Friday, December 30, 2022

SRMS Schedule Update and The Feast of the Holy Family

Contrary to previous reports, I will not be live on the Son Rise Morning Show this coming Monday, January 2, 2023!! The show's staff has the day off! 

So instead, we'll wrap up our Newman Advent/Christmas series on Monday, January 9, 2023 at my usual time, about 6:50 a.m. Central/7:50 a.m. Eastern, with an appropriate sermon for Epiphany, which we will just have celebrated on Sunday--including a mention of the Baptism of Our Lord, which we will be celebrating that day!

Today, however, is the Feast of the Holy Family! As the Catholic Culture website explains:

Today is the Sixth Day in the Octave of Christmas. When there is no Sunday within the Octave of Christmas, the Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph is celebrated on the Sixth Day of the Octave of Christmas.

"Scripture tells us practically nothing about the first years and the boyhood of the Child Jesus. All we know are the facts of the sojourn in Egypt, the return to Nazareth, and the incidents that occurred when the twelve-year-old boy accompanied his parents to Jerusalem. In her liturgy the Church hurries over this period of Christ's life with equal brevity. The general breakdown of the family, however, at the end of the past century and at the beginning of our own, prompted the popes, especially the far-sighted Leo XIII, to promote the observance of this feast with the hope that it might instill into Christian families something of the faithful love and the devoted attachment that characterize the family of Nazareth. The primary purpose of the Church in instituting and promoting this feast is to present the Holy Family as the model and exemplar of all Christian families." —Excerpted from With Christ Through the Year, Rev. Bernard Strasser, O.S.B.

In addition to promoting the Feast, Pope Leo XIII composed the hymns for Matins, Vespers, and Lauds. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia:

The Holy See instituted the feast in 1893, making it a duplex majus (greater double) and assigning it to the third Sunday after Epiphany. Leo XIII composed the three hymns (Vespers, Matins, Lauds) of the Breviary Office. The hymn for Matins contains nine Sapphic stanzas of the classical type . . . .

The hymns for Vespers (O lux beata caelitum) and Lauds (O gente felix hospita) are in classical dimeter iambics, four-lined stanzas, of which the Vespers hymn contains six and the Lauds hymn seven exclusive of the usual Marian doxology (Jesu tibi sit gloria). All three hymns are replete with spiritual unction, graceful expression, and classical dignity of form. They reflect the sentiment of the pope in his letter establishing a Pious Association in honour of the Holy Family and in his Encyclical dealing with the condition of working-men.

Pope Leo XIII holds a special place in my heart because he made Father John Henry Newman of the Oratory a Cardinal, even though he knew it might cause trouble, and referred to Newman as ‘Il mio cardinale’ (My Cardinal)!

The December 2020 Magnificat prayer magazine had a translation of his Matins hymn for Morning Prayer and of his Lauds hymn for Evening Prayer. This year, Magnificat, as it did in 2021, has again included a translation of his Lauds hymn for Evening Prayer!

More about these hymns and translations may be found here.

It's still Christmas: Merry Christmas!

Image credit (Public Domain): French holy card, 1890.

Tuesday, December 27, 2022

Just Another Catholic Recusant Poet: Edmund Bolton

Because I discovered Mrs. Dorothy Lawson's father, Henry Constable, the poet, I learned about one of Constable's contemporaries and friends, Edmund Bolton. Bolton was a poet and historian, born in 1575. According to Father Herbert Thurston, SJ in the Catholic Encyclopedia, he died circa 1633 and 

He seems to have been born of Catholic parents in Leicestershire, and must have been of good family and position, for he claims to have continued "many years on his own charge a free commoner at Trinity Hall, Cambridge", and after going to London to study law to have lived there "in the, best and choicest company of gentlemen". There can be no doubt that there was a strong Catholic element among the lawyers of the Inner Temple (Richard Southwell, the father of the martyr, might be named as one example among many), and the tone of the drama and much of the lighter literature of the late Elizabethan and early Jacobean period shows that the Bohemian society into which Bolton and his fellows were thrown was often pronouncedly papist. But while many who for a while were Romanizers, like his friend Ben Jonson, ultimately fell away, Bolton, much to his credit, remained stanch to his principles. Of his ability and zeal in the pursuit of knowledge there can be no question. He was the friend of Cotton and Camden; whose antiquarian researches he shared, and as a writer of verses he was associated with Sidney, Spenser, Raleigh, and others in the publication of "England's Helicon". Many influential friends, including for example the Duke, then Marquess, of Buckingham, tried to help him in his pecuniary embarrassments, but there seems no doubt that his Catholicism stood in the way of his making a living by literature.

Thurston cites as an example of this issue the rejection of his biography of King Henry II because it was too favorable to Saint Thomas a Becket! He did have friends at Court, however, including James I's favorite, George Villiers, the First Duke of Buckingham: 

It seems, however, that through Buckingham's influence he obtained some small post about the court of James I, and in 1617 he proposed to the king some scheme for a royal academy or college of letters which was to be associated with the Order of the Garter, and which was destined in the mind of its designer to convert Windsor Castle into a sort of English Olympus. James I gave some encouragement to the scheme, but died before it was carried into execution. With the accession of Charles I, Bolton seems to have fallen on evil days. The last years of his life were mostly spent either in the Fleet or in the Marshalsea as a prisoner for debt, to which no doubt the fines he incurred as a "recusant convict" largely contributed. The exact date of his death is unknown. Besides his contributions in English verse to "England's Helicon" Bolton wrote a certain amount of Latin poetry.

Here's an example of his verse from England's Helicon. Bolton also wrote Nero Caesar, or Monarchie Depraved (1624), and other works.

The 1885-1900 Dictionary of National Biography has these details about his family and later life:

All his schemes failed. He was now becoming advanced in years. He had a wife [Margaret Porter, the sister of Endymion Porter?] and three sons, and very slender means of support, none indeed at last, for there can he no doubt that he is the ‘Edmund Bolton of St. James, Clerkenwell,' who being assessed as a recusant convict at 6l. in goods, is returned by a collector of the subsidy of 1628 as having to his knowledge no lands or tenements, goods or chattels on which the tax could be levied, ‘but hath been a prisoner in the Fleet’ ever since the assessment was made. The same return was made in 1629, the only difference being that his place of detention was then not the Fleet but the Marshalsea. It was after this that he made his appeal to the city authorities [for a detailed history of London], and he appears to have made some progress with the work; but here he found himself anticipated by his friend Ben Jonson, who had promised to prepare for them ‘Chronological Annals;’ and when he talked of the history and the map costing 3,000l. or 4,000l., Sir Hugh Hammersley told him plainly that in prosecuting the application he would but berating the air. The latest letter of his at present known is addressed to Henry, Lord Falkland, on 20 August 1633. Probably he died soon afterwards, but the exact date of his death is not known.

