffe’s domestic life was not without its difficulties. His marriage was clouded at least for a time by his alleged failure to pay his wife adequate maintenance. In his later years the criminal escapades of his eldest son, Charles, gave him much anxiety, and in January 1602 Sir Robert Cecil chided him for not having this wayward son ‘cleansed’. He also had the humiliation of seeing his nephew Edmund Topcliffe fall under suspicion on his return in May 1600 from a voyage abroad, during which he had assumed another name because of the ill-repute of his own.

Topcliffe had a house in Westminster from at least the end of 1571, when we know that it was burgled, clothes worth over £50 being stolen from the owner, besides other goods probably belonging to Topcliffe’s servants: the articles stolen from Topcliffe suggest that he maintained a good wardrobe. It was in this house, or an adjacent successor, that he was accused of torturing prisoners: but its nearness to the Gatehouse prison may have led to confusion between them.

Portrait of Elizabeth I around 1595 by Marcus Gheeraerts.

Among those we know Topcliffe tortured are St. Robert Southwell, St. Eustace White, and Blessed Thomas Pormort. He was present at the executions of St. Edmund Gennings, St. Polydore Plasden, and St. Swithun Wells on December 10, 1591. St. Swithun Wells hoped that Topcliffe would repent and convert: "I pray God make you a Paul of a Saul, of a bloody persecutor one of the Catholic Church's children." 

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Religion and The Great War

Also in keeping with the theme of the Centennial of the Armistice of World War I, Philip Jenkins' book, The Great and Holy War: How World War I Became a Religious Crusade discusses the role of religion on both sides of the conflict:

The Great and Holy War offers the first look at how religion created and prolonged the First World War. At the one-hundredth anniversary of the outbreak of the war, historian Philip Jenkins reveals the powerful religious dimensions of this modern-day crusade, a period that marked a traumatic crisis for Western civilization, with effects that echoed throughout the rest of the twentieth century.

The war was fought by the world's leading Christian nations, who presented the conflict as a holy war. Thanks to the emergence of modern media, a steady stream of patriotic and militaristic rhetoric was given to an unprecedented audience, using language that spoke of holy war and crusade, of apocalypse and Armageddon. But this rhetoric was not mere state propaganda. Jenkins reveals how the widespread belief in angels and apparitions, visions and the supernatural was a driving force throughout the war and shaped all three of the major religions—Christianity, Judaism and Islam—paving the way for modern views of religion and violence. The disappointed hopes and moral compromises that followed the war also shaped the political climate of the rest of the century, giving rise to such phenomena as Nazism, totalitarianism, and communism.

Connecting numerous remarkable incidents and characters—from Karl Barth to Carl Jung, the Christmas Truce to the Armenian Genocide—Jenkins creates a powerful and persuasive narrative that brings together global politics, history, and spiritual crisis as never before and shows how religion informed and motivated circumstances on all sides of the war.

This review in Catholic World Report emphasizes that The Great War changed religion by discrediting it when used to promote war and violence:

What might be most jarring for American readers, steeped in the Jeffersonian ethos of separation between church and state, was how readily American churches adopted this crusading rhetoric. It was not a militarist or politician who declared that he “would have driven my bayonet into the throat or the eye or stomach of the Huns without the slightest hesitation,” but a Methodist minister. Jenkins traces how these close associations discredited religion. This led to gradual secularization and two wildly different trends. In Germany and Soviet Russia, the religious aspirations and rhetoric became affixed to the new “secular messiahs” of these two regimes in the post-war period. The collapse of the old church-state model, however, laid the groundwork for Christian Democrats and Catholic politicians to chart a future along a non-national path of European identity.

It wasn’t just Christianity but all of the Abrahamic religions that were changed by the war. The religious center of Christianity began to shift towards Asia and Africa. In fact, Africa may become the largest Christian continent in the world by 2030. As much as the Christian map expanded it also contracted during governmental persecution of Armenian and Russian Orthodox religious enclaves. The war was a double-edged sword for Judaism. Zionism became practicable with the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and acquired the enthusiastic support of American evangelicals who, even today, see the state of Israel as fulfilling God’s providential plan.

