Friday, 30 May 2014

NOVENA TO THE HOLY SPIRIT May 30 to Pentecost (June 8), 2014




Offered with intentions  for our Ordinary, Msgr Jeffrey Steenson and the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter with responsibility for Canada and the United States. We thank God for his sensitively as a shepherd along with all those who seek unity in Christ as they are received into the full communion of the Catholic Church from many backgrounds and situations.

In the Name of the Father, + and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.


Each day, the Novena begins with this prayer:


O HOLY SPIRIT, our Lord and our God, we adore thee and humbly acknowledge here in thy sacred presence that we are nothing, and can do nothing, without thine operation within us. Come, great Paraclete, thou Father of the poor, thou Comforter of the blest, fulfill the promise of our Saviour, who would not leave us orphans, and enter our minds and hearts as thou didst descend on the day of Pentecost upon the Holy Mother of Jesus and upon His first disciples. Grant that we may have a part in those gifts which thou didst so graciously bestow upon them.


Take from our hearts all that is not pleasing to thee and make of them a worthy dwelling-place for Jesus. Illumine our minds, that we may see and understand the things that are for our eternal welfare. Inflame our hearts with the pure love of the Father, that, cleansed from attachments to all unworthy objects, our lives may be hidden with Jesus in God. Strengthen our wills, that they may be conformed to the will of our Creator and guided by thy holy inspirations. Aid us to practice the heavenly virtues of humility, poverty, and obedience which are taught to us in the earthly life of Jesus.


Descend upon us, O mighty Spirit, that, inspired and encouraged by thee, we may faithfully fulfill the duties of our various states in life, carry our particular crosses with patience and courage, and accomplish the Father's will for us more perfectly. Make us, day by day, more holy and give to us that heavenly peace which the world cannot give.


O Holy Spirit, thou Giver of every good and perfect gift, grant to us our special intentions of this novena of prayer. May the Father's will be done in us and through us; and mayest thou, O mighty Spirit of the living God, be praised and glorified for ever and ever. Amen.


Here is said or sung the Veni Creator Spiritus: 


Come, Holy Ghost, our souls inspire,

and lighten with celestial fire,

thou the anointing Spirit art,

who dost thy sevenfold gifts impart.

Thy blesséd unction from above, 

is comfort, life, and fire of love,

enable with perpetual light

the dullness of our blinded sight.

Anoint and cheer our soiled face

with the abundance of thy grace.

Keep far our foes, give peace at home;

where thou art Guide, no ill can come.

Teach us to know the Father, Son,

and thee, of both, to be but One;

that through the ages all along,

this may be our endless song:

Praise to thy eternal merit,

Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.


OUR FATHER, who art in heaven; hallowed be thy Name; thy kingdom come; thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.


HAIL MARY, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of our death. Amen.


Here is said the Proper Prayer for the Day:


FIRST DAY

Come, O Holy Ghost, the Lord and Lifegiver; take up thy dwelling within our souls, and make of them thy sacred home. Make us live by grace as adopted children of God. Pervade all the energies of our souls, and create in us fountains of living water, springing up unto eternal life.

SECOND DAY

Come, O Spirit of Wisdom, and reveal to our souls the mysteries of heavenly things, their exceeding greatness, and power, and beauty. Teach us to love them above and beyond all the passing joys and satisfactions of earth. Show us the way by which we may be able to attain to them, and possess them, and hold them hereafter, our own forever.


THIRD DAY

Come, O Spirit of Understanding, and enlighten our minds, that we may know and believe all the mysteries of salvation, and may merit at last to see the eternal light in thy light; and in the light of glory to have the clear vision of thee and the Father and the Son.

FOURTH DAY

Come, O Spirit of Counsel, help and guide us in all our ways, that we may always do thy holy will. Incline our hearts to that which is good, turn them away from all that is evil, and direct us by the path of thy commandments to the goal of eternal life.


FIFTH DAY

Come, O Spirit of Fortitude, and give courage to our souls. Make our hearts strong in all trials and in all distress, pouring forth abundantly into them the gifts of strength, that we may be able to resist the attacks of the devil.

SIXTH DAY

Come, O Spirit of Knowledge, and make us to understand and despise the emptiness and nothingness of the world. Give us grace to use the world only for thy glory and the salvation of thy creatures. May we always be faithful in putting thy rewards before every earthly gift.


SEVENTH DAY

Come, O Spirit of Piety, possess our hearts, and incline them to a true faith in thee, to a holy love of thee, our God. Give us thy grace, that we may seek thee and find thee, our best and our truest joy.


EIGHTH DAY

Come, O Spirit of holy Fear, penetrate our inmost hearts, that we may set thee, our Lord and God, before our faces forever; and shun all things that can offend thee, so that we may be made worthy to appear before the pure eyes of thy divine Majesty in the heaven of heavens.


NINTH DAY

Come, O Holy Comforter, and grant us a desire for holy things. Produce in our souls the fruits of virtue, so that, being filled with all sweetness and joy in the pursuit of good, we may attain unto eternal blessedness.

The following prayer concludes the Novena each day:O GOD, who as at this time didst teach the hearts of thy faithful people by sending to them the light of thy Holy Spirit: grant us by the same Spirit to have a right judgement in all things, and evermore to rejoice in His holy comfort; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth with thee in the unity of the same Holy Spirit ever, one God, world without end. Amen.

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

The Persecution of English Catholicism

Excerpts here from an article by Dominic Selwood bring forward once again the analysis of Prof. Eamon Duffy and others regarding the vibrant state of Catholic faith in the Church in England at the time just before the Reformation.  


Our Lady of Walsingham

The full article, Protestant Spin Machine, in the TELEGRAPH gives a thorough interpretation of what has been really a suppressed history of the vibrant popular English Catholic Church of the late Middle Ages and how it was systematically dismantled by the elites of the day for their own self-interest.


The developing Englishness or "Anglican" flavour of the Catholic Church in England (Ecclesia Anglicana) for over a thousand years until the sixteenth century cannot be denied.  Undoubtedly, the Reformation changed and shaped what we know as Anglican patrimony. Core Catholic sacraments and practices, however, were steadily recovered in the Anglican Communion from the time of the Caroline Divines throughout the Oxford Movement to the twentieth century.


Now, within the Personal (Anglican) Ordinariates of the Catholic Church, we have a way to restore and develop the full patrimony of English Catholicism and to give the essentials of Anglicanism a home in the full embrace of the Catholic Church once again.


Here are some excerpts from Selwood's article in THE TELEGRAPH:



In 2003, Charles Clarke, Tony Blair’s Secretary of State for Education and Skills, expressed strong views on the teaching of British history:

"I don’t mind there being some medievalists around for ornamental purposes, but there is no reason for the state to pay for them."


In response, Michael Biddiss, professor of medieval history at Reading University, suggested that Mr Clarke’s view may have been informed by Khrushchev’s notion that historians are dangerous people, capable of upsetting everything.­­­­­


Rulers in all ages have tried to control how history sees them, and have gone to great lengths to have events recorded the way they want. The process is as old as authority itself.

Young Henry VIII


. . . . So what about England? Has our constitutional monarchy and ancient tradition of parliamentary democracy protected our history from political manipulation? Can we rely on what we are taught and told, or are there myths we, too, have swallowed hook, line, and sinker?


. . . .  For centuries, the English have been taught that the late medieval Church was superstitious, corrupt, exploitative, and alien. Above all, we were told that King Henry VIII and the people of England despised its popish flummery and primitive rites. England was fed up to the back teeth with the ignorant mumbo-jumbo magicians of the foreign Church, and up and down the country Tudor people preferred plain-speaking, rational men like Wycliffe, Luther, and Calvin. Henry VIII achieved what all sane English and Welsh people had long desired ­– an excuse to break away from an anachronistic subjugation to the ridiculous medieval strictures of the Church.For many in England, the subject of whether or not this was true was not even up for debate. Even now, the historical English disdain for all things Catholic is often regarded as irrefutable and objective fact. Otherwise why would we have been taught it for four and a half centuries? And anyway, the English are quite clearly not an emotional race like some of our continental cousins. We like our churches bright and clean and practical and full of common sense. For this reason, we are brought up to believe that Catholicism is just fundamentally, well … un-English.


But the last 30 years have seen a revolution in Reformation research. Leading scholars have started looking behind the pronouncements of the religious revolution’s leaders – Henry VIII, Thomas Cromwell, Thomas Cranmer, Hugh Latimer, Nicholas Ridley – and beyond the parliamentary pronouncements and the great sermons. Instead, they have begun focusing on the records left by ordinary English people. This “bottom up” approach to history has undoubtedly been the most exciting development in historical research in the last 50 years. It has taken us away from what the rulers want us to know, and steered us closer towards what actually happened.


When this approach is applied to the Reformation, what emerges is a very different picture to the one we were taught in school.


It seems that in 1533, the year of Henry’s break from Rome, traditional Catholicism was the religion of the vast majority of the country. And in most places it was absolutely thriving.


It had developed a particularly English flavour, with a focus on the involvement of ordinary people in parish churches, village greens, plays, and pageants – much of which seemed to involve a good deal of community parties, dancing, and drinking.


. . . . If you looked inside an English parish church on the eve of the Reformation, you would have seen a space filled with the lives and loves of the community. The saints would be draped in the parishioners’ best clothes, jewellery, and beads, often given as bequests in wills. The nave would have numerous side altars, most funded by local guilds to provide daily masses for favoured saints and the deceased of the parish. 


If the church had the relics of a saint, the reliquary or tomb would be festooned with gold, silver, and wax models of everything from healed limbs to ships saved from calamities at sea — it would be a mini-history of the gratitude of the people. Flowers and candles would be everywhere, as would parishioners, who regularly attended weekday prayers and masses at the many guild and chantry altars. 


In an age of increasing literacy, significant numbers of the upper and artisanal classes read along in their own devotional books. Religious printing had become big business. It has been estimated that, on the eve of the Reformation, over 57,000 Books of Hours were in circulation in England.All in all, parish churches were at the heart of a vibrant English parish life, where the living celebrated their good fortune and remembered the dead.


The first thing to go under the reformers’ axe was the cult of saints. The ancient robed and flower-garlanded effigies were smashed up and carted off. Stone and alabaster were ground up. Wood was burned. In addition to the dramatic loss of these cherished protector figures, the parishes were also deprived of around 40 to 50 saints’ “holy days” (holidays) a year, when no servile work was allowed from noon the previous day. This was a dramatic change to the rhythms of life the country had known for centuries. The reformers were keenly aware this would boost economic activity, and welcomed the increase in output it would bring.


The next biggest change was the abolition of purgatory. The reformers ridiculed the cult of the dead (“purgatorye ys pissed owte” one memorably wrote). But these age-old rites of death and the afterlife provided a unique framework that late medieval English people embraced to cope with death. When the reformers ripped out grave stones and brasses inviting prayers for the departed, when they burned the local bede-rolls remembering the dead of the parish, and when they sledge-hammered the chantry altars where relatives were daily prayed for, they did something even more profound than the vandalism. 


They stole the dead from the daily lives of their communities, rendering the deceased suddenly invisible to those long used to honouring and remembering their departed relatives and friends. Whether or not intentional, this was an attack on people’s memories.Protestants iconoclasts at work (C. 17th)


The early and high Middle Ages were a time when cathedrals and monasteries dominated religious life. But by the late 1400s and early 1500s, religion had been taken over by the people — most notably in the form of the religious guilds that had mushroomed in every parish. For instance, King’s Lynn had over 70; Bodmin had more than 40.


These guilds funded festivals, parades, and pageants — and the parish records show that the celebrations were regularly and widely enjoyed. The guilds’ most spectacular contribution to late medieval religious life lay in the great mystery play cycles they sponsored. 



These moral dramas were performed in English (not Latin), often around the feast of Corpus Christi. Despite being declared illegal and destroyed by the Reformation, enough copies survive for us to get an idea of their sheer scale: from Chester, Cornwall (in Cornish), Coventry, Digby, Towneley/Wakefield, and elsewhere. 


They were a focus of intense regional pride, and took entire communities to stage them. The York cycle alone comprised 48 plays.

York Mystery Play - The York Cycle has been revived and is regularly performed.

Inside parish churches, uniquely English customs had also developed. There was the festival of boy bishops and misrule on St Nicholas’s day; the setting up of an Easter sepulchre as a mini stage-set for re-enacting the Passion; and the dramatic “creeping to the Cross” on Good Friday — a humble barelegged and barefoot procession on the knees to adore the cross, before swaddling it and laying it inside the Easter sepulchre. These rituals, as well as the many festivals in honour of local or patronal saints, were deeply embedded into communities, and people stubbornly persisted with them long after they had been outlawed.


Away from the life of the churches, increasing literacy meant more stories, poems, songs, and carols. A favourite theme was, unsurprisingly, the Virgin Mary, who was frequently portrayed as that most English flower, the rose:


Of this rose was Cryst y-bore,

To save mankynde that was forlore;

And us alle from synnes sore,

Prophetarum carmine.

This rose is so faire of hype,

In maide Mary that is so try we,

Y-borne was lorde of virtue,

Salvator sine crimine.(Of a Rose Synge We, 1450)


Finally, the cult of relics was junked. It is true that provenance was rarely scientific, and the reformers were able to jeer at their favourite fakes. But the records suggest that this empirical approach, which counts the number of duplicated and inauthentic relics, misses the point. 


These objects brought people into the presence of the numinous, and joined the living with the dead. Many relics were even practical. For instance, articles of saints’ clothing were given to expecting women to wear in the hope of a healthy delivery. 


Relics were therefore a part of day-to-day life, offering people a sense of protection and connection with the sacred.


Given the intensity of people’s attachment to early 16th-century popular religion, the stark Tudor reforms were met with incomprehension, outrage, and sometimes passionate violence.


The men sent to smash up the churches knew this grassroots anger all too well. There are innumerable records of the hostility and violence they faced from distraught parishioners trying to protect churches and graves.


Once the bussed-in workmen had inevitably triumphed, and the heat of confrontation had worn off, people were left bereft:

 Our Lady of Worcester   (Our Lady of Peace)

On the feast of the Assumption 1537 Thomas Emans, a Worcester serving-man, entered the despoiled shrine of Our Lady of Worcester, recited a Paternoster and an Ave, kissed the feet of the image, from which jewels, coat, and shoes had been taken away, and declared bitterly for all to hear, “Lady, art thou stripped now? I have seen the day that as clean men hath been stripped at a pair of gallows as were they that stripped thee.” He told the people that, though her ornaments were gone, “the similitude of this is no worse to pray unto, having a recourse to her above, then it was before.”     (from Eamon Duffy, The Stripping of the Altars)


There was, before long, coordinated dissent. In 1536, an uprising known as the Pilgrimage of Grace came south from northern England and occupied Leicester, demanding an end to the radical changes and personal revenge on Thomas Cromwell, whose mercenary looting of the abbeys had shocked people profoundly. 


Meanwhile, around 30,000 (including the Archbishop of York) took York, with similar demands for the reforms to stop. Predictably, it all ended in catastrophe. Some 250 protestors were executed, killing off any further mass protests. The Tudor monarchy was, after all, one of the most powerful in Europe.


The conclusion of this modern grassroots scholarship is that bulldozing the Catholic Church off the face of medieval England was not a “bottom up” revolution in which Henry merely acquiesced to his people’s wishes by throwing off a widely hated foreign domination. 


To the contrary, it looks increasingly like Henry and his circle imposed the Reformation “top down”, unleashing 100 years of deep anger and alienation that was only overcome by sustained politicking and ruthless force. Politics and economics have always fitted together snugly, and it was no different in Henry’s day. By spreading some of the lands and wealth stolen from the monasteries, Henry was able to create a firm coterie of influential landholders who had a financial interest in seeing the reforms through.


Reading Abbey, vandalised by 'reformers'While we are debunking, we should also look to another “fact” we have been commonly taught, which is that England was moving towards Protestantism by Henry’s time owing to the widespread popularity of Wycliffe and his Lollards. 


This movement, according to Protestant legend, embodied and expressed the true sentiment of English people. However, the evidence is overwhelmingly that this is a red herring, as research is revealing that Lollardy was never more than a small regional and dynastic movement in select parts of England. 


Moreover, it was almost dead by the mid-1400s – over a century before Henry's divorce. Although Lollardy had, in its day, been a genuine expression of dissent (like many others across Christendom for the last two thousand years), it was never a mainstream – let alone a majority – English religious movement.


. . . . the tone of King Henry’s Defence of the Seven Sacraments (more below) solidly reflected mainstream thought.


However, nothing ever stands still, and England in the early 1500s – just like everywhere else – had its modern humanist philosophers and theologians. But here there is sometimes a misunderstanding. 


Humanists were not atheists or anti-Church. They were merely interested in applying the philosophies and knowledge of the day, as thinkers had done in every century. The Netherlands produced Erasmus, who was great friends with England's leading humanist: the exceptionally talented St Thomas More, one of the first victims of the English Reformation, executed by Henry for not agreeing to the split with Rome.


. . . . So how did all this happen? Why did Henry VIII, in 1533, cut a wound so deep into his country that four and a half centuries later it has still not healed?


The story is a tragedy.

The underlying issue was that Henry VIII’s marriage of 16 years had produced no boys. But his mistress, the Marquess of Pembroke, was pregnant, so time was ticking. The usual legal channels had failed to grant Henry a divorce, so the Archbishop of Canterbury stepped up to the mark.


. . . .Henry’s slippery hard man, Thomas Cromwell, drafted and rushed The Act in Restraint of Appeals 1532 through Parliament. Cromwell’s Act suspended all the usual laws in this regard, and give Cranmer full authority to give judgment. 


. . .  Therefore, in the hope that the King’s mistress was carrying a boy, Cranmer solemnly declared King Henry VIII divorced from Catherine of Aragon.


In the event, Henry’s mistress, Anne Boleyn, gave birth to a girl (and would, with Cromwell’s help, be beheaded within three years). But the deed was done. Cromwell had divorced Henry from Catherine, and England from Rome.


The whole affair was radical.


Since time immemorial, canon law had reserved appeals on marriage and divorce to the Archbishop of Canterbury’s boss, the Pope. English kings­, like all monarchs in Latin Christendom, had always observed this ancient legal structure. Henry had happily used it himself, when he had needed a dispensation to marry Catherine of Aragon (his brother’s widow) in the first place.


The reason Cromwell had pushed for a break with Rome was that everyone knew Henry had no legal basis for divorcing Catherine.

Thomas Cromwell

. . . .  to no one’s surprise, the Pope said no to the divorce.


. . .  Henry had been an ardent Catholic. When he first read Luther’s works, he had been so outraged by Luther’s attack on the Church that he wrote a book (in Latin) systematically taking Luther’s arguments apart. He published it in 1521 with a dedication to the Pope. In it, he referred to “the pest of Martin Luther’s heresy … a deadly venom … infecting all with its poison.” 


He continued:


"But, O immortal God! what bitter language! What so hot and inflamed force of speaking can be invented, sufficient to declare the crimes of that most filthy villain [Luther], who has undertaken to cut in pieces the seamless coat of Christ, and to disturb the quiet state of the church of God!"


. . . . In grateful recognition, the Pope awarded Henry the personal title “Defender of the Faith”. (Since the break with Rome, Parliament has, slightly strangely, conferred this title on all British monarchs.)


However, when the Pope refused to allow Henry to divorce, Thomas Cromwell came up with a corker of a solution ­– break with Rome; turn the country Protestant; and, at the same time, solve the problem of the empty royal coffers by trousering all the wealth in the country’s innumerable abbeys and parish churches.

Like King Philip IV of France two centuries earlier surveying the wealth of the Templars, the temptation for Henry was just too much to resist.


The only problem was that although Cromwell’s plan suited Henry and his circle (who would all get very rich off the scheme), there was the small matter of the English people.


