Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Blessed John Henry Newman and St. Robert Southwell

What a remarkable doctrine of the Church is the Communion of Saints! Two great holy men were born this day--one to eternal life, the other to life on earth: St. Robert Southwell was executed on February 21, 1595 and Blessed John Henry Newman was born on February 21, 1801.

St. Robert Southwell was 33 years old when he was executed at Tyburn on February 21, 1595. When he cited his age during his trial, his torturer Richard Topcliffe mocked him for claiming equality with Jesus Christ. Southwell answered that he was but a worm.

It is hard to be temperate when writing about his arrest, torture and execution--it is obviously a horrendous blot against the Elizabethan "regime". He was betrayed by a woman that Elizabeth's pursuivant Richard Topcliffe had raped and blackmailed--he promised to find her a husband since she was pregnant with his child if she would turn Southwell in; he was tortured--illegally and excruciatingly--numerous times, starting with a visit to Topcliffe's personal torture chamber, while Elizabeth's officials looked on; then he was held in fetid conditions until his father visited him in Westminster's gatehouse and petitioned the queen to put him to death rather than leave him there, in his own filth.

Moved to the Tower of London he was held in greater but solitary comfort, but Queen Elizabeth allowed the sadistic Topcliffe to continue torturing Southwell, who had readily admitted his priesthood. Prior to his trial on February 20 he was moved into a hole called Limbo; the government did not even try to implicate him in any plot against the Queen; he was executed just because he was a Catholic priest. When he was executed on February 21st, the crowds made sure he was dead before the butchery began--and no one cheered when his severed head was displayed to the crowd. Indeed, Elizabeth's government recognized that they had gone too far--there was lull in executions of Catholic priests in London. Lord Cecil even ignored Topcliffe's desires to get started on new victims.

Robert Southwell was canonized by Pope Paul VI among the group called The Forty Martyrs of England and Wales. In addition to be a great saint and steadfast martyr, he is regarded as one of the great poets of the Elizabethan Age. Some of his poetry was written while he was held in solitary confinement in the Tower of London and was published posthumously.

Pope St. John Paul II remembered the 200th anniversary of Newman's birth in this 2001 letter to Birmingham:

Newman was born in troubled times which knew not only political and military upheaval but also turbulence of soul. Old certitudes were shaken, and believers were faced with the threat of rationalism on the one hand and fideism on the other. Rationalism brought with it a rejection of both authority and transcendence, while fideism turned from the challenges of history and the tasks of this world to a distorted dependence upon authority and the supernatural. In such a world, Newman came eventually to a remarkable synthesis of faith and reason which were for him "like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of the truth" (Fides et Ratio,Introduction; cf. ibid., 74). It was the passionate contemplation of truth which also led him to a liberating acceptance of the authority which has its roots in Christ, and to the sense of the supernatural which opens the human mind and heart to the full range of possibilities revealed in Christ. "Lead kindly light amid the encircling gloom, lead Thou me on", Newman wrote in "The Pillar of the Cloud"; and for him Christ was the light at the heart of every kind of darkness. For his tomb he chose the inscription: Ex umbris et imaginibus in veritatem; and it was clear at the end of his life’s journey that Christ was the truth he had found.

But Newman’s search was shot through with pain. Once he had come to that unshakeable sense of the mission entrusted to him by God, he declared: "Therefore, I will trust Him... If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve Him, in perplexity, my perplexity may serve Him... He does nothing in vain... He may take away my friends. He may throw me among strangers. He may make me feel desolate, make my spirits sink, hide the future from me. Still, He knows what He is about" (Meditations and Devotions). All these trials he knew in his life; but rather than diminish or destroy him they paradoxically strengthened his faith in the God who had called him, and confirmed him in the conviction that God "does nothing in vain". In the end, therefore, what shines forth in Newman is the mystery of the Lord’s Cross: this was the heart of his mission, the absolute truth which he contemplated, the "kindly light" which led him on.


Other than the glory they now share in Heaven, Southwell and Newman do have some other things in common:

~They are both Englishmen, born, as Pope St. John Paul II said, "in troubled times"
~Both are converts to the Catholic faith from the Church of England
~Both went to the Continent to study for the priesthood
~Both are order priests: Southwell a Jesuit and Newman an Oratorian
~Both are poets, although Southwell is probably the greater poet (but Newman's The Dream of Gerontius is a great achievement)

Of course, they differ vastly in their deaths and that marks their different status as saints in heaven: St. Robert Southwell was canonized as a martyr, while Newman was beatified--and perhaps soon will be canonized--as a confessor of the faith. Here's an article I wrote describing the differences between martyrs and confessors.

Blessed John Henry Newman, pray for us!
St. Robert Southwell, pray for us!

Monday, February 19, 2018

Leanda de Lisle Provides Context for the Reign of Charles I


Leanda de Lisle writes brilliantly in an article for History Today about the reign of Charles I, particularly its religious context:

Charles’ reign began during the Thirty Years War. This was the world of Charles’ sister, the Winter Queen, of Protestant churches in flames and the advance of the Counter-Reformation, of a Spanish empire on which the sun never set and the new Puritan colonies of the Americas, a London of fast-moving media reporting on politics from Parliament as well as on the conflict in Europe. England – Britain – is part of this wider world.

Henry VIII’s nationalised form of Anglo-Catholicism did not survive him. From the reign of Edward VI, English Protestants saw the Church of England as part of international Reform Protestantism – a stripped-down Protestantism that would later be labelled Calvinism – just as Scottish Protestants did their Presbyterian kirk. The fate of British Protestantism was linked to what happened to their fellow Calvinists in Europe; there, Protestantism was in retreat. In the 1590s, Protestants held half the land area in Europe. A century later they would hold only a fifth.

Anxiety over Calvinist survival on the continent gave an edge to concerns at home about the half-reformed nature of the Church of England, with its episcopate (government by bishops) and other pre-Reformation hangovers. There was mistrust of Stuart enthusiasm for Elizabethan compromises, particularly among those labelled Puritans.

Protestantism had only survived where it had been imposed or permitted by rulers. To defend themselves, British Protestants had therefore developed ‘resistance’ theories, arguing that kings took their authority from the people, who had the right to overthrow any monarch of the ‘wrong’ religion, which included being the ‘wrong’ kind of Protestant. ‘Popery’ was the term applied to those who sought to spread Counter-Reformation; it was also applied to any reversal of Calvinism.

James had confronted resistance theory by arguing that kings, like bishops, drew their authority from God and that only God could punish them. Divine Right Kingship was not some mere expression of megalomania: it was a defence against religious extremists, both Protestant and Catholic. Charles grew up aware that resistance theory had cost his grandmother, Mary, Queen of Scots, her throne (at Protestant hands); it had justified kidnap and murder attempts against his father (at Protestant and Catholic hands); and it lay behind the assassination of his wife’s father (at Catholic hands – a reminder that a monarch faced threats even from those of their own religion). He embraced his father’s writings and his accession revealed a dynamic monarch.

In the first weeks of his reign, in 1625, he ended his father’s ‘long corrupted peace’ and took his kingdoms into the Thirty Years War, fighting for the interests of the Stuarts and the Protestant cause. At home he created a theatre of ceremony, ritual and beauty, designed to shape a deferential and hierarchical society appropriate to divine right monarchy.

The informality and hard drinking habits of James’ court were brought to an end. Charles asked that nobles not ‘enter his apartments in confusion as heretofore’. Each rank was to have its appointed place. In religion, Charles sought a move away from Calvinist sermons and extempore prayers to rituals and ceremonies, with pre-Reformation origins, but which were nevertheless Protestant and set in buildings fit for purpose. His reforms would have a lasting influence on the Church of England, which still mark it – and English culture – today.
Please read the rest there. She wants us to have a more measured and balanced view of Charles I, to strip away the accumulated easy mythology of the man, his marriage, and his reign. I haven't read the book, but it seems to me that she makes a compelling case in the articles I've read about it.
I wonder if she will write a biography of James II!
Image credit: "Charles depicted as a victorious and chivalrous Saint George in an English landscape by Rubens, 1629–30."

