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Switzerland, and the Scandinavian Peninsula ; with a brief glance at its fortunes in Ireland, France, and the Netherlands. He introduces his subject with a chapter on abuses in the Church. He shows how Gregory VII. brought about reform in his day; and, the inference is, in due time God would have brought about, through the medium of legitimate authority, a reform of the abuses that existed in the beginning of the sixteenth century. Therefore the disastrous rebellion of the Protestant reformers was not the work of God. Courteous and moderate in tone, Father Coppens ought to make an impression on non-Catholic readers. One is surprised that he has not strengthened his position, as he might easily have done, by precise references to non-Catholic historians; for Protestants will not accept, without challenge, an account of the Reformation from a Catholic pen; and the purpose of this little book is scarcely to convince sincere Catholics that Luther, Knox, Calvin, Henry VIII., and Elizabeth were enemies of the Church of God.
Under the guise of a tale, the main characters and facts of which, the author assures us, have been drawn from life, a lady with a facile pen, and a command of good, easy English, relates the conversion of three High Church people-a clergyman, a young lady, and a naval officer. Plot there is none, and the narrative is very loosely thrown together. The greater part of the book, and it contains about four hundred and fifty pages-consists of dialogue and conversation, in almost uninterrupted flow, in the course of which nearly every point of faith and practice on which the Catholic Church is in opposition to Anglicanism is persuasively defended and explained. The writer is familiar with the prejudices and distortions which pervert the viewpoint from which Protestants regard Catholic doctrine and discipline. The naval officer's conversion is brought about chiefly through his association with missionaries during his sojourn on the Chinese station, where he has an opportunity to witness the heroic self-sacrifice of the missionaries and the fruits of Catholic faith among their neophytes. In this portion of the story, which is richer in action than the other parts, as well as in her description of some domestic scenes at home, the writer gives evidence that, had such been her purpose, she could have produced a tale that, through the interest of the narrative alone, would hold the reader's attention. As it is, the book is of a kind to interest deeply and assist any person of culture who, from the outside, is turning a longing but uncertain look towards the Church.
* Back in the Fifties. A Tale of Tractarian Times. By Elizabeth Gagnieur :(Alba). Montreal: Sadlier.
When there is only too much evi. SPIRITUAL LITERATURE. dence that we are witnessing a
widespread decline of Christian faith, there is encouragement and hope in the fact that, on the other hand, there never has been, since the Reformation, such an interest as exists to-day in the great mediaval saints and mystical writers of the Catholic Church, especially in St. Francis and his followers, in Thomas à Kempis, and the en. tire school of Mount St. Agnes. The scholarly edition of the entire works of à Kempis, issued by Dr. Pohl, of Bonn, has been eagerly welcomed. The demand for it has induced Dom Vincent Scully to prepare an English translation of the volume which consists of the Meditation on the Incarnation and the Sermons on the Life and Passion of our Lord. The great characteristic of these, as of all the writings of à Kempis, is a deep, tender, childlike love of our Lord. The translator, who has rendered his text into thoroughly idiomatic English, has enriched the volume with a highly instructive general and critical introduction.
The Dominican, Father Mézard, who knows his St. Thomas from alpha to omega, has produced, in Latin, two compact little volumes of meditations which, he may justly claim, form a compendium of the great Doctor's teaching on religion and the ascetic life. Father Mézard has searched all the works of St. Thomas for passages suitable for pious meditation and arranged them in the form of brief meditations for every day of the liturgical year. The words of the original are retained and, usually, references are given to the sources. Only one of the meditations—that on the Immaculate Conception is not taken from St. Thomas. Needless to say, then, that there is not a line of empty phrase-making or fanciful futilities in the entire collection. Every sentence contains a thought which carries true to head and heart.
* A Meditation on the Incarnation of Christ. Sermons on the Life and Passion of our Lord By Thomas a Kempis. Authorized Translation from the Edition of Dr. Pohl. By Dom V. Scully. St. Louis: B, Herder.
+ Meditationes ex Operibus St. Thomæ Depromptæ. Auctore P. D. Mézard, O.P. Tom. I., II. Paris : Lethiellieux,
Another treasure of the middle ages, that is now for the second time presented to English readers, is The Dialogue of St. Catherine of Siena.. The Dialogue was dictated to her amanuensis by St. Catherine while she was in a state of ecstasy. Much of it, as may easily be guessed from the circumstances of its composition, is obscure and mysterious. Yet its general drift is perfectly clear. Catherine traces with a firm hand the way by which the Christian is to pursue righteousness and attain to God. With a profound knowledge of the human heart and of the conditions which prevailed in society during the troubled, distracted age in which she lived, she draws the picture of the vices which she lashes. At other times she discourses with wonderful insight and fervor on the secrets of the spiritual life-prayer, obedience, the attainment of perfect love. Though a great part of these revelations were given with a special view to the deplorable state of society in ecclesiastical and general life that prevailed during the Great Schism, the Dialogue has, nevertheless, a permanent value, and will soon become a favorite with those who study it—for it is to be studied, not merely to be read. The translator has prefixed a short but sufficiently detailed sketch of St. Catherine and her times, which helps greatly to a proper understanding of the book. He has added, too, an edifying and touchingly reverent account of the death of the saint by an eye-witness. He has done his work with so much skill and good taste, that one is all the more surprised that he should have fallen into the mistake of giving to the chapter on Catherine's death a title which evokes profane and strangely foreign associations.
Yet three other volumes of meditation, deserving of commendation, remain to be noticed. One is a new edition of the meditations translated from the Italian by the late Bishop Luck of New Zealand, chiefly for the use of religious. † The volume was highly commended, on its first appearance, thirty years ago, by Cardinal Manning, and has since become well known among many religious congregations.
* The Dialogue of the Seraphic Virgin Catherine of Siena. Translated from the Italian by Algar Thorold. New York: Benziger Brothers.
† Short Meditations for Every Day in the Year. From the Italian. Translated by the Right Rev. John E. Luck, O.S.B. New Edition. New York: Benziger Brothers.
Another,* also from the Italian, contains twelve meditations on the Sacred Heart. The meditations are very suitable for use at public novenas or sodality meetings.
Finally The School of Death, f for which also we are indebted to an Italian author, consists of thirty meditations on death. Each meditation is developed with a view to inculcate some particular virtue or duty. The reflections are brief, pointed, and well arranged.
No more timely book could appear DECISIONS OF THE HOLY just now than one answering clearSEE.
ly, frankly, and fully, the question,
What is the value of, and what is the obligation imposed by, pronouncements of the Pope and the various Roman congregations ? The question in more specific form is, with increasing frequency, addressed by members of the laity to their spiritual guides, who, owing to the unsatisfactory treatment which the subject has received in many of our theological text-books, are frequently embarrassed to find a precise, accurate answer. A professor in the Jesuit seminary at Hastings, England, the Rev. Lucien Choupin, S.J., has just published a treatise $ which, for method, clearness, précision, and sincerity, leaves nothing to be desired. In the opening chapters Father Choupin deals with pronouncements which are infallible—the nature and scope of infallibility, its object, and the nature of the adhesion which the faithful must give to such teaching. He next proceeds to discuss the authority of such pontifical encyclicals and constitutions as do not share the guarantee of infallibility, and consequently cannot demand an act of faith, properly speaking, in their contents. Yet these, he shows, impose on all the faithful a weighty obligation of another kind.
As examples of this class, he cites the encyclicals of Leo XIII. He next examines the value of congregational decisicos doctrinal and disciplinary, with special consideration of the Inquisition and the Index. Here Father Choupin is conspicuously clear; and lays down the principles by which a good many difficulties, which are by no means satisfactorily treated by many writers, are disposed of.
* Meditations on the Sacred Heart. From the Italian. By C. Borgo, S.J. New York: Christian l’ress Publishing Company.
+ The School of Death. From the Italian. Translated by the Rev. George Elson, I.C. New York: Benziger Brothers.
| Valeurs des Decisions Doctrinales et Disciplinaires du Saint Siege. Par Lucien Choupin, Paris : G. Beaucheone.
The dogmatic decrees of the Holy Office, he shows, may be confirmed in what is called the ordinary form. In that case such a decree remains an act of the congregation, and does not become an act of the Pope. If the decree is confirmed in forma specifica, by the Pope, it becomes an act of the Pontiff. Does it then become an act of the Pope speaking infallibly? It may, or it may not accordingly as the Pope does, or does not, express his will to exercise his prerogative of infallibility. The sense of a doctrinal decision emanating from the supreme authority, but not guaranteed by the prerogative of infallibility is that it is prudent and safe (sur) to regard a given proposition as erroneous, etc., or, conformable to Scripture, etc., in the present state of science. Such a decision demands an internal, intellectual assent. Still it is not infallible nor irreformable. The truth or falsehood of the proposition in question is not settled. If, therefore, as rarely occurs, we find solid reasons in favor of a condemned opinion, or against one that has been thus approved, we are humbly and respectfully to present them to the competent authority which will duly weigh them, and, if necessary, may revoke its former ruling.
Father Choupin does not offer any example of a congregation or the supreme authority revoking an erroneous decision in this manner. But when, shortly afterwards, he proceeds to ex amine the case of Galileo—which he treats with perfect honesty, he applies the principles which he has laid down.
Reviewing the famous case, he cites the text of the two condemnations—that of 1616 and that of 1633. The latter declares that the opinion that the sun is the centre of the universe, and does not move from East to West, and that the earth noves, and is not the centre of the world, is contrary to the Holy Scripture. It afterwards designates this opinion as error and heresy. What is the value of this decree? It is useless, declares Father Choupin, to deny that the heliocentric theory has been condemned as heretical. Useless also to pretend that the Pope has not intervened in the act of condemnation. But he approved the decision only in the ordinary form; consequently