Friday, May 27, 2022

Beginning my Newman Summer, the Summer of '22

As I prepare to enter into a very Newman Summer with my Ad Fontes "Newman Lecture" next Thursday and the class I begin teaching on line the Monday after that ("Newman and the New Evangelization/Newman for Catechists") for Newman University's Graduate program in Theology, and one other Newmanian thing TBA, I read this Coming Home Network conversion story by Brian Besong. 

It includes this marvelous, miraculous dream of Newman:

. . . One afternoon, my mom and I were discussing Catholicism. At a certain point in the conversation, she interrupted me and said something along the lines of “Oh my goodness…” with a long pause, and then “Oh my gosh…” Of course, I asked her what was going on. She began to get choked up and told me that she had just remembered a dream she had the night before. She had dreamt that she was with my dad’s mom at a Catholic Mass. At the end of the Mass, my mom and my grandmother left and saw that the priest who had celebrated the Mass who was (as she described him repeatedly) “beautiful” and “glowing.” The memory of him was the reason she had been choked up and when she began actually describing him, she started to cry outright and quickly got off the phone with me. This was very out of character.

That happened on a Friday night and I thought about the dream all weekend. I didn’t think that an ordinary dream could have had such a powerful effect on my mom. On the following Sunday, I told my dad that I thought the dream wasn’t an ordinary dream and that the beautiful priest whom she saw glowing was not just some imagination, but a real Catholic saint who had interceded on her behalf and whom God had granted to show up in her dream. Thus, I told him that my expectation would be that at some point she would see a picture of the saint who was in her dream and recognize who it was. He asked me who I thought the priest might have been and I told him that the first one that sprang to mind was the English Cardinal John Henry Newman, a convert from Anglicanism. He hadn’t heard of him and afterward I talked to my mom for a few minutes and then got off the phone.

About ten minutes later, I got a frantic phone call from my mom. She had told me that “a very weird goose bump thing just happened.” The reason she was frantic was that, after getting off the phone with me, my dad had pulled up a picture of Blessed Cardinal Newman online. He didn’t say anything to her about it, but had simply pulled up the picture and asked her if she recognized the person. She instantly recognized him as the “saint” that was in her dream, but my dad refused to explain who he was and told her to call me to find out. I quickly explained to her who Cardinal Newman was and his significance; she was flabbergasted. Needless to say, she had never heard of Cardinal Newman, nor had she seen his picture. She talked to me for a few minutes more and got off the phone (she was, after all, still officially a Protestant at this point, though on the fence about converting).

I chose the painting of Newman above because he is smiling and almost glowing--I don't know what image Brian's father showed his mother, but this one seemed most suitable.

After all the years (since 1979). I've studied Newman, I still remember how some argued that he should be canonized just because of all the conversions he'd inspired in his lifetime and in the 20th century. But no, the answer came, he needs to be canonized through the usual development of devotion and intercession, following the process of study, evaluation, and miracles. 

So the experience of this family brings Newman's journey to being raised to the honors of the altar full circle from those old thoughts: like a miraculous vision, it led to Brian's mother becoming a Catholic--and, when you read the rest of the story, you'll discover that it was in answer to a prayer that such a dream would help his mother. And that there's even something more than that!

As the long summer days of heat and humidity (in Kansas, at least) come upon us, this prayer is so appropriate:

May He support us all the day long
till the shades lengthen
and the evening comes
and the busy world is hushed
and the fever of life is over
and our work is done.
Then in His mercy
may He give us a safe lodging
and a holy rest
and peace at the last. Amen.

Saint John Henry Newman, pray for us!

Image Credit (Public Domain): Painting of Cardinal Newman, by Jane Fortescue Seymour, Lady Coleridge, circa 1876

Monday, May 16, 2022

Saint Thomas More and the Princes in the Tower

My local PBS station is airing episodes of Lucy Worsley Investigates and I watched the first installment on the Princes in the Tower Sunday night. The Princes in the Tower are of course King Edward V of England and Richard of Shrewsbury, Duke of York, the sons of King Edward IV.

Saint Thomas More's History of King Richard III was rather important to her investigation of the mystery: did Richard III order their murder? did Thomas More have good reason to name the murderers? or did Henry VII murder the princes after he defeated Richard III on Bosworth Field? were the two Pretenders (Lambert Simnel and Perkin Warbeck) really the Princes?

