10. Pope Liberius

WHEN Arianism broke out, it was Athanasius and the Egyptians who were "faithful found among the faithless;" even the Infallible See ... [was] not happy in the man who filled it. Liberius ... anathematized Athanasius on a point on which Athanasius was right and Liberius was {188} wrong. [But] it is astonishing to me how any one can fancy that Liberius, in subscribing the Arian confessions, promulgated them ex cathedrā, considering he was not his own master when he signed them, and that they were not his drawing up. Who would say that it would be a judgment of the Queen's Bench, or a judicial act of any kind, if ribbon-men in Ireland seized on one of her Majesty's judges, hurried him into the wilds of Connemara, and there made him, under terror of his life, sign a document in the very teeth of an award which he had lately made in court in a question of property. Surely for an ex cathedrā decision of the Pope is required his formal initiation of it, his authorship in its wording, and his utterance amid his Court, with solemnities parallel to those of an Ecumenical Council. It is not a transaction that can be done in his travelling dress, in some hedge-side inn, or town-tavern, or imperial servants'-hall. Liberius' subscription can only claim a Nag's Head's sort of infallibility. ("Hist. Sketches," vol. II. p. 340.)

11. Death of St. Gregory VII.

"ON the 25th of May, 1085, he peacefully closed his earthly career; just rallying strength, amid the exhaustion of his powers, to utter, with his departing breath, the words, 'I have loved justice and hated iniquity; and therefore I die in exile.'

"In exile!' said a prelate who stood by his bed, ... in exile thou canst not die! Vicar of Christ and His Apostles, thou hast received the nations for thine inheritance, {189} and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.'"—Vol. ii., pp. 322, 324. [Note 1]

Gregory thought he had failed: so it is; often a cause seems to decline as its champion grows in years, and to die in his death; but this is to judge hastily; others are destined to complete what he began. No man is given to see his work through. "Man goeth forth unto his work and to his labour until the evening," but the evening falls before it is done. There was One alone who began and finished and died. ("Essay Crit. and Hist.", vol. II. p. 316.)

12. Rome and Constantinople in 1566

ST. PIUS V. became Pope in 1566, and Selim became Sultan in that very same year. What a strange contrast did Rome and Constantinople present at that era! Neither was what it had been. But they had changed in opposite directions. Both had been the seat of Imperial Power; Rome, where heresy never throve, had exchanged its Emperor for the succession of St. Peter and St. Paul; Constantinople had passed from secular supremacy into schism, and thence into a blasphemous apostasy. The unhappy city, which, with its subject provinces had been successively the seat of Arianism, of Nestorianism, of Photianism, now had become the metropolis of the false Prophet; and, while in the West, the great edifice of the Vatican Basilica was rising anew in its wonderful proportions and its costly materials, the Temple of St. Sophia in {190} the East was degraded into a Mosque! O the strange contrast in the state of the inhabitants of each place! Here, in the city of Constantine, a God-denying misbelief was accompanied by an impure, man-degrading rule of life, by the slavery of woman, and the corruption of youth. But there, in the city which Apostles had consecrated with their blood, the great and true reformation of the age was in full progress. There, the determinations in doctrine and discipline of the great Council of Trent had lately been promulgated. There, for twenty years past, had laboured our own dear saint, St. Philip, till he earned the title of Apostle of Rome, and yet had still nearly thirty years of life and work in him. There, too, the romantic royal-minded saint, Ignatius Loyola, had but lately died. And there, when the Holy See fell vacant, and a Pope had to be appointed in the great need of the Church, a Saint was present in the Conclave to find in it a brother Saint, and to recommend him for the Chair of St. Peter, to the suffrages of the Fathers and Princes of the Church. ("Hist. Sketches," vol. I., p. 150.)

13.The Election of St. Pius V.

ST. CARLO BORROMEO, the Cardinal Archbishop of Milan, was the nephew of the Pope who was just dead, and though he was only twenty-five years of age at the time, nevertheless, by the various influences arising out of the position which he held, and from the weight attached to his personal character, he might be considered to sway the votes of the College of Cardinals, and to determine the election of a new Pontiff. It is remarkable that Cardinal {191} Alessandrino, as St. Pius was then called (from Alexandria in North Italy, near which he was born), was not the first object of his choice. His eyes were first turned on Cardinal Morone, who was in many respects the most illustrious of the Sacred College, and had served the Church on various occasions with great devotion, and with distinguished success. From his youth he had been reared up in public affairs; he had held many public offices, he had great influence with the German Emperor; he had been Apostolical Legate at the Council of Trent. He had great virtue, judgment, experience, and sagacity. Such, then, was the choice of St. Carlo, and the votes were taken; but it seemed otherwise to the Holy Ghost. He wanted four to make up the sufficient number of votes. St. Carlo had to begin again; and again, strange to say, the Cardinal Alessandrino still was not his choice. He chose Cardinal Sirleto, a man most opposite in character and history to Morone. He was not nobly born, he was no man of the world, he had ever been urgent with the late Pope not to make him Cardinal. He was a first-rate scholar in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin; versed in the Scriptures, ready as a theologian. Moreover, he was of a character most unblemished, of most innocent life, and of manners most popular and winning. St. Pius, as well as St. Carlo, advocated the cause of Cardinal Sirleto, and the votes were given a second time; a second time they came short. It was like holy Samuel choosing Eliab instead of David. Then matters were in confusion; one name and another were mentioned, and no progress was made.

At length and at last, and not till all others were thought of who could enter into the minds of the electors, the Cardinal Alessandrino himself began to attract attention. He seems not to have been known to the Fathers of the Conclave in general; a Dominican Friar, of humble rank, {192} ever taken up in the duties of his rule and his special employments, living in his cell, knowing little or nothing of mankind. Such a one St. Carlo, the son of a prince and the nephew of a Pope, had no means of knowing; and the intimacy, consequent on their cooperation in behalf of Cardinal Sirleto, was the first real introduction which the one Saint had to the other. It was just at this moment that our own St. Philip was in his small room at St. Girolamo, with Marcello Ferro, one of his spiritual children, when, lifting up his eyes to heaven, and going almost into an ecstasy, he said, "The Pope will be elected on Monday." On one of the following days, as they were walking together, Marcello asked him who was to be Pope. Philip answered, "Come, I will tell you. The Pope will be one whom you have never thought of, and whom no one has spoken of as likely; and that is Cardinal Alessandrino; and he will be elected on Monday evening without fail." The event accomplished the prediction; the statesman and the man of the world, the accomplished and exemplary and amiable scholar, were put aside to make way for the Saint. He took the name of Pius.

I am far from denying that St. Pius was stern and severe, as far as a heart burning within, and melting with the fulness of divine love, could be so; and this was the reason that the Conclave was so slow in electing him. Yet such energy and vigour as his was necessary for his times. He was emphatically a soldier of Christ, in a time of insurrection and rebellion, when, in a spiritual sense, martial law was proclaimed. St. Philip, a private priest, might follow his bent in casting his net for souls, as he expressed himself, and enticing them to the truth; but the Vicar of Christ had to right and to steer the vessel when it was in rough waters, and among breakers. A Protestant historian on this point does justice to him. "When Pope," he says, {193} "he lived in all the austerity of his monastic life, fasted with the utmost rigour and punctuality, would wear no finer garments than before, … arose at an extremely early hour in the morning, and took no siesta. If we doubted the depth of his religious earnestness, we may find a proof of it in his declaration, that the Papacy was unfavourable to his advance in piety; that it did not contribute to his salvation, and to his attainment of Paradise; and that, but for prayer, the burden had been too heavy for him. The happiness of a fervent devotion, which often moved him to tears, was granted him to the end of his life. The people were excited to enthusiasm when they saw him walking in procession, barefooted and bareheaded, with the expression of unaffected piety in his countenance, and with his long snow-white beard falling on his breast. They thought there had never been so pious a Pope. They told each other how his very look had converted heretics. Pius was kind, too, and affable; his intercourse with his old servants was of the most confidential kind. At a former period, before he was Pope, the Count della Trinitą had threatened to have him thrown into a well, and he had replied, that it must be as God pleased. How beautiful was his greeting to this same Count, who was now sent as ambassador to his court! 'See,' said he, when he recognized him, 'how God preserves the innocent.' This was the only way in which he made him feel that he recollected his enmity. He had ever been most charitable and bounteous; he kept a list of the poor of Rome, whom he regularly assisted according to their station and their wants." The writer, after proceeding to condemn what he considers his severity, ends thus: "It is certain that his deportment and mode of thinking exercised an incalculable influence on his contemporaries, and on the general development of the Church of which he was the head. After so {194} many circumstances had concurred to excite and foster a religious spirit, after so many resolutions and measures had been taken to exalt it to universal dominion, a Pope like this was needed, not only to proclaim it to the world, but also to reduce it to practice. His zeal and his example combined produced the most powerful effect." [Note 2] ("Hist. Sketches," vol. I., p. 150.)

14. The Battle of Lepanto

IT is not to be supposed that a Saint on whom lay the "solicitude of all the Churches" should neglect the tradition, which his predecessors of so many centuries had bequeathed to him, of zeal and hostility against the Turkish power. He was only six years on the Pontifical throne, and the achievement of which I am going to speak was among his last; he died the following year. At this time the Ottoman armies were continuing their course of victory; they had just taken Cyprus, with the active cooperation of the Greek population of the island, and were massacring the Latin nobility and clergy, and mutilating and flaying alive the Venetian governor. Yet the Saint found it impossible to move Christendom to its own defence. How, indeed, was that to be done, when half Christendom had become Protestant, and secretly, perhaps, felt as the Greeks felt, that the Turk was its friend and ally? In such a quarrel, England, France, and Germany were out of the question. At length, however, with great effort, he succeeded in {195} forming a holy league between himself, King Philip of Spain, and the Venetians. Don John, of Austria, King Philip's half brother, was appointed commander-in-chief of the forces, and Colonna admiral. The treaty was signed on the 24th of May; but such was the cowardice and jealousy of the parties concerned, that the autumn had arrived, and nothing of importance was accomplished. With difficulty were the armies united; with difficulty were the dissensions of the commanders brought to a settlement. Meanwhile, the Ottomans were scouring the Gulf of Venice, blockading the ports, and terrifying the city itself.

But the holy Pope was securing the success of his cause by arms of his own, which the Turks understood not. He had been appointing a Triduo of supplication at Rome, and had taken part in the procession himself. He had proclaimed a jubilee to the whole Christian world, for the happy issue of the war. He had been interesting the Holy Virgin in his cause. He presented to his admiral, after High Mass in his chapel, a standard of red damask, embroidered with a crucifix, and with the figures of St. Peter and St. Paul, and the legend, In hoc signo vinces. Next, sending to Messina, where the allied fleet lay, he assured the general-in-chief and the armament, that "if, relying on divine, rather than on human help, they attacked the enemy, God would not be wanting to His own cause. He augured a prosperous and happy issue; not on any light or random hope, but on a divine guidance, and by the anticipations of many holy men." Moreover, he enjoined the officers to look to the good conduct of their troops; to repress swearing, gaming, riot, and plunder, and thereby to render them more deserving of victory. Accordingly, a fast of three days was proclaimed for the fleet, beginning with the Nativity of Our Lady; all the men went to confession and communion, and appropriated to themselves the plentiful {196} indulgences which the Pope attached to the expedition. Then they moved across the foot of Italy to Corfu, with the intention of presenting themselves at once to the enemy; being disappointed in their expectations, they turned back to the Gulf of Corinth; and there at length, on the 7th of October, they found the Turkish fleet, half way between Lepanto and the Echinades on the North, and Patras in the Morea, on the South; and, though it was towards evening, strong in faith and zeal, they at once commenced the engagement.

The night before the battle, and the day itself, aged as he was, and broken with a cruel malady, the Saint had passed in the Vatican in fasting and prayer. All through the Holy City the monasteries and the colleges were in prayer too. As the evening advanced, the Pontifical treasurer asked an audience of the Sovereign Pontiff on an important matter. Pius was in his bedroom, and began to converse with him; when suddenly he stopped the conversation, left him, threw open the window, and gazed up into heaven. Then closing it again, he looked gravely at his official, and said, "This is no time for business; go, return thanks to the Lord God. In this very hour our fleet has engaged the Turkish, and is victorious!" As the treasurer went out, he saw him fall on his knees before the altar in thankfulness and joy.

And a most memorable victory it was: upwards of 30,000 Turks are said to have lost their lives in the engagement, and 3,500 were made prisoners. Almost their whole fleet was taken. I quote from Protestant authorities when I say that the Sultan, on the news of the calamity, neither ate, nor drank, nor showed himself, nor saw any one for three days; that it was the greatest blow which the Ottomans had had since Timour's victory over Bajazet, a {197} century and a half before; nay, that it was the turning-point in the Turkish history, and that though the Sultans have had isolated successes since, yet from that day they undeniably and constantly declined, that they have lost their prestige and their self-confidence; and that the victories gained over them since, are but the complements and the reverberations of the overthrow at Lepanto. ("Hist. Sketches," vol. I., p. 155.)

15. The Religious History of England

TIME was when the forefathers of our race were a savage tribe, inhabiting a wild district beyond the limits of this quarter of the earth. Whatever brought them thither, they had no local attachments there or political settlement; they were a restless people, and whether urged forward by enemies or by desire of plunder, they left their place, and passing through the defiles of the mountains on the frontiers of Asia, they invaded Europe, setting out on a journey towards the farther west. Generation after generation passed away, and still this fierce and haughty race moved forward. On, on they went; but travel availed them not; the change of place could bring them no truth, or peace, or hope, or stability of heart; they could not flee from themselves. They carried with them their superstitions and their sins, their gods of iron and of clay, their savage sacrifices, their lawless witchcrafts, their hatred of their kind, and their ignorance of their destiny. At length they buried themselves in the deep forests of Germany, and gave themselves up to indolent repose; but {198} they had not found their rest; they were still heathens, making the fair trees, the primeval work of God, and the innocent beasts of the chase, the objects and the instruments of their idolatrous worship. And, last of all, they crossed over the strait and made themselves masters of this island, and gave their very name to it; so that, whereas it had hitherto been called Britain, the southern part, which was their main seat, obtained the name of England. And now they had proceeded forward nearly as far as they could go, unless they were prepared to look across the great ocean, and anticipate the discovery of the world which lies beyond it.

What, then, was to happen to this restless race, which had sought for happiness and peace across the globe, and had not found it? Was it to grow old in its place, and dwindle away, and consume in the fever of its own heart, which admitted no remedy? or was it to become great by being overcome, and to enjoy the only real life of man, and rise to his only true dignity, by being subjected to a Master's yoke? Did its Maker and Lord see any good thing in it, of which, under His divine nurture, profit might come to His elect, and glory to His name? He looked upon it, and He saw nothing there to claim any visitation of His grace, or to merit any relaxation of the awful penalty which its lawlessness and impiety had incurred. It was a proud race, which feared neither God nor man—a race ambitious, self-willed, obstinate, and hard of belief, which would dare everything, even the eternal pit, if it was challenged to do so. I say, there was nothing there of a nature to reverse the destiny which His righteous decrees have assigned to those who sin wilfully and despise Him. But the Almighty Lover of souls looked once again; and He saw in that poor, forlorn, and ruined nature, which He had in the beginning filled with grace {199} and light, He saw in it, not what merited His favour, not what would adequately respond to His influences, not what was a necessary instrument of His purposes, but what would illustrate and preach abroad His grace, if He took pity on it. He saw in it a natural nobleness, a simplicity, a frankness of character, a love of truth, a zeal for justice, an indignation at wrong, an admiration of purity, a reverence for law, a keen appreciation of the beautifulness and majesty of order, nay, further, a tenderness and an affectionateness of heart, which He knew would become the glorious instruments of His high will, when illuminated and vivified by His supernatural gifts. And so He who, did it so please Him, could raise up children to Abraham out of the very stones of the earth, nevertheless determined in this instance in His free mercy to unite what was beautiful in nature with what was radiant in grace; and, as if those poor Anglo-Saxons had been too fair to be heathen, therefore did He rescue them from the devil's service and the devil's doom, and bring them into the house of His holiness and the mountain of His rest.

It is an old story and a familiar, and I need not go through it. I need not tell you, how suddenly the word of truth came to our ancestors in this island and subdued them to its gentle rule; how the grace of God fell on them, and, without compulsion, as the historian tells us, the multitude became Christian; how, when all was tempestuous, and hopeless, and dark, Christ like a vision of glory came walking to them on the waves of the sea. Then suddenly there was a great calm; a change came over the pagan people in that quarter of the country where the gospel was first preached to them; and from thence the blessed influence went forth; it was poured out over the whole land, till, one and all, the Anglo-Saxon {200} people were converted by it. In a hundred years the work was done; the idols, the sacrifices, the mummeries of paganism flitted away and were not, and the pure doctrine and heavenly worship of the Cross were found in their stead. The fair form of Christianity rose up and grew and expanded like a beautiful pageant from north to south; it was majestic, it was solemn, it was bright, it was beautiful and pleasant, it was soothing to the griefs, it was indulgent to the hopes of man; it was at once a teaching and a worship; it had a dogma, a mystery, a ritual of its own; it had an hierarchical form. A brotherhood of holy pastors, with mitre and crosier and uplifted hand, walked forth and blessed and ruled a joyful people. The crucifix headed the procession, and simple monks were there with hearts in prayer, and sweet chants resounded, and the holy Latin tongue was heard, and boys came forth in white, swinging censers, and the fragrant cloud arose, and mass was sung, and the saints were invoked; and day after day, and in the still night, and over the woody hills and in the quiet plains, as constantly as sun and moon and stars go forth in heaven, so regular and solemn was the stately march of blessed services on earth, high festival, and gorgeous procession, and soothing dirge, and passing bell, and the familiar evening call to prayer: till he who recollected the old pagan time, would think it all unreal that he beheld and heard, and would conclude he did but see a vision, so marvellously was heaven let down upon earth, so triumphantly were chased away the fiends of darkness to their prison below.

