Liberty

Our Lady of the Holy Rosary holy card, Maison Bouasse-Lebel, 19th century.

I am quite unable to understand the fuss made by High Church people on this matter. To begin with, what have they got to do with it? No one asks them to use our devotions, although a great many do use them, expurgated, revised, and corrected. Our friends seem to be under the impression that every Catholic is supposed to know about, to possess, and to use, every book of prayers or meditations published by any other Catholic. One might as well assert that every Anglican is bound to buy, and use, all devotional books found in Masters’ shop in Bond-street. A great many Catholics get on very comfortably without any books at all, and this for the simple and sufficient reason that they cannot read. And a great many more cannot afford to purchase such books, and are content with one Prayer Book, such as the Garden of the Soul. I myself, outside Mass and Office, am content with it, and use the copy given to me by an Italian priest at Benares in 1861. Outsiders seem ignorant of our freedom in such matters. The late Canon Oakeley, in his reply to the Eirenicon (which was published before that of Newman), pointed this out. Dr. Pusey would stipulate, said Oakeley, exemption from the obligation of adopting certain expressions of devotion towards the Blessed Virgin, but, added the Canon, “were he [Pusey] one of ourselves, he would come to know” that “no such obligation rests upon” Catholics. “I do not think,” said Oakeley, “that those who are external to us, have any just idea of the room which is allowed us for the free play of personal preferences, which do not clash either in form or spirit with the faith of the Church. . .” And, again “. . . Nothing that I know of would involve in well-grounded suspicion of disloyalty to the Church a Catholic who, while placing no restriction on the liberty of others, should as a matter of taste prefer the more measured language of our Liturgy and Offices on the subject in question, to that in which more ardent temperaments . . . might find a more congenial expression of their devotion.” And Father Lockhart reminded Pusey that the Church tolerated any amount of bad taste. How, indeed, could an Universal Church made up of all nations, peoples, and tongues, do otherwise ? When Pusey complained of a well-known book, The Glories of Mary, Newman replied that he had never read it. I have never read, and have never seen it but once in my life. Others may derive great edification from it, hut what Catholic supposes that every Catholic is obliged to acquire it, or use it ? And with regard to a foreign writer named Oswald, from whom Pusey quoted, neither Newman nor Oakeley had ever heard his name, and it turned out that the book to which Pusey objected had been for some years on the Roman Index.

Oakeley, too, pointed out that the most customary and popular of all devotions connected with our Lady are the Angelus and the Rosary, and added: “It is on this type, rather than on that of the ‘Glories of Mary’ that the ideas of our people are formed.” Pusey found great fault with some of Faber’s writings, and, for myself; I have, possibly to my great loss, never been able to read Faber, although I know that his writings have afforded, and afford, great spiritual edification to countless numbers of Catholics. Not only so, but to many non-Catholics. One Anglican vicar, an intimate friend of my own, must by this time know all Faber’s books nearly by heart. And I recollect, many years ago, lending The Creator and the Creature to a staunch Presbyterian lady who, after a time, sent me a new copy of the book, saying she should keep the old one, as she derived so much spiritual profit from its perusal.

When I lived in Kensington, I met one day in the Cromwell-road an old Oxford friend, an Anglican clergyman. I invited him to accompany me to Benediction at the Oratory, but he declined, not because he objected to Benediction, but because he disliked the Litany of Loreto. I remarked that, if he were a Catholic, he would be quite free to say any prayers he pleased during Benediction, and if he should prefer other devotions to the Litany, when sung, he could substitute such, just as we often see people telling their beads, or clergymen saying office, while the Benediction service is going on. Once, in a country house in Yorkshire, I had as fellow-guest the late Father Jerome Vaughan, and one Sunday after Benediction someone asked him if he liked the music used? To which he replied that he had not paid attention to it, as he had been engaged in asking a particular favour from St. Joseph. Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty, and Catholics in Popular Devotions are not tied and bound to the frigid formalism of the excellent English of the Book of Common Prayer.

The Tablet, 1 January 1898, p. 9.

Morality, Chivalry, and the Sense of Truth

Critics of public-school religion really belong to two quite different groups—those who believe in the kind of religion which public schools try to instil, and regret their failure, in so far as they do fail, to instil it, and those who, believing in a different form of religion, whether Catholicism or an Anglicanism assimilated to it, tend to rejoice in the failure of the public schools, as becomes those possessed of an infallible remedy for such defects. I think, then, it should be said at the outset that public schools are trying to teach the sons of gentlemen a religion in which their mothers believe, and their fathers would like to: a religion without “enthusiasm” in the old sense, reserved in its self-expression, calculated to reinforce morality, chivalry, and the sense of truth, providing comfort in times of distress and a glow of contentment in declining years; supernatural in its nominal doctrines, yet on the whole rationalistic in its mode of approaching God: tolerant of other people’s tenets, yet sincere about its own, regular in church-going, generous to charities, ready to put up with the defects of the local clergyman. This religion the schoolmaster is under contract to teach; it is left to him, if he be a sincere Christian, to attempt the grafting on to this stock of supernatural graces which it does not naturally develop—self-sacrifice, lively devotion, worthy reception of the Communion, and so on. That is the proposition.

Now, here is no question of what could or what could not be done if all school chapels were furnished and managed like (let us say) St. Alban’s, Holborn. That is not the religion which the vast majority of parents want, and the vast majority of schoolmasters personally believe in. To attempt the consolation of the schoolmaster by pointing out to him the advantages of an elaborate ceremonial and strongly Sacramental doctrines, is like addressing a lecture on aviation to a shipwrecked sailor treading water in mid-ocean:

Nihil iste nec ausus
Nec potuit,

it is not his business.

On the other hand, it is true that there is a sense in which Catholicism can be taught, and ordinary Anglicanism cannot. For Anglicanism, generally speaking, is not a system of religion nor a body of truth, but a feeling, a tradition, its roots intertwined with associations of national history and of family life; you do not learn it, you grow into it; you do not forget it, you grow out of it. And if I were asked what was the best way of perpetuating this tradition among boys between the ages of twelve and eighteen, I would say, “Have a chapel of good architectural proportions, decently decorated; shorten the Anglican service for daily use; sing plenty of hymns, carefully selected; associate, as far as possible, the school with the school chapel; encourage the idea that its influence hallows school friendships, consecrates school triumphs; let the preaching be patriotic, but not Jingo, about the country, the Church, the school itself. Let confirmation be a public, not a hole-and-corner act; spare no effort to invest the Communion service with an air of special aloofness and sanctity.” It need hardly be said that this is exactly what public schools do. And the trouble is that it does not fail; it succeeds. It succeeds only too well.

— Ronald Knox, A Spiritual Aeneid, London, 1918.