To change a country’s religion lock, stock, and barrel was no easy task. In the end, it took Henry VIII, Edward VI, and Elizabeth I. The strategy was fairly predictable for a medieval monarchy, and again, it has striking similarities with how Philip IV took out the Templars. Cromwell’s plan only needed three steps: outlaw everything to do with Catholicism; denigrate and malign it at every opportunity in official pronouncements and sermons; and execute anyone who objects.


One example of the type of propaganda deployed must stand for many. Turning a blind eye to the hundreds of English Catholics executed by Henry VIII, Elizabeth I’s administration came up with the notion of convincing people that religious executions had been invented by Elizabeth's older sister, Mary I. 

. . . . The Tudor violence meted out to enforce the break with Rome was extreme, designed to deter by shock. For instance, one of Henry’s earliest victims was Sister Elizabeth Barton, a Benedictine nun. When she criticised Henry’s desire to marry Anne Boleyn, he had her executed, and her head spiked on London Bridge ­— the first and only woman ever to have suffered this posthumous barbarity.


Henry and his inner circle of politicians and radical clerics put to death hundreds of dissenters, pour encourager les autres. None of these people were plotting to kill him or destabilise his rule. Their “treason” was to oppose the destruction of their religion or the despoiling of their property. The brutal strangulation, emasculation, disembowelling, beheading, and quartering they endured as traitors was hideous, as was the total absence of any form of due process or justice.


. . . . The evidence shows that it actually took the Tudors around 45 years to eradicate all memory of this country’s Catholic past.


Henry started it all, from 1533–47. His reforms were harsh on the people, yet he rather hypocritically remained a practising Catholic himself. He had a newfound hostility towards the Pope, born of his divorce debacle, but he continued to hear Mass regularly. Although he presided over the looting of the abbeys and a good deal of local church vandalism, he nevertheless exercised certain restraining influences over Thomas Cromwell, Archbishop Cranmer and the other zealots. 


Things therefore only really kicked off once Henry was dead and the reformers were able to take the nine-year-old King Edward VI on a radical six-year Calvinist journey (1547–53). This was the period of the harshest destruction of English religious art and culture, when even the smallest church in the kingdom was ransacked and all its valuables seized. For several generations, people said that they had suffered under Henry’s reforms, but they dated the utter desecration of the English church to Edward’s reign.


When Mary I briefly returned England to Catholicism from 1553–8, many churches and parishioners cautiously took out the few treasured saints’ statues and missals they had recklessly managed to hide, and they set up their churches again, happy for normality to have returned.But when Mary unexpectedly died and Elizabeth began the persecutions again, people started slowly to give up. By the end of Elizabeth’s reign, no one remembered religious life before Henry. The memories were gone, and so was the will to fight the regime any more.


Amid the turmoil of the English Reformation – with its wanton destruction of communities, their imaginations, and centuries of their books and art – the one thing that stands out most is the sheer scale of the undertaking.

The "Black Legend"

. . . . And following Edward’s reign, Elizabeth I repeated the command and finished what he had started. The result was the wholesale destruction of a millennium of irreplaceable English craftsmanship in windows, statues, frescoes, and paintings. The Tate recently estimated that over 90 per cent of all English art was trashed in the period, and scarcely a handful of books survived the burning of the great monastic and university libraries. Oxford’s vast Bodleian, for instance, was left without a single book.Anyone who doubts there was a political aspect to the destruction needs look no further than the shrine of St Thomas Becket in Canterbury. It was England’s most popular pilgrimage destination, and Becket’s cult had international reach, with mosaics, icons, and relics of him venerated as far afield as Sicily and the Holy Land. Henry ordered his tomb pulverised, his bones scattered, and his name effaced from history. The reason for this special harshness is not hard to see. Becket’s claim to fame was as a churchman who stood up to royal interference in the Church. 


Becket was therefore a natural rallying symbol for anyone thinking of challenging Henry’s reforms. Becket represented the sanctity of dissent, and Henry could absolutely not have that.

In the process of all the destruction, it was not just traditional day-to-day spiritual life, the free medical and social care provided by the monasteries, and a country full of creative thought and art that were obliterated. The reformers hacked out and discarded an entire slice of England’s history, alienating the English from an especially vibrant part of their own amazing past.



So Khrushchev was right — historians are dangerous. In the case of the Reformation, generations have perpetuated the artful story spun by the Tudor machine, with the result that we fail to acknowledge that medieval religion in this country was, for a thousand years, as English as tea, warm beer, Maypole dancing, and cricket. 


As has been said many times: within three generations, England went from being one of Europe’s most Catholic countries to one of its most anti-Catholic.


. . . . We are the only European country to use the phrase “the Dark Ages” for the medieval period, and in large measure it is because we have retrospectively made it dark. Henry VIII started it by denigrating and destroying the intellectual, artistic, and spiritual output of ten centuries, emptying out cathedrals and library shelves, leaving them barren and devoid of any human ingenuity or beauty. 


It is no wonder that, looking at the slim remnants of English medieval life, it appears dark to us. To compound matters, rather than recognise the Tudor sack of our culture, we have collectively stuck to their breathtakingly arrogant claim that England was a backward, gloom-filed wasteland until Henry brought the searing flame of enlightenment.