Such was the change which came over our forefathers; such was the Religion bestowed upon them, bestowed on them, as a second grant, after the grant of the territory itself; nay, it might almost have seemed as the divine guarantee or pledge of its occupation. And you know its name; {201} there can be no mistake; you know what that Religion was called. It was called by no modern name—for modern religions then were not. You know what religion has priest and sacrifices, and mystical rites, and the monastic rule, and care for the souls of the dead, and the profession of an ancient faith, coming through all ages from the Apostles. There is one, and only one, religion such: it is known everywhere; every poor boy in the street knows the name of it; there never was a time, since it first was, that its name was not known, and known to the multitude. It is called Catholicism—a world-wide name, and incommunicable; attached to us from the first; accorded to us by our enemies; in vain attempted, never stolen from us, by our rivals. Such was the worship which the English people gained when they emerged out of paganism into gospel light. In the history of their conversion, Christianity and Catholicism are one; they are in that history, as they are in their own nature, convertible terms. It was the Catholic faith which that vigorous young race heard and embraced—that faith which is still found, the further you trace back towards the age of the Apostles, which is still visible in the dim distance of the earliest antiquity, and to which the witness of the Church, when investigated even in her first startings and simplest rudiments, "sayeth not the contrary." Such was the religion of the noble English; they knew not heresy; and, as time went on, the work did but sink deeper and deeper into their nature, into their social structure and their political institutions; it grew with their growth, and strengthened with their strength, till a sight was seen—one of the most beautiful which ever has been given to man to see—what was great in the natural order, made greater by its elevation into the supernatural. The two seemed as if made for each other; that natural temperament {202} and that gift of grace; what was heroic, or generous, or magnanimous in nature, found its corresponding place or office in the divine kingdom. Angels in heaven rejoiced to see the divinely wrought piety and sanctity of penitent sinners: Apostles, Popes, and Bishops, long since taken to glory, threw their crowns in transport at the foot of the throne, as saints, and confessors, and martyrs, came forth before their wondering eyes out of a horde of heathen robbers; guardian spirits no longer sighed over the disparity and contrast which had so fearfully intervened between themselves and the souls given to them in change. It did indeed become a peculiar, special people, with a character and genius of its own; I will say a bold thing—in its staidness, sagacity, and simplicity, more like the mind that rules, through all time, the princely line of Roman pontiffs, than perhaps any other Christian people whom the world has seen. And so things went on for many centuries. Generation followed generation; revolution came after revolution; great men rose and fell: there were bloody wars, and invasions, conquests, changes of dynasty, slavery, recoveries, civil dissensions, settlements; Dane and Norman overran the land; and yet all along Christ was upon the waters; and if they rose in fury, yet at His word they fell again and were in calm. The bark of Peter was still the refuge of the tempest-tost, and ever solaced and recruited those whom it rescued from the deep.

But at length a change again came over the land: a thousand years had well-nigh rolled, and this great people grew tired of the heavenly stranger who sojourned among them. They had had enough of blessings and absolutions, enough of the intercession of saints, enough of the grace of the sacraments, enough of the prospect of the next life. They thought it best to secure this life in the first place, because {203} they were in possession of it, and then to go on to the next, if time and means allowed. And they saw that to labour for the next world was possibly to lose this; whereas, to labour for this world might be, for what they knew, the way to labour for the next also. Anyhow, they would pursue a temporal end, and they would account any one their enemy who stood in the way of their pursuing it. It was a madness; but madmen are strong and madmen are clever; so with the sword and the halter, and by mutilation and fine and imprisonment, they cut off, or frightened away from the land, as Israel did in the time of old, the ministers of the Most High, and their ministrations: they "altogether broke the yoke, and burst the bonds." "They beat one, and killed another, and another they stoned," and at length they altogether cast out the Heir from His vineyard, and killed Him, "that the inheritance might be theirs." And as for the remnant of His servants whom they left, they drove them into corners and holes of the earth, and there they bade them die out; and then they rejoiced and sent gifts either to other, and made merry, because they had rid themselves of those "who had tormented them that dwelt upon the earth." And so they turned to enjoy this world, and to gain for themselves a name among men, and it was given unto them according to their wish. They preferred the heathen virtues of their original nature, to the robe of grace which God had given them: they fell back, with closed affections, and haughty reserve, and dreariness within, upon their worldly integrity, honour, energy, prudence, and perseverance; they made the most of the natural man, and they "received their reward." Forthwith they began to rise to a station higher than the heathen Roman, and have, in three centuries, attained a wider range of sovereignty; and now they look down in {204} contempt on what they were, and upon the Religion which reclaimed them from paganism.

Yes, such was the temptation of the evil one, such the fall of his victim, such the disposition of the Most High. The tempter said, "All these will I give thee, if, falling down, thou wilt adore me;" and their rightful Lord and Sovereign permitted the boast to be fulfilled. He permitted it for His greater glory: He might have hindered it, as He might hinder all evil; but He saw good, He saw it best, to let things take their course. He did not interfere, He kept silence, He retired from the land which would be rid of Him. And there were those at that crisis who understood not His providence, and would have interfered in His behalf with a high hand. Holy men and true they were, zealous for God, and tender towards His sheep; but they divined not His will. It was His will to leave the issue to time, and to bring things round slowly and without violence, and to conquer by means of His adversaries. He willed it that their pride should be its own correction; that they should be broken without hands, and dissolve under their own insufficiency. He who might have brought myriads of Angels to the rescue, He who might have armed and blessed the forces of Christendom against His persecutors, wrought more wondrously. He deigned not to use the carnal weapon: He bade the drawn sword return to its sheath: He refused the combinations and the armaments of earthly kings. He who sees the end from the beginning, who is "justified in His words, and overcomes when He is judged," did but wait. He waited patiently; He left the world to itself, nor avenged His Church, but stayed till the fourth watch of the night, when His faithful sons had given up hope, and thought His mercy towards them at an end. He let the winds and the waves insult Him {205} and His own; He suffered meekly the jeers and blasphemies which rose on every side, and pronounced the downfall of His work. "All things have an end," men said; "there is a time for all things; a time to be born, and a time to die. All things have their course and their term; they may last a long time, but after all, a period they have, and not an immortality. So is it with man himself; even Mathusala and Noe exhausted the full fountain of their being, and the pitcher was at length crushed, and the wheel broken. So is it with nations; they rise, and they flourish, and they fall; there is an element in them, as in individuals, which wears out and perishes. However great they may be in their day, at length the moment comes, when they have attained their greatest elevation, and accomplished their full range, and fulfilled their scope. So is it with great ideas and their manifestations; they are realized, they prevail, and they perish. As the constituents of the animal frame at length refuse to hold together, so nations, philosophies, and religions one day lose their unity and undergo the common law of decomposition. Our nation, doubtless, will find its term at length, as well as others, though not yet; but that ancient faith of ours has come to nought already. We have nothing, then, to fear from the past; the past is not, the past cannot revive; the dead tell no tales; the grave cannot open. New adversaries we may have, but with the Old Religion we have parted once for all."

Thus speaks the world, deeming Christ's patience to be feebleness, and His loving affection to be enmity. And the faithful, on the other hand, have had their own misgivings too, whether Catholicism could ever flourish in this country again. Has it yet happened anywhere in the history of the Church, that a people which once lost {206} its faith ever regained it? It is a gift of grace, a special mercy to receive it once, and not to be expected a second time. Many nations have never had it at all; from some it has been taken away, apparently without their fault, nay, in spite of their meritorious use of it. So was it with the old Persian Church, which, after enduring two frightful persecutions, had scarcely emerged from the second, when it was irretrievably corrupted by heresy. So was it with the famous Church of Africa, whose great saint and doctor's dying moments were embittered by the ravages around him of those fierce barbarians who were destined to be its ruin. What are we better than they? It is then surely against the order of Providence hitherto, that the gift once given should be given again; the world and the Church bear a concordant testimony here.

And the just Judge of man made as though He would do what man anticipated. He retired, as I have said, from the field; He yielded the battle to the enemy;—but He did so that He might in the event more signally triumph. He interfered not for near three hundred years, that His enemies might try their powers of mind in forming a religion instead of His own. He gave them three hundred years' start, bidding them to do something better than He, or something at all, if so be they were able, and He put Himself to every disadvantage. He suffered the daily sacrifice to be suspended, the hierarchy to be driven out, education to be prohibited, religious houses to be plundered and suppressed, cathedrals to be desecrated, shrines to be rifled, religious rites and duties to be interdicted by the law of the land. He would owe the world nothing in that revival of the Church which was to follow. He wrought, as in the old time by His prophet Elias, who, when he was to light the sacrifice with fire from heaven, {207} drenched the burnt-offering with water the first time, the second time, and the third time; "and the water ran round about the altar, and the trench was filled up with water." He wrought as He Himself had done in the raising of Lazarus; for when He heard that His friend was sick, "He remained in the same place two days:" on the third day He "said plainly, Lazarus is dead, and I am glad, for your sake, that I was not there, that you may believe;" and then, at length, He went and raised him from the grave. So too was it in His own resurrection; He did not rise from the cross; He did not rise from His mother's arms; He rose from the grave, and on the third day.

So is it now; "He hath taken us, and He will heal us; He will strike, and He will cure us. He will revive us after two days; on the third day He will raise us up, and we shall live in His sight." Three ages have passed away; the bell has tolled once, and twice, and thrice; the intercession of the saints has had effect; the mystery of Providence is unravelled; the destined hour is come. And, as when Christ arose, men knew not of His rising, for He rose at midnight and in silence, so when His mercy would do His new work among us, He wrought secretly, and was risen ere men dreamed of it. He sent not His Apostles and preachers, as at the first, from the city where he has fixed His throne. His few and scattered priests were about their own work, watching their flocks by night, with little time to attend to the souls of the wandering multitudes around them, and with no thoughts of the conversion of the country. But He came as a spirit upon the waters; He walked to and fro Himself over that dark and troubled deep; and, wonderful to behold, and inexplicable to man, hearts were stirred, and eyes were raised in hope, and feet began to move towards the Great {208} Mother, who had almost given up the thought and the seeking of them. First one, and then another, sought the rest which she alone could give. A first, and a second, and a third, and a fourth, each in his turn, as grace inspired him,—not altogether, as by some party understanding or political call,—but each drawn by divine power, and against his will, for he was happy where he was, yet with his will, for he was lovingly subdued by the sweet mysterious influence which called him on. One by one, little noticed at the moment, silently, swiftly, and abundantly, they drifted in, till all could see at length that surely the stone was rolled away, and that Christ was risen and abroad. And as He rose from the grave, strong and glorious, as if refreshed with His sleep, so, when the prison doors were opened, the Church came forth, not changed in aspect or in voice, as calm and keen, as vigorous and as well furnished, as when they closed on her. It is told in legends of that great saint and instrument of God, St. Athanasius, how that when the apostate Julian had come to his end, and persecution with him, the saintly confessor, who had been a wanderer over the earth, was found, to the surprise of his people, in his cathedral at Alexandria, seated on his episcopal throne, and clad in the vestments of religion. So is it now; the Church is coming out of prison, as collected in her teaching, as precise in her action, as when she went into it. She comes out with pallium, and cope, and chasuble, and stole, and wonder-working relics, and holy images. Her bishops are again in their chairs, and her priests sit round, and the perfect vision of a majestic hierarchy rises before our eyes.

