26 October 2023

The Four presentations of "Saint" Alfred the Great

As far as I can make out, the first presentation of King Alfred as one of the greatest-ever Englishman was in the time of King Henry VI; a time when, under royal auspices, royal models of kingship were very much the intellectual fashion.

The second such period was the Victorian era, when Englishmen became passionate about reclaiming England's glorious First Millennium history (perhaps it was distant enough no longer to be dangerous). Think of the numbers of Victorians ... mostly bewhiskered ... who had this monnikker ... 

The third such period? In 1928, the Church of England added Alfred to the list of saints which could be observed, assigning him October 26. So that made it official ... "S Alfred King and Confessor" ... except that it didn't really, because Parliament (fortunately) refused to pass the Revised 1928 Prayer Book.

Unofficially and illegally, that "Alterntive Calendar (1928)" continued to be used and printed just as if it had been authorised. Interestingly, the C of E  did not take the opportunity to render King Alfred ... and his sanctitas ... honest in the Alternative Service Book of 1980. Juridical Legality had to await the authorisation of The Christian Year in 1997.

I have, on my library shelves, a fourth presentation of "St" Alfred, in the form of an Ordo of the English Roman Catholic Diocese of Northampton, dated 2002. It includes him on his Anglican date; quite what the ecclesiological significance of this de facto canonisation may be, I leave to the amused speculation of readers.

Please, no angry expostulations.


My suspicion is that the lesson here concerns the unreality of the modern Nation State. Frantic for meaning, citizens, politicians, and Media Persons reach out for concepts and individuals to exemplify what seems to them the sense of the 'country' they think they belong to.

Moi, I identify simply as a Latin Catholic. This is just as well, since there isn't much else I could claim to be.


B flat said...

Dear Father,
Good health to you, and sympathy in your sickness. Thank you for making the effort to continue posting. This effort is to me even more edifying than the resulting publication, which only God can judge properly. I am always grateful (although often stumped by a classical quotation above my memory or education). I am having to guess that Martyres Duacenses are from the seminary at Douay and stand for the many more than forty martyrs so far legally canonised.
Saint Alfred's being added to the canon by Northampton, seems simply a continuation of the very ancient mediaeval tradition that the cultus of a holy person or place had to arise spontaneously from its real connection to his or her life and deeds, and the cultus was(is) subject to the local ecclesiastical approval until Rome takes control. Could this veneration really be left to the (Anglican) diocese of Winchester by the negligence of Roman Catholic bishops overseeing Wessex after the restoration of the hierarchy of England & Wales? This development from diocesan to Provincial and then universal recognition of sanctity is still the organic norm in the East. It is notified to other churches as a fait accompli by the Patriarch or chief hierarch of the relevant autocephalous Church to all other Churches, along with a copy of the Services to that Saint already composed and to be sung on the date for celebration fixed synodally at the local canonization. An orderly and economical procedure within the Eastern Church. Constantinople, and its hellenic satellites does things rather differently nowadays, I believe, but that does not concern readers of this blog, so no more about that.

Your attachment to the heritage, Faith and steadfastness of the English martyrs betrays your very fundamental bond with this land, theirs and ours. People who live in cities, especially those in apartments and tenements over generations without even a garden, and no freehold or tenure, have lost or never developed this attachment.
You are indeed a shiningly learned, and very experienced Latin Catholic, and well qualified to teach us. But you can be much more lovingly precise in your identity; your lifelong devotion to your University, and to the best of the specific culture she has nourished and preserved through many vicissitudes of history; and also in your own lifetime rooted in the lands of Essex which you have never denied.
In many nations, the ethnicity, and sometimes the Religion of the inhabitants was and is recorded in their identity papers. The country people living in the ever disputed borderlands and marches of Central and Eastern Europe, were examined to determine which restored or new State their home would belong to, after the breakup of the three Empires as a result of WWI and the bolshevik revolution. When asked their Nationality or ethnicity they were unwilling to commit themselves, and wisely said they did not understand the question. So told that the question meant where or to what they belong, they would answer:
I am local. I belong here.
A total and honest confession of their submission to God's Providence totally congruent with St Paul's worldview and teaching.(Gal 1:10-15)

Pluribus annis Pater!

El Codo said...

Latin Catholic rather than Roman Catholic? I know Angloids use the latter as a form of put-down, implying the Italian Mission and all that, but isn’t it our Rome connection that is the important even essential element? Securus iudicat orbis terrarum? Sorry to learn of your current indisposition, Father, and I shall think of you tomorrow at the fig tree.

Anita Moore said...

Does Alfred the Great in fact have a cultus in England?

P. O'Brien said...

King Alfred is treated very favorably, actually the star, in Chesterton's "Ballad of the White Horse."

Prayerful said...

Famously enough in 993 St. Ulrich of Augsburg was the first canonised saint and it nearly 250 years to become exclusive to the Papacy. Saints were locally acclaimed and this acclaim might spread and gain wide recognition. Perhaps this relatively recent canonisation by acclamation recalls an ancient custom. Of course kingship and undoubted sanctity do not always sit easily, but I hope this localised and not clearly regular canonisation is never set aside. Prayers for your health Fr.