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This is a Test . . . PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Friday, 29 June 2007 09:37
Bloggers has seemingly refused to publishing our posts over the past few days - it keeps them very carefully in a draft form and won't publish. The little publishing wheel goes round and round and nothing happens.

But someone managed to get the last two posts that Fr. Mike and I wrote on Wednesday up while I was commuting to Seattle. Keith?

So I'm going to try to publish this and just let it work on it as long as it wants and see if that is the secret. Obviously we've got to find a better solution in the long run. Any suggestions?

Peter Acosi writes in and says (in a comment that *I* can't read online to a post that *I* can't read online but must have been published - how is this possible??????!!!!!)
that I can blog via e-mail.

I"ll try. But in any case, know that Intentional Disciples is not gone or on sabbatical but the combination of travel, erratic access, and technical weirdness is making it very difficult.
Lazy In Latte Land PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Friday, 29 June 2007 00:49
I've reached Mark Shea's Eden (Seattle) and hope to blog tomorrow. News flash: It rained in Seattle today - and I slept.
Ten Years Old PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Wednesday, 27 June 2007 10:14
The Catherine of Siena Institute turns 10 years old this weekend (July 1).

I'll be in Seattle on July 1 where the Institute was born and have a chance to attend Mass at Blessed Sacrament where Fr. Michael Sweeney and I first began our collaboration.

We used to sit out on the priory steps at night (while he smoked) and wrestle with all sorts of theological and pastoral issues related to the laity and the secular mission of the Church to the world. The Institute grew directly out of our highly informal collaboration but what God has done with it has been totally beyond anything that I imagined. (Fr. Michael is a man of great vision so I suspect that we still haven't done all that he imagined!)

10 years, 77 dioceses, 33,000 Catholic attendees, two million air miles, five continents, and 4 near death experiences later, it is amazing what stands out - even when you are as tired as I am right now - and what begins to blur. I wrote about our dramatic beginnings as it was happening and it makes me smile to read it again today.

It's hard to begin to express all the journey has meant to me and to so many others -long-suffering Dominicans named Michael, our staff, past and present, and the hundreds of collaborators (teachers, trainers, interviewers, pastors and pastoral leaders, advocates, donors, intercessors,and other co-conspirators) around the country and in other countries who have made all this possible.

Our mission has remained the same over the years: to equip parishes to form lay apostles. But what is at stake in calling all the baptized to become intentional disciples and to follow Christ into the world as apostles has become ever clearer.

Summer before last, I received a letter from a recently retired pharmacist named Claudia who had attended a Called & Gifted workshop in a South Carolina parish. As a result of her discernment, she had volunteered to serve as a lay missionary in Tanzania. There she would teach pharmacology at the very first medical school in the country. Claudia’s mission: to enable Tanzanians to qualify for funding for AIDS medications by training them to administer the drugs in question.

This woman’s skill and expertise could conceivably save the lives of an entire generation and change the course of a whole nation. When I told her story at a small group gathering in my parish in Colorado Springs, one woman blurted out “She’s like Esther! Who knows but what she has been prepared for such a time as this?”

Claudia is an Esther and she has been prepared for just such as time as this. And yet, the irony is that such a possibility was beyond anything Claudia had ever envisioned for herself. As Claudia put it, “I was deliberating what to do next and whether there might be some purpose for my life.” Discerning her charisms “set me on a path that I’d probably taken years to find on my own.” It was an experience of a discerning Christian community that enabled Claudia to first imagine, then aspire to, and then do the extraordinary thing that will change so many lives.

Our Catholic parishes are filled with anointed but unconscious Esthers and Dominics, who have been prepared for purposes beyond anything they can now imagine. As Catholics, we have a beautifully rich theology of evangelization. But our evangelical imagination as individuals and as a community is stunted because we haven’t seen it lived at the local level. Can we imagine what Holy Spirit would do in our midst if our parishes challenged all the baptized to imagine, aspire to, and live their God-given vocations?

Christ's redeeming love breaking the power of sin and death in the lives of inviduals, of families, of communities, or parishes, of nations. The grace of Christ's Redemption being poured out throughout the world today through the assent and cooperation of all-too-ordinary people like you and me.

Forming others, whether a child or an adult, is like being John the Baptist. You are a kind of forerunner, called to make straight the path of one whom God has sent to bless and heal our world.

The great 19th century evangelist, Dwight D. Moody had a saying that I’ve always liked: “The world has not yet seen what God will do through the life of a man or a women who is wholly consecrated to him”

If we are faithful to God’s call to evangelize and form our own, I think we will see not just hundreds, but many thousands of such extraordinary men and women, new Dorothy Days and Jacque Maritains, Mother Teresas and Francis Xaviers emerge in our midst. Nurturing the faith, gifts, and call of others is a privileged ministry. Through this work, your and I can literally change the course of history by helping to unleash the greatest power in the universe, the Spirit of God working through a man or woman who is wholly consecrated to Him.

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior;
for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant

From this day all generations will call me blessed;
the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his Name.
What's a Called & Gifted Workshop Like? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Michael Fones   
Wednesday, 27 June 2007 09:29
If you've wondered what a Called & Gifted Workshop is Like, you might click on the title of this post and read a description of the Friday evening portion from the Catholic Explorer. It includes some comments from participants, as well as quotes from the presentation given by Barbara Elliott and Keith Strohm, the teachers of that weekend. The workshop was held at St. Isidore Parish in Bloomingdale, IL, June 15-16.

When asked why she was attending the workshop, Connie Biala of Winfield, a parishioner at St. Isidore, said she was searching for answers.

“I have been troubled and want to know what I am here for,” Biala said of her time on earth. “I am still searching for what God wants for me to give back.

“God has been so good to me,” she said, her eyes filling with tears. “I want to give back but I want to know what I can do. I already minister to the sick, but I feel I can do more.”

The 72-year-old registered nurse said she works in an operating room and doesn’t appreciate that some doctors think “they are God and rule the operating room.”

“I don’t work for the doctors, I work with the doctors. I work for God, but I don’t know how to let the doctors realize this,” Biala explained. “I want them to learn to love their coworkers and not look down on us. I am hoping to find out how to be able to do better. How do I bring love to my coworkers as well as to the patients? We are supposed to be here to love each other and maybe we can do better.”

As apostles of Christ, all Catholics are capable of changing, even a small portion, of the world.

“People encounter Jesus through us because of the things we have done,” Elliott told the audience. “We are, in a sense, ambassadors of Christ. If everyone looked at it this way, literally, can you imagine what the world would be like?”

Fr. Mike: People come to Called & Gifted workshops for many reasons. Some are returning to the Church, others are in between jobs, or are young adults wondering what their call in life is. Still others are in major transitions: enduring a divorce, mourning the loss of a parent or child, moving to a new location. Many of these people are consciously open to the grace God offers us daily, and the effects of the workshop are powerful as a consequence. People's lives are changed, and that, really, is a more interesting question - "what is the effect of a Called & Gifted workshop?"

If you've been to one, you might let us know what was the effect on your life.
The Celibate's Temptation PDF Print E-mail
Written by Michael Fones   
Tuesday, 26 June 2007 07:57
Last night at the men's group I attend when I'm in Tucson we discussed a few chapters of Fr. Timothy Radcliffe's book, "What is the Point of Being a Christian?" In a chapter on human sexuality and chastity, Fr. Timothy makes the point that, "The Last Supper is the story of the risk of giving yourself to others. That is why Jesus died, because he loved. But not to take the risk is even more dangerous. It is deadly. Listen to C.S. Lewis:

To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket - safe, dark, motionless, airless - it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all dangers and perturbations of love is Hell."

This quote from C.S. Lewis's "The Four Loves" caught my attention as I considered my life situation compared to the other men in the group. They are all married and have at least one child, with the exception of another single man who was absent last night. We spoke last night of the importance of commitment, and how at times it is simply remaining committed to the commitment that keeps you in relationship when things get difficult. Be selfish in a marriage, and your spouse will respond in such a way as to let you know, no doubt.

But celibates can fall into selfishness more easily, it seems to me.

Or at least I can.

It is a fairly simple thing to immerse oneself in ministry, especially when you are looked upon as the "expert" in religious matters, and if people defer to your judgments (either because you're the priest, or because you sign their paycheck and they serve at your whim). Many people will allow or even expect a certain distance or aloofness from you, and if not, it doesn't take long to communicate that you want distance. A few encounters with you when you're cranky or depressed or stressed or anxious, and the invitations to dinner, or a conversation over coffee, or spiritual direction or pastoral counseling will evaporate like a Sonoran playa.

You'll be left to your own projects, you'll be able to lower your golf handicap, you'll have plenty of time for reading, and you won't have those messy emotional ups and downs that are part of every human relationship to worry about.

Of course, parishioners will begin counting the days or years to your departure, but your Order or diocese are so strapped for vocations that you won't likely be confronted by them, so long as you keep your sexual and financial houses in order.

I remember when I was in Europe two summers ago with my sister being pleasantly surprised at some of the depictions I saw of the last Judgment in various churches we visited. It was not uncommon for them to show priests, cardinals, even popes leading the parade of the damned into Hell. It was a pleasant surprise to realize that centuries ago Catholics were well aware that ordination was no guarantee of personal sanctity. Perhaps the artist or his patron or both recognized the potential for celibates to be tempted - through fear of being hurt or fear of sinning, or both - to run from love into the arms of selfishness and self-absorption.

Fr. Ronald Rolheiser, OMI, wrote in "The Holy Longing" that marriage is an exploration of the depth of human relationship, while celibacy is an exploration of the breadth of human relationship. I like that image, but I wouldn't want so much breadth that I never have an emotional or spiritual connection with anyone - and that, as Lewis well knew - is a temptation, especially, I believe, for male celibates.
Born and Framed for Friendship PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Monday, 25 June 2007 21:19
A description of St. Thomas More by his friend Erasmus in a letter of 1513:

"You ask me to paint you a full-length portrait of More as in a picture. Would that I could do it as perfectly as you eagerly desire it. At least I will try to give a sketch of the man, as well as from my long familiarity with him I have either observed or can now recall. To begin, then, with what is least known to you, in stature he is not tall, though not remarkably short. His limbs are formed with such perfect symmetry as to leave nothing to be desired. His complexion is white, his face fair rather than pale, and though by no means ruddy, a faint flush of pink appears beneath the whiteness of his skin. His hair is dark brown, or brownish black. The eyes are grayish The eyes are grayish blue, with some spots, a kind which betokens singular talent, and among the English is considered attractive, whereas Germans generally prefer black. It is said that none are so free from vice.

"His countenance is in harmony with his character, being always expressive of an amiable joyousness, and even an incipient laughter, and, to speak candidly, it is better framed for gladness than for gravity and dignity, though without any approach to folly or buffoonery. The right shoulder is a little higher than the left, especially when he walks. This is not a defect of birth, but the result of habit, such as we often contract. In the rest of his person there is nothing to offend. His hands are the least refined part of his body.

"He was from his boyhood always most careless about whatever concerned his body. His youthful beauty may be guessed from what still remains, though I knew him when be was not more than three-and-twenty. Even now he is not much over forty. He has good health, though not robust; able to endure all honourable toil, and subject to very few diseases. He seems to promise a long life, as his father still survives in a wonderfully green old age.

"I never saw anyone so indifferent about food. Until he was a young man he delighted in drinking water, but that was natural to him (id illi patrium fuit). Yet not to seem singular or morose, he would hide his temperance from his guests by drinking out of a pewter vessel beer almost as light as water, or often pure water. It is the custom in England to pledge each other in drinking wine. In doing so he will merely touch it with his lips, not to seem to dislike it, or to fall in with the custom. He likes to eat corned beef and coarse bread much leavened, rather than what most people count delicacies. Otherwise he has no aversion to what gives harmless pleasure to the body. He prefers milk diet and fruits, and is especially fond of eggs.

