Friday, November 21, 2014

Leanda de Lisle on New Elizabeth I Biography

Reviewed in The Spectator: Lisa Hilton's Elizabeth: Renaissance Prince:

Women are ‘foolish, wanton flibbergibs, in every way doltified with the dregs of the devil’s dunghill’. So a cleric reminded Queen Elizabeth I. His sermon reassured her that her personal qualities made her exceptional. But Elizabeth was not merely an ‘exceptional woman’, snorts Lisa Hilton. She was also ‘an exceptional ruler’ — one who refashioned her kingdom as ‘a modern monarch, a Renaissance prince’.

Elizabeth’s accession in 1558 coincided with the publication of John Knox’s notorious blast against the ‘monstrous regiment’ or ‘rule’ of women. Happily such views were ‘based more on hostility to Catholicism than to female ruleper se’, we are told. Royalty ‘negated gender’, and Hilton believes Elizabeth would reign largely unrestricted by the issue. While the doltified Mary had wanted to drag ‘England back to Catholic conformity’, Elizabeth was destined to take her kingdom ‘from the darkened constrictions of medievalism towards a recognisable world’, imbued with the ‘new learning’.

But de Lisle takes issue with Hilton's view of Mary v. Elizabeth:

Many of Hilton’s assertions are controversial, not to say startling, and there is plenty to take issue with. Mary I, far from being backward-looking, ruled at the cutting edge of the Counter-Reformation. It was Elizabeth who looked back, clinging to the Protestantism of her brother’s reign, rather than pushing reform forward — to the disappointment of Cecil and others. Her stubborn conservatism was encapsulated in her motto Semper Eadem (‘I never change’), and as a ruler she proved a master of inactivity. Essex (whom Hilton under-estimates) complained that Elizabeth could be ‘brought to nothing except by a kind of necessity’.

She notes that Hilton offers something new:

Whether you agree with Hilton or not, she brings balance to the view that we must judge Elizabeth through the prism of her gender. It is refreshing to be confronted by challenging arguments instead of tired anecdotes. This biography is also full of unusual and interesting insights. I loved the observation that the three most important men in Elizabeth’s life were Cecil, Robert Dudley (whom she loved) and Philip II of Spain. Apparently she kept a painting of Philip in her bedroom. Hilton takes an admirably unsentimental view of Elizabeth’s necessary ruthlessness, while the chapters on Turkey and Russia help place her rule in its wider international context.

More about the book here.

No Debate Allowed at Christ Church in Oxford

I've posted on the censorship of opposing views at American universities on social topics, but now it's come up in England. Christ Church in Oxford was set to host a debate on the issue, "This House believes Britain's abortion culture hurts us all" when pro-abortion groups descried "cisgender" men talking about abortion! The Telegraph and The Catholic Herald published statements by the debater who was going to defend the statement.

Tim Stanley points out in both that they were not going to debate whether abortion should be legal or not:

this wasn’t a pro-life demo and the subject wasn’t whether or not women should have the right to choose abortion. Even though I was speaking for the proposition, my speech would've begun with noting that the motion has nothing to do with abortion rights per se and was simply a consideration of how having effective abortion on demand affects wider society. Brendan, speaking for the opposition, would've doubtless done a fine job and probably run rings round me. It was a fair and free debate that I half expected to lose.

The Catholic Herald now has a statement from a barrister: Christ Church may have broken the law:

A barrister has said that an Oxford college’s decision not to host an abortion debate is unlawful.

Neil Addison, national director of the Thomas More Legal Centre, said: “It’s an unlawful decision under the Education No 2 Act 1986, which guarantees freedom of speech in universities.

Authorities at Christ Church, Oxford, ruled this week that Oxford Students for Life could not hold a debate on the motion “This House Believes Britain’s Abortion Culture Hurts Us All” at the college. The decision followed calls by the Oxford University Student Union’s Women’s Campaign (WomCam) to cancel the debate between journalists Tim Stanley and Brendan O’Neill.

You might note the barrister's organization: The Thomas More Legal Centre:

We are an independent Legal Charity and we exist to provide specialist free legal advice and assistance in cases involving issues of Religious Freedom or Religious Discrimination in England and Wales.

We are a predominantly Roman Catholic Organisation in origin and ethos but we offer our services to all Christians in support of shared Christian principles and faith

We are also concerned about any attack on the Christian heritage of England and Wales by attempts to remove Christian symbols or prevent the carrying on of Christian traditions. We are willing to support legal actions to prevent the destruction of the Christian heritage of our Island

We take our name and inspiration from Saint Thomas More the English Lawyer and Lord Chancellor who was martyred in 1535 because he refused to submit to a Tyrant or to compromise his Catholic Faith and principles.

St. Thomas More, pray for us!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Keeping Up to Date with the Ordinariate in Kansas City

The Catholic Key has this story about the new Ordinariate community in the KC-St. Joe, MO diocese: Our Lady of Hope Society and its new home at Our Lady of Sorrows near Crown Center:

KANSAS CITY — It was a stunning question to open a homily, and one that had more than one answer.

“What in the world are we doing here?” Father Ernie Davis asked his congregation of Catholics who in 2008 came into full communion with Rome as one former Anglican community.

Yes, they were celebrating Mass for the first time in their new home, Our Lady of Sorrows Parish, adjacent to Crown Center.

Yes, though still small in number, they still dream big and of one day becoming a full parish in the Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, an organizational structure established by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI for united Catholics from the Anglican, Episcopalian and Methodist traditions to celebrate unity while retaining their adapted prayers and liturgy.


In January this year the new society was approved by the Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, according to this story.

My husband I attended Mass according to the Anglican Use at St. Therese the Little Flower several years ago, from which Our Lady of Hope is moving to Our Lady of Sorrows:

But make no mistake about it. They still love their first spiritual home at St. Therese Little Flower Church, 58th and Euclid, and they still intend to participate in the work that the small parish does for hundreds of poor and elderly in its parish boundaries.

“We think we can grow and keep connected to St. Therese, especially in the things they do for the people,” said Ann Straulman.

But Straulman said it was difficult for the community to grow at St. Therese Little Flower because the parish is not easy to find, nor its location easy to describe.

“Nobody knew where it was. We would invite people and say ‘58th and Euclid,’ and people would go blank,” she said.

Straulman is one of the more senior members of the Our Lady of Hope community, now officially a “mission” of the ordinariate, but still fully connected to the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph.


The pastor of their new church makes a nice point at the end of the article:

Then he remarked how appropriate that the Our Lady of Sorrows community and the Our Lady of Hope community unite in one church building, as he recalled Mary at the foot of the cross.

“Even in that sorrow, she had hope,” Father Pileggi said. “The two titles of the Blessed Virgin Mary are now joined together in one house.”

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

G.K. Chesterton and Iron Maiden? Yes!

No, not Yes, but Iron Maiden! Just the first verse of Chesterton's poem, "O God of Earth and Altar":

O God of earth and altar,
bow down and hear our cry,
our earthly rulers falter,
our people drift and die;
the walls of gold entomb us,
the swords of scorn divide,
take not thy thunder from us,
but take away our pride.

From all that terror teaches,
from lies of tongue and pen,
from all the easy speeches
that comfort cruel men,
from sale and profanation
of honor, and the sword,
from sleep and from damnation,
deliver us, good Lord!

Tie in a living tether
the prince and priest and thrall,
bind all our lives together,
smite us and save us all;
in ire and exultation
aflame with faith, and free,
lift up a living nation,
a single sword to thee.


