Friday, July 31, 2020

Preview: St. Swithun Wells, Recusant Layman

On Monday, August 3, Anna Mitchell and I will talk about Saint Swithun Wells in our series on the 40 Martyrs of England and Wales on the Son Rise Morning Show (about 7:50 a.m. Eastern/6:50 a.m. Central on Sacred Heart Radio).

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

The layman Saint Swithun Wells was hanged to death on December 10, 1591--a bloody day in the history of Catholic Recusancy in Elizabethan England. Seven English Catholics suffered brutal execution on December 10, 1591: three priests and four laymen, including Wells. One of the priests, Saint Eustace White and a layman, Blessed Brian Lacey were executed at Tyburn Tree. The other five suffered near Gray's Inn.

Wells was known to authorities as a recusant and they were probably watching his London house. According to the Oxford Reference website, Wells was

Born at Bambridge (Hants.) of a wealthy country family, Swithun Wells, a well-educated and travelled man, who was also poet, musician, and sportsman, lived a quiet country life until middle age. At one time he was tutor to the household of the earl of Southampton, later he married and then founded his own school at Monkton Farleigh (Wilts.). In 1582 he came under suspicion for his popish sympathies and gave up his school. He actively supported priests, organizing their often dangerous journeys from one safe and friendly house to another. He and his wife, though impoverished, moved to Gray's Inn Fields in 1586 and made their house a centre of hospitality to recusants. Wells was twice arrested and interrogated, but released for lack of evidence.

The Catholic Encyclopedia adds some details about his previous arrests:

On 4 July, 1586, he was discharged from Newgate on bail given by his nephew, Francis Parkins of "Weton", Berkshire. On 9 August, 1586, he was examined for supposed complicity in the Babington plot, and on 30 November, 1586, he was discharged from the Fleet prison. He was again examined 5 March, 1587, and on this occasion speaks of the well known recusant, George Cotton of Warblington, Hampshire, as his cousin.

He was indeed fortunate to have survived being questioned about the Babington Plot in 1586. The first executions of those convicted in that plot to replace Elizabeth I with Mary, Queen of Scots (who was her prisoner) were so brutal that authorities toned down the cruel gore the next day. 

In 1591, however, St. Swithun Wells was hanged for NOT attending a Catholic Mass in Elizabethan England. His wife Alice attended the Mass held in his house near Gray's Inn in London on November 1, 1591 (All Saints Day!), but he wasn't there when the priest hunters burst in during the Mass celebrated by Father Edmund Gennings. Those attending held the pursuivants off. His wife, Fathers Gennings and Polydore Plasden, and two other laymen, John Mason and Sidney Hodgson were arrested at the end of the Mass. Swithun was arrested when he came home. At his trial, he said he wished he could have attended that Mass and that was enough for the Elizabethan authorities. All of those arrested on November 1 were found guilty under 27 Elizabeth Cap 2 (Act Against Jesuits, Seminary Priests and Other Such Disobedient Subjects) and sentenced to death. Authorities then built a scaffold right outside his house for the executions.

Gray's Inn, at the intersection of High Holborn and Gray's Inn Road, by the way, is one of the four Inns of Court in London, where future barristers studied and trained. Recusant Catholics secretly studied there, so the Well's house was well situated for helping priests and hosting Mass. The scaffold outside his house and the presence of dignitaries at his execution and that of the two priests and two other laymen--more about that next week--would have been a powerful warning to the recusants in the area. We're watching you and we will punish you.

The Catholic Encyclopedia notes that Wells was an admirer and follower of Saint Thomas More, and he displayed some of that saint's sense of humor on the way to the scaffold and as he contended with Richard Topcliffe and a Church of England minister:

As he was led to the scaffold, Wells saw an old friend in the crowd and called out to him: "Farewell, dear friend, farewell to all hawking, hunting, and old pastimes. I am now going a better way"!" After he had climbed the ladder, Topcliffe called for a minister, who attempted to persuade Wells to confess to following false doctrine and traitorous priests. Wells turned and responded, "although I heard you say somewhat, yet it is but one doctor's opinion, and he also a very young one." The young minister was so daunted that he had no reply. Topcliffe then baited Wells, saying that "Dog-bolt Papists! you follow the Pope and his Bulls; believe me, I think some bulls begot you".Wells responded in kind: "if we have bulls to our fathers, thou hast a cow to thy mother".  He then immediately begged pardon and asked Topcliffe not to provoke him when he was trying to focus on other matters, hoping that this persecutor and torturer of Catholics would convert. He said, "I pray God make you a Paul of a Saul, of a bloody persecutor one of the Catholic Church's children."

John Hungerford Pollen's book Acts of English Martyrs Hitherto Unpublished, is the source of this dialogue. More and Wells must have "met merrily in heaven"!

St. Swithun's wife Alice received a reprieve from her death sentence, but died in prison in 1602.

Saint Swithun Wells, pray for us!

Image Credit: Statue of Saint Swithun Wells in Saint Etheldreda's, Ely Place in London.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Book Review: "America on Trial" by Robert Reilly (Part Two)

I published part one of my review on Saturday; it covered most of the book from the Introduction through chapter 8 on John Locke and how the Founders read him (see below for an outline of the book's contents, including the subheads in each chapter).

So, having offered his review of the intellectual background to the Founders' understanding of the issues of governance (Natural Law, Reason, happiness, tyranny, consent of the governed, Divine Right of Kings, rights to overthrow tyrants, etc), Reilly summarizes how they applied that knowledge to the situation the British American colonists faced in the 1760's and 1770's as Parliament (not really King George III) had violated their right of consent through taxation without representation. I found it remarkable that after all this discussion of the battle of ideas between Reason and Will, Reilly states that half of the signers of the Declaration of Independence were college graduates who had received classical Scholastic educations in the trivium (grammar, logic, and rhetoric) and quadrivium (arithmetic, astronomy, music, and geometry) and had studied Latin, another vestige of medieval Catholic culture. Whatever the contemporary debate about rights and rulers--Hobbes vs. Locke et al--half of the signers had a grounding in the liberal arts. In that day, a university education was conservative of classical knowledge of the past.

Next, Reilly compares and contrasts the thoughts of some of the leaders of the French Revolution with those of the Founders, citing Abbé Sieyès, Marquis de Condorcet, Marquis de Sade, and Louis Saint-Just (who wasn't). He explains Jefferson's initial support of the French Revolution, before the Reign of Terror (a reign without a monarch!), and his disappointment with its progress after he left Paris, but then demonstrates how much John Adams and Alexander Hamilton inveighed against the philosophy and ideology of these French thinkers from the start. Reilly highlights Adam's arguments against Condorcet's The Progress of the Human Mind, carried out in the margins of a copy of the book, to demonstrate how completely he rejected Condorcet's view of the human person and society. Reilly's pithy statement in the section on the French Revolution's attack on the Catholic Church, Christianity, and Catholics sums up the dichotomy: The revolutionaries in France "attempted a total break with the past by destroying it"; the Founders of the United States of America "sought a fulfillment of the past by preserving and improving it" (p. 280). Tories, who had wanted to remain loyal to England's rule, may not have been "treated with kid gloves" (p. 288), but there was no genocide as in the Vendee, no rejection of Sunday as a day of rest and worship, no martyrdoms, September massacres, or new religion in the American Revolution.

