Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Blessed Philip Powell, OSB and the Last Catholic Abbot and Monk of Westminster

According to the old Catholic Encyclopedia Blessed Philip Powell (or Powel), beatified by Pope Pius XI in 1929, was born

at Tralon, Brecknockshire, 2 Feb., 1594; d. at Tyburn 30 June, 1646. He was the son of Roger and Catherine Powel, and was brought up to the law by David Baker, afterwards Dom Augustine Baker, O.S.B. At the age of sixteen he became a student in the Temple, London, but went to Douai three or four years later, where he received the Benedictine habit in the monastery of St. Gregory (now Downside Abbey, Bath). In 1618 he was ordained priest and in 1622 left Douai for the English mission. About 1624 he went to reside with Mr. Poyntz of Leighland, Somersetshire, but, when the Civil War broke out, in 1645, retired to Devonshire, where he stayed for a few months with Mr. John Trevelyan of Yarnscombe and then with Mr. John Coffin of Parkham. He afterwards served for six months as chaplain to the Catholic soldiers in General Goring's army in Cornwall, and, when that force was disbanded, took ship for South Wales. The vessel was captured on 22 February, 1646; Father Powel was recognized and denounced as a priest. On 11 May he was ordered to London by the Earl of Warwick, and confined in St. Catherine's Gaol, Southwark, where the harsh treatment he received brought on a severe attack of pleurisy. His trial, which had been fixed for 30 May, did not take place till 9 June, at Westminster Hall. He was found gulity and was hanged, drawn, and quartered at Tyburn. At the instance of the Common Council of London the head and quarters were not exposed, but were buried in the old churchyard at Moorfields. The martyr's crucifix, which had formerly belonged to Feckenham, last Abbot of Westminster, is preserved at Downside, with some of his hair and a cloth stained with his blood.

Allow me to point out two interesting connections: one to the past of the Benedictine order in England, its brief restoration during the reign of Mary I and one to its survival in England after the accession of Elizabeth I and its second dissolution.

The first is between Blessed Philip Powell and John Feckenham, the last Abbot of Westminster, through his crucifix, which in 1913 at least was held at Downside Abbey (a search of their website yielded no results). Dom David Knowles profiled Feckenham in his book Saints and Scholars, "His mind moved in terms of practical concessions and adjustments; he had neither [Reginald] Pole's forward-looking zeal for reform, not the unworldly, single-minded missionary devotion of a Campion . . . Seen in the whole picture of his life, however, and as a man of his generation, he appears an admirable and sympathetic figure if not wholly an heroic one." As British History Online notes:

On the revival of the "old religion," under Queen Mary, John Feckenham, late Dean of St. Paul's, was appointed Abbot of Westminster and Chaplain to her Majesty, and, with fourteen monks, took possession of the Abbey. Malcolm quotes a few lines from a proclamation issued in 1553, to show the probable state in which Feckenham found the Abbey. Speaking of the churches—"especially within the cittie of London, irreverently used, and by divers insolent rashe persones sundrie waies abused, soe farre forth, that many quarreles, riottes, frayes, and bloudshedinges have been made in some of the said churches, besides shotinge of hand-gonnes to doves, and the com'on bringinge of horses and mules into and throughe the said churches." He was indefatigable in restoring the building to its former state, and Mary, with great zeal, collected into it as many as she could of the rich habits and other insignia of its former splendid worship; but the death of his royal mistress put an end to his exertions, and his authority as abbot ceased on the 12th of July, 1559.

At the death of Queen Mary, Feckenham carefully removed from the Abbey the "relic of the true cross," which had been exposed there to the veneration of the faithful for centuries. It was carefully secreted during nearly two centuries, and found in 1822, in a box along with some antique vestments, at the house of a Roman Catholic gentleman in Holborn—Mr. Langdale**. Having been duly authenticated, it was removed to the Benedictine College of St. Gregory, at Downside, near Bath, where it is still kept. It may be added that this particular relic is minutely described in the Chevalier Fleury's work on "Relics of the True Cross."
[I'm not confusing Abbot Feckenham's crucifix with this relic of the true cross!]

**Mr. Langdale's distillery and warehouse were destroyed on June 7, 1780 during the Gordon Riots!

More on Abbot John Feckenham here, who died on October 16, 1585 in Wisbech Castle, after years of imprisonment in the Tower of London and house arrest. Westminster Abbey has this sad statement about him: "John Feckenham was Abbot of Westminster from 1556-1559 but is not buried in the Abbey and he has no memorial."

The other connection, which effected Powell's possession of Feckenham's crucifix, was the efforts of Dom Augustine Baker to ensure the continuity of the Benedictine order in England through the one man left, Sigebert Buckley, who had joined the order during Mary I's reign and Feckenham's brief term as Abbot at Westminster. As this history of the Benedictines in England notes, Buckley:

. . . refused to take the oath of supremacy, and suffered imprisonment all during Elizabeth's reign. At the accession of James I, he was released from the prison of Framlingham. In the same year 1603 two English monks of the Cassinese congregation, Fathers Preston and Beech, arrived at Yarmouth, and found Father Sigebert in the house of Mr Francis Woodhouse. The 86 year old Confessor of the Faith was willing and anxious to pass on at once the habit and the succession of Westminster. [emphasis added!! that's about 44 years!!]

How to do this legally caused a delay of four years. The difficulty was at last overcome by a young lawyer of Abergavenny who had gone to Italy to fulfil a vow and had returned a Benedictine monk. Br Augustine Baker drew up a legal instrument for the aggregation and succession which satisfied all ecclesiastical law. . . .

That's the same David or Augustine Baker who instructed Powell in the law. Wikipedia's page for Sigebert Buckley includes the statement that Baker had developed for the proper transfer of succession.

When he was condemned to death because he was a Catholic priest in England, and therefore a traitor under English law, Blessed Philip Powell exclaimed: "Oh what am I that God thus honours me and will have me to die for his sake?"

Blessed Philip Powell, OSB, pray for us!

Image Credit (Public Domain): portrait of Father Powell

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

The Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul

Today's feast or solemnity, of Saints Peter and Paul, is ancient, according to Dom Prosper Gueranger:

After the great solemnities of the movable cycle, and the Feast of St. John the Baptist, none is more ancient, nor more universal in the Church, than that of the two Princes of the Apostles. From the beginning, Rome celebrated their triumph on the very day itself which saw them go up from earth to heaven, June 29th. Her practice prevailed, at a very early date, over the custom of several other countries, which put the Apostles’ feast towards the close of December. It was, no doubt, a fair thought which inspired the placing of these Fathers of the Christian people in the cortège of Emmanuel at his entry into this world. But, as we have already seen, today’s teachings have intrinsically an important preponderance in the economy of Christian dogma; they are the completion of the whole Work of the Son of God; the cross of Peter fixes the Church in her stability, and marks out for the Divine spirit the immutable center of his operations. Rome, therefore, was well inspired when, leaving to the Beloved Disciple the honor of presiding over his brethren at the Crib of the Infant God, she maintained the solemn memory of the Princes of the Apostles upon the day chosen by God himself to consummate their labors and to crown, at once, both their life and the whole cycle of mysteries.

But the celebration of the feast/solemnity has changed through the years. According to the Calendar of the Roman Missal of 1962, the Missal and Calendar Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI chose in his 2007 Apostolic Letter Summorum Pontificum, the feast was preceded by a Vigil, then emphasized St. Peter on the actual feast day, and then followed up with a Commemoration of St. Paul, which included another commemoration of St. Peter--so St. Peter the Apostle, Bishop of Antioch and First Bishop and Pope in Rome was the primary focus of this feast/solemnity.

In The Church's Year of Grace, Pius Parsch asks his readers to imagine themselves at "an ancient Roman vigil" gathered "at the grave of Peter the Rock"; they "intend to remain throughout the night". He emphasizes that St. Peter is alive to them and urges us "to keep the feast, like the ancient Church" (p. 212, volume 4)

The Vigil of the Apostles Saints Peter and Paul, on June 28, according to my copy of Roman Missal of 1962, "records the powers given by Jesus Christ to SS. Peter and Paul, the two foundation pillars of the Church", and the priest wears Violet vestments; the Gloria is not chanted or recited; the Epistle is from Acts 3:1-10 and the Gospel from John 21:15-19. On June 29, the "lessons and prayers of this Mass describe how his Lord and Master Jesus Christ prepared the fervent Apostle, St. Peter, for the supreme office of the Papacy." The Epistle is from Acts 12:1-11 and the Gospel from Matthew 16:13-19. On June 30, the Commemoration of St. Paul, Apostle includes the Epistle from Galatians 1:11-20 and the Gospel from Matthew 10:16-22. The feast even had its own breviary hymn, "Decora lux æternitatis, auream".

On the current calendar for the Novus Ordo of the Latin Rite, the Solemnity has a Vigil Mass with the same readings as above, plus Galatians 1:11-20, and on the actual feast day the first reading and Gospel are the same as the 1962 Missal, with the addition of the Second Reading from the second letter of St. Paul to Timothy (4:6-8; 17-18). 

Pope Francis will bless the pallia to be conferred on new Metropolitan Archbishops today at St. Peter's during Mass, although the archbishops won't be there to receive them. It is a Holy Day of Obligation in England today, and was in 1962 also. It is not a Holy Day of Obligation in the United States of America, however, and was not in 1962 either. Before Pope Pius XII revised the General Roman Calendar in 1955, this feast was celebrated with an Octave, and had been for centuries.

So when St. Thomas More wrote to his daughter Meg on July 5, 1535, hoping that his execution would be scheduled for the next day, July 6, he speaks of two martyrs' feasts (not mentioning St. Paul):

I cumber you, good Margaret, much, but I would be sorry, if it should be any longer than tomorrow, for it is Saint Thomas' Even and the Utes [Octave] of Saint Peter and therefore tomorrow long I to go to God, it were a day very meet and convenient for me.

The Even of St. Thomas was the the vigil of the feast of the Translation of the Relics of St. Thomas of Canterbury

Just as the execution of St. John Fisher was liturgically inconvenient for Henry VIII (either on the feast of St. Alban, the first English Martyr or on the vigil or the feast of the Birth of St. John the Baptist, another great feast celebrated with a vigil), so was St. Thomas More's. It was during the Octave of St. Peter, the first Pope and Vicar of Christ whose successor Henry VIII had displaced in England and on the Vigil of the feast of the Translation of St. Thomas a Becket's bones, which Henry would soon have dug up and his shrine destroyed. The amateur theologian Henry VIII, who'd just celebrated his birthday on June 28, would have known the significance of these dates.

But to St. Thomas More it was a "very meet and convenient" day to "go to God"--more on More next week!

Image Credit (public domain): Jésus-Christ ressuscité entouré de saint Pierre, saint Paul et deux anges by Anthonis Mor

Thursday, June 24, 2021

Book Review: The Fathers and "The Our Father"

I purchased a copy of this book from Eighth Day Books and a few copies are still available. According to the publisher, Catholic University of America Press:

The Lord’s Prayer contains mysteries generally overlooked by most Christians. For the Fathers of the Church, such mysteries or "difficulties"—many of which continue to puzzle modern scholars—marked divinely inspired points for prayer and reflection. Saints Cyprian of Carthage, Augustine of Hippo, Peter Chrysologus, Maximus the Confessor and others grappled with the hidden meanings behind these questions and the fruits of their efforts can inspire contemporary readers.

In this volume John Gavin, SJ explores eight mysteries of the Lord’s prayer in light of the early Church’s wisdom: How can human beings call God "Father"? Where is God the Father? How can God grow in holiness? Was there ever a time when God did not rule? Are there limitations to God’s will? Why should we seek bread? Can we make a deal with God? Does God tempt us? Without ignoring the insights of contemporary exegesis, this volume demonstrates that the responses of the Fathers to these questions have continuing relevance. Not only did they understand the issues surrounding linguistic, textual, and theological difficulties, but they also grasped the nuances of Christ’s words as illuminated by the scriptures as a whole. They provide an interpretation that challenges the mind and transforms the heart.

Mysteries of the Lord's Prayer offers the general reader, as well as scholars, a chance to rediscover a prayer that unites Christians throughout the world. It also includes appendices to aid those who wish to explore the Fathers’ writings on their own for a deeper encounter with the wisdom of the early Church.

Table of Contents (including subheads in each chapter):

Foreword by George Weigel
Chapter 1. Entering the Mysteries
    The Earliest Commentary on the Lord's Prayer (the ROTAS-SATOR Square in Pompeii)
    Which Version is the Real Lord's Prayer? (Matthew 6:9-13; Luke 11:2-4; the Didache)
    Why Reflect on the Lord's Prayer?
    How to Proceed?
Chapter 2. First Aporia: How can Human Beings Call God "Father"?
    Confronting a Bold Claim
        Divine Unknowability
        Human Sinfulness
    Responding to the Problems
        Divine Adoption
        Growing in the Divine Likeness
    Conclusion: Becoming Children of God
Chapter 3. Second Aporia: Where is God the Father?
    "Heavens" or "Heaven"?
        "Heaven and Earth": The Created Cosmos
        Uniting "the Heavens" with "Earth and Heaven"
        The Pilgrimage toward Heaven
    Conclusion: A Pilgrimage to Heaven
Chapter 4. Third Aporia: How Can God Grow in Holiness?
    Is Anything Sacred?
    The Holiness of God's Name in the Scriptures
        What's in a Name?
        Honoring "the Name" in Matthew and Luke
    The Fathers Hallow the Divine Name
        The Sacred Name
        The Meaning of Holiness
        Hallowing the Name
    Conclusion: Hallowing the Name Today
        Restoring the Sacred
        The Name as Love and Mission
Chapter 5. Fourth Aporia: Was There Ever a Time When God Did Not Rule?
    The Coming of the Kingdom
        God's Reign in the Old Testament
        God's Universal Rule
        God's Rule Over Israel
    N.T. Wright: The Kingdom as a New Narrative
    Gerhard Lohlink: Accepting God's Rule
    Benedict XVI: Christ and the Kingdom
    The Fathers and the Kingdom
        Defining the Kingdom
        Locating the Kingdom
        Expecting the Kingdom
    Conclusion: Calling for the Kingdom of God
Chapter 6. Fifth Aporia: Are There Limitations to God's Will?
    Preliminary Considerations
        The Position of the Petition in the Lord's Prayer
        The Obedience of Jesus
    The Fathers Seek God's Will
        Equality with the Angels
        Reforming the Will
        Jesus's Cup
    Conclusion: Your Will Be Done
Chapter 7. Sixth Aporia: Why Should We Seek Bread?
    Some Problems in the Text
        The Two Versions of the Petition
        The Meaning of "Bread" in the Scriptures
        The Meaning of Epiousios
    The Bread of the Fathers
        Material Interpretations
        Spiritual Interpretations
        The Fathers and Epiousios
    Conclusion: The Fathers and the Bread of Life
Chapter 8. Seventh Aporia: Can We Make a Deal with God?
    A Puzzling Petition
        The Two Versions of the Petition
        Winning God's Forgiveness?
        The Meaning of Debts
    Forgiveness and the Fathers
        Creation in Debt
        How Can We Ask God to Imitate Us?
    Conclusion: Forgive Us Our Sins and Debts
Chapter 9. Eighth Aporia: Does God Tempt Us?
    Trial or Temptation?
        "Peirasmos" as Trial
        "Peirasmos" as Temptation
    The Evil One in the End Times
    The Fathers on Trials and Temptations
        The Nature of Temptations and Trials
        God Allows Temptations and Trials for a Time
    Conclusion: Times of Temptation, Trial, and Hope
    1. Divine Adoption
    2. Pilgrimage
    3. The Greater Glory of God
    4. Citizen of the Kingdom
    5. Conformity to the Divine Will
    6. The Bread of Life
    7. Forgiveness
    8. Sharing in the Sufferings of Christ
    9. Hope
Appendix: Brief Portraits of the Fathers
(Augustine of Hippo, Chromatius of Aquileia, Cyprian of Carthage, Cyril of Jerusalem, Evagrius Ponticus, Gregory of Nyssa, Jerome of Stridon, John Cassian, John Chrysostom, The Master, Maximus the Confessor, Origen of Alexandria, Peter Chrysologus, Tertullian, Theodore of Mopsuestha)
Scripture Index
General Index
Each aporia is a difficulty with the phrase or petition under consideration in the chapter; Father Gavin explores the issue, sites some important translation issues, variations in the versions of The Lord's Prayer, certain passages from the Old and New Testaments, and then delves into how the Fathers of the Church, listed above, dealt with the issue, and prayed the prayer.

This commonly used prayer can only be understood in and through the Church, with the Apostolic Preaching of all the Scriptural and Traditional handing on the Truths of God's Divine Revelation. Otherwise, we either mouth the words unthinkingly, without recollection or reflection, or we get caught up in our own interpretations. We need to pray The Our Father in the context of Christian doctrine, morals, and worship.

Although this kind of book might not be considered spiritual reading, I found the passages from the Fathers and the Conclusion of each chapter inspirational for my Holy Hour prayer time in Adoration before the Blessed Sacrament. Recommended.

Monday, June 21, 2021

Preview: Praying for the Intercession of St. John Fisher on the Son Rise Morning Show

As a preparation for the feast of Saints John Fisher and Thomas More, I've been listening to this CD of a Mass featuring the Propers for their Feast (the Introit, Gradual, Alleluia, Offertory, and Communion antiphons), William Byrd's Mass for Four Voices, and four motets, also composed by William Byrd. I purchased it from Aid to the Church in Need UK. It's recorded by Cantores Missae:

1. Introit – Multae tribulationes (chant)
2. Kyrie
3. Gloria
4. Gradual & Alleluia – Accedire ad eum (chant)
5. Credo
6. Offertory – Mirabilis Deus (chant)
7. Motet – O quam gloriosum*
8. Motet – Justorum animae*
9. Sanctus & Benedictus
10. Agnus Dei
11. Communion – Oves meae (chant)
12. Motet – Ego sum panis vivus
13. Motet – Ave verum corpus

I've also been preparing for their feast by arranging a couple of interviews on the Son Rise Morning Show--one on St. John Fisher tomorrow June 22, on their shared feast (the anniversary of his martyrdom in 1535) and one on St. Thomas More on July 6, the anniversary of his martyrdom the same year. We're going to focus on each of them, not just as the great models of faithfulness they were on earth, but also on their heavenly role as intercessors. PLEASE NOTE WELL (N.B.): I'm on the show at an earlier time than usual: 6:20 a.m. Central/7:20 a.m. Eastern. You may listen live here on EWTN or on your local EWTN affiliate.

It's appropriate to intercede with Saint John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester, named a Cardinal by Pope Paul III while Fisher was in the Tower of London, for our bishops, archbishops, and cardinal archbishops. 

Years ago, at our annual Midwest Catholic Family Conference here in Wichita, Kansas, a bookstore named for St. John Fisher brought hundreds of books from Jacksonville, Illinois to sell. Each time (many, many times) I bought a book from their booth, I received a holy card with a Prayer for Holy Bishops by St. John Fisher:

Lord, according to Thy promise that the Gospel should be preached throughout the whole world, raise up men fit for such work. The Apostles were but soft and yielding clay till they were baked hard by the fire of the Holy Ghost. So, good Lord, do now in like manner with Thy Church militant, change and make the soft and slippery earth into hard stones. Set in the Thy Church strong and mighty pillars that may suffer and endure great labors--watching, poverty, thirst, hunger, cold and heat--which also shall not fear the threatenings of princes, persecution, neither death, but always persuade and think with themselves to suffer with a good will, slanders, shame, and all kinds of torments, for the glory and laud of Thy Holy Name. By this manner, good Lord, the truth of Thy Gospel shall be preached throughout the world. Therefore, merciful Lord, exercise Thy mercy, show it indeed upon Thy Church. Amen.

According to the holy card, St. John Fisher included this prayer in a sermon he preached in 1508, 27 years before his martyrdom. It was part of his sermon on Psalm 101 in a series on the Seven Penitential Psalms.

It's also appropriate to ask Fisher's intercession for the defense of marriage; he defended the validity of Katherine of Aragon's marriage to Henry VIII, acting as her counselor. Cardinal Wolsey had asked him to study the matter in 1527 and he reported to Wolsey and the king that the declaration of nullity of her previous marriage to Arthur, the Prince of Wales, was indeed valid and that Henry and Katherine were validly, sacramentally, and truly married. Once Fisher had reached that conclusion he never wavered. In the Convocation of Bishops and at the Legatine Court in 1529, he defended his position.

He's also an appropriate patron saint of university administrators and theology professors, because of his efforts at Cambridge and Oxford University to found chairs of divinity with the help of his patron the Lady Margaret Beaufort, Henry VIII's grandmother. Fisher was Chancellor of the University of Cambridge for life in 1514 (until Henry VIII intervened, of course).

Finally, it's indeed appropriate to ask St. John Fisher to intercede for us to remain faithful to Jesus, to live simply, detached from worldly pleasures, and to be attentive to our duties. Throughout his service at Bishop of Rochester he was remarkable at that time for being resident in the diocese, fulfilling his duties as teacher and priest to his people, for his simplicity of living and generosity to the poor.

Saint John Fisher, pray for us!

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Pope Pius IX Elected in 1846

Giovanni Maria Cardinal Mastai Ferretti became Pope Pius IX on June 16, 1846, succeeding Pope Gregory XVI. His reign as pope would last 32 years; his rule over the Papal States 24. To say that he is a controversial pope is to make an understatement. Pope St. John Paul II beatified Pope Pius IX on September 3, 2000:

In the context of the Jubilee Year, it is with deep joy that I have declared blessed two Popes, Pius IX and John XXIII, and three other servants of the Gospel in the ministry and the consecrated life: Archbishop Tommaso Reggio of Genoa, the diocesan priest William Joseph Chaminade and the Benedictine monk Columba Marmion.

Five different personalities, each with his own features and his own mission, all linked by a longing for holiness. It is precisely their holiness that we recognize today: holiness that is a profound and transforming relationship with God, built up and lived in the daily effort to fulfil his will. Holiness lives in history and no saint has escaped the limits and conditioning which are part of our human nature. In beatifying one of her sons, the Church does not celebrate the specific historical decisions he may have made, but rather points to him as someone to be imitated and venerated because of his virtues, in praise of the divine grace which shines resplendently in him.

Of Pope Pius IX, Pope John Paul II said:

Listening to the words of the Gospel acclamation: "Lord, lead me on a straight road", our thoughts naturally turn to the human and religious life of Pope Pius IX, Giovanni Maria Mastai Ferretti. Amid the turbulent events of his time, he was an example of unconditional fidelity to the immutable deposit of revealed truths. Faithful to the duties of his ministry in every circumstance, he always knew how to give absolute primacy to God and to spiritual values. His lengthy pontificate was not at all easy and he had much to suffer in fulfilling his mission of service to the Gospel. He was much loved, but also hated and slandered.

However, it was precisely in these conflicts that the light of his virtues shone most brightly: these prolonged sufferings tempered his trust in divine Providence, whose sovereign lordship over human events he never doubted. This was the source of Pius IX's deep serenity, even amid the misunderstandings and attacks of so many hostile people. He liked to say to those close to him: "In human affairs we must be content to do the best we can and then abandon ourselves to Providence, which will heal our human faults and shortcomings".

Sustained by this deep conviction, he called the First Vatican Ecumenical Council, which clarified with magisterial authority certain questions disputed at the time, and confirmed the harmony of faith and reason. During his moments of trial Pius IX found support in Mary, to whom he was very devoted. In proclaiming the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, he reminded everyone that in the storms of human life the light of Christ shines brightly in the Blessed Virgin and is more powerful than sin and death.

Please note that he became pope seven months after John Henry Newman became a Catholic. After Newman studied for the Catholic priesthood and was ordained in Rome, Pope Pius IX approved his founding of the Oratory of St. Philip Neri in England. On August 22, 1850, Pius IX conferred an honorary doctorate degree on Newman before he became the Rector the Catholic University of Ireland, another foundation Pope Pius IX approved so Catholics in Ireland would have a college to attend.

But Newman and Pius IX also had their difficulties. There are some websites that descry the canonization of Newman (a canonization approved by the current pope) because they think Newman did not respect the authority of the pope highly enough. I'm sure you see the contradiction there.

The website organized by the Oratories in England on the occasion of Newman's canonization dedicated a page to Newman's thoughts about the papacy and papal authority:

In 1852 Newman was appointed Rector of the newly-founded Catholic University in Dublin. Pope Pius IX had forbidden Irish Catholics to attend new ‘mixed’, i.e. secular, colleges which the British government were setting up. Instead, a Catholic university should be founded. Newman knew that it would be a tough job to get the new university off the ground, as nearly half the Irish Catholic bishops didn’t support it. In public lectures he answered those who doubted its practicality by saying it would succeed because the Pope had decreed it and the papacy had a perpetual wisdom down the ages. It was a brave argument to make, but in the ensuing years, Newman came to realise that he himself actually knew more about the situation in Ireland than the Pope did. When he later published his lectures as The Idea of a University he revised the passages in which he had lauded the papacy’s perpetual wisdom.

During the 1860’s there was a growing pressure by the ‘Ultramontane’ party within the Church to have the doctrine of Papal Infallibility officially declared. Newman believed in the doctrine - he had demonstrated it in action in early church history - but it was now being pushed in an extreme form to cover everything that a pope said. A leading Ultramontane proclaimed that he wanted an infallible statement with his copy of the Times at breakfast every morning. In this atmosphere, Newman thought it would be inopportune for a definition to be made.

The Vatican Council of 1870 did define the doctrine but in very precise terms. Administrative or political decisions were not covered. Nevertheless, the Ultramontane party claimed that they were. Many ordinary Catholics were troubled . . .

Then Dr. Andrew Nash describes Newman's Letter to the Duke of Norfolk which I think I covered in this blog pretty well. Nash concludes:

Newman’s journey to a balanced understanding of papal authority remains helpful for Catholics today. His canonisation gives us a good opportunity to explain this much misunderstood doctrine to others.

Image Credit (Public Domain) Pope Pius IX in 1846

Monday, June 14, 2021

G.K. Chesterton, RIP

So last Friday night, on the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, our Greater Wichita Chesterton Society local chapter (including residents of Derby, St. Mark's, Hutchinson and Newton) met in The Ladder to finish our discussion of Joseph Pearce's biography of G.K. Chesterton. As you might expect, the last event in Chesterton's life to be discussed was his death, 85 years ago today (June 14, 1936).

There were two very beautiful anecdotes about Chesterton's decline and death. One was that he had memorized the Sequence for the Feast of Corpus Christi (having published his great work on St. Thomas Aquinas just three years before in 1933). Pearce quoted the last two stanzas of Lauda Sion, with its prayer to see God face-to-face at the Heavenly Banquet:

Bone pastor, panis vere,
Jesu, nostri miserére:
Tu nos pasce, nos tuére:
Tu nos bona fac vidére
In terra vivéntium.

Tu, qui cuncta scis et vales:
Qui nos pascis hic mortáles:
Tuos ibi commensáles,
Cohærédes et sodáles,
Fac sanctórum cívium.
Amen. Alleluia.

He also cited the last words of Verbum supernum prodiens, reflecting on Heaven as being in patria (our true native land!). For a man who loved England so much, this was remarkable statement.

UPDATE: I think that the feast of Corpus Christi was celebrated on Thursday, June 11 in 1936. (Easter was on April 12; Pentecost on May 31, and Trinity Sunday on June 7.)

The other anecdote was that Pope Pius XI sent telegrams to Frances Chesterton and Cardinal Hinsley, referring to Chesterton as a "Defender of the Catholic Faith". The telegram was read at a memorial Requiem Mass celebrated at Westminster Cathedral on June 27, 1936. The British press would not publish the pope's telegram because it gave Chesterton the title which, in its view, belonged only to the King of England, Edward VIII. (Edward VIII had not been crowned yet and never would be because he abdicated in December of 1936 because he could not reign "without the help and support of the woman" he loved.)

Since he had not been crowned or anointed, or sworn his coronation oath to defend the faith, the future Duke of Kent was not really the Defender of the Faith at that time at all! 

I wonder what Chesterton would have made of all the ironies of Edward VIII's abdication in his column for G.K.'s Weekly.

Pearce reminded us, of course, that King Henry VIII had received the title "Fidei Defensor" from Pope Leo X "shortly before the King had rebelled against the Church". It was actually in 1521, about six years before Henry started seeking an annulment of his marriage to Katherine of Aragon. We could date his rebellion against the Catholic Church and Papal authority to 1532, so perhaps not that "shortly before". Pearce also comments that Chesterton had little in common with the king, "except perhaps the size of their girths."! (p. 485)

You may see a digitized image (showing the damage incurred in a fire) of the Papal Bull of Pope Leo X proclaiming Henry VIII the Defender of the Faith at the British Library's Medieval Manuscripts blog, reminding us why he received that title:

Henry was given the title Defender of the Faith in recognition for his Assertio Septem Sacramentorum (Defence of the Seven Sacraments). Possibly written in consultation with Thomas More (b. 1478, d. 1535) and Cardinal Wolsey (b. c. 1473, d. 1530), Henry’s principal statesmen at this point in his reign, this theological treatise acted as a response to the pronouncements of the German theologian Martin Luther (b. 1483, d. 1546), whose ideas helped to shape the Protestant Reformation movement during the 16th century. . . .

Henry’s positive relationship with the Papacy did not last. Only a decade after Leo X issued the papal bull, Henry decided to break away from the Church of Rome, following Pope Clement VII’s refusal to annul his marriage to his first wife Catherine of Aragon (b. 1485, d. 1536). He also distanced himself from the Assertio, claiming that he had been manoeuvred into writing it by his bishops. His actions ultimately resulted in his own excommunication by Clement’s successor Paul III (b. 1468, d. 1549) in 1538 and he was stripped of the title Defender of the Faith.

However, towards the end of Henry’s reign, in 1543, the English Parliament passed an act that restored the title for him and his successors. Since then, it has continued to be used as part of the styling of British monarchs (including the reigning Elizabeth II) to indicate their role as Head of the Church of England. It even features on coins of the realm, with the Latin Fidei defensor appearing in its abbreviated form F.D beside the Queen’s portrait.

Gilbert Keith Chesterton, Defender of the Catholic Faith, Rest in Peace in Our True Native Land!

Sunday, June 13, 2021

Review of MacMillan's and Todd's Settings of Newman's Meditation

I've listened to this concert a couple of times and I do hope that The Sixteen and Harry Christophers release a CD of this music. You can access it here and on the ClassicFM Facebook page. Since it begins with The Sixteen singing Robert Parsons' wonderful Ave Maria and O Bone Jesu (O Good Jesus), it was glorious from the start. 

I disagree with or dislike some of the ways the composers and performers comment upon the settings of Newman's Meditation. MacMillan calls it "heady stuff" whereas I think it's so direct and heartfelt. In videos commenting on the lyrics written by Robert Willis, Christophers is so happy that the lyrics of MacMillan's "Nothing in Vain" are gender neutral, because no pronouns are used to refer to God, nevertheless, MacMillan's setting and The Sixteen's performance is virtuosic and thrilling. Christophers suggested a composition for double choir in the polyphonic style because there are fewer modern works in that format/style.

I found Will Todd's setting--both works are poetic adaptations of Newman's prose--"I shall be an angel of Peace" with a violin solo, to be much more meditative. It was most appropriate that Newman's original prose meditation was read before the performances--and the inclusion of a violin solo in Todd's work, since Newman played the violin, was also most effective and appropriate.

In between the two adaptations of Newman's meditation, Fernand Laloux's Tantum Ergo Sacramentum was a beautiful variation on the plainchant usually sung during Benediction. Although written for choir, I could imagine the congregation singing along as the priest incensed the Blessed Sacrament on the Altar. Laloux was Director of Music at Farm Street Jesuit Church, where the concert was taking place, during the 1940's and his settings of O Salutoris Hostia and Tantum Ergo are sometimes used for Benediction at the London (Brompton) Oratory and have been recorded by the London Oratory Choir.

Christopher Tye's Angus Dei from his Euge Bone Mass (Good and Faithful Servant) is prayerful and meditative. I tried to imagine it in the context of a Mass--as it was celebrated before the 1970's in the Roman Rite--as the priest prepares to received the Body and Blood of Jesus while the congregation either prepared to receive Holy Communion or made their acts of Spiritual Communion. 

As Newman's Meditation speaks of hope and confidence in God's care in this life, John Donne's sermon "On the Death of Righteous" and the hymn based upon it by William Harris ("Bring Us, O Lord God"), speaks of hope and confidence for the human soul after death. Newman's Meditation, however, unlike Donne's sermon, which is directed to the Righteous and Elect (and certainly rejects the wicked), is much more comprehensive in scope--as the composers, Christophers, and the sponsor of the program and the compositions, John Studzinski of the Genesis Foundation all highlight--Newman's thoughts speak to everyone, even those of uncertain faith, who have difficulties believing in God or their own significance in this world. Harris's hymn smooths out Donne's dividing of the Righteous and the Wicked by focusing on Heaven, not who gets there and who doesn't.

I guess the status of religious/church music today that these works were commissioned not by the Catholic Church--meaning a particular parish, order, or other foundation--but by an arts organization founded by an investment banker. Newman's father was a banker too! I think the two commissions of versions/aspects of Newman's Meditation are definitely concert pieces and that the Will Todd composition could work as a post-Communion piece.

Saturday, June 12, 2021

How to Follow this Blog

Pardon me while I just do some blogging-housekeeping! The Feedburner app that Google provided so blog readers could sign up for automated emails to receive new posts is going away. 

Now there's a new gadget on the right side of my blog for new readers to sign up for the same service; those of you are already signed up to receive emails will still receive them.

The new app is called

I did some checking and it looked like the easiest and safest and it's free. They guided through the process of setting it up and advised me to alert you to the change:

Feedburner stops email services – switch to now

Google announced that they will terminate Feedburner’s email subscription feature in July. This leaves many bloggers & website owners wondering: what service to switch to?

Why is the best Feedburner alternative

If you don’t know yet, please have a look at our intro.

Here are the key reasons why you should switch to
`Reliable email delivery: Emails land in inbox, not spam folders, due to’s excellent sender reputation
`Mature: (and its predecessor SpecificFeeds) has been around for over 5 years
`Free:’s “Basic”-plan includes many features, allows unlimited followers & emails, and is 100% free; optional premium plans are priced very fairly . . .

If you are already a subscriber to this blog, your email has been transferred to this new app. I've deleted the emails from the old app, which will be going away soon anyway. You might have received two emails yesterday, but that shouldn't happen again.

If you are not a subscriber to this blog, just look for gadget that says "Get new posts by email"!

Thank you very for your attention. UPDATE: After seeing a couple of the emails, I don't like them very much. If any readers are bloggers and have a better alternative, please let me know. Thank you again.

Friday, June 11, 2021

Book Review: Mrs. Mattingly's Miracle

I purchased this book because of Thomas Babington Macaulay's mention of "the miracles of Prince Hohenlohe" in his review of Leopold von Ranke's History of the Popes, cited here. According to the publisher, Yale University Press:

In 1824 in Washington, D.C., Ann Mattingly, widowed sister of the city's mayor, was miraculously cured of a ravaging cancer. Just days, or perhaps even hours, from her predicted demise, she arose from her sickbed free from agonizing pain and able to enjoy an additional thirty-one years of life. The Mattingly miracle purportedly came through the intervention of a charismatic German cleric, Prince Alexander Hohenlohe, who was credited already with hundreds of cures across Europe and Great Britain. Though nearly forgotten today, Mattingly's astonishing healing became a polarizing event. It heralded a rising tide of anti-Catholicism in the United States that would culminate in violence over the next two decades.

Nancy L. Schultz deftly weaves analysis of this episode in American social and religious history together with the astonishing personal stories of both Ann Mattingly and the healer Prince Hohenlohe, around whom a cult was arising in Europe. Schultz's riveting book brings to light an early episode in the ongoing battle between faith and reason in the United States.

The author, Nancy Lusignan Schultz, also wrote Fire and Roses: The Burning of the Charlestown Convent, 1834 (Free Press, 2000), which certainly describes the violence to come, just ten years after the Mattingly cure.

This book was fascinating to me because of the many ways Catholics in early 19th century America and England shared parallel concerns: How to participate as citizens (after 1829 in England); how to integrate--or not--into their respective cultures; even the controversies between the laity and the clergy and between the "native" and Continental clergy and between the orders (especially the Sulpicians and the Jesuits) seem parallel. Of slightly lesser interest was the situation in Germany, where Prince Hohenlohe lived and practiced his healing ministry, facing the concerns of both religious and secular authorities. 

Like the old Catholic families in England, the laity in the United States of America, via lay trusteeism, were used to be in charge of their parishes. In England, the Catholic laity, especially the landowners and wealthy, controlled the chapels on their estates, and sponsored the clergy to serve Catholics on their estates and nearby. As the hierarchy in both England and America developed, the laity had to adapt to new sources of authority. 

I thought also of the differences between Manning and Newman in England, with Manning like Faber much more willing to embrace Italianate devotion language than Newman and other Oratorians and converts. The same kind of devotional divide occurred in the early nineteenth century in Maryland, Virginia, and the Capital. The Sulpician Archbishop of Baltimore, Ambrose Maréchal, ordered the Jesuit Dubuisson not to be so scrupulous in applying Prince Hohenlohe's precise timeline, accounting for different time zones, but he was ignored (disobeyed).

Schultz points out the differences between not only the Sulpicians and the Jesuits, but between the English-trained Jesuits like Archbishop John Carroll, who'd been educated for a time at the College at St. Omers, preparing to work in the missions in England, and the Jesuits like Father Etienne/Stephen Dubuisson, who'd been prepared for a much more secure ministry (he was in charge of discipline for a time at Georgetown). The former were much more concerned about the possible deleterious effects of a triumphalistic proclamation of this miracle on the status of Catholics in the country, while the latter thought it best to spread the good news and combat any attacks against the miracle.

The family story of Ann Carbery Mattingly, her suffering, the two miraculous cures she received, and the mysteries of her husband's and her son's disappearances from her life is also compelling. I was certainly not as interested in the gender specific analysis Schultz conducted in the later chapters, but the book is vividly written and well documented. 

I've prayed for miracles of healing before and reading this book made me wonder what I would have done if one of those prayers were answered. I would feel great thankfulness and given God great praise, but how would I or the recipient of the healing I'd prayed for feel about telling people about the miracle, encountering skepticism, curiosity, even manipulation or fascination?

As Schultz demonstrates, being a wonder worker like Prince Hohenlohe or being recipient of a wondrous healing like Ann Mattingly did not make life any easier for either of them in many ways. He was distrusted, suspected, and certainly mocked--he does not seem to have the most stable character, as he often had to change schools, had some trouble with authority and with debts, and indeed might have enjoyed the celebrity of being a thaumaturgus too much. She still suffered family estrangement and opposition to the religious vocation she thought she might have (long after her husband was dead)--and of course, she still died. 

The eventual death of someone who is saved from death by a miracle always reminds me of C.S. Lewis's poem "Stephen to Lazarus":

But was I the first martyr, who
Gave up no more than life, while you,
Already free among the dead,
Your rags stripped off, your fetters shed,
Surrendered what all other men
Irrevocably keep, and when
Your battered ship at anchor lay
Seemingly safe in the dark bay
No ripple stirs, obediently
Put out a second time to sea
Well knowing that your death (in vain
Died once) must all be died again?

At the beginning of each chapter, Schultz recounts a supernatural episode and the reactions of people in that era, the early to mid-nineteenth century. Curses, strange hauntings, amazing catastrophes, they raise the specter of what reasonable people do when something out of this world seems to occur: will they believe what they saw and heard and experienced or believe what they want to be true in accord with nature and reason?

She emphasizes that Catholics in the new American republic were enjoying the "Era of Good Feeling" after the War of 1812 during the presidency of James Monroe before Mrs. Mattingly's Miracle: they had fit into the community and the government (Mrs. Mattingly's Catholic brother was the mayor of Washington City when she was cured) in spite of the distrust brought over from England that Catholicism and modern liberty did not fit well together. She cites the idea that the exercise of Catholic authority by the Papacy or other superiors could be considered a violation of the Monroe Doctrine as an expression of European colonialism (the Jesuits in Maryland tried to cite that issue when ordered to divest themselves of a plantation and free the slaves!).

Perhaps the saddest note is that both Ann's husband and son may have suffered from a form of ALS--not fatal but debilitating--and may have been misjudged as ne'er do wells in ignorance of the fact they were suffering from a "creeping paralysis". Based on a likely scenario, Schultz also argues that Ann and the other Carberys may have rejected Ann's son John Baptist Carbery Mattingly because he married a mixed-race woman. It's not documented but presumed.

Contents (including the the subheads in each chapter):

Mrs. Mattingly's Miracle: The Prince, the Widow, and the Cure that Shocked Washington City

Prologue: Washington City, 1824

One. Introduction
    Bamberg, Southern Germany, 1821
    Biographical and Archival Research
    "Some Domestic Cause of Grief": A Note about Historiography
    Epigraphs and Adumbrations
    Some Historical Context

Two. The Prince and the Princess
    Bohemia, 1810
    Wurzburg, 1821
    The Prince and the Farmer

Three. From St. Mary's County, Southern Maryland, to the Federal City
    Religious Tensions in Colonial Maryland
    Ann Carbery Mattingly's Early Years, 1784-1803
    The Federal City, 1800-1822

Four. Thaumaturgus and Priest
    Ellwangen, Germany, October 1777
    In the Eyes of His Contemporaries
    Westward over the Ocean

Five. A Capital Miracle
    Western Virginia, 1797
    The Cultural Context
    German Mysticism
    The Seeds of Controversy
    "News of Supernatural Facts"
    The Protestant Response
    "Friend of Truth"
    A Great Deal of Trouble": Dissension within the Catholic Church
    The Body of Evidence

Six. Aftermath
    Washington, DC, 1844    
    Ann Mattingly's Body
    Slavery, Race, and the Mattingly Miracle
    Nemini Cedimus: John Baptist Carbery Mattingly, 1809-1839
    More Hohenlohe Miracles, 1824-1838
    Mrs. Mattingly's Foot

Seven. Conclusion
    The Carberys, the Mattinglys, and Me: Visitation Monastery, Georgetown, April 2006
    "Yield to No One": John Baptist Carbery Mattingly's Secret
    Prince Hohenlohe's Final Years
    The Death of Ann Mattingly

Carbery-Mattingly Family Tree
(no bibliography--I do wish there was a separate bibliography although the end notes--meaning the reader has to flip to the back of the to find the note and the source cited--are comprehensive)


Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Saint John Henry Newman's Meditation

When people know little else about St. John Henry Newman, they may know his "Meditation", included in the collection of prayers, litanies, and meditations he prepared for the boys of the Oratory School in Birmingham, published posthumously in 1893. It's included in Louis Bouyer's edition of Prayers, Verses and Devotions, from Ignatius Press. It's from the section on "Hope in God-Creator" in "Meditations on Christian Doctrine", dated March 7, 1848:

God has created me to do Him some definite service; He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another. I have my mission—I never may know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next. Somehow I am necessary for His purposes, as necessary in my place as an Archangel in his—if, indeed, I fail, He can raise another, as He could make the stones children of Abraham. Yet I have a part in this great work; I am a link in a chain, a bond of connexion between persons. He has not created me for naught. I shall do good, I shall do His work; I shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth in my own place, while not intending it, if I do but keep His commandments and serve Him in my calling.

Therefore I will trust Him. Whatever, wherever I am, I can never be thrown away. If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve Him; in perplexity, my perplexity may serve Him; if I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve Him. My sickness, or perplexity, or sorrow may be necessary causes of some great end, which is quite beyond us. He does nothing in vain; He may prolong my life, He may shorten it; He knows what He is about. He may take away my friends, He may throw me among strangers, He may make me feel desolate, make my spirits sink, hide the future from me—still He knows what He is about.

The Sixteen and Harry Christophers will perform two settings of adaptations of this meditation, with music composed by Sir James MacMillan, who composed the Mass for Newman's beatification by Pope Benedict XVI in September 2010, and Will Todd. The Genesis Foundation UK is sponsoring the concert, which will be carried on Classic FM's Facebook page tomorrow at 7 pm BST, 11 am PT, and 1 pm CT (thus 2 pm ET). I'm sure there will be a CD forthcoming from The Sixteen. 

Here's more information about the concert from website of The Sixteen:

The Genesis Foundation and The Sixteen announce a special concert inspired by the life and writings of Cardinal Newman, who was canonised as Saint John Henry Newman in 2019. Newman: Meditation & Prayer will take place at 7pm on Thursday 10 June at Farm Street Church in London’s Mayfair (The Jesuit Church of the Immaculate Conception).

The concert will be live streamed for free on Classic FM’s Facebook page and available on demand for a month afterwards; it will feature the world premieres of two new Genesis Foundation choral music commissions by Sir James MacMillan and Will Todd. Joining them will be Classic FM’s flagship morning show presenter Alexander Armstrong, reading the words of Cardinal Newman and the poet and churchman John Donne.

Sign up to receive a digital concert programme:

Perhaps you can still cut and paste that link and get the programme.

I'm looking forward to hearing it--The Sixteen will also perform works by Robert Parsons and Christopher Tye, with a reading of a section of John Donne's Sermon preached at Whitehall on February 29, 1627:

So then, the death of the righteous is a sleep. Those that sleep in Jesus Christ will God fetch out of the dust, but declare that they have been in his hands ever since they departed out of this world. They shall awake as Jacob did, and say as Jacob said, Surely the Lord is in this place, and this is no other but the house of God, and the gate of heaven, and into that gate they shall enter, and in that house they shall dwell, where there shall be no cloud nor sun, no darkness nor dazzling, but one equal light, no noise nor silence, but one equal music, no fears nor hopes, but one equal possession, no foes nor friends, but an equal communion and identity, no ends nor beginnings, but one equal eternity. Keep us Lord so awake in the duties of our callings, that we may thus sleep in thy peace, and wake in thy glory, and change that infallibility which thou affordest us here, to an actual and undeterminable possession of that kingdom which thy Son our Saviour Christ Jesus hath purchased for us, with the inestimable price of his incorruptible blood. Amen.

I'm trying to figure out the connection between Newman's meditation and Donne's sermon!!

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Report on the Fourth Annual Florovsky-Newman Week

I did not attend every session of this Academic Conference, but I did attend the Wednesday night banquet, the Thursday and Friday academic paper sessions (presenting on Thursday), and the Thursday night plenary session (meaning I missed two plenary sessions). Members--that is, supporters--of the Eighth Day Institute receive documentation of the conference after it is held, so I'll be able to catch up on what I missed (the content of it, not the experience of it).

This is an academic conference--the plenary speakers are members of the academia (university professors) and several of the presenters on Thursday and Friday mornings are doctoral and undergraduate students--but there were a couple of pastors presenting too. I may have been the only "independent scholar"! The presentations explored different Christians' beliefs about Baptism, the Fathers of the Church on Baptism, and certain crises and difficulties some groups faced when determining their beliefs about Baptism, including the founders/fathers of the Baptist churches in the 17th century and the Quakers--and St. Augustine urging the Donatists to come home!

