Friday 14 June 2019

A Brief History of English Catholicism - Father Nicholas Schofield - CTS Concise Histories

A Brief History of English Catholicism
CTS Concise Histories
Nicholas Schofield
Catholic Truth Society
ISBN 9781784690052
eISBN 9781784693367
CTS Booklet H513

Father Nicholas Schofield is currently a parish priest in the Archdiocese of Westminister. He has also been a Diocesan Archivist. He is a scholar, and his passion for his subjects comes through in his writings. Over the last 16 months I have read over 80 books and booklets from the Catholic Truth Society. I have found them an invaluable source of knowledge, history, church teachings, and inspiration. There are so many wonderful books and many excellent series! 

I must admit before reading books form CTS I had little knowledge about Catholicism in England. My family background is a mix of Irish and Scottish, and neither side liked the English. There for growing up I learned a lot about saints from Ireland, and even Europe but next to nothing about England. This book along with many I have read in the CTS Saints of the Isles series have been eye opening. It has been inspiring and also challenging to learn about Catholicism in England, and about the many saints and martyrs. 

The chapters in this small volume are:

Conversion: how England first received the Gospel
Consolidation: the medieval centuries
Crisis: the splintering of Christendom
The “Second Spring” and its aftermath
Some Key Players in the History of English Catholicism
Further Reading

The introduction to this book begins with these words:

“The history of Catholicism in England is largely hidden. Visit any Catholic church and you will find that (with a few exceptions) they were only built in the last two hundred years. Look at a list of diocesan bishops and it will go back no further than 1850. Get to know a local parish and most parishioners will trace their Catholicism either to a conversion (perhaps a few generations back) or a Catholic country overseas, whether it be Ireland, Poland, Nigeria or elsewhere. This gives the misleading impression that English Catholicism is only a recent phenomenon.

Look a little harder, however, and it is possible to uncover England’s Catholic past, stretching back to at least the second century. On the back of any British coin, for example, you will see the letters ‘F.D.’ after the name of the monarch. This stands for ‘Defender of the Faith’, a title originally given by Pope Leo X in 1521 to the young Henry VIII when he wrote a treatise attacking Martin Luther. All over England the names of places, streets, even pubs provide evidence of long-forgotten Catholic connections - perhaps the existence of a nearby monastery or the cult of a saint.

This booklet attempts to present an overview of this hidden history. By its very nature, it will lack detail and overlook many important figures and events. Although Scotland, Wales and Ireland will come into the story, they will not be treated at any length since their ecclesiastical histories are significantly distinct and deserve a pamphlet of their own.”

And it does an incredible job of doing just that. The book is broken into four main sections, or epochs of history of English Catholicism. They are:

England’s Conversion
Middle Ages – English Catholic Consolidation
Protestant Reformation
New Spring – modern times.

The book is an accessible read. It is by no means an academic treaty. And yet it does convey a lot of important information. I have read much about Pope Benedict XVI’s visits and talks in England and Wales. This book has a similar feel. It tells a history but uses that history to motivate us to living out our faith well. The book would be an excellent resource for a school paper. But even better for a Catholic wishing to grow in knowledge of the faith and faithfulness of those who have gone before us. It is an excellent read and I look forward to more in the series. 

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2019 Catholic Reading Plan! For other reviews of books from the Catholic Truth Society click here.

Books by Nicholas Schofield:
The English Cardinals
Saints of the Roman Calendar
A Brief History of English Catholicism
The English Vicars Apostolic (1688-1850)
Roman Miscellany
History of the Papacy
William Lockhart

Books in the CTS Concise Histories Series:
A Brief History of English Catholicism - Nicholas Schofield
Heresy through the Ages - Jerome Bertram
The Crusades What Really Happened - Jonathan Riley-Smith 
The Reformation in England – Raymond Edwards
The Inquisition – Fernando Cervantes
The Early Church From Christ to Constantine – Fr. Anthony Meredith SJ
The Dowry of Mary - Dr Raymond Edwards and Mgr John Armitage

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