Elsewhere: Catholic Kabbalah

Portrait of Giles of Viterbo in his old Palazzo (Source)

Over at Church Life Journal, Andrew Kuiper has a tour-de-force article on the history and theology of Catholic Kabbalah. His review of four Catholic Kabbalists – Pico della Mirandola, Johannes Reuchlin, Giles of Viterbo, and St. John Fisher – is a model of intellectual history. He does a great job showing the continuing relevance of Kabbalah for Catholic (and other Christian) thinkers throughout the centuries.

The piece is amply cited and provides several helpful theological considerations. I thought Kuiper’s nod towards Sophiology was particularly enlightening. If Christian Kabbalah has a place in Catholic theology today, I predict that it will be in the writings of latter-day Sophiologists.

If I were to offer a criticism of Kuiper’s piece, it would be a very minor one at that: he makes no reference to the works of Margaret Barker. Her research has shed a new light on the roots of Christianity and Jewish mysticism (in both its Merkabah and later Sephirotic developments) in the memory of the First Temple. Reading Kabbalistic texts through a Temple lens can ease their Christian interpretation. But I digress.

Pico della Mirandola, a pioneer in the Christian use of Kabbalah. (Source)

Perhaps the most exciting part of the article, for a historian of the period, is Kuiper’s various references to the Kabbalistic books written by these Christians of the 15th and 16th centuries. I would particularly keen on finding the text of Giles of Viterbo’s Shechina or Pico’s Heptaplus. Some of these hard-to-find volumes have never been translated into English.

It is not easy to summarize the teachings of the Jewish mystics, nor their Christian interpreters. Kuiper does both with commendable attention to detail and obvious competence, all while keeping things clear and concise enough for a lay reader. This article also provides a badly-needed defense of the respectability of Kabbalah as a field of study. Its bastardization in recent times, exemplified most clearly by Madonna et al., has led some to question whether Kabbalah is anything more than a gnostic mishmash of magic with Hebrew letters. I have heard colleagues dismiss it entirely as a field of serious inquiry for a historian or theologian. This tendency seems especially strong with Christian academics, many of whom retain outdated ideas about Jewish mysticism or who simply haven’t up with the post-Scholem rediscovery of Kabbalah. Kuiper’s intervention is a broadside against this boring complacency. It’s not exactly “a cruel angel’s thesis,” but it is one worth defending.

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Litany of the French Saints

In the wake of recent tragic events, here is a litany (adapted from here) to the saints of France. May they pray for us, for France, and for the faithful of that great nation.

Notre Dame de Paris, priez pour nous! (Source)

V. Kyrie, eléison.
R. Christe, eléison.
V. Kyrie, eléison.

V. Christe, audi nos.
R. Christe, exáudi nos.

V. Pater de cælis, Deus.
R. Miserére nobis.

V. Spíritus Sancte, Deus.
R. Miserére nobis.

V. Sancta Trínitas, unus Deus.
R. Miserére nobis.

Holy Mary, pray for us.
Holy Mother of God, pray for us.
Holy Virgin of virgins, pray for us.
St. Michael, pray for us.
St. Gabriel, pray for us.
St. Raphael, pray for us.
All you Holy Angels and Archangels, pray for us.
St. John the Baptist, pray for us.
St. Joseph, spouse of the Blessed Virgin, pray for us.
All you Holy Patriarchs and Prophets, pray for us. Holy Mary, pray for us.
Holy Mother of God, pray for us.
Holy Virgin of virgins, pray for us.
Our Lady of Paris, pray for us.
Our Lady of La Salette, pray for us.
Our Lady of Lourdes, pray for us.
Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, pray for us.
Our Lady of Rocamadour, pray for us.
Our Lady of Pontmain, pray for us.

St. Peter, pray for us.
St. Paul, pray for us.
St. Andrew, pray for us.
St. James, pray for us.
St. John, pray for us.
St. Thomas, pray for us.
St. James, pray for us.
St. Philip, pray for us.
St. Bartholomew, pray for us.
St. Matthew, pray for us.
St. Simon, pray for us.
St. Jude, pray for us.
St. Matthias, pray for us.
St. Barnabas, pray for us.
St. Luke, pray for us.
St. Mark, pray for us.
St. Mary Magdalene, pray for us.
All you holy Apostles and Evangelists, pray for us.
All you holy Disciples of the Lord, pray for us.
All you holy Innocents, pray for us.
All you holy Virgins, pray for us.

St. Abbo of Fleury , pray for France and the whole world.
St. Adelaide of Italy , pray for France and the whole world.
St. Adelelmus of Burgos , pray for France and the whole world.
St. Adelelmus of Flanders , pray for France and the whole world.
St. Adelin of Séez , pray for France and the whole world.
St. Aderald , pray for France and the whole world.
St. Aimo , pray for France and the whole world.
St. Margaret Mary Alacoque , pray for France and the whole world.
St. Albert of Montecorvino , pray for France and the whole world.
St. Alexander (martyr) , pray for France and the whole world.
St. Andrew of Trier , pray for France and the whole world.
St. Anselm of Canterbury , pray for France and the whole world.
St. Anthony the Hermit , pray for France and the whole world.
St. Antoninus of Pamiers , pray for France and the whole world.
St. Artaldus , pray for France and the whole world.
St. Ascelina , pray for France and the whole world.
St. Auspicius of Toul , pray for France and the whole world.
St. Auspicius of Trier , pray for France and the whole world.
St. Aventinus of Tours , pray for France and the whole world.
St. Leonie Aviat , pray for France and the whole world.
St. Aymard of Cluny , pray for France and the whole world.

