Friday, March 25, 2022

Preview: Mary's "Good Part" and Martha's Due

On Monday, March 28, I'll continue the Son Rise Morning Show series of reflections on Lenten sermons by Saint John Henry Newman edited and excerpted in The Tears of Christ. This week's sermon is "The Good Part of Mary" in which Newman explicates the meaning of the story of Jesus at the home of Martha, Mary, and Lazarus when Martha asks Jesus to get Mary to help her serve the dinner rather than listen to Him. We'll be on the air at my usual time, about 6:50 a.m. Central/7:50 a.m. Eastern time. Please listen live on EWTN Radio or on your local EWTN affiliate

Newman juxtaposes this story from the Gospel of St. Luke with what we read about Martha, Mary, and Lazarus (whose shared feast is now celebrated on July 29) in the Gospel of St. John, when Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead after four days in the tomb:

Martha and Mary were the sisters of Lazarus, who was afterwards raised from the dead. All three lived together, but Martha was mistress of the house. St. Luke mentions, in a verse preceding the text, that Christ came to a certain village, "and a certain woman, named Martha, received Him into her house." Being then at the head of a family, she had duties which necessarily engaged her time and thoughts. And on the present occasion she was especially busy, from a wish to do honour to her Lord. "Martha was cumbered about much serving." On the other hand, her sister was free from the necessity of worldly business, by being the younger. "She had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus' feet, and heard His word." The same distinction, at once of duty and character, appears in the narrative of Lazarus' death and restoration, as contained in St. John's Gospel. "Then Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met Him; but Mary sat still in the house." [John xi. 20.] Afterwards Martha "went her way and called Mary her sister secretly, saying, The Master is come, and calleth for thee." Again, in the beginning of the following chapter, "There they made Him a supper; and Martha served ... Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair." [John xii. 2, 3.] In these passages the same general difference between the sisters presents itself, though in a different respect;—Martha still directs and acts, while Mary is the retired and modest servant of Christ, who, at liberty from worldly duties, loves to sit at His feet and hear His voice, and silently honours Him with her best, without obtruding herself upon His sacred presence.

To return:—"Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to Him, and said, Lord, dost Thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me. And Jesus answered and said unto her," in the words of the text, "Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things; but one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part which shall not be taken from her."

I appreciated how Newman emphasized Martha's essential role in her household with her brother and sister: she is the head of the family in his view, not Lazarus. She is in charge of many details and she even leads her sister to Jesus before he raises Lazarus from the dead. Nevertheless, Newman focuses in this sermon on Mary's not just good, but better part. Thus, he follows the age-old tradition of highlighting the superiority of the contemplative life over the active life.

(Please remember that England, until some of her Catholic exiles had returned from their monasteries and convents during and after the French Revolution, had not benefited from the presence of contemplative religious praying for her people's intentions for a few hundred years. Since the Dissolution of the Monasteries, Friaries, and Convents during the reign of Henry VIII, that way of life had been absent from England, Wales, and parts of Ireland too (and Scotland under John Knox's "reformation"). The only official religious vocation in England until the 19th century had been the active ministerial life in the Church of England: deacons, priests, and bishops. Vocations to the contemplative community life--and God surely called some to such a life--were thwarted in England in those intervening years.*)

And I think Newman is a little careful about this point--the fact that Anglican Christians in England have not known this contemplative form of life, haven't seen it modeled in their religious life--when he both acknowledges the superiority of Mary's part, the need for his congregations to follow her example, and yet remembers that they have active duties and responsibilities:

Mary's portion is the better of the two. Our Lord does not expressly say so, but He clearly implies it. If His words be taken literally, they might, indeed, even mean that Martha's heart was not right with Him, which, it is plain from other parts of the history, they do not mean. Therefore, what He intimated surely was, that Martha's portion was full of snares, as being one of worldly labor, but that Mary could not easily go wrong in hers; that we may be busy in a wrong way, we cannot well adore Him except in a right one; that to serve God by prayer and praise continually, when we can do so consistently with other duties, is the pursuit of the one thing needful, and the good part which shall not be taken away.

Newman cites several verses from the letters of St. Paul and St. Peter, and even St. James, in support of the need to pray constantly, including

"Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving." (Col 4:2)

"Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, as you teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and as you sing psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs with thankfulness in your hearts to God." (Col 3:16) . . .

"[C]ast all your anxieties on him, for he cares about you." (1 Peter 5:7) . . .

