Thursday, 26 February 2009

I haven't been posting very much recently, not only because it's a busy time of year in the parish but because my 83 year-old father has been rather unwell. This has prevented me from following or commenting on some of the recent excitements on the blogosphere. So that I can focus on the 4th commandment, I won't be blogging in the near future - though I will, of course, keep the blog online and may be inspired to write the occasional post when I feel the urge.

Oremus pro invicem!

Update Of you charity please pray for the repose of the soul of my father, Dr Arthur Norman Edward Delsart Schofield, who died at home on Monday 9th March, aged 83. Born in Rochdale in 1925, he studied at the School of Slavonic Studies, University of London, and worked as Curator in the Department of Manuscripts at the British Library, until his retirement in 1987. His Requiem will be celebrated at 12.30pm on Friday 20th March at St John the Evangelist, Berry Lane, Rickmansworth. Requiescat in pace.


Wednesday, 25 February 2009

International Summer School for Young Catholics

I'm delighted to post the following advert for the International Summer School for Young Catholics, founded by the late David Foster. As a former student I warmly recommend it:

Restore All Things in Christ

July 25th – August 1st 2009
at the Oratory Preparatory School, near Reading

After the sad death of David Foster in late December, Dominic Sullivan, Sr. Valerie Walker O.P. and Susanna Ward intend to continue the International Summer School which he started in 1982. David had a high ideal of what a Catholic school should be, insisting that it must not simply impart religious doctrine as an isolated subject, but that supernatural revelation should inform the whole of its syllabus and life. Although only a week long, his summer school tried to cover a wide range of knowledge within a Catholic framework, and to demonstrate that modern culture both derives from Catholic roots and yet denies them.

The course is not a retreat, although there is Holy Mass and Rosary every day, and lessons on religious doctrine and spiritual subjects form part of the curriculum. There are also opportunities for swimming, sport and other activities in the beautiful setting of the Oratory Preparatory School. On most evenings there is a visiting speaker.

The course is open to young people between the ages of 13 - 19. The cost will be £220. For further information about application, please contact the Course Director by March 31st 2009.

Enquiries to:
Course Director
Dominic Sullivan
Tel: 0208 788 8659


Thursday, 5 February 2009


Last week I visited St Mary's College, Oscott, the seminary for the Archdiocese of Birmingham, in order to collect some archival materials. It seemed quite a happy place and three members of the staff (including the Vice-Rector) were contemporaries of mine in Rome. The College has a fine building, designed by Pugin and with stunning views over Birmingham (particularly impressive at night, when flickering lights replace the uglier aspects of the urban sprawl).

In the Pranzorium, where the staff (and guests) have breakfast, there is a wonderful collection of portraits of past Presidents, including two of the greatest Vicars Apostolic of the Midland District.

This is Bishop John Milner (1752-1826), whom Newman called 'the English Athanasius.' He offered a new model of what an English Catholic bishop should be – confident, unafraid of controversy, keen to uphold the primacy of ecclesiastical authority and defend orthodoxy, and also truly pastoral. Many of his fiery opinions could be found in the appropriately named Orthodox Journal. Milner moved the Church away from dependence on the great Catholic families and looked towards the victory of Ultramontanism later in the nineteenth century.

This is Bishop Thomas Walsh (1777-1849), who was moved to London in the last year of his life, with the expectation that he would become the first Archbishop of Westminster after the restoration of the Hierarchy. He died and Wiseman filled his shoes. As bishop in the Midlands, what marked Walsh out was the grandeur of his vision and his openness towards new forces within the Catholic community, such as the Oxford converts and the gothis revival. At his death in 1849, The Tablet observed that ‘it is to his Episcopacy that posterity will trace the great development of ecclesiastical architecture which forms so distinctive a feature in the history of our period.’ A keen supporter of Pugin, Walsh oversaw the opening of a number of churches and institutions that were gems of the gothic revival: the future Cathedrals of Birmingham (St Chad’s) and Nottingham, New Oscott, the Trappist monastery at Mount St Bernard’s, the glorious churches at Cheadle and Derby, and the religious houses of Hanley, Ratcliffe and Aston. Many of these ambitious projects were made possible through the patronage of John Talbot, sixteenth earl of Shrewsbury, and Ambrose Phillips de Lisle.

