A Sequence of Formative and Cumulative Insights

Dr. Robert Hickson

5 April 2022

Saint Vincent Ferrer O.P. (d. 1419)

Blessed Juliana of Mount Cornillon (d. 1258)

Epigraphs

***

“What then is this Sloth which can merit the extremity of divine punishment? St. Thomas’s answer is both comforting and surprising: tristitia de bono spirituali, sadness in the face of spiritual good. Man is made for joy in the love of God, a love which he expresses in service. If he deliberately turns away from that joy, he is denying the purpose of his existence. The malice of Sloth lies not merely in the neglect of duty (though that can be a symptom of it) but in the refusal of joy. It is allied to despair.” (Evelyn Waugh, “Sloth,” from The Essays, Articles, and Reviews of Evelyn Waugh, page 573.)

***

“Courage can only come from love, and from unselfishness.” (Maurice Baring, The Coat Without Seam, page 88.)

***

“Turgenev,” said Yakovlev, “says that man is either a Hamlet or a Don Quixote. You are a Don Quixote, only you have none of the Spaniard’s kindness and humility. If you are a Don Quixote you should be chivalrous.” (Maurice Baring, The Coat Without Seam, page 225.)

***

“Your ideas [said Yakovlev to Christopher] spring from rage and are spurred by reaction and so may easily turn to sourness instead of balm. And the essence of sacrifice is balm.” (Maurice Baring, The Coat Without Seam, page 128.)

***

“One has to accept sorrow for it to be of any healing power, and that is the most difficult thing in the world.”

“I didn’t think about it in that way. I don’t think I rebelled against it, because I thought my father was happier dead and at peace, than alive and in pain; but I was just stunned. Apart from that, I have not experienced real sorrow; only disappointment and disillusion.”

“A priest once said to me, ‘When you understand what accepted sorrow means, you will understand everything. It is the secret of life.’” (Maurice Baring, Darby and Joan, p. 178)

***

“In the Mass of Paul VI, there is an attenuation of Sacrificium, Sacramentum, and Sacerdotium.” (Arnaud de Lassus’ humble and faithful, private personal words to me, during his visit from France in the 1970s.)

***

“The Gift of Final Perseverance is a “Great Gift” – a “Magnum Donum.” (Council of Trent)

***

Ad Maiorem Dei Gloriam!” – The Jesuit Motto. (Father John A. Hardon, S.J. always accented the COMPARATIVE “Maiorem” – one must always try to give MORE.)

***

While recently preparing to be with a gifted young Catholic Priest and Confessor, I unexpectedly recalled – as I was serenely waiting – some varied insights from which I have cumulatively benefited down the years, both from personal bonds and from good literature. May our readers come to intertwine the meaning of these varied presentations above, as if they were a counterpoint, together with the following comments.

We propose therefore to conclude with two examples: one a Lutheran German once a 1939 exile to the U.S. (Dr. Fritz Kraemer, d. 2003); and an American Jesuit scholar (Father John A. Hardon, S. J., d. 2000).

  1. Fritz Kraemer on his strongly accented concept and perceived practice of “PROVOCATIVE WEAKNESS” whereby someone is so weak – in the Church or State or Culture – that he is “thereby provocative to others.” This concept still has many formidable applications!
  2. Father Hardon: “What we have is Nature; what we need is Grace….We are only as courageous as we are convinced. But what are we truly convinced of?”

–Finis–

© 2022 Robert D. Hickson

Two Emperors in Trouble and a Mother’s Prayer for Her Groping Son

Dr. Robert Hickson

6 January 2022

Feast of the Epiphany of the Lord

Two Emperors in Trouble and a Mother’s Prayer for Her Groping Son:

Evelyn Waugh’s 1950 Presentation of Saint Helena’s Deepening Faith and Eloquence

Epigraphs

***

“’I know I am human. In fact I often feel [says Constantine himself to his Empress Mother as the reigning Emperor; and, moreover, still “an unbaptized convert” (138)] that I am the only real human….And that’s not pleasant at all, I can assure you. Do you understand at all, mother?

‘Oh, yes, perfectly.’

‘What is it, then?’

Power without Grace,’ said Helena [the future Saint Helena].

‘Now you are going to start nagging about baptism again.’

‘Sometimes,’ Helena continued, ‘I have a terrible dream of the future. Not now, but presently, people may forget their loyalty to their kings and emperors and take power for themselves. Instead of letting one victim bear this frightful curse [of just and sustained ruling] they will take it all on themselves each one of them. Think of the misery of a whole world possessed of Power without Grace.’…

‘We talked of it years ago….I have always remembered your words [,Constantine]. You said: ‘If I wish to live, I must determine to rule.’ ‘

‘And that is true today.’ [said her son, Emperor Constantine]

But, not without Grace, Constantine.’

Baptism. It always comes back to that in the end. Well, I’m going to be baptized, never fear. But not yet. In my own time. I’ve got other things to do before that…. [even though he was still “one indeed who was not yet formally admitted as a catechumen”! (138)]….’”

(Evelyn Waugh, Helena (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1950), pages 185-186—my bold emphasis added; italics in the original.)

***

In the inmost cell of the foetid termitary of power, Diocletian [the Emperor Diocletian] was consumed by huge boredom and sickly turned towards his childhood’s home. He ordained a house of refuge on the [Dalmatian coast] shores of the Adriatic.” (Evelyn Waugh, Helena, page 100—my emphasis added)

***

“Everywhere Constantine prospered until he became blandly [so presumptuously and delusively?] aware that he was invincible….There were glimpses of [his son, Crispus] a nobler figure; young Crispus, all dash and fidelity, last warrior of the high Roman tradition on whose shield the fanciful might descry the fading blazon of Hector [of Troy]. Reports of him [and his death] came to Helena….His name was remembered always at her palace Mass. For Helena had been baptized.

“None knows when or where. No record was made. Nothing was built or founded. There was no public holiday. Privately and humbly, like thousands of others, she stepped down into the font and emerged a new woman. Were there regrets for her earlier loyalty? Was she persuaded point by point? Did she merely conform to the prevailing fashion, lie open unresisting to Divine Grace and so without design become its brimming vehicle? We do not know. She was one seed in a vast germination. (Evelyn Waugh, Helena, page 132—my emphasis added)

***

“’I’m only teasing, Lactantius [said Helena, but before she herself became a Christian]. Of course I know why you are all so excited. I confess I am a little uneasy myself. It’s this story that is going around that my boy has turned Christian. Has he?’

‘Not exactly, ma’am, as far as we can learn. But he has put himself under the protection of Christ.’

‘Why will no one ever talk plain sense to me? Am I too stupid? It is all I have ever asked, all my life, a straight answer to a straight question; and I never get one….All I want is the simple truth. Why don’t you answer me?’

After a pause Lactantius said: ‘Perhaps because I have read too much. I’m not the person to come to with straight and simple questions, ma’am. I don’t know the answers [to your several questions]….We all have the chance to choose the Truth….As you know he [Constantine] has brought the Church into the open.’

‘Beside Jupiter and Isis and the Phrygian Venus.’ [said Helena]

Christianity is not that sort of religion, ma’am. It cannot share anything [of the sort] with anybody. Whenever it is free, it will conquer.’

Perhaps there was some point in the persecutions then.’

The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.’ [said Waugh’s Lactantius to an attentive and receptive Helena, though as yet unbaptized; Helena, pages 127-128]

***

In 1912, three years before World War I began, Hilare Belloc first published an essay entitled “The Decline of a State.”1 And this compact essay, full of fresh insights, unexpectedly concluded with a memorable and challenging sentence:

Those who have least power in the decline of a State are priests, soldiers, the mothers of many children, the lovers of one woman, and saints. (242)

After my further reflecting upon Belloc’s selection of especially vulnerable persons in a time of decline and disorder, I recalled some passages from Evelyn Waugh’s historical novel, Helena (1950), especially two of Waugh’s formulations about the insufficiency of “Power”: Emperor Diocletian’s own boring and “foetid termitary of power”; and Emperor Constantine’s own self-sabotaging “power without Grace” as envisioned and articulated to her son by his mother, Helena, and concerning an imagined future ochlocracy or mob rule that is likewise trying to rule “without Grace”.

In this context, we may even slightly expand Belloc’s original phrase concerning the vulnerable: namely,“those who have least power in the decline of a state [and amidst “power without Grace”].”

With this slight amendment in mind, we now propose to examine Belloc’s essay more closely. It will be conducted “on the premise that sustained power without Grace is inherently selfsabotaging and is presented by a ‘foetid termitary.’” (Waugh’s scented termite analogy is a vivid one for sure!)

One of Belloc’s main contributions is his examination of the influence and destructive consequences of “two vices” (240)—“Avarice” and “Fear”—in the decline of a State, especially as practiced in “an oligarchic State, or aristocracy as it is called.” (237) For example, he says:

In the decline of a State, of whatever nature that State be [democratic, despotic, oligarchic, or aristocratic], two vices will immediately appear and grow: these are Avarice and Fear; and men will more readily accept the imputation of Avarice than of Fear, for Avarice is the less despicable of the two—yet in fact Fear will be by far the strongest passion of the time [i.e., during the time of a growing decline]. (240—my bold emphasis and italics added)

By way of clarifying contrast, Belloc elsewhere in his writings often accents the perilous combination of “insecurity and insufficiency” both of which all too often tend to increase the passions and the vices of Avarice and Fear.

Let us now consider some of Belloc’s framing introductory words to his analysis:

The decline of a State is not equivalent to a mortal sickness therein. States are organisms subject to diseases and to decay…; but they are not subject to a rhythmic rise and fall…. A State in decline is never a State doomed or a State dying. States perish slowly or by violence, but never without remedy and rarely without violence. (237—my emphasis added)

Belloc then refers to the “texture” (237) of a State and its decline, namely whether or not it is mostly democratic, despotic, oligarchic or aristocratic—or some combination of them. For example, and also promptly recalling his own England as of 1911, he says:

An oligarchic State, or aristocracy as it is called, will decline principally through two agencies which are, first, illusion, and secondarily, lack of civic aptitude. For an oligarchic State tends very readily to illusion, being conducted by men who live at leisure, satisfy their passions, are immune from the laws, and prefer to shelter themselves from reality. Their capacity or appetite for illusion will rapidly pervade those below them, for in an aristocracy the rulers are subjected to a sort of worship from the rest of the community, and thus it comes about that aristocracies in their decline accept fantastic histories of their own past, conceive victory possible without armies, wealth to be an indication of ability, and national security to be a natural gift rather that a [disciplined and virtuous] product of the [informed] will.(237-238—my emphasis added)

Now he passes on to the second factor (or “agency”) of a growing “lack of civic aptitude” in the decline of a State:

Such [oligarchic-aristocratic] communities further fail from a lack of civic aptitude…,which means that they deliberately elect to leave the mass of citizens incompetent and irresponsible for generations, so that, when any more strain is upon them, they look at once for some men other than themselves to relieve them, and [they] are incapable of corporate action upon their own account. (238—my emphasis added)

Belloc then touches upon real differences between “a great State or a small one” (238) and the factors of “indifference, faction, ignorance, and private spite” (238). States are “rooted originally in commerce, in arms, or in production” whether as they be artisan or be peasant-agricultural. He weighs and differentiates “the basis of the State” (239) more specifically and more concretely. These candid observations we recommend to the attention of the reader, that he may better savor the diversities.

It is fitting that we now further consider Belloc’s focused insights and his illustrations of “Avarice” and “Fear” and their sabotaging influences in a growing decline of a State.

First, Avarice, as a passion and vice, thus an habitual deadly sin, under conditions of decline:

Avarice will show itself not indeed in a mere greed of gain (for this is common to all societies whether flourishing or failing), but rather in a sort of taking for granted and permeation of the mere love of money, so that history will be explained by it, wars judged by their booty or begun in order to enrich a few, love between men and women wholly subordinated to it [money], especially among the rich: wealth made a test for responsibility and great salaries invented and paid to those who serve the State [a declining State, moreover]. This vice will also be apparent in the easy acquaintance of all who are possessed of wealth and their segregation from the less fortunate, for avarice cleaves society flatways, keeping the scum of it quite clear of the middle, the middle of it [society] quite clear of the dregs, and so forth. It is a further mark of avarice in its last stages that the rich are surrounded with lies in which they themselves believe. Thus, in the last phase [of avarice’s illusion], there are no parasites but only friends, no gifts but only loans, which are more esteemed favours than gifts once were. No one [is] vicious but only tedious, and no one a poltroon but only slack. (240-241—my emphasis added)

Although Belloc’s analysis is largely a secular analysis, Waugh’s Saint Helena—if not her son—would have detected new and crippling forms of Fear and of Cunning Carnal Prudence and Weakness without Grace. We may also consider the broken trust and increasing fears in our own society and decomposing civilization, at least as of 2022:

Of Fear in the decline of a State it may be said that it is so much the master passion of such decline as to eat up all others. Coming by travel from a healthy State to one diseased, Fear is the first point you take. Men dare not print or say what they feel of the judges, the public governors, the action of the police, [of] the controllers of fortunes and of news….Under the influence of Fear, to tell the least little truth about him [“a powerful minister”] will put a whole assembly into a sort of blankness.

This vice [of Fear] has for its most laughable effects the raising of a whole host of phantoms [subtle deceptions, or sensate “fake news,” perhaps?], and when a State is so far gone that civic Fear is quite normal to the citizens, then you will find them blenching with terror at a piece of print, a whispered accusation [e.g., about the immunities of International High Finance or the Money-Laundering of International Drug-Money Networks]. (241-242—my emphasis added)

By way of concluding his selectively nuanced essay, Belloc gives a glimpse of those who darkly and dubiously flourish in times of a State’s disorder and decline, as well as those who preserve some kind of independence or a deeply suffering vulnerability:

Moneylenders under this influence [of Fear] have the greatest power, next after them, blackmailers of all kinds, and next after these [two manipulative niche-operatives] eccentrics who may [“but, not without Grace”] blurt or break out [from under the vicious influence and atmosphere of Fear].

Those who have least power [under these secular and graceless and debilitating conditions] in the decline of a State are priests, soldiers, the mothers of many children, the [loyal] lovers of one woman, and saints. (142—my emphasis added)

It was a wise man who said that “those who are themselves uprooted tend to uproot others.”

Hilaire Belloc’s 1911-1912 essay on “The Decline of the State” is certainly resonantly enhanced in its complemetarity and counterpoise with Evelyn Waugh’s 1950 vivid historical novel, Helena—a novel about the times of Emperor Diocletian and Emperor Constantine and a newly germinating and spreading Christianity that Waugh himself so deeply cherished. (It was the only one he ever read aloud to his own beloved children.) Would that we knew whether Hilaire Belloc, who died in July of 1953, read Waugh’s moving 1950 novel with its supernatural perspectives on the indispensability of Grace.

In the 1960s, while a military officer in Southeast Asia, I one day somehow formulated to myself a principle about the mysteriously Permissive Acts of Divine Providence that was especially then consoling to me. It was a correlative relative proposition that went like this:

The greater the evil that God allows, the greater the good He intends to bring out of it.”

The faithful Practical Application of that Principle and Correlative Proposition goes like this:

“Therefore, here and now, I (we) must promptly collaborate with the Divine Intention and thus resourcefully and loyally try to bring about a GREATER good out of what God, and sometimes so mysteriously, has allowed to happen—also in combat and other forms of warfare!”

These are difficult principles and codes to live by. But “we are only as courageous as we are convinced,” as Father John A. Hardon, S.J. himself once solemnly and very supportively said to me.

CODA

Now comes an unforgettably beautiful literary passage: Let us thus now closely consider and gratefully savor St. Helena’s own cultivated prayers for her son (as well as for others) as offered to the Three Magi on the Feast of the Epiphany. Evelyn Waugh presents them at the end of his penultimate Chapter XI, which is aptly entitled “Epiphany,” from Helena by Evelyn Waugh (Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1950), pages 221-224, here, printed for the reader’s sake without indentation:

Everyone in Jerusalem remarked on Helena’s vigour. The old lady was positively indefatigable, they all said. But in truth she was very weary. Winter set in. The convent was exposed, damp and chill. It was not thus, in Dalmatia, that she had planned her old age. She seemed to have come to the end of her questions. No one was helpful. No one was hopeful. At Christmas she had not the strength to ride out with the procession to Bethlehem. She went to communion in the convent chapel and that day allowed the nuns to make a fuss of her, spending the feast crouched over a wood fire which they lit for her in her room.

But by Twelfth Night she rallied and on the eve set out by litter along the five rough miles to the shrine of the Nativity. There was no throng of pilgrims. [Bishop] Macarius and his people kept Epiphany in their own church. Only the little community of Bethlehem greeted her and led her to the room they had prepared. She rested there dozing until an hour before dawn when they called her and led her out under the stars, then down onto the stable-cave, where they made a place for her on the women’s side of the small, packed congregation.

The low vault was full of lamps and the air close and still. Silver bells announced the coming of the three vested, bearded monks, who prostrated themselves before the altar. So the long liturgy began.

Helena knew little Greek and her thoughts were not in the words nor anywhere in the immediate scene. She forgot even her quest and was dead to everything except the swaddled child long ago and those three royal sages who had come from so far to adore him.

“This is my day, she thought, “and these are my kind.”

Perhaps she apprehended that her fame, like theirs, would live in one historic act of devotion; that she too had emerged from a kind of ‘ουτοπία’ [Utopia] or nameless realm and would vanish like them in the sinking nursery fire-light among the picture-books and the day’s toys.

“Like me,” she said to them, “you were late in coming. The shepherds were here long before; even the cattle. They had joined the chorus of angels before you were on your way. For you the primordial discipline of the heavens was relaxed and a new defiant light blazed among the disconcerted stars.

“How laboriously you came, taking sights and calculations, where the shepherds had run barefoot! How odd you looked on the road, attended by what outlandish liveries, laden with such preposterous gifts!

“You came at length to the final stage of your pilgrimage and the great star stood still above you. What did you do? You stopped to call on King Herod. Deadly exchange of compliments in which there began that unended war of mobs and magistrates against the innocent!

“Yet you came, and were not turned away. You too found room at the manger. Your gifts were not needed, but they were accepted and put carefully by, for they were brought with love. In that new order of charity that had just come to life there was room for you too. You were not lower in the eyes of the holy family than the ox or the ass.

“You are my especial patrons,” said Helena, “and patrons of all late-comers, of all who have had a tedious journey to make to the truth, of all who are confused with knowledge and speculation, of all who through politeness make themselves partners in guilt, of all who stand in danger by reason of their talents.

“Dear cousins, pray for me,” said Helena, “and for my poor overloaded son [the Emperor Constantine himself, who was still unbaptized]. May he, too, before the end find kneeling-space in the straw. Pray for the great, lest they perish utterly. And pray for Lactantius and Marcias and the young poets of Trèves and for the souls of my wild, blind ancestors; for their sly foe Odysseus and for the great Longinus.

“For His sake who did not reject your curious gifts, pray always for the learned, the oblique, the delicate. Let them not be quite forgotten at the Throne of God when the simple come into their kingdom.”

–Finis–

© 2019 and 2022: Robert D. Hickson

1Hilaire Belloc, First and Last (London: Methuen & Co. LTD., 1912—the second edition; 1911 was the first edition), pages 237-242. All further page references will be to the text of the Second Edition, and placed in parentheses above in the main body of this essay.

Pius V’s 1570 Excommunication of Queen Elizabeth and the New 1581 Jesuit Spirit

Dr. Robert Hickson

29 December 2021

Feast of Saint Thomas à Becket (d. 1170)

Feast of King David the Poet and King (d. 973 B.C.)

Also the Traditional Feast of the Holy Innocents (1 A.D.)

Pope Pius V’s 1570 Excommunication of Queen Elizabeth and the New 1581 Jesuit Spirit:

Hence “the Chivalry of Lepanto and the Poetry of La Mancha”

Epigraphs

“Tobie Matthew [the manifoldly prosperous Protestant of Oxford] died full of honours in 1628. There, but for the Grace of God, went Edmund Campion.” (Evelyn Waugh, Edmund Campion (1935, 1946), page 21—my emphasis added

***

“In the spring of 1570 there occurred another event that completely recast the Catholic cause; Pope Pius V excommunicated the Queen [Elizabeth of England]….The See of Peter was at this moment [one year before the 1571 victory at Lepanto] occupied by a Saint….That year, at any rate, the Bull [of 1570: Regnans in Excelsis] came most opportunely to [William] Cecil. There was now the best possible evidence to confirm anti-Catholic feeling. (Evelyn Waugh, Edmund Campion (1946), pages 46 and 49—my emphasis added)

***

“Elizabeth was charged and found guilty [by “twelve trustworthy English witnesses”] on seventeen counts;….Elizabeth was excommunicated [on 12 February 1570, during Lent] and her subjects released from moral obligations of obedience to her.

“Three months later, on Corpus Christi Day, May 25th, a manuscript copy of the document was nailed to the door of the Bishop of London’s palace, in St. Paul’s Churchyard, by Mr. John Felton, a Catholic gentleman of wealth and good reputation. He was tortured and executed. On the scaffold he made a present to the Queen of a great diamond ring which he had been wearing at the time of his arrest, with the assurance that he meant her no personal harm, but believed her deposition to be for her own soul’s good and the country’s. He was the first of the great company of Englishmen who were to sacrifice their worldly prospects and their lives as a result of Pius V’s proclamation. (Evelyn Waugh, Edmund Campion (1946), pages 47-48—my emphasis added)

***

“There was to be no easy way of reconciliation, but that it was only through blood and hatred and derision that the Faith [sic] was one day to return to England….(Evelyn Waugh, Edmund Campion (1946), page 49—my emphasis added)

***

This well-researched and moving book by Evelyn Waugh–first published with much gratitude to the learned Jesuit Father Martin D’Arcy in 19351—was divided into four interwoven sections, which are alluring portions and nuanced aspects of Edmund Campion’s life of forty-one years: The Scholar; The Priest; The Hero; and The Martyr.

We shall now fittingly present a revealing section on life in post-1570 England, as perceived through Waugh’s compact words on The Hero and on the growing sacrifices of the missionary Jesuits:

These were the conditions of life, always vexatious, often utterly disastrous, of the people to whom the Jesuits were being sent, people drawn from the most responsible and honourable class, guilty of no crime except adherence to the traditional faith of the country. They were the conditions which, in the natural course, could only produce despair, and it depended upon their individual temperaments whether, in desperation, they had recourse to apostasy or conspiracy. It was the work of the missionaries, and most particularly of Campion, to present by their own example a third, supernatural solution. They came with gaiety among a people where hope was dead. The past held only regret, and the future apprehension; they brought with them, besides their priestly dignity and the ancient and indestructible creed, an entirely new spirit of which Campion is the type: the chivalry of Lepanto and the poetry of La Mancha, light, tender, generous and ardent. (122-123—my emphasis added, with the implicit references to the festive prose epic literature of Miguel Servantes, thus with the characters of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza)

By contrast to this new Ignatian ethos, as expressed compactly above, we now briefly consider the all-too-human reactions to any protracted injustice and cruelty:

After him [after the coming of Campion] there still were apostates and there were conspirators; there were still bitter old reactionaries, brooding alone in their impoverished manors over the injustice they had suffered, grumbling at the Queen’s plebeian advisers, observing the forms of the old Church in protest against the crazy, fashionable Calvinism; these survived, sterile and lonely, for theirs was not the temper of Campion’s generation who—not the fine flower only, but the root and stem of English Catholicism—surrendered themselves to their destiny without calculation or reserve; for whom the honourable pleasures and occupations of and earlier age were forbidden; whose choice lay between the ordered, respectable life of their ancestors and the Faith that sanctified it; who followed holiness, though it led them through bitter ways to poverty, disgrace, exile, imprisonment and death; who followed it gaily. (123)

Every word of these two extended quotations should be read today, and savored, especially amidst the manifold crises within and around the Catholic Church.

What path—or compromise—would we have chosen then, in 1570-1581—especially given a family with children?

Moreover, what choices are laid before us now today? The fundamental and permanent ones, too?!

“But, Mother, the basis of unity is truth”: were the uncompromising words ardently spoken by a Cardinal in Rome to Mother Teresa of Calcutta, in the presence of Father John A. Hardon, S.J.

(Father Hardon glowingly told me in person about this incident while they were waiting for the delayed appearance of Pope John Paul II, but he would not—and could not–disclose to me the name of the candid Cardinal.)

Finis

© 2021 Robert D. Hickson

1All references will be to the 1946 edition of Evelyn Waugh’s original 1935 book, entitled Edmund Campion, which also contains Waugh’s short, but vivid, “Preface to American Edition.” Citations will be placed in parentheses above in the main body of the text, as well as in the epigraphs. See Waugh’s Edmund Campion (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1946—pages 240).

Evelyn Waugh on Saint Edmund Campion’s Life and Death

Dr. Robert Hickson

28 January 2006

Saint Thomas Aquinas

Saint Peter Nolasco

(Author’s Note of 30 November 2021: Evelyn Waugh’s heart-felt text was first published in 1935, and dedicated to Father Martin D’Arcy, S.J. of Campion Hall, Oxford University. This current essay was first published in 2006 and will be published here once more in honor of Saint Edmund Campion, for his feast day on December 1.)


Forming a Catholic Resistance and Deeper Culture of the Faith in Times of Permeating Disorder: Evelyn Waugh’s Edmund Campion (1935) and Some Combatant Lessons from the Sixteenth Century

The scope and depth of Evelyn Waugh’s grateful and manly book, Edmund Campion, will, when receptively savored, illuminate and fortify those of the Catholic Faith today amidst their own special composite of challenges. For, as Waugh wrote in 1935: “The Church has vast boundaries to defend, and each generation finds itself called to service upon a different front.”[1]

In the longer light of history — informed by an attendant view of supernatural Grace and the other fundamental Christian Mysteries — Waugh shows in his deftly written 1935 book, only five years after his grateful reception into the Catholic Church, how the life of Edmund Campion bore intimate resemblances to the life and love of Christ, especially at the end. This book, moreover, will help us to see more clearly how we, too, must confront the mystery of iniquity today, to include the phenomenon of pervasive perfidy, which is sometimes so intrusive; and to do so without rash unwisdom or impetuous anger, but, rather, with high prudence and deeply abiding, intimate trust in the Providential Mercy of God rooted in the hearts of Christ and His Immaculate Mother, who will faithfully love us, and whom we must faithfully love, to the end. The greater the evil that God allows, the greater the good He intends to bring out of it. To what extent will we promptly and wholeheartedly — and perseveringly — collaborate with that generous Divine Intention? Edmund Campion did, knowing from the Council of Trent full well that the Grace of Final Perseverance itself is a great gift, a “Magnum Donum.”

One purpose of this essay is to give honor to Evelyn Waugh, a sometimes difficult man, but a great defender of the Faith in the Modern World, which he often so rumbustiously and wholeheartedly detested. One of his lovable characters, Scott-King (“Scottie”), the classical master at Grandchester Public School in England conclusively said to his progressive Headmaster: “I think it would be very wicked indeed to do anything to fit a boy for the modern world.”[2] Dying on Easter Sunday 1966 in his home, shortly after the Jesuit Father Philip Caraman celebrated the Traditional Latin Mass in a nearby Chapel, Waugh also suffered much from what he saw happening at, and shortly after, the Second Vatican Council — especially in the Liturgy and from the duplicity and perfidious manipulations of the clergy, especially Cardinal Heenan in England.[3] Like Edmund Campion, in part, Evelyn Waugh had his own “bitter trial” at the end — but so did Our Lord.

With his characteristic modesty, G.K. Chesterton once compared his entrance into the Catholic Church (in 1922, only eight years before Waugh) with the entrance into a Gothic Church. Inside a Gothic Church it is even more spacious than from without — i.e., when it is only seen from the outside, from different, but incomplete, perspectives. So, too, with the Catholic Faith and the Catholic Church. From within the Church the spaciousness of the Faith is even greater (and more intimate) than when only seen from the outside. The life and times of Saint Edmund Campion (1540-1581) are also seen with greater intimacy and spaciousness when seen from the inside of a beautiful book. This is to say, in and through the language and varied tones of Evelyn Waugh’s Edmund Campion.

Here, for example, is what Waugh wrote about the mystery of the character of Edmund Campion, who, in his short life and increasing witness to the truth, “suddenly emerges as a hero,” even though, from the beginning, it was vividly perceptible that “He was not a reserved man; he loved argument; ideas for him demanded communication”:[4]

It was an age [the Sixteenth Century] replete with examples of astounding physical courage. Judged by the exploits of the great adventurers of his time, the sea-dogs and explorers, Campion’s brief achievement [especially from his return to England in late June 1580 until his truculent martyrdom on 1 December 1581] may appear modest enough; but these were tough men, ruthlessly hardened by upbringing, gross in their recreations. Campion stands out from even his most gallant and chivalrous contemporaries, from [Sir] Philip Sidney and Don John of Austria [hero of Lepanto], NOT as they stand above Hawkins [the English buccaneer-pirate] and Stukeley by a finer human temper, but by the supernatural grace that was in him. That the gentle scholar, trained all his life for the pulpit and the lecture room, was able at the word of command [in March 1580] to step straight into a world of violence, and acquit himself nobly; that the man capable of strenuous heroism of that last year and a half [June 1580-December 1581], was able, without any complaint, to pursue the sombre routine of a pedagogue [in Prague and Brunn — in both Hussite and Lutheran Bohemia and Moravia] and contemplate a lifetime so employed — there lies the mystery which sets Campion’s triumph apart from the ordinary achievements of human strength; a mystery whose solution lies in the busy, uneventful years at Brunn and Prague [six years], in the profound and accurate piety of the Jesuit rule [hence “the precise discipline of the Ignatian Exercises”].[5]

Edmund Campion possessed a combination of very special qualities which could encourage the Catholics of England “to whom the Jesuits were being sent” and who, in truth, were “guilty of no crime except adherence to the traditional faith of their country”[6] — the Faith of Saint Augustine of Canterbury, Saint Thomas à Becket of Canterbury, and King Saint Edward the Confessor or Saint Thomas More. Under these conditions of life, “always vexatious, often utterly disastrous” the Catholics of Sixteenth-Century England suffered, and:

They were conditions, which, in the natural course, could only produce despair, and it depended upon their individual temperaments whether, in desperation, they had recourse to apostasy or conspiracy. It was the work of the missionaries, and most particularly of Campion, to present by their own example a third supernatural solution. They came with gaiety among a people where hope was dead. The past held only regret, and the future apprehension; they brought with them, besides their priestly dignity and indestructible creed, an entirely new spirit of which Campion is the type: the chivalry of Lepanto and the poetry of La Mancha, light, tender, generous and ardent.[7]

Always himself rooted in reality, Waugh then adds:

After him [Edmund Campion] there still were apostates and there were conspirators; there were still bitter old reactionaries, brooding alone in their impoverished manors over the injustice they had suffered [and perhaps without “forgiveness from the heart”], grumbling at the Queen’s plebeian advisers, observing the forms of the old Church in protest against the crazy, fashionable Calvinism; these survived, sterile and lonely, for theirs was not the temper of Campion’s generation who — not the fine flower only, but the root and stem of English Catholicism — surrendered themselves to their destiny without calculation or reserve; for whom the honorable pleasures and occupations of an earlier age were forbidden; whose choice lay between the ordered, respectable life of their ancestors and the faith which had sanctified it; who followed holiness though it led them through bitter ways to poverty, disgrace, exile, imprisonment and death; who followed it gaily.[8]

How did Campion become a Jesuit? How did it come to pass that, ordained by the Bishop of Prague, Father Campion, S.J., celebrated his first Mass on the Feast of the Nativity of Our Lady, on 8 September 1578 — slightly more than three years before his blood witness for the Faith, at Tyburn, in London, England? Waugh’s vivid and nuanced narrative will lead us to these deeper understandings — and some other insights, as well, about the implications of the Faith. For, the Lord’s last words to His disciples before His Ascension were: “and you shall be witnesses [Greek, “MARTYRES“] for me in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and even to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

In his own narrative of a later martyr for Christ, Waugh’s vivifying style has that “special quality” and “humbler role” of which Lactantius himself spoke in Waugh’s later Historical Novel, Helena (1950). In the later Third Century A.D., Lactantius was speaking of the earlier Christian martyrs of Britain and the recent martyrs of Thrace; he was speaking to Helena, before she became a Christian, and to her companion, Minervina (a sentimental — and somewhat brainless — Gnostic Sympathizer!). Lactantius in his modesty admits that he himself lacked what was needed to face the test of martyrdom, which is why he did not “stay at home in Nicomedia” (in Asia Minor), but fled the Diocletian Persecutions there. In Lactantius’ humble words about the mystery and abiding power of literary style, we also hear the deeper heart of Waugh:

“It needs a special quality to be a martyr — just as it needs a special quality to be a writer. Mine is the humbler rôle, but one must not think it quite valueless. One might combine two proverbs and say: ‘Art is long and will prevail.’ You see it is equally possible to give the right form to the wrong thing, and the wrong form to the right thing. Suppose that in the years to come [for example, in the time of Voltaire or Edward Gibbon], when the Church’s troubles seem to be over, there should come an apostate of my own trade, a false historian, with the mind of Cicero or Tacitus and the soul of an animal,” and he nodded towards the gibbon who fretted his golden chain and chattered for his fruit.” A man like that [who would “sap a solemn Creed with a solemn sneer,” said a poet] might make it his business to write down the martyrs and excuse the persecutors. He might be refuted again and again [with the true evidence and truthful counter-argument] but what he wrote would remain in people’s minds when the refutations were quite forgotten. That is what style does — it has the Egyptian secret of the embalmers. It is not to be despised.”[9]

Unlike the mocking tones and diction and syntax of Edward Gibbon, the gift of Evelyn Waugh’s style in his narrative of a later English martyr — “Pater Edmundus Campianus, Martyr” — gives the right form to the right thing. He uses language, not to conceal, but to reveal reality. That is to say, both the exterior, and the interior, life of Campion.

As we consider the preparation, formation, and full fructification of this gracious and much-beloved Jesuit priest, we should remember that, at the time of Father Campion’s return on “the English mission” as a Catholic priest, there was not yet an English Province of the Society of Jesus. Nor were there any Catholic bishops then in England who were not in prison. The other English Catholic bishops — like the elderly and failing Bishop Goldwell of Saint Asalph — were in exile. Moreover, after Campion was received as a novice in the Society of Jesus in late April 1573, he was assigned to the Austrian Province of the Jesuits for “the Bohemian apostolate” (which included Moravia, as well). The recently elected new General of the Society of Jesus — the Fleming, Mercurianus — approved of this assignment, as well as his later mission to England.[10] But, only three years after Campion’s martyrdom on the gibbet at Tyburn, the new Jesuit General Aquaviva was to write that “to send missionaries in order to give edification by their patience under torture might injure many Catholics and do no good to souls.”[11] The practical wisdom of those missions themselves, as well as the proper methods to be employed in the worsening circumstances in England, would remain a keenly disputed issue, even for those of deep faith who kept as a priority a supernatural criterion and the salvation of souls (salus animarum).

What would today’s laxer, or more tolerant, “Ecumenists” say — those who would inclusively promote, not the conversion of Protestants, but the convergence with Protestants (to include the increasingly innovative and syncretistic Anglicans of modern England)?

Even though Campion, along with Father Alexander Briant and Father Ralph Sherwin and thirty-seven others, was formally canonized on 25 October 1970, how would most “updated” Catholics today likely look upon those intransigent “Recusants” of Elizabethan England who refused to compromise with the eclectic and apostate “Elizabethan Settlement,” as it is euphemistically called? This is an important question, too, for us to reflect upon: to clarify our mind and principles, and to decide. We, too, must be prepared for the test — for the spiritual and moral combat of martyrdom. But, it is hard to pass the test when the test keeps changing. It is all too easy for our human weakness and sloth to say, instead: “If you can’t pass the test, change the test!” Especially, if it is a demanding test. Edmund Campion himself was often offered, as we shall see, comfortable preferments, even by the Queen herself, “would he but apostatize”!

In 1959, thirteen years after his new “Preface to the American Edition” of Edmund Campion, Waugh wrote a new Preface to his second, revised edition of Brideshead Revisited (1945), where he was very explicit about the main purpose of his historical novel. He said: “Its theme — the operation of divine grace on a group of diverse but closely connected characters — was perhaps presumptuously large, but I make no apology for it.”[12] This matter of Grace was so important to him. He knew that Nature was not enough. Certainly not our Fallen Nature, wounded, concupiscent, and intellectually darkened.

