Wednesday, July 23, 2014

KNOX BIO ON SALE

RONALD KNOX AS APOLOGIST
Wit, Laughter and the Popish Creed
by Milton Walsh

FOR A LIMITED TIME, IGNATIUS PRESS IS OFFERING THIS GREAT BIOGRAPHY FOR JUST $6! NOW'S THE TIME TO BUY ONE IF YOU HAVEN'T ALREADY, OR BUY A WHOLE BUNCH FOR CHRISTMAS PRESENTS! YOU'VE HEARD OF THE NEW EVANGELIZATION? WELL, HERE'S A CHANCE TO INTRODUCE OTHERS TO ONE OF THE 20TH CENTURY'S FINEST APOLOGISTS!

Friday, June 27, 2014

Feast of the Sacred Heart

THE SACRED HEART
by Ronald Knox

Come to me, all you that labour and are burdened, and I will refresh you. Take up my yoke upon you and learn of me, because I am meek and humble of heart, and you shall find rest to your souls. – Matthew 11. 28-9

Come – it is not enough to stand still; the movement will not be all on God’s side. Christ stretches out his arms, as if the gesture of crucifixion had become habitual even to the glorified body; it is your part to respond to the invitation, to come to him, though your steps be weak and tottering, like the first steps of a child. The Sacred Heart of the Crucified would draw all men to him, yet draws them, not by any chain of necessity, but with cords of love; it must be a free choice of your will by which you step forward from the ranks that waver and hang back, to consecrate yourself to him. True, in this devotion we consecrate ourselves as a family, but it is the individual surrender he prizes, not the mere herd-instinct that bids us, to avoid singularity, associate ourselves in a public act of homage: the word is addressed to each soul individually – Come unto me.

Come unto me – other voices, maybe, in later years will endeavour to distract us, the false religious systems of yesterday, the world with its easy standards, ambition with its insistent call for action, or money, the hardest master of them all: their prizes will seem more ready to our hand, their voices closer in our ear, but none will woo so gently or so patiently as the Sacred Heart, the Heart that loves so much and is loved so little in return, no one else dares to ask or claims to offer as he does. Unto me – not as if your devotion to the Sacred Heart could rival or replace your devotion to Almighty God: for that Heart is the life-centre of the Sacred Humanity, wherein, not by some overshadowing influence, as in Mary and the saints, but by a real and personal union, the fullness of revealed Godhead dwells. Unto me – not to some abstract idea, some expressive image, some memory of a dead past, but a Human Heart, real, concrete, living as your own, living now amid the splendours of the glorified Humanity in heaven.

All you that labour – it is a fashion, a pose you affect among your friends, to despise anything that comes to you openly under the name of work: but labour is rightly measured not by the distastefulness of the occupation or by the value of the results achieved, but by what it costs you, the strain that tells on you, the disturbance and distraction it sets up in your thoughts. At this moment, ask yourself if there is not some day-dream or some project humming in your brain, distracting your attention or ready to do so the instant your vigilance is relaxed. That day-dream, that project, however trivial and however distant, though it be only some scheme for your enjoyment, innocent or misapplied, some affection, some grievance, some grudge, is the labour with which you labour under the sun, the prisoner of your own brooding thoughts. You know that at times when these worries and distractions interfere with your sleep, or when you feel dull and jaded after long hours of them. You that labour, leave here on one side for a moment the petty cares which tyrannize over you: be still, and see that I am God.

Come to me, all you that are burdened – labour distracts the mind; it is sin that weighs upon the shoulders and clogs the feet. That burden, too, we must lay down for a little, if we are to lift up our eyes to the tabernacle. Last time we kept the first Friday, there was some resolution, an occasion of sin to be avoided, a bad habit to be checked, an improvement to be made in our rule of prayer. Nothing very much has come of it, and conscience feels uneasy at this reminder. Put it aside just for the moment; we must turn our faces towards the future and consecrate ourselves anew.

And I will refresh you – this is to be a breathing-space from the dusty business of life, the daily, common round of earthly occupations in which we seldom catch a glimpse of the supernatural. We are to draw ourselves up, breathe deep in the fresh air of grace, stretch the cramped muscles of the soul and rejoice to find them still responsive to the will. We shall forget for a while the work that lies at our feet as our cheek catches the cooling influence of grace that comes from Him.

Take my yoke upon you – not the yoke of a conqueror, imposed on his unwilling vassal, but the yoke which eases your burden by distributing the weight so that all but all of it rests on him. It is not servitude he offers, but partnership. Oh, if we could believe what we see so often in lives which have greatly devoted themselves to him, that, in proportion as we resign ourselves to his love, care and sorrow and all the burden of mortality lies lightly on us, till we have to ask for suffering lest we should lose the sense of the privilege that partnership bestows! We will make an offering here of all the work and all the suffering God will have us undergo, in union with the merits of the Sacred Heart, Fountain of all Consolation.

And learn of me – not the lessons we learn in class, not Christian doctrine or apologetics, nothing that tires the brain and wrinkles the forehead, not the dreary formulas that seem only intended to catch us out by being so difficult to remember. In this lesson it is not mind that speaks to mind, but heart to heart, no elaborate considerations are necessary, no theological subtleties. You have only to stand still and contemplate the Sacred Heart, bruised for our sins and made obedient unto death; only to remember one simple formula – how easy to remember, how difficult to mean: “Heart of Jesus, full of love for us, make our hearts like thy Sacred Heart”.

Because I am meek and humble of heart – meekness that will not be driven to resentment even by ill-usage, humility that will not be puffed up even where there is cause for self-congratulation. Meekness that in our case – not in his – sees its own sinfulness and acknowledges that the discomforts and reverses of life are only its lawful due; not assuming that the word which wounded you was aimed with intent, that you were right when you quarreled, unfairly hampered where you failed to come off; not for ever engaged in drawing up that long list of grievances against your fellow-men which leaves behind it no satisfaction, but only a character soured and blasé, a nature suspicious and difficult to please. Humility that in our case – not in his – realizes its own insignificance; humility that will not let you stand on your dignity, or lose your peace of mind when you are criticized and held up to ridicule; humility that, above all, approaches God with infinite reverence, and does not seek either to search out his hidden counsels or to presume on the graces he bestows.

And you shall find rest to your souls; rest in this life, when the wayward passions of your heart have been calmed and regulated by learning to beat in time with his; rest in the world to come, when you shall contemplate openly the Heart from which those graces used to flow, and, as you have been faithful yoke-fellows and docile scholars of your Lord below, be made partakers of his eternal glory in heaven.

Monday, April 28, 2014

BEATRIX POTTER AND SPRINGTIME

If there is anything pleasant in life, it is doing what we aren’t meant to do. If there is anything pleasant about criticism, it is finding out what we aren’t meant to find out. It is the method by which we treat as significant what the author did not mean to be significant, by which we single out as essential what the author regarded as incidental.
So wrote Monsignor Ronald Knox in his essay on the fecundity of the literature of Sherlock Holmes. Those who read the profound words of other fecund literary sources could not hope to read words more profound than these. Msgr. Knox goes on to say, “to the scholarly mind anything is worthy of study,” and by this principle, the pastorals of Beatrix Potter may be considered as parables.

CONTINUE READING a charming analysis of The Tale of Mrs. Tittlemouse by Sean Fitzpatrick at Crisis Magazine.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

LAMENTATIONS

The First Lessons of Matins on Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday are taken from the Lamentations of the Prophet Jeremias. They are among the saddest and most beautiful readings of the Liturgical Year.

Here is Knox's translation of Chapter 1:

When Israel was brought into captivity, and Jerusalem left deserted, the prophet Jeremias sat down and wept, with this mournful lamentation following. And as he spoke, ever he sighed and moaned in the bitterness of his heart.

1. Alone she dwells, the city erewhile so populous; a widow now, once a queen among the nations; tributary now, that once had provinces at her command.
2. Be sure she weeps; there in the darkness her cheeks are wet with tears; of all that courted her, none left to console her, all those lovers grown weary of her, and turned to enemies.
3. Cruel the suffering and the bondage of Juda's exile; that she must needs dwell among the heathen! Nor respite can she find; close at her heels the pursuit, and peril on either hand.
4. Desolate, the streets of Sion; no flocking, now, to the assembly; the gateways lie deserted. Sighs priest, and the maidens go in mourning, so bitter the grief that hangs over all.
5. Exultant, now, her invaders; with her enemies nothing goes amiss. For her many sins, the Lord has brought doom on her, and all her children have gone into exile, driven before the oppressor.
6. Fled is her beauty, the Sion that was once so fair; her chieftains have yielded their ground before the pursuer, strength-less as rams that can find no pasture.
7. Grievous the memories she holds, of the hour when all her ancient glories passed from her, when her people fell defenceless before the invader, unresisting before an enemy that derided them.
8. Heinously Jerusalem sinned; what wonder if she became an outlaw? How they fell to despising her when they saw her shame, that once flattered her! Deeply she sighed, and turned away her head.
9. Ill might skirts of her robe the defilement conceal; alas, so reckless of her doom, alas, fallen so low, with none to comfort her! Mark it well, Lord; see how humbled I, how exultant my adversary!
10. Jealous hands were laid on all she treasured; so it was that she must see Gentiles profane her sanctuary, Gentiles, by thy ordinance from the assembly debarred.
11. Kindred was none but went sighing for lack of bread, offered its precious heirlooms for food to revive men's hearts. Mark it well, Lord, and see my pride abased!
12. Look well, you that pass by, and say if there was ever grief like this grief of mine; never a grape on the vineyard left to glean, when the Lord's threat of vengeance is fulfilled.
13. Must fire from heaven waste my whole being, ere I can learn my lesson? Must he catch me in a net, to drag me back from my course? Desolate he leaves me, to pine away all the day long with grief.
14. No respite it gives me, the yoke of guilt I bear, by his hand fastened down upon my neck; see, I faint under it! The Lord has given me up a prisoner to duress there is no escaping.
15. Of all I had, the Lord has taken away the noblest; lost to me, all the flower of my chivalry, under his strict audit; Sion, poor maid, here was a wine-press well trodden down!
16. Pray you, should I not weep? Fountains these eyes are, that needs must flow; comforter there is none at hand, that should revive my spirits. Lost to me, all those sons of mine, outmatched by their enemy.
17. Quest for consolation is vain, let her plead where she will; neighbors of Jacob, so the Lord decrees, are Jacob's enemies, and all around they shrink from her, as from a thing unclean.
18. Right the Lord has in his quarrel; I have set his commands at defiance. O world, take warning; see what pangs I suffer, all my folk gone into exile, both man and maid.
19. So false the friends that were once my suitors! And now the city lacks priests and elders both, that went begging their bread, to revive the heart in them.
20. Take note, Lord, of my anguish, how my bosom burns, and my heart melts within me, in bitter ruth. And all the while, swords threatens without, and death not less cruel within.
21. Uncomforted my sorrow, but not unheard; my enemies hear it, and rejoice that my miseries are of thy contriving. Ah, but when thy promise comes true, they shall feel my pangs!
22. Vintager who didst leave my boughs so bare, for my much offending, mark well their cruelty, and strip these to in their turn; here be sighs a many, and a sad heart to claim it.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

CORPUS CHRISTI, MAIDEN LANE



The church of Corpus Christi, Maiden Lane, will be familiar to Knox fans as the West End church in which, for 30 years (1926-1956), he preached on the Feast of Corpus Christi. 26 of the sermons he preached there are available in the collection Pastoral and Occasional Sermons and are counted among his gems.

"How many a priest, reading The Window in the Wall, has been filled with a kind of holy envy at the mastery of his exposition of eucharistic doctrine and at the fertility of mind which, year after year, in the same church and to much the same congregation, could find something not merely new but absolutely penetrating and enriching to say on this subject! Most priests have two or three sermons on the Blessed Sacrament; here we have close on two score of them, redolent of the preacher's own devotion, and challenging us to a fuller realization of the wealth at our disposal." - Thomas Corbishley, S.J., Ronald Knox, the Priest, 1965 Sheed & Ward

The current Pastor, Father Alan Robinson, has undertaken an extensive renovation program and is, of course, in need of funds. If you're looking for a last-minute, Lenten almsgiving opportunity, or if you can help out over the course of time, you can find more information on the parish website. It would be fitting to help this good cause in honor of, and in thanksgiving for, the many benefits we've received from Msgr. Knox.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

RUIN AND RESURRECTION

A sermon preached by Ronald Knox on Palm Sunday, 1934

Amen I say to you, unless the grain of wheat falling into the ground die, itself remaineth alone; but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. – John  12:24

Today, 1,900 years ago, it looked as if the fortunes of the great Galilean Prophet, Jesus of Nazareth, were at their height. It was the time of the feast; a great multitude of people from Galilee had come up to celebrate it, and these, plainly, were proud of their fellow countryman. At home, where his family was known to many of them, they might criticize him and laugh at his pretensions; but here in Judea it was a different thing; they were not going to have their own Prophet laughed at by the Jews of Judea. That is human nature. And then, just a day or two before Palm Sunday, an extraordinary rumor went round Jerusalem itself. A man of Bethany, a well-known figure there, had died and been buried; and when he had already been four days in the tomb, Jesus of Nazareth had called to him and he had come out alive. Bethany was only about two miles from Jerusalem; it was as if you heard that somebody had been raised from the dead, say, at Harborne. Naturally,crowds of people came out from Jerusalem to look at the man who had been buried and come to life again; to question his sisters, and have their own assurance about the facts. And these, convinced by what they saw and heard, were hardly less enthusiastic on behalf of the Prophet than the Galileans themselves.

Read the rest in PDF.
From Pastoral and Occasional Sermons available from Ignatius Press

Thursday, April 10, 2014

THE MASS IN SLOW MOTION

Hat tip to Rick Wheeler for finding 'The Mass in Slow Motion', by Ronald Knox, in PDF format, thanks to the folks at Corpus Christi Watershed.

Corpus Christi Watershed recently published the beautiful St. Edmund Campion Missal and Hymnal and maintain a website and blog about Sacred Music and Liturgy.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

LAETARE SUNDAY with Fr. George Rutler

The Belgian priest and physicist, Monsignor Georges Lemaître died in 1966 after receiving news that his theory of the birth of the universe—what he called the “hypothesis of the primeval atom”—had been confirmed by the discovery of cosmic microwave background radiation. Albert Einstein was slow in coming around to Lemaître’s hypothesis of an expanding universe, now popularly called the “Big Bang”—a term that was first meant in subtle mockery, but then he commended it to further research. Just weeks ago, scientists published evidence of the almost instantaneous expansion of all matter from an infinitesimal particle. The scale and volume of this stuns the human mind, but at least if the mind cannot grasp this, it can acknowledge it, along with the fact that there was no time or space before that “moment.” It fits well with the record in Genesis of the voice of the eternal and unlimited God uttering light and all consequent creatures into existence.

Here one must be careful in attributing to physical science an explanation of the “why” as well as the “how” of creation, and theology—equally the highest science—must not confuse itself with physics. In the sixteenth century, Cardinal Baronius said, “The Bible was written to show us how to go to heaven, not how the heavens go.” In a moment of unguarded enthusiasm in 1951, Pope Pius XII said that Lemaître’s theory proved the existence of God. He humbly backed off when Lemaître told him that a physical hypothesis could do no such thing.

No human hypothesis can tell us what God alone can reveal: that he made the world and all that is in it for his delight. When we delight God by doing his will, his delight infuses his sentient creatures with joy. The composer Gustav Holst may have employed some fanciful theology (theosophy) in giving personalities to seven planets in his famous symphony, but the ”jollity” of Jupiter is a compelling metaphor for the joy of the saints.

Laetare Sunday in the middle of Lent is not so much an interruption of the penitential season as it is an encouragement not to lose the focus of Lent and life itself on the joy that God offers us in Heaven, where there is no time or space, as it was before the world began. The Church goes “up” to Jerusalem in an earthly sense as a metaphor for moving toward the Heavenly Jerusalem which “has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb” (Revelation 21:23). This is a wonder more daunting and challenging than the most abstruse hypotheses of the most brilliant physical scientists. It moves beyond the pleasure of speculation into the purest happiness of encounter. “Rejoice, O Jerusalem; and come together all you that love her.”       

by Father George Rutler, Pastor of the Church of St. Michael in New York City

Father Rutler's Sunday sermons can be downloaded in mp3 format on St. Michael's website.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

ESAU: Sin




The subject of which I want to treat next is sin, the great evil of our race, and repentance, its only
remedy. And I will take as my starting-point Esau, the grandson of Abraham, the elder son of
Isaac. You will remember that St. Paul, in his epistle to the Romans, treats Esau and Jacob as
typical, respectively, of nature and grace. Esau is the elder son by birth, but it is his younger
brother, Jacob, who is to be the inheritor of the promises. And St. Paul, anxious to maintain the
principle that God’s election is free, that it is antecedent to all merit or demerit on our part, points
out that in this case Jacob was preferred to Esau in a prophecy made before either of the two
children was born, when they had done neither good nor evil. That is t rue, and a valuable lesson.
But it is no less true that where God rejects, the ground of his rejection is to be sought, not in any
want of love on his part, but in some shortcoming on the part of the soul that is rejected. Let us
try, then, to trace Esau’s character and career – very little is told us about either – and take
warning for our own lives from the hints they give us.

ABRAHAM: A Meditation For Religious

   File:Sacrifice of Isaac-Caravaggio (Uffizi).jpg

Holy obedience is the subject I would treat next, because it so surrounds and conditions the
priestly life that we must needs consider the conduct of our lives and the eternal salvation of our
souls in relation to it and in conformity with it. I might derive a lesson on the subject from almost
any part of the Bible, whether in the Old or in the New Testament. But it seems convenient for
my purpose to keep to the order of historical narration, and discuss the virtue of obedience under
the figure of the patriarch Abraham. From the very moment when he appears on the stage of
history, Abraham meets us as a man with a vocation. Almost as soon as his name has been
mentioned, we read: “Meanwhile, the Lord said to Abraham, Leave thy country behind thee, thy
kinsfolk, and thy father’s home, and come away into a land I will shew thee. Then I will make a
great people of thee.” God has a use for him, and a promise to make to him; but all that is
conditional upon a blind act of obedience; which involves saying goodbye to all the surroundings
and associations which have bounded his life hitherto. And his life henceforward is that of a
wanderer. “And he to whom the name of Abraham was given, shewed faith when he left his
home, obediently, for the country which was to be his inheritance; left it without knowing where
his journey would take him. Faith taught him to live as a stranger in the land he had been
promised for his own, encamping there with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of a common hope.”
Dwelling in tents; here today, he has packed up and gone elsewhere tomorrow; he has no ties to
bind him; he moves, at every turn, in obedience to a command from the divine will.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

FIRST SUNDAY IN LENT: the desert

"The desert is, paradoxically, the very place where, cut off from all else, we experience the closeness of God. The opening verses of Psalm 90 have, in the translation of Ronald Knox, a note of intimacy that may escape us in more familiar translations:

Content if thou be to live with the Most High for thy defence,
under his Almighty shadow nestling still,
him thy refuge, him thy stronghold thou mayst call,
thy own God, in whom is all thy trust” (Psalm 90:1-2).


CONTINUE READING this meditation on the Vultus Christi blog.

And here is the complete text of Psalm 90, translated by Ronald Knox:

Content if thou be to live with the most High for thy defence, under his Almighty shadow abiding still, him thy refuge, him thy stronghold thou mayst call, thy own God, in whom is all thy trust. He it is will rescue thee from every treacherous lure, every destroying plague. His wings for refuge, nestle thou shalt under his care, his faithfulness thy watch and ward. Nothing shalt thou have to fear from nightly terrors, from the arrow that flies by daylight, from pestilence that walks to and fro in the darkness, from the death that wastes under the noon. Though a thousand fall at thy side, ten thousand at thy right hand, it shall never come next or near thee; rather, thy eyes shall look about thee, and see the reward of sinners.
Saint Anthony the Abbot in the Wilderness     He, the Lord, is thy refuge; thou hast found a stronghold in the most High. There is no harm that can befall thee, no plague that shall come near thy dwelling. He has given charge to his angels concerning thee, to watch over thee wheresoever thou goest; they will hold thee up with their hands lest thou should chance to trip on a stone. Thou shalt tread safely on asp and adder, crush lion and serpent under thy feet.
     He trust in me, mine it is to rescue him; he acknowledges my name, from me he shall have protection; when he calls me, I will listen, in affliction I am at his side, to bring him safety and honour. Length of days he shall have to content him, and find in me deliverance.

Friday, March 7, 2014

THE FLOOD

The Sacrifice of Noah

I hope to continue to post chapters from Ronald Knox's 'A Retreat For Priests' during Lent. The previous post - Creation - was Chapter 1. Here is Chapter 2, The Flood:

I have spoken of man’s creation and his fall; it is natural to pass on from that to an incident
which follows at a very short interval in the sacred writings, the Flood. It has been pointed out
that almost every people retains the memory, or has preserved the legend, of a great deluge at
some remote period, which made a clean sweep of living creation and involved, as it were, a
fresh start. Whatever else the Flood was or did, it seems quite certain that the memory of it is
branded on our race-consciousness; the details of it may be dimly remembered, like a child’s
nightmare, but the tradition is there – that the world God had made needed to be remade, for all
practical purposes, after being buried under a flood.
What is the lesson which this tradition teaches us? Why, first and foremost the lesson of our
conservation. We might have been tempted to suppose, indeed, people often have supposed, that
God simply created the world and then lost interest in it; left it to go its own way, according to
some automatic principle of control which he had devised for it, without interfering in its
destinies further, or busying himself about its welfare. Well, we all know that such a conception
is wholly unsatisfactory as a matter of philosophy; that it is not enough for God to have created
us; he must needs hold us in being by a continuous exercise of his power, lest we should slip
back into the nothingness from which we came.

CONTINUE READING