Friday, July 3, 2020

Preview: Saints Edmund Campion, Alexander Briant and Ralph Sherwin

On Monday, July 6 (the 485th anniversary of St. Thomas More's execution), Anna Mitchell and I will discuss the martyrs of 1581 in the group of the 40 Martyrs of England and Wales: the Jesuits Edmund Campion and Alexander Briant and the secular priest Ralph Sherwin, who were all hanged, drawn, and quartered on December 1, 1581.

I'll be on the air at about 7:50 a.m. Eastern/6:50 a.m. Central time. Please listen live here; the podcast will be archived here.

St. Edmund Campion was born on January 25, 1540 in London, the son of a bookseller. He was raised a Catholic--making a speech for Queen Mary I in London--given a scholarship to St. John's College, Oxford when fifteen, and becoming a fellow when only seventeen. His brilliance attracted the attention of such leading personages as the Earl of Leicester, Robert Cecil, and even Queen Elizabeth. He took the Oath of Supremacy acknowledging Elizabeth head of the church in England and became an Anglican deacon in 1564. After studying the Fathers of the Church he reverted to Catholicism. Forced to flee the persecution unleashed on Catholics by the excommunication of Elizabeth by Pope Pius V, he went to Douai, France, where he studied theology, joined the Jesuits, and then went to Brno, Bohemia, the following year for his novitiate. He taught at the college of Prague and in 1578 was ordained there. 

He and Father Robert Persons were the first Jesuits chosen for the English mission and were sent to England in 1580. His activities among the Catholics, the distribution of his Decem rationes (Ten Reasons) at the University Church of St. Mary the Virgin in Oxford, and the premature publication of his famous Brag (which he had written to present his case if he was captured) made him the object of one of the most intense manhunts in English history. He was betrayed at Lyford, near Oxford, imprisoned in the Tower of London, and when he refused to apostatize when offered rich inducements to do so, was tortured. Accepting his challenge to debate his Ten Reasons, Anglican divines found themselves defeated in public sessions and continued them in private. 

St. Alexander Briant (1556-1581) was a diocesan priest who entered the Jesuits just before he was executed. He studied at Oxford at Hertford (then Hart Hall) College where he met and became a follower of Robert Parsons at Balliol who later became a Jesuit and slipped into England with Campion. Briant crossed the Channel in August 1577 to attend the English College at Douai where he was reconciled to the Catholic Church. He was ordained in 1578 and in August 1579 returned to his homeland and took up ministry in his native shire (Somerset). He was only able to care for Catholics for two years before priest-hunters caught him by accident.

They searched unsuccessfully for Fr. Persons in one house, and then went to a neighboring house where they discovered Fr. Briant. His captors kept him without food and with little to drink for six days hoping to force information from him about Persons. He refused to speak so he was transferred to the Tower for further interrogation and torture on the rack. He wrote to the English Jesuits about his torture, saying that he kept his mind so firmly set on Christ's Passion that he felt no pain during the torture, only afterwards. He also wrote that just before he was tortured a second time, he had determined to enter the Jesuits if he were released from prison. However, since he doubted that he would be released, he asked to be accepted into the Society. The Jesuits accepted him upon receiving his letter.

St. Alexander Briant had carved a small wooden cross and held it in his hands in the courtroom. When one of the judges took it from him (Why?) he said, "You can take it out of my hands, but not out of my heart." Taking the cross from him seems an act of petty cruelty. I guess when you've tortured a man so much that the man using the rack boasts that the victim will be a foot longer, you'll do just about anything.

St. Ralph Sherwin was born 1550 in Rodsley, Derbyshire. Ralph Sherwin was the nephew of John Woodward, rector of Ingatestone in Essex from 1556 to 1566. In 1568, Sir William Petre of Ingatestone Hall, nominated Ralph to one of eight fellowships he had founded at Exeter College, Oxford; Ralph took his MA there in 1574.

Brought up as a Protestant, Ralph converted to the Catholic faith in 1575, and went to the English college at Douai where he was ordained in 1577. He continued his studies at the English College in Rome, his name being the first in the College register. When an oath requiring students to consent to the English mission was required, Ralph readily agreed, saying, "Today rather than tomorrow."

Ralph returned to England on August 1, 1580, but on November 9, 1580 he was arrested in London and committed to the Marshalsea prison. He was transferred to the Tower of London where he was alternately tortured on the rack and thrown out into the December snow. He was once kept upon the rack for five consecutive days without food. He was offered a bishopric if he would conform to the authorized religion, but refused. He wrote a letter to his uncle, John Woodward, saying, "Innocency is my only comfort against all the forged villainy which is fathered on my fellow priests and me." 

Campion, Briant, Sherwin, and many other priests were all tried for treason against Queen Elizabeth in a fictitious conspiracy the government called the Rome and Rheims Plot, designating the cities in which they, with William Allen and others, plotted to raise a rebellion against the government, depose Elizabeth, and reestablish Catholicism in England. There was no plot and the men could provide evidence that they weren't in either Rome or Rheims when they were supposed to be plotting this coup d'etat. They were really being tried because they were Catholic priests in England before it was against the law to be a Catholic priest in England. The Rome and Rheims Plot was a dress rehearsal for the Popish Plot, except that the government concocted the plot itself.

When they were found guilty, St. Edmund Campion told the judges: "In condemning us you condemn all your own ancestors--all the ancient priests, bishops, and kings--all that was once the glory of England, the island of saints, and the most devoted child of the See of Peter. For what have we taught, however you may qualify it with the odious name of treason, that they did not uniformly teach? To be condemned with these lights--not of England only, but of the world--by their degenerate descendants, is both gladness and glory to us." Upon hearing the sentence of death, the three sang "Te Deum Laudamus".

At least two conversions resulted from Saint Edmund Campion's trial and death--and two are among the 40 Martyrs of England and Wales--Saint Philip Howard and Saint Henry Walpole, SJ.

Saint Luke Kirby, another of the 40 Martyrs of England and Wales, was executed on the same false charge of treason on May 30, 1582 with Blesseds William Filby, Lawrence Johnson, and Thomas Cottam SJ. Two days before, four other Blessed Martyrs were executed: Blesseds Thomas Ford, Lawrence Richardson, John Shert, and Robert Johnson; all these supposed Rome and Rheims conspirators were beatified in 1886 by Pope Leo XIII. One of the priests found guiltyJames Bosgravewas exiled at the request of the King of Poland Stephen Báthory, Queen Anna Jagiellon's husband. Bosgrave died in 1621.

Thursday, July 2, 2020

A Catholic Convert, a Shrine, a Saint, an Abbey, and a Lady

Father John Hunwicke, formerly an Anglican minister and now a Catholic priest in the Anglican Ordinariate in England, has a blog titled "Fr Hunwicke's Mutual Enrichment". Recently he published several posts on an nineteenth century Catholic convert from the Church of England, previously a Presbyterian, and a minister of both churches. This convert is Sir Harry (Henry) Trelawny of Trelawne, Seventh Baronet.

