A Roving Causerie
By G. E. ANSTRUTHER Working, as for so many years he did, at St. Anne's, Birmingham, Canon Arthur Villiers lived throughout most of his priestly life in an atmosphere created by John Henry Newman, and like the great Oratorian he there used voice and pen to advance the faith. Newman's period at Alcester Street was not a long one : he and his brethren in rule moved in, from Cheadle, at the beginning of 1849, and in 1852 they transferred to Hagley Road; but the three years were fruitful of important work, and big in events.
In that first Birmingham 01 atory the Fathers saw the storm which came over the country by the " Papal Aggression " of 1850. They did not cower before it; on the contrary, Newman prepared the famous course of lectures, on the position of Catholics in England, delivered in the Birmingham Corn Exchange and followed by the apostate Achilli's writ for libel. In Alcester Street were preached the "Sermons for Mixed Congregations." It was there, also, that Newman planned another celebrated course, the lectures on Anglican Difficulties, delivered in the London Oratory, at that time situated in King William Street, off the Strand.
St. Anne's had its consecration two years ago, on a glad day to which Canon Villiers and his congregation had long looked forward.
By name, at least, the late Miss May Morris was from her birth a client of Our Lady. Happy chance provided that she should come into the world on the feast of the Annunciation, and it was on that account that William Morris and his wife decided to give the little one the name of Mary: the variant form was adopted later.
In something of her life work, too, on the artistic side, May Morris drew from her patroness. She excelled in embroidery, even as . . . in the fullness of His time there came An Angel, shod with fire and winged with flame, To where one broidered lilies at a frame.
The Morris household, none of them Catholic nor even drawn that way by any impulse of faith, were yet much in sympathy with the pre-Reformation spirit in the things of art and industry, so that there they culled many flowers from the mediaeval garden.
Catholic Defence writers ought not to let 1938 pass without a thought of the fourth centenary of the birth of Richard Bristow. That doughty knight of the pen, who has his place in the D.N.B., should be remembered, in particular, by the faithful in Worcester, his native city. Between his birth and early years by the Severn, and his death at Harrow-on-the-Hill, Dr. Bristow crowded an immensity of work into a lifetime of little more than forty years. At Oxford, and afterwards, with Cardinal Alien, at Douai and at Reims, he slaved to good purpose religiously, but with so imprudent a pouring-out of strength that death called the halt only a few months after the worker had eased down.
In the revision of the Douai Bible Richard Bristow took a prominent part; he is better known, however, as a literary hammerer at heretics. Pamphleteers in the sixteenth century left their readers in no doubt as to what was in store for them : those were not the days of the short and sometimes ambiguous title. Bristow, for instance, launched among other works " A Briefe Treatise of diverse and sure wayes to finde out the truthe in this doubtful and dangerous time of Heresie: conteyning sundry worthy Motives vnto the Catholic faith, or considerations to moue a man to beleue the Catholikes and not the Heretikes." This mouthful proved too much for a later editor, who cut the portion to half-a-dozen words.
* * * Centenary interest of another kind belongs to the present month. In October, 1838, the congregation of Missionaries of St. Francis de Sales was canonically instituted. Since that time the Empire has been well served by these labourers for the harvest. Two Indian dioceses, Nagpur, and Vizagapatam, are ruled by them. In the West of England, M.S.F.S. have parochial charge at Malmesbury, at Yeovil, and at Devizes. Hampton Hill, also, in Middlesex, knows them; and Sutton Coldfield, where is the house of studies.
Among the priests of the congregation working in this country, one especially who can be saluted as a veteran in service is Fr. Louis Valluet.
* * * * It is good that Milan should give high place to its sainted Archbishops, but for purposes of honoured remembrance is not the summit of a 540 feet bell-tower more than a trifle too high? When a projected campanile of that altitude stands, a few ,years hence, on the Cathedral Square, its pinnacles are to be crowned, we are told, by figures of St. Ambrose, St. Simplician, St. Galdinus, and St. Charles Borromeo. There is homage in the intention; but surely it will have to be recorded, of any searcher from below who would penetrate the identities, that " which was which he could never make out, despite his best endeavour "!
Of the four saints thus to be exalted, St. Ambrose and St. Charles are names familiar to most of us, but the reference books have to bring enlightenment as to the other two. St. Simplician was Ambrose's successor in the Archbishopric, and St. Galdinus was the twelfth-century prelate who stimulated the Milanese to rebuild their city after Frederic Barbarossa had all but destroyed it.