Armistice Celebrations, 1918

History Today posts this article about how the British celebrated on November 11, 1918, including in church services--and how church bells announced the victory and the peace:

In many different places, church bells were used to announce the news, although it wasn’t always possible to gather bell-ringers together before noon. At Malew on the Isle of Man, a variety of parishioners all lent a hand so that the bells were rung from 11am to 8pm. By noon, most towns and cities in Britain (The Daily Express referred to ‘Armisticities’) were a noisy mix of cheering, singing, bells and music. Crowds were huge and still growing, even though people had been advised to avoid large gatherings during the flu pandemic. And the situation was similar around the world. In Australia, where it was nighttime, the centres of Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide were a mass of happy people.

In Kirkwall, the town crier proclaimed a half holiday at noon. Elsewhere, employers and mayors did the same. Schoolchildren, too, were given the afternoon off, and flooded out of school to join the crowds, singing and yelling and waving flags. The boys of Eton College were released at noon, and went down to the beflagged High Street with flags attached to their top hats. And in Shrewsbury, while church bells rang and a regimental band played, schoolboys formed a manic band of their own, bashing away at drums and vigorously blowing bugles. . . .

At the innumerable church services, the emphasis was on triumph and thanksgiving, rather than remembrance of the dead. God was on the side of Britain and her allies, and gave them victory. At a ceremony at St Matthew’s Church, High Brooms in Kent, the communion table was draped with a large union flag. Even the service at St Margaret’s Church, Westminster, the ‘parish church’ of parliament, was a happy affair. Following a brief but crowded parliamentary session where the terms of the armistice were read out and acclaimed with much cheering, the speaker adjourned the House of Commons at 3.17pm, and led the members to St Margaret’s. The Lords also attended the service, and the archbishop of Canterbury presided. Psalm 100 opened the simple service: “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands.” From outside came the sound of cheering and music.

While the service was taking place, King George V, Queen Mary and their daughter Princess Mary were journeying out into that cheering crowd (and the pouring rain). The fact that they were in an open carriage, with barely any police protection, showed that the king was not going to meet the fate of either the tsar or the kaiser. The royals shook many hands, and the patriotic crowd cheered them all along their journey.

The author of the article, Guy Cuthbertson, wrote a book about the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month: Peace at Last: A Portrait of Armistice Day, 11 November 1918.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Starting "Thursday" on Friday

Our local American Chesterton Society will start The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare on Friday at Eighth Day Books (beginning at 6:30 p.m.). We will also be celebrating the seventh anniversary of our group! Refreshments will be served!!

Dale Ahlquist introduces this nightmare at the AMC website:

At first glance, The Man Who Was Thursday is a detective story filled with poetry and politics. But it is mystery that grows more mysterious, until it is nothing less than the mystery of creation itself.This is Chesterton’s most famous novel. Never out of print since it was first published in 1908, critics immediately hailed it as “amazingly clever,” “a remarkable acrobatic performance,” and “a scurrying, door-slamming farce that ends like a chapter in the Apocalypse.” One reviewer described how he had read it in one sitting and put it down, “completely dazed.” Thirty years later, Orson Welles called it “shamelessly beautiful prose” and made a radio dramatization of it with his Mercury Radio Theater of the Air. (Unfortunately, he upstaged himself two weeks later with a production of H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds.)

Gabriel Syme is a poet and a police detective. Lucien Gregory is poet and a bomb-throwing anarchist. At the beginning of the novel, Syme infiltrates a secret meeting of anarchists and gets himself elected as “Thursday,” one of the seven members of the High Council of Anarchists. If you think it is paradoxical that there should be a governing body of those dedicated to destroying governing body, a hierarchy for blowing up hierarchies, you might be right. You might also note that the main reason Syme becomes a detective in the first place is because he is a rebel against rebellion. The policeman who recruits him explains that there is a difference between the real anarchists and the innocent ones who merely think rules are bad and should be broken. The real anarchists are something far worse than that. “They mean death. When they say that mankind shall be free at last, they mean that mankind shall commit suicide. When they talk of a paradise without right or wrong, they mean the grave. They have but two objects, to destroy humanity and then themselves.” This is a prophetic description of the philosophy of the “real anarchists” who really would bring us the Culture of Death.

Our goal is to discuss the first half of the book this Friday--then we will celebrate Christmas in December--and finish the book in January 2019! I read it years ago and look forward our meeting this Friday.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Bishop John Carroll (SJ) Appointed

As the History Channel website reminds us:

On this day in 1789, Pope Pius VI appoints John Carroll bishop of Baltimore, making him the first Catholic bishop in the United States.

