The Church's tradition of Martyrdom
MARTYRS: FROM ST. STEPHEN TO JOHN TUNG, by Donald Attwater (Sheed & Ward, 1958. 16s.).
ALL Catholic students will know Donald Attwater's various dictionaries: of Mary, of the Saints. of the Popes; and many will know his "Christian Churches of the East " and the " Catholic Encyclopaedic Dictionary."
Comparatively few know of his valuable work behind the scenes, such as Editor-in-Chief of " A Catholic Dictionary " and Co-Editor of the revised edition of Butler's Lives of the Saints".
To the present work he brings his experienced scholarship and research. and has produced a book which no Catholic student, nor any student of that unique historical phenomena of martyrdom, can afford to neglect.
THIS book is not a dictionary, but a selection: "a representative selection. from all eras and many countries. of narratives of how individual persons fulfilled that tradition" [the Church's Erudition of martyrdom].
Three contemporaries are included Fr. Michael Pro of Mexico; Fr. Theodore Romza, of Mukacevo; and Fr. John Tung Chi-Shih who has disappeared since his imprisonment in July, 1951; whose death, though rumoured repeatedly, has not been coal rmed.
Apart from these, there are 55 articles on individuals or on groups of martyrs (those under the Vandals in Africa in 484: in North America. 1642-9; in Paris under the Revolution. 1792; in Damascus, 1860; in Uganda, 1886; under the Boxers in China, 1900).
THE at once tragic and glorious list begins with St. Stephen, proto-martyr of the Christian era (we must -not forget that St. John the Baptist was a martyr for the Christian teaching concerning marriage); it proceeds with the outstanding names in the pagan Roman persecution period (to 304); continues through the centuries, including the Henrican and Elizabethan persecutions, up to the Communist persecution of today.
I am surprised to find the omission of St. Ignatius of Antioch, a contemporary of St. John the Apostle. and the writer of the famous seven letters to the Church in various places, on his journey to Rome the was martyred in the Colosseum in or about the year 110), In his letters is first mentioned the title "Catholic"Karolika-as an already known application to the Church. Every name in the list possesses its own particular interest, but perhaps two will claim outstanding interest for English readers: Blessed Margaret Clitherow. whose particularly brutal martyrdom occurred at York in 1586: and Blessed Oliver Plunkett, the venerable Archbishop of Armagh and the last of the Tyburn martyrs (1681); an unprecedented case of one being brought from Ireland to answer the same charges in England.
The story of these and dozens of others constitute a most informative and gripping hook. A general biographical note is prefixed to the account of each martyrdom; there is a valuable eight-page Introduction: an Appendix on "St. Cypriares Exhortation to Martyrdom" (c. 250); and a nine-page bibliography of sources.
APPROACH TO PRAYER, by Dons Hubert Van Zeller (Sheet! & Ward, 1958. 10s. 6d.).
IN"Approach to Penance" (rero viewed in this column last February) Dom Van Zellar, of Downside, gave us an original outlook on penance-as a way to the love of God, rather than mortification. In the present work he gives
us a similar original and forthright approach, stressing the truth that prayer-in the sense of the interior direction of mind and will towards God-is a matter "not for the elect only but for all."
He deals with the theology of prayer (its essence and necessity); its practice and its difficulty; its effects and its "protections" (under the latter he returns to the question of penance).
"There are many penances, but only one penance. For penance there must be submission. trust, and unremitting choice of God in all things."
In the course of "The Conclusions about Prayer" he says: "The sum oft he matter is thatprayer is the directing of the will in praise towards God, and that this leads eventually to the soul's rest in God, which is the end of man." (Page 116). It is always important, when using the word "end" in the teaching of religion, to realise that it means the proper goal; not the end as ceasing to exist-as in the end of an epoch-but on the contraree the fulfilment.
HERE, incidentally, is also the important point that prayer is not merely petition; but is first and foremost the praise of God-comprising adoration, thanksgiving, reparation; a truth which is sometimes forgotten.
Quotation is made from St. Thomas, St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross, and several others (e.g.. Pere P16 and Pere Grou); but curiously enough I cannot find St. Alphonsus whose little classic "On Prayer" is better known to most Catholics than any other work on prayer,
Throughout, Dom Van Zeller's style is highly discursive, rather than systematic; a more closely knit pattern would, I think, have been clearer and more helpful; though perhaps some will prefer the more discursive style.
The book embodies a wealth of both knowledge and mature and acute reflection; as in the statement (page 15): "Where devotion does not rest on doctrine it may very well find itself resting on the devil." Prayer most he both intelligent and voluntary.
Perrenz • 1
EVE AND MARY, by Peter Thomas Dehau, 0.P.„ translated by the Dominican Nuns of the Perpetual Rosary, La Crosse, Wisconsin (Herder, London, 30s.). THIS is a new and originally planned work on a perennial and patristic theme-the First and the Second Ever the epoch-making, transforming, supernatural fact dramatically crystallised in the lines of Chesterton's immortal poem "The Return of Eve": . I will repay, I will repair and repeat of the ancient pattern
Even in this clay.
Fr. Dehau divides the present hook into two parts: "The Garden of Eden"; and "The New Alli,ance." Part 1 contains the three following divisions: First Divine Annunciation: Mystery of Joy; False Annunciation: Mystery of Iniquity; Second Divine Annunciation: Mystery of Sorrow. In Part II these divisions are slightly varied: First Divine Annunciation: Mystery of Joy; False Annunciations: Mystery of Iniquity; other Divine Annunciations: Mystery of Sorrow. We are shown the respective acts of Eve, Satan, and God.
Fr. Dehau sums up the book in his preface: "We shall analyse Eve's sin, about which we shall have much to say, both in itself and in contrast with Mary's graces and virtues. and we shall analyse it little by little by drawing near and by successive touches and re touches We can distinguish three principal annunciations in Eden. The first is the mystery of pure joy, for it is concerned only with superabundant life and the transmission of life. The third reveals to us a mystery of sorrow 't'he widespread and Oawnidngdeattoh.
varied contents of these pages, some tabulation of the chapters would have been helpful, and certainly a general index would have been a welcome addition: for this is the sort of book to be reread, not merely read through.