I am teaching a high school level course for Homeschool Connections this summer on “Poems Every Catholic Should Know”. I am passionate about the need for young people to be taught the value and wisdom to be found in great Christian verse. Anyone wishing to register for the course should check out this link:
Back in 2015 I led a pilgrimage to England with my good friend, Fr. Dwight Longenecker. One of the pilgrims who accompanied us was Linda Putman who has just sent me this wonderful summary of some of the highlights of our journey in the footsteps of the English saints and martyrs.
Reflections on a Pilgrimage to England in June 2015
My husband and I had never considered going to England, but we changed our minds when an opportunity arose for a trip hosted by Fr. Dwight Longenecker and Joseph Pearce. Here are some of the highlights.
Tyburn Tree is not a tree. “Tree” is a euphemism for “gallows”. Erected in 1571, the structure was actually a triple gallows – the crossbeam was in the shape of a triangle, perhaps for stability, perhaps for the efficiency of being able to hang several people at a time. Its location was in what is now London. The structure was built in 1571 after Queen Elizabeth I of England, who somehow received the unseemly nickname “Good Queen Bess”, in a vengeful response to the bull of excommunication issued by Pope Pius V, issued a law making it an act of treason for anyone in her realm to be a priest or to harbor or help one. The penalty for those convicted was to be hanged, drawn and quartered, “[t]hat is, the condemned criminal, after being drawn to Tyburn on a hurdle or rough sledge by a horse, at Tyburn was first hanged on the gallows, then drawn or disemboweled, and finally quartered, his quarters being placed high in public places as a warning to others.” . Over 100 Catholics died there during Elizabeth’s reign. A brochure published by the nuns of Tyburn Convent indicates, “In the early 19th Century, all the place names associated with Tyburn field were changed … the little stream Ty was built over and Tyburn was forgotten …” The English government is a master of rewriting history.
The stone in a traffic island that marks the location of Tyburn gallows: https://upload.wikimedia.org/
The “monument” in situ: https://c1.staticflickr.com/1/
The Tower of London
Once a residence for royalty, the Tower of London became a prison during the 16th century, generally to hold high-profile prisoners for a short period of time.  Among the Catholic martyrs imprisoned at the Tower of London during the reigns of King Henry VIII and his illegitimate daughter and heir to the throne, Queen Elizabeth I, were:
· St. Thomas More, Lord High Chancellor of England
· St. Edmond Campion, priest
· St. Philip Howard, Earl of Arundel
· St. Nicholas Owen, Jesuit layman and priest hole builder
· Henry Walpole, priest
· St. John Fisher, cardinal
· Blessed Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury, (mother of Cardinal Reginald Pole, the last Catholic Archbishop of Canterbury, who played a role at the Council of Trent) who was martyred at age 67.
A portrait of some of the English martyrs (St. Philip Howard is pictured with the dog that was his companion in prison): http://1.bp.blogspot.com/–
Priest holes were built into secreted areas in the homes of those who were brave enough to commit the high crime of hiding a priest. St. Nicholas Owen, mentioned above, was particularly talented at constructing these hiding places, not only because of his carpentry abilities but also because he was a dwarf. Depending on where they were located and who financed their erection, the holes varied from very rough, little spaces to elaborate, well-hidden rooms. The priest hole at Oxburgh Hall in Norfolk was built under a toilet seat (the waste, thankfully, was diverted to spill into the moat below). Climbing into a priest hole as I did can make you appreciate, more than anything you might hear or read, the courage of the priests who risked their lives to minister to the Catholics in England. There’s barely room to turn around. Considering the size of them, I will never be able to figure out how Fr. Longenecker and Joseph Pearce both managed to get into this hole.
A selfie by Fr. Dwight Longenecker of Joseph Pearce and himself in a priest hole at Oxburgh Hall in England (they used the occasion to sing the Salve Regina): http://www.
The hole from the exterior: http://www.
Oxburgh Hall is itself a remarkable legacy. It was built in the late 15th century by Sir Edmund Bedingfeld and, despite being owned and inhabited by a Catholic family, they somehow managed to keep hold of the beautiful property and live there till this day. Although a private residence, it is open to the public. The link below provides a timeline of its distinguished history:
The Stolen Church Properties
During those terrible years of the English “reformation”, the monarchy confiscated vast amounts of Church buildings and land. It brings tears to the eyes to tour these once-magnificent holy places. Westminster Abbey now looks more like a cross between a museum and mausoleum than a house of worship, with countless tombs and memorials to military men, royalty and government leaders that litter the entryway.
Canterbury Cathedral, site of the martyrdom of St. Thomas à Becket, was depressing mainly because of the removal of a shrine at the spot of his death. All that remains is a small lit candle.
(Photos from the Putman private collection.)
At Ely Cathedral, most of the priceless stained glass windows were destroyed and the statues of saints beheaded. Here is the statue of “Mary” that now adorns the Lady Chapel:
Fortunately, the resolution in the picture is not very good; if it was, you would be able to see the image’s nipples protruding from beneath her bodice. Another opportunity for Jesus to weep.
The Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham, a major pilgrimage site for people all over Britain since the 11th century, was demolished in 1538 at the order of Henry VIII. You can read its history here: http://www.walsingham.org.uk/
Oddly enough, after razing the original holy place, the Anglicans erected a reproduction there in the early part of the 20th century. The site of the true shrine continues to attract pilgrims from all over the world, Catholic and denominational alike.
It is arrogant that, after confiscating our properties, the Church of England now charges us a fee to view them. I have never been made to pay to enter a Catholic Church. Of course, this is the main means of maintaining the properties – little comes into the coffers from the worshippers as there are so few of them. See the graph below for the religious demographics of England:
In addition to the theft and desecration of our holy sites, one of the things that most impressed me about the journey was that the people of England are largely clueless about what happened in the 16th century. We Americans knew far more about their history than they did. Our English tour guide and bus driver were having continual “a-ha” moments as they learned, from Fr. Longenecker (who, born and raised in the US, lived in England for 25 years) and Joseph Pearce (who was born and raised there), much they had never heard before. Even the tour guides at the various sites, such as Westminster Abbey, toed the party line by prattling the “politically correct” narrative. The tour books (Fodor’s, et al) were no better at disclosing the real history of Catholicism in England and all the horrors our brothers and sisters withstood. 40 Catholic martyrs were canonized and 85 were beatified from the reign of terror called the English Reformation. One thing England excelled at was sowing the blood of martyrs. Slowly but surely seeds will begin to sprout.
In my latest article for the Journal of the Cardinal Newman Society I recall my recent firsthand experience of the educational legacy of Don Briel and G. K. Chesterton at speaking engagements in the Twin Cities and Chicago:
In my latest article for the Imaginative Conservative I reflect on questions of faith and physics in light of the life and legacy of Stephen Hawking:
An article of mine on parental rights and responsibilities, originally published by the Journal of the Cardinal Newman Society, has just been picked up by the Imaginative Conservative:
My latest article for the Imaginative Conservative looks at the orientation of Man. Who are we? Where are we in relation to others? And how do we relate to our neighbours, and equally importantly, how do we relate to ourselves? In short, how do we get our bearings? How do we orient ourselves? My endeavour to answer these axiomatic questions can be read here:
In my latest article for the Journal of the Cardinal Newman Society I argue that the fortress mentality is sometimes needed in Catholic education to prevent its being swept away by the polluted mainstream:
Misfits & Mystics:
Flannery O’Connor and Friends
The March/April issue of the St. Austin Review is hot off the press. Focusing on Flannery O’Connor and her world, highlights of the new issue include:
Veronica A. Arntz sees “Grace and the Grotesque” as signifiers of “Redemption in the Southern Literature of Flannery O’Connor”.
Jessica Pipes focuses on “Flannery O’Connor and a World Off-Balance”.
Jacob Terneus examines “How the Violent Bear it away and Bring it Back Again”, exemplifying “Prophetic Violence” in Flannery O’Connor’s work.
Mark Deavin sees “Racism as Shadow Projection” in Flannery O’Connor’s “Everything that Rises Must Converge”, revealing “Catholic and Jungian Symbolism”.
Dan Rattelle delves into “Flannery O’Connor, the Christ-Haunted South, and Sundance TV’s Rectify”.
Kevin O’Brien, playing the misfit, insists that “Every Blood that Wises Must Bear it Away”.
Donald DeMarco admires “The Unsentimental Southerner”.
Samuel Goldenburg, in the full colour art feature, showcases “The Special Needs and Extra Special Gifts” of artist Bruce Gillespie.
K. V. Turley’s regular “Faith on Film” column focuses on Grizzly Man and its misguided “Longing for Eden”.
Samantha Reynolds is “Razing Giants”, musing on the fact that “Only Love and Prayer can Vanquish the Goliath Despair”.
Susan Treacy’s music column examines the place of “Hymns in Catholic Life and Worship”.
John-Paul Donlon praises the music of the Hillbilly Thomists.
Mitchell Kalpakgian reviews Ecce Homo: On the Divine Unity of Christ by Aaron Riches.
Thomas Martin reviews Political Philosophy and Revelation by James V. Schall, SJ.
Kenneth Colston reviews Cor Jesu Sacratissimum: From Secularism and the New Age to Christendom Renewed by Roger Buck.
Portia Hopkins reviews The Arts and the Christian Imagination by Clyde S. Kilby.
Stephen Mirarchi reviews Benedict’s Daughter by Philip C. Kolin.
Thomas Banks reviews The Mystery of the Magi by Fr. Dwight Longenecker.
And, last but not least, there’s new poetry by N. S. Boone, Casey J. Chalk, Pavel Chichikov, Thomas Banks, Conor Gallagher and David Lyle Jeffrey.
Don’t Miss Out! Become a Wise Man. Follow the StAR! Subscribe today at www.staustinreview.org.
Last week we posted a link to the interactive map of the English martyrs. The post was read by the folks at the Catholic Herald in England who then invited the map’s creator, Graeme Garvey, to write about his making of it. Here’s his article:
My latest article for the Imaginative Conservative is a review of Glen Arbery’s brilliant novel, Bearing and Distances, which offers penetrating insights into the mystery of suffering: