Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Book Review: "Liturgical Mysticism" by David Fagerberg

The Tenth Annual Eighth Day Institute Symposium was held this past weekend: I saw many friends, volunteered to pick up bagels for breakfast and help at registration on Friday and to introduce David W. Fagerberg at his Saturday break-out session. I also drove him to Mass Saturday evening after attending Great Vespers at St. George's Orthodox Cathedral, and then on to Eighth Day Books for that evening's reception. But I came home after that to our dogs Joey and Brandy and congratulated myself that I only bought one new book (David Lyle Jeffrey's Scripture and the English Poetic Imagination): I'd picked it up off one of the Eighth Day Books displays; Jessica Hooten Wilson, one of the speakers, was standing next to me and said, "Yes: get that" so I bought it. She reviewed it here.

But here's my review of David W. Fagerberg's Liturgical Mysticism, his latest book on Liturgy, Theology, Spirituality, Sacramentality, and Mysticism. He began his break-out session with the comment that he wrote this book with Mrs. Murphy, the late Father Aidan Kavanaugh's image of a Catholic attending Mass and becoming a liturgical theologian, in mind. As I read the book, I thought of myself, Mrs. Mann, a Catholic attending Mass and becoming a liturgical theologian and how this book could help me grow as a liturgical theologian, a liturgical ascetic, and a liturgical mystic. Jesus has given us the Sacraments, especially the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, as the primary means to receive Sanctifying Grace. I experience this sanctification--being made holy--in the midst of "the vastly complex vocabulary of experiences had, prayers said, sights seen, smells smelled, words said and heard and responded to, emotions controlled and released, sins committed and repented, children born and loved ones buried, and in many other ways no one can count or always account for", as Father Kavanaugh, OSB wrote.

As Kavanaugh's student, Professor Fagerberg explores the meaning of his teacher's statement: "All who are engaged in liturgy are theologians precisely because the liturgy is the Church’s faith." Fagerberg goes further to state that if Mrs. Murphy or Mrs. Mann is engaged in the liturgy--if she even begins to comprehend what happens at Mass every day--she is not just a theologian, she is a mystic and an ascetic. The Holy Mass represents such a great mystery that if I participate in it and know that what I'm participating is the re-presentation of the Paschal Mystery, I must become a mystic. Since the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is making present on earth, in a particular church at a particular time, the saving sacrifice of Jesus dying on the Cross, descending to the dead, and rising from the dead, I am a mystic, breaking the bonds of earth, my own limitations, and time and space. Since it is through the suffering of Jesus on the cross that I receive communion with God, I must become an ascetic as I imitate Jesus, being conformed to Him more and more through the liturgy. Receiving and cooperating with the Graces of the liturgy are a path to holiness and sanctification.

Fagerberg illuminates these truths much more gracefully than I do. On her Facebook page, Kris McGregor posted "Kindle Quotes" (I read a real book so had to write out quotations on paper and type them out on my laptop!) that offer examples of his scintillating prose. From the Prologue:


Also from the Prologue:


Fagerberg also notes that "Liturgical mysticism is when liturgy takes up residence in our lives." (p. xxi) And later, in an excellent example of polysyndeton, he writes, "Liturgical theology is written with incense and icon and temple and feast and sacrament and relic"! (p. 14)

At the end of the Prologue, he offers a summation of the themes he will explore in the book: "Liturgical mysticism is the Trinitarian mystery, mediate by sacramental liturgy and hypostasized as personal liturgy, to anchor the substance of our lives." (p. xxi)

The Table of Contents of the book:

Prologue
Chapter 1. An Enthralling Liturgy
Chapter 2. Ordinary Liturgical Mysticism
Chapter 3. Quickening the Liturgical Person
Chapter 4. The Narrow Gate
Chapter 5. The Path through Cross to Resurrection
Chapter 6. The Pathway Home
Chapter 7. Coming Home
Epilogue
Bibliography
Index


In Chapter 1, he establishes that for the liturgy to make this development of graces possible, we have to stop thinking of liturgy as something we attend for our own satisfaction and enjoyment, such that we determine whether or not we get something out of it: "Liturgy must not conform to us but we to it." (p. 6) That's why liturgy is formal, repetitive, directed to God, worshipful (dulia) and pious (latria): year after year we "keep the liturgical year and its feasts", we "exercise the sacramentals in every nook of our lives", and we "let the prayer of the Church pass through our lips in the Divine Office" (p. 20)

In Chapter 2, Fagerberg cites Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange in support of his assertion that the ordinary Catholic Christian should be both a "secular ascetic" and a "mundane mystic": finding that this "infused contemplation of the mysteries of faith [celebrated in the liturgy] to be 'the normal way of sanctity and to be necessary to the full perfection of Christian life.'" (p. 26) Since Heaven will be mystical, adoring and loving God, we need to prepare for that meditative and peaceful mystical everlasting life. While there is an extraordinary mysticism experienced by a few, all Christians should prepare themselves for this ordinary mysticism by participating in the Church's liturgy.

In Chapter 3, he focuses on the "quickening of our baptism" in and with the Church: "Liturgical mysticism is ecclesial in form and sacramental in nature. It does not leave the Church behind . . . [it] is a liturgical life that sprouts from baptism and seeks union with God through his mysteries, on a mystical level." (p. 42)

Fagerberg offered a Saturday breakout session at the Symposium, based upon a section in Chapter 4, that highlighted one of the ways liturgical asceticism develops the graces we receive through the Sacraments as we deal with temptations along the purgative way. He explores Evagrius of Pontus's descriptions of the eight evil tempting thoughts or logismoi: gluttony, impurity, avarice, sadness, anger, acedia (the noonday demon), vainglory, and pride. They stand in the way of us participating in the Mystery of he liturgy, but the Mystery of the  liturgy and the sacraments help us avoid giving into those temptations. That Mystery orients us away from ourselves, to whom each of these temptations point us, and instead toward God and the opposite virtues of Faith in God, Hope in Heaven, and Love of God and neighbor.

In his plenary session on Friday, Fagerberg highlighted one of the Western spiritual writers he's been reading lately, Venerable Francis Libermann (more about him on Sunday, February 2 on this blog). He drew Libermann's spiritual advice, shared in letters with his family and with members of the missionary order he led, the Spiritans, from Chapter 5. Venerable Libermann urged his correspondents, in imitation of Jesus, to take up their crosses, bear them willingly, rejoice in their burdens for the sake of sanctification, the love of God and the love of neighbor.

In Chapters 6 and 7, Fagerberg continues this exploration of how liturgical mysticism guides us on our way in this life and how it points us to the eschaton, the end of this life and the beginning of the next. In the Epilogue, he concludes:
The liturgy that occurs within the hidden spaces of the heart is the liturgy hypostasized in the soul. Liturgical asceticism kneads both body and soul with that Resurrection power; liturgical mysticism looks fixedly at the mystery, who is Christ risen; and liturgical theology illuminates our world and our place in it. Liturgical mysticism is the Trinitarian mystery, mediated by sacramental liturgy and hypostasized as personal liturgy, to anchor the substance of our lives. (p. 149)
The bibliography is extensive, featuring titles by Louis Bouyer, Jean Danielou, Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, C.S. Lewis, Joseph Ratzinger, and Alexander Schmemann, among others. Reading this book was a transcendent experience and I'm glad I had the opportunity to meet and hear the author speak. Recommended without reservation.

Monday, January 27, 2020

Boston, Susan B. Anthony, and the Lady with the Lamp


I don't know whom I'll be talking to this morning--Anna Mitchell or Matt Swaim--on the Son Rise Morning Show as we continue our series on the great historical events to be remembered this year. I do know I'll be on the air about 6:50 a.m. Central/7:50 a.m. Eastern. 

The next three anniversaries are: the 250th anniversary of the Boston Massacre on March 5, 1770 and the 200th Anniversaries of the births of Susan B. Anthony and  Florence Nightingale (February 15 and May 12, respectively).

So start your day a better way and please listen live here; the podcast will be archived here!

Friday, January 24, 2020

Preview: Two Birthdays and One Massacre


On Monday, January 27, I'll continue my survey of 2020 historical anniversaries on the Son Rise Morning Show at my usual time (about 6:50 a.m. Central/7:50 a.m. Eastern). The next three anniversaries are: the 250th anniversary of the Boston Massacre on March 5, 1770 and the 200th Anniversary of the births of Susan B. Anthony and  Florence Nightingale (February 15 and May 12, respectively).

The illustration above is based upon Paul Revere's engraving: the Independence Hall Association notes that "this is not an accurate depiction of the event"! Their website explains the significance of the event:

The Boston Massacre was a street fight that occurred on March 5, 1770, between a "patriot" mob, throwing snowballs, stones, and sticks, and a squad of British soldiers. Several colonists were killed and this led to a campaign by speech-writers to rouse the ire of the citizenry.

The presence of British troops in the city of Boston was increasingly unwelcome. The riot began when about 50 citizens attacked a British sentinel. A British officer, Captain Thomas Preston, called in additional soldiers, and these too were attacked, so the soldiers fired into the mob, killing 3 on the spot (a black sailor named Crispus Attucks, ropemaker Samuel Gray, and a mariner named James Caldwell), and wounding 8 others, two of whom died later (Samuel Maverick and Patrick Carr).

A town meeting was called demanding the removal of the British and the trial of Captain Preston and his men for murder. At the trial, John Adams and Josiah Quincy II defended the British, leading to their acquittal and release. Samuel Quincy and Robert Treat Paine were the attorneys for the prosecution. Later, two of the British soldiers were found guilty of manslaughter.

The Boston Massacre was a signal event leading to the Revolutionary War. It led directly to the Royal Governor evacuating the occupying army from the town of Boston. It would soon bring the revolution to armed rebellion throughout the colonies.

Note that the occupation of Boston by British troops in 1768 was not met by open resistance.



The first 200th birthday anniversary to commemorate is Susan B. Anthony's, born on February 15, 1820 (she died on March 13, 1906). She was a women's suffrage rights, anti-slavery, and temperance advocate, known as the great organizer of the suffragette movement in the USA, which would finally be successful one hundred years after her birth (1920) with the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution:
The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.
Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
The Susan B. Anthony (SBA) List is named after her:

SBA List’s mission is to end abortion by electing national leaders and advocating for laws that save lives, with a special calling to promote pro-life women leaders.

SBA List is a nationwide network of more than 700,000 Americans. We combine politics with policy, investing heavily in voter education to ensure that pro-life Americans know where their lawmakers stand on protecting the unborn, and in issue advocacy, advancing pro-life laws through direct lobbying and grassroots campaigns.

SBA List is a family of organizations, an arsenal designed not to hurt but to heal; not to shame but to shield. We invite you to stand tall with us in that arena, to encircle the vulnerable ones who need us, and to fight until they are safe and free.


And Feminists for Life points out the early suffragettes' opposition to abortion on their website, although there is some controversy about Anthony's statements against abortion.

In 1979, the United States Mint issued the Susan B. Anthony dollar coin to replace the Eisenhower dollar piece. It was designed to be a smaller coin than its predecessor and that created confusion with the Quarter. The Susan B. Anthony dollar was reissued in 1999 while the Sacajawea dollar coin was being prepared for issue.

And the second birthday: Florence Nightingale, the famous "Lady with the Lamp", was born on May 12, 1820 (she died on August 13, 1910). She is known for her care for wounded soldiers during the Crimean War, her advocacy for professional nursing training, and other social reforms.

Since Catholic sisters could serve as nurses, Florence Nightingale, an Anglican with Unitarian Universalist views, thought for a time of becoming a Catholic. She and Henry Manning corresponded for a time before and after he became a Catholic in 1851. Emory University's Pitts Theology Library has some of those letters in its collection. Nightingale biographer Gillian Gill notes that her subject's interest in Catholicism was a means to an end: becoming a nurse in a hospital. Catholic sisters served as nurses during the Crimean War although they were segregated to Catholic wards so they could not proselytize the non-Catholic soldiers. One of the Protestant/Anglican nurses who came with Nightingale supervised those Catholic sisters and converted to Catholicism: Frances Taylor, who became a religious sister, Mother Mary Magdalen of the Sacred Heart as the founder of the Poor Servants of the Mother of God.

Florence Nightingale is honored by the Church of England on its Calendar of Saints on the date of her death (August 13) and there is a chapel dedicated to her and to nurses in Westminster Abbey. The Florence Nightingale Foundation was established in 1929 to provide "scholarships to the best nurses and midwives in the UK who then make a difference to patient care, policy and practice in their chosen fields." Finally, the Florence Nightingale Museum in London is celebrating her bicentennial with several events, using the #Nightingale2020!

These two women were obviously great organizers for their causes. Gillian Gill's biography of Florence Nightingale and her family recounts her upbringing and education, her adventures and achievements vividly. Neither she nor Susan B. Anthony ever married as both believed they could dedicate themselves more completely to their causes as single women.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Leslie Stephen and Newman on Charles Kingsley, RIP

The Reverend Charles Kingsley died on January 23, 1875; he was 55 years old.

In Leslie Stephen's entry for Kingsley in the Dictionary of National Biography, he comments on Kingsley's controversy with Father John Henry Newman, Oratorian:

In the beginning of 1864 Kingsley had an unfortunate controversy with John Henry Newman [q. v.] He had asserted in a review of Mr. Froude's ‘History’ in ‘Macmillan's Magazine’ for January 1864 that ‘Truth, for its own sake, had never been a virtue with the Roman catholic clergy,’ and attributed this opinion to Newman in particular. Upon Newman's protest, a correspondence followed, which was published by Newman (dated 31 Jan. 1864), with a brief, but cutting, comment. Kingsley replied in a pamphlet called ‘What, then, does Dr. Newman mean?’ which produced Newman's famous ‘Apologia.’ Kingsley was clearly both rash in his first statement and unsatisfactory in the apology which he published in ‘Macmillan's Magazine’ (this is given in the correspondence). That Newman triumphantly vindicated his personal character is also beyond doubt. The best that can be said for Kingsley is that he was aiming at a real blot on the philosophical system of his opponent; but, if so, it must be also allowed that he contrived to confuse the issue, and by obvious misunderstandings to give a complete victory to a powerful antagonist. With all his merits as an imaginative writer, Kingsley never showed any genuine dialectical ability.

Stephen also describes Kingsley's decline and death:

Kingsley's health was now showing symptoms of decline. The ‘Water Babies,’ published in 1863, was, says Mrs. Kingsley, ‘perhaps the last book, except his West Indian one, that he wrote with any real ease.’ Rest and change of air had been strongly advised, and in the spring of 1864 he made a short tour in France with Mr. Froude. In 1865 he was forced by further illness to retire for three months to the coast of Norfolk. From 1868 the Rev. William Harrison was his curate, and lightened his work at Eversley. . . .

