Anna Mitchell contacted me and asked me to discuss my comparison between Dorothy L. Sayers and Blessed John Henry Newman, as I posted last week and as I presented it in my discussion of Sayers at this weekend's Inkling Festival. I'll be on the air Monday, July 25, during the first local hour--not on EWTN--on Sacred Heart Radio. Listen live here about 7:45 a.m. Eastern; 6:45 a.m. Central.
During my presentation at the Inklings Festival, I made the following comparison between Newman and Sayers' efforts to make the Gospel real to people who perhaps had heard it so often they had begun to take it for granted:
Like John Henry Newman, the Vicar of the Church of St. Mary the Virgin in Oxford during the Second Oxford/Tractarian Movement, she wanted to make basic Christian doctrine real not notional or even misunderstood, to those who professed it. In “Christ's Privations a Meditation for Christians” Newman asked in the nineteenth century why the Anglicans in his congregation are not making any progress in their faith:
"But why is this? why do you so little understand the Gospel of your salvation? why are your eyes so dim, and your ears so hard of hearing? why have you so little faith? so little of heaven in your hearts?"
And he answers:
"For this one reason, my brethren, if I must express my meaning in one word, because you so little meditate [upon the life of Christ]. You do not meditate, and therefore you are not impressed."
Sayers thought that by the 1940’s in England there were two reasons Christians did not progress in their faith: not only did they not meditate on the Person and life of Jesus Christ, but also they did not understand it. She believed that Christians didn’t just misunderstand the story or the symbols of the story, the Creeds, but worse, they thought they understood it when they didn’t!
To continue this parallel between Newman and Sayers, in another famous PPS, Newman tries to wake his congregation up, make them feel sorrow for the suffering, crucifixion, and death of Jesus, again noting their familiarity with the accounts of the Passion of Our Lord had somehow left them cold. So he used a homiletic shock therapy, exhorting the students and faculty and townspeople of Oxford: think of an animal being abused and tortured and how that moves you to pity and anger—think of a young child being abused and tortured and how that stirs you—think of an elderly man being abused and tortured and how that affects you—now remember that the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, the Incarnate Son of God and Son of Man was abused and tortured: this must move you to pity and additionally to repentance, because He did it for you.
That’s what Sayers wanted to achieve in The Man Born to Be King, using the medium of radio to take the Gospels out of the context of weekly Sunday readings and present them as a dramatic whole (in a monthly series of broadcasts) so they’d become real to the people again.
I'm happy to highlight the Eighth Day Institute's Inklings Festival on the Son Rise Morning Show--next year (2017!) Joseph Pearce will be the featured speaker! The first picture is of the pulpit in the Church of St. Mary the Virgin in Oxford (c) Mark U. Mann.