In his short 1946 “Preface to the American Edition” of Edmund Campion — the edition without the original 1935 footnotes and bibliography — Waugh also very explicitly says, concerning his narrative, that “It should be read as a simple, perfectly true story of heroism and holiness.”[13]

Emphasizing that “the facts are not in dispute,” he adds:

We [in 1946] have come much nearer to Campion since Simpson’s day [the late Nineteenth Century]. He wrote[14] [1861-2, 1866, 1896] in the flood-tide of toleration, when Elizabeth’s persecution seemed as remote as Diocletian’s. We know now that his age was a brief truce in the unending war.[15]

This theme of the permanent combat was reinforced four years later in his especially beautiful, already quoted, historical novel on the mother of Constantine, Saint Helena, entitled simply Helena (1950). Reflecting upon those other late-comers to Christ, the Three Magi, with whom she humbly identified, Helena says the following — in a passage of the novel just before she is shown to discover the True Cross:

“Like me,” she said, “you were late in coming [“to the truth”, “to Christ”] …. How laboriously you came, taking sights and calculating, where the shepherds had run barefoot [to the Manger]! …. You came to the final stage of your pilgrimage …. What did you do? You stopped to call on King Herod. Deadly exchange of compliments in which there began that unended war of mobs and magistrates against the innocent!”[16]

Christ Himself was being hunted at His birth. Like the impending Slaughter of the Innocents (“Flores Martyrum” — Prudentius) and the later, manipulated mob who preferred Barabbas, so, too, Evelyn Waugh saw what was happening again in that “unending war,” and not only in Mexico:

We have seen the Church driven underground in one country after another. The martyrdom of Father Pro [of the Society of Jesus] in Mexico re-enacted Campion’s. In fragments and whispers we get news of other saints in the prison camps of Eastern and South Eastern Europe, of cruelty and degradation more frightful than anything in Tudor England and of the same pure light [undiluted — like all purity] shining in the darkness, uncomprehended. The hunted, trapped, murdered priest is amongst us again and the voice of Campion comes to us across the centuries as though he were walking at our side.“[17]

Waugh presents a lucid fourfold structure to his book, the four sections being entitled, respectively: The Scholar; The Priest; The Hero; The Martyr. He adds an Appendix, Father Campion’s original threefold Challenge (written in English, not Latin), to Queen Elizabeth’s Lords of the Privy Council, the Doctors and Masters of Oxford and Cambridge, and the Ecclesiastical and Civil Lawyers of the Realm of England. In this challenge — called “Campion’s Brag” by his adversaries — Campion says: “Hereby I have taken upon me a special kind of warfare under the banner of obedience, and eke [also] resigned all my interest or possibilitie of wealth, honour, pleasure, and other worldlie felicitie.”[18]

Campion’s Challenge is an Open Letter which was written spontaneously in July of 1580, by hand, in half an hour, at a village outside London (Hoxton), and at the request of his colleague, Mr. Thomas Pounde, for the purpose of clarifying his true spiritual mission, should he be captured, to those who purportedly suspected him of treason. It concludes with these memorable and still inspiring words of fervor and Faith; knowing very well “upon what substantial grounds our Catholike Faith is builded”:

Hearken to those who would spend the best blood in their bodies for your salvation. Many innocent hands are lifted up to heaven for you daily by those English students [in Douai, of Flanders, in Rheims, and in Rome], whose posteritie shall never die, which beyond seas [in exile], gathering virtue and sufficient knowledge for the purpose [to secure your salvation], are determined never to give you over, but either to win you heaven, or to die upon your pikes. And touching our Societie [the Society of Jesus], be it known to you that we have made a league — all the Jesuits in the world, whose succession and multitude must overreach all the practices of England — cheerfully [with hilaritas mentis] to carry the cross you shall lay upon us, and never to despair your recovery [return to the Faith, conversion unto salvation], while we have a man left to enjoy your Tyburn, or to be racked [by that instrument of pain which hideously later stretched his own limbs apart] with your torments, or consumed with your prisons [the Tower of London]. The expense is reckoned, the enterprise is begun; it is of God, it cannot be withstood. So the Faith was planted: so it must be restored.[19]

Reflecting upon the mysterious and very consequential decision which had been made ten years earlier (in 1570) by the sainted Dominican Pope Pius V, namely, to promulgate on Corpus Christi Day (25 May 1570) the Bull of Elizabeth’s Excommunication and Deposition (Regnans in Excelsis), Evelyn Waugh posed an important question, and with great humility:

Had he [Pope Pius V], perhaps, in those withdrawn, exalted hours before his crucifix, learned something that was hidden from the statesmen of his time and the succeeding generations of historians [who acutely criticized him for his act]; [had he] seen through and beyond the present and the immediate future [e.g., the October 1571 Battle of Lepanto!]; [had he] understood that there was no easy way of reconciliation, but that it was only through blood and hatred and derision that the faith was one day to return to England?[20]

Waugh shows a heart and a humility for this great Dominican Pope despite the manifold, “learned and prudent” criticisms against his Bull of Excommunication and Deposition. Waugh, then says, once again with a supernatural perspective:

It is possible that one of his more worldly predecessors [as Pope] might have acted differently, or at another season, but it was the pride and slight embarrassment of the Church that, as has happened from time to time in her history, the See of Peter was at this moment occupied by a Saint.[21]

Moreover,

His contemporaries and the vast majority of subsequent historians regarded the Pope’s action as ill-judged. It has been represented as a gesture of mediaevalism, futile in an age of new, vigorous nationalism, and its author as an ineffectual and deluded champion [like a Don Quixote], stumbling through the mists, in the ill-fitting, antiquated armour of Gregory [VII] and Innocent [III]; a disastrous figure, provoking instead of a few buffets for Sancho Panza the bloody ruin of English Catholicism.[22]

Waugh’s own artfully ironic description of Saint Pius V’s scoffers shows the depth of his own vision and Faith; and he truly tries to understand the Pope’s deeper reasons and motives:

Pius contemplated only the abiding, abstract principles that lay behind the phantasmagoric changes of human affairs. He prayed earnestly about the situation in England, and saw it with complete clarity; it was a question [a quaestio disputata] that admitted of no doubt whatever. Elizabeth was illegitimate by birth, she had violated her [Catholic] coronation oath, deposed her [Catholic] bishops, issued a heretical Prayer Book and forbidden her subjects the comfort of the sacraments. No honourable Catholic could be expected to obey her.[23]

Indeed, Edmund Campion’s own final words of his threefold “Challenge” (“Brag”) ten years later intimately hoped for an eventual and full reconciliation — but only sub gratia — in Beatitude. With eloquence and warm-heartedness he said:

If these my offers [to be allowed an open, public Disputation about the Faith] be refused, and my endeavors can take no place, and I, having run thousands of miles to do you good [unto your salvation], shall be rewarded with rigour [mortal punishment], I have no more to say but to recommend [entrust] your case and mine to Almightie God, the Searcher of Hearts [Scrutator Cordium], who send us His grace, and set us at accord before the day of payment [the Final Judgment], to the end we may at last be friends in heaven, when all injuries shall be forgotten.[24]

Before first introducing us to Edmund Campion as a young and developing scholar(twenty-six years old), who first met Queen Elizabeth on 3 September 1566 when she was only thirty-three years of age and on her first visit to Oxford University, Waugh begins his book with an unmistakable shock. He depicts Elizabeth in her last illness, a terrible thing to think upon, showing her increasingly withdrawn into silence and sadness, for nearly two weeks in Mid-March 1603, until she lapsed into a final stupor and death, after having sunk more and more into melancholy and muteness and the terrible isolation of the human soul, “where she died without speaking,” “sane and despairing.”[25] It is a stark depiction, indeed. “In these circumstances the Tudor Dynasty came to an end,” Waugh quietly comments, as if he were also implying a parable as well as a warning. For it was that same Tudor Dynasty “which in three generations had changed the aspect and temper of England.”[26]

That is to say, in 1603, almost twenty-two years after Father Campion’s own blood-witness for the Faith, Catholicism in England was fading. It was no longer part of the public order and leadership of the realm. Indeed, says Waugh, that three-generation Tudor Dynasty

Left a new aristocracy, a new religion, a new system of government; the generation was already [even in 1603] in its childhood that was to send King Charles [Charles I] to the scaffold [with the approval of Oliver Cromwell, the Calvinist]; the new rich families who were to introduce the [Protestant] House of Hanover were already in the second stage of their metamorphosis from the freebooters of Edward VI’s reign [1547-1553] to the conspirators of 1688 [i.e., the usurpation of the Catholic King James II, or “the Glorious Revolution”] and the sceptical, cultured oligarchs of the eighteenth century. The vast exuberance of the Renaissance had been canalized. England was secure, independent, insular; the course of her history lay plain ahead: competitive nationalism, competitive industrialism, competitive imperialism, the looms and coal mines and [financial] counting houses, the joint-stock companies and the cantonments; the power and the weakness of great possessions.[27]

Especially, we might say, the burden and the weakness of “Power without Grace“![28] In the words of Saint Helena to her belabored son Constantine, who was as yet unconverted and unbaptized as an Emperor: “Think of the misery of a whole world possessed of Power without Grace.”[29] In other words, words which were earlier applied to Emperor Diocletian himself, “All the tiny mechanism of Power regularly revolved, like a watch still ticking on the wrist of a dead man.”[30] And, for sure, the well-flattered Emperor Diocletian was at the time spiritually dead and exhausted; sick of strife and persecution (perhaps like Queen Elizabeth in the end).

This, indeed, according to Waugh, was the very sentiment that Emperor Diocletian had felt when, “consumed by huge boredom,” he stepped down from imperial rule and “sickly turned towards his childhood’s home” on the seacoast of Dalmatia; for, even he had, despite his great might, almost himself suffocated “in the inmost cell of the foetid termitary of power“[31] — “Power without Grace” had consumed him, and self-sabotaging despair in the end. Mindful of all of this, Helena was, as a good mother, warning her own son, as well — and drawing him to the Catholic Faith which she herself had so gratefully and winsomely embraced.

Edmund Campion, too, was gradually drawn to the Faith. Despite his early compromises with the new Anglican Establishment and the Elizabethan Settlement of the Tudor State, he always seemed to drink from deeper sources and was especially open to Grace, even while he was at St. John’s College at Oxford, which itself was “predominantly Catholic in sympathy.”[32] That is to say, the atmosphere there was still Catholic.

In contrast to his younger contemporary, Tobie Matthew (1546-1628), who had compromised completely with “the new order” and consequently “prospered” (becoming even the Anglican Archbishop of York), Campion persistently resisted. He was different. In Waugh’s trenchant words: “Tobie Matthew died full of honors in 1628. There, but for the Grace of God, went Edmund Campion.”[33]

While Campion was still a scholar and teacher at Oxford (1555-1569), “the division was more sharply defined” between the Catholic party in the majority and the Protestant party in the ascendant; and “Campion hesitated between the two, reluctant to decide.”[34] (In 1568, however, Campion had “committed himself more gravely by accepting ordination as deacon” in the Anglican Church, a step he later very deeply regretted![35] As Waugh depicts it, Campion had wished only to be “left in peace to pursue his own studies” and to “discharge [his] duties” as “proctor and public orator, to do his best for his pupils.”[36] With unfailing acuteness once again, Waugh immediately adds: “But he was born into the wrong age for these gentle ambitions; he must be either much more, or much less.”[37]

When the persistent integrity of Campion’s troubled conscience, in decisive combination with his close study of the Church Fathers (like John Henry Newman later), led him to an ever deeper understanding of Church History and Doctrine, “the further he seemed from the Anglican Church which he was designed to enter.” But, nonetheless, “he fled and doubled from the conclusions of his reason,” for “nothing but ill was promised for him by the way he was being drawn.”[38] It was still a temptation, an incentive to further disorder, but he resisted; he did not consent to it.

By contrast, “Tobie Matthew’s way lay smooth before him” and he could very easily convince himself that a compromise was needed altogether, in the circumstances that prevailed. Indeed, as the excuse was conveniently formulated: “In a world where everything was, by its nature, a makeshift and poor reflection of reality, why throw up so much that was excellent, in straining for a remote and perhaps unattainable perfection?”[39] (With respect to the Church Fathers and their clear support for the Catholic position, Tobie Matthew had even responded to Campion’s personal query to him, as follows: “If I believed them [the Church Fathers] as well as read them, you would have good reason to ask” — i.e., to ask why I — Tobie Matthew — do not myself become a Catholic![40]) This is a fine summary, I think, of the self-deception and corruption and dishonesty of an apostate!

In the case of Campion’s other companions of Oxford, there were some less corrupt evasions of historical evidence, and truth, and other temporizing arguments, too, which were quite “acceptable to countless decent people, then and later” — fearful people who also had resigned themselves to a lower vision of life, and of what could be expected from life and should be striven for.[41] Campion, says Waugh, was not content with mere decency, however:

There was that in Campion that made him more than a decent person: an embryo in the womb of his being, maturing in darkness, invisible, barely stirring; the love of holiness, the need for sacrifice.[42]

But the Catholic atmosphere at Dr. Allen’s seminary at Douai not only later nurtured this deeper disposition of his soul; it also made him look back upon his earlier compromises and “passive conservatism” with greater severity and self-rebuke. In Waugh’s memorable words:

Martyrdom was in the air of Douai. It was spoken of, and in secret prayed for, as the supreme privilege of which only divine grace could make them worthy. But it was with just this question, of his own worthiness, that Campion now became preoccupied. There is no record of the date of his formal reconciliation with the Church, but it is reasonable to assume that it occurred immediately on his arrival from England [i.e., in June 1572, after he had witnessed at London’s Westminster Hall, “the trial of Dr. Storey, a refugee whom Cecil had has kidnapped at Antwerp and brought home to suffer in old age under an insupportable charge of treason” — perhaps a turning point in Campion’s life — and “the condemned man [like Campion himself eight and a half years later] was executed on June 1st with peculiar ferocity“[43]] From then onwards he [Campion] was admitted to the Sacraments without which he had spent the past ten or twelve years of his life [i.e., not having received since 1560 or 1562!][44]

Moreover, as of 1572, we see a deeper change, sub gratia:

From then onwards, for the first time in his adult life [in 1555, under the Catholic Queen, Mary Tudor, Campion was only fifteen years old when he first went to Oxford], he found himself in a completely Catholic community, and, perhaps, for the first time, began to have some sense of the size and power of the world he had entered, of the distance and the glory of the aim he had [now] set himself.[45] The Faith of the people among whom he had now placed himself [along with his good friend from Oxford, Gregory Martin] was no fad or sentiment to be wistfully disclosed over the wine at high table, no dry, logical necessity to be expounded in the schools; it [the Faith] was what gave them daily life, their entire love and hope, for which [Faith] they had abandoned all smaller loyalties and affections; all that most men found desirable, home, possessions, good fame, increase, security in the world, children to keep fresh their memory after they were dead.[46]

In this atmosphere and with his humility, new discernments illuminated his mind and well-formed sensitive conscience. On the premise that “contrast clarifies the mind,” as it were, it came to pass that,

Beside their devotion Campion saw a new significance in the evasions and compromises of his previous years. At Oxford and Dublin he had been, on the whole, very much more scrupulous of his honor than the majority; he had foresworn his convictions rarely and temperately; when most about him were wantonly throwing conscience to the winds and scrambling for the prizes, he had withdrawn decently from competition; but under the fiery wind of Douai these carefully guarded reserves of self-esteem dried up and crumbled away. The numerous small jealousies of University life, his zeal for reputation, his courtship of authority [or of “Power without Grace”], the oaths he had taken of the Queen’s [Elizabeth’s] ecclesiastical supremacy, the deference with which he had given to [Anglican Bishop] Cheney’s view of conformity [with “the Powers That Be”], his melodious eulogies of the Earl of Leister [Robert Dudley, one of Campion’s patrons and one of Queen Elizabeth’s lovers, as well], above all “the mark of the beast,” the ordination he had accepted as an Anglican deacon, now appeared to him as a series of gross betrayals crying for expiation, fresh wounds in the hands and feet [or Heart!] of Christ.”[47]

To sharpen the transformation and humility of Campion, Waugh deftly says:

He had come to Douai as a distinguished immigrant …. Allen [“the founder and first President” of Douai, “Dr. — later Cardinal — William Allen of Oriel, a gentleman of ancient Lancashire family, thirty-years old at the date of the foundation, 1568, who had left Oxford at the first religious changes” and had “become a priest in Louvain”][48] received him as a sensational acquisition. He [Campion] had left England, it may be supposed, in a mood of some pride and resentment; he was casting off the dust of ingratitude, taking his high talents where they would be better appreciated. Now in this devout community, at the hushed moment of the Mass, he realized the need for other gifts than civility and scholarship; he saw himself as a new-born, formless soul that could come to maturity only by long and especially sheltered growth.[49]

In the end, Campion embodied Saint Ignatius Loyola’s prayer, already cited, from his Spiritual Exercises: “Suscipe, Domine, universam meam libertatem. Accipe memoriam, intellectum atque voluntatem omnem …. (“Take and receive, O Lord, all my liberty. Receive and accept my entire memory and understanding and will”). At the end, “the composition of place” for Campion was not Calvary during the Passion of the Lord, which he had so often contemplated with love. His own Passion, in the Providence of God, would be at Tyburn; his Cross would be the Gibbet and the butcher-work to follow.

As in the case of Saint Longinus, so, too, with a witness of Campion’s later Testimony of Blood:

One man … returned from Tyburn to Grays Inn profoundly changed; Henry Walpole, Cambridge wit, minor poet, flaneur, a young man of birth, popular, intelligent, slightly romantic. He came from a Catholic family and occasionally expressed Catholic sentiments, but until that day [1 December 1581] had kept a discreet distance from [George] Gilbert and his circle [who, at great risk to themselves, sheltered and conducted support operations for the hunted missionary priests], and was on good terms with authority. He was a typical member of that easy-going majority, on whom the success of the Elizabethan Settlement depended, who would have preferred to live under a Catholic régime but accepted the change without very serious regret.[50] He had an interest in theology and had attended Campion’s conferences with the Anglican clergy [four of them, starting on 1 September 1581, after he had been put to the torture by the “rack-master” in the Tower of London — the fourth conference “to test the truth of his Creed” being held shortly before his judicial Trial for Treason began on 14 November 1581 at Westminster Hall, where Dr. Storey himself had also been condemned in May of 1572]. He [Walpole] secured a front place at Tyburn; so close that when Campion’s entrails were torn out by the butcher and thrown into the cauldron of boiling water a spot of blood splashed upon his coat. In that moment he was caught into a new life; he crossed the sea, became a priest, and thirteen years later, after very terrible sufferings, died the same death as Campion’s on the gallows of York.[51]

A recapitulation of the external events of significance and chronology of Campion’s life may be helpful at this point, especially after having considered Waugh’s more concentrated and intimate insights about Edmund Campion’s transformation unto holiness and heroism, to include Campion’s effects upon others, for their greater good. A schematic summary will serve our purpose, therefore, in an Appendix.

