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 MarĂ©chal, 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)


No comments:

Post a Comment