Sunday, May 24, 2015


Happy Feast of Pentecost! Here is one of Knox's best:

The Holy Spirit 

If a man should set out to go through the Bible, pausing and making a meditation wherever he found material, his attention would be caught without fail, I think, by the second verse of it. “Earth was still an empty waste, and darkness hung over the deep; but already, over its waters, stirred the breath of God.” Creation still in the melting-pot, so that we have nothing for our composition of place except a formless sea of undifferentiated matter; dark, not by some effect of shadow, but with that primal darkness that reigned before light was made. And over this inert mass, like the mist that steals up from a pool at evening, God’s breath his Spirit, was at work. Already it was his plan to educe from this chaos the cosmos he had resolved to make, passing up through its gradual stages till it culminated in the creation of Man.

Deep in your nature and mine lies just such a chaos of undifferentiated matter, of undeveloped possibilities. Psychology calls it the unconscious. It is a great lumber-room, stocked from our past history. Habits and propensities are there, for good and evil; memories, some easily recaptured, some tucked away in the background; unreasoning fears and antipathies; illogical associations, which link this past experience with that; primitive impulses, which shun the light, and seek to disguise themselves by a smoke-screen of reasoning; inherited aptitudes, sometimes quite unexpected. Out of this welter of conditions and tendencies the life of action is built up, yours and mine. And still, as at the dawn of creation, the Holy Spirit moves over those troubled waters, waiting to educe from them, with the cooperation of our wills, the entire life of the Christian.

Continue reading

Monday, March 30, 2015


Here's some good news: Catholic Answers has published a beautiful new volume of 6 forgotten Knox sermons and essays. The book will be off the press in April but is available for pre-order.

Included in this volume:
1. The Essentials of Spiritual Unity
2. Proving God
3. The Rich Young Man
4. Nazi and Nazarene
5. The Beginning and End of Man
6. On English Translation (Romanes Lecture)

This is a handsome hardback with high-quality paper, old-style wide margins, clean typography, an ex libris plate, and a sewn-in satin ribbon. Plus a forward by Karl Keating.

It sounds like a "must have" for Knox fans!

Thursday, March 26, 2015


The Facebook Page of the Ronald Knox Society has brought quite a few people to our door. At least some of them must be wondering what the Society is all about, so here goes:


I first ran across the writings of Ronald Knox as a very young, and extremely ignorant, convert to Roman Catholicism. Always an avid reader, I was hungry for the truth in written, intellectually stimulating and satisfying form. Providentially, I didn't have to wade through muddy waters alone but had a tremendous guide in my father-in-law, Neil McCaffrey Jr., who took me by the hand and led me directly to the very best English-language, Catholic writing. One of many books he gave me was a small, paperback volume of Catholic Digest, in which I found an abbreviated version of Knox’s ‘Trials of a Translator’. What struck me immediately was that here was a formidable intellect at work. I felt an immediate attraction. The fact that I, uninstructed as I was, could not only read, but understand what he had to say, only proves the marvelous talent which Knox exhibited throughout his life: that of being able to address any level of reader, any type of audience. He seemed extremely approachable.

I was hooked. For readers, there are few things more exciting in this life than finding an author one has never read and, further, that he has written prolifically. It’s like opening the door to Aladdin’s Cave. Over the years I read all the books I could find by Knox. Most of them came from my father-in-law’s enormous, personal library. And garage sales. In the early 80s almost none of Knox’s books were in print. Roman Catholic Books published ‘A Retreat For Lay People’, which is one of Knox’s best. Then Ignatius Press came to the rescue and began, slowly, to publish Knox’s sermons and apologetics. A generation later, there are now quite a few of Knox’s works in print. Enough to be going on with.

Somewhere in that time period, with the advent of the internet and Google, I founded the Ronald Knox Society, purely by chance, and without forethought. One night I was googling Knox in search of something-or-other and noticed that there was really very little information about him online. The only information which kept resurfacing with alarming regularity was an article by Fr. Leonard Feeney, S.J., taking Knox to task for his “liberal” views of extra Ecclesiam nulla salus. Without commenting further on Fr. Feeney I will say that, at the very least, it was extremely one-sided. So I looked up domain names and found that, unsurprisingly, was available. I made a little do-it-yourself website and started adding content. My purpose was, quite simply, to insure that when someone did a Google search for Ronald Knox he would get solid information about the man and his work.

Nothing much has changed since then. The greatest benefit that I have personally received from the Society has been the friendship of Fr. Milton Walsh, expert on the writings of Ronald Knox and terrific tour-guide to San Francisco. His advice has been to let the Society grow organically and not hustle about trying to make it other than what it currently is: a very small, and rather odd assortment of people who greatly admire, and are indebted to, the writings of Msgr. Ronald Knox.

So if our members are waiting for newsletters and conventions, membership drives and cruises, they are destined to be disappointed. People often ask whether I have begun a cause for Knox’s canonization. No, nor do I have any intention of doing so. Aside from the fact that I have neither the energy nor the patience for such an undertaking, I rather think that modesty would prevent Knox from wanting himself put forward in that way. His life’s work was to clear the grime from our intellects that we might see the object of his own gaze: Our Lord Jesus Christ, the “window in the wall”. That is more than enough to be going on with.

Vicki McCaffrey
President, Ronald Knox Society

Tuesday, March 24, 2015


Timothy McCormick has posted a terrific interview with Father Milton Walsh on his Catholic Bibles blog. Do read it all, but here's a sample:

... as you have pointed out in your book Ronald Knox As Apologist, that towards the end of his life he saw a need for a new kind of apologetics.  His death in 1957 left that an open question.  So, what do you think he was aiming at in this new apologetics and how might that be applicable to the Catholic Church in 2015?

I’ll try to give a brief answer to a question which generated an entire dissertation!  Knox did “classical apologetics” very well, and his Belief of Catholics is still a good resource for those who want a popular intellectual defense for belief in the existence of God and the unique role of Christ in human history.  This apologetic approach was the heir to the Enlightenment, and tended to put great emphasis on rational argumentation.  Reason was seen to be the common ground between believer and unbeliever; Knox and the other writers I mentioned earlier often approached apologetics from this vantage point.

But we are more than “thinking machines”, and Knox recognized that many intellectual questions are rooted in more existential realities.  This comes across in his conferences to Catholic students at Oxford, in In Soft Garmentsand in The Hidden Stream.  By the 1950s, Knox realized that mere logical defenses were not sufficient for many people.  He was deeply affected by the invention and use of the Atomic Bomb, and his God and the Atom(regrettably, not in print) testifies to an important change in his priorities.  He wanted to write “a new apologetics”, but did not get very far with it.  His final illness from cancer took him very quickly.

If I had to summarize the direction he seemed to be heading in his new approach, it would be this: the classical Catholic apologetics relied perhaps too much on pure logic, and most people are not purely logical.  The dilemma was, then, what can be the common ground for a conversation between believer and unbeliever?  His answer was ordinary human experience, which takes in the intellect but so much more: desire, beauty, heroic ideals, etc.  In fact, Knox incorporated much of this “argumentation” in his sermons, which addressed not only the mind but the whole person.

Monday, January 12, 2015


"For a guide and source of ideas, I would cite the man whom I consider the greatest Catholic preacher of the twentieth century:  Ronald Knox." - Fr. George Rutler

Read the whole article.