Having built his case over ten chapters, Reilly now takes on the critics of the Founders and their intellectual background. Perhaps I am at a disadvantage here because I have not read the works of Deneen and Hanby. He devotes at least five pages to debunking Deneen's misquotation of a passage by James Madison in Federalist Papers Number Ten, noting that Deneen uses that misquotation several times in his analysis of the Founding. (The complete quotation is: "The diversity in the faculties of men, from which the rights of property originate, is not less an insuperable obstacle to a uniformity of interests. The protection of these faculties is the first object of government.") Deneen proposes that Madison argues for the protection of the "diversity in the faculties of men" while Reilly argues that Madison wanted government to protect the "faculties" but acknowledged that the natural diversity in those faculties was an obstacle to unity that had to be dealt with because of dangers factionalism pose. A reading of that paper makes it clear to me that Madison was trying to find the better way of "controlling the effects of faction" while enabling and protecting liberty. Madison thought that the federalist structure helped balance those efforts: "The federal Constitution forms a happy combination in this respect; the great and aggregate interests being referred to the national, the local and particular to the State legislatures."

In his Epilogue, Reilly cites passages from Samuel Adams, John Adams, and Charles Carroll of Carrollton--whom he incorrectly identifies as a signer of both the Declaration and the Constitution (p. 314)--to demonstrate that the Founders believed the form of representative government they were establishing required Christian virtues to succeed and perdure. They predicted the decline of the Republic if Christian virtues were rejected and diminished among the Republic's citizens.

Reilly identifies German historicism as the cause of our current decline as we've been taught that progress in itself perfects. Our truths are superior to truths of the past--there is no objective, natural, real truth; it's relative to time and place; it's subjective for each person. "That may be your truth, but it's not mine. Don't impose your truth on me." (I overheard that in a pub outside Canterbury Cathedral many years ago when one woman opined that it's good to be married before you have children--and it was spoken in anger, not comity. The discussion was closed.) Therefore, who ever has the most power to impose their subjective truth--BLM, the NBA, NFL, MSM, Corporations, etc--will triumph; there will be no discussion or debate on a reasonable basis. Wilson, Dewey, and Obama agree: Social reform and political control; schools as great factories to create properly formed citizens; Truth as the object of will because there is no absolute truth. Except for the truth that there is no absolute truth.

In the final paragraphs of the Epilogue, Reilly calls for a ressourcement of the Founding--a return "to reality, to reason, to 'the laws of Nature's God'"--and avers that it will come as the "modern project" destroys itself, cancels itself, devours itself as the Soviet Empire "imploded from its own hollowness." (p. 331)

But as the history of the Soviet Empire demonstrates, there will be great suffering before the end of the modern project: viz Portland, Seattle, and Chicago, et al.

Foreword by Larry P. Arnn, PhD
Introduction: Do We Hold These Truths?
--Whose Fault Is It?
--Sources of the Founding

Chapter 1. The Legacies of Athens, Jerusalem, and Rome
--The Prephilosophical World
--Magic Time: The Problem with Pantheism
--The Problem with an Eternal Universe
--The Philosophical World: Athens
--Natural Law: "What Is"
--The End of Man and Morality
--The Order of the City and the Order of the Soul
--The Problem of Happiness
--Jerusalem: Transcendent Monotheism
--The Goodness of Creation and the "Imago Dei"
--The Origin of Evil
--Rome: Christianity--The Nuptials of Jerusalem and Athens
--Logos Incarnate
--The Solution to Happiness
--Limiting the Political to Itself
--Dedivinization of the World
--Man's Freedom
--The Spiritual Genealogy: Equality

Chapter 2. The Medieval Roots of Civilization
--Dual Sovereignties
--Wielding the Two Swords
--The Investiture Conflict
--The Struggle in England
--Magna Carta
--The Struggle in the Holy Roman Empire
--The Contribution of Canon Law to Constitutional Thinking
--What Touches All Must Be Approved by All
--The Development of Consent

Chapter 3. The Loss of Reason and Nature
--The Realist Metaphysics of Reality
--Nominalism and the End of Essences
--Voluntarism and the Primacy of Will
--Parallels with Islamic Voluntarism
--Loss of Cause and Effect
--Consequences for Law

Chapter 4. Enter: Martin Luther--Exit: Christendom
--Luther and Nominalism
--The Hidden God--Deus Absconditas
--Complete Corruption of Original Sin
--Faith Alone
--Contra Aristotle and Philosophy
--Freedom from Free Will
--The Political Consequences
--The End of Dual Sovereignty
--Legal Positivism--Law as Will

Chapter 5. Richard Hooker: Restoring Natural Law
--Recovery of Reason
--The Requirement of Consent
--Hooker's Influence

Chapter 6. Thomas Hobbes and the Rise of Secular Absolutism
--Hobbes versus Hooker
--Denial of the Highest Good
--Mutable Men
--Primacy of Passion and Power
--The War of All against All
--All-Powerful Leviathan
--Dispositive Despotism
--The Reaction

Chapter 7. The Divine Right of Kings and Its Enemies
--Bellarmine and Suarez
--James I's Divine Right
--Filmer's Defense of Divine Right
--Sovereignty of the People
--Principle of Equality
--Francisco Suarez
--A Catholic Founding? (parallel passages from Bellarmine, Suarez, the Virginia Declaration of Rights and the Declaration of Independence)
--Algernon Sidney

8. John Locke: Problem or Solution?
--Equality and Consent
--The Right to Revolution
--Locke and the Founders
--A Two-Faced Janus?
--The State of Nature
--Happiness or Hedonism?
--Locke vs. Hobbes

9. A Restorative Founding on Reason
--War of Ideas
--Parliament's Violation of the Right of Consent
--Violating the "Laws of Nature" and "Natural Right"
--James Wilson and Natural Law
--The Revolution Arrives
--Declaration of Independence
--The Theology of the Founding
--"All Men Are Created Equal"
--The Relationship between Liberty and Happiness
--The Constitution

10. The Antipodes: The American Revolution versus the French Revolution
--French Enlightenment Ideologies
--The Assault on Christianity
--Adams and Hamilton React

11. Critiquing the Critics: Why They Go Wrong about What Was Right
--Scorning America
--The Abolitionism
--Misquoting Madison
--America Devoted to Diversity?
--Misunderstanding the Declaration
--Misunderstanding Massachusetts
--Retrofitting the American Founding
--Cogs in the Machine
--Suicidal Blunder


Selected Bibliography

Monday, July 27, 2020

This Morning: Saints Margaret Clitherow and Margaret Ward

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 (or Anna Mitchell) and I will discuss Saints Margaret Clitherow and Margaret Ward, two laywomen who suffered martyrdom because they sheltered and protected priests.

