Saturday, September 20, 2014

Undoing the Whig Tradition: Mary, Queen of Scots


G.K. Chesterton wrote about our common images of Mary, Queen of Scots and Elizabeth, Queen of England (in his day there was only one Elizabeth!) in an essay titled "The Slavery of the Mind" in The Thing--we read this essay last night for our Wichita branch of the American Chesterton Society:

I could give many other examples of what I mean by this imaginative bondage. It is to be found in the strange superstition of making sacred figures out of certain historical characters; who must not be moved from their stiff symbolic attitudes. Even their bad qualities are sacred. Much new light has lately been thrown on Queen Elizabeth and Mary Stuart. It is not only favourable to Mary but on the whole favourable to Elizabeth. It seems pretty certain that Mary did not plot to kill Darnley. It seems highly probable that Elizabeth did not plot to kill Mary. But many people are quite as tenderly attached to the idea of a merciless Elizabeth as to that of a murderous Mary. That a man devoted to Protestantism should rejoice that Elizabeth succeeded, that a man devoted to Catholicism should wish that Mary had succeeded--all that would be perfectly natural and rational. But Elizabeth was not Protestantism; and it ought not to disturb anybody to discover that she was hardly a Protestant. It ought to be even less gratification to her supporters to insist that she was a tyrant. But there is a sort of waxwork history, that cannot be happy unless Elizabeth has an axe and Mary a dagger. This sense of fixed and sacred figures ought to belong to a religion; but a historical speculation is not a religion.

On her blog, Tea at Trianon, Elena Maria Vidal (author of the forthcoming The Paradise Tree and other historical novels), cites an article that argues for a new view of Mary, Queen of Scots:

The image of Mary which comes down to us through the biased lens of Protestant history is a classic case of ‘blaming the victim.’ The Whig historians of the British Empire depicted her as weak-willed and excessively romantic – so hopeless, in fact, that she ‘deserved’ her fate.

The real Mary Stuart, however, appears to unbiased eyes as guileless and forthright, clearly possessed of intelligence and character sufficient to survive a life rife with calamity – and still to keep her wits and charm about her.

Daughter of King James V of Scotland and Mary of Guise of France, Mary Stuart became Queen of Scotland at her father’s death. She was six days old. What followed were certainly her happiest years – her youth spent in the French court, educated by devoted French religious.

She was then married to the sickly Francis, son of Henry II and Catherine de Medici, whom she treated with kindness. His death two years later followed that of her own mother; she was eighteen years old.

Grieving her losses, Mary nevertheless stalwartly acknowledged her royal obligations, and left her merry France for dismal Scotland. It was a country engulfed in religious turmoil, with significant political opposition entrenched against her. The stern Puritans who followed John Knox made much of her elegant French wardrobe; she was said to have arrived with more than 20 lavish black gowns, the height of French fashion.

Regardless of their politics, however, the Scots were inevitably struck by Mary’s beauty, charm, sweetness of character and gentleness of spirit. An eyewitness relates that “In one of the … processions Mary was moving along with the rest, through a crowd of spectators, and the light from her torch fell upon her features and upon her hair in such a manner as to make her appear more beautiful than usual. A woman, standing there, pressed up nearer to her to view her more closely, and, seeing how beautiful she was, asked her if she was not an ‘angel’.

Chesterton would agree! How does he do that--I read something on-line and he's already written about it, and I just then happen to be reading about what he said about it!

The Ordinariate as Rebuilder of "Authentic English Catholicism"

One of the fruits of the recent Ordinariate outreach earlier this month, Called to Be One, is this speech by Father Ed Tomlinson , leader of the Tunbridge Wells Ordinariate group on how the Ordinariate can help rebuild what was lost of English Catholicism through Henry VIII's and Elizabeth I's Reformations:

People picture the Catholic Church as rigid. Yet in reality it is incredibly diverse; it has different Rites, Antiocheon and Armenian, and even variety within the Latin Rite, Dominicans differ from Jesuits. And historically there has been diversity between local Churches in different countries. Because the Catholic church isn’t ONE church so much as MANY united by the papacy. Each having developed unique charisms- cultural and spiritual gifts to be treasured- that it might speak at a local as well as universal level. Which is why it’s dumb when they label us Roman Catholics. We are not, they live in Italy. We are English Catholics. And tonight I want to consider what that means…

But this isn’t an easy task because English Catholicism lost so much of its cultural identity during the reformation. Prior to that the Catholic faith had defined what it meant to be English. The great Cathedrals and Norman and Saxon churches were built. Oxford and Cambridge founded. Schools and Hospitals built and art, music and architecture of the highest standard produced. Many things people now assume were ever Anglican were, in truth, Catholic in origin and inspiration.

To be English was to be Catholic. And English Catholicism had a fine reputation the world over. Consider our patron St Anselm’s contribution to philosophy from his seat in Canterbury. Or the architecture of the fine English Cathedrals. History tells us then – authentic English Catholicism was imbued with high culture. A thirst for liturgical, academic, cultural and spiritual excellence.

But then comes the reformation and the “English Way” was decimated. What was distinct about English Catholicism, from say French or Spanish Catholicism, was smashed to pieces by Henry VIII-like a vase thrown to the ground. A helpful image that suggests any quest to rediscover English Catholicism is a task in relocating those separated pieces and bringing them back to the whole. A work of unity- in other words.


Father Tomlinson provides some insights into the long period of recusancy in England and how those recusants maintained Catholicism in England, but being hidden and underground without influence on English culture (except for fear, I suppose); then he examines the renewal of Catholicism in England at least partially by foreign missionaries--all the while using that analogy of putting that broken vase back together by restoring the base. Then he reminds his listeners of Pope Benedict XVI's great vision in establishing the Anglican Ordinariate structure;

By establishing the Ordinariate Pope Benedict gave a shot in the arm to the rebuilding of authentic English Catholicism. He reached out to Anglicans who retained aspects of the pre-reformation way. That is he picked up a broken fragment of what Henry once smashed in the hope of restoring it to its rightful base.

His hope that the Catholic church in England might be helped in its mission because the Ordinariate can deliver a very English flavour. We speak to those raised on Mattins culturally. Building a door into the Catholic church so much easier for Englishmen to open. Hence the CDF proclaimed us ‘on the front row of ecumenism’. We can help recall a nation to its historic faith using its own rites and language. At least that is the hope.

It was for the evangelisation of England then that the Ordinariate was established. At present a fragile shoot -it needs support- but it with huge potential for the future. Many Catholics have long been about the conversion of England. We come to do our bit. For we are another part of the broken vase- the first wave of reformers coming home as groups together- that we might be One.


Very worthwhile to read--it's even available as a .pdf for easy printing and reading (slowly!)

Friday, September 19, 2014

The Ordinariate at Our Lady of Walsingham

I have not posted much on Ordinariate news lately, but there are some great updates at the website of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham this month. The Ordinariate held its Called to be One event reaching out to Anglicans on September 7 and now they have an Ordinariate Festival coming up this weekend.

Here's a new opportunity for the Ordinariate that seems so perfectly fitting: the Marist order priests who have been at the Catholic shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham (remember that there are two, one Anglican and one Catholic) are leaving. Who better to take over than the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham? Monsignor Andrew Burnham made the proposal in a post on The Tablet blog, mentioning that it would benefit both the shrine and the Ordinariate:

The Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, in these early years, is looked upon with nervousness from outside.  Fellow Catholics have not all learnt yet that Ordinariate Catholics are no more different from them than Catholics of a different diocese.  Some Anglicans remain to be convinced that the ordinariate is the new ecumenical instrument for all they most value to be brought into the full communion of the Catholic Church.  The ordinariate is intrinsically a matter of congregations and groups, rather than individual priests, and it is not immediately obvious how a group would generate itself in the right part of East Anglia to focus day-by-day on Walsingham.   There are plenty of reasons, therefore, why the vision might grow pale and become a dream.   And yet there is certainly a window of opportunity and, as devotees of the Blessed Mother, Our Lady of Walsingham, all attest, “He that is mighty” has magnified her.  All generations shall call her blessed.  This then is a time for imagination and boldness and for love to conquer fear

The Feast of Our Lady of Walsingham is next week on September 24!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Reading Slowly; Reading Out Loud


I think that I am a skillful and attentive reader: I was taught how to read and study texts carefully throughout my education. Perhaps one reason is that I read slowly. I also write about what I read (even as I'm reading), read one book at a time, and I even sometimes read aloud. There are times when the text requires reading aloud: poetry should be read by ear to hear the music (if there isn't any verbal music, it isn't poetry, no matter how wide the margins are on the page); works that were prepared to be spoken should be read aloud--I once belonged to a "Lovers of Newman" group and we met to read Blessed John Henry Newman's sermons aloud. That way we got the impact of his skillful rhetoric; the way he built his argument, used his examples, delivered his call.

