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THE

UNITED STATES

CATHOLIC MAGAZINE.

JULY, 1843.

SIGHTS AND THOUGHTS IN FOREIGN CHURCHES.

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Sights and Thoughts in Foreign Churches, and see the day approaching." The book is dated

among Foreign Peoples. By Frederick Ambleside, the feast of St. Matthias,” and William Faber, M. A., Fellow of Uni inscribed to Wordsworth, the poet, “ in afversity College, Oxford. London, 1843. fectionate remembrance of much personal

kindness, and many thoughtful conversaTHIS is altogether a very remarkable tions on the rites, prerogatives and doctrines

book. It exhibits a distinctive charac of the holy Church." The opening is ter, and is stamped with the impress of the pleasing and appropriate. new Oxford opinions. We have seen these “ The traveller in the middle ages rose opinions industriously circulated through with the religious men beneath whose roof, the various channels of the familiar tract, he had found shelter for the night; with the grave and didactic treatise, and the more them he sought, first of all, the house, oftenattractive melody of verse; it remained to times the altar of God, and joined in the vary the medium and occupy the only yet matin service of the western Church. He untrodden ground, by the production of a went forward on his road with prayer and volume of travels, through such “ foreign benediction. Prosperum iter—a prosperous churches and foreign peoples,” as were journey! was the kind monks' farewell, likely to afford scope for a display of the faciat tibi Deus salutarium nostrorum: utinam new theology-or rather of an old theology dirigantur viæ tuæ ad custodiendas justifica revived ; for, to use Mr. Faber's own words, tiones Dei! and from field, and brook, and “there is a daily and incessant resurrection bush, the salutation still for miles came forth, of opinions.” And he adds: “the seeds haunting his ear, Procedas in pace, in nomiof the middle ages have been long deposited ne Domini-go in peace, in the name of the in the fertile mould of neglect and disbelief. Lord! A cloud of good wishes accompaThey are now beginning to swell and split nied and guarded him from monastery to under ground. You will see their green monastery, while the courts of bishops and shoots parting the dull mould shortly.” the cloisters of learned men were opened to

Our traveller takes for his motto two him, by the commendatory letters of his verses of the epistle to the Hebrews (x, 24, native prelates. The traveller of those times 25), “ Let us consider one another to pro had some solid advantages which a churchvoke unto love and to good works : exhort man now-a-days may be allowed to regret. ing one another : and so much the more as ye The Church Catholic, her fortunes and in

VOL. II.-No. 7.

49

me.

terests, are not probably uppermost in the minds of the great bulk of modern travellers, and they of course will not miss that unity and brotherly intercourse, or that religious character imparted to their wanderings, which were so much prized of old. But they who are accustomed to believe and act as if they were a Church, and one Church only, and to deem each little fact and symptom connected with her as of more importance than political statistics, or the critical observations of the artist, will acknowledge both their profit and their pleasure to have been marred in no slight degree by the absence of those privileges of Christian communion so richly dealt out of old to travellers. There were a hundred little needs, interesting the affections and laying hold on the imagination which we remember, and with fond envy many times recapitulate, satisfied to the full for those who travelled in Christendom when at unity with itself, but now utterly unsatisfied for modern travellers, amid the jealous and disjointed churches. The traveller of past times was sure of a home for Easter or Whitsuntide ; the continual haunting of sacred places was, as it were, a safeguard against the fresh shapes and daily transformed temptations of sin, to which a traveller is exposed; he had holy houses every where, as refuges in times of weariness or pestilence, and a certainty, in case death should intercept him, of a consecrated resting place among the Christian dead, when he had passed through the narrow gate, aided by the offices and absolutions of the Church. And these were consolations, great or small, according to the degree in which he realized the powers of the Church, and the blessedness of being her son. Indeed, the disuse of the universal language of Europe, namely, the Latin of the middle ages, while it enhances the difficulty of communication with good men of foreign communions, may be regarded as an image of the present broken and disordered state of Christendom. However diversified might be the customs of the regions which the traveller visited, let him enter the portal of the Church, or hear the voice of the minister of the Gospel, and he was present with his own, though

Alps and oceans might sever them asunder. There was one spot where the pilgrim always found his home. They were all one people, when they came before the altar of the Lord.”

Of the views by which Mr. Faber was actuated in undertaking the tour before us, we have his own account, and powerfully is it set forth.

“I would fain regard the earth as a volume, where God's judgments and his mercies are luminously recorded. I would strive to cherish a more earnest Catholic spirit in interpreting what I see, and constrain each famous locality to give a voice and a soul to my dumb and spiritless recollection of history. Unfortunately I loathe books and in-doors pursuit of knowledge. I cannot profit in that school. I toil irksomely, and yet toil vainly. The restraints of scholarship are not sweet restraints to

What I read seems but a bewildering mass of ill-strung facts. I would put life into it all, by making for myself a sacred geography of this very fearful earth. Dumb cities should speak to me, interpreting the past, and put threads into my hands, whereby I may guide myself a little way, and with a timid soberness, into the profitable labyrinth of prophecy. The earth surely has a Catholic geography as well as a moral and physical one, and no less scientific; and if physical geography be one of the most alluring and fertile of all studies; what must Catholic geography be? .... The difference between truth in a book, and truth on the tongue, or truth in the immense prophetic hieroglyphics of the earth, is very great. What is it to sit in your solitary library, and open the service-book, and read the Nicene creed,-are you not reading truth? Yea, verily, eternal, immutable truth: there is no denying it. But what is it to be in some old and curious cathedral, fenced round with low browed arches, and in the gloom of stained windows, to stand in a ring of new made priests, in the venerable presence of one of the visible heads of the Catholic Church, who has just been handing on the apostolic keys and living tradition,—to behold him standing with his eyes fixed on the chequered mar

ble of the altar-steps, encompassed by the restless thought, or any impure thought, goodly sons whom he has just begotten for might never inhabit there again, but be forthe Church, of veritable apostolic vine, and evermore dislodged. Judgment has been to hear the organ and the choir burst forth done upon Asia; it seems still pausing over in a loud tumult of austerest music with the Europe. Only at a few epochs has the symbol of the Nicene council-what is it, Church been so awfully, so deeply, with I say, but to have each line and word of such vivid contrasts, chequered with light those Catholic verities graven with a style and shade as it is now; and oh! how painof flame upon your hearts."

fully one longs to know what may be the In harmony with the above are the re fortunes of our little, separated, tempestflections that follow. In more senses than tossed island-mother!one this is a powerful passage.

Such are the views and such the spirit “ It is an awe-inspiring privilege, if a man in which Mr. Faber writes. Of course it would only intelligibly use it, to wander up will not be difficult to conceive that his and down the broad continent, whose very modes of thought and manner of describing, countenance is seamed and furrowed by the will be very different from those of tourists, lines of God's past providences and the with whose productions we are familiar. potent action of his already accomplished They are conversant about material things, decrees, to take up here and there the links and studious only of the useful and the of some tremendous chain of mysterious agreeable; Mr. Faber travels in quest of arrangements, to gaze on the fair faces immaterial things; thought, feeling, and of old cities, whose character and fortunes emotion are the objects of which he is in have been distinct, peculiar, and each sub pursuit. Bearing this in mind, we shall the serving, in this or that age, the cause of the less wonder that in his long and solitary Catholic Church of Christ. Is there not, wanderings, he has caught the spirit and to a Christian mind, something very solemn assumes the tone of an enthusiast. Perand subduing in such spots as Paris, Avig haps this spirit is too conspicuous in his non, Trent, Nice, Rome, Constantinople, pages. In one instance it certainly is so. Alexandria, and Jerusalem ? Are they not

Mr. Faber introduces his reader to a nameall places where steps were taken which less and mysterious personage whom he calls gave a peculiar shape and form to the a man of the middle ages," who is made to Church? And not only is it a solemn discourse familiarly with him, and whose thing to read the face of Christendom, whose outward man he minutely describes. He is cities are each words to be spelled out, tel made to be the expounder of certain “ultra” ling secrets of the past, and having the doctrines of the Oxford school, or rather of foot marks of the Invisible not yet worn out certain en avant ideas, which either Mr. Faof their streets, when he passed there with ber's timidity and halting between opinions his Church to guard her and see her through; would not allow him to express, or which he but it is a solemn thing from books, con did not find it convenient to do in his own versation with strangers, the kindling of person. This introduction of a visionary thought in stirring localities, which we may being at every turn, and in the midst of hope is sometimes overruled to the discovery plain matter-of-fact occurrences, gives a of truth, and from other sources to watch certain fantastic air to Mr. Faber's work; and take the shape and bearings of those it has the effect of an overstrained and viohuge masses of cloud which are casting lent mixed metaphor in the midst of a piece here and there such ponderous prophetic of plain writing, disagreeable in itself, and shadows upon the Church, in motion here, not likely to add to the writer's capability and there at rest, dipping earthwards here, of inculcating truth. because of sin, and there drawn awhile up Mr. Faber sketches with a bold, rapid, wards, because of local prayer and holiness. and graphic pencil : witness his description It is a sight to make such a push within of Certosa. “ About five miles from Pavia, one's soul, as though a little thought, or a stands the Certosa of Chiaravalle, beneath

the walls of which the battle of Pavia was fought. It certainly is a most gorgeous church; but it is desolate and forlorn, and in want of worshippers. The suppression of the monastery in this particular spot is to be regretted. It was one of the wholesale reforms of Joseph II, the Austrian Henry VIII; but a better man and a wiser sovereign. This house of Carthusian monks was begun by one of the Visconti, dukes of Milan, in the fourteenth century. The building of it occupied one hundred years. The whole of the interior, which is spacious and in the form of a Latin cross, is one mingled mass of marble, precious stones, brass, bronze, fresco-painting, and stained windows, most dazzling and costly. We observed much elaborate work in very precious materials, in more than one place, where it could scarcely be seen by any human eye. This is always delightful. It is very contrary to our spirit. We would as soon throw ourselves from our own steeples as do any thing elaborate, or beautiful, or costly, where it would never meet the eyes of men.

How the spirit of the middle ages dwarfs this selfish unventuresome mean

What a refreshment it is—how grateful a reproof to wander up and down, within and without, the labyrinth of roofs in an old cathedral, as we did at Amiens, and see the toil and the cost of parts to which the eye can scarcely

el, so isolated are they in the air,—tracery, exquisitely finished images, fretwork, and the like, and all an offering of man's toil and intellect and cost to the Holy Trinity. The Certosa is a signal instance of this spirit. It is

* The same idea is thus beautifully enforced in Mr. Faber's description of the cathedral at Amiens. " When we had satisfied ourselves somewhat with the interior of the cathedral, we mounted to the top, and rambled all over the roofs among the exquisite pinnacles and carved work with which they are adorned. The roofs of great cathedrals generally deserve quite as narrow an inspection as the interiors; and the inspection is often as full of wonder as that of the inside, for the beauty and sumptuousness of parts of the building hidden from every eye but His to whose glory all was built, and the ken, perhaps of angels, are so alien to any thing in our modern temper, and are so frequently screened, as if with a jealous purpose, from man's praise, that they strike us even more forcibly than when lavished upon the nave or choir, where they would elevate the devotions of the worsbipper, and redound to the glory of the artist, or the honor of the founder.” P. 8.

one heap of riches and of earth's most magnificent things, wrought by the deep and fertile spirit of Christian art into a wondrous symbolical offering to God, shaped after the cross of his Son. Once indeed it had a continual voice-a voice of daily and nightly liturgies, which rose up from it before the Lord perpetually. But the fiat of an Austrian emperor went forth, and from that hour there was so much less intercession upon the earth. The Certosa is now a silent sacrifice of Christian art. It is, as it were, a prayer for the dead, rising with full though speechless meaning up to heaven.

I came out from the church, and loitered about the tranquil collegiate quadrangle in which it is situated. I remembered Pe trarch's letter to some Carthusian monks, with whom he had stayed. “My desires are fulfilled. I have been in Paradia, and seen the angels of heaven in the form of men. Happy family of Jesus Christ! How was I ravished in the contemplation of that sacred hermitage—that hallowed temple, which resounded with celestial psalmody! In the midst of these transports, in the pleasure of embracing the dear deposit I confided to your care (his brother, who had taken the habit), and in discoursing with him and with you, time ran so rapidly that I scarcely perceived its progress. I never spent shorter days or nights. I came to seek one brother, and I found a hundred. You did not treat me as a common guest. The activity and ardor with which you rendered me all sorts of services, the agreeable conversations I had with you in general and particular, made me fear I should interrupt the course of your devout exercises. I felt it was my duty to leave was with extreme pain I deprived myself of hearing those sacred oracles you deliver. It was my purpose to have made a short address to you; but I was so absorbed that I could not find a moment to think of it. In my solitude, I ruminate over that precious balm which I gathered, like the bee, from the flowers of your holy retreat.?”

Nor are Mr. Faber's moral pictures sketched with a less bold and picturesque pencil. Take an instance. He is in the ducal palace at Venice, surveying “ those

ness.*

you;

but it

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