Tuesday, December 29, 2020

850 Years Ago Tonight: Murder in the Cathedral

Before COVID struck, there were great plans to celebrate this 850th anniversary of the martyrdom, or some might say, assassination, of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Saint Thomas a Becket. The British Museum, for example, postponed their major exhibit Thomas a Becket: Murder and the Making of a Saint to open in 2021 (it was scheduled to open in October this year). The Venerable English College is still remembering the event in a special way this year:

December 29th, 2020 marks the 850th anniversary of the martyrdom of Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury. The English Hospice, founded in Rome in 1362 for pilgrims from England and Wales, was dedicated to the Most Holy Trinity and St Thomas of Canterbury.

The transformation in 1579 of the Hospice into a new English College in Rome, preparing priests for the dangerous post-Reformation mission to England and Wales, engendered further martyrdoms, with 44 members of the College being executed for serving as priests on the mission.

The VEC has just produced an impressive new book titled
Memory, Martyrs, and Mission. Essays to Commemorate the 850th Anniversary of the Martyrdom of St Thomas Becket (c. 1118–1170). The e-book version of this volume is being made available to readers for a limited time.

Hurry! Only available until January 29th, 2021. (If you do download the book, you might consider making a gift to the Venerabile through the North American Friends of the Venerable English College (NAFVEC).

I have a new CD to listen to today (in addition to the Unfinished Vespers of December 29, 1170), from Hungaroton Classics.

The BBC also has a story about St. Thomas of Canterbury, concerning a "certain little book" he wanted to be sure to take into exile with him in 1164:

In exile he would need money, so before leaving Northampton, Becket had secretly sent his closest confidant, the scholar Herbert of Bosham, to Canterbury, to gather as much as he could and to take it to the Abbey of St Bertin, near Calais. But there was also one other thing he wanted Herbert to find - a certain little book.

"The implication is that it was a book that was very important to Becket, and that Herbert would know what it was," Anne Duggan says.

"It's quite interesting that he doesn't tell us - so there is a mystery there. It wasn't a law book, it wasn't a gospel, it was a little book - a codicella." . . .

Saint Thomas of Canterbury, pray for us!

Remember, it's still the Octave of Christmas: Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 27, 2020

Pope Leo XIII and the Feast of the Holy Family

Pope Leo XIII holds a special place in my heart because he made Father John Henry Newman of the Oratory a Cardinal, even though he knew it might cause trouble, and referred to Newman as ‘Il mio cardinale’ (My Cardinal)! But I did not realize how important his influence was to the feast of the Holy Family, which we celebrate today!

According to this blog:

The Feast of the Holy Family is of recent origin. In 1663 Barbara d’Hillehoust founded at Montreal the Association of the Holy Family; this devotion soon spread and in 1893 Pope Leo XIII expressed his approval of a Feast under this title and himself composed part of the Office. The Feast was welcomed by succeeding Pontiffs as an efficacious means for bringing home to the Christian people the example of the Holy Family at Nazareth, and by the restoration of the true spirit of family life, stemming, in some measure, the evils of modern society. These motives led Pope Benedict XV to insert the Feast into the Universal Calendar, and from 1921 it has been fixed for this present Sunday.

To be clear: in the 1962 liturgical calendar of the Extraordinary Form of the Latin Rite, this feast is celebrated the Sunday after Epiphany (today the EFLR observes the Sunday in the Octave of Christmas); on the 1970 liturgical calendar of the Ordinary Form of the Latin Rite, this feast is celebrated on the Sunday in the Octave of Christmas. If both Christmas Day and the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God are on Sundays, the feast is celebrated on December 30.

Pope Leo XIII composed the hymns for Matins, Vespers, and Lauds. The December 2020 Magnificat prayer magazine has a translation of his Matin hymn for today's Morning Prayer and of his Lauds hymn for Evening Prayer. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia:

The opening words of the hymn for Matins of the Feast of the Holy Family. The Holy See instituted the feast in 1893, making it a duplex majus (greater double) and assigning it to the third Sunday after Epiphany. Leo XIII composed the three hymns (Vespers, Matins, Lauds) of the Breviary Office. The hymn for Matins contains nine Sapphic stanzas of the classical type of the first stanza:

Sacra jam splendent decorata lychnis
Templa, jam sertis redimitur ara,
Et pio fumant redolentque aerrae
Thuris honore.

(A thousand lights their glory shed
On shrines and altars garlanded,
While swinging censers dusk the air
With perfumed prayer.)

The hymns for Vespers (O lux beata caelitum) and Lauds (O gente felix hospita) are in classical dimeter iambics, four-lined stanzas, of which the Vespers hymn contains six and the Lauds hymn seven exclusive of the usual Marian doxology (Jesu tibi sit gloria). All three hymns are replete with spiritual unction, graceful expression, and classical dignity of form. They reflect the sentiment of the pope in his letter establishing a Pious Association in honour of the Holy Family and in his Encyclical dealing with the condition of working-men.

More about these hymns and translations may be found here.

It's still Christmas: Merry Christmas!

Image Source (Public Domain): Miniature in the Grandes Heures of Anne of Brittany, 1503-08, by Jean Bourdichon

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

First Book on 2021 Wish List

I'm going to ask Warren at Eighth Day Books to order this for me as soon as it's available next year (scheduled for release on January 5, 2021!) Per the publisher, Bloomsbury:

As an authority on the religion of medieval and early modern England, Eamon Duffy is preeminent. In his revisionist masterpiece The Stripping of the Altars, Duffy opened up new areas of research and entirely fresh perspectives on the origin and progress of the English Reformation.

Duffy's focus has always been on the practices and institutions through which ordinary people lived and experienced their religion, but which the Protestant reformers abolished as idolatry and superstition. The first part of
A People's Tragedy examines the two most important of these institutions: the rise and fall of pilgrimage to the cathedral shrines of England, and the destruction of the monasteries under Henry VIII, as exemplified by the dissolution of the ancient Anglo-Saxon monastery of Ely. In the title essay of the volume, Duffy tells the harrowing story of the Elizabethan regime's savage suppression of the last Catholic rebellion against the Reformation, the Rising of the Northern Earls in 1569.

In the second half of the book Duffy considers the changing ways in which the Reformation has been thought and written about: the evolution of Catholic portrayals of Martin Luther, from hostile caricature to partial approval; the role of historians of the Reformation in the emergence of English national identity; and the improbable story of the twentieth century revival of Anglican and Catholic pilgrimage to the medieval Marian shrine of Walsingham. Finally, he considers the changing ways in which attitudes to the Reformation have been reflected in fiction, culminating with Hilary Mantel's gripping trilogy on the rise and fall of Henry VIII's political and religious fixer, Thomas Cromwell, and her controversial portrayal of Cromwell's Catholic opponent and victim, Sir Thomas More.

I know for a fact that Warren has stocked a book with the same title but a different subject: Orlando Figes' A People's Tragedy: The Russian Revolution, 1891-1924! Eighth Day Books has Natasha's Dance by the same author in stock.

I'm sure like Reformation Divided (2017), also published by Bloomsbury, some of this material has been published before, but Duffy's insights into the history and the historiography of Reformation England are always welcome.

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Book Review: Four Novellas by Gertrud von le Fort

I purchased this book at Eighth Day Books a couple of weeks ago (and there's still copy on the shelf as I post this review!). According to the publisher, Ignatius Press:

Newly translated into English for the first time, these four novellas from the acclaimed German writer Gertrud von le Fort are from her later works of historical fiction. Ominous and mysterious, these page-turning stories bring to life momentous chapters in from the past.

The Innocents, set in Germany after the Second World War, is a poignant family drama about the horrors of war, the suffering of the innocent, and the demands of justice.

The Ostracized Woman traces the fate of a Prussian family at the end of World War II to the heroic deed of an ancestor done centuries before.

The Last Meeting imagines the last encounter between Madame de La ValliƩre and Madame de Montespan, rival mistresses of King Louis XIV of France.

The Tower of Constance leads the reader into the heart of the infamous French prison of the same name while exploring the role of conscience in the religious and philosophical conflicts of the eighteenth-century.

Reading them in the translation by Michael J. Miller, what I noticed most was the tension and suspense that von le Fort created in each of these tales. Some great mystery, some great injustice, must be brought to reconciliation--through sacrifice, understanding, or mercy. Each story or novella is a moral mystery and each is effectively paced and plotted.

For the last two stories, I was happy, however, that I had read Antonia Fraser's Love and Louis XIV: The Women in the Life of the Sun King several years ago. It helped me understand the background of the moral issues of the Most Christian King and his defense of orthodoxy in France in the context of his adultery, conflict between his mistresses, their own desires to confess their sin and be absolved, and of course, his control of the Church.

I recommend this volume of Gertrud von le Fort's later works: they are thought-provoking and moving.

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Announcement: The North American Friends of the Venerable English College (NAFVEC)

I've been asked to help in whatever way I can in a new project with the English Martyrs of the Recusant era, specifically those who attended the Venerable English College in Rome:

The Venerable English College in Rome has been preparing men for Catholic priestly ministry in England & Wales since 1579. It is the oldest British institution outside the United Kingdom.

North American Friends of the Venerable English College was established in 2020 to promote awareness of the “Venerabile” and the history of the College and its Martyrs. It is committed to fostering material and spiritual support for the VEC as a unique Catholic institution and seminary housing an exceptional archival collection.

I'll post a link to the website on the right side of this blog, but want to direct your attention particularly to this page highlighting The Heritage Collection:

The VEC Archives are a valuable resource for the study of the history of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, and indeed of English and Welsh presences in Rome since before the founding of the Hospice. The Heritage Collections and Archives contain papal bulls, vestments, works of art, music and architectural records, and a wealth of other historical material . . .

Holy Catholic Martyrs of England and Wales, pray for us!