Jeanne Whalen writes in The Wall Street Journal about the benefits of reading books and articles slowly and silently, getting away from social media, and concentrating on one thing: the text:

Slow reading advocates seek a return to the focused reading habits of years gone by, before Google, smartphones and social media started fracturing our time and attention spans. Many of its advocates say they embraced the concept after realizing they couldn't make it through a book anymore.

"I wasn't reading fiction the way I used to," said Meg Williams, a 31-year-old marketing manager for an annual arts festival who started the club. "I was really sad I'd lost the thing I used to really, really enjoy."

Slow readers list numerous benefits to a regular reading habit, saying it improves their ability to concentrate, reduces stress levels and deepens their ability to think, listen and empathize. The movement echoes a resurgence in other old-fashioned, time-consuming pursuits that offset the ever-faster pace of life, such as cooking the "slow-food" way or knitting by hand.

Whalen also provides insight into the way we read on a screen and how that has changed the way we read a text. We certainly can't appreciate a great work of art by scanning it--and think how scanning The Holy Bible would change the impact of reading God's sacred word!

Read the rest here: slowly.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Dawson's Six Ages


Last Saturday, my husband and I attended a class on Dawson and Church History at the Spiritual Life Center here in Wichita. The presenter, Jackie Arnold, had written her master's thesis on this organizing principle of Catholic Church history. She had her reading suggestions for Church history, but I introduced her and the class to John Vidmar's one-volume book The Catholic Church Through the Ages: A History, soon to be published in a second edition by Paulist Press:

The Catholic Church through the Ages, now in its second edition, is a one-volume survey of the history of the Catholic Church from its beginning until (and including) the pontificate of Pope Francis. The book explains the Church's progress by using Christopher Dawson's division of the Church's history into six distinct "ages," or 350-400 year periods of time, each cycle beginning with great enthusiasm and advancement and ending in decline and loss. Writing with the experience of thirty years of teaching, the author has fashioned an ideal text that combines substance with readability.

Undergraduates, graduates, and interested lay people have given the author an idea of what topics should be emphasized. As a result, he has emphasized such areas monasticism, the Crusades, medieval theology, the Inquisition, Reformation, French Revolution, the nineteenth century, and the Church in the United States. And he has added material on the Oxford Movement, John Henry Newman s contributions to the Oxford Movement and to the Catholic intellectual tradition, and the Catholic literary revival that took place in several countries in the early twentieth century, as well as on the last three popes.

As a supplement to each chapter, the author has included an updated the recommended readings and bibliography, as well as the audio-visual materials.


The Six Ages of the Church are:

The Apostolic Age (1-ca. 300)
The Patristic Age (ca. 300-650)
The Carolingian Age (650-1000)
The High Middle Ages (1000-1500)
The Age of Baroque (1550-1789)
The Modern Age (1789-Present)

We discussed in class whether or not we are about to enter into a seventh age of the Church with a new cycle of revival to address our late 20th century/early 21st century crisis.

The same speaker will make another presentation on Saturday, October 11 from 9 am. to 12 noon:

Catholic Authors of the 20th Century
If you love books and Catholicism, this course is for you!

This class is geared toward literature-loving persons who appreciate a good novel while also seeking out Catholic themes. During this morning course, Ms. Arnold will introduce a number of “great” (by her own estimation) 20th century authors: J.R.R. Tolkien, Graham Greene, Evelyn Waugh, Sigrid Undsett, Flannery O’Conner, Walker Percy, and Michael O’Brien. A brief biography of each author will be given along with a look at the ideas and synopses of their major works.

The focus of the class will be to show the moral, liturgical, spiritual, and doctrinal themes that each author focuses on, as well as trying to weave them into a larger picture of addressing the issues surrounding the 20th century from a specifically Catholic viewpoint. Time permitting we will have some “book discussion” groups, perhaps after reading a short story.  

