The Christian Heritage Centre

Media Video

Educating in Virtue

The Logos & Literature: Elaborating the Divine
#5 Educating in Virtue: Appealing to the Young Mind

***The talks are made available freely with the request for a donation to support our costs.***

Please donate here:

Stories are a fundamental and important means of communicating principals and actions by which to live life: namely morality and virtue. They have played a central role in education in every civilised society, adapting to the specifics of each era and place. Acclaimed author, Corinna Turner, will explore the challenges of presenting and exemplifying virtues in literature to the modern, young mind.

About the speaker:

Corinna Turner is the Carnegie medal nominated author of the I Am Margaret series, The Boy Who Knew (Carlo Acutis), and other works for young adults and adults. She is a Lay Dominican, and lives in the UK.

Other videos in the series:

Media Video

Inspiring Heroism

The Logos & Literature: Elaborating the Divine
#6 Inspiring Heroism: Counter-Reformation Catholicism

The Catholic Church’s response to the challenges posed by the Reformation was often embodied in drama and performance. Even among England’s persecuted Catholics, cultural activity of this kind occurred: secretly or discreetly on the mainland, and more openly in plays put on by the colleges set up on the Continent to educate English youths. Both at home and abroad, such plays encouraged Catholics to hold onto tradition, and celebrated saints and martyrs in a way intended to inspire both actors and audience.

***The talks are made available freely with the request for a donation to support our costs.***

Please donate here:

About the speaker:

Prof. Alison Shell is Professor of English at University College London, and runs the MA in English: Shakespeare in History. She is an editor and critic, reviewing for the Times Literary Supplement, the Church Times and a number of academic journals. Principal works include: Catholicism, Controversy, and the English Literary Imagination, 1558-1660 (1999), Oral Culture and Catholicism in Early Modern England (2007), and Shakespeare And Religion (2011)

Other videos in the series:

Media Video

Fiction as Formation in CS Lewis

The Logos & Literature: Elaborating the Divine
#4 Fiction as Formation: CS Lewis & the Chronicles of Narnia

***The talks are made available freely with the request for a donation to support our costs.***

Please donate here:

The Chronicles of Narnia draw much of their depth from CS Lewis’ appreciation of the Christian vision of education and the liberal arts. Dr Rebekah Lamb will focus on the formative elements of Lewis’ fiction, with special emphasis on The Silver Chair.

About the speaker:

Dr Rebekah Lamb lectures at the School of Divinity, University of St. Andrew’s. She specialises in Religion and Literature from the long-nineteenth century to the present, with  emphasis on the Pre-Raphaelites and their affiliate circles. Prior to St. Andrews Rebekah was an inaugural Étienne Gilson Post-Doctoral Fellow at the University of St. Michael’s College (USMC) in the University of Toronto and also taught Literature and Humanities Studies at Our Lady Seat of Wisdom College (SWC) in the Ottawa Valley.

Other videos in the series:

Media Video

Catechetical Poetry

The Logos & Literature: Elaborating the Divine
#3 Catechetical Poetry: Presenting Christianity in China

The beauty and structure of poetry presents a particular form of literature that is at once attractive and easily memorised. Roy Peachey will examine how Wu Li, one of the masters of early Qing Dynasty painting, used traditional Chinese verse to evangelise the people of China. Even after he became a Jesuit priest in 1688, Wu Li continued to paint and write poetry, using his elegant art to present the essentials of Christianity to the Chinese people at a time of great political and religious uncertainty. Despite the very different conditions in which it was produced, his work therefore offers an intriguing example for our own times too.

***The talks are made available freely with the request for a donation to support our costs.***

Please donate here:

About the speaker:

Roy Peachey was educated at Oxford, London and Lancaster universities, studying Modern History, English and Chinese Studies. He is has held several senior educational roles whilst teaching, and pubilshed a number of books, including 50 Books for Life: A Concise Guide to Catholic Literature.

Other videos in the series:

Media Video

Truth in Fact & Fiction Today

The Logos & Literature: Elaborating the Divine
#2 Searching for Truth: Fact & Fiction Today

***The talks are made available freely with the request for a donation to support our costs.***

Please donate here:

Fiction plays a powerful role in the search for and perception of truth. Historical fiction offers a means of accessing the past, and contemporary fiction often helps to shape the way a society is perceived. Fiorella Nash will explore the importance of both genres in seeking and reclaiming truths both religious and about ourselves, and in a particular way, the role of the murder mystery genre in the search for truth and justice.

About the speaker:

Fiorella De Maria is an Anglo-Maltese writer who grew up in Wiltshire, England and studied English literature at Cambridge University. A winner of the National Book Prize of Malta, she has published ten books including: Poor Banished Children, Do No Harm, We’ll Never Tell Them, A Most Dangerous Innocence and the Father Gabriel mysteries which have been described as “Miss Marple for the twenty-first century”. She lives in Surrey with her husband, four children and a dog called Monty. For more information about Fiorella, click here.

Other videos in the series:

Media Video

Tolkien’s Cosmology

The Logos & Literature: Elaborating the Divine
#1 Tolkien's Cosmology: Understanding our World

***The talks are made available freely with the request for a donation to support our costs.***

Please donate here:

JRR Tolkien’s mythical world captured the hearts and minds of millions. His world is one that speaks to us because it is anchored in a profound truth: that of a cosmos brought into being and continually guided, whilst simultaneously respecting the free choices of its creatures. Rev. Dr Halsall will explore the beauty of Tolkien’s vision as a reflection of the Catholic understanding of the cosmos, as defined in its relationship to the Creator.

About the speaker:

Fr Halsall is a priest of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, and teaches Philosophy at Allen Hall Seminary in London. Fr Halsall’s recent book – Creation and Beauty in Tolkien’s Catholic Vision – explores the philosophical themes in Tolkien’s crafted creation narratives, alongside those of the Christian tradition, influenced as they are by varieties of Christian Neoplatonism.

Other videos in the series:

Blog Media

G.M. Hopkin’s “God’s Grandeur”

2nd April 2021

God's Grandeur

By Gerard Manley Hopkins
The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
    It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
    It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
    And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
    And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.
And for all this, nature is never spent;
    There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
    Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs —
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
    World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

A discussion of G. M. Hopkins's poem "God's Grandeur"

Dr Michael D. Hurley (University of Cambridge, Chairman of the Christian Heritage Centre at Stonyhurst), Dr Rebekah Lamb (University of St Andrews, Trustee of the Christian Heritage Centre at Stonyhurst), and Dr Jan Graffius (Curator of the Museum, Library, and Archives at Stonyhurst) discuss Gerard Manley Hopkins’s “God’s Grandeur”.

The podcast offers an accessible overview of Hopkins’s life, the literary and theological richness of his poetry, and some of the ways in which his religious, scientific, and creative imagination was shaped by his experiences at Stonyhurst.

In collaboration with Stonyhurst College and Jesuits in Britain.

About Gerard Manley Hopkins

Gerard Manley Hopkins was an English poet and Jesuit priest, one of the most individual of Victorian writers. However, because his style was so radically different from that of his contemporaries, his best poems were not accepted for publication during his lifetime, and his achievement was not fully recognised until after World War I. Hopkins was a former seminarian pupil and teacher of Stonyhurst. His poem ‘God’s Grandeur’ is thought to be inspired by the grandeur of the building and the beauty of his surroundings whilst at Stonyhurst, finding ‘God in all things’.

Articles Media

Of all England’s martyrs, few left a poetical legacy as rich as St Robert Southwell​

Friday 1st March 2019

The CHC @ The Catholic Universe

Of all England’s martyrs, few left a poetical legacy as rich as St Robert Southwell

Graham Hutton

Among countless other precious possessions stored in its archives, Stonyhurst College is privileged to hold a rich collection of manuscripts of the prose and poetry of St Robert Southwell, the 16th century Jesuit martyr.

 These, like all of his writings, are an extraordinary testimony to the fervent faith and ardent love for Christ which impelled Southwell during his formation in Douai and Rome and throughout the years of his English mission.

By delving into the courageous life of St Robert, guests staying at The Christian Heritage Centre at Stonyhurst’s Theodore House will surely be strengthened and inspired in their Christian faith.

Robert Southwell was born and brought up at Horsham St Faith in Norfolk. Although it is often difficult to discern the religious allegiances in these early days of the Elizabethan reformation, it seems that he was probably brought up in the old faith by a Catholic mother and a sympathetic, though compromising, father. At the age of 15 he was sent to the continent to complete his Catholic education at the Jesuit school, Anchin College, while living at the English College at Douai. 