Our complicity in this myth is partly because the sectarian language of the Tudor court and its clerics’ sermons has proved immensely durable and is now so deeply ingrained that we continue to be blinded to the vitality and unique Englishness of our pre-Reformation culture [the Black Legend]. 


Instead of celebrating [England's] vivid and exuberant history, we swallow Henry’s spin and damn it all as nothing more than the output of an infested ragbag of “corrupt abominations”, “papistical superstitions”, and “unsavery teaching”. The result is a gross distortion, and equates to the theft of our past. Happily, it is a wrong that historians are now, in increasing numbers, eloquently addressing.


Perhaps the final word should go to Robert Peckham, who died in Rome in 1569 during the reign of Elizabeth I:


Here lies Robert Peckham, Englishman and Catholic, who, after England’s break with the Church, left England because he could not live in his country without the Faith, and, having come to Rome, died there because he could not live apart from his country.

Friday, 23 May 2014

Pray for Pope Francis and Patriarch Bartholomew in Jerusalem

This may be the greatest ecumenical encounter of our lifetimes with implications for centuries ahead.


Here are some excepts from the Toronto Globe and Mail. A good background article by Patrick Martin:


. . . . This weekend, the Bishop of Rome – Pope Francis, spiritual leader of a billion Catholics – and the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople – Bartholomew, first in honour among all Eastern Orthodox bishops and representing 300 million Orthodox Christians – will meet in Jerusalem to bury this great schism. The two religious leaders are commemorating the 50th anniversary of the meeting of Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras, who took the first step toward reconciliation when they shook hands in Jerusalem and ended the mutual excommunications issued by the Pope and Patriarch back in 1054.
. . . . Except for one failed attempt at reconciliation in the 15th century, the two churches remained in a state of animosity – and sometimes of conflict – for 910 years. That ended in 1964. But, since then, progress has been slow in reconciling their differences and bringing the two sides closer together.
It was only last year that Bartholomew attended the inauguration of Francis as pope, the first time the head of the Orthodox Church had participated in a papal ceremony in almost 1,000 years. Bartholomew took the occasion to invite Francis to join him in Jerusalem to put meat on the ecumenical skeleton their predecessors had established 50 years ago. The often spontaneous Pope accepted and this weekend’s visit to the Holy Land is the somewhat surprising result.
. . . . This Pope’s visit to the Holy Land “is unlike any of the three that have gone before,” says Michael Higgins, a Vatican expert at Sacred Heart University in Connecticut. Time spent with Israelis is very limited on this trip and there will be no pastoral visit to the large Christian Israeli community in the Galilee that was the hallmark of previous papal pilgrimages.
Even if it means giving short shrift to Israel, said Mr. Higgins, “Francis has other priorities he is determined to establish.”

Rare unity at the Holy Sepulchre
Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem
Reconciliation with the Orthodox churches is the Pope’s top priority. As Francis said in December: “In some countries they kill Christians because they wear a cross or have a Bible, and before killing them they don’t ask if they’re Anglicans, Lutherans, Catholic or Orthodox.”
“We’re united in blood, even if among ourselves we still haven’t succeeded in taking the necessary steps towards unity.”
Nowhere is Christian disunity more in evidence than in the faith’s most important site, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, believed to be the place of Jesus’s burial and resurrection. Feuding among Christian denominations for place and position inside the church is so intense that no one branch of Christianity could be entrusted with the key to the building, lest it lock the others out. For that reason, the great iron key has been entrusted for centuries to one Muslim family, the Nusseibehs.
Hoping to rectify the need for unity, Pope Francis and Patriarch Bartholomew are scheduled to meet four times during the Pope’s overnight stop in Jerusalem.
Watch for the most significant meeting at an ecumenical service Sunday evening, when they, along with a representative of the Armenian Church, will pray together at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The event will be “extraordinarily historic,” said Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi, since the three communities normally observe strict separation when they worship in the church.

Recognizing the state of Palestine
The second priority is to show “solidarity with the people who suffer,” said Father Jamal Khader, the spokesman for the papal visit, referring to Palestinians.
To that end, watch for Pope Francis to break new ground in Bethlehem.
According to the itinerary, his first act upon landing in Bethlehem by helicopter from Jordan will be to pay “a courtesy visit to the president of the State of Palestine,” Mahmoud Abbas, at the presidential palace. Note the use of the term “State of Palestine,” a term that Israel, the United States and Canada would never use, and would likely object to.


Recognizing the ‘Jewish state’
Francis is acutely aware of the need not to slight Israel.
When Pope Paul VI visited the Holy Land in 1964, the Old City of Jerusalem and the West Bank were occupied by Jordan. Though he continued on to Christian sites around the Sea of Galilee in northern Israel, the pontiff declined to officially recognize the state of Israel.
. . .  Pope John Paul II made history in 2000 by visiting and recognizing the state of Israel on his pilgrimage. However, his successor, the German Benedict XVI, upset his Israeli hosts when, during a visit to Yad Vashem, he failed to acknowledge the Holocaust.
Watch then for Pope Francis to balance his recognition of the state of Palestine with recognition of Israel as a “Jewish state,” something the current Israeli government has ardently sought.

