About Charles A. Coulombe

I am a Catholic Historical speaker and author.

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.

The Feast of St. Alban

This Friday, June 22, is the traditional feast of the Protomartyr of Britain, St. Alban. His cultus was key in the foundation of the patrimony, and to-day he has two shrines: the medieval one in Cologne, and the revived one in the English city that bears his name. The latter, located in the beautiful gothic church of a Catholic-Abbey-turned-Anglican-Cathedral, is once more the centre of pilgrimage. A Catholic Mass is offered there every Friday which means, this year, on the old feast day itself! St. Albans Cathedral was also the boyhood parish of Inkling Charles Williams. The local Catholic parish is the Church of Ss. Alban and Stephen. In the current calendar, the 22nd is the feast of Ss. John Fisher and Thomas More; in the Ordinariates, St.Alban is anticipated on June 20. It does make sense that the protomartyrs of the English “Reformation” should be honoured on that day.

Because of St. Alban’s 3rd century martyrdom, the Abbey founded to house his shrine claimed seniority among the Benedictine houses in England – a claim disputed by Glastonbury Abbey, due to its connexion with St. Joseph of Arimathaea. This controversy went on for centuries, until Henry VIII put an end to it by dissolving them both. In any case, this week should remind us of the ancient roots of the Patrimony and of Recusant Catholicism, to which the Oridnariates and their members are heir.

Summer Sports and the Apostolate

Recently I have been at two events here in Southern California that attempt to conjure the spirit of Merrie England in sun-baked Los Angeles: The Original Renaissance Pleasure Faire, and the far more modest Summer Faire of the British Home in California (one of a chain of well-run old age homes managed by the Daughters of the British Empire).  Different as these two events were, they had one thing in common – a folkloric part of the Patrimony: Morris Dancing.

Now to be fair, one either gets Morris Dancing or one doesn’t – this writer does. But regardless of one’s own feelings in the matter, one thing is sure: those who do are Anglophile to a greater or lesser degree. I have written about the utility of Anglophilia in evangelisation for the Ordinariate in an earlier post. It seems to me that using Morris Dancers for an Ordinariate parish’s fundraising or celebrations (when appropriate) would have several advantages. First, some of those who would come to see them might very well have an interest in the Ordinariate when exposed to it; some of the members of the local Morris side might be as well; and attendance by Ordinariate parishioners at other such functions by the Morrismen might also lend themselves to spreading the word to possibly interested parties. There are quite a few Morris sides in the United States and Canada – so if convenient, have a look. No less a figure than the redoubtable Msgr. Edwin Barnes – sometime Bishop of Richborough – has spoken about such things as the traditional musicians of the New Forest in his blog, and if it is good enough for him – well then!

White Rose Day

Sunday, June 10, is White Rose Day, about which I wrote extensively two years ago at another site. I do not have too much to add to what is written therein, save to observe that as the day itself is a Sunday this year, Monday might be a proper and fitting day to have Requiem Masses offered for the deceased members of the House of Stuart, especially Mary Queen of Scots, Charles I, Charles II, James II, James III, Charles III, and Henry IX. Despite their failures, they and their Cavalier and Jacobite followers did much for the Faith (as witnessed by surviving institutions from Douai Abbey to the English College in Rome), and sacrificed much more for it. We might also make our own these prayers of James II and VII:

“ALMIGHTY and everlasting God! Who only workest great marvells, show the riches of Thy goodness to Thy desolate and persecuted Church, that now sits mourning in her own dust and ruins, torn by schism and stripped and spoiled by sacrilege.
And Thou, who after a long captivity didst bring back Thy people to rebuild their Temple, look upon us with the same eyes of mercy.
Restore to us once again the publick worship of Thy name, the reverent administration of Thy sacraments; raise up the King, that we may once more enter into Thy courts with praise and serve Thee with that reverence, that unity, and order, as may be acceptable in Thy sight, through Jesus Christ our Lord. AMEN.

O MOST powerful and ever blessed Lord God! Who art glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders; we most humbly beseech Thee to look compassionately on this persecuted part of Thy Church, now driven from Thy publick altars into corners and secret closets, that Thy protection may be over us, wherever we shall be scattered, and a remnant preserved amongst us by whom Thy name may be glorified, Thy sacraments administered, and the souls of Thy servants kept up in a corrupted and corrupting generation. So we that are Thy people and sheep of Thy pasture shall give Thee thanks for ever, and will always be showing forth Thy praise from generation to generation, through Jesus Christ, our only Saviour and Redeemer. AMEN.:
[Source: Donald B. Aldrich, ed., The Golden Book of Prayer, Dodd, Mead, & Co., New York 1942, pp. 224-225.]

The Sacred Heart and the Anglican Patrimony

June being the month and Friday the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, some may think that this “Continental” devotion has nothing to do with the Anglican Patrimony. As I wrote elsewhere a few years ago, nothing could be further from the truth.  This Sacred Heart altar at St. Mary’s, Kettlenaston, Suffolk, is typical of those Anglo-Catholic parishes between the Wars that fostered this devotion.

Sacred Heart altar

A Great Martyr’s Day Book

Forgotten Shrines by Dom Bede Camm, O.S.B.  is an excellent entry into the shadow world of the English recusants, and its surviving remnants at the time he wrote, back in 1910. Himself a product of Keble College and a convert, Dom Bede became a monk and developed a strong devotion to the English martyrs. Apart from writing about them, he was instrumental in the founding of Tyburn Convent. The man and his work, as well as the Saints he loved, popularised, and venerated, are an important part of the Patrimony worth thinking about to-day.

A Health Unto Her Majesty

On April 21, 2018, Queen Elizabeth II turned 92. Eleven years older than Queen Victoria at the latter’s death, Her Majesty has exceeded both Victoria’s (reigned 1837 to 1901) and George III’s (1760 to 1820) tenures on the throne, having ascended at the death of her father in 1952. When she came to the throne, Churchill was Prime Minister, Truman president, and Stalin still master of Moscow – while Britain yet laboured under wartime rationing. The British and French Empires yet existed, and the new Queen reigned not only over Great Britain and its many colonies, but Canada, Australia, New Zealand (as she still does, and Pakistan, South Africa, and Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). Elvis was not yet on the scene, there were no hippies, and the American South was still legally segregated. Pius XII was Pope, the Latin Mass reigned unchallenged (even the rites of Holy Week were unaltered), and Anglo-Catholicism appeared to be still on the road to triumph. C.S. Lewis, T.S. Eliot, Dorothy Sayers, and Dom Gregory Dix were all alive and working (although the learned Benedictine would die a few months after the accession). In so many ways, Her Majesty is a living link with all that went before – the last grownup, as it were, and the one constant in an age of flux. Alas, desegregation and the advances in medicine are among the few things one can say are truly better to-day. No one much under 65 years old can remember her father. Continue reading

The Monarchy and the Bishopesses

While I still very much desire to see the revived shrine of St. David in the Welsh Cathedral that bears his name, as well as the Queen’s stall as a canon of the Cathedral (such Royal canonries were once common in Europe – the Holy Roman Emperor had and the French Heads of State and the Kings of Spain still have them; Felipe VI just asserted his right to one of them last year), I do hope to avoid meeting the new Bishopess. At least she seems pleased with herself! No doubt the new Bishopess of London – and Deanette of the Chapels Royal, when Bishops Chartres retires from that position – does as well. It is interesting, however, that Chartres shall be staying on as Dean “for the time-being.” It will be interesting to see is Her Ladyship of London does indeed replace him, or if the Deanery is separated definitively from the Diocese – for the first time since 1748. The Queen has accepted female chaplains since 1996, which has been seen as Her Majesty’s endorsement of the ordination of women. It remains to be seen if Chartres’ retention of his post reflects theological views – or a mere prference for his company; he is known to be popular among the Royal Family. We are a long way from the time of the sainted Graham Leonard.