Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Saint Thomas de Cantilupe and the Pope Who Canonized Him

Today is the feast of St. Thomas de Cantilupe or St. Thomas of Hereford. The Once I Was a Clever Boy blog has an excellent post on his life and on the veneration of his shrine in the Cathedral of St. Mary the Virgin and St. Ethelbert the King (dating from the 11th to 13th centuries), and of course the destruction of his shrine during the English Reformation. From the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica comes this biography:

(c. 1218–1282), English saint and prelate, was a son of William de Cantilupe, the 2nd baron (d. 1251), one of King John’s ministers, and a nephew of Walter de Cantilupe, bishop of Worcester. He was educated at Paris and Orleans, afterwards becoming a teacher of canon law at Oxford and chancellor of the university in 1262. During the Barons’ War Thomas favoured Simon de Montfort and the baronial party. He represented the barons before St Louis of France at Amiens in 1264; he was made chancellor of England in February 1265, but was deprived of this office after Montfort’s death at Evesham, and lived out of England for some time. Returning to England, he was again chancellor of Oxford University, lectured on theology, and held several ecclesiastical appointments. In 1274 he attended the second council of Lyons, and in 1275 he was appointed bishop of Hereford. Cantilupe was now a trusted adviser of Edward I.; he attended the royal councils, and even when differing from the king did not forfeit his favour. The archbishop of Canterbury, Robert Kilwardby, was also his friend; but after Kilwardby’s death in 1279 a series of disputes arose between the bishop and the new archbishop, John Peckham, and this was probably the cause which drove Cantilupe to visit Italy. He died at Orvieto, on the 25th of August 1282, and he was canonized in 1330. Cantilupe appears to have been an exemplary bishop both in spiritual and secular affairs. His charities were large and his private life blameless; he was constantly visiting his diocese, correcting offenders and discharging other episcopal duties; and he compelled neighbouring landholders to restore estates which rightly belonged to the see of Hereford. In 1905 the Cantilupe Society was founded to publish the episcopal registers of Hereford, of which Cantilupe’s is the first in existence.

But what piqued my interest was the name of the pope who canonized him on April 17, 1320: Pope John XXII (Jacques Duèze or d'Euse), an Avignon pope. According to the 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia, he was:

Born at Cahors in 1249; enthroned, 5 September, 1316; died at Avignon, 4 December, 1334. He received his early education from the Dominicans in his native town, and later studied theology and law at Montpellier and Paris. He then taught both canon and civil law at Toulouse and Cahors, came into close relations with Charles II of Naples, and on his recommendation was made Bishop of Frejus in 1300. In 1309 he was appointed chancellor of Charles II, and in 1310 was transferred to the See of Avignon. He delivered legal opinions favourable to the suppression of the Templars, but he also defended Boniface VIII and the Bull "Unam Sanctam". On 23 December, 1312, Clement V made him Cardinal-Bishop of Porto. After the death of Clement V (20 April, 1314) the Holy See was vacant for two years and three and a half months. The cardinals assembled in Carpentras for the election of a pope were divided into two violent factions, and could come to no agreement. The electoral college was composed of eight Italian cardinals, ten from Gascony, three from Provence, and three from other parts of France. After many weeks of unprofitable discussion as to where the conclave should be held, the electoral assembly was entirely dissolved. Ineffectual were the efforts of several princes to induce the cardinals to undertake an election: neither party would yield. After his coronation Philip V of France was finally able to assemble a conclave of twenty-three cardinals in the Dominican monastery at Lyons on 26 June, 1316, and on 7 August, Jacques, Cardinal-Bishop of Porto, was chosen pope. After his coronation at Lyons on 5 September as John XXII, the pope set out for Avignon, where he fixed his residence.

The reason Pope John XXII's reign interests me is because there is a connection to the English Reformation. When Pope John XXII suppressed the Franciscan Spirituals or Fraticelli the Franciscan philosopher William of Ockham protested against what he thought was Papal tyranny. As this website explains:

During the thirteenth century several popes had intervened in these controversies [about poverty and property], generally to support the Franciscans against their critics. Pope John XXII, however, intervened drastically on the other side. In several decretals issued between 1322 and 1324 he decreed that the Franciscans must themselves become the legal owners of the property they used and appeared to condemn as heresy the Franciscan doctrine that Christ and the Apostles had owned no property. Initially, Ockham steered away from active involvement in this conflict. But when ordered to read the relevant documents by his superiors in the Order, brother William came to the reluctant yet firm conclusion that John XXII had himself become a heretic. Most members of the Franciscan Order submitted to the Pope's decrees, but in 1328 the head of the Order (Michael of Cesena) and several others including William of Ockham broke with John XXII and eventually sought the protection of the "Roman Emperor", Ludwig of Bavaria, who was already in dispute with John XXII. (The pope claimed that no one could become Roman Emperor without the pope's approval and had excommunicated Ludwig for exercising imperial powers without approval; Ludwig had been elected by a majority of the Electors of the Empire and had defeated the other candidate in battle.) For most of the rest of his life Ockham lived in Munich (Ludwig's city), out of the pope's reach. There he produced various writings against John XXII and Benedict XII, including:

  • The Work of Ninety Days, a large work (about 600 pages in the modern edition) in which Ockham reports the answers made by the dissident Franciscans to John XXII's answer to Michael of Cesena's criticisms of John's decrees relating to the Franciscan life. (translation: electronic editionprinted edition).
  • A Letter to the Friars Minor, addressed to the 1334 general meeting of the Franciscan Order (i.e. of those who had submitted to the pope), explaining why he was not with them.
  • Against Benedict, against the pope who succeeded John XXII when he died.
  • Eight Questions on the Power of the Pope, reporting and comparing various opinions on the powers of the pope in relation to the Roman Empire.
  • A short discourse on the tyrannical government over things divine and human, but especially over the Empire and those subject to the Empire, usurped by some who are called Highest Pontiffs [i.e. Popes].
  • On the Power of Emperors and Pontiffs. This little treatise, written in the final months of Ockham's life, was a kind of "apologia" for his religious and political anti-papal activism.
So what's the connection to the English Reformation? About six years ago, a collection of William of Ockham's works was found in the library at Lanhydrock in Cornwall, and researchers found annotations in the book that referenced texts that supported Henry VIII's efforts to establish his own authority over spiritual matters in England over the the pope's (at that time Clement VII). As this post on the Discover Britain website describes the discovery in 2015:

Dated 1495, the book is a summary of works by philosopher and theologian William of Ockham who was a major figure in medieval intellectual and political thought.

To help Henry VIII to gather evidence to support an annulment to his marriage, his agents scoured the country for texts such as Ockham’s which questioned the authority of the Pope and argued for the independence of the monarch.

The book at Lanhydrock contains marginal notes and marks which were made by Henry VIII’s secretarial staff to draw his attention to relevant passages.

The book has been at Lanhydrock for many years, but its direct connection to the Royal library was not known until Professor James Carley, an expert on the libraries of Henry VIII, was invited to examine some of the volumes in Lanhydrock’s collection.

Because William of Ockham thought that Pope John XXII (and his successor) had interfered in the Franciscan order and Ockham had appealed to Ludwig of Bavaria, Henry VIII's advisors found support for their monarch's authority in Ockham's works against the pope in the matter of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon.

Saint Thomas of Hereford, pray for us!

Image Credit (Public Domain): 1656 drawing by William Dugdale of ancient (13th. century?) stained glass windows then existing in the Church of St James the Great, Snitterfield, Warwickshire, showing a standing figure of Saint Thomas de Cantilupe (1220-1282), Bishop of Hereford

Image Credit (Public Domain): Unknown century 13th - Archives iconographiques du palais du Roure à Avignon

Monday, August 23, 2021

A Note on Comments on this Blog

I don't always check on pending comments as often as I should, and I apologize for that. But I will not apologize for not approving a comment that takes the Holy Name of Our Lord in vain. A reader submitted a comment sometime last week blaspheming the Name of Jesus and I deleted that comment. The reader may have been using emphatic language to make a point and did not mean to make offense.

I don't think that Blogger, the template I'm using to publish this blog, provides me any way to respond to the reader without posting the comment and I just couldn't post the comment. I've never had to say this on my blog, but if you wish to make a comment that I'll approve, please keep it clean, proof and review what you want to say, and then submit your comment. I'll try to approve it and respond to it as soon as I can!

As the Litany of the Holy Name of Jesus concludes:

V. Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world,
R. spare us, O Jesus.
V. Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world,
R. graciously hear us, O Jesus.
V. Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world,
R. have mercy on us, O Jesus.

V. Jesus, hear us.
R. Jesus, graciously hear us.

Let us pray.
O Lord Jesus Christ, You have said, "Ask and you shall receive, seek, and you shall find, knock, and it shall be opened to you." Grant, we beg of You, to us who ask it, the gift of Your most divine love, that we may ever love You with our whole heart, in word and deed, and never cease praising You.

Give us, O Lord, as much a lasting fear as a lasting love of Your Holy Name, for You, who live and are King for ever and ever, never fail to govern those whom You have solidly established in Your love.

Thank you very much.

Image Credit: (Public Domain) IHS monogram, with kneeling angels, atop the main altar, Church of the Gesù, Rome.

Sunday, August 22, 2021

Some Contemporary Reactions to Newman's Conversion

I've been helping, in a small way, with a project not my own about which I should not say much, except that it is about St. John Henry Newman. 

While doing some of my own research, I stumbled upon a series of essays by John R. Griffin in Christendom College's Faith & Reason, part of that author's reinterpretation of the Oxford Movement and Newman's role in it. (Just search for his name on the Faith & Reason archive page--the college stopped publishing the journal in 2005 after 30 years). One of these essays really shocked me: I don't remember reading about the calumnious and treacherous actions of some of Newman's so-called friends. Note that this is before he "Poped":

Pusey was the first to suggest that something be done to diminish the impact of Newman’s conversion. Pusey and Keble expressed the hope that Newman would go to the continent to make his profession of faith.6 Manning, Isaac Williams, [Charles] Marriott, Pusey and several other high­churchmen conferred on the subject. The Manning correspondence of these years is marked “confidential”, and it appears that Manning asked Williams for a meeting in London to discuss what should be done about the pending event. Manning asked Williams to tell him all that he knew about the Newman affair and anything that Newman might have told him (Williams).7 The image of the future Cardinal that comes through these letters is not a pleasant one; and when scholars, like D. Newsome, profess their inability to understand why people prefer Newman to Manning,8 they might look at this correspondence for their answer. Manning’s Charge of 1845, in addition, does nothing to enhance his reputation for fairness or accuracy on the Newman question.9

Meetings between Williams and Manning were arranged in London, but we have no knowledge of what was decided. All that we know is that Williams was apparently frightened by some of the measures proposed by Manning and determined, following Keble’s advice, to do nothing.10 The Manning plan or declaration was given up, and he, along with Williams, T. Keble, and Marriott, adopted a partial silence in response to the early converts. Marriott seems to have been the most disturbed among this group, and he coped with the event by adopting a useful piece of slander put forward by James Mozley-Newman had never been a true Anglican.11

What could Manning have been proposing? Something that could have opened them up to charges of libel? Something immoral or illegal or both?

Griffin goes on in "The Anglican Response to Newman's Conversion" to highlight the ongoing campaign in print by Pusey, Keble, Mozley, et al, to paint a portrait of Newman and other converts from the Oxford Movement like Oakley and Wilberforce, as hyper-sensitive, irrational, disloyal, and worse. One particular mode of attack was to claim a precipitous decline in moral qualities among Newman and his converts after they had become Catholics. The Achilli Trial, in which Newman was accused of libel, was used against Newman: he was a liar (of course, that was Kingsley's later charge to which Newman had to answer with the Apologia pro Vita Sua). Griffin also traces these kinds of attacks to some later historians of the Oxford Movement and its aftermath:

For a brief survey, see Abbott, The Anglican Career of Cardinal Newman (1892); Williams, Autobiographv (1892); Grafton, A Journey Godward (1910); Donaldson, Five Great Oxford Leaders (1905); Morse-Boycot, They Shine Like Stars (1947); Weatherby, Cardinal Newman and his Age (1973), 235ff; B.A. Smith, Dean Church: The Anglican Response to Newman (1958) contains little that might be construed as an attack on Newman’s moral character or reliability as an historian of the Oxford Movement and it has provided me with a title for this paper, but Smith suggests nothing in Church’s life or writings that might be regarded as a “response” to Newman. (footnote #44)

I have always known what Newman lost (and gained) by becoming a Catholic, but I had not read about this sustained and coordinated campaign against him and his conversion by those who had been his friends--no wonder his reunion with Keble and Pusey was so difficult 20 years later! 

Griffin's conclusion reflects my own reaction:

With those who had known Newman during his Anglican years, it is less easy to be forgiving. I have argued that his friends, E.B. Pusey, John Keble, James Mozley, and the others, deliberately set out to discredit him in order to retain persons in the Church of England. Even this, though I believe it involved lying about Newman, is understandable but for one point. The faith of Keble and Pusey in the system they professed was far too shaky for them to attempt to advise others. Keble described himself once as in the role of “the blind leading the blind.”49 Pusey in many places admitted that the Oxford ideal was not working, in spite of the professed optimism in his published Letters.