St. Baldwin of Rieti , pray for France and the whole world.
St. Madeleine Sophie Barat , pray for France and the whole world.
St. Bernard of Clairvaux
St. Bernard of Thiron , pray for France and the whole world.
St. Siméon-François Berneux , pray for France and the whole world.
St. Berno of Cluny , pray for France and the whole world.
St. Bertrand of Comminges , pray for France and the whole world.
St.Joan Elizabeth Bichier des Ages , pray for France and the whole world.
St. Julie Billiart , pray for France and the whole world.
St. Jean-Louis Bonnard , pray for France and the whole world.
St. Pierre Dumoulin-Borie Bourgeoys , pray for France and the whole world.
St. Jean de Brébeuf , pray for France and the whole world.

St. Canus Natus , pray for France and the whole world.
St. Clotilde, pray for France and the whole world.
St. Noël Chabanel , pray for France and the whole world.
St. Peter Chanel , pray for France and the whole world.
St. Jane Frances de Chantal , pray for France and the whole world.
St. Colette of Corbie , pray for France and the whole world.
St. Jean-Charles Cornay , pray for France and the whole world.

St. Antoine Daniel , pray for France and the whole world.
St. Marie-Nicolas-Antoine Daveluy , pray for France and the whole world.
St. Denis, pray for France and the whole world.
St. Dionysius of Vienne , pray for France and the whole world.
St. Domnin, pray for France and the whole world.
St. Pierre-Henri Dorie , pray for France and the whole world.
St. Rose Philippine Duchesne, pray for France and the whole world.
St. Louis Gabriel Taurin Dufresse, pray for France and the whole world.

St. Ebontius , pray for France and the whole world.
St. Élisabeth of the Trinity, pray for France and the whole world.
St. Elzéar of Sabran , pray for France and the whole world.
St. Émilie de Villeneuve , pray for France and the whole world.
St. Émilien of Nantes, pray for France and of the whole world.
St. Estelle , pray for France and the whole world.
St. John Eudes , pray for France and the whole world.
St. Peter Julian Eymard , pray for France and the whole world.

SS. Peter Faber, Felix, Fortunatus, and Achilleus, pray for France and the whole world.
St. Floribert of Liège, pray for France and the whole world.
St. Pierre Fourier, pray for France and the whole world.
St. Andrew Fournet , pray for France and the whole world.
St. Frederick of Liege , pray for France and the whole world.

St. François-Isidore Gagelin , pray for France and the whole world.
St. Charles Garnier , pray for France and the whole world.
St. Gaugericus , pray for France and the whole world.
St. Geneviève, pray for France and the whole world.
St. Gens, pray for France and the whole world.
St. Gérard of Brogne , pray for France and the whole world.
St. Goneri of Brittany , pray for France and the whole world.
St. Goswin , pray for France and the whole world.
St. René Goupil , pray for France and the whole world.
St. Guarinus of Sitten , pray for France and the whole world.
St. Théodore Guérin , pray for France and the whole world.
St Guirec , pray for France and the whole world.

St. Hilary of Poitiers , pray for France and the whole world.
St. Hugh of Noara , pray for France and the whole world.

St. Laurent-Joseph-Marius Imbert , pray for France and the whole world.
St. Isabelle of France , pray for France and the whole world.

St. Joan of Arc, pray for France and the whole world.
St. Joan of France, Duchess of Berry , pray for France and the whole world.
St. Isaac Jogues , pray for France and the whole world.
St. John of the Grating , pray for France and of the whole world.
St. Judoc , pray for France and the whole world.
St. Julian the Hospitaller , pray for France and the whole world.

St. Jean-Baptiste de La Salle , pray for France and the whole world.
St. Catherine Labouré , pray for France and the whole world.
St. Benedict Joseph Labre , pray for France and the whole world.
St. Jean de Lalande , pray for France and the whole world.
St. Gabriel Lalemant , pray for France and the whole world.
St. Lambert of Vence, pray for France and the whole world.
St. Jeanne de Lestonnac, pray for France and the whole world.
St. Leudwinus, pray for France and the whole world.
St. Louis IX, King of France, pray for France and the whole world.

St. Magloire, pray for France and the whole world.
St. Jeanne-Marie de Maille , pray for France and the whole world.
St. Malo, pray for France and the whole world.
St. Joseph Marchand, pray for France and the whole world.
St. Marie of the Incarnation, pray for France and the whole world.
St. Louise de Marillac, pray for France and the whole world.
SS. Louis Martin and Marie-Azélie Guérin, pray for France and the whole world.
St. Maurice of Carnoet Méen, pray for France and the whole world.
St. Louis de Montfort, pray for France and the whole world.

St. Nazarius, pray for France and the whole world.

St. Odo of Cluny, pray for France and the whole world.
St. Ormond, pray for France and the whole world.

St. Paternus of Auch Patiens, pray for France and the whole world.
St. Vincent de Paul, pray for France and the whole world.
St. Paulinus of Trier , pray for France and the whole world.
St Mary Euphrasia Pelletier , pray for France and the whole world.
St. John Gabriel Perboyre , pray for France and the whole world.
St. Peter of Juilly , pray for France and the whole world.
St. Peter of Tarentaise , pray for France and the whole world.
St. William Pinchon , pray for France and the whole world.
St. Prosper of Aquitaine , pray for France and the whole world.