"Is any one among you suffering? let him pray. Is any cheerful? let him sing praise." (James 5:13)

In passages not included in The Tears of Christ, Newman acknowledges that although he can readily cite the prayers of the Apostles and the Mother of God in the Upper Room between the Ascension and Pentecost as an example of this kind of contemplative prayer life, the early Church, the Apostolic Age, was an era of active ministry, preaching, forming the Christian community, bringing the Jews and the Gentiles to the Way of Jesus. ("Thus Mary's portion was withheld from the Church for many years, while it laboured and suffered.") Once the Church was established, Mary's lot returned:

From that time onwards to the present day, Mary's lot has been offered to vast multitudes of Christians, if they could receive it*. Blessed indeed are they whom Christ calls near to Him to be His own peculiar attendants and familiar friends. Blessed even if they are allowed to seize intervals of such service towards Him; but favoured and honored beyond thought, if they can, without breach of duty, put aside worldly things with full purpose of heart and present themselves as a holy offering, without spot or blemish, to Him who died for them. These are they who "follow the Lamb wherever He goes" (Rev 14:4) and to them He more especially addresses those lessons of faith and resignation which are recorded in His Gospel. [Here Newman cites Luke 12:15-40]

Since most of us listening to EWTN's Son Rise Morning Show on Sacred Heart Radio are living the active Christian life, we are only able to "seize intervals" of time for contemplation and prayer, before the Blessed Sacrament during our hours in Perpetual Adoration chapels, on retreats, during set times of mental prayer and devotion in our homes, at work, at school, etc. Therefore, Saint John Henry Newman's admonition that we seek Mary of Bethany's good part whenever we can, "without breach of duty" applies readily to us.

Saint John Henry Newman, pray for us!
Saints Martha, Mary, and Lazarus of Bethany, pray for us!

Image Credit (public domain); Jesus at the home of Martha and Mary by Johannes Vermeer (c. 1654-56)

Friday, March 18, 2022

Preview: Newman on "Times of Private Prayer"

We know from his works that Saint John Henry Newman, as an Anglican and as a Catholic, was a man of prayer, both liturgical (public) and private. As the French Oratorian, Father Louis Bouyer points out in his introduction to Ignatius Press's volume of Newman's Prayers, Verses, and Devotions, Newman's prayer life may be exemplified by his admiration and translation of Lancelot Andrewes' Preces Privatae from the Greek, which was published as one of the Tracts for the Times

Bouyer calls them "spiritual exercises of penance, confession of faith, praise, thanksgiving, and intercession, leading to a fully conscious participation in the eucharistic mysteries and, ultimately, to a whole life in God's presence in Christ." (p. xvii). Newman continued to use these Devotions of the seventeenth century Anglican Bishop throughout his life as a Catholic priest "for his daily preparation and thanksgiving before and after Mass for his most personal meditations." (same page) As Bouyer comments, Newman's prayer was the practice of lectio divina, meditation on Divine Revelation in Scripture and Tradition.

So it's no surprise that he would preach on the need for prayer and devotion in the Christian life, and indeed urge his congregations not only to pray always but to set aside specific times to prayer, as he does in "Times of Private Prayer", which is the meditation for the Saturday of the third week of Lent selected in The Tears of Christ: Meditations for Lent. According to the Newman Reader's chronology of sermons, however, this was an Advent sermon, delivered early in Newman's tenure as a minister in the Church of England in 1829, and preceded by a sermon on "Mental Prayer" and followed by a sermon on "Forms of Mental Prayer".

Nevertheless, on Monday, March 21, we'll continue our discussion of Newman's Lenten sermons/meditations on the Son Rise Morning Show with this sermonWe'll be on the air at my usual time, about 6:50 a.m. Central/7:50 a.m. Eastern time. Please listen live on EWTN Radio or on your local EWTN affiliate

What makes it appropriate for a Lenten meditation is the verse Newman uses to introduce the sermon: 

"Thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly." Matt 6:6

which is included in the Gospel for Ash Wednesday when Jesus instructed His disciples on the proper ways to practice fasting, prayer, and almsgiving.

As Newman describes the context of this verse:

The Pharisees were in the practice, when they prayed by themselves, of praying in public, in the corners of the streets. Public private prayer, this was their self-contradictory practice. Warning, then, His disciples against the particular form of hypocrisy in which the self-conceit of human nature at that day showed itself, our Lord promises in the text His Father's blessing on such humble supplications as were really addressed to Him, and not made to gain the praise of men: "when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you" (Matt. 6:6). Those who seek the unseen God (He seems to say), seek Him in their hearts and hidden thoughts, not in loud words, as if He were far off from them. Such men would retire from the world into places where no human eye saw them, there to meet Him humbly and in faith, who is "about their path, and about their bed, and spieth out all their ways." And He, the Searcher of hearts, would reward them openly. Prayers uttered in secret, according to God's will, are treasured up in God's Book of Life. They seem, perhaps, to have sought an answer here, and to have failed. Their memory perishes even in the mind of the petitioner, and the world never knew of them. But God is ever mindful, and in the last day, when the books are opened, they shall be disclosed and rewarded before the whole world.

Newman acknowledges that a Christian should always be praying, raising our minds to think of God; but he asks, should we really set times for ourselves, privately, to pray? Doesn't the public worship of God at set times and places suffice for such structured, on-purpose prayer? 

Then he cites passages of scripture that prove that Jesus prayed at certain times, going off by Himself and that other Biblical heroes did the same:

The practice of good men in Scripture gives us an example in confirmation of it. Even our Saviour had His peculiar seasons of communing with God. His thoughts indeed were one continued sacred service offered up to His Father; nevertheless, we read of His going up "into a mountain apart to pray," and again, of His "continuing all night in prayer to God." (Matt. 14:23; Luke 6:12) St. Peter too, as in the narrative of the conversion of Cornelius, the Roman centurion, in the tenth chapter of the Acts, went up upon the house-top to pray about the sixth hour; then God visited him. . . . . The Psalmist says, "Seven times a day do I praise Thee, because of Thy righteous judgments." (Ps. 119:164) [The inspiration for the Liturgy of the Hours] And Daniel's practice is told us on a memorable occasion: "Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed (the impious decree, forbidding prayer to any but king Darius for thirty days), he went into his house, and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he got down upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously." (Dan. 6:10)

So having established "proof texts" from the Holy Bible to convince those who might think such structured prayer unnecessary, he points out, in passages not included in The Tears of Christ, that neglect of structured private prayer may lead to neglect of Sunday worship and indeed, of the constant raising of our minds and hearts to God throughout the day: Newman always shows that great insight into human habits and psychology. When we say, oh, I can pray anywhere, anytime, he suggests, we'll soon pray nowhere, and at no time. We need to establish habits so we may practice virtue and make it part of our lives. Newman particularly urges his congregation to establish habits of morning and evening prayer:

Be sure, whoever of you is persuaded to disuse his morning and evening prayers, is giving up the armor which is to secure him against the wiles of the Devil.

And he warns them of the distractions that could interfere with this habit:

Beware then of the subtlety of your Enemy, who would willingly rob you of your defence. Do not yield to his bad reasonings. Be on your guard especially, when you get into novel situations or circumstances which interest and delight you, lest they throw you out of your regularity in prayer. Anything new or unexpected is dangerous to you. Going much into mixed society, and seeing many strange persons, taking share in any pleasant amusements, reading interesting books, entering into a new line of life, forming some new acquaintance, the sudden prospect of any worldly advantage, travelling: all these things and such like, innocent as they are in themselves, and capable of a religious use, become means of temptation if we are not on our guard. See that you are not unsettled by them; this is the danger.

We all know the temptation to skip Sunday Mass when on vacation; the scheduling of tours and events may interfere with the times and devotions we've prayed at home.

And he concludes with assurances that these secret prayers, regularly practiced, will have a public effect; although the worldly world won't see, our family and friends will see something different. Our regular prayers and devotions will have an influence:

Do not indulge visions of earthly good, fix your hearts on higher things, let your morning and evening thoughts be points of rest for your mind's eye, and let those thoughts be upon the narrow way, and the blessedness of heaven, and the glory and power of Christ your Saviour. Thus will you be kept from unseemly risings and fallings, and steadied in an equable way. Men in general will know nothing of this. They witness not your private prayers, and they will confuse you with the multitude they fall in with. But your friends and acquaintance will gain a light and a comfort from your example. They will see your good works and be led to trace them to their true secret source, the influences of the Holy Spirit sought and obtained by prayer. Thus they will glorify your heavenly Father, and in imitation of you will seek Him, and He who sees in secret shall at length reward you openly.