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

Gerard Manley Hopkins, SJ composed this unfinished poem in honor of Saint Margaret Clitherow; at the end of the poem he alludes to Margaret possibly being pregnant when she was executed:

GOD’S counsel cólumnar-severe
But chaptered in the chief of bliss
Had always doomed her down to this –
Pressed to death. He plants the year;
The weighty weeks without hands grow,
Heaved drum on drum; but hands also
Must deal with Margaret Clitheroe.

The very victim would prepare.
Like water soon to be sucked in
Will crisp itself or settle or spin
So she; one sees that here and there
She mends the ways she means to go.
The last thing Margaret’s fingers sew
Is a shroud for Margaret Clitheroe.

The Christ-ed beauty of her mind
Her mould of features mated well.
She was admired. The spirit of hell
Being to her virtue clinching-blind
No wonder therefore was not slow
To the bargain of its hate to throw
The body of Margaret Clitheroe.

Great Thecla, the plumed passionflower,
Next Mary mother of maid and nun
– – – – – – – – – – – – – –
And every saint of bloody hour
And breath immortal thronged that show;
Heaven turned its starlight eyes below
To the murder of Margaret Clitheroe.

She was a woman, upright, outright;
Her will was bent at God. For that
Word went she should be crushed out flat
– – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Fawning fawning crocodiles
Days and days came round about
With tears to put her candle out;
They wound their winch of wicked smiles
To take her; while their tongues would go
God lighten your dark heart – but no,
Christ lived in Margaret Clitheroe.

She held her hands to, like in prayer;
They had them out and laid them wide
(Just like Jesus crucified);
They brought their hundredweights to bear.
Jews killed Jesus long ago
God’s son; these (they did not know)
God’s daughter Margaret Clitheroe.

When she felt the kill-weights crush
She told His name times-over three;
I suffer this she said for Thee.
After that in perfect hush
For a quarter of an hour or so
She was with the choke of woe. –
It is over, Margaret Clitheroe.

She caught the crying of those Three,
The Immortals of the eternal ring,
The Utterer, Utterèd, Uttering,
And witness in her place would she.
She not considered whether or no
She pleased the Queen and Council. So
To the death with Margaret Clitheroe!

Within her womb the child was quick.
Small matter of that then! Let him smother
And wreck in ruins of his mother. . . .

The repetition of "Margaret Clitheroe" at the end of each stanza is quite effective. Perhaps when Hopkins got to the point of the baby in her womb being crushed, he could go no further?

Hopkins did not write a poem about St. Margaret Ward, but the Diocese of Shrewsbury honors her among the saints and martyrs of the area:

St Margaret is today honoured in the Diocese of Shrewsbury. The saint is depicted in panels in St Joseph’s, Sale (above left), and St Alban’s, Wallasey. There was a wooden statue of her in St Laurence’s Church, Birkenhead, and in Sale a school and a church bear her name, as does another in Holmes Chapel.

Large statues of St Margaret and Blessed John Roche still stand today in St Etheldreda’s Church in Holborn, London.

St. Margaret Clitherow, pray for us!
St. Margaret Ward, pray for us!

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Book Review: "America on Trial" by Robert Reilly (Part One)

From Ignatius Press:

The Founding of the American Republic is on trial. Critics say it was a poison pill with a time-release formula; we are its victims. Its principles are responsible for the country's moral and social disintegration because they were based on the Enlightenment falsehood of radical individual autonomy.

In this well-researched book, Robert Reilly declares: not guilty. To prove his case, he traces the lineage of the ideas that made the United States, and its ordered liberty, possible. These concepts were extraordinary when they first burst upon the ancient world: the Judaic oneness of God, who creates ex nihilo and imprints his image on man; the Greek rational order of the world based upon the Reason behind it; and the Christian arrival of that Reason (Logos) incarnate in Christ. These may seem a long way from the American Founding, but Reilly argues that they are, in fact, its bedrock. Combined, they mandated the exercise of both freedom and reason.

These concepts were further developed by thinkers in the Middle Ages, who formulated the basic principles of constitutional rule. Why were they later rejected by those claiming the right to absolute rule, then reclaimed by the American Founders, only to be rejected again today? Reilly reveals the underlying drama: the conflict of might makes right versus right makes might. America's decline, he claims, is not to be discovered in the Founding principles, but in their disavowal.

The Catholic World Report published a symposium of reactions to America on Trial: A Defense of the Founding, but I encourage you to read the book--like I did--before you read the 13 responses by philosophers, historians, and others. Form your own opinion first on what Reilly has attempted and achieved before being influenced by them. I saw the symposium, scanned the summaries of the responses, and stopped--then went to Eighth Day Books and bought my copy. When I was last in the store Tuesday this week (for a discussion of Book III of Boethius' The Consolations of Philosophy with a group of friends) Warren was sold out, but I'm sure he'll be getting more copies soon.

Robert R. Reilly, whom I saw speak at the Midwest Catholic Family Conference in Wichita  (cancelled this year by COVID of course) a few years ago on his book The Closing of the Muslim Mind: How Intellectual Suicide Created the Modern Islamist Crisis, in this book offers an exploration of the philosophical and intellectual sources that inspired the Founders of the United States of America in their quest for independence from Great Britain and the establishment of a new nation. 

He goes all the way back to the pre-philosophical era, explores Greek philosophy focusing on Aristotle, Jewish monotheism, and the Latin/Roman Catholic synthesis of Greek philosophy and Revelation focusing on St. Thomas Aquinas, and continues his philosophical lessons through to the eighteenth century. 

Aristotle and Aquinas, with their confidence in our ability to reason based on the reality we experience around us are his heroes in these chapters. The Catholic synthesis of Aristotelian metaphysics and Revelation meant that we could, in a limited way of course, try to understand God and His creation with confidence, determine what is good, true, and beautiful, and live according to the Natural Law He created in the world, demonstrating the continuity between His Natural Law and His Revelation. This synthesis, Reilly argues, provided the foundation for the equality of all before the law, Divine and human, and the rights of all of God's creation to justice, including the consent to be governed. 

Along the way he offers an important defense of the Middle Ages, so often misidentified as the age of the "divine right of kings". Although it created many struggles between the hierarchy of the Catholic Church and the rulers of countries and empires, Reilly suggests that the "two swords" theory of the Middle Ages created a balance of rights and responsibilities for the ordinary person that a single sword--the state controlling both secular and religious order in each country--takes away. This recalled to my mind how the 17th century courts of the Inquisition were considered more just by those being tried in the Civil in those Catholic countries that still--even though as Reilly later points out, many Catholic rulers adopted the single sword model--maintained some semblance of the "two swords" theory with two Court systems. There was a greater presumption of innocence and a higher standard of proof of guilt in the Church Courts of the Inquisition, such that those accused of secular crimes would fake religious crimes to change the court they would be tried in--the BBC even said so!

Then he demonstrates how William Ockham in philosophy and Martin Luther in theology, through their nominalism and voluntarism, destroyed this synthesis and shifted the basis of knowledge and action from Reason to Will: even God's Reason. Larry P. Arnn of Hillsdale College addresses Reilly's view of Martin Luther in his Preface, counselling Lutherans and other Protestants to respond carefully and charitably, noting that Reilly quotes Martin Luther accurately and judiciously.