St. Quintian of Rodez , pray for France and the whole world.

St. Raymond of Barbastro , pray for France and the whole world.
St. Raymond of Toulouse , pray for France and the whole world.
St. Richard of Vaucelles , pray for France and the whole world.
St. Richardis, pray for France and of the whole world.
St. Roch , pray for France and the whole world.
St. Émilie de Rodat , pray for France and the whole world.
St. Benildus Romançon , pray for France and the whole world.
St. Elizabeth Rose , pray for France and the whole world.

St. Francis de Sales , pray for France and the whole world.
St. Saturnina , pray for France and the whole world.
St. Augustin Schoeffler , pray for France and the whole world.
St. Serenus the Gardener, pray for France and the whole world.
SS Severinus, Exuperius, and Felician, pray for France and the whole world.
St. Sigo , pray for France and the whole world.
St. Bernadette Soubirous , pray for France and the whole world.
St. Stephen of Obazine , pray for France and the whole world.
St. Theobald of Dorat , pray for France and the whole world.
St. Theodard , pray for France and the whole world.
St. Theophilus of Corte , pray for France and the whole world.
St. Thérèse of Lisieux , pray for France and the whole world.
St. Thérèse Couderc, pray for France and the whole world.
St. Claudine Thévenet , pray for France and the whole world.
St. Joan Antidea Thouret , pray for France and the whole world.
St. Tironensian Order , pray for France and the whole world.
St. Torpes of Pisa , pray for France and the whole world.

St. Marie Thérèse Vauzou , pray for France and the whole world.
St. Venant de Viviers , pray for France and the whole world.
St. Théophane Vénard , pray for France and the whole world.
St. Veranus of Vence , pray for France and the whole world.
Sy. Emily de Vialar , pray for France and the whole world.
St. John Vianney , pray for France and the whole world.
St Vincent of Digne , pray for France and the whole world.

St. Walric, abbot of Leuconay , pray for France and the whole world.
St. William of Æbelholt , pray for France and the whole world.
St. William of Breteuil , pray for France and the whole world.
St. William of Donjeon , pray for France and the whole world.
St. William of Gellone , pray for France and the whole world.
St. William of Pontoise , pray for France and the whole world.
St. Wivina, pray for France and the whole world.

St. Zachary of Vienne, pray for France and the whole world.

Louis XVI, pray for France and the whole world.
Marie-Antoinette, pray for France and the whole world.
Cardinal Bérulle, pray for France and the whole world.
Monsieur Olier, pray for France and the whole world.
Madame Élisabeth, pray for France and the whole world.
Mère Thérèse de Saint-Augustin, pray for France and the whole world.
Mère Mectilde de Bar, pray for France and the whole world.
Mère Yvonne-Aimeé de Jésus, pray for France and the whole world.

All ye holy martyrs, pray for France
All ye holy kings and queens, pray for France and the whole world.
All ye holy bishops, pray for France and the whole world.
All ye holy priests and deacons, pray for France and the whole world.
All ye holy monks and nuns, pray for France and the whole world.
All ye holy virgins, pray for France and the whole world.
All ye holy men and women, pray for France and the whole world.

PRAY FOR FRANCE.

Ye holy men and women, Saints of God,
R. intercede for us.
Be merciful
R. spare us, O Lord.
Be merciful
R. graciously hear us, O Lord.
From all evil,
R. deliver us, O Lord.
From all sin,
R. deliver us, O Lord.
From Thy wrath,
R. deliver us, O Lord.
From sudden and unprovided death,
R. deliver us, O Lord.
From the snares of the devil,
R. deliver us, O Lord.

From anger, hatred, and all ill-will,
R. deliver us, O Lord.
From the spirit of fornication,
R. deliver us, O Lord.
From lightning and tempest,
R. deliver us, O Lord.
From the scourge of earthquake,
R. deliver us, O Lord.
From plague, famine and war,
R. deliver us, O Lord.
From everlasting death,
R. deliver us, O Lord.
. Through the mystery of Thy holy Incarnation,
R. deliver us, O Lord.
Through Thy coming,
R. deliver us, O Lord.
Through Thy nativity,
R. deliver us, O Lord.
Through Thy Baptism and holy fasting,
R. deliver us, O Lord.
Through Thy Cross and Passion,
R. deliver us, O Lord.
Through Thy Death and Burial,
R. deliver us, O Lord.
Through Thy Holy Resurrection,
R. deliver us, O Lord.
Through Thy wondrous Ascension,
R. deliver us, O Lord.
Through the coming of the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete,
In the day of judgment,
R. deliver us, O Lord.