In the eloquent depictions of his book, Waugh moves from the final melancholy and very sad death of Queen Elizabeth, back to when as a young woman of thirty-three she first met Edmund Campion (on 3 September 1566); then to a presentation of the state of Oxford University and of Campion’s patronage (promised to him from both Leicester and Cecil), for “they had need of men like Campion” now “that the University had thrown off its lethargy and was once more advancing in hope.”[52] “But the past,” says Waugh, “could not be recalled,” for “a great tradition had been broken.”[53] Moreover, says he:

Not for a hundred years [i.e., until around 1670] was the University [Oxford, specifically] to know security [for “no one felt confidence in the rewards of scholarship” and “politics and theology continued to sway University elections”], and it was to emerge from its troubles provincial, phlegmatic and exclusive [and, most certainly, exclusive of Catholics!]; not for three hundred years was it to re-emerge as a centre of national life.[54]

It was the case, as of 1566, that

Now Cecil and Elizabeth were finding it very hard to get suitable candidates for ministry in the new church. By the first acts of the reign [of Queen Elizabeth] they had made the Mass illegal.[55]

No longer at Oxford was there to be seen “the spacious, luminous world of Catholic humanism.”[56] And, it must be remembered that

From its earliest days the University had been primarily a place for the training of churchmen. By the statutes, Holy Orders were obligatory on aspirants for almost all important offices. Sons of the aristocracy might keep term in the interests of culture, but the general assumption for poor scholars was that they were qualifying as priests.[57]

Now we may better understand Elizabeth’s and Cecil’s problem, and why they would have wanted to attract and give further patronage to Edmund Campion, even as late as November 1581, shortly before his vile and truculent execution. Even Campion’s sister was sent to him on such a mission during those last eleven days of his in the Tower of London, even as he lay in the dark dungeon in irons. In Waugh’s poignant words:

Hitherto his family have made no appearance in the story; now a sister of whom we know nothing, came to visit him, empowered to make a last offer of freedom [sic] and a benefice, if he would renounce his Faith.[58]

Leading us to another moving insight about the effects of Campion’s “heroism and holiness” — to include the forgiveness of others from his heart — Waugh adds the following:

There may have been other visitors [during those final eleven days] …. but the only one of whom we have record is George Eliot [the one who, like Judas, had betrayed and helped capture him]. “If I [Eliot] had thought that you would have had to suffer aught but imprisonment through my accusing of you, I would never have done it.” “If that is the case,” replied Campion, “I beseech you, in God’s name, to do penance, and confess your crime [to include his unmistakably base perjury at Campion’s own Trial for Treason], to God’s glory and your own salvation.”[59]

Waugh’s immediate comment is exquisite, and then compassionate and consoling, further revealing thereby the mystery of Grace and Divine Mercy — especially the grace of conversion of a hardened human heart:

But it was fear for his life [“fear for his skin”] rather than for his soul that had brought the informer [and apostate perjurer] to the Tower; ever since the journey from Lyford, when the people had called him “Judas,” he had been haunted by the spectre of Catholic reprisal.

“You are much deceived,” said Campion, “if you think the Catholics push their detestation and wrath as far as revenge; yet to make you quite safe, I will, if you please, recommend you to a Catholic duke in Germany, where you may live [were his conscience to permit it!] in perfect security.”

But it was another man who was saved by that offer. Eliot went back to his trade of spy; Delahays, Campion’s gaoler, who was present at the interview, was so moved by Campion’s generosity that he became a Catholic.[60]

By his further deft implicitness and artful indirection, Evelyn Waugh very forcefully and cumulatively conveys the inhumanity and violence of the New Elizabethan Régime and its New Religion.

For example, the founder of Saint John’s College at Oxford, Sir Thomas White, according to Waugh:

Had lived until 1564 [i.e., two years before Campion first met Queen Elizabeth], and up to his death he saw to it that the rules he had laid down were properly observed. He was a city magnate of modest education and simple piety; a childless old man who devoted the whole of his great wealth to benefactions. The last years of his life were overclouded by the change of religion; he collected the sacred vessels from the College Chapel and stored them away in his own house for a happier day, and was obliged to stand by helpless while the authorities perverted the ends of his own foundation; he saw the poor scholars whom he had adopted and designed for the [Catholic] priesthood trained in a new way of thought [i.e., in the insidious Neo-Modernism of his day!] and ordained with different rites, for a different purpose.[61]

Adding to this poignancy, Waugh says:

He had set down in his statutes that the day was to begin with Mass, said in the Sarum use; at Elizabeth’s accession it ceased, never to be restored; he saw three of his [Catholic and College] Presidents … deposed by the authorities for their faith. He died a comparatively poor man, out of favour at Court, out of temper with the times, and was buried according to Protestant rites — Campion speaking the funeral oration in terms which appear rather patronising [“The poor old man”!]. Perhaps in secret a Mass was said for him; it is impossible to say.[62]

Though there were “still many priests [of the Catholic Faith] at Oxford” in 1564, and “at this time the greater part of St. John’s was Catholic in sympathy;” nonetheless “Catholicism at Oxford was largely [then] a matter of sentiment and loyalty to the old ways, rather than of active spiritual life” — “until the counter-reformatory period, fifteen or twenty years later [1579-1584]” and the return of Father Campion, S.J.[63]

However, at this earlier time of Edmund Campion’s piercingly condescending funeral oration for the Catholic founder of his Oxford College, Thomas White — who may himself have died with a broken heart — the Council of Trent (1545-1563) had itself just ended the previous year. But, it was already clear, says Waugh, that

The official Anglican Church had cut itself off from the great surge of vitality that flowed from the Council [the Council of Trent, and Saint Charles Borromeo, for example]; it was by its own choice, insular and national. The question before Campion [also in 1564] was, not whether the Church of England was heretical, but whether, in point of fact, heresy was a matter of great importance; whether in problems of such great importance human minds could ever hope for accuracy, whether all formulations [as with the irreformable doctrines of Catholic Dogma] were not, of necessity, so inadequate that their differences were of no significance.[64]

But, what about the Catholic Mass?

For the New Régime, as is still the case today, it would seem, the primary target was the Sacrifice of the Mass, in which “Calvary is happening.” For a while, the new Anglican authorities could and would tolerate certain Catholic customs and lingering sentimentalisms:

But the saying of the Mass was a different matter …. They were united in their resolve to stamp out this vital practice of the old religion [the Actio Sacra Missae]. They struck hard at all the ancient habits of spiritual life — the rosary, devotion to Our Lady and the Saints, pilgrimages, religious art, fasting, confession, penance and the great succession of traditional holidays [i.e., Holy Days] — but the Mass was recognized as being both the distinguishing sign and main sustenance of their opponents.[65]

(We will recall that, about thirty years after he first penned these words, Waugh was to face his own ordeal over the new Liturgical Revolution within the Catholic Church, where, once again, as he saw it, the integrity of the Mass was at stake.)

As in the ongoing Dialectic Revolution today, informed, as ever, not by the principle of life, but by the “principle of disorder” — “solve et coagula!” — so, too, at the time of Campion, many well-meaning, but incompletely formed, Catholics were “dealing with the problem of conformity”[66] and also with the corrosive “solvents” of their hostile society. The Law in England was still mild (1559-1570); that is to say, until Saint Pius V’s 1570 Proclamation of Queen Elizabeth’s Excommunication and Deposition, after which time Catholics were more and more suspect of treason and potential rebellion.

Nevertheless, even under milder Penal Laws against Catholics, many of which were for a while not strictly applied, the average Catholic family had to face the threat of “sequestration,” “confiscation,” “fines,” and even (after the third offense) “imprisonment for life.”[67] Often, their choice was between either “submission” or “destitution.”[68] (Such submission often lead to apostasy; and the threat of destitution often lead to conspiracy and revolt, for the men, especially, were eventually “made reckless by injustice.”)

Moreover, says Waugh, even before the later 1570 Papal Excommunication, namely in the Spring of 1568, the Catholic Mary Stuart — “Mary Queen of Scots” — had taken refuge from the strife in Scotland, and then “was imprisoned in England.” She was seen as a threat, in many ways. For, says Waugh:

In the event of war abroad or rebellion at home, Cecil felt that the Catholics constituted a grave menace. They were proving more stubborn in their faith than had first seemed likely …. Accordingly, all over England the commissioners and magistrates were instructed to take a firmer line; at first no new legislation was used, but the law which had been administered with some tact was everywhere more sternly enforced. More Catholics went into exile, among them Gregory Martin [who went to Douai], Campion’s closest friend for thirteen years, who had left Oxford to act as a tutor in the Duke of Norfolk’s family [the head of which, himself a Catholic, had led a Northern Rebellion]. The repression had begun which was to develop year by year from strictness to savagery, until, at the close of the century, it had become the bloodthirsty persecution in which Margaret Clitheroe was crushed to death between mill stones for the crime of harbouring a priest.[69]

Thus, according to the discerning Waugh:

When Campion [while still at Oxford] most required tranquillity in which to adjust his vision to the new light [of his still slowly germinating Catholic Faith] that was daily becoming clear and more dazzling, events outside his control, both at Oxford and in the world at large, became increasingly obtrusive.[70]

Soon, therefore, he was to seek refuge in Ireland — until that, too, became more precarious: “The authorities in Dublin were instructed to arrest suspected Catholics, and at the beginning of March 1572 Campion, with his History [i.e., The History of Ireland] still unfinished, became a fugitive.”[71] But, “there is no clear record of his movements in the next few months.”[72] Eventually, by the end of June, he arrives in Douai.

Indeed, “in this ill-documented decade” (circa 1568-1580), the situation of the Catholics became increasingly difficult and sometimes confused, especially for those families who had to live on in England. Speaking with deft and vividly imaginative irony, Waugh recapitulates this situation:

The Catholics, left without effective leadership, appear to have been dealing with the problem of conformity [or, whether to choose Resistance to the growing Religious Revolution], each in his own way. It was one which varied greatly in different parts of the country. Some [i.e., those who at once became firm “Recusants”] refused the oath [of the Queen’s Spiritual Supremacy] and went into exile; some paid the penalties of the law. Some, who were popular or locally powerful, avoided, year after year, taking the oath at all; some took the oath and meant nothing by it. That generation [before the re-animating arrival of the Jesuits!] was inured to change; sooner or later [they imagined] the tide would turn in their favour again; a Protestant coup [a more radicalized strike by the Calvinists], such as was spoken of, to enthrone Earl of Huntington might inflame a national rising and restore the old religion; the Queen [Elizabeth] might die and be succeeded by Mary Stuart [Mary Queen of Scots]; she might marry a Catholic; she might declare for Catholicism herself. In any case, things were not likely [they delusively imagined] to last on their present unreasonable basis [Things were, in fact, to worsen and gravely degenerate!]. It was one thing for a government to suppress dangerous innovations — that was natural enough; but for the innovators [heretics, apostates, eclectics, syncretists] to be in command, for them to try to crush out by force [or by fraud!] historic Christianity — that was contrary to all good sense; it was like living under the Turks.[73]

In 1570-1571, too, during the reign of Pope Pius V, “the Turks were threatening Christianity from the rear, her centre was torn by new heresies, his [the Pope’s] allies were compromising and intriguing, their purpose distracted by ambitions of empire and influence.”[74] Pope Pius V’s successor Gregory XIII, also found himself constantly “reinforcing on all fronts the resistance to the Turks and the Reformers [or, rather, the Deformers of the Faith].”[75] Catholics, in their resistance and initiatives, must always be strategic, and not just tactical!

(So, too, is it the case for us now in the Twenty-First Century, but with a few additional elements and challenges now added. For now, we must deal, for example, with the difficult problem of deception and self-deception in the Church itself, as well as in the State and the Secret Societies. Hence, we must be prepared to face trust-breaking perfidy in high places. We must also be prepared to face new “psycho-techniques” of manipulation in the electronic and other “Mass Media,” which dangerously complement new methods of warfare and intimidation.)

In the Sixteenth Century, too, there came a point where faithful Catholics could no longer be “courtiers and connoisseurs” or “dilettanti,” especially “among the Catholic laity whose loyalty was already strained by persecution” amidst “the conflict that was rending every Catholic heart.”[76] When earlier referring to those more quiescent Catholics who would prefer to conform, Waugh had said: “But it needed more than a gentle heart and pious disposition to make a Catholic in that age.”[77] So, too, today!

Waugh himself, perhaps implying his own deeper examination of conscience, as well, reinforces this point:

The listless, yawning days were over, the half-hour’s duty perfunctorily accorded on days of obligation [i.e., on Holy Days of Obligation]. Catholics [after 1580] no longer chose their chaplain for his speed in saying Mass, or kept Boccacio bound in the covers of their missals. Driven back to the life of the catacombs, the Church was recovering her temper.[78]

As the Penal Laws (and their application) went further and further from “strictness” to “savagery,” in order, purportedly, to keep “the Queen Majesty’s subjects in due obedience,” other measures were taken:

In 1581, to meet the emergency of Campion’s mission, a further act [of Legislation] was passed …. It reaffirmed the principle that it was high treason to reconcile anyone or to be reconciled to the [Catholic] Church and imposed a new scale of fines …. It is the first time that the Mass is specifically proscribed …. The object of this legislation was to outlaw and ruin the Catholic community.[79]

Persons of cruelty, such as Francis Walsingham and his chief priest-hunter, Richard Topcliffe, said that they did not want “to make the bones” of a later Jesuit martyr and poet, Father Robert Southwell, “dance for joy,” and, so:

He and others like him now [under the new penal legislation] proceeded about the country levying blackmail where they could, spying, bribing servants, corrupting children, compassing the death of many innocent priests and the ruin of countless gentle families. The Catholics were defenseless at law [the Truth was not a defense], for their whole inherited scheme of life had been dubbed criminal [as if the charge, often made today, were true that Catholic Christianity itself is intrinsically “Anti-Semitic,” and thus soon to be liable under certain currently existing laws “on the books” in Europe; or the inexorable demand that certain of the Christian Gospels, especially John and Matthew, should be “expurgated” — censored — for their “hate speech” and other potentially persecutory incitements!]. They lived [and maybe, soon, we ourselves] in day-to-day uncertainty, whether they may not be singled out for persecution, their estates confiscated, their families dispersed and themselves taken to prison [and “the rack-master”] or the scaffold [as was to happen, we know, to Campion himself].[80]

But Father Campion shows us “the supernatural solution,” under Grace, and the deep, preparatory training for that higher supernatural vocation and the higher chivalry:

Both sides [Catholic and Protestant] now looked upon him [especially after “Campion’s Brag” had circulated very rapidly and had keenly animated his readers] as the leader and spokesman of the new mission; his membership of the Society of Jesus cast over him a peculiar glamour, for, it must be remembered, the Society had, so far, no place in the English tradition [and Campion himself was to become the Jesuit Protomartyr of the English Mission] …. ‘Jesuit’ was a new word, alien and modern. To the Protestants it meant conspiracy …. To the Catholics, too, it meant something new, uncompromising zeal of the counter-Reformation …. and in his place [in place of the earlier kind of “simple, unambitious” conventional priest] the Holy Father [Gregory XIII] was sending them [the vulnerable Catholics] in their dark hour, men of new light, equipped in every Continental art [of argumentation and persuasion], armed against every frailty, bringing a new kind of intellect, new knowledge, new holiness. [Jesuit Fathers] Campion and Persons found themselves [in 1580-1581] travelling in a world that was already tremulous with expectation.[81]

With the publication of the Ten Reasons (Decem Rationes — De Haeresi Desperata) in June of 1581, says Waugh, “the first part of Campion’s task was accomplished”:

He had been in England, now, for over a year; that was his achievement, that in all her centuries the English Church was to count one year of her life by his devotion; others were now ready to take over the guard; … the Church of Augustine and Edward and Thomas would still live; for Campion there remained only the final sacrifice.[82]

And it soon came — but after much intimidation and attempted seduction, striving to allure him both to “ecclesiastical” preferment and to apostasy; after much torture and his vigorous defensive debates (amidst his great fatigue) against the heretics and apostates themselves; after the travesty and mockery, as with Christ, of his ignominious Trial and Judicial Murder.

Reporting the words of Campion’s own Jesuit superior (who was six years younger than he), Father Robert Persons, Waugh gives us a piercing anticipation:

His [Campion’s own frequented missionary] road to Harrow took him past Tyburn gibbet, and here, Persons records, “he would often pause, both because of the sign of the Cross and in honour of some martyres who had suffered there, and also because he used to say that he would have his combat there.”[83]

And he did!

Just as it was the case “in the Tenebrae of his Passion” shortly after Campion had movingly preached on the Gospel Text “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou killest the prophets” — and just before his own final capture at Lyford Grange (in Mid-July of 1581) — Campion always kept his special qualities of courtesy and pluck, constancy and high spirits.[84] Even when, as in the Holy Week monastic ceremonies of Tenebrae, the light almost goes out — but for one final, and flickering candle — so, too, with the resilient magnanimous spirit of Edmund Campion, in combination with his deep humility. Such was the nature of his higher chivalry and daring; such was the vivid poise of his supernatural hope! The hope of the Christian martyrs.

For example, when first discussing, at Uxbridge, the important text which was finally to be called the Ten Reasons [i.e., the Decem Rationes, in Defense of the Catholic Faith],

Campion had proposed [as a title] De Haeresi Desperata — “Heresy in Despair;” it was a suggestion typical of the spirit of the missionaries; on every side heresy seemed to be triumphant; the Queen’s Government was securely in power; the old Church was scattered and broken; they themselves were being hunted from house to house in daily expectation of death; their very existence was a challenge to the power of the State to destroy a living faith. Leading Catholics, such as Francis Throckmorton, were discussing a treaty [a truce, an armistice] with the Government in which they promised to compound their fines for a regular subsidy on condition of being allowed the quiet practice of their religion. All despaired of the restoration of the Church, and only begged sufferance to die with the aid of her sacraments [in the event that they were mercifully allowed to have a “prepared-for death”]. It was at this juncture that Campion gently proposed to examine the despair of heresy and show that all its violence sprang from its consciousness of failure.[85]

In one of Campion’s own letters — a report to his Jesuit Superiors — the ending likewise conveys his pluck and hope and resilient trust:

There will never want [i.e., will never lack, be lacking] in England men that will have care of their own salvation, nor [will there be lacking] such as shall advance other men’s [salvation]; neither shall this Church here ever fail so long as priests and pastors shall be found for their sheep, rage man or devil never so much.[86]

Waugh greatly appreciated what Campion himself had gratefully recorded about his eight-day visit to Saint (then Cardinal) Charles Borromeo’s own residence and household in Milan, while they were enroute back to England on their final apostolic mission. Showing his own deeper heart, Waugh, as Campion’s biographer, could therefore also write with beauty, the following words:

The pilgrims were received, entertained, blessed [as they had also been blessed by Saint Philip Neri, when they were leaving Rome] and sent on their way, and the immense household [of the Faith] went about its duties; in its splendor and order and sanctity, a microcosm of the Eternal Church.[87]

Evelyn Waugh could also vividly render his profound gratitude to Cardinal William Allen of Douai and Rheims, who was so indispensable to Edmund Campion and to the supernatural vocations of many others down the years:

The object of the college [at Douai, and later at Rheims] was primarily to supply priests for the Catholic population, for, since the bishops were all either in prison or under detention, it was impossible for them, except very rarely with the connivance of the gaolers, to ordain priests; the system of education imposed by the Government [of Queen Elizabeth] made it increasingly difficult to train candidates for orders in England; in a few years the Marian priests [the older priests ordained during the five-year reign of Queen Mary Tudor] would begin to die out and, as [William] Cecil foresaw would quietly expire with them; that Catholicism did in fact survive — reduced, impoverished, frustrated for nearly three centuries in every attempt at participation in the public services; stultified, even, by its exclusion from the Universities [primarily Oxford and Cambridge], the professions and social life; but still national; so that, at the turn of opinion in the nineteenth century, it [Catholicism] could re-emerge, not as an alien fashion brought in from abroad, but as something historically and continually English, seeking to recover only what had been taken from it by theft — [THAT] is due, more than to any other one man, to William Allen.[88]

High tribute, indeed! And where might be the strategic-minded men of the Faith today — both in Holy Orders and among the Laity — whom we, too, may join and materially support and indefatigibly defend? The analogies between our situation today and the situation of the Faith (and of the faithful) in Sixteenth-Century England should be clearer to us now near the end of this essay. But, for us today there is also the challenge of an insidious and “peaceful preliminary subversion” on “the inner front” of the Church, in addition to more openly aggressive strategic attacks (even, as with Cecil, “a reign of terror”) upon “the exterior fronts.” Perfidy itself always breaks intimate trust. As is always the case with the Lie, its most harmful social effect is the subversion of trust. Trust, once shattered, is so hard to repair, even when forgiveness is given.