Reilly asserts that the English theologian Richard Hooker re-established Aristotelian realism in the (High) Church of England but I found that chapter not as convincing as Reilly intended. Hooker's Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity did not restore the "two swords" to England--the Church of England was as Erastian after as before--and even if James I praised Hooker's work that king upheld the theory of the Divine Right of Kings and the right of the monarch to rule the Church and the state without the consent of the governed. Yes, Hooker helped restore Natural Law to some extent, but the history of the Church of England demonstrates the limits of his legacy. His section on the relationship of the Church to the State, as Reilly notes in a later chapter, was not published until after both his and James I's deaths, because it was too controversial during that reign.

Reilly adds Thomas Hobbes to his triumvirate of the enemies of Reason and the Natural Law as he examines that gloomy philosopher's Leviathan as an effort to avoid civil war through absolute earthly obedience to the monarch, even above obedience to God. Heaven is no rewarding destination, only enforced peace on earth. The control of the state is necessary to hold in check the common, individual desires of each citizen to keep them from killing each other in the pursuit of worldly goods and security. Like Ockham and Luther, Hobbes deplored the thought and influence of Aristotle.

(Reilly mentions Machiavelli in his discussions of these contrasting views of political authority, but evidently judges him and The Prince to be a little outside the English background of the Founders.)

Juxtaposing James I of England's doctrine of the Divine Right of Kings to arguments by St. Robert Bellarmine and Father Francisco Suarez defending the sovereignty of the people and their right to consent to be governed, echoing Medieval theories. He cites parallel statements of Bellarmine, Suarez, the Virginia Declaration of Rights, and the Declaration of Independence on the "Source of Political Power", "Power of the People and the Requirement of Consent", and "Right to Revolution and Self-Determination". Reilly notes that our Founding Fathers weren't citing these arguments because their authors were Catholics (whom most of them detested and feared) but that they acknowledged the truth and effectiveness of these arguments as they were cited in Robert Firmer's defense of the Divine Right of Kings in his attempts to refute them. Lastly, he describes the influence of Algernon Sidney and his Discourses Concerning Government on the Founders, again noting the congruence between the two Jesuit scholastic theologians and Sidney.

The chapter on John Locke ("Problem and Solution") is a crucial one for Reilly's argument as he works to separate Locke's epistemological theories from his political theories. Again, part of his effort is to demonstrate what in Locke's philosophical and political works influenced the Founders. Reilly defends Locke from charges that he valued freedom and liberty only for the sake of hedonistic pleasures and shows that Locke has the common philosophical view of happiness as the fulfillment of Natural Law and Reality. He compares and contrasts Hobbes and Locke to demonstrate that the latter's thoughts are congruent with "orthodox" philosophies of Reality and Natural Law. Locke's epistemological skepticism did not extend to the afterlife, as he hoped for Heaven on his deathbed and wanted the Psalms read to him. That chapter was convincing to me.

I continue this review another day as this post is getting long! Since my background in Philosophy is scanty--one class at WSU that started with the thought of A.J. Ayer and scattered reading on my own--Reilly's systematic review of this history has been thought-provoking and fascinating to me.

Friday, July 24, 2020

Preview: Two Martyrs Named Margaret

On Monday, July 27, we'll continue our series on the Son Rise Morning Show with two more lay martyrs, Saint Margaret Clitherow and Saint Margaret Ward, two magnificent Catholic heroines who suffered during the reign of "Good Queen Bess" because they defended Catholic priests.

Saint Margaret Clitherow, The Pearl of York, was pressed or crushed to death on Good Friday (according to the Old Calendar, since England had not accepted the Catholic Gregorian reforms), March 25, 1586. Because she had refused to enter any plea when brought to trial--not cooperating with authorities--she was condemned to this unusual method of execution.

Clitherow was laid supine on the ground, a small stone placed beneath her back. She was naked, except for the shift placed on top of her. Her arms were outstretched like Jesus’ on the cross and tied to stakes, and the executioners placed a door on top of her. Then the executioners placed nearly 700 pounds of rocks on top of the door. She was crushed to death in about 15 minutes, speaking the name of Jesus as her ribs broke: “Jesu! Jesu! Jesu! Have mercy on me!”

She was born Margaret Middleton in 1556, married John Clitherow, a wealthy butcher and widower, when she was 18; at age 21, she became a Catholic. Her husband paid her fines when she refused to attend Church of England services, but he could not prevent her from being arrested and jailed for what authorities considered obstinate “popery” (her refusal to conform to the official national church). While she was in prison, however, she learned how to read and write.

John had children from his first marriage, Henry and Thomas; John had also allowed her to raise them as Catholics, as well as her children Anne and William. She hired a Catholic tutor named Stapleton to teach the children the faith. One of their sons, Henry, left York to attend a Catholic school on the Continent.

John Clitherow became a chamberlain of the city of York and was outraged when the authorities questioned him about his family’s faith and his son’s absence. John’s own brother William was a Catholic priest, so he was vulnerable, in spite of his public conformity to the Anglican church, especially when his wife refused to conform.

On March 10, 1586, the authorities raided the Clitherow household and found the tutor, Anne, William and neighborhood children doing their lessons. One little boy, from Flanders, after being threatened with torture, told the authorities about the priests who visited the household and showed them where the vestments were hidden. They arrested Margaret and accused her of breaking the laws against attending Mass and harboring Catholic priests.

Most of the sources I've read indicate that Clitherow refused to enter at plea at trial because she knew that her husband and her children would be called as witnesses and might be threatened with or even suffer torture; also her husband's standing in the community meant that his friends and colleagues would be on the jury to cast the verdict against her.

Being sentenced to peine forte et dure (“hard and forceful punishment”) was usually a three-day process: the first two days the prisoner would be laid down on the ground with as much weight laid upon her as she was able to bear and left thus without food or drink. If she entered her plea during the first two days, the weights would be removed and her trial would continue. If she still wouldn't enter a plea under this torture, she would be crushed to death on the third day. Saint Margaret Clitherow did not undergo the torture of three days: she was crushed to death on the first day. They left her body under the weights for another six hours and then buried her secretly. Her right hand was retrieved as a relic; it is kept at the Bar Convent in York. Her body was also found and decently buried.

Before sentence was carried out she sent her stockings and shoes to her daughter, conveying the message of following in her footsteps of faithfulness to the Church and the Sacraments. Anne left England to become a nun in Louvain, now Belgium. Both William and Henry became priests; and Thomas died in Hull prison in 1604, imprisoned for recusancy. John Clitherow remarried.

Father John Mush, her confessor, wrote her story in 1586, The Life and Death of Mistress Margaret Clitherow; he was arrested and sentenced to death in October that year but escaped.