Carroll was born in Upper Marlboro, Maryland, in 1735. His mother came from a wealthy family and had been educated in France. At age 13, Carroll sailed for France in order to complete his own education at St. Omer’s College in French Flanders. At age 18, he joined the Society of Jesus, and after a further 14 years of study in Liege, he received ordination as a priest at age 34. Pope Clement XIV’s decision in 1773 to dissolve the Jesuit order, however, ended Carroll’s European career.

He made an important friend in Benjamin Franklin, demonstrating to that Enlightened Patriot that Roman Catholics (Papists) could be good people, after all:

Three years after Carroll’s return to Maryland, the need to make allies of French Catholics in Canada created an opportunity for him to join a Congressional delegation dispatched to negotiate with the Canadians. Benjamin Franklin served on the same delegation, and although the mission failed, Franklin proved an excellent ally to Carroll. In 1784, Franklin recommended to the papal nuncio in Paris that Carroll assume the position of Superior of Missions in the United States of North America, which removed American Catholics from the authority of the British Catholic hierarchy. In this role, as bishop and ultimately as the first archbishop in the United States (1808), Carroll oversaw the creation of leading Catholic institutions in the new nation, including the nation’s first Catholic university (Georgetown University, founded in 1789) and cathedral (Baltimore Basilica, built in 1806).

On Election Day 2018, it's appropriate to pray Bishop John Carroll's prayer for our country:

We pray, Thee O Almighty and Eternal God! Who through Jesus Christ hast revealed Thy glory to all nations, to preserve the works of Thy mercy, that Thy Church, being spread through the whole world, may continue with unchanging faith in the confession of Thy Name.

We pray Thee, who alone art good and holy, to endow with heavenly knowledge, sincere zeal, and sanctity of life, our chief bishop, Pope N., the Vicar of Our Lord Jesus Christ, in the government of his Church; our own bishop, N., all other bishops, prelates, and pastors of the Church; and especially those who are appointed to exercise amongst us the functions of the holy ministry, and conduct Thy people into the ways of salvation.

We pray Thee O God of might, wisdom, and justice! Through whom authority is rightly administered, laws are enacted, and judgment decreed, assist with Thy Holy Spirit of counsel and fortitude the President of these United States, that his administration may be conducted in righteousness, and be eminently useful to Thy people over whom he presides; by encouraging due respect for virtue and religion; by a faithful execution of the laws in justice and mercy; and by restraining vice and immorality. Let the light of Thy divine wisdom direct the deliberations of Congress, and shine forth in all the proceedings and laws framed for our rule and government, so that they may tend to the preservation of peace, the promotion of national happiness, the increase of industry, sobriety, and useful knowledge; and may perpetuate to us the blessing of equal liberty.

We pray for his excellency, the governor of this state, for the members of the assembly, for all judges, magistrates, and other officers who are appointed to guard our political welfare, that they may be enabled, by Thy powerful protection, to discharge the duties of their respective stations with honesty and ability.

We recommend likewise, to Thy unbounded mercy, all our brethren and fellow citizens throughout the United States, that they may be blessed in the knowledge and sanctified in the observance of Thy most holy law; that they may be preserved in union, and in that peace which the world cannot give; and after enjoying the blessings of this life, be admitted to those which are eternal.

Finally, we pray to Thee, O Lord of mercy, to remember the souls of Thy servants departed who are gone before us with the sign of faith and repose in the sleep of peace; the souls of our parents, relatives, and friends; of those who, when living, were members of this congregation, and particularly of such as are lately deceased; of all benefactors who, by their donations or legacies to this Church, witnessed their zeal for the decency of divine worship and proved their claim to our grateful and charitable remembrance. To these, O Lord, and to all that rest in Christ, grant, we beseech Thee, a place of refreshment, light, and everlasting peace, through the same Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Savior. Amen.

Carroll died in Baltimore on December 3, 1815. The Ignatian Spirituality website of Loyola Press has this note about some of his last words:

When he was near death, Archbishop Carroll said, “Of those things that give me most consolation at the present moment, one is that I have always been attached to the practice of devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary; that I have established it among the people under my care, and placed my diocese under her protection.”