But, the Saints always show us what is possible. This is their manifold encouragement to us, as it is seen in the deepening life and final blood-witness of Saint Edmund Campion. While he was studying at Douai, says Waugh, there came to him

The continuous insistent summons to the highest destiny of all. The copy of the Summa [Saint Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologiae] which Campion was using at the time survives at Manresa College, Roehampton; it is annotated in his own hand and opposite an argument on baptism of blood [by Saint Thomas] occurs the single mot prophète et radieux [i.e., the single prophetic and radiant word], Martyrium.[89]

By way of conclusion, Evelyn Waugh says:

And so the work of Campion continued [as in the later martyrdom of Father Henry Walpole, who had been so unexpectedly touched by a drop of Campion’s blood]; and so it continues. He was one of a host of martyrs, each, in their several ways, gallant, and venerable; some performed more sensational feats of adventure, some sacrificed more conspicuous positions in the world, many suffered crueller tortures, but to his own [generation], Campion’s fame had turned with unique warmth and brilliance; it was his genius to express, in sentences [with a unique power of style, recalling Lactantius’ words and Saint Helena!] that have resounded across the centuries, the spirit of chivalry in which they suffered, to typify in his zeal, his innocence, his inflexible purpose, the pattern which they followed. Years later, in the sombre, sceptical atmosphere of the eighteenth century, Bishop Challoner set himself to sift out and collect the English martyrology. The Catholic cause was very near to extinction in England …. It was then, when the whole gallant sacrifice appeared to have been in vain, that the story of the martyrs [and Edmund Campion, especially] lent them strength. We are the heirs of their conquest, and enjoy, at our ease [perhaps too much, or slothfully so?] the plenty which they died to win. Today a chapel stands by the site of Tyburn; in Oxford, the city he [Campion] loved best, a noble college [Campion Hall] has risen? dedicated in Campion’s honour.[90]

May we all, therefore, in a fuller sense — and without any spiritual sloth or inordinately self-satisfied complacency — become “Campionists”[91] and come to imitate (after our own fitting and disciplined preparation) “the spirit of chivalry in which he suffered.”

Let us not, like the “Cultural Relativists” and “Liberal Historicists” today, consider, by way of trivialization and condescension, that Campion’s response was, perhaps, once an “appropriate response,” but is no longer so now, in the new age of “ecumenism” and “inclusiveness” and “convergence.”

Let us instead, too, rise up to the higher standards of our Faith — and live up to the graces we may receive — with the radiant spirit of Campion’s chivalry and spiritual childhood.

For, Our Lord came that we might have life, and have it more abundantly. The Christian Soldiers, all of us, must therefore grow up into Spiritual Childhood — which is an abundant challenge, too!

Saint Augustine of Hippo said that God created us without our co-operation, but He will not save us (or even justify us) without our co-operation.[92]

Saint Edmund Campion, Martyr, pray for us — especially for Evelyn Waugh who so gratefully cherished you.

Fifteen years after Waugh had first published Edmund Campion (1935), he published Helena (1950). In this historical novel, he presents, on the Feast of the Epiphany, a Mother’s Prayer for Her Son, and for all other “Late-Comers” to Christ, like Helena herself — and Edmund Campion, too:

While addressing the Three Magi, with whom she closely identified, who were also “Late-Comers” to Christ, Helena memorably says:

“You are my especial patrons,” said Helena, “and patrons of all late-comers, of all who have a tedious journey to make to the truth, of all who are confused with knowledge and speculation, of all who through politeness make themselves partners in guilt, of all who stand in danger by reason of their talents.

“Dear cousins [as my Patron Saints], pray for me,” said Helena, “and for my poor overloaded son [i.e., Constantine the Roman Emperor]. May he, too, before the end find kneeling-space in the straw [i.e., beside the creche of Christ]. Pray for the great, lest they perish utterly ….

“For His sake who did not reject your curious gifts, pray always for the learned, the oblique, the delicate. Let them not be quite forgotten at the Throne of God when the simple come into their kingdom.”[93]

–FINIS–

© 2006 Robert Hickson

CODA

By way of further encouragement, and as an illustration of Evelyn Waugh’s special charm and comic touch of gracious irony throughout his inspiring, but very serious, book on Edmund Campion, this short addition proposes to do three things: (1) to give Campion’s own description of the Irish, selected from his own History of Ireland, which he wrote while in Dublin (late 1579-March 1572); (2) to give Waugh’s characterization of a very special man, the “ever impetuous” Mr. Thomas Pounde (the man who wisely suggested “Campion’s Brag” to him and later even became a Jesuit himself!); and finally, (3) to give Waugh’s depiction of a certain Father Bosgrave, S.J., who had been surprisingly sent from the Polish Province of the Jesuits, in 1580, to England, and sent for his health and for some rest and recreation!

Campion’s description of the “mere Irish,” especially fitting to be read on Saint Patrick’s Day, was written before he became a Catholic. It is charming, and perhaps even a little provocative! In Campion’s own words, Ireland was “much beholden to God for suffering them to be conquered, whereby many of their enormities were cured, and more might be, would [they] themselves be pliable”![94] The further “flavour” of Campion’s vivid history of the Irish people may be savoured, with cheerfulness, from the following two excerpts, which were presented — and warmly appreciated — by Waugh, as we may well imagine:

“The people are thus inclined: religious, frank, amorous, ireful, sufferable, of pains infinite, very glorious [perhaps like a “miles gloriosus“!]; many sorcerers, excellent horsemen, delighted with wars, great almsgivers, passing in hospitality. The lewder sort, both clerks and laymen, are sensual and loose to lechery above measure. The same, being virtuously bred up and reformed, are mirrors of holiness and austerity, that other nations [including the English!] retain but a show or shadow of devotion in comparison of them.”[95]

Now comes Campion’s brief description of the men of Ireland, and of their women:

Clear men they are of skin and hue, but of themselves careless and bestial. Their women are well favoured, clear coloured, fair headed, big and large, suffered from their infancy to grow at will, nothing curious of their feature and proportion of body“!![96]

There follows, now, Waugh’s own description of Mr. Thomas Pounde, “impetuous as ever,” and a worthy future Jesuit:[97]

They [Father Campion, Father Persons, and the others] arrived at nightfall [in Hoxton, near London, to the north] and were about to start out again the next morning when they were met by Mr. Thomas Pounde, who had slipped prison [in the Marshalsea] and ridden after them. Pounde was a devout and intelligent man, of pronounced eccentricity. The circumstances of his religious conversion were remarkable. He had been born with wealth and powerful family connections, and for the earlier part of his life lived modishly and extravagantly at Court; his particular delight was in amateur theatricals, for which the fashion of the reign gave him ample scope. On one occasion he performed an unusually intricate pas seul before the Queen; it made a success with her and she called for a repetition. He complied, but, this time, missed his footing and fell full length on the ball-room floor. The Queen was more than delighted, gave out one of her uproarious bursts of laughter, kicked him, and cried: “Arise, Sir Ox.” Pounde picked himself up, bowed, backed out among the laughing courtiers with the words: “Sic transit gloria mundi,” and from that evening devoted himself entirely to a life of austere religious observance. Various attempts, friendly and penal, failed to draw him back to his former habits, and in 1574 he was put in prison, after which date he was seldom at liberty, except on rare occasions like the present one.[98]

Finally, with regard to another Jesuit, we may savour Evelyn Waugh’s quite inimitable irony and comic style (his tonal diction, word order, and sense of incongruity): the case of Father Campion’s contemporary, Father Bosgrave, S.J., who, coming from Poland, had a surprise visit to England! Waugh’s presentation of his case is, as follows:

There was also the case of Father Bosgrave, another Jesuit, who had joined the Society sixteen years before and had since been working in Poland, far out of touch with the course of events in England. Now, at his superiors’ bidding, he returned to England, sent, by a singular irony, for the good of his health [in 1580!]. He was arrested immediately he landed, and taken for examination to the Bishop of London, who asked him whether he would go to church. “I know no cause to the contrary,” he replied, and did so, to the great pleasure of the Protestant clergy, who widely published the news of his recantation. The Synod [of Catholics, at Southwark] had only time to express their shame at his action before it broke up. The Catholics all shunned him, and Father Bosgrave, who retained only an imperfect knowledge of English, wandered about lonely and bewildered. Eventually he met a Catholic relative who explained to him roundly the scandal which he was causing. Father Bosgrave was amazed, saying that on the Continent scruples of this kind were not understood, but that a Catholic might, from reasonable curiosity, frequent a Jewish synagogue or an Anabaptist meeting-house if he felt so disposed [i.e., without thereby being guilty of an illicit participatio in sacris, or worse!]. As soon as it was made clear to him that the Protestants had been claiming him as an apostate, he was roused to action, and, saying that he would speedily clear up that misunderstanding, wrote a letter to the Bishop of London which had the effect of procuring his instant imprisonment. He was confined first in the Marshalsea and later in the Tower, from which he was moved only to his trial and condemnation for high treason, a sentence that was later commuted to banishment. He then returned to Poland and resumed his duties there, having benefited less by his prolonged stay in England than his superiors had hoped.[99]

APPENDIX

1540 — Campion, the future Protomartyr of the English Jesuits, is born in  London, on 25 January — a man in whom, finally, as in all the Saints,

“the grace of Christ is victorious” (Father Constantine Belisarius of Front  Royal).

1555-1569 — Campion is at Oxford University from the age of fifteen until almost  thirty (Queen Mary Tudor dies in 1558; Elizabeth ascends to the throne.)

Late 1569-March 1572 — Campion settles in Ireland, as a scholar, in the Anglo-Irish home of one  of his former students at Oxford. He writes his The History of Ireland there, in English, not Latin. (He knew no Gaelic.)

Early June 1572 — Campion’s departure from England, after only a brief return to his  homeland; and he is then enroute to the Douai Seminary in Flanders,  under Dr. William Allen.

June 1572-January 1573 — Campion is in residence and study at Douai Seminary, in Flanders.

February 1573-April 1573 — His arrival in Rome and subsequent departure for Vienna, Brunn, and  Prague after being accepted into the Austrian Province of the Society of  Jesus.

May 1573-25 March 1580 — Campion’s six years of residence in Prague (with a short, initial period  in Brunn) in the Jesuit Noviciate; and as a concurrent Professor of  Rhetoric and later a Professor of Philosophy, as well as a producer of  dramas, especially tragedies, for the stage. He was ordained as a priest  and said his first Mass on 8 September 1578, in Prague.

9-18 April 1580 — Campion is in Rome again, preparing for the Mission back to England.  He takes leave of, and receives a blessing from, Saint Philip Neri himself.

18 April-15 June 1580 — Campion is enroute to Rheims, France by way of Florence, Parma,  Milan (with eight days at the residence of Saint Charles Borromeo), and  then on to Turin, into the Savoy, and through Geneva itself (“the home of  Calvinism”), where they had several courageous and even humorous  experiences!

24 June 1580 — Campion lands at Dover, England “before it was daylight.”

29 June 1580 — Feast of Saint Peter and Saint Paul. Campion celebrates Mass in  London, preaching on the theme “Tu es Christus, Filius vivi Dei” and “Tu es Petrus.”

Late July 1580 — Campion writes in his own hand the Manifesto of his mission, his  Challenge, “Campion’s Brag.”

27 June 1581 — Campion’s Decem Rationes (Ten Reasons, which was originally to have  been called De Haeresi Desperata — Heresy in Despair) is placed, in  multiple copies, in the Church of Saint Mary the Virgin at Oxford  University — intentionally timed for distribution at the University  Commencement ceremonies.

16-17 July 1581 — Campion is captured at Lyford Grange, near Lyford, in Berkshire.

20 July 1581 — Campion is enroute to London as a prisoner, by way of Abington and  Henley, to the Tower of London.

End of July 1581 — Campion, after four days in solitary confinement, is rowed upstream  from the Tower of London to the Leicester House, for an interview with  Queen Elizabeth herself, in the presence of her advisers: the Earl of  Leicester (Robert Dudley), William Cecil (Lord Burghley), and the Earl  of Bedford (Francis Russell), who was Cecil’s Brother-in-Law.

5 Days Later, 1581 — Leicester and Burghley, having failed to corrupt him, sign the official  warrant to put Campion “to the torture,” to include “the Rack,” in the  Tower of London.

September-November 1581 — Campion endures, amidst great fatigue and pain, four Theological  Conferences and Examinations before the Anglican Clergy, so that  “Campion’s challenge, contained in the Brag and the Ten Reasons, should  not go unanswered” (Waugh).

14 November 1581 — Campion’s Trial for Treason commences, along with the trial of seven  other priests, with their formal Arraignment. “A majority in the [Privy]  Council had already decided in favour of Campion’s execution” (Waugh).  It was, therefore, to be a “Mock-Trial” — a fake and a travesty.

20 November 1581 — The Trial for Treason formally took place. “It was now abundantly  clear that there was to be no fair trial.” (Waugh) Campion was found  guilty and condemned to go the gallows and to the butcher-work that  follows.

21 Nov.-1 Dec. 1581 — “Campion lay in irons [in the Tower] for eleven days between  his trial and his execution,” during which, unsuccessfully, “his  sister tried to get him to renounce his Faith” (Waugh).

1 December 1581 — At Tyburn, Campion is martyred for the Faith, with his companions,  Father Sherwin and Father Briant. “It was raining; it had been raining for  some days, and the roads of the city were foul with mud” and “Every  circumstance of Campion’s execution was vile and gross” (Waugh).

1886  Edmund Campion is beatified by Pope Leo XIII.

25 October 1970  Edmund Campion is canonized by Pope Paul VI, and is given a Feast Day  of 1 December, the day of his courageous and humiliating Martyrdom.

Pater Edmundus Campianus, Martyr


[1] Evelyn Waugh, Edmund Campion (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1946), p. 160. This 1946 edition is the second edition, the first edition being published in 1935 with notes and bibliography, which are unaccountably missing from the 1946 edition. His book was gratefully dedicated to Father Martin D’Arcy, “to whom, under God, I owe my faith.”

[2] Evelyn Waugh, Scott-King’s Modern Europe (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1949), p. 89.

[3] See A Bitter Trial: Evelyn Waugh and John Cardinal Heenan on the Liturgical Changes (edited by Scott M.P. Reid) (London, England: The Saint Austin Press, 1996). Waugh was sixty-two years of age when he died on 10 April 1966.

[4] Evelyn Waugh, Edmund Campion (1946 edition), pp. 83 and 32, respectively.

[5] Ibid., pp. 83-84 — my emphasis added. While Campion was at the Douai Seminary in Flanders (June 1572 — January 1573), “his mind turned more and more towards the selfless discipline and vigilance of the rule of St. Ignatius,” says Waugh, “to the complete surrender sought in the prayer ‘Suscipe, Domine, universam meam libertatem. Accipe memoriam, intellectum atque voluntatem omnem….’ Only thus [thought Campion], if ever at all, could he be worthy of the hangman and the butcher.” (p. 67 — my emphasis added.) Especially “as his course of studies drew to their close,” Edmund Campion was “preparing himself laboriously in self-knowledge and the love of God, to become capable of the lowest service” (p. 67 — my emphasis added) and to become a Jesuit “if God willed it.” Thus he left Dr. Allen for Rome soon after 21 January 1573, after he took his degree at Douai, a Bachelor of Arts in Theology.

[6] Ibid., p. 122.

[7] Ibid., pp. 122-123 — my emphasis added.

[8] Ibid., p. 123 — my emphasis added.

[9] Evelyn Waugh, Helena (1950), pp. 115-116 — my emphasis added. The phrase about how the historian Gibbon “tried to sap a solemn Creed with a solemn sneer” has been attributed to Lord Byron (George Gordon) (1788-1824) — the English Romantic poet. See Edward Gibbon’s Chapters XV and XVI, for example, in Volume I of his Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. His artfully mocking and unmistakably sabotaging Chapter XV is entitled “The Progress of the Christian Religion — Sentiments, Manners, Numbers and Conditions of the primitive Christians.” Chapter XVI is “The Conduct of the Roman Government towards the Christians, from the Reign of Nero to that of Constantine.”

[10] Ibid., p. 74.

[11] Ibid., p. 61.

[12] Evelyn Waugh, Brideshead Revisited (Middlesex, England: Penguin Books Ltd, 1973 — 2nd Revised Edition of 1945), p. 7 (Preface).

[13] Evelyn Waugh, Edmund Campion (1946), p. x (Preface).

[14] Richard Simpson, Edmund Campion: A Biography (London: John Hodges, 1896)

[15] Evelyn Waugh, Edmund Campion (1946), p. x (Preface) — my emphasis added.

[16] Evelyn Waugh, Helena (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1950), p. 223 — my emphasis added.

[17] Evelyn Waugh, Edmund Campion (1946), p. x (Preface) — my emphasis added.

[18] Ibid., p. 236.

[19] Ibid., p. 238 — my emphasis added.

[20] Ibid., pp. 48-49 — my emphasis added.

[21] Evelyn Waugh, Edmund Campion (1946), p. 46 — my emphasis added. (I think, IBID is enough!)

[22] Ibid., p. 48 — my emphasis added.

[23] Ibid., pp. 46-47 — my emphasis added.

[24] Ibid., pp. 238-239 — my emphasis added.

[25] Ibid., pp. 5 and 6.

[26] Ibid., p. 5.

[27] Ibid., pp. 5-6 — my emphasis added.

[28] Evelyn Waugh, Helena (1950), pp. 185 and 186 — my emphasis added.

[29] Ibid., p. 186 — my emphasis added.

[30] Ibid., p. 131.

[31] Ibid., p. 100 — my emphasis added.

[32] Evelyn Waugh, Edmund Campion (1946), pp. 11, 22.

[33] Ibid., p. 21 — my emphasis added.

[34] Ibid., p. 27.

[35] Ibid., p. 26.

[36] Ibid., p. 27.

[37] Ibid. — my emphasis added.

[38] Ibid., p. 28.

[39] Ibid., pp. 29, 29-30.

[40] Ibid., p. 28 — my emphasis added.

[41] Ibid., p. 30.

[42] Ibid. — my emphasis added.

[43] Ibid., p. 52 — my emphasis added.

[44] Ibid., p. 65 — my emphasis added.

[45] Waugh, when speaking of Campion’s earlier scholarly aims and hopes for the future, after he had almost finished his eloquent History of Ireland (March 1572), said the following: “Admirable prose, redolent of the security and humour in which it was written; tender and big with promise for the future …. But his happy interlude proved brief [1569-early 1572] and all the warm prospects illusory.” (Ibid., p. 44 — my emphasis added.)

[46] Ibid., p. 65 — my emphasis added.

[47] Ibid., pp. 65-66 — my emphasis added.

[48] Ibid., p. 58.

[49] Ibid., pp. 66-67 — my emphasis added.

[50] Waugh earlier had referred to the remaining potential “to appeal to the old loyalties that lay deep in the heart of the people,” and the Jesuits’ capacity “to infuse their own zeal into the passive conservatism over which the innovators had won a victory too bloodless to be decisive.” (Ibid., pp. 64-65 — my emphasis added.)

[51] Ibid., pp. 230-231 — my emphasis added. Blessed Henry Walpole (as of 1960) was also, it appears, canonized along with Campion and other English martyrs, in October 1970.

[52] Evelyn Waugh, Edmund Campion (1946), pp. 14 and 12, respectively.

[53] Ibid., p. 17.

[54] Ibid. — my emphasis added.

[55] Ibid. — my emphasis added.

[56] Ibid., p. 14.

[57] Ibid., p. 17.

[58] Ibid., p. 223 — my emphasis added. Speaking earlier of Campion’s family, Waugh revealed this sad fact, namely: “At an earlier age his education had separated him from his own family; though he had two brothers of his own and a sister, they seemed never to have played any part in his life” (Ibid., p. 37 — my emphasis added).

[59] Ibid., pp. 223-224.

[60] Ibid., p. 224 — my emphasis added. Earlier, soon after Campion’s capture, Eliot, his capturer, had indignantly and presumptuously said to the priest: “Mr. Campion, you look cheerfully upon everyone but me. I know you are angry at me for this work;” and then “Campion turned his eyes on him” and said: “God forgive thee, Eliot, for so judging of me; I forgive thee and in token thereof , I drink to thee.” Then, after raising his cup, Campion added these words, but “more gravely:” “Yea, and if thou repent and come to confession, I will absolve thee; but large penance must thou have.” (see Ibid., p. 180)

[61] Ibid., pp. 21-22 — my emphasis added.

[62] Ibid., p. 22 — my emphasis added.

[63] Ibid., pp. 22 and 23 — my emphasis added. Waugh also said that, as soon as the accession of Elizabeth had occurred, in 1558, “The best men, like William Allen, had left the University and the country” (Ibid., p. 23), going first to Louvain and then to Douai and Rheims. Men like Allen did not linger to compromise, or to be tempted to compromise.

[64] Ibid., pp. 28-29 — my emphasis added.

[65] Ibid., p. 23 — my emphasis added. The phrase that “Calvary is happening” comes from Father Constantine Belisarius, a former Jesuit novice and now an Melkite Priest in Front Royal, Virginia, in the Community of “the Holy Family in Exile and the Holy Innocents.” While offering the solemn liturgy of Saint Basil recently, he spoke of the essence of the Mass, the sacrifice of “God in the Flesh,” who has a “Face,” a photograph of which we may see on “the Shroud of Turin.”

[66] Ibid., p. 26.

[67] Ibid., pp. 25 and 116-117 (Waugh’s summary of the Catholics’ legal position in England at the time).

[68] Ibid., p. 119.

[69] Ibid., pp. 30, 31-32 — my emphasis added.

[70] Ibid., p. 30 — my emphasis added.

[71] Ibid., p. 51 — my emphasis added.

[72] Ibid.

[73] Ibid., p. 26 — my emphasis added. In 1568, Mary Stuart taking refuge in England, was imprisoned there, as well, and later executed by Elizabeth.

[74] Ibid., p. 46 — my emphasis added.

[75] Ibid., pp. 69-70 — my emphasis added.

[76] Ibid., p. 71, 214, 214, respectively — my emphasis added.

[77] Ibid., p. 34.

[78] Ibid., p. 147 — my emphasis added.

[79] Ibid., pp. 117-118 — my emphasis added.

[80] Ibid., p. 120 — my emphasis added.

[81] Ibid., pp. 140, 141, 142 — my emphasis added.

[82] Ibid., p. 164.

[83] Ibid. — my emphasis added.

[84] Ibid., p. 171.

[85] Ibid., p. 157 — my emphasis added. Former Jesuit, Father Vincent P. Micelli (known to his friends as “Pete”), once said to me at Christendom College, in the mid-1980’s, the following words, when we were discussing his then-forthcoming book, The Roots of Violence: “Yea — the roots of violence is the hatred of the truth.” (He unforgettably spoke in his very special “New York City accent,” calling me, too, by my sobriquet!)

[86] Ibid., pp. 149 and 232 — quoted twice in Waugh’s book and emphatically also at the very end — my emphasis added.

[87] Ibid., p. 98 — my emphasis added.

[88] Ibid., pp. 58-59 — my emphasis added. Dr. William Cardinal Allen, himself quite strategically alert and resourceful, did much to thwart and deflect “the steps by which Cecil destroyed Catholicism in England” (William Thomas Walsh). It appears, however, that Evelyn Waugh did not know of the work of William Thomas Walsh, the Catholic Historian and Professor of English Literature, not even after 1935. That is to say, not even after Walsh’s death in 1949, although his great work, Philip II, first published in 1937, might have been of great help and inspiration to Waugh. In this masterpiece, Phillip II, William Thomas Walsh (1891-1949) has an important Chapter XVI, entitled “Freemasonry in the Sixteenth Century.” This Chapter XVI — which is the fruit of much original research, also in learned Jewish sources — is, in a sense, a complement to Walsh’s earlier Chapter XII (“William Cecil and His Friends”), which itself shows how “the so-called English Reformation begins at Cambridge, especially after Erasmus arrived in 1511 — most especially at Cambridge University and the White Horse Inn. Walsh shows how many of the key thinkers and later leading actors “all belong to Cecil’s political machine,” adding “Of this powerful political machine Cecil was always the mastermind” (pp. 212, 215). Moreover, “He [Cecil] had the advantage of working in the dark, and he had a complete organization of his own ready to take over gradually the functions of government” (p. 212) — “Such were the men who arose out of obscurity, most of them, to destroy the Church, the ancient nobility of England, and the English peasantry; to gain world power for their class …; and above all, to throw the weight of England, on the eve of her emergence as a world power in trade and politics, on the anti-Christian side” (p. 216). That is to say, “to raise up an anti-Catholic Empire” (p. 635). In Chapter XVI, which is effectively an analysis of occult Judeo-Masonry in the Sixteenth Century, William Thomas Walsh shows how Philip II himself gradually discovers the real nature of the government he has helped to set up under Queen Elizabeth in England. He later also shows that, especially “in the hands of the Marranos,” since “Marrano families from Spain and Portugal formed a vast network all over the world” (p. 634), “Under cover of these very profitable business activities the international Jews were becoming the backbone of the English spy system, one of the most elaborate and effective that the world has ever known” (p. 635). King Philip II soon discovered that “He had against him, in singular unity, all the elements of the international and mystical opposition to the Church of Christ” (p. 639). See William Thomas Walsh, Phillip II (New York: Sheed and Ward, Inc., 1937 — reprinted by TAN Books, Inc., Rockford, Illinois, 1987) — Chapter XII — “William Cecil and His Friends” [1559], pp. 208-231; Chapter XVI — “Freemasonry in the Sixteenth Century” — “Protestantism introduced by a small well-organized minority of un-English character and foreign associations,” pp. 303-323. For our further reflection, William Thomas Walsh also gives us a well-deliberated and incisive generalization and then leaves us with a strategically important question, as follows: “In the long history of the anti-Christian Revolution nothing is more obvious than the fact that each of its victories was won by a small highly-organized and partly secret minority in the midst of a large but poorly-organized majority” (p. 211). And then comes his still-important, strategic question: “How did it happen that at a precise favorable moment [i.e., during the rule of Queen Elizabeth and William Cecil] there were so many of them, of the same astute [i.e., “cunning”] and avaricious sort, with the same bitter resentment toward the Catholic Church, and acting with a remarkable spirit of collaboration, to rise up, seize or steal power, and build an empire on the ruins of the English Church?” (p. 216)

[89] Ibid., p. 64 — my emphasis added.

[90] Ibid., pp. 231-232 — my emphasis added.

[91] Ibid., p. 11. “At the age of seventeen he [Campion] had become a Fellow of St. John’s, and almost immediately attracted round him a group of pupils over whom he exerted an effortless and comprehensive influence; they crowded his lectures, imitated his habits of speech, his mannerisms and his clothes, and were proud to style themselves ‘Campionists.’ (Ibid., pp. 10-11 — my emphasis added).

[92] See, among other places, Saint Augustine’s Commentary on the Gospel of John, In Johannis Evangelium LXXII (Patrologia Latina 35:1823): “Qui creavit te sine te, non justificabit te sine te.”

[93] Evelyn Waugh, Helena (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1950), p. 224.

[94] Evelyn Waugh, Edmund Campion (1946), pp. 40-41 — Waugh is quoting Campion’s The History of Ireland, composed in English, not, as usual, in Latin.

[95] Ibid., p. 42 — my emphasis added.

[96] Ibid. — my emphasis added.

[97] In the learned notes of Waugh’s original 1935 edition (New York: Sheed and Ward, 1935), p. 162 (Footnote # 8), we read, as follows: “He [Pounde] desired to become a Jesuit and the General, accepting his imprisonment [in the Marshalsea] in lieu of the [Jesuit] novitiate, admitted him to his vows.” (My emphasis added)

[98] Ibid., p. 133 — my emphasis added. On the following page (p. 134), Waugh emphasizes the importance of Pounde, especially on that occasion: “He came with a very wise suggestion,” which was then drawn up by Campion, by hand and in a very short while, and became his famous Manifesto — his Challenge — which is usually now known as “Campion’s Brag.”

[99] Ibid., pp. 129-131 — my emphasis added.

Hilaire Belloc on the Presence and the Passing of Human Affection

Dr. Robert Hickson                                                                                                    8 July 2019

Saint Isabella of Portugal (d. 1336)

Epigraph

“What then is this thing Sloth which can merit the extremity of divine punishment? Saint Thomas’s answer is both comforting and surprising: tristitia de bono spirituali, sadness in the face of spiritual good. Man is made for joy in the love of God, a love which he expresses in service. If he deliberately turns away from that joy, he is denying the purpose of his existence. The malice of Sloth lies not merely in the neglect of duty (though that can be a symptom of it) but in the refusal of joy. It is allied to despair….Sloth is the condition in which a man is fully aware of the proper means of his salvation and refuses to take them because the whole apparatus of salvation fills him with tedium and disgust.” (Evelyn Waugh, The Essays, Articles, and Reviews of Evelyn Waugh—edited by Donat Gallagher (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1983), page 573—from an essay entitled “Sloth” on pages 572-576.)

***

In 1928, when he was fifty-eight years of age, Hilaire Belloc published his novel, Belinda: A Tale of Affection in Youth and Age.1 It was an intimate book that this magnanimous author himself especially cherished, since it was a moving depiction of human affection itself, and of the poignant possibility (or at least the sorrowful appearance) of its permanent loss.

By way of clarifying contrast, sixteen years earlier (when he was still a vigorous forty-two and only two years before the sudden and devastating death of his beloved wife Elodie) Belloc published The Four Men,2 wherein each of the four characters (personae) discussed “the worst thing in the world” (49).

One of the four composite and presented personae of Belloc himself –“Grizzlebeard” by namegives his own considered and deeply stunning response to that searching question. We thus propose to examine Grizzlebeard’s experienced presentation of his own elegiac view, amidst the resistantor even contradictoryreplies of the Other Three Personae: namely, the Poet and the Sailor and Myself.

Let us now closely follow Grizzlebeard’s reflections, after his first contradicting the shalloweven flippantprior words of both the Poet and the Sailor:

“You are neither of you right,” he said. “The worst thing in the world is the passing of human affection. No man who has lost a friend need fear death,” he said. (49—my emphasis added)

Now continues Grizzlebeard’s exposition:

Grizzlebeard (solemnly). “You [Sailor] talk lightly as though you were a younger man than you are. The thing of which I am speaking is the gradual weakening, and at last the severance, of human bonds. It has been said that no man can see God and live. Here is another saying for you, very near the same: No man can be alone and live. None, not even in old age.”….

Then Grizzlebeard went on:

When friendship disappears then there is a space left open to that awful loneliness of the outside which is like the cold of space between the planets. It is an air in which men perish utterly. Absolute dereliction is the death of the soul; and the end of living is a great love abandoned.” (50—my emphasis added)

After Myself’s proposed qualification about the healing of the soul, our elder then responds and properly differentiates the situation, if the wounded soul be also deprived of grace:

Grizzlebeard (still more solemnly). “All wounds heal in those who are condemned to live, but in the very process of healing they harden and forbid renewal. The thing is over and done.” (50—my emphasis added)

Myself then speaks about the loss of honour as being worse than the loss of friends, which thus prompts the older man again to reply:

Grizzlebeard. “Oh, no. For the one is a positive loss [of a friend], the other imaginary [the possible enduring loss of honour]. Moreover, men that lose their honour have their way out by any one of the avenues of death. Not so men who lose the affection of a creature’s eyes. Therein for them, I mean in death, is no solution: to escape from life is no escape from that loss [of a friend’s affectionate eyes]. Nor of the many who have sought in death relief from their affairs is there one (at least of those I can remember) who sought that relief on account of the loss of a human heart.”….

Grizzlebeard. “You are both of you [Poet and Sailor] talking like children. The passing of human affection is the worst thing in the world….But the decay of what is living in the heart, and that numbness supervening, and that last indifferenceoh! these are not to be compared for unhappiness with any other ill on this unhappy earth. And all day long and in every place, if you could survey the world from a height and look down into the hearts of men, you would see that frost stealing on.”(51-53—my emphasis added)

Perhaps analogously thinking of the traditional deadly vice of spiritual sloth (acedia)which was known as a special danger to the elderlyMyself asks Grizzlebeard: “Is this a thing [such cold indifference or congealed estrangement] that happens, Grizzlebeard, more notably to the old?” (53)

Grizzlebeard responds:

“No. The old are used to it. They know it, but it is not notable to them. It is notable on the approach of middle age. When the enthusiasms of youth have grown either stale or divergent, and when, in the infinite opportunities which time affords, there has been opportunity for differences between friend and friend, then does the evil appear. The early years of a man’s life do not commonly breed this accident. So convinced are we then, and of such energy in the pursuit of our goal, that if we must separate we part briskly, each certain that the other is guilty of a great wrong. The one man will have it that some criminal [as in France with the Captain Alfred Dreyfus Affair] is innocent, the other that an innocent man was falsely called a criminal. The one man loves a war [such as the Boer War], the other thinks it unjust and hates it (for all save the money-dealers think of war in terms of justice). Or the one man hits the other in the face. These are violent things. But it is when youth has ripened, and when the slow processes of life begin, that the danger or the certitude of this dreadful thing appears: I mean the passing of affection. For the mind has settled as the waters of a lake settle in the hills; it is full of its own convictions, it is secure in its philosophy; it will not mould or adapt itself to the changes of another. And, therefore, unless communion be closely maintained, affection decays. Now when it [human affection] has decayed, and when at last it has altogether passed, then comes the awful vision of which I have spoken, which is the worst thing in the world.” (53-54—my emphasis added)

After some rather shallow comments insouciantly, and much less gravely, made by the Poet and by the Sailor, Myself again has some additionally helpful words to offer:

“You Poet and you Sailor, you are both of you wrong there. The thing [“the passing of human affection”] has been touched upon [“by the great poets” (54)], though very charily, for it is not a matter for art. It just skims the surface of the return of Odysseus [to his home in Ithaca], and the poet Shakespeare has a song about it which you have doubtless heard….Moreover, a [Sussex] poet has written of the evil thing in this very County of Sussex, in these two lines:

“’The things I loved have all grown wearisome, The things that loved me are estranged or dead.’” (55-56—my emphasis added)

After hearing just one word from that poetic couplet, Grizzlebeard has a further insight:

“’Estranged’ is the word: I was looking for that word. Estrangement is the saddest thing in the world….The reason that the great poets have touched so little upon this thing is precisely because it is the worst thing in the world. It is the spur to no good deed, nor to any strong thinking, nor does it in any way emend the mind. Now the true poets, whether they will or no, are bound to emend the mind; they are constrained to concern themselves with noble things. But in this [estrangement] there is nothing noble. It has not even horror nor doom to enhance it; it is an end, and it is an end without fruition. It is an end which leaves no questions and no quest. It is an end without adventure, an end complete, a nothingness; and there is no matter for art in the mortal hunger of the soul.” (56-57—my emphasis added)

Hilaire Belloc must have seen—and even tasted—the deep effects of this decay and passing of human affection. The evidence he must have beheld and wholeheartedly known in the lives of others, and maybe also in his own life.

Belloc knew himself, very sensitively,“the danger or the certitude of this dreadful thing” (54) of “the passing of human affection.” He also cherished good companionship and friendship and the warm and nourishing hospitality of inns.

If it be permitted to me to make a small concluding comment from my reading of Hilaire Belloc over many years—at least since 1971—I believe that Hilaire Belloc himself also came to be especially alert to the subtle danger of one of the Seven Deadly Sins: Acedia (Accidia)i.e., Spiritual Sloth.

Our beloved Belloc thus also feared and protected himself mightily against that subtle, sabotaging danger of a “heavy worldly sadness in the face of spiritual good”or, a growing “Tristitia de Bono Spirituali” in the discerning words of Saint Thomas Aquinas. Spiritual Sloth is also characterized by “a roaming unrest of spirit.” In other words, and in Saint Thomas’ compact but lucid Latin, spiritual sloth is marked by an uprooted (and also uprooting)evagatio mentis.”

Spiritual Sloth, we should note, is therefore much more than mere laziness or weariness or a growing sense of futility, although we may now also perceive the peril of the luring temptations of the sorrow and sadness coming from the decay and then “the passing of human affection.” That is to say, even from Hilaire Belloc’s own abiding sorrow at the 1914 Candlemas Death of his Wife, Elodie, and then the death of two of his three sons, Louis and Peter—one in World War I and the latter in World War II. What a burden of loyal sorrow in his long fidelity! And yet he preserved his font of joy and his cherished friendships, with his gratitude always.

–Finis–

© 2019 Robert D. Hickson

1Hilaire Belloc, Belinda: A Tale of Affection in Youth and Age (Fitzwilliam, New Hampshire: Loreto Publication, 2014), 130 pages.

2Hilaire Belloc, The Four Men (Indianapolis: The Bobbs-Merill Company Publishers, 1912). All further page references to the book will be to this text and will be placed above in parentheses in the main body of this short essay.

Applying Democratic Centralism to the Catholic Church Currently

(A note from the author: This essay was originally written in 2015 and later published in April of 2016. However, it has seemed to us worthwhile to re-introduce this brief essay in light of the recent developments concerning the Catholic Church from late 2015 up until May of 2019.)

Dr. Robert Hickson                                                                                        10 October 2015

St. Francis Borgia, S.J.

Epigraphs

“Modern democracy depends upon a hidden oligarchy [“oligarchie cachée” or perhaps, in the plural, “oligarchies cachées”?], which is contrary to its principles but indispensable to its functioning.” (François Furet, Penser la Révolution française (1978).

***

“That is to say, modern democracy is built upon—and depends upon—a deception.” (Arnaud de Lassus)

***

“You stopped to call on King Herod. Deadly exchange of compliments [perhaps opportunistic blandishments] in which there began that unended war of mobs and magistrates against the innocent.” [e.g., the incited and manipulated “ochlos” so soon to be cheering for Barabbas!] (Evelyn Waugh, Helena (1950)—emphasis added)

Josef Pieper once memorably said to me in a conversation in the library of his home: “You find the most precious truths in unlikely places.” (And he often manifested the implications of that insight, in his attentive receptivity and buoyant expectancy. In his early 90s, he even once said to a group of students and professors in Germany: “May I tell you a love-story?” And he suddenly returned to a gracious nun he had known many years earlier, when he had traveled to Iceland as a young adolescent with two of his friends.)

Such a precious and abiding discovery of truth also came to me suddenly in France in the late 1980s–in the home of another beloved mentor, Arnaud de Lassus. Through my mentor’s generosity, he took a book in French and pointed me to one sentence. It was a sentence from François Furet’s book on the French Revolution, Penser la Révolution française (1978), specifically to be found in his concluding chapter on Augustin Cochin (1876-1916), the admired young Catholic historian who died at the battle of the Somme in World War I. (As a young historical scholar Augustin Cochin had also already written much on the French Revolution and especially on Les Sociétés de Pensée et La Démocratie Moderne, an analysis of influential and well-organized, revolutionary oligarchies which was highly esteemed by Furet, who was himself then (in 1988) a well known leftist-leaning intellectual historian, surprisingly.)

François Furet’s own lapidary sentence candidly said the following: “Modern democracy is dependent upon a hidden oligarchy which is contrary to its principles but indispensable to its functioning.”

As I stood there reflecting on that incisive insight, my beloved mentor, Arnaud de Lassus, then said with his characteristic modesty: “I consider that sentence almost perfect. But, I would place ‘hidden oligarchy’ [‘oligarchie cachée‘] in the plural, ‘oligarchies cachées‘. For, there are also civil wars within—and among—the revolutionary elites themselves and their own leavens—as Léon de Poncins so well understood.” And then Arnaud de Lassus added his own lucid inference from the perspicacious words of Furet’s own insight: “Modern democracy is built uponand depends upon—a deception.” That is where we must start! Thus begins the breaking of trust, for the greatest social effect of the lie is that it breaks trust. And we soon discover the rancid fruits of such perfidy and intimately broken trust.

To what extent do we see this deception in the procedures and the consequential breaking of trust now also spreading in and throughout the Neo-Modernist Occupied, updated Catholic Church, especially in the form of a Specious “Democratic Centralism”?

We might now learn a little more to help us illuminate reality, if we better come to understand “The Concept and Reality of Democratic Centralism”—in light of the three Soviet Constitutions and even the 1982 Chinese Communist Constitution, but especially as that Principle and Doctrine might be (or is being) effectively applied today by an apostle of Antonio Gramsci and his grasp of how to achieve a Cultural Hegemony, also through Liberation Theology.1 (In all of this brief presentation, however, I propose to be—and please allow me to be–suggestive, not comprehensive, much less conclusive.)

Our reflections now should also be guided and prudently disciplined by another profound insight from Arnaud de Lassus, an insight which is also a formidable challenge to us: “How does one resist the corruptions of authority without thereby subverting the principle of authority?” And, he added, “especially in the Catholic Church.”

One test case of the reality of this challenge is the currently applied equivocal methods of the October 2015 Synod on the Family in Rome. I speak especially of the procedures directed and applied by Cardinal Lorenzo Baldissieri—the Secretary General of the Synod—with the acknowledged prior approval of the Pope.

“Baldissieri’s Papally-Approved Principles and Ambiguously Applied Methods” certainly remind me of the manipulative changes and equivocations in Praxis of the important and recurrent Concept: the Soviet-and-Chinese Communist Concept and Reality of “Democratic Centralism,” as specifically defined in the texts of all three Soviet Communist Constitutions (1924, 1936, and 1977); and also still in the later, “post-Mao” 4 December 1982 Chinese Communist “Constitution of the People’s Republic [sic] of China (Chapter I, Article 3). The three Soviet Constitutions are sometimes sequentially called by shorthand: “the Lenin Constitution” (1924), “the Stalin Constitution” (1936), and “the Brezhnev Constitution” (1977).

Moreover, fair-minded scholars still discuss “the balance” or “changing proportions” of the composite elements of “Democracy” and of “Centralization” in the “dialectically evolving” meaning and application of “Democratic Centralism” as a concept and as an exquisitely fitting “organizational method” to allow—purportedly—“freedom of discussion” and “sternly disciplined unity of action.”

With this specious organizational method, one can have the appearance of a “participatory” democratic procedure while, in reality, the whole process is organized and steered by a small group of people. It is as if one would say about the desired outcome “these are the conclusions on which I base my facts—and thus the factoids I shall now rearrange to fit my artifice.” A recent example of this tendency might help us to grasp these maneuvers—even some subtle and indirect Gramscian maneuvers—more adequately.

In his candid report from Rome on 12 October 2015, entitled “Thirteen Cardinals Have Written to the Pope: Here Is the Letter,” Sandro Magister has revealed some important facts and maneuvers concerning the ongoing Synod of Bishops on the Family. A portion of this report is pertinent to our own suspicious consideration of “Democracy,” as such, wherever we hear the word; and also to the evidence confirming an entirely expected Centralized Oligarchic Manipulation of the putatively “Open Synodal Process.” For example, as Sandro Magister says:

On the afternoon of the same Monday, October 5, during the first discussion in the [plenary synodal] assembly, Cardinal Pell [from Australia] and other synod fathers referred to some of the questions presented in the letter [to the pope, personally and privately by more than ten cardinals]. Pope Francis was there and listening. And the next morning, on Tuesday, October 6, he spoke. The text of these unscheduled remarks has not been made public, but only summarized verbally by Fr. Federico Lombardi, S.J. and in writing by L’ Osservatore Romano….To this account from L’ Osservatore Romano, Fr. Lombardi added that “the decisions of method were also shared and approved by the pope, and therefore cannot be brought back into discussion.” [Franciscus Locutus, Causa Finita?] From this it can be gathered that Francis has rejected the [Cardinals’] letter en bloc, apart from the marginal recommendation not to reduce the discussion only to “communion for the divorced.” And he has not rejected them [the requests of the Cardinals] without a polemical jab, as afterward made known—in a tweet that has not been disowned—by the director [editor] of La Civiltà Cattolica, [Fr.] Antonio Spadaro, S.J., also present [with the pope] in the hall, according to whom the pope told the [synod] fathers “not to give in to the conspiracy hermeneutic, which is socially weak and spiritually unhelpful.” All this at the beginning of the synod….On Friday, October 9, Cardinal Luis G. Tagle, archbishop of Manilla and president delegate of the synod, said out of the blue that, with regard to the final relation [the official Relatio Finalis], “we await the decision of the pope.” And the next day, Father Lombardi, S.J. clarified that “we do not yet have certainty on how the conclusion of the synod will take place, meaning if there will or will not be a final document. We will see if the [capricious? centralizing? arbitrary?] pope gives precise [sic] indications [commands?].” Incredible but true. With the synod in full swing, a question mark has suddenly been raised over the very existence of that “Relatio finalis” which figured in the programs [procedures, methods] as the goal towards which all the work of the synod was finalized….“Catholic doctrine on marriage has not been touched,” Pope Francis pledged [sic] in referring to the entire conduct of the synod from 2014 to today [now in mid-October 2015], in response to the “concerns” of the thirteen cardinals of the letter [the official personal, private letter to the reigning pontiff]. But Cardinal Tagle, a prominent representative of the innovators, also said at the press conference on October 9, with visible satisfaction: “The new method adopted by the synod has definitely caused a bit [sic] of confusion, but it is good to be confused once in a while. If things are always clear, then we might not be in real life anymore.” (My bold emphasis added to the translated text posted on 12 October 2015 on www.chiesa.espressonline.it.)

Does not this entire set of Magister’s selected reports and modest insights also suggest the presence and permeation of manipulative Democratic Centralism? At least we should now be convinced that the Directorate of the Synod is “not playing with a full deck.” This kind of “praxis” must not be considered an honorable Pastoral Method, much less an Example of the genuine Mercy.

Finis–

© 2015 Robert Hickson

1See Humberto Belli, Nicaragua: Christians Under Fire (1984) about the hidden underground influence of Gramsci and the use of “symbolic subversion” learned by the Sandinistas from the Cubans to undermine Pope John Paul’s March 1983 visit to Nicaragua.

A Form of Style Not to Be Despised: Evelyn Waugh’s Lactantius in Helena (1950)

Dr. Robert Hickson                                                                                                    5 May 2019

Pope Saint Pius V (d. 1572)

Epigraphs

***

But your question just now [said Marcias the Gnostic-Mystagogue, and Helena’s former tutor as a slave in Britain, but now a visiting savant from Marseilles]—‘When? Where? How do you know?’—was a child’s question.”

“That is why your religion [your current Gnostic religion] would never do for me, Marcias. If I ever found a teacher it would have to be one who called little children to him.” (Evelyn Waugh, Helena (1950), page 123—my emphasis added)

***

“[O! Lactantius,] I should not have asked [you]. All my life I have caused offence to religious people by asking questions. Good night, Lactantius.” (Evelyn Waugh, Helena, page 125—my emphasis added)

***

In the sixth chapter of his historical novel, Helena (1950),1 Evelyn Waugh introduces us memorably to the historical character, Lactantius (c. 250-c. 325), the early Christian Latin writer and occasional tutor who was also later to be an advisor to Emperor Constantine. However, at one point in his earlier life–while he was still in exile in Trier on the Moselle River—Lactantius conveys to the Empress Dowager Helena herself—who is not yet a Christian– his considered views on the mystery of martyrdom and on the lesser mysteries of forms of alluring language. He thus briefly considers the role of a writer as well as the enduring power (and regrettably abiding influence) of some eloquent, but specious, forms of prose style. He especially shows his own attentiveness to those writers who give the right form to the wrong thing, as well as those who give the wrong form to the right thing.

Leading up to Lactanius’ candid response, Helena—still an unbaptized non-Christian herself—shows compassion for him, and did it, unfortunately, in the presence of the trifling and quite characteristically superficial Minervina, Helena’s former daughter-in-law, as well:

“It’s funny, nowadays, how much talk there is everywhere about Christians. I don’t remember ever hearing of them when I was a girl in Britain [with Marcias as her tutor].”

We have our martyrs there too [said Lactantius]—before your imperial husband’s day of course. We are very proud of Alban [i.e., Saint Alban, the proto-martyr in Britain, circa 305 A.D.].”…

“It must be a sad time for your people [who are back in Nicomedia, southeast of Byzantium-Constantinople],” said Helena.

“Also a glorious time.”

“Really, Lactantius, what possible glory can there be in getting into the hands of the police?” said Minervina. “I never heard such affectation. If you feel like that I wonder you didn’t stay at home in Nicomedia. Plenty of glory there.” (115—my emphasis added)

In his humility and with modesty, Lactantius tried to answer the actual and implied questions posed by both of these prominent ladies—Empress Dowager Helena and Minervina, who, like Helena, is now also divorced, being the former wife (or concubine) of Constantine and the mother of Emperor Constantine’s own first son, Crispus. The refugee Christian scholar and writer thus says:

It needs a special quality to be a martyr—just as it needs a special quality to be a writer. Mine is the humbler rôle, but one must not think it quite valueless. One might combine two proverbs and say: ‘Art is long and will prevail.’ You see it is equally possible to give the right form to the wrong thing, and the wrong form to the right thing. Suppose that in the years to come, when the Church’s troubles seem to be over, there should come an apostate of my own trade, a false historian, with the mind of Cicero or Tacitus and the soul of an animal,” and he nodded towards the gibbon [that earlier-presented “Indian ape” (110)]2 who fretted his golden chain and chattered for fruit. “A man like that that might make it his business to write down the martyrs and excuse the persecutors. He might be refuted again and again but what he wrote would remain in people’s minds when the refutations were quite forgotten. That is what style does—it has the Egyptian secret of the embalmers. It is not to be despised.” (115-116—my emphasis added)

By contrast, we had already earlier been told by Evelyn Waugh’s narrator that:

Minervina yawned in Helena’s salon [both in Trèves (Trier on the Moselle) and in nearby Igal]. It was not what she [with her vague and emotional gnostic mysticism] was used to in the Middle East. Lactantius [being a Christian] shunned it. The celebrated man was ostensibly Crispus’s tutor, but lessons had never prospered and soon lapsed. It was all of a piece with [Emperor] Constantine’s vague conception of splendor to search out from obscurity the greatest living prose stylist and set him to teach the obstreperous little [eleven-years-old] prince his letters. Crispus now played all day long with boats and catapults and lorded it over his contemporaries, while Lactantius followed his own calling in his own quarters….He had outgrown ambition but he believed that it would not be convenient to be [at least at court] entirely forgotten. (112-113—my emphasis added)

Waugh further prepares us to appreciate Lactantius’ deeper insights about language and sophistry by first giving us the current context (and a little history) of his life:

The post suited him well [there in Trier on the Moselle River and nearby at Igal], for he was a Christian; he had got out of Nicomedia only just in time [amidst the lingering Diocletian persecutions of 303-305 A.D.]. Half his friends were caught in the latest wave of arrests and executions. Others of them [his other friends] turned up in Trèves from time to time with horrible stories. Refugees naturally headed there for it was one of the safest towns in the Empire, with a Bishop and countless priests going openly about their business. One was not starved of the sacraments in Trèves. What irked Lactantius was the lack of a theological library. The Bishop was an admirable man but his books were negligible. Lactantius had been unable to bring anything with him save his own manuscripts [e.g., the Institutiones Divinae—the Divine Institutes], and was thus left, with all his unrivalled powers of expression, rather vague about what to express; with, more than that, the ever-present fear of falling into error [such as Pre-Millennialism?]. (113—my emphasis added)

Waugh then gives us a further taste of Lactantius’ inspired views about language and literature:

He delighted in writing, in the joinery [as in fine cabinet-woodmaking] and embellishment of his sentences, in the high consciousness of high rare virtue when every word had been used in its purest and most precise sense, in the kitten games [sic] of syntax and rhetoric. Words could do anything except generate their own meaning. If only I were a little braver,” Lactantius sometimes thought, “if I had dared stay near the centre of things, across the Alps, I might have been a great writer.” (113-114—my emphasis added)

But, in contrast to Lactanius’ modest thoughts about excellence and about objective fame, we have, presented as a foil, the example of Minervina. For Trier, in addition to allowing the small but flourishing Christian cult, also

Teemed with mystagogues of one sort and another, and Minervina, who had formed a taste for such company in the Middle East [and in Bithynia, on the Black Sea in modern Turkey], had a coterie of them, which Helena deplored. Almost everything about Minervina was objectionable but Helena bore with her for the sake of Crispus [now eleven years of age].” (114—my emphasis added)

Moreover:

It was to Gnostic friends [such as Marcias, who is on the way from Marseilles] that Minervina now referred to when she said: “I shall be glad when we move back to town. I miss my Souls [sic].” (114—my emphasis added)

More and more Helena is sympathetically welcoming of, and drawn to, Christianity and away from vague emotional mysticisms and Gnostic abstractions and frigidities. At one point of her attempts to understand a visiting gnostic lecturer, Marcias, she had a germinating and a somewhat uncontrollable reaction:

Helena felt something shockingly unsuitable to the occasion take shape deep within herself and irresistibly rise; something native to her, inalienable, long overlaid, foreign to her position [as Empress Mother], to marriage and to motherhood, to the cares of her great household, the olive-presses and the almond picking; foreign to the schooling of thirty years, to the puzzled, matronly heads of the stuffy, steamy hall; something that smacked of the sea-mist and the stables and the salty tangles of a young red head [in her happy childhood home with her beloved father in Britain]. Helena fought it. She compressed herself in the chair, she bit her thumbs, she drew her scarf over her face, she ground he her heel against her ankle-bone, she tried furiously to cram her mind with all the sad things she knew—Minervina’s Bithynian accent and deserted Dido [as depicted in Virgil’s Aeneid, Book IV]–but without avail. Overborne, all the more audible for her efforts at suppression, Helena began to giggle. (120—my emphasis added).

At once Waugh deftly adds: “The infection did not spread.” (120)—somewhat surprisingly so, at first, but also revealingly so, given the nature of Marcias’ audience of enraptured ladies “absorbed” and “agog.” And even “happier [were] those who surrendered without resistance to the flood of [Marcias’s] buoyant speech and floated supine and agape; they were getting what they had come for.” (119—my emphasis added) Vague Sophistry and Soothing Sentimental Religion.

 

CODA

In Waugh’s historical novel, Helena and Lactantius are both depicted as critical of, and especially resistant to, the permanent temptation of Sophistry to the human mind. And this sustained resistance to various forms of specious Sophistry, as it turns out, further prepares Helena herself to become a faithful and resourceful Christian—and one who will then adventurously come to discover the Holy Cross in distant Jerusalem.

My beloved mentor, Josef Pieper, succinctly summarized the perennial twofold danger and seductive corruption of Sophistry: sophistry corrupts our access to reality and also corrupts our communication of that reality to another. And to do it in proportion!

The intermediate and preparatory chapter six of Evelyn Waugh’s cherished larger novel, Helena, conveys to us many other things of moment to man—and not just about the use and abuse of language.

May we now also come to read (or to read once again) and to savor Helena as a whole. And, like Evelyn Waugh himself, may we also come to read it affectionately aloud. Even to our children.

–Finis–

© 2019 Robert D. Hickson

1Evelyn Waugh, Helena (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1950). Chapter Six, where we shall meet Lactantius, is entitled “Ancien Régime.” All future references to Waugh’s novel will be from this text and placed in parentheses above in the main body of this essay.

2Evelyn Waugh also makes a subtle allusion here to the often-ironic and even mincingly sneering and depreciative historian, Edward GIBBON (d. 1794), the author of the 6-volume work, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, written 1776-1788.Waugh was likely also thinking of the memorable style of another anti-Christian Enlightenment thinker, namely Voltaire. Furthermore, before mentioning Lactantius’ own allusiveness to a chattering gibbon, Evelyn Waugh had deftly begun his book’s sixth chapter with these effectively preparatory words: “An Indian ape, the recent expensive present of a visiting diplomat, rattled his gold chain on the terrace. Helena threw him a plum.” (110)

The Decline of a State and Power without Grace: Reflections of Hilaire Belloc and Evelyn Waugh

Dr. Robert Hickson                                                        23 April 2019 Saint George (d. 303)

Saint Adalbert of Prague (d. 997)

Epigraphs

***

“’I know I am human. In fact I often feel [as the Emperor and still “an unbaptized convert” (138)] that I am the only real human….And that’s not pleasant at all, I can assure you. Do you understand at all, mother?’

‘Oh, yes, perfectly.’

‘What is it, then?’

Power without Grace,’ said Helena [the future Saint Helena].

‘Now you are going to start nagging about baptism again.’