"His voice is neither loud nor very weak, but penetrating; not resounding or soft, but that of a clear speaker. Though he delights in every kind of music he has no vocal talents. He speaks with great clearness and perfect articulation, without rapidity or hesitation. He likes a simple dress, using neither silk nor purple nor gold chain, except when it may not be omitted. It is wonderful how negligent he is as regards all the ceremonious forms in which most men make politeness to consist. He does not require them from others, nor is he anxious to use them himself, at interviews or banquets, though he is not unacquainted with them when necessary. But he thinks it unmanly to spend much time in such trifles. Formerly he was most averse to the frequentation of the court, for he has a great hatred of constraint (tyrannis) and loves equality. Not without much trouble he was drawn into the court of Henry VIII., though nothing more gentle and modest than that prince can be desired. By nature More is chary of his liberty and of ease, yet, though he enjoys ease, no one is more alert or patient when duty requires it.

"He seems born and framed for friendship, and is a most faithful and enduring friend. He is easy of access to all; but if he chances to get familiar with one whose vices admit no correction, he manages to loosen and let go the intimacy rather than to break it off suddenly. When he finds any sincere and according to his heart, he so delights in their society and conversation as to place in it the principal charm of life. He abhors games of tennis, dice, cards, and the like, by which most gentlemen kill time. Though he is rather too negligent of his own interests, no one is more diligent in those of his friends. In a word, if you want a perfect model of friendship, you will find it in no one better than in More. In society he is so polite, so sweet-mannered, that no one is of so melancholy a disposition as not to be cheered by him, and there is no misfortune that he does not alleviate. Since his boyhood he has so delighted in merriment, that it seems to be part of his nature; yet he does not carry it to buffoonery, nor did he ever like biting pleasantries. When a youth he both wrote and acted some small comedies. If a retort is made against himself, even without ground, he likes it from the pleasure he finds in witty repartees. Hence he amused himself with composing epigrams when a young man, and enjoyed Lucian above all writers. Indeed, it was he who pushed me to write the "Praise of Folly," that is to say, he made a camel frisk.

"In human affairs there is nothing from which he does not extract enjoyment, even from things that are most serious. If he converses with the learned and judicious, he delights in their talent; if with the ignorant and foolish, he enjoys their stupidity. He is not even offended by professional jesters. With a wonderful dexterity he accommodates himself to every disposition. As a rule, in talking with women, even with his own wife, he is full of jokes and banter.

"No one is less led by the opinions of the crowd, yet no one departs less from common sense. One of his great delights is to consider the forms, the habits, and the instincts of different kinds of animals. There is hardly a species of bird that he does not keep in his house, and rare animals such as monkeys, foxes, ferrets, weasels and the like. If he meets with anything foreign, or in any way remarkable, he eagerly buys it, so that his house is full of such things, and at every turn they attract the eye of visitors, and his own pleasure is renewed whenever he sees others pleased."

A Man for All Seasons PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Monday, 25 June 2007 17:31
I keep referring to A Man for All Seasons but just realized that there is no reason why all our readers should be familiar with a 40 year old film - even one that swept the Oscars. Here's the original trailer via You Tube:

Wow, have trailers changed since 1966! This one is 3 1/2 minutes long (intended for viewing in a movie theatre). We are used to things moving *much* faster.

By all means, rent the DVD and watch it. It has held up over the years wonderfully.
Richard Rich PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Monday, 25 June 2007 16:50

Richard Rich, of course, is the amoral social-climbing young man in A Man for All Seasons, (played by the young John Hurt) who lies about More at his trial and ensures that he is condemned to death. The classic exchange, based upon Will Roper's biography, when More is told that Rich has become attorney general for Wales:

"Why Rich, it profiteth not a man to gain the whole world and lose his own soul, but for Wales . . ."

(Note the all too common English distain in that day for the wild Welsh, which had produced the Tudors. Even saints were not immune.)

It's hard to believe that the real man, who looks so young and innocent in the Holbein drawing above, was even worse than he is portrayed in the movie. A particularly nasty governmental Vicar of Bray*, Rich wasn't just a turn-coat to save his own skin, but an active party in the destruction of others on all sides of the religious and political divide. Richard Rich seems to have cared only for . . . Richard Rich.

Strangely enough, Rich was Catholic, but that didn't stop him from being one of the prime actors in the dissolution of England's monasteries. The French Ambassador Marillac to call Rich ‘the most wretched creature ... the first inventor of the destruction of the abbeys and monasteries [and] the general confiscation of church property’,. He made a fortune overseeing the sales of monastic lands and had to later defend himself against charges of corruption.

As soliciter-general, Rich actively prosecuted those who refused to accept the licitness of the king's second marriage to Ann Boleyn or accept Henry as Supreme Head of the Church in England.

Five years, after More's death, Rich played almost exactly the same role in the condemnation and execution of Thomas Cromwell, who is portrayed as his mentor in A Man for All Seasons.

Rich, who was a hands-on kind of guy, even as chancellor, apparently personally tortured Anne Askew, an ardent Protestant in order to gain information that would incriminate Catherine Parr, Henry's sixth wife. Anne withstood months of torture but refused to speak and was eventually burned at the stake - and Catherine Parr managed to survive the King himself.

Rich always kept his really important fences mended. When asked to speak at the opening of Parliament in 1536,he compared Henry VIII to Solomon for prudence and justice, to Samson for strength and bravery, and to Absalom for beauty. Equally extravagant was his concluding address likening the King's care for his subjects to the sun's influence upon the world.

Richard Rich did become chancellor of England in 1547 and in this capacity was involved in the harsh treatment given to the then-Princess Mary, who was Catholic. He originally suported Lady Jane Grey as Queen but quickly changed his coat again and declared for Mary. During her reign,Lord Rich took an active part in the restoration of the old religion in Essex and was one of the most active of persecutors.

Somehow, I'm not surprised.

Rich survived them all: Henry, More, Cromwell, Catherine Parr, Lady Jane Grey, Mary Tudor, and died - "in his bed" - in 1567.

On the bright side, Rich was voted "worst Briton of the 16th century". Quite a distinction in a century that produce so many remarkable Britons.

*The Vicar of Bray was a Papist under the reign of Henry VIII, and a Protestant under Edward VI; he was a Papist again under Mary, and once more became a Protestant in the reign of Elizabeth. When this scandal to the gown was reproached for his versatility of religious creeds, and taxed for being a turncoat and an inconstant changeling...he replied, ‘Not so neither, for if I changed my religion, I am sure I kept true to my principle; which is, to live and die the Vicar of Bray.’ ” (He succeeded and is buried there.)
The Hounds of Heaven PDF Print E-mail
Written by Michael Fones   
Monday, 25 June 2007 14:53

I've a link in here to David Ian Miller's interview of Brother Christopher, 52, the head of the New Skete dog-training program and a monk since 1981. While the story's predominantly about the dog training program the monks founded, one section caught my eye - a passage about Br. Christopher's conversion. Here it is:

Br. Christopher: I majored in international affairs in college but became more and more fascinated with religion. One of the books I read at that time was "The Seven Storey Mountain" by Thomas Merton. That book really spoke to me personally. It told a story that I could identify with, about a young man finding himself and wanting to make his life as meaningful a response to God as he could.

Miller: So you weren't always religious?

Br. Christopher: I was nominally Catholic. Church wasn't really that meaningful for me when I was younger. It was something that I was obliged to do. It wasn't until I got into college that I started asking much more serious questions, and I went through a personal conversion that helped me to see the importance of spirituality in my life.

Miller: What sort of conversion?

Br. Christopher: I was in Europe at the time -- after my freshman year in college. I was planning to go on a year abroad program to Tunisia during my sophomore year. I was right where everyone said I was supposed to be from a professional point of view. I had plenty of opportunities, I was meeting a lot of fascinating people and I was in a program where I could basically set myself up for a career in the Foreign Service. Yet inwardly I was just incredibly empty and basically unhappy.

Miller: What happened?

Br. Christopher: I think that the more I lived with that, the more it caused me to humbly say this isn't much of a life, living without any kind of meaning, without any kind of values -- personal values that are grounded in something transcendent, and so it was just a very humble prayer: "God, if you exist, I can't believe in a myth. Please meet me at this level." And it happened in just a very remarkable way, where, all of a sudden, I just realized that God reached out to me. It was something that I couldn't deny or doubt, and it left me with sort of a peace that has been a part of my life certainly ever since.

