Saturday, June 24, 2017

Bonnie Prince Charlie at Home

The National Museum of Scotland opened an exhibition on Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobites. A review and overview from The Financial Times:

On July 25 1745, Charles Edward Stuart landed on the Scottish mainland at Borrodale. Despite bearing the title Prince of Wales, it was the first time he had been in Britain, having lived all his life in Rome. His mission was to restore his father, James III, to the throne, and in so doing make Scotland an independent kingdom once more. But one of the first people he met, unimpressed with Charles’s invasion force of 12 (one of whom was a priest), said simply, “Go home”.

Charles was undaunted. “Home?” he said. “I am come home.” Charles knew that his chances of reaching and seizing London were low. But a new exhibition at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh, titled Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobites, shows how Charles used his underdog status to his advantage. A central exhibit is the shield, or “targe”, Charles carried on to Borrodale beach. It is flamboyantly decorated with a snarling Medusa’s head; Charles, it tells us, was a modern Perseus, sent to rescue the people of Britain from oppression. Other exhibits, a number of them from private collections, include Charles’s elaborate silver travelling cutlery, swords, portraits, miniatures and the kind of “memorabilia”, such as a wine glass engraved with the prince’s face, beloved of his loyal followers.

The Jacobite cause — as James’s supporters were called — began in 1688, when the Catholic James II was deposed by the Protestant William III. James was a brave soldier (his suit of armour here was the last to be made for a British monarch), but he failed to regain the crown. He left that challenge to his son, James Francis Edward Stuart, or James III.


Please read the rest there.

Friday, June 23, 2017

St. Thomas Garnet: Exile, Return, and Execution

From the Jesuits in Singapore website:

St. Thomas Garnet was born in 1574 at Southwark, England as the son of an Oxford don. Because Catholic colleges had been turned over to aggressive Protestants, young Thomas went to the continent in 1593 to attend the newly opened Jesuit college at Saint Omer.

Garnet's father Richard Garnet was at Balliol College at Oxford when restrictions were being placed on any students who seemed to be leaning toward Catholicism. The Catholic Encyclopedia praises him: "and by his constancy gave great edification to the generation of Oxford men which was to produce Campion, Persons and so many other champions of Catholicism." That generation of the Garnet family produced at least four religious vocations: Henry Garnet became a Jesuit and three girls, Margaret, Eleanor, and Anne braved exile to become nuns of the Augustinian convent in Louvain.

A storm in the English Channel caused Thomas and his companions to be captured by the English Navy who tried to force them to accept Elizabeth's religion. After months of abuse, they escaped. Later Thomas returned to England as a Jesuit.

His uncle, Fr. Henry Garnet, was superior of all Jesuits in England, and in charge of the entire network of priests working secretly among the Catholics who had refused to take the oath of Supremacy. Thomas Garnet worked near Warwickshire for six years, but his ministry ended with the discovery of the Gunpowder Plot. The Jesuit martyrs of this time were known for their intelligence, joy, humor, and for their deep understanding of martyrdom as apostolic.

The gallows is the best pulpit anyone could ever preach from. A plot was hatched to break Thomas out of jail, but he wrote his superior asking that the plotters not try. He was martyred on 23 June 1608 in Tyburn, England by hanging. He was beatified in 1929 and canonized in 1970 with 39 other Martyrs of England & Wales.

On the scaffold he announced that he was the happiest man alive that day. His steadfastness in facing death impressed the crowds, so he was dead after hanging from Tyburn Tree before quartering and beheading. St. Thomas Garnet's missionary career during James I's reign shows the relative leniency of that king.

Because James wanted to preserve peace with Spain and France, Catholic countries he did not consistently target priests--and certainly not laity--for execution throughout his reign. Of course not every priest arrested during the reign of Elizabeth I was executed since some were held in Wisbech prison. Even after the terror of the Gunpowder Plot, Father Thomas Garnet, since nothing connected him then with any of the plotters, was (after torture) released into exile. 

Thursday, June 22, 2017

The Last Days of St. John Fisher

Please watch this space for my blog post at the National Catholic Register on St John Fisher--and St. Thomas More--on the anniversary of the great Cardinal martyr's execution, June 22, 1535:

John Cardinal Fisher, the former Bishop of Rochester—Henry VIII had stripped him of that title—was sentenced to death on June 17, 1535. The sentence pronounced against him brought a flush of color to his sunken cheeks, eyewitnesses remarked. As a traitor, he would be drawn to the place of execution on a hurdle, hanged, cut down still alive and then endure vivisection. Finally his head would be cut off and his body would be divided into four parts: Henry VIII would decide where his head and his quarters would be displayed. In other words, he would be hanged, drawn, and quartered.

Like Sir Thomas More, with whom he shares a feast day today in both the Catholic Church and the Church of England, Fisher had been held in the Tower of London for more than a year, since April 26, 1534. He had been interviewed several times to induce him to take the Oath of Succession; authorities had told him that Thomas More had taken the Oath (when he hadn’t) just as they told More that Fisher had, trying to break their resolve. Thomas More had seen the Carthusian Priors and companions taken from the Tower to Tyburn on May 4, 1535 to be executed; Fisher had been told a few days after. Also in May that year, Pope Paul III had honored Fisher with a Cardinalate, hoping to influence Henry VIII to show leniency and release him, especially since he was so ill. That gesture did not work, however, as Henry stated that Fisher would soon have no head on which to wear his Cardinal’s hat. It had been feared that he might die in the Tower before ever coming to trial, so Henry VIII sent his physicians to strengthen the prisoner.

The day after his sentencing, three more leaders of the Carthusian order were drawn on hurdles from Marshalsea prison to Tyburn Tree: Fathers Humphrey Middlemore, William Exmew and Sebastian Newdigate. In the meantime, Fisher was waiting to find out the date of his execution and was making his final spiritual preparations. . . .


There's a YouTube video excerpting the scene of Cardinal Fisher's beheading as depicted in The Tudors miniseries. It depicts the Cardinal appealing to the people to pray for him, which reports note that he did:

"Christian people, I am come hither to die for the faith of Christ's holy catholic church; and, I thank God, hitherto my stomach hath served me very well thereunto, so that yet I have not feared death; wherefore I desire you all to help and assist with your prayers, that, at the very point and instant of death's stroke, I may in that very moment stand steadfast without fainting in any one point of the catholic faith, free from any fear. And I beseech Almighty God of his infinite goodness to save the king and this realm, and that it may please him to hold his holy hand over it, and send the king a good council."

I wonder, however, if someone at that time would be so bold as to cry out, "God bless you, Cardinal Fisher!" That would seem to indicate acknowledgement that Pope Paul III had the authority to name the former Bishop as a prince of the Church. Since Henry VIII had so firmly and angrily rejected that honor for his grandmother's confessor and his father's eulogist, it seems to me that such a blessing would be dangerous, even in a crowd of spectators. The scene does not include the detail of St. John Fisher removing his outer cloak and the spectators being so aghast at his emaciation and gauntness. Fisher was 77 years old.

Saints John Fisher and Thomas More, pray for us!!