In 1873 he was appointed canon of Westminster, and left Chester, to the general regret of his colleagues and the people. His son, Maurice, had gone to America in 1870, and was there employed as a railway engineer. Returning in 1873, he found his father much changed, and urged a sea-voyage and rest. At the beginning of 1874 Kingsley sailed for America, was received with the usual American hospitality in the chief cities, and gave some lectures. After a visit to Canada, he went to the west, saw Salt Lake city, San Francisco, the Yosemite valley, and had a severe attack of pleurisy, during which he stayed at Colorado Springs. It weakened him seriously, and after his return in August 1874 he had an attack at Westminster, by which he was further shaken. His wife had a dangerous illness soon afterwards. He was able to preach at Westminster in November, but was painfully changed in appearance. On 3 Dec. he went with his wife to Eversley, catching fresh cold just before. At Eversley he soon became dangerously ill. His wife was at the same time confined to her room with an illness supposed to be mortal, and he could only send messages for a time. He died peacefully on 23 Jan. 1875. He was buried at Eversley on 28 Jan., amid a great concourse of friends, including men of political and military distinction, villagers, and the huntsmen of the pack, with the horses and hounds outside the churchyard. Dean Stanley took part in the service, and preached a funeral sermon in Westminster Abbey (published) on 31 Jan. . . .


Father Ian Ker describes Father Newman's reaction to Kingsley's death on page 692 of his biography of Newman, citing the Letters and Diaries, volume xxvii:

Charles Kingsley died only a few day after the publication of the Letter [to the Duke of Norfolk]. Newman was shocked to hear of his early death. He could honestly say he had never felt anger against him. He had, after all, never even seen him. But experience had shown that it was only by speaking out strongly that people would believe him. This was why he had felt that 'it would not do to be tame, and not show indignation' at Kingsley's charges. He said Mass for his old adversary, who he heard had preached about him in a kindly, if critical, way in Chester Cathedral a few years previously. By his 'passionate attack' on him, Kingsley had inadvertently become one of his 'best friends, whom I always wished to shake hands with when living, and towards whose memory I have much tenderness.'

Dave Armstrong also cites a letter in which Newman refers to Kingsley after his death:
I have ever found from experience that no one would believe me in earnest if I spoke calmly. When again and again I denied the repeated report that I was on the point of coming back to the Church of England, I have uniformly found that, if I simply denied it, this only made newspapers repeat the report more confidently,—but, if I said something sharp, they abused me for scurrility against the Church I had left, but they believed me. Rightly or wrongly, this was the reason why I felt it would not do to be tame and not to show indignation at Mr. Kingsley’s charges. Within the last few years I have been obliged to adopt a similar course towards those who said I could not receive the Vatican Decrees. I sent a sharp letter to the Guardian and, of course, the Guardian called me names, but it believed me and did not allow the offence of its correspondent to be repeated.
As to Mr. Kingsley, . . . I heard, too, a few years back from a friend that she chanced to go into Chester Cathedral and found Mr. K. preaching about me, kindly though, of course, with criticisms on me. And it has rejoiced me to observe lately that he was defending the Athanasian Creed, and, as it seemed to me, in his views generally nearing the Catholic view of things. I have always hoped that by good luck I might meet him, feeling sure that there would be no embarrassment on my part, and I said Mass for his soul as soon as I heard of his death.
Edward Short, whose third volume on Newman (Newman and His Critics) will be published this year, provides some insight into why St. John Henry Newman could express such charity upon hearing of a former opponent's death:

Now I am at work on the third book of the trilogy, which is entitled Newman and his Critics. In this final volume, I show what an enormous debt Newsman owed his critics. After all, they forced him to defend himself, to defend his various positions on faith and reason, orthodoxy and liberalism, belief and unbelief. They put him on his mettle. Consequently, one of the underlying contentions of this final book of the trilogy is that if Newman had not done battle with so many of his contemporaries--in most cases, affable, charitable, constructive battle—he would never have become the great defender of the faith that he became. It was precisely because he spent so much time addressing those who did not share his faith—and among those we must number many in his own family—that Newman became such a compelling apologist.
The critics in my upcoming book include such lively, combative figures as Charles Kingsley and Sir James Fitzjames Stephen, as well as such former disciples as Mark Pattison and Anthony Froude. What is striking about these figures is how they hearken back to Newman’s brothers, Charles and Frank, who would never suffer their brilliant brother to persuade them of the tenability of faith, certainly not the Roman Catholic faith. In all three books, I have endeavored to show my readers that it is only by putting Newman in his immediate context, with his family and his contemporaries and his critics that we can begin to understand the full caritas and genius of the man.” 

Charles Kingsley, rest in peace.
St. John Henry Newman, pray for us.

Monday, January 20, 2020

Just a Reminder: Anniversaries on the Son Rise Morning Show

I've confirmed that I'll be talking to Anna Mitchell this morning as we continue our series on the great historical events to be remembered this year on the Son Rise Morning Show: about 6:50 a.m. Central/7:50 a.m. Eastern. The next three topics: the 500th anniversary of Ferdinand Magellan discovering the Straits of Magellan, a different route from the Atlantic to the Pacific on November 1, 1520; the 450th anniversary of Pope Saint Pius V's Papal Bull, Regnans in Excelsis on April 27, 1570 and the 450th anniversary of Blessed John Felton's martyrdom, and the 400th anniversary of the signing of the Mayflower Compact on November 11, 1620.

So grab a cup of coffee (Mystic Monk Coffee!!) and listen live here; the podcast will be archived here!

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Liturgical Mysticism at the Eighth Day Institute Symposium

The Tenth Annual Eighth Day Institute Symposium is scheduled for this week, starting on Thursday evening with Vespers at St. George Orthodox Cathedral and a reception at Eighth Day Books afterwards. The full schedule is available here, along with other details of the event..

This year's topic is "For I Am Holy: The Command to Be Like God":

It's hard to believe we've been organizing the Symposium for a decade now. But here we are, ready for another great dialogue of love and truth where where prayer, learning, friendship, and feasting take a front seat over the course of the event.

One of the questions we are always pondering at Eighth Day Institute is, "How can we renew our culture?" And one of the answers we keep coming back to is quite simple, but very difficult to achieve: "Be holy." We hope you can join us as we ponder this command from God as a way to think about renewing our souls and cities.


As usual, there are three Plenary Speakers: one Catholic, one Orthodox (Fr. Steven Freeman), and one Protestant (Jessica Hooten Wilson, who spoke at the Inklings Festival in October last year!). The Catholic speaker is David Fagerberg, who will speak in a breakout session on Saturday on "Liturgical Mysticism". I'm going to introduce him and am reading his recent book by the same title, which I bought of course at Eighth Day Books:

Some think that liturgy is formal, public, and for ordinary people, while mysticism is uncontrollable, private, and for extraordinary saints. Is there a connection between the two? In this volume, David Fagerberg proposes that mysticism is the normal crowning of the Christian life, and the Christian life is liturgical.

We intuitively sense that liturgy and theology and mysticism have an affinity. Liturgical theology should reveal liturgy’s mystical heart. Liturgical theology asks “What happens in liturgy?” and liturgical mysticism asks “What happens to us in liturgy?”, and perfects our interior liturgy.

In
Liturgical Mysticism, Fagerberg directs the reader to look fixedly at Christ, who is the Mystery present in liturgy, and who bestows his resurrection power upon his adopted children.

One of the first things I noticed about the book was that cover illustration. It's a slightly cropped image of Mass Said by the Canon de la Porte on the High Altar of Notre Dame de Paris (1708-1710) by Jean Jouvenet, from the Musee du Louvre, Paris. But that's not the High Altar of Notre Dame de Paris any visitor or worshipper has seen since Viollet-le-Duc renovated the Cathedral. This blog describes what Jouvenet has depicted and why:

The Cathedral's most ambitious embellishment project of the era was the extensive remodelling of the sanctuary and choir in fulfilment of the "vow of Louis XIII" of 1638 (to rebuild the main altar and erect a statue of the Virgin). Work was begun in 1699 on the designs of Hardouin-Mansart, but substantially completed under direction of Robert de Cotte in the years 1708 to 1715. The elaborate production included many statues, reliefs and decorative elements, among them the celebrated pietà by Nicolas Coustou (1712-28) set in a niche behind the high altar and flanked by the kneeling figures of Louis XIII by Guillaume Coustou and Louis XIV by Coysevoix. Although many of the individual elements have survived the years (and hopefully still do), the altar on which the design centred, and the over all architectural setting, are now lost, victims of the depredations of Revolution and the medieval "restorations" of Viollet-le-Duc.

The enterprise was made possible only by private donation: one of the Canons of the Cathedral, Antoine de La Porte (1627-1710), personally provided Louis XIV with 10,000 livres (?10,000 livres annually) and financed many of the individual embellishments. A painting by Jean Jouvenet, which imagines the Canon celebrating mass at Robert Cotte's high altar - at the time not yet built - shows clearly the harmonious sweep of the space as originally conceived . . .
(emphasis mine)

Please read the rest there.

The artist had suffered a stroke and learned to paint with his left hand. It looks like the Mass has just ended as an acolyte leaves the Altar with the chalice and paten covered by the humeral veil.

I am enjoying the book greatly and thinking of another book as I read it: Liturgy and Personality by Dietrich von Hildebrand!

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Preview: Three More Anniversaries on the Son Rise Morning Show

On Monday, January 20, I'll continue my series on the great historical events to be remembered this year on the Son Rise Morning Show: about 6:50 a.m. Central/7:50 a.m. Eastern. The next three topics: the 500th anniversary of Ferdinand Magellan discovering the Straits of Magellan, a different route from the Atlantic to the Pacific on November 1, 1520; the 450th anniversary of Pope Saint Pius V's Papal Bull, Regnans in Excelsis on April 27, 1570 and the 450th anniversary of Blessed John Felton's martyrdom, and the 400th anniversary of the signing of the Mayflower Compact on November 11, 1620.

Listen live here; the podcast will be archived here!


An anonymous portrait of Ferdinand Magellan, 16th or 17th century (The Mariner's Museum Collection, Newport News, VA) Legend: "Ferdinan[dus] Magellanus superatis antarctici freti angustiis clariss." (Fedinand Magellan, you overcame the famous, narrow, southern straits.) Image Source

The Mariner's Museum and Park website describes the voyage on which the Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan discovered the Straits of Magellan:

By the end of October 1517, Magellan was in Seville, becoming a Spanish citizen. King Charles I funded Magellan and he set sail September 20, 1519 with a fleet of five ships and roughly 200 men. The five ships were: the Trinidad, captained by Magellan; San Antonio, captained by Juan de Cartagena; Concepción, captained by Gaspar de Quesada; Victoria, captained by Luis de Mendoza; and the Santiago, captained by Juan Serrano. They stopped at the Canary Islands to pick up some supplies, and then continued into the Atlantic Ocean. Magellan received a letter that the Spanish officers planned to kill him after leaving the Canaries. Magellan remained on guard for his life throughout much of the trip. They sailed for several weeks, and by November 20, they crossed the equator into the southern hemisphere. In December, they stopped at Guanabara Bay in southeastern Brazil to resupply once again.

Magellan’s fleet continued on down the coast of South America. He was searching for a passage that connected one ocean to the other. As their journey went on, life at sea became difficult. Food and water became rationed, and the crew was not happy. On April 1, 1520, while at Port St. Julian, the three captains Cartagena, Mendoza, and Quesada called their crews to mutiny. The mutiny was crushed by Magellan. Mendoza had been killed during the mutiny. Quesada and Cartagena were found guilty of murder and treason. Quesada was beheaded for his crime, while Cartagena was left marooned – or stranded – on land when the fleet left. The fleet traveled onward. While near Santa Cruz, the Santiago wrecked while on a scouting mission. They continued south and on October 21, 1520 he finally found the passage they were searching for. Shortly after entering the passage, the San Antonio deserted the mission. On November 8, 1520 the Trinidad, Concepción, and Victoria reached the “Sea of the South.” Today we know it as the Pacific Ocean. This passage at the tip of South America that Ferdinand Magellan had found would later be renamed the Strait of Magellan.

This site offers the clarification that Magellan thought that on October 21, 1520 he'd found the passage to the Pacific Ocean. It was on All Saints Day that he named the passage he'd found:

On October 21, 1520, Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan and his fleet of ships reached Cape Virgenes, the southeastern tip of continental Argentina. Based on the geography of the region, Magellan came to the conclusion that he had found the passage into the Pacific that he was looking for.

As they traveled through it on November 1, which is All Saints' Day, Magellan called this passage Estrecho de Todos los Santos (All Saints' Channel). His assistant Antonio Pigafetta, on the other hand, called it the Pantagonian Strait. Then there were other crew members who called it the Victoria Strait, after the first ship to enter the passage, Victoria. Eventually, it was named Estrecho de Magallanes, or the Strait of Magellan, in the honor of Ferdinand Magellan.


As the Mariner's Museum and Park website continues the story:

Ferdinand Magellan had problems along the way, but he had finally reached the Pacific Ocean. Once through the strait, Magellan continued northward up the coast of Chile. In March the reached the island we now know as Guam. Here, they found and ate fresh food for the first time in 99 days. Having found a route through South America, Magellan was still determined to reach the Spice Islands. He and his fleet continued west. Along their course, they noticed a constant flow of wind. This air provided steady winds to their back which was very helpful to their sailing. Magellan and his crew had unknowingly discovered “trade winds.” The name would come from the important role they would later play in transoceanic trade. Their journey continued until they reached the Philippines in March of 1521. By this point, Magellan had endured a somewhat difficult yet successful journey. . . .

The 450th anniversary of Pope Saint Pius V's Papal Bull, Regnans in Excelsis on April 27, 1570, means it is also the 450th anniversary of Blessed John Felton's martyrdom. Regnans in Excelsis not only declared Elizabeth I excommunicated (as her father Henry VIII had been before her) but declared her deposed from the throne and stated that her subjects' vows to her were null and void:

And moreover, we declare her to be deprived of her pretended title to the kingdom aforesaid, and of all dominion, dignity and privilege whatsoever;

And also declare the nobles, subjects and people of the said realm and all others who have in any way sworn oaths unto her, to be forever absolved from any such oath and from any duty arising from duty, lordship, allegiance and obedience; and we do, by authority of these presents so absolve them, and so deprive the same Elizabeth of her pretended title to the crown and all other the abovesaid matters. We charge and command all and singular the nobles, subjects, peoples and others aforesaid that they do not dare obey her orders, mandates and laws. Those who shall act to the contrary we include in the like sentence of excommunication.