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

William Oddie on Father Ian Ker's "Newman on Vatican II"


In The Catholic Herald William Oddie discusses Father Ian Ker's new book Newman and Vatican II:

Newman was not a systematic theologian; he himself insisted that he was, rather, a controversialist. In this he seems instinctively to have identified himself with the fathers of the early Church who, as he pointed out, “rather than writing formal doctrinal treatises… write controversy”. Newman wrote voluminously in response to particular occasions. Sometimes, this meant writing a book (The Idea of a University, the Apologia Pro Vita Sua) or a sermon or a series of lectures (Certain Difficulties Felt by Anglicans in Catholic Teaching); most, often perhaps, a letter, of which there are at least 20,000 extant.

Sometimes Newman’s controversial instinct, normally expressed gently, produced polemic of wonderful wit and acid brilliance, as with his defence, in the Apologia, of his own integrity and that of his Church against the contemptuous attacks of Charles Kingsley. Kingsley was generally seen at the time as having been quite crushed by Newman’s response, and in the second and subsequent editions of the Apologia Newman, magnanimous in victory, consigned his most swingeingly cutting opening chapters to an appendix. Normally, he is more gentle in his argumentation; but he responds unfailingly to the issues in which he finds himself engaged or which are brought before him: much of his thought is contained in his correspondence, on which Dr Ian Ker has drawn heavily in this new book, his brilliant, indispensable and pithily entitled (sic) Newman on Vatican II.

It is a real question. How, indeed, would this controversialist “Father of Vatican II” have responded to the manifold controversies of these post-conciliar times? Everyone, liberal or conservative, attempts to recruit Newman for their own point of view. . . .

As I've heard Father Ian Ker discuss that last point, he ascribes it to selective quotation, leaving out the context of some pithy saying of Newman so that he means the opposite of what he was saying. Anyone writing or speaking about Newman has to be very careful not to manipulate him into saying something he didn't. You must read him deeply and carefully and make sure you have not misstated his ideas.

Dr Ker argues that Newman would have understood the Council in a broadly similar way to that in which Pope Benedict explained it; thus, we can see Newman not merely as the “unseen Father of Vatican II” but also as a guardian of its aftermath. Just as Benedict XVI said, explaining his ideas on “The Hermeneutic of Change in Continuity” (one of Dr Ker’s chapter titles), that the Church “increases in time and develops, yet always remaining the same”, so Newman had said, in his “Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine”, that Christianity “changes in order to remain the same”. . . .

Read the rest here.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Our Lady of Sorrows


La vierge de Douleur by Germain Pilon (1586), from St. Paul-St. Louis in Paris, the Marais. (c) 2012 Stephanie A. Mann.

I have visited St. Paul-St. Louis many times during our visits to this church in the Marais and this sculpture always makes me look twice. From Mary's position I expect to see the dead body of her Son Jesus Christ on her lap as she is seated with right knee raised--as though Pilon sculpted a Pieta and forgot something!

Pilon was a French Renaissance era sculptor and favorite artist of Catherine de Medici--he sculpted the tomb of Henri II and Catherine at St. Denis that included their praying figures above their recumbent dead bodies.

Our Lady of Sorrows, pray for us!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Lift High the Cross--The Triumph of the Cross


For this Feast of the Triumph of Exaltation of the Cross, I refer you to my article published in the September/October 2013 issue of OSV's The Catholic Answer Magazine, available on-line without subscription:

Each September the Church celebrates the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross on Sept. 14, and the memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows follows on Sept. 15.

The pairing of these celebrations, even in their different levels on the liturgical and sanctoral calendars, properly guides us in our levels of devotion and love of our Savior and Our Lady. He is our Divine Redeemer, to be worshiped and adored; she is His first disciple and our example. Both of these celebrations have a long history and are worthy of meditation.

We have been listening to a recording of Spanish Choral religious music, O Crux, by Coro Cervantes, which features the great Velasquez Crucifixion on its cover:

19th century Spanish music? Thorough research of Spanish Romantic music has unearthed some of Spain's most beautiful and sumptuous sacred choral music, with styles ranging from the unapologetic taste for Italian opera to the strictest counterpoint which can be found since the sixteenth century Spanish Golden Age.  This multiplicity of styles is reflected in works by Arriaga, Sor, Ledesma, Monasterio, Barbieri, Eslava, Bretón, Vives, Albéniz, etc. 

The liner notes explain how the Napoleonic invasion of Spain led to the destruction of the religious choral music tradition and how that destruction continued the 1851 concordat which "reduced the size of music chapels, abolished schools for child choristers and banned anyone who was not a clergyman from performing music in chapels"!

One of the tracks is Fernando Sors' O Crux:

O Crux ave, spes unica,
hoc Passionis tempore!
piis adauge gratiam,
reisque dele criminal.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

A Catholic Colony Before Maryland


Jessie Childs writes on the OUPBlog about an idea to found a colony in the New World to provide religious freedom to English Catholics during the reign of Elizabeth I:

Over the summer of 1582 a group of English Catholic gentlemen met to hammer out their plans for a colony in North America — not Roanoke Island, Sir Walter Raleigh’s settlement of 1585, but Norumbega in present-day New England.

The scheme was promoted by two knights of the realm, Sir George Peckham and Sir Thomas Gerard, and it attracted several wealthy backers, including a gentleman from the midlands called Sir William Catesby. In the list of articles drafted in June 1582, Catesby agreed to be an Associate. In return for putting up £100 and ten men for the first voyage (forty for the next), he was promised a seignory of 10,000 acres and election to one of “the chief offices in government”. Special privileges would be extended to “encourage women to go on the voyage” and according to Bernardino de Mendoza, the Spanish ambassador in London, the settlers would “live in those parts with freedom of conscience.”

Religious liberty was important for these English Catholics because they didn’t have it at home. The Mass was banned, their priests were outlawed and, since 1571, even the possession of personal devotional items, like rosaries, was considered suspect. In November 1581, Catesby was fined 1,000 marks (£666) and imprisoned in the Fleet for allegedly harboring the Jesuit missionary priest, Edmund Campion, who was executed in December.

William Catesby's son Robert would lead the Gunpowder plotters in 1605:

Seven years later, in the reign of the next monarch James I (James VI of Scotland), William’s son Robert became what we would today call a terrorist. Frustrated, angry and “beside himself with mindless fanaticism,” he contrived to blow up the king and the House of Lords at the state opening of Parliament on 5 November 1605. “The nature of the disease,” he told his recruits, “required so sharp a remedy.” The plot was discovered and anti-popery became ever more entrenched in English culture. Only in 2013 was the constitution weeded of a clause that insisted that royal heirs who married Catholics were excluded from the line of succession.

Every 5 November, we British set off our fireworks and let our children foam with marshmallow, and we enjoy “bonfire night” as a bit of harmless fun, without really thinking about why the plotters sought their “sharp remedy” or, indeed, about the tragedy of the father’s failed American Dream, a dream for religious freedom that was twisted out of all recognition by the son.

Friday, September 12, 2014

An Interesting Assignment for England's Primate

Vincent Cardinal Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, is scheduled to offer the homily at a Compline service at the formerly Catholic church now Anglican Cathedral during the programme of Richard III's reinternment. He will also offer a Requiem Mass at the Holy Cross Priory in Leicester, according to The Catholic Herald:

Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster is to take part in services marking the reinterment of Richard III at Leicester’s Anglican cathedral in March next year.

The cardinal will preach at a service of compline on the day the king’s remains are received into the cathedral and will celebrate a Requiem Mass the next day at a nearby Catholic parish.

Dominican friars will also sing vespers at the cathedral in the run-up to the reinterment and Fr David Rocks OP, parish priest, will preach at a lunchtime Eucharist.


The Dominicans are filling in for the Greyfriars, in whose priory Richard III was originally buried after the Battle of Bosworth Field. That priory, of course, was destroyed after the Dissolution of the Monasteries so that Richard's remains were lost.

If Richard III had won the Battle of Bosworth Field, none of these events scheduled for next March would be taking place. None of the martyrs remembered at Holy Cross Priory would have spoken their last words at Tyburn or on Tower Hill. None of the religious changes of the Tudor dynasty would have occurred. There would be no established Church of England. I doubt very much that Cardinal Nichols will bring all that up.

As Cardinal Nichols notes, 
“The death of King Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485 was a decisive moment in English history. Following his death, Richard III was buried in the Franciscan Friary in Leicester, and his body lay in its grave until it was discovered in 2012. It is now fitting that his remains should be reinterred with dignity and accompanied by the prayers of the Church in Leicester Cathedral, the mediaeval parish church of Leicester. We commend all who have died to the love and mercy of Almighty God, and continue to pray for them, as we shall for Richard III and all who have lost their lives in battle.
The Anglican Cathedral has a separate website for King Richard in Leicester.