Partisans for and against Richard III offer their opinions and Worsley tries to find documentation and evidence about the mystery.

I don't want to give away her conclusions, except to say that she does not agree entirely with Josephine Tey!

But Travis Curtright provides us with free resources, should you want to read a student edition of More's Richard III and a study guide.

One of the vignettes of this episode included her visit to Buckfast Abbey to view the hair shirt of Saint Thomas More, displayed there for public veneration since 2016. She questioned the authenticity of this relic, and Abbot David Charleswell, who had escorted her to the side altar, provided some explanation, but this blog gives much more detail:

In the century after More’s death a few competing stories sprang up about the hair shirt, and these are what I’m trying to unpick at the moment. One tradition has it that More sent the hair shirt to his daughter, the extraordinarily learned Margaret More Roper (1505–1544), who gave it to her equally learned sister by adoption, Margaret Giggs Clement (1508–1570), who later went into exile with her family to practice her faith, reportedly taking the hair shirt and other More relic-objects with her. Other traditions hold that Thomas More sent it to Giggs rather than Roper, who kept it until her death. Still other traditions state that he sent it to Giggs, who gave it to Roper, who returned it to Giggs, while another source claims that he sent it to his wife Alice. In any case, the hair shirt ultimately passed to Giggs Clements’ youngest daughter, Prioress Margaret Clement (1539–1612), a nun of the English convent of St Monica’s, founded in Louvain during the period when it was illegal to practice Catholicism in England. The nuns of St Monica’s claim to be More’s spiritual heirs through Margaret Giggs and her daughter Margaret Clement.

The hair shirt remained in Prioress Clement’s community and the communities descended from St Monica’s up until the 1980s, by which time most of the exiled English convents had returned to England. When I first began my doctoral studies in 2010 the exact whereabouts of the hair shirt were not clear. I recently discovered that when the modern-day St Monica’s convent closed, the hair shirt went to the Diocese of Plymouth for safe keeping. In 2011 it was transferred to Buckfast at the request of Abbot David Charleswell who arranged for it to be put on public permanent display at Buckfast starting in 2016.

So this first episode of Lucy Worsley Investigates provides almost as much information about St. Thomas More as it does about Richard III and the Princes in the Tower! It's interesting, also, that she finds more evidence about St. Thomas More than she does about the mystery she investigates.

Saint Thomas More, pray for us!

Picture credit (Public Domain): The Two Princes Edward and Richard in the Tower, 1483 by Sir John Everett Millais, 1878, part of the Royal Holloway picture collection. Edward V at right wears the garter of the Order of the Garter beneath his left knee.

Thursday, May 12, 2022

The Solemnity of Corpus Christi and the York Mystery Plays

The Solemnity of Corpus Christi, the patronal feast of our parish, Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church, is on Sunday, June 19 this year. Since the Traditional Latin Mass is celebrated every Thursday at Blessed Sacrament, it will also be celebrated on Thursday, June 16! From the online parish calendar I see that a Corpus Christi Novena is planned with more details to come, and our annual parish festival will be celebrated on the weekend of the feast day. And by the way, our parish is one of the designated pilgrimage sites for our diocesan Year of the Eucharist!

I'm thinking about this feast, not just because it's one of my favorites feasts of the Liturgical Calendar, but because I saw this post from the Adoremus Bulletin in my Facebook feed. The author, Dr. Marcel Antonio Brown, describes the connections between the feast of Corpus Christi and the York Mystery Plays, beyond the fact that they were performed in honor of the feast. For example:

Joseph’s Trouble About Mary, sponsored by a guild which manufactured liturgical items such as thuribles, dramatizes Joseph’s difficulty in comprehending the Virgin-with-Child, the great mystery or sacramentum of Christ’s Body.[3] The wonder of Joseph becomes specifically Eucharistic in The Nativity when Mary welcomes the Christ-child with a litany used by the late-medieval lay faithful during the Elevation of the Host at Mass.[4] At the end of the play, Mary and Joseph lay the Christ-child in the manger while repeating together a vernacular version of the prayer prescribed for the priest’s quiet recitation in Latin (tacita voce) at the end of each Mass in accord with the rubrics of the York Missal.[5] The Nativity subtly shows that the Body of Christ, the Christ-child born in the stables at Bethlehem, is thus made present at every Mass, a miracle celebrated in sacred drama in York on Corpus Christi Day.

