Sunday, June 23, 2019

Nature of the Reformation

"The break-up of united Western Christendom with the coming of the Reformation was by far the most important thing in history since the foundation of the Catholic Church fifteen hundred years before.

"Men of foresight perceived at the time that if catastrophe were allowed to consumate itself, if the revolt were to be successful (and it was successful), our civilization would certainly be imperilled,  and possibly, in the long run, destroyed.

"That indeed is what has happened. Europe with all its culture is now seriously imperilled and stands no small chance of being destroyed by its own internal disruption; and all this is ultimately the fruit of the great religious revolution which began four hundred years ago.

"That being so, the Reformation being of this importance, it ought to form the chief object of historical study in modern times, and its nature should be clearly understood, even if only in outline."

~Hilaire Belloc: Characters of the Reformation, Chap 1. (1936)

Diptych with the Portraits of Luther and his Wife, by CRANACH, Lucas the Elder. Oil on wood; Museo Poldi Pezzoli, Milan.

Portrait of Philipp Melanchthon, by CRANACH, Lucas the Younger. Oil and tempera on wood, transferred to canvas,1559; Städelsches Kunstinstitut, Frankfurt.

The Calvinist Iconoclastic Riot of August 20, 1566, by HOGENBERG, Frans. Copper engraving, 1588; British Museum, London.

Portrait of John Calvin (1509–1564). Oil on panel, c. 1550. (Anonymous)


"...Saint Thomas More is badly misunderstood; and through misunderstanding him we misunderstand the nature of the English Reformation itself as well as the peculiar and individual greatness of this individual martyr. . .

"He was, I repeat, utterly alone. He had no support from without.

"And what support had he from within? That terrible question we cannot answer with certitude, but we can, I think, with probability. His was not only a skeptical mind, as has been the mind of more than one who has nonetheless suffered death for truth held by faith and not by experience: it was also a mind which had long practice of seeing both sides of any question and thinking anything can be argued; on that particular point of the Papacy he had himself argued sincerely enough on the wrong side. I suggest that the Martyr in his last moments had all the intellectual frailty of the intellectuals, and that at the end his skepticism was still working; but his glorious resolution stood─and that is the kernel of the affair. He had what is called "Heroic Faith"."

~Hilaire Belloc: Characters of the Reformation, Chap. 6.

@ Amazon

Friday, June 21, 2019

"The mountains from their heights"

"And this is a peculiar thing I have noticed in all mountains, and have never been able to understand─ namely, that if you draw a plan or section to scale, your mountain does not seem a very important thing. One should not, in theory, be able to dominate from its height, nor to feel the world small below one, nor to hold a whole countryside in one's hand─yet one does. The mountains from their heights reveal to us two truths. They suddenly make us feel our insignificance, and at the same time they free the immortal Mind, and let it feel its greatness, and they release it from the earth."

~Hilaire Belloc: The Path to Rome

Godolphin Horne

Godolphin Horne, Who was Cursed with
the Sin of Pride, and Became a Boot-Black

Godolphin Horne was Nobly Born;   
He held the Human Race in Scorn,   
And lived with all his Sisters where   
His Father lived, in Berkeley Square.   
And oh! the Lad was Deathly Proud!   
He never shook your Hand or Bowed,   
But merely smirked and nodded thus:   
How perfectly ridiculous!
Alas! That such Affected Tricks   
Should flourish in a Child of Six!
(For such was Young Godolphin's age).   
Just then, the Court required a Page,   
Whereat the Lord High Chamberlain   
(The Kindest and the Best of Men),   
He went good-naturedly and took   
A Perfectly Enormous Book
Called People Qualified to Be
Attendant on His Majesty,
And murmured, as he scanned the list   
(To see that no one should be missed),   
'There's William Coutts has got the Flu,   
And Billy Higgs would never do,   
And Guy de Vere is far too young,
And. . . wasn't D'Alton's Father hung?   
And as for Alexander Byng!—. . .   
I think I know the kind of thing,   
A Churchman, cleanly, nobly born,   
Come let us say Godolphin Horne?'   
But hardly had he said the word   
When Murmurs of Dissent were heard.   
The King of Iceland's Eldest Son
Said, 'Thank you! I am taking none!'   
The Aged Duchess of Athlone   
Remarked, in her sub-acid tone,   
'I doubt if He is what we need!'   
With which the Bishops all agreed;   
And even Lady Mary Flood
(So Kind, and oh! so really good)   
Said, 'No! He wouldn't do at all,   
He'd make us feel a lot too small.'
The Chamberlain said, ' . . . Well, well, well!   
No doubt you're right . . . One cannot tell!'
He took his Gold and Diamond Pen   
And Scratched Godolphin out again.   
So now Godolphin is the Boy   
Who blacks the Boots at the Savoy.