Image credit: Statue of Carroll at Georgetown University.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Newman and Converts Today

The Provost of the Birmingham Oratory, Father Julian Large, has written in his November Letter about how converts to Catholicism sometimes feel underappreciated and reminded them that Blessed John Henry Newman had to work through those feelings too:

Latecomers to the Faith who are made to feel that their convert status makes them second class citizens in the eyes of some of those who make a profession out of religious commentary can take comfort in the knowledge that Blessed John Henry experienced all of this before them. The sincerity of Newman’s conversion is beyond question to anyone of good faith. As an Anglican he had increased in his sympathy for doctrines such as Transubstantiation and the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin, having considered them individually in the light of their antiquity and of their compatibility with Holy Scripture. When he made his profession of Faith in front of Father Dominic Barberi, however, he was declaring that from now on he would embrace these truths, and every other Catholic doctrine, on the grounds that they were taught by Christ’s Church. He was assenting to his firm belief that the Catholic Church was founded by Our Lord as the pillar and the foundation of saving truth, with divinely invested authority to teach on faith and morals. He brought himself to his knees before an authority which he firmly believed to be at the service of Truth, but he also fell to his knees in the knowledge that in the Church on earth that divinely invested authority is always liable to be abused by fallen men who are prone to sin, and whose intellects are often too dim to appreciate the truths they have been commissioned to teach. But he accepted this. He accepted it because he was willing to suffer for and with the Church, because he loved Her as the Mystical Body of Christ on earth, and He believed Her to be true. Newman is an example to all of us of patience and genuine piety. Suffering with and for the Church is one of the ways we show our love for Christ, and one of the signs that our faith is alive.

For those of us who are converts to the Faith, Newman shows us how to be good converts. We must be docile, and obedient to lawful authority. But we should also be dogged in our pursuit of all truth, and we must be willing to suffer for our insistence on it. The religious submission of mind and will which we owe to the teaching authority of the Church never obliges us to submit ourselves to humbug, bluster and spin, but only to Catholic Truth in its soul-saving fullness.

Newman's correspondence with prospective and neophyte converts would fill "six to seven hundred pages" according to the late Father Stanley Jaki.  Fr. Peter Willi wrote an article for the International Centre of Newman Friends on "Newman as a Convert and Counsellor of Converts" in which he describes some of the advice Newman offered those thinking about becoming Catholic:

Newman often talks about this absolutely necessary condition. “Be convinced in your reason that the Catholic Church is a teacher sent to you from God, and it is enough. I do not wish you to join her, till you are. If you are half convinced, pray for a full conviction, and wait till you have it. It is better indeed to come quickly, but better slowly than carelessly….”[40]

Nobody should join the Roman Catholic Church while unable to accept the fullness of her doctrine. Whoever has not reached the personal certainty that the Roman Catholic Church contains the fulness of truth, should remain in his own ecclesial communion. This applied to Newman’s highly appreciated and saintly friend John Keble.[41] Although on the threshold of the Roman Catholic Church, he died with a good conscience, even though, objectively, it was erroneous. Throughout his life he had sincerely and honestly searched for the truth and had lived according to his insight. He accepted practically all of the Catholic doctrines, but never recognized the necessity of unity with the Bishop of Rome, the successor of Saint Peter. Therefore his conscience obliged him to remain in the Anglican Communion.

The beauty of the liturgy of the Roman Catholic Church and the fact that someone is drawn to it, are not, for example, reasons sufficient to justify the step of conversion. It is, however, possible for someone to hear the call to become a Roman Catholic, and to gain the certainty that the Roman Church is the true Church, while participating in her liturgy.

On the way to conversion the would-be convert accumulates one argument after another in favour of entering the Catholic Church and accepting her doctrine. It may also happen that, without any initiative on his/her part, the Holy Spirit awakens motives and insights in the future convert which point to conversion. The reasons are cumulative and mutually supportive, urging the free will towards conversion. The will is urged to act not only by reason, but also by conscience. According to Newman, religious processes and decisions necessarily include the action of reason and in no way should they exclude it. On the other hand, such processes and decisions should not be limited to reason alone.

My experience here in the United States has been that converts are sought and welcomed. The Diocese of Wichita has a strong RCIA program (of course it varies from parish to parish) and highlights the celebrations of the Rite of Election each Lent and publishes the list of those becoming Catholic in the diocesan newspaper after the Easter Vigil too--by parish! Some of my best friends are converts. With the attention given to converts by the Coming Home Network and all the conversion stories that are published (for example), perhaps it's different here in the USA.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

"Little Women" and the Holy Rosary

Earlier this year I submitted an essay for a collection of essays commemorating the 150th anniversary of the publication of Little Women (part one of what we know as Little Women which also includes Good Wives) by Louisa May Alcott.

The publisher, Pink Umbrella Books asked me to contributed some material for a blog post on their website:

What is your favorite scene from Little Women?

