Catholicism in England

“This is your dowry, O Holy Virgin, wherefore, O Mary, may you rule over it.”

One of my first daytrips in London was to Tyburn Convent. This was still at the height of lockdown when travel was restricted. As is the case with many daytrips, the visit spurred my interest in the history of the convent and its link to the Sacred Heart of Jesus of Montmartre (in Paris) and the Tyburn Tree.

The visit also led me to the Gordon Riots and Barnaby Rudge by Charles Dickens. Although I didn’t find that book, serendipity lead me to The Stripping of the Altars: Traditional Religion in England, 1400–1580 by Eamon Duffy. This was a scholarly work and for months my posts were wholesale quotes from this tome.

I also bought Book in the Cathedral via book-store roulette and this wonderful little gem was the impetus behind my first trip to Canterbury in search of Thomas Becket. Although COVID restrictions made touring impossible, I did manage to pray in the nave. I also visited St Augustine’s Abbey. St Augustine was instrumental in introducing Catholicism to England in the 6th century.

I eventually made it back to Canterbury for a proper tour and to visit the place where Thomas Becket was murdered. I also read Murder in the Cathedral by T.S. Eliot on the train to Canterbury.

The Thomas Becket exhibit at the British Musuem was another moment of serendipity. The exhibit included stained-glass from Canterbury and the supposed book from the aforementioned Book in the Cathedral. It was the fountainhead for a planned pilgrimage to France across the English Channel to retrace the steps of Becket’s exile. My attempt at pilgrimage to France failed twice but was greatly supplanted by one to Walsingham.

Before the Reformation, Walsingham was visited by kings. The Wilton Tryptic, on display at the British Musuem, portrays a young King Richard II. His father was the Black Prince, buried in Canterbury Cathedral, and his grandfather was Edward III. Richard II was deposed during some internecine fighting, and some attribute that event to the troubles that what would befall the nation and monarchy in WAR OF THR ROSES. The Wilton Tryptic features Edward the Confessor¹ (holding the ring he gave John the Evangelist), Edmund the Martyr, and St John the Baptist. The significance of The Wilton Tryptic cannot be understated since it symbolizes Richard II “giving his kingdom into the hands of the Holy Virgin, thereby continuing a long tradition by which England was known as ‘Our Lady’s Dowry'”.

My pilgrimage to Walsingham was momentous NOT because it was the ONLY time I rented and drove a car in England, but because it is arguably the place of Catholic birth and rebirth in England. A pilgrimage to Walsingham includes prayers to reconsecrate England to Our Lady.

The bookend to my time in England was reading the Faith of our Fathers by Joseph Pearce. I was introduced to Pearce whilst doing some research on the history of Walsingham. He mentioned the idea for this book in a video on Walsingham. The book helped me understand the skittishness of English Catholics given the grisly history of martyrs and the still recency of emancipation via the Catholic Relief Act of 1829.

There were three other pilgrimage related trips. The first was to Plymouth where pilgrims often left for Camino de Santiago. The second was touring the northern cathedrals and the shrines of Hugh of Lincoln, Saint William of York, and St Cuthbert. The third was a daytrip to Ely in search of St Edmund who was felled by the Danes in defense of the faith.

In London I visited The Chapel of St George and the English Martyrs at Westminster Cathedral which commemorates so many of those martyrs. I was also starting to understand WHY so many Catholics in England appeared to worship so awkwardly, apologetically, and accidentally. There was more than one occasion when I thought clergy and parishioners had one eye over their shoulder half expecting the monarch (or a Lollard) to strip the altar.

What I witnessed was the bravery of Catholics in almost every generation. The Church of England cathedrals are just museums now and many parish churches are shuttered or are coffee / community centers. There is a coldness and desperation in those once holy places now devoid of consecrated altars. What has been left is man trying to fill that vacuum with his own holy objects (usually hideous art that tries in vain to lift man to God-like status) or substitutes like earth worship. The faith though is very much alive in those Catholic parishes I visited every Sunday on those weekend trips.

Related
The Catholic Heart of England
Some of My Best Friends Are Paintings (The Imaginative Conservative)
2 Mc 7:1-2, 9-14

¹Edward the Confessor will have his own post.

