19 November 2008

Countercultural Cardinal

My computer now having returned from the doctor, I can pay tribute to the Mass - Extraordinary Form - in Magdalen Chapel for the repose of the soul of Cardinal Reginald Pole; and the elegant address by Fr John Osman. I'm sure there were some Cradle Catholics there, but there was a very good showing from Anglicans, not to mention former Anglicans.

We modern Catholics are so at odds with the circumambient culture that I sometimes uncomfortably wonder whether we are really just people who get our daily fix from being countercultural ... as perhaps our Victorian prededcessors did (remember that lovely book The Glorious Battle?) {Oh dear, I don't seem to be able to do italics now} In the Middle Ages, instead of being staunch Catholics, would we have been Wycliffites or ProtoLutherans? Pole reassures me. In Bodley, there is a copy of Bishop John Grandisson's Vita of the blissful Martyr S Thomas of Canterbury with the owner's name written inside, in elegant Italian humanist script. That owner was Reginald Pole, and his ownership was a year or two before Henry VIII had his mother murdered. You will remember how Pole, upon hearing this, thanked God that he had a mother who was a martyr.

In the years before the 1549 Rebellion against Protestantism, many of those who were to join the Rebellion in Cornwall will have seen one of the plays which were performed in their round, open-air theatres, the Plen-an-gwarry. It contains a Wicked King whose name is ... Tudor. His desire is to impose an alien religion - Islam! The Western peasantry were apparently brought up to suspect the Political Correctness of their time; and the readiness of intellectuals such as Pole to resort instantly to countercultural categories (and there can be few categories more counterculural than that of martyrdom) convinces me that even in the the age of Christendom, Christians were capable of independant judgement.

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