Walsh’s vision for Oscott was to make it a centre of Catholic life and scholarship that would provide a home for many of the converts. Pugin was given the task of decorating and furnishing the chapel, using ornaments ‘executed by ancient artists in the days of faith’ but ‘torn by heretical and revolutionary violence from their original positions in the noble churches of France and Belgium,’ and restoring ‘the ample and dignified vestments which were anciently used in this land.’ Walsh bought an impressive library that had been made available in Rome and appointed converts like George Spencer to high positions.

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Sunday, 25 January 2009

Burns Night and Haggis

Since publishing on 2009 anniversaries earlier this month, I keep coming across more. Today, for example, is not only the Conversion of St Paul but Burns Night - and, indeed, the 250th anniversary of the poet's birth. To mark this we had some delicious haggis at Sunday lunch in the presbytery.

Eating haggis reminded me of the small part it played in the conversion of our first parish priest here at Kingsland, Fr William Lockhart (a disciple of Newman and Rosmini) while he was a student at Exeter College, Oxford. In the early 1840s he attended the annual Scotch dinner for St Andrew’s Day, held in the Union rooms. It was a happy evening of whisky, Jacobite songs, toasts to Archbishop Laud and ‘Bonnie Prince Charlie’, and a menu of oyster soup, haggis and ‘cockie-leeky.’ Afterwards, Lockhart walked round the Parks with a friend to sober up and declared: ‘I am in a state now in which I might be drawn into any wickedness.’ The following morning he went to see Dr Sewell at Exeter and asked to confess the previous night’s excesses. Sewell refused and offered him a dose of Epsom salts instead of absolution, Lockhart later commenting ‘I came away from that ass at once. I asked my father for bread, and he gave me a stone. I asked for fish, - he gave me a scorpion.' Not long afterwards he joined Newman at Littlemore and soon converted to Rome, one of the main issues being the forgiveness of post-baptismal sins.

To celebrate today's anniversary, here is what I consider to be one of the finest sights and sounds in these fair isles:


New Books

Alumni of the Venerable English College, Rome in recent years have been rather prolific in publishing books. In the last week or so two of my classmates have produced interesting titles.

Fr Gerard Skinner, parish priest of Northolt and South Harrow and co-author of The English Cardinals, has arranged an anthology of Benedict XVI's teachings on the Sacred Priesthood. Entitled Priests of Jesus Christ, it is published by the ever-excellent Family Publications and will be essential reading for priests, seminarians and anyone considering a priestly vocation, as well as those who want to learn more about the role of the Priesthood in the Church.

Fr Richard Whinder, a Southwark priest who occasionally appears on the blogosphere, has written a useful CTS pamphlet, The Extraordinary Form of the Mass Explained, containing a short commentary on 'the Mass of the Ages', a history of its development across the centuries and an explanation of Summorum Pontificum. Priced at only £1.95, I'm sure it will help those who are either discovering the Usus Antiquior or are confused by recent events.


Saturday, 24 January 2009

Ecumenical Fruits

Good news about the SSPX excommunications being remitted at the end of Christian Unity Week. There is still a long way to go and I'm sure that members of the Society will be divided over the path that lies ahead. As it happens, I spotted the cassocked figure of Bishop Fellay in the newsagents at Fiumicino airport on Monday as I was waiting for the plane (and struggling to carry the bottles of digestivi I had just bought from 'duty free'), so I thought something might be in the air!

Let us continue to pray for the unity of the Church.