If you click on footnote #4, you'll see that Brown directs you to a source published in 1942:

See R. H. Robbins, “Levation Prayers in Middle English Verse” (Modern Philology 40.2, 1942), p. 136, where the early fifteenth-century MS Royal 17.C.xvii provides an analogy for lines 57-63 of the York Nativity.

The verses he highlights, lines 57 to 63, are:

Hayle, my Lord God, hayle prince of pees,
Hayle my Fadir, and hayle my Sone,
Hayle sovereyne sege all synnes to sesse,
Hayle God and man in erth to wonne!
Hayle, thurgh whos myht
All this worlde was first begonne,
Merknes and light.

This University of Rochester website provides some background on Levation Prayers, a devotion practiced by the laity during the Elevation of the Blessed Sacrament during the Canon of the Mass:

Since taking communion (that is, eating a consecrated host and drinking consec­rated wine) was not as common as it is in today’s Christian churches, the moment when the laity saw the host, known as the levation (or elevation), was their primary form of contact with the Eucharist. Ecclesiastical writers strongly emphasized the importance of the levation. A widely-circulated list of the benefits gained from seeing the host daily included promises that the worshipper would not suffer sudden death, a lack of food, or blindness on any day that he or she saw the consecrated host.2 Writers also required the laity to view the host with highly concentrated devotion. The statutes of Coventry suggest that the sacring bell is like “a gentle trumpet announcing the arrival of a judge, indeed of a savior,” and many authorities encouraged the laity to utter heartfelt prayers at the moment of the levation.3

These prayers exist in a variety of vernacular forms; as Russell Hope Robbins has argued, the heightened emotion of this moment required laity to pray in the language they knew best.4 Perhaps for the same reason, writers who offered their own suggestions for levation prayer stressed that it did not matter which version the laity used, so long as they prayed in some form.

These sacramental mystery plays, of course, were suppressed in England during the Reformation era. Brown also comments on the strange absence of the institution of the Eucharist in the 27th play of the cycle:

The bakers’ Last Supper, featuring the apocryphal character Marcellus leading the disciples to the Lamb’s Supper, contains a curious lacuna: at the moment of the institution of the Eucharist, the manuscript is corrupt. Richard Beadle, the world’s leading textual-bibliographical scholar of The York Plays, suspects “deliberate removal” of this section of the play.[8]  

Thus hoping to hide from future generations the devotion of the English people in the past? How ridiculous, since the Catholic Mass was celebrated in secret in Recusant England and in public throughout Catholic Europe!

And the University of Rochester has this comment on that lacuna:

The Bakers were an obvious choice for the Last Supper since bread was an essential requirement for the institution of the Eucharist. No event in biblical history could be of greater significance in relation to the feast of Corpus Christi, which was a celebration of the Sacrament of the Eucharist in liturgical rite and procession as well as, at York, the plays. It is thus all the more unfortunate that, due to the loss of a leaf between lines 89 and 90, the central portion of the narrative with its representation of the blessing of the bread and wine is missing. The actions performed by Jesus at the table very likely were modeled on the gestures of the priest in consecrating the elements at Mass.

Please read the rest of Dr. Brown's article at the Adoremus Bulletin site, and two other articles, here and here, he wrote about York Mystery Plays.

This solemn feast is just a little more than a month away! Perhaps there's still time to read the Oxford World Classics modern language edition!

Thursday, May 5, 2022

This Year's EDI Academic Week: Now Named "Ad Fontes"

Beginning June 1st with the Festal Banquet at Newman University and continuing with prayers, lectures, academic papers, and Plenary Dialogues at Newman University and St. George Catholic Christian Cathedral on June 2nd, 3rd, and 4th, Eighth Day Institute's annual academic theological event has been announced:

Co-sponsored by St George Orthodox Christian Cathedral and the Gerber Institute for Catholic Studies, the Ad Fontes Academic Week promotes a “return to the sources for Christian unity.” Heeding Fr. Florovsky's advice, rather than simply overlooking differences, this conference seeks to overcome the different views of sin. And we do so by returning to the common Tradition, by learning to read the Fathers as living masters, rather than as historical documents.

In years past, this conference has been known as the Florovsky-Newman Week. This year we have decided to broaden our perspective by honoring Thomas F. Torrance together with our other two patrons. Torrance was a Protestant who, like the Orthodox Fr. Georges Florovsky and Catholic St. John Henry Newman, called for a return to patristic sources as a guide for the modern Church..

Join us for this unique event as we return to the sources—ad fontes—in order to explore, challenge, and encourage one another to better love God and neighbor, and to work towards unity by way of the Fathers.

The topic this year is "What Weight Is Sin? Patristic Views of Sin" and the schedule, still being refined, is posted here.

Also note that there is a pre-Ad Fontes seminar: "Sin in the Bible, the Fathers, the Liturgy, & Literature" with texts still to be announced. I've attended two of those seminars and they are wonderful, as participants discuss the texts.

I'll be presenting the annual Newman Lecture on Thursday, June 2 at 9:00 a.m. at Newman University. My topic is "Newman on Hypocrisy and Holiness in the Life of a Christian":

John Henry Cardinal Newman, before his canonization in 2019, may have been studied mostly for his controversial works like the Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine, The Letter to the Duke of Norfolk, or classics like the Apologia pro Vita Sua and Idea of a University. Interest in his spiritual influence as an Anglican preacher in the Parochial and Plain Sermons and as the founder of the Oratory of St. Philip Neri in England, has been increasing, however, as his cause for canonization progressed (and succeeded on October 13, 2019).

This annual Newman lecture will focus on his efforts as the Vicar of the University Church of St. Mary the Virgin in Oxford to help his congregation free themselves from the corruptions of what he called the “Religion of the Day” and their comforts as part of the establishment in England to lead true Christian lives, loving God fully and avoiding the besetting sin of hypocrisy.

The continuity of that effort will also be briefly explored through some of his Meditations and Devotions, prepared for the boys of the Oratory School in Birmingham. 

Watch for updates (including the other speakers' abstracts and the list of academic papers to be presented) on the EDI website or Facebook page.

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

"The torments they endured were horrible": The Catholic Martyrs of England and Wales, 1535-1679

From Fr. Christopher George Phillips, the retired founding pastor of Our Lady of the Atonement Church in San Antonio, Texas, a parish of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of Saint Peter, comes this reflection on the May 4th feast of Catholic Martyrs of England and Wales:

The English Martyrs include 284 men and women who gave their lives during the 16th and 17th centuries. They were martyred simply because they remained steadfast in their Catholic faith. What had happened?

King Henry VIII had proclaimed himself supreme head of the Church in England, claiming for himself and his successors power over his subjects not only in civil matters, but also in all things spiritual. He took to himself a spiritual power that can belong only to the Pope as the Vicar of Christ and Successor of St. Peter. The Catholics at that time wanted to be loyal subjects of the Crown, but their consciences could not allow them to grant the power of spiritual supremacy. It is as though, in the United States, the president and Congress took upon themselves the power to determine what we as Catholics believe, and how we worship. We could not allow Congress to pass laws that changed the Church’s teaching about the Mass, or what we believe about God. But this was what had happened in England and Wales. This was what led many people to face death courageously rather than act against their consciences and deny their Catholic faith.

Please read the rest there.

This Feast, honoring all the martyrs, canonized and beatified, is celebrated in the Anglican Ordinariate* and in the dioceses of England on May 4th, the date of the execution of the Protomartyrs in 1535 (Saints John Houghton, Augustine Webster, Robert Lawrence, Richard Reynolds, and Blessed John Haile); in the dioceses of Wales, their Feast, known as the Feast of Six Welsh Martyrs and [English] Companions, is celebrated on October 25th, the date that Pope Saint Paul VI canonized the 40 Martyrs of England and Wales in 1979.

*Please note that is celebrated as a Feast in the Anglican Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, but as a Memorial in the Ordinariates of the Chair of St. Peter in North American and of Our Lady of the Southern Cross in Australia.

According to the Liturgical Calendar of England:

The English Men and Women martyred for the Catholic Faith 1535–1680 and beatified or canonised by the Holy See. On this day in 1535 there died at Tyburn three Carthusian monks, the first of many martyrs, Catholic and Protestant, of the English reformation. Of these martyrs, forty two [including Saints John Fisher and Thomas More, and the six Welsh Martyrs] have been canonised and a further two hundred and forty two declared blessed, but the number of those who died on the scaffold, perished in prison, or suffered harsh persecution for their faith in the course of a century and a half cannot now be reckoned. They came from every walk of life; there are among them rich and poor, married and single, women and men. They are remembered for the example they gave of constancy in their faith, and courage in the face of persecution.

The Six Welsh Martyrs, listed on the website of the Liturgical Calendar of Wales are: Saints John Jones, Philip Evans, John Lloyd, David Lewis, Richard Gwyn, and John Roberts. Saints Evans, Lloyd, Lewis, and Gwyn were executed in the throes of the Popish Plot in 1679.

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

Sunday, May 1, 2022

William Byrd and the "Non Nobis" Canon

Thinking of the "Non nobis" reference in the article from The Guild of Our Lady Ransom's The Ransomer, and anticipating the broadcast of Laurence Oliver's Henry V on TCM yesterday, I searched for more information about that canon. I also heard the echo of Patrick Doyle's setting of "Non nobis" in Kenneth Branagh's version of Shakespeare's play.

At one time the music for that canon or round was attributed to William Byrd. But this posting from the Choral Wiki indicates a more complicated history:

This famous canon at the fifth and unison or octave is now generally accepted by musicologists as not having been written by William Byrd (1542/3–1623); the late, eminent Byrd specialist Philip Brett came to the view that most of the canons attributed to Byrd were spurious.

Recent research has shown that the two related figures which form the basis of the Non nobis, Domine canon were extracted from the 5-voice motet Aspice Domine by Philip van Wilder (c. 1500–1554). In the motet both figures are set to the text-phrase Non est qui consoletur (“there is none to console”) which was presumably the text to which the original version of the canon was sung by the Elizabethan recusant community as an expression of nostalgia for the old religious order. 

The words of the motet, taken from the Vulgate Latin of Jeremiah's Lamentations:

Aspice, Domine, quia facta est desolata civitas plena divitiis. 
Sedet in tristitia, non est qui consoletur eam, nisi tu, Deus noster. 

Behold, O Lord, how the city full of riches is become desolate. 
She sits in mourning, there is none to comfort her save only thou, our God.

But the words of the Non nobis version of the motet have a different source, according to the Choral Wiki article:

The Non nobis, Domine text to which the canon is sung today was apparently taken from the first collect from the thanksgiving service added to the Book of Common Prayer to celebrate the thwarting of the Gunpowder Plot on 5 November 1605.

And Wikipedia's entry on Non nobis has this note about its occurrence in Shakespeare's play and in a 1542 report on the Battle of Agincourt:

Shakespeare, in Henry V Act IV Scene 8, has the king proclaim the singing of both the Non nobis and the Te Deum after the victory at Agincourt. The canon is sung in the 1944 film of Henry V (starring Laurence Olivier) and also in the 1989 film of the same title (starring Kenneth Branagh), though we now know that the retexted version was not in existence as early as 1599, when the play was written. There is no stage direction in the play to indicate the singing of Non nobis Domine , but if Shakespeare had a specific setting in mind he was probably thinking anachronistically of a Protestant metrical psalm tune. However, in Hall's Chronicle (1542) Non nobis is sung as part of the complete psalm, presumably to plainsong [plainchant] or faburden.
When the kyng had passed through the felde & saw neither resistence nor apparaunce of any Frenchmen savyng the dead corsses [corpses], he caused the retrayte to be blowen and brought al his armie together about, iiij [4]. of the clocke at after noone. And fyrst to geve thankes to almightie God gever & tributor of this glorious victory, he caused his prelates & chapelaines fyrst to sing this psalme In exitu Israel de Egipto, commaundyng every man to knele doune on the ground at this verse. Non nobis domine, non nobis, sed nomini tuo da gloriam, whiche is to say in Englishe, Not to us lord, not to us, but to thy name let the glory be geven: whiche done he caused Te deum with certeine anthemes to be song gevyng laudes and praisynges to God, and not boastyng nor braggyng of him selfe nor his humane power.

In plainchant, this might have been what the English sang at Agincourt. (And that's the Plainchant Mode we use at the Church of the Blessed Sacrament when we chant Psalm 115 in Sunday Vespers during Advent and Lent!) 

This makes for an interesting juxtaposition of memories, depending on when the play was performed. After 1605, Non nobis reminded audiences of the Gunpowder Plot; before and after 1605, it might have  reminded some Recusant Catholics in the audience of the "old religious order."

Not to us, O Lord, but to Your Name be the Glory! Amen.