Friday, 31 October 2008

Defensor Fidei

Everyone knows that Henry VIII was granted the title 'Defender of the Faith' by the Pope a few years before he split with Rome, since he had proved to be an eloquent opponent of Luther in his Assertio Septem Sacramentorum (penned with the help of St John Fisher).

I recently came across an account of King James II, then in exile, visiting La Trappe and sitting in the sanctuary during High Mass on 25 November 1690. 'At the beginning of the Gospel,' writes Ailbe J. Luddy, O.Cist in The Real De Rance (Dublin 1931), 'he unsheathed his sword and held it aloft in his right hand until the deacon had finished: this was the custom of the English Sovereigns since the time when Henry VIII received from the Pope the title Defensor Fidei. He received Holy Communion, kneeling on the second step of the altar, and heard a low Mass in thanksgiving.'

I must confess I had never heard of this custom before. Did Henry VIII wield a sword during solemn Masses before the Reformation or was it a tradition created by James II? Can anybody enlighten me?

Incidentally, Fisher Press has just published a new edition of the King's Assertio Septem Sacramentorum, with an introduction by historian Richard Rex (Reader in Reformation History at Queen's College, Cambridge):

Sunday, 19 October 2008

New Beati

Turning on EWTN for a moment this morning, I was reminded that today is the day of the beatification of the parents of St Therese at Lisieux. Of course, the annals of the saints contain many examples of parents and children who have been raised to the altars: St Helena, mother of St Constantine; St Monica, mother of St Augustine; St Wilfrida, mother of St Edith of Wilton; St Ethebert of Kent, father of St Ethelburga (who married St Edwin of Northumbria). But it's unusual for both parents of a saint to be recognised for their sanctity, especially in the modern age.

I hope eventually they will be included in the Universal Calendar (presumably after their eventual canonisation, Deo volente) since the Martin family remind us that holiness is possible in a modern family and that, with the help of God's grace, the ups and downs of family life are a means to this.

Indeed, despite their many secular responsibilities, both Louis and Zelie had deep prayer lives and made their family a veritable domestic church. The fruits of their love and devotion can be seen in the subsequent lives of their daughters - all of them (eventually) nuns and one a Doctor of the Church (whose relics will 'tour' the UK next year). Louis and Zelie also had to face many trials and both died after long and painful illnesses (in Zelie's case, at a young age).

Blesseds Louis and Zelie Martin, pray for us!


Saturday, 4 October 2008

The Papal Zouaves

I've just read a recently-published book, The Pope's Legion: The Multinational Fighting Force that Defended the Vatican, by Charles A. Coulombe. It's the first English study of the Papal Zouaves in over a century and serves as a good introduction to this regiment of volunteers from all over Christendom who banded together to defend Blessed Pius IX and his temporal sovereignty between 1860 and 1871.

The New York Herald of 10 June 1868 numbered the zouaves at 4,592, including 50 Englishmen, 10 Scots, 101 Irish, 14 Americans and 135 Canadians. Even Africa and China were represented. The largest nationality was, perhaps surprisingly, the Dutch (1,910), followed by the French (1,301).

One of the most interesting parts of the book is the Appendix, containing 'Songs of the Zouaves' and a homily preached by Mgr Ignacio Barreiro of HLI at a Mass in Memory of the Pope's Soldiers. There is a useful list of 'Zouave Sites,' ranging from the monument in the Lateran's Blessed Sacrament Chapel to the Netherlands Zoavenmuseum at Oudenbosch, near the Basilica of SS Agatha and Barbara built in the Zouaves' honour (a must visit, it seems, if you happen to be passing Oudenbosch). In France there are several 'uniformed societies of descendants and re-enactors,' such as the Societe Royale des Zouaves Pontificaux de Thuin and a similar organisation at Jumet. Every parish needs one:

Coulombe's book tells a thrilling story, although those who know little about the process of Italian Unification might get lost amidst the narrative of battles and campaigns. It would also have been good to have had more quotes from primary sources. However I'm delighted that a book has been published about this neglected story and hopefully future studies will bring us more details about recruitment, organisation, the daily life of the Zouave and the individuals who joined.

The English Zouaves included:
  • Alfred Collingridge, who left a Jesuit novitiate in order to join and died in action.

  • George Collingridge, his brother, who later emigrated to Australia and became a well known wood engraver and author.

  • James Coventry from the New Forest who later became a skilled photographer - a book was recently published about him.

  • Joseph Stanislaus Hansom, son of the famous architect and inventor of the 'Hansom cab,' who himself entered his father's profession. The former Zouave designed the churches of the Holy Name, Manchester; Arundel Cathedral; St Aloysius, Oxford (now the Oratory); Our Lady, Teignmouth; the Servite Churches at Bognor and Fulham, and portions of Fort Augustus Abbey and Portsmouth Cathedral.

  • John George Kenyon, who was received into the Church while at Christ Church, Oxford (1870) and joined the Zouaves shortly afterwards. He built the church at Gillingham and was named a Private Chamberlain to Leo XIII.

  • Joseph Powell, author of Two Years in the Pontifical Zouaves.

  • Bartholomew Teeling, who later became the first Secretary of the Catholic Union of Ireland and was named a Private Chamberlain by St Pius X in 1907.He wrote My First Prisoner, a tale of Rome in the first days of its occupation by Victor Emmanuel.

  • Julian Watts-Russell (‘Giulio’), son of the Vicar of Benefield who converted in 1845 and joined the Zouaves, together with his brother Wilfrid. Julian was killed at the battle of Mentana (1867), one of the most notable papal victories, and was treated almost as a martyr; his monument is still preserved at the Venerable English College, Rome. Interestingly, the year after his death Julian's father, Michael (a widower), was ordained as a Westminster priest. Another brother, Michael junior, became a Passionist and superior of their house at Highgate.

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