First, Fr Hunwicke describes Trelawny's portrait on the National Portrait Gallery's website. Then some notes on his conversion to Catholicism, a conversion his wife did not share. Fr Hunwicke also describes Sir Trelawny's view of his ordination and priesthood as an Anglican after he became a Catholic--thus dealing with the issue of Anglican Orders, finally decided by Pope Leo XIII. In the third post, Fr Hunwicke quotes Ambrose de Lisle's account of Father Trelawny's ordination in Rome, Pentecost Sunday 1830:

De Lisle's account, which he says he had from Sir Harry and Miss Trelawny the following year, is both circumstantial and credible: " ... going on a visit to Rome, he made the acquaintance of the late Cardinal [Carlo] Odescalchi (portrait above)... Sir Harry told the Cardinal all his convictions, and explained his reasons for believing in the validity of Anglican Orders, and therefore, of his own priesthood. When the Cardinal had heard all he had to say, his Eminence replied that he had no idea there was so much to be adduced in favour of the orders of the Anglican Church, and that he could quite understand Sir Harry's strong feelings on the subject. Still he represented to Sir Harry that, as the custom of the Roman Catholic Church from the commencement of the schism had always been to re-ordain those of the Anglican clergy who returned to her communion, it was was clear that the question concerning their previous orders was a very delicate one, and one that was beset, at all events, with many grave doubts, that, consequently, it was not right in Sir Harry to continue to say Mass without submitting to a conditional re-ordination. Upon this Sir Harry replied to the Cardinal that from the first he had been ready to submit to a conditional re-ordination, but that the Catholic authorities in England would not hear of anything short of an absolute and unconditional rejection of his previous orders. The Cardinal, however, said that he took a different view of the matter, and was prepared to re-ordain Sir Harry with a tacit condition, the sacramental form, of course, remaining untouched. Sir Harry gave his full consent ..."

Then in the fourth post, Fr Hunwicke speculates on who wouldn't ordain Sir Trelawny in England after his conversion in 1810 so that he had to wait until 1830 in Rome.

In the first post, Fr Hunwicke mentions that Sir Harry Trelawny founded a shrine to Our Lady of Light in Clacton on Sea in Essex, so I looked it up and found this website.

The National Shrine of Our Lady of Light, Spouse of the Holy Spirit, a devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary that Trelawny and his daughters brought to England from Brittany, is now maintained by the parish church of Our Lady of Light and Saint Osyth, located in Clacton on Sea (North Sea). Saint Osyth was a (perhaps) martyred saint of the early 8th century and there was of course a religious house founded in her honor, a Priory then Abbey of Augustinian Canons:

An Augustinian priory was founded (fn. 3) in honour of St. Osyth at Chich, probably about the middle of the reign of Henry I, by Richard de Belmeis, bishop of London (1108—27). The founder granted to it the manor of Chich and the churches of Clacton, Southminster, Mayland and Althorne, and Henry I granted the churches of Blythburgh and Stowmarket in Suffolk. Blythburgh afterwards became a cell to St. Osyth's, canons being settled there in or before the reign of Stephen. (fn. 4) The priory at St. Osyth's was converted into an abbey about the middle of the century. It was dedicated to SS. Peter and Paul and St. Osyth. . . .

British History Online also documents the Abbey's dissolution:

In 1538 the convent had licence (fn. 51) to exchange lands, including the manor and rectory of Abberton, with Sir Thomas Audeley; and in the same year an attempt was made through him, as has already been said elsewhere, (fn. 52) to secure the continuance of Colchester and St. Osyth's in the form of secular colleges. But this failed, and on 6 November Cromwell gave orders (fn. 53) for their dissolution. No resistance appears to have been offered by St. Osyth's; for Sir John Seyncler in a letter (fn. 54) to Cromwell on 21 November mentions the abbot as one who was a true subject, and would obey the king without grudge. The abbey, however, did not actually fall until 28 July, 1539, when it was formally surrendered (fn. 55) by John Whederykke, alias Colchester, abbot, Cornelius Williamsun, William Neuman, John Russull, prior, Ralph Dale, Nicholas Bushe, John Harwyche, John Sherman, Richard Wood, John Thorpe, Richard Synyll, William Jolly, Edmund Grai, Robert Sprott, George Thurston and Thomas Haywod. . . . 

This website offers some details about the life and death of a later owner of the Abbey property:

The property was inherited in 1639 by Elizabeth Darcy, daughter of the 3rd Lord Darcy, who married Sir Thomas Savage, afterwards Earl Rivers and Viscount Colchester. Lady Savage inherited Melford Hall in Suffolk on her husband’s death in 1635 and St Osyth Priory from her father in 1639, and in 1641 she was created Countess Rivers in her own right.

Lady Savage was a staunch Catholic and Royalist with the result that she suffered cruel depredations upon her property in the Civil War. In 1642, the rabble sacked her house at St Osyth, chased her to Melford and sacked that too. All the furnishings were stolen or destroyed, and the deer in the park carried off. Lady Savage escaped to London and was forced to compound for her lands, to the extent of being reduced to the debtor’s prison, where she died in 1650.


You may find a portrait of this brave woman here. Her family continued to uphold the Catholic faith and one of her grandsons was accused during the Popish Plot hysteria: the last man to inherit the title of Earl Rivers was a Catholic priest and the title died with him.

So we see the usual combination of success and failure, suffering and perseverance, destruction and resurgence, dissolution and re-establishment in this story: An Anglican minister converts, develops a devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, and brings it to England. An Augustinian Abbey and its church are dissolved, repurposed, and destroyed and a parish church preserves the name of a saint from long ago. A woman remains true to her faith, suffers for it and endures until death and her family, for a time at least, remains faithful.

Image Credit (public domain): portrait by Agnes Xavier Trail, a Presbyterian convert (brought into the Church by Carlo Cardinal Odescalchi!

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Saint Junipero Serra and the Precious Blood

I'm going to attend Mass twice today, God willing: first in the Ordinary Form for the memorial of Saint Junipero Serra and then in the Extraordinary Form for the Feast of the Precious Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ. I want to offer the first Mass in expiation for the outrages committed against Saint Junipero Serra and at the second pray for the Precious Blood of Jesus to heal our country.

I'll also be remembering Saint Oliver Plunkett, the last Catholic priest executed at Tyburn, Blessed Thomas Maxfield, one of the 85 Martyrs of England and Wales from the reign of James I, and the trial of St. Thomas More at Westminster Hall 485 years ago today.

If you see me driving down the street, be careful: I might be distracted with so much on my mind!

Five years ago (2015), when Pope Francis was going to visit the USA and was set to canonize Junipero Serra, there was a lot of controversy. Matt Swaim, Anna Mitchell, and I were doing a series on Catholic historical apologetics that year on the Son Rise Morning Show and cited this historian's commentary, Professor Ruben Mendoza of California State University, Monterey Bay, in our segment on those who attacked Serra and the Catholic Church for abuse of Native Americans:

The professor has been involved in research and conservation projects at several California missions founded by Serra. He said many of the Spanish missionary's critics are confusing the impact of Spanish colonizing and missionary activity on the native communities with what happened after California became a U.S. territory in 1848.

"A decimation of the Native American population," Mendoza said, occurred "in the period after 1850; Serra had no connection to that phenomenon. Those who criticize Serra the most tend to conflate the American period with that of the missionaries."

Another major objection to Serra's canonization involves reports that Native American adults at his mission were beaten.

"There is no documentation that Serra himself abused any Native American," Mendoza said. "The system under which he operated did use corporal punishment, but that was also used for transgressors from all walks of life, including soldiers."


Mendoza supports the canonization and said he believes it "has much to offer the peoples of Latin America, especially those of us of Mexican-Indian heritage who currently live under a shadow of doubt and denigration."

