Monday, March 28, 2011

Wardour Chapel

Recently, the New Liturgical Movement website ran a few posts about Wardour Chapel, a place with a fascinating history. New Wardour Castle was the home of the Arundells, a family of recusants in Wiltshire, and features a fairly large neo-classical chapel that has room for a congregation of about 300.

What is most interesting about Wardour Chapel is that it dates from the period of English history when Catholics were not actively persecuted anymore (so there are no priest holes at Wardour) but were still not allowed to erect freestanding churches. The Arundell family, then, built a chapel in their home between the bedrooms and the laundry room. The family also opened the chapel up to the local Catholics in Wiltshire.

Here are two photographs of the interior. The first focuses on the altar, and the second shows more of the interior.

The chapel is also renowned for its collection of fine antique vestments, including this (I believe) 15th-century chasuble.

More photographs can be found here.

The New Liturgical Movement's posts can be found here, here, here, and here.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Lion of Münster

Today is the feast day of Blessed Clemens August Graf von Galen, who died on this day 65 years ago. Cardinal von Galen, who earned the epithet "the lion of Münster" for his courage in speaking out against Nazi atrocities during World War II, is of special importance to me personally since I spent a year after college in Münster teaching at a high school named in his honor.

Clemens August Graf von Galen was born in 1878 into a prominent Westphalian family. (The word Graf in his name is a title of nobility roughly equivalent to a count or an earl.) One of his ancestors, Christoph Bernhard von Galen, was the bishop of Münster during the Thirty Years' War. While some historians have doubted Christoph Bernhard von Galen's personal piety, none have ever doubted his determination; it took all his resolve to free the area around Münster from foreign occupying troops. Cardinal von Galen inherited that same fighting spirit, but also a great deal more piety.

Despite this noble lineage, the young Clemens August von Galen did not seem destined for greatness. He was never more than an average student, and not particularly gifted in public speaking either. As von Galen himself later remarked about the first sermon he preached to a church full of farmers on a hot summer morning, when he finally looked up at the end he saw that he had put everyone to sleep. Later, as a parish priest in Berlin, when von Galen noticed that Eugenio Pacelli, the papal nuncio to Germany (who later became Pope Pius XII), was sitting in the congregation, he began to stutter and was barely able to finish his sermon.

Moreover, what would later be recognized as his tremendous courage in the face of Nazi persecution was in his youth mere stubbornness. Indeed, even as he grew older, this stubborn streak stayed with him. Josef Pieper, writing many years later, recalled that as a struggling young academic he did not much care for von Galen because the churchman could never admit to being wrong. Not much had changed since the days when his teachers complained that young Clemens thought he possessed the charism of infallibility.

Von Galen's initial assignments as a priest, then, corresponded to his modest abilities and his personal flaws. His first assignment after being ordained in 1904 was to serve as a personal chaplain to an auxiliary bishop of Münster who happened to be his uncle. Von Galen seems to have come into his own, though, after he was reassigned to Berlin in 1906, where he worked in several parishes that served the Catholic "diaspora," those workers from all over Germany who had moved for the sake of factory jobs to Berlin, the heart of Protestant Prussia. He spent his last nine years in Berlin as the pastor of St. Matthias.

After 23 years in the capital, von Galen was finally recalled to his beloved Westphalia in 1929 and made pastor of St. Lambert's in Münster, the most prestigious church in the city after the cathedral. Four years later, von Galen was elected bishop of Münster. This almost never happened, though, in part because of his stubbornness and brusque manners. The nuncio in Germany who had succeeded Pacelli regarded von Galen as unsuitable for the position because of his "schoolmaster's" tone.

