Monday, May 22, 2017

John Senior's Life and Career: Realism and Christian Culture

I am not an alumna of the Pearson Integrated Humanities Program (PIHP) at the University of Kansas, but I know alumni of the program. A friend gave me a copy of this book about one of the three professors who developed and taught the program, John Senior and the Restoration of Realism by Father Francis Bethel, OSB, a monk of Clear Creek Abbey. Father Bethel is an alumnus of the program, and just one of the PIHP students who visited Fontgombault Abbey in France and became a monk or discerned a priestly vocation.

Father Bethel has written an intellectual biography of one of his teachers and mentors, demonstrating how John Senior put together his appreciation of reality in nature with an acceptance of the reality of things and the recognition that truth exists and can be known and must be acted upon. The interesting fact is that he'd lost that connection in the first place. Senior had been a cowboy and had experienced hard work and reality, but his interest in the Symbolist poets and Eastern philosophy and the occult led him for awhile into what he later called the Perennial Heresy, relativism and skepticism. Then he read St. Thomas Aquinas and rediscovered Realism: that what is is real and true. Something can't be both true and untrue: it is or it isn't, and we can and should accept this fact. That's the Perennial Philosophy of Realism he rediscovered and wanted to restore.

The book could have been titled John Senior and the Liberal Arts or John Senior and The Idea of a University Education, but Father Bethel's choice of title is appropriate because Senior's discovery of Realism led him to more than a career as an academic professor and one of the founders of the PIHP. It led him to a way of life, and it led him to Jesus and His Church. It led him to live with his wife and children in a certain way, owning a ranch and working it even as he taught at the University of Wyoming, always staying close to real things: the land, animals, books, musical instruments, etc. Instead of watching television--they did not own a TV set--they read books. His wife raised Afghan Hounds, elegant dogs, but dogs all the same that bark at inopportune times.

Browsing the index, I noticed the words "The Newman School of Catholic Thought" and found out more about John Senior's work at the Newman Center in Laramie, Wyoming and his contact with Father Charles Taylor. Father Taylor was one of the presenters at the 1979 Newman School of Catholic Thought I attended as a sophomore at WSU. At least one PIHP student attended that week (Bishop James Conley of Lincoln, Nebraska, who wrote one of the blurbs for this book).

Father Bethel uses Senior's books, The Death of  Christian Culture and The Restoration of  Christian Culture to outline the problem and Senior's solution. He notes that Senior never sought political solutions to the crisis, but instead thought education and formation was the answer. Bethel describes Senior's melancholic temperament, his vast reading--and its limitations--and elements of his teaching style, summing him up as "a good man with a gift for communicating his subject." (p. 129)

In the heart of the book (Part II and Part III), describing in detail how Senior developed his plan of attack on the Perennial Heresy his students had accepted, Bethel shows himself an apt pupil of his master. He doesn't just tell the reader what Senior found in, for example, St. Thomas Aquinas and Aristotle, to inform his education theories and methods, he explains what Aquinas and Aristotle said and how Senior interpreted and used them in the formation of his theory of gradual, systematic education based upon opening the student's mind to nature through gymnastics and to the life of the mind through music (poetry and memory). Bethel explores Senior's understanding of the Four Modes of Knowledge in depth: Poetic, Rhetorical, Dialectic, and Scientific. He also describes Senior's proposal for a boy's education, found in an unpublished manuscript, "The Restoration of Innocence."

Part IV offers insights into the famed PIHP and its demise. The crucial element in attacks against the program was that so many students were becoming Catholics--and even monks--so that dedication to the Truth and believing that education should teach the Truth meant that the students were being proselytized or worse, brainwashed. Even though Senior, Nelick, and Quinn were cleared of those charges of trying to convert their students, the lack of diversity in the program--opposing views to Truth were presented--led University of Kansas officials to destroy the PIHP. Father Bethel notes that there was a later revival of interest in what Senior and Quinn taught in in the early 1980's, but then Senior's health (heart) problems brought about retirement. Senior and PIHP alumni kept in touch; he wrote the two books on Christian Culture, and there was a big reunion in 1995, John Senior died on April 8, 1999, when he was 77 years old. He and his wife were praying the Rosary.

Father Bethel bravely takes on his mentor's ecclesial wanderings in the post-Vatican II Catholic world. With misgivings about the rather Jansenist elements of the community, Senior attended what we now call the Extraordinary Form of the Latin Rite at churches with Society of Saint Pius X priests (although Bethel is reticent about where Senior attended Mass according to the Missal of 1962), even when he had access to the same Mass said by priests of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter, a Clerical Society of Apostolic Life of Pontifical right approved of and supported by Pope John Paul II and then Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. Bethel is sympathetic to Senior's plight, but believes that he should have attended the FSSP. There is a strange comment about Senior's confessions to "priests in obedience to Rome." Father Bethel comments, "This clearly suggests that this confessors did not judge him to be sinning by attending Society Masses." (p. 373) I'm not sure that it suggests anything, clearly or not, since we don't know what he confessed (and can't/shouldn't because of the Seal of the Confessional).

I do wish that in the chapters discussing and citing mostly the books on Christian Culture that page number citations were used in the text, instead of being relegated to end notes at the back of the book. I'd prefer end notes for each chapter when they are mostly comprised of "Ibid." and a page number. There are some problems with the bibliography formatting (on page 428, the second work by Chesterton, using the spacer for the author's name, is listed first and two of John Paul II's works are also listed first with the spacer coming last; also on page 429, two author's entries seem to have run together ("Newman, John Henry" and "Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace"). Those are quibbles, however, and don't detract from the great achievement of this book, which should inspire parents and educators to follow John Senior's example and advice.

Indeed, Anthony Esolen, who recently left Providence College to teach and lead The Center for the Restoration of Catholic Culture at Thomas More College in Merrimack, New Hampshire (where this book was published) seems poised to do so:

Imagine then dances in a great ballroom built just for such a thing; and imagine that the young people learn to dance as their grandparents may have done, with innocence and the natural attraction that boys and girls are meant to have for one another.

Imagine that you get people from the community who can play the fiddle, attracted despite themselves to the beauty of what is normal.
 People used to play musical instruments, for the pleasure and mirth of it, and not for pursuing a career.

Imagine a place for regular concerts, big and small, “professional” and amateur, by people with gray hair or by little ones with cowlicks or braids. All of the arts have gone sour; poetry, the first and highest art of man, has degenerated into political posturing, in verse without form and meter.


Gymnastics and Music, just as John Senior said.