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Sir Thomas Denys, RIP

Sir Thomas Denys of Devon died on February 18, 1561. Reading his biography on the History of Parliament website demonstrates to me once again how careful English MPs and officials had to be during the Tudor era:

With the rise of Wolsey, Denys found himself serving both King and minister. He took part in the Tournai campaign of 1513 but was knighted only in the following year. It was because of his new status ‘and for other considerations’—doubtless his call to be elsewhere—that in February 1515 he was excused the marshalship of his inn. In that year he is mentioned as one of those employed by Wolsey to victual the army abroad, a capacity in which he probably served again in 1523. He eventually became chamberlain of Wolsey’s household, an appointment which he retained until the cardinal’s death and which served him and his family well: by 1530 his services were retained by the majority of monastic houses and boroughs in Devon, while his friendship with another of Wolsey’s servants, Cromwell, was to prove an insurance for the future.5

So he could have been affected by the fall of Wolsey but his friendship with Thomas Cromwell saved him from losing his influence and position. Note that there were about 20 monasteries (abbeys and priories) in Devon before the Dissolution.

His closeness to Wolsey neither deterred nor debarred Denys from sitting in the Parliament which joined in the cardinal’s overthrow, and he seems to have been equally unaffected by his place in the household of Princess Mary: for the rest, his standing and influence in the shire must have made him an obvious partner for his friend Sir William Courtenay I. His attendance was interrupted by ill-health. He twice excused himself to Cromwell for not making the journey from Devon for the third session when he had a poisoned leg, and for the final one when he was forced to keep his bed: on the first of these occasions Denys was again sheriff and ten days after reporting his disability he supervised the burning of the heretic Thomas Benet at Exeter. His part in the proceedings of this Parliament is glimpsed only in its seventh session, when his name occurs in a list of Members written by Cromwell on the back of a letter of December 1534: the Members concerned are thought to have had a particular connexion with the treason bill then passing through Parliament, perhaps as belonging to a committee, and Denys would have been appropriately included as a lawyer, household official and friend of Cromwell. His attachment to the minister was strengthened about this time by the marriage of his step-daughter to Richard Cromwell alias Williams*, and early in 1534 he had been rewarded with an authority to grant export licences for tin.6

See the entry for Thomas Benet in Foxe's Book of Martyrs.

But then Denys ran into some trouble:

The years which followed saw Denys’s hitherto unruffled progress placed at risk. In January 1538 he wrote to Cromwell to rebut accusations that he had concealed a robbery, was a papist, and ‘hung at other men’s sleeves’. The second of these charges he met by affirming his acceptance of the supreme headship—for which he and Sir William Kingston had found precedent in the description of the King as vicarius Christiin ‘a book called Bracton’ recommended to them by Cromwell three years ago—while to the third he declared that he was no man’s save the King’s, and that the fee of £4 a year and mastership of game which he had ‘from a great man’ he would surrender if the King so wished. As the great man was the Marquess of Exeter, who before the year was out would be executed for alleged treason, Cromwell’s reassurance that the King would consign to oblivion the complaints against Denys, and would remain his very good lord, could not have spared its recipient continuing apprehension, perhaps reflected in his plea to the minister to help advance his children. Two years later he had cause for fresh anxiety when it was Cromwell’s turn to go down, although as in 1529 Denys was again a Member of the Parliament which abetted that process. He had also been made chancellor to the new Queen whose rejection had preceded the palace revolution.8

So he survived another crisis when Anne of Cleves was replaced by Katherine Howard and Cromwell was attainted and beheaded. He received grants of two monasteries: the Cistercian house of Buckfast Abbey (not to be confused with the modern foundation of a Benedictine house there) and St. Nicholas Priory, a Benedictine house in Exeter. Denys also paid rent on grants of land from Shirborne Abbey in Dorset (the nave is pictured from a Wikipedia Commons photo, used with permission), and the Cistercian Abbey of the Vale of St. Mary in Croxen. From the latter, somehow the Uttoxeter Casket, an Anglo-Saxon era reliquary survived. More about it here.

When Sir Thomas Denys died on February 18, 1561, he had survived the reigns of Edward VI and Mary I; his age prevented him from serving Elizabeth I. He left his son a great estate, gained through the grants and the selling and renting of lands obtained through the Dissolution of the Monasteries.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Why Was England So Slow to Embrace Religious Toleration?


When Hilaire Belloc described the goals of Cardinal Richelieu to make his king and his nation strong, secure, and united, he cited Richelieu's view that a country could be divided in religion and still maintain unity. Both Catholics and Protestants in France could be loyal subjects and participate in the governance and the community of the kingdom. Richelieu wanted to reduce the power of some Huguenot leaders, because his young king--remember that Henry IV was assassinated while Louis XIII was a child--was in danger of a permanent loss of power:

He had noticed how during his own youth the great nobles and especially the great Protestant nobles were black- mailing and weakening the Crown, after the assassination of Henry IV. The worst culprit was old Sully, who went off with enormous loot as the fruit of threats to aid civil war against the Queen Regent. The King, the heir of Henry IV, was only a boy, under the title of Louis XIII; until he should be of age his mother, Marie de Medici, a violent but unpractical woman, was left in control. The result was that the rich could do pretty well what they liked. The Protestant nobles and the large Protestant middle class of the towns took full advantage of this position. It will be remembered that Henry IV, by the Edict of Nantes, had allowed them to hold a number of strong walled cities and to govern them as a sort of State within the State, and had also permitted them to call national assemblies of their faction, which were a perpetual menace to the central power of the King. Richelieu saw that the first thing to be done if the Crown was to be saved, its power increased and thereby the whole nation consolidated, was to take away these dangerous special favours, and treat the Huguenots like everybody else. He was determined when he came to power that there should no longer be a realm within the realm, and a rival power strong enough to threaten the monarchy. 

But by so much as he was determined upon this was he also determined upon the fullest toleration for Calvinism. Richelieu was the first of that long line of public men from his day to ours to treat religious difference as a private matter, and to believe that one can have a united country without unity of religion. James I of England, as we have seen, had some such idea at the back of his head; but he never really put it into practice, for the hatred and fear of the Catholic Church of the great land-owners his subjects, whose fortunes had come from the loot of the Church, was too strong for him. And what is more, the great landowners proved in the long run too strong for the English Crown, and destroyed it, substituting their own two assemblies, the House of Commons and the House of Lords, known as "Parliament," for the old popular kingship of England. Richelieu saw the menace, though it had not fully developed in his own time, and he was determined that France should follow the opposite course. It is therefore due to him not only that France became politically united as a strong monarchy, but also that the peasantry won the long battle with the noble classes and became the main owners of the soil of France; whereas in England the noble classes, that is the squires, ate up the peasantry and became the main owners of the soil themselves.

Even after he had destroyed the Huguenot power center and completed the siege of La Rochelle, for example, Richelieu maintained the Edict of Nantes:

All the more was Calvinism tolerated as a religion. In that very lifetime which saw priests butchered in England after the cruel fashion for which the Puritans were openly responsible during their period of power, Calvinism in Catholic France was perfectly free. It had no martyrs and suffered no persecution. 

And Huguenots could be doctors, lawyers, own property, travel freely, visit Paris, etc--while Catholics in England had many restrictions against them and had to pay crippling fines.

Of course, Louis XIV revoked the Edict of Nantes, but nevertheless, the French monarchy had adopted religious tolerance as an acceptable administrative policy within his kingdom and both Catholics and Protestants were trusted--as much as a monarch ever trusts his subjects' loyalty--to be loyal subjects. But in England at the same time, Catholics were not trusted as loyal subjects because of their faith. The English monarchy presumed that any Catholic, unless he denied his religious allegiance to the Pope (abjured his faith and was no longer a Catholic) was a traitor or an imminently potential traitor, plotting or liable to plotting against the king.

Why did France progress for a generation at least into a more modern, tolerant view of religion in their country than England did?

Belloc would say it was because the land-owning nobility and upper class  in England, exemplified by the Cecils (father and son), would not permit the monarch to adopt even so much toleration as to allow Catholics to attend the Mass freely. James I promised a measure of toleration to Catholics at Court when he wanted to marry his son Charles to Catholic princesses of Spain and France, but the promises were never completely kept. He still enforced his Oath of Allegiance, had the recusancy fines levied, and restricted Catholics from taking full part in English society.

