Letter of the Week
A saint’s plea to a young Shakespeare
SIR – Joseph Pearce (Arts, May 10) writes of the Jesuit martyr St Robert Southwell as “serving as Shakespeare’s Muse”. That needs qualification. We find Southwell expressing a discreet dismay at the two elaborately sensuous narrative poems (Venus and Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece) that early made Shakespeare’s name, and remonstrating with the author to use his gifts to more sober (and more Catholic) advantage. And it seems that Shakespeare, while unwilling to risk his neck, did incorporate hints and suggestive features into his plays, and (riddlingly) into his allegorical threnody, The Phoenix and the Turtle (convincingly interpreted by John Finnis and others to treat of the martyr Anne Line and her husband Roger Line).
Southwell appears to have been distant kin to Shakespeare through the latter’s mother, Mary Arden. The Warwickshire Arden family were faithful Catholics. For the rashness of a young kinsman, chafing at restrictions placed upon him, the head of the family, Edward Arden, was to be the first Catholic lay person to suffer at Tyburn – essentially for his faith, since no treason was proved against him (nor his wife: though her sentence of burning was commuted). No doubt the opportunity to sequestrate Arden lands was seized on.
And no surprise that, in the papist-hunt that ensued all around him, a young father of three, William Shakespeare, upped and left for London…
Stop the bickering and listen to Mary
SIR – As a woman, a wife and a mother, I feel such pain in my heart seeing the bickering (Cover story, May 10) between our fathers and our brothers: “I am for Benedict!”, “I am for Francis!”, and listening to the stressful, stony silence. Why does no one ask, “Who is for Christ?”
Can we hear the voice of our Mother Mary asking this very question: “Who is for my Son?”
Didn’t divine Providence put Benedict and then Francis in the Chair of Peter? Can we not trust God? Can we not ask ourselves, “What is Our Heavenly Father trying to reveal to us?” instead of reacting in response to the inner turmoil created by His surprise?
Look at divine revelation. God created us in His image and likeness; male and female He created us. Two complementary beings together bear witness to His image and likeness. Moses and Elijah together bear witness as the law and the prophets to Christ’s divinity. Martha and Mary together bear witness to the ministry needed by the body of our Lord. Peter and Paul together are each called, in their own unique way, to bear witness to the Resurrection, first at home, then later pushing out to the peripheries.
So why be surprised that He continues to work in the same way today, these last days? God is unchanging and yet ever new.
So I appeal to you my fathers, my brothers, open your eyes, expand your hearts, listen to our Mother!
Ballina, Co Mayo, Ireland
SIR – I cannot help thinking that the indulgences – plenary or partial – on offer to Christians are likely to keep purgatory’s population at any one time rather low (Letter, May 3). After all, God our Father wants us with Him in heaven as soon as possible.
The death of loved ones gives some Catholics the opportunity of saying that beautiful “Prayer Before a Crucifix”, which is still to be found in some missals, in order seriously to shorten their acquaintance with the place.
If I may paraphrase Ronald Reagan’s words in Christopher Altieri’s article on the Roman Curia (Vatican news analysis, May 3): “We’re from the government [of the universe] and we’re here to help!”
Let’s gain indulgences for as many of the dying and the dead as possible. Perhaps the most cogent proof of authentic detachment from sin is our willingness to gain indulgences for others, realising that they may be in greater need of expiation than we are.
The Herald might well do everyone a service by having an obituary column as a regular feature. When that inveterate letter-writer about faith matters, Fr Bryan Storey, died last summer, I was not aware of any press attention given to him.
Stephen de la Bédoyère
SIR – I wish to make a brief comment regarding your recent article (Britain news analysis, May 10) on the scientific authenticity or otherwise of what St John Paul II called the greatest icon in Christendom.
Faith is both a gift and a response. One of the oldest commandments is not to put the Lord thy God to the test. We should be wary of any examination that will destroy part of the Shroud. The Passion of Our Lord made the justification of humanity possible.
“Proving” the authenticity of the Shroud with new carbon dating is not the way to proceed when most of the testing already points to 1st-century Palestine, including that of pollen exposure.
I believe that the Shroud mystery has already revealed enough of its secrets to allow even the most cynical among us to share in the reality of Christ’s suffering and death for us.
My faith in the Risen Lord is somehow paralleled in the Passion of the man on the Shroud but not in any way fully dependent on it. My deepest hope is that my fellow Christians will at least keep an open mind and heart about the Shroud mystery on their way to eternity.
Philip John Griffin
High cost of Causes
SIR – The wonderful article about John Bradburne (News analysis, May 10) prompts the question: why do Causes for canonisation cost a great deal of money? Where money becomes involved so does corruption.
It makes one wonder about all the millions of “saints” who remain unknown because there isn’t enough money to make their sanctity known to the faithful.
When one considers the time, commitment and love made by millions of lay people throughout the world who support their parish and the Church for nothing, then perhaps canonisation should be free of the taint of “30 pieces of silver”.
Deacon Jeremy Oliver
SIR – In relation to your report on the approval of the sainthood Cause for John Bradburne, your readers may like to know that the Sisters at Boarbank Hall in Cumbria are putting on a weekend (residential, if required) on his life, work and poetry, June 21-24.
It will include talks, an exhibition (including original manuscripts), a visit to his birthplace in Skirwith, a DVD about his life, poetry readings, and a showing of the remarkable “spinning sun” event at Mutemwa.
For further details, email Sister Margaret Atkins at [email protected]
Professor David Crystal
Holyhead, Isle of Anglesey
SIR – I am sorry to have to disappoint Paolo Capanni (Letter, May 10), but I am afraid that I am a fan of Liverpool, not Celtic, I do hope, however, that the five remaining Lisbon Lions will in due course receive the eulogies they deserve, though not as an integral part of their funeral liturgy. This practice is specifically forbidden by the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which even bishops are not entitled to disregard.