Feast of Richard Challoner (September 30)   1 comment

Above:  Richard Challoner

Image in the Public Domain

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

RICHARD CHALLONER (SEPTEMBER 29, 1691-JANUARY 12, 1781)

English Roman Catholic Scholar, Religious Writer, Translator, Controversialist, Priest, and Titular Bishop of Doberus

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++

INTRODUCTION

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Bishop Richard Challoner comes to this, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via his many works, mainly his 1749-1952 revision of the Douai-Rheims Version of the Bible (1582/1609).

Challoner lived during a time of official persecution of Roman Catholicism in the United Kingdom.  Prior to the Catholic Emancipation Act (1829), Roman Catholics could not participate fully in public life.  For decades after the Catholic Emancipation Act, they still could not participate fully in public life, either.  However, the Catholic Emancipation Act did permit Roman Catholics (except clergy) to sit in the Parliament and serve as members of lay corporations.  Roman Catholics could also hold most crown offices, with a handful of exceptions.  Furthermore, no Roman Catholic cleric was to wear clerical attire outside of church, religious orders were officially under a ban (an unenforced one), and no Roman Catholic prelate was to use a title any Anglican prelate used.  Nevertheless, the Catholic Emancipation Act was a huge step forward for British and Irish Roman Catholics.  The Universities Tests Act (1871) opened universities to Roman Catholics.

Understanding the political-religious climate in which Challoner lived is crucial to grasping his works and their tone.  If one understands why he gave as good as he got, one comprehends our saint and his works in context.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++

CONVERT, PRIEST, SCHOLAR, AND APOLOGIST

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Challoner, born in Lewes, England, on September 29, 1691, came from a Presbyterian family.  His father was a winecooper.  The father died when our father was a boy.  Then Challoner’s mother became the housekeeper to a Roman Catholic family at Gage, Firle, Sussex.  Our saint joined the Roman Catholic Church when he was about 13 years old, in the household of another Roman Catholic family–the Holmans, of Warkworth, Northamptonshire.  Father John Gother, the Holmans’ chaplain, was also a religious writer and a controversialist.  He taught Challoner Roman Catholic doctrine and helped him get into the English College, Douai, France.

Challoner spent 1705-1730 at the English College, Douai.  He matriculated in July 1705.  Our saint was such a good student that he completed the twelve-year-long course of study in eight years.  In 1708, the pupil committed to return to England on a mission, when required to do so.  Challoner, when twenty-five years old, began to teach the rhetoric and poetry courses.  The following year, he began an eight-year-long appointment as Professor of Philosophy.  Challoner, ordained to the priesthood on March 28, 1716, graduated with his Bachelor of Divinity degree in 1719.  The following year, our saint became the Vice President, as well as Professor of Theology and Prefect of Studies.  Challoner received his Doctor in Divinity degree in 1727.  Before our saint left the English College, he published his first book, Think Well On’t; or, Reflections on the Great Truths of the Christian Religion, for Every Day in the Month (1728).

Challoner returned to England, on a mission, in 1730.  He settled in London and began his ministry.  Our saint initially did so disguised as a layman because of the political-religious climate in England.  Challoner said Masses secretly, visited prisons, and performed his priestly duties faithfully.  In his spare time, our saint wrote and translated.  He wrote or translated the following through 1737:

  1. The Grounds of Catholic Doctrine, as Contained in the Profession of Faith (translation, 1732);
  2. Unerring Authority of the Catholic Church (1732);
  3. A Short History of the First Beginning and Progress of the Protestant Religion, Gathered Out of the Best Protestant Writers, By Way of Question and Answer(1733);
  4. A Roman Catholic’s Reasons Why He Cannot Conform (1734);
  5. The Touchstone of the New Religion (1734);
  6. The Young Gentleman Instructed in the Grounds of the Christian Religion (1735);
  7. A Specimen of the Spirit of the Dissenting Teachers (1736); and
  8. The Catholic Christian Instructed in the Sacraments, Sacrifice, Ceremonies, and Observances of the Church; By Way of Question and Answer (1737).