SUPPLICATION FOR VARIOUS NEEDS

We sinners,
R. we beseech Thee, hear us.
That Thou wouldst spare us,
R. we beseech Thee, hear us.
That Thou wouldst pardon us,
R. we beseech Thee, hear us.
That Thou wouldst bring us to true repentance,
R. we beseech Thee, hear us.
That Thou wouldst govern and preserve Thy Holy Church,
R. we beseech Thee, hear us.
That Thou wouldst preserve the Bishop of the Apostolic See, and all orders of the Church in holy religion,
R. we beseech Thee, hear us.
That Thou wouldst humble the enemies of Holy Church,
R. we beseech Thee, hear us.
That Thou wouldst grant peace and true concord to Christian kings and princes,
R. we beseech Thee, hear us.
That Thou wouldst grant peace and unity to all Christian peoples
R. we beseech Thee, hear us.
That Thou wouldst call back to the unity of the Church all who have strayed from her fold, and to guide all unbelievers into the light of the Gospel
R. we beseech Thee, hear us.
That Thou wouldst confirm and preserve us in Thy holy service,
R. we beseech Thee, hear us.
That Thou wouldst lift up our minds to heavenly desires,
R. we beseech Thee, hear us.
That Thou wouldst render eternal blessing to all our benefactors,
R. we beseech Thee, hear us.
That Thou wouldst deliver our souls and the souls of our brethren, relations and benefactors from eternal damnation,
R. we beseech Thee, hear us.
That Thou wouldst grant and preserve the fruits of the earth,
R. we beseech Thee, hear us.
That Thou wouldst grant eternal rest to all the faithful departed,
R. we beseech Thee, hear us.
That Thou wouldst graciously hear us,
R. we beseech Thee, hear us.

Son of God,
R. we beseech Thee, hear us.
Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world,
R. spare us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world,
R. graciously hear us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world,
R. have mercy on us.
Christ,
R. hear us.
Christ,
R. graciously hear us.
Kyrie, eleison.
R. Kyrie, eleison. Kyrie, eleison.
R. Kyrie, eleison.
Christe, eleison.
R. Christe, eleison. Christe, eleison.
R. Christe, eleison.
Kyrie, eleison.
R. Kyrie, eleison. Kyrie, eleison.
R. Kyrie, eleison.

Our Father (in silence until)
And lead us not into temptation,
R. but deliver us from evil.

V. O God, come to my assistance;
R. O Lord, make haste to help me.
V. Let them be confounded and ashamed;
R. those who seek my life.
V. Let them be rebuffed and disgraced,
R. those who wish me evil.
V. Let them be turned away blushing for shame,
R. those who say unto me: Aha! Aha!.
But let all those who seek Thee:
R. rejoice and be glad in Thee.
And may they always say: “Great is the Lord”,
R. all those who delight in Thy salvation.
V. But I am afflicted and poor ,
R. O God, help me.
Thou art my helper and deliverer,
R. O Lord, do not delay.
Amen. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
V. Save Thy servants.
R. My God, who hope in Thee.
V. Be unto us, O Lord, a tower of strength.
R. In the face of the enemy.

V. Let not the enemy prevail against us.
R. Nor the son of iniquity have power to harm us.
. V. O Lord, deal not with us according to our sins.
R. Nor render unto us according to our sins.

V. Let us pray for our Sovereign Pontiff Holy Father Pope Francis.

R. That The Lord preserve him and give him life, and make him blessed upon the earth, and deliver him not up to the will of his enemies.
V. Let us pray for our benefactors.
R. Deign to grant, O Lord, for the sake of Thy Name, eternal life to all those who do good to us.
V. Let us pray for the faithful departed.
R. Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord: and let perpetual light shine upon them.

R. Amen. V. May they rest in peace.
R. Amen.
V. For our absent brethren.
R. Save Thy servants who hope in Thee, O my God.
V. Send them help, O Lord, from Thy holy place.
R. And from Sion protect them.

V. O Lord, hear my prayer.
R. And let my cry come unto Thee.
V. The Lord be with you.
R. And with thy spirit.

Collects: Let us pray:

O God, Whose property is always to have mercy and to spare, receive our petition; that we and all Thy servants who are bound by the chain of sin may, by the compassion of Thy goodness mercifully be absolved.

Graciously hear, we beseech Thee, O Lord, the prayers of Thy supplicants and pardon the sins of those who confess to Thee: that in Thy bounty Thou mayest grant us both pardon and peace.
In Thy clemency, O Lord, show unto us Thine ineffabile mercy; that Thou mayest both free us from sins and deliver us from the punishments which we deserve for them.

O God, who by sin art offended, and by penance appeased, mercifully regard the prayers of Thy people making supplication to Thee; and turn away the scourges of Thy wrath which we deserve for our sins.

Almighty and everlasting God, have mercy upon Thy servant, N, our Sovereign Pontiff: and direct him according to Thy clemency into the way of everlasting salvation: that, by Thy grace, he may desire those things which are pleasing to Thee, and accomplish them with all his strength.

O God, from Whom are holy desires, right counsels, and just works: grant to Thy servants the peace which the world cannot give; that our hearts may be devoted to the keeping of Thy commandments, and that, being removed from the fear of our enemies, our times may be peaceful through Thy protection.

Inflame, O Lord, with the fire of the Holy Spirit, our hearts and our desires; that we may serve Thee with a chaste body and please Thee with a clean heart.

O God, the Creator and redeemer of all the faithful, grant to the souls of Thy departed servants the remission of all their sins; that through pious supplications they may obtain the pardon they have always desired.

Direct, we beseech Thee, O Lord, our actions by Thy holy inspirations and carry them on by Thy gracious assistance; that every prayer and work of ours may always begin with Thee and through Thee be happily ended.

Almighty and everlasting God, Who hast dominion over the living and the dead, and art merciful to all whom Thou foreknowest shall be Thine by faith and good works: we humbly beseech Thee; that they for whom we intend to pour forth our prayers, whether this present world still detains them in the flesh, or the world to come has already received them out of their bodies, may, through the intercession of all Thy Saints, and in Thy compassionate goodness, obtain the pardon of all their sins. Through Christ our Lord.

The Lord be with you.
R. And with Thy spirit.

R. Amen. V. May the almighty and most merciful Lord graciously hear us.
R. Amen.

R. Amen. V. And may the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.
R. Amen.

In nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti.

Amen.

Prayer of Pius XII for France (1937)


Mère céleste, Notre-Dame, vous qui avez donné à cette nation tant de gages insignes de votre prédilection, implorez pour elle votre divin Fils ; ramenez-la au berceau spirituel de son antique grandeur. Aidez-la à recouvrer, sous la lumineuse et douce étoile de la Foi et de la vie chrétienne, sa félicité passée. Regina pacis ! Oh ! Oui ! Soyez vraiment au milieu de ce peuple qui est vôtre la Reine de la paix, écrasez de votre pied virginal le démon de la haine et de la discorde. Faites comprendre au monde, où tant d’âmes droites s’évertuent à édifier le temple de la paix, le secret qui seul assurera le succès de leurs efforts : établir au centre de ce temple le trône royal de votre divin Fils et rendre hommage à sa loi sainte, en laquelle la justice et l’amour s’unissent en un chaste baiser. Et que par Vous la France, fidèle à sa vocation, soutenue dans son action par la puissance de la prière, par la concorde dans la charité, par une ferme et indéfectible vigilance, exalte dans le monde le triomphe et le Règne du Christ, Prince de la Paix, Roi des rois et Seigneur des seigneurs.

Amen.

May the prayers of Our Lady see this house rebuilt swiftly and mightily again! (Source)

St. Philip, the Massimo Miracle, and the Priesthood

The raising of Paolo Massimo (Source).

On March 16th, 1583, St. Philip Neri worked one of his greatest miracles. Having been called to the deathbed of Paolo, the young scion of the noble Massimo family, he arrived to find that he was too late. The youth was half an hour dead and, what’s worse, unshriven. But time and its corrosive powers are nothing before the grace of the Almighty. Thirty minutes of sorrow were given as the short prelude to a feat that would win this servant of God a heavenly renown and, for the youth himself, an eternity of joy.

We can imagine the scene well enough. The wailing mother, pressing her tear-stained face into the breast of her grieving husband, the servants praying for their dear lost lord, the doctors already retreating with a grimace of embarassment at their failure. Into this scene walks the silent old priest, calm as the eye of a hurricane. He receives the news with a stoic frown. Then, lifting his eyes in prayer, imploring the power of the hand that once raised Lazarus, he breathes upon the eyes so lately shut. He whispers,

“Paolo…Paolo…”

This invocation brings forth a mystery beyond reckoning – the boy stirs and wakes, as if he had only nodded off a few minutes before.

We can only imagine the joy that fell upon the hearts of the mourners. What stunned clamor must have erupted in that little chamber! Yet the saint is ever in control. He commands all to leave, that he might hear Prince Paolo’s confession. Having cleansed the boy’s soul with the assoiling balms of penance, St. Philip spoke to him for thirty minutes. Would that we had some record of their conversation! There can be no doubt that the solicitous confessor was preparing the soul to meet God.

For that is the strangest thing of all in the story of the Paolo Massimo’s resurrection. It was only temporary. The thirty minutes of death are undone, yes, but only for about another thirty minutes of life. The parents of the young prince were, no doubt, bitterly disappointed at this second loss, a departure made even more painful by the desperate hope it stirred in their hearts.

Yet it was a miracle indeed – and it shows us a salutary truth about miracles. They are not for our comfort. They are not granted to appease our desires, however noble. Providence instead works all things, natural and graced, with only one end in view – the greater glory of God. St. Philip was sent to bring Paolo Massimo into eternal life, not to grant him any more time on earth. That was his duty, the quintessential duty of every priest.

We live in an age when the priesthood seems so mired in scandal and banality, torn this way and that by the worldly ambitions of the clergy, stained with sins of every kind. Lust, violence, abuse, pride, vanity, greed, division, cruelty, party faction – all of these wicked tendencies and more have obscured the nobility of the sacerdotal office, a dignity drawn entirely from the crucified Heart of our Great High Priest.

That is why we must remember the story of St. Philip and Paolo Massimo. It reminds us of why we have priests – of what the priest must do, and of what he must be.

The priest is a conduit of grace. His steps, his works, his words, his hands do not belong to him, but to God. They step into the wounded rhythm of our natural life and bear the healing presence of the supernatural. They raise us from the dead, but only that we might make a better death in the end.

St. Philip’s miracle today is commemorated with a proper Mass. May he pray that all of us might rise from the living death of sin and enter a dying life of grace.

How to Celebrate Lent like a French Princess

Mesdames Victoire, Adélaide, and Louise, three of the pious daughters of Louis XV, known collectively as “Mesdames de France” or “Mesdames Tantes” after the accession of Louis XVI. Only Adélaide married; Louise later became a Carmelite prioress at Saint-Denis before having the extremely good fortune to die in 1787. Source

The inimitable John McManners, late Regius Professor of Ecclesiastical History at the University of Oxford, provides a window into the world of late Ancien Régime piety (or, rather, its dearth) in his monumental Church and Society in Eighteenth-Century France. He writes:

“To what extent was the fast of Lent observed? It was commonly said that the austerities of the penitential season were endured only by the poor. According to the Lenten pastoral letter of the archbishop of Sens in 1779, the rich often obtained medical certificates allowing them to eat what they liked. This was the fashionable thing to do. ‘Look at our bourgeois citizen and his wife in their (draper’s) shop, observing Lent strictly,’ said teh Jesuit Père Croisset in his Parallel des moeurs de ce siècle et la morale de Jesus-Christ (1727): ‘their fortune changes…and scarcely has the tape measure dropped from their hands than you see them putting on airs like people of quality and asking for dispensations from fasting.’ This class distinction was observed even in the kitchens of the Bastille: on the first Friday of his imprisonment, Marmontel gloomily at the meatless meal provided, not knowing that it had been meant for his servant. In any case, there were plenty of succulent dishes within the rules, for those who could afford them.

Empress Maria Theresa of Austria in the garb of a penitent (Source)

“Lent was the season to have tubs of fresh butter sent in from the countryside, and to ensure plentiful supplies of fish and water birds (the tes of an allowable fowl was: did the gravy remain uncongealed after fifteen minutes? – so a bishop gravely advised Mme Victoire, Louis XV’s pious but comfortable daughter). The peasant, whose existence is a perpetual Lent anyway, said Voltaire, awaits episcopal permission to eat his farmyard eggs, while the bishop himself looks forward to expensive dishes of soles. Certainly, things were well organized at Versailles. ‘A ray of grace has descended on us,’ wrote the duc de la Vallière in April 1756; ‘we fasted for three days a week during the whole of Lent, but on condition that we suffered no deprivations.’ Preachers were well aware that those with money and leisure could organize an attractive Lent for themselves: an occasional walk in a procession (a penitent’s garb was no disadvantage to a good-looking woman), extra time in bed to recuperate from privations, and food more delicately cooked and served than usual. ‘For some – God grant that there are none in my congregation today,’ thundered the Oratorian Surian, ‘Lent is a more agreeable time, in a sophisticated way, than the other seasons of the year.'”

(Vol. I, pg. 86-87).

Ah, the trials of the penitential season!

“Reversed Thunder, Christ-Side-Piercing Spear”

The holy side-wound of Christ, from a Book of Hours (Source)

Today is the Anglican commemoration of George Herbert, the great English cleric and metaphysical poet of the 17th century. He died on March 1st, 1633. In honor of this bard of the spirit, I offer to my readers one of my favorite Herbert poems. Every time I return to it, I find new edification.

“Prayer (1)”

George Herbert

Prayer the church’s banquet, angel’s age,
God’s breath in man returning to his birth,
The soul in paraphrase, heart in pilgrimage,
The Christian plummet sounding heav’n and earth
Engine against th’ Almighty, sinner’s tow’r,
Reversed thunder, Christ-side-piercing spear,
The six-days world transposing in an hour,
A kind of tune, which all things hear and fear;
Softness, and peace, and joy, and love, and bliss,
Exalted manna, gladness of the best,
Heaven in ordinary, man well drest,
The milky way, the bird of Paradise,
Church-bells beyond the stars heard, the soul’s blood,
The land of spices; something understood.

An Oxonian Blog Worth Reading

The dreaming spires of Oxford. (Source)

I have just discovered that Once I Was a Clever Boy, a blog I used to enjoy but was sorry to see in hiatus, has returned. John Whitehead, the blog’s author, is a friend and a Brother of the Little Oratory here in Oxford. He hasn’t put up any new content recently. Nevertheless, there was a long time when for whatever technical reason – either on John’s end or mine, I was never sure – the blog was totally inaccessible. I’m very happy to see it’s back, and I look forward to more content from this quintessentially Oxonian blog.

Anglo-Catholics and the Occult: My Church Times Debut

The Abbey in the Oakwood, by Caspar David Friedrich.


The Church Times have just published an article in which I summarize some of my research on the connection of Anglo-Catholics and the occult world. I’d like to thank my supervisor, Dr. Sarah Apetrei, and co-supervisor, the Rev. Canon Robin Ward, for their support throughout all of this. I’d also like to thank Fr. James Lawson for the early help he provided as well as Dr. Michael Yelton and those various other figures who have discussed the matter with me over the past year, often in words of encouragement. Hopefully the full paper will be published someday. For now, read here

Blessed Bernardo Francisco de Hoyos and the Challenge of Holiness

A statue of the Blessed Bernardo Francisco de Hoyos. (Source)

Earlier this year, I discovered a new friend in heaven – the Blessed Bernardo Francisco de Hoyos (1711-1735), a Jesuit mystic of the Sacred Heart. Today is his feast. I like Blessed Bernardo for a lot of reasons. I admit, it’s hard to get a great sense of his life story, as so many of the materials about him (or by him) are untranslated from their original Spanish. Nevertheless, a few things are clear.

We share a devotion to the Heart of Jesus. Blessed Bernardo received private revelations of Jesus in which he was shown the Sacred Heart, culminating in a monumental mystical union. While strange phenomena are by no means unheard-of in the lives of the saints, Bernardo’s story is unusual insofar as many of his experiences were more typical of female mystics. The Sacred Heart devotion itself was often seen (and ridiculed by Jansenists) as an effeminate innovation that oozed sentimentalism. It’s hard to square that view with the very real rigor of Blessed Bernardo’s Jesuit life. As usual, simple narratives tend to fail when placed against a far more interesting reality.

A devotional image of the Blessed Bernardo receiving a vision of the Sacred Heart. (Source)

The Spanish priest died when he was only 24. I will be 24 in a little over a month. It’s hard to imagine coming to the same heights of sanctity and intimacy with Jesus in such a short time. I look at my own spiritual life – scattered with sins and shortcomings, easily worn out, so often caught in a kind of lax scrupulosity – and I wonder how Bernardo did it.

Of course, it does rather help if you enter a Jesuit novitiate at the age of 14, as Bernardo did. That’s a good ten years of arduous ascetic labor and practice at prayer. All the same, lots of men entered religious life as youths in the early modern era. Not all of them achieved mystical marriage, one of the highest states of the interior life. And that even with many decades in the habit.

It occurs to me that, at the recent Vatican Youth Synod, stories like the Blessed Bernardo’s were mostly absent. The challenge of sanctity – indeed, its romance and adventure – were tepidly drawn at best. The tone of the discussions and of the later summary document may have been interpreted by some as a compassionate, realistic, and open-minded approach to the realities of life in the 21st century. But surely there was more than a touch of Dostoevsky’s Grand Inquisitor about the whole thing. You know the style. Holiness really is too hard, so we should make things easier – allow them to reach some other goal, some lesser goodness that isn’t holiness at all.

Yes, he may be a pious youth who’s terribly, terribly wan. But he’s in heaven, and you’re not. (Source)

The experience of all the saints, but especially mystics like Father Bernardo Francisco de Hoyos, runs counter to this maudlin spirituality.

The truth is much more dangerous, and much more exhilarating. Holiness demands heroic virtue. We are called to be heroes. But true heroism looks very different than what this world – or what a worldly hierarchy – thinks it is. It is a life of risk and sacrifice and no small discomfort. But the rewards it gives are beyond all telling.

Blessed Bernardo knew that. He knew that the only true recompense that the Christian will receive is Christ Himself. And so he went unflaggingly forward to the work he was given as a missionary of the Sacred Heart. His entire life was a brief, bright blaze of love for Jesus. In this, he rather resembles that other great devotionalist, Fr. Faber, who died at the age of 49, a full 27 years before Cardinal Newman. Souls like these are gifts to the whole Church. They kindle the love of God in their fellows and light the path to His holy mount.

But they also present us with a challenge. By incarnating the charity of God in such a visible way, they invite us to the same labors of love. All of us are called to gaze upon the Sacred Heart. Holiness is not an adventure closed to any of us, no matter how young (or old) we may be. If there is anything we can take from the story of Blessed Bernardo Francisco de Hoyos, priest, missionary, and mystic, it is this salutary truth.

Let us pray for the good Jesuit’s swift and sure canonization. And may he pray for us. (Source)

The Funerary Rites of James II

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Frontispiece of the Sacra Exequialia. Note the skeletons at the base of the candelabra and baldachin columns. (Source)

A forgotten Latin text of 1702, the Sacra Exequialia in Funere Jacobi II, provides some wonderful views of early modern Catholic funerary rites. Or at least, as those rites were employed for dead monarchs. The central text is Cardinal Barberini’s funeral oration for the king at Rome. Fun fact: if you Google “Exequialia,” it’s the first and one of the only results. While it may not be a hapax legomenon, it’s the sort of rare word that makes epeolaters and logophiles drool.

At any rate, I’m not writing this post because of Barberini’s text. The book’s more delicious feature is its several illustrations, including the wild Baroque decoration of the church of San Lorenzo in Lucina as well as several emblems.

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The decorations of San Lorenzo in Lucina for the occasion. (Source)

Of course, James II died in Paris and buried in the English Benedictine church there. It is a testament to the respect he was held in by the Papal court that a Cardinal of such standing as Carlo Barberini, Archpriest of the Vatican Basilica, should preach an oration for him in Rome.

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One of the marvellous emblems in the text. Note the Ouroboros. (Source)

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An image of London. There are similar views of Paris and Rome. All were at hung at the high altar behind the catafalque and its baldachin. (Source)

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Another moral emblem. I’m particularly fond of this one as the harp recalls not only the exile in Babylon (and thus the Jacobite exile) but also the valiant Irish defense of James’s claim to the throne in 1689. These also would have adorned the walls of the church alongside the King’s arms. (Source)

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A closer view of the skeletal flambeaux. One can never have too many at a funeral. (Source)

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Jacobite emblem accompanying the text of the Oration. (Source)

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A closer view of the frontispiece. Note the Pope flying over the catafalque. (Source)

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Here you can see the spooky scary skeletons all around the room. (Source)

 

The Charism of Eccentricity

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The 18th century was a Golden Age of clerical satire – and clerical eccentricity – in England. (Source)

What a day of loons it has been. After discovering the narrative of that wandering bishop which I brought to my readers’ attention earlier this afternoon, I have since come across two wonderful articles about the venerable tradition of eccentricity in the Church of England. The first is over at the Church Times. The Rev. Fergus Butler-Gallie, a curate in Liverpool, has written a book entitled A Field Guide to the English Clergy (One World Press, 2018). In his article at the CT, Butler-Gallie provides a taste of what is assuredly a very fun book indeed. Take just one of the bizarre figures he profiles:

William Buckland, a Victorian Dean of Westminster, became obsessed with eating as many animals as possible, from porpoise and panther to mole fricassee and mice on toast, even managing to gobble up the mummified heart of King Louis XIV while being shown round the Archbishop of York’s stately home.

He was no fool, though. The first person ever to excavate an entire dinosaur skeleton (although he was more interested in other prehistoric remains, writing on a desk made out of dinosaur faeces), he once disproved a supposed miracle in France by being able to prove (by taste, of course) that a supposed saint’s blood was, in fact, bat urine.