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

A Recusant Revert: St. John Rigby

St. John Rigby was martyred on June 21, 1600, found guilty of being a convert to Catholicism. He denied that he was a convert, however, maintaining that he had been born and raised a Catholic. For a time he went to Church of England services to avoid paying the recusancy fines. He had been admonished by the Franciscan missionary priest, John Jones, had confessed, and been reconciled, so that was enough for the authorities:

Rigby was born circa 1570 at Harrock Hall, Eccleston, near Chorley, Lancashire, the fifth or sixth son of Nicholas Rigby, by his wife Mary (née Breres). In 1600 Rigby was working for Sir Edmund Huddleston, whose daughter Mrs. Fortescue was summoned to the Old Bailey for recusancy. Because she was ill, Rigby appeared for her, was compelled to confess his Catholicism, and sent to Newgate. The next day, the feast day of St Valentine, he signed a confession saying that since he had been reconciled to the Roman Catholic faith by Saint John Jones, a Franciscan priest, he had not attended Anglican services. He was sent back to Newgate and later transferred to the White Lion. Twice he was given the chance to recant, but twice refused. His sentence was carried out. He gave the executioner who helped him up to the cart a piece of gold, saying, "Take this in token that I freely forgive thee and others that have been accessory to my death." Rigby was executed by hanging [drawing and quartering] at St Thomas Waterings on June 21, 1600.

Saint John Jones, the priest who had reconciled Rigby, had died at the same place Rigby had died, St Thomas Waterings, two years earlier, on July 12, 1598.


St John Rigby Roman Catholic Sixth Form College in Orrell, Metropolitan Borough of Wigan, Greater Manchester is named after St. John Rigby. One of its buildings, Harrock House, is named after Rigby's birthplace.

Other reports of his execution include this exchange:

On his way to execution, the hurdle was stopped by a Captain Whitlock, who wished him to conform and asked him if he were married, to which the martyr replied, "I am a bachelor; and more than that I am a maid", and the captain thereupon desired his prayers.

Rigby's supposed conversion to Catholicism was a felony in Elizabethan England, as was attendance at the Catholic Mass--he would have just been fined and/or imprisoned for not attending Anglican services. St. Thomas's Waterings or St. Thomas-a-Watering was an execution site on the Old Kent Road, and Chaucer's pilgrims passed it on the way to the shrine of St. Thomas a Becket in Canterbury.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Five Jesuit Martyrs; Victims of the Popish Plot

The Jesuits in Britain website gives some background to the Popish Plot, specifically how intra-Catholic conflict contributed to the anti-Jesuit, anti-Catholic conspiracy dreamed up by Titus Oates:

There were two separate forces behind the Popish Plot (known to some Catholics as the Presbyterian Plot). One was political. For many years the old Cromwellian Lord Shaftesbury and the puritan (Whig) faction had been stoking the fires of religious hatred against Catholics and France, in a long game to end absolute monarchy and once again to depose a king. Charles II openly favoured religious toleration of Catholics. This meant a significant minority in parliament always voted with the king. The Whigs therefore wanted to eliminate the Catholics in parliament. The Plot was constructed against the Catholics at court – the Queen, the Duke and Duchess of York, and their clergy, many of whom were Jesuits. The ultimate target, the King, exerted his energy to defend his Queen and his brother. He could not defend all the accused despite the clearly absurd nature of the accusations.

Non Jesuit Catholics were seeking an oath of allegiance to the King which could be accepted by Rome and allow them constitutional rights. Jesuits always blocked this, being unable to compromise their obedience to the pope. In this way they made an enemy of Dr. Sergeant, a secular Catholic priest – the secondary force which caught so many Jesuits in the plot. Early in the onset of hysteria Dr. Sergeant made false denunciations of Jesuits to the Privy Council which lent credence to the plotters. . . .


More on Father John Sergeant here, who seems to have been a contentious figure. This page on the Jesuits in Britain website includes his portrait.

On June 20, 1679, Fathers John Gavan, William Harcourt (aka William Barrow), Anthony Turner, Thomas Whitbread, and John Fenwick all suffered execution at Tyburn, but not without added drama:

Some of the first to be arrested were the Jesuits who had spurned Oates at St. Omer – William Ireland and Bl Thomas Whitbread who was English provincial. Fr Whitbread was tried in June 1679 alongside fellow Jesuits John Fenwick, John Gavan, William Harcourt and Anthony Turner. Fr Gavan, who was the spokesman, presented an eloquent defence. A brave group of Jesuit novices travelled from St. Omer to give evidence that Oates had been at St Omer's on crucial dates when he claimed to be in London witnessing Jesuit plotting. But the judges argued that as Catholic witnesses could receive a papal dispensation to lie on oath, they were not credible.

The five were hanged at Tyburn where the crowd stood in silence for an hour while each made a speech maintaining his innocence. On the scaffold they were offered the King’s pardon on condition they admit their guilt, but all refused.

Pope Pius XI beatified these five martyrs in 1929; St. Giles-in-the-Fields would be well-worth a visit on a pilgrimage to London, as they, and six other Popish Plot martyrs, are buried there. St. Oliver Plunkett was buried there but his remains have been moved:

Eleven Roman Catholics who were implicated in an alleged plot to kill Charles II were executed for treason at Tyburn and buried here in 1679 – William Ireland SJ and John Grove on 24 January, Lawrence Hill and Robert Greene on 21 February, Thomas Pickering, OSB on 21 May, Fr Thomas Whitebread SJ, Fr William Barrow (alias Harcourt) SJ, Fr John Fenwick, SJ, Fr John Gavan, SJ, Fr Anthony Turner, SJ on 20 June, and Richard Langhorne on 14 July. They were beatified by Pope Pius XI in 1929.

On 1 July 1681 Oliver Plunkett, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Armagh, who was implicated in an alleged plot for a French invasion of Ireland, was hanged drawn and quartered at Tyburn and buried here. His body was later removed to Lamspring Abbey in Germany and is now at Downside Abbey in Somerset. His head was taken to Rome, and then given to the Archbishop of Armagh, and is now displayed at St Peter’s Church in Drogheda, County Louth. He was canonised by Pope Paul VI in 1975.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Popery in 1908: The Eucharistic Congress

In the United States of America, at least, many Catholics are celebrating the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, the Body and Blood of Christ. I hope that we all sing the entire Sequence by St. Thomas Aquinas, hear an excellent homily, and participate in a great outdoor procession, Adoration and Benediction of the Most Holy Blessed Sacrament, singing Aquinas' other great Eucharistic hymns, the Salutoris Hostia and Tantum Ergo. Exposition and Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament is a great traditional devotion of the Catholic Church. The Real Presence, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament is the source and summit, the center of our Sacramental life.

Before the Reformation in England, Corpus Christi was a day of great ritual, with processions comparable to Holy Thursday and the performance of the Mystery Plays, which enacted salvation history from Creation to the Second Coming. This Feast was introduced in England during the early 14th century (1318) with the Office by St. Thomas Aquinas, but it gained almost immediate popularity among the English, according to both Eamon Duffy and Miri Rubin. The English expressed their devotion to the Real Presence in the Holy Eucharist with the formation of Corpus Christi Guilds to prepare for the annual celebrations. The cycle of Mystery plays required months of preparation and fundraising for the decorations. Anthony Esolen interprets the Wakefield cycle of plays here. Corpus Christi College in Cambridge was founded by such a guild in 1352.

Adoration and devotion to the Blessed Sacrament was essential to pre-Reformation Catholic spirituality in England. The Corpus Christi was the center of the entire Paschal Mystery of Incarnation, Redemption and Resurrection. For the individual Christian, Christ's Real Presence in Mass and in adoration outside of Mass, symbolized their participation in that Mystery--even though they in the normal course of the liturgical year received Holy Communion rarely.

