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Kolbe Report 5/11/24

Dear Friends of the Kolbe Center,

Christ is ascended into Heaven!

A few days ago I returned from a whirlwind Kolbe seminar tour with my friend and colleague Greg Clovis, the head of Family Life International in the UK.  We thank God for the growing receptivity among priests and laity that we observed, and I would like to share a few of our experiences in this newsletter.

Pope St. Gregory the Great

 

One of our presentations was hosted by the St. Augustine Shrine in Ramsgate on the southern coast of England, close to the very place where St. Augustine of Canterbury began his mission. – St. Augustine was sent to England by Pope St. Gregory the Great, the very Pope to whom are attributed the Vespers hymns prayed throughout the world for almost 1500 years in the Roman Rite.  In these hymns the works of each day of the Hexameron are recalled at the end of each day, so that God would be thanked and appreciated for what He made for us on each day of Creation Week. A few years ago, a Benedictine monk gave me a wonderful document containing the text of these hymns attributed to Pope St. Gregory the Great. According to the author:

There is strong probability that these hymns are the work of one and the same author, and that that author is no other than the illustrious Pope and Doctor of the Church, St Gregory the Great (540-604). In this connection it is interesting to record the opinion of the editors of the carefully edited Historical Edition of Hymns Ancient and Modem (1909) : "The set," in their opinion, "must have come from one author, and it is not improbable that that author was St. Gregory"  And again: "The series as a whole is probably rightly identified with a set of hymns for every evening in the week, which Irish records describe as having been sent by St. Gregory to St. Columba. The ancient preface to Columba's hymn Alius prosator describes the coming of St Gregory's messengers with gifts, including a set of hymns for the evenings of the week, and the sending by St. Columba of his hymns to St. Gregory in return. The series is not unworthy of such an author, and the hymns go far to justify the tradition that ascribes to that most versatile of popes a place among the Hymn-writers."

Like the prayers of the Maronite Liturgy which link the creation of man on the First Friday of the world to Our Lord's Life-giving death on the Cross on Good Friday, and the creation of the light on the "first day" of Creation to the Lord's glorious Resurrection on "the first day of the week," Pope St. Gregory's prayers for Vespers recapitulate the works that Moses records on each of the days of the Hexameron and they have been incorporated into the liturgical prayers of the monastic horarium for centuries. The excerpts that follow were translated into English from the original Latin:

On Sunday:

Blest Creator of the light
Who mak'st the day with radiance bright.
And o'er the forming world didst call
The light from chaos first of all;
Whose wisdom joined in meet array
The morn and eve, and named them Day:
Night comes with all its darkling fears;
Regard Thy people's prayers and tears.
Lest, sunk in sin, and whelmed with strife,
They lose the gift of endless life.

On Monday:

Great Creator of the sky,
Who wouldst not the floods on high
With Earthly waters to confound,
But mad'st the firmament their bound,
The floods above Thou didst ordain;
The floods below Thou didst restrain.

On Tuesday:

Benignant Creator of the world,
who didst divide the surface of the earth, and,
driving off the troubled waters didst firmly establish the land
That it might bring forth appropriate produce, be adorned with golden flowers,
become prolific in fruits, and yield agreeable sustenance.
Cleanse by the freshness of Thy grace the wounds of the sin-parched soul,
that it may wash away with tears its evil deeds, and suppress sinful emotions.

On Wednesday

O GOD, whose hand hath spread the sky,
And all its shining hosts on high
And painting it with fiery light.
Made it so beauteous and bright:
Thou, when the fourth day run
Didst frame the circle of the sun
And set the moon for ordered change
And planets for their wider range:

On Thursday:

O God of great power, who dost assign in part
The offspring of the fertile water, to the deep, and in part dost raise them aloft in the air;
Thou dost consign the fishes to the waters, and liftest up the birds on high,
that animals proceeding from the same source might occupy different places.
Grant to all Thy servants, whom the stream of Thy blood hath cleansed,
to know not sinful falls, nor suffer the loathsomeness of spiritual death.