Once you have read this book, you should read The Death of Christian Culture and The Restoration of Christian Culture. Both are available from Eighth Day Books.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

A Cardinal's Hat and Sainthood for Bishop John Fisher


Pope Paul III passed over the notion that Henry VIII had stripped Bishop John Fisher of his episcopal status and declared the imprisoned Bishop of Rochester a cardinal on May 20, 1535, a little more than a month before the good Cardinal's execution on June 22 that year. Of course, Fisher never received his Cardinal's hat, and the usual report is that Henry VIII threatened to send the Cardinal's head to Rome instead! Pope Paul III had named Fisher the Cardinal Priest of San Vitale, the altar of which is seen above. The full name of the church is the Basilica of Sts. Vitalis, Valeris, Gervase and Protase, honoring a family of martyrs!

Four hundred years later, Pope Pius XI canonized John Cardinal Fisher and Sir Thomas More on the anniversary of this creation. Pope Pius XI praised the new saint during his homily:

John Fisher, gifted by nature with a most gentle disposition, thoroughly versed in both sacred and profane lore, so distinguished himself among his contemporaries by his wisdom and his virtue that under the patronage of the King of England himself, he was elected Bishop of Rochester. In the fulfilment of this high office so ardent was he in his piety towards God, and in charity towards his neighbour, and so zealous in defending the integrity of Catholic doctrine, that his episcopal residence seemed rather a Church and a University for studies than a private dwelling.

He was wont to afflict his delicate body with fastings, scourges, and hair cloth; nothing was dearer to him than to be able to visit the poor, in order to comfort them in their miseries and to succour them in their needs. When he found someone frightened at the thought of his faults and terrified by chastisements to come, he brought comfort to the erring soul by restoring confidence in God’s mercy. Often when celebrating the Eucharistic Sacrifice, he was seen shedding abundant tears, while his eyes were raised to heaven in an ecstatic expression of love. When he preached to the multitudes of the faithful that crowded round to hear him, he seemed neither a man nor a herald of men, but an angel of God clothed in human flesh.

Nevertheless, whilst he was meek and affable towards the afflicted and the suffering, whenever there was question of defending the integrity of faith and morals, like a second Precursor of the Lord, in whose name he gloried, he was not afraid to proclaim the truth openly, and to defend by every means in his power the divine teachings of the Church. You are well aware, Venerable Brethren and Beloved Sons, of the reason why John Fisher was called in judgment and obliged to undergo the supreme test of martyrdom. It was because of his courageous determination to defend the sacred bond of Christian marriage—a bond indissoluble for all, even for those who wear the royal diadem—and to vindicate the Primacy with which the Roman Pontiffs are invested by divine command. That is why he was imprisoned and afterwards led to death. Serenely he advanced toward the scaffold and with the words of the Te Deum on his lips, he rendered thanks to God for being granted the grace of having his mortal life crowned with the glory of martyrdom, and he raised up to the Divine Throne a fervent prayer of supplication for himself, for his people and for his King. Thus did he give another clear proof that the Catholic Religion does not weaken, but increases the love of one’s country. When finally he mounted the scaffold, whilst a ray of sunlight cast a halo of splendour about his venerable grey hairs, he exclaimed with a smile: “Come ye to Him and be enlightened, and your faces shall not be confounded.” (Ps. xxxiii, 6.) Most assuredly the heavenly hosts of angels and saints hastened in joy to meet his holy soul, freed at last from the fetters of the body and winging flight toward eternal joys.


Saint John Fisher, pray for us!
Saint Thomas More, pray for us!

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Shakespeare's "King Charles III"?

I watched the last hour of this PBS Masterpiece broadcast Sunday night; the show is available until May 28 online.

It is based upon a play written by Mike Bartlett as a Shakespearean History Play, although it describes events in the future, beginning with Queen Elizabeth II's death and the accession of Charles, the Prince of Wales as King Charles III. It even features the Ghost of Princess Diana--who is a confusing oracle indeed, predicting that both Charles AND William will be the greatest king that England has ever known!

The story is about a constitutional crisis based on the history of King William IV and the 1831-1832 Reform Act:

When the House of Commons defeated the First Reform Bill in 1831, Grey's ministry urged William to dissolve Parliament, which would lead to a new general election. At first, William hesitated to exercise his prerogative to dissolve Parliament because elections had just been held the year before and the country was in a state of high excitement which might boil over into violence. He was, however, irritated by the conduct of the Opposition, which announced its intention to move the passage of an Address, or resolution, in the House of Lords, against dissolution. Regarding the Opposition's motion as an attack on his prerogative, and at the urgent request of Lord Grey and his ministers, William IV prepared to go in person to the House of Lords and prorogue Parliament.[74] The monarch's arrival would stop all debate and prevent passage of the Address.[75] When initially told that his horses could not be ready at such short notice, William is supposed to have said, "Then I will go in a hackney cab!"[75] Coach and horses were assembled quickly and William immediately proceeded to Parliament. Said The Times of the scene before William's arrival, "It is utterly impossible to describe the scene ... The violent tones and gestures of noble Lords ... astonished the spectators, and affected the ladies who were present with visible alarm."[76] Lord Londonderry brandished a whip, threatening to thrash the Government supporters, and was held back by four of his colleagues. William hastily put on the crown, entered the Chamber, and dissolved Parliament.[77]

As in King William's day, so in Charles's putative reign: the monarch is defending progressive policies (in Charles's case, he's against a law restricting the Freedom of the Press). The twist is that in some ways, the Duchess of Cambridge (former Kate Middleton) is the Lady Macbeth of the piece, convincing William to dethrone his father (not murder him, of course). She has the ambition and desire to protect their son's right to the throne and believes that Charles is destroying the monarchy. Kate is trouble from the start, protesting that Charles isn't king until he is crowned. Camilla sets her straight on that.

According to PBS:

King Charles III Adapted by Mike Bartlett from his Tony-nominated stage play, and with Tim Pigott-Smith (Jewel in the Crown, The Hour) reprising the title role, King Charles III is a timely examination of contemporary Britain--part political thriller, part family drama.

Prince Charles has waited his entire life to ascend to the British throne. But after the Queen's death, he immediately finds himself wrestling his conscience over a bill to sign into law. His hesitation detonates a constitutional and political crisis and William (Oliver Chris, Breathless) and Kate (Charlotte Riley, Close to the Enemy) start to worry. With the future of the monarchy under threat, protests on the streets, and his family in disarray, Charles must grapple with his own identity and purpose to decide whether or not, in the twenty-first century, the British crown still has any real power.

This adaptation retains the daring verse of the original text while director Rupert Goold (The Hollow Crown) creates the ambitious scale and spectacle suggested by the play-from Westminster Abbey and Buckingham Palace to the restless streets of London.