Of course, this all ended after the English Reformation and was revived among Catholics in England only after Emancipation in 1829 and Restoration of the Hierarchy in 1850. In September of 1908, a great Eucharistic Congress was held in London. The Spectator editorial page commented on the event, raising some concerns:

IT is typical of the national detachment from the practice and institutions of the Church of Rome that the Eucharistic Congress now being held at Westminster should come upon us as a novelty, and that its purport should require elaborate explanation. "An International Eucharistic Congress," we are told officially, "is an assembly of Bishops, priests, and lay-folk from all parts of the world who meet together to proclaim their belief in the Real Presence of our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar, to assert the supremacy of the Holy Eucharist in human life, to discuss all matters connected with the Great Mystery, and to endeavour to promote and to develop practical devotion to the great Gift of our Lord's love." The present is the eighteenth of these annual gatherings, and its purely religious aspect is emphasised in the statement of Cardinal Vannutelli to a representative of the Times. "The members of the Congress are not assembling in England with any political intent. They come with an object which is exclusively religious,—to affirm with all simplicity their faith in the Eucharist, recalling the time when that faith was universal in England." It is impossible to deny, however, that this assemblage of princes of the Church and of lesser members of the Roman hierarchy from all parts of the world wears the appearance of a demonstration, and almost of a challenge, which excites apprehension in respectable quarters, and has given rise to regrettable effusions of bigotry in others. An unfounded idea has been disseminated that the Congress is a move in the campaign for the restoration of the temporal power of the Papacy, and for the re-establishment of direct diplomatic relations with the Vatican. Others regard it as a great proselytizing agency. The visit to England of a Papal Legate, after an interval of three centuries and a half, cannot fail to recall memories of Reginald Pole and his disastrous Mission of Reconciliation; while the triumphant progress of Cardinal Vannutelli from Dover to Westminster, the cheering crowds in the streets, the hoisting of the Papal flag as the Legate crossed the threshold of his archiepiscopal host, have all combined to administer a series of shocks to a people by temperament and conviction distrustful of anything that smacks of "Popery." . . . 

Since Cardinal Pole had not visited England for 350, who had any living memory of it? What immediate memories were there to recall? What they had was the memory of the hatred of Catholicism.

The Spectator editorial then goes on to comment on the progress that Catholics had made in England since Emancipation in 1829 and indeed the progress English Protestants had made in accepting the progress that Catholics had made. But then, the editors note one problem: the public procession of the Blessed Sacrament:

One jarring note, and one only, has been struck. The solemn closing of the Congress on Sunday afternoon is to be marked by a "Great Procession of the Blessed Sacrament," which is to follow the celebration of Pontifical vespers and to precede the " Te Deum " and "Benediction". The route has been carefully chosen in the quieter streets round Westminster Cathedral, and has received the approval of the police authorities. Unfortunately, however, such a procession "falls within the mischief" of the twenty-sixth section of the Catholic Emancipation Act, which subjects all persons taking part in it to a substantial fine. The Protestant societies are up in arms, are appealing to the Sovereign to forbid it by Proclamation, and are calling upon the Ministry and upon the head of the Metropolitan Police to enforce the statute. The law is the law, and we do not deny that it is on the side of the protest. But the Protestant position is so safe in this country, so deep-rooted in the convictions of the people, that we should deeply regret open unpleasantness in the streets, not only as a discourtesy to our visitors, but as something like a declaration of weakness,—a distrust in our great tradition of toleration. . . .

Read the rest there. You may also peruse this record of the presentations, homilies, and addresses given during the course of the Congress here.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

June 17, 1567: Mary Queen of Scots Imprisoned

After her army lost the Battle of Carberry Hill on the 15th of June, Mary of Scotland was taken as a prisoner to Loch Leven Castle. As this website notes:

Mary was taken here in mid-June 1567 after her defeat at Carberry Hill by Lords Lindsay and Ruthven, under her half-brother's instructions, Lord Moray. The castle was the property of Sir William Douglas, Moray's half-brother, where he lived with his wife, children, mother, another of his brother and another youngster. The mother was Margaret Erskine, known as Lady Douglas, who had married his father, Robert Douglas. Robert Douglas had died at the battle of Pinkie Cleugh in 1547 but Margaret had borne him seven children. Before her marriage, Margaret had been the mistress of Mary's father, James V, and six children were born out of the relationship. Margaret always resented Mary's presence on the throne, when her own son, Moray could have been there instead. The other son on the island was George Douglas, young and handsome, who fell in love with Mary from the start and would later help her escape from Lochleven. The other youth, a boy between fourteen and sixteen years of age, was Willie or "Wee Douglas", reputed to be an orphaned cousin but possibly an illegitimate son of William Douglas. Willie Douglas was also bewitched by the Queen and played an important part in her escape.

It is on this island that Mary gave birth for the second time. It is disputed at what stage of pregnancy she was. Mary herself allegedly said that she was seven months pregnant in July, which would mean that she was already with Bothwell months before Darnley's murder. The second dispute is over what happened to the child. The most widely accepted theory as narrated by Claude Nau, her secretary who wrote under her authority, is that there were stillborn twins who were buried on the island. Nevertheless, another version, found in Castelnau's memoirs, is that Mary gave birth later to a daughter who was smuggled out of Lochleven and sent to France. Mary's French relatives would have sent her to a convent in Soissons where she became a nun. Although improbable, the story is not impossible. Whatever the truth, Mary did fall very ill on the island, and it was in this weakened and vulnerable state that Moray sent Lords Ruthven, Melville and Lindsay to present her with abdication papers. She was forced to sign them under threat from Lindsay on 24 July 1567. Forever wanting to see the good in people, Mary continued her plea to Moray who deceitful as always, maintained that he kept her in Lochleven for her own safety. On 22 August, he was made Regent.

She would escape on May 2, 1568, aided by Willie Douglas and George Douglas. Mary gathered a new army to regain the throne from Moray and her one year old son, but was defeated again at the Battle of Langside on May 13 that year. Archibald Campbell, 5th Earl of Argyll was the commander of her army and he continued to support her for a time but eventually allied himself with the regency of Matthew Stewart, 4th Earl of Lennox in 1571. Mary fled to England, hoping for Elizabeth's help and ended up her cousin's prisoner for years.

The paintingMary, Queen of Scots Escaping from Loch Leven Castle is by William Craig Shirreff:

In 1805, this painting won a student prize for Shirreff while he was at the Trustees’ Academy. He chose an episode from the life of Mary, Queen of Scots which had been related by Gilbert Stuart in his influential ‘History of Scotland’ (1783). In a letter to his father the young artist wrote: "I have taken the point of time when Lord Seaton is receiving Mary from the boat, and young George Douglas handing her on and one of the attendants holding the horse that the Queen is to ride on. I am very pleased with it myself." By the early nineteenth century, Mary was a popular romantic heroine. William Lizars, one of Shirreff’s friends, engraved this painting after the young artist’s premature death.

I find this genre of historical paintings so fascinating: the artist imagines a historical scene and depicts it to whatever degree of verisimilitude he or she finds appropriate (dress, props, etc). The artist's efforts tell us more about his or her own era than the event or era depicted. Mary, Queen of Scots was an incredibly romantic and tragic figure in the early 19th century. Schiller's play, Maria Stuart, had influenced her historical reputation--and Donizetti's 1835 opera would continue that romanticizing trend.

Shirreff wants to depict her beauty and her charm--indeed, her effect on men--in this painting. I think he succeeded (and so did he!).

Thursday, June 15, 2017

The Effects of the Sacraments in Brideshead Revisited

On the Homiletic & Pastoral Review website, Sr. Albert Marie Surmanski, O. P., writes about the Anointing of the Sick/Extreme Unction that Lord Marchmain receives at the end of Charles Rider's story of his interactions with the family at Brideshead:

Several of the details in this description are inaccurate: anointing of the sick is given with blessed oil of the sick, not chrism; priests anoint with their own hands, not cotton balls, but the power of the sacrament is described with consummate skill. Lord Marchmain is moved by the sacrament to accept salvific sealing with the cross of Christ. His life finds its reconciliation by being finally blessed by the power of the cross which he had been fleeing for years. The image of the rending of the veil (cf. Matt 27:51) evokes the power of Christ’s death which is present, the unveiling of the merciful presence of God, and the tremendous change that the sacrament brings to Lord Marchmain’s soul. Lord Marchmain dies soon afterwards—his desperate fear of death is no more. In embracing the reality of Christ’s cross, in accepting his own sinfulness as forgivable, he has entered the freedom he has always sought.

Fr. Mackay takes on a tremendous dignity as the instrument of Christ’s mercy in this sacrament, truly acting in the person of Christ the head of the Church. His return to his jocular, simple personality in the subsequent paragraphs is so striking as to almost be funny. This contrast says something very true and also very comforting about the priestly vocation. The priest bears Christ, it is true, and images Christ, but the power on which he ultimately relies is the power of Christ himself. No matter how holy and good a priest is, there will always be a “gap” between his human limitations and Christ’s perfection, but it is a gap which Christ’s power will always bridge in the sacraments.

Even the prayer of Charles is significant. Describing the anointing of the sick the Catechism says: “By celebrating this sacrament the Church, in the communion of saints, intercedes for the benefit of the sick person, and he, for his part, through the grace of this sacrament, contributes to the sanctification of the Church.”26 Although the intercession of the Church for the sick is primarily expressed through the prayers of the priest, Charles and Julia, as baptized Christians, contribute by their prayers. In turn, Lord Marchmain’s acceptance of grace also impacts his family. Participating in the deathbed scene leads Julia to abandon her intentions to marrying Charles, and eventually brings Charles to the faith.


Read the rest there. This is an excellent teaching example of the effects of the Sacraments. If we cooperate with them, they change us and infuse us with Grace!

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Jerome K. Jerome, RIP--To say nothing of the dog

Jerome K. Jerome, author of Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog), died on June 14, 1927. His most famous work is the story of a trip along the Thames from Kingston upon Thames to Oxford:

The only one who was not struck with the suggestion was Montmorency. He never did care for the river, did Montmorency.

"It’s all very well for you fellows,” he says; “you like it, but I don’t. There’s nothing for me to do. Scenery is not in my line, and I don’t smoke. If I see a rat, you won’t stop; and if I go to sleep, you get fooling about with the boat, and slop me overboard. If you ask me, I call the whole thing bally foolishness.”

We were three to one, however, and the motion was carried.


Montmorency, of course, is the dog. He's rather special:

To look at Montmorency you would imagine that he was an angel sent upon the earth, for some reason withheld from mankind, in the shape of a small fox-terrier. There is a sort of Oh-what-a-wicked-world-this-is-and-how-I-wish-I-could-do-something-to-make-it-better-and- nobler expression about Montmorency that has been known to bring the tears into the eyes of pious old ladies and gentlemen.

When first he came to live at my expense, I never thought I should be able to get him to stop long. I used to sit down and look at him, as he sat on the rug and looked up at me, and think: “Oh, that dog will never live. He will be snatched up to the bright skies in a chariot, that is what will happen to him.”

But, when I had paid for about a dozen chickens that he had killed; and had dragged him, growling and kicking, by the scruff of his neck, out of a hundred and fourteen street fights; and had had a dead cat brought round for my inspection by an irate female, who called me a murderer; and had been summoned by the man next door but one for having a ferocious dog at large, that had kept him pinned up in his own tool-shed, afraid to venture his nose outside the door for over two hours on a cold night; and had learned that the gardener, unknown to myself, had won thirty shillings by backing him to kill rats against time, then I began to think that maybe they’d let him remain on earth for a bit longer, after all.


And Montmorency has his purposes, too:

Montmorency was in it all, of course. Montmorency’s ambition in life, is to get in the way and be sworn at. If he can squirm in anywhere where he particularly is not wanted, and be a perfect nuisance, and make people mad, and have things thrown at his head, then he feels his day has not been wasted.

To get somebody to stumble over him, and curse him steadily for an hour, is his highest aim and object; and, when he has succeeded in accomplishing this, his conceit becomes quite unbearable.

He came and sat down on things, just when they were wanted to be packed; and he laboured under the fixed belief that, whenever Harris or George reached out their hand for anything, it was his cold, damp nose that they wanted. He put his leg into the jam, and he worried the teaspoons, and he pretended that the lemons were rats, and got into the hamper and killed three of them before Harris could land him with the frying-pan.

Harris said I encouraged him. I didn’t encourage him. A dog like that don’t want any encouragement. It’s the natural, original sin that is born in him that makes him do things like that.


Jerome wrote one of my favorite lines: I like work; it fascinates me. I can sit and look at it for hours.

Jerome published G.K. Chesterton's The Club of Queer Trades in 1905. And another J.K.J. connection to G.K.C. is that they were included on J.M. Barrie's literary cricket team. Only Arthur Conan Doyle could really play cricket.

G.K. Chesterton also died on June 14, in 1936. Perhaps someday we will be celebrating his feast day today!

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Happy Birthday, Dorothy L. Sayers!!


Dorothy Leigh Sayers, novelist, translator, and Anglo-Catholic Christian apologist, was born on June 13, 1893; she died on December 17, 1957, one year and three days before I was born. She was born at the Christ Church Cathedral headmaster's house in Oxford because her father was chaplain. She attended Somerville College, the women's college in Oxford and received an MA degree in 1920. Sayers worked in the advertising field as a copywriter for several years, working on Guinness and Colman's Mustard accounts. She also worked in publishing, at Blackwell's of Oxford.

The Dorothy L. Sayers Society provides more detail about her life and works and her alma mater is proud of its influence on her life and work.

Although she is better known for her Lord Peter Wimsey series of mystery novels, I have always appreciated her more for the translation of Dante's Divine Comedy (particularly her introductions to Hell and Purgatory) and her Christian apologetics and other works. Like C.S. Lewis and T.S. Eliot, she stands high in my short-list of 20th century Anglo Catholics. 

I am very sorry that Penguin diverted her from completing the translation of Paradise to translate The Song of Roland! I know that her translation of the Divine Comedy, left incomplete at her death, is not considered the best--but I thought her introductions displayed an excellent understanding of Catholic doctrine and medieval culture.

Creed or ChaosThe Mind of the Maker, and The Whimsical Christian all offer good orthodox Christian doctrine and a valid theological viewpoint. Her emphasis -- her insistence -- on the importance of doctrine and the Creeds of the Church, especially the Athanasian Creed, called Blessed John Henry Newman's Oxford Sermons to mind. Real Words; Strong Meat.

I went through a Dorothy L. Sayers phase when I was working for Eighth Day Books after being laid off from an advertising firm in the 1980's--I read the mysteries, the essays, the translations, nearly everything she wrote--and books about her and her achievement.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Free Religious Exercise in Virginia

The Virginia Constitutional Convention adopted George Mason's version of the Declaration of Rights on June 12, 1776. The last section deals with religious freedom:

That religion, or the duty which we owe to our Creator, and the manner of discharging it, can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force or violence; and therefore all men are equally entitled to the free exercise of religion, according to the dictates of conscience; and that it is the mutual duty of all to practice Christian forbearance, love, and charity toward each other.

This list of Rights, protecting the people from the government and noting in section 2 that "all power is vested in, and consequently derived from, the people; that magistrates are their trustees and servants, and at all times amenable to them", influenced Jefferson's drafting of the Declaration of Independence, other states' constitutions, and the Bill of Rights to the U.S. Constitution.