I'd suggest that the English monarchy was stuck on the issue of the papacy and never could separate the religious and regal aspects of the papal office at the time. The pope was a monarch as well as the Vicar of Christ. James I could not accept Catholic loyalty to the pope and even would have limited the spiritual authority of the papacy if Catholics had accepted the Oath of Allegiance. English leadership could not imagine a nation in which subjects or citizens would not be Protestant. What a lack of progress, a complete denial of the Whig view of British history--and they wouldn't catch up until 1829!

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Belloc on Gustavus Adolphus and Cardinal Richelieu

I'll be on the Son Rise Morning Show tomorrow with Anna Mitchell to continue our discussion of chapters in Hilaire Belloc's Characters of the Reformation. Tomorrow: Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden and Cardinal Richelieu of France. Listen live here tomorrow a little after 6:45 a.m. Central/7:45 a.m. Eastern.


Belloc describes the situation in the Thirty Years War and in Sweden:

We saw in discussing the Emperor Ferdinand II that his failure was mainly due to the discovery of a great military genius by Richelieu, the hiring of that genius by Richelieu in the interests of France, and the launching of him, also by Richelieu, against the Catholic Emperor. 

The name of this genius was Gustavus Adolphus, King of Sweden. But for his quite exceptional talents in the art of war Ferdinand would have succeeded in making all Germans united under the Catholic Imperial Crown and in making Catholicism permanently dominating in Europe. The astonishing victories of Gustavus destroyed that opportunity, and Richelieu his paymaster was principally responsible. 

Gustavus Adolphus was the immediate descendant of the man who had ousted the rightful King of Sweden from his throne. The Royal Family of Sweden was called Vasa. The Reformation in Sweden had followed the usual lines; the great nobles or landowners of that small country had looted the lands and other wealth of the Church, just as they did in England. They had been supported, as in England, by a small but enthusiastic minority of religious revolutionaries, and they had precariously established a Protestant government. The whole thing was done with more difficulty than in England because it came later. There were rich monastic establishments working almost to the end of the sixteenth century in Sweden, because, in spite of one small clique of men aiming to fill their own pockets, there was a succession of erratic monarchs, whose individual eccentricity prevented a continuous policy; for there was something of madness in all the Vasa family.

Now the legitimate heir to the kingdom of Sweden in the second generation of all this affair was strongly Catholic; and because he was hereditary King of Sweden, he was also the elected King of Poland — a country which, after much hesitation, had come down strongly on the Catholic side. This legitimate hereditary King of Sweden, Sigismund, thus became at one and the same time, the King of Sweden and of Poland. Even strong Protestants in Sweden hesitated to take the full step of rebellion and refuse to accept his sovereignty; for that would have been shocking to the ideas of the time. But, being determined to keep their Church loot and at the same time to maintain the independence of Sweden, so that her affairs should not be merged in those of Poland, they made the young King swear to respect all the institutions of Sweden and maintain the Reformation settlement of land in that country. 

Such a situation was too unstable to last. The vested interests created by the loot of the Church in Sweden were, as in England, terrified lest a Catholic monarch should restore the Church's wealth to its rightful owners, and they repudiated, in spite of their oaths, their legitimate king and adopted for their candidate to the throne his usurping uncle.

Belloc does not describe Gustavus Adolphus's character, except to say that he was Protestant and that he showed great ability in military leadership and Cardinal Richelieu, on behalf of France, engaged the king of Sweden to blunt the success of Ferdinand II's military efforts to reunite the Holy Roman Empire and Catholicism. As Belloc notes, Gustavus Adolphus soon succeeded beyond Richelieu's dreams or even desires; after paying Gustavus with tremendous wealth and after Gustavus' first victories, he became a new threat to France's power!

Fortunately for Ferdinand II and Richelieu, this great military genius died before he could conquer parts of the Holy Roman Empire. As Belloc concludes:

The struggle dragged on, lingering, until after Ferdinand's death. The Thirty Years' War did not end until the general pacification of the mid-century, in the treaties which are usually known as the Peace of Westphalia. These were signed just before the triumph of the English revolution against Charles I, and one may say that, after 1650, Europe was finally settled into the opposing cultures which it has since maintained. North Germany, thanks to the efforts of Gustavus Adolphus and in spite of his death eighteen years before; thanks also to the statesmanship of Richelieu, the paymaster of Gustavus Adolphus, who was also by this time dead — was to be securely Protestant and its princes and lords and cities to keep the loot of religion. Catholicism in South Germany was saved, nominally, and the power of the Emperor was still maintained; but it had failed to make a united country of its subjects. The great Swedish general had done his work well.


Belloc has a second title for the chapter on Richelieu:

THE CONFIRMATION OF PROTESTANTISM IN EUROPE 

He goes on to explain:

Of all the public characters who molded Europe during the seventeenth century Richelieu is both the greatest in himself, and the most important in the effect he had. He perpetuated in France the presence of a Huguenot (that is a Protestant) minority among the wealthier classes, and he confirmed the independence of Protestant Germany, initiating the breakdown of Catholic authority represented by the Emperor at Vienna. 

In other words, it was Richelieu's genius more than any other factor which led to the great battle ending in a draw, and to a Europe from one half of which the Catholic culture was to be permanently excluded. Most people would still say, being asked what was Richelieu's lifework, "The Consolidation of the French nation through the strengthening of the French monarchy." That was certainly his intention; it was certainly the object to which he himself was devoted; everything else he did was subsidiary to that in his own mind. But the fruits of a man's work are never those which he expects — there is always some side effect which will seem after a certain lapse of time to be the principal one. A man wins a battle in order to obtain a crown and the result — unexpected by himself— is a change of language over a wide district. A man protects some oppressed people and liberates them from their oppressor and the result — unexpected to himself and coming perhaps a hundred years later — is the conquest of his own people by those whom he had befriended. A man raises a rebellion to establish democracy, and the result is government by a financial oligarchy. 

So it was with Richelieu. The one thing he cared about  was giving the French people political unity, which could only be done by making the King strong. He succeeded; but the result was to leave the French morally divided between Catholicism and its enemies; while the much larger indirect result which has affected the whole world was the creation of a firmly planted Protestant North Germany typified to-day by the power of Prussia, and all this power has meant during the last hundred and fifty years. 

Remember that Belloc was writing in the 1930's, so he was thinking of Bismarck's nineteenth century Kulturkampf and of World War I, etc.

Belloc contrasts the situation of Calvinists in France with that of Catholics in England:

In that very lifetime which saw priests butchered in England after the cruel fashion for which the Puritans were openly responsible during their period of power, Calvinism in Catholic France was perfectly free. It had no martyrs and suffered no persecution. Although its followers were a minority among the French people they were a considerable proportion of the wealthy class, and it was from them that the anti-Catholic feeling among the French gradually developed. Their influence did not take the form of converting any further numbers to Calvinism, but of familiarising masses of Frenchmen with a dislike of the Catholic Church; so that at long last, after ferment had been at work for a couple of centuries, the whole nation was divided upon the issue — and remains violently so divided to this day. This religious division is the principal source of French weakness at the present time. [The 1930s]

Belloc calls Richelieu, "the first of that long line of public men from his day to ours to treat religious difference as a private matter, and to believe that one can have a united country without unity of religion."

After contending with the threat of the Holy Roman Empire to French unity and power and avoiding greater problems when Gustavus Adolphus was almost too successful, Richelieu had to contend with Spanish power. 

Belloc concludes:

Richelieu died in 1642, having seen all his schemes come to success. They came late. He could not be certain of his triumph until the very last years of his life. Even as his last sickness was upon him, when he was a dying man, it still looked as though the Spaniards in the South might be too strong for the French, although their attack from Belgium had been defeated. But by the actual moment of bis death Richelieu knew that he had conquered everywhere. What he did not know (but what the Pope of the day foresaw rather vaguely) was that the triumph of the French Cardinal meant also the permanent establishment of Protestant power in Europe.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Shakespeare's Henry V's Prayers for Richard II

In Shakespeare's historical play Henry V, the king leaves his headquarters to mingle with his soldiers on the eve of the battle of Agincourt. After some discussion of the relationship between the justice of the king's cause and his subject's responsibility for doing the right thing, Henry V reflects upon his father Henry IV's role in the death of the deposed Richard II.

Richard II died in Pontefract Castle--probably of starvation--on February 14, 1400 (the usually accepted date). He had surrendered to Henry IV at Flint Castle on August 19, 1399, on promises that his life would be spared. He was held in the Tower of London and abdicated on September 30 that year. Parliament formally deposed him on October 1 and Henry IV was crowned on October 13. Richard was moved to Pontefract Castle. After the discovery of the Epiphany Plot, in which several noblemen planned to kidnap Henry IV at Windsor on Epiphany (January 6, 1400), kill him, and restore Richard II to the throne. Richard was not allowed to remain alive, a target for conspiracy--Mary, Queen of Scots' situation during Elizabeth I's reign comes to mind--even though he might have known nothing of the plot, which also called the Revolt of the Three Earls.

In terms that defied the Church of England's rejection of the doctrine of Purgatory and the practice of prayer for the dead, Henry V describes how he has tried to demonstrate his repentance for the death of Richard at the hands of his father. He has founded chantries, those chapels set aside for praying the dead, which had be suppressed by Edward VI; he has paid poor men and women, as Henry VIII had done in his will, to pray. He prays and promises to do more:

O God of battles! steel my soldiers' hearts;
Possess them not with fear; take from them now
The sense of reckoning, if the opposed numbers
Pluck their hearts from them. Not to-day, O Lord,
O, not to-day, think not upon the fault
My father made in compassing the crown!
I Richard's body have interred anew;
And on it have bestow'd more contrite tears
Than from it issued forced drops of blood:
Five hundred poor I have in yearly pay,
Who twice a-day their wither'd hands hold up
Toward heaven, to pardon blood; and I have built
Two chantries, where the sad and solemn priests
Sing still for Richard's soul. More will I do;
Though all that I can do is nothing worth,
Since that my penitence comes after all,
Imploring pardon.


I've always wondered how post-Reformation audiences responded to these words? Henry offers these prayers not for his father's sins, but for Richard II's soul. Henry V's repentance for his father's sins recalls Catholic teaching and piety and would have reminded them that at one time--not so long ago--English kings and queens were Catholics, as the gloriously gorgeous Wilton Diptych attests.


The word chantry might have reminded some in the audience of the celebration of the Catholic Mass, which of course had been declared illegal. It might have reminded them of ordained Catholic priests, who were now traitors, hanged, drawn, and quartered at Tyburn. Recusant Catholics or Church Papists in the audience would have definitely known what Shakespeare was describing.

Happy St. Valentine's Day! Best wishes for a holy and spiritually beneficial Ash Wednesday and Lent! I'll be on the Son Rise Morning Show Friday morning to continue my discussion with Anna Mitchell on Hilaire Belloc's Characters of the Reformation--preview to come tomorrow!

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

John Fowler, RIP (A Thomas More Connection)

John Fowler was a Catholic printer and scholar who died on February 13, 1579 (new style). According to his entry in the Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 20, he was

born at Bristol in 1537, was admitted in 1551 to Winchester School, whence he proceeded to Oxford, and was a fellow of New College in that university from 4 Oct. 1553 to 1559. He was admitted B.A. 23 Feb. 1556–7, and took the degree of M.A. in 1560, though he did not complete it by standing in the comitia. Dr. George Acworth [q. v.], in his reply to Sanders, asserts that Fowler, in the first year of Elizabeth's reign, took the oath renouncing the pope's supremacy, in order that he might retain the valuable living of Wonston, Hampshire, to which he had been instituted (De visibili Romanarchiâ, pp. 33, 34). However this may be, he left England in consequence of the changes of religion soon after the queen's accession and retired to Louvain, where he set up a printing press, which he afterwards removed to Antwerp, and finally to Douay. He printed and published several important works written by the exiled clergy, in support of the catholic cause. Henry Simpson, in his examination at York on 11 Oct. 1571, stated that Fowler printed all the English books at Louvain, written by Harding or others, and that the Duke of Alva's printer in Brussels produced all the Latin works which were written against the doings in England. He added that William Smith, a Welshman, servant to Dr. Harding, commonly brought the books to the press (Cal. of State Papers, Dom. Eliz. 1566–79, p. 365). Wood says ‘he was well skill'd in the Greek and Latin tongues, a tolerable poet and orator, and a theologist not to be contemn'd. So learned he was also in criticisms, and other polite learning, that he might have passed for another Robert or Henry Stephens’ (Athenæ Oxon. ed. Bliss, i. 441). Dr. (afterwards Cardinal) Allen calls him ‘catholicissimus et doctissimus librorum impressor,’ in a letter addressed from Rheims in 1583 to Father Alphonsus Agazzari, rector of the English seminary at Rome, asking his interest in favour of Fowler's brother Henry, then in necessitous circumstances in that city (Records of the English Catholics, ii. 216). Fowler married Alice, daughter of John Harris, formerly secretary to Sir Thomas More, and died at Namur on 13 Feb. 1578–9, being buried near the body of his father-in-law, in the church of St. John the Evangelist (Pits, De Angliæ Scriptoribus, p. 772). His widow lived afterwards at Douay, where she entertained several of the English exiles as boarders (Dodd, Church Hist. i. 532).

In addition to the marital connection to St. Thomas More mentioned above, the Catholic Encyclopedia notes that he edited and published one of St. Thomas More's works:

He seems to have had a press at Antwerp as well as at Louvain, for his Antwerp books range from 1565 to 1575, whereas his Louvain books are dated 1566, 1567 and 1568; while one of his publications, Gregory Martin's "Treatise of Schism" bears the impress, Douay, 1578. More thorough bibliographical research than has yet been made into the output of his presses will probably throw new light upon his activity as a printer. The original works or translations for which he was personally responsible are: "An Oration against the unlawful Insurrections of the Protestants of our time under pretence to reforme Religion" (Antwerp, 1566), translated from the Latin of Peter Frarinus, which provoked a reply from Fulke; "Ex universâ summâ Sacrae Theologiae Doctori os S. Thomae Aquinatis desumptae conclusiones" (Louvain, 1570); "M. Maruli dictorum factorumque memorabilium libri VI" (Antwerp, 1577); "Additiones in Chronica Genebrandi" (1578); "A Psalter for Catholics", a controversial work answered by Sampson; epigrams and verses. The translation of the "Epistle of Orosius" (Antwerp, 1565), ascribed to him by Wood and Pitts, was really made by Richard Shacklock. Pitts also states that he wrote in English a work "Ad Ducissam Feriae confessionis forma", Fowler also edited Sir Thomas More's "Dialogue of Comfort against Tribulation" (Antwerp, 1573).

You may see a copy of that publication here: It sold for $2,250 last year!

Monday, February 12, 2018

Five Blessed Martyrs at Tyburn


Blesseds George Haydock, James Fenn, Thomas Hemerford, John Nutter, and John Mundyn were all executed at Tyburn on the charge of conspiring against Elizabeth  on February 12, 1584. I've posted before about Blessed George Haydock. This parish website tells the story of Blessed James Fenn, a lifelong Catholic, late vocation, and martyr:

Much ought to be said of the martyrdom itself. On the morning of the 12th February 1584, when he was already laid on the hurdle at Tower Gate, he looked up, and recognized his little daughter, Frances, standing in the crowd. She was weeping bitterly, but he kept his habitual calm and peaceful expression, as, lifting his pinioned hands so far as possible, he gave her both his parental and priestly blessing, and then was drawn away. Fenn prayed at the gallows itself, though refused the consolation of a Protestant minister ("I am not to be taught my duty by you."). Questioned on the accused charge of treason, he reiterated that he had never wished to harm the Queen by so much as a pin-prick and willingly gave all due obedience to her in worldly matters (but not in spiritual matters). Immediately before being hanged, he commended himself and the Queen to God's mercy.

The nature of the hanging was such that Fenn (by now stripped stark naked) was forced by the rope to stand upright, at which point he cried out to the wonder of all, 'my Lord and my God'. The boldness of Fenn and the other priests suffering the same fate is remarkable. The executioner would cut open the bellies of the still alive men, drag out their intestines with his bloody hands, and cast them into a fire. Meanwhile, the men continued in their confession of Faith. A brutal and experimental means to extend the anguish was employed whereby the breast was cut open and in stages reached towards to heart. His quarters were displayed above the four main gates of London, and his head was mounted on London Bridge.

James Fenn's brother John was also a priest who died in exile in 1615. Of Thomas Hemerford, John Nutter, whose brother Robert was also martyred during Elizabeth I's reign, and John Mundyn, we know less. They were all born and raised in Catholic families and had studied at Oxford or Cambridge, but had to leave their colleges because they would not conform to the state religion. Discerning priestly vocations, they studied on the Continent and returned a missionary priests. We do have an eyewitness account of their executions, included by Father Pollen, S.J., in the fifth volume of the Catholic Record Society:

He describes Haydock as "a man of complexion fayre, of countenance milde, and in professing of his faith passing stoute". He had been reciting prayers all the way, and as he mounted the cart said aloud the last verse of "Te lucis ante terminum". He acknowledged Elizabeth as his rightful queen, but confessed that he had called her a heretic. He then recited secretly a Latin hymn, refused to pray in English with the people, but desired that all Catholics would pray for him and his country. Whereupon one bystander cried "Here be noe Catholicks", and another "We be all Catholicks"; Haydock explained "I meane Catholicks of the Catholick Roman Church, and I pray God that my bloud may encrease the Catholick faith in England". Then the cart was driven away, and though "the officer strock at the rope sundry times before he fell downe", Haydock was alive when he was disembowelled. So was Hemerford, who suffered second. The unknown eyewitness says, "when the tormentor did cutt off his members, he did cry, `Oh! A!'; I heard myself standing under the gibbet". As for Fenn, "before the cart was driven away, he was stripped of all his apparell saving his shirt only, and presently after the cart was driven away his shirt was pulled of his back, so that he hung stark naked, whereat the people muttered greatly". He also was cut down alive, though one of the sheriffs was for mercy. Nutter and Munden were the last to suffer. They made speeches and prayers similar to those uttered by their predecessors. Unlike them they were allowed to hang longer, if not till they were dead, at any rate until they were quite unconscious. Haydock was twenty-eight, Munden about forty, Fenn, a widower, with two children, was probably also about forty, Hemerford was probably about Haydock's age; Nutter's age is quite unknown.

Blessed martyrs, pray for us!

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Triumphant Martyred Bishops and Militant Bishops

The Communion of Saints is one of the most beautiful doctrines of the Catholic Church: the Church is a community that spreads across time and space. One way of describing it is that there is the Church Militant on earth now, actively working and fighting to spread the Gospel; there is also the Church Suffering, the poor souls in Purgatory who are being prepared to enter Heaven; finally, there is the Church Triumphant, those happy souls in Heaven who pray and intercede for us. And that's the method of communication we have in this communion: prayer. We the living pray for the poor souls in Purgatory, asking God to speed their union with Him; the poor souls can pray for us, but they can't pray for themselves; we also pray, asking the saints in Heaven to intercede for us--and they can pray for the poor souls in Purgatory too. It's the network of prayer to and worship of the Holy Trinity, to the Father, through the Son, in the unity of the Holy Spirit.

Sometimes we use certain forms of prayer to ask for intercession. One of our Wichita diocesan priests has composed and published--**for private use only**--a litany of Martyred Catholic Bishops to intercede for living Catholic bishops. He's titled it "Litany to the Bishop Martyrs for the Bishops of the Church Militant." You may find it on Father Thomas Hoisington's website, Reflections on the Sacred Liturgy, here. The prayer at the end of the Litany is:

O God our Providential Father, look upon the Bishops of your Church on earth in union with the Supreme Pontiff, and increase in them the virtue of fortitude. Through the intercession of those Holy Shepherds who have already spilt their blood in witness of the Gospel, grant, if your shepherds be struck or struck down, that the sheep may not scatter, but that they may be one, in faith and in the Truth, Who is Jesus Christ our Lord, Who lives and reigns with You, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever. Amen.

You might notice that two of the bishops were martyred in England: St. John Fisher and St. Thomas a Becket. St. Boniface was from England (his birth name was Winfred) but he was martyred in Germany.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

William Harris' "The Hound of Heaven"

The January 2018 issue of the BBC Music Magazine features an article by Paul Spicer, who leads The English Choral Experience (ECE) and its annual week at Dore Abbey. He writes about English choral works which are not often performed and which he believes have not received their due. One of them he mentions is William Harris' setting of Francis Thompson's "The Hound of Heaven" for baritone solo, chorus and orchestra. Harris is best known for "Faire is the Heaven" and "Bring Us, O Lord God". The website for the English Choral Experience promises a link to the article, but I receive a 404 error when I try to access it--perhaps you'll have better luck.

Francis Thompson's "The Hound of Heaven" is a thrilling spiritual poem depicting the soul pursued by God; Thompson published it in 1893; he died in 1907. Harris wrote his work in 1917-1918 and it has not been performed since 1948!

A doctoral student at the University of Iowa wrote his doctoral essay on Harris' choral piece, "The Danger of Disappearing Things": William Henry Harris' "The Hound of Heaven":

The aim of this essay is to provide the context and background necessary for the reader to explore and consider possible answers as to why William Henry Harris’ largest work, The Hound of Heaven, is not nearly as famous as other similarly comparable pieces. Harris is largely remembered for his Anglican church music, particularly his two most popular anthems, Faire is the Heaven and Bring Us, O Lord God. However, in the late 1910s, he composed a large-scale choral-orchestral concert work, adapting Francis Thompson’s epic religious allegory, The Hound of Heaven.

Furthermore, Harris received a significant award designed to help finance the publication of The Hound of Heaven. Beginning in 1917, The Carnegie United Kingdom Trust invited British composers to submit their manuscripts of unpublished large-scale works to a contest called the Carnegie Publication Scheme. The intent of the award was to make newly composed British works available to the public and to enhance the nation’s English music heritage. Harris was among six composers chosen to receive the Carnegie Award in 1919 for his entry The Hound of Heaven.

This essay will briefly explore and detail the life of Harris; the genesis, construction, and performance history of The Hound of Heaven; and the creation of the Trust’s Publication Scheme. Most importantly, this essay will conclude with an exploration into possible reasons why The Hound of Heaven did not enjoy a lasting legacy.


More about William Harris from Naxos, including an album of his Anthems.

Of course, I must comment on Dore Abbey, the former Cistercian house where Paul Spicer holds his week long choral experience. The ECE website notes:

Dore Abbey is located in west Herefordshire in the beautiful Golden Valley just a short distance from the Welsh border. Dating from 1147 it is a former Cistercian abbey that would once have rivalled many cathedrals for size. Sadly, the nave was lost to the Dissolution of the Monastries (sic) but the remainder was restored and has been used as a parish church since the 16th century.

Settled next to the River Dore and in the shadow of the Black Mountains and Offa's Dyke, Dore Abbey is a unique and beautiful place in which to experience beautiful music-making.

Dore Abbey was suppressed in 1537; it was smaller house with a value of 101 pounds. More about Dore Abbey here.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Leonel Power's Ave, Regina Caelorum


In my most recent blog post for The National Catholic Register I continued my series on the Marian Antiphons, the prayers sung at the end of Compline (Night Prayer) in The Liturgy of the Hours. The Ave, Regina Caelorum is chanted or prayed from the Feast of the Presentation (February 2) through the Wednesday evening of Holy Week. I always feature an English composer in my examples of settings for these antiphons, and this time I chose Leonel Power:

The fifteenth century English composer Leonel Power’s Ave, Regina Caelorum is one of only 40 of his works that have survived.

The BBC Music website has more examples of Leonel Power's works here.

According to ArchivMusic:

Power lived and worked in a time of great cross-fertilization and change in European music. While the late fourteenth century had been a period in which French music crossed the channel to Britain, in the first few decades of the fifteenth, English music and musicians were influential on the Continent. Many English musicians are known to have been present among the international convention of the Council of Constance, as well as traveling with their English patrons on campaigns such as Harfleur and Agincourt (or in occupied France afterwards). And Leonel Power was one of the most prominent among them. The important manuscript known as "Old Hall" was probably compiled for the chapel of the Duke of Clarence, but was later associated with the royal chapels of both Henry V and Henry VI (Henry V composed a piece of music within it). Power wrote possibly three times as much music as any other known composer in Old Hall, and his theoretical treatise "on the gamme [gamut, or musical scale]" was also well-known.

More about the Old Hall Manuscript at the British Library here.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Chesterton and Mary, Queen of Scots

Mary, the former Queen of Scotland, was executed on February 8, 1587. Tomorrow night, our Greater Wichita American Chesterton Society local society will meet to discuss two essays by Chesterton from the Ignatius Press edition of Lepanto: one on Cervantes and the other on Mary, Queen of Scots. The second essay is titled "If Don John of Austria Had Married Mary, Queen of Scots".

Chesterton wrote more about Mary of Scotland: in a 1931 book of biographies called Revaluations and in an article in the Illustrated London News about the Casket Letters, those letters that allegedly implicated Mary in the murder of her second husband, Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley. The biographical essay is in the volume In Defense of Sanity: The Best Essays of G.K. Chesterton, also from Ignatius Press, edited by Joseph Pearce, Aidan Mackay, and Dale Ahlquist.

In the essay we'll discuss tomorrow, Chesterton picks up on the notion that the hero of Lepanto, Don John of Austria, wanted to rescue Mary, marry her, and restore her to the throne of Scotland--and of course, reign with her there and in England after Elizabeth I died. Chesterton thinks marriage would have been good for both Mary and John and for Scotland, England, Europe, and the Catholic Church:

For Don John: And to the career of Don John it would have given a climax and a clue of meaning which its merely military successes could not give; and handed his name down in history and (what is much more important) in legend and literature, as a happier Antony married to a nobler Cleopatra. And when he looked into her eyes he would not have seen only bright chaos and the catastrophe of Actium, the ruin of his ships and his hopes of an imperial throne; but rather the flying curve and crescent of the Christian ships, sweeping to the rescue of the Christian captives, and blazed upon their golden sails the sunburst of Lepanto. . . . 

For Mary: If ever there was a woman who was manifestly meant, destined, created, and as it were crying aloud to be carried off by Don John of Austria, or some such person, it was Mary Queen of Scots. If ever there was a woman who went to seed for want of meeting any sort of man who was anything like her equal, it was she. . . . She never met a complete man; and Don John was very complete. . . .

For Europe and Christendom: There was a moment when all Christendom might have clustered together and crystallised anew, under the chemistry of the new culture; and yet have remained a Christendom that was entirely Christian. There was a moment when Humanism had the road straight before it; but, what is even more important, the road also straight behind it. It might have been a real progress, not losing anything of what was good in the past. The significance of two people like Mary Stuart and Don John of Austria is that in them Religion and the Renaissance had not quarrelled; and they kept the faith of their fathers while full of the idea of handing on new conquests and discoveries to their sons. They drew their deep instincts from medieval chivalry without refusing to feed their intellects on the sixteenth-century learning; and there was a moment when this spirit might have pervaded the whole world and the whole Church. There was a moment when religion could have digested Plato as it had once digested Aristotle. For that matter, it might have digested all that is soundest in Rabelais and Montaigne and many others; it might have condemned some things in these thinkers; as it did in Aristotle. Only the shock of the new discoveries could have been absorbed (to a great extent indeed it was absorbed) by the central Christian tradition. What darkened that dawn was the dust and smoke from the struggles of the dogmatising sectaries in Scotland, in Holland, and eventually in England. But for that, on the Continent, the heresy of Jansenism had never so much over-shadowed the splendour of the Counter-Reformation. And England would have gone the way of Shakespeare rather than the way of Milton; which latter degenerated rapidly into the way of Muggleton.

If this sounds interesting, and you are in the Wichita area, we will meet on the second floor of Eighth Day Books at 6:30 p.m. tomorrow (February 9) to discuss. Refreshments will be served.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

William Byrd and Dmitry Shostakovich

I've often seen the comparison offered between William Byrd in sixteenth century England and Dmitry Shostakovich in 20th century Russia. This article by Jeremy L. Smith in the Winter 2007 issue of Music & Politics describes the situation much more completely:

Was Byrd the Shostakovich of his time? Surely the aptness of this analogy has occurred to others. Few matters in musicology were more widely discussed not too long ago than the premise that Dmitry Shostakovich had a close if, as some fervently argued, essentially dissident relationship with Josef Stalin, the de facto leader of the Soviet Union for nearly a quarter century (c.1929-53).[1] Evidence of a similar political relationship between Byrd and England’s long-reigning ruler Elizabeth I (r.1558-1603) is mainly confined to discussions in the traditional musicological literature. But readers of the widely distributed New York Review of Books have lately been exposed to claims that Byrd’s great contemporary William Shakespeare had strong ties to the Catholic cause during a time when England was under statutory Protestant rule.[2] Thanks to a seminal essay Joseph Kerman had placed in those same pages some time ago—that has now been complemented and furthered by Kerman himself, Philip Brett, David Mateer, Craig Monson, and others—the NYRB audience at least has been alerted to the circumstance that if there were indeed a dissident platform on which Shakespeare stood, Byrd stood alongside him, and on a much surer footing.[3]

Shostakovich won the remunerative Stalin Prize twice (1947 and 1953).[4] He wrote sincerely patriotic music during wartime, praised Stalin's leadership enthusiastically, and offered a musical tribute to the dictator's grandiose but ill-conceived project to halt the desiccating winds from eastern deserts by planting a vast forest belt. He held various positions of leadership in the Soviet system and eventually joined the Communist Party in 1963. Yet he also composed bitterly satirical works, such as his
Antiformalisticheskii Rayok, attacking Soviet positions on the arts that he found objectionable. Overall, many feel that at the core of his work, where he could bring to bear a highly developed musical language fraught with “colossal emotional power,” Shostakovich expressed a consistent and profound disaffection for the Stalinist reign, if not for the Soviet system as a whole.

Byrd enjoyed a position of cultural and economic power in his musical world too, thanks to official ties.[5] Notably, he was a leading member of Elizabeth’s prestigious Chapel Royal. Along with his mentor Thomas Tallis, he also held a royal patent for twenty-one years (1575-96) that put him in charge of a monopoly for printed music, printed music paper and music importation. Not surprisingly, Byrd wrote works for the English state and its religion and in these he often evoked Elizabeth herself, as in his “Queenes Alman” for keyboard, his anthem “O Lord, make thy servant Elizabeth our queen,” and two madrigalian settings of “This Sweet and Merry Month of May,” which celebrated “Eliza” as “the queen of second Troy.” No one has detected any irony in these works. Yet there is a larger body of music by Byrd, featuring many settings of sacred texts in Latin, which seems poignantly to betray his ties of allegiance to some of the more militant forces of Catholicism, among them the Jesuit missionary movement that was antithetical to the Elizabethan Settlement.


Please read the rest there.

Monday, February 5, 2018

More Fruits of the EDI Symposium: Against Amazon

One of the themes of the Eighth Day Institute Eighth Annual Symposium, "Friendship in a Fractured Age" last month was that friendship may be impeded, not aided, by our digital communications systems and processes--that was the theme that Ken Myers of Mars Hill discussed in his two talks “Liberalism and the Trivializing of Friendship” and “Social Media and the Commodification of Friendship).

To foster conversation and discussion without those digital aids, the Eighth Day Institute hosts several regular events, including the Hall of Men and the Sisters of Sophia. Tomorrow night, EDI will host the second Round Table--a monthly meeting of members and others talking around a rectangular table at The Ladder. The EDI website explains the format:

Doors open at The Ladder at 6:30 pm on the first Tuesdays of each month. At 6:45 pm., anyone interested in pitching a topic gets thirty seconds to use their rhetorical skills to convince us their proposal deserves discussion. Proposed topics are ranked by secret ballot, tallied in real time, and then taken in sequence, third-ranked, second-ranked, and finally the first-ranked question from the previous meeting, which will have given you some time to ponder and prepare for one of the three topics. Each topic is given about 30 minutes of discussion, with a ten-minute break in between each round.

The pre-selected question for this meeting is provoked by a beautiful little booklet I purchased from Eighth Day Books: Against Amazon: Seven Arguments / One Manifesto: Is there a justifiably moral rationale to boycott Amazon? In other words, are you for or against Amazon and why or why not?

Light hors d'oeuvers will be provided.

As usual, beer and wine will be available on a donation basis.

We're looking forward to room full of ladies and gentlemen engaging in a great ecumenical dialogue of love and truth.

We hope to see you 6:30 pm at The Ladder on Tuesday, February 6!

More about the booklet here (I own #22 out of 1000 in its second edition!) I don't think you'll find it on Amazon!!

It's snowing here in Wichita as I type this so the picture of the front door of Eighth Day Books on a snowy afternoon in March 2015 is most appropriate.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Fruits of the EDI Symposium: The Friendship of Christ

I have read and reread Monsignor Robert Hugh Benson's historical novels of the English Reformation and blogged about them (The King's Achievement, By What Authority, Come Rack! Come Rope!), but this is first of his books of spirituality I have read. The Scepter edition which I bought from Eighth Day Books at the Eighth Day Institute's Eighth Annual Symposium, features a foreword by Ignatius Drostin from the 1991 Thomas More Publishing edition (with a little mistake: The Lord of the World is not an historical fiction novel!).

From the publisher (an excerpt from the book):

It is at once the privilege and the burden of Catholics that they know so much of Jesus Christ. It is their privilege, since an intelligent knowledge of the Person and the attributes and the achievements of Incarnate God is an infinitely greater wisdom than all the rest of the sciences put together.

To have a knowledge of the Creator is incalculably a more noble thing than to have a knowledge of His Creation. Yet it is a burden as well; for the splendour of this knowledge may be so great as to blind us to the value of its details. The blaze of the Divinity to him who sees it may be so bright as to bewilder him with regard to the humanity. The unity of the wood vanishes in the perfection of the trees.

Catholics then, above all others, are prone -- through their very knowledge of the mysteries of faith, through their very apprehension of Jesus Christ as their God, their High Priest, their Victim, their Prophet and their King -- to forget that His delights are to be with the sons of men more than to rule the Seraphim, that, while His Majesty held Him on the throne of His Father, His Love brought Him down on pilgrimage that He might transform His servants into His friends. For example, devout souls often complain of their loneliness on earth. They pray, they frequent the sacraments, they do their utmost to fulfil the Christian precepts; and, when all is done, they find themselves solitary.

There could scarcely be a more evident proof of their failure to understand one at least of the great motives of the Incarnation. They adore Christ as God, they feed on Him in Communion, cleanse themselves in His precious Blood, look to the time when they shall see Him as their Judge; yet of that intimate knowledge of and companionship with Him in which the Divine Friendship consists, they have experienced little or nothing.

They long, they say, for one who can stand by their side and upon their own level, who can not merely remove suffering, but can himself suffer with them, one to whom they can express in silence the thoughts which no speech can utter; and they seem not to understand that this is the very post which Jesus Christ Himself desires to win, that the supreme longing of His Sacred Heart is that He should be admitted, not merely to the throne of the heart or to the tribunal of conscience, but to that inner secret chamber of the soul where a man is most himself, and therefore most utterly alone.


This was a very successful book, based upon sermons preached in Rome in the Church of St. Silvestro-in-Capite, during the year of 1911. Some of them were also preached in the Carmelite Church in Kensington in 1910, and first published in 1912.

The contents:

Part I. Christ in the Interior Soul
I. The Friendship of Christ. [General] Gen. ii: 18
II. The Friendship of Christ. [Interior] Gen. ii: 18
III. The Purgative Way. Psalm l: 4
IV. The Illuminative Way. Psalm xvii: 29

Part II. Christ in the Exterior
V. Christ in the Eucharist. John vi: 35
VI. Christ in the Church. John xv: 5
VII. Christ in the Priest. John i: 17
VIII. Christ in the Saint. Matthew v: 14
IX. Christ in the Sinner. Luke xv: 2
X. Christ in the Average Man. Matthew xxv: 40
XI. Christ in the Sufferer. Colossians i: 24

Part III. Christ in His Historical Life
XII. Christ Our Friend Crucified [The Seven Words]
XIII. Christ Our Friend Vindicated [Easter Day] John xx: 17

Although this is book based on sermons describing crucial progress in the spiritual life, Benson brings many of his talents as a writer of fiction to his examples. He sketches the character and life of men and women wanting to know and love Jesus with as much skill, although on a simpler scale, as he does the men and women of Tudor England. The chapters on the Seven Words of Christ from the Cross and on Easter Day would be perfect reading for Good Friday and Easter Sunday morning, as Benson leads the reader to meditate deeply on the victory of the Cross and Resurrection.

This was, indeed, the perfect book to read the week after a weekend of prayer and consideration of the meaning of friendship in the Christian life. I enjoyed spending several hours each day in the company of good friends, hearing some great speakers, and thinking about how important friendship is in my life. My late parents often said two things about friendship: 1) that your spouse should be your best friend as well as your lover and companion, and 2) that you will have only a few very good friends whom you can count on and who should be able to count on you, and I suppose a third thing, 3) that you have to work on friendship. Monsignor Benson outlines how to work on friendship with Jesus, remembering that even that desire to work on our friendship is a grace that only God can give:

Human friendships usually take their rise in some small external detail. We catch a phrase, we hear an inflection of a voice, we notice the look of the eyes, or a movement in walking; and the tiny experience seems to us like an initiation into a new world. We take the little event as a symbol of a universe that lies behind; we think we have detected a soul exactly suited to our own, a temperament which either from its resemblance to our own, or from a harmonious dissimilarity, is precisely fitted to be our companion. Then the process of friendship begins; we exhibit our own characteristics; we examine his: in point after point we find what we expected to find, and we verify our guesses; and he too, no less, follows the same method, until that point is reached (as it is reached in so many cases, though not, thank God! in all), either in a crisis, or after a trying period, when we discover either that we have been mistaken from the beginning, or that we have deceived the other, or that the process has run its course; the summer is come and gone, and that there are no more fruits to gather on either side.

Now the Divine Friendship -- the consciousness, that is to say, that Christ desires our love and intimacy, and offers His own in return -- usually begins in the same manner. It may be at the reception of some sacrament, such as we have received a thousand times before; or itmay be as we kneel before the Crib at Christmas, or follow our Lord along the Way of the Cross. We have done these things or performed those ceremonies dutifully and lovingly again and again; yet on this sudden day a new experience comes to us. We understand, for example, for the first time that the Holy Child is stretching His arms from the straw, not merely to embrace the world -- that would be little enough! -- but to embrace our own soul in particular. We understand as we watch Jesus, bloodstained and weary, rising from His third fall, that He is asking our own very self in particular to help Him with His burden. The glance of the Divine Eyes meets our own; there passes from Him to us an emotion or a message that we had never before associated with our own relations with Him. The tiny event has happened! He has knocked at our door, and we have opened; He has called and we have answered. Henceforth, we think, He is ours and we are His. Here, at last, we tell ourselves, is the Friend for whom we have been looking so long: here is the Soul that perfectly understands our own; the one Personality which we can safely allow to dominate our own. Jesus Christ has leapt forward two thousand years, and is standing by our side; He has come down from the painting on the wall; He has risen from the straw in the manger -- My Beloved is mine and I am His. . .

II. The Friendship has begun then. Now begins its process.

The essence of a perfect friendship is that each friend reveals himself utterly to the other, flings aside his reserves, and shows himself for what he truly is.


My review is perforce incomplete, because anyone reading the book is led to think of her own progress, or lack thereof, in becoming a true friend of Jesus. Although Monsignor Benson published this more than 100 years ago, his book of sermons convicts the reader today.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

How "Crisis inspired Art" during the English Reformation


The English tenor Ian Bostridge reviews Andrew Gant's O Sing Unto The Lord: A History of English Church Music for The New York Review of Books. What caught my eye was, of course, his comments on the English Reformation and the influence of religious change on English Church Music:

Yet while the fifteenth century was in many ways a glorious age for English music and saw individual composers, no longer anonymous, moving for the first time into the limelight, it was the trauma of the English Reformation from the 1530s on that somehow resulted in an outpouring of immortal music that still speaks to us today. The Reformation was, as Gant pithily puts it, siding with a particular revisionist strand of recent historiography, “an insurrection by the government against its own people…with the added complication that the government kept changing sides.” It produced the dissolution of the monasteries, with the attendant destruction of much of the musical fabric of the country, a revolution in but also a prolonged uncertainty about the status of the liturgy, and a devastating loss of existing books and manuscripts comparable in its effects on musical life to that of the iconoclasm of the 1530s and 1540s upon the visual arts.

Crisis inspired art. If the Elizabethan age was the age of Shakespeare, it was also that of Thomas Tallis and William Byrd. The politico-theological ferment that so obviously fed the playwright’s imagination may have, less directly, lent a certain expressive tension to the masses and motets of these two great composers, both royal servants who remained orthodox Catholics in a period of Protestant ascendancy that, for some, amounted to a Protestant terror.

In 1581 the Jesuit missionary Edmund Campion was hanged, drawn, and quartered for treason; a fellow Jesuit, Henry Walpole, wrote a poem in protest, “Why do I Use my Paper, Ink and Pen?” Byrd set it to music. The Recusancy Act of 1593 imposed fines and eventual house arrest on those who failed to attend Anglican worship; between 1592 and 1595 Byrd nonetheless wrote and published his three great settings of the Latin Mass, a service officially outlawed under the new dispensation. Yet Byrd was also, in the midst of all this, a loyal servant of the state: in 1588, after the defeat of the Spanish Armada, Queen Elizabeth had written a poem extolling her triumph, “Look and bow down thine ear, O Lord, from thy bright sphere behold and see thy handmaid and thy handiwork.” Byrd set it to music as part of the victory celebrations.


Please read the rest there.

Gant dedicates four chapters to the period before, during, and after the English Reformation:

4. Keeping Your Head: The Approach of the Reformation, 1509–1547
5. The Children of Henry VIII: Reformation and Counter-Reformation, 1547–1558
6. Church Music and Society in Elizabeth’s England, 1558–1603
7. Plots, Scots, Politics and the Beauty of Holiness, 1603–1645

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Lawrence Humphrey, RIP

Lawrence Humphrey died on February 1, 1590. Not Blessed Lawrence Humphrey who was martyred at Winchester in 1591 because while delirious with a fever, he was overheard cursing Elizabeth and proclaiming her a heretic. When he recovered he was charged with treason, even though he could not remember saying what witnesses reported! He was hanged, drawn, and quartered anyway.

This Lawrence Humphrey, president of Magdalen College, Oxford, and dean of first Gloucester and then Winchester cathedrals, had some trouble with Elizabeth I too because he did not want to wear the surplice. As Thompson Cooper describes his career and beliefs in the Dictionary of National Biography:

Throughout his life Humphrey advocated advanced protestant opinions. He consequently obtained from the college on 27 Sept. 1553, soon after the accession of Mary, leave to go abroad, on condition that he should not depart from the realm without the royal license. He went first to Basle, and then to Zurich, and his name is subscribed to a letter from the protestant exiles at the latter place to their brethren at Frankfort, dated 13 Oct. 1554. On 24 Dec. 1554, and again on 15 June 1555, the college authorities gave him a further extension of leave, and at the same time helped him to defray the cost of his studies abroad. While at Zurich he associated with Parkhurst, Jewel, and other protestant exiles, and lodged in the house of Christopher Froschover, the printer (Zurich Letters, i. 11). He highly extols the hospitality and kindness of the magistrates and ministers there. As he continued abroad beyond the time for which leave had been granted, his name fell out of the list of fellows of Magdalen College before the July election in 1556. On 23 April 1558 he was admitted into the English protestant congregation at Geneva (Burn, Livre des Anglois à Genève, p. 11). In June 1559 he was living at Basle.

After the death of Queen Mary he returned to England. During his absence he had corresponded on theological subjects with the divines at Geneva, and brought back with him 'so much of the Calvinian, both in doctrine and discipline, that the best that could be said of him was that he was a moderate and conscientious nonconformist' (Wood, Athenæ Oxon. ed. Bliss, i. 558). In 1560, however, he was appointed regius professor of divinity in the university. In the year following he was a candidate for the presidentship of Magdalen College, and obtained letters of recommendation from Archbishop Parker and Grindal, bishop of London, but the fellows, being 'leavened much with popery,' at first refused to choose him. On 28 Nov. 1561, however, he was, on a second scrutiny, unanimously elected, and took the oaths on 17 Dec. He soon discovered that he had succeeded to 'a post of honour, but of small profit,' and accordingly, in January 1561-2, he unsuccessfully applied to Cecil for a canonry of Christ Church, adducing many instances of such pluralities (Cal. State papers, Dom. 1547-80, pp. 192, 193). He graduated B.D. on 10 June 1562, and was created D.D. on the 13th of the following month (Oxf. Univ. Reg., Oxf. Hist. Soc., i. 218). Taking advantage of the important offices he held, Humphrey 'did not only … stock his College with a generation of Nonconformists, which could not be rooted out in many years after his decease, but sowed also in the Divinity School … seeds of Calvinism, and laboured to create in the younger sort … a strong hatred against the Papists' (Athenæ Oxon. i. 559). His zeal against the Roman catholics gained for him the title of `Papistomastix.'


His anti-Catholic zeal did not prevent him from getting in trouble over his choice in vestments, however, and he was brought before Archbishop Matthew Parker and others at Lambeth, and had to retire from Oxford for awhile because he was so adamant that he would not wear the surplice. But Elizabeth I wanted him to wear the surplice and she used some charm to work him around on that subject:

On the queen visiting the university of Oxford in 1566, she was met near Wolvercot by Humphrey, Godwyn, dean of Christ Church, and other doctors in their scarlet habits. After a Latin oration by Marbeck, the queen said to Humphrey, as he was kissing her hand, `Methinks this gown and habit becomes you very well, and I marvel that you are so straight-laced on this point—but I come not now to chide.' When her majesty entered Christ Church Cathedral, Humphrey was one of the four doctors who held a canopy over her.

Soon after that, he began to wear the surplice!

You might recall that Elizabeth I's visit to Oxford in 1566 was St. Edmund Campion's moment to shine before his sovereign. He was selected to make a welcoming speech for her and impressed Elizabeth and Leicester with his eloquence and learning. Gerard Kilroy, the Campion scholar par excellence, has an article in British Catholic History examining that crucial visit in 1566 from the point of view of those remaining scholars who wanted to welcome Elizabeth and prove that their Catholicism did not prevent them from being good loyal subjects. Here is the abstract:

The Queen's visit to Oxford in 1566 has been viewed largely through the prism of John Nichols’ The Progresses of Queen Elizabeth. This article returns to the manuscript sources, all of which survive. All make the disputations central; all but one were written by Catholics who subsequently suffered for their faith: Thomas Neale, John Bereblock and Miles Windsor. The Queen's visit clearly represented for Catholics in Oxford the last chance to try to win her favour. This article explores the complex tensions that existed in early Elizabethan Oxford: between the Calvinists who dominated Christ Church and Magdalen, and those still committed to the ‘old religion’. It highlights the continuities with pre-Reformation and Marian Oxford, arguing that Sir Thomas Pope [who told St. Thomas More about the time and conditions of his execution] and Sir Thomas White had engaged, with the Owens of Godstow, in a coherent programme to preserve as many of the monastic houses as they could. An exploration of the background of the three main witnesses reveals the presence of a determined Catholic resistance to the Earl of Leicester and his Vice-Chancellor, and the beginnings of alternative centres of learning in an ‘underground’ university of halls, taverns and farms that soon included many of the leading scholars: Thomas Neale, George Etheridge, Edmund Rainolds and John Case. It was while moving along this network that Edmund Campion was captured.

Thomas Neale, for example, Regius Professor of Hebrew, wanted Elizabeth to help fund Hebrew language studies at Oxford. He presented her with a guide to Oxford, including a Latin poem, and an argument for Hebrew studies for understanding the Old Testament. Elizabeth did not endow Hebrew studies at Oxford, and Neale, like other Catholics, left Oxford.

Lawrence Humphrey died in Oxford and is buried in the Chapel of Magdalen College.