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

This Friday: December 18: Andrew Nash on Gerard Manley Hopkins, SJ

My Newman friend, Edward Short, interviewed Andrew Nash for the Catholic World Report about his new film on the poet and convert, Father Gerard Manley Hopkins:

A new EWTN film about the Jesuit priest and poet Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-89) seeks to introduce the unique nineteenth-century Victorian-era writer to a wider audience. The film was made by Dr. Andrew Nash, who studied English literature at Trinity College, Cambridge, and was Head of English and a Housemaster at the Oratory School (founded by St. John Henry Newman). Nash, who is the first doctoral graduate of the Maryvale Institute, Birmingham, has lectured on Newman and his critical edition of Newman’s Lectures on the Present Position of Catholics in England was published by Gracewing in 2000.

Now retired from his former position as Headmaster of St. Edward’s School, Cheltenham, he spoke recently with
CWR about the film Gerald Manley Hopkins: Priest-Poet, which will debut in the United Kingdom and Ireland on December 9th (12:00 pm London Time) and in the United States and Canada on December 18th (8:00 pm EST) on EWTN. . . .

Please read the rest there. I am looking forward to watching this program Friday night on EWTN! I have read and appreciated Hopkins' poetry since I was an undergraduate English major!! It is most appropriate that Nash will focus on The Wreck of the Deutschland, the poem Hopkins wrote "To the happy memory of five Franciscan Nuns, exiles by the Falk Laws, drowned between midnight and morning of Dec. 7th, 1875"!!

Sunday, December 13, 2020

Happy Gaudete Sunday and St. Lucy's Day!

Sorry for the lack of blogging this week. I was in the hospital receiving COVID-related pneumonia treatments. 

Thanks to good care, I was released on the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe and am home recovering.

I appreciate all the prayers and help I received from friends and family.

Happy Gaudete Sunday:

Rejoice in the Lord always: again I say, rejoice. Let your modesty be known to all men: for the Lord is nigh. Be nothing solicitous: but in every prayer let your petitions be made known to God.

Ps. O Lord, thou hast blessed thy land: thou hast turned away the captivity of Jacob. ℣. Glory to the Father and to the Son . . . .

Rejoice in the Lord always: again I say, rejoice. Let your modesty be known to all men: for the Lord is nigh. Be nothing solicitous: but in every prayer let your petitions be made known to God.

(Introit for Gaudete Sunday in the Extraordinary Form of the Latin Rite from Phil 4:4-6)

And today is also the feast of Saint Lucy!

Happy Advent!

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Vespers at the Venerable English College in Rome

I received some exciting news from the Venerable English College in Rome last week:

This Tuesday [Today!] marks a very important day in the calendar of the VEC. 1st December is Martyrs’ Day. During the recusant period, students would gather around the Martyrs’ Picture in the chapel to sing a Te Deum whenever news reached Rome of a martyrdom of a former student. This tradition continues today, and includes the veneration of the relics of the Martyrs, including proto-martyr St Ralph Sherwin.

The VEC produced forty-four martyrs for the Faith, of whom ten are canonized saints. They are referred to as “the Forty-four.”

The VEC will have a live-stream via You Tube of the evening liturgy on Tuesday, with veneration of the relics and singing of the Te Deum. 

The link is here and it will be live at 20:15 Central European time /2:15 p.m. Eastern Time/1:15 p.m. Central Time.

The College Martyrs, Canonized, Beatified, and declared Venerable:

St Ralph Sherwin, 1581
St Luke Kirby, 1582
St Polydore Plasden, 1591
St Eustace White, 1591
St Robert Southwell S.J., 1595
St Henry Walpole S.J., 1595
St John Almond, 1612
St Henry Morse S.J., 1645
St David Lewis S.J., 1679
St John Wall O.F.M., 1679
Bl. John Shert, 1582
Bl. Joseph Lambton, 1592
Bl. William Lacey, 1582
Bl. Thomas Pormort, 1592
Bl. Thomas Cottam, 1582
Bl. John Cornelius S.J., 1594
Bl. William Hart, 1583
Bl. John Ingram, 1594
Bl. George Haydock, 1584
Bl. Edward Thwing, 1594
Bl. Thomas Hemerford, 1584
Bl. Robert Middleton, 1601
Bl. John Munden, 1584
Bl. Robert Watkinson, 1602
Bl. John Lowe, 1586
Bl. Edward Oldcorne, 1606
Bl. Robert Morton, 1588
Bl. Richard Smith, 1612
Bl. Richard Leigh, 1588
Bl. John Thules, 1616
Bl. Edward James, 1588
Bl. John Lockwood, 1642
Bl. Christopher Buxton, 1588
Bl. John Woodcock O.F.M., 1646
Bl. Christopher Bales, 1590
Bl. Anthony Turner S.J., 1679
Bl. Edmund Duke, 1590
Ven. Thomas Tichborne, 1602
Ven. Brian Tansfield S.J., 1643
Ven. Edward Morgan, 1642
Ven. Edward Mico S.J., 1678

The video will available later in the day; you may also view a report on last year's Martyrs' Day here. I've also been informed that the relics won't be displayed on the Altar because of some COVID-19 restrictions. The relics normally displayed are of St Ralph Sherwin, St Edmund, King and Martyr, St Thomas of Canterbury, and St Philip Howard.