So he made some progress in his intellectual pursuits, seemed to have some great ideas, the ability and energy to pursue them. Bolton's Catholicism held him back financially, assuredly, but he remained a recusant. The Dictionary of National Biography notes that he thought he was allowed to practice his faith freely [Writing to the secretary Conway on behalf of a catholic priest, he says that King James, whose servant he had been, allowed 'him with his wife and family to live in peace to that conscience in which he was bred' (Calendar of State Papers, Dom. 1625)], but clearly there were costs and consequences. 

I would like to know if his widow and his sons continued to be true to the Catholicism of Bolton, and I hope he was able to receive the Sacrament of Extreme Unction before he died.

Image Credit (Public Domain): Portrait of George Villiers by Peter Paul Rubens.

Sunday, December 25, 2022

A Recusant Household Christmas: Dorothy Lawson (1580-1632)

William Palmes or Palmer wrote The Life of Mrs. Dorothy Lawson, which Father Philip Caraman excerpted in his collection of primary sources The Years of Siege: Catholic Life from James I to Cromwell, describing her rigorous devotional life in contrast to her celebration of Christmas:

In this time of mirth and joy for his birth who is the sole engine and spring of true comfort, she unbent the stiffness of her brow a little, and dispensed with her accustomed rigour in so small a relaxation that I want a diminutive to explain it, unless I deem it that in quantity which philosophers call atoms or indivisibles in quality. . .

She had in a room near the chapel a crib with music to honour that joyful mystery, and, all Christmas, musicians in her hall and dining chamber to recreate her friends and servants. She loved to see them dance, and said that if she were present, greater care would be taken of modesty in their songs and dances.

Perhaps Mrs. Lawson's musicians performed William Byrd's Carroll for Christmas Day, "This Day Christ Was Born" or played this galliard for dancing?

Dorothy's father was Henry Constable, the Recusant poet of Diana (one of the first sonnet cycles in English literature) fame:

Henry was born in 1662 and matriculated at the age of sixteen as a fellow-commoner of St. Joan's College, Cambridge. On 15 Jan. 1579-80 he proceeded B.A. by a special grace of the senate. Wood appears to be in error in asserting that Constable 'spent some time among the Oxonian muses' (Athenæ Oxon, ed. Bliss, i. 14). There is much obscurity about Constable's later life. At an early age he became a Roman catholic, and took up his residence in Paris. Verse by him was meanwhile circulated, apparently in manuscript, among his English friends and gave him a literary reputation. Letters of his addressed to Sir Francis Walsingham from Paris in July 1584 and April 1585 point to his employment for a short time in the spy-service of the English government. In 1595 and the following year he was in communication with Anthony Bacon, Essex's secretary, and his correspondent admitted that his religion was the only thing to his discredit. He was clearly anxious at this period to stand well with Essex, probably with a view to returning home. In a letter addressed to the earl (6 Oct. 1595) he denied that he wished the restitution of Roman Catholicism in England at the risk of submitting his country to foreign tyranny, and begged for an introduction from Essex to the king of France, or for some employment in Essex's service.

Although from 1598 to 1603 he supported James VI's claim to the throne of England, Constable's Catholicism and various efforts to encourage James VI and I to go easy on English Recusant Catholics got him into trouble--and into the Tower--although he was released:

In 1598 Constable was agitating for the formation of a new English catholic college in Paris, and was maturing a scheme by which the catholic powers were to assure King James of Scotland his succession to the English throne, on the understanding that he would relieve the English catholics of their existing disabilities. In March 1598-9 Constable arrived in Edinburgh armed with a commission from the pope; but his request for an interview with James I was refused. He entered into negotiations, however, with the Scottish government in behalf of the papacy, and remained in Scotland till September. After his return to Paris Constable declared that James preferred to rely on the English puritans, and that he had no further interest in the king's cause. He made James a present of a book, apparently his poems, in July 1600. Meanwhile Constable became a pensioner of the king of France, but on James I's accession in England he resolved to risk returning to his own country. He wrote without result (11 June 1603) for the necessary permission to Sir Robert Cecil; came to London nevertheless, and in June of the following year was lodged in the Tower. He petitioned Cecil to procure his release; protested his loyalty, and before December 1604 was set free (Winwood, Memoriall, ii. 36). Nothing is known of his later history except that he died at Liège on 9 Oct. 1613.

Constable was a friend of Sir Philip Sidney (see a post here about that poet and Saint Edmund Campion), and another Catholic poet, Edmund Bolton.

Clearly, Dorothy was dedicated to maintaining the Catholic faith and religion her father had followed. Her biographer, who may have been a Jesuit priest she protected, speaks of her devotion to the Holy Mass and to Holy Communion. Here is a poem attributed to her father, "To the Blessed Sacrament":

WHEN thee (O holy sacrificed Lambe) 
In severed sygnes I whyte and liquide see, 
As on thy body slayne I thynke on thee, 
Which pale by sheddyng of thy bloode became. 
And when agayne I doe behold the same         
Vayled in whyte to be receav’d of mee, 
Thou seemest in thy syndon wrapt to bee 
Lyke to a corse, whose monument I am. 
Buryed in me, vnto my sowle appeare, 
Pryson’d in earth, and bannisht from thy syght,       
Lyke our forefathers who in lymbo were, 
Cleere thou my thoughtes, as thou did’st gyve them light, 
And as thou others freed from purgyng fyre 
Quenche in my hart the flames of badd desyre.

I hope you are having a festive, merry, happy, and Holy Christmas!! When this post goes live, I'll be at Midnight Mass!

Image Credit (Public Domain): Adoration of the Shepherds by Dutch painter Matthias Stomer, 1632 (the year of Dorothy's death)

Friday, December 23, 2022

"Newman's Epic Journey in the Mediterranean" and "Christmas Without Christ"

On the Fourth Sunday of Advent, a full week before Christmas Day so that we celebrate a whole fourth week of Advent this year (in 2023, December 24--aka Christmas Eve--is also the Fourth Sunday of Advent, and Monday is Christmas Day!), our Lovers of Newman group met at the IHM Convent in Colwich, Kansas. We read a Parochial and Plain Sermon, "The Mystery of Godliness" and enjoyed a vibrant discussion, both spiritual and theological. Our hostess, one of the IHM Sisters, also offered us a Christmas verse by Saint John Henry Newman, written while he was on his great Mediterranean voyage/pilgrimage with Richard Hurrell Froude and Froude's father, Robert Froude, the Archdeacon of Totnes.