More about Saint Junipero Serra here. Pope Francis spoke of the newly-canonized saint in his homily at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Washington, D.C. Wednesday, September 23, 2015:

Today we remember one of those witnesses who testified to the joy of the Gospel in these lands, Father Junípero Serra. He was the embodiment of “a Church which goes forth”, a Church which sets out to bring everywhere the reconciling tenderness of God. Junípero Serra left his native land and its way of life. He was excited about blazing trails, going forth to meet many people, learning and valuing their particular customs and ways of life. He learned how to bring to birth and nurture God’s life in the faces of everyone he met; he made them his brothers and sisters. Junípero sought to defend the dignity of the native community, to protect it from those who had mistreated and abused it. Mistreatment and wrongs which today still trouble us, especially because of the hurt which they cause in the lives of many people.

Father Serra had a motto which inspired his life and work, not just a saying, but above all a reality which shaped the way he lived: siempre adelante! Keep moving forward! For him, this was the way to continue experiencing the joy of the Gospel, to keep his heart from growing numb, from being anesthetized. He kept moving forward, because the Lord was waiting. He kept going, because his brothers and sisters were waiting. He kept going forward to the end of his life. Today, like him, may we be able to say: Forward! Let’s keep moving forward!


Image Credit: shared under a CC BY-SA 4.0 license: Statue of Saint Junípero Serra in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, recently desecrated.

Last week I received my copy of the new Magnificat Adoration Companion, which happily contains both the Litany to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Litany of the Precious Blood of Jesus. The entire month of July is dedicated to our devotion towards the Precious Blood of Jesus by which we are redeemed:

The Precious Blood which we worship is the Blood which the Savior shed for us on Calvary and reassumed at His glorious Resurrection; it is the Blood which courses through the veins of His risen, glorified, living body at the right hand of God the Father in heaven; it is the Blood made present on our altars by the words of Consecration; it is the Blood which merited sanctifying grace for us and through it washes and beautifies our soul and inaugurates the beginning of eternal life in it.

Blood of Christ, only-begotten Son of the Eternal Father, Save us.
Blood of Christ, Incarnate Word of God, Save us.
Blood of Christ, of the New and Eternal Testament, Save us.
Blood of Christ, falling upon the earth in the Agony, Save us.
Blood of Christ, shed profusely in the Scourging, Save us.
Blood of Christ, flowing forth in the Crowning with Thorns, Save us.
Blood of Christ, poured out on the Cross, Save us.
Blood of Christ, price of our salvation, Save us.
Blood of Christ, without which there is no forgiveness. Save us. . . .

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Sir Francis Tregian and Thomas Pounde, SJ

Sir Francis Tregian, who was imprisoned for almost thirty years after the execution of St. Cuthbert Mayne on November 29, 1577, finally released after Elizabeth I's death in 1603 with the accession of King James VI of Scotland, was sent a poem by another prisoner he shared incarceration in Marshalsea Prison, Thomas Pounde, the Jesuit lay brother sometime after December 1, 1581. Pounde was also in prison for almost 30 years, moving around quite a bit:

b. at Beaumond (or Belmony), Farlington, Hampshire, 29 May, 1538; d. there, 26 Feb., 1612-13; eldest son of William Pounde and Helen, sister or half-sister to Thomas Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton. He is reported to have been educated at Winchester College. He was admitted to Lincoln's Inn, 16 Feb., 1559-60, and his father dying the same month, he then succeeded to Beaumond, and soon after was appointed esquire of the body to Queen Elizabeth. He acted the part of Mercury in Gascoigne's Masque, performed before the queen at Kenilworth in 1565. During the reveries (sic) of Christmastide, 1551, after dancing before the queen, he received a public affront from her, which induced him to retire from the court.

Shortly afterwards he was reconciled to the Church, probably by Father Henry Alway, and after some time of seclusion at Beaumond, began an active career as a proselytizer. He was in the Marshallsea for six month in 1574; in Winchester Gaol for some months in 1575-6; and in the Marshallsea again from 9 March, 1575-76. to 18 Sept., 1580, being made a Jesuit lay-brother by a letter dated 1 Dec., 1578 from the Father-General Mercurian, sent at the instance of Father Thomas Stevens, S.J., the first Englishman to go to India. From the Marshalsea Pounde was removed to Bishop's Stortford Castle, and thence to Wisbech. Then he was in the Tower of London, 13 Aug., 1581 to 7 Dec., 1585. He was in the White Lion, Southwark, from 1 Sept., 1586, till he was sent back to Wisbech in 1587, where he remained nearly ten years. He was again in the Tower of London, from Feb., 1596-7, to the autumn of 1598, when he was again committed to Wisbech. From Wisbech he was relegated to Wood Street Counter where he remained for six weeks from 19 Dec., 1598. After that he was in the Tower again until 7 July, 1601. He was then in Framlingham castle for a year. In 1602 he was in Newgate, and in the following year he was indicted at York. Afterwards he was in the Gatehouse, Westminster, for some time, and then in the Tower (for the fourth time) for four months, and lastly in the Fleet for three months. He was finally liberated in late 1604 or early in 1605, having spent nearly thirty years in prison. These facts are but the dry bones of the career of an heroic man, whose real biography has yet to be written. . . .

Note Pounde's early Court experience in performance before Queen Elizabeth I. He was also a poet, who sent--from the Tower of London--a long poem commemorating the martyrdom of Saint Edmund Campion, SJ and companions to Tregian, then held in the Fleet Prison. The 19th century convert and biographer of then Blessed Edmund Campion, Richard Simpson, discovered the poem.

The text may be found in Robert S. Miola's Early Modern Catholicism: An Anthology of Primary Sources.

Since Saints Edmund Campion, SJ, Ralph Sherwin, and Alexander Briant, SJ will be the next subjects in our series on the 40 Martyrs of England and Wales on the Son Rise Morning Show (Monday, July 6), this poem and its provenance is a nice link in the chain between the martyrs. Look for the preview of this episode on the First Friday of July this week.

Monday, June 29, 2020

This Morning: Saint Cuthbert Mayne of Cornwall

Just a reminder that I'll be on the Son Rise Morning Show at about 7:50 a.m. Eastern/6:50 a.m. Central to continue our series on the 40 Martyrs of England and Wales. Matt Swaim and I will discuss Saint Cuthbert Mayne, the protomartyr among missionary priests.

Please listen live here; the podcast will be archived here.

I mentioned in my preview post Friday that one point of interest in St. Cuthbert Mayne's story is that he was born and raised near Cornwall, a county on the western peninsula in England. He was born in Devon, but grew up influenced by the Cornish culture and mindset.

Cornwall was distant from London and the center of Elizabeth I's administrative state in more than miles. There was a language barrier--the people of Cornwall were protective of their language, Cornish, a Celtic tongue and had even arisen against the imposition of the ENGLISH Book of Common Prayer during the reign of Edward VI (1549). They'd had rather had Latin as the language of the liturgy rather than learn a "foreign" language for the celebration of Holy Mass and the Sacraments. During Mary I's reign, Catholic authorities recognized this, and Bishop Edmund Bonner's book of sermons to be read while the Catholic Church was being revived was translated into Cornish by John Tregear in 1555. The fact that the Church of England never undertook a translation of the Holy Bible into Cornish, the regional vernacular, led to the decline of the Cornish language.