The opening scene is always fresh, no matter how many times I read it. Alcott sets the scene so beautifully and delineates the sisters’ characters so masterfully. While the narrator finally breaks in to explain the background to the story and does intrude to describe what Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy look like, she lets their dialogue tell the story of who they are.

Who are some of your other “imaginary heroes” from literature?

Kirsten Lavransdatter in the trilogy by Sigrid Undset (The Bridal Wreath, The Wife, and The Cross): a very different coming-of age-story set in medieval Norway about a girl who marries the wrong man and must deal with the consequences;

Kate Alard in Sheila Kaye-Smith’s Superstition Corner, a historical novel set in the historical period I write about, the English Reformation under the Tudors;

Cordelia in Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh, the one member of the Flyte family who understands everyone and yet loves them, in spite of (or because of) their faults;

Jean Valjean in Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables: he is willing to sacrifice everything for justice and truth; he is always working to fulfill the faith that Bishop Myriel had in him.

Jo has both a writing space and a “scribbling suit” in the book. What does your writing space look like? What’s your favorite scribbling suit?

My scribbling suit is often my pajamas since I start writing or researching in the morning. I like to think about what to write while I’m walking the dogs (two walks for dogs with very different paces), write out a few notes on paper about what I want to write about, material to use, and the goal of the piece—then I compose at the laptop.

The title of my essay is "Growing Up Catholic with Little Women: The Mystery of the Rosary". Here's a sample:

Like many other readers of Little Women, I nearly memorized the book when I was growing up. The memory of one passage has stayed with me through the years. It stunned me when I was growing up—growing up Catholic, attending Catholic schools, meditating on the mysteries of the Rosary, venerating the saints, going to Mass—living in a Catholic milieu (as I do today). . . .

Then I describe and excerpt the scene in which Amy discovers a set of Rosary beads--informed by Esther, Aunt March's Catholic French maid on its purpose and use--in her aunt's jewelry box.

This passage awakened my sense of Catholic identity.

Where the March girls read John Bunyan’s
Pilgrim’s Progress, I read Thomas a Kempis’ Imitation of Christ; where the March family helped the poor Germans in their home town, I saved nickels for the Missions to help poor starving children in Africa. I knew of course that there are many differences between Protestants and Catholics in doctrine and practice. My father, who became a Catholic when I was in high school, was raised in a Protestant family, so I had aunts and uncles who attended either the Church of God or the Methodist church. Some of them were more anti-Catholic—that is, convinced we were going to Hell—than others, but familial bonds of love were essential and we all got along very well.

Nevertheless, Amy March—and Aunt March evidently since it was in her “Indian cabinet, full of queer drawers, little pigeonholes, and secret places”— thinking that a Rosary was a necklace shocked me. And why did Aunt March even have a Rosary? Did she buy it on a trip to Europe? Perhaps her husband bought it for her because it was beautiful and they had never thought of it as a religious object, a sacramental as Esther knew it was. . . .

Alcott's Imaginary Heroes: The Little Women Legacy is readily available from the publisher, on, and at Eighth Day Books (featured on my blog post at Pink Umbrella Books)! Other essays reflect on grief and mourning, each of sisters (Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy) and their mother, Marmee. 

Friday, November 2, 2018

A Lay Martyr's Last Words: "Jesu, Jesu, esto mihi Jesus".

"Jesu, Jesu, esto mihi Jesus": Jesus, Jesus, be to me a Savior.

John Bodey or Body (as Challoner names him) was executed on All Souls Day, November 2, 1583 for being a Catholic and not accepting Elizabeth I's Royal Supremacy over the Christian Church in England. As the Catholic Encyclopedia tells his story:

Martyr, b. at Wells, Somerset: 1549; d. at Andover, Wilts., 2 November, 1583. He studied at Winchester and New College, Oxford, of which he became a Fellow in 1568. In June, 1576, he was deprived, with seven other Fellows, by the Visitor, Horne, Protestant Bishop of Winchester. Next year he went to Douay College to study civil law, returned to England in February, 1578, and probably married. Arrested in 1580, he was kept in iron shackles in Winchester gaol, and was condemned in April, 1583, together with John Slade, a schoolmaster, for maintaining the old religion and denying the Royal Supremacy. There was apparently a feeling that this sentence was unjust and illegal, and they were actually tried and condemned again at Andover, 19 August, 1583, on the same indictment. Bodey had a controversy with Humphreys, Dean of Winchester, on the Nicene Council, and the martyr's notes from Eusebius still exist. After his second trial, he wrote from prison to Dr. Humphrey Ely, "We consider that iron for this cause borne on earth shall surmount gold and, precious stones in Heaven. That is our mark, that is our desire. In the mean season we are threatened daily, and do look still when the hurdle shall be brought to the door. I beseech you, for God's sake, that we want not the good prayers of you all for our strength, our joy, and our perseverance unto the end. . . . From our school of patience the 16th September, 1583."