It should also be remembered that those who went over to Rome suffered a complete alienation from their friends, the risk of slanderous attacks and estrangement even from relatives. There is one thing more. Those who went over, almost to a man, underwent severe financial reverses. Those who remained “loyal” to the Church of England, whatever may have been their relationship to bishops and laity,50 were at least spared that.

I noticed one interesting, ironic line in Charles Marriott's biography, linked above:  "He acquired possession of Newman's buildings at Littlemore in order to prevent them from being turned into a Roman catholic establishment, and used them for a printing-press for religious works, a scheme which caused him endless worry and expenditure." Newman's College at Littlemore since 1987 has been a "Roman catholic establishment" dedicated to Newman's memory, cared for by the sisters of The Spiritual Family the Work:

Newman’s oratory has again become a place of prayer and worship, with the officium, daily hours of Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, and regular masses. A substantial and specialized collection of Newman-related literature has been built up on the site of Newman’s own library, together with an exhibition of Newman memorabilia (prints, etchings, photographs, sculptures and original letters).

I visited The College in 2009, prayed in the chapel, and enjoyed the gardens--the photos above are from that visit (C) 2010 by Stephanie A. Mann. 

Saint John Henry Newman, pray for us!

Saturday, August 21, 2021

Boris Johnson and Catholicism in England

Crisis Magazine posts an interesting story that poses the question: is the Prime Minister of England a practicing Catholic? or is he still an Anglican? Sean Fitzpatrick notes that this question arises because Johnson married a Catholic woman in a Catholic ceremony in Westminster Cathedral:

When asked by a journalist after his Catholic marriage and the Catholic baptism of his son, “Are you now a practicing Catholic?” Johnson, an Anglican since Eton, replied, “I don’t discuss these deep issues—certainly not with you.” Fair enough, sir.

In any event, the Prime Minister is now under suspicion of being England’s first Catholic prime minister, which would complicate his relation to the Church of England (God save the Queen). Mr. Johnson known for his wry and ready wit, and he wielded it in that moment to keep to himself what so many seek to fling into public scrutiny. Whether it be our religion, our political affiliation, or our vaccination status, the deep issues of our lives are boarding themselves up against undue exposure as they become increasingly divisive.

Fitzpatrick follows his own of inquiry in the rest of his essay, but what interests me is the church-state relationship in England: the government (the United Kingdom doesn't have a Constitution the way that we in the USA have one) still has an officially anti-Catholic stance. No monarch can be a Catholic, and it's not very clear whether or not a Catholic can be Prime Minister. According to the amended Catholic Relief Act of 1829:

It shall not be lawful for any person professing the Roman Catholic religion directly or indirectly to advise his Majesty, or any person or persons holding or exercising the office of guardians of the United Kingdom, or of regent of the United Kingdom, under whatever name, style, or title such office may be constituted, or the lord lieutenant of Ireland], touching or concerning the appointment to or disposal of any office or preferment in the Church of England, or in the Church of Scotland; and if any such person shall offend in the premises he shall, being thereof convicted by due course of law, be deemed guilty of a high misdemeanor, and disabled for ever from holding any office, civil or military, under the Crown.

Yet the question of Boris Johnson's Christian religion was broached when he was elected, as this in July, 2019 article from The Irish Times (Northern Ireland) evidences :

BORIS Johnson has become the first baptised Catholic to become prime minister.

The 55-year-old, whose mother Charlotte Fawcett is Catholic, was baptised as a child.

His godmother is Lady Rachel Billington – daughter of the devoutly Catholic Lord Longford.

However, Mr Johnson was confirmed an Anglican while studying at Eton as a teenager.

That Confirmation in the Church of England probably smoothed over the issue; his marriage to a Catholic in a Catholic Cathedral and the baptism of their child has raised it again.

One of the duties of the Prime Minister is to advise the Queen on episcopal appointments in the Church of England. I cannot imagine Boris Johnson refusing to pass along recommendations for a woman to succeed in an English diocese or to otherwise interfere in those appointments on doctrinal, spiritual, or moral grounds. Nor would Queen Elizabeth II veto any on such grounds, the Anglican church being so thoroughly Erastian. In view of that fact, I'd imagine his Catholicism is a moot point. That's probably why there haven't been any "Johnson Riots" in England. Some would probably have other reasons for burning the Prime Minister in effigy on Bonfire Night, but not because he was baptized Catholic and married a Catholic woman.

As Sean Fitzpatrick concludes, citing Chesterton:

G. K. Chesterton (who was definitely a Catholic) wrote, “The Catholic Church is the only thing which saves a man from the degrading slavery of being a child of his age.” Boris Johnson may or may not be Catholic, but he is certainly Chestertonian, and that goes somewhere beyond his doughy build and rumpled hair. He is elusive and playful and insightful—and those are traits that often go with the faithful. But let us not, as Catholics, be as the slavish children of the age sniffing for social controversy or social stigma—or even stigmata. Let us worry about being Catholic rather than who may or may not be Catholic.

Nevertheless, these are interesting considerations, leading to one more question: when will the monarch be able to be a Catholic? or another way to ask it: when will the Church of England be dis-established as the State Church of the United Kingdom? Should it be? What purpose does its establishment serve now? Those questions lead us all the way back to July 14, 1833!

Image Credit (public domain): The Gordon Riots by Charles Green (1840–1898)

Friday, August 20, 2021

Preview: Three More Venerable Catholic Martyrs on the Son Rise Morning Show

On Monday, August 23, Matt Swaim and I will talk about three Venerable English Catholic Martyrs on the Son Rise Morning Show at my usual time, about 7:50 a.m. Eastern/6:50 a.m. Central. Please listen live on EWTN Radio or on your local EWTN affiliate.

Two of these three martyrs are brothers from a resolutely Recusant family, Father Thomas Tichborne and the layman Nicholas Tichborne. The third Venerable martyr is also a layman, Thomas Hackshot, who led Nicholas in the dangerous rescue of Father Tichborne. The laymen Thomas Hackshot and  Nicholas Tichborne suffered martyrdom first, on August 24, 1601:

As the Catholic Encyclopedia tells their story, Nicholas Tichborne was

b. at Hartley Mauditt, Hampshire; suffered at Tyburn, London, 24 Aug., 1601. He was a recusant at large in 1592, but by 14 March, 1597, had been imprisoned. On that date he gave evidence against various members of his family. Before 3 Nov., 1598, he had obtained his liberty and had effected the release of his brother, Venerable Thomas Tichborne, a prisoner in the Gatehouse, Westminster, by assaulting his keeper. He is to be distinguished from the Nicholas Tichborne who died in Winchester Gaol in 1587. [His father, who has not been declared Venerable, nor beatified or canonized.]

The Catholic Encyclopedia has less detail about Thomas Hackshot:

With him suffered Venerable Thomas Hackshot (b. at Mursley, Buckinghamshire), who was condemned on the same charge, viz. that of effecting the escape of the priest Thomas Tichborne. During his long imprisonment in the Gatehouse he was "afflicted with divers torments, which he endured with great courage and fortitude."

So Nicholas had been in prison from the middle of March in 1597 to the first November in 1598--about a year and seven months--and had given enough information about his recusant family to satisfy the authorities to release him, thus enabling him to help free his brother! 

From reading Bishop Richard Challoner's comments in Memoirs of Missionary Priests and Other Catholics (etc), however, Venerable Thomas Hackshot took the lead in the rescue of Nicholas' brother. According to Challoner, Hackshot was "a stout young man" and he knew that a jailer would escort Father Thomas Tichborne down a certain street near the Gatehouse prison near Westminster Abbey, so Hackshot and Nicholas Tichborne waited for them and then Hackshot knocked the jailer down so the priest could escape. But the two laymen were captured. From Challoner's telling, Hackshot is really the hero of this rescue! (pp. 235-236)

(The Gatehouse prison was demolished in 1776.)
Image Credit (Public Domain) 

Also from the Catholic Encyclopedia, we know that  Venerable Thomas Tichborne suffered martyrdom nearly eight months after his brother and Hackshot:

Born at Hartley, Hampshire, 1567; martyred at Tyburn, London, 20 April, 1602. He was educated at Rheims (1584-87) and Rome, where he was ordained on Ascension Day, 17 May, 1592. Returning to England on 10 March, 1594, he laboured in his native county, where he escaped apprehension till the early part of 1597. He was sent a prisoner to the Gatehouse in London, but in the autumn of 1598 was helped to escape by his brother, Ven. Nicholas Tichborne, and Ven. Thomas Hackshot, who were both martyred shortly afterwards. Betrayed by Atkinson, an apostate priest, he was re-arrested and on 17 April, 1602, was brought to trial with Ven. Robert Watkinson (a young Yorkshire man who had been educated at Rome and ordained priest at Douai a month before) and Ven. James Duckett, a London bookseller. On 20 April he was executed with Ven. Robert Watkinson and Ven. Francis Page, S.J. The last named was a convert, of a Middlesex family though born in Antwerp. He had been ordained at Douai in 1600 and received into the Society of Jesus while a prisoner in Newgate. Ven. Thomas Tichborne was in the last stages of consumption when he was martyred.

