15 March 2024

Loss and Gain

"Soon he came in sight of a tall wooden Cross, which in better days, had been a religious emblem, but had served in latter times to mark the boundary between two contiguous parishes. The moon was behind him, and the sacred symbol rose awfully in the pale sky, overhanging a pool, which was still venerated in the neighbourhood for it its reported miraculous virtue. Charles, to his surprise, saw distinctly a man kneeling on a little mound out of which the Cross grew; nay, heard him, for his shoulders were bare and he was using the discipline upon them, while he repeated what appeared to be some form of devotion ..."

Goodness! You don't expect to see such weird goings-on in England's mild countryside! Has S John Henry Newman forgotten that his character is in the English Midlands? Has he strayed into the Gothick domains of Mrs Ratcliff? Is it the Castle of Otranto that we descry looming through the sulphurous mists?


Another page takes Charles Reding on to his lodgings, where an anonymous letter reveals that there is an anonymous Other in the neighbourhood. But not before Charles has been moved to draw near to the Cross, take off his hat, kneel and kiss the wood; to drink some of the cold water and to resist the temptation to pray to S Thomas the Martyr, patron of that pool. The next chapter brings us to luncheon, with the fatuous high-churchman Bateman ... in company with Willis. He is already a Catholic; and Newman enjoys setting us a scene in which Bateman is rigidly maintaining the Prayer Book rules on Fasting, by that time ignored in the Church of England, while the converted Willis modestly confirms that once desuetude overshadows a rule, it no longer binds.

Willis soon disappears from S John Henry's narrative, praying as he does so that Reding may receive the gift of Faith.

What is going on here? The former friends, Willis and White, go their separate ways, Willis to a Passionist House, while the rather more high church White has married the elder of the two 'pretty' Miss Boltons and they are planning their parsonage. Reding accidentally overhears their love-talk. "Charles breathed freely as they went out; a severe text of Scripture rose in his mind, but he repressed the censorious or uncharitable feeling ..."

What do you think that text of Scripture was? Possibly, "Verily I say unto you, they hath their reward"?

Newman retained a prejudice against the comfortable, wealthy domesticity of the married Anglican clergy. For the Passionists, he retained a great respect and was, eventually, received by a Passionist priest into the One Fold of the Redeemer. In 1848, in Loss and Gain, the Passionists reappear in what must be some of S John Henry's most emotional passages, in the Chapter X near the end of the novel: two centuries after S Philip and S Ignatius, Newman recalled their 'bodily austerities ... mortification' ... (in the Second Spring he was to speak of S Philip as "a calm old man, who had never seen blood, except in penance"). 

And Father Domenico de Matre Dei enters the narrativeof the novel. And the fictional Willis ... now 'Father Aloysius' ... is in the novel's very last sentence.

I gather that 'our' nuns, God bless them, are happily to be residing in Aston Hall in Stone, Staffordshire (architect, Edward Welby Pugin). This is an old recusant property where once the relics of S Chad were hidden. 

And in this property, Blessed Dominic Barberi once founded (1842) a Passionist noviciate.

I think it is appropriate, in the Ordinariate, for us to regard the Passionist Blessed Dominic as One Of Ours.

1 comment:

El Codo said...

I suggest that the text was about those who have become eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven. Also at Stone of course is the great Bishop Ullathorne, guarded by the sisters. The Saint and he became great friends and towards their ends they would walk up and down the “ Beeswax” as the Rector’s corridor is known in Oscott, arm in arm talking about the great battles they had fought. Two men of totally different character but both “ our men” of the Catholic community in this country. It is reported that when St John was preaching “The Second Spring” from the pulpit of that magnificent chapel, the tears were cascading down Ullathorne’s eyes.