Or consider this parson:

The Revd Thomas Patten was a real-life Dr Syn, helping to run a smuggling operation on the north-Kent coast. Patten would preach interminably boring sermons until a parishioner held up a lemon, a sign that someone had agreed to buy his drinks for the evening at the tavern opposite, at which point he managed to terminate the service with astonishing alacrity (a ruse, I’m sure, no clergy reading this would even consider replicating).

If the rest of the book is as fascinating at these anecdotes suggest, it will be a classic in no time – right up there with Loose Canon and The Mitred Earl. Apparently it’s been getting rave reviews. (I’ll add that if any of you are looking for a Christmas gift for your favorite Catholic blogger, it’s going for under £10 at Amazon).

Today I also came across an article about one of Butler-Gallie’s subjects, the Rev. R.S. Hawker, also known as the “Mermaid of Morwenstow.” Alas, as I am not a subscriber to The Spectator, I cannot read it. Those who can are encouraged to do so.

One of my favorite clerical eccentrics whom I doubt that Butler-Gallie covers is the Rev. William Alexander Ayton, vicar of Chacombe in Oxfordshire.  You can read more about him in my article, “On the Wings of the Dawn – the Lure of the Occult.”

Though of course there are few stories of clerical eccentricity as amusing as the infamous dinner related by Brian Fothergill in his life of Frederick Hervey, Bishop of Derry. Fothergill tells us that

On one occasion when a particularly rich living had fallen vacant he invited the fattest of his clergy and entertained them with a splendid dinner. As they rose heavily from the table he proposed that they should run a race and that the winner should have the living as his prize. Greed contending with consternation the fat clerics were sent panting and purple-faced on their way, but the Bishop had so planned it that the course took them across a stretch of boggy ground where they were all left floundering and gasping in the mud, quite incapable of continuing. None reached the winning-point. The living was bestowed elsewhere and the Bishop, though hardly his exhausted and humiliated guests, found the evening highly diverting. (The Mitred Earl, 27).

Ballyscullion

Hervey also built what must have been one of the greatest gems of British Palladian architecture, Ballyscullion House. Alas, it is no longer extant, but has been reduced to a respectable if far less elaborate mansion. (Source) For a 3D model, see here.

If there’s one thing for certain, it’s that Anglicanism as lived in history is not a dry religion.

Allow me to indulge in a bit of crude cultural observation. It occurs to me that the national church of the English would inevitably partake of that quintessential English quality – eccentricity. Americans don’t produce real eccentrics. We breed individualists and, less commonly, outright weirdos. But the great British loon is mostly unknown to us. Eccentricity requires a certain localism, even an urban one, that has been mostly lost in the sprawling homelands of the American empire. Suburbs don’t produce eccentrics.

And more to the point, why should strangeness be so unwelcome in the Church? Why should the Church be bland and conformist and comfortable? Why must we labor on through the nauseatingly boring bureaucratic lingo and platitudinous sound-bites that so often seem to make up the bulk of our ecclesisatical discourse? Where is the sizzling fire cast to earth? Where is the light and heat of the Holy Ghost? In reviewing the proceedings of the recent Youth Synod, I was dismayed to find so little that genuinely spoke of the sacred. It so often seems that our Bishops are more interested in crafting a Church of the self-righteous liberal bourgeoisie than they are in the Church that Jesus left to His Apostles.

Eccentricity may not be a strategy, but it’s at least has the potential to become a reminder that the supernatural reality is completely other. As that Doctor of the Church, David Lynch, once said, “I look at the world and I see absurdity all around me. People do strange things constantly, to the point that, for the most part, we manage not to see it.” Well, God does far stranger things far more often than we do. Eccentrics – especially the Fools for Christ – can speak to that.

Butler-Gallie gets at this well in his article when he writes,

Church of England with more rigour and vigour might have its appeal, but the evangelising potential of the strange increasingly appears to be a casualty of the drive to be more, not less, like the world around us. An embracing of our strangeness, failings, and folly might free us to eschew conversion via tales of our usefulness — be that in pastoral wizardry, wounded healing, or nifty management speak — and, instead, “impress people with Christ himself”, as suggested by Ignatius of Antioch (who, though not an Anglican, did share his fate with the 1930s Rector of Stiffkey, both being eaten by a lion).

…Perhaps less strangeness is a good thing. It is certainly an easier, safer thing from the bureaucratic and behavioural point of view. I’m more inclined, however, to agree with J. S. Mill — hardly a friend of the Church of England — who suggested that “the amount of eccentricity in a society has generally been proportional to the amount of genius, mental vigour, and moral courage it contained. That so few dare to be eccentric marks the chief danger of our time.” Or, to put it another way, a Church that represses its strangeness is one that is not more at ease with itself and the world, but less.

I can only applaud this point. Ross Douthat said much the same in my own communion when, in response to the Met Gala last Spring, he suggested we “Make Catholicism Weird Again.” Or what Fr. Ignatius Harrison CO was getting at when he gave that wonderful sermon on St. Philip Neri’s downright oddity. And though Flannery O’Connor may never have actually said it, I can’t help but agree that “You shall know the Truth, and the Truth shall make you odd.” Indeed, my readers will know that I have hammered on about this point ad nauseum. Butler-Gallie’s writing encourages me to keep at it until we in the Christian West more widely recognize the charism of eccentricity.

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Prelates dancing to the Devil’s music. (Source)