- G.K. Chesterton, 1906

A more common hymn tune is King's Lynn, here sung by the choir and congregation at St. Martin-in-the-Fields:


It can also be sung to the tune Aurelia ("The Church's One Foundation"). More information about the hymn here. It could be an appropriate hymn for the great Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe this coming Sunday.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

What I'm Reading Now: Newman as Spiritual Director


I purchased this book in the Kindle edition to read for more background to the Newman lecture next February:

John Henry Newman (1801-1890) was a man who sought to integrate life and holiness. He believed that the spiritual life needed to be lived in an active and dynamic way, touching a person's fundamental attitudes and actions.

Although Newman rejected the title of spiritual director as such, it is obvious from his correspondence that directing others through various facets of the Christian life was one of his dominant concerns. Surprisingly, comparatively little has been written about Newman's idea of spiritual direction. This book investigates Newman's understanding of spiritual direction during his life as a Roman Catholic, 1845-1890. It examines the major areas in which Newman gave spiritual direction through an analysis of the correspondence from his Catholic years. It also explicates those principles of Newman's own spiritual life that found expression in his direction of others.

Newman had a mammoth "apostolate of correspondence." His Letters and Diaries have been edited and published in a series of thirty-two volumes, embracing more than twenty thousand letters. The first ten volumes deal with Newman's Anglican period; the remaining twenty-two volumes cover his Catholic period and are the primary source for this book. These volumes have been studied chronologically in order to determine and extract the major areas in which Newman gave spiritual direction to others, and to investigate the stages of development in his spiritual advice.

One thing that caught my eye about the book was one of the blurbs:

"Drawing on Newman's vast correspondence, Wilcox has given us a very human portrait of a spiritual master of remarkable sensitivity. Readers will find Newman's account of the development of revealed doctrine reflected in his understanding of the spiritual development of ordinary people. Newman comes across as someone who listens with respect and then speaks with careful balance--promoting devotion without excessive piety, reasonableness without rationality, and compassion without sentimentality--always challenging without demanding."
--William Fey, OFM Cap., Bishop of Kimbe, Papua New Guinea

Bishop Fey spoke years ago at the St. Paul's Parish-Newman Center at WSU on his book about Newman on Faith, Doubt, and Certainty--it was soon after the 1979 Newman School of Catholic Thought, but my notes aren't dated.

Monday, November 17, 2014

2015 Eighth Day Institute Symposium


The topic this year is Whatever Happened to Wonder? The Recovery of Mystery in a Secular Age. The speakers include James K.A. Smith, Rod Dreher, Bishop James Conley of Lincoln, Nebraska, James Kushiner, and others.

The schedule is on-line with some titles to be filled in and you can register on-line or by mail. This event, from Thursday, January 15, through Sunday, January 17, includes prayer, a banquet, two receptions at Eighth Day Books, and many opportunities for fellowship and learning. My husband and I plan to go, God willing!

Beyond First Impressions: Gareth Russell's Introduction to the Tudors

My first impressions are that this is a well-illustrated (as befits the title) biographical survey of the Tudor dynasty and its origins. From what I have read so far, Russell acknowledges the fascination of the Tudors and supplies amble evidence of why we are so intrigued by the six monarchs (Henry VII, Henry VIII, Edward VI, Jane Dudley, Mary I and, Elizabeth I) of this royal family. He has prepared a helpful timeline and list of suggested reading.

Now that I've finished reading An Illustrated Introduction to the Tudors by Gareth Russell, published by Amberley Publishing, here is my full review as promised.

My first impressions quoted above bore out throughout this short book which is part of a series of introductions including the Stuarts and the Georgians among English royal dynasties so far. Amberley might have to break up the Plantagenet dynasty since it keeps these books around 96 pages.

Russell begins with the foundation of the Tudor family through misalliance between Henry V's widow and Owen Tudor and then highlights the major events and issues of each monarch's reign. He pauses to examine certain mysteries or controversies like Anne Boleyn's guilt or innocence of the charges against her and the cause of her fall, why Elizabeth I never married, etc. His reasoning is always careful and decisive: the reader knows what he thinks about these events and people and why.