Von Galen was consecrated bishop in 1933, a fateful year in German history. Although he was always a nationalist in his politics and even initially expressed cautious optimism that the new regime might solve some of the problems of the Weimar era, he nevertheless soon became a leading critic of Nazi totalitarianism. He revered the Vaterland, but never excessively; indeed, it is the distinction between patriotism and idolatry of the state that lies at the heart of his witness. From the beginning of his episcopate, he was an outspoken critic of the Nazis, and probably was one of the German bishops who assisted Pius XI in the drafting of Mit brennender Sorge, the encyclical that called on German Catholics to reject Nazi race ideology. Likewise, von Galen was a stout opponent of Nazi eugenics and euthanasia programs. Finally, von Galen always insisted on the liberty of the Church and on the government's need to work for justice: "Justice is the foundation of all states."

Von Galen is most famous today for four sermons he preached as bishop. He delivered the first sermon in 1936, after consecrating a new altar in Xanten. In this sermon (pp. 9-15), he reminded his flock of the example set by the patron saint of their church, St. Victor, who, though a loyal and courageous soldier in the Roman army, suffered martyrdom for refusing to sacrifice to the pagan gods. He then used the example of St. Victor to strengthen his flock's resolve in the face of the summary imprisonment without trial of several German clergymen.

While von Galen early on recognized the threat the Nazis posed to the Church and to all Germany, it was only in the summer of 1941, when Hitler's power had not yet begun to fade after the failed invasion of Russia, that he delivered his three most powerful sermons, all blistering attacks on the Nazi regime. On July 13, he returned to the parish church of St. Lambert's, where he denounced the Nazis for their attack on the religious orders in his diocese (pp. 17-26). He began the sermon with the announcement that the Gestapo had recently confiscated the Jesuits' residences and expelled them from the province, and then done the same to a group of missionary nuns. After delivering the bad news, though, von Galen condemned the Gestapo for the injustices it committed. He ended the sermon with an appeal to justice and a prayer "for our German people and fatherland and for its leader," the same way he would end his next sermon.

On July 20, 1941, he preached at the Überwasserkirche in Münster, denouncing the Gestapo's continued persecution of the Church (pp. 27-36). It was in this sermon that he compared contemporary Christians to an anvil that stood firm against the Nazi hammer (pp. 32-33):

Become hard! Remain firm! At this moment we are the anvil rather than the hammer. Other men, mostly strangers and renegades, are hammering us, seeking by violent means to bend our nation, ourselves and our young people aside from their straight relationship with God. We are the anvil and not the hammer. But ask the blacksmith and hear what he says: the object which is forged on the anvil receives its form not alone from the hammer but also from the anvil. The anvil cannot and need not strike back: it must only be firm, only hard! If it is sufficiently tough and firm and hard the anvil usually lasts longer than the hammer. However hard the hammer strikes, the anvil stands quietly and firmly in place and will long continue to shape the objects forged upon it.

The anvil represents those who are unjustly imprisoned, those who are driven out and banished for no fault of their own. God will support them, that they may not lose the form and attitude of Christian firmness, when the hammer of persecution strikes its harsh blows and inflicts unmerited wounds on them.

Those who could remember the bishop as a stammering young chaplain hardly believed that he could speak with such eloquence.

Finally, on August 3, once again preaching in St. Lambert's, von Galen denounced the Nazi euthanasia programs (pp. 37-48), exposing the abominable efforts to eliminate "unproductive members of the national community," those who in the Nazis' eyes were "unworthy to live." This time, sensing perhaps that no appeal to justice would move the Gestapo or Hitler to relent in their persecution of the Church and their murdering of innocent human beings, von Galen, instead of ending with a prayer for "our German people and fatherland and for its leader," asked his flock: "Did the Son of God in his omniscience on that day see only Jerusalem and its people? Did he weep only over Jerusalem?. . .Did he also weep over us? Over Münster?"

In response, the Nazis, instead of arresting Bishop von Galen, arrested and harassed many priests and religious orders in his diocese, a fact that weighed heavily on his conscience, as he survived the war when some of his own priests did not. (This suppression of religious orders as retaliation for the bishops' public criticism of the Nazis is not unlike what happened in the Netherlands, where it resulted in the martyrdom of Edith Stein.) After the war, in February 1946, in recognition of his courage, von Galen was made a cardinal by Pius XII in Rome. He returned from the consistory in triumph to the ruins of his cathedral in Münster on March 16, 1946, but died only six days later of a burst appendix. He is buried in a side chapel of the cathedral. He was beatified in 2005.

The picture was taken by Gustav Albers and comes from the diocesan archives of Münster.
The original German version of these four sermons can be found here.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Happy Solemnity of St. Joseph!

Joseph, son of David, you are the just man who blossoms like the lily,
the prudent steward whom the Lord placed over His household.
The Incarnate Word was pleased to dwell in your home;
by your prayers, may we love and serve Him always. Amen.

As the watermark indicates, today's image comes from Orthodox Images Iconography and Fine Art Reproductions. So go peruse their website; there's some great stuff!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

St. Patrick's Day

It's time once more for a little music in honor of St. Patrick's Day, just as in 2009 and 2010. This year's post is dedicated to a wonderful little instrument: the concertina.

The concertina is a type of squeezebox. To those who are unfamiliar with the concertina, it could probably best be described as a mini-accordion: it is smaller both in size and in sound. Unlike most types of accordion, the concertina has buttons rather than a keyboard. The typical Anglo concertina, which is the type most widely used in Irish music, has 30 buttons, 15 on each side. Each button plays one note at a time, but the note produced when the player pushes the bellows in is a different note from that produced when the player pulls the bellows out. It is possible to push more than one button at a time, which gives the player the ability to produce chords.

The concertina has never been as popular in Irish music as the accordion, and until recently it was confined mainly to County Clare. For whatever reason, as well, the concertina was very popular among women. One of the most important concertina-players before the folk revival of the 1970's was Mrs. Crotty of Kilrush. While not much of her music was recorded, her legacy lives on in the playing of her nephew Michael Tubridy, one of the original members of the Chieftains, who, though best known for his flute playing, could also knock out a tune on the concertina.

Another good concertina player is Mary McNamara of Tulla. Her slow, steady pace in the next video (as well as in this video) is typical of the County Clare style.

Two other fine female concertina players today are Ernestine Healy and Niamh Ni Charra.

Probably the best known concertina player over the last thirty years, though, is Noel Hill, also from County Clare.

Finally, the concertina tends to be played solo; for whatever reason, it has not featured prominently in many bands. One exception to that statement is Niall Vallely's Buille, which in the next set manages to combine Irish traditional music with jazz influences, all with the concertina up front and center.

Thursday, March 3, 2011


Seven years ago I visited Assisi on two different occasions, separated by a couple months. This Italian hill town is a curious place, one that everyone said was somehow magical. A bit of a skeptic at heart, I was ready to be disappointed. Instead, I was captivated. This poem captures just a little of what Assisi and its most famous citizen are about. Having discovered a devotion to my patroness, Clare, in the years since I visited Assisi, I would love to return some day.

by Robert Cording

Even in February the buses came and climbed the hill,
The Umbrian light an angel's wing in cloud,

Glowing from some unknowable source in an Italian painting.
No wonder some gave a life's savings to see St. Francis's

City of pink stone. No wonder we couldn't help loving
Those arching crypts, blue and storied as a child's heaven.

What we want to remember, we do. How he could keep on giving
His one robe, unashamed by love. How his love never failed

The sick, the poor, the criminal. Even a war in Arezzo
Simply disappeared, like rain into sunlight, St. Francis

Undoing the daily harm no one could ever alter in his life.
The demons said to be in all of us laid down their weapons,

Taken by such tenderness. Everyone was forgiven in Giotto's picture.
Saint Francis went on, unable to sleep, so many blessings

Still needed to be given. He walked all the way to Mt. La Verna.
When we close our eyes, we can see him hold out his hands.

The wounds bleed into them and into his body, the marks
Of another life. From then on, he grew thinner until he was

Gone, his love absolute. At least once, some one saw him
Come back, robed in light. Giotto would have us believe

It was only a dream of what we cannot stop imagining.
We came back all winter; listening to the monks tell his story

Until word for word, we could repeat it.

Picture from Famous Wonders.