Bit of an overreach on how much authority Pope Pius V really had! or the power he had to enforce such declarations.

Blessed John Felton posted a copy of this Papal Bull less than a month later and suffered for it in the aftermath of the Northern Rebellion of 1569-1570:

When Pius V published the bull of excommunication and deprivation against Elizabeth, Felton obtained copies of it from the Spanish ambassador's chaplain, who immediately left the kingdom. Felton published the bull in this country by affixing a copy to the gates of the Bishop of London's palace between two and three o'clock of the morning of 15 May 1570. The government, surprised at and alarmed by this daring deed, at once ordered a general search to be made in all suspected places, and another copy of the bull was discovered in the chambers of a student of Lincoln's Inn, who confessed, when put to the rack, that he had received it from Felton. The next day the lord mayor, the lord chief justice, and the two sheriffs of London, with five hundred halberdiers, surrounded Bermondsey Abbey early in the morning. Felton, guessing their errand, opened the doors and gave himself into their custody, frankly admitting that he had set up the bull. He was conveyed to the Tower, where he was placed on the rack, but he resolutely refused to make any further confession.

He was arraigned at Guildhall on 4 Aug. 1570, and on the 8th of the same month was drawn on a sledge to St. Paul's churchyard, where he was hanged in front of the episcopal palace. He said that he gloried in the deed, and proclaimed himself a martyr to the papal supremacy. Though he gave the queen no other title than that of the Pretender, he asked her pardon if he had injured her; and in token that he bore her no malice, he sent her a present, by the Earl of Essex, of a diamond ring, worth 400l., which he drew from his finger. His body was beheaded and quartered, ‘and carried to Newgate to be parboiled, and so set up, as the other rebels were.’


Finally, the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower Compact. As the History Channel website explains:

The Mayflower Compact was a set of rules for self-governance established by the English settlers who traveled to the New World on the Mayflower. When Pilgrims and other settlers set out on the ship for America in 1620, they intended to lay anchor in northern Virginia. But after treacherous shoals and storms drove their ship off course, the settlers landed in Massachusetts instead, near Cape Cod, outside of Virginia’s jurisdiction. Knowing life without laws could prove catastrophic, colonist leaders created the Mayflower Compact to ensure a functioning social structure would prevail. . . .

Seeking the right to worship as they wished, the Pilgrims had signed a contract with the Virginia Company to settle on land near the Hudson River, which was then part of northern Virginia. The Virginia Company was a trading company chartered by King James I with the goal of colonizing parts of the eastern coast of the New World. London stockholders financed the Pilgrim’s voyage with the understanding they’d be repaid in profits from the new settlement.

But when the Mayflower landed in Massachusetts instead of Virginia, discord began before the colonists even left the ship. The strangers argued the Virginia Company contract was void. They felt since the Mayflower had landed outside of Virginia Company territory, they were no longer bound to the company’s charter.


The History Channel website describes the significance of the Mayflower Compact thusly:

The Mayflower Compact was important because it was the first document to establish self-government in the New World. It remained active until 1691 when Plymouth Colony became part of Massachusetts Bay Colony.

The Mayflower Compact was an early, successful attempt at democracy and undoubtedly played a role in future colonists seeking permanent independence from British rule and shaping the nation that eventually became the United States of America.

Friday, January 17, 2020

Kresta in the Afternoon Podcast and Download


Just so you have it handy for your listening pleasure--and to download if you wish--here's the podcast of my interview with Al Kresta on January 15, the 485th anniversary of Henry VIII proclaiming himself "Henricus Octavus, Dei gratia Angliæ et Franciæ Rex, Fidei Defensor et Dominus Hiberniæ, et in Terra Supremum Caput Anglicanæ Ecclesiæ": Henry the VIIIth, by the Grace of God King of England and France, Defender of the Faith, Lord of Ireland, and on earth Supreme Head of the Church of England"!

One chronological point about this date in the context of the timeline of the English Reformation to clarify: Oaths of Succession had already been submitted for secular and religious men to take: Sir Thomas More and Bishop John Fisher had been in the Tower of London since the middle of April, 1534 because they refused to swear that oath. It did not proclaim Henry the Supreme Head of the Church of England but it did deny the spiritual or ecclesiastical authority of the Pope in England, especially when it interfered with the Succession and Henry's marital affairs.

When Henry VIII made this declaration of his new title, the Parliamentary Act of Supremacy and the Treasons Act were already in place--since November of 1534. At their trials, the crucial act for the government to prove was that both More and Fisher had denied that Henry VIII was the Supreme Head of the Church of England; thus they had committed Treason and were condemned traitors to be hanged, drawn, and quartered. At both of their trials, Sir Richard Rich was the star witness to their acts of treason: Sir Thomas More vehemently protested that he would never have confided to such a person his thoughts on a matter he had told no one else, not even his family!

I first met Al Kresta in 2011 at the Catholic Writers Guild/Catholic Marketing Network Trade Show. He has been kind enough to recommend my book to "anyone interested in this topic" ever since! He says so at the very end of this interview!

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

On "Kresta in the Afternoon" TODAY

Before I go to my Holy Hour of Adoration today, I am going to record a segment for Kresta in The Afternoon, which will be aired later today. I'm not sure when it will be aired during his two hour show, but we are going to discuss Henry VIII being named Supreme Head and Governor of the Church in England and what it meant for Catholics in England.

Kresta in the Afternoon is on EWTN Radio and Ave Maria Radio from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m. Central Time/4:00 to 6:00 p.m. Eastern, etc.

What did it mean for Catholics in England at the time? Did they expect any real changes in doctrine, worship, and discipline? Except for a few, like the Carthusians, and the Observant Franciscans, and Sir Thomas More, and Bishop John Fisher, most probably thought that Henry VIII becoming the Supreme Head and Governor of the Church of England meant that everything as far as doctrine--except for the Pope--and worship--except for the Pope (as he was cited in the prayers at Mass and in the Divine Office)--and morals would remain the same.

By December 24, 1545, Henry VIII may have not been sure what he wanted to achieve as the Supreme Head and Governor of the Church of England. He was certainly disappointed that there was so much division in the Church, but there had been at least two parties, the reforming Lutherans and the conservative Catholics, from the beginning, contending for influence over the king. From 1536 to 1545, religious practice in England changed from being more Lutheran to being more Catholic: the Ten Articles and the Bishops Book; then the Six Articles and the King's Book; the suppression of the monasteries and the friaries; the fall of Cromwell; the Chantries Act; and at the end of Henry VIII's reign, the Lutheran/Calvinist party prepared to seize power when he died.

According to G.W. Bernard, in The King’s Reformation: Henry VIII and the Remaking of the English Church:

The king sought a middle way between Rome and Zurich, between Catholicism and its associated superstitions on one hand and the subversive radicalism of the reformers on the other. With a ruthlessness that verged on tyranny, Henry VIII determined the pace of change in the most important twenty years of England’s religious development.

I think it's hard to know what Henry VIII intended to achieve at the beginning of his control over the Church of England beyond consolidating his dynasty's succession.

Monday, January 13, 2020

2020: The Meaning of Dates

Just a reminder that I'll be on the Son Rise Morning Show at about 6:50 a.m. Central/7:50 a.m. Eastern to talk about a few of the big historical anniversaries to be commemorated this year: The Battle of Thermopylae, the birth of St. Genevieve of Paris, the murder/martyrdom of St. Thomas a Becket, the promulgation of Regnans in Excelsis by Pope St. Pius V (and the torture and execution/martyrdom of Blessed John Felton, father of Blessed Thomas Felton, the only Minim martyr of the recusant period).

Listen live here; the podcast will be archived here!

So why do we commemorate these anniversaries? Other than the passage of time, why are they significant? Why does the past matter? Does history matter? (John Tosh argues that it does!) I believe it does also!

One thing the commemoration of anniversaries prove is that history--the past and the interpretation of the past--should be ever be considered a dull subject. If it's made into a dull subject, shame on the teacher in the classroom or not. The fact that an event that occurred two thousand and five hundred years ago or less is still remembered today means that the past impacts us today. For example, the impact of the Battle of Thermopylae: the Council on Foreign Relations opines that the sacrifice of the Spartans in that pass set up the Greek victory against the Persians at Salamis that same year. Thus: "The Greek city states survived, and with them, what would become Western Civilization."

So the sacrifice of Spartans at Thermopylae allowed Greek culture, philosophy, pedagogy, science, art, architecture, and literature to thrive and develop in a free society. Free for citizens and men, of course--there are always limits to golden age perfection. Nevertheless we can state that ancient Greek culture has had and still has significant influence on Western Civilization.

The Catholic Church in Paris has published a website about the anniversary of St. Genevieve's birth and the events taking place to celebrate her birth in Nanterre because of her significance to the history of the city of Paris and the Catholic faith in Paris. The website includes a brief video from the Cure of St. Etienne-du-Mont in which he describes St. Genevieve as a dynamic woman of action and prayer, loving Jesus and her neighbor, serving the common good of the people of Paris and promoting peace. So commemorating the 1600th anniversary of her birth offers the Catholics of Paris an opportunity to celebrate a great saint, her influence on their city, the centuries of devotion--including the statues and stained glass windows in the churches of Paris and in the city depicting her--and emphasize the importance of the Catholic Church even in officially secularized France. They even created a pilgrimage guide to sites in central Paris associated with St. Genevieve!

After the devastating fire on April 15, 2019 at the Cathedral of Notre Dame, such a celebration of heritage and history offers some consolations.

St. Genevieve and St. Joan of Arc are linked as great defenders of Paris and France. Among the other anniversaries to mark this year is the 100th anniversary of St. Joan of Arc in Rome by Pope Benedict XV in 1920 in the midst of France's recovery from the devastation of World War I--but more about that later. It's important to note that St. Genevieve is venerated in the Eastern Orthodox Church too.

So the 850th anniversary of St. Thomas a Becket's martyrdom and the 450th anniversary of Regnans in Excelsis each have their own historical significance. Their impact on Church-State relations in the 12th and 16th centuries and beyond mean that historians discuss their influence on us today as the tensions between secular governments and religious institutions are ever-present, even though they don't lead to martyrdom and excommunication!

During my discussion on the Son Rise Morning Show, I'll also some suggest some ways to celebrate these anniversaries in case you aren't planning trips to Greece, England, or Paris this year!

Friday, January 10, 2020

2020: A Year of Major Anniversaries

I've posted on a couple of English Reformation related anniversaries in 2020 already: St. Thomas a Becket's 850th and St. Peter ad Vincula's 500th. There are many more fascinating anniversaries to be remembered and several more related to the English Reformation and its aftermath.

On Monday, January 13, I'll be on the Son Rise Morning Show at 6:50 a.m. Central/7:50 a.m. Eastern to start noting these anniversaries--we'll probably continue the list on the following Monday. We'll see how many we get through on Monday the 13th!

Listen live here; the podcast will be archived here!

The oldest anniversary to highlight is the battle of Thermopylae, famed for The 300 Spartans in the pass, holding off Xerxes and his army. The Council on Foreign Relations listed it among their "Ten Anniversaries to Note in 2020":

2,500th Anniversary of the Battle of Thermopylae, August or September 480 BC. Few battles have changed history. The Battle of Thermopylae stands out as an exception. In early 480 BCE the Persian Emperor Xerxes set out to avenge his father’s loss at the Battle of Marathon ten years earlier and to subdue the Greek city states. Some 7,000 Greeks marched to Thermopylae, about 120 miles northwest of Athens, to meet the far larger Persian army. The terrain favored the Greeks; the pass at Thermopylae was narrow, with the Aegean Sea on one side and steep hills on the other. Xerxes called on the Greeks to surrender. Their leader, King Leonidas of Sparta, invited the Persian army to “molon labe”’ or to “come and get them.” After two days of bitter fighting a local shepherd showed the Persians a route behind Greek lines. Outflanked, many of the Greeks withdrew. Leonidas, 300 fellow Spartans, and a few others stayed to fight. They were all killed, and the Persians mutilated Leonidas’s body. Their stand became legendary, slowing Xerxes’s progress and setting the stage for Persia’s defeat at the Battle of Salamis. The Greek city states survived, and with them, what would become Western Civilization.

The famous epitaph of The 300:

Oh stranger, tell the Lacedaemonians that
we lie here, obedient to their words.

Ὦ ξεῖν', ἀγγέλλειν Λακεδαιμονίοις ὅτι τῇδε
κείμεθα, τοῖς κείνων ῥήμασι πειθόμενοι.


The next great anniversary I'd select--the next oldest--is the birth of St. Genevieve of Paris, the Defensor Civitas, in 420 A.D. According to the National Catholic Register:

She saved Paris from a gloomy fate twice and is still remembered as one of the greatest female witnesses of Christian faith in history. Saint Genevieve, patroness of the French capital, will be in the spotlight all through 2020, as the country celebrates the 16th centenary of her birth.

Born around 420 in Nanterre (near Paris) in a family of patricians, she dedicated herself to God through a vow of virginity from an early age. She moved to Paris at her parents’ death as a consecrated person, leading at the same time a life of prayer and contemplation, while carrying out a local political mission inherited from her family and taking care of the needy.

She entered history at age 30 when, in 451, the Huns led by Attila threatened to invade the city after attempting to conquer numerous parts of Europe. At the risk of her life, Genevieve convinced the panic-stricken people of Paris not to run away and give their home up to the invader but to stay and pray. The city was eventually spared by the Huns after Attila suddenly changed his path. The Parisians then proclaimed Genevieve
Defensor Civitas — that is, in charge of the protection of the city.


You can, and I did, spend a couple of hours in St. Etienne du Mont, the church with the only remaining rood screen in Paris, visiting St. Genevieve's shrine, venerating her relics, and appreciating all the other beautiful artwork, history and significance of that church. (The picture above is my best attempt at a picture of her shrine during a November 2010 visit!)

And then you can go over the Pantheon, the great church that King Louis XV wanted built as a shrine to replace the old church of the Abbey of St. Genevieve, but it was finished only just before the French Revolution and wasn't consecrated until the reign of King Charles X. The new Republic took over the Pantheon and made it a shrine to the Revolution and its heroes--it's a fascinating locus on French history. There are still murals and depictions of St. Genevieve in the Pantheon (and St. Joan of Arc too). Foucault's Pendulum has been moved to the Musee des Arts et Metiers (the museum Mark really liked in Paris), but there's still a copy in the Pantheon.

Next on my list is the 850th anniversary of St. Thomas a Becket's martyrdom. I think it has significance through the centuries for the relationship of Church and State, particularly in the matters of law and administration and the intercession of a spiritual and temporal power. Remember that although the British Museum and the Canterbury Cathedral and probably other venues in England will be commemorating this anniversary in 2020, St. Thomas a Becket was named the Worst Briton of the 12th Century in 2005!

Then I select the 450th anniversary of Pope Saint Pius V's Papal Bull, Regnans in Excelsis on April 27, 1570, which means it is also the 450th anniversary of Blessed John Felton's martyrdom. Regnans in Excelsis not only declared Elizabeth I excommunicated (as her father Henry VIII had been before her) but declared her deposed from the throne and stated that her subjects' vows to her were null and void:

And moreover, we declare her to be deprived of her pretended title to the kingdom aforesaid, and of all dominion, dignity and privilege whatsoever;

And also declare the nobles, subjects and people of the said realm and all others who have in any way sworn oaths unto her, to be forever absolved from any such oath and from any duty arising from duty, lordship, allegiance and obedience; and we do, by authority of these presents so absolve them, and so deprive the same Elizabeth of her pretended title to the crown and all other the abovesaid matters. We charge and command all and singular the nobles, subjects, peoples and others aforesaid that they do not dare obey her orders, mandates and laws. Those who shall act to the contrary we include in the like sentence of excommunication.


Bit of an overreach on how much authority Pope Pius V really had! or the power he had to enforce such declarations.

Blessed John Felton posted a copy of this Papal Bull less than a month later and suffered for it in the aftermath of the Northern Rebellion of 1569-1570:

When Pius V published the bull of excommunication and deprivation against Elizabeth, Felton obtained copies of it from the Spanish ambassador's chaplain, who immediately left the kingdom. Felton published the bull in this country by affixing a copy to the gates of the Bishop of London's palace between two and three o'clock of the morning of 15 May 1570. The government, surprised at and alarmed by this daring deed, at once ordered a general search to be made in all suspected places, and another copy of the bull was discovered in the chambers of a student of Lincoln's Inn, who confessed, when put to the rack, that he had received it from Felton. The next day the lord mayor, the lord chief justice, and the two sheriffs of London, with five hundred halberdiers, surrounded Bermondsey Abbey early in the morning. Felton, guessing their errand, opened the doors and gave himself into their custody, frankly admitting that he had set up the bull. He was conveyed to the Tower, where he was placed on the rack, but he resolutely refused to make any further confession.

He was arraigned at Guildhall on 4 Aug. 1570, and on the 8th of the same month was drawn on a sledge to St. Paul's churchyard, where he was hanged in front of the episcopal palace. He said that he gloried in the deed, and proclaimed himself a martyr to the papal supremacy. Though he gave the queen no other title than that of the Pretender, he asked her pardon if he had injured her; and in token that he bore her no malice, he sent her a present, by the Earl of Essex, of a diamond ring, worth 400l., which he drew from his finger. His body was beheaded and quartered, ‘and carried to Newgate to be parboiled, and so set up, as the other rebels were.’


Again, we'll see how many of these we--Anne or Matt and I--get through on Monday, January 13th!  There are several more important anniversaries we'll certainly discuss next time, too.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, January 9, 2020

2020: The 500th Anniversary of St. Peter ad Vincula


St. Peter ad Vincula in the Tower of London is celebrating its 500th anniversary this year. More appropriately stated, it's celebrating the 500th anniversary of the rebuilding of St. Peter ad Vincula in 1520, because a chapel named for St. Peter in Chains had been near the Tower of London since Norman times. Henry III's changes to the Tower included attaching the chapel to the castle inside the walls. That chapel burned in 1512 and was rebuilt during Henry VIII's reign in 1519/1520 by Sir Richard Cholmondeley, whose effigy lies under the central arcade (he died in 1521). He was appointed the Lieutenant of the Tower in 1513; his name is really spelled Cholmeley (pronounced chumley) and he is a character in Gilbert & Sullivan's The Yeomen of the Guard!! Although his effigy with his wife is so prominent in the chapel, they are not buried there, although many other people are!

This site summarizes those buried there:

The Chapel of St. Peter ad Vincula is best known as the burial place of some of the most famous prisoners of the Tower, which include three queens, namely Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard, the second and fifth wives of Henry VIII respectively and the tragic Lady Jane Grey, who reigned for nine days in 1553.

George Boleyn, brother of Anne Boleyn, accused of incest with her, was also buried in the chapel after his execution in 1536, as were Edmund Dudley and Sir Richard Empson, tax collectors for Henry VII. Thomas More and John Fisher, who incurred the wrath of Henry VIII and were subsequently executed, and later canonised as martyrs by the Roman Catholic Church, are also buried there, as is Henry VIII's minister, Thomas Cromwell, Earl of Essex, who was executed on Henry's orders in 1540. James Duke of Monmouth, the illegitimate son of Charles II, led a rebellion against his uncle James II and was executed on 15 July 1685, on Tower Hill. He too is buried in the chapel. Monmouth's execution was hideously bungled, the executioner took five strokes at his neck and even then the head was not completely severed and had to be finished off with a knife.

Saint Philip Howard was buried there until his body was translated to Arundel Cathedral.

It's interesting to note that the first presentation is by the retired Bishop of London for the Church of England speaking about the Chapel and the Reformation. Subsequent posted events include discussions of Henry VIII and of Anne Boleyn.

Image Source and Credit

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Queen Catherine of Aragon (and my father in WWII!) At Kimbolton

It's appropriate that I posted yesterday on the birth of Jane Dormer, lady-in-waiting to Queen Catherine of Aragon yesterday, because she was with the Queen when she died in Kimbolton Castle on January 7, 1536. The On the Tudor Trail Blog describes her last two days:

On the 6th of January all was well but that evening things took a turn for the worse. Catherine’s condition deteriorated and she knew her end was near. According to Giles Tremlett [in Catherine of Aragon: Henry’s Spanish Queen], Catherine’s famous last letter that she is said to have dictated to her husband from her deathbed ‘is almost certainly fictitious’ (Pg. 422). He does though concede that the letter may have reflected what she was feeling in the early hours of the 7th of January. This is what was penned:
My most dear Lord, King, and Husband, The hour of my death now approaching, I cannot choose but, out of the love I bear you, to advise you of your soul’s health, which you ought to prefer before all considerations of the world or flesh whatsoever. For which yet you have cast me into many calamities, and yourself into many troubles. But I forgive you all, and pray God to do so likewise. For the rest, I commend unto you Mary, our daughter, beseeching you to be a good father to her. I must entreat you also to look after my maids, and give them in marriage, which is not much, they being but three, and to all my other servants, a year’s pay besides their due, lest otherwise they should be unprovided for until they find new employment. Lastly, I want only one true thing, to make this vow: that, in this life, mine eyes desire you alone, May God protect you.
Death now had a firm grip on Catherine and the bishop of Llandaff** administered extreme unction. Prayer had been Catherine’s companion all her life and now in her final moments it was her only consolation.

On the 7th January at approximately two o’clock, Catherine of Aragon, left all her worldly troubles behind. Henry’s Spanish Queen was no more and Henry’s court was left to celebrate.

Eric Ives claims that the news of Catherine’s death was greeted at court ‘by an outburst of relief and enthusiasm for the Boleyn marriage’ (Pg. 295). This seems very plausible considering that their great enemy was now dead and that Queen Anne Boleyn was pregnant with the heir to the Tudor throne.

At hearing the news of his first wife’s death, Henry cried, ‘God be praised that we are free from all suspicion of war!’ (Ives, Pg. 295). Anne was overjoyed and rewarded the messenger who brought the news to Greenwich a ‘handsome present’ – for the first time in her reign; Anne was now the one and only Queen of England.


**The bishop of Llandaff was George de Athequa, a Spaniard by birth, who had come to England with the Princess Catherine in 1501. He left England in 1537 and the former Gilbertine prior of Wattan, Robert Holgate, succeeded him.

Henry VIII did not allow their daughter Mary to visit her mother during Catherine's last illness. She wasn't allowed to attend her funeral either. 

Eustace Chapuys, who had visited her in the days before her death, did not attend the funeral when he learned she would be buried as the Dowager Princess of Wales, not the former (anointed and crowned) Queen of England.


In a strange coincidence, my late father was stationed at RAF Kimbolton during World War II as part of the Army Air Forces 379th Bombardment Group, flying in a B-17 ("Heaven Can Wait) as a gunner (nose turret and waist)!! Here is his record; perhaps I should send his photo to this organization!! (I'll check with my siblings).

Monday, January 6, 2020

Birth of Jane Dormer, Future Duchess of Feria

Jane Dormer, the future Duchess of Feria, was born on Sunday, January 6, 1538. Her early biographer, Henry Clifford, noted the significance of the date:

Jane Dormer was born at Eythrope, not far from Aylesbury in the County of Buckingham, in her grandfather's house, on the 6th of January, the year of our Lord 1538, being Sunday, and the Feast of the Epiphany; therein presaging the virtues of her after life by coming into the world, when Christians were rejoicing in the birth of our Lord. In her baptism the name of Jane was given to her after her grandmother; and this name signifying grace, how well it did befit her will appear in her life. When she began to speak and discern and learn her duty, her natural inclinations might easily be seen. She was apt, very disciplinable, obedient, humble, awful, generous in her condition; so that she seemed a child only in years. She was much beloved by the servants and gentlewomen, that were in her grandmother's house, (for there were many of noble descent, commended by their parents, to learn good education and virtue in that house), all presaging, that so sweet conditions, in so tender years and so graceful a countenance, gave hope to produce answerable effects.

Note that "Jane" is a derivative of "John" meaning "God is gracious", so that's the reference Clifford makes to "this name signifying grace". By the beginning of 1538, Henry VIII's reformation of the Church in England was well underway with many of the monasteries being dissolved, shrines being destroyed; the Ten Articles, the Bishop's Book and other methods of determining what the new Church of England believed and taught, were developed: and Father Sebastian Newdigate, a Carthusian monk who had served at Henry VIII's court, had been hanged, drawn, and quartered at Tyburn (on June 19, 1535).

The reason that last fact is important is the Sebastian Newdigate was Jane's grandmother's brother. Jane's grandmother was also named Jane and raised Jane until she went to Court. According to the 1888 Dictionary of National Biography:

In her early years she was the playfellow of Edward VI, whose tutor, Jane's maternal grandfather, would constantly send for her to read, play, dance, and sing with his pupil. Between Jane and Mary there sprang up a strong friendship, which continued unimpaired until the latter's death. They were inseparable companions, and often shared the same bedchamber; during the two months of Mary's last illness Jane Dormer was ever at her bedside, and it was into her hands that the dying queen committed her jewels to be handed over to Elizabeth. When Philip II came to England to marry Mary, he was accompanied by Don Gomez Suarez de Figueroa of Cordova, count of Feria, between whom and the queen's favourite maid of honour arose the attachment which led to their ultimate union. Jane's remarkable beauty and the sweetness of her disposition caused her hand to be sought in marriage by several English noblemen, among whom were Edward Courtenay, earl of Devonshire, the Duke of Norfolk, and the Earl of Nottingham, but by Mary's advice they were one and all rejected in favour of the Spaniard.

It's important to note that Jane's father's side of the family (the Dormer's) remained staunchly Catholic, while her mother's side of the family (the Sidney's) conformed to the Church of England.

Jane married the Count of Feria after Mary I died and then they left England for Spain, recognizing that Elizabeth  was not going to continue Mary's religious policies:

But before Philip was ready to return, Mary died, and Jane Dormer went back to her grandmother, now lodging in the Savoy. The Count of Feria, who was in England at the time, having been sent by Philip when he heard of the queen's sickness, strongly urged an immediate union, and accordingly the marriage took place on 29 Dec. 1558. The reason for this haste was the count's anticipation that the catholic supremacy was now at an end, and that consequently his stay in England would not be long. His fears were justified, and on learning that Elizabeth's coronation ceremony would not be in strict accordance with catholic usage, he refused, notwithstanding the queen's personal entreaty, to be present on the occasion, and at Philip's command prepared to leave the country. After arranging for his wife to follow him, he set out for Flanders in May 1559. At his wife's suggestion he obtained leave of the queen, in face of much opposition, to take with him the members of certain religious orders, including the Carthusian monks of Sheen, the nuns of St. Bridget of Sion, and the Dominican nuns of Dartford. The Countess of Feria remained at Durham House till the end of July, when Don Juan de Ayala arrived to escort her to Flanders. After a fare well interview with Elizabeth, who is variously stated by catholic and protestant writers respectively to have rudely slighted her and to have received her with marked affection, she started on her way to the continent, accompanied by her paternal grandmother, Alvara de Quadra, bishop of Aquila, and six attendant gentlewomen, among whom were included Lady Margaret Harrington, a sister of Sir William Pickering, Mrs. Paston, and Mrs. Clarentia, the favourite waiting-woman of Queen Mary. The journey was a triumphal progress.

Her biographer in the DNB, Alsager Richard Vian, pays tribute to her power and influence in Spain:

The duchess had the stronger character of the two, and her husband, in his will, left her sole guardian of their son and manager of his estates. At the time of his death he was in debt to the extent of three hundred thousand ducats, the whole of which she had cleared off before her son came of age and entered into possession of his estates. As a widow she continued to further the papal cause with unexampled zeal. More than once spies were dispatched from England to Spain to gain some insight into her supposed intrigues with the catholic church. At least four popes—Gregory XIII, Sixtus V, Clement VIII, and Paul V—personally corresponded with her. All Catholics who came to Spain from England received a welcome at her house, and were provided according to their needs with food, clothes, or money. She used all her influence at court to procure the release of such fugitives as were imprisoned on their arrival; on one occasion she obtained freedom for thirty-eight Englishmen imprisoned at Seville, and among others who owed their release to her intercession was Sir Richard Hawkins. In all matters the piety of the Duchess of Feria took a practical form. She took the habit of the third order of St. Francis, and wore it and the scapulary as long as she lived. Every week, and sometimes oftener, she supplied a supper to a monastery of this same order, of which both she and her husband, while he lived, were generous patrons.

She sounds like a most formidable woman! It's rather amazing there's no modern biography of her.

Duchess of Feria died on January 13, 1612 (on the feast of the Baptism of the Lord!) and was buried in the Convent of St. Clare in Zafra, Spain, which is now a museum.

Image Credit: a portrait believed to be of Jane Dormer, the Duchess of Feria, by Sir Anthonis Mor.