Fascinating. Tim Piggott-Smith recreates his stage role in the movie; he died earlier this year.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Tracey Rowland's Survey of Catholic Theology


Tracey Rowland has written extensively about the theological works of Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI. Carl Olson of the Catholic World Report interviewed her about her latest book, Catholic Theology, which I have in my queue to read:

Theologian, professor, and author Tracey Rowland holds two doctorates in theology, one from the Divinity School of Cambridge University (the civil PhD) and one from the John Paul II Institute at the Pontifical Lateran University (the pontifical STD) in addition to degrees in law and philosophy. After studies at the University of Queensland, she lectured in Soviet and Central European Politics at Monash University while completing a Masters degree in contemporary Central European political theory. From 1994-1996 she was a Research Fellow in the Faculty of Law at Griffith University with a focus on jurisprudence and Constitutional and Administrative Law. In 1996 she won a Commonwealth Scholarship to Cambridge University to work on her doctorate. Prior to joining the faculty at the University of Notre Dame (Australia), she was the Dean of the John Paul II Institute in Melbourne for sixteen years. In 2014 she was appointed to the International Theological Commission and she is currently a member of the ITC's sub-commission on religious freedom.

Her books include
Culture and the Thomist Tradition: After Vatican II (London: Routledge, 2003), Ratzinger's Faith (Oxford University Press, 2008), Benedict XVI: A Guide for the Perplexed (London: Bloomsbury, 2010), the recently published Catholic Theology (London: Bloomsbury, 2017), and the forthcoming The Culture of the Incarnation: Essays in Catholic Theology (Ohio: Emmaus Academic, 2017). She recently corresponded with Carl E. Olson, editor of Catholic World Report, about her book Catholic Theology, the various (and often competing) schools of Catholic theology today, the crisis since Vatican II, and why theology is so important.

Please read the rest there.

As I read the interview, I noticed how it really synced up with a presentation at the Spiritual Life Center I'd recently attended, “Vatican II: Continuity or Disruption? Examining the Reception and Interpretation of the Conciliar Documents.” Perhaps the presenter, Father Patrick Reilley, read her book, because he discussed the two basic schools of thought about the Council, represented by the journals Concilium and Communio that Rowland highlights in two chapters of the book and in the interview.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

St. Thomas More's Chelsea Heir

Anne Fiennes (Sackville), Lady Dacre, died on May 14, 1595 and was buried in the Chelsea Old Church, where St. Thomas More had planned to rest with both his first wife, Jane, and his second, Alice. Anne was the heiress of More's Chelsea estates, according to this biography:

FIENNES or FIENES, ANNE LADY DACRE (d. 1595), was daughter of Sir Richard Sackville, treasurer of the exchequer to Elizabeth, and steward of the royal manors in Kent and Sussex, who was the son of Sir John Sackville (d. 1557), and Anne, daughter of Sir William Boleyn, uncle to Queen Anne Boleyn. Her mother was Winifred, daughter of Sir John Bridges, lord mayor of London, who after Sir Richard Sackville's death became the second wife of William Paulet, marquis of Winchester. Lady Dacre was sister to Elizabeth's trusted counsellor, Thomas Sackville, lord Buckhurst. She married Gregory Fienes [q. v.], son of Thomas Fienes, lord Dacre [q. v.], executed in 1541, who with his sister Margaret was restored in blood and honours in 1558. By her husband, with whom, according to her epitaph, she lived with much affection, she had no issue. She appears from the State Papers to have been a woman of strong mind and somewhat imperious and exacting disposition. She was at one time at variance with her brother, Lord Buckhurst, at another she addressed a long complaint to Elizabeth against her husband's sister, Margaret Lennard, for raising false reports concerning her, and endeavouring to prejudice her majesty against her. Her husband had incurred debts, for the discharge of which he desired to sell some portions of his estates, which Mrs. Lennard as his next heir sought to prevent, and at the same time desired to have lands settled on herself to her brother's prejudice (State Papers, Dom. vol. xxvi. Nos. 37–9). On the death of her mother, the Marchioness of Winchester, she came into possession of Sir Thomas More's house at Chelsea, which after his execution had been granted to William Paulet, marquis of Winchester. Here she and her husband made their home, her brother, Lord Buckhurst, often residing with them. Lord Dacre died at Chelsea on 25 Sept. 1594. She survived him only a few months, dying in the same house on 14 May 1595. Only a few weeks before her decease she had to defend herself from the charge of wishing to appropriate her husband's estate to herself (ib. 9 April 1592, No. 120). She and her husband were buried in the More Chapel in Chelsea Old Church, where, by her desire, a very magnificent marble monument was erected, exhibiting their effigies of full size under a Corinthian canopy, richly adorned with festoons of flowers. Her epitaph describes her in very laudatory terms as

Fœminei lux clara chori, pia, casta, pudica;
Ægris subsidium, pauperibusque decus;
Fida Deo, perchara tuis, constansque, diserta;
Sic patiens morbi, sic pietatis amans.

On the rebuilding of the church in 1667 this monument was removed to the south aisle. By her will, which is a long and very interesting document couched in a deeply religious spirit (Lansdowne MSS. lxxvii. Nos. 29, 30), dated 20 Dec. 1594, three months after her husband's decease, Lady Dacre made provision for the erection of an almshouse for twenty poor persons, ten of each sex, and a school for twenty poor children, in pursuance of a plan she and her husband had hoped to complete in their lifetime, the funds for its support being charged on the manor of Brandesburton in Yorkshire. The whole of her manors, lands, and houses at Chelsea, Kensington, and Brompton she bequeathed to Lord Burghley and his heirs. She begged the queen's acceptance of a jewel worth 300l., as ‘a poor remembrance of her humble duty for her manifold princely favours to her husband and herself.’ To her brother, Lord Buckhurst, she left, with other jewels, her majesty's picture, set round with twenty-six rubies, with a pendent pearl, ‘as a special remembrance of her love, being a guifte she very well did know would of all other things be most pleasing and acceptable unto him.’ The will contains many bequests to her gentlewomen and servants, not one of whom seems to be forgotten.

The Center for Thomas More Studies offers this sketch of his estate. Even though More was not interred there, Anne Dacre chose to be buried in his tomb, perhaps stressing the Chelsea connection. His tomb, with the epitaph he wrote--and sent a copy of to Erasmus--survived bombing in World War II.

After describing his career, Thomas More added this praise of his two wives with a humorous twist:

Within this tomb Jane, wife of More, reclines; 
This More for Alice and himself designs. 
The first, dear object of my youthful vow, 
Gave me three daughters and a son to know; 
The next—ah! virtue in a stepdame rare!— 
Nursed my sweet infants with a mother’s care. 
With both my years so happily have past, 
Which most my love, I know not—first or last. 
Oh! had religion destiny allowed, 
How smoothly mixed had our three fortunes flowed! 
But, be we in the tomb, in heaven allied, 
So kinder death shall grant what life denied. 

Image Credit: statue of Thomas More outside Chelsea Old Church.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Anglican Orders Redux

As this story from The Tablet recounts, a curia Cardinal is revisiting the issue of the validity of Anglican orders:

One of the Vatican’s top legal minds has opened the way for a revision of the Catholic position on Anglican orders by stressing they should not be written off as “invalid.”

In a recently published book, Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio, President of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, calls into question Pope Leo XIII’s 1896 papal bull that Anglican orders are “absolutely null and utterly void.”

“When someone is ordained in the Anglican Church and becomes a parish priest in a community, we cannot say that nothing has happened, that everything is ‘invalid’,” the cardinal says in volume of papers and discussions that took place in Rome as part of the “Malines Conversations,” an ecumenical forum.

“This about the life of a person and what he has given …these things are so very relevant!”

For decades Leo XIII’s remarks have proved to be one of the major stumbling blocks in Catholic-Anglican unity efforts, as it seemed to offer very little room for interpretation or revision.

But the cardinal, whose department is charged with interpreting and revising Church laws, argued the Church today has a “a very rigid understanding of validity and invalidity” which could be revised on the Anglican ordination question.

To put this into historical and current context, therefore, is this article from the Homiletic & Pastoral Review, which points out that Anglicans, at least in the Thirty-Nine Articles, deem Catholic orders invalid (sacramentally):

The preoccupation with the Catholic rejection of Anglican orders in the past century has been accompanied by forgetfulness regarding the equally strong Anglican rejection of Catholic orders. Yet, the recognition that Anglican orders are not Catholic ones is not just a Roman Catholic pronouncement; it is also Anglican doctrine. Long before Pope Leo XIII declared, in 1893, that Anglican orders were deficient from a Catholic perspective, Queen Elizabeth I, in 1570, declared the Catholic view of orders deficient from an Anglican perspective.

The central points of Anglican belief are stated in the Articles of Religion, which were articulated and revised over a period of several decades during the tumultuous 16th century. Although Catholic-minded Anglicans since the Oxford Movement of the 1830s have often questioned them, the Articles were clearly intended to be an authoritative statement of Anglican belief. Though today, they do not carry the same kind of juridical authority as Roman Catholic doctrine, originally they carried even more. Conformity to them among the clergy was originally enforced on pain of death. Until the 19th century, it was a requirement for civil office in England. They have been included in every edition of the Book of Common Prayer in Great Britain and North America up to the present day, and are routinely cited by participants in Anglican theological discourse as representing the mind of the church.

Initially intended to affirm Catholic teaching in the face of the Lutheran reform, in successive revisions, the Articles came to adopt Protestant, and even explicitly anti-Catholic, views. Beginning with six articles stating points of Catholic doctrine by King Henry VIII in 1536, they had been expanded to 42 articles incorporating Lutheran ideas by Henry’s Protestant-leaning son, Edward VI, by 1552. These were eventually pared to 39 articles in 1570—following a convocation and the excommunication of the Pope by Queen Elizabeth. As John Henry Newman observed following his famous, but failed, attempt to interpret the Articles in a Catholic sense, “{i}t is notorious that the Articles were drawn up by Protestants, and intended for the establishment of Protestantism.”

Article 25 states that Ordination is not a sacrament (does not confer Sacramental Grace) in the Church of England:

Those five commonly called Sacraments—that is to say, Confirmation, Penance, Orders, Matrimony, and Extreme Unction—are not to be counted for Sacraments of the Gospel, being such as have grown partly of the corrupt following of the Apostles, partly are states of life allowed in the Scriptures; but yet have not the like nature of Sacraments with Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, for that they have not any visible sign or ceremony ordained of God.

Archbishop Thomas Cranmer did not intend that ministers in the Church of England be like Catholic priests at all, because he did not believe in the Real Presence in the Eucharist as Catholics do. Therefore, ministers in the Church of England did not have a sacramental sacrificial role:

. . .“Christ made no such difference between the priest and the layman that the priest should make oblation and sacrifice of Christ for the layman … but the difference between the priest and the layman in this matter is only in the ministration.” . . . .

The ministers of the Church of England were intended to be ministers of the Word, by speech in preaching, and by act in symbolic sacraments, and not priests of the true, substantive Body and Blood of Christ.

As a reminder, this is the Catholic teaching (from the Council of Trent) on priesthood:

Sacrifice and priesthood are, by the ordinance of God, in such wise conjoined, as that both have existed in every law. Whereas, therefore, in the New Testament, the Catholic Church has received, from the institution of Christ, the holy visible sacrifice of the Eucharist; it must needs also be confessed, that there is, in that Church, a new, visible, and external priesthood, into which the old has been translated. And the sacred Scriptures show, and the tradition of the Catholic Church has always taught, that this priesthood was instituted by the same Lord our Saviour, and that to the apostles, and their successors in the priesthood, was the power delivered of consecrating, offering, and administering His Body and Blood, as also of forgiving and of retaining sins. . . . 

Whereas, by the testimony of Scripture, by Apostolic tradition, and the unanimous consent of the Fathers, it is clear that grace is conferred by sacred ordination, which is performed by words and outward signs, no one ought to doubt that Order is truly and properly one of the seven sacraments of holy Church. For the apostle says; I admonish thee that thou stir up the grace of God, which is in thee by the imposition of my hands. For God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power and of love of sobriety.

The author, Father Donald Paul Sullins, is himself a former Anglican minister who became Catholic and was ordained under the Pastoral Provision issued by Pope St. John Paul II. He continues his article with a discussion of Anglican ministers becoming Catholic priests by sacramental ordination and states:

The Catholic Church today views the relation of Catholic to Protestant, not as the difference between wrong and right, but as between part and whole. It recognizes that many elements of genuine sanctity, doctrine, and orders are to be found in the separated churches of the Reformation, among whom, moreover, Anglicanism is held to have a special place. The bishops of England and Wales, in a joint statement, have made this explicit: “We would never suggest that those now seeking full communion with the Roman Catholic Church deny the value of their previous ministry. According to the teaching of the Second Vatican Council, the liturgical actions of their ministry can most certainly engender a life of grace, for they come from Christ and lead back to him and belong by right to the one church of Christ.” 18

If one’s personal experience of grace in Anglican priestly ministry does not prove that the underlying orders are valid, it is equally true that a defect in the underlying orders does not nullify the experience of grace. . . . [Pope Leo XIII's document] 
Apostolicae Curae’s declaration of nullity of Anglican orders in no way denies the genuine grace and truth that is present in Anglican ordained ministry. The Catholic Church recognizes with joy and thanksgiving, and affirms the legitimacy of, the fruits of the Anglican priesthood.

