Sunday, January 29, 2012


Msgr. Vernon Johnson first met Ronald Knox at Oxford, when they were both undergraduates. Both converted to Roman Catholicism and, later, both returned to Oxford as Chaplain to the Catholic students. Msgr. Johnson wrote at some length of their friendship:

"It was a June evening towards the end of the summer term at Oxford in 1906. I was standing at the entrance to Pusey House, the High Church undergraduate centre, and saying farewell to one of the clergy. As I turned to go he said, ‘By the way, an extremely brilliant boy who has taken the first scholarship at Balliol is coming up from Eton next term. He has leanings in our direction. Pray that he may not lose his faith at Oxford.’ That was how I first heard of Ronnie!

The following October, Ronald Knox swept like a comet, with all a comet’s attendant brilliance, into the life of Oxford University. Before the term was far spent his name was on everybody’s lips. The Dons in their Senior Common Rooms were all discussing his brilliance, half afraid as to where it might lead him. (One of the authorities when asked his opinion of Ronald Knox is reputed to have replied, ‘He is indeed brilliant but rather too given to Socialism and Christianity’.) In the Junior Common Rooms the undergraduates were all rocking with laughter at his wit.

As time went on every great classical prize fell to him and it was not long before there was nobody at the Union who could touch him for popularity as a speaker. After the great debates, the foremost political leaders were all eager to secure him for their party.

In the midst of all this adulation Ronald Knox remained quite unmoved and utterly unspoilt. What was the secret which kept him always so charmingly modest amid this hurricane of fame? His racy wit and inveterate love of a joke had indeed quickly earned for him the reputation of being an enfant terrible, flippant and superficial. Little did these people know of the private personal life which lay behind this brilliance and which he was at such pains to keep completely hidden."

Read the entire essay in PDF.

Msgr. Vernon Johnson is best known for his devotion to St. Therese of Lisieux. He is the author of Spiritual Childhood: The Spirituality of St. Therese of Lisieux

Monday, January 23, 2012


by Ronald Knox. Ignatius Press.

A Retreat for Lay People brings together a collection of Knox's conferences preached over a period of fifteen years. His opening topic is "Discouragement in Retreat," and he concludes with a reflection on "Our Lady's Serenity." In between, Knox addresses the big questions - the fear of death, the problem of suffering, the world to come - but he also explores the little questions that loom large in our daily lives, like minor trials, liberty of spirit in prayer, and the use of God's creatures. 
Msgr. Knox shapes his collection around the classic Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. The first eight conferences address the foundations of our spiritual life; the next eight offer reflections on the life of Our Lord; the final eight take up practical questions of living our faith in daily life. These "pieces of eight" are punctuated by two meditations suitable for a Holy Hour. The Eucharist was at the heart of Knox's life and his profound love for Christ in the Blessed Sacrament shines through in these talks.
As in all his writing, in these conferences Ronald Knox combines love for Scripture, commitment to the Catholic faith, and sympathy for the struggles and joys of Christian discipleship.  A Retreat for Lay People is solid spiritual food, served up with refreshing simplicity and a dash of wit.

"In two dozen meditations Msgr. Ronald Knox brings your mind back to where it should be - focused on God - and he does it with that verve and wit that has made him my favorite Catholic writer."
- Karl Keating, Author, Catholicism & Fundamentalism

A Retreat for Lay People: Spiritual Guidance for Christian Living

Sunday, January 22, 2012


The Passing Tramp blog has several posts of interest to Knox's detective fiction fans, including reviews of Still Dead and The Warrielaw Jewel, a detective novel written by Ronald's sister, Winifred. 

Thursday, January 19, 2012


Msgr.Cormac Burke has posted the entire Holy Bible - as translated by Msgr.Ronald Knox - online. But here's the twist: he has carefully changed 'Thou' and 'Thine' to 'You' and 'Yours'.
Msgr. Burke explains: "The past 40 years have seen a welter of English translations of the Bible. One appears to have been quite lost in this biblical multiplication: that of Ronald Knox which was so immensely popular from its publication in 1944 to the mid-1960s. My own reaction to it had been enthusiastic, yet maybe somewhat ambivalent: I found it very readable, very inspiring, and at times a bit debatable...
In any case it descended into practical oblivion after Vatican II. It might - and perhaps should - have survived if Knox had not made the mistake, as I now see it, of sticking to the "thou" forms throughout.
Some time back, seeing the very varied quality of the new versions, I began to wonder if Knox, in "you" form, might not be of interest and help to some people. So I began to while away odd moments by "you-ing" his New Testament (I have a good program for such a task). With "you" etc. throughout, many passages seemed to take on a new freshness and interest.
Now, more than a year after its first appearance on my website, I find that the 'you' version has drawn more interest than I ever anticipated. One reader makes a comment worth transcribing. For him, the Ronald Knox translations, "somehow combine clarity with mystery: I mean they are easy enough to understand and they still have that majesty of language which constantly reminds the reader that these words concern much more than the everyday".
It is an opinion that may have particular application to the pauline epistles. Regarding these I do recall some early critic who, while conceding that Msgr. Knox had certainly made St. Paul intelligible (he was at times barely so in the old Douai-Rheims version), still doubted whether Knox's version really makes Paul say what he actually wanted to say... I am not scripture scholar enough to resolve the question; but am sure that the same doubt can be made extensive to quite a few more recent versions.
In consequence, the more the present spare-time activity progresses, the greater my impression that something old has in a small but important way become new again. If so, the endeavor is not totally useless.
In any case, may "Ronnie" forgive me from his heavenly abode, if he does not approve of my efforts. But I would not like to see any of his masterly and inspiring prose being thrust aside because of a few pronouns or adjectives here and there."

Msgr. Cormac Burke


by Milton Walsh. Ignatius Press. 

C.S.Lewis and Ronald Knox were two of the most popular authors of Christian apologetics in the twentieth century ... and for many years they were neighbors in Oxford. In Second Friends, Milton Walsh delves into their writings and compares their views on a variety of compelling topics, such as the existence of God, the divinity of Christ, the problem of suffering, miracles, the way of Love, the role of religion in society, prayer, and more. They both bring to the conversation a passionate love of truth, clarity of thought, and a wonderful wit.
Lewis and Knox both experienced powerful conversions to the Christian faith, an important aspect that Walsh covers in detail. Both wrote about their conversion experiences because they wanted to explain to others why they took that life-changing step. They each valued logical thinking, and they professed that the Christian faith should be embraced, not only because it is good, but because it is true. Reason provides the intellectual foundation of belief for both authors.
For both these apologists, Christianity is much more than a doctrinal system: it is above all a personal relationship with Christ that entails romance, struggle, and loyalty. A common adjective applied to Lewis and Knox as writers was "imaginative". They saw lack of imagination as a great hurdle to faith, and they believed that imagination is a privileged path leading to a deeper apprehension of the truth.
Lewis and Knox, while convinced that the Christian faith rested on sound reason and that it fulfilled the deepest human longings, also knew that God is a mystery - and so is the human heart. In the face of these twin mysteries, Milton Walsh shows that both men approached their evangelizing efforts in a spirit of humility, as he explores how they appealed to the mind, the heart, and the imagination in presenting the Christian faith.