The poem is number 49 in Newman's Verses on Various Occasions, composed on Christmas Day, December 25, 1832, while Newman was in Malta:

Christmas Without Christ

HOW can I keep my Christmas feast
    In its due festive show,
Reft of the sight of the High Priest
    From whom its glories flow?

I hear the tuneful bells around,
    The blessèd towers I see;
A stranger on a foreign ground,
    They peal a fast for me.

O Britons! now so brave and high,
    How will ye weep the day
When Christ in judgment passes by,
    And calls the Bride away! {99}

Your Christmas then will lose its mirth,
    Your Easter lose its bloom:
Abroad, a scene of strife and dearth;
    Within, a cheerless home!

In December of 2020, Father Juan Velez provided some context to the poem on the Saint John Henry Newman website:

St. John Henry Newman reminds us of the emptiness of Christmas without Christ. He titled some verses with these words on December 25, 1832, when he found himself quarantined in Malta, unable to attend the Christmas service.

Newman was quarantined and had a bad cold--and was on a very Catholic island. As The Malta Independent explains, he wouldn't have any Protestant, English church in which to pray or preach on Christmas Day, even if he could have left his hotel:

He caught a bad cold there and was forced to convalesce in the Beverly Hotel in West Street, Valletta. Because of his illness he was only able to visit Valletta and St Paul’s Bay before departing for Messina, in Italy, on 7 February. He was impressed by the kindness of the Maltese, the ringing of the church bells, the many images of saints – especially those of the Madonna – adorning our streets and, of course, the magnificence of St John’s Church – now Cathedral. He remonstrated with the Protestant authorities here why such a magnificent church was not turned into a Protestant church as the Protestants had nowhere appropriate in which to pray. . . .

Reading the poem again later, I was reminded of Mary Katherine Tillman's essay on ""Realizing" the Classical Authors: Newman's Epic Journey in the Mediterranean" originally published in the Newman Studies Journal, 3:2 (Fall, 2006) but included in her 2015 volume of articles and essays, John Henry Newman: Man of Letters. I've been dipping in to this volume as I read Lead Kindly Light, the festschrift for the recently deceased Father Ian Ker.

She explains how Newman, as a reader of the Greek and Latin classics, had prepared for this great journey by bringing Thucydides's History of the Peloponnesian War, Homer, and Virgil--no guide books written for tourists--but books whose historical and literary highlights Newman experienced not just as a reader of the classics, but as a visitor to their sites, in a way never before. Tillman notes that Newman's letters were filled with poetic descriptions of these locations, Patras, Ithaca, Gibraltar, Mount Vesuvius, Virgil's tomb in Naples, Corfu, etc. He wrote 31 poems during the days of his journey, which were published as the "Lyra Apostolica" in the British Magazine. Tillman uses this greater appreciation of the classics as an example of how Newman uses the imagination to move from a notional apprehension of a subject to a real knowledge of it.

Even in the midst of that appreciation of the classics of ancient Greece and Rome, however, Newman was still thinking of religious matters, and thus his poems about Saint Paul, Moses, David and Jonathan, the Greek Fathers, and indeed, troubles in the Christian world, including in the Church of England.

In these last two days of Advent, I wish you a very Merry Christmas season. 

Friday, December 16, 2022

Preview: Newman and Loneliness at Christmas Time

We all know someone who is celebrating a first Christmas after the death of a loved one--or the second, or the third, or even the 12th or the 31st--and the special pang of that absence. 

We may be experiencing that pang ourselves. That's one reason I selected this sermon by Saint John Henry Newman just based on the title for our last Advent reflection, Monday, December 19 on the Son Rise Morning Show: "The Church a Home for the Lonely".

So I'll be on the air at my usual time, about 6:50 a.m. Central/7:50 a.m. Eastern. Please listen live here and remember that you may find the recording of the show later that day on the Son Rise Morning Show website!

As the late Father Ian Ker noted in his biography of Saint John Henry Newman, as a priest and cardinal Newman remembered many of his departed loved ones in Masses on the anniversaries of their deaths. His private chapel in the Birmingham Oratory was filled with pictures of his favorite saints and of his living and departed friends, for whom he prayed and offered Mass. There's a video about that chapel in this post on the New Liturgical Movement website. As his eyesight began to fail, Newman prepared by memorizing the propers for two Masses: "a Mass of the Blessed Virgin and a Mass of the Dead" so he could continue to pray for his beloved dead.

In this sermon from October 22, 1837, Newman takes a more existential point of view and sees the Church on earth as the place the Christian may find peace and consolation when rebuffed by the World*. But as I read the sermon, I thought of my parish church, and the other parishes or chapels at which I attend Mass, visit the Blessed Sacrament, or got to Confession, etc., as the local site through which the universal, Catholic Church is a home for me and I hope it is for you.

We have to remember that Newman's ideas about the Church on Earth and the Communion of Saints took some time to develop; influenced by Calvinist doctrines of Salvation after his major conversion at age 15, he for a time thought the true true communion of the Church was invisible. Yes, professed Christians gathered for services and registered in parishes, but unless they were predestined for salvation, they weren't really in the Church. I commented on Newman's developing ecclesiology here.

He takes as his verse Ephesians 2:6: "And [He] hath raised us up together, and hath made us sit together in the heavenly places, through Christ Jesus." 

In the excerpts Christopher Blum has provided in Waiting for Christ: Meditations for Advent and Christmas for December 21, Newman offers examples of different kinds of Christians:

Those who have always understood that "heaven is an object claiming our highest love and most persevering exertions. Such doubtless is the blessedness of some persons: such in a degree is perchance the blessedness of many. There are those who, like Samuel, dwell in the Temple of God holy and undefiled from infancy, and, after the instance of John the Baptist, are sanctified by the Holy Ghost, if not as he, from their mother's womb, yet from their second birth in Holy Baptism."

Those who may have had this understanding "even though it has been latent; not quenched or overborne by open sin, even though it has not been from the first duly prized and cherished." . . .  They "have never been wedded to this world; they have never given their hearts to it, or vowed obedience or done folly in things of time and sense. And therefore they are able, from the very power of God's grace, as conveyed to them the ordinances of the Gospel, to understand that the promise of heaven is the greatest, most blessed promise which could be given."