This is a pretty common pattern among conversions. Something happens to upset our "business as usual" attitude. It could be the loss of a job or a girlfriend or boyfriend, a divorce, serious illness (think St. Francis or St. Ignatius of Loyola), or a move. People who "hit bottom" with drug addiction or alcoholism, or whose criminal behavior catches up to them and lands them in jail. All of these are what's known as "liminal space." Br. Christopher was immersed in a foreign culture.

The difficulty is, so much of our behavior is bent on keeping us from experiencing these liminal states. We work hard to keep our job, our health, our relationships intact, and often are fairly successful in doing so. And these are good things, don't get me wrong. But when they are stripped from us, we often begin to ask deeper questions about meaning and purpose, and these can often point us towards God.

The challenge for the Church today - and always - is discovering a way to invite Catholics to invite the Lord to enter our lives fully, as Brother Christopher did in his young adulthood. What's preventing us from asking the Lord TODAY, "Meet me here, as I am, today, Lord. I want to know you, love you, follow you. Help my unbelief!"?
There's More PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Sunday, 24 June 2007 18:09
I haven't gotten to Henry VIII, Richard Rich, Tyndale and, of course, the burning issue: just where is St. Thomas' head?

But you'll have to wait a bit since I've in the very last throes of creating the schedule and hand-outs for Making Disciples.

But I'm letting you know right now:

If part of having a saint for a father is pickling his
par-boiled,severed head as Margaret Roper did, it's all over.

Relic or no relic, I'm never going to be Catholic enough for that and someone should have warned me when I signed up.
Fidelity & Endurance PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Sunday, 24 June 2007 10:25
Everyone knows that St. Thomas died “the King’s good servant, but God’s first” but few of us realize the price that the More family paid generation after generation for their faithful adherence to the Catholic faith.

I have already told the story of Margaret Gigg’s heroism. But John More, St. Thomas’s only son, was imprisoned at the same time as his father for refusing to swear the same oath. He was later released to live on his wife’s Yorkshire estates.

Cecily, More’s third daughter married Giles Heron in 1525. In 1539, five years after More’s execution, a disgruntled former tenant reported that Giles Heron had "mumble[d] certain words touching the King" in the parlor of his manor house. Heron was arrested and executed for treason in 1540.

Thomas More II was the son of John More and St. Thomas’ grand-son. Thomas More II was imprisoned in London between 1582 and 1586 for his Catholic beliefs. Under Queen Elizabeth I, Catholics (or 'recusants' as they were called) were fined for not taking the oath of allegiance to the Church of England.

Cresacre More was the youngest son of Thomas More II and St. Thomas’s great, grand-son..Cresacre became the heir after his elder brothers John III and Henry died, and his other brother Thomas became a Catholic priest. In about 1631, Cresacre wrote a Life of Sir Thomas More, which was re-published many times in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Like his grandfather, Thomas, Christopher was a fervent Catholic. He dedicated the book to Queen Henrietta Maria, the Catholic wife of Charles I.

Cresacre’s daughter Helen, (as Dame Gertrude More, 1606 – 1633) became one of the founding members of the English Benedictine House at Cambrai (which became the famous Stanbrook Abbey when the community returned to English soil after the French Revolution. Stanbrook Abbey was the inspiration for Rumer Godden’s novel “In This House of Brede”) Her sister, Bridget More, joined the community in 1629 and eventually became Prioress of what is now Colfax Abbey, England.

The last known More heir, Fr. Thomas More, SJ, died in 1795.

As remarkable as the saga of the More family sounds to us, it was not remarkable for devout English Catholics in the late 16th and 17th centuries. Mary Ward, the extraordinary woman apostle of the early 17th century, was related to most of the recusant families in the north of England. Her mother, her grand-mother, and her aunts had all been inprisoned for their faith and two of her near relatives were involved in the infamous Gunpowder Plot (Think Guy Fawkes Day).

Imagine how differently one regarded being a Catholic if you grew up as the heir of such a heritage.
Margaret Giggs Clement: More's Adopted Daughter PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Sunday, 24 June 2007 08:36

Margaret Roper was not the only remarkable young woman in the More household. Margaret Giggs was raised by More as a daughter and also learned to read Latin and Greek which would have made her one of the most formidably educated women of her day.

Margaret Giggs married John Clement, a young man who also lived in More's houshold and bore 11 children. Her youngest daughter, also named Margaret, was educated by the Augustinian nuns of Louvain since her parents were forced to live in exile in Belgium twice: during the reign of Henry VIII and again when Elizabeth came to the throne. Not unnaturally, young Margaret joined the community and served as prioress of the convent for 38 years. It is she who tells this story about her mother as a young woman (from The Life of Mother Margaret Clement via Monique deCamps.

The Carthusian monks, along with Richard Reynolds, a monk of Syon Abbey, and More and Fisher, were the King's first victims: they all refused to comply with his demand that they should acknowledge him as Supreme Head of the Church in England.

On May 4th, 1535, the first Martyrs of the English Reformation, Reynolds and the Carthusian Priors of London, Beauvale and Axholme, were executed at Tyburn. During the next five years fifteen of the London Carthusians died, either violently on the scaffold or by slow starvation in Newgate gaol. The story of Mary Gigg's brave effort to bring relief to the monks in Newgate is told simply in the Life of her daughter:

Bearing a singular devotion to that holy Order and moved with great compassion for those holy Fathers, Margaret dealt with the gaoler so that she might secretly have access to them, and withal did win him with money that he was content to let her come into the prison to them, which she did very often, attiring and disguising herself as a milkmaid, with a great pail on her head full of meat, wherewith she fed that blessed company, putting meat into their mouths, they being tied and not able to stir, nor to help themselves, which having done, she took from them their natural filth.

This pious work she continued for divers days until at last the King, inquiring if they were not dead, and understanding to his great admiration that they were not, commanded a straiter watch to be kept over them, so that the keeper durst not let in this good woman any more, fearing it might cost him his head if it should be discovered. Nevertheless, what with her importunity and by force of money, she obtained from him that he might let her go up on to the tiles, right over the close prison where the blessed Fathers were. And so she, uncovering the ceiling or tiles over their heads, by a string let down meat in a basket, bringing it as near as she could to their mouths as they did stand chained against the posts. But they, not being able to feed themselves out of the basket, or very little, and the gaoler fearing very much that it should be perceived, in the end refused to let her come any more, and so, soon after, they languished and pined away, one after the other, with the stink and want of food and other miseries which they there endured.

In Mechlin in Belgium where Margaret Giggs, now Margaret Clement, lived during her second exile, her house became a home for all English priests passing through the country on their way to find a ship to take them to England. We do not know the exact date of her death, but the circumstances surrounding it are told in her youngest daughter's Life:

But the time had now come that God had appointed to reward her for her good works done to the Fathers of the Charterhouse. He visited her with an ague which held her nine or ten days, and having brought her very low and in danger, she received all the sacraments with great devotion, and being desirous to give her blessing to all her children who were all present except her Religious daughters and one more that remained at Bruges with her husband, she caused her to be sent for in all haste. Wednesday being now come, which was the last day before she died, and asking if her daughter were come, and being told no, but that they looked for her every hour, she made answer that she would stay no longer for her, and calling her husband she told him that the time of her departing was now come, and she might stay no longer, for there were standing about her bed the Reverend Fathers, Monks of Charterhouse, whom she had relieved in prison in England and did call upon her to come away with them, and that therefore she could stay no longer, because they did expect her, which seemed strange talk unto him. Doubting that she might speak idly by reason of her sickness, he called unto her ghostly Father, a Reverend Father of the Franciscans living in Mechlin, to examine and talk with her, to whom she constantly made answer that she was in no way beside herself, but declared that she still had the sight of the Charterhouse monks before her, standing about her bedside and inviting her to come away with them, as she had told her husband. At the which they were all astonished.
'More' on More PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Sunday, 24 June 2007 07:15
What? You thought we were done? Silly goose.

There's so much More . . .

Consider the relationship of Margaret More, Thomas's eldest daughter, and her relationship with Erasmus, one of the Thomas' most celebrated friends.

You haven't?

Well, you should. It's very interesting as you'll see if you read this wonderful essay by Patricia Demers: Margaret Roper & Erasmus: the Relationship of Translator and Source.

"When writing to the eldest, best-known and, presumably, most gifted of his children, Thomas More regularly used superlatives to address "puella[e] iucundissima[e]," "Margareta charissima," "dulcissima filia" and "dulcissima nata" (Rogers 97, 134, 154).

Eating a meal was "not so sweet" to More as talking to his "dearest child" (Stapleton 109), to whom he wrote from the Tower as "myne owne good doughter" and for whom he remained "your tender louynge father" (Rogers 509). In Erasmus's correspondence with Roper, whom he greeted as "optima Margareta," the humanist praised the letters of all the More sisters as "sensible, well-written, modest, forthright and friendly" (letter 1401, Basel, 25 December 1523).

His Christmas gift to her in the year of the publication of Precatio Dominica was his commentary on Prudentius's hymns for Christmas and the Epiphany; the gift not only verifies his confidence in Margaret's Latin but also reveals Erasmus's "attitude presque paternelle" since he casts himself as "le pédagogue attentioné, soucieux de former une élève de choix" (Béné 473).

The following year Erasmus used Margaret as "the probable model" (King 181) for Magdalia in the colloquy "The Abbot and the Learned Lady"; this interlocutor wastes no time chastizing the Abbot's fear of women's learning, deftly wielding a double-edged sword to reply to the claim that "a wise woman is twice foolish": That's commonly said, yes, but by fools. A woman truly wise is not wise in her own conceit. On the other hand, one who thinks herself wise when she knows nothing is indeed twice foolish. (Thompson 222)

Magdalia cannily engages her companion in the topic of clerical ignorance, part of her "veiled critique of the intellectual sloth afflicting men" (Jordan 60): "if you're not careful," she taunts, "the net result will be that we'll preside in the theological schools, preach in the churches, and wear your miters" (Thompson 223).

When, in September 1529, Holbein unveiled for Erasmus his portrait of the More family, this scholarly friend wrote immediately to Margaret, "the glory of [her] British land" (decus Britanniae tuae), assuring her that he recognized everyone, but no one more than her (omnes agnoui, sed neminem magis quam te), whose lovelier spirit within shines through the exterior (per pulcherrimum domicilium relucentem animum multo pulchriorem) (Letter 2212, Freiburg, 6 September 1529).

Thomas Stapleton, More's early biographer, devoted a whole chapter of Tres Thomae to More's eldest daughter, continuing the two strands of Margaret's reputation: her exceptionality ("she attained a degree of excellence that would scarcely be believed in a woman") and family likeness ("she resembled her father, as well in stature, appearance, and voice, as in mind and in general character") (Stapleton 103).


Only a portion of her writing has survived. Lost are her Latin and Greek verses, her Latin speeches, her imitation of Quintilian, and her treatise The Four Laste Thynges, which More considered equal to his own. What remain are a scattering of letters and the primary text associated with her name, the translation of Erasmus's Precatio Dominica (1523) as A deuout treatise upon the Pater noster (1524), whose subject and mode appear to confirm the derivative nature of this daughter's accomplishment."

This is the earliest woodblock from the frontpiece of Margaret's translation of Erasmus. Note that this remarkable woman is only 19 years old and already a wife and mother. (Margaret married William Roper at 15, not in her 20's as implied in A Man for All Seasons.)

The World of Thomas More PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Saturday, 23 June 2007 18:36
I spent a day at Hampton Court last May. The old part, originally built by Cardinal Wolsey and taken by Henry VIII when Wolsey fell, would have been very familiar to More. Under Wolsey, Hampton Court had been renovated into a luxurious palace with few equals in early Tudor England.

The inner tower with its magnificent clock and the paneled room date from Wolsey's time. Thomas would have entered Hampton Court by passing by this magnificent lion as portrayed in the film A Man for All Seasons.

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