On Friday:

O august Creator of man, who alone dost dispose all things.
Thou didst command that the earth bring forth reptiles and beasts.
And at the word of the Creator, the huge bodies of created beings became instinct with life, to obey Thy servants through determined changes of time.
Drive from us whatever evil desire may violently disturb us,
whether it attaches itself to our morals or intertwines itself with our actions.

According to the principle of "Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi," St. Lawrence of Brindisi, Doctor of the Church, considered the testimony of these hymns so weighty that it settled the ancient controversy as to whether the sun was created whole and entire on the fourth day of creation - as the Wednesday prayers for Vespers teach - or was fashioned from the light that God had created on Day One. For St. Lawrence, the last Doctor of the Church to write a detailed commentary on Genesis, it was inconceivable that the Holy Ghost could teach any doctrine through the official prayer of His Church that was not true. And, indeed, who in his right mind could imagine that our Heavenly Father would allow His beloved children to chant these beautiful prayers all over the world for almost two thousand years, if what they praise and commemorate were not true?

 

Augustus Pugin and the Restoration of Church Architecture

To our great surprise, we discovered that the Shrine of St. Augustine of Canterbury where we gave our presentation on Creation and Evolution is also a center for the study and commemoration of the work of the great English architect Augustus Pugin.  As explained on the website of the Pugin museum:

Pugin’s Aunt Selina lived in Ramsgate and he is thought to have stayed with her as a child. He had fond memories of the town and loved the sea. Pugin also knew the area had links to St Augustine. He called it “the Cradle of Catholicism in England”.

Augustus Pugin (1812-1852)

The Grange

In 1843, the builder George Myers began construction of a new house, to Pugin’s design, in Ramsgate. The Grange was completed the following year, and Pugin moved in. When Pugin remarried in 1848, to his third wife Jane, The Grange finally became a family home as well as a workplace Building St Augustine’s Work on the schoolroom . . .  and the church began as soon as The Grange was finished.

The schoolroom was completed in early 1846 and both teaching and worship took place here until the church was ready for use in 1850. Local opposition For centuries, Catholics had not been allowed to take part in public life. In 1829 they were allowed to become MPs, and from the 1850s could take degrees at Oxford and Cambridge. Not everyone agreed with this growing equality. On one occasion a mob, burning an effigy, marched on Pugin’s house, and had to be turned back by police. There are no windows facing the road at St Augustine’s.

Augustus Pugin was intensely hard-working and creative. He was religious and had a strong social conscience. He was also a man of action, who loved the sea and rescued many sailors from trouble in the waters off Ramsgate. Pugin at home Pugin was a family man – a caring husband and father. He had eight children and three of them also became architects. His first two wives died young, but his third wife, Jane, outlived him by more than 50 years.

Pugin’s religious life

Pugin became a Catholic at the age of 23, saying he was “perfectly convinced the Roman Catholic church is the only true one”. His Catholicism guided his architecture, writing and whole way of living. He was generous and caring to his neighbours. He gave shoes and clothes to people in need, ran a school for local children, started a sailors’ hospital, and opened the doors of St Augustine’s to visitors and worshippers alike.

St. Augustine Shrine, Ramsgate

Pugin on the move

As a boy, Pugin travelled around Europe with his father, visiting and sketching Gothic buildings.  In adult life, he was often away from home, taking the new railways around the country to oversee his various projects. Pugin also loved to sail, and co-owned a boat called the Caroline with his friend Alfred Luck. Pugin and Luck rescued many people from ships in trouble on the Goodwin Sands. Some unfortunate French sailors who drowned at sea were buried at St Augustine’s. Amongst the dozens of buildings that Pugin created, in Britain and beyond, St Augustine’s, along with the surrounding buildings, was his most personal and cherished project. He had always loved Ramsgate, and here he had the freedom to build exactly as he wanted, as he was paying for the project himself.

In our next newsletter, we will share some of Pugin’s insights into the causes of the general decline  of Church architecture from the time of the protestant revolution and the Renaissance until his day, and I will explain the link between the restoration of faith in the traditional doctrine of creation and the restoration of Church architecture now and in the future era of peace promised by Our Lady of Fatima.

Yours in Christ through the Immaculata in union with St. Joseph,

Hugh Owen

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