Friday, 23 January 2009

A Day in the Castelli

This time last week I was in the Castelli, the little towns in the Alban Hills just outside Rome. After a sublime lunch at Monte Porzio (where the English College had a villa up until 1918 - above you can see a view looking down to Rome), I popped into Frascati. The exterior of the Cathedral (below) had been restored since my last visit:

Respects were paid at the site of the original tomb of 'Bonne Prince Charlie' - his young brother, the Cardinal Duke of York, was of course bishop of Frascati between 1761 and 1803. Although the body of 'Charles III' was moved to St Peter's in 1807, his praecordia is still near this monument :

There was also an amazing crib, based on a Piranesi print of the Porto di Ripetta on the Tiber, featuring the Croatian church (San Girolamo degli Schiavoni) and to its right the little chapel of San Gregorio dei Muratori (up until recently the HQ of the Fraternity of St Peter in Rome). This view can no longer be seen due to subsequent town-planning. The actual Nativity Scene was tucked away in the corner, in true Roman style:

It was good to see Cardinal Henry Stuart remembered in a special exhibition at the Scuderie Aldobrandini per l'Arte, rather unimaginatively called La Biblioteca del Cardinale (though the Cardinal's library was only part of the exhibition's focus). It's on until 15 February, in case you're passing through Rome. There were many familiar portraits, many of which I had only seen as illustrations in books, and I was particularly pleased to buy a large, well-illustrated catalogue (anyone interested in the 'Cardinal King' should get a copy).

Before leaving Frascati, I popped over to Cardinal Stuart's former residence of La Rocca. It was here that the last of the Stuarts died on 13 July 1807:

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Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Newman's Cause

I've been asked to draw your attention to the new 'Official Website for the Cause for the Canonisation of JohnHenry Cardinal Newman.' This includes a Thought for the Day from Newman's writings, biography, history of the Cause, and regular news and features. Hopefully there will be some definitive good news soon.


Tuesday, 20 January 2009

An Ostrich at the Vatican

Saturday was the feast of St Anthony of Egypt, the desert Father whose story was so memorably told by St Athanasius. In Italy he is known as San Antonio Abate and is often depicted with animals (especially a pig) in more an Italian than an Egyptian setting. Here is a little shrine that was set up in the duomo of Monte Porzio:

He is (amongst other things) the protector of animals and patron of breeders [allevatori], which is why a whole menagerie of beasts gathered on the Piazza San Pietro to celebrate the festa, organised by the AIA (Associazione Italiana Allevatori). Here is the tent containing the animals, with San Pietro in the background. Can you spot the friendly face posing for my camera on the extreme right?

Here is a close up:

Now I've seen many things at the Vatican but I never thought I'd bump into a struzzo or ostrich. I wonder if its presence means that the Holy See has commissioned a new set of flabelli (ceremonial fans made from ostrich feathers)? There were also some chaps on horses, making a rather charming sight (a touch of the 'Wild West' on the Via Conciliazione).

You'll be pleased to know that all the animals were blessed by the Archpriest of the Basilica, Cardinal Comastri, after he had celebrated a Mass for the Feast.
NB Why St Anthony and the pig? Some suggest that the pig symbolised the devil, which the saint defeated through his prayer, penances and perseverance; others that it reminds us of the hermit's simplicity and harmony with creation. Moreover the medieval Hospital Brothers of St Anthony (later incorporated into the Knights of Malta) kept pigs, quickly becoming the symbol of their patron.

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Papal Angelus

I received two e-mails today, from readers in Germany and Texas, encouraging me to post after an absence of a few weeks. I have indeed been rather apathetic in my blogging duties but in recent days it has been made difficult by my customary Christmas holiday in Rome. At least my holiday snaps will provide a few posts in coming days.

It was good, of course, to see the papa at his weekly Angelus.

I hadn't noticed before that the Latin texts appear on the large TV screens in Piazza San Pietro, 'facilitating' an actuosa participatio.


It was good to see a packed square despite it being a fairly quiet time for tourism in Rome.

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Sunday, 4 January 2009

A Defender of the Faith - RIP

Fr Tim has noted on his blog the sad news of the death, at the age of 75, of David Foster, a tireless champion and teacher of the Faith. I feel I should pay tribute to him here. I counted him as a friend and when we met I was never aware of the age gap between us. He was young at heart and wore his learning lightly; despite having quite firm views about the Church and the world, he never rammed them down your throat and loved to expand his knowledge. He had a great love for Chesterton and Belloc (sharing their appreciation of good old English pubs) and passionately followed cricket and Burnley FC (he had offered to take me to a match, which I regret not taking up).

I first met David in 1992, when I attended the 'International Summer School for Catholic Youth' that he founded. This was (and is) held each July and comprised a series of lessons and talks on a wide range of subjects, everything from Thomistic theology to music, from literature to Greek, all taught from the perspective of a 'Catholic world view.' When I first went along at the age of 16 I wondered whether I would really enjoy it but I returned the subsequent two years and made many friends. David's vision was a key influence in rekindling my interest in the Church - as a result my faith was strengthened and, with it, my sense of a priestly vocation. There were about 30 or 40 students 'in my day' and out of these two became secular priests and one a Dominican nun in Australia. I owe David a lot and feel very privileged to have been asked to be the chief celebrant at his funeral on 13 January (Brentwood Cathedral, 1pm).


Thursday, 1 January 2009

Catholic Anniversaries in 2009

Two big Catholic anniversaries with Hertfordshire connections - the martyrdom of St Alban and the death of Pope Adrian IV (formerly Nicholas Breakspear).

As usual Roman Miscellany begins the new year by noting some important anniversaries in 2009 that may be of interest to readers:

9 January – 1300th Anniversary of the death of St Adrian, the only African Archbishop of Canterbury (so far), and Centenary of the birth of Fr Patrick Peyton, the 'Rosary Priest.'
15 January – Centenary of the death of St Arnold Janssen, founder of Divine Word Missionaries
20 January – 300th Anniversary of the death of François de la Chaise SJ, confessor to Louis XIV
3 February – 100th birthday of Simone Weil, philosopher and religious writer
21 April - 900th Anniversary of the death of St Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury and Doctor of the Church
24 April – 1300th Anniversary of the death of St Wilfrid, bishop of York
17 March - 200th birthday of Ambrose Phillipps de Lisle, convert and patron of Pugin
31 May – 200th Anniversary of the death of Josef Haydn, composer – for many the anniversary of 2009. Expect some interesting CD releases
11 June – 500th Anniversary of the marriage of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon
22 June – possibly the 1800th Anniversary of the martyrdom of England’s proto-martyr, St Alban (different scholars give different dates)
29 June – 500th Anniversary of the death of Lady Margaret Beaufort, mother of Henry VII, patron of the arts and learning and spiritual client of St John Fisher
4 August – 150th Anniversary of the death of St John Mary Vianney, patron of parish priests – a jubilee in Ars! Fifty years ago Blessed John XXIII issued Sacredotii Nostri Primordii for the Centenary.
18 August – 450th Anniversary of the death of Pope Paul IV (Carafa), who had earlier been first General of the Theatines
1 September – 850th Anniversary of the death of Pope Adrian IV (Breakspear), the first (and only) English Pope
18 October – Millennium of the destruction of the church of the Holy Sepulchre by Caliph al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah, an event which contributed to the mounting of the Crusades later in the century
25 November – 400th birthday of Henrietta Maria, Catholic consort of Charles I
25 December – 450th Anniversary of the election of Pope Pius IV (Medici), uncle of St Charles Borromeo
I'm sure there are many more. Happy New Year!


Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Happy Christmas!

How great the mystery and wondrous the sacred sign,
that beasts should look upon the Lord lying lowly in the stall!


Saturday, 13 December 2008

Pugin's Ramsgate

On Wednesday I popped down to the Kentish coastal town of Ramsgate. My first port of call was the Benedictine monastery, which I used to visit regularly when my first cousin once removed (Dom Stephen Holford) was alive. In fact the last time I visited I had gingerly mentioned my possible priestly vocation to him - it was the first time I had mentioned it to anyone. That was about 13 years ago and quite a lot has happened since then! It was good to be back - the monks kindly invited me to lunch and I had a chance to rumage in their wonderfully atmospheric library.

Here the church, designed by the great Pugin - he was proud that it contained not one wrong architectural principal:

Outside, leading down to the sea front, there is a peaceful cemetery. Here is a view looking towards The Grange, with the tomb of two of my great-aunts in the foreground.

The Grange was the home of Augustus Welby Pugin and then his son Edward. It was recently purchased and renovated by the Landmark Trust and open (by apointment) for tours every Wednesday afternoon. If you're looking for a place to stay in Ramsgate, you can rent the whole house and it has room for eight people. In fact, since it boasts a private chapel (complete with a dressed altar) it would be a good place for priests to stay while visiting the south coast. It is a remarkable place - the prototype for so many Victorian houses, with some beautiful stained glass and wallpaper designs. Pugin's flag flies from the tower, with a black crow (his heraldic device).

Pugin is buried in a chantry in the Abbey church (which is normally closed), where I said a Pater and an Ave for the repose of this sometimes troubled soul. Beside the chapel is the beautiful Blessed Sacrament altar, with the rood screen that used to stand before the sanctuary. Unfortunately the rood was ripped out and is now in the Anglican Cathedral at Southwark.


Friday, 12 December 2008

Minster and St Edburga

I found out today that 12 December, as well as being the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe and my birthday, is also the dies natalis of St Edburga, a princess of the House of Wessex and third Abbess of Minster. It was a happy coincidence that I spent the last few days supplying the sacramental needs of the Benedictine nuns of Minster in Kent, who live on the site of the seventh century monastery - as you can see in the picture above, part of the buildings are Saxon. It must be one of the oldest inhabited buildings in Catholic hands.

We celebrated the saint's feast at Mass early this morning, possibly yards from her resting place (no one seems to know exactly where she was buried though the Saxon church, the most likely spot, lies beneath the sisters' lawn). I was tempted to use St Edburga's other name in the collect - St Bugga. She was maintained a correspondence with St Boniface and sent him books and vestments. St Edburga thus provides a connection with the German mission and another great saint - St Walburga. It was nuns from the monastery of St Walburga at Eichstatt who 'colonised' Minster just before WWII. They were fleeing from Nazi harassment, although they were viewed with great suspicion by the British authorities and had to briefly move from the strategic location of Minster (near the English Channel and an air field) to the West Country. By the ways, the nuns of Minster still maintain links with their mother house amnd distribute the miraculous oil of St Walburga. I brought a few bottles back with me to give to the sick of the parish.

The patroness of Minster - and of Thanet (the local area, formally an island) - is St Mildred, the original monastery's second Abbess. Her symbol - and that of the other early Abbesses - is a deer. This goes back to a story concerning her mother, St Ermenburga/Domneva. A tame deer was let loose and the path the animal took determined the boundaries of the monastic land. The deer symbol can be found everywhere in the area.

It was great to spend a few peaceful days with the nuns, writing a few sermons for the coming weeks and catching up with prayer and reading. They invite priests wishing to make retreats to act as their chaplain, so they have a quick turn-over - and are prevented from getting bored by one priest's sermons! A family connection also made me feel very much at home - my mother's cousin, a monk of Ramsgate Abbey, was parish priest of Minster for many years and my great-aunt (who died in 1980 aged 95) lived in a bungalow owned by the Priory - all the sisters called her 'auntie.'


Sunday, 30 November 2008

Seasonal Music

Advent and Christmas are richly musical seasons and there are many recordings available of carols and noels, cantatas and oratorios. Each year I look with interest at the many new CDs produced for the festive Season, although it is always a great temptation to put on recordings of carols as soon as we light the first candle on the Advent Wreath.

Here are two particularly fine new CDs, though rather different from the usual ‘Ultimate Carol Collection’ or ‘Best Christmas CD Ever.’

Hieronymus Praetorius, Magnificats and motets
(The Cardinall’s Musick, Andrew Carwood)
Hieronymus Praetorius (1560-1629) – not to be confused with the slightly more famous Michael Praetorius (curiously not related) – worked in Hamburg and produced some ravishing and lively polyphonic music. This CD includes his masterpiece, the Magnificat quinti toni to which is attached two popular Christmas carols: Joseph, liber Joseph mein and In dulci jubilo (my favourite carol). The booklet notes that the former piece was ‘associated with the cradle-rocking ceremony at Christmas vespers – a priest would sit next to a cradle containing an effigy of the baby Jesus and would rock the cradle gently in time to the lilting rhythm of the music.’ The Cardinall’s Musick is one of our best choirs and its director, Andrew Carwood, was formerly Director of Music at the Brompton Oratory and is now in charge of the choir at St Paul’s Cathedral. For more information and samples, click here.

Natalis Cordat and Nicolas Saboly, Noel Baroque en Pays D’Oc
(La Camera delle Lacrime, Bruno Bonhoure)
This rather obscure CD contains C17 settings of French Noels by Natalis Cordat (c.1610-63), parish priest of Cussac-sur-Loire, and Nicolas Saboly, an organist in Avignon. It includes some familiar tunes, such as Li a pron de gens (allegedly written by Saboly to make fun of a lame priest he knew). The pieces are excitingly performed on period instruments and have a rustic charm, which makes you think back to C17 Provence. For more information and samples, click here.

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Monday, 24 November 2008

A Glimpse of Heaven DVD

Many of you will have a copy of Christopher Martin's A Glimpse of Heaven on your shelves, a handsome coffee table book about the most beautiful Catholic churches in England and Wales. This historical and architectural survey starts with the handful of pre-Reformation chapels in Catholic hands (East Hendred, Stonor, Ely Place, Slipper Chapel at Walsingham, Fitzalan Chapel at Arundel, Rotherwas) and finishes with the new Brentwood Cathedral, which is presented as a 'return to the past.'

Now there is a companion DVD, which has just arrived in the post and looks excellent, with good photography and commentaries from Christopher Martin and a host of special guests, including the bishop of Brentwood, the Abbot of Douai and Lord Camoys. I think I might show this to a parish group.
I was particularly interested in the chapters regarding C20 architecture, about which I know very little. There is a fairly balanced section on the 'liturgical and architectural revolution' of the 1960s and 70s, speaking of the tragic 'iconoclasm' of church buildings perpetuated by 'ignorant priests' and 'greedy architects.'

The double-DVD retails at £12.99 - but there's current a special offer in which you get both the book (worth £25) and DVD for only £25. A good idea for Christmas? Visit the Gracewing webpage and scroll down to A Glimpse of Heaven.


Wednesday, 19 November 2008


Continuing the Cardinal Pole theme - today I popped over to Lambeth Palace, at the invitation of a friend who works in the Library and has been very helpful in advising the diocesan archive. They have displayed some 'Pole memorabilia' to commemorate the 450th anniversary of his death and to show the English and Welsh bishops, who were over there on Monday. Particularly impressive was the Cardinal's register, with a magnificent depiction of his coat of arms (with more tassels than I have ever seen on a cardinaltial arms). There is a picture here (go to 'Image of the Month: November').

The Times has a report of the Requiem Mass held on Monday at Magdalen College, Oxford.


Monday, 17 November 2008

Cardinal Pole and Mary I - 1558-2008

Today is the 450th anniversary of the deaths of both Cardinal Pole, last Catholic Archbishop of Canterbury, and Mary Tudor. The English and Welsh bishops met today and visited Lambeth Palace to honour the memory of Cardinal Pole; meanwhile, a number of Requiem Masses were held in Oxford, Cambridge, Birmingham and London. I had the privilege of preaching at one of these:

We gather here this evening to remember a series of deaths that occurred exactly 450 years ago. At about six in the morning of 17 November 1558, Mary Tudor died at St James’ Palace, as Mass was being celebrated in her chamber and the priest was elevating the Sacred Host. Twelve hours later her cousin, Reginald Pole, Cardinal Priest of Santa Maria in Cosmedin and Archbishop of Canterbury, died across the river at Lambeth Palace. With them died hopes for an English Catholic restoration and the subsequent long reign of Elizabeth did much to consolidate the newly-founded Church of England.

The two cousins had much in common. Both had saintly mothers – in the Queen’s case, Catherine of Aragon (the discarded wife of Henry VIII, who remained loyal to the Catholic Faith and to the bonds of marriage); in the Cardinal’s case, Blessed Margaret Pole, the last of the Plantagenets and martyr. When Pole heard of her execution in May 1541, he declared that ‘until now I had thought God had given me the grace of being the son of the one of the best and most honoured ladies in England...but now he has vouchsafed to honour me still more by making me the son of a martyr.’ Both the Queen and the Cardinal also tried to heal the English schism but their efforts were cut short by premature death. Both have been largely vilified by posterity – the Queen remembered as ‘Bloody Mary’ and the Cardinal as her henchman.

At this Mass, we particularly pray for the repose of the soul of Cardinal Pole and we pay tribute to his legacy, even though when he died all his efforts seemed to have failed. Mgr Robert Hugh Benson once wrote that ‘it is hardly possible to imagine a character less suited, in popular estimation, to the needs of his time, than was that of Reginald Pole to the period of the English schism. They were days of fierceness, brutality and literally Machiavellian diplomacy; and the nature of the Cardinal who played so great a part in them was one of gentleness, kindness and simple transparence...It is no wonder then that the Cardinal, a lover of peace and study, sensitive in conscience and passionately zealous for souls, should, as the world reckons success, have failed in nearly every task to which he set his hand.’

In the eyes of the world, Pole was a failure. He failed in his various diplomatic missions or legations aimed against King Henry. He famously failed to be elected Pope by just a handful of votes in the Conclave of 1549 – so certain was his election thought to be that pontifical vestments were even made for him. He failed in his desire for the Church to reach reconciliation with the schismatics and, in fact, at the time of his death he was suspected by Rome of having Protestant sympathies - only the protection of Queen Mary prevented him from facing the Roman Inquisition. Moreover, his plans for Catholic restoration in England ultimately came to nothing.

Pole was perhaps a failure in temporal terms, and yet his failure can be seen also as a victory from the perspective of Divine grace. Though, unlike his mother, he was not called to shed his blood for the Faith, he risked much in defending the Papal primacy.

We remember him today as a great scholar and the friend of the likes of Michelangelo. We recall his central role in the opening sessions of the Council of Trent. Above all, we celebrate his achievements in England, even though they were left unfinished. On 30 November 1554 he reconciled the realm to the Holy See during an emotionally-charged service at Whitehall Palace. ‘If the angels in Heaven,’ the Cardinal said, ‘rejoice over the conversion of a single sinner, what must be their joy to-day at the sight of a whole kingdom which repenteth?’ Pole set aside St Andrew’s Day as an annual celebration of ‘the return this kingdom to the unity of the Church.’ The following Sunday Pole was at St Paul’s and the Lord Chancellor, Bishop Gardiner, preached on the theme, ‘Now it is high time to awake out of sleep.’

Pole told Parliament that he aimed ‘not to pull down but to build; to reconcile not to censure; to invite but without compulsion.’ He took a gradual and realist approach to the Catholic restoration, confirming property rights and refusing help from St Ignatius and the newly-founded Jesuits - not because he opposed them but because he thought England was not yet ready and because they had too close a connection to Spain. Pole organised a Legatine Synod, perhaps his greatest legacy.. He stressed the importance of the residence of clergy and of preaching and catechesis in each parish. Most notably, he decreed ‘that in Cathedrals a certain number of initiated persons be brought up, whence as from a Seminary, men may be chosen who may be worthily set over Churches...We especially wish,’ he added, ‘the children of the poor to be chosen into these seminaries.’ The Cardinal was one of the first to speak of seminaries and anticipated the Tridentine decrees, though his vision would not be actualised in his own country for another 250 years.

But these battles and dreams have long since ended for our Cardinal. We pray that he is now at peace, united with his mother, the Blessed Margaret. Though we live in very different times, the battles that Pole fought so courageously have now passed down to us. The words of Bishop Gardiner, preached on that First Sunday of Advent 1554, echo in our ears: ‘Now it is high time to awake out of sleep.’ Like the Cardinal, it is up to us not so much to pull down but to build; to reconcile rather than simply to censure; to work for the unity of the Church and to re-evangelise our increasingly ‘post-Christian’ culture. As Fr Aidan Nichols showed recently, much of this project has to happen within the Church – the re-enchantment of the Sacred Liturgy, the on-going revival of catechesis and preaching, the rediscovery of the Catholic reading of the Bible, the preaching of the Gospel of Life and, most importantly, the continual striving for holiness on the part of us all. Cardinal Pole would approve of all these targets. As we pray for the repose of his soul (and also that of Mary Tudor), we continue to pray and work for the conversion of England.

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Thursday, 6 November 2008

Credit Crunch

Since everyone is currently talking about politics, especially in the wake of the American election, here is Chicago's Fr Robert Barron on the current financial crisis:


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