St. Luke Portrait from the Lichfield Gospels

Portrait of St. Luke (perhaps also representing High King of Ireland, Flaithbertach mac Loingsig, r. 728-734 (723-729), † 765), Lichfield Gospels, p. 218.
Portrait of St. Luke (perhaps also representing High King of Ireland, Flaithbertach mac Loingsig, r. 728-734 (723-729), † 765), Lichfield Gospels, p. 218.

Quae Sunt Dei

The King’s majesty hath the chief power in this Realm of England, and other of his Dominions, unto whom the chief Government of all Estates of this Realm, whether they be Ecclesiastical or Civil, in all causes doth appertain, and is not, nor ought to be, subject to any foreign jurisdiction … We give not to our Princes the ministering either of God’s Word, or of the Sacraments … but that only prerogative, which we see to have been given always to all Godly Princes in holy Scriptures by God himself; that is, that they should rule all estates and degrees committed to their charge by God, whether they be Ecclesiastical or Temporal, and restrain with the civil sword the stubborn and evildoer … The Bishop of Rome hath no jurisdiction in this Realm of England.

Article XXXVII.

But we would say a word more on the history of this anomaly. The origin of the Anglican jurisdiction, like the origin of the Anglican order, was the accident of Queen Elizabeth’s illegitimacy. Cardinal Pole had, in Queen Mary’s reign, absolved the nation from schism and heresy, and restored it to the communion of the Church. But Queen Elizabeth, compelled by her illegitimacy, tore the nation once more from Catholic unity; risking her own soul, and the souls of her subjects, in order that she might reign forty years. So reluctant was the nation to return to schism, that a packed parliament could only secure a small majority of three in favor of the apostate oath of royal supremacy; all the bishops, the universities, the whole body of Catholic clergy, and all the laity who dared to speak their mind, protesting against the hideous impiety. Thus it was by act of parliament alone that the ancient faith, the ancient hierarchy, the ancient liturgy were swept away, and the present doctrines, rites, and ceremonies of the new Church were established as parliamentarily sound. It is just here that jurisdiction and holy order seem to contend for the mastery in confusion. Six of Elizabeth’s theologians being consulted as to the validity of the new orders, gave it as their opinion that “in a case of such urgent necessity the queen possessed the power of supplying every defect through the plenitude of her ecclesiastical authority as head of the Church.” In other words, these Protestant theologians maintained the perfectly original theory that true jurisdiction being wanting for the new order, a false jurisdiction must be pronounced true. The new order, they said, is certainly equivocal; we admit that it is not in the least like Catholic order; but, as we have thrown over the pontiff’s jurisdiction, which could alone decide the question authoritatively, one alternative alone remains to us: we must affirm that the queen’s jurisdiction is more divine than the pontiff’s jurisdiction; so that the queen can henceforth teach the pontiff, rebuke the pontiff, even anathematize him, “in the plenitude of her ecclesiastical authority as head of the Church.” And if it be replied, “Yes, this was the attitude of Elizabeth, but so far only as the Church of England was concerned,” our answer is: You first create a new national church, in the teeth of the opposition of the whole nation, episcopal, sacerdotal, and lay—excepting only the small crowd of powerful worldlings who had become enriched by the spoils of the Catholic Church—and having done this, you say that the new jurisdiction remained as restricted as the new church. This may be perfectly true as a political fact, but it is none the less an apostacy and an absurdity. It is an apostacy because you make the fount of all spiritual jurisdiction to be insular, civil, and lay; and it is an absurdity because you affirm of the lesser that it can rule, and ought to rule, the greater. You take from God the things which are God’s, and you give them to any turbulent Caesar. You make a civil and a lay power to sit in judgment on a divine sacrament (for not even Henry VIII., before or after his excommunication, denied that holy order was a divine sacrament), and you give to an island queen the power to “supply all deficiencies in the acts done by them” (her bishops), “or in the person or state, or faculty of any of them; such being the necessity of the case and the urgency of the time”; a power which never was claimed by any pontiff, and which every pontiff would have repudiated as an impiety. Thus you invert every process of common sense. You admit that it must belong to a divinely appointed jurisdiction to decide on faith, worship, and holy order, and yet affirm that it belongs to a queen or to a parliament to create that same divine jurisdiction whenever the “urgency of the time or the necessity of the case” seems to call for such spasmodic creation. “Render therefore unto Caesar the things that are God’s” is the new Anglican reading of the divine command. To pontifically define what is divine jurisdiction, and then to more than pontifically create it, was that Anglican assumption which accompanied the creation of a new church, a new faith, a new religion. Well might Montalembert say: “The Church of England was one of the most awful forms of sin and pride that has ever appeared in the world.” All other forms of heresy had been based on the assumption that divine authority had misinterpreted a divine truth; but Elizabethanism was based on the assumption that the civil power could create divine authority, and could then license this divine authority to teach whatever truths were most agreeable to its tastes or its ease.

A. F. Marshall, B. A. (Oxon.), The Correlation of Order and Jurisdiction, The American Catholic Quarterly Review, Vol. XX. April, 1895. No. 78.

An Holy Hest

THE VOYAGE OF COLUMBA.

I.

“Son of Brendan, I have willed it;
I will leave this land and go
To a land of savage mountains,
Where the Borean breezes blow;
To a land of rainy torrents,
And of barren, treeless isles,
Where the winter frowns are lavish,
And the summer scantly smiles;
I will leave this land of bloodshed,
Where fierce brawls and battles sway,
And will preach God’s peaceful Gospel
In a grey land, far away.”
Beathan spake, the son of Brendan—
“Son of Phelim, art thou wise?
Wilt thou change the smiling Erin,
For the scowling Pictish skies?
Thou, the lealest son of Erin,
Thou, a prince of royal line,
Sprung by right descent from mighty
Neill, whose hostages were nine?
Wilt thou seek the glens of Albyn,
For repose from loveless strife?
Glens, where feuds, from sire to grandson,
Fan the wasteful flame of life?
Wilt thou leave a land of learning,
Home of ancient holy lore,
To converse with uncouth people,
Fishing on a shelvy shore?
Wilt thou leave the homes of Gartan,
Where thou suck’d the milky food
From the mother-breast of Aithne,
Daughter of Lagenian blood?
Wilt thou leave the oaks of Derry,
Where each leaf is dear to thee,
Wandering, in a storm-tost wherry,
O’er the wide, unpastured sea?
Son of Phelim, Beathan loves thee,
Be thou zealous, but be wise!
There be heathens here in Erin;
Preach to them ‘neath kindly skies.”
Then the noble son of Phelim,
With the big tear in his eye,
To the blameless son of Brendan
Firmly thus made swift reply—
“Son of Brendan, I have heard thee,
Heard thee with a bleeding heart;
For I love the oaks of Derry,
And to leave them gives me smart;
But the ban of God is on me,
Not my will commands the way;
Molaise priest of Innishmurry
Hights me go, and I obey.
For their death is heavy on me
Whom I slew in vengeful mood,
At the battle of Culdremhne,
In the hotness of my blood.
For the lord that rules at Tara,
In some brawl that grew from wine,
Slew young Carnan, branch of promise,
And a kinsman of my line;
And the human blood within me
Mounted, and my hand did slay,
For the fault of one offender
Many on that tearful day;
And I soil’d the snow-white vestment
With which Etchen, holy man,
Clonfad’s mitred elder, clad me
When I join’d the priestly clan;
And my soul was rent with anguish,
And my sorrows were increased,
And I went to Innishmurry,
Seeking solace from the priest.
And the saintly Molaise told me—
‘For the blood that thou hast spilt,
God hath shown me one atonement
To make clear thy soul from guilt;
Count the hundreds of the Christians
Whom thy sword slew to thy blame,
Even so many souls of heathens
Must thy word with power reclaim;
Souls of rough and rude sea-rovers,
Used to evil, strange to good,
Picts beyond the ridge of Albyn,
In the Pagan realm of Brude.’
Thou hast heard me, son of Brendan;
I have will’d it; and this know,
Thou with me, or I without thee,
On this holy hest will go!”
Beathan heard, with meek agreement,
For he knew that Colum’s will,
Like a rock against the ocean,
Still was fix’d for good or ill.
“Son of Phelim, I have heard thee;
I and Cobhtach both will go,
Past the wintry ridge of Albyn,
O’er the great sea’s foamy flow;
Far from the green oaks of Deny,
Where the cuckoo sings in May,
From the land of falling waters
Far, and clover’s green display;
Where Columba leads we follow,
Fear with him I may not know,
Where the God thou servest calls thee,
Son of Phelim, I will go.”