What an awful vitality is here! What a heavenly sustained sovereignty! What a self-evident divinity! She claims, she seeks, she desires no temporal power, no secular station; she meddles not with Cęsar or the things {209} of Cęsar; she obeys him in his place, but she is independent of him. Her strength is in her God; her rule is over the souls of men; her glory is in their willing subjection and loving loyalty. She hopes and fears nothing from the world; it made her not, nor can it destroy her. She can benefit it largely, but she does not force herself upon it. She may be persecuted by it, but she thrives under the persecution. She may be ignored, she may be silenced and thrown into a corner, but she is thought of the more. Calumniate her, and her influence grows; ridicule her,—she does but smile upon you more awfully and persuasively. What will you do with her, ye sons of men, if you will not love her, if at least you will not endure her? Let the last three hundred years reply. Let her alone, refrain from her; for if her counsel or her work be of men, it will come to nought; but if it be of God, you cannot overthrow it, lest perhaps you be found even to fight against God. ("Occasional Sermons," p. 124.)

16. Catholicism in England from the Sixteenth to the Nineteenth Century

THREE centuries ago, and the Catholic Church, that great creation of God's power, stood in this land in pride of place. It had the honours of near a thousand years upon it; it was enthroned on some twenty sees up and down the broad country; it was based in the will of a faithful people; it energized through ten thousand instruments of power and influence; and it was ennobled by a host of Saints and Martyrs. The churches, one by one, recounted {210} and rejoiced in the line of glorified intercessors who were the respective objects of their grateful homage. Canterbury alone numbered perhaps some sixteen, from St. Augustine to St. Dunstan and St. Elphege, from St. Anselm and St. Thomas down to St. Edmund. York had its St. Paulinus, St. John, St. Wilfrid, and St. William; London, its St. Erconwald; Durham, its St. Cuthbert; Winton, its St. Swithun. Then there were St. Aidan of Lindisfarne, and St. Hugh of Lincoln, and St. Chad of Lichfield, and St. Thomas of Hereford, and St. Oswald and St. Wulstan of Worcester, and St. Osmund of Salisbury, and St. Birinus of Dorchester, and St. Richard of Chichester. And then, too, its religious orders, its monastic establishments, its universities, its wide relations all over Europe, its high prerogatives in the temporal state, its wealth, its dependencies, its popular honours—where was there in the whole of Christendom a more glorious hierarchy? Mixed up with the civil institutions, with kings and nobles, with the people, found in every village and in every town—it seemed destined to stand, so long as England stood, and to outlast, it might be, England's greatness.

But it was the high decree of Heaven that the majesty of that presence should be blotted out. It is a long story, my Fathers and Brothers—you know it well. I need not go through it. The vivifying principle of truth, the shadow of St. Peter, the grace of the Redeemer, left it. That old Church in its day became a corpse (a marvellous, an awful change!), and then it did but corrupt the air which once it refreshed, and cumber the ground which once it beautified. So all seemed to be lost, and there was a struggle for a time, and then its priests were cast out or martyred. There were sacrileges innumerable. Its temples were profaned or destroyed; its revenues seized by covetous nobles, {211} or squandered upon the ministers of a new faith. The presence of Catholicism was at length simply removed—its grace disowned, its power despised—its name, except as a matter of history, at length almost unknown. It took a long time to do this thoroughly; much time, much thought, much labour, much expense; but at last it was done. Oh, that miserable day, centuries before we were born! What a martyrdom to live in it and see the fair form of Truth, moral and material, hacked piecemeal, and every limb and organ carried off, and burned in the fire, or cast into the deep! But at last the work was done. Truth was disposed of, and shovelled away, and there was a calm, a silence, a sort of peace—and such was about the state of things when we were born into this weary world.

My Fathers and Brothers, you have seen it on one side, and some of us on another; but one and all of us can bear witness to the fact of the utter contempt into which Catholicism had fallen by the time that we were born. You, alas, know it far better than I can know it; but it may not be out of place, if by one or two tokens, as by the strokes of a pencil, I bear witness to you from without, of what you can witness so much more truly from within. No longer the Catholic Church in the country—nay, no longer, I may say, a Catholic community; but a few adherents of the Old Religion, moving silently and sorrowfully about, as memorials of what had been. "The Roman Catholics,"—not a sect, not even an interest, as men conceived of it; not a body, however small, representative of the great communion abroad—but a mere handful of individuals, who might be counted, like the pebbles and detritus of the great deluge, and who, forsooth, merely happened to retain a creed which, in its day indeed, was the profession of a Church. Here, a set of poor Irishmen, coming and going at harvest time, or a colony of them lodged in a {212}miserable quarter of the vast metropolis. There, perhaps, an elderly person seen walking in the streets, grave and solitary, and strange, though noble in bearing, and said to be of good family, and a "Roman Catholic." An old-fashioned house of gloomy appearance, closed in with high walls, with an iron gate and yews, and the report attaching to it that "Roman Catholics" lived there; but who they were, or what they did, or what was meant by calling them Roman Catholics, no one could tell—though it had an unpleasant sound, and told of form and superstition. And then, perhaps, as we went to and fro, looking with a boy's curious eyes through the great city, we might come today upon some Moravian chapel, or Quaker's meeting-house, and tomorrow on a chapel of the "Roman Catholics;" but nothing was to be gathered from it, except that there were lights burning there, and some boys in white, swinging censers; and what it all meant could only be learned from books, from Protestant histories and sermons, and they did not report well of "the Roman Catholics," but, on the contrary, deposed that they had once had power and had abused it. And then again we might, on one occasion, hear it pointedly put out by some literary man, as the result of his careful investigation, and as a recondite point of information, which few knew, that there was this difference between the Roman Catholics of England and the Roman Catholics of Ireland, that the latter had bishops, and the former were governed by four officials, called Vicars-Apostolic.

Such was about the sort of knowledge possessed of Christianity by the heathen of old time, who persecuted its adherents from the face of the earth, and then called them a gens lucifuga, a people who shunned the light of day. Such were Catholics in England, found in corners, and alleys, and cellars, and the housetops, or in the recesses {213} of the country; cut off from the populous world around them, and dimly seen, as if through a mist, or in twilight, as ghosts flitting to and fro, by the high Protestants, the lords of the earth. At length so feeble did they become, so utterly contemptible, that contempt gave birth to pity, and the more generous of their tyrants actually began to wish to bestow on them some favour, under the notion that their opinions were simply too absurd ever to spread again, and that they themselves, were they but raised in civil importance, would soon unlearn and be ashamed of them. And thus, out of mere kindness to us, they began to vilify our doctrines to the Protestant world, that so our very idiotcy, or our secret unbelief, might be our plea for mercy. ("Occasional Sermons," p. 169.)

17. The Re-establishment of the Hierarchy

A GREAT change, an awful contrast, between the time-honoured Church of St. Augustine and St. Thomas, and the poor remnant of their children in the beginning of the nineteenth century! It was a miracle, I might say, to have pulled down that lordly power; but there was a greater and a truer one in store. No one could have prophesied its fall, but still less would any one have ventured to prophesy its rise again. The fall was wonderful; still, after all, it was in the order of nature; all things come to nought: its rise again would be a different sort of wonder, for it is in the order of grace,—and who can hope for miracles, and such a miracle as this? Has the whole {214} course of history a like to show? I must speak cautiously and according to my knowledge, but I recollect no parallel to it. Augustine, indeed, came to the same island to which the early missionaries had come already; but they came to Britons, and he to Saxons. The Arian Goths and Lombards, too, cast off their heresy in St. Augustine's age, and joined the Church; but they had never fallen away from her. The inspired word seems to imply the almost impossibility of such a grace as the renovation of those who have crucified to themselves again, and trodden under foot, the Son of God. Who then could have dared to hope that, out of so sacrilegious a nation as this is, a people would have been formed again unto their Saviour? What signs did it show that it was to be singled out from among the nations? Had it been prophesied some fifty years ago, would not the very notion have seemed preposterous and wild?

My Fathers, there was one of your own order [Note 3] then in the maturity of his powers and his reputation. His name is the property of this diocese; yet is too great, too venerable, too dear to all Catholics, to be confined to any part of England, when it is rather a household word in the mouths of all of us. What would have been the feelings of that venerable man, the champion of God's ark in an evil time, could he have lived to see this day? It is almost presumptuous for one who knew him not, to draw pictures about him, and his thoughts, and his friends, some of whom are even here present; yet am I wrong in fancying that a day such as this, in which we stand, would have seemed to him a dream, or, if he prophesied of it, to his hearers nothing but a mockery? Say that one time, rapt in spirit, he had reached forward {215} to the future, and that his mortal eye had wandered from that lowly chapel in the valley  [Note 4], which had been for centuries in the possession of Catholics, to the neighbouring height, then waste and solitary. And let him say to those about him: "I see a bleak mount, looking upon an open country, over against that huge town, to whose inhabitants Catholicism is of so little account. I see the ground marked out, and an ample enclosure made; and plantations are rising there, clothing and circling in the space. And there on that high spot, far from the haunts of men, yet in the very centre of the island, a large edifice [Note 5], or rather pile of edifices, appears, with many fronts and courts, and long cloisters and corridors, and story upon story. And there it rises, under the invocation of the same sweet and powerful name which has been our strength and consolation in the Valley. I look more attentively at that building, and I see it is fashioned upon that ancient style of art which brings back the past, which had seemed to be perishing from off the face of the earth, or to be preserved only as a curiosity, or to be imitated only as a fancy. I listen, and I hear the sound of voices, grave and musical, renewing the old chant, with which Augustine greeted Ethelbert in the free air upon the Kentish strand. It comes from a long procession, and it winds along the cloisters. Priests and religious, theologians from the schools, and canons from the Cathedral, walk in due precedence. And then there comes a vision of well-nigh twelve mitred heads; and last I see a Prince of the Church, in the royal dye of empire and of martyrdom, a pledge to us from Rome of Rome's unwearied love, a token that that goodly company is firm in Apostolic faith and hope. And the shadow of the Saints is {216} there;—St. Benedict is there, speaking to us by the voice of bishop and of priest, and counting over the long ages through which he has prayed, and studied, and laboured; there, too, is St. Dominic's white wool, which no blemish can impair, no stain can dim;—and if St. Bernard be not there, it is only that his absence may make him be remembered more. And the princely patriarch, St. Ignatius, too, the St. George of the modern world, with his chivalrous lance run through his writhing foe, he, too, sheds his blessing upon that train. And others, also, his equals or his juniors in history, whose pictures are above our altars, or soon shall be, the surest proof that the Lord's arm has not waxen short, nor His mercy failed,—they, too, are looking down from their thrones on high upon the throng. And so that high company moves on into the holy place; and there, with august rite and awful sacrifice, inaugurates the great act which brings it thither." What is that act? it is the first Synod [Note 6] of a new Hierarchy; it is the resurrection of the Church.