‘Sometimes,’ Helena continued, ‘I have a terrible dream of the future. Not now, but presently, people may forget their loyalty to their kings and emperors and take power for themselves. Instead of letting one victim bear this frightful curse [of sustained ruling] they will take it all on themselves each one of them. Think of the misery of a whole world possessed of Power without Grace.’…

‘We talked of it years ago….I have always remembered your words [,Constantine]. You said: ‘If I wish to live, I must determine to rule.’ ‘

‘And that is true today.’ [said Emperor Constantine]

‘But, not without Grace, Constantine.’

‘Baptism. It always comes back to that in the end. Well, I’m going to be baptized, never fear. But not yet. In my own time. I’ve got other things to do before that…. [even though he was still “one indeed who was not yet formally admitted as a catechumen”! (138)]….’”

(Evelyn Waugh, Helena (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1950), pages 185-186—my bold emphasis added; italics in the original.)

***

In the inmost cell of the foetid termitary of power, Diocletian [Emperor Diocletian] was consumed by huge boredom and sickly turned towards his childhood’s home. He ordained a house of refuge on the [Dalmatian coast] shores of the Adriatic.” (Evelyn Waugh, Helena, page 100—my emphasis added)

***

“Everywhere Constantine prospered until he became blandly [and presumptuously or delusively?] aware that he was invincible….There were glimpses of [his son,] a nobler figure; young Crispus, all dash and fidelity, last warrior of the high Roman tradition on whose shield the fanciful might descry the fading blazon of Hector [of Troy]. Reports of him came to Helena….His name was remembered always at her palace Mass. For Helena had been baptized.

“None knows when or where. No record was made. Nothing was built or founded. There was no public holiday. Privately and humbly, like thousands of others, she stepped down into the font and emerged a new woman. Were there regrets for her earlier loyalty? Was she persuaded point by point? Did she merely conform to the prevailing fashion, lie open unresisting to Divine Grace and so without design become its brimming vehicle? We do not know. She was one seed in a vast germination. (Evelyn Waugh, Helena, page 132—my emphasis added)

***

“’I’m only teasing, Lactantius [said Helena, but before she herself became a Christian]. Of course I know why you are all so excited. I confess I am a little uneasy myself. It’s this story that is going around that my boy has turned Christian. Has he?’

‘Not exactly, ma’am, as far as we can learn. But he has put himself under the protection of Christ.’

‘Why will no one ever talk plain sense to me? Am I too stupid? It is all I have ever asked, all my life, a straight answer to a straight question; and I never get one….All I want is the simple truth. Why don’t you answer me?’

After a pause Lactantius said: ‘Perhaps because I have read too much. I’m not the person to come to with straight and simple questions, ma’am. I don’t know the answers [to your several questions]….We all have the chance to choose the Truth….As you know he [Constantine] has brought the Church into the open.’

‘Beside Jupiter and Isis and the Phrygian Venus.’ [said Helena]

Christianity is not that sort of religion, ma’am. It cannot share anything [of the sort] with anybody. Whenever it is free, it will conquer.’

‘Perhaps there was some point in the persecutions then.’

‘The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.‘ [said Evelyn Waugh’s Lactantius to an attentive and receptive Helena, though as yet unbaptized; Helena, pages 127-128]

***

Three years before World War I began, Hilare Belloc first published an essay entitled “The Decline of a State.”1 And this compact essay, full of fresh insights, unexpectedly concluded with a memorable and challenging sentence:

Those who have least power in the decline of a State are priests, soldiers, the mothers of many children, the lovers of one woman, and saints. (242)

After further reflecting upon Belloc’s selection of especially vulnerable persons in a time of decline and disorder, I recalled some passages from Evelyn Waugh’s historical novel, Helena (1950), especially two of Waugh’s formulations about the insufficiency of “Power”: Emperor Diocletian’s “foetid termitary of power”; and Emperor Constantine’s “Power without Grace” as also envisioned by his mother Helena in a future ochlocracy that is likewise trying to rule “without Grace”).

In this context, we may even slightly expand Belloc’s original phrase concerning the vulnerable: “Those who have least power [“Power without Grace”] in the decline of a State.”

With this slight amendment in mind, we now propose to examine Belloc’s essay more closely. It will be conducted “on the premise that sustained power without Grace is inherently selfsabotaging as presented by a ‘foetid termitary.’” (Waugh’s malodorous termite analogy is a vivid one, for sure.)

One of Belloc’s main contributions is his examination of the influence and destructive consequences of “two vices” (240)– “Avarice” and “Fear”– in the decline of a State, especially as practiced in “an oligarchic State, or aristocracy as it is called.” (237) For example, he says:

In the decline of a State, of whatever nature that State be [democratic, despotic, oligarchic, or aristocratic], two vices will immediately appear and grow: these are Avarice and Fear; and men will more readily accept the imputation of Avarice than of Fear, for Avarice is the less despicable of the two—yet in fact Fear will be by far the strongest passion of the time [i.e., during the time of a growing decline]. (240—my bold emphasis and italics added)

By way of clarifying contrast, Belloc elsewhere in his writings often accents the perilous combination of “insecurity and insufficiency” both of which all too often tend to increase the passions and the vices of Avarice and Fear.

Let us now consider some of Belloc’s framing introductory words to his analysis:

The decline of a State is not equivalent to a mortal sickness therein. States are organisms subject to diseases and to decay…; but they are not subject to a rhythmic rise and fall…. A State in decline is never a State doomed or a State dying. States perish slowly or by violence, but never without remedy and rarely without violence. (237—my emphasis added)

Belloc then refers to the “texture” (237) of a State and its decline, namely whether or not it is mostly democratic, despotic, oligarchic or aristocratic—or some combination of them. For example, and also promptly recalling his own England as of 1911, he says:

An oligarchic State, or aristocracy as it is called, will decline principally through two agencies which are, first, illusion, and secondarily, lack of civic aptitude. For an oligarchic State tends very readily to illusion, being conducted by men who live at leisure, satisfy their passions, are immune from the laws, and prefer to shelter themselves from reality. Their capacity or appetite for illusion will rapidly pervade those below them, for in an aristocracy the rulers are subjected to a sort of worship from the rest of the community, and thus it comes about that aristocracies in their decline accept fantastic histories of their own past, conceive victory possible without armies, wealth to be an indication of ability, and national security to be a natural gift rather that a [disciplined and virtuous] product of the [informed] will.(237-238—my emphasis added)

Now he passes on to the second factor (or “agency”) of a growing “lack of civic aptitude” in the decline of a State:

Such [oligarchic-aristocratic] communities further fail from a lack of civic aptitude…,which means that they deliberately elect to leave the mass of citizens incompetent and irresponsible for generations, so that, when any more strain is upon them, they look at once for some men other than themselves to relieve them, and [they] are incapable of corporate action upon their own account. (238—my emphasis added)

Belloc then touches upon real differences between “a great State or a small one” (238) and factors of “indifference, faction, ignorance, and private spite” (238). And States “rooted originally in commerce, in arms, or in production” whether…artisan or peasant-agricultural. He weighs and differentiates “the basis of the State” (239) more specifically and more concretely. These candid observations we recommend to the attention of the reader, that he may better savor the diversities.

It is fitting that we now further consider Belloc’s focused insights and his illustrations of “Avarice” and “Fear” and their sabotaging influences in a growing decline of a State.

First, Avarice, as a passion and vice, thus an habitual deadly sin, under conditions of decline:

Avarice will show itself not indeed in a mere greed of gain (for this is common to all societies whether flourishing or failing), but rather in a sort of taking for granted and permeation of the mere love of money, so that history will be explained by it, wars judged by their booty or begun in order to enrich a few, love between men and women wholly subordinated to it [money], especially among the rich: wealth made a test for responsibility and great salaries invented and paid to those who serve the State [a declining State, moreover]. This vice will also be apparent in the easy acquaintance of all who are possessed of wealth and their segregation from the less fortunate, for avarice cleaves society flatways, keeping the scum of it quite clear of the middle, the middle of it [society] quite clear of the dregs, and so forth. It is a further mark of avarice in its last stages that the rich are surrounded with lies in which they themselves believe. Thus, in the last phase [of avarice’s illusion], there are no parasites but only friends, no gifts but only loans, which are more esteemed favours than gifts once were. No one [is] vicious but only tedious, and no one a poltroon but only slack. (240-241—my emphasis added)

Although Belloc’s analysis is largely a secular analysis, Waugh’s Saint Helena—if not her son—would have detected new and crippling forms of Fear and of Cunning Carnal Prudence and Weakness without Grace. We may also consider the broken trust and increasing fears in our own society and decomposing civilization, at least as of April 2019:

Of Fear in the decline of a State it may be said that it is so much the master passion of such decline as to eat up all others. Coming by travel from a healthy State to one diseased, Fear is the first point you take. Men dare not print or say what they feel of the judges, the public governors, the action of the police, [of] the controllers of fortunes and of news….Under the influence of Fear, to tell the least little truth about him [“a powerful minister”] will put a whole assembly into a sort of blankness.

This vice [of Fear] has for its most laughable effects the raising of a whole host of phantoms [subtle deceptions, or sensate “fake news,” perhaps?], and when a State is so far gone that civic Fear is quite normal to the citizens, then you will find them blenching with terror at a piece of print, a whispered accusation [e.g., about the immunities of International High Finance or the Money-Laundering of International Drug-Money Networks]. (241-242—my emphasis added)

By way of concluding his selectively nuanced essay, Belloc gives a glimpse of those who darkly and dubiously flourish in times of a State’s disorder and decline, as well as those who preserve some kind of independence or a deeply suffering vulnerability:

Moneylenders under this influence [of Fear] have the greatest power, next after them, blackmailers of all kinds, and next after these [two manipulative niche-operatives] eccentrics who may [“but, not without Grace”] blurt or break out [from under the vicious influence and atmosphere of Fear].

Those who have least power [under these secular and graceless and debilitating conditions] in the decline of a State are priests, soldiers, the mothers of many children, the [loyal] lovers of one woman, and saints. (142—my emphasis added)

It was a wise man who said that “those who are themselves uprooted tend to uproot others.”

Hilaire Belloc’s 1911-1912 essay on “The Decline of the State” is certainly resonantly enhanced in its complemetarity and counterpoise with Evelyn Waugh’s 1950 vivid historical novel, Helena—a novel about the times of Emperor Diocletian and Emperor Constantine and a newly germinating and spreading Christianity that Waugh himself so deeply cherished. (It was the only one he ever read aloud to his own beloved children.) Would that we knew whether Hilaire Belloc, who died in July of 1953, read Waugh’s moving 1950 novel with its supernatural perspectives on the indispensability of Grace.

In the 1960s, while a military officer in Southeast Asia, I one day somehow formulated to myself a principle about the mysteriously Permissive Acts of Divine Providence that was especially then consoling to me. It was a correlative relative proposition that went like this:

The greater the evil that God allows, the greater the good He intends to bring out of it.”

The faithful Practical Application of that Principle and Correlative Proposition goes like this:

Therefore, here and now, I (we) must promptly collaborate with the Divine Intention and thus resourcefully and loyally try to bring about a GREATER good out of what God, and sometimes so mysteriously, has allowed to happen—also in combat and other forms of warfare!

These are difficult principles and codes to live by. But “we are only as courageous as we are convinced,” as Father John A. Hardon, S.J. himself once solemnly and very supportively said to me.

–Finis–

© 2019 Robert D. Hickson

1Hilaire Belloc, First and Last (London: Methuen & Co. LTD., 1912—the second edition; 1911 was the first edition), pages 237-242. All further page references will be to the text of the Second Edition, and placed in parentheses above in the main body of this essay.

“That Unended War…Against the Innocent”: Evelyn Waugh and Father McNabb, O.P.

Dr. Robert Hickson                            9 January 2019 (Within the Octave of Epiphany)

Saint Julian of Antioch (d. 313 AD)

Epigraph

***

“The present writer’s years of life can now be so few, at most, that the only reason for stating an opinion is that he thinks it true, and its opposite opinion not only untrue but harmful.” (Father Vincent McNabb, O.P., “The Family,” Chapter 5 of the 1934 anthology Flee to the Fields—Father McNabb, speaking himself, was to die eleven years later, during World War II, in 1943.)

***

“As if in gratitude to the Family for having given Him welcome, He raised to the dignity of the supernatural the plighted love that unites husband and wife—father and mother.” (Father Vincent McNabb, O.P., “The Family,” Chapter 5 of Flee to the Fields (1934))

***

“And He went down with them and came to Nazareth and was subject to them.” (Luke 2:51)

***

Recently re-reading after some twenty years one of Father Vincent McNabb’s own writings on the family, and thus on Nazareth, I saw for the first time the importance and timeliness of one of the principles that he so concisely and lucidly articulates.

Writing in the early 1930s about one of “The Dangers to the Family”–in one sub-section of his longer essay, entitled “The Family”—he acutely said:

The second danger arises from the sentimental as distinct from the rational and ethical view of divorce. We have reached a legal state [already in 1934] when the fate of children can be decided by the existent sentiment between their father and their mother. Our divorce laws [in England], although not considered wide enough, are sufficiently wide to be governed by the principle that “it is immoral for a man and woman to remain together when they have ceased to love each other.” This principle largely initiated here in the West has been carried out with characteristic consistency in Soviet Russia [under Lenin, N. Krupskaya, A. Kollontai, and Stalin].1

Soon after reflecting on this principle and its increasingly promiscuous implementation, which is all too often to the grave detriment and long-term harm of the innocent children, I thought of Evelyn Waugh’s 1950 historical novel, Helena, especially one passage from Chapter 11, entitled “Epiphany.”2 The conjunction and counterpoint of these two Catholic authors, with their fresh insights, will teach us still many important truths.

Shortly before Waugh’s Helen is to find the Cross in Jerusalem, she visits Bethlehem on the Feast of the Epiphany and, with deep wonder, identifies with the Three Royal Wise Men, as they were personified and presented by three Greek monks in their re-enactment of the composite scene:

Helena [herself a recent convert] knew little Greek and her thoughts were not in the words or anywhere in the immediate scene. She forgot even her quest [for the True Cross] and was dead to everything except the swaddled child long ago and those three royal sages who had come from so far to adore him.

“This is my day,” she thought, “and these [three royal sages] are my kind.”….

Like me,” she said to them, “you were late in coming. The shepherds were here long before; even the cattle. They had joined the chorus of angels before you were on your way.”….

How laboriously you came, taking sights and calculating, where the shepherds had run barefoot.”….

“You came at length to the final stage of your pilgrimage and the great star stood still above you. What did you do? You stopped to call on King Herod [i.e., “Crudelis Herodes”]. Deadly exchange of compliments [false flattery and deception] in which there began that unended war of mobs and magistrates against the innocent!” (222-223—my emphasis added)

We think at once about the impending Slaughter of the Holy Innocents and the three-decade later call for the release of criminal Barabbas and the resultant raging betrayal of innocent Jesus. Today, too, the Little Ones—the Parvuli of Christ—are indifferently, even impenitently, slaughtered. We are numbed by the magnitude of the dead and we struggle yet with the Permissive Will of God.

The wholehearted Evelyn Waugh nonetheless chooses to show us more of Empress Helena’s heart (and Waugh’s own heart, too) as he presents further and imaginative expressions to “those three royal sages” (222):

“Yet you came [to the Nativity], and were not turned away. You too found room before the manger. Your gifts were not needed, but they were accepted and put carefully by, for they were brought with love. In that new order of charity that had just come to life, there was room for you, too. You were not lower in the eyes of the holy family….

You are my especial patrons,” said Helena, “and patrons of all late-comers [to Christ], of all who have a tedious journey to make to the truth, of all who are confused with knowledge and speculation, of all who through politeness make themselves partners in guilt, of all who stand in danger by reason of their talents.

“Dear cousins [ye royal sages], pray for me,” said Helena, “and for my poor overloaded son [the still unbaptized Emperor Constantine]. May he, too, before the end, find kneeling-space in the straw….

For His sake who did not reject your [three] curious gifts, pray always for all the learned, the oblique, the delicate. Let them not be quite forgotten at the Throne of God when the simple come into their kingdom.” (223-224—my emphasis added)

In this passage, Evelyn Waugh shows us a reverent mother’s prayer for her son, hoping that he, too, would soon come to kneel humbly in adoration before the Christ Child—considering also His later, maturing youth in Nazareth. Helena herself, despite her energetic quest and mission, manifests a gracious reverence and spiritual childhood. She again and again acknowledges and submits to Divine Authority, believing that her own son must yet, and soon, be baptized—not just on his deathbed. For, she sees that he is pitifully “overloaded” by his own “Power without Grace.”

In 1934, Father McNabb likewise saw the pitiful spread of temporal “power without grace”–that is, without divine grace. After first commenting on “the fate of children” (76) and thus on the ill fruits of an increasingly-resorted-to secular principle of disorder—namely, “it is immoral for a man and woman to remain together [in marriage and thus in the full rearing of their children] when they have [purportedly] ceased to love each other” (76—my emphasis added)—he speaks of another peril to the family:

The third danger to family life springs from the modern rejection of obedience to authority [to include the authority of the father]. This rejection begins by disobedience to the authority of God [thus also to the Rights of God abiding]. But, as all lawful authority is, as such, of divine right, the rejection of divine authority tends to dissolve the claims and rights of all authority. In this welter of might without right such fundamental rights as that of the parent and the family [as a unit] tend to be set aside as belated [outmoded] or suppressed as harmful. (76—my emphasis added)

Such interrelated matters are part of “the threatened social avalanche” (76) that was seemingly accumulating, and thus “of deep concern” (76) to Father McNabb five years before the outbreak of World War II.

Five years after the end of World War II, Evelyn Waugh had another insight about that then-actual “social avalanche.” For, like Father McNabb (1868-1943), Waugh knew that Christ was being hunted even at His birth and also soon thereafter. Other Holy Innocents were likewise altogether threatened. For, in a prior and deceitful “deadly exchange” with the graceless and cruel power of Herod (“Crudelis Herodes”) “there began that unended war of mobs and magistrates against the innocent!” (223—my emphasis added)

Almost seventy years after those heartfelt words from Evelyn Waugh, that war is still “unended.” The attacks on innocence and purity have now even increased. The amount and intensity of crude and cruel “power without grace” have also seemed to have increased. Yet, for the Loyal Faithful, wherever evil abounds, indispensable Divine Grace superabounds and we are to co-operate.

In one of his 416 A.D. sermons against the Pelagians (Sermo 169, 13—PL 38, 923), Saint Augustine of Hippo effectively said that God created us without our co-operation, but He will not save us without our co-operation. That is to say, without our free consent.

–Finis–

© 2019 Robert D. Hickson

1Father Vincent McNabb, O.P., Chapter 5 of Flee to the Fields (Norfolk, Virginia: IHS Press, 2003), p. 76—my emphasis added. This is a new addition of the original 1934 book, Flee to the Fields: The Founding Papers of the Catholic Land Movement, which also preserves Hilaire Belloc’s original 4-page Preface, which is now on pages 15-18. All further references to this book will be placed above in parentheses.

2Evelyn Waugh, Helena (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1950). All further references to this book will be placed above in parentheses.