At his martyrdom, Bodey kissed the halter, saying, "O blessed chain, the sweetest chain and richest that ever came about any man's neck", and when told he died for treason, exclaimed, "You may make the hearing of a blessed Mass treason, or the saying of an Ave Maria treason . . . but I have committed no treason, although, indeed, I suffer the punishment due to treason". He exhorted the people to obey Queen Elizabeth and died saying, "Jesu, Jesu, esto mihi Jesus". His mother made a great feast upon the occasion of her son's happy death, to which she invited her neighbours, rejoicing at his death as his marriage by which his soul was happily and eternally espoused to the Lamb.

Dr. Humphrey Ely was a professor at Douai in civil and canon law. According to the Dictionary of National Biography, he was ordained a priest in 1582 after almost suffering Bodey's fate as a layman in 1580; he was traveling with Blessed Thomas Cottam:

brother of William Ely [q. v.], president of St. John's College, Oxford, was a native of Herefordshire. After studying for some time at Brasenose College, Oxford, he was elected a scholar of St. John's College in 1566, but on account of his attachment to the catholic faith he left the university without a degree, and proceeding to the English college at Douay was there made a licentiate in the canon and civil laws. He appears to have been subsequently created LL.D. In July 1577 he and other students of law formed a community in the town of Douay, and resided together in a hired house (Douay Diaries, p. 125). This establishment was soon broken up by the troubles attributed to the machinations of the queen of England's emissaries, who had probably excited the passions of the Calvinist faction. Ely was hooted as a traitor in the streets of Douay, and the members of his community and of the English college were subjected to frequent domiciliary visits which satisfied the municipal authorities but not the populace. In consequence Dr. (afterwards Cardinal) Allen found it necessary to remove the college from Douay to Rheims in 1578. After studying divinity at Rheims Ely accompanied Allen to Rome in August 1579, when the dissensions had occurred in the English college there, but he returned with him to Rheims in the following spring. During his stay in Rome Allen employed him in revising several controversial books (Knox, Letters and Memorials of Cardinal Allen, hist. introd. p. lii seq.; Douay Diaries, pp. 130, 136).
In June 1580 he paid a visit to England, disguised as a merchant, travelling under the name of Havard or Howard. There sailed in the same vessel with him three priests, Edward Rishton, Thomas Cottam [q. v.], and John Hart. On their landing at Dover the searchers arrested Cottam and Hart, and the mayor, supposing that Ely was a military man, requested him to convey Cottam to London, and hand him over to Lord Cobham, governor of the Cinque ports. When they were out of the town, Ely allowed his prisoner to go at large, but Cottam, entertaining scruples about the danger which his friend might incur, insisted upon delivering himself up, and was afterwards executed. Ely was committed to prison, but soon obtained his release, probably on account of his not being a priest (Foley, Records, ii. 150 seq.). On 23 April 1581 he arrived at Rheims, out of Spain, and in the following month visited Paris, in company with Allen. He was ordained subdeacon at Laon on 8 March 1581–2, deacon at Châlons-sur-Marne on the 31st of the same month, and priest on 14 April 1582. On 22 July 1586 he left Rheims for Pont-à-Mousson, where he had been appointed by the Duke of Lorraine to the professorship of the canon and civil laws, and he occupied that chair till his death on 15 March 1603–4. He was buried in the church of the nuns of the order of St. Clare.
Dodd says Ely ‘was a person of great candour and remarkable hospitality; and as he had a substance, he parted with it chearfully; especially to his countrymen, who never failed of a hearty welcome, as their necessities obliged them to make use of his house. He was also of a charitable and reconciling temper; and took no small pains to make up the differences that happened among the missioners upon account of the archpriest's jurisdiction.’

John Bodey and John Slade (executed on October 30, 1583) were included in the beatifications of 1929. They are included in the list of the Martyrs of Douai, which was celebrated on October 29 in the Archdiocese of Westminster. The Douai Seminary recently celebrated its 450th anniversary!