About Charles A. Coulombe

I am a Catholic Historical speaker and author.

From Sir John Betjeman –

And is it true? For if it is,
No loving fingers tying strings
Around those tissued fripperies,
The sweet and silly Christmas things,
Bath salts and inexpensive scent
And hideous tie so kindly meant,
No love that in a family dwells,
No carolling in frosty air,
Nor all the steeple-shaking bells
Can with this single Truth compare –
That God was man in Palestine
And lives today in Bread and Wine.

Our Lady’s Dowry

This being the day of my departure to take up studying for the Master’s programme at the International Theological Institute in Austria – AND, in the traditional Roman Calendar, the feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I offer as an envoi the Marian Shrines of Great Britain and Ireland. I have visited a few – and plan to see a lot more over the next few years!

Our Lady of Walsingham

Our Lady of Westminster

Our Lady of Willesden: Catholic and Anglican

Our Lady of Muswell

Our Lady of Canterbury

Our Lady of Ipswich

Our Lady of Caversham

Our Lady of England

Our Lady of Glastonbury

Our Lady of Doncaster

Our Lady of Guisborough


Ladye Park

Our Lady of Cardigan

Our Lady of Carfinn

Our Lady of Aberdeen

Our Lady of Knock

Why the Church needs You, Specifically

The recent revelations regarding Cardinal McCarrick and the Pennsylvania 300 have forced many more Catholics into an uncomfortable realisation that some of us cradle Catholics of a certain age have lived with our entire adult lives: as Pope Adrian VI remarked of his immediately pre-Tridentine era, “the Catholic Church is sick in head and members.”

Of these specific scandals and their allied occurences (even within the Vatican) that have sullied the past few decades, much has been and can be written: how disgusting it is that men could seamlessly perform both the most sacred rites and loathsome acts imaginable; that a culture of acceptance of this horror has grown up within the hierarchy – a hierarchy so often committed to altering the Faith committed to its care in as brutal a manner possible; and that under the current Pontificate, favouritism from the highest quarters of that hierarchy has protected some of the worst offenders.

But there are other things to that can, have, and should be said: that in many ways – despite Church teaching – this de facto acceptance of these practises by prelates parallels developments among the elite in western society as a whole (not merely Hollywood but Washington, where recurrent page scandals underline the fact that the age of consent in DC is 16 by Act of Congress, and elsewhere); that the problem is as bad or worse amongst other religious and civil organisations – especially the public schools (who coincidentally are usually exempted from any government attempts to lengthen the statute of limitations); that what is so often misnamed “pedophilia” by the media is simply the desire for younger men by older homosexuals; and that the difficulty of homosexuality in the priesthood so demonstrated presents a marketing problem for our media and elites, who wish to promote the practise in the greater society while attacking it in the Church (hence the misuse of the “pedophilia” label). Continue reading

The Patrimony and the Precious Blood

In the Roman Rite prior to 1969, July 1 was the feast of the Precious Blood of Jesus; July remains the month of the Precious Blood. Cradle Catholics over a certain age will remember the line of booklets produced by the Confraternity of that name, based at the Brooklyn Monastery of the Sisters Adorers of the Precious Blood, an order with French-Canadian origins. Given that the feast was instituted by Bl. Pius IX in thanksgiving for his regaining control of Rome in 1849, an individual of Anglican origins might be forgiven for thinking that it is a devotion of more interest to Latins. This would be a great mistake.

Without wanting to plug my latest book, A Catholic Quest for the Holy Grail, unduly, I describe at great length therein close connexion between the Holy Grail (an integral part of the Arthurian legend and so of patrimonial literature) and devotion to the Precious Blood. Catholic, Anglican, and New Age visitors thrill when visiting Glastonbury to the stories there of St. Joseph of Arimathea and his blooming thorn-staff, the Abbey, the Catholic shrine, and the Tor – many of which refer to the Holy Grail. But the chalice that Christ used at the Last Supper is, if it is anywhere, most likely in Valencia, Spain. Moreover, the earliest legends do not describe St. Joseph as bringing the Grail, but relics of the blood and water that flowed from Christ’s side at the Crucifixion. The Blood he is supposed to have concealed under what is now the Chalice Well, and the Water under the White Spring; geologists ascribe the reddish hue of the former’s water and the whitish of the latter’s to differing minerals in each. Still, it IS odd that such closely situated springs should have such radically different minerals.

In any case, the story is not quite as farfetched as one might think. In French legendry, St. Joseph and his sacred relics are said to have come from Palestine with the party of Apostles and Disciples that first evangelised Provence. In Medieval England, relics of Christ’s Blood were venerated at Hailes, Ashridge, and Westminster – even as similar relics are enshrined at Bruges, Fecamp, Mantua, Weingarten, Neuvy-Saint-Sepulchre, Reichenau, and elsewhere in Europe to-day. While the English relics were destroyed at the Reformation, the concept of the cleansing Blood of Christ washing the believer free of his sins was retained by all the Protestant churches: amongst Anglicans, the Caroline Divines and Nonjurors retained the identification of that Blood on the Cross with the contents of the chalice used at Holy Communion. This was revived under nascent Anglo-Catholicism, culminating in the foundation of the Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament.

Among the first generation of Oxford Movement-era converts to Rome was Fr. Frederick Faber, founder of the Brompton Oratory. Foremost among the large number of devotional works he wrote was one about the Precious Blood, which became very popular among English Catholics.  That popularity, alongside the memory of the Holy Blood that had existed at Westminster Abbey, led in 1895 to the new cathedral of the Archdiocese being named “The Cathedral of The Precious Blood.” Ironically, the Catholic Church of the Most Precious Blood in Southwark has been placed in the hands of the Ordinariate.

Rome and the Patrimony

On this feast of Ss. Peter and Paul, it is important to remember that the Anglosphere – like every other realm on Earth – has particular ties to the Eternal City. Prior to the Reformation, the King of England was protector of St. Paul’s Outside the Walls – and the abbot thereof was prelate of the Order of the Garter (which is why that Order’s arms remain that of the Abbey to-day).  As a result, St. Paul’s in London was considered a sort of sister church to the Roman Basilica. After the Protestant Revolt, the English, Scots, and Irish Colleges were founded to train priests for those missions – and after the famous Flight of the Earls, those two noted Irish noblemen settled, died, and were entombed in Rome. Eventually, after the so-called Glorious Revolution and their de-recognition by France after the War of Spanish Succession, the exiled Stuarts and their Court were welcomed by the Pope – which is why there are so many sites associated with them in Rome and its environs, and why they are entombed in the Vatican. To provide for the loyal Anglicans who comprised part of their entourage, the Stuarts convinced the Pope to open a Protestant cemetery in Rome; a number of British notables who died in Rome would be buried there over the years.

As allies in the struggle with the French Revolution and Napoleon, there was a noticeable warming in the relationship between Britain and the Holy See; this allowed for both the Catholic Revival in the British Isles (one milestone of which was the giving of the Red Hat to Bl. John Henry Newman, with the title of San Giorgio in Velabro), and the establishment of an Anglican Congregation connected to the British Embassy. In 1873, after the Italian government dispossessed the Papacy of Rome, the new regime permitted the building of an American Episcopalian congregation within the city’s walls as a studied insult to the Pope. Nevertheless, relations between Paul VI and Michael Ramsey were such that the latter encouraged the formation of the Anglican Centre in Rome as an assist to reunion – a hope that subsequent developments within the Anglican Communion have rendered void.

As the centre of the Catholic world, the Eternal City boasts a number of national churches; these include to-day English, Scots (now deconsecrated), Irish, Canadian, and American congregations. The Domus Australia is a centre for Australian visitors to Rome. On April 25, 2018, the feast of St. Mark, the Anglican Use liturgy was offered in Santa Maria in Campitelli (this was the title church of Cardinal York, de jure King Henry IX – since his time it has been a centre of prayer for the conversion of England and Scotland); in time perhaps, it may find a permanent home in one of the Anglosphere national parishes.

Great Britain, Ireland, Canada, Australia, and the United States all maintain embassies to the Holy See. Citizens of those countries would be well advised to contact them for information regarding access to sites and ceremonies often not available in any in any other way. The same is true for both the afore-mentioned national colleges and the North American and Canadian colleges. It is important to remember that the Eternal City is as much a part of the Patrimony as Glastonbury or Canterbury.

Visiting Ss. John Fisher and Thomas More.

June 22 is the feast of Ss. John Fisher and Thomas More, a key date in the life of the Patrimony. Pilgrims wishing to visit sites and shrines associated with them may find the following useful. Although St. John Fisher’s cathedral at Rochester is worth visiting, do not expect to see much about him there, although they have revived remembrance of St. William of Perth, a pre-Reformation saint (Nicholas Ridley, an Anglican bishop executed treason after supporting Lady Jane Grey against Queen Mary I IS heavly commemorated, however). Nearby, however,  is the beautiful Catholic church of St. John Fisher. The bodies of the two Saints are interred together – although unmarked – in the Tower of London’s Chapel Royal of St. Peter ad Vincula, near Tower Green where they were martyred. St. John Fisher’s head is buried under the floor near the entrance of the church of All Hallows by the Tower, while St. Thomas More’s is St. Dunstan’s, Canterbury.

St. Thomse More is well remembered in London’s Chelsea. Chelsea Old Church was his parish church: the only thing to survive its bombing in the Blitz was the altar-tomb commissioned for his family by the Saint. The local Catholic church partly commemorates him, and while his house is gone, its space is occupied by the Archdiocesan Seminary, Allen Hall – in their backyard remains the mulberry tree around which the More family used to play. By sheerest happenstance, an earlier  residence of the family was moved from Bishopsgate to the neigbourhood in the early 20th century.

If you find yourself in London, do visit the Martyrs’ shrine at Tyburn Convent, where relics of many of the hundreds of Catholics judicially murdered for our Faith can be venerated. Be sure to check with Catholic History Walks whenever planning a trip to London. Not only is chief guide Joanna Bogle a wealth of information and a lot of fun, she is a brilliant writer and a great friend of the Ordinariates.

The Return of the Gilbertines

On July 7, Brother Robert-Charles Bengry and Brother Sean-Patrick Beahen will be ordained to the Sacred Priesthood by Bishop Lopes. This is an historic day, not only in the life of the Ordinariate but in that of the Church as a whole, since it is a milestone in the life of the reborn Gilbertine Order. They are inspired by the original order, founded in 1131 by St. Gilbert of Semprigham – the only order of Canons Regular founded in England and confined to that country. The original order came to an end with the dissolution of the monasteries, despite the miraculous deeds of the founder.  For some time there has been interest in a number of different quarters in the revival of Gilbertine spirituality May all interested in such efforts find a rallying point in the new foundation in Calgary.