And those who have wandered away and have returned: 

They are recovered by finding disappointment and suffering from that which they had hoped would bring them good; they learn to love God and prize heaven, not by baptismal grace, but by trial of the world; they seek the world, and they are driven by the world back again to God. The world is blessed to them, in God's good providence, as an instrument of His grace transmuted from evil to good, as if a second sacrament, doing over again what was done in infancy, and then undone. They are led to say, with St. Peter, "Lord, to whom shall we go?" for they have tried the world, and it fails them; they have trusted it, and it deceives them; they have leant upon it, and it pierces them through; they have sought it for indulgence, and it has scourged them for their penance. O blessed lot of those, whose wanderings though they wander, are thus overruled; that what they lose of the free gift of God, they regain by his compulsory remedies!

Long before Pierce Brosnan as James Bond realized it (just for you, Matt Swaim), most of us, Newman says, recognize that "the world is not enough for [our] happiness".

[*If you go to the source for this entire sermon, you would find Newman's description of "the World" in the sense he means it. For example:

By the world, I mean all that meets a man in intercourse with his fellow men, whether in public or in private, all that is new, strange, and without natural connexion with him. This outward world is at first sight most attractive and exciting to the generality of men. The young commonly wish to enter into it as if it would fulfil all their wants and hopes. They wish to enter into life, as it is called. Their hearts beat, as they anticipate the time when they shall, in one sense or other, be their own masters. At home, or at school, they are under restraint, and thus they come to look forward to the liberty of the world, and the independence of being in it, as a great good. According to their rank {188} in life, they wish to get into service, or they wish to go into business, or they wish to be principals in trade, or they wish to enter into the world's amusements and gaieties, or they look forward with interest to some profession or employment which stirs their ambition and promises distinction.

Hint: Look for the page number (in bold type above)]

As Newman says, by whatever grace we discover this fact, that "the world is not enough", it demonstrates to us that  we need "some shelter, refuge, rest, home or sanctuary from the outward world" and that God [the Father] has provided us "the shelter or secret place . . . in Christ". He has provided us a home because we "need something which the world cannot give: this is what we need, and this it is which the Gospel has supplied."

Jesus has supplied with this home, establishing His Church and leaving a "blessing behind Him", after His Passion, Death, Resurrection, and Ascension: 

He left in the world what before was not in it,—a secret home, for faith and love to enjoy, wherever found, in spite of the world around us. Do you ask what it is? the chapter from which the text is taken describes it. It speaks of "the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone: In whom all the building, being framed together, groweth up into an holy temple in the Lord. In whom you also are built together into an habitation of God in the Spirit." (Ephesians 2:20-22) This is the Church of God, which is our true home of God's providing, His own heavenly court, where He dwells with Saints and Angels, into which He introduces us by a new birth, and in which we forget the outward world and its many troubles.

Newman notes that the Temple in Jerusalem served as the great home for the Jews, citing Psalm 27:4-5: "One thing I have asked of the Lord, this will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life. That I may see the delight of the Lord, and may visit his temple. For he hath hidden me in his tabernacle; in the day of evils, he hath protected me in the secret place of his tabernacle." 

He says that the Church Jesus founded provides not just one place of refuge, in the Temple in Jerusalem, but "admits of being every where". In 1837, Newman may be speaking according to a less visible and established version of the Church (he uses the words "spiritual" and "invisible") but as Catholics we know that when we enter any Catholic church in union with the local bishop and the pope, we have entered The Catholic Church, "the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church" with the Blessed Sacrament really and truly present in Tabernacle, and even sometimes with the hint of incense still lingering in air (if we make a Visit after a Funeral Mass has been celebrated, for example). The Church Militant throughout the world, the Church Triumphant in Heaven, and the Church Suffering, the Holy Souls in Purgatory, is all represented there. And I use the word "is" because it is all One.

As Newman concludes in Blum's selection, 

There is a great privilege which we may enjoy, if we seek it, of dwelling in a heavenly home in the midst of this turbulent world. . . .

We may be full of sorrows; there may be fightings without and fears within; we may be exposed to the frowns, censure, or contempt of men; we may be shunned by them; or, to take the lightest case, we may be (as we certainly shall be) wearied out by the unprofitableness of this world, by its coldness, unfriendliness, distance, and dreariness; we shall need something nearer to us. What is our resource? . . . it is that holy home which God has given us in His Church; it is that everlasting City in which He has fixed His abode. It is that Mount invisible where Angels are looking at us with their piercing eyes, and the voices of the dead call us. "Greater is He that is in us than he that is in the world;" (1 John 4:4) "If God be for us, who can be against us?" (Romans 8:31)

Newman's complete sermon ends with this exhortation:

. . . Let not your past sins keep you from Him. Whatever they be, they cannot interfere with His grace stored up for all who come to Him for it. If you have in past years neglected Him, perchance you will have to suffer for it; but fear not; He will give you grace and strength to bear such punishment as He may be pleased to inflict. Let not the thought of His just severity keep you at a distance. He can make even pain pleasant to you. Keeping from Him is not to escape from His power, only from His love. Surrender yourselves to him in faith and holy fear. He is All-merciful, though All-righteous; and though He is awful in His judgments, He is nevertheless more wonderfully pitiful, and of tender compassion above our largest expectations; and in the case of all who humbly seek him, He will in "wrath remember mercy."

Saint John Henry Newman, pray for us!

All photos (C) Stephanie A. Mann (2013-2022) and All Rights Reserved. Top photo: Crucifix carved by the deceased father of Jeanne Gordon, taken at her Rosary in Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church, Wichita, Kansas on January 3, 2017; Second photo: pulpit in the University Church of St. Mary's the Virgin in Oxford, England; Third photo: Stained glass  of the Third Joyful Mystery (detail) in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Wichita, Kansas; Fourth photo: Christmas Day Mass in 2013 at Saint Anthony of Padua Catholic Church, Wichita, Kansas.

Friday, December 9, 2022

Preview: The Light of Conscience and The Way of Obedience

As Christopher O. Blum selected, excerpted, and arranged these sermons by Saint John Henry Newman in Waiting for Christ, he has placed "Dispositions for Faith", (for December 14) about the role of Conscience in our lives as we begin to believe in God and His authority, and "Obedience to God the Way to Faith in Christ", (for December 15) about the role of Obedience in our lives as we continue to follow and imitate Him, one before the other. 

The excerpts from the first sermon take us only so far: the excerpts from the second present a plan for life that we should follow. So in our second Advent reflection on the Son Rise Morning Show, on Monday, December 12, we'll look at some brief highlights from both sermons. 

The first sermon is a Catholic sermon for the Fourth Sunday of Advent in 1856 preached at the University Church in Dublin, included in Sermons on Various Occasions; the second is from Parochial and Plain Sermons Volume 8, Sermon 14, offered in October 1830, just a couple of years after Newman had been named the Vicar of the University Church of St Mary the Virgin.