International claims to Jerusalem’s holy sites
The Pope’s other priority is to assert the claim of the Catholic Church and other religions to the holy sites.
While the Vatican recognized Israel in 1993, following the signing of the Oslo Accord by Israel and the PLO, it never has recognized Israel’s claim of sovereignty to any part of Jerusalem. Its position stems from the 1947 UN plan to partition Palestine into an Arab state, a Jewish state, and an international zone for the Jerusalem area.
Since 1993, the Vatican’s position has evolved, Father Khader said, and “it no longer advocates a corpus separatum.
Rather, “it supports the two states [Palestine and Israel] deciding matters of sovereignty,” Father Khader explained, “provided there are international guarantees for free access to all holy sites.”
The nature of Francis’s visit and the lengthy meetings with Bartholomew underscore the international importance of Jerusalem, says Archbishop Fouad Twal, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem. A man held in high regard at the Vatican, the Patriarch recently called for the holy city to be recognized as “the capital of humanity” with special international status.
Reading between the lines of the papal itinerary, Mr. Higgins believes the Pope is making a statement about Jerusalem, about its importance in building bridges between peoples, and about the Vatican’s interest being more than simply access to holy sites.
“Francis has shown the willingness to speak his mind freely,” Mr. Higgins said. “Listen carefully to his extemporaneous remarks about Jerusalem,” he advised.

Unexpected guests
In the casual manner by which Francis has become known, the Pope is being accompanied on his visit by two old friends from Argentina: Rabbi Abraham Skorka, and a Muslim imam, Omar Abboud.
Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rai from Lebanon
At the last minute, the pontiff also agreed to be joined by Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rai from Lebanon. The Patriarch, who is a cardinal in the Catholic Church, announced on his own he would join the Pope in Jordan on Saturday and travel with him to Jerusalem. The news raised eyebrows in the Vatican and temperatures in Lebanon since that country remains officially at war with Israel.
Heavy security
Consistent with Francis’s desire to reach out to the people, and much to the concern of Israeli security forces, the Pope has refused to travel in an armoured vehicle during his Holy Land visit.
And it’s not as if he has no enemies in Israel. In the past few weeks there have been several incidents of anti-Christian graffiti, some of it including death threats, being painted on Christian sites. Last week there also was a demonstration on Mount Zion by 200 to 300 Jewish zealots protesting the Pope holding a mass in the room believed to have been the site of Jesus’s “last supper,” which sits atop the tomb of ancient Israel’s King David.
To avoid any mishap, Israeli security forces are closing many of Jerusalem’s streets and keeping crowds at a good distance from the pontiff.
In Bethlehem on Sunday, Palestinian security is expected to be somewhat more relaxed, bringing to mind some chaotic scenes of 1964, when Pope Paul VI attempted to make his way along the Via Dolorosa in the Old City of Jerusalem, then under Jordanian control. The crowds pressed in so close that soldiers had to use rifle butts to clear a path.

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Catholic Ecumenism in Sweden

The following is an account by Matthew J. Milliner, assistant professor of art history at Wheaton College of his visit to Sweden, the remarkable moves to Christian unity and the growth of the Catholic Church there: 
It’s 4 a.m. and I’m in an eighteenth-century Swedish castle that has been transformed into an ecumenical monastic community run by Pentecostals. I gather my bags and descend a grand staircase, past family portraits going back generations, past neo-­classical statues, past Coptic, Russian, and Greek Orthodox icons—their candles still flickering from the night shift. Then past a well-stocked patristic library, down another enormous flight of stairs, and through a foyer. 

. . . . Still making my way to the exit, I pass a picture of influential theologians gathered on the castle steps a century ago. They include Gustaf Aulén, author of Christus Victor, and Lutheran Archbishop Nathan Söderblom, an ecumenical pioneer who worked with Catholics to revive devotion to Bridget of Sweden, one of Europe’s patron saints. In the same image is the grandmother of the woman whose life, nearly a century later, would be changed by the Jesus People USA and Pentecostal Christians—sufficiently changed that when the Ekman family decided to give up this castle in the 1980s, it was donated to Swedish Pentecostals. Continuing the ecumenical spirit, the castle, now known as Bjärka-Säby, hosts Coptic, Catholic, and Evangelical Christians as well. The precision and beauty of their prayers rival the liturgical exactitude I have witnessed on Mount Athos.

