and English Reformation Catholicism
The Charity of Unity
Nicholas Harpsfield's remarkable career spanned almost the whole course of the Reformation in England. Born in 1519, he was educated at Winchester and New College, Oxford, before migrating to Louvain, eager to escape the increasingly ardent Protestantism of Edward VI's reign. There he was among the circle of family and friends of Sir Thomas More: Harpsfield's presentations of the life and thought of More were an especially vital component of his work, and also deserve deeper reflection, not least because of the way in which they shaped subsequent generations of Catholic writers.
Returning to England in 1553 at the accession of Queen Mary, Harpsfield was launched on a career in the English church which was meteoric in its progress-a key interpreter and proponent of the project for the renewal of the Catholic faith. As Archdeacon of Canterbury and Vicar-General of London, he was well-known for his thorough and searching Visitation of the capital, and his passion for conformity and orthodoxy, zealous in the cause of restoring the altars and the apparatus of traditional devotion in churches, but also to ensure the adequate housing of priests and the effective catechesis and care of the people.
Imprisoned after Mary's death until his own in 1575, Harpsfield became a figure of inspiration for the exiled Catholic community in mainland Europe. His extensive literary output, together with his role in shaping the Marian religious renewal, was to make him a crucial influence on later English Catholics and their recusant identity. Seen through the lens of Nicholas Harpsfield, English Reformation Catholicism assumes greater internal coherence and consistency than many of its recent commentators have allowed.
Jonathan Dean is a Methodist presbyter, and Director of Learning for Ministry in
the Methodist Church in Britain. A former member and Co-Secretary of the British
Methodist-Catholic Dialogue, he has worked in a variety of contexts, in the USA and
the UK. He is the author of a number of books, including 'To Gain at Harvest', a
series of reflections on the English Reformation.
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