So I'll be on the air at my usual time, about 6:50 a.m. Central/7:50 a.m. Eastern. Please listen live here and remember that you may find the recording of the show later that day on the Son Rise Morning Show website!

In the complete sermon from 1856, Newman has taken as his verse "Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight His path. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways plain: and all flesh shall see the salvation of God." Luke 3:4-6, and he wishes to explore how these images from nature apply to the preparation of the individual human soul to be disposed to Faith in God and the Good News. What prepares a man or woman to have Faith in God?

Newman suggests one great means: the Light and the Voice of Conscience, which each of us sees and hears:

What is the main guide of the soul, given to the whole race of Adam, outside the true fold of Christ as well as within it, given from the first dawn of reason, given to it in spite of that grievous penalty of ignorance, which is one of the chief miseries of our fallen state? It is the light of conscience, "the true Light," which enlightens every man." (John 1:9) 

Whether a man be born in pagan darkness, or in some corruption of revealed religion,—whether he has heard the name of the Saviour of the world or not,— whether he be the slave of some superstition, or is in possession of some portions of Scripture, and treats the inspired word as a sort of philosophical book, which he interprets for himself, and comes to certain conclusions about its teaching,—in any case, he has within his breast a certain commanding dictate, not a mere sentiment, not a mere opinion, or impression, or view of things, but a law, an authoritative voice, bidding him do certain things and avoid others. 

I do not say that its particular injunctions are always clear, or that they are always consistent with each other; but what I am insisting on here is this, that it commands,—that it praises, it blames, it promises, it threatens, it implies a future, and it witnesses the unseen. It is more than a man's own self. The man himself has not power over it, or only with extreme difficulty; he did not make it, he cannot destroy it. 

He may silence it in particular cases or directions, he may distort its enunciations, but he cannot, or it is quite the exception if he can, he cannot emancipate himself from it. He can disobey it, he may refuse to use it; but it remains.

Newman asserts that because we perceive that this voice comes from outside of us and calls us to an authority above us, it is preparation for Faith in God:

As the sunshine implies that the sun is in the heavens, though we may see it not, as a knocking at our doors at night implies the presence of one outside in the dark who asks for admittance, so this Word within us, not only instructs us up to a certain point, but necessarily raises our minds to the idea of a Teacher, an unseen Teacher: and in proportion as we listen to that Word, and use it, not only do we learn more from it, not only do its dictates become clearer, and at its lessons broader, and its principles more consistent, but its very tone is louder and more authoritative and constraining. And thus it is, that to those who use what they have, more is given; for, beginning with obedience, they go on to the intimate perception and belief of one God. His voice within them witnesses to Him, and they believe His own witness about Himself. They believe in His existence, not because others say it, not in the word of man merely, but with a personal apprehension of its truth.

Newman further points out--still before we have encountered Jesus and the Gospel--that as we learn and respond to the Light and Voice of Conscience we become frustrated with our own inability to obey it, and we may become fearful of the consequences of our failures, not knowing what to do. Thus, Newman says, we cry out, "Unhappy man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death!" (Romans 7:24)

Nevertheless, this experience of our efforts to follow the Natural Law of Conscience is a preparation for Faith in Christ and the Gospel.

Indeed, in 1830--in a passage Blum does not quote--Newman told his Anglican congregation that 
"obedience to conscience leads to obedience to the Gospel, which, instead of being something different altogether, is but the completion and perfection of that religion which natural conscience teaches". It almost seems that Newman delivered  "Obedience to God the Way to Faith in Christ" the week after "Dispositions for Faith", not some 25 or 26 years earlier!

Blum's excerpt begins with another sign of continuity:

It would have been strange if the God of nature had said one thing, and the God of grace another; if the truths which our conscience taught us without the information of Scripture, were contradicted by that information when obtained. But it is not so; there are not two ways of pleasing God; what conscience suggests, Christ has sanctioned and explained; to love God and our neighbor are the great duties of the Gospel as well as of the Law; he who endeavors to fulfil them by the light of nature is in the way towards, is, as our Lord said, "not far from the kingdom;" (Mark 12:34) for to him that hath more shall be given.

It is not in one or two places merely that this same doctrine is declared to us; indeed, all revelation is grounded on those simple truths which our own consciences teach us in a measure, though a poor measure, even without it. It is One God, and none other but He, who speaks first in our consciences, then in His Holy Word; and, lest we should be in any difficulty about the matter, He has most mercifully told us so in Scripture, wherein He refers again and again (as in the passage connected with the text) to the great Moral Law, as the foundation of the truth, which His Apostles and Prophets, and last of all His Son, have taught us: "Fear God, and keep His commandments; for this is the whole duty of man." (Eccles 12:13.)

The Anglican Newman warns his congregation against Christian views that offer different paths to salvation, 

. . . because, it being very hard to keep God's commandments, men would willingly persuade themselves, if they could, that strict obedience is not necessary under the Gospel, and that something else will be taken, for Christ's sake, in the stead of it. Instead of laboring, under God's grace, to change their wills, to purify their hearts, and so prepare themselves for the kingdom of God, they imagine that in that kingdom they may be saved by something short of this . . .

substituting their own methods or measures of being disciples. But Newman presents many passages from the New Testament to demonstrate that these other methods are not what God has taught us. 

These texts, and a multitude of others, show that the Gospel leaves us just where it found us, as regards the necessity of our obedience to God; that Christ has not obeyed instead of us, but that obedience is quite as imperative as if Christ had never come; nay, is pressed upon us with additional sanctions; the difference being, not that He relaxes the strict rule of keeping His commandments, but that He gives us spiritual aids, which we have not except through Him, to enable us to keep them. Accordingly Christ's service is represented in Scripture, not as different from that religious obedience which conscience teaches us naturally, but as the perfection of it, as I have already said. We are told again and again, that obedience to God leads on to faith in Christ; that it is the only recognized way to Christ; and that, therefore, to believe in Him, ordinarily implies that we are living in obedience to God.

Blum does not include the end of Newman's Anglican sermon on "Obedience to God the Way to Faith in Christ", but in that exhortation, he reminds us of the reward those who obey will receive:

These, be they many or few, will then receive their prize from Him who died for them, who has made them what they are, and completes in heaven what first by conscience, then by His Spirit, He began here. Surely they were despised on the earth by the world; both by the open sinners, who thought their scrupulousness to be foolishness, and by such pretenders to God's favour as thought it ignorance. But, in reality, they had received from their Lord the treasures both of wisdom and of knowledge, though men knew it not; and they then will be acknowledged by Him before all creatures, as heirs of the glory prepared for them before the beginning of the world. 

Saint John Henry Newman, pray for us!

Image Credit (Permission Details): Conscience by Andrei Mironov (CC BY-SA 4.0)
Image Credit (Public Domain): James Tissot, Jesus Sits by the Seashore and Preaches

Friday, December 2, 2022

Preview: "The Weapons of Saints" in Advent

For our first Newman sermon reflection/meditation for Advent on the Son Rise Morning Show Monday, December 5, I've chosen "The Weapons of Saints", a Parochial and Plain Sermon. It seems appropriate to reflect on saints during the Second Week of Advent since we'll celebrate several holy memorials and one Solemnity during the week:

Saint Nicholas of Myra on December 6

Saint Ambrose of Milan on December 7

The Immaculate Conception on December 8 (a Holy Day of Obligation!)

Saint Juan Diego on December 9

Our Lady of Loreto on December 10

So I'll be on the Son Rise Morning Show at my usual time, about 6:50 a.m. Central/7:50 a.m. Eastern. Please listen live here.

In this sermon, originally delivered in October 29, 1837, Newman reflects on a verse from the Gospel of Saint Matthew, "Many that are first shall be last, and the last shall be first" (Matt. 19:30), exploring how the Kingdom of God has turned the world upside down:

Strength, numbers, wealth, philosophy, eloquence, craft, experience of life, knowledge of human nature, these are the means by which worldly men have ever gained the world. But in that kingdom which Christ has set up, all is contrariwise. "The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds." (2 Cor 10:4)  What was before in honour, has been dishonoured; what before was in dishonour, has come to honour; what before was successful, fails; what before failed, succeeds. What before was great, has become little; what before was little, has become great. Weakness has conquered strength, for the hidden strength of God "is made perfect in weakness." (2 Cor 12:9) Death has conquered life, for in that death is a more glorious resurrection. Spirit has conquered flesh; for that spirit is an inspiration from above. A new kingdom has been established, not merely different from all kingdoms before it, but contrary to them; a paradox in the eyes of man,—the visible rule of the invisible Saviour. . . .

Yes, so it is; since Christ sent down gifts from on high, the Saints are ever taking possession of the kingdom, and with the weapons of Saints. The invisible powers of the heavens, truth, meekness, and righteousness, are ever coming in upon the earth, ever pouring in, gathering, thronging, warring, triumphing, under the guidance of Him “who died and came to life” (Revelation 2:8)

Newman then asks his congregation and his readers to apply this "great truth" to themselves because they and we "are the sons of God" . . . "soldiers of Christ." Crucially, he advises, "the kingdom is within us" and

really we are a part of it, or ought to be; and, as we wish to be a living portion of it, which is our only hope of salvation, we must learn what its characters are in order to imitate them. It is the characteristic of Christ's Church, that the first should be last, and the last first; are we realizing in ourselves and taking part in this wonderful appointment of God?

Newman, speaking to a university congregation, explores the hopes and dreams of youth to achieve great things, "something greater than the world can give". . . "having desires after things about this world":

While their hearts are thus unsettled, Christ comes to them, if they will receive Him, and promises to satisfy their great need, this hunger and thirst which wearies them. He does not wait till they have learned to ridicule high feelings as mere romantic dreams: He comes to the young; He has them baptized betimes, and then promises them, and in a higher way, those unknown blessings which they yearn after. . . .

But he applies the same rule to all of us, young or old:

The way to mount up is to go down. Every step we take downward, makes us higher in the kingdom of heaven. Do you desire to be great? make yourselves little.
There is a mysterious connexion between real advancement and self-abasement. If you minister to the humble and despised, if you feed the hungry, tend the sick, succour the distressed; if you bear with the ill-tempered, submit to insult, endure ingratitude, render good for evil, you are, as by a divine charm, getting power over the world and rising among the creatures. God has established this law. Thus He does His wonderful works. . . .

They rise by falling. Plainly so, for no condescension can be so great as that of our Lord Himself. The more they abase themselves the more like they are to Him; and the more like they are to Him, the greater must be their power with Him.

Finally, Newman offers a warning about the true power of the saints, which the world cannot understand:

Our warfare is not with carnal weapons, but with heavenly. The world does not understand what our real power is, and where it lies. And until we put ourselves into its hands of our own act, it can do nothing against us. Till we leave off patience, meekness, purity, resignation, and peace, it can do nothing against that Truth which is our birthright, that Cause which is ours, as it has been the cause of all saints before us.

And I'd propose that we could look at the lives of each of these saints to find examples of this rule: both Saint Nicholas of Myra and Saint Ambrose of Milan were known for their great works of charity and their battles against the Arian heresy, defending the true Catholic doctrine of the Incarnation, despite the conflict and danger. 

Saint Ambrose had the office of bishop forced upon him by popular demand, giving up his secular power. He had to receive the Sacraments of Initiation before he could be ordained! Saint Juan Diego obeyed Our Lady of Guadalupe with great patience and humility--like any visionary, his path was difficult.

In the midst of her Magnificat, the Mother of God demonstrated that she knew this rule of life from God's actions; as the handmaid of the Lord, she had submitted to His will:

From this day all generations will call me blessed:
the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his Name.

He has mercy on those who fear him
in every generation.

He has shown the strength of his arm,
he has scattered the proud in their conceit.

He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.

And, as Newman himself reminds us, no One abased Himself like Our Lord (". . . no condescension can be so great as that of our Lord Himself. The more they abase themselves the more like they are to Him; and the more like they are to Him, the greater must be their power with Him."):

For let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:
Who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:
But emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men, and in habit found as a man.
He humbled himself, becoming obedient unto death, even to the death of the cross.
For which cause God also hath exalted him, and hath given him a name which is above all names:
That in the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those that are in heaven, on earth, and under the earth:
And that every tongue should confess that the Lord Jesus Christ is in the glory of God the Father.
(Philippians 2:5-10)

Saint Nicholas, pray for us!
Saint Ambrose, pray for us!
Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us!
Saint Juan Diego, pray for us!
Saint John Henry Newman, pray for us!

Image Credit (Public Domain): Saint Nicholas by Jaroslav Čermák (1831-1878)
Image Credit (Public Domain): Saint Ambrose by Claude Vignon
Image Credit (Public Domain): Saint Juan Diego by Miguel Cabrera

Monday, November 28, 2022

Preview of a Preview: "Waiting for Christ" on the Son Rise Morning Show!

While we're all waking up from our Thanksgiving Day long weekend with friends and family, we've also begun a new Liturgical Season: Happy Church New Year! It's Advent! 

So, next Monday, December 5, Anna Mitchell, Matt Swaim, and I will begin a new Newman series on the Son Rise Morning Show.

Each Advent Monday in December, we'll discuss a sermon featured in Waiting for Christ: Meditations for Advent and Christmas. On January 2, 2023, we'll wrap up this series with a Christmas Season sermon from the book. The show's hosts and Paul Lachmann (who calls me before my interviews) have the week of December 26-30 off!!

By the way, I reviewed this book for the National Catholic Register in 2018, when it was published with the words "Blessed John Henry Newman" at the top of the cover! Christopher Blum of the Augustine Institute selected, excerpted, and revised Newman's punctuation, spelling, and use of Bible translation (from King James to Douai-Rheims or Revised Standard Version, Second Catholic Edition) from the original Parochial and Plain Sermons.

So please watch this space on December 2, 9, and 16 for previews for those Monday discussions!

Blessed Advent to you all, as we wait for Christ to come at Christmas and at His glorious Second Coming!

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Preview: "Take Me Away": Gerontius's Soul At and After Judgment

We'll conclude our series on Saint John Henry Newman's The Dream of Gerontius on Monday, November 28 on the Son Rise Morning Show. I'll be on the air about 6:50 a.m. Central/7:50 a.m. Eastern. Please listen live here.

(I usually post these previews on the Friday before. I'm posting this early because I know the Thanksgiving weekend is a busy time!)

The end is indeed nigh as his Guardian Angel leads Gerontius's Soul to the threshold of his particular judgment. The Angel prepares him for the experience:

When then—if such thy lot—thou seest thy Judge,
The sight of Him will kindle in thy heart
All tender, gracious, reverential thoughts.
Thou wilt be sick with love, and yearn for Him,
And feel as though thou couldst but pity Him,
That one so sweet should e'er have placed Himself
At disadvantage such, as to be used
So vilely by a being so vile as thee.
There is a pleading in His pensive eyes
Will pierce thee to the quick, and trouble thee.
And thou wilt hate and loathe thyself; for, though
Now sinless, thou wilt feel that thou hast sinn'd, {360}
As never thou didst feel; and wilt desire
To slink away, and hide thee from His sight:
And yet wilt have a longing aye to dwell
Within the beauty of His countenance.
And these two pains, so counter and so keen,—
The longing for Him, when thou seest Him not;
The shame of self at thought of seeing Him,—
Will be thy veriest, sharpest purgatory.

This is one of Newman's great innovations in the Church's meditations on the Four Last Things. He does not dwell the wrath of Jesus at the particular judgment and the great fear of the sinner before his Judge. Rather, he dwells on the love and mercy of Jesus balanced with the Soul's own acknowledgment of his sinfulness. And yet, the love Jesus shows the Soul even as He judges Gerontius, has a great impact on him: it hurts perhaps more that wrath would in the Soul who has tried to prepare for eternal life with faith, hope, and charity.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, while not alluding to Newman's poem, might have been thinking of this when he wrote in Spe Salvi:

47. Some recent theologians are of the opinion that the fire which both burns and saves is Christ himself, the Judge and Saviour. The encounter with him is the decisive act of judgement. Before his gaze all falsehood melts away. This encounter with him, as it burns us, transforms and frees us, allowing us to become truly ourselves. All that we build during our lives can prove to be mere straw, pure bluster, and it collapses. Yet in the pain of this encounter, when the impurity and sickness of our lives become evident to us, there lies salvation. His gaze, the touch of his heart heals us through an undeniably painful transformation “as through fire”. But it is a blessed pain, in which the holy power of his love sears through us like a flame, enabling us to become totally ourselves and thus totally of God.

And Father Juan Velez, my theological guide through this work, concurs that for:

a faithful soul . . . it is sorrow and love communicated to the soul by a glance of God. Particular judgment is followed by purgatory. The former involves the “glance” of the loving God which consumes the soul. Purgatory entails the absence of that marvelous vision, but the real assurance and anticipation of it are a source of peace and joy.

But just before the Soul reaches the Judgment Seat, Newman shows how time "works" in the afterlife, as the Soul hears the voices of the priest and the attendants, still praying for him at his deathbed, and Guardian Angel explains:

It is the voice of friends around thy bed,
Who say the "Subvenite" with the priest.
Hither the echoes come; before the Throne
Stands the great Angel of the Agony,
The same who strengthen'd Him, what time He knelt
Lone in that garden shade, bedew'd with blood.
That Angel best can plead with Him for all
Tormented souls, the dying and the dead.

So, there is one more angel, the Angel of the Agony (the Agony in the Garden):

Jesu! by that shuddering dread which fell on Thee;
Jesu! by that cold dismay which sicken'd Thee;
Jesu! by that pang of heart which thrill'd in Thee;
Jesu! by that mount of sins which crippled Thee;
Jesu! by that sense of guilt which stifled Thee;
Jesu! by that innocence which girdled Thee;
Jesu! by that sanctity which reign'd in Thee;
Jesu! by that Godhead which was one with Thee;
Jesu! spare these souls which are so dear to Thee;
Souls, who in prison, calm and patient, wait for
Thee; {366}
Hasten, Lord, their hour, and bid them come to Thee,
To that glorious Home, where they shall ever gaze on Thee.

The Soul endures his Judgment and is ready for Purgatory: he knows he must be purified and he wants to be purified:

Take me away, and in the lowest deep
There let me be, {367}
And there in hope the lone night-watches keep,
Told out for me.
There, motionless and happy in my pain,
Lone, not forlorn,—
There will I sing my sad perpetual strain,
Until the morn.
There will I sing, and soothe my stricken breast,
Which ne'er can cease
To throb, and pine, and languish, till possest
Of its Sole Peace.
There will I sing my absent Lord and Love:—

Take me away,
That sooner I may rise, and go above,
And see Him in the truth of everlasting day.

The Souls in Purgatory welcome him, while the Guardian Angel--and here, you should listen to Janet Baker singing the Angel's loving farewell--promises to return soon:

Softly and gently, dearly-ransom'd soul,
In my most loving arms I now enfold thee,
And, o'er the penal waters, as they roll,
I poise thee, and I lower thee, and hold thee.

And carefully I dip thee in the lake,
And thou, without a sob or a resistance,
Dost through the flood thy rapid passage take,
Sinking deep, deeper, into the dim distance. {370}

Angels, to whom the willing task is given,
Shall tend, and nurse, and lull thee, as thou liest;
And Masses on the earth, and prayers in heaven,
Shall aid thee at the Throne of the Most Highest.

Farewell, but not for ever! brother dear,
Be brave and patient on thy bed of sorrow;
Swiftly shall pass thy night of trial here,
And I will come and wake thee on the morrow.

As the Guardian Angel had told him before, time is of no matter in the afterlife; the Soul is among the Communion of Saints, the Church in Heaven, on Earth, and in Purgatory. What "the morrow" means to us after a night of sleep and waking the next day and what it means in Heavenly time is not the same.

And as at the beginning of the poem, Newman returns to how the dying and the dead need prayers and Masses offered for them, so that the bonds of the Communion of Saints remain close. We remember the faithful departed in the Eucharistic Prayers at every Mass, and in the month of November, we remember them in special ways.

One more thing: when you read and pray the Meditations and Devotions Newman composed for the boys of the Oratory School, you can get an insight into how he prepared for his own Particular Judgment, as he places all his faith, hope and love in Jesus alone, as in this "Act of Love":

2. And therefore, O my dear Lord, since I perceive Thee to be so beautiful, I love Thee, and desire to love Thee more and more. Since Thou art the One Goodness, Beautifulness, Gloriousness, in the whole world of being, and there is nothing like Thee, but Thou art infinitely more glorious and good than even the {332} most beautiful of creatures, therefore I love Thee with a singular love, a one, only, sovereign love. Everything, O my Lord, shall be dull and dim to me, after looking at Thee. There is nothing on earth, not even what is most naturally dear to me, that I can love in comparison of Thee. And I would lose everything whatever rather than lose Thee. For Thou, O my Lord, art my supreme and only Lord and love.

3. My God, Thou knowest infinitely better than I, how little I love Thee. I should not love Thee at all, except for Thy grace. It is Thy grace which has opened the eyes of my mind, and enabled them to see Thy glory. It is Thy grace which has touched my heart, and brought upon it the influence of what is so wonderfully beautiful and fair. How can I help loving Thee, O my Lord, except by some dreadful perversion, which hinders me from looking at Thee? O my God, whatever is nearer to me than Thou, things of this earth, and things more naturally pleasing to me, will be sure to interrupt the sight of Thee, unless Thy grace interfere. Keep Thou my eyes, my ears, my heart, from any such miserable tyranny. Break my bonds—raise my heart. Keep my whole being fixed on Thee. Let me never lose sight of Thee; and, while I gaze on Thee, let my love of Thee grow more and more every day.

We know that Father Newman prayed at the deathbeds of members of his congregation and that he prayed for those whom he loved in life after their deaths. Also, we have this poignant note, "Written in Prospect of Death", on March 13th, 1864, Passion Sunday, 7 o'clock a.m.:

I WRITE in the direct view of death as in prospect. No one in the house, I suppose, suspects anything of the kind. Nor anyone anywhere, unless it be the medical men.

I write at once—because, on my own feelings of mind and body, it is as if nothing at all were the matter with me, just now; but because I do not know how long this perfect possession of my sensible and available health and strength may last.

I die in the faith of the One Holy Catholic Apostolic Church. I trust I shall die prepared and protected by her Sacraments, which our Lord Jesus Christ has committed to her, and in that communion of Saints which He inaugurated when He ascended on high, and which will have no end. I hope to die in that Church which our Lord founded on Peter, and which will continue till His second coming. . . .

Perhaps this--in the midst of Charles Kingsley's attack on him in January of that year--is in the background of Newman's inspiration to write The Dream of Gerontius! From April to June he was writing and serially publishing the Apologia pro Vita Sua. 

Saint John Henry Newman, pray for us!

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Levering's Different Angle on Newman's Development of Doctrine

Professor Matthew Levering spoke at Eighth Day Institute's 2021 Florovsky-Newman Week (now called Ad Fontes) on “Christ the New Joshua: Patristic Reflections on Baptism", and I read his book on Mary's Bodily Assumption after the 2019 Florovsky-Newman Week. Now I see he has new book out about Saint John Henry Newman: Newman on Doctrinal Corruption.

According to the publisher, Word on Fire Academic Dimensions, this book:

examines John Henry Newman’s understanding of history and doctrine in his own context, first as an Oxford student and professor reading Edward Gibbon and influenced by his close friend Hurrell Froude, then as a new Catholic convert in dialogue with his brother Francis, and finally as an eminent Catholic during the controversies over the dogmas of the Immaculate Conception (in dialogue with Edward Pusey) and papal infallibility (in dialogue with Ignaz von Döllinger).

Author Matthew Levering argues that Newman’s career is shaped in large part by concerns about doctrinal corruption. Newman’s understanding of doctrinal development can only be understood when we come to share his concerns about the danger of doctrinal corruption—concerns that explain why Newman vigorously opposed religious liberalism. Particularly significant is Newman’s debate with the great German Church historian Döllinger since, in this final debate, Newman brings to bear all that he has learned about the nature of history, the formation of Church doctrine, the problem with private judgment, and the role of historical research.

• This book is unique in its predominant focus on Newman’s understanding of doctrinal corruption. Most books on this subject focus primarily on his theory of development.

• This book focuses on the development of Newman’s views on corruption over the course of his life by looking at his engagements with a series of key figures.

• The book showcases Newman’s engagements with five key figures: the historian Edward Gibbon; his friend, Hurrell Froude; his brother, Francis Newman; the prominent figure in the Oxford Movement, Edward Pusey; and the Church historian, Ignaz von Döllinger.

Looks fascinating! As soon as I saw that Newman's first interlocutor was Edward Gibbon I thought of Edward Short's chapter on Newman and Gibbon in Newman and History ("Newman, Gibbon, and God's Particular Providence")!

Catholic World Report offers a review by Casey Chalk, and the Newman Review from the National Institute for Newman Studies provides a report on and a recording of Levering's 2020 Spring Newman Symposium lecture on the same theme (which had to be offered online because of COVID-19!!):

The first lecture we will share is one by Dr. Matthew Levering, the James N. and Mary D. Perry Jr. Chair of Theology at Mundelein Seminary at the University of Saint Mary of the Lake. His lecture is entitled, “Newman on Doctrinal Corruption.” In this lecture, Dr. Levering shows that Newman’s work on doctrinal development arose from his Anglican concerns about doctrinal corruption, which at that time he identified in the Church of Rome. Why, however, did doctrinal corruption worry Newman so much? He realized that if one were to grant that doctrinal corruption has occurred in all churches—as Latitudinarians believed—then in fact the doctrinal teachings of the Church in any epoch are simply whatever powerful people, whether ecclesiastical rulers or State rulers, think fit to impose upon the less powerful masses. Far from being excitingly bold or indicating more freedom of thought, doctrinal corruption as a principle held by theologians simply justifies the power of the strong over the weak. . . .

What a line-up of books about Newman I have in the next few months: the festschrift for +Father Ian Ker, the collection of essays and articles by +Mary Katherine Tillman, and this new book!