That conclusion reminds me of one of Newman's Meditations, composed for the boys of the Oratory School (when Newman was a Catholic priest of the Oratory of St. Philip Neri) which demonstrates the continuity of prayer and devotion in his life:

Stay with me, and then I shall begin to shine as Thou shinest: so to shine as to be a light to others. The light, O Jesus, will be all from Thee. None of it will be mine. No merit to me. It will be Thou who shinest through me upon others. O let me thus praise Thee, in the way which Thou dost love best, by shining on all those around me. Give light to them as well as to me; light them with me, through me. Teach me to show forth Thy praise, Thy truth, Thy will. Make me preach Thee without preaching—not by words, but by my example and by the catching force, the sympathetic influence, of what I do—by my visible resemblance to Thy saints, and the evident fulness of the love which my heart bears to Thee.

Saint John Henry Newman, pray for us!

Tuesday, March 15, 2022

From Insult to Praise: "Hot, Holy Ladies" at Stonyhurst College

From the Jesuits in England:

Jesuit Collections is proud to present an exciting new exhibition that reveals the hidden histories of Britain’s ‘Hot, Holy Ladies’ – the Catholic women who kept their faith alive during the religious turmoil in England and Scotland. The phrase ‘Hot, Holy Ladies’ was first used as a sarcastic insult in 1602, aimed at an impressive and effective group of strong-minded female supporters of the Jesuit Catholic mission. . . .

Related to some of the failed Gunpowder Plotters, Helena defied expectations about the role of women to become a leading figure among those who had to practise their beliefs in secret. In particular, she created several extraordinarily beautiful vestments, to be worn by priests who carried out their ministry in secret. These vestments will be the subject of six short films, released online on 4th April. . . .

The exhibition will also feature high profile relics such as the Mary Queen of Scots’ Thorn. Artistic commissions associated with royal women from the 15th to the 17th centuries including the sumptuous Henry VII Cope, and Elizabeth of York’s Prayer Book will also be on display, alongside a gold, enamelled and pearl crucifix belonging to Thomas More’s wife, Lady Alice, and a series of silver gilt reliquaries commissioned by Anne Vaux, who was instrumental in rescuing the Jesuit missionary, John Gerard, in the aftermath of the Gunpowder Plot.

Helena's father was Robert Wintour, and her uncle was Thomas Wintour, and both were executed for their involvement in the Gunpowder Plot when she was five years old. Robert was hanged, drawn, and quartered on January 30, 1606; Thomas on the next day. The documentary, linked in the website above, is narrated by Jan Graffius of the Stonyhurst Collection. You may also enter your email address to receive updates, including the short films describing her works and their symbols.

Image Credit: White "Alleluia" Chasuble. A white vestment containing symbolic flowers, and birds, as well as 'IHS' on the back, made in the latter part of Helena's life. By Harriet Magill - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

Friday, March 11, 2022

Preview: Newman on Self-Denial on the Son Rise Morning Show

On Monday, March 14, we'll continue our discussion of Newman's Lenten sermons/meditations on the Son Rise Morning ShowWe'll be on the air at my usual time, about 6:50 a.m. Central/7:50 a.m. Eastern time. Please listen live on EWTN Radio or on your local EWTN affiliate. This time, however, we'll be looking that a sermon Newman preached during Advent, on December 22, 1833, "Self-Denial the Test of Religious Earnestness." It is the meditation offered in The Tears of Christ for the Friday of Second Week of Lent.

Newman took as his text "Now it is high time to awake out of sleep." Romans 13:11

The excerpt from this sermon in The Tears of Christ does not include this section, which presents what Newman wants his congregation to think about regarding their own religious state:

Now I do not for an instant suspect, my brethren, that you are in the sound slumber of sin. This is a miserable state, which I should hope was, on the whole, the condition of few men, at least in a place like this. But, allowing this, yet there is great reason for fearing that very many of you are not wide awake: that though your dreams are disturbed, yet dreams they are; and that the view of religion which you think to be a true one, is not that vision of the Truth which you would see were your eyes open, but such a vague, defective, extravagant picture of it as a man sees when he is asleep. At all events, however this may be, it will be useful (please God) if you ask yourselves, one by one, the question, "How do I know I am in the right way? How do I know that I have real faith, and am not in a dream?"

Thus Newman reiterates one of the main themes of his Parochial and Plain Sermons, that many Christians in his day professed to believe without really understanding what they believed: their faith in Jesus and their commitment to His teachings were not real, but merely notional. He was trying to wake them up to reality of the Christian life so that it made a difference in the way they lived.

So in this sermon Newman proposes that one way to know that one has "real faith" not notional faith, merely dreaming about being a disciple of Jesus, is to examine one's conscience, identify one's major faults, and practice self-denial as a means of repentance. He warns, however, that no one can be absolutely certain of their state (Newman had by 1833 moved away from Calvinism and dual predestination): "How then shall we try ourselves? Can any tests be named which will bring certainty to our minds on the subject? No indisputable tests can be given. We cannot know for certain. We must beware of an impatience about knowing what our real state is."

Nevertheless, we need to examine our consciences:

Reflect upon our Saviour's plain declarations, "Whosoever will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me." [Mark viii. 34.] "If any man come to Me, and hate not his father and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. And whosoever doth not bear his cross and come after Me, he cannot be My disciple." [Luke xiv. 26, 27.] "If thy hand offend thee, cut it off ... if thy foot offend thee, cut it off ... if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out: ... it is better for thee to enter into life maimed ... halt ... with one eye than to be cast into hell." [Mark ix. 43-47.]

From such passages we learn that a rigorous self-denial is a chief duty, nay, that it may be considered the test whether we are Christ's disciples, whether we are living in a mere dream, which we mistake for Christian faith and obedience, or are really and truly awake, alive, living in the day, on our road heavenwards. The early Christians went through self-denials in their very profession of the Gospel; what are our self-denials, now that the profession of the Gospel is not a self-denial? In what sense do we fulfill the words of Christ? have we any distinct notion what is meant by the words "taking up our cross?" in what way are we acting, in which we should not act, supposing the Bible and the Church were unknown to this country, and religion, as existing among us, was merely a fashion of this world? What are we doing, which we have reason to trust is done for Christ's sake who bought us?

Newman emphasizes that this self-denial is a daily duty in obedience to Christ, and then he offers some practical advice to practice the virtue of self-denial everyday. It starts with knowing yourself enough to admit your "besetting infirmities", your worst faults:

Every one who is at all in the habit of examining himself, must be conscious of such within him. Many men have more than one, all of us have some one or other; and in resisting and overcoming such, self-denial has its first employment. One man is indolent and fond of amusement, another man is passionate or ill-tempered, another is vain, another has little control over his tongue; others are weak, and cannot resist the ridicule of thoughtless companions; others are tormented with bad passions, of which they are ashamed, yet are overcome. Now let every one consider what his weak point is; in that is his trial. His trial is not in those things which are easy to him, but in that one thing, in those several things, whatever they are, in which to do his duty is against his nature. Never think yourself safe because you do your duty in ninety-nine points; it is the hundredth which is to be the ground of your self-denial, which must evidence, or rather instance and realize your faith.

Newman proposes a daily sacrifice of our normal desires to help us know that we are not dreaming, but awake:

Make some sacrifice, do some distasteful thing, which you are not actually obliged to do, (so that it be lawful,) to bring home to your mind that in fact you do love your Saviour, that you do hate sin, that you do hate your sinful nature, that you have put aside the present world. Thus you will have an evidence (to a certain point) that you are not using mere words. It is easy to make professions, easy to say fine things in speech or in writing, easy to astonish men with truths which they do not know, and sentiments which rise above human nature. "But thou, O servant of God, flee these things, and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness." (1 Timothy 6:11) Let not your words run on. Try yourself daily in little deeds, to prove that your faith is more than a deceit.

In the conclusion to this sermon, not included in The Tears of Christ, Newman acknowledges that this is hard to do, and indeed, may be a lifetime's work that requires God's grace:

I am aware all this is a hard doctrine; hard to those even who assent to it, and can describe it most accurately. There are such imperfections, such inconsistencies in the heart and life of even the better sort of men, that continual repentance must ever go hand in hand with our endeavors to obey. Much we need the grace of Christ's blood to wash us from the guilt we daily incur; much need we the aid of His promised Spirit! And surely He will grant all the riches of His mercy to His true servants; but as surely He will vouchsafe to none of us the power to believe in Him, and the blessedness of being one with Him, who are not as earnest in obeying Him as if salvation depended on themselves.

Whether in Advent or in Lent, or in any other liturgical season, Newman's counsel is well taken!

Saint John Henry Newman, pray for us!

Image Credit (public domain): Andrea di Bartolo, Way to Calvary, c. 1400. The cluster of halos at the left are the Virgin Mary in front, with the Three Marys.

Tuesday, March 8, 2022

Schiller's "Maria Stuart" at Newman University

My sister and I went to an adaptation of Friedrich Schiller's romantic play, Maria Stuart (the source for Donizetti's opera) at Newman University Saturday night, March 5th. They used the title Mary, Queen of Scots. The director, Mark Manette, used the translation of Schiller's play by Joseph Melish, which includes this poignant scene of Mary, finally being comforted by a priest before her execution:

Melvil! Oh, yes, I understand you, Melvil! 
Here is no priest, no church, no sacrament; 
But the Redeemer says, "When two or three 
Are in my name assembled, I am with them," 
What consecrates the priest? Say, what ordains him 
To be the Lord's interpreter? a heart 
Devoid of guile, and a reproachless conduct. 
Well, then, though unordained, be you my priest; 
To you will I confide my last confession, 
And take my absolution from your lips. 

 If then thy heart be with such zeal inflamed, 
I tell thee that for thine especial comfort, 
The Lord may work a miracle. 
Thou say'st Here is no priest, no church, no sacrament— 
Thou err'st—here is a priest—here is a God; 
A God descends to thee in real presence. 
[At these words he uncovers his head, and shows a host in a golden vessel.] 
I am a priest—to hear thy last confession, 
And to announce to thee the peace of God 
Upon thy way to death. I have received 
Upon my head the seven consecrations. 
I bring thee, from his Holiness, this host, 
Which, for thy use, himself has deigned to bless. 

Is then a heavenly happiness prepared 
To cheer me on the very verge of death? 
As an immortal one on golden clouds 
Descends, as once the angel from on high, 
Delivered the apostle from his fetters:— 
He scorns all bars, he scorns the soldier's sword, 
He steps undaunted through the bolted portals, 
And fills the dungeon with his native glory; 
Thus here the messenger of heaven appears 
When every earthly champion had deceived me. 
And you, my servant once, are now the servant 
Of the Most High, and his immortal Word! 
As before me your knees were wont to bend, 
Before you humbled, now I kiss the dust.

And she makes her Confession, not mentioning any involvement in the plots to kidnap, depose, or murder Elizabeth. Father Melvil presses her on this point and she denies have anything to do with such plots, while admitting that she requested aid from Catholic monarchs in Europe to secure her release from her captivity in England. So she ends up the moral victor in the play, regal, resolute, and composed, as she goes to the block.

Elizabeth's last scene, on other hand, depicts her as equivocating and irresolute, accusing others, like William Cecil, Lord Burleigh and Sir William Davison, her Secretary of State, of carrying out her wishes--she'd signed the death warrant--against her wishes. So she ends up left alone on the throne, with Leicester on the way to France (with Mary's heart?), and Shrewsbury, who had counselled mercy to Mary earlier in the play, calling her out for her duplicity and leaving her service:

ELIZABETH. (speaking to Burleigh)
And dared you then to execute the writ 
Thus hastily, nor wait to know my pleasure? 
Just was the sentence—we are free from blame 
Before the world; yet it behooved thee not 
To intercept our natural clemency. 
For this, my lord, I banish you my presence; 
And as this forward will was yours alone 
Bear you alone the curse of the misdeed! 
For you, sir; who have traitorously o'erstepped 
The bounds of your commission, and betrayed 
A sacred pledge intrusted to your care, 
A more severe tribunal is prepared: 
Let him be straight conducted to the Tower, 
And capital arraignments filed against him. 
My honest Talbot, you alone have proved, 
'Mongst all my counsellors, an upright man: 
You shall henceforward be my guide—my friend. 

Oh! banish not the truest of your friends; 
Nor cast those into prison, who for you 
Have acted; who for you are silent now. 
But suffer me, great queen, to give the seal, 
Which, these twelve years, I've borne unworthily, 
Back to your royal hands, and take my leave. 

ELIZABETH (surprised). 
No, Shrewsbury; you surely would not now 
Desert me? No; not now. 

Pardon, I am 
Too old, and this right hand is growing too stiff 
To set the seal upon your later deeds. 

Will he forsake me, who has saved my life? 

'Tis little I have done: I could not save 
Your nobler part. Live—govern happily! 
Your rival's dead! Henceforth you've nothing more 
To fear—henceforth to nothing pay regard.

Those last lines will soon prove false: King Philip of Spain will plan his great Armada against England after the execution of Mary, Queen of Scots. England and the weather will defeat his Armada, but Elizabeth still has something left to fear. She still fears dissent--both Catholic and Puritan--among her people; she still regrets that she will leave the throne upon her death with no heir of direct family succession and yet she lived her life without ever marrying and being the mother of her heir! 

Schiller depicts another example of that same kind of equivocation in her method of dealing with great issues: wanting one end while living and acting toward another end: wanting the threat that Mary of Scotland poses removed without accepting the responsibility for causing her removal (signing the warrant while not wanting it carried out); maintaining the security of her rule alone while preventing a smooth transition of the throne by never naming her successor or marrying to "produce" an heir of her own. 

Both Elizabeth and Mary rely upon plots and subterfuge to obtain their ends and both are aghast at what those plots require of them. Mary recoils from Mortimer's zeal when she discovers its source is his lust for her; Elizabeth recoils from sentencing Mary to death because she realizes the danger it poses to the idea of monarchy, undercutting her own claim to rule. 

But at the end of Schiller's play, Mary is at peace while Elizabeth is left frustrated and alone: "Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown." (Henry IV, Part Two, Act 3; Scene 1). Mary may have lost her head, but she, the Catholic queen of Scotland, is Schiller's heroine, while Elizabeth, the Protestant queen of England, is his villain.

By the way: here's a 2009 review of a New York production of Schiller's Maria Stuarda from First Things. David P. Goldman reflects on how sympathetically the anti-Catholic Schiller portrays both Mortimer's conversion to Catholicism on the Continent and Mary's reception of the Sacraments of Reconciliation and Holy Communion. He offers excellent background on Schiller and his historical views.

Image Source (End of Act 5, Scene VII): Melvil giving Mary Holy Communion ("This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at")

Image Source (Public Domain): Portrait of Elizabeth I from 1586 to 1587, by Nicholas Hilliard.

Friday, March 4, 2022

Preview: "Surrender to God" on the Son Rise Morning Show

I suppose it has struck many persons as very remarkable, that in the latter times the strictness and severity in religion of former ages has been so much relaxed. There has been a gradual abandonment of painful duties which were formerly enforced upon all. Time was when all persons, to speak generally, abstained from flesh through the whole of Lent. There have been dispensations on this point again and again, [and this very year there is a fresh one]. What is the meaning of this? What are we to gather from it? This is a question worth considering. Various answers may be given, but I shall confine myself to one of them.

I answer that fasting is only one branch of a large and momentous duty, the subduing of ourselves to Christ. We must surrender to Him all we have, all we are. We must keep nothing back. We must present to Him as captive prisoners with whom He may do what He will, our soul and body, our reason, our judgement, our affections, our imagination, our tastes, our appetite. The great thing is to subdue ourselves; but as to the particular form in which the great precept of self-conquest and self-surrender is to be expressed, that depends on the person himself, and on the time or place. What is good for one age or person, is not good for another.

Reading these first paragraphs of this sermon, "Surrender to God", convinced me to select it for our Monday, March 7 discussion of Newman's Lenten sermons/meditations on the Son Rise Morning ShowWe'll be on the air at my usual time, about 6:50 a.m. Central/7:50 a.m. Eastern time. Please listen live on EWTN Radio or on your local EWTN affiliate.

This was one of the first sermons the newly-ordained Father John Henry Newman, Oratorian preached upon his return in England on the First Sunday of Lent, March 12, 1848. 

It is true that the Roman (Western) Catholic Church had much stricter laws for fasting and abstinence in the pre-1983 versions of the Canon Law. It is also true that the traditional Lenten fast was already less strict in Newman's time, although I was not able to find out what dispensation had been issued for the Lent of 1848 (bracketed text above in the original, deleted from The Tears of Christ version). This website offers details of the traditional fast:
  • Fasting applies for those age 18 or older (but not obligatory for those 60 years of age or older)
  • Ash Wednesday and Good Friday: If possible, no solid food. Only black coffee, tea, or water.
  • Mondays through Saturdays: Only one meal preferably after sunset or at least until not before 3 PM. A morning frustulum and evening collation (i.e. the two "snacks") are permitted but not required. No meat or animal products are allowed for anyone, regardless of age - that included even fish in the Early Church.
  • Sundays: No meat or animal products allowed. Abstinence remained on Sundays even when fasting did not.
  • Holy Week (except Good Friday which is covered above): Only Bread, Salt, and Herbs are permitted for the main meal. Frustulum and collation permitted (of bread, herbs, and salt) but omitted if possible.
  • Holy Saturday: No food until Noon. Abstinence including from all animal products continues until Easter begins.
Frustulum is "The small portion of food, a few ounces, formerly permitted at breakfast on fast days. This was provided by canon law (Canon 1251), which permitted taking some food, morning and evening, in addition to the one full meal per day." I don't think that frustulum and evening collation combined were equal to the one meal allowed on fasting days in the current law.

It's also certain that Eastern Rite Catholics have a much stricter fast during Great Lent. No meat, no meat products, no dairy, less olive oil, and no wine.

Newman acknowledges the lessening of the rules for fasting, but then provides an explanation. Fasting and abstinence are not the goals of Lent: surrender to God is the goal of Lent, and indeed, for Newman throughout the Parochial and Plain Sermons he preached as an Anglican and the Catholic sermons thereafter, of the Christian life. We must follow Jesus as His disciples in reality, not as a concept. If we discern that our love of God is notional, we have to cooperate with the grace God gives us through the Church and the Sacraments to make it real. As one his Anglican sermons says, "Love [is] the One Thing Needful" in our spiritual lives.

So Newman reminded his congregation that Sunday at Saint Chad's in Birmingham:

It follows that you must not suppose that nothing is incumbent on us in the way of mortification, though you have not to fast so strictly as formerly. It is reasonable to think that some other duty of the same general kind, may take its place; and therefore the permission granted us in eating may be a suggestion to us to be more severe with ourselves on the other hand in certain other respects. . . .

Certainly we never want to offend God in a Mortal Sin, but Newman suggests that there are many other ways that we fail to love Our Lord:

But there are a great many things wrong which are not so obviously wrong. They are wrong as leading to what is wrong or the consequence of what is wrong, or they are wrong because they are the very same thing as what is forbidden, but dressed up and looking differently. The human mind is very deceitful; when a thing is forbidden, a man does not like directly to do it, but he goes to work if he can to get at the forbidden end in some way. It is like a man who has to make for some place. First he attempts to go straight to it, but finds the way blocked up; then he goes round about it. At first you would not think he is going in the right direction; he sets off perhaps at a right angle, but he just makes one little bend, then another, till at length he gets to his point. Or still more it is like a sailing vessel at sea with the wind contrary, but tacking first this way, and then that, the mariners contrive at length to get to their destination. This then is a subtle sin, when it at first seems not to be a sin, but comes round to the same point as an open direct sin.

Then he suggests that in the nineteenth century this kind of fooling ourselves into thinking that we are good people is even easier, that we're not really committing any sins: 

For this simple reason, because it is more fertile in excuses and evasions. It can defend error, and hence can blind the eyes of those who have not very careful consciences. It can make error plausible, it can make vice look like virtue. It dignifies sin by fine names; it calls avarice proper care of one's family, or industry, it calls pride independence, it calls ambition greatness of mind; resentment it calls proper spirit and sense of honour, and so on.

In another Anglican sermon, Newman called this the "Religion of the Day".

Just think how much easier it is in our age when many things that society previously acknowledged to be sinful are now considered part of our right to pursue our own versions of happiness.

Newman advises his congregation to adopt two particular methods of discipline to subdue our minds to love God more and surrender ourselves to Him: 1. curb our idle (idol?) curiosity and 2. consult the will of others before our own.

Speaking of curbing our curiosity (not our search for the knowledge of God and His Creation, which of course Newman treasured and sought as student and educator), he notes:

The desire of knowledge is in itself praiseworthy, but it may be excessive, it may take us from higher things, it may take up too much of our time—it is a vanity. "Of making many books there is no end, and much study is affliction of the flesh. The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man." (Eccles 12:12-13) Knowledge is very well in its place, but it is like flowers without fruit. We cannot feed on knowledge, we cannot thrive on knowledge. Just as the leaves of the grove are very beautiful but would make a bad meal, so we shall ever be hungry and never be satisfied if we think to take knowledge for our food. Knowledge is no food. Religion is our only food. Here then is another mortification. Mortify your desire of knowledge. Do not go into excess in seeking after truths which are not religious. . . .

Bring your proud intellect into subjection.
Believe what you cannot see, what you cannot understand, what you cannot explain, what you cannot prove, when God says it.

I have the perfect example of failing to curb my idle/idol curiosity to share during this interview and it involves searching on the internet one day after Matt and Anna discussed the Chinese satellite hitting the far side of the moon.

Regarding our desire to follow our own way, Newman advises:

We all like our own will—let us consult the will of others. Numbers of persons are obliged to do this. Servants are obliged to do the will of their masters, workmen of their employers, children of their parents, husbands of their wives. Well, in these cases let your will go with that of those who have a right to command you. Don't rebel against it. Sanctify what is after all a necessary act. Make it in a certain sense your own, sanctify it, and get merit from it. And again when you are your own master, be on your guard against going too much by your own opinion. Take some wise counselor or director, and obey him.

Now, there's a Lenten challenge!

Saint John Henry Newman, pray for us!