Tuesday, June 27, 2017

St. John Southworth, Pray for us!

The Archdiocese of Westminster celebrates its martyr saint today, St. John Southworth, executed for the crime of being a priest in 1654. He had been arrested and protected by Queen Henrietta Maria and suffered imprisonment several times. Southworth assisted St. Henry Morse, SJ, during an attack of the plague. Finally, he was arrested and executed during Oliver Cromwell's Protectorate.

As the Westminster Cathedral website explains:

In 1618, John Southworth was ordained a priest at the English College, Douai (Douay) in Northern France. After returning to England, he was arrested and condemned to death in Lancashire in 1626, and imprisoned first in Lancaster Castle, and afterwards in the Clink Prison, London. On 11 April, 1630, he and some other priests were delivered to the French Ambassador for transportation abroad, but, in 1636, he was reported to have been released from the Gatehouse, Westminster, and was living at Clerkenwell. From there it seems he frequently visited the plague-stricken dwellings of Westminster to administer the sacraments and comfort the sick and the dying. In 1637, he appears to have been based in Westminster, where he was arrested on 28 November, before being again sent to the Gatehouse. From there he was transferred to the Clink and, in 1640, was brought before the Commissioners for Causes Ecclesiastical, who sent him back there.

On 16 July, John Southworth was again freed, but by 2 December he was once more imprisoned in the Gatehouse. After his final apprehension on 19 June 1654, he was tried at the Old Bailey, where he insisted on pleading guilty to being a priest. He was reluctantly condemned to be hung, drawn and quartered. On the day of his martyrdom, he was allowed to make a long speech at the gallows.


Among his last words:

“My faith and obedience to my superiors is all the treason charged against me; nay, I die for Christ’s law, which no human law, by whomsoever made, ought to withstand or contradict… To follow His holy doctrine and imitate His holy death, I willingly suffer at present; this gallows I look on as His Cross, which I gladly take to follow my Dear Saviour…I plead not for myself…but for you poor persecuted Catholics whom I leave behind me.
"My faith is my crime, the performance of my duty the occasion of my condemnation. I confess I am a great sinner; against God I have offended, but am innocent of any sin against man, I mean the Commonwealth, and the present Government."

The Venetian Secretary reported on his execution: he was hung, and was not dead when the executioner "cut out his heart and entrails and threw them into a fire kindled for the purpose, the body being quartered . . . Such is the inhuman cruelty used towards the English Catholic religious."

The Spanish ambassador returned his corpse to Douai for burial. His corpse was sewn together and parboiled, to preserve it. Following the French Revolution, his body was buried in an unmarked grave for its protection. The grave was discovered in 1927 and his remains were returned to England. They are now kept in Westminster Cathedral in London. He was beatified in 1929. In 1970, he was canonized by Pope Paul VI as one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales. The Cathedral honors him with a guild and the diocese celebrates his feast today.

St. John Southworth, pray for us!

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!