The latter book got Challoner into legal trouble.  Our saint had criticized Anglican divine Dr. Conyers Middleton (1683-1750), a man whose sarcastic polemics got him in trouble with various people.  Middleton had condemned the Roman Catholic Church.  Then Challoner spared no words regarding Middleton in the preface to The Catholic Christian Instructed.  Next, the querulous Middleton pressed charges against our saint, who returned to Douai.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++

BISHOP AND VICAR APOSTOLIC CHALLONER

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++

What would Challoner’s next promotion be?  Some favored him becoming the President of the English College, Douai.  The previous President had died in 1738, and our saint was qualified for the position.

However, Benjamin Petre (1672-1758) had a different job in mind for Challoner.  Petre, the Titular Bishop of Prusa and the Vicar Apostolic of the London District (March 12, 1734-December 22, 1758), wanted Challoner to serve as the Coadjutor Vicar Apostolic of the London District instead.  (The Apostolic Vicarate of the London District existed from 1688 to 1850.)  Petre prevailed; Challoner received his appointment on September 12, 1739.  Challoner was insufficiently Roman Catholic for critics who pointed out that he was a convert from Presbyterianism.  Finally, after a long delay, our saint became the Titular Bishop of Doberus and the Coadjutor Vicar Apostolic of the London District on January 29, 1741,

Challoner kept writing in 1738-1740.  His works included:

  1. Rheims Testament (1738), edited with F. Blyth;
  2. a translation of the Confessions of Saint Augustine of Hippo (1740); and
  3. The Garden of the Soul:  A Manual of Spiritual Exercises and Instructions for Christians, Who, Living in the World; Aspire to Devotion; With an Explanation of the Mass (1740).

Challoner had a rigorous travel schedule to maintain in his new position.  He had oversight over ten English counties, the Channel Islands, British North America (mainly Maryland and Pennsylvania), and parts of the West Indies.  Going to the Western Hemisphere was impossible, for practical reasons.  Visiting the ten home counties took three years.

While traveling, Challoner had time to write.  He wrote or translated the following works, among others, from 1741 to 1758:

  1. The Ground of the Old Religion (1742);
  2. A Letter to a Friend Concerning the Infallibility of the Church (1743);
  3. Memoirs of Missionary Priests, as Well Secular as Regular and of Other Catholics of Both Sexes, That Have Suffered Death in England on Religious Accounts from the Year of Our Lord 1577 to 1684 (174_);
  4. Britannia Sancta (1745), with help from Alban Butler;
  5. the revised, modernized version of the Douai-Rheims translation (1582/1609) of the Bible (in stages, 1749-1752);
  6. A Papist Misrepresented and Represented (17__), abridged from Gother;
  7. Remarks on Two Letters Against Popery (1751);
  8. Instructions for the Jubilee (1751);
  9. Meditations for Every Day of the Year (1753);
  10. The Wonders of God in the Wilderness; or, the Lives of the Most Celebrated Saints of the Oriental Deserts (1755);
  11. The Life of St. Teresa of Jesus (1757), abridged from Abraham Woodhead; and
  12. Manual of Prayers (1758).

Challoner succeeded as the Vicar Apostolic of the London District on December 22, 1758, upon the death of Bishop Petre.  Our saint, being 67 years old, immediately applied for a Coadjutor Vicar Apostolic.  James Robert Talbot (1726-1790) received his appointment on March 10, 1759.  Talbot became the Titular Bishop of Birtha and the Coadjutor Vicar Apostolic on August 14, 1759.  Neither Challoner nor Talbot knew how long our saint had left–decades, actually.  Challoner remained in London, mostly and his health recovered.  Meanwhile, Talbot traveled.

Challoner tended to his administrative duties well.  These duties included opening two schools for boys, founding a school for poor girls, starting conferences among priests in London, and helping to found the Benevolent Society for the Relief of the Aged and Poor.  He did all of this in hiding, evading arrest for being a Roman Catholic cleric.  After the passage of the Catholic Relief Act (1778), being a priest ceased to lead to a sentence of life imprisonment.

Challoner’s final batch of writings and translations included:

  1. A Caveat Against the Methodists (1760);
  2. The City of God of the New Testament (1760);
  3. A Memorial of Ancient British Piety; or, a British Martyrology (1761);
  4. An Abstract of the Old and New Testaments (17__);
  5. The Following of  Christ, in Four Books (17__), a translation of The Imitation of Christ, by Thomas à Kempis;
  6. The Lord’s Prayer and the Angelic Salutation (17__);
  7. The Morality of the Bible (1762);
  8. Devotion of Catholics to the Blessed Virgin (1764); and
  9. Rules of Life for a Christian (1766).

The final blow to Challoner came from the infamous Gordon Riots (1780).  For three days, an anti-Roman Catholic mob attacked Roman Catholic chapels and the homes of Roman Catholic families in London.  Some members of the mob sought the aged Challoner, to drag him into the street and kill him.  Our saint heard the mob from his hiding place.  He escaped, with help, during the riots.

Challoner never recovered from the shock of this violence.  He, aged 89 years, died in London on January 12, 1781.

Talbot succeeded him as the Vicar Apostolic of the London District and served until 1790.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++

CONCLUSION

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Challoner’s greatest literary legacies may be his meditations, hagiographies, and the revision of the Douai-Rheims Version of the Bible.  These have achieved the status of classics.  The Douai-Rheims-Challoner Version of the Bible was the standard Roman Catholic English-language translation of the Bible well into the twentieth century.  It was also the basis of the Confraternity Version (in its stages, 1941-1969), itself the basis of The New American Bible (1970, 1986, 1991), revised into The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011).

I am an Episcopalian.  To be precise, I am an Anglican-Lutheran-Catholic, in that order.  When I hear Roman Catholics speak of an infallible Church, I roll my eyes, at least metaphorically.  I reject the concept of an infallible Church.  I also reject the concepts of an infallible Bible and an infallible Pope.

I respect and admire Challoner while disagreeing with him much of the time.  I recognize him as a member of the Christian family.  I also condemn all those who persecuted Challoner and other Roman Catholics or consented to that persecution.  Furthermore, I deplore the bigotry and violence of those who participated in the Gordon Riots (1780).

Challoner should have been able to operate openly while in England.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Lord God of love and justice,

thank you for the tireless efforts, faithful witness, and

devout writings of your servant, Richard Challoner.

May we, inspired by his love for you,

rededicate our lives to your service,

and remain faithful despite all obstacles.

In the Name of God:  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Jeremiah 38:1-13

Psalm 70

2 Timothy 4:1-8

Luke 9:21-27

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 9, 2021 COMMON ERA

FRIDAY IN EASTER WEEK

THE FEAST OF DIETRICH BONHOEFFER, GERMAN LUTHERAN MARTYR, 1945

THE FEAST OF JOHANN CRUGER, GERMAN LUTHERAN ORGANIST, COMPOSER, AND HYMNAL EDITOR

THE FEAST OF JOHN SAMUEL BEWLEY MONSELL, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND POET; AND RICHARD MANT, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF DOWN, CONNOR, AND DROMORE

THE FEAST OF LYDIA EMILIE GRUCHY, FIRST FEMALE MINISTER IN THE UNITED CHURCH OF CANADA

THE FEAST OF MIKAEL AGRICOLA, FINNISH LUTHERAN LITURGIST, BISHOP OF TURKU, AND “FATHER OF FINNISH LITERARY LANGUAGE”

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

One response to “Feast of Richard Challoner (September 30)

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Pingback: Feast of Alban Butler (October 13) | SUNDRY THOUGHTS

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: