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more especially an unlawful plot to overthrow a government. In neither sense can you call the Church a conspiracy. It is not a conspiracy against governments in general, or any particular government, certainly not against ours, which it is our sacred duty as Catholics to sustain. It is not a combination for an evil purpose, for the purpose of the Church is to convert the world to Jesus Christ, and to establish on earth the reign of peace. This is a good purpose, and even if the Church could be mistaken, as she uses and suffers to be used none but lawful means to accomplish it, she is and can be no combination of men for an evil purpose. To talk of exposing the Papal conspiracy, is only to expose your own looseness of language, or something still more reprehensible.
But enough. We have wished in what we have said to address ourselves to that class of Protestants — large, we would fain hope — who love fair play, and who, however they may dislike Catholicity, would deal justly and honorably with Catholics. We have wished to offer them some suggestions which may, if taken up and pursued by their own thought and reflection, satisfy them that Catholics, even if Ultramontanists, may be as free and act as spontaneously, to say the least, as their Evangelical opponents. In general, however, we are unwilling to assume even the appearance of an apologist. Works like Dr. Beecher's can do us, in the long run, no harm. They can make no lasting impression on the American people, and in the end will operate greatly to the damage of Protestantism. Sensible people will be led by them to ask, Whence is it that Protestantism shows itself so weak and malignant, so untruthful in its statements, so unphilosophical in its reasoning? Can it make no better defence ? Has it no more refinement, no more honesty, no more virtue? Protestantism cannot long survive the asking of such questions.
ART. VI. – LITERARY NOTICES AND CRITICISMS.
1. Fabiola ; or the Church of the Catacombs. By His EMINENCE
CARDINAL WISEMAN. New York : D. & J. Sadlier & Co. 1855. 16mo. pp. 385.
We are indebted to Mr. Donahoe, Catholic bookseller, of this city, for a copy of this singularly beautiful and interesting work, by his Eminence Cardinal Wiseman. Some of our friends in England have started the plan of a popular Catholic library, or a series of popular works designed to furnish to the English-speaking Catholic public a pure, chaste, and elevated literature. English literature is extensive, various, and rich; but it has for the most part been produced by authors separated from the Church, opposed to her doctrines, or strangers to her spirit. It is uncatholic even when not anti-Catholic. Undoubtedly the English Catholic student must, if he would master his own language, and speak or write to the approbation or comprehension of his fellow-Englishmen, or of Anglo-Americans even, make himself more or less acquainted with it. In any system of education devised for those whose mother tongue is English, its study must hold a prominent place. Not otherwise is it possible to understand our national culture, national modes of thought, or national genius. To exclude it from our Catholic schools and colleges, or from the general reading of Catholic youth, would be in some sense to denationalize our Catholic population, and to produce a total civil and literary, as well as religious, separation between us and our non-catholic countrymen. But, unhappily, there is much danger to the chastity of Catholic thought and life in familiarity with this literature, and those who are fed with it can hardly be expected, without extraordinary grace, to grow up strong and lusty Catholics. Their faith, even when not extinguished, is likely to be pale and sickly, and their charity cold and languid. Highly important is it, therefore, that it should be purified by the infusion of new works, retaining all its nobler qualities, and free from its anti-Catholic and irreligious tendencies.
The production of these works is a matter of some difficulty. The greater part of our educated Catholics have formed their mental habits and tastes in the study of a foreign literature, and are to some extent unpractised and unskilful in the use of their mother tongue. Most of our Catholic books have a certain foreign air and accent, and do not address themselves to our peculiarly English or American home feelings. Their intellectual and religious excellence in a great measure atones for this want of nationality, and renders them as works of pure instruction or edification highly useful and satisfactory, but as works intended to form the literary taste and to satisfy the literary wants of a cultivated and a reading people, they are, it must be confessed, not a little deficient. Translations of foreign works, however well done, cannot supply these wants, because no foreign literary work can ever be thoroughly nationalized by translation. It will always bear traces of its foreign birth and breeding. To a large portion of even our Irish Catholics, English is virtually a foreign tongue, and hence we view with deep interest the opening of the Catholic University in Dublin. The recent conversion of so many eminent men and distinguished scholars from Anglicanism must, however, do much to remedy our want of an English Catholic liter. ature. These converts speak English without any foreign accent, and, except in what touches faith, are as national as any class of their countrymen. They are, too, most of them, active, energetic men, and are fast naturalizing Catholicity in our noble English tongue. But converts cannot do all. As long as they live, the fact that Catholicity was not the faith of their childhood and youth will remain, and have more or less of influence. They can never be perfectly at their ease, and they will often be at a loss where to draw the line between their old life and the new. They need a guide, who has been bred a Catholic, informed throughout with the Catholic spirit, and knowing as it were by instinct what Catholic literature may accept from the non-Catholic world, and what it must reject,
one who finds in himself all that is acceptable in the general literature of his country harmonized with Catholic faith and char. ity. With such a guide, these converts, both in England and the United States, will do a noble service to English Catholic litera. ture. Such a guide they have in the author of Fabiola, who seems to have made himself thoroughly master of the whole range of English classical literature, familiar with the tastes, the modes of thought, the genius, the inner life, of his Protestant countrymen. Under his direction and patronage, we see no reason why the Popular Catholic Library should not prove of great national importance. We expect much from a literary undertaking in which he takes part, and which is edited by Capes, Northcote, and Thompson, so favorably known through the pages of The Rambler. Fabiola is the only volume of the Popular Library we have seen ; but we see announced The Life of St. Frances of Rome, by that admirable Catholic novelist, if we may so call her, Lady Georgiana Fullerton, whose Lady.Bird, we are bound to say, on a reperusal, deserves much higher praise than we gave it ; The Heroines of Charity, by Aubrey de Vere, Esq.; and several others which must be of high interest.