I did not appreciate the inclusion of Nancy Mitford's comment about Jane Dudley and I think that Russell is wrong to say that Thomas More resigned because he was unhappy about the influence of Reformers at Henry VIII's Court--Thomas More resigned because he realized he had failed to influence Henry VIII on the matter of Papal authority. He had seen the growth of that reforming influence and had stayed at Court until Henry started implementing the break from Rome. As Chancellor, More would have been required to enforce the laws Henry's Parliament had passed--that is why he resigned.

Within the 96 pages I wish there had been room for a conclusion or epilogue. Perhaps even some of the material in the introduction could have been used as a summing up as the dynasty ended with Elizabeth's death in 1603.

Those few issues aside: Russell's prose is clear and colorful and his narrative flows along smoothly, mixed with the interpretation of certain events. The illustrations are excellent and the sidebars provide supplemental information that would otherwise interrupt the narrative--it is a well-designed book. Russell is au courant with the Tudor literature and thus delivers an excellent introduction to the Tudors in this slim volume.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Mendicant Orders and Italian Art in Nashville


Sanctity Pictured: The Art of the Dominican and Franciscan Orders in Renaissance Italy will be on exhibition at The Frist Center for the Visual Arts in Nashville, Tennessee until January 25, 2015:

Beginning in the early thirteenth century, Italy was transformed by two innovative new religious orders known as the Dominicans, founded by Saint Dominic of Caleruega (1170–1221; canonized 1234), and the Franciscans, founded by Saint Francis of Assisi (1181/82–1226; canonized 1228). Whereas earlier religious orders, such as the Benedictines, had cloistered themselves in rural monasteries and lived off income from their property, the Dominicans and Franciscans settled in Italy’s growing cities and lived as mendicants, or beggars, who preached to laymen and women. When Francis and Dominic met in Rome in 1216, they recognized one another as brothers and embraced.

Both orders took a vow of poverty, but soon after the deaths of their founders they were building churches that rivaled cathedrals in size and splendor throughout Italy. With financial assistance from city governments, popes, and the laity, Dominican and Franciscan churches were constructed and filled with altarpieces, crucifixes, fresco cycles, illuminated manuscripts, and liturgical objects. Art became integral to the missions of these orders. Many works are narrative scenes focusing on the Dominican and Franciscan saints whose miracles sanctified contemporary Italian life.

This exhibition is the first to highlight the significant role played by the two major mendicant orders in the great flowering of art in Italy in the period 1200 to 1550. With works drawn from libraries and museums in the United States and the Vatican, it compares and contrasts ways the Dominicans and Franciscans employed art as propaganda and as didactic tools for themselves and their lay followers.

The book accompanying the exhibition is available here.

Another Victim of the English Reformation

The Catholic Herald writes about the eclipse of St. Hugh of Lincoln, brought about by the English Reformation:

A leading figure in the 12th century proto-Renaissance, Hugh of Lincoln has suffered a spectacular historical decline, going from being one of the most famous saints in English history at one point to a virtual unknown today.

He was born in Avalon in southern France around 1135. His father was the local lord and a soldier, who later retired to a monastery near Grenoble. Hugh’s mother died when he was sent to boarding school, becoming a religious novice at 15 and a deacon four years later.

In 1159, Hugh was sent to a nearby Benedictine monastery in Saint-Maximin, after which he left the order to enter the Grande Chartreuse, the head monastery of the Carthusian order, just outside Grenoble.

In this famously austere environment he rose to become procurator, before being sent to Witham Charterhouse priory in Somerset, the first of the Carthusian houses in England. . . .

Then, in 1186, he was chosen as Bishop of Lincoln, a role in which he excelled. Generous and kind to his flock, he was also firm in standing up to the Crown. He also helped to improve education in the country and protected the Jews of Lincoln during the persecutions that begun during the Lionheart’s reign.

He also rebuilt Lincoln Cathedral, which had been damaged in 1186, and consecrated St Giles’s in Oxford in 1200. But he was also overworked, taking on the thankless task of being a diplomat for the new king, Richard’s appalling brother, John, and he died on November 16 1200.

Canonised 20 years later, St Hugh was very well known in the later medieval period but became less so after the Reformation.

He is the patron of sick children, shoemakers and swans.

David Farmer's 1985 biography is still probably the most reliable source. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia:

A magnificent golden shrine contained his relics, and Lincoln became the most celebrated centre of pilgrimage in the north of England. It is not known what became of St. Hugh's relics at the Reformation; the shrine and its wealth were a tempting bait to Henry VIII, who confiscated all its gold, silver and precious stones, "with which all the simple people be moch deceaved and broughte into greate supersticion and idolatrye". . . . In the Carthusian Order he is second only to St. Bruno, and the great modern Charterhouse at Parkminster, in Sussex, is dedicated to him.

St. Hugh of Lincoln, pray for us!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Chesterton and Newman on English Catholic Literature

Our Wichita chapter of the American Chesterton Society will meet next week at Eighth Day Books to conclude our discussion of The Thing: Why I am a Catholic, reading the last three essays. The first of those three is titled "If They Had Believed" (Chapter 33) and Chesterton brings up John Henry Newman's summing up of English Literature:

ONE of the things our enemies do not know is the real case for their own side. It is always for me a great matter of pride that the proudest, the most genuine and the most unanswerable boast, that the Protestants of England could ever make, was made for them by a Catholic. Very few of the Protestants, of his time at any rate, would have had the historical enlargement or enlightenment to make it. For it was said by Newman, when that great master of English was surveying the glorious triumphs of our tongue from Bacon and Milton, to Swift and Burke, and he reminded us firmly that, though we convert England to the true faith a thousand times over, "English literature will always HAVE BEEN Protestant." 

That generous piece of candour might well be represented as even too generous; but I think it is very wise for us to be too generous. It is not entirely, or at least not exclusively true. The name of Chaucer is alone enough to show that English literature was English a long time before it was Protestant. Even a Protestant, if he were also English, could ask for nobody more entirely English than Chaucer. He was, in the essential national temper, very much more English than Milton. As a matter of fact, the argument is no stronger for Chaucer than it is for Shakespeare. But in the case of Shakespeare the argument is long and complicated, as conducted by partisans; though sufficiently simple and direct for people with a sense of reality. I believe that recent discoveries, as recorded in a book by a French lady, have very strongly confirmed the theory that Shakespeare died a Catholic. But I need no books and no discoveries to prove to me that he had lived a Catholic, or more probably, like the rest of us, tried unsuccessfully to live a Catholic; that he thought like a Catholic and felt like a Catholic and saw every question as a Catholic sees it. The proofs of this would be matter for a separate essay; if indeed so practical an impression can be proved at all. It is quite self-evident to me that he was a certain real and recognisable Renaissance type of Catholic; like Cervantes; like Ronsard. But if I were asked offhand for a short explanation, I could only say that I know he was a Catholic from the passages which are now used to prove he was an agnostic.

Then Chesterton poses an intriguing question: What "If They Had Believed" in Catholicism?:

But that is another and much more subtle question, which is not the question I proposed to myself in starting this essay. In starting it, I proposed to grant the whole sound and solid truth of Newman's admission; that there has indeed arisen out of the disunion of Europe a great and glorious English Protestant literature; and to make some further speculations upon the point. And I think that nothing could make clearer to the modern English, the one supreme thing that they don't know (which is what our religion really is and why we think it real) than to put this rather interesting historical question. What difference would it have made to the great masters of English literature, if they had been Catholics?

He discusses a few examples, Bunyan, Milton, the Romantics, and then comes back to Milton and even Sir Walter Scott:

I take it that the imaginative magnificence of Milton's epic, in such matters as the War in Heaven, would have been much more convincing, if it had been modelled more on the profound mediaeval mysteries about the nature of angels and archangels, and less on the merely fanciful Greek myths about giants and gods. PARADISE LOST is an immortal poem; but it has just failed to be an immortal religious poem. Those are most happy in reading Milton who can read him as they would read Hesiod. It is doubtful whether those seeking spiritual satisfaction now read him even as naturally as they would read Crashaw. I suppose nobody will dispute that the pageantry of Scott might have taken on a tenfold splendour if he could have understood the emblems of an everlasting faith as sympathetically as he did the emblems of a dead feudalism. For him it was the habit that made the monk; but the habit would have been quite as picturesque if there had been a real monk inside it; let alone a real mind inside the monk, like the mind of St. Dominic or St. Hugh of Lincoln. "English literature will always have been Protestant"; but it might have been Catholic; without ceasing to be English literature, and perhaps succeeding in producing a deeper literature and a happier England.

Coincidentally, Father C. John McCloskey provides more insight into Newman's appreciation of Catholic Literature in The Catholic Thing (get it: Chesterton's The Thing, Father McCloskey in The Catholic Thing--too perfect for coincidence!) and its influences:

Blessed John Henry Newman gave a classic justification for paying attention to such works. In his lectures to the students at the Catholic university that he founded in Dublin in the mid-1800s (later published as The Idea of the University), he discusses the meaning and purpose of Catholic literature. And he draws very interesting distinctions – and lessons from them:

When a “Catholic Literature in the English tongue” is spoken of as a desideratum, no reasonable person will mean by “Catholic works” much more than the “works of Catholics.” The phrase does not mean a religious literature. “Religious Literature” indeed would mean much more than “the Literature of religious men;” it means over and above this, that the subject-matter of the Literature is religious; but by “Catholic Literature” is not to be understood a literature which treats exclusively or primarily of Catholic matters, of Catholic doctrine, controversy, history, persons, or politics; but it includes all subjects of literature whatever, treated as a Catholic would treat them, and as he only can treat them.

Newman was clearly trying to stake out a particular kind of writing that would not be the usual apologetics or spiritual works or theology. In his day, he could assume most people would understand what he was getting at: “Why it is important to have them treated by Catholics hardly need be explained here. . . .For it is evident that, if by a Catholic Literature were meant nothing more or less than a religious literature, its writers would be mainly ecclesiastics; just as writers on Law are mainly lawyers, and writers on Medicine are mainly physicians or surgeons.”

The point has a bearing far beyond what might apply in professional groups or academic disciplines: “if this be so, a Catholic Literature is no object special to a University, unless a University is to be considered identical with a Seminary or a Theological School.”

For Newman, the importance of literature stems from our very nature and God-given powers as human beings, especially language:

if by means of words the secrets of the heart are brought to light, pain of soul is relieved, hidden grief is carried off, sympathy conveyed, counsel imparted, experience recorded, and wisdom perpetuated,—if by great authors the many are drawn up into unity, national character is fixed, a people speaks, the past and the future, the East and the West are brought into communication with each other,—if such men are, in a word, the spokesmen and prophets of the human family,—it will not answer to make light of Literature or to neglect its study; rather we may be sure that, in proportion as we master it in whatever language, and imbibe its spirit, we shall ourselves become in our own measure the ministers of like benefits to others, be they many or few, be they in the obscurer or the more distinguished walks of life,—who are united to us by social ties, and are within the sphere of our personal influence.

Here is the source for Newman's comments on Catholic Literature.

I think I will bring Father McCloskey's article to our meeting next Friday, November 21, at 6:30 p.m., gathering around the table on the second floor of Eighth Day Books--along with the Maple Bacon and Pumpkin Spice cookies I'm going to bake! If you are in Wichita, drop by and join the group! There will certainly be other refreshments and libations!