~Hilaire Belloc

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

"Under what form of government is the state of man at its best?"

"THE TRUTH that Dr. Jowett gave me came thus. He asked me the political question which was uppermost in his mind, and which he believed all young men should consider. It was, "Under what form of government is the state of man at its best?" I answered as all young men should  answer, "A Republic," to which he answered gently in his turn, "You cannot have a Republic without Republicans." Now that, for terseness and truth and a certain quality of "revelation," was worthy of Aristotle. It is the full answer, historical and moral, to every honest man who desires, as most honest men do, democracy, and who wonders why it is so hard to attain. But I have never considered that answer; and I think that if I had not heard these half dozen words I might never have considered it.

"Democracy, that is, the government of the community by the community: a State where in a man stands equal with his fellows, and has to suffer neither subservience nor the corruption of flattery and power: a State in which office alone commands, and not being clothed with office─that is the ideal at the back of every man's mind who cares for right in public affairs, and who has within himself anything left of private honour. It is simplest put by saying democracy is the noblest form of government. But the moment you begin to deal with men, you find in varying degree, according to the human material handled, a difficulty in the direction of such an affair. You have experience of the wickedness and folly of men, and if you add to such growing experience the vast experience of history, you find that, save in some few, and those small, communities, the ideal of democracy must breakdown in practice; and that so far from enjoying the noblest of social conditions, men in great States are soon suffering the basest forms of control by the rich. That is because most men, though intimately desiring a republic, are not republicans: when you have great numbers, those worthy of democracy are few. In the same way most men, though individually desiring peace within, have not the control of themselves which makes such peace possible.

"So much for the Master's excellent platitude.

"It is strange that things worth saying and hearing, guiding things, should always have that quality of turning into platitudes, once they are familiar; for they were sudden revelations when first they came. To me now the impracticability of democracy among men indifferent to honour and justice is so clear that I never pause to consider it, well knowing that you cannot have the thing in any modern plutocratic State; that even in small States it needs a peculiarly admirable and rare temper in the human material of them. But this conviction came slowly, and all started from those few words.

"And what has all this to do with the sailing of the sea? Nothing, save that it is during the sailing of the lonely sea that men most consider the nature of things."

~Hilaire Belloc: "The Cruise of the 'Nona'."

(Artwork: Seascape at Cayeux, by DUPRÉ, Jules. Oil on canvas, c. 1870. Private collection)

Sunday, June 9, 2019

"All human conflict is ultimately theological"

"THERE IS another form of impressing the truth, and testifying to it, and doing good by it, which is the dogmatic assertion of truth by the old and the experienced and the revered, to the young. It is out of fashion, it is invaluable. I can myself testify to two such experiences which stand out supreme among many many hundreds in my own early life. I am afraid they may seem trivial to my readers; I can only say that for myself they were as strong as any great joy or pain could be. One was a sentence which Cardinal Manning said to me when I was but twenty years old. The other was one which the Master of my College, Dr. Jowett, of Balliol,
said to me when I was twenty-two years old.

"The profound thing which Cardinal Manning said to me was this: 'all human conflict is ultimately theological'.

"It was my custom during my first years in London, as a very young man, before I went to Oxford, to call upon the Cardinal as regularly as he would receive me; and during those brief interviews I heard from him many things which I've had later occasion to test by the experience of human life. I was, it may be said, too young to judge things so deep as sanctity and wisdom; but, on the other hand, youth has vision, especially upon elemental things; and Manning did seem to me (and still seems to me) much the greatest Englishman of his time. He was certainly the greatest of all that band, small but immensely significant, who, in the Victorian period, so rose above their fellows, pre-eminent in will and in intelligence, as not only to perceive, but even to accept the Faith. Not only did his powerful mind discover, but his powerful will also insisted upon all the difficult consequences of such an acceptation. He never admitted the possibility of compromise between Catholic and non-Catholic society. He perceived the necessary conflict, and gloried in it.

"This saying of his (which I carried away with me somewhat bewildered) "that all human conflict was ultimately theological": that is, that all wars and revolutions and all decisive struggles between parties of men arise from a difference in morals and Transcendental doctrine, was utterly novel to me. To a young man the saying was without meaning: I would have almost said nonsensical, save that I could not attach the idea of folly to Manning. But as I grew older it became a searchlight: with the observation of the world, and with continuous reading of history, it came to possess for me a universal meaning so profound that it reached to the very roots of political action; so extended that it covered the whole.

"It is, indeed, a truth which explains and co-ordinates all one reads of human action in the in the past, and all one sees of it in the present. Men talk of universal peace: it is only obtainable by one common religion. Men say that all tragedy is the conflict of equal rights. They lie. All tragedy is the conflict of a true right and a false right, or a greater right and a lesser right, or, at the worst, of two false rights. Still more do men pretend in this time of ours, wherein the habitual use of the human intelligence has sunk to its lowest, that doctrine is but a private, individual affair, creating mere opinion. Upon the contrary, it is doctrine that drives the State;  and every State is stronger in the degree in which the doctrine of its citizens is united. Nor have I met any man in my life, arguing for what should be among men, but took for granted as he argued that the doctrine he consciously or unconsciously accepted was or should be a similar foundation for all mankind. Hence battle.

"The truth Dr. Jowett gave me came to thus." . . (cont. next post).

~Hilaire Belloc: "The Cruise of the 'Nona'."

@ Amazon

Joan of Arc

Excerpt from Joan of Arc
by Hilaire Belloc

Regarding Belloc's book, Frederick D. Wilhelmsen said: "And did he not write the finest panegyric to Saint Joan of Arc — none is better — and do it in an English that matched the French of her own time?"

"ONE SUMMER MORNING when she was thirteen years of age and some months more, she went into the meadows to gather flowers with her companions and they ran races together, till she heard a lad saying, "Your mother needs you." Joan therefore went back quickly to the house, for she was kept subject. But her mother wondered and said she had not summoned her; so Joan went out again from the door into the garden-close and stood there for a moment looking westward towards the near hills. It was noon.

"As she so stood a dazzling light shone by her at her right hand, supplanting the day, and she was overcome with terror; from the midst of the glory, came a Voice which spoke of the Faith and its observance, and at last gave order that she should seek the uncrowned King of France, dispossessed by his foes, and rescue him and crown him at Rheims. At the third summons she saw St. Michael in his splendour and about him the Soldiery of Heaven.

"She was so young, and trembling, that she told no one (save later, secretly, the Priest), but she turned to a new piety as she grew into womanhood, cherishing the poor, and at her prayers continually till her devotion seemed ridiculous to those about her. And she had vowed her virginity to God "so long as it should Him please," but on this also she held her peace.

"The summer past and the winter; her summoning Heralds from beatitude would not let her be, but urged her still. There came Saint Catherine and Saint Margaret, who called each other by their names, and who were fragrant, speaking in low and lovely voices and still proclaiming her, and week after week, every two days or three, she lived in this companionship, consecrated, hesitant, impelled. There was the world about her, but there were also These: "I saw them with the eyes of my body, as plainly as I see you now; and when they went away, I would cry. For I wanted them to take me with them," ─ to that Paradise. Yet she still withstood them and was silent. Not till the third year did she yield and speak."

 ℘ Joan of Arc at Amazon

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