. . . . Two mottos govern: Ora et labora (“pray and work”) and Esse non videri (roughly, “to be and not to be seen”). The man now smiling down a long hallway, gesturing toward me, lives them both. He is Peter Halldorf, Pentecostal minister, renowned writer, and the spiritual leader of the castle. Bearing a white beard, black cassock, and prayer beads wrapped around his wrist, his eyes radiate with life as if he’d been up for hours. He wants to show me something before I depart for my flight.
Down we go into the castle’s basement depths—through yet another hidden passageway—entering the subterranean bakery. “We call it Bethlehem,” Peter proclaims. “The house of bread,” I reply, proud of catching the reference. He pulls out the key and we enter the tiny kitchen. On the table are a Coptic icon of Mary and her son, two candles, and two Swedish Psalters. It is Sunday morning, and two members of the community will shortly be appearing to pray the Psalms while Peter and an assistant bake the Eucharistic bread for that morning’s liturgy.
With a luminous smile, Peter shows me the Coptic Orthodox seals that will shortly be imprinted onto the bread. There are twelve crosses in the center of the seal, eight on the outside and four in the middle. These delineate the holiest area—the Bread of the Lord (Asbodikon). Unlike in the Greek Orthodox liturgy, which uses a ceremonial knife, the Coptic ceremony, emphasizing unity, does not cut the bread—though it is indented and ceremonially pierced five times—once in each corner of the four central crosses, and once in the center, signifying the five wounds of Christ.
. . .  outside the pilgrim entrance to the monastery church of St. Bridget of Sweden (1303–73) in Vadstena, just an hour drive from Bjärka-Säby. A cousin of the Swedish king, Bridget married at thirteen and bore eight children. Following the death of her husband, the revelations she had received since her youth intensified. Faced with the corruption of the Avignon papacy, she even predicted an eventual Vatican State, foretelling almost the exact boundaries delineated by Mussolini for Vatican City in 1921. Bridget—or Birgitta as she is known in Sweden—left her homeland and travelled to Rome, Jerusalem, and Bethlehem, sending back precise instructions for the construction of the monastery I am now entering, known as the “Blue Church” after the unique color of its granite. Birgitta insisted that the abbess, signifying the Virgin Mary, should preside over both nuns and monks.
As we approached the Blue Church I saw some ruins, and braced myself for another case of the stripping of the altars. Like England, Sweden went Protestant during the Reformation. But the Lutheran pastor who met us there was not the steward of an ­empty shell, but instead oversaw a living devotional site frequented by Protestants and Catholics alike. (It does not hurt that Birgitta’s forceful critique of the papacy led some to see her as proto-Protestant.) 
. . . . Although there was some destruction and damage to statues from invading Danish soldiers, most here have survived. We make our way to the still-preserved relics of Birgitta, but are interrupted by a bell. Thirty pilgrims stop to gather in the rear of the church for a Taizé prayer service before a gorgeous Byzantine icon of Christ made by that same Pentecostal painter.
. . . . Martin Luther may have called her die tolle Brigit, “crazy Birgitta,” but there was her body—enclosed in a red casket, now tastefully tended by Lutherans. Nevertheless, leaving Birgitta’s monastery, we visited a recently constructed Benedictine convent populated by onetime Lutheran women who converted en masse to Catholicism. The abbess looked herself like the imposing statue of Birgitta we had just seen. “We converted to build bridges, not to burn them,” she told us matter of factly. She has visited Bjärka-Säby castle several times, and knows Peter Halldorf well. The abbess proudly boasted of the recently acquired relics of Sts. Benedict and Edith Stein—a piece of her veil—installed in the altar at the dedication. After returning home I learned that some of the bridges she hoped to build have already been constructed. My Wheaton College colleague Sarah Borden, an Edith Stein specialist, keeps a relic from the very same veil in her office.
Back at the castle, after a scholarly symposium with Swedish theologians who had gathered for the weekend, the group of us walked the grounds of Bjärka-Säby. Tensions should have been high in this group of Protestant and Catholic scholars. The week before, Sweden’s most influential charismatic pastor, Ulf Ekman (no relation to Hedvig), had announced his plan to convert to Catholicism. The group included the young theologian Benjamin Ekman, Ulf’s son, who preceded his father into the Catholic Church. The group also included Joel Halldorf, a Protestant theologian and son of the Pentecostal abbot.
Adjourning from our walk, we entered the main foyer and saw on the table an article covering Ulf’s conversion, with quotes from Swedish Christian leaders, including some of those present, responding to the news. There were some misquotations and typos, and the group laughed it off. What was causing a scandal for the rest of Swedish Christianity did not so much as ruffle the bonds of these friendships, and while global Christians speculated as to what caused Ulf to convert, those closest to him were reluctant to pry.
 . . . . whereas American Christianity is a mile wide and an inch deep, Swedish Christianity is an inch wide and a mile deep. Never have I seen ecumenical cooperation as I have here. I unfurl a grand analogy: Under secularism’s tectonic pressure, the continents of differing traditions are drifting closer together. As the landmasses merge, some jump to another side, while others remain. But the merging of continents is far more significant than isolated bounds, however athletically impressive. Personal conversions, despite the attention they can generate, are small change compared with the payoff of broader ecclesial union. And toward this goal, Sweden—thanks to the remarkable Bjärka-Säby—seems decades ahead.






. . . .I enter the castle one last time and make my way through the winding hallways to my room, past portraits, past statues and flickering icons. I didn’t know it then, but I was walking over Bethlehem. “And if the priest be skillful and well taught after the elders,” reads one of the Coptic rubrics, “he shall break the Eucharistic loaf (qurbanah) regularly until it be broken yet remain whole, and he shall raise it with his hands broken yet whole, and this is also good.” I pack and sleep. I have to be up at 4 a.m.   
The full article may be accessed at: "Not so Secular Sweden"