The purpose of the Florovsky-Newman week is really to "air our differences": we don't condemn or proselytize each other, nor do we collaborate on any joint statement. We don't have the authority to do so on behalf of our churches and communities. The description for the week from our website summarizes our efforts, although I don't think we really overcame "our different views of baptism":

Heeding Fr. Florovsky's advice, rather than simply overlooking differences, this conference seeks to overcome the different views of baptism. And we do so by returning to the common Tradition, by learning to read the Fathers as living masters, rather than as historical documents. Our hope is for you to deepen your understanding of baptism by examining it from our respective traditions as Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant Christians. Join us for this unique event as we dive into the Church Fathers in order to explore, challenge, and encourage one another to better love God and neighbor.

The main takeaways I had from the conference:

1) The search for a "pure Church" is dangerous. Jesus did not found His Church for the perfect, but for sinners--He said He did not come to call the Righteous. His purpose for the Church is to save sinners, forgive them of their sins, sanctify them, and prepare them for Heaven. If only pure, perfect Christians can be members of the Church, there would be no Church. 

Young John Henry Newman learned that after he became a minister of the Church of England, while a Deacon serving in a parish. One of his first Oxford mentors, Dr. Edward Hawkins, convinced him that he shouldn't divide up the parishioners of St. Clement's into the saved and the unsaved (influenced by Calvinist Predestination), seeking to lead the Church of the Elect, but to be a pastor of the Church of the Baptized. The Donatists, John Smyth of the early Baptist movement, some of the Quakers, etc., have sought this pure Church, rejecting those who didn't conform to their versions of the perfect Christian disciple and ultimately ended up with a Christian community far, far from what they'd sought at the beginning or one that had divided itself so far from the rest of the followers of Jesus that it could hardly participate or evangelize the world!

2) The issue of the source of mediated authority in Christian communities in our lives--since we know that the Holy Trinity is the ultimate authority for all things in the Heavens and on the earth--is the basis of our disagreements. 

Is it the Bible? is it the Church AND the Bible? what is the role of Tradition? who decides what the Tradition or the Bible says? The Pope and the Bishops? the Ecumenical Councils and/or the Fathers of the Church? the individual believer?

I trust the latter least.

3) Getting together in peace and amity is the only way to discuss these issues: radio and television live discussions (questions and answers; explanations and clarifications) may be a close second, but only this kind of meeting, with people meeting each other will bear any fruit.  Facebook and Twitter comments avail nothing.

We don't just agree to disagree but we do agree to treat each other with respect, without anger, bitterness, or hatred. There's no condemnation, but there is still sorrow that we are so divided. As Shakespeare's Prince Escalus of Verona says at the end of Romeo and Juliet, all are punish'd:

I am already looking forward to next year's topic and event, God willing!

Image credit (public domain): the Baptism of Jesus by Aert de Gelder, a Dutch painter, c.1710.

Sunday, June 6, 2021

Saint Thomas More for Corpus Christi (The Body of Christ)

While he was in the Tower of London, St. Thomas More wrote a treatise on Holy Communion: To receive the Blessed Body Of Our Lord Sacramentally and Virtually both. Since my last post was about Macaulay's wonder that St. Thomas More believed in the Real Presence of Christ in Holy Communion, I thought this was good follow up. This document written by More shows how devoutly he did believe in that Presence. You can read the entire treatise here.

And, therefore, have we great cause with great dread and reverence to consider well the state of our own soul when we shall go to the Board of God, and as near as we can (with the help of His special Grace diligently prayed for before) purge and cleanse our souls by Confession, Contrition, and Penance, with full purpose of forsaking from thenceforth the proud desires of the devil, the greedy covetousness of wretched worldly wealth, and the foul affection of the filthy flesh, and being in full mind to persevere, and continue in the ways of God, and holy cleanness of Spirit: lest that, if we presume so irreverently to receive this precious Margarite, this pure Pearl, the Blessed Body of our Saviour Himself, contained in the Sacramental sign of bread, that like a sort of swine, rioting in the dirt, and wallowing in the mire, we tread it under the filthy feet of our foul affections, while we set more by them than by It, intending to walk and wallow in the puddle of foul, filthy sin; therewith, the legion of devils may get leave of Christ so to enter into us as they got leave of Him to enter into the hogs of Genezareth; and as they ran forth with them, and never stinted till they drowned them in the sea, so run on with us, (but if God of His great mercy refrain them and give us the grace to repent) and not fail to drown us in the deep sea of everlasting sorrow. . . .

We must (I say) see, that we firmly believe that this Blessed Sacrament is not a bare sign, or a figure, or a token of that Holy Body of Christ: but that It is in perpetual remembrance of His bitter Passion, that He suffered for us, the self-same precious Body of Christ that suffered it, by His own Almighty power and unspeakable goodness consecrated and given unto us.

St. Thomas More urges both careful preparation before receiving Holy Communion and prayerful gratitude and meditation after:

Now, when we have received our Lord, and have him in our body, let us not then let him alone… and get us forth about other things, and look no more unto him (for little good could he… that so would serve any guest); but let all our busyness be about him. Let us by devout prayer talk to him, by devout meditation talk with him. Let us say with the prophet, “Audiam quid loquatur in me Dominus”—“I will hear what our Lord will speak within me.” (Psalm 85:9) For surely, if we set aside all other things… and attend unto him, he will not fail with good inspirations to speak such things to us within us… as shall serve to the great spiritual comfort and profit of 30 our soul. And therefore let us with Martha provide… that all our outward busyness may be pertaining to him: in making cheer to him, and to his company for his sake; that is to wit, to poor folk—of which he taketh every one… not only for his disciple, but also as for himself. For himself saith, “Quamdiu fecistis uni de his fratribus meis minimis, mihi fecistis”—“That that you have done to one of the least of these my brethren, you have done it to myself.” (Matthew 25:40) And let us with Mary also sit in devout meditation… and hearken well what our Savior, being now our guest, will inwardly say unto us. Now have we a special time of prayer: while he that hath made us, he that hath bought us, he whom we have offended, he that shall judge us, he that shall either damn us or save us… is, of his great goodness, become our guest, and is personally present within us… and that for none other purpose but to be sued unto for pardon—and so, thereby, to save us. Let us not lose this time, therefore; suffer not this occasion to slip… which we can little tell whether ever we shall get it again… or never.

I think that for a time More was allowed to attend Mass in the Tower and perhaps he received Holy Communion a few times--but he must have known that those opportunities would probably end. There's no record of him receiving any Sacraments (Confession or Viaticum) before his execution. 

Very appropriate reading for the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ, celebrated in Catholic Churches today (on some calendars it was celebrated on Thursday, June 3).

Image Credit (public domain) Thomas Morus (1478-1535), based on Hans Holbein.