Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Blood of the English Martyrs

Dear Misfits,

We've just finished reading and discussing the remarkable autobiography of Fr. John Gerard, a Jesuit priest in Elizabethan England at the time of “the stripping of the Altars”. We may never know how many Catholics were condemned for their faith during the persecution of the Catholics who remained faithful to the Church. We do know that the standard penalty for all those convicted of “Catholic treason” was execution by being hanged, drawn and quartered. Estimates of the number of executions carried out by Henry VIII range from 57,000 to the 72,000 claimed in Raphael Holinshed’s Chronicles (the mass murder following the Catholic rising known as the Pilgrimage of Grace accounted for many of them). The troops of his son Edward VI massacred more than 5,500 Cornish Catholics in the wake of the Prayer Book Rebellion. Elizabeth I was more sparing of formal executions, though St Margaret Clitheroe was pressed to death at York and Mary Queen of Scots beheaded; but the butchery of Catholics in Ireland was particularly appalling. There, Edmund Spenser, author of The Faerie Queene, supported a policy of extermination by artificial famine on a scale that was not exceeded until Stalin in the 1930s.

Father Gerard's autobiography presents a detailed account of the part he played in keeping the Faith alive during this troubled period of our Catholic history. One can only marvel at the incredible bravery of the men and women who supported Catholic priests by sheltering and hiding them in their homes. To be discovered with a priest in your home was to invite immediate imprisonment and often, execution by being hanged, drawn, and quartered.

This book is a "must read" for any young man now considering the priest hood. It describes what it is like to be on the “front lines” of the struggle for the Faith.  Father James V. Schall of Georgetown University notes in his introduction to the present edition that he did not believe that the persecution of Catholics during this period of English history could happen here in America when he first read the book as a young seminarian.  He then opines, " One is no longer quite so sure. It may, in fact, be a very up-to-date book in its own way." Michael Cohen, a Canadian author and TV personality notes, " Attacks on marriage, disdain for the Church, distortions of morality, lying for power and prestige, abusing the dead. Good Lord, it feels like the sixteenth-century all over again!" Perhaps, Perhaps!

. . .

The Risen Christ is with us always!

Misfit Buzz

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Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Farm Piety and a 100 year old Church of England Liturgical Rarity

Today’s bibliosite is a hand written prayer out of a 100 year old Church of England liturgical text:

“O Almighty & most loving Father, who in Thy Holy Word art declared to be willing to save both man & beast we beseech Thee to look upon our present distress & grievous loss through disease among the cattle. We pray that the measures taken to limit its diffusion & to free us from its deadly effects may bring a blessed deliverance so that what remains unto us may be spared & we may recover the fruits of our toil in farm & in market. We ask it for Thy tender mercies’ sake in Jesus Christ, our Lord.”

The simple piety of the farmer who composed this prayer stands as a witness to faith in the face of natural adversity.  May his words speak to all those who suffer today from tornadoes and the other destructive forces of nature.

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Thursday, May 16, 2013

Gilead by Marilynne Robinson - One of Loome's Top 5 Novels

Dear Misfits,

I am pleased to report, we have another winner!  Gilead by Marilynne Robinson was warmly praised by all who read it.  I personally found it to be one of the most moving books I have ever read.  Misfit Loome places it in the top five novels he has read.  We all want to thank Misfit Gatschet for recommending the book.

Why the high praise?  Simply because Robinson's prose is completely captivating--the woman can tell a story!  And the story is told in a letter the Reverend John Ames, a 77 year old Congressionalist preacher, is writing to his 6 year-old son.  It is his attempt to give an account of himself to his son as he tells him of his forebears, all men of the cloth.  It is also a story of the sacred bonds formed by fathers and sons and the manner in which they are tested by the challenges imposed by these bonds.

As you begin to read the letter Reverend Ames is composing for his son, you learn that he is physically ailing even though he is still mentally sharp.  His letter reveals him as a deeply pious man who considers the Bible an incontrovertible source of moral authority. He describes life as “the great bright dream of procreating and perishing.” and speaks of the “courage and loneliness” of every human face. 

I am tempted to draw a comparison between Flannery O'Conner and Marilynne Robinson in what I think are two areas of distinct similarity.  First, both novelists depict a God-haunted existence in the lives of their main characters.  God is a presence in their lives and redemptive grace always a possibility.  Secondly, Robinson like O'Conner, tells her story largely through a male protagonist.  This is especially the case with Gilead where women and the feminine are sparingly portrayed.  In fact, women seldom speak or intersect with the largely masculine story line as related through the voice of Reverend Ames.

Some might ask, "Yes, but is this a Catholic novel?  I thought the Misfits was a Catholic Men's Reading Group."   I would argue that if you are a Catholic with a strong fundamentalist bent (me!), you will read this novel as a deeply Christian expression of faith.  Hence, it is a Catholic novel!

Yours in Christ,
Misfit Buzz

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