It was also distant because of transportation barriers: there were few good roads. At the time of his execution, Launceston, near the border of Devonshire, was about as far as English authorities felt safe to go, and this situation lasted into the reign of William and Mary in the 17th century.

The Arundell and Tregian families in Cornwall had remained loyal to the Catholic Church and thus Saint Cuthbert Mayne had resided with Sir Francis Tregian. Tregian ended up in prison, lost his property and was finally pardoned by King James I, left England and died in Spain in 1608. Sir John Arundell of the Lanherne Arundells also suffered imprisonment and loss of property. According to the History of Parliament online:

In 1569 he refused to subscribe to the Act of Uniformity and in the following year he was obliged to enter a recognizance for his ‘good behaviour’, but it was not until 1577 that his Catholicism came to be looked upon as a source of danger to the realm. On 29 Nov. in that year Cuthbert Maine (sic), the seminary priest, was hanged at Launceston; in his speech from the scaffold he described Arundell as a ‘good and godly’ gentleman with the result that two weeks later Arundell, whose refusal to attend church had been noted, was placed under arrest. On his release he was required to live near London and took up residence in Clerkenwell. During his absence from Cornwall his house was searched and subsequently charges against him were laid before the Council in September 1579. In 1585 Arundell was lodged in the Tower, allegedly because of his association with his wife’s cousin, Philip Howard, Earl of Arundel. At the same time he was fined 1,000 marks in the Star Chamber for contempt of the proclamation regarding recusants. Released from the Tower in 1586, he went to live at Muswell Hill and remained there until the early months of 1590, when he was imprisoned at Ely. He was set free in the summer and settled in Isleworth, where he died on the following 17 Nov. His body was carried with great pomp to Cornwall and buried beside those of his ancestors at St. Columb Major, where a monument was later erected to his memory.6

Sir John's widow, the former 
Lady Ann Stanley remained a staunch Recusant Catholic, sheltering Blessed John Cornelius, SJ who was hanged, drawn, and quartered on July 4, 1594!

Yet another widow of a Sir John Arundell, Lady Elizabeth  sheltered Blessed Hugh Green, who suffered an excruciating martyrdom on August 19, 1642 at the hands of an inept executioner.

We probably won't be able to address these matters during our brief discussion this morning, but it's fascinating background, demonstrating the loyalty of Catholic families in distant Cornwall when their faith was proscribed and they were definitely in the minority.

Image Credit (public domain): The memorial to John Payne, Portreeve of St. Ives, Cornwall, who was hanged by the Provost Marshall for being a participant in the Prayer Book Rebellion in 1549 (not to be confused with the St. John Payne who came back to England with St. Cuthbert Mayne as a missionary priest--but a wonderful coincidence!)

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Some Recent News on Newman


Just a couple of brief blurbs on Saint John Henry Newman:

The Catholic World Report has posted Edward Short's article on Newman's Apologia pro Vita Sua:

What makes the Apology such an extraordinary book is that it furnishes the “key” to the author’s “whole life” not by mining the usual autobiographical quarries of family, childhood, and education but by focusing on his evolving religious convictions, which, far from being deceitful or rote, were of the most guileless probity. With no confessional exhibitionism or unseemly volubility, Newman wrote the history of how his avid and exacting faith took shape in a book that merits comparison with perhaps the greatest of all Christian autobiographies, St. Augustine’s Confessions.

Indeed, he wrote his account, partly, as he said, for “religious and sincere minds, who are simply perplexed… by the utter confusion into which late discoveries or speculations have thrown their most elementary ideas of religion.” And it was on their behalf that he invoked those “beautiful words,” as he called them, of the Bishop of Hippo, who knew from bitter personal experience “the difficulty with which error is discriminated from truth, and the way of life is found amid the illusions of the world.”

Some literary genius only comes of religious genius, and, Newman, like St. Paul, possessed it in excelsis. His
Apologia captures this genius in all of its depth and incandescence. Indeed, in some of the greatest prose in all of English literature, prose which influenced G.K. Chesterton, Ronald Knox, Graham Greene, and Muriel Spark, Newman succeeded in showing his readers that it was not imposture that animated his conversion, but love.

Please read the rest there.

At Homiletic & Pastoral Review, Dr. Bud Marr, Director of the National Institute of Newman Studies and Associate Editor of the Newman Studies Journal, reviews three recent books about Newman:
Cimorelli, Christopher. John Henry Newman’s Theology of History: Historical Consciousness, Theological ‘Imaginaries’, and the Development of Tradition. Leuven: Peeters, 2017. xii + 356 pages. Softcover: $98.00. ISBN: 978-90-429-3438-2.
Hütter, Reinhard. John Henry Newman on Truth and Its Counterfeits: A Guide for Our Times. Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 2020. xiii + 267 pages. Softcover: $24.95. ISBN: 978-08-132-3232-4.
Duffy, Eamon. John Henry Newman: A Very Brief History. London: SPCK, 2019. xxi + 145 pages. Hardcover: $16.00. ISBN: 978-02-810-7849-3.
I've read Reinhard Hütter's book and have Eamon Duffy's brief book in hand to read soon. The Cimorelli book from Louvain, Belgium is out of my price range! I'll drink a Stella Artois, brewed in that university town, instead.

Of John Henry Newman on Truth and Its Counterfeits: A Guide for Our Times, Marr opines:

. . . Hütter’s monograph also deserves praise for bringing Newman’s work into conversation with that of Thomas Aquinas. Many of the recent publications in Newman studies have been, in effect, commentaries on Newman’s writings. While this type of scholarship certainly has its place, a great deal can be learned, as Hütter shows, by setting Newman’s theology alongside the contributions of other great theologians. This methodology, of course, has to be employed with due caution. Newman and Aquinas, for instance, were writing in noticeably different historical contexts, and a scholar who treats them together must remain sensitive to nuances in their language and conceptualization of doctrines. In the prologue, Hütter signals his awareness of the complexities involved in this type of study: “I do not mean to establish any historical connection between Aquinas’s and Newman’s thought; nor do I intend to claim Newman as a crypto-Thomist or anything else along those lines” (15). Hütter remains true to on his word, and what follows in the rest of the book is a necessarily cautious, but deeply insightful study of key themes that have been treated by Newmanists, for sure, though not in the Thomistic key that Hütter employs. The end result is an impressive achievement indeed, and one that this reviewer hopes other scholars in the field will imitate. Here’s to hoping, as well, that Hütter maintains a foot in Newman studies for years to come.

I agree with that last statement completely!

Of Eamon Duffy's book, Marr states:

The strength of Duffy’s treatment is rooted in the way that he navigates a via media between biographers who are overly hagiographical in their approach to Newman’s life and those scholars who are hypercritical and, in some cases, even hostile to Newman as a historical figure. Duffy strikes a nice balance. On the one hand, he’s more than happy to acknowledge Newman’s enduring legacy as one of the great Catholic thinkers of the modern era. On the other hand, Duffy refuses to paper over some of Newman’s rougher edges for the sake of preserving a supposedly pristine understanding of the English convert’s saintliness. As Duffy writes near the end of his book, “The canonization of Newman is no conventional accolade to a very pious man. Newman strove all his life after holiness, but he had more than his share of human frailties. He could be tyrannical in friendship, he was thin-skinned and easily offended, slow to forgive, even at times implacable” (118). For this reviewer, it was refreshing to read an author who affirms Newman’s saintliness yet is willing to shine a light on the less exemplary facets of his personality. Books like Duffy’s are helpful reminders that the canonized saints were not otherworldly figures free from all imperfections, but ordinary human beings whom God used to accomplish extraordinary ends.

I think it would have been appropriate, however, to highlight some of Newman's strengths, which would like mirror those faults: he was a loyal friend and one who drew friends to himself, so he can't have always been a tyrant; he often reached out to those who had offended him and sometimes they had really treated him unfairly (Manning's actions over Newman becoming a Cardinal for example)--saying that Newman "had more than his share of human frailties"! What does that mean? That he was weaker than other men? Didn't he have some moral strengths? I'll have to read Duffy to find out more, but Marr's praise of that commentary seems another unfair judgment. It does not seem as balanced as Marr thinks it is!

I'll let you know what I find.

Friday, June 26, 2020

Preview: The First Elizabethan Martyr Among the 40: St. Cuthbert Mayne

St. John Stone, whom we discussed on Monday, June 22 on the Son Rise Morning Show was executed in 1539; the next martyr among the 40 canonized in 1970, Saint Cuthbert Mayne, was executed in 1577. There is gap of 38 years between those martyrs.

Part of what I'd like to explore with on Monday, June 29 in our Son Rise Morning Show series on the 40 Martyrs of England and Wales is why there is such an interval between the last canonized martyr of Henry VIII's reign and the first canonized martyr of Elizabeth I's reign.

We also need to describe what makes Saint Cuthbert Mayne special: he is the protomartyr of the missionary priests, those men who studied for the priesthood on the Continent to return to England and bring the Sacraments back to recusant English Catholics. And he was born--and died--in Cornwall!

First of all, the chronological gap. There were additional martyrdoms during the reign of Henry VIII, but those martyrs, like the other Carthusians and the three abbots of the great monasteries (Colchester, Reading, and Glastonbury), have not been canonized.

During the reign of young Edward VI, some Catholics were arrested and imprisoned, but there are no Catholic martyrs, venerable or blessed from that brief reign.

During the reign of Mary I, who restored the practice of the Catholic faith in England, previous heresy laws were also restored by Parliament and Queen Mary, and thus nearly 300 men and women were burned alive at the stake for heresy (whether or not they were Protestant).

Catholics were also executed for their faith earlier in Elizabeth I's reign after the Acts of Supremacy and Uniformity were passed in 1559, like Blessed John Storey,  Blessed Thomas Woodhouse, Blessed John Felton, and others beatified in 1886 and 1895, but obviously, they weren't included among the 40 canonized in 1970.

St. Cuthbert Mayne and 10 other martyrs canonized in 1970 had been included among the first large group of martyrs beatified by Pope Leo XIII on December 29 in 1886. Father Paolo Molinari, S.J.,the postulator of the cause explained how those 11 were included among the 40:

Eleven of these forty martyrs had been included among the blessed solely by a decree confirming their cult. It was now necessary, in view of the hoped-for canonization, to make a thorough historical re-examination of their martyrdom, which had not been done ex professo when the Positio super introductione causue was prepared last century. As is customary, this task was entrusted to the Historical Section of the Sacred Congregation of Rites. Availing itself essentially of the studies carried out under its direction by the General Postulation of the Society of Jesus and by the office of the English Vice-Postulation, it made a very favourable pronouncement on the material and formal martyrdom of the eleven Blessed in question. The other studies prescribed by law having been completed, His Holiness Paul VI signed the special Decree of the Declaratio Martyrii of these eleven Blessed Martyrs, on May 4th 1970. In preparing for this Decree, two volumes were published in English and in Italian respectively of the Positio super Martyrii et cultu ex officio concinnata (Official Presentation of Documents on Martyrdom and Cult) (Typis Polyglottis Vaticanis, 1968, pp. XLIV, 375 in folio) which in the judgment of international critics is a real model of scientific editing of old texts.

And we do have a great deal of detail about Saint Cuthbert Mayne: his career at Oxford, his conversion to Catholicism, his studies on the Continent, and his service in the house of Francis Tregian.

He was executed--hanged, drawn, and quartered--on November 29, 1577 on rather flimsy evidence, there being no laws yet against Catholic priests entering the country (that is that they weren't automatically traitors by being present in the country having been ordained abroad). According to the Catholic Encyclopedia entry, written before he was canonized among the 40 Martyrs of England and Wales by Pope Paul VI:

Martyr, b. at Yorkston, near Barnstaple, Devonshire (baptized 20 March, 1543-4); d. at Launceston, Cornwall, 29 Nov., 1577. He was the son of William Mayne; his uncle was a schismatical priest, who had him educated at Barnstaple Grammar School, and he was ordained a Protestant minister at the age of eighteen or nineteen. He then went to Oxford, first to St. Alban's Hall, then to St. John's College, where he took the degree of M.A. in 1570. He there made the acquaintance of Blessed Edmund Campion, Gregory Martin, the controversialist, Humphrey Ely, Henry Shaw, Thomas Bramston, O.S.B., Henry Holland, Jonas Meredith, Roland Russell, and William Wiggs. The above list shows how strong a Catholic leaven was still working at Oxford. Late in 1570 a letter from Gregory Martin to Blessed Cuthbert fell into the Bishop of London's hands. He at once sent a pursuivant to arrest Blessed Cuthbert and others mentioned in the letter. Blessed Cuthbert was in the country, and being warned by Blessed Thomas Ford, he evaded arrest by going to Cornwall, whence he arrived at Douai in 1573.

He was ordained in 1575 and came to England with St. John Payne (Payne and Mayne!) in 1576. When Father Cuthbert Mayne was arrested in June, 1577, authorities had some trouble in gathering evidence that corresponded with charges punishable by death:

He was brought to trial in September; meanwhile his imprisonment was of the harshest order. His indictment under statutes of 1 and 13 Elizabeth was under five counts: first, that he had obtained from the Roman See a "faculty", containing absolution of the queen's subjects; second, that he had published the same at Golden; third, that he had taught the ecclesiastical authority of the pope in Launceston Gaol; fourth, that he had brought into the kingdom an Agnus Dei and had delivered the same to Mr. Tregian; fifth, that he had said Mass.

As to the first and second counts, the martyr showed that the supposed "faculty" was merely a copy printed at Douai of an announcement of the Jubilee of 1575, and that its application having expired with the end of the jubilee, he certainly had not published it either at Golden or elsewhere. As to the third count, he maintained that he had said nothing definite on the subject to the three illiterate witnesses who asserted the contrary. As to the fourth count, he urged that the fact that he was wearing an Agnus Dei at the time of his arrest was no evidence that he had brought it into the kingdom or delivered it to Mr. Tregian. As to the fifth count, he contended that the finding of a Missal, a chalice, and vestments in his room did not prove that he had said Mass.

Nevertheless the jury found him guilty of high treason on all counts, and he was sentenced accordingly. His execution was delayed because one of the judges, Jeffries, altered his mind after sentence and sent a report to the Privy Council. They submitted the case to the whole Bench of Judges, which was inclined to Jeffries's view. Nevertheless, for motives of policy, the Council ordered the execution to proceed. On the night of 27 November his cell was seen by the other prisoners to be full of a strange bright light. 


There is even more information at this website, including these details about his execution:

Then the rope was put around his neck and the martyr glancing upwards and striking his breast cried out: “In manus tuas, Domine… He did not have time to finish “commendo spiritum meum” because immediately the executioner swung away the ladder. He then slashed at the rope with such violence, that St. Cuthbert fell from the high gibbet, striking his head on the platform so hard that his eyes were forced from their sockets. Lying on the ground, choking and barely alive, St. Cuthbert’s garments were torn away from his body by the executioner who with sharp knives began the work of dismembering and disembowelling the body and cutting in into four parts. The heart was torn out and held up for all to see and then thrown onto a fire. Tar and pitch were used to preserve the four parts of the body, which were distributed over the county, only one quarter being sent out of Cornwall to the native town of St. Cuthbert, Barnstaple, where it was spiked on to the bridge crossing the river Taw.

Saint Cuthbert Mayne, pray for us!

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

St. John the Baptist and Elizabeth I's Act of Uniformity, 1559


I posted yesterday on the Vigil of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist, the great forerunner of the Lord. Today on the feast of St. John's Nativity, one of the Quarter Days at the time, it's sad to note that the provisions of Elizabeth I's Act of Uniformity of 1559 all took effect on this feast:

Where at the death of our late sovereign lord King Edward VI there remained one uniform order of common service and prayer, and of the administration of sacraments, rites, and ceremonies in the Church of England, which was set forth in one book, intituled: The Book of Common Prayer, and Administration of Sacraments, and other rites and ceremonies in the Church of England; authorized by Act of Parliament holden in the fifth and sixth years of our said late sovereign lord King Edward VI, intituled: An Act for the uniformity of common prayer, and administration of the sacraments; the which was repealed and taken away by Act of Parliament in the  first year of the reign of our late sovereign lady Queen Mary, to the great decay of the due honour of God, and discomfort to the professors of the truth of Christ's religion:

Be it therefore enacted by the authority of this present Parliament, that the said statute of repeal, and everything therein contained, only concerning the said book, and the service, administration of sacraments, rites, and ceremonies contained or appointed in or by the said book, shall be void and of none effect, from and after the feast of the Nativity of St. John Baptist next coming; and that the said book, with the order of service, and of the administration of sacraments, rites, and ceremonies, with the alterations and additions therein added and appointed by this statute, shall stand and be, from and after the said feast of the Nativity of St. John Baptist, in full force and effect, according to the tenor and effect of this statute; anything in the aforesaid statute of repeal to the contrary notwithstanding. 

And further be it enacted by the queen's highness, with the assent of the Lords (sic) and Commons in this present Parliament assembled, and by authority of the same, that all and singular ministers in any cathedral or parish church, or other place within this realm of England, Wales, and the marches of the same, or other the queen's dominions, shall from and after the feast of the Nativity of St. John Baptist next coming be bounden to say and use the Matins, Evensong, celebration of the Lord's Supper and administration of each of the sacraments, and all their common and open prayer, in such order and form as is mentioned in the said book, so authorized by Parliament in the said fifth and sixth years of the reign of King Edward VI, with one alteration or addition of certain lessons to be used on every Sunday in the year, and the form of the Litany altered and corrected, and two sentences only added in the delivery of the sacrament to the communicants, and none other or otherwise. . . .

The Act of Uniformity also set out the penalties for those who refused to use The Book of Common Prayer and for those who refused to attend Church of England services. It made the celebration of the Catholic Mass, which Elizabeth I's father Henry VIII had attended up to three times a day, illegal. This is an obvious overreach--in our terms today--by the secular state over the Church in matters of worship and doctrine, and a clear violation at the time of the freedoms of the Church guaranteed by the Magna Carta, as the first clause stated "[this charter has] confirmed for us and our heirs in perpetuity, that the English Church shall be free, and shall have its rights undiminished, and its liberties unimpaired." Since the English Church had become one with the State and the monarch it was no longer free, had no rights nor liberty.

Only one bishop (Anthony Kitchin of Llandaff), an elderly prelate who has acquiesced to every religious change from Henry VIII on, accepted the Elizabethan Acts of religious settlement--that's quite a turnaround from all the bishops save one (St. John Fisher) accepting Henry's Supremacy, etc. 

You might remember that St. John the Baptist has another feast on the Roman Calendar, that of his Beheading, on August 29, and a friend of mine once pointed out that the Orthodox churches honor St. John the Baptist even more often: September 23 —Conception of St. John the Forerunner; January 7 — The Synaxis of St. John the Forerunner; February 24 — First and Second Finding of the Head of St. John the Forerunner; May 25 — Third Finding of the Head of St. John the Forerunner; June 24 — Nativity of St. John the Forerunner, and August 29 — The Beheading of St. John the Forerunner!

St. John the Baptist, pray for us!

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

St. John's Eve: Hospitality and the Summer Quarter Day

Today is the Vigil of the Feast of St. John the Baptist's Nativity, one of only three births the Catholic Church celebrates on our sanctoral calendar (Christmas, the Birth of Our Savior and the Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary). The fact that his Nativity had a vigil demonstrates this feast's importance. In the 1962 Missal, today's Gospel is from the Gospel of St. Luke, describing the annunciation of his birth to the priest Zechariah (Luke 1:5-17). In keeping with the penitential aspects of a vigil, the vestments are violet. Tomorrow's Gospel, also from Luke, tells the story of his birth and naming (1:57-68) and the vestments are white.

The feast of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist was also one of the Quarter Days, days for transacting purchases, paying debts, hiring servants, etc. The other Quarter Days are March 25, September 29, and December 24. You may notice those are all feast days too: The Annunciation to the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Michael the Archangel (Michaelmas), and Christmas!

The Fisheaters.com website explains the traditions associated with this great vigil and feast, the Christmas of Summer: three months after the feast of the Annunciation and six months before the great feast of Christmas! Bonfires, offerings of food (bread and cheese) outside homes for passersby, eating strawberries, and even a special hymn, Ut queant laxis! You may find the full text and translations here.

St. John the Baptist, pray for us!

Image Credit (public domain): Nativity of Saint John the Baptist, Zechariah writing, "His name is John". Pontormo, on a desco da parto, c. 1526.

Monday, June 22, 2020

This Morning: Saints Richard Reynolds and Saint John Stone

Just a reminder that I'll be on the Son Rise Morning Show talking with Anna Mitchell about two more of the 40 Martyrs of England and Wales: Saint Richard Reynolds, who suffered with the Carthusian Priors on May 4, 1535, and Saint John Stone, who refused to acknowledge King Henry VIII's supremacy when the Austin Friary in Canterbury was being suppressed in 1539. He was martyred on or about December 27 that year.

Please listen live here; the podcast will be archived here.


But I would be totally remiss if I did not remember St. John Fisher on the anniversary of his beheading on Tower Hill on June 22, 1535 or St. Thomas More, on their shared feast.

Saint John Fisher's last words 485 years ago today:

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

More about St. John Fisher here.


Saint John Fisher, pray for us!
Saint Thomas More, pray for us!
Saint Richard Reynolds, pray for us!
Saint John Stone, pray for us!

Sunday, June 21, 2020

The Percy Family and Plots: Fathers, Sons, Uncles, and Brothers

Henry Percy, the Eighth Earl of Northumberland, Second Baron Percy, was found dead in his cell in the Tower of London on June 21, 1585.

His father Sir Thomas Percy had participated in Bigod's Rebellion led by Sir Francis Bigod in the after of the Pilgrimage of Grace, when Henry VIII was slow in keeping his promises. After the Bigod Rebellion was suppressed, Sir Thomas Percy was attainted and executed at Tyburn on 2 June 1537.

And one of the Eighth Earl's uncles, Sir Ingelram Percy, had also participated in the Pilgrimage of Grace, and had died in the Tower of London in 1538.

His brother, Thomas Percy, the Seventh Earl of Northumberland, First Baron Percy, had been executed on August  22, 1572 for his involvement in the Northern Rebellion. He was beatified by Pope Leo XIII on May 13, 1895 because before he was beheaded he had refused an offer to save his life by renouncing Catholicism.

The Seventh Earl had inherited the title from the Sixth Earl of Northumberland, also named Henry Percy. He is famous because he had fallen in love with Anne Boleyn while serving in Thomas Cardinal Wolsey's household. When Henry VIII wanted to marry Anne Boleyn, the Sixth Earl was encouraged to deny they had ever been betrothed (which would have been an impediment to the King marrying her; when Henry VIII wanted to get rid of Anne Boleyn, the Sixth Earl was encouraged to affirm that they had been betrothed because that would have made the King's marriage to her invalid.

Because the Sixth Earl and his wife, the former Mary Talbot, had no surviving male heirs, first Thomas, the Seventh Earl and then Henry, the Eighth Earl, had inherited the title when the Sixth Earl died on June 29, 1537.

The Dictionary of National Biography attempts to explain what brought the Eighth Earl of Northumberland to the Tower:

During the northern rebellion, in which his elder brother was a chief actor (November-December 1569), Henry Percy remained loyal to the government, joined the royal forces, and vigorously attacked the rebels. Queen Elizabeth promised him favour and employment in return for his valuable services. When his brother was a prisoner in Scotland, Percy wrote urging him to confess his offences and appeal to the queen's mercy. In 1571 he was elected M.P. for Northumberland, and on his brother's execution at York in 1572 he assumed, by Queen Elizabeth's permission, the title of eighth earl of Northumberland, in accordance with the patents of creation. 'Simple Thomas,' it was said among his tenantry, had died to make way for 'cruel Henry.'

But the traditions attaching to his family had meanwhile overcome his loyalty. As soon as he had helped to crush his brother, he was seized by an impulse to follow his brother's example, and strike a blow in behalf of Queen Mary Stuart, who was in confinement at Tutbury. He opened communication with the Scottish queen's agent, the bishop of Ross, at Easter 1571, and offered to become Queen Mary's 'servant.' He would aid her to escape, or at any rate connive at her escape. The wary Sir Ralph Sadler suspected his intentions, and on 15 Nov. 1571 Percy was arrested while in London and sent to the Tower. On 23 Feb. 1571-2 he wrote, begging the queen to release him. After eighteen months' detention he was brought to trial on a charge of treason. Thereupon he flung himself on the queen's mercy, was fined five thousand marks, and was directed to confine himself to his house at Petworth. On 12 July 1573 he was permitted to come to London, and was soon afterwards set at liberty.

But he continued his plotting for the sake of Mary of Scotland:

On 8 Feb. 1575-6 he first took his seat in the House of Lords, and was one of the royal commissioners appointed to prorogue parliament in November. Just a year later he was nominated a commissioner to promote the breeding of war-horses in Sussex. But he had not abandoned his treacherous courses. In September 1582 he entertained the French agent, M. de Bex, and looked with a friendly eye on Throckmorton's plot to release Queen Mary. With Lord Henry Howard and Throckmorton he was arrested on suspicion of complicity late in the same year, and for a second time was sent to the Tower. He was, however, only detained a few weeks, and no legal proceedings were taken against him. . . . He was still sanguine of compassing the release of Queen Mary. In September 1583 he invited her agent, Charles Paget [q. v.], and Paget's brother, Lord Paget, to Petworth, and there he discussed the matter fully. The Duc de Guise was to aid the enterprise with French troops, and Northumberland offered advice respecting their landing. William Shelley, who was present at the interview, was arrested and racked next year, and related what took place. Northumberland's aim, he said, was not only to secure Queen Mary's liberty, but to extort from Elizabeth full toleration for the Roman catholics (sic).

So he went back to the Tower, where he died of the gunshot wound, ruled a suicide, although contested, as Sir Christopher Hatton, one of Elizabeth I's favorites, was accused of murdering him.

The Eighth Earl's son, the Ninth Earl, also named Henry Percy, inherited his father's title and became known as The Wizard Earl. Don't worry, the pattern of plots and rebellions and suspicion and/or proof of Percy guilt was not broken. He too spent time in the Tower of London, found guilty of misprision of treason--one of his cousins, Sir Thomas Percy, was a Gunpowder Plotter--and the Ninth Earl should have informed on him and disclosed the danger:

On 27 June 1606 he was tried in the court of Star-chamber for contempt and misprision of treason. It was stated that he had sought to become chief of the papists in England; that knowing Thomas Percy to be a recusant he had admitted him to be a gentleman pensioner without administering to him the oath of supremacy; that after the discovery of the plot he had written to friends in the north about securing his own moneys, but gave no orders for Percy's apprehension. He pleaded guilty to some of the facts set forth in the indictment, but indignantly repudiated the inferences placed upon them by his prosecutors. He was sentenced to pay a fine of 30,000l, to be removed from all offices and places, to be rendered incapable of holding any of them hereafter, and to be kept a prisoner in the Tower for life.

The Ninth Earl spent 16 years in the Tower of London; he was released in 1621 and died on November 5, 1632. His son, the Tenth Earl of Northumberland is not named either Henry nor Thomas: he was Algernon Sidney!

Happy Father's Day! (USA)

Image Credit (Public Domain): Oil painting on canvas, Henry Percy, 8th Earl of Northumberland (c.1532-1585) by Sir Anthony Van Dyck (posthumous)

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Preview: Saints Richard Reynolds and John Stone

I'm particularly pleased that Anna Mitchell and I will talk about St. John Stone on Monday, June 22 in our Son Rise Morning Show series celebrating this year's 50th anniversary of the canonization of the 40 Martyrs of England and Wales. We never have the opportunity to talk about him because he was executed after Christmas in 1539--and the Son Rise Morning Show hosts and producers are off the air celebrating Christmas!

We'll also talk about Saint Richard Reynolds, who was executed on May 4, 1535 with the Carthusian Priors. And we can't forget to honor Saints John Fisher and Thomas More, whose feast we celebrate on June 22, the date of Fisher's beheading, also in 1535.

Since Saint Richard Reynolds, a Bridgettine or Briggitine monk of Syon Abbey, suffered first, here's some background on him:

Like the Carthusians the Bridgettine nuns of Syon Abbey were regarded as exemplary religious in England. Reynolds was also known as a monk of great learning--like the three Carthusians with whom he suffered he had studied at Cambridge University (Corpus Christi College!). Reynolds had joined the Bridgettine Abbey of Syon as Chaplain in 1513 and was called the "Angel of Syon".

The Abbey, founded by King Henry V in 1415 as The Monastery of St Saviour and St Bridget of Syon, of the Order of St Augustine, was rich and shared plentifully with the poor around London. There were separate houses of men and women with the Abbess as the highest authority. The abbess at the time of Reynolds' martyrdom and the dissolution of the abbey in 1539 was Agnes Jordan.