II.

“Son of Brendan, I am ready;
Is the boat all staunch and trim?
Light our osier craft and steady,
Like an ocean gull to swim?
I have cast all doubt behind me,
Seal’d with prayer my holy vow,
And the God who heard me answers
With assuring presence now.”
And the son of Brendan answer’d—
“Son of Phelim, thou shalt be
Like God’s angel-guidance to us
As we plough the misty sea.
We are ready, I and Cobhtach,
Diarmid in thy service true,
Rus and Fechno, sons of Rodain,
Scandal, son of Bresail, too;
Ernan, Luguid Mocatheimne,
Echoid, and Tochannu brave,
Grillan and the son of Branduh,
Brush with thee the briny wave.”
Thus spake he: Columba lifted
High his hand to bless the wherry,
And they oar’d with gentle oarage
From the dear-loved oaks of Derry;
Loath to leave each grassy headland,
Shiny beach and pebbly bay,
Thymy slope and woody covert,
Where the cuckoo hymn’d the May;
Loath from some familiar cabin’s
Wreathy smoke to rend their eye,
Where a godly widow harbour’d
Laughing girl or roguish boy.
On they oar’d, and soon behind them
Left thy narrow pool, Loch Foyle,
And the grey sea spread before them
Many a broad unmeasured mile.
Swiftly now on bounding billow
On they run before the gale,
For a strong south-wester blowing
Strain’d the bosom of their sail.
On they dash: the Rhinns of Islay
Soon they reach, and soon they pass;
Cliff and bay, and bluffy foreland,
Flit as in a magic glass.
What is this before them rising
Northward from the foamy spray?
Land, I wis—an island lorded
By the wise Macneill to-day,
Then a brown and barren country,
Cinctured by the ocean grey.
On they scud; and there they landed,
And they mounted on a hill,
Whence the far-viewed son of Brendan
Look’d, and saw green Erin still.
“Say’st thou so, thou son of Brendan?”
Quoth Columba; “then not here
May we rest from tossing billow
With light heart and conscience clear,
Lest our eyes should pine a-hunger
For the land we hold so dear,
And our coward keel returning
Stint the vow that brought us here.”
So they rose and trimmed their wherry,
And their course right on they hold
Northward, where the wind from Greenland
Blows on Albyn clear and cold;
When, behold, a cloud came darkling
From the west, with gusty bore,
And the horrent waves rose booming
Eastward, with ill-omen’d roar;
And the night came down upon them,
And the sea with yeasty sweep
Hiss’d around them, as the wherry
Stagger’d through the fretted deep.
Eastward, eastward, back they hurried,
For to face the flood was vain,
Every rib of their light wherry
Creaking to the tempest’s strain;
Eastward, eastward, till the morning
Glimmer’d through the pitchy storm,
And reveal’d the frowning Scarba,
And huge Jura’s cones enorm.
“Blessed God,” cried now Columba,
“Here, indeed, may danger be
From the mighty whirl and bubble
Of the cauldron of the sea;
Here it was that noble Breacan
Perish’d in the gulfing wave—
Here we, too, shall surely perish,
If not God be quick to save!”
Spake: and with his hand he lifted
High the cross above the brine;
And he cried, “Now, God, I thank Thee
Thou hast sent the wished-for sign!
For, behold, thou son of Brendan,
There upon the topmost wave,
Sent from God, a sign to save us
Float the bones of Breacan brave!
And his soul this self-same moment,
From the girth of purging fire,
Leaps redeem’d, as we are ‘scaping
From the huge sea-cauldron dire.”
Spake: and to the name of Breacan
Droop’d the fretful-crested spray;
And full soon a mild south-easter
Blew the surly storm away.

III.

Little now remains to tell ye,
Gentles, of great Phelim’s son;
How he clave the yielding billow
Till lona’s strand he won.
Back they steer’d, still westward, westward;
Past the land where high Ben More
Nods above the isles that quaintly
Fringe its steep and terraced shore.
On they cut—still westward! westward!
On with favouring wind and tide,
Past the pillar’d crags of Carsaig
Fencing Mull’s sun-fronting side,
Pass the narrow Ross, far-stretching
Where the rough and ruddy rocks
Rudely rise in jumbled hummocks
Of primeval granite blocks;
Till they come to where lona
Rears her front of hoary crags,
Fenced by many a stack and skerry
Full of rifts, and full of jags;
And behind a small black islet
Through an inlet’s narrow space,
Sail’d into a bay white bosom’d,
In the island’s southward face.
Then with eager step they mounted
To the high rock’s beetling brow—
“Canst thou see, thou far-view’d Beathan,
Trace of lovely Erin now?”
“No! thou son of Phelim, only
Mighty Jura’s Paps I see,
These and Isla’s Rhynns, but Erin
Southward lies in mist from me.”
“Thank thee, God !” then cried Columba;
“Here our vows are paid, and here
We may rest from tossing billow,
With light heart and conscience clear.”
Downward then their way they wended
To the pure and pebbly bay,
And, with holy cross uplifted,
Thus did saintly Colum say—
“In the sand we now will bury
This trim craft that brought us here,
Lest we think on oaks of Derry,
And the land we hold so dear;
Then they dug a trench, and sank it
In the sand, to seal their vow,
With keel upwards, as who travels
In the sand may see it now.

— John Stuart Blackie, Lays of the Highlands and Islands (1872).

Once the Glory

The expense is reckoned, the enterprise is begun; it is of God; it cannot be withstood. So the faith was planted: So it must be restored.

St. Edmund Campion, Challenge to the Privy Council.

It was not our death that ever we feared. But we knew that we were not lords of our own lives, and therefore for want of answer would not be guilty of our own deaths. The only thing that we have now to say is, that if our religion do make us traitors, we are worthy to be condemned; but otherwise are and have been as true subjects as ever the Queen had. In condemning us you condemn all your own ancestors — all the ancient priests, bishops, and kings — all that was once the glory of England, the island of saints, and the most devoted child of the See of Peter. For what have we taught, however you may qualify it with the odious name of treason, that they did not uniformly teach? To be condemned with these old lights — not of England only, but of the world — by their degenerate descendants, is both gladness and glory to us. God lives; posterity will live: their judgment is not so liable to corruption as that of those who are now going to sentence us to death.

St. Edmund Campion at his trial, 20 November 1581.

Closer to Home

In your country, Venerable Brethren, voices are swelling into a chorus urging people to leave the Church, and among the leaders there is more than one whose official position is intended to create the impression that this infidelity to Christ the King constitutes a signal and meritorious act of loyalty to the modern State. Secret and open measures of intimidation, the threat of economic and civic disabilities, bear on the loyalty of certain classes of Catholic functionaries, a pressure which violates every human right and dignity. Our wholehearted paternal sympathy goes out to those who must pay so dearly for their loyalty to Christ and the Church; but directly the highest interests are at stake, with the alternative of spiritual loss, there is but one alternative left, that of heroism. If the oppressor offers one the Judas bargain of apostasy he can only, at the cost of every worldly sacrifice, answer with Our Lord: “Begone, Satan! For it is written: The Lord thy God shalt thou adore, and Him only shalt thou serve” (Matt. iv. 10). And turning to the Church, he shall say: “Thou, my mother since my infancy, the solace of my life and advocate at my death, may my tongue cleave to my palate if, yielding to worldly promises or threats, I betray the vows of my baptism.” As to those who imagine that they can reconcile exterior infidelity to one and the same Church, let them hear Our Lord’s warning: — “He that shall deny me before men shall be denied before the angels of God” (Luke xii. 9).

Pius XI, Mit brennender Sorge, 21.

Seven Years Before the Day of Doom

Seachd bliadhna roimh ’n bhràth,
Thig muir air Eirinn ré aon tràth,
’S thar Ile ghuirm ghlais,
Ach snàmhaidh I Choluim Chléirich!

Seven years before that awful day,
When time shall be no more,
A dreadful deluge shall o’ersweep
Hibernia’s mossy shore.

The green-clad Isla, too, shall sink;
While, with the great and good,
Columba’s happier isle shall rear
Her towers above the flood.

Gaelic proverb; periphrastic translation by Dr. John Smith, Minister of Campbeltown, given in his Life of St. Columba (1798).

Literally:

Seven years before the Day of Doom (conflagration, destruction),
The sea shall come over Erin in one watch (time, season, period),
And over Islay, green, grassy (blue-green),
But float will Iona (Hy) of Columba the cleric.

These are the three prayers of Patrick, as they were delivered to us by the Hibernians, entreating that all should be received on the day of judgment, if we should repent even in the last days of our life.

  1. That he should not be shut up in hell.
  2. That barbarian nations should never have the rule over us.
  3. That no one shall conquer us, that is the Scots, before seven years previous to the day of judgment, because seven years before the judgment we shall be destroyed in the sea, this is the third.

Tírechán’s Collections Concerning St. Patrick, from the Book of Armagh (TCD MS 52), translated in Sir William Betham, Irish Antiquarian Researches, Vol. 1, Dublin: William Curry, Jun. and Co., 1827, p. 386.

The Sacred Wreck

An isometric drawing of monastery buildings restored by the Iona Community by the architect, Ian Gordon Lindsay. The restoration was completed in 1965.
An isometric drawing of monastery buildings restored by the Iona Community by the architect, Ian Gordon Lindsay. The restoration was completed in 1965.

XXX. IONA.

ON to Iona!—What can she afford
To us save matter for a thoughtful sigh,
Heaved over ruin with stability
In urgent contrast? To diffuse the Word
(Thy paramount, mighty Nature! and time’s Lord)
Her temples rose, mid pagan gloom; but why,
Even for a moment, has our verse deplored
Their wrongs, since they fulfilled their destiny?
And when, subjected to a common doom
Of mutability, those far-famed piles
Shall disappear from both the sister isles,
Iona’s saints, forgetting not past days,
Garlands shall wear of amaranthine bloom,
While heaven’s vast sea of voices chants their praise.

XXXI. IONA.

(Upon Landing)

HOW sad a welcome! To each voyager
Some ragged child holds up for sale a store
Of wave-worn pebbles, pleading on the shore
Where once came monk and nun with gentle stir,
Blessings to give, news ask, or suit prefer.
Yet is yon neat, trim church a grateful speck
Of novelty amid the sacred wreck
Strewn far and wide. Think, proud philosopher!
Fallen though she be, this glory of the west,
Still on her sons the beams of mercy shine;
And hopes, perhaps more heavenly bright than thine,
A grace by thee unsought and unpossest,
A faith more fixed, a rapture more divine,
Shall gild their passage to eternal rest.

XXXII. THE BLACK STONES OF IONA.

[See Martin’s Voyage among the Western Isles.]

Here on their knees men swore: the stones were black,
Black in the People’s minds and words, yet they
Were at that time, as now, in colour grey.
But what is colour, if upon the rack
Of conscience souls are placed by deeds that lack
Concord with oaths? What differ night and day
Then, when before the Perjured on his way
Hell opens, and the heavens in vengeance crack
Above his head uplifted in vain prayer
To Saint, or Fiend, or to the Godhead whom
He had insulted–Peasant, King, or Thane?
Fly where the culprit may, guilt meets a doom;
And, from invisible worlds at need laid bare,
Come links for social order’s awful chain.

— William Wordsworth, The Poetical Works, vol. 5, Sonnets Composed or Suggested During a Tour in Scotland, in the Summer of 1833, London: Edward Moxon, 1837.