O my Fathers, my Brothers, had that revered Bishop so spoken then, who that had heard him but would have said that he spoke what could not be? What! those few scattered worshippers, the Roman Catholics, to form a Church! Shall the past be rolled back? Shall the grave open? Shall the Saxons live again to God? Shall the shepherds, watching their poor flocks by night, be visited by a multitude of the heavenly army, and hear how their Lord has been new-born in their own city? Yes; for grace can, where nature cannot. The world grows old, but the Church is ever young. She can, in any time, at her Lord's will, "inherit the Gentiles, and inhabit the desolate cities." "Arise, Jerusalem, for thy light is come, and the glory of {217} the Lord is risen upon thee. Behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and a mist the people; but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and His glory shall be seen upon thee. Lift up thine eyes round about, and see; all these are gathered together, they come to thee; thy sons shall come from afar, and thy daughters shall rise up at thy side." "Arise, make haste, my love, my dove, my beautiful one, and come. For the winter is now past, and the rain is over and gone. The flowers have appeared in our land … the fig-tree hath put forth her green figs; the vines in flower yield their sweet smell. Arise, my love, my beautiful one, and come." It is the time for thy Visitation. Arise, Mary, and go forth in thy strength into that north country, which once was thine own, and take possession of a land which knows thee not. Arise, Mother of God, and with thy thrilling voice, speak to those who labour with child, and are in pain, till the babe of grace leaps within them! Shine on us, dear Lady, with thy bright countenance, like the sun in his strength, O stella matutina, O harbinger of peace, till our year is one perpetual May! From thy sweet eyes, from thy pure smile, from thy majestic brow, let ten thousand influences rain down, not to confound or overwhelm, but to persuade, to win over thine enemies. O Mary, my hope, O Mother undefiled, fulfil to us the promise of this Spring! A second temple rises on the ruins of the old. Canterbury has gone its way, and York is gone, and Durham is gone, and Winchester is gone. It was sore to part with them. We clung to the vision of past greatness, and would not believe it could come to nought; but the Church in England has died, and the Church lives again. Westminster and Nottingham, Beverley and Hexham, Northampton and Shrewsbury, if the world lasts, shall be names as musical to the ear, as stirring to the heart, as the glories we have lost; and {218} Saints shall rise out of them, if God so will, and Doctors once again shall give the law to Israel, and Preachers call to penance and to justice, as at the beginning.

Yes, my Fathers and Brothers, and if it be God's blessed will, not Saints alone, not Doctors only, not Preachers only, shall be ours—but Martyrs, too, shall reconsecrate the soil to God. We know not what is before us, ere we win our own; we are engaged in a great, a joyful work, but in proportion to God's grace is the fury of His enemies. They have welcomed us as the lion greets his prey. Perhaps they may be familiarized in time with our appearance, but perhaps they may be irritated the more. To set up the Church again in England is too great an act to be done in a corner. We have had reason to expect that such a boon would not be given to us without a cross. It is not God's way that great blessings should descend without the sacrifice first of great sufferings. If the truth is to be spread to any wide extent among this people, how can we dream, how can we hope, that trial and trouble shall not accompany its going forth? And we have already, if it may be said without presumption, to commence our work withal, a large store of merits. We have no slight outfit for our opening warfare. Can we religiously suppose that the blood of our martyrs, three centuries ago and since, shall never receive its recompense? Those priests, secular and regular, did they suffer for no end? or rather, for an end which is not yet accomplished? The long imprisonment, the fetid dungeon, the weary suspense, the tyrannous trial, the barbarous sentence, the savage execution, the rack, the gibbet, the knife, the cauldron, the numberless tortures of those holy victims, O my God, are they to have no reward? Are Thy martyrs to cry from under Thine altar for their loving vengeance on this guilty people, and to cry in vain? Shall they lose life, and not gain a better {219} life for the children of those who persecuted them? Is this Thy way, O my God, righteous and true? Is it according to Thy promise, O King of Saints, if I may dare talk to Thee of justice? Did not Thou Thyself pray for Thine enemies upon the cross, and convert them? Did not Thy first Martyr win Thy great Apostle, then a persecutor, by his loving prayer? And in that day of trial and desolation for England, when hearts were pierced through and through with Mary's woe, at the crucifixion of Thy body mystical, was not every tear that flowed, and every drop of blood that was shed, the seeds of a future harvest, when they who sowed in sorrow were to reap in joy?

And as that suffering of the Martyrs is not yet recompensed, so, perchance, it is not yet exhausted. Something, for what we know, remains to be undergone, to complete the necessary sacrifice. May God forbid it, for this poor nation's sake! But still, could we be surprised, my Fathers and my Brothers, if the winter even now should not yet be quite over? Have we any right to take it strange, if, in this English land, the spring-time of the Church should turn out to be an English spring—an uncertain, anxious time of hope and fear, of joy and suffering—of bright promise and budding hopes, yet withal, of keen blasts, and cold showers, and sudden storms?

One thing alone I know, that according to our need, so will be our strength. One thing I am sure of, that the more the enemy rages against us, so much the more will the Saints in Heaven plead for us; the more fearful are our trials from the world, the more present to us will be our Mother Mary, and our good Patrons and Angel Guardians; the more malicious are the devices of men against us, the louder cry of supplication will ascend from the bosom of the whole Church to God for us. We shall not be left orphans; we shall have within us the strength of the Paraclete, {220} promised to the Church and to every member of it. My Fathers, my Brothers in the priesthood, I speak from my heart when I declare my conviction, that there is no one among you here present but, if God so willed, would readily become a martyr for His sake. I do not say you would wish it; I do not say that the natural will would not pray that that chalice might pass away; I do not speak of what you can do by any strength of yours; but in the strength of God, in the grace of the Spirit, in the armour of justice, by the consolations and peace of the Church, by the blessing of the Apostles Peter and Paul, and in the name of Christ, you would do what nature cannot do. By the intercession of the Saints on high, by the penances and good works and the prayers of the people of God on earth, you would be forcibly borne up as upon the waves of the mighty deep, and carried on out of yourselves by the fulness of grace, whether nature wished it or no. I do not mean violently, or with unseemly struggle, but calmly, gracefully, sweetly, joyously, you would mount up and ride forth to the battle, as on the rush of Angels' wings, as your fathers did before you, and gained the prize. You, who day by day offer up the Immaculate Lamb of God, you who hold in your hands the Incarnate Word under the visible tokens which He has ordained, you who again and again drain the chalice of the Great Victim; who is to make you fear? What is to startle you? what to seduce you? Who is to stop you, whether you are to suffer or to do, whether to lay the foundations of the Church in tears, or to put the crown upon the work in jubilation? ("Occasional Sermons," p. 173.)

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1.  [These two sentences are the late Mr. Bowden's, from a review of whose work on the "Life and Pontificate of Gregory VII." this extract is taken.]
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2. Ranke's Hist. of the Popes.
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3. [Bp. Milner.]
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4. [Maryvale.]
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5. [St. Mary's College, Oscott.]
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6. [The Synod of Oscott.]
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Newman Reader — Works of John Henry Newman
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