Monday, March 2, 2015

Newman the Model of Rhetoric and Style

On the last day of February, 2015 it was snowing in Wichita. We shoveled the snow off our driveway (partially), filling the truck bed and drove off in a more roadworthy vehicle to Eighth Day Books. A book I'd ordered had arrived. The wily proprietor at EDB, our friend Warren told me about some used books recently obtained, Longmans' editions of Newman. We took our free coffee upstairs and I found the volumes Warren mentioned--I already had two of them.

One of them, however, was intriguing, so I bought it. It is The Second Spring by Cardinal Newman, Edited by Francis P. Donnelly, SJ, a 1921 printing of the book originally published by Longmans, Green, and Co. on Fourth Avenue & 30th Street, New York (also with offices in London, Bombay, Calcutta and Madras) in 1911. It had been a library book at the St. Joseph Convent of the Sisters of Divine Providence in Perry, Oklahoma. The Sisters of Divine Providence were founded by St. Mother Therese Guerin in St. Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana. She was a French Sister of Providence of RuillĂ© sur-Loir who came to the United States in the 19th century. There was a Catholic school in Perry, Oklahoma named St. Joseph, but it must have closed (see this facebook page). Evidently when the Perry convent closed it must have come to Wichita because there are stamps for the Mount St. Mary's Convent Library, which is the motherhouse of the Congregation of St. Joseph, fka the Sisters of St. Joseph.

Father Francis P. Donnelly, SJ wrote several books, including some meditations for the Holy Hour. From what I can determine from an online search, he taught and administered at Jesuit colleges in the U.S.A.: Gonzaga and Holy Cross College. His edition of Newman's famous "The Second Spring" sermon, is a rhetoric and composition textbook for high school students. He introduces the sermon, which Newman preached at the first diocesan synod held since the English Reformation, discusses Newman's Ciceronian style and then, after the text of the sermon, provides exercises for the students. He guides them in analyzing the structure of the sermon, each paragraph, selected sentences, and various other aspects of word choice, etc. He assigns themes so the student may treat them as Newman treats the extraordinary reversal of most human history--the Catholic Church in England had been dead; the Catholic Church in England is alive again!

Imagine being a high school student in Perry, Oklahoma--or anywhere else--and being asked to imitate this as a way to form your writing style:

But what is it, my Fathers, my Brothers, what is it that has happened in England just at this time? Something strange is passing over this land, by the very surprise, by the very commotion, which it excites. Were we not near enough the scene of action to be able to say what is going on,—were we the inhabitants of some sister planet possessed of a more perfect mechanism than this earth has discovered for surveying the transactions of another globe,—and did we turn our eyes thence towards England just at this season, we should be arrested by a political phenomenon as wonderful as any which the astronomer notes down from his physical field of view. It would be the occurrence of a national commotion, almost without parallel, more violent than has happened here for centuries,—at least in the judgments and intentions of men, if not in act and deed. We should note it down, that soon after St. Michael's day, 1850, a storm arose in the moral world, so furious as to demand some great explanation, and to rouse in us an intense desire to gain it. We should observe it increasing from day to day, and spreading from place to place, without remission, almost without lull, up to this very hour, when perhaps it threatens worse still, or at least gives no sure prospect of alleviation. Every party in the body politic undergoes its influence,—from the Queen upon her throne, down to the little ones in the infant or day school. The ten thousands of the constituency, the sum-total of Protestant sects, the aggregate of religious societies and associations, the great body of established clergy in town and country, the bar, even the medical profession, nay, even literary and scientific circles, every class, every interest, every fireside, gives tokens of this ubiquitous storm. This would be our report of it, seeing it from the distance, and we should speculate on the cause. What is it all about? against what is it directed? what wonder has happened upon earth? what prodigious, what preternatural event is adequate to the burden of so vast an effect?

We should judge rightly in our curiosity about a phenomenon like this; it must be a portentous event, and it is. It is an innovation, a miracle, I may say, in the course of human events. The physical world revolves year by year, and begins again; but the political order of things does not renew itself, does not return; it continues, but it proceeds; there is no retrogression. This is so well understood by men of the day, that with them progress is idolized as another name for good. The past never returns—it is never good;—if we are to escape existing ills, it must be by going forward. The past is out of date; the past is dead. As well may the dead live to us, well may the dead profit us, as the past return. This, then, is the cause of this national transport, this national cry, which encompasses us. The past has returned, the dead lives. Thrones are overturned, and are never restored; States live and die, and then are matter only for history. Babylon was great, and Tyre, and Egypt, and Nineve, and shall never be great again. The English Church was, and the English Church was not, and the English Church is once again. This is the portent, worthy of a cry. It is the coming in of a Second Spring; it is a restoration in the moral world, such as that which yearly takes place in the physical.

More about the book I went to Eighth Day Books to purchase tomorrow. That's me outside the front door of Eighth Day Books, bag full of books in hand.

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