Please read the rest there. It's also appropriate to recall Pope Leo's encouragement of Anglicans who wanted the fullness of the Christian faith to come home:

38. Hitherto perhaps, while striving after the perfection of Christian virtue, while devoutly searching the Scriptures, while redoubling their fervent prayers, they have yet listened in doubt and perplexity to the promptings of Christ who has long been speaking within their hearts. Now they see clearly whither He is graciously calling and bidding them come. Let them return to His one fold, and they will obtain both the blessings they seek and further aids to salvation; the dispensing of which He has committed to the Church, as the perpetual guardian and promoter of His redemption among the nations. Then will they 'draw waters with joy out of the fountains of the Saviour', that is, out of His wondrous sacraments; whereby the souls of the faithful are truly forgiven their sins and restored to the friendship of God, nourished and strengthened with the bread of heaven, and provided in abundance with the most powerful aids to the attainment of eternal life. To those who truly thirst after these blessings may 'the God of peace, the God of all consolation', grant them in overflowing measure, according to the greatness of His bounty.

39. Our appeal and Our hopes are directed in a special way to those who hold the office of ministers of religion in their respective communities. Their position gives them preeminence in learning and authority, and they assuredly have at heart the glory of God and the salvation of souls. Let them, then, be among the first to heed God's call and obey it with alacrity, thus giving a shining example to others. Great indeed will be the joy of Mother Church as she welcomes them, surrounding them with every mark of affection and solicitude, because of the difficulties which they have generously and courageously surmounted in order to return to her bosom. And how shall words describe the praise which such courage will earn for them in the assemblies of the faithful throughout the Catholic world, the hope and confidence it will give them before Christ’s judgement seat, the rewards that it will win for them in the kingdom of heaven! For Our part We shall continue by every means allowed to us to encourage their reconciliation with the Church, in which both individuals and whole communities, as We ardently hope, may find a model for their imitation. Meanwhile We beg and implore them all, through the bowels of the mercy of our God, to strive faithfully to follow in the open path of His truth and grace.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Chesterton on St. Francis of Assisi

Our Greater Wichita Chesterton Society group gathers on the second floor of Eighth Day Books this Friday at 6:30 p.m. to begin G.K.C.'s book about St. Francis of Assisi. Dale Ahlquist of the American Chesterton Society comments on the book:

Chesterton’s ten “biographies” are more like commentaries rather than accounts of the life and work of their subjects. Heavy on the analysis, light on the narrative. Even lighter on the facts. His subjects sometimes even appear to be secondary to the larger themes he wishes to discuss. His book on St. Francis, however, is unlike any of his other biographies. There are many more facts. The narrative is quite straightforward and highly dramatic. The analysis is supportive rather than overwhelming. Chesterton’s other biographies are really overwhelmed by Chesterton (which, in most cases, is what we would prefer); this one, however, is rightly filled to overflowing by the great saint of Assisi. Chesterton not only gets St. Francis to speak for himself, he does it in the way the little friar would have preferred: by conveying not his words, but his life. Chesterton describes St. Francis as “a poet whose whole life was a poem.”

This is the first real book written after Chesterton’s reception into the Catholic Church, the others being collections of poems, essays, and mysteries. Yet, we cannot sense much transition in Chesterton’s writing. One reason is that his conversion was the culmination of a long steady process in which he never really changed his way of thinking. It was more of a full flowering of all the ideas he had him. There is another reason, and it has to do with St. Francis. Chesterton had always admired this saint. Francis, he says, and “never been a stranger” to him and was like a bridge connecting Chesterton’s early literary life with the later.

St. Francis is one of the most popular saints and one of the most misunderstood. Chesterton says the world appreciates the saint but not the sanctity.

We are reading the Ignatius Press edition (available at Eighth Day Books) that includes Chesterton's study of St. Thomas Aquinas: at our first meeting we'll discuss the Introduction by Joseph Pearce and the first chapter, "The Problem of St. Francis". Refreshments will be served.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

From Flanders to Canterbury to Aix-en-Provence


Somehow, I find the English Reformation and its aftermath wherever I go!

My husband and I went to the used record store in the Delano neighborhood of downtown Wichita, Spektrum Rekords, and found some classical music LPs, including a series from the Musical Heritage Society/Erato Records called ". . . of Castles and Cathedrals". One of them is of liturgical music of Provencale composers, recorded in St. Sauveur (Holy Savior) Cathedral in Aix-en-Provence.

In searching online for more information about the LP and the cathedral, I found this note in the description of the notable art in the cathedral in the Wikipedia entry:

A set of seventeen tapestries of the life of Christ, bought in 1656 by the chapter thanks to a legacy from Archbishop Michel Mazarin. The tapestries were among twenty-six originally woven in 1511 for Canterbury Cathedral in England, and decorated the choir there until 1642, when they were taken down during the English Civil War. They made their way to Paris, where they were bought by the chapter and placed in the choir of the cathedral. The tapestries were stolen during the French Revolution, but repurchased by the Archbishop of Aix-en-Provence and Arles. In 1977, the first nine tapestries were stolen, and have not been recovered.

Here's more information about the tapestries.

Another great piece of art in the Cathedral, The Burning Bush, is pictured above with the side panels (you'll just have to imagine that the panels are on either side of the centerpiece):

The Burning Bush triptych by Nicolas Froment, an Avignon painter, is a masterpiece of the 15th century. The painting came from a Carmelite convent, destroyed during the French Revolution. The central panel represents the Virgin and Child seen on the burning bush. In the foreground, Moses, guarding his flock, is amazed by the vision. The two other parts of the triptych show the patrons of the work, King René I of Naples, also ruler of Provence, and his consort Queen Jeanne, in devotional attitudes.

The compositions on the LP are by Jocelyne Poitevin (by attribution), Joseph-Francois Salomon, and Andre Campra, "The Provencale Masters of the Motet", and are performed by the Stephane Caillat Chorale with its eponymous conductor. The subhead for the album is, "The glowing fervour of the musicians of Provence intensifies the prayers of their ardent faith". 

Monday, May 8, 2017

Angelic Anglican Churches in East Anglia


From the BBC comes this slideshow of "Angel Roofs" in Anglican churches in East Anglia--some that survived the iconoclasm of the English Reformation and some that that been recreated. The images are from a book by Michael Rimmer, The Angel Roofs of East Anglia: Unseen Masterpieces of the Middle Ages:

It has been estimated that over 90 per cent of England's figurative medieval art was obliterated in the image destruction of the Reformation. Medieval angel roofs, timber structures with spectacular and ornate carvings of angels, with a peculiar preponderance in East Anglia, were simply too difficult for Reformation iconoclasts to reach. Angel roof carvings comprise the largest surviving body of major English medieval wood sculpture. Though they are both masterpieces of sculpture and engineering, angel roofs have been almost completely neglected by academics and art historians, because they are inaccessible, fixed and challenging to photograph.

The Angel Roofs of East Anglia is the first detailed historical and photographic study of the region's many medieval angel roofs. It shows the artistry and architecture of these inaccessible and little-studied medieval artworks in more detail and clarity than ever before, and explains how they were made, by whom, and why.

Michael Rimmer redresses the scholarly neglect and brings the beauty, craftsmanship and history of these astonishing medieval creations to the reader. The book also offers a fascinating new answer to the question of why angel roofs are so overwhelmingly an East Anglian phenomenon, but relatively rare elsewhere in the country.

The Telegraph also published some photos from the book.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Supremacy Without Unity

From The Economist, a review of Heretics and Believers by Peter Marshall:

Mr Marshall provides convincing evidence that Catholicism survived well into Elizabeth’s reign. At least 800 clergymen were deprived or removed themselves for reasons of conscience, including as many as a quarter of the clergy in one diocese, Rochester, that is not far from Canterbury. Only 21 out of 90 senior clergy in northern England assented to the settlement, and 36 openly disagreed. Dissent among middle-ranking clergy was even higher. Of those not removed by the 1559 flu epidemic, fewer than half wished to continue.

A rebellion reckoned to be 7,000-strong in favour of the pope in 1569 was brutally suppressed. Many followers of the old religion simply conformed and dissembled. It is hard to understand how the people coped through these years. Tombs were vandalised; vicars protested at funerals. One village curate was known to shave his Protestant beard every time a change in religion was rumoured. However the English survived the Reformation, they did so as a nation divided.

Whig histories typically focus on the progress that the state and evangelicals made in forging a Church of England: a history of the winners. Mr Marshall’s contribution is a riveting account of the losers as well, the English zealots and cynics who wanted a better world or an unchanging one. The resulting story is of a Henrician supremacy that failed and an Elizabethan unity that never was.

Please read the rest there.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

The Sack of Rome and The English Reformation


On May 6, 1527, troops loyal to Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor, attacked Rome and the Vatican. As the Swiss Guard website describes the event:

On the morning of 6 May 1527, from his headquarters, the monastery of S. Onofrio on the Giancolo, Captain-General of Bourbon gave the signal to attack. Near the "Porta del Torrione" he was mortally wounded, as he prepared to storm the ramparts. After some hesitation, Spanish mercenaries broke through the "Porta del Torrione", while the soldiers invaded the "Borgo Santo Spirito" and the "Borgo San Pietro". The Pontifical Swiss Guard which had assembled near the obelisk, which then stood near the "Campo Santo Teutonico", and the few Roman troops fought a futile battle. The commander Kaspar Röist was wounded and later brutally massacred in the quarters by the Spaniards, right before the eyes of his wife, Elizabeth Klingler. Of the total of 189 Swiss Guards only 42 survived, who, under the command of Hercules Göldli, accompanied Clement VII to his retreat, Castel Sant'Angelo.

The others fell heroically before the high altar of St. Peter, along with 200 others who had fled into the church. The rescue of Clement VII and his people was made possible through a secret escape passage, the so-called "Passetto", which Alexander VI. had created on the wall that leads from the Vatican to Castel Sant'Angelo. The savage horde was in a hurry, because it feared that its retreat would be cut off by the league. Soldiers and Spaniards poured over the "Ponte Sisto" and into the city for eight days, spreading terror and violence, looting, murdering and transgressing. They even broke the tombs of the Popes, including the one of Julius II. The death toll is estimated at 12,000 and the bounty amounted to ten million ducats.

All that happened is not surprising when one considers that the imperial army, and even more so the Frundsberg’s soldiers, were led by the idea of a violent crusade against the Pope. In front of Castel Sant'Angelo and witnessed by the Pope himself, a parody of a religious procession was staged, calling on Clement to hand over to Luther the sails and the oars of the "Navicella" the so-called Peter’s boat. The soldiers chanted: "Long live Luther pontifex". In derision, Luther's name was carved into the fresco "La Disputa Santissimo Sacramento" (The Disputation over the Most Holy Sacrament) by the sword point in the Stanzas of Raphael, and another inscription glorified Charles V. Kurz , which is expressed in the judgement of the Prior of the Canons of St. Augustine: "Malifuere Germani, pejores Itali, Hispani vero pessimi." (The Germans were bad, the Italians worse, but worst of all were the Spaniards.)


As this OUP blog explains, this event is usually connected to the issue of Henry VIII's efforts to have his marriage to Catherine of Aragon, Charles V's aunt declared null and void:

The sack of Rome had a significant aftermath. The pope and emperor reconciled in 1530. A few years later, when England’s Henry VIII petitioned the pope to annul his marriage to Catherine of Aragon, Clement refused. Catherine was Charles V’s aunt. The pope’s refusal, of course, led Henry to leave the Catholic Church and create the separate Church of England.

So, it's not really the Sack of Rome that affected Henry VIII's petition: it was the reconciliation of Charles and Clement. Pope Clement VII could not risk alienating Charles after seeing what he was capable of and thus protected Catherine of Aragon, who was adamant that her marriage to Henry was valid. 

This painting of the Sack of Rome, by Francisco Javier Amérigo Aparicio is in the public domain: it depicts the rape, pillaging, desecration, and horror of the event. And although I know that this monument is for the Swiss Guards who were massacred protecting King Louis XVI and his family in 1789, I can't help thinking about it in honor of these guards who died protecting the pope and the Blessed Sacrament in 1527:


May they all rest in the peace of Christ!

Friday, May 5, 2017

Agnes Tilney Howard Leaves the Tower

The Dowager Duchess of Norfolk, Agnes Tilney Howard, was freed from the Tower of London on May 5, 1542, even though she had been found guilty of misprison of treason--not reported another subject's treason against the monarch--all her goods taken, and sentenced to life in prison. She received some of her land and manors back later that month (May 20), but her wealth and prestige were destroyed. She died in May of 1545 and was buried on May 31 of that year in the church of Thetford Priory in Norfolk with all the other Howards. Since the Cluniac house had been suppressed in 1540, however, the Howard remains were moved, hers to St Mary-at-Lambeth, others to the Church of St Michael the Archangel, Framlingham.

She was the second wife of Thomas Howard, the second of Norfolk (his first wife had been her cousin, Elizabeth Tilney). In this portrait, she might be praying a rosary.