Saint Margaret Ward was part of the second group of martyrs to suffer in 1588 after the failure of the Spanish Armada. She is a virgin martyr: she helped Father Richard Watson escape from Bridewell Prison. She visited him often enough that the jailer finally allowed her to enter without searching her, so she was able to smuggle in a rope. Father Watson unfortunately injured himself while escaping and was unable to retrieve the rope. Margaret found John Roche to help the injured priest once out of prison and both she and John were arrested; John because he had exchanged clothing with the priest and Margaret because the jailer figured out that she was the last person to visit Father Watson before he escaped. She was held in chains, hung up by her hands and scourged as the authorities attempted to force her to tell them where Father Watson went after escaping Bridewell prison. She refused, even though she acknowledged that she helped him. Offered a pardon for attending Church of England services, she again refused. The torture inflicted upon her over eight days left her partially paralyzed and she had to be carried to Tyburn for hanging. On August 30, 1588, she and Blessed John Roche, who had helped rescue Father Richard Watson, Blesseds Richard Lloyd, Richard Martin, and Edward Shelley, and one priest, Blessed Richard Leigh suffered martyrdom. The regime was certainly sending a message about laity who assisted Catholic priests.

These two saints share a separate feast day on August 30 with the other female martyr among the 40 Martyrs of England and Wales, St. Anne Line. In the triptych featured above, they are depicted in the right hand panel. Anne Line, a widow, is dressed in black; Margaret Ward holds a rope; Margaret Clitherow kneels on a door. The painting is by Geoffrey Webb.

St. Margaret Clitherow, pray for us!
St. Margaret Ward, pray for us!

Monday, July 20, 2020

This Morning: Saint Richard Gwyn on the Son Rise Morning Show

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. Anna Mitchell and I will discuss Saint Richard Gwyn, layman and Welsh Martyr, who suffered hanging, drawing, and quarterly in the Beast Market of Wrexham on October 15, 1584.

In non-COVID years, as in 2016, Saint Richard Gwyn has been celebrated and remembered in Wrexham with special Masses and processions. Perhaps by October it will be possible to continue the traditions.

He is honored appropriately in St. Mary's Cathedral of the Diocese of Menevia in Wrexham:

In the side chapel is a stained glass window, made at Wrexham College of Art in the 1980s, in memory of the martyr St Richard Gwyn. Born in 1536, he was a schoolmaster who refused to become a Protestant and was therefore hanged, drawn and quartered in Wrexham’s beast market in 1584. A relic of St Richard Gwyn is mounted on replica gallows in the cathedral. To its left is an icon depicting scenes of his life . . . This was painted in 2000 and consecrated during the cathedral’s annual St Richard Gwyn memorial celebration.

You may see an image of that icon with the scenes of life around him here. It's rather hard to make out the scenes, but he's shown teaching in a classroom, during his trial, and at his execution.

Saint Richard Gwyn, pray for us!

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

Saturday, July 18, 2020

July 18, 1538: Cromwell's Marian Bonfire

This is almost too timely: as statues of the Blessed Virgin Mary on church grounds, as well as public, not necessarily religious statues of Saint Junipero Serra and Saint Louis of France are threatened, defaced, desecrated, and destroyed, we have an historical example from the English Reformation to remember.

According to the Walsingham Blog's Facebook page today is the anniversary of the burning of many statues of the Blessed Virgin Mary--perhaps even including Our Lady of Walsingham--in 1538:
On the 14th of July 1538 Prior Vowell of Walsingham Priory reported to Thomas Cromwell that the royal commissioners had take the image of Our Lady from the chapel. 
On July 18th the Image that had for centuries been loved and venerated in its Holy House, and where so much prayer and pleading had poured forth, reached London, along with statues of Our Lady of Basingstoke, Caversham, Ipswich, Penrhys, Willesden, Worcester and others. They were taken to the residence of the Lord Privy Seal , Thomas Cromwell, Chelsea Manor, where they were burnt in the presence of the Lord Privy Seal himself.
Chelsea Manor had been Saint Thomas More's home. It was no accident Cromwell chose that location.

Bishop Hugh Latimer, as Gary Waller recounts in his book The Virgin Mary in Late Medieval and Early Modern English Literature and Popular Culture (Cambridge University Press, 2011), rejoiced in the burning of these statues, proclaiming:
Here is confounded and overthrown the foolish opinion of the papists, which would have us to worship a creature before the Creator; Mary before her Son. These wise men do not so; they worship not Mary; and wherefore? Because God only is to be worshipped: but Mary is not God.
In 1538, in the late summer or autumn, in Chelsea or Smithfield or Tyburn, we can surmise – from both casual remarks recorded at the time and various histories and memoirs some years later – that one or more fires was lit and in it (or them) were burned statues, “images,” of the Virgin Mary, most probably those that had been brought from shrines dedicated to her at Doncaster, Ipswich, Penrhys, and Walsingham. Local records suggest that similar images from Caversham, along with roods from Bermondsey, Boxley, Islington, and others were added to this, or similar, fires elsewhere. In 1537, the reformist bishop Hugh Latimer had announced that in his own diocese there reigned “idolatry, and many kinds of superstition,” and during what Helen Parish terms 1538’s “long summer of iconoclasm,” he also named the statue of the Virgin at Worcester a “devil’s instrument.” He gloated that the statue, along with “her old sister of Walsingham, her young sister of Ipswich,” and statues from Doncaster and Penrhys, “would make a jolly muster” and, he added for good measure, unlike flesh-and-blood heretics, would not “be all day in burning.” There are conflicting accounts on the date or dates on which such a “jolly muster” took place, and exactly when and what “idols” were destroyed, whether publicly or privately, but, Latimer pronounced, they were destroyed because they had “been the instrument to bring many (I fear) to eternal fire.”

You might recall that Hugh Latimer preached a long sermon while Blessed John Forest was hanging in chains in preparation for his being burned alive on May 22, 1538, with a statue of a Welsh saint, Derfel Gadarn, being added to the pyre:

Father Forest was brought on a hurdle from prison in his tattered Franciscan habit to Smithfield and forced to hear Bishop Latimer’s sermon. After an hour’s preaching, Latimer asked Forest to respond. They argued and Forest even noted that he and Latimer had formerly agreed upon the important points of Catholic doctrine but that Latimer had succumbed to the offers of power and authority. He should instead have followed the examples of Thomas More and Bishop John Fisher. Either Latimer or Cromwell then cried out, “Burn him! Burn him!”—enraged by what English witnesses called his stubbornness.

Latimer was not the only one rejoicing at the debasement and destruction of the statues (from the BHO entry for the priory of Walsingham):

John Husee, writing to Lord Lisle, on 18 June, also attempted to be witty on the same subject:
This day our late lady of Walsingham was brought to Lambithe (Lambeth), where was both my Lord Chancellor and my Lord Privy Seal with many virtuous prelates, but there was offered neither oblation nor candle. What shall become of her is not determined. (fn. 57)
Melancthon, on 1 November of the same year, exulted in the overthrow of the image of 'Mary by the Sea.' (fn. 58)

And Henry VIII, who had visited the Walsingham shrine in 1511, evidently approved of this iconoclasm:

Among the Lady Day accounts of 1538 [the Annunciation, March 25] the usual payments were made for the king's candle, and to the king's priest who sang before Our Lady at Walsingham. But when the Michaelmas payments came round the entry runs:
'For the king's candle before Our Lady of Walsingham, and to the prior there for his salary, nil.' (fn. 59)
Do not fear, however, because the prior, Richard Vowell, was well paid:

On 20 October, 1539, the late prior received a grant of the exceedingly large pension of £100 in reward for his obsequiousness and considerable bribes to Cromwell.