Were we to speak of Fabiola in the strong terms our feelings would prompt, we should be deemed extravagant by those who have not read it. It is a most charming book, a truly popular work, and alike pleasing to the scholar and the general reader. The author, when he enters the catacombs, loses himself, perhaps, for a moment in the antiquarian, but it is only for a moment. With this slight exception, to which we by no means object, for the information he gives is most acceptable, the author maintains his popular character, and we know no work of fiction in our language of deeper or better-sustained interest throughout. We read it through, and then turned back to the beginning and read it through again. It is the first work of the kind that we have read, in any language, in which truly pious and devout sentiment and the loftiest and richest imagination are so blended, so fused together, that the one never jars on the other. The saintly and the human are both brought out, are both presented in their highest forms, and without contrast or discord, as perfectly harmonized, and each as it were suiting the nature of the other. The saints, and they are real saints, proposed by the Church to the veneration of all her children, are presented as liv. ing, breathing, talking, laughing, joying, and sorrowing human beings, and yet without for one moment ceasing to be saints. Take St. Agnes, St. Pancratius, or St. Sebastian, as you find them in these
pages, and then turn to them as presented in the Lives of Alban Butler. In the Lives they are cold abstractions, hardly so much as dry bones. A few dry facts are related, accompanied by some good sermonizing, and some very pious reflections; but the saint is not there, and no painter that ever lived could from what he relates ever give us a St. Agnes or a St. Sebastian. Alban Butler was a good man, a really learned man, but we doubt if any man ever lived of poorer imagination, or less fitted to be the biographer of a saint. The Cardinal is true to life, true to history, and changes nothing in the character of any saint as it is handed down in the tradition of the Church. To have changed the character, to have drawn on his imagination to invent a character to pass under the name of a venerated saint, would have been profanation. But while true to the traditional character, he brings that character out in its naturalness and completeness. St. Agnes lives for us in these pages; we see, know, love, venerate her, not as a being apart, not as a poetical ideal, but as a real, living, and sympathizing human being; as our own dear sister, only sweeter, lovelier, and holier. This is what we admire so much in Fabiola. Those glorious old saints, who prepared for “their fight,” and so heroi. cally shed their blood for their dear Redeemer, are brought near us, and we are made to feel that they were flesh of our flesh, and bone of our bone. They do not stand afar off from us, in a distant empyrean region, unapproachable in their devotion and in their virtue. They are by our side, in our midst, like us, and we feel that what they are we can ourselves be. Their heroism is the heroism of men and women, elevated by grace indeed, but elevated
THIRD SERIES. — VOL. III. NO. II.
without ceasing to be men and women, our own kith and kin, our brothers and our sisters.
It requires an effort in reading Butler's Lives to imagine the saints amiable and loving, persons who, if we had known them, would have attracted us, and wound themselves around our hearts. We look upon them as wellnigh divested of ordinary humanity, and think of them only as fighting with human nature, and strug. gling to master it. We doubt not the struggle, we doubt not the mastery, but, after all, the greatest saints are precisely those in whom human nature appears in its purest and most lovely forms, clothed with its strongest and most attractive features. A sour, morose, repulsive saint were an unheard-of anomaly, and would be only a Calvinistic or Jansenistic saint. We never felt this so strongly as when reading this book by Cardinal Wiseman. It is a great mistake to suppose that the Christians were the coarse and vulgar fanatics imagined by Lytton Bulwer in his Last Days of Pompeii, or people from whom a man of cultivated mind and refined tastes would instinctively shrink. They were precisely those who were the most elevated in their views and feelings, the most simple and attractive in their conversation, the most pure and winning in their manners; and the contrast between them and the heathen in the midst of whom they lived was in every respect to their advantage. But we beg our readers to turn to the Cardinal's book itself.
If they want pure, chaste amusement, they will find it in its pages, and they will find also a most truthful picture of the Roman world, Christian and Pagan, at the close of the third century, and as much instruction and edification at the same time as if the book was written expressly for spiritual reading.
2. The Immaculate Conception of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary,
Mother of God; a Dogma of the Catholic Church. By J. D. BRYANT, M. D., Author of Pauline Seward. Boston : Donahoe. 1855. 12mo. pp. 322.
Acceding to the wishes of the entire Church and moved from on high, the Supreme Pastor of all the faithful has declared that to be a dogma of faith which has always been piously believed by the Catholic world. The whole Church rejoices with a holy and sincere joy, not indeed expressed in drunken feasts and noisy assemblies, but poured forth in the heartfelt thanksgivings that ascend from every pious bosom to the throne of Divine Goodness, pure and sacred as the event which gives them birth. It is truly a triumph which the Church now celebrates, a victory of divine mercy over the fallen nature of man, and the immunity of the Holy Mother of God from the general curse inflicted on the human