The reason for her forfeiture and imprisonment was that she had not supervised Catherine Howard properly at Norfolk House and Chesworth House and then not reported to the King that his affianced wife--after he'd determined he would not stay married to Anne of Cleves--might have been promised in marriage to another man and might not be the innocent young girl she seemed. Of course, that would have been a hard thing to do, since Henry VIII was infatuated and in love. A new law, passed after the fall of Catherine Howard, required all subjects to tell the king things like that in the future.

Thomas Howard, the Third Duke of Norfolk, who had separated himself as much as possible from his niece's fall, tried to save Thetford Priory and the family tombs:

The Duke of Norfolk, the powerful patron of Thetford Priory, naturally looked with dismay upon the approaching destruction of this house and of the church, where not only his remote but more immediate ancestors had been honourably interred. His father, Sir Thomas Howard, earl of Surrey and duke of Norfolk, who died on 21 May, 1524, was buried before the high altar of the conventual church, where a costly monument to himself and Agnes his wife had been erected; whilst still more recently, in 1536, Henry Fitzroy, duke of Somerset, had been buried in the same place. As a means of preserving the church and establishment, the duke proposed to convert the priory into a church of secular canons, with a dean and chapter. In 1539 he petitioned the king to that effect, stating that there lay buried in that church the bodies of the Duke of Richmond, the king's natural son; the duke's late wife, Lady Anne, aunt to his highness; the late Duke of Norfolk and other of his ancestors; and that he was setting up tombs for himself and the duke of Richmond which would cost £400. He also promised to make it ' a very honest parish church.' At first the king gave ear to the proposal, and Thetford was included in a list with five others, of ' collegiate churches newly to be made and erected by the king.' Whereupon the duke had articles of a thorough scheme drawn up for insertion in the expected letters patent, whereby the monastery was to be translated into a dean and chapter. The dean was to be Prior William, (fn. 50) and the six prebendaries and eight secular canons were to be the monks of the former house, whose names are set forth in detail. The nomination of the dean was to rest with the duke and his heirs. The scheme included the appointment by the dean and chapter of a doctor or bachelor of divinity as preacher in the house, with a stipend of £20. (fn. 51).

But the capricious king changed his mind, and insisted on the absolute dissolution of the priory. The duke found that further resistance was hopeless, and on 16 February, 1540, Prior William and thirteen monks signed a deed of surrender. (fn. 52) Two months later the site and the whole possessions of the priory passed to the Duke of Norfolk for £1,000, and by the service of a knight's fee and an annual rental of £59 5s. 1d. The bones of Henry's natural son, and of the late Duke of Norfolk and others, together with their tombs, were removed to a newly erected chancel of the Suffolk church of Framingham, and the grand church of St. Mary of Thetford speedily went to decay.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

May the Fourth Be With You!


I ordered a few booklets from the Catholic Truth Society in late March and they arrived in early April. One of them is just perfect for today, since this is, in England, the Feast of ALL the Martyrs of England and Wales (in Wales, the Feast is on October 25). The only disappointment for me is that the protomartyrs of the English Reformation era are not highlighted in these devotions. Father John S. Hogan wrote this booklet of prayers to highlight individual saints and the whole cohort of the martyrs of England, Wales, and Scotland. He provides brief biographies, prayers, novenas, litanies for martyrs before AND after the English Reformation. Thus the booklet includes St. Alban, St. Winifred, and St. Thomas a Becket. Among the English, Welsh, and Scottish martyrs are Blessed Margaret Pole, St. Edmund Arrowsmith, St, Margaret Ward, Blessed John Roche, St. John Ogilvie, Blessed Humphrey Pritchard, and Blessed Richard Flower.

Please check out my latest blog post at the National Catholic Register today. BTW: Anna Mitchell is repeating our interview from yesterday on the Son Rise Morning Show during the national EWTN broadcast hour and we focused on one of those protomartyrs, St. John Houghton. The others who were hanged, drawn, and quartered on May 4 in 1535 were the Carthusians Augustine Webster and Robert Lawrence, the Briggitine chaplain Richard Reynolds, and the parish priest, John Haile. The first four were canonized in 1970; John Haile was beatified, along with his companions, in a large group of martyrs (54) by Pope Leo XIII on December 29, 1886.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Preparation for the Feast of the English Martyrs

Although this Feast is only celebrated in the dioceses of England on the Fourth of May, I always highlight it here and with an interview on the Son Rise Morning Show. Annie Mitchell and I will discuss the protomartyr of all the Reformation martyrs, St. John Houghton, this morning after the 7:45 a.m. Eastern/6:45 a.m. break. That's during the first "local" Ohio/Kentucky hour and then the interview will repeat during the EWTN national broadcast hour on May 4 (6:00 to 7:00 a.m. Eastern/5:00 to 6:00 a.m. Central).

St. John Houghton was the first of the Carthusian martyrs who suffered under Henry VIII, and he was the first of the Catholic martyrs who suffered under the Tudors and Stuarts. Dom David Knowles praises Houghton in his Saints and Scholars: Twenty-Five Medieval Portraits, noting how as the prior of the Charterhouse in London, he formed his community in constancy, fidelity, and particularly, love of the liturgy and liturgical prayer.

It was through the liturgy, specifically a votive Mass of the Holy Spirit, that Houghton decided that he could not accept Henry VIII's efforts to name himself the Vicar of Christ in England. Houghton and the monks fasted and prayed three days and then gathered to celebrate Mass. When Father Houghton elevated the Host, he felt the Holy Spirit's call to remain united with the universal Church, and refuse the Supremacy Oath. As Vincent Cardinal Nichols stated in a 2011 sermon at an evening prayer service offered at the Charterhouse in 2011 when reflecting on this outpouring of the Holy Spirit and where it led them:

It is so fitting that we are reminded of that outpouring of the Holy Spirit during this season of Eastertide. For Our Lord‟s Passion, Death and Resurrection is also the time of the new coming of the Holy Spirit, which Jesus had promised in the Upper Room where he kept his Passover with the Twelve. Jesus, the Christ, consecrated by the Father with the anointing of the Holy Spirit, gave up his spirit on the cross so that risen he may bestow it upon his Apostles. “Receive the Holy Spirit”, he says. Then, just as he himself was sent, so he calls the Apostles to be ministers of, and witnesses to, that peace and reconciliation which are the fruits of the new creation inaugurated by his death and resurrection. This apostolic mission is given its definitive manifestation on the day of Pentecost. Full of the strength of the Holy Spirit, the Apostles go out to fulfil faithfully their vocation, even though in so doing they encountered suffering and death.

That same Holy Spirit came upon the Carthusian martyrs whom we commemorate today. The gift of the Holy Spirit moved them to be reconciled with God and with one another. That soft murmur carried sweetly and strongly, to their inner ear, the very word of God: “Fear not: for I have redeemed you, I have called you by your name; you are mine”; I will be with you through river and fire to bring you to the glory for which I have created you. Yes, a gentle breath convincing them utterly that the fiery trial ahead would make them nothing less than partakers in Christ‟s sufferings - thus something in which to rejoice! And it was “the spirit of glory and of God” resting upon them which enabled this brave brotherhood to believe unswervingly that “when [Christ‟s] glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.” The sound from Heaven heard just after the consecration of the Mass was indeed the promise of future glory: a sure hope on which to draw during their courageous witness to the truth of God and His holy Church.

The painting, which shows St. John Houghton offering his heart to Jesus, is by Francisco de Zurbarán, who fulfilled several commissions for the Carthusians. Houghton's last words were "Jesus, Jesus, what will you do with my heart?" before the executioner cut it out of his chest.

St. John Houghton, pray for us!

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Laws, Sausages, and Little House Books


In 2012, the Library of America published a hardcover, slipcased edition  of the Little House on the Prairie books. A review of the books in the Wall Street Journal by Meghan Clyne emphasized certain aspects of the books, their composition, and their theme:

The fictionalized account of a girl's transformation into a young woman is also the story of America's growth and maturation. Wilder's stories for children document the Westward Expansion and explore surprisingly grown-up themes—the nature of self-government, the responsibilities that go along with freedom and what it means to be an American.

Essential to understanding those themes is the fact that Wilder wrote the "Little House" books during the Depression and New Deal, at a time when she saw the nation sliding into an unhealthy dependency on government. In addition to educating American children about a crucial period of their history, Wilder wanted to show them a freer way of life. "Self reliance," she explained in a speech in the winter of 1935-36, is one of the "values of life" that "run[s] through all the stories, like a golden thread."

The "Little House" books are virtual manuals of self-provision, with exhaustive descriptions of how the Ingalls and Wilder families secured their own food, shelter, clothing, education and entertainment through the work of their own hands. In "Little Town on the Prairie," for instance, a flock of blackbirds destroys the crops that the family is relying on to make ends meet, but the setback is no match for Ingalls ingenuity. Pa kills the blackbirds and Ma uses them to feed the family, even turning them into a pot pie. "The underside was steamed and fluffy," Wilder wrote. "Over it [Pa] poured spoonfuls of thin brown gravy, and beside it he laid half a blackbird, browned, and so tender that the meat was slipping from the bones." " 'It takes you to think up a chicken pie, a year before there's chickens to make it with,' Pa said."

If Wilder's pioneer families are resourceful, government is depicted as meddling and incompetent—a contrast that emphasizes the importance of providing for oneself. Indeed, Washington's bungling is blamed for the Ingallses' forced departure from Indian Territory in "Little House on the Prairie," and in "The Long Winter" a family friend denounces politicians who "tax the lining out'n a man's pockets" and "take pleasure a-prying into a man's affairs." Fear of debt hangs over these stories like a dark cloud; to be "beholden" to anyone is a mark of shame. The only respectable path to subsistence—let alone comfort—is hard work. "Neither [my parents] nor their neighbors begged for help," Wilder explained in a 1937 speech. "No other person, nor the government, owed them a living."

This book provides great background on those themes of independence and explains in fact the philosophical underpinnings of the books, based upon the shared values of the mother and daughter who wrote them: Libertarianism.

From the publisher, Arcade:

Generations of children have fallen in love with the pioneer saga of the Ingalls family, of Pa and Ma, Laura and her sisters, and their loyal dog, Jack. Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House books have taught millions of Americans about frontier life, giving inspiration to many and in the process becoming icons of our national identity. Yet few realize that this cherished bestselling series wandered far from the actual history of the Ingalls family and from what Laura herself understood to be central truths about pioneer life.

In this groundbreaking narrative of literary detection, Christine Woodside reveals for the first time the full extent of the collaboration between Laura and her daughter, Rose Wilder Lane. Rose hated farming and fled the family homestead as an adolescent, eventually becoming a nationally prominent magazine writer, biographer of Herbert Hoover, and successful novelist, who shared the political values of Ayn Rand and became mentor to Roger Lea MacBride, the second Libertarian presidential candidate. Drawing on original manuscripts and letters, Woodside shows how Rose reshaped her mother's story into a series of heroic tales that rebutted the policies of the New Deal. Their secret collaboration would lead in time to their estrangement. A fascinating look at the relationship between two strong-willed women,
Libertarians on the Prairie is also the deconstruction of an American myth.

The Little House Books should have two names on their covers as the authors, mother and daughter: Laura Ingalls Wilder and Rose Wilder Lane. The mother had the memories and the descriptive power, while the daughter had the narrative skill and the publishing connections to get the books in print. In Christine Woodside's  interpretation of their collaboration, Lane rather took over the direction of the last few books as her own interest and commitment to Libertarianism increased during the Depression and World War II. In addition to telling the story of how these incredibly popular books came to be written, Woodside's book provides insights into the career of a writer, Lane, who was writing for a living: submitting stories and articles, tracking her submissions, waiting for the checks, balancing her budget, making connections and finding writing or editorial jobs, etc. Her formal education ends with the eighth grade, but Lane's foreign travel, language skills, and intelligence clearly fostered her writing career. Woodside also provides a thumbnail sketch of Libertarian party history, including the interest of the Koch brothers, whose companies are headquartered in my hometown, Wichita, Kansas.

Woodside cannot completely unravel the mystery of who wrote what, because not all of the manuscripts are extant. She is not the first to deconstruct the "American myth" of Laura Ingalls Wilder's extraordinary literary achievement. The first writer to do that received hate mail! She also tries too often to understand motivation, especially Rose's, using a comment like "perhaps she was tired" as an explanation. When Woodside can't find some documentation, she conjectures that "maybe they discussed it on the telephone".

Some of the detail about how mother and daughter tried to avoid paying Income Taxes and opted out of other government programs--Lane did not participate in World War II rationing, for example, instead subsisting on her own garden--are amusing. Laura writes to Rose about just not working so much and living on what she absolutely needs to avoid paying Income Tax.

For all their collaboration, mother and daughter are not close. Their conflicts, sadly, are engendered by their attitudes to money and debt. Neither wants to be indebted to the other and that includes love and affection: they are misers. They are not misers (of love or money) because of Libertarianism , however, because their estrangement, partial or complete, dates from before Rose's adoption of that philosophy. As generous as she is to her parents when she finds some great success and they need help, she doesn't feel appreciation from her parents because everything is measured in terms of debt and repayment.

Fascinating book: I checked it out from the public library!

My husband and I like to spend a few days on the White River in Arkansas every few months. Perhaps we'll work in an overnight stop at the Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Home and Museum in Mansfield, Missouri!