So as Catholics in the USA are reacting to what may be 2020's "long summer of iconoclasm", at least we may have the hope that justice may done to those who destroy private property. Otherwise, we must pray:

Our Lady of Walsingham, pray for us!

Friday, July 17, 2020

Blessed Carmelite Martyrs of Compiegne

Ten years ago this November, I visited the graves of the Blessed Carmelite Martyrs of Compiegne--the mass graves behind a gate and wall in Picpus Cemetery (more than one thousand victims of the Reign of Terror were dumped into those graves between June 14 and July 18, 1794 after being beheaded at Place du Trone-Renverse, today Place de la Nation, which I also visited that day):

Just outside that wall was the grave marker for Lafayette and his wife:

And also nearby was the gate through which their decapitated bodies were brought in a wagon to be dumped without prayers or ceremony:

I also visited the Chapel of Our Lady of Peace, Notre-Dame-de-la-Paix, before entering the cemetery park grounds:

And there, I tried to take a picture of the massive memorial to all those executed that summer:

Among the names:

Mother Teresa of St. Augustine, prioress
Mother St. Louis, sub-prioress
Mother Henriette of Jesus, ex-prioress
Sister Mary of Jesus Crucified
Sister Charlotte of the Resurrection, ex-sub-prioress and sacristan
Sister Euphrasia of the Immaculate Conception
Sister Teresa of the Sacred Heart of Mary
Sister Julie Louise of Jesus, widow
Sister Teresa of St. Ignatius
Sister Mary-Henrietta of Providence
Sister Constance, novice
Sister St. Martha
Sister Mary of the Holy Spirit
Sister St. Francis Xavier
Catherine Soiron
Thérèse Soiron

The date of their feast is so historically and liturgically appropriate: yesterday was the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, so they were able to celebrate the Carmelite Order's devotion to Our Lady; three days before was the anniversary of the fall of the Bastille, which is now celebrated as the Fête nationale of France. and ten days later the Reign of Terror ended.

Blessed Carmelite Martyrs of Compiegne, pray for us!

Preview: Saint Richard Gwyn, Welsh Protomartyr and Layman

The group of martyrs we are discussing on the Son Rise Morning Show every Monday this summer are called the 40 Martyrs of England and Wales and on Monday, July 20 I'll describe the martyrdom of Saint Richard Gwyn from Wales, a layman as the first of the six Welsh martyrs among the 40. His story of loyalty to the Catholic faith and perseverance in suffering is extraordinary. His wife Catherine supported him throughout his final incarceration and trial, in spite of the suffering she and their children certainly endured--loss of income, loss of companionship, etc. Gwyn is also known as Richard White since Gwyn in English is translated as "white" or "blessed"

Of course, there are many sources of information about his life, since the promoters of the Cause of the 40 Martyrs researched and documented his education, travels, and the persecution against him--a religious persecution conducted by Church of England ministers to force him to conform to the official State religion--quite completely. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia's entry for him, Saint Richard Gwyn was

born at Llanilloes, Montgomeryshire, about 1537; executed at Wrexham, Denbighshire, 15 October, 1584. After a brief stay at Oxford he studied at St. John's College, Cambridge, till about 1562, when he became a schoolmaster, first at Overton in Flintshire, then at Wrexham and other places, acquiring considerable reputation as a Welsh scholar. He had six children by his wife Catherine, three of whom survived him. For a time he conformed in religion, but was reconciled to the Catholic Church at the first coming of the seminary priests to Wales. Owing to his recusancy he was arrested more than once, and in 1579 he was a prisoner in Ruthin gaol, where he was offered liberty if he would conform. In 1580 he was transferred to Wrexham, where he suffered much persecution, being forcibly carried to the Protestant service, and being frequently brought to the bar at different assizes to undergo opprobrious treatment, but never obtaining his liberty. In May, 1583, he was removed to the Council of the Marches, and later in the year suffered torture at Bewdley and Bridgenorth before being sent back to Wrexham. There he lay a prisoner till the Autumn Assizes, when he was brought to trial on 9 October, and found guilty of treason and sentenced on the following day. Again his life was offered him on condition that he acknowledge the queen as supreme head of the Church. His wife consoled and encouraged him to the last. Five carols and a funeral ode composed by the martyr in Welsh have recently been discovered and published.

I'm glad, however, to have found a source that was published soon after his canonization. There was an article in the January 1971 issue of The Eagle, "a magazine supported by members of St. John's College Cambridge" highlighting Gwyn and St. Philip Howard as alumni of St. John's who had just been canonized. It notes, however, that Gwyn had not taken his degree at St. John's but lost his benefactor there, Dr. George Bullock, who was forced to leave because he was a Catholic. So Gwyn had to return to Wales and open a school in Overton:

. . . At first, he attended Protestant services in Overton Church. In a poem written during his later imprisonment, Gwyn described a typical Protestant service. 

In place of an altar, a miserable trestle, 
In place of Christ, there's bread, 
In place of a priest, a withered cobbler, 
Crooking his lips to eat it. 

Gwyn soon stopped attending these services. Under pressure from the bishop of Chester, he returned on one occasion, but, falling dangerously ill soon after, he resolved never to attend another Protestant service. His persistent 'recusancy' was an offence against the existing laws. In June 1580, the Privy Council issued letters to all bishops, directing them to take renewed action against all 'recusants', particularly against schoolmasters. They were believed to be responsible for the progress of Catholicism, since they were engaged in teaching children. In July, Gwyn was captured and put into the Wrexham gaol, beginning a long incarceration which ended after four years in his execution. 

There are some famous episodes of harassment and torture during those four years: he was taken in chains to a Church of England service but made so much noise rattling his chains that no one could hear the sermon preached by the "withered cobbler"; he was placed in the stocks and harangued by a group of ministers:

One of these ministers, who had a very red nose, began to argue with Gwyn, claiming that he has received the keys as much as St Peter had. Gwyn replied, "There is this difference, sir, that whereas Peter received the keys of the kingdom of heaven, the keys you have received are obviously those of the local pub!" He was indicted for 'having insolently and impiously interrupted a minister,' and returned to prison.  

Gwyn and two other laymen, John Hughes and Robert Morris, were indicted and tried for high treason for denying that Elizabeth I was Supreme Governor of the Church, for being Catholic, confessing that the Pope was the Vicar of Christ, and for trying to convert others to Catholicism. Hughes and Gwyn were found guilty, but Hughes was pardoned at sentencing (perhaps he recanted). Gwyn was sentenced to death:

"Richard Gwyn shall be hanged half dead, and so be cut down alive, his members cast into the fire, his body ripped unto the breast, his bowels likewise thrown into the fire, his head cut off, his body parted into four quarters. Finally, head and quarters to be set up where it shall please the Queen. And so the Lord have mercy on him." To which Gwyn, undaunted, replied, "What is all this? Is it more than one death?"

His wife Catherine, according to John Hungerford Pollen, was brought to Court and refused to listen to the judge encouraging her to renounce the Catholic faith in view of her husband's sentence. Catherine seems to have been pretty feisty as she challenged the judge to condemn her too, if he could bribe witnesses like her husband's accusers! She was arrested and later released on bail.

Gwyn was executed in Beast Market in Wrexham on October 15, 1584, handing Catherine some shillings and his Rosary beads as he left the jail. On the scaffold he made some of the same comments as the priests of this era: that he acknowledged Elizabeth as Queen and ruler of England in all secular matters, but that he was a Catholic and wanted only a priest to pray with him, not a minister. Just before Gwyn was hanged he turned to the crowd and said, "I have been a jesting fellow, and if I have offended any that way, or by my songs, I beseech them for God's sake to forgive me." He forgave the executioner who pulled on his leg irons as he hanged him, hoping to spare him the agony of the rest of the sentence, but Gwyn revived just as the executioner started to disembowel him. His last words, in Welsh, were reportedly "Iesu, trugarha wrthyf" ("Jesus, have mercy on me"). His head and quarters were displayed in different towns in Wales as a warning to other Catholics.

I wonder what happened to Catherine and the surviving children. According to Pollen, one witness later confessed to perjury against Gwyn.

Saint Richard Gwyn, pray for us!

Image Credit: Published under a Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International (CC BY-SA 4.0) license: Detail of a painting of Richard Gwyn in Wrexham Cathedral

Thursday, July 16, 2020

New Blog Added; New (Revised) Book Announced

I added a blog to my list of blogs I follow (on the right hand column of my blog): that of Francis Young, historian and author:

Francis Young is a UK-based historian and folklorist specialising in the history of religion and supernatural belief. He is the author of 14 books. His research interests include monasticism, saints, the history of magic and ritual (especially exorcism), early modern Catholicism, fairy belief and European paganism. He is especially interested in the history of England, Ireland and the Baltic states. He is also a professional indexer and a translator specialising in medieval and early modern Latin.

Francis was born in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk and studied Philosophy at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge and Classics at University of Wales, Lampeter before receiving his doctorate in History from Cambridge University. He is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and was Volumes Editor for the Catholic Record Society between 2015 and 2017. He spent several years as Head of Sixth Form at an English cathedral school, and is a Reader in the Church of England. Two of his books have previously been shortlisted for the Katharine Briggs Folklore Award.

Recently on his website/blog he announced that he's signed a contract to revise an important study of Catholicism in England with the author of the original edition of English Catholicism 1558-1642 published by Routledge:

Published in 1983, Alan Dures’s textbook for A Level and undergraduate students English Catholicism, 1558-1642, is something of a minor classic; long out of print, it remains the only textbook on English Catholicism ever written at this level, as an introduction to the field for students just setting out on the academic study of History. Alan Dures and I have just signed a contract with Routledge to bring out a thoroughly revised second edition of this important textbook in Routledge’s Seminar Studies in History series. The second edition will be thoroughly revised and updated to reflect the seismic changes in the historiography of English Catholicism in the last 40 years, and it will (we hope) become a key resource for students developing an interest in the phenomenon of English Catholicism at an early stage in their studies.

I ordered a used copy of the first edition so that if I can later obtain a copy of the new edition, I will be able to compare them. So when I read this book in either edition, I'll be a teenager again. It's a textbook for A Level students, after all:

Advanced Levels or A-Levels are subject-based qualifications that British students aged 16 or older must get if they plan to enter university or just want to gain better knowledge in a particular study area or profession they’re into.

A-Level courses are provided by Sixth Form Colleges and Further Education Colleges. In essence, these two institutions are the same except that Further Education Colleges operate separately from high schools, offer a wider range of courses and qualifications, plus ensure a different learning environment compared to high schools.

Perish the thought!

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

One Good Book Leads to Another: Chesterton on the Victorians

Our local Chesterton Society is reading Joseph Pearce's biography of Chesterton, Wisdom and Innocence. Next month we're going to conclude our discussion of a chapter  in which Pearce introduces us to one of Chesterton's works of literary criticism, The Victorian Age in Literature.

Dale Ahlquist of the American Chesterton Society offers some background for the book, which is out of print:

In 1913 the Home University Library published Chesterton’s The Victorian Age in Literature. But the editors emphatically declared that the book was not being offered as “an authoritative history of Victorian Literature” but only as Chesterton’s “personal views” on the subject. Apparently someone with personal views cannot write an authoritative history. In other words, an author cannot be an authority.

In spite of this handicap, the book was hugely successful, with multiple reprintings. One reviewer, however, while admiring the book, still expressed his irritation at “Chesterton’s obsession with religion.” (Again, authors should not have opinions, though critics may.) The reviewer’s irritation enabled him to miss the whole point of the book: that we cannot understand the Victorian writers without reference to their traditions and creeds – especially the traditions and creeds that they have rejected. Chesterton says religion “was the key of this age as of every other.” . . .

We cannot really understand the Victorian era unless we go back to the breakup of Catholic society. The multiple heresies that pulverized Catholicism were not merely religious but cultural and political and artistic. The old order was never replaced with a new order, but only with continued reactions against the old order. Chesterton says the later Protestant-types kept the Protestantism but did away with the Christianity. The Victorian Age began under the godless philosophy of Utilitarianism; it ended in the god-defying philosophy of Decadence, where men engaged in vile behavior not because they did not know it was wrong but because they did know it was wrong. “The decadents utterly lost the light and reason of their existence.” . . .

When I began reading the on-line edition of Chesterton's study I was happy to see his mention of St. John Henry Newman as a writer:

A mere conviction that Catholic thought is the clearest as well as the best disciplined, will not make a man a writer like Newman. But without that conviction Newman would not be a writer like Newman; and probably not a writer at all. It is useless for the æsthete (or any other anarchist) to urge the isolated individuality of the artist, apart from his attitude to his age. His attitude to his age is his individuality: men are never individual when alone.

And in the first paragraph of the first chapter Chesterton cites Newman again:

Now in trying to describe how the Victorian writers stood to each other, we must recur to the very real difficulty noted at the beginning: the difficulty of keeping the moral order parallel with the chronological order. For the mind moves by instincts, associations, premonitions and not by fixed dates or completed processes. Action and reaction will occur simultaneously: or the cause actually be found after the effect. Errors will be resisted before they have been properly promulgated: notions will be first defined long after they are dead. It is no good getting the almanac to look up moonshine; and most literature in this sense is moonshine. Thus Wordsworth shrank back into Toryism, as it were, from a Shelleyan extreme of pantheism as yet disembodied. Thus Newman took down the iron sword of dogma to parry a blow not yet delivered, that was coming from the club of Darwin. For this reason no one can understand tradition, or even history, who has not some tenderness for anachronism.

Chesterton identifies the Oxford Movement as one of the three great trends of Victorian thought along with Utilitarianism and Romantic Protestantism, and he summarizes his view of Newman's leadership of the Oxford Movement and his Catholic career after he left it thus:

But the greater part of all this happened before what is properly our period; and in that period Newman, and perhaps Newman alone, is the expression and summary of the whole school. It was certainly in the Victorian Age, and after his passage to Rome, that Newman claimed his complete right to be in any book on modern English literature. This is no place for estimating his theology: but one point about it does clearly emerge. Whatever else is right, the theory that Newman went over to Rome to find peace and an end of argument, is quite unquestionably wrong. He had far more quarrels after he had gone over to Rome. But, though he had far more quarrels, he had far fewer compromises: and he was of that temper which is tortured more by compromise than by quarrel. He was a man at once of abnormal energy and abnormal sensibility: nobody without that combination could have written the Apologia.  In this sense his Apologia is a triumph far beyond the ephemeral charge on which it was founded; in this sense he does indeed (to use his own expression) vanquish not his accuser but his judges. Many men would shrink from recording all their cold fits and hesitations and prolonged inconsistencies: I am sure it was the breath of life to Newman to confess them, now that he had done with them for ever. His Lectures on the Present Position of English Catholics, practically preached against a raging mob, rise not only higher but happier, as his instant unpopularity increases. There is something grander than humour, there is fun, in the very first lecture about the British Constitution as explained to a meeting of Russians. But always his triumphs are the triumphs of a highly sensitive man: a man must feel insults before he can so insultingly and splendidly avenge them. He is a naked man, who carries a naked sword. The quality of his literary style is so successful that it succeeds in escaping definition. The quality of his logic is that of a long but passionate patience, which waits until he has fixed all corners of an iron trap. But the quality of his moral comment on the age remains what I have said: a protest of the rationality of religion as against the increasing irrationality of mere Victorian comfort and compromise. So far as the present purpose is concerned, his protest died with him: he left few imitators and (it may easily be conceived) no successful imitators. The suggestion of him lingers on in the exquisite Elizabethan perversity of Coventry Patmore; and has later flamed out from the shy volcano of Francis Thompson. Otherwise (as we shall see in the parallel case of Ruskin's Socialism) he has no followers in his own age: but very many in ours.

More of Chesterton's appraisal of Newman's style may be found here (also highlighting Newman's Lectures on the Present Position of Catholics in England).

At our last meeting, we ended our discussions in the midst of chapter 12, "Brothers in Arms" as Chesterton has confessed to Father O'Connor (the model for Father Brown) in the spring of 1912 that he wants to become a Catholic but is waiting for his wife Frances. Pearce's description of Chesterton's The Victorian Age in Literature will be part of our reading next month as we finish up chapter 12 and move along to chapters 13 through 15. In the meantime, I'm reading Chesterton's evaluations of the Brontes, Thackeray, Dickens, Meredith, Browning, Barrett Browning, et al.

Monday, July 13, 2020

This Morning: Saints Payne and Kirby

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 John Payne and Saint Luke Kirby.

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

As I noted before, Saints Payne and Kirby are the last two saints from the group beatified by Pope Leo XIII in 1886. All of the saints canonized from the Elizabethan era in that group, except for Saint Cuthbert Mayne, were found guilty and condemned to the death of traitors in connection with the Rome and Reims Plot, which was an invention of the government. That's why it was so important that these five priests, Campion, Briant, Sherwin, Payne, and Kirby proclaimed their innocence of involvement in any plot against Queen Elizabeth I on the scaffold, and insisted that they were dying because they were Catholic priests. According to the expectations of the period, they were supposed to declare their guilt and the justice of their punishment. These priests refused to do that. They did fulfill the custom of the era by assuring the queen of their prayers and loyalty to her as a secular--not religious--head of state.

The rest of the Elizabethan era martyrs--and half of the 40 Martyrs of England and Wales suffered during that reign--were in the 1929 group beatified by Pope Pius XI and they comprise a much more diverse group of priests, laymen, and laywomen. Anna Mitchell and I will begin to discuss those martyrs next Monday.

Saint John Payne, pray for us!
Saint Luke Kirby, pray for us!

Saturday, July 11, 2020

All the Feasts of Sts. Fisher and More

My brother and sister and I bought this book together, chipping in equally, so we could celebrate certain feast days together. Today we'll gather for a Benedictine feast to honor Saint Benedict of Nursia, making a couple of Bénédictine (the herbal liqueur) cocktails. Drinking with the Saints: The Sinners Guide to a Holy Happy Hour often includes both the Extraordinary Form of the Latin Rite (EFLR) dates of saints' feast days and the Ordinary Form of the Latin Rite (OFLR) dates, as it does in the case of St. Benedict: today is the OFLR date; March 21 is the EFLR date.

Earlier this week the author, Michael P. Foley posted on his official Facebook page a note about the different dates upon which Saint Thomas More is honored on the Catholic calendar of saints (with an appropriate "for all seasons" cocktail):

Whether or not you celebrated the Feast of St. Thomas More on June 22 (in the new calendar), there are two more opportunities to toast to this great saint, scholar, and martyr. Today, July 6, is the 485th anniversary of More's martyrdom at the behest of King Henry VIII, and July 9 is his feast day in the traditional calendar. Why July 9, you ask? It was the first free day on the calendar. Fittingly, More died on the old octave day of the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul (it was his loyalty to the See of St. Peter that led to his martyrdom), July 7 was the Feast of Saints Cyril and Methodius, and July 8 was also already taken (St. Elizabeth of Portugal).

Foley even suggested a toast:

Last Call: You can toast to the merry More with an adaptation of his very last words: “To being God’s good servant first and the king’s second: may the prayers and example of St. Thomas More help us always keep our priorities straight.”

Remember that the Church of England celebrates these Reformation Martyrs on July 6, Thomas More's date of execution.

On July 9, indeed, Father John Zuhlsdorf offered Mass to celebrate the feast of Saints John Fisher and Thomas More on the calendar of the 1962 Roman Missal, including the texts for the Propers of the Mass on his blog.

I was struck by the appropriateness of the readings and prayers, for example the Epistle from the Second Book of Maccabees about the old scribe Eleazar, who refused to even seem to eat pork to save his life. But the Alleluia and the Tract were even more appropriate, one for each of these great men:

St John Fisher read these works on the way to the scaffold outside the Tower of London:

Allelúia, allelúia. V. Hæc est vita ætérna, ut cognóscant te solum Deum verum, et, quem misísti, Jesum Christum. Allelúia

Alleluia, alleluia. V. This is eternal life: That they may know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, Whom Thou hast sent. Alleluia. (John 17:3)

Stating after he had read the verse: "Here is even learning enough for me to my life's end."

And the Tract seemed perfect for the merry Thomas More, emphasizing joy:

Qui séminant in lácrimis, in gáudio metent. V. Eúntes ibant et flebant, mitténtes sémina sua. V. Veniéntes autem vénient cum exsultatióne, portántes manípulos suos.

They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. V. Going, they went and wept, casting their seeds. V. But coming, they shall come with joyfulness, carrying their sheaves. (Psalm 125:5-6)

Saint John Fisher, pray for us!
Saint Thomas More pray for us!
Saint Benedict of Nursia, pray for us!

One more comment about Thomas More: please read Professor Richard Rex's review of Hilary Mantel's The Mirror and the Light in First Things! It echoes some comments Rex made in a June 2019 presentation in Dublin.