Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Newman's Dialogues on "Doctrinal Corruption": A Book Review

Matthew Levering's Newman on Doctrinal Corruption could be considered an alternative interpretation of Newman's Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine. By exploring Newman's dialogues with the (deceased) historian Edward Gibbon, his friend Richard Hurrell Froude, his own younger brother Francis Newman, his erstwhile Tractarian friend E.B. Pusey, and his German contemporary Ignaz von Döllinger, Levering helps readers understand Newman's search for religious Truth and the moral certainty that he was living in the "one True fold of Christ" (as he wrote on October 8, 1845 before Blessed Dominic Barberi received him in to the Catholic Church the next day).

As the publisher, Word on Fire Academic, describes the book:

Newman on Doctrinal Corruption 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.

As Levering notes states in the Introduction, "Whenever Newman thinks about doctrinal development, he always has the threat of doctrinal corruption in view" (p. 5). Furthermore, "one of the Essay's [The Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine] major subplots has to do with religious liberalism's impact upon all Christian churches and traditions" (pp. 6-7) because by embracing doctrinal corruption--denying the necessity and the fact of authentic doctrinal development--"religious liberalism ultimately leaves little in Christianity worth retaining" (p. 34). So Newman's concern that he find and defend the Church that has through the centuries retained, with true development, the Deposit of the Faith, is essential to all of the following chapters in Levering's book. 

The book fulfills all the claims of the blurb: Levering does justice to each of Newman's correspondents, exploring their own efforts to understand Christian history as they sought to know how to love, worship, and serve God (except perhaps Gibbon, who imposed on his own view on history of Christians in the The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire as being the source of the corruption of the that fine, humane, and tolerant culture and civilization, with Nero burning Christians like torches in the Colosseum). 

Levering describes how Newman's history of reading Gibbon's masterpiece was informed by his reading of other historians who believed in God and saw His providential action in human history, like Joseph Milner's Church History and Bishop Butler's Analogy. From the former he took his budding interest in the Fathers of the Church (as he was "nothing short of enamoured of the long extracts from St. Augustine, St. Ambrose, and the other Fathers which I found there") and from the latter the "inculcation of a visible Church, the oracle of truth and a pattern of sanctity, of the duties of external religion, and of the historical character of Revelation", as Newman described later in the first chapter of the Apologia pro Vita Sua. As Levering notes, Gibbon's religious skepticism and particular animus against the Catholic Church means he cannot be objective at all about the Christian faith during the end of the Empire. Levering concludes that Newman sees "development and truth" where Gibbon sees "corruption and fanaticism", and that Newman "is arguably much more self-aware about the impact of his antecedent beliefs than Gibbon . . ." (p. 100).

Levering next explores Richard Hurrell Froude's influence on Newman as they collaborated with Keble and Pusey in the Oxford or Tractarian movement. (R.H. Froude's younger brother James Anthony Froude and Newman would have their own dialogues on Church History!) R.H. Froude influenced Newman to accept what he had thought doctrinal corruptions: devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, admiration for "the Church of Rome", and developing belief in the Real of Presence of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist. The main Doctrinal Corruption Froude and Newman feared in the Church of England at that time was the Erastian take over of the Church by the Prime Minister and the Parliament. Levering cites, for example, a letter John Keble sent to them recounting Thomas Arnold's proposal that the Church of England just become a part of the State, "internalized as the conscience of the nation . . . superfluous . . . [becoming] the real substance of the political order." (pp. 117-118)

This letter reminded me of a poem we'd read during our December meeting of the Lovers of the Newman, "Christmas without Christ" which I'd mentioned here before. That proposal by Arnold--the reduction of the Church ("the Bride")--may be behind the stanzas:

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!

If the Church is just a department of the State, what do the feasts of Christmas and Easter mean? Where's the mirth, or the bloom, or the home for the Christian believer if the Church is just a political entity, a disembodied "conscience of the nation"? What will the Incarnation or the Resurrection even mean in a such a state?

[To conclude this distraction from the immediate topic: isn't this one of the joys of reading? Understanding something you've read and wondered about a little more because you've read just one more book, not expecting that recognition?]

But it's really not a distraction after all, because this extreme Erastianism proposed by Arnold is an example of how Newman, Pusey, Keble and Froude thought the doctrines--the 39 Articles, etc--of the Church of England would be corrupted either by dis-establishment or government control. And Levering proposes, in this chapter, through an examination of Newman's works on The Via Media, the "Essay on the Development", and "Anglican Difficulties" that  Newman's "Roman Catholic sense of the importance of the role of the pope and the bishops flows partly from his anti-Erastian concerns as an Anglican." (p. 104) 

In the chapter recounting Francis Newman's path away from orthodox Christianity, Levering posits that John Henry Newman was answering his own brother in the Apologia pro Vita Sua as much as he was answering Charles Kingsley, defending his integrity by detailing his religious opinions over the course of his life until he became a Catholic, owning his errors and expressing his gratitude to those who helped him in the past and from whom those opinions and his conversion had estranged him. Levering documents how Francis Newman's critical examination of Christian doctrine led him to accept only two beliefs: God loves us and we must be perfect. Questions about Who God Is, and what it means to be perfect in comparison of Who God Is are beside the point, to Francis.

Regarding Newman's answer to Pusey's Eirenicon, which Newman called an olive branch discharged "from a catapult" (p. 259), Levering provides a thorough summary of all of Pusey's criticisms of Catholic devotions and practices--a salvo Newman deflects by noting, for example, that one cannot cite the late Father Faber as the representative expression of all Catholic devotion in England--and then documents Newman's statements about the Development of "Marian Doctrines" in his famous Essay--and covers his arguments in his Letter to Pusey based on the early doctrines of Mary being the Mother of God and the New Eve. Newman thus defends the Catholic Church's doctrinal definition of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin (and, in advance, as Levering demonstrates in a book I previously reviewed, of her Assumption) as being the fitting consequence and development. 

I think of all the opponents Newman faced in his efforts to defend the Catholic Church against charges of Doctrinal Corruption, Ignaz von Döllinger may have been the most formidable, because he based his argument so much on the Fathers of the Church, the Councils of the Church and their authority vis-a-vis the papacy, and historical precedent in the Middle Ages. Until I looked him up, I did not realize what almost exact contemporaries Döllinger and Newman were. Döllinger was born on February 28, 1799; Newman on February 21, 1801; Döllinger died on January 14, 1890 (90 years old); Newman on August 11, 1890 (89 years old)! 

At least part of Newman's argument against Döllinger--and Gladstone, whom Döllinger assisted in his Kulturkampf-tinged pamphlets against Papal Infallibility--was that this doctrinal definition (which Newman thought needed another Council for greater context since the Vatican Council had been prorogued) was an important step in protecting the Catholic Church from Erastian interference. Remember that in Vatican I: The Council and the Making of the Ultramontane Church, John W. O’Malley demonstrated that the call for a definition of the pope's role in defending the Church and its teachings and discipline had begun as a grassroots movement in the context of State interference (like Gallicanism, Febronianism, and Josephinism, etc through which the state or the ruler controlled education, formation of priests, selection of bishops, monastic and religious foundations, etc.) Newman saw this centralization of ecclesiastical power as God's Providence overseeing "doctrinal development" and "the course of history so as to lead all things to Christ" (pp. 333-334) at the same time that he warned against anyone--inside or outside of the Church--taking it to extremes. As he said before, during, and the after the Council, he had already believed in papal infallibility but didn't think it was an opportune time to define it as a doctrine. Once the bishops had agreed to the definition, he, unlike Döllinger, could not in good conscience dissent from it. (Conciliar agreement was one of Döllinger's standards.)

In his Conclusion, Levering discusses Newman's thoughts on the "consensus or sensus fidelium" of the lay faithful, noting that Newman "does not mean that when the consensus of the faithful becomes difficult to perceive--as for instance during the Reformation . . . the solution is to get rid of the contested doctrines, so that only doctrines most clearly supported by a supposed "consensus of the faithful" remain in place" (p. 348) and Newman believes that "the laity is not empowered to overturn solemnly taught doctrines of prior eras". (p. 350) Thus, to cite Newman in support of lay dissent from Church teaching on abortion, artificial contraception, marriage, etc., is to misinterpret Newman's On Consulting the Faithful in Matters of Doctrine.

Levering evaluates the success and failures of Newman's arguments/debates with Gibbon, Froude, Newman, Pusey, and Döllinger, and discusses David Bentley Hart's criticisms of Newman's views in Tradition and Apocalypse: An Essay on the Future of Christian Belief

The fact that John Henry Newman was alive at the time of two such great doctrinal definitions (the Immaculate Conception and Papal Infallibility) is itself a proof of Divine Providence. As the visiting priest told us at the Traditional Latin Mass this past Sunday, our being alive at this time (he did cite birth dates in the 1980's, 1990's and 2000's, revealing his own chronological bias) is not an accident: Our Lord meant us to be alive now as this is the time for each of us to be faithful and be saints. As Saint John Henry Newman's Meditation "Hope in God--Creator" declares: 

GOD has created all things for good; all things for their greatest good; everything for its own good. . . . God has determined, unless I interfere with His plan, that I should reach that which will be my greatest happiness. He looks on me individually, He calls me by my name, He knows what I can do, what I can best be, what is my greatest happiness, and He means to give it me.

Levering's book might be better for someone who has read Newman's works and is familiar with his life and times than for one reading about Newman for the first or even second time. While he does not assume great prior knowledge, it helped me to have read Newman's Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine, and his Letters to Pusey and the Duke of Norfolk, and to have consulted the Apologia pro Vita Sua a few times. General familiarity with the Newmanian bibliography and the state of Newman scholarship is also helpful. I was pleased to see Levering cite and refute Pattison's The Great Dissent, which I think is a rather obscure study of Newman's life and work.

Now I'm reading Father Dermot Fenlon's book on Reginald Cardinal Pole (I'm on the fourth chapter: Pole and the spirituali are trying to figure out how to accept Luther's doctrine on justification and remain Catholic after the breakdown of the Regensburg conference of 1541) . . . Heresy and Obedience are the issues in the title . . . 

Image Credit (Public Domain): Ignaz von Döllinger (1799-1890)

Thursday, January 26, 2023

Report on the 13th Annual EDI Symposium: "Be Not Afraid!"

Evidently, no one who attended the 13th Annual EDI Symposium starting on Friday, January 13, suffers from or succumbed to Paraskevidekatriaphobia, taking the title to heart: Be Not Afraid! (of Friday the 13th)!

One of the banners near the speaker's table featured a stanza from this poem by Saint John Henry Newman:

"It is I; be not afraid."

WHEN I sink down in gloom or fear,
Hope blighted or delay'd,
Thy whisper, Lord, my heart shall cheer,
"'Tis I; be not afraid!"

Or, startled at some sudden blow,
If fretful thoughts I feel,
"Fear not, it is but I!" shall flow,
As balm my wound to heal.

Nor will I quit Thy way, though foes
Some onward pass defend;
From each rough voice the watchword goes,
"Be not afraid! ... a friend!" 

And oh! when judgment's trumpet clear
Awakes me from the grave,
Still in its echo may I hear,
"'Tis Christ; He comes to save."

At Sea.
June 23, 1833.

The symposium this year featured James Matthew Wilson (Catholic), Jake Meador (Protestant), & Fr. John Strickland (Orthodox), and was held at St. George Orthodox Cathedral here in Wichita, Kansas. Eighth Day Books had an annex of the store on-site selling books, icons, etc, especially featuring the presenters' publications and books on associated topics.

The main feature I want to mention is the post-Covid atmosphere of the event. That may be controversial to say, but since James Matthew Wilson's first presentation was "T. S. Eliot, Four Quartets, & Quarantine Notebook: What Writing Taught Me About Our Divided Times", it seems appropriate. Wilson provided an overview of the historical occasion of Eliot's The Four Quartets, inspired in part to demonstrate that there was an "England" to be defended, fought for, and died for during World War II, and then discussed his own poetic production of news reports in iambic pentameter published serially in Dappled Things online. As Wilson noted, the composition of the poems bore two fruits: "The concrete fruit was a book-length poem; the intellectual fruit was a new and deepened perspective on the divisions in our country and the strange commonality Americans experience in and through that division." 

As the keynote speaker, he also presented a second Plenary session  ("A World without Beauty: von Balthasar, Plato, & the Ordering of the Soul"), which a close friend of mine really enjoyed because she's studied and read the works of Hans Urs von Balthasar since she wrote her master's thesis, titled "Von Balthasar’s Aesthetic Method in Theology with an examination of its operation in his Ecclesiology". She and Wilson enjoyed their after Festal Banquet discussion too on their shared interest.

It's also appropriate to bring up this post-Covid aspect because this year all our speakers could attend and arrive on time (in spite of the FAA shut down earlier in the week). Last year Rod Dreher HAD Covid and could not even offer his presentations via Zoom (laryngitis!). Nevertheless everything went well last year: we just all stayed in the Fellowship Hall for all the presentations.

We had competing breakouts this year, with two held in the Cathedral's chapel which I did not attend (described here and here), and two held in the Fellowship Hall, which I did attend (described here and here).

As usual, we had a beautiful Festal Banquet Friday night, with music, including hymns and chants by the St. George Orthodox Cathedral Choir, the story of the saint honored that night, St. Paul of Thebes, a desert hermit whose story we know because St. Anthony of the Desert visited him--and we know the story of that visit because St. Athanasius wrote about in his Life of St. Anthony! The three speakers also presented reflections.

After all that talk of the desert, the only way your table could have dessert after dinner was if someone at the table won a dessert in the raffle!! I won three $!$!$! (Shared one at our table; shared another at a table without a dessert; saved one (cinnamon rolls) for breakfast at the second day of the Symposium.)

We ended the Symposium on Saturday with a panel discussion and then with a special meeting of those Eighth Day Institute members who had attended--with a wine and cheese reception.

As I've said before, the EDI Symposium is a great event, well worth travelling to each Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday Weekend! The Dates and Theme for the 2024 Symposium are already set:

The Dates: January 10 through 13, 2024 (January 10 and 11 for the Pre-Symposium Seminar at the EDI Ladder and January 12 and 13 for the Symposium at St. George Orthodox Cathedral). 

The Theme: "Attend Unto Thyself". At least one speaker is confirmed: Mark Bauerlein of Emory University and First Things

Please bookmark the EDI website, sign up for email updates, and join us--as a member and an attendee--for "Conversations you can't have anywhere else!" with friends you didn't know you had!

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Roland Millare at Eighth Day Books

Last Wednesday, January 18, Eighth Day Books hosted a presentation and book signing by Roland Millare. He was in Wichita for a program at the Spiritual Life Center and wanted to visit Eighth Day Books.

His book--adapted from his dissertation under the director of Matthew Levering--is titled A Living Sacrifice: Liturgy and Eschatology in Joseph Ratzinger which

. . .  focuses on the inherent relationship between eschatology and the liturgy in light of Ratzinger’s insistence upon the primacy of logos over ethos. When logos is subordinated to ethos, the human person becomes subjected to a materialist ontology that leads to an ethos that is concerned above all by utility and progress, which affects one’s approach to understanding the liturgy and eschatology. How a person celebrates the liturgy becomes subject to the individual whim of one person or a group of people. Eschatology is reduced to addressing the temporal needs of a society guided by a narrow conception of hope or political theology. If the human person wants to understand his authentic sacramental logos, then he must first turn to Christ the incarnate Logos, who reveals to him that he is created for a loving relationship with God and others.

The primacy of logos is the central hermeneutical key to understanding the unique vision of Ratzinger’s Christocentric liturgical theology and eschatology. This is coupled with a study of Ratzinger’s spiritual Christology with a focus on how it influences his theology of liturgy and eschatology through the notions of participation and communion in Christ’s sacrificial love. Finally, A Living Sacrifice examines Ratzinger’s theology of hope, charity, and beauty, as well as his understanding of active participation in relationship to the eschatological and cosmic characteristics of the sacred liturgy.

I had seen the book before at Eighth Day Books and commented that the cover, featuring one of Fra Angelico's paintings of the Last Judgment, was a major selling point! It has been added to my growing pile of books to read, received since my birthday and Christmas last month, although I have read the introduction, so I've jumped the gun. I purchased it with a Christmas gift certificate. Several copies are available at the store!

One highlight of the evening was that the author brought his copy of my book all the way from Houston for me to sign--he autographed my copy of his book, and I autographed his copy of mine, which, by the way, is also available at Eighth Day Books! 

We had a good turnout (I'd sent a blurb to the editor of the Catholic Advance for the weekly e-mail newsletter, and the Theology Department at Newman University promoted it too!) 

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Some Recent Newman Blog Posts from Father Velez

In the wake of Pope Benedict XVI's death on December 31, 2022, Father Juan Velez has been posting some interesting commentary on connections between the late Pope Emeritus and Saint John Henry Newman. The first I'd like to highlight also includes Pope Saint John Paul II, all on Faith and Reason (Fides et Ratio):

Since the sixteenth century there has often been a mistaken understanding and confrontation between faith and reason. John Henry Newman, Carol Wojtyla and Joseph Ratzinger are among the outstanding modern Christian thinkers who have best explained the correct relationship between faith and reason. These authors dealt with the problem of skepticism and moral relativism in culture, philosophy and religion.

In the mid-nineteenth century, John Henry Newman, delivered a series of sermons on the subject of faith and reason.These are known as his Oxford University Sermons. In these sermons Newman defends the rational nature of faith. For him the act of faith involves an act of reason. In other words, the faith is something which does not contradict reason but which reaches beyond the limits of reason. In one of the sermons, Newman explains: “(Thus) Faith is the reasoning of a religious mind, or of what Scripture calls a right or renewed heart, which acts upon presumptions rather than evidence, which speculates and ventures on the future when it cannot make sure of it.” The certainty of human faith is based on the confluence of many associations, perceptions and antecedent beliefs. But religious faith is based on God’s revelation of himself rather than human evidences obtained from the material sciences. . . .

Please read the rest there.

The second is about Pope Benedict XVI and Saint John Henry Newman on the Roman Rite of the Catholic Mass, which includes a discussion of Benedict XVI's Summorum Pontificum:

It is clear then that Newman found beauty and solace in the Mass. It is because of this very understanding that Pope Benedict sought to clarify his position regarding this venerable Mass of Newman’s time and the post-Conciliar Mass of Paul VI. He made it one of his priorities to introduce the ‘hermeneutic of continuity’ to show that the pre-conciliar liturgy of the 1962 Missal is the same liturgy as the Roman Missal of Pope Paul VI. For this reason, he termed the, Traditional Latin Mass “The Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite” and the post conciliar Mass of Paul VI he termed “The Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite.” As Bishop Conley of Nebraska wrote, “Pope Benedict desired the traditions to harmonize … so the cross-pollination could take place; the very best of the reforms of the post-conciliar liturgy could be enhanced and influenced, by an open, unbiased acceptance of the Mass that preceded it.” Pope Benedict described his goal of a slow and gradual process that was meant to begin with Summorum Pontificum and could eventually result in a “mutual enrichment” of the two forms.

Newman’s love for Mass is evident, writes Fr. Michael Lang, of the Oratory of St. Philip Neri in London. He notes that Newman’s love for the Mass is evident in his novel Loss and Gain: The Story of a Convert, published anonymously in 1848. In this novel, there are descriptions of Mass and Benediction by the Catholic converts Willis and Reding, which are autobiographical. Fr. Lang writes that we know of Newman’s love of the Roman Breviary before his conversion, since he prayed the Divine Office daily at Littlemore. This prayer of the Church was very influential in his subsequent conversion. (quoted from “St. John Henry Newman and the Liturgy“ in Adoremus Bulletin).

At the end of that article, Father Velez directs readers to a chapter in a new book about Newman, edited by Father Velez and published by Catholic University of America Press: A Guide to John Henry Newman: His Life and Thought (I'll certainly have to wait for the paperback!)

One of my most treasured memories is the day Mark and I watched the Mass on September 19, 2010, when Pope Benedict XVI beatified John Henry Newman. We had watched as many of the events on EWTN as we could, and I obtained the official record of the State Visit (cover pictured above)! After the Mass and the commentary on EWTN concluded, my recorded episode with Doug Keck aired on EWTN's Bookmark!

Friday, January 6, 2023

SRMS Preview: Newman on the Season of Epiphany

Resuming and completing our Advent/Christmas reflections based on sermons selected and edited by Christopher O. Blum in Waiting for Christ: Meditations for Advent and Christmas, I'll be on the Son Rise Morning Show on Monday, January 9, 2023! (Trying to get used to that new year number.) Anna Mitchell or Matt Swaim and I will discuss Newman's Parochial and Plain Sermon from January 17, 1841, "The Season of Epiphany".

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!

Our liturgical calendar this year according to the 1970/2002 revisions of the Roman Calendar makes it a little difficult to see the Season of Epiphany. The "Epiphany of the Lord" is traditionally represented by three events: the Visit of Magi, the Baptism of the Lord, and the Marriage Feast of Cana.

The feast of Epiphany was moved from January 6 to the Sunday celebration on January 8, and this year, we celebrate the feast of The Baptism of Jesus on Monday, January 9, instead of the following Sunday! And this liturgical year (B for the Sunday readings; only Year C for Sunday readings includes that Gospel), we won't read about the Marriage Feast of Cana, to which Newman alludes in the verse for this sermon:

"This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth His glory; and His disciples believed on Him." (John 2:11)

Newman begins with a review of the how the liturgical year helps us reflect on the Life of Christ:

THE Epiphany is a season especially set apart for adoring the glory of Christ. The word may be taken to mean the manifestation of His glory, and leads us to the contemplation of Him as a King upon His throne in the midst of His court, with His servants around Him, and His guards in attendance. At Christmas we commemorate His grace; and in Lent His temptation; and on Good Friday His sufferings and death; and on Easter Day His victory; and on Holy Thursday His return to the Father; and in Advent we anticipate His second coming. And in all of these seasons He does something, or suffers something: but in the Epiphany and the weeks after it, we celebrate Him, not as on His field of battle, or in His solitary retreat, but as an august and glorious King; we view Him as the Object of our worship. 

He does focus on the visit of the Magi and there places Jesus on His earthly throne, His mother's lap:

Then only, during His whole earthly history, did He fulfil the type of Solomon, and held (as I may say) a court, and received the homage of His subjects; viz. when He was an infant. His throne was His undefiled Mother's arms; His chamber of state was a cottage or a cave; the worshippers were the wise men of the East, and they brought presents, gold, frankincense, and myrrh. All around and about Him seemed of earth, except to the eye of faith; one note alone had He of Divinity. As great men of this world are often plainly dressed, and look like other men, all but as having some one costly ornament on their breast or on their brow; so the Son of Mary in His lowly dwelling, and in an infant's form, was declared to be the Son of God Most High, the Father of Ages, and the Prince of Peace, by His star; a wonderful appearance which had guided the wise men all the way from the East, even unto Bethlehem.

And Newman continues that theme of Our Lord's majesty being manifested mostly during His early years--before and after His birth--in the Incarnation and Infancy:

The only display of royal greatness, the only season of majesty, homage, and glory, which our Lord had on earth, was in His infancy and youth. Gabriel's message to Mary was in its style and manner such as befitted an Angel speaking to Christ's Mother. Elisabeth, too, saluted Mary, and the future Baptist his hidden Lord, in the same honourable way. Angels announced His birth, and the shepherds worshipped. A star appeared, and the wise men rose from the East and made Him offerings. He was brought to the temple, and Simeon took Him in His arms, and returned thanks for Him. He grew to twelve years old, and again He appeared in the temple, and took His seat in the midst of the doctors. But here His earthly majesty had its end, or if seen afterwards, it was but now and then, by glimpses and by sudden gleams, but with no steady sustained light, and no diffused radiance. . . .

[Here we might think of the Transfiguration as one of those glimpses or gleams, but even that glorious event was a secret to be shared by the three Apostles until after His Passion and Resurrection--His exodus as St. Luke's Gospel describes what Jesus, Moses, and Elijah are discussing.]

We are told at the close of the last-mentioned narrative, "And He went down with His parents, and came to Nazareth, and was subjected unto them." (Luke 2:51) His subjection and servitude now began in fact. He had come in the form of a servant, and now He took on Him a servant's office. How much is contained in the idea of His subjection! and it began, and His time of glory ended, when He was twelve years old.

After introducing the example of King Solomon above, Newman emphasizes the difference between that King of Israel and the King of the World:

Solomon, the great type of the Prince of Peace, reigned forty years, and his name and greatness was known far and wide through the East. Joseph, the much-loved son of Jacob, who in an earlier age of the Church, was a type of Christ in His kingdom, was in power and favour eighty years, twice as long as Solomon. But Christ, the true Revealer of secrets, and the Dispenser of the bread of life, the true wisdom and majesty of the Father, manifested His glory but in His early years, and then the Sun of Righteousness was clouded. For He was not to reign really, till He left the world. He has reigned ever since; nay, reigned in the world, though He is not in sensible presence in it—the invisible King of a visible kingdom—for He came on earth but to show what His reign would be, after He had left it, and to submit to suffering and dishonour, that He might reign.

Remember that when Our Lord spoke of the lilies of the field, he contrasted their glories with Solomon's: "Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they labour not, neither do they spin. But I say to you, that not even Solomon in all his glory was arrayed as one of these." (Matthew 6:28-29)

As always, Newman offers a conclusion to apply what he's elucidated to his congregation. He reminds us that if Our Lord enjoyed but a brief time of glory and majesty, and then submitted to a life of obedience not just to His Heavenly Father's Will but to his earthly parents' wills, we have to follow His pattern and be grateful for the seasons of His Life and our own:

For all seasons we must thank Him, for time of sorrow and time of joy, time of warfare and time of peace. And the more we thank Him for the one, the more we shall be drawn to thank Him for the other. Each has its own proper fruit, and its own peculiar blessedness. Yet our mortal flesh shrinks from the one, and of itself prefers the other;—it prefers rest to toil, peace to war, joy to sorrow, health to pain and sickness. When then Christ gives us what is pleasant, let us take it as a refreshment by the way, that we may, when God calls, go in the strength of that meat forty days and forty nights unto Horeb, the mount of God. Let us rejoice in Epiphany with trembling, that after the Baptism we may go into the vineyard with the labourers with cheerfulness, and may sorrow in Lent with thankfulness; let us rejoice now, not as if we have attained, but in hope of attaining. Let us take our present happiness, not as our true rest, but, as what the land of Canaan was to the Israelites,—a type and shadow of it. If we now enjoy God's ordinances, let us not cease to pray that they may prepare us for His presence hereafter. If we enjoy the presence of friends, let them remind us of the communion of saints before His throne. Let us trust in nothing here, yet draw hope from every thing—that at length the Lord may be our everlasting light, and the days of our mourning may be ended.

Newman is advising us to enter into the rhythms of the Liturgical Year as a way of persevering through the seasons of our own lives: times of anticipation; times of fulfillment. He contrasts the times of feasting and celebration with the times of fasting and sorrow--and even reminds us of the ultimate change of season: from our earthly life to everlasting life. Newman loved his friends and family on earth but knows he has even greater friends and family in the communion of saints, and offers us that consolation.

Saint John Henry Newman, pray for us!

Image Credit (Public Domain): Gerard David, "Adoration of the Magi".

Image Credit (Public Domain): "Solomon and the plan for the First Temple." Illustration from a Bible card

Tuesday, January 3, 2023

Book Review: Lead Kindly Light: Essays for Ian Ker

One thing reading this book has done is help me decide what to read next. While I'll continue to dip in to read a chapter from Mary Katherine Tillman's John Henry Newman: Man of Letters, after reading the penultimate essay in this book New Years Eve, Stephen Morgan's "The Combat of Truth and Error: Newman and Chesterton on Heresy", I know I'll pick up Matthew Levering's Newman on Doctrinal Corruption next.

I have too many stars beside the 18 essays and articles in Lead Kindly Light to discuss them all. Of course, I appreciated the three biographical offerings in the first section, "Along the Way of Life: Reminiscences", especially Bishop James Conley's, since he was our pastor at both the Newman Center at WSU and at Blessed Sacrament.

Of "The Trinity of Cardinals", I enjoyed hearing the "voice" of Cardinal Pell so clearly in his contribution, adapted from his Saint Thomas More Lecture in Oxford in November of 2021.

All four essays in the "Some Devotional Theology" section were excellent: Father Geissler, FSO on Newman's appreciation of the great charisms of Saint Paul, Father Beaumont, CO, on Newman's patron as an Oratorian, St. Philip Neri; Sister Dietz, FSO (another Newman scholar Bishop Conley brought to Wichita, and who returned to give a Newman Lecture at Newman University several years later; she also met me, my late husband Mark and the late Father William Carr at one of the fountains on St. Peters's Square in 2002 to lead us to the bus for a visit to the Newman Centre of the Spiritual Family the Work in Rome!!) on Newman's growth in belief and devotion to the Holy Eucharist; and Father Jones, OP, tracing Newman's exploration of Mary, the Mother of God, as the New Eve.

In the "Man of Letters" section, the only essay I thought lacked a certain focus was Father James Reidy's on Newman and Henry James, explaining how both Newman and James were ambivalent about the virtues of the "gentleman" and how a gentleman practices those virtues with all their limitations. I was already familiar with Edward Short's works on Newman and Gibbon from other sources (Newman and History, for example). Andrew Nash corrects another canard about Newman that it was only once Newman became a Catholic that he wielded the weapon of satire with his pen. And, speaking of satire, Serenhedd James surveys how the magazine Punch treated Newman through the years.

Both articles in the "Contributions to the Academy" section (Andrew Meszaros on "A Philosophical Habit of Mind: Newman and the University" and Paul Shrimpton on "Newman and the Idea of a Tutor") helped me understand Newman's Idea of a University and his vision for a university tutor better. I think too often Newman's famous vision of a university is taken merely as a plea for a "liberal arts education", but Meszaros reminded me that an important part of Newman's work is to form a habit of mind and an ability to think about issues clearly. Meszaros' seven principles on which to found a philosophical habit of mind are very helpful. For examples, the first three:

1. Reality is intelligible.
2. The intellect is made for reality and capable of knowledge of the whole.
3. Truth does not contradict truth. (see pages 258-259

Paul Shrimpton's essays reveals how Newman wanted a tutor--at both Oriel in Oxford and the Catholic University in Dublin--to guide his students individually in their studies, helping each student in the way the particular student needed; more guidance for slower students, teaching them how to study, hear lectures, read and write academically, etc., while more adept students needed encouragement in other ways. Perhaps they needed help to avoid what Newman even had to repent of, valuing intellectual excellence above all else, even moral excellence and growth.

I've already mentioned how Stephen Morgan's essay encouraged me to pick Levering's book next--for certainly "doctrinal corruptions" are a form of heresy, are they not?--but the late Father Dermot Fenlon's bracing "De-Christianizing England: Newman, Mill, and the Stationary State" is also a great reminder of how Newman's lifelong battle against liberalism, which always becomes a form of tyranny even as it pretends to toleration and diversity, offers us a guide in our century for remaining true to nature, reality, and the Catholic Faith which helps us understand them. I only regret that my decision to read Levering's book next puts off my reading of Fenlon on Cardinal Pole. But I've already moved my Newman holy card/bookmark to the next book; the die is cast!

Highly recommended as both a tribute to Father Ian Ker, may he rest in peace, and Saint John Henry Newman, may he pray for us! 

Please note that I purchased this book at Eighth Day Books.

Monday, January 2, 2023

Pope Benedict XVI, RIP

I woke up early Saturday morning December 31 because I intended to go to daily Mass for the seventh day of the Christmas Octave and the last day of the year 2022 and heard the BBC announce Pope Benedict XVI's death. My Facebook feed was filling up with posts about his death before and after I attended Mass at Saint Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church, where we prayed for the repose of his soul and witnessed a young boy receiving the Sacrament of Confirmation (thus, sotto voce renewing my Baptismal Promises!! as he did). I saw a friend who looked most disconsolate, but later saw his Facebook post to friends, mentioning that it was hard in a way to reconcile this grief at Benedict XVI's death with the grief he'd felt on February 11, 2013, when Pope Benedict resigned.

And that reminded me of that day, when I was all set to talk to Brian Patrick (then the host of the show)on the Son Rise Morning Show about Shrovetide, Confession, pancakes and pancake races. Then producer Matt Swaim emailed me with a change in topic: we would instead discuss Pope Benedict and the English Reformation, highlighting the September 2010 visit to Scotland and England, the establishment of the Anglican Ordinariate, and the beatification of John Henry Newman--all the ways Benedict had tried to heal the wounds of the sixteenth century. 


Later on Saturday, December 31, 2022, I attended the 4:00 p.m. Vigil Mass at Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church (my home parish since April of 1991), which was a special Mass for the closing of our diocesan year of Eucharistic Revival. Blessed Sacrament had been the designated pilgrimage church/shrine for the diocese throughout 2022. A portrait of Pope Benedict had been placed, most appropriately, beside the Saint Joseph shrine (with the three kings still prepared to visit Jesus, Mary, and Joseph in the Nativity Scene in front of the shrine to the Madonna).

Bishop Carl Kemme offered the Mass for the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, and of course mentioned Pope Benedict's death, offered prayers for the repose of his soul, etc. In the midst of his sermon, Bishop Kemme reviewed his efforts, through exhortations to the priests and the faithful of the diocese, to renew our knowledge and devotion to the Blessed Sacrament during the past year. In the course of his sermon, he exhorted us to read or re-read Pope Benedict XVI's Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation of February 22, 2007, Sacramentum Caritatis, to the Bishops, Clergy, Consecrated Persons and the Lay Faithful On the Eucharist as the Source and Summit of the Church's Life and Mission.

So I'm searching for my copy today!

Eternal rest grant unto to him, O Lord, and let the Perpetual Light shine upon him. May the soul of Joseph Aloysius Ratzinger, Pope Benedict XVI, and all the souls of the faithful departed, rest in peace. May he rest in peace. Amen.