In his Defense of the Unity of the Church, the public letter he wrote to Henry VIII to remonstrate with him and call him to repentance, Reginald Pole highlighted the martyrdom of Reynolds:

One of these martyrs I must not pass over without a special notice, as he was intimately known to myself. Reynolds was his name, and he was one who, for the sanctity of his life, might be compared with the very first of those who profess the more exact rule of conduct, according to the discipline of Christ. . . . To manifest to all future time the praises of his sanctity and doctrine, and to show the height of his piety to Christ and his love of his country, it was ordained that in company with the other heroes he should, in this time of so great need, give testimony to the truth with his own blood. He gave it in truth, and was among the first to give it, and that with such constancy of mind, that as I was told by one who was present at the spectacle and had observed most attentively all that took place, when he put his neck within the murderous halter, he seemed rather to be putting on a regal chain than an instrument of death, such was the alacrity manifested in his countenance. O Blessed man! truly worthy of the fullest confidence of thee, O my country!

It's also important to note that Reynolds was the last to suffer execution and consoled the four men (the Carthusians and Blessed John Haile) as they endured their brutal tortures at Tyburn.

St. John Stone, in contrast, died alone in Canterbury, probably on December 27, 1539. Although the date is not completely certain, we know exactly what his execution cost. We also know nothing about St. John Stone before his arrest, trial, and execution, except that he was a Canon in the Austin (Augustinian) Friary of Canterbury. As British History Online describes the events in Kent:

The bishop of Dover, who came to Canterbury on 13 December, 1538, to negotiate the surrender of the friaries, found the Austin Friars specially in great poverty. (fn. 37) Their debts were £40, and their implements not worth £6, except a little plate weighing 126 oz. He reports to Cromwell that at the Austin Friars on 14 December, 'one friar very rudely and traitorously used himself,' and declared he was ready to die for it that the king might not be the head of the Church, but it must be a spiritual father appointed by God. This was probably Friar Stone. .  .

The Bishop of Dover was a former Dominican friar and prior, Richard Ingworth, who had been rewarded with that see in 1537 because he "had taken great pains in the king's matters" and readily submitted to the Oaths required and the surrender of King's Langley Priory in Hertford (which property he also received). He was then "commissioned by the king in February 1538 to visit all friaries in England, (fn. 68) and in May he was ordered to put their goods into safe custody and take inventories of them, (fn. 69) evidently in preparation for suppression."

The Midwest Augustinians's website offers these details of what happened to Friar Stone:

. . . All the other Augustinian Friars signed the document, but John refused.

John was arrested and thrown into prison in the Tower of London. He remained firm in his refusal to accept the King as head of the Church. While in jail, he spent many hours in prayer. One day, God spoke to him, encouraging him to be of good heart and to remain steadfast in his belief, even if it meant death. From this point on, John felt great strength. 

And British History Online provides the data about the cost of his execution and the labor involved:

and the sequel is thus noted in the City Accounts (1538-9):—Paid for half a ton of timber to make a pair of gallows to hang Friar Stone, 2s. 6d.; to a labourer that digged the holes, 3d.; to four men that helped set up the gallows for drink to them, for carriage of the timber from Stablegate to Dongeon (i.e. Dane John), 1s.; for a hurdle, 6d.; for a load of wood and for a horse to draw him to the Dongeon, 2s. 3d.; paid two men that set the kettle and parboiled him, 1s.; to two men that carried his quarters to the gates and set them up, 1s.; for halters to hang him and Sandwich cord and for straw, 1s.; to a woman that scoured the kettle, 2d.; to him that did the execution, 3s. 8d. (fn. 38)

Another Augustinian history website provides additional detail about the date of his execution:

Usually such a sentence was carried out without delay but in this instance an extraordinary event complicated matters. Anne of Cleves, who was coming to England to be the fourth wife of King Henry VIII, was due to arrive on Sunday, 7th December 1539, and would be stopping at Canterbury overnight on her way to London.

Her arrival, however, was delayed by bad weather. Her visit and John Stone’s execution probably happened on Saturday, 27th December 1539. As bizarre as it sounds, John Stone's execution was timed to be part of the reception festivities arranged for Anne of Cleves, despite the shortness of her stay. This conclusion is deduced from the extraordinary expenses for the execution and from the fact that the paraphernalia needed for it were removed only after her departure. . . .

What a welcome to England for Henry VIII's (briefly) fourth wife! A brutal, bloody execution!

Saint John Fisher, pray for us!
Saint Thomas More, pray for us!
Saint Richard Reynolds, pray for us!
Saint John Stone, pray for us!

Friday, June 19, 2020

A Marian Era Priest: Blessed Thomas Woodhouse

I'll post my preview for Monday's episode of our Son Rise Morning Show series tomorrow: Saint Richard Reynolds of Syon Abbey and Saint John Stone of the Austin Friars House in Canterbury will be our subjects!

Blessed Thomas Woodhouse is claimed by the Jesuits as their English Recusant era protomartyr because he was accepted into the order the year before his execution. According to the Singapore Jesuit website:

Fr Thomas Woodhouse was the first Jesuit to die for Christ in the conflict between the Catholic Church and the English monarchy between 1573 and 1679. Very little is known about his life prior to his imprisonment under Elizabeth I. He was born in England and was ordained probably in 1558, during the final year of the reign of Mary Tudor, the Catholic queen. He could not accept Elizabeth I who instituted religious reforms, including a non-Catholic prayer book, together with the 1559 decree declaring her supremacy in matters of religion. He resigned his parish position in Lincolnshire in 1560 and became tutor to the children of a wealthy family in Wales. He later left this position because of religious differences.

He was caught saying Mass, violating the law, on May 14, 1561 and held in prison for 12 years, able to minister to many Catholics and others in prison. Remember that prisons at this time in England were not run by the government and funded by tax dollars, they were run on a pay as you go basis by proprietary prison keepers. Prisoners had to pay their keep; somehow Father Woodhouse received enough donations to pay his room and board in prison.

Fr Woodhouse continued to celebrate Mass whenever he could, despite laws against the Catholic Mass and was arrested on May 14, 1561, while at Mass. He was imprisoned in London’s Fleet Prison where he spent the next twelve years. He was able to develop an apostolate to other prisoners because the prison officials were quite tolerant. He brought some of the inmates back to the Church. He also wrote short essays which he tied to a stone and threw them out whenever he saw a suitable individual pass his cell window. In 1572, he wrote to the Jesuit provincial in Paris as there was no Jesuit mission in England, requesting to enter the Society of Jesus. He was accepted. In his enthusiasm, he wrote a letter to William Cecil, the queen’s treasurer asking him to persuade the queen to accept the pope’s authority. Instead of doing what Fr Woodhouse asked, Cecil ordered him to be brought to trial on June 16, 1573 at Guildhall and when he repeatedly refused to acknowledge the judges’ authority and contested the competence of a secular tribunal to try a priest on religious matters, he was found guilty of high treason and was sentenced to be hanged, drawn, and quartered.

His act of treason was denying the Queen's supremacy, which he had denied with that letter to William Cecil, urging Elizabeth to return to the Church and accept Papal authority. 

Fr Woodhouse met a martyr’s death three days after his trial at Tyburn. He was the second priest, but the first Jesuit, to be executed in England on religious grounds. He was beatified by Pope Leo XIII on Dec 9, 1886.

The first priest "to be executed in England on religious grounds" was Blessed Thomas Plumtree.

More about Blessed Thomas Woodhouse here.