This site provides some background:

After having decided to break with Great Britain, members of Virginia's fifth Revolutionary Convention voted unanimously on May 15, 1775, to prepare a new plan of government or constitution for Virginia, as well as a statement of rights. George Mason arrived late at the convention and became the thirty-second of thirty-six members of the drafting committee. Mason soon took the reins and drove the discussion. Edmund Pendleton noted, “The Political Cooks are busy preparing the dish, and as Colonel Mason seems to have the Ascendancy in the great work, I have sanguine hopes it will be framed so as to Answer it's [sic] end, Prosperity to the Community and Security to Individuals.”

Mason's initial draft consisted of ten paragraphs that outlined such rights as the ability to confront one's accusers in court and to present evidence in court, protection from self-incrimination, the right to a speedy trial, the right to a trial by jury, and the extension of religious tolerance. All of the aforementioned rights were eventually adopted as a part of the Bill of Rights in the U.S. Constitution in 1791. Consulting with Mason, Thomas Ludwell Lee suggested two additional paragraphs, providing protections for the press and striking down ex post facto laws. Later, the drafting committee added other rights to the list, such as banning excessive bail and cruel and unusual punishment.

Friday, June 9, 2017

The Fires of Smithfield


Simon Caldwell reviews an upcoming book about the Protestant (and one Catholic) martyrs of Smithfield for The Catholic Herald:

Although it is possible to detect that the author’s own sympathies tend to lie with the Protestants, it is generally even-handed. St Thomas More does not come across marvellously for his persecution of heretics, for instance, knowing what their fate was likely to be, but Rounding does not accept the slur that he tortured them.

Nor does she uncritically accept Protestant martyrologist John Foxe’s sneering interpretation of the death of Blessed John Forest, the Franciscan friar burned as a heretic in 1538 because of his fidelity to Rome. Forest was the only Catholic to suffer this fate at Smithfield, yet nearly a full chapter is dedicated to his execution, with a description of how he was suspended by chains for slow-roasting over a fire fuelled in a large part by a huge wooden statue of Derfel, a Welsh saint, while either Thomas Cromwell or Hugh Latimer (a Reformer who was to suffer immolation under Mary I) reportedly yelled: “Burn him! Burn him!”

To Rounding, Forest, like the other Smithfield martyrs, was an example of the rare type of person willing to die for his or her convictions. She reflects on what could have possibly motivated them to endure such agonies and also examines the evolution of the social and cultural contexts in which violent executions were considered the norm. Again, the Catholic Church does not come off too well in this respect, given that burning for heresy was given papal approval in the 13th century.

Yet in this balanced account, Rounding rightly points out that Protestants were not only burned by Henry VIII and his pyromaniac
[sic] daughter but were also burned by Protestants for being the wrong kind of Protestant, with Anabaptists sent to the stake under both Elizabeth I and James I, even in the 17th century.

Please read the rest there

I object to the term "pyromaniac" being applied to Mary I. A pyromaniac is one who cannot resist impulses to deliberately start fires because of the emotional or psychological release and satisfaction. She did not start fires; Mary did not witness these executions and enjoy them. Her Parliament revived the Heresy Laws (previously aimed at suppressing Lollardy). Church tribunals and secular courts dealt with those who were found to hold heretical views, and we know that some of those burned alive for heresy would have been heretics according to either Lutheran or Reformed doctrine (denying the divinity of Jesus, for example). 

From the publisher, St. Martin's Press:

Smithfield, settled on the fringes of Roman London, was once a place of revelry. Jesters and crowds flocked for the medieval St Bartholomew's Day celebrations, tournaments were plentiful and it became the location of London's most famous meat market. Yet in Tudor England, Smithfield had another, more sinister use: the public execution of heretics.

The Burning Time is a vivid insight into an era in which what was orthodoxy one year might be dangerous heresy the next. The first martyrs were Catholics, who cleaved to Rome in defiance of Henry VIII's break with the papacy. But with the accession of Henry's daughter Mary - soon to be nicknamed 'Bloody Mary' - the charge of heresy was leveled against devout Protestants, who chose to burn rather than recant.

At the center of Virginia Rounding's vivid account of this extraordinary period are two very different characters. The first is Richard Rich, Thomas Cromwell's protégé, who, almost uniquely, remained in a position of great power, influence and wealth under three Tudor monarchs, and who helped send many devout men and women to their deaths. The second is John Deane, Rector of St Bartholomew's, who was able, somehow, to navigate the treacherous waters of changing dogma and help others to survive.


The Burning Time is their story, but it is also the story of the hundreds of men and women who were put to the fire for their faith.

Due out in the UK: 10/31/2017

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Elizabeth Woodville, RIP--and Bermondsey Abbey

The Queen Dowager of King Edward IV, Elizabeth Woodville, died at Bermondsey Abbey on June 8, 1492 and was buried with her husband in the Chapel of St. George at Windsor Castle.

Of course, Bermondsey Abbey, at one time a Cluniac house, would be suppressed during the reign of Henry VIII. The British History Online (BHO) website features this commentary on the Dissolution of the Monasteries by Edward Walford from his multi-volume work Old and New London: A Narrative of its History, its People and its Places. Illustrated with Numerous Engravings from the Most Authentic Sources (London; New York: Cassell, Peter and Galpin, 1872-78):

Readers of English history need scarcely be told how that King Henry VIII., in his selfish zeal for novelties in religion, laid violent hands on all the abbeys and other religious houses in the kingdom, except a very few, which were spared at the earnest petition of the people, or given up to the representatives of the original founders. Before proceeding to the final suppression, under the pretext of checking the superstitious worshipping of images, he had laid bare their altars and stripped their shrines of everything that was valuable; nor did he spare the rich coffins and crumbling bones of the dead. Although four hundred years had passed away since the murder of Thomas Becket in Canterbury Cathedral, the venerated tomb was broken open, and a sort of criminal information was filed against the dead saint, as "Thomas Becket, sometime Archbishop of Canterbury," who was formally cited to appear in court and answer to the charges. As the saint did not appear at the bar of this earthly court, which was held in Westminster Hall in 1539, it was deemed proper to declare that "he was no saint whatever, but a rebel and traitor to his prince, and that therefore he, the king, strictly commanded that he should not be any longer esteemed or called a saint; that all images and pictures of him should be destroyed; and that his name and remembrance should be erased out of all books, under pain of his majesty's indignation, and imprisonment at his grace's pleasure." Other shrines had been plundered before, and certain images and relics of saints had been broken to pieces publicly at St. Paul's Cross; but now every shrine was laid bare, or, if any escaped, it was owing to the poverty of their decorations and offerings. "In the final seizure of the abbeys and monasteries," writes the author of the "Comprehensive History of England," "the richest fell first. After Canterbury, Battle Abbey; Merton, in Surrey; Stratford, in Essex; Lewes, in Sussex; the Charterhouse, the Blackfriars, the Greyfriars, and the Whitefriars, in London, felt the fury of the same whirlwind, which gradually blew over the whole land, until, in the spring of the year 1540, all the monastic establishments of the kingdom were suppressed, and the mass of their landed property was divided among courtiers and parasites. … All the abbeys were totally dismantled, except in the cases where they happened to be the parish churches also; as was the case at St. Albans, Tewkesbury, Malvern, and elsewhere, where they were rescued, in part by the petitions and pecuniary contributions of the pious inhabitants, who were averse to the worshipping of God in a stable." Of the "lesser monasteries" which were thus ruthlessly swept away was the Abbey of Bermondsey, which is now kept in remembrance mainly by the names given to a few streets which cover its site, and through which we are about to pass.


Walford comments on the suppression of Bermondsey Abbey:

At the dissolution of the monasteries, Bermondsey Abbey, with its rich manor, was seized—as was the case with other similar places—by Henry VIII. At that time the Abbot of Bermondsey had no very tender scruples about conscience or principle, like so many of his brethren, but arranged everything in the pleasantest possible manner for the king; and he had his reward. While the poor monks had pensions varying from £5 6s. 8d. to £10 a year each allowed them, the good Lord Abbot's pension amounted to £336 6s. 8d. The monastery itself, with the manor, demesnes, &c., were granted by the Crown to Sir Robert Southwell, Master of the Rolls, who sold them to Sir Thomas Pope, the founder of Trinity College, Oxford. In 1545 Sir Thomas pulled down the old priory church, and built Bermondsey House upon the site and with the materials.

BHO also describes some of the treasures lost from the Abbey Church, St. Saviour (from another author):

In June 1536 Robert Wharton was promoted to the vacant see of St. Asaph, the king sanctioning his holding the abbey in commendam. (fn. 122) The bishop apparently lent himself to the surrender of the abbey, which was accomplished on 1 January 1537-8. His compliance did not go unrewarded and he received the large pension of £333 6s. (fn. 123) Richard Gale the prior was granted £10, Thomas Gaynesborow, prior of Derby, £7, the sub-prior and three other monks £6 each, four other monks £5 6s. 8d. each, and two others much smaller sums. (fn. 124)

The work of despoliation had already begun. A special object of veneration since 1117 had been an ancient crucifix found close to the Thames in that year (fn. 125) and placed in an honourable position in the conventual church to which it drew many pilgrims. (fn. 126) The sixteenth century diary of a citizen of London, under an entry of 24 February 1538, describing the Bishop of Rochester's sermon on that day at Paul's Cross, and the destruction there of the Kent 'Roode of Grace,' adds: 'There was the pictor of Saynte Saviour that had stood in Barmsey abbey many yeres in Southwarke takyn down.' (fn. 127)

John Husee wrote to Lord Lisle 21 March, 'pilgrimage saints goeth down apace,' and instanced Our Lady at Southwick, the Blood of Hales, St. Saviour's and others. On the following day he wrote to Lady Lisle and stated that the image of St. Saviour's as well as others had been taken away. (fn. 128)


BTW: Edward Walford was an Oxford Movement convert to Catholicism. As his London Times obituary stated on November 22, 1897:

The death is announced of Mr. Edward Walford, the editor and compiler of "Watford's County Families of the United Kingdom," which took place at Ventnor on Saturday morning. Mr. Walford, who was about 74 years old, had been in bad health for some years. He was a Balliol with Matthew Arnold, Edwin Palmer, James Riddell, and other distinguished men, and showed is own scholarship by obtaining the Chancellor's Prize for Latin verse in 1843. In 1846 he took his degree with a third class in Literæ Humaniores, and obtained the Denyer Theological Prize in 1848 and 1849. Like other Oxford men of that date, he fell under the influence of the movement associated with Newman's name, and became a Roman Catholic. He devoted his life principally to genealogical and historical studies, on which subjects he was for many years a frequent contributor to The Times. Besides "Walford's County Families," which is in its 27th annual edition, he was the author of "Stories of Our County Families" and of other works of a similar character.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Patrick Bronte, RIP--and Catholic Emancipation

Outliving his wife by 40 years and his last surviving child, Charlotte, by six, Patrick Bronte died on June 7, 1861. He is often described, based on Elizabeth Gaskall's biography of Charlotte, as the tyrant of the Haworth Parsonage household. A modern biography of Patrick Bronte, published in 2008, uses his letters and other writings to present a more balanced view:

Patrick Brontë (1777–1861) was the father of the famous Brontë sisters, Anne, Charlotte, and Emily, three of Victorian England's greatest novelists, but he was a fascinating man in his own right and not nearly such an unsympathetic character as Elizabeth Gaskell's The Life of Charlotte Brontë would have us believe. Born into poverty in Ireland, he won a scholarship to St. John's College, Cambridge, and was ordained into the Church of England. He was perpetual curate of Haworth in Yorkshire for 41 years, bringing up four children, founding a school, and campaigning for a proper water supply. Although often portrayed as a somewhat fobidding figure, he was an opponent of capital punishment and the Poor Law Amendment Act, a supporter of limited Catholic emancipation, and a writer of poetry. This is the first serious biography of Patrick Brontë for more than 40 years.

It was of course that line, "a supporter of limited Catholic emancipation" that caught my attention. Bronte lived to see Catholics emancipated in England and the Catholic hierarchy restored. As these passages in the book by Dudley Green demonstrate (based upon letters written in 1828 to The Leeds Intelligencer), Bronte did not believe that there was any reason to discriminate against Catholics anymore, even though he thoroughly disagreed with Catholic teaching and discipline and feared its supposed tyranny. He also wanted to be assured that Britain would remain a Protestant nation and that the Church of England would be protected and honored as the State Church.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Another Tudor Rebellion Begins

On Whitsunday, 1549, The Book of Common Prayer was the only service book English churches could use, per Parliamentary law. On Whit Monday, June 6, the people of Cornwall began to express their dissatisfaction with the change in liturgy. The crucial issue was the language of The Book of Common Prayer, English, as this blog describes:

The Book of Common Prayer was meant to unify Anglican services throughout the kingdom. The prayer book contained English language liturgical rites devised by Cranmer, banned religious processions, and ordered communion under both kinds. But its biggest novelty was simply that it mandated Mass be said in English, and authorized inspections by royal officials to ensure its provisions were carried out. Thus, though it was now fifteen years into the Anglican schism, the introduction of the Book of Common Prayer on Whitsunday, 1549 marked the first time most Englishmen had ever heard the Mass said in English.

And what they heard upset them, for it became clear that what they had was no longer the Mass. Still, fifteen years of royal propaganda had done its work throughout much of the kingdom, and though there was some grumbling about certain aspects of the new rite, most of England was disposed to grudgingly accept it. That is, except the districts of Devon and Cornwall.

As this post from History Today explains, once the rebellion began, it spread and the Tudor government of Edward VI, headed by Edward Seymour, 1st Duke of Somerset, soon responded with the customary Tudor thoroughness:

The protest soon spread to the Devonshire village of Sampford Courtenay, where, the day after the new prayer book came into force, the villagers demanded that their priest wear his old garments and read from the old service book. The minister swiftly reverted to “his old popish attire and sayeth mass and all such services as in times past accustomed”, while a local yeoman who tried to oppose the protestors was killed.

The events at Sampford Courtenay had a snowball effect and soon many other local people were demanding that their traditional ways of worship be restored. In fact, such was the strength of the opposition to the book that a powerful force of Cornish rebels were soon marching over the Devon border to join forces with those of Sampford Courtenay.

In July 1549, the combined force of Cornish and Devon rebels – by now some 4,000–6,000-strong – made the fatal decision to besiege Exeter, the regional capital, whose inhabitants remained loyal to the crown. The siege dragged on for six weeks “until the famine was so sore, that the people [of Exeter] were fain to eat horse-flesh”.

“The rebellion was the outcome of an accumulation of grievances, some of which dated back to before Edward came to the throne”, says Professor Mark Stoyle of the University of Southampton. “The revolt was primarily fuelled by religious conservatism, but a desire to protect Cornish cultural distinctiveness also played its part.”

Read the rest there.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

The Pentecost of "Little Gidding"

From The Plough, these notes and an illustrated version of a section of  T.S. Eliot's "Little Gidding":

Published in September 1942 as the final poem of T. S. Eliot’s Four Quartets, “Little Gidding” was completed after the poet survived the bombing of London in the Blitz. In this poetry comic by Julian Peters, which illustrates the poem’s final stanzas, images of aerial combat and burning churches reference these air raids.

Inspired by a visit to Little Gidding, the site of an Anglican religious community established by Nicholas Ferrar [portrait at left] in 1625, Eliot’s poem portrays the choice he saw facing humanity: to be destroyed in the fires of war or to allow that fire to purify and restore – through God’s mercy and the fire of the Holy Spirit.. . . .

What drew Eliot to Little Gidding? Three centuries earlier, after a catastrophic crash of the Ferrar family’s mercantile empire, about forty men, women, and children of the extended family left behind a worldly life to devote themselves to godly living, constructive work, and a daily rhythm of Bible study and prayer. The community ran a school, provided lodging for several needy elderly women, and dispensed soup and medicine to the local people.

Even the defeated King Charles I, a family friend, sought refuge at Little Gidding during the English Civil War. (The community found him safer lodgings nearby.) With England once more at war, Eliot wrote, “I think, again, of this place, / And of people, not wholly commendable / …/ United in the strife which divided them.” Though the community faltered after the death of its founders, perhaps something had been won for all time in that place, which continues to attract pilgrims to this day.

Please read the rest there. More about Little Gidding today here.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

A Book and Its Stained-Glass Cover


Father Juan Velez has kindly promised to send me a review copy of his latest work on Blessed John Henry Newman, which is being published by Scepter later this month:

In Holiness in a Secular Age: the Witness of Cardinal Newman, a reader will find how John Henry Newman, an intelligent and wise Englishman, living in an age not unlike our own, aspired to holiness in his everyday life through prayer and scripture reading, through his work as a teacher then priest, and through his many friendships.

Newman understood that God calls all men and women to holiness, but what does this mean for people today? Furthermore, how can this holiness be attained?

Newman gave great importance to Church tradition and the writings of Church fathers for his understanding of the Bible. In a period much like today’s, in which many doubted the historicity of the Bible and interpreted as though it were a merely human work, Newman offered reasons to believe in both the divine inspiration and historicity of the written Word of God, reasons that are as valid today as in Newman’s time.

In
Holiness, a reader will find an explanation of Newman’s important and influential ideas on the development of Christian doctrine. Newman set out to answer the question of whether or not the doctrines of the Catholic Church were true developments of Christ’s teachings or instead, corruptions. It was Newman’s research and writing of this foundational work which eventually led to his conversion to Roman Catholicism.

One of the chapters in
Holiness presents Newman’s abiding contribution to what the true nature of university education should be. Another chapter presents his contribution to the education of boys and how they are to become gentlemen.

A Christian gentleman, for Newman, was much more than what the world understands a gentleman to be. The ideal of a polished person with fine manners, one who can chat about many subjects without hurting people’s feelings, is far from Newman’s notion of what the Christian gentleman should be. One chapter in
Holiness explains that for Newman, the Christian knows that because of original sin, he is sinner in need of supernatural grace. The Christian gentleman is called to be both scholar and a saint.

This book also offers readers Newman’s teaching on daily work, ecumenism, and devotion to Mary, the Mother of God. In sum, 
Holiness in a Secular Age: the Witness of Cardinal Newman teaches through Newman’s life and writings how we too can aspire to holiness in the world.

The cover features the stained glass window behind the High Altar at the "chapel" for the Newman Center on the University of Nebraska campus in Lincoln. More about it here.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Whitsunday and the Vigil of Pentecost


A couple of weeks ago at Sunday Mass, our Parochial Vicar at Blessed Sacrament opined during his homily that many Catholics do not understand the Holy Spirit. As with many things in the Church today, I think part of the problem is that our liturgy has not celebrated the Holy Spirit as it should. For example, how many Catholics realize that the Solemnity of Pentecost is one of the greatest celebrations of the Church year--second only to Easter? How many realize that the Vigil Mass of Pentecost has different readings from the Mass of Pentecost Sunday? (Usually the evening Mass on Saturday has the same readings as the Mass on Sunday.) Since for many Catholics what they see and hear in Sunday Mass or in the parish bulletin is all they know of the Church's doctrine and tradition, it's essential that something at Mass this weekend makes these distinctions clear for those with eyes to see. The sequence that we will chant or recite on Sunday fulfills that role, for example.

As the Adoremus Bulletin website explains:

The Roman Missal’s most recent English edition includes several revised rites, new prayers, and adjustments to the rubrics. While many of these revisions require further explanation, one rite in particular deserves some special attention—the Vigil Mass for Pentecost. The two previous editions of the post-conciliar Roman Missal included only a proper Vigil Mass for Pentecost. However, the extended form of the Vigil proposed in the current Roman Missal brings forward to the present a part of our liturgical tradition that has both deep roots and contemporary value.

In our earlier tradition, Pentecost was a principal occasion, along with Easter, for the Church to carry out the baptism of adults. The mysteries of the Resurrection and Pentecost, in ways unique to their respective commemorations, express a sharing of divine life with those who belong to Christ, and especially so for those to be newly incorporated into his body, the Church. Over time these two days saw the development of vigils to watch for the following day’s solemn observance. The proclamation of the Word of God and a response to it would be the chief manner for keeping watch. Also, over time, these vigil days would be marked by fasting and penance in anticipation of the celebrations of the events of the Lord on the solemnity to follow. Likewise, during different periods, these commemorations had octave celebrations associated with them to give liturgical expression to the eternal reality of these same mysteries of Christ. The recently reformed General Roman Calendar sees Pentecost Sunday as the Eighth Sunday of Easter, the conclusion of the eight week celebration of the Resurrection. So, Pentecost brings to a fitting and final end the celebration of the Resurrection with the promised sending of the Holy Spirit, which in a sense completes the event of Easter. The day before Pentecost is no longer a day of fasting and penance and there is no longer an octave. And, it is no longer a principal day for the baptism of adults. However, it is Pentecost and the anamnesis found in the euchology and the biblical texts is compelling and vivid. With the today—hodie—of Pentecost, there is a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the Church. It is fitting to keep watch—with urgent prayer—for this coming of the Holy Spirit!

As the possibly apocryphal story goes, Blessed Pope Paul VI wept when he realized that the Octave of Pentecost had been suppressed, with his approval, because he saw green vestments prepared in the sacristy for Holy Mass on Pentecost Monday instead of white vestments. He could have reversed the change then and there, deciding that it was a mistake that should not be allowed to stand. As Yves Congar writes in his book The Meaning of Tradition, the liturgy is one of the main ways the Church hands on Tradition, the teachings that Jesus told his Apostles to hand on when He ascended into Heaven.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

St. Thomas More and Anne Boleyn's Coronation

On June 1, 1533, Anne Boleyn was crowned Queen of England, the last of Henry VIII's wives to be crowned. Edward Hall described the event:

On 1 June Queen Anne was brought from Westminster Hall to St Peter’s Abbey in procession, with all the monks of Westminster going in rich copes of gold, with thirteen mitred abbots; and after them all the king’s chapel in rich copes with four bishops and two mitred archbishops, and all the lords going in their parliament robes, and the crown borne before her by the duke of Suffolk, and her two sceptres by two earls, and she herself going under a rich canopy of cloth of gold, dressed in a kirtle of crimson velvet decorated with ermine, and a robe of purple velvet decorated with ermine over that, and a rich coronet with a cap of pearls and stones on her head; and the old duchess of Norfolk carrying her train in a robe of scarlet with a coronet of gold on her cap, and Lord Burgh, the queen’s Chamberlain, supporting the train in the middle.

After her followed ten ladies in robes of scarlet trimmed with ermine and round coronets of gold on their heads; and next after them all the queen’s maids in gowns of scarlet edged with white Baltic fur. And so she was brought to St Peter’s church at Westminster, and there set in her high royal seat, which was made on a high platform before the altar. And there she was anointed and crowned queen of England by the archbishop of Canterbury and the archbishop of York, and so sat, crowned, in her royal seat all through the mass, and she offered at the said mass. And when the mass was done they left, every man in his order, to Westminster Hall, she still going under the canopy, crowned, with two sceptres in her hands, my Lord Wiltshire her father, and Lord Talbot leading her, and so dined there; and there was made the most honourable feast that has been seen.

The great hall at Westminster was richly hung with rich cloth of Arras, and a table was set at the upper end of the hall, going up twelve steps, where the queen dined; and a rich cloth of estate hung over her head. There were also four other tables along the hall; and it was railed on every side, from the high dais in Westminster Hall to the platform in the church in the abbey.

And when she went to church to her coronation there was a striped blue cloth spread from the high dais of the king’s bench to the high altar of Westminster on which she went.


One guest was absent: Sir Thomas More, former Chancellor of England. He had been invited and Cuthbert Tunstall, Bishop of Durham, Stephen Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester, and John Clerk, Bishop of Bath and Wales even sent him money to buy new clothing. He responded with a witty but perhaps mistimed joke, and warning, telling a story about an emperor and a virgin:

an emperor . . .  had ordained a law that whosoever committed a certain offense (which I now remember not) except it were a virgin, should suffer the pains of death, such a reverence had he for virginity. Now so it happened that the first committer of that offense was indeed a virgin, whereof the Emperor hearing was in no small perplexity, as he that by some example fain would have had that law to have been put in execution. Whereupon when his Council had sat long, solemnly debating this case, suddenly arose there up one of his Council, a good plain man, among them, and said, ‘Why make you so much ado, my lords, about so small a matter? Let her first be deflowered, and then after may she be devoured.’ And so though your lordships have in the matter of the matrimony hitherto kept yourselves pure virgins, yet take good heed, my lords, that you keep your virginity still. For some there be that by procuring your lordships first at the coronation to be present, and next to preach for the setting forth of it, and finally to write books to all the world in defence thereof, are desirous to deflower you; and when they have deflowered you, then will they not fail soon after to devour you. Now my lords, it lieth not in my power but that they may devour me; but God being my good lord, I will provide that they shall never deflower me. (From William Roper's Life of Sir Thomas More, his notes for the authorized biography by Nicholas Harpsfield.)

More was right to warn these three bishops; they accepted Henry VIII's Supremacy over the Church and even aided the monarch in his efforts to become the lay Vicar of Christ in England (thus they were "deflowered"). Clerk would die after travelling to the Duchy of Cleves to explain the annulment of the marriage between Henry and Anne of Cleves in 1540/1541. Tunstall would end up deprived of his bishopric during the reigns of Edward VI and Elizabeth I and eventually die under house arrest; Gardiner would spend five years in the Tower of London during Edward VI's reign (thus they were "devoured").

Certainly Anne Boleyn would be devoured, reigning as Queen for fewer than three years.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

The Mass at Dawn of Christmas Day at the End of May


In response to my post at the National Catholic Register on liturgical music, a representative from the Church of St. Mary's in Norwalk, Connecticut reached out to me through the blog editor and offered me a review copy of Lux Fulgebit. This is the first CD released by the parish's Schola Cantorum, and I hope it is not the last.

The title refers to the Introit of the Mass at Dawn of Christmas Day--which is the only Mass on that day that also celebrates St. Anastasia, who was martyred on December 25, 304 during the persecution by Diocletian (she is listed among the early martyrs in the Roman Canon)--and combines plainchant with a sixteenth century, pre-English Reformation setting of the Mass.

The setting of the Mass, Christe Jesu, is by William Rasar, who was a clerk at King's College, Cambridge and whose only surviving work is this Mass, found in the Peterhouse Partbooks (incomplete, missing the tenor part) and the Forrest-Heyther Partbooks (complete). The CD presents all the parts of the Mass, from the Introit to the Post-Communion Prayer and dismissal, and also includes three motets, one each by Alfonso Ferrabosco, William Byrd, and Walter Lambe. The parish's priest, Father Richard G. Cipolla, chants all the parts proper to his role: the Collect, Epistle, Gospel, Preface, etc (note: no Secret, which is prayed silently in the Extraordinary Form).

The liner notes by Charles Weaver, one of the Schola singers, conclude with these comments:

This recording is not a reconstruction of an historical liturgy at which the Rasar Mass was first sung. The Sarum rite used in England at the time did not contain the Christmas Mass at dawn, and prior to the Reformation, men and women never sang together in church: boys provided the treble part. In the most important musical establishments there would have been several singers on each part. On the other hand, it is easy to imagine a small mixed ensemble like ours singing in a private Mass during the Elizabethan period. More importantly, this is a presentation of sixteenth-century liturgical music in a living context: the modern liturgy of the Roman Church in continuity with that of the sixteenth century, in which we sing every week at St. Mary’s Norwalk. The liturgical reforms of the mid-twentieth century, like those of Edward and Elizabeth, have nearly put an end to the Church's musical continuity with the past. The liturgy was greatly simplified, to invite the greater participation of the faithful, but in practice this meant discarding much music in Latin, including the plainchant that had been the backbone of the church’s liturgical prayer for over a millennium. This was unintentional, as many ecclesiastical documents have made clear: chant and sacred polyphony are treasures of the Church, quite apart from their obvious objective value as great achievements of human civilization. At small parishes like St. Mary’s Norwalk, the important work of keeping this music alive is happening: not preserving it as in a museum, but in the life of a community at prayer. Thanks to the support of the people of St. Mary’s, the Mass Christe Jesu has now been recorded for the first time.

The CD is available from the church's website, which provides excerpts from the Mass and other background materials. This recording, beginning with the cover photo on the booklet, is a great spiritual and historic accomplishment. We will add it to our prayers on Christmas Day!

Monday, May 29, 2017

Happy Memorial Day: Remember

Peggy Noonan cites David McCullough's new book on why it is so important that we study and understand the past in her Wall Street Journal column this weekend, concluding with several bullet points:

Here, gleaned from the book, are some of Mr. McCullough’s observations on history.

• It is a story. “Tell stories,” said the historian Barbara Tuchman. And what is a story? Mr. McCullough, paraphrasing E.M. Forster, observes: “If I say to you the king died and then the queen died, that’s a sequence of events. If I say the king died and the queen died of grief, that’s a story.”

• What’s past to us was the present to them. “Adams, Jefferson, George Washington, they didn’t walk about saying, ‘Isn’t this fascinating, living in the past?’ It was the present, their present.” They were acting in real time and didn’t know how things would turn out. . . .

• Nothing had to happen the way it happened. “History could have gone off in any number of different directions in any number of different ways at almost any point, just as your own life can.” “One thing leads to another. Nothing happens in a vacuum. Actions have consequences.” These things sound obvious, he says, but are not to those who are just starting out and trying to understand life. . . .

• History is an antidote to the hubris of the present. We think everything we have, do and think is the ultimate, the best. “We should never look down on those of the past and say they should have known better. What do you think they will be saving about us in the future? They’re going to be saying we should have known better.”


She posted her column on Facebook, so perhaps it's still available without paying for access!

I particularly liked the comments "What's past to us was the present to them" and "Nothing had to happen the way it happened." It seems to me that those two comments vitiate the entire "Whig interpretation" of history that sees the events of the past as necessary for the progress of the future. 

Happy Memorial Day!