Blessed John Duns Scotus (AD 1266 – 1308)

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T is commonly said there are three medieval theologians who stand above all the rest in contribution: St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Bonaventure, and this week’s Britannic feature, Blessed John Duns Scotus. Blessed John’s feast day is November 8th.

John was born to a wealthy farming family in the town of Duns just North of the Scottish border with England. He was reported to be a beautiful child both in appearance and behavior, and he received a solid moral education from his parents.

Blessed John Duns Scotus attended catechism classes at the Cistercian Melrose Abbey (also appearing in our article on St. Cuthbert) where he gained a deep devotion for the Blessed Virgin Mary – for which the Cistercians are well-known – who would later be the subject of Scotus’ most significant theological contribution. Continue reading

Saint Winifred (AD 635 – 660) and Saint Bono (d. c. AD 650)

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AINT Winifred was born in Tegeingl, in Northeastern Wales, and her Feast Day is November 3rd. She was born into great wealth as the daughter of the Welsh nobleman Tyfid ap Eiludd during the period when Christianity was only beginning to have its effect in the British Isles.

Winifred appears to have been exposed to Catholic Christianity through her mother, Wenlo. Wenlo’s brother Bono is also venerated as a Saint by the church for his work as a founding abbot of the abbey of Caernarfon. During Winifred’s life, women had no say in their marriage partner, and marital unions were typically arranged by parents in order to secure political alliances. Continue reading

The Six Welsh Martyrs: Saint Richard Gwyn (c. AD 1537 – 1584)

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URING the terrible persecution of Catholics under the execrable Henry VIII and his successors, many hundreds of righteous English men and women attained the crown of martyrdom. On October 25, Welsh Ordinariate Catholics feast in particular six Welsh martyrs who died in the English Reformation. Despite its distinct language and culture, Wales has been effectively part of England since AD 1284 when King Edward I annexed it and made the heir to the English throne the “Prince of Wales”. One of its most famous symbols is the red Welsh Dragon, depicted on its flag. Today there is one stable Ordinariate Mission in Wales located in Newport with two other communities in formation in the towns of Swansea and Presteigne. Continue reading

Saint Mary MacKillop (AD 1842 – 1909)    

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IGHT years ago, Mary MacKillop, also known as Mary of the Cross, was made Australia’s first canonized Saint by Pope Benedict XVI on October 17th, 2010. Mary’s parents emigrated  from Scotland to Australia while it was still a part of the British Empire.

Mary’s father Alexander had studied to become a priest in Rome at the Scots College, but fell ill and chose to live in holy wedlock with Flora MacDonald whom he married in Scotland.

The two immigrated to Australia, seeking a better life, and Mary was born one of their nine children in 1842 in Melbourne. The family was poor. By the age of 14, Mary was already working, often her family’s main source of financial support. In 1860, she moved away and became a governess for her better-off aunt and uncle. But she insisted on educating not only the couple’s children, but the poor of the town.

Her work was endorsed by a young priest named Fr. Julian Tenison Woods. With his help, in 1866, Mary formed Australia’s first religious order of nuns, the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Sacred Heart, taking vows and becoming the Mother Superior the following year. They also founded a free school in a converted barn. Just one year after that the sisters founded an orphanage, a half-way house for women released from prison, and similar schools in other Australian cities. By 1871, over 130 Josephite sisters were working in more than 40 schools across Australia. Continue reading

Keep Calm and Catholic On

I have been Catholic for 8 years now. This is my third year as a member of the Ordinariate of the Chair of Saint Peter. Never have I been so dismayed as a Catholic by what I hear in the news about our hierarchy and their doings.

I recall fondly now speaking with the Protestant father of a friend over breakfast. He was reading a newspaper as we sat at his kitchen table on a sunny day in Abilene, Texas while I was visiting. I was relatively a new Catholic at the time.

“Looks like your Pope just said contraception is okay now.”

Nope.

I do not remember what my answer was at the time, but what I remember quite clearly was the immediate and absolute certainty in my mind that Pope Benedict XVI, formerly Cardinal Ratzinger of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Institution formerly known as The Roman Inquisition had not said that, and the media was pulling a typical telephone-game stunt, where they take something the Pope says out of context, then further distort it by asking “experts” what they think of what the Pope supposedly said.

Continue reading

Blessed John Henry Newman (AD 1801-1890)  

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N October 9, we celebrate Blessed John Henry Newman. Bl. John Henry Newman was a famous convert from Anglicanism to Catholicism in England during the 1800s. He was a nationally known Anglican priest who became a Catholic priest and cardinal.

Newman is mainly remembered for giving intellectual credibility to English Catholicism during the 1800s, for founding University College Dublin and the London Oratory, and for his writings (Parochial and Plain Sermons, Idea of a University, Apologia Pro Vita Sua, Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine, many prayers, and the hymn “Lead, Kindly Light”).

Newman had an intense conversion experience when he was 15. He became an evangelical Calvinist and believed the Pope was the antichrist. After graduating from Oxford, he became an Anglican priest at age 24 in 1825.

From 1828 to 1833, Newman’s views gradually became less Low Church and more High Church. However, he was still firmly Protestant: in an 1832 letter, he described Rome as “the most wonderful place on Earth,” but the Catholic Church as “polytheistic, degrading, and idolatrous.”

From 1833 to 1841, Newman was one of the main authors of Tracts for the Times, a series of pamphlets defending High Church ideas like apostolic succession, fasting, prayers for the dead, religious orders, vestments, the Eucharist, confession, etc. This movement was called the Oxford Movement or the Tractarians.

In 1843, Newman published a retraction of the hard things he had said about Catholicism in the Oxford Conservative Journal. He was received into the Catholic Church in 1845. His conversion alienated many of his colleagues, friends and family. In 1846, Newman was ordained a Catholic priest in the Oratorians. In 1879, he was made a cardinal.

Newman’s spiritual routine consisted of celebrating the sacraments, the Divine Office, the rosary, study, and spiritual reading, especially the Bible. His favorite saints were the Virgin Mary, St. Philip Neri, and St. Athanasius.

Personality-wise, Newman was a shy and spiritually sensitive intellectual. Many of his writings touched on the theme of beauty, and he often referred to Jesus as “The Beautiful One.” He deeply loved his friends and the truth.

When he died, Newman was buried in the same grave as his lifelong friend Ambrose St. John. The pall over his coffin said “Heart speaks to heart” (a quote from St. Francis de Sales) and the tombstone read “Out of shadows and phantasms into the truth” (a reference to Plato’s allegory of the cave).

“O my Lord Jesus, low as I am in Your all-holy sight, I am strong in you, strong through your Immaculate Mother, through your saints and thus I can do much for the Church, for the world, for all I love.”

“To be deep in history, is to cease to be Protestant.”

Blessed John Henry Newman, pray for us!

For a weekly dose of English Catholic Patrimony, if your Ordinariate parish or parochial community would like to receive our This Week in English Catholic History articles in advance in single page black-and-white pdf form (perhaps inserted in the bulletin), please contact us at <foster1452@gmail.com>, and we will be happy to oblige, gratis

Written by Mr. John Burford, IV and Dr. Foster Lerner of Incarnation Catholic Church in Orlando, Florida; a parish of The Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of Saint Peter (C) 2018.

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John is the founder and owner of Magnolia Prep, an SAT and ACT tutoring business with branches in several major US cities. Foster holds a Doctorate in Medicine from  Nova Southeastern University Dr. Kiran C. Patel College of Osteopathic Medicine, and is currently pursuing post-graduate studies in medicine.

St. Thomas of Hereford (c. AD 1218-1282)

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LSO known as St. Thomas of Cantilupe, this English Saint’s Feast is celebrated in the British Ordinariate on October 3rd. He has the unique distinction of being the last Englishman canonized prior to the Protestant Reformation two-and-a-half centuries after his death.

Thomas was born into the high society of Buckinghamshire, the son of a Baron, he was educated at first by his uncle Walter, the Bishop of Worcester. Showing promise, his family sent him to Paris and to Orléans, the academic centers of the day where he also excelled in his studies. As a noble, he could have had any kind of life he desired, but he chose to become a priest of God’s Holy Church.

St. Thomas became an expert in canon law and the Chancellor of Oxford University in 1261. Three years later he was made the Lord Chancellor of England, second in power only to the King himself. For political reasons unrelated to his service he soon lost this post and returned to academic life.

Ten years after this in 1274 he attended the 14th Ecumenical Council in Church History, the Second Council of Lyons, which considered the merits of a new Crusade against the Muslim rulers of the Holy Land, and the reunification of the Eastern and Western Churches (sadly a schism still largely unhealed over seven centuries later). Soon afterwards he was appointed as the Bishop of Hereford, a post he initially refused, but accepted when the clerics of Hereford insisted.

Although a recurring theme for many of the English saints was their opposition to the English monarchs who would frequently attempt to assert themselves in ways that compromised the independence of the English Catholic Church, St. Thomas was actually a friend and trusted advisor of the relatively righteous King Edward I of England.

Instead, St. Thomas stood up for the poor of the land against evil usurpatious nobles like Earl Gilbert de Clare and Lord Clifford. The latter actually stole cattle and set fire to peasants’ houses to entertain himself. By threatening excommunication St. Thomas forced Clifford to do penance wearing sack-cloth and ashes, walking barefoot through the streets of Hereford to the cathedral’s high altar. Once there St. Thomas literally beat Lord Clifford with his staff in the presence of all the people to punish and humiliate him for his wicked deeds. So it was the Bishop became quite popular.

St. Thomas was also a friend of Robert Kilwardby, the Archbishop of Canterbury. But after Kilwardby’s death a new Archbishop arose named John Peckham (who is also famous for having earlier debated St. Thomas Aquinas and getting one of his doctrines temporarily condemned) who also disputed with our St. Thomas over his right to rule the diocese of Hereford. In an attempt to reform a dysfunctional English Church plagued by absenteeism and indulgences of the flesh, he tried to clamp down on Thomas’ and many other dioceses. But the popular Thomas would have none of it, asserting his episcopal rights. In fairness to Peckham, the English Church of the time – indeed like the Catholic Church today – was very corrupt both financially and sexually, but Peckham’s reform effort was unfocused and came across as a power grab.

This dispute almost cost Thomas his Church-acknowledged sainthood, as Archbishop Peckham excommunicated him over it. Thomas appealed to Rome over the authority issue and the excommunication, travelling to Italy in person. But before the case could be decided, Thomas died. Before Thomas’ death however, the Pope did lift the excommunication, a necessary prerequisite for sainthood at the time. (St. Jeanne d’Arc, canonized in 1920, is a well-known modern exception.)

Symbolic of Thomas’ many yet unopposed loyalties and loves, his heart was removed from his body and buried in his native Buckinghamshire. Thomas’ flesh was boiled off his body and buried in Italy where he died a loyal subordinate to the Pope of Rome. And the bones of the saint were buried in Hereford Cathedral, where miracles began to occur attributed to his intercession. After many letters from King Edward, his son Edward II and numerous prelates, Pope John XXII declared Thomas a Saint on 17 April, 1320. St. Thomas of Hereford, pray for us!

For a weekly dose of English Catholic Patrimony, if your Ordinariate parish or parochial community would like to receive our This Week in English Catholic History articles in advance in single page black-and-white pdf form (perhaps inserted in the bulletin), please contact us at <foster1452@gmail.com>, and we will be happy to oblige, gratis

Written by Mr. John Burford, IV and Dr. Foster Lerner of Incarnation Catholic Church in Orlando, Florida; a parish of The Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of Saint Peter, (C) 2018.

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John is the founder and owner of Magnolia Prep, an SAT and ACT tutoring business with branches in several major US cities. Foster holds a Doctorate in Medicine from  Nova Southeastern University Dr. Kiran C. Patel College of Osteopathic Medicine, and is currently pursuing post-graduate studies in medicine.