Historical Parallels

I’m reading Faith Of Our Fathers: A History of True England by Joseph Pearce. He first mentioned the IDEA for this book on YouTube. The content is surprisingly topical given the total marginalization of people of faith by secular fundamentalists and their trampling jackboots. The book is also full of hope since Catholicism has survived (and thrived) in the UK whilst most other churches have been razed or converted into museums and cafes.

Quotes from Faith Of Our Fathers: A History of True England:

“The king’s usurpation of the religious rights of the Church, and therefore the religious liberties of his subjects, set in motion a process of secular nationalism that would lead to the rise of the sort of secularism which ripens into secular fundamentalism. When the state gets too big for its boots, trampling on religious liberty, it is not long before the boots become jackboots, trampling on the defenseless and the weak, and piling up the bodies of its countless victims.”

“In terms of realpolitik, Henry would not have been able to get his hands on the wealth of the Church without bribing the nobles with a promise of a share of the plunder. Had the aristocracy not been bought in this way, they would no doubt have rebelled in defiance of the king and in defense of the Church. It was, therefore, in appealing to the baser appetites of the ignoble nobility that Henry succeeded in sacking the Church and removing her power from his realm.”

“Three days after the martyrdom of John Fisher, Henry ordered preachers to denounce the treasons of Sir Thomas More from their pulpits. Since More’s trial for treason wasn’t due to start until a week later, on July 1, the king’s orders signified, if such signification were necessary, that the trial was already a foregone conclusion and that only one verdict would be tolerated. The parallels with the justice system in other secular tyrannies, such as the show trials in the Soviet Union under Josef Stalin are clear enough.

“The plunder, which, Cobbett called an ‘act of monstrous tyranny’, was made possible by the passage of an Act of Parliament in March 1536 for the suppression of the monasteries and the passing of all property and wealth owned by these religious communities into the hands of the king and his heirs.”

“‘Almost overnight,’ wrote Simon Jenkins, ‘the City and its surrounding land saw a transfer of ownership and wealth on a scale not witnessed even during the Norman Conquest.’ The vast bulk of this property ‘passed to aristocrats, merchants and cronies of the monarch.'”

Related
A walk through Walsingham with Joseph Pearce (YouTube)
New Decorative Scheme for St George’s Chapel

Hymns of the fathers…

On Not Losing Heart (The Catholic Thing)

“Christianity’s centuries-long dominance in the West has led us to forget that the world doesn’t like the Good News, because it’s Bad News for many things the world would like to think are good. And the world doesn’t take the bad news lying down. It lashes out. Now that Christianity is weakening in the historic Christian nations, it should come as no surprise that the old attacks are appearing again.”

Weekend 535.1

Oblatis adquiesco salve honore Dei

(1) Dinner with a Long Spoon by Francis X. Maier (The Catholic Thing)

“We have the privilege and the obligation to make our country better through our service. But we do that best by recalling who we are, and acting accordingly. We’re Catholics first. We’re Americans second.”

(2) How Mother Teresa Challenged Hillary Clinton on Abortion (National Catholic Register)

“Then the sister said something that made everyone very uncomfortable: ‘But I feel that the greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion, because Jesus said, ‘If you receive a little child, you receive me.’ So every abortion is the denial of receiving Jesus, the neglect of receiving Jesus.'”

(3) MSNBC Condemns ‘Talk About The Constitution’ In SCOTUS Draft Opinion (NewsBusters)

Lenten Rosary 2022

For many, as I have often told you and now tell you even in tears, conduct themselves as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction. Their God is their stomach; their glory is in their “shame.” Their minds are occupied with earthly things. Phil 3:17-4:1

(1) A Pastoral Letter from Bishop Philip Egan (Bishop of Portsmouth)

“The churches of Italy were kept open day and night for prayer and sacraments; Christians were asked to undertake a deep, personal renewal and conversion of life, with prayer, self-denial and charity. Above all, everyone was encouraged to recite the Rosary, to invoke the help of the Blessed Virgin Mary.”