In 1578 he went to Rome hoping to join the Jesuit order and we see the first signs of the emotion which was to be a hallmark of his later writings when, having at first been refused entry, he lamented that he must live “in anguish and agony that find myself disjoined from that company, severed from that Society, disunited from that body wherein lieth all my life, my love, my whole heart and affection”.

Fortunately for the cause of Catholicism in England his persistence was rewarded with admission to the order later in the year and he soon became convinced that his calling was to join the Jesuit mission to England, which gave him “the highest hope of martyrdom”.
Once back in England in 1586 he began what one of his biographers, Pierre Janelle, has called his “apostolate of letters”, writing an extensive body of fervent poetry on the main themes of the Catholic faith: love for the Sacraments and for Christ, the ugliness of sin and the need for repentance, the glory of Our Lady and the saints. Throughout his works he transforms the language and conventions of love poetry into a hymn of love for Christ. The poems, as much as his letters, were clearly intended as tools of conversion for sinners and consolation for his suffering co-religionists.

One of the delightful marks of his poetry is his unfolding of the Christian mystery through paradox. In his sequence on the Virgin Mary he describes her conception in these terms:

Our second Eve puts on her mortal shroud, 
Earth breeds a heaven, for God’s new dwelling place. and again Behold the father, is his daughter’s son:
The bird that built the nest, is hatched therein:
The old of years, an hour hath not run
Eternal life to live doth now begin. 
Repeatedly he emphasises the Christian mystery of strength in weakness, nowhere better seen than in the helpless babe of Bethlehem.
This little babe so few days old, Is come to rifle Satan’s fold;
All hell doth at his presence quake,
Though he himself for cold do shake.

The poetry is suffused with a passionate love for Christ whose own love for mankind is manifested as a cleansing fire.

In the extraordinary poem The burning babe the child of Bethlehem and the crucified Lord are shown as one and the same. The appearance of the babe to the poet in the cold winter’s night ‘made my heart to glow’ and when the child sheds tears of suffering caused by the excessive heat of the flames in which He burns we are told that ‘Love is the fire’ which will work for the good of ‘men’s defiled souls’. It is the same divine love which causes the Baptist to leap in his mother’s womb after Mary’s breast has ‘Shot out such piercing beams of burning love’ and which brings St Peter to repentance in Saint Peter’s Complaint when Our Lord fixes him with his glance:

These blazing comets, lightning flames of love,
Made me their warming influence to know:
My frozen heart their sacred force did prove,
Which at their looks did yield like melting snow.

The sense of the dreadful consequences of man’s sin and the call to repentance is a constant theme of the poetry. In Sin’s Heavy Load we have a startling image of the weight of sin again expressed in paradox when the poet addresses Christ as one who can hold up the entire universe with His little finger:

But now thou hast a load so heavy found,
That makes thee bow, yea fall flat to the ground.
and the reader is admonished Alas, if God himself sink under sin,
What will become of man who dies therein?

Yet we should not despair, for God provides the remedy for sin through grace. In The prodigal child’s soul wrack, after a harrowing description of the symptoms of sin the sinner finds redemption:

When chained in sin I lay in thrall,
Next to the dungeon of despair, Till mercy raised me from my fall, And grace my ruins did repair.

Above all, as we would expect from one who daily risked his life to feed the faithful with the Bread of Life, it is the Mass which is God’s chief remedy for man’s fallen plight. In The Blessed Sacrament of the Altar the eucharist provides satisfaction of all mankind’s deepest needs:

To ravish eyes here heavenly beauties are,
To win the ear sweet music’s sweetest sound,
To lure the taste the Angels’ heavenly fare,
To sooth the scent divine perfumes abound,
To please the touch he in our hearts doth bed,
Whose touch doth cure the deaf, the dumb the dead.

In 1592, as the Elizabethan Terror intensified, after six years of faithful ministry to the Catholics of London and the Home Counties during which he was almost apprehended on a number of occasions, St Robert Southwell was betrayed and arrested at Uxenden by the fanatical priest hunter Richard Topcliffe.

He was repeatedly tortured, imprisoned for a time in conditions so bad that his clothes became infested with lice and kept in solitary confinement in the Tower of London for two-and-a-half years. Finally, in November 1595, he was brought to trial at which time his fellow Jesuit, Henry Garnet wrote that he could not even stand “as a result of his bitter tortures”, yet he continued to pray, mediate and bless people as he was dragged on a hurdle through the streets of London to his execution at Tyburn – bringing to him the crown of martyrdom which he had long ago prayed might be his reward.

Each of the martyrs of the Elizabethan regime did incalculable service to the English Church but perhaps none left so rich a devotional legacy as did St Robert Southwell.

Graham Hutton is a Trustee of The Christian Heritage Centre at Stonyhurst and Chair of the Catholic charity, Aid to the Church In Need.

Articles Media

For Hopkins nature was charged with God’s glory

Friday 3rd March 2017

The CHC @ The Catholic Universe

For Hopkins nature was charged with God’s glory

Fr Samuel Burke OP

Over recent months, a series of articles in this newspaper has showcased the great treasures of the new Christian Heritage Centre at Stonyhurst.

The Stonyhurst Collections serve to explain, cherish and bring to life the inspiring history of the Christian faith in Britain. This final article explores the inspiration that the beautiful countryside of the Ribble Valley, which surrounds Stonyhurst, provided to the Jesuit priest and poet, Father Gerard Manley Hopkins.

Hopkins’ poetry is highly distinctive in theme. It brims with the conviction that the natural world is, as he put it, “word, expression, news of God.” To look upon creation was, for Hopkins, to see God’s glorious majesty or what he called the ‘inscape’ of things: an aesthetic experience which was “near at hand” for those who “had eyes to see it… it could be called out everywhere again”.

He took delight in seeing things as God made them, however small and commonplace. Confiding in his journal, he once wrote, ‘I do not think I have ever seen anything more beautiful than the bluebell I have been looking at. I know the beauty of our Lord by it.’

Stonyhurst seen across the fields from the south

In an earlier letter written to a friend whilst he was studying Classics at Balliol College, Oxford, Hopkins provides another insight into his playful curiosity and his deep love of the natural world, strikingly evident in the poetry he would later write: ‘I have particular periods of admiration for particular things in Nature – for a certain time I am astonished at the beauty of a tree, its shape, its effect.

‘Then, when the passions so to speak has subsided, it is consigned to my treasury of explored beauty, while something new takes it place in my enthusiasm.’

And it was a ‘treasury of explored beauty’ that he amply amassed during his three periods at Stonyhurst in Lancashire, even if his poetic output whilst stationed there was relatively modest.

With child-like enthusiasm, Hopkins records in his diary his first experience of the arresting beauty of the place when he first arrived at ‘the seminary’ (properly called St Mary’s Hall, now the Preparatory School at Stonyhurst) as a Jesuit Scholastic in early September 1870, aged 26 for his studies in philosophy.

On the night of his arrival, after being shown to his room at the front of the building on the top floor, Hopkins remained awake until dawn in order to witness the ‘beautiful range of moors dappled with light and shade’, a panoramic view that included the majestic Pendle Hill, which he likens to a ‘world-wielding shoulder’.

Hopkins had arrived at the seminary early, in fact. With the other scholastics on holiday, and classes not due to start until the following month, GMH had the leisure of exploring the spectacular environs of Stonyhurst, which he did with abandon, for as he would write in a later poem ‘…nature is never spent; There lives the dearest freshness deep down things’.

He roamed hills, woodlands and Lancashire meadows ‘smeared yellow with buttercups and bright squares of rapefield in the landscape’. Hopkin’s way of seeing the world was deeply influenced by the writings of the Franciscan theologian, Duns Scotus.

Gerard Manley Hopkins

A journal entry for 3rd August 1872 records his discovery of Scotus’ Scriptum Oxoniense super Sententiis in the Badeley library on the Isle of Man during a vacation he took from Stonyhurst.

Hopkins describes his find as ‘a mercy from God’ and comments that he was ‘flush with a new stroke of enthusiasm.’ He was to write of his fondness for the theologian in a later poem, Duns Scotus’ Oxford. 

This first stay at St Mary’s Hall, Stonyhurst, as a Jesuit scholastic, lasted three years (1870-1873). In those days it was an austere regime, which at times proved challenging for the young man. 

Hopkins attended two one hour lectures in the morning and did a further three hours of study from 5 – 8pm. Religious observances and time for recreation were fitted in around these fixed times, and the only permitted conversation was at mealtimes. 