According to Challoner in the same source quoted above, Venerable Father Thomas Tichborne (or Tichburn as he spells his name) would have died from natural causes soon anyway, "so that his apprehension and condemnation at this time was a more particular favour of divine providence, which had chosen for him, this more glorious and happy death." (p. 239)

James Duckett was hanged the day before (April 19, 1601) the priests Watkinson, Page and Tichborne. 

Note that Watkinson, Page and Duckett have been beatified (in 1929 by Pope Pius XI). Why not Thomas Tichborne? Why not the two lay martyrs who rescued Father Tichborne?

I have not been able to find any source to answer this question. 

There is, however,  another Tichborne who suffered execution during the reign of Elizabeth I: Chideock Tichborne, the brother's Tichborne cousin (his father Peter was their uncle, Nicholas pere's brother). Chideock was hanged, drawn, and quartered because he was one of the Babington Plot conspirators, wanting to remove Elizabeth I from the throne (by assassination) and replace her with the imprisoned Mary, Queen of Scots.

Venerable Thomas Hackshot, pray for us!
Venerable Nicholas Tichborne, pray for us!
Venerable Thomas Tichborne, pray for us!

Monday, August 16, 2021

Newman's Poetry in Prose: "Worship, a Preparation for Christ's Coming"

Yesterday, our Lovers of Newman group--usually hosted at the convent of the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary west of Wichita in the farmland near Colwich, Kansas--met on the east side of town to read a sermon by Saint John Henry Newman. We read, out loud, one of his Parochial and Plain Sermons, "Worship, a Preparation for Christ's Coming." This was an Advent sermon, delivered on December 2, 1838, but we were reading it during the heat of summer.

His text was: "Thine eyes shall see the King in his beauty: they shall behold the land that is very far off." Isaiah xxxiii. 17.

It must have the most evocative opening sequence of any sermon ever written, so that we almost felt the chill of winter and the grip of old age as we read it:

The year is worn out: spring, summer, autumn, each in turn, have brought their gifts and done their utmost; but they are over, and the end is come. All is past and gone, all has failed, all has sated; we are tired of the past; we would not have the seasons longer; and the austere weather which succeeds, though ungrateful to the body, is in tone with our feelings, and acceptable. Such is the frame of mind which befits the end of the year; and such the frame of mind which comes alike on good and bad at the end of life. The days have come in which they have no pleasure; yet they would hardly be young again, could they be so by wishing it. Life is well enough in its way; but it does not satisfy. Thus the soul is cast forward upon the future, and in proportion as its conscience is clear and its perception keen and true, does it rejoice solemnly that "the night is far spent, the day is at hand," that there are "new heavens and a new earth" to come, though the former are failing; nay, rather that, because they are failing, it will "soon see the King in His beauty," and "behold the land which is very far off." These are feelings for holy men in winter and in age, waiting, in some dejection perhaps, but with comfort on the whole, and calmly though earnestly, for the Advent of Christ.

And such, too, are the feelings with which we now come before Him in prayer day by day. The season is chill and dark, and the breath of the morning is damp, and worshippers are few, but all this befits those who are by profession penitents and mourners, watchers and pilgrims. More dear to them that loneliness, more cheerful that severity, and more bright that gloom, than all those aids and appliances of luxury by which men nowadays attempt to make prayer less disagreeable to them. True faith does not covet comforts. It only complains when it is forbidden to kneel, when it reclines upon cushions, is protected by curtains, and encompassed by warmth. Its only hardship is to be hindered, or to be ridiculed, when it would place itself as a sinner before its Judge. They who realize that awful Day when they shall see Him face to face, whose eyes are as a flame of fire, will as little bargain to pray pleasantly now, as they will think of doing so then.

In this sermon, Newman is focused on our need to prepare for the day when we will see the face of Our Savior, when we will be judged by Jesus Christ, and when--we hope and pray--we will be with Him in Heaven. We can't get ready just by being good people, he notes, by observing the laws of morality and the practice of charity. What we need to do to prepare for this sight, this judgment, even this heavenly bliss, is to learn to worship the God behind the veil according to the worship He requires of us:

Now observe, that it is scarcely a sufficient answer to this question to say that we must strive to obey Him, and so to approve ourselves to Him. This indeed might be enough, were reward and punishment to follow in the mere way of nature, as they do in this world. But, when we come steadily to consider the matter, appearing before God, and dwelling in His presence, is a very different thing from being merely subjected to a system of moral laws, and would seem to require another preparation, a special preparation of thought and affection, such as will enable us to endure His countenance, and to hold communion with Him as we ought. Nay, and, it may be, a preparation of the soul itself for His presence, just as the bodily eye must be exercised in order to bear the full light of day, or the bodily frame in order to bear exposure to the air.

But, whether or not this be safe reasoning, Scripture precludes the necessity of it, by telling us that the Gospel Covenant is intended, among its other purposes, to prepare us for this future glorious and wonderful destiny, the sight of God,—a destiny which, if not most glorious, will be most terrible. And in the worship and service of Almighty God, which Christ and His Apostles have left to us, we are vouchsafed means, both moral and mystical, of approaching God, and gradually learning to bear the sight of Him.

This indeed is the most momentous reason for religious worship, as far as we have grounds for considering it a true one. Men sometimes ask, Why need they profess religion? Why need they go to church? Why need they observe certain rites and ceremonies? Why need they watch, pray, fast, and meditate? Why is it not enough to be just, honest, sober, benevolent, and otherwise virtuous? Is not this the true and real worship of God? Is not activity in mind and conduct the most acceptable way of approaching Him? How can they please Him by submitting to certain religious forms, and taking part in certain religious acts? Or if they must do so, why may they not choose their own? Why must they come to church for them? Why must they be partakers in what the Church calls Sacraments? I answer, they must do so, first of all and especially, because God tells them so to do. But besides this, I observe that we see this plain reason why, that they are one day to change their state of being. They are not to be here for ever. Direct intercourse with God on their part now, prayer and the like, may be necessary to their meeting Him suitably hereafter: and direct intercourse on His part with them, or what we call sacramental communion, may be necessary in some incomprehensible way, even for preparing their very nature to bear the sight of Him.

We often read about ways to prepare to pray during the course of our days, to place ourselves in the presence of God, and there are written prayers to prepare ourselves to offer the Sacrifice of the Mass in our intentions and to prepare to receive Holy Communion, but I think that Newman offers even richer ways of preparation.

He suggests these thoughts before we begin our morning or evening or night prayers:

Such then is the spirit in which we should come to all His ordinances, considering them as anticipations and first-fruits of that sight of Him which one day must be. When we kneel down in prayer in private, let us think to ourselves, Thus shall I one day kneel down before His very footstool, in this flesh and this blood of mine; and He will be seated over against me, in flesh and blood also, though divine. I come, with the thought of that awful hour before me, I come to confess my sin to Him now, that He may pardon it then, and I say, "O Lord, Holy God, Holy and Strong, Holy and Immortal, in the hour of death and in the day of judgment, deliver us, O Lord!"

And Newman suggests these thoughts before Mass (he was an Anglican when he wrote this sermon, but I apply them to preparation for the celebration of Holy Mass):

Again, when we come to church, then let us say:—The day will be when I shall see Christ surrounded by His Holy Angels. I shall be brought into that blessed company, in which all will be pure, all bright. I come then to learn to endure the sight of the Holy One and His Servants; to nerve myself for a vision which is fearful before it is ecstatic, and which they only enjoy whom it does not consume. When men in this world have to undergo any great thing, they prepare themselves beforehand, by thinking often of it, and they call this making up their mind. Any unusual trial they thus make familiar to them. Courage is a necessary step in gaining certain goods, and courage is gained by steady thought. Children are scared, and close their eyes, at the vision of some mighty warrior or glorious king. And when Daniel saw the Angel, like St. John, "his comeliness was turned in him into corruption, and he retained no strength." [Dan. x. 8.] I come then to church, because I am an heir of heaven. It is my desire and hope one day to take possession of my inheritance: and I come to make myself ready for it, and I would not see heaven yet, for I could not bear to see it. I am allowed to be in it without seeing it, that I may learn to see it. And by psalm and sacred song, by confession and by praise, I learn my part.

Newman then describes the effects of the (Anglican) church's Ordinances, which our Lovers of Newman group as Catholics applied to the Seven Sacraments of the Catholic Church, and the Liturgical Seasons, as they help us prepare.

Then he concludes:

Let us go out to meet Him with contrite and expectant hearts; and though He delays His coming, let us watch for Him in the cold and dreariness which must one day have an end. Attend His summons we must, at any rate, when He strips us of the body; let us anticipate, by a voluntary act, what will one day come on us of necessity. Let us wait for Him solemnly, fearfully, hopefully, patiently, obediently; let us be resigned to His will, while active in good works. Let us pray Him ever, to "remember us when He cometh in His kingdom;" to remember all our friends; to remember our enemies; and to visit us according to His mercy here, that He may reward us according to His righteousness hereafter.

I will never forget the day last year (Tuesday, March 17, 2020; Saint Patrick's Day!) when I had attended daily Mass at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception and the priest made the announcement at the end of Mass that public worship in the Catholic churches of the Wichita diocese would cease as of 1:00 p.m. that day. The priest also announced that all the Perpetual Adoration chapels would close as of 1:00 p.m. that day. So someone trying to prepare to see Jesus as she would as soon as she died, coming to her hour of adoration before the Blessed Sacrament in the monstrance, was turned away. And the fortunate person who was praying in chapel, trying to sense the Presence behind the veil, left with the question of when he'd be able to return to his regular hour before the Blessed Sacrament.

It may have been thought necessary at the time, but after reading this sermon three times, I think even more than I did before how horrible a day that truly was. We know that God can always provide, and that the Church dispensed us from our obligation to attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation, but we were cut off from the Sacraments, which as Newman says, help us see behind the veil:

And what is true of the ordinary services of religion, public and private, holds in a still higher or rather in a special way, as regards the sacramental ordinances of the Church. In these is manifested in greater or less degree, according to the measure of each, that Incarnate Saviour, who is one day to be our Judge, and who is enabling us to bear His presence then, by imparting it to us in measure now. A thick black veil is spread between this world and the next. We mortal men range up and down it, to and fro, and see nothing. There is no access through it into the next world. In the Gospel this veil is not removed; it remains, but every now and then marvellous disclosures are made to us of what is behind it. At times we seem to catch a glimpse of a Form which we shall hereafter see face to face.

Fortunately, churches soon opened for visits to the Blessed Sacrament in the Tabernacle, with strictly limited occupancy. But for Lent and Holy Week, and indeed the whole of April, we were without these holy means of preparing for the sight of Our Lord, His judgment, and eternity! If we take it seriously, that these Sacraments are the outward means for us to receive God's grace, those 49 (forty-nine) days, from March 18 through May 5 were a great gap in the time we have on this earth to prepare ourselves for that great, awesome, terrible day. It reminds me of the line from St. Thomas More's "Godly Meditation": not just those days but other days we've lost through our own fault: "To buy the time again, that I before have lost . . . "

Image Credit (Public Domain): Fra Angelico's The Last Judgment, Winged Altarpiece (c. 1435-1440)

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Saint John Henry Newman: August 11, 1890

O God, who bestowed on the Priest Saint John Henry Newman the grace to follow your kindly light and find peace in your Church; graciously grant that, through his intercession and example, we may be led out of shadows and images into the fulness of your truth. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever. Amen.

His feast is not celebrated today, but this is the anniversary of his death. Since today was already the feast of St. Clare of Assisi on the current Roman Calendar (for the Roman Missal of 1962, her feast is on August 12), the date of October 9--when he became a Catholic--was chosen instead for his feast day. 

Nevertheless, we can certainly remember him today in private devotions, using the prayers and readings assigned for his October 9 Feast in the Catholic dioceses of England and Wales.

I do hope the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops will add his feast to our national calendar on October 9, although Saint Denis and Saint John Leonardi already have optional memorials scheduled! I wonder if his feast could be an obligatory Memorial? 

BTW: the Bishops of England and Wales took care of the issue of the memorials of Saint Denis and Saint John Leonardi thusly in May 2019:

The Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales agrees to the raising of Bl. John Henry Newman to the rank of Feast on 9 October, subsequent to his canonisation, in the National Calendar for England and the National Calendar for Wales.

It requests the optional memorials of St Denis and Companions and St John Leonardi be transferred to 10 October.

Saint John Henry Newman, pray for us!