Although he might have expected to become a teacher at one of the Jesuit schools, on completing his philosophy studies, Hopkins was initially sent back to Manresa, the Jesuit Noviciate House at Roehampton, to serve as Professor of Rhetoric, before proceeding to St Bueno’s where he was subsequently ordained as a priest. 

Later, as a priest, he twice returned to Stonyhurst. His second stay was for a His third lasted for just over a year from September 1882 to December 1883, when – though sad to leave – he was called to University College Dublin. On both occasions he taught Classics as a tutor to the Gentlemen Philosophers, a group of Catholic laymen who received their university education at Stonyhurst.

As Catholics were forbidden to take degrees at Oxford and Cambridge, and indeed forbidden from doing so by Catholic bishops, they enrolled for external Bachelors degrees at the University of London. During the time he spent at Stonyhurst, Hopkins continued to deepen his love of the world around him. As part of his interest in God’s created order, Hopkins developed a great interest in astronomical matters, facilitated by the fine observatory at Stonyhurst, which provided research for the Vatican Observatory and is still in use today.

He writes poetic descriptions of the peculiar sunsets he saw there: ‘A bright sunset lines the clouds so that their brims look like gold, brass, bronze, or steel. It fetches out those dazzling flecks and spangles which people call fish-scales. It gives to a mackerel or dappled cloudrack the appearance of quilted crimson silk, or a ploughed field glazed with crimson ice.’

It wasn’t just the sun which caught his attention. He would find beauty — “the grandeur of God” — in all manner of places, some of them fairly unlikely. Stories abound of his eccentric behaviour at Stonyhurst, such as the time when he hung over a frozen pond to observe bubbles trapped beneath the ice or was seen staring at the gravel outside St Mary’s Hall.

Hopkins had a particular love for “the three beautiful rivers” near Stonyhurst. One of them, the Calder, runs close to the nearby remains of a Cistercian monastery, Whalley Abbey. Another, the River Hodder, sits beneath the school in a thick wood and was used by Hopkins and others for bathing, even if precarious after heavy rainfall. 

The third and most significant of these rivers, the River Ribble, gives its name to the Ribble Valley, the wider expanse that surrounds Stonyhurst and the eponymous poem, Ribblesdale, one of at least five poems which Hopkins wrote during his stays at Stonyhurst. 

The poem tells how nature cannot speak for itself but must find its voice through a human translator, as it were. And, as the following verses demonstrate, few voices were as finely tuned as that of Hopkins:

The River Hodder, well known to Hopkins

Earth, sweet Earth, sweet landscape,
with leavés throng
And louchéd low grass, heaven
that dost appeal
To, with no tongue to plead,
no heart to feel;
That canst but only be, but dost
that long
Thou canst but be, but that thou
well dost;strong
Thy plea with him who dealt, nay
does now deal,
Thy lovely dale down thus and
thus bids reel
Thy river, and o’er gives all to
rack or wrong.
And what is Earth’s eye, tongue,
or heart else, where
Else, but in dear and dogged man?
– Ah, the heir
To his own selfbent so bound,so
tied to his turn,
To thriftless reave both our rich
round world bare
And none reck of world after,
this bids wear
Earth brows of such care, care
and dear concern.

Other poems he wrote at Stonyhurst comprise: The Wreck of the Eurydice, with resonances of his earlier and more confessional Wreck of the Deutschland; The May Magnificat and The Blessed Virgin Compared to the Air we Breathe – two poems in honour of Our Lady, whose image was and remains prominent in various statues inside the building and grounds; as well as The Leaden Echo and the Golden Echo. In that poem, Hopkins confronts the dreadful reality of the loss and decay of the beauty that he holds dear:

How to keep—is there any any, is
there none such, nowhere known some,
bow or brooch or braid or brace, lace,
latch or catch or key to keep
Back beauty, keep it, beauty, beauty,
beauty, … from vanishing away?

As the poem progresses, Hopkins proceeds to take solace in the beauty that lies ‘yonder’ in God, who is ‘beauty’s self and beauty’s giver’.

In the midst of a world marked by loss and decay, a walk in the countryside can do us untold good lifting our spirits as such rambles did for Hopkins.

The Christian Heritage Centre is establishing a Hopkins’ walking route around Stonyhurst in his memory to accompany the Tolkien Trail, already available.

On such pleasant walks, we can gaze upon the beauty around us and can say with Hopkins: ‘I walk, I lift